From living off the grid in Oregon to living off the grid in Alaska this week’s guest is very familiar with rural life. She grew up in a small logging community in Oregon where she met her husband in elementary school. A job opportunity moved them to Alaska shortly after their marriage where they lived off grid for almost 4 years. Listen in or read on to discover Tandy and her Alaska lifestyle.
What you’ll hear in this episode:
- Her story about what she loved about living off the grid
- How her and her husband maintain a large farm in rural Alaska
- How she combats seasonal affective disorder/winter blues
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- Raised in a small logging community in Oregon.
- Told her husband to never ask her to live off grid again once they were married since she grew up off grid twice.
- Co-manages and operates a farm, orchard, and greenhouse with her husband; Common Ground Alaska.
- Built their home, fences, and farmland from scratch by hand.
- She is in the process of writing her first book.
Obstacles Tandy has faced:
- Living off grid in Alaska for three years.
- Living separately from her husband when he first took the job in Alaska.
- Seasonal affective disorder.
Tandy has learned so many lessons over the years. From making sure they have a big dog to help ward off predators (moose included), to finding activities with her husband and family to enjoy during the dark winter months, to realizing corn doesn’t do well in a greenhouse. Living life in Alaska has taught her so much about family, faith, and farming.
Growing up in a small community in Oregon Tandy was no stranger to living off grid, working hard, or close knit families but when she got married she was ready for big city living in a flat in Seattle. Or, so she thought. The kids were about six, seven, and eight when her husband got a job offer in Alaska. They had been living in a small town in Oregon while he managed a large farm when the job opportunity came up. After consideration they decided to take the leap. The hardest part about the transition was the decision that Tandy and the kids were going to stay in Oregon until they could save enough to move everyone up there. When they did move up there they rented for about a year, not quite sure they were going to stay and if they did, where they would buy land. Her husband ended up finding some property, the only catch, there was no electric ran to it. He convinced her to just look at it and the rest is history.
They cleared and logged the land and built the frame of their off grid home. The interior was done with lumber from a local yard. They lived off grid for a little over three years. One of the biggest differences between off grid living in Oregon and off grid living in Alaska is water access. In Oregon they were able to have the water be gravity fed, pumping from a local water source into a pump on the hill. In Alaska, due to the frigid temperatures in the winter, that isn’t an option. They were hauling six gallon jugs up to the house and doing laundry at a laundromat.
One aspect that Tandy loved about living off grid was the closeness that their family experienced during that time. With no electricity and only running the generator when necessary, they didn’t have the distractions of phones, computers, or television. They would sit, essentially in the dark, and talk to one another and enjoy one another’s company. They worked hard as a family to manage the chores on their homestead. They relied on one another to thrive under harsh conditions.
One day while she was out running errand with the kids a friend called and asked if she wanted a calf. She hadn’t considered having livestock in Alaska but she said yes and called her husband and told him that they needed to get a fence up. He thought she was kidding at first but once that decision was made they decided to do a little garden, then a small greenhouse, and it just kept growing. They don’t have any equipment so everything is done by hand. Now they plant about 5,000 strawberry plants, have a 2.5 acre orchard, a large greenhouse, and plans to start providing produce commercially again and partaking in the Alaska farming industry after stepping away from the CSA business for the last three years. They’re proud to be a part of the Alaska homesteads in the area.
Struggles in Alaska
One of the bigger struggles she has faced while living in Alaska is seasonal affective disorder. It took about three years to realize what she was experiencing. The lightbulb moment came when her and her family were driving to church and she glimpsed the birchwood trees beginning to leave up. She immediately burst into ugly crying. Once she realized what was happening her and her husband put a plan in place to combat the winter blues. They take hikes regularly, wearing snowshoes and spending that quality time together. They also make sure to get out of the state altogether at least once a year during winter. They normally head to Oregon to visit family, feel the ground (instead of snow), and see sunlight more often than a handful of hours during the day.
Planning for winter in Alaska is considerably different than prepping in Oregon. In Oregon they spent a lot of time canning and prepping food. In Alaska they make sure the freezer is stocked with meat, firewood is prepped, but Tandy thought she would be canning more often too. However they’re not able to grow the same foods, like peaches and pears, in Alaska so she actually spends less time canning than she thought she would. The biggest difference is prepping their orchard for winter. They have to take sheet of metal and cover the trunks of their trees to protect from mice. If they don’t then the mice will burrow tunnels through the snow and eat the bark, come spring you have dead trees.
Now she’s super excited about the opportunity to write a book. She attended a Women’s Christian Conference in July where she had the opportunity to connect with a publisher. She is just in the beginning stages of building a social media following, a website, and everything that comes with building a platform. Although the title of the book may change right now she’s thinking it will be “Cultivating with Courage.” She could probably write a book on how to go off grid or of grid living supplies but the focus will be on having faith that God guides your steps whenever you’re feeling stuck. When they moved there they thought “we’re not going to farm in Alaska, who farms in Alaska?” Little by little, one step at a time, God has lead them on this incredible journey to our wildest dreams. Even now as she transitions from her executive virtual assistant business to a more creative writing outlet, it’s all about trusting God in the entire process.
Where can you find Tandy Sue Hogate?
She’s still working on building her platform so we would love if you gave her some momentum and follow her Alaska life blog, website, and social media pages at: