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  #1  
Old 06/03/12, 08:43 PM
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Kentucky
Posts: 40
Homesteading in Backwoods Alaska

Hello all. It is my dream to one day own a homestead in the north. Particularily Alaska, I am however no newbie. I know that certain crops won't grow up there. I am sure it would confined to mainly cold crops, like potatoes, cabbage, spinach, wheat, etc.

What about livestock? What kind would do the best up there? More particularily cows or goats? What would be the pros and cons of either in Alaska.

What about cost? In your opinion, how much would it cost to build a small cabin and buy 30 acres in Backwoods Alaska?

Thanks!

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  #2  
Old 06/03/12, 09:36 PM
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Alaska- Kenai Pen- Kasilof
Posts: 5,900

There are different climates in Alaska. So, there is the Rainforest area of the South East, mild with a bit of Winter similar to very mild New York where the snow stays around till the rain flushes it away.

There is the South Pen I find the change is Seasons linger a bit longer toward the winter with bitter cold minus 40 But 80 mph winds add to the fun

Fairbanks goes to extreme temp in such a rush that you almost go out to face a summer 90 degree and weeks later you can build a snowman.

So, were in Alaska makes a big difference.

It is more of a Barley than wheat but that in changing Oats and wheat is up here too. Hoop houses are quite useful. Berries the likes you do not find in stores can be harvested. Goats and cows are here Goats by far out number the cows. Hay is spendy 22 to 24 a 50 to 60 pound bale.

I grow potates, cabbage onions, celery, korobie, pumkins --Tomatoes indoors with cuks and summer sqush. lettuse, broc, bussel , carrots

Gas is 4.40 to 7.38 a gallon regional pricing.

There are many with Alaskans on HT who can give you better info per your area.

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  #3  
Old 06/03/12, 09:42 PM
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Missouri Ozarks
Posts: 5,069

30 acres will cost you a bundle; I sold 1/5th of an acre for 56K a few years ago. There is little private land available though many people believe there is all this open land almost free for the settling. Almost all of the land is owned by the Federal Government, State, or Native Corporations and you cant just go carve out a wilderness homestead anymore. There is significant farming activity in parts of the state but the good farming land is expensive and highly sought after. Livestock of all types are possible if you can afford the high cost of feed, shelter and care.

My daughter and her fiance live in the interior and have a nice homestead but they primarily subsist on fishing and hunting with a small greenhouse and homestead garden supplementing their grocery bill. They also have full time well paying jobs and commute almost 1.5 hours each way to get to work. The farther into the "backwoods" you get it will be harder to grow crops and have livestock and prices go up.

Not trying to discourage you but costs are high and the environment is very rugged for farming even for subsistence. Here is a blog entry and some pictures from a visit I made to a small farm (1.5 - 2 acres) in Bethel Alaska. Milk there at the time (2009) was $8.00 a gallon and gas was $7.25. Simple Life

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  #4  
Old 06/03/12, 11:49 PM
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Alaska- Kenai Pen- Kasilof
Posts: 5,900

Now, I got 80 plus acres off the Kasilof River right where everyone comes to fish for 60,000 dollars. So, land is out there but it does takes some shopping and having the funds handy to jump. One of the best ways to get land is via local goverment auctions, list come out a few times a year. I am not slamming salmon what he says is true about land once it is in private hand but when the goverments needs to raise cash or increase poperty tax revenue they do trim land from the rolls. I know someone who put in to bid on land that they were leasing from the Bourgh and in a mere 22 years the deal was convayed. Mine I got the deed in 60 days (give or take) --Note I shopped for land from 94 to 03 changing my mind as to what I wanted delaying the event.

Winters are long. Many people's outdoor hydrants just thrawed last week (which is the sign that Fall is near). Shipping cost spendy, Wild life is wild. Canning means fish and moose mainly for many.

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  #5  
Old 06/04/12, 06:12 AM
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Kentucky
Posts: 40

Hmmm...this is all very interesting. I am merely investigating, this is something for me to accomplish within 15 years. :P

Thanks for all of the help!! You all are awesome!!

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  #6  
Old 06/04/12, 09:34 AM
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kasilofhome View Post
Now, I got 80 plus acres off the Kasilof River right where everyone comes to fish for 60,000 dollars. So, land is out there but it does takes some shopping and having the funds handy to jump. One of the best ways to get land is via local goverment auctions, list come out a few times a year. I am not slamming salmon what he says is true about land once it is in private hand but when the goverments needs to raise cash or increase poperty tax revenue they do trim land from the rolls. I know someone who put in to bid on land that they were leasing from the Bourgh and in a mere 22 years the deal was convayed. Mine I got the deed in 60 days (give or take) --Note I shopped for land from 94 to 03 changing my mind as to what I wanted delaying the event.

Winters are long. Many people's outdoor hydrants just thrawed last week (which is the sign that Fall is near). Shipping cost spendy, Wild life is wild. Canning means fish and moose mainly for many.
Do they still have the land lotterys Kasiloff? I forgot about that but that was big for awhile and then it just stopped from what I remember. If you got 80 acres for 60K you got a screaming deal beyond anything I ever saw. My daughter lives in Willow, oldest son is stationed at Elmendorf and the folks live in Wasilla and when we were retiring (I retired from the Army at Ft Richardson) we couldnt find anything we could afford that was big enough for livestock and still on the road system.

One good thing about Alaska though is that the economic downturn hasnt been felt that much. We sold our house in 7 days for full asking price and made a tidy profit.
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  #7  
Old 06/04/12, 01:17 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Kentucky
Posts: 2,906

Barredbuff, you are a homesteader after my own heart! I would love to homestead in Alaska too. I don't have any advice, except I think goats would always be a better choice than a cow. Smaller, easier to house and care for and feed, grow up fast. Too many plusses to count. Good luck with your dream!

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  #8  
Old 06/04/12, 01:33 PM
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: north central Pennsylvania
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I had wanted to go toAlaska in the 70's when there was supposedly still free land but husband said here in upstate mountains of PA was cold enough for him. It was enough of an adventure for us to get here back in those days.
The "dream" of Alaska I am sure is not reality. Have read so many books of ttue homesteaders over these years that it takes a strong willed person to have florish in that state. But, when you are young nothing is impossible..ignorance is bliss..they say and the things we did I don't know how we even survived. why wait 15 years to go there ?? I would go now...if it doesn't work out you can always go back and begin again where you came from...time passes too quickly...Best of Luck..

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  #9  
Old 06/04/12, 01:40 PM
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
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I had the same dream and bought 15 acres with a cabin for 40k up along the susitna river north of talkeetna back in '05. No roads, just the river to get there or a train ride then a 7 mile hike. I found out the hard way that the winters are just too long and dark. The terrain is too rugged, access to equipment/supplies is to scarce, transportation is almost impossible sometimes, and when you are that remote.. social interaction becomes a serious issue. Many people there become sad, depressed, withdrawn, and take to drinking.

My opinion of Alaska after going there and spending over a year? Beautiful and bleak, very, very bleak. Was glad to get back.

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  #10  
Old 06/04/12, 01:53 PM
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More than 100 years ago Eric Collier went homesteading in (I think) British Columbia. The book that he wrote made an very absorbing read!

He got a permit for a trapline, and about once a month he and his family hit the trading post for flour, beans, hard candies and so forth and to sell his furs. His wife was the gardener and so he gives it passing mention: he was the trapper and so he goes into that in more depth.

In order to get the thin, rocky soil into shape every spring they lay all of the small, bony fish they caught on the garden spot and plowed it under. It stank for a while but his wife WAS able to grow vegetables..... after they fenced the wildlife out! Deer eat cabbages also!

The book is "Three Against the Wilderness" by Eric Collier, and it might be out of print. I bought mine used.

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  #11  
Old 06/04/12, 02:21 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Washington
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My suggestion to anyone considering a homestead in Alaska? Give Sourdough your location so when you die he can put whatever goods you leave behind to good use.

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  #12  
Old 06/04/12, 03:38 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Alaska
Posts: 2,675

Most of the people that I know that live an hour or farther from Anchorage began by living in town and commuting to their property. When the Land was ready, the home built and they really knew how to make it, they moved out. Some are slope workers, some truck drivers on long hauls. I would highly suggest heading up for a summer to see what it is like, then saving for a year and head up for a month of winter.

You don't need 30 acres unless you are going to start a hay farm. There is a lot of public property in the more remote areas.

Transportation is an issue if you are off the road system. Supporting a boat, wheeler, snowmachine is not cheap. I burn $80 in fuel getting to my area and more after I get there. $140-180 per weekend is common.

Greenhouses are very popular. Salmon is still plentiful in some areas. Trapping can be very good in some areas.

Grizzly bear attacks, kills llama: Bears in Alaska | Alaska news at adn.com

Look at Kenny Lake, Glennallen, Tolsona, There was a nice place along the Glenn Hwy that had commercial power.

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  #13  
Old 06/04/12, 03:59 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Alaska
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Like the others have said, your success at homesteading here, depends entirely on your concept of "homesteading".

You can be somewhat self sufficient here, but it is very difficult. Almost everyone has a small biz or a job off property, because some things just cannot be produced here.

You'll need a lengthy skill set, a large bank account, and a strong mental constitution to make it here homesteading, imo.

Just today a gentlemen came in to get a septic tank. He was astounded that they were 1) Steel, and 2) Expensive. He was from Wisconsin and having serious sticker shock over the costs up here-even after paying over $7 a gallon for fuel on his way up last month. The tank was quadruple what he pays in the L48, and diesel is at about $4.50/gal here in the Valley. Home heating oil is over $4, btw. He didn't even know that he needs to bury the tank deeper than L48, or anything at all about successful installs up here. I just saved him many thousands in repairs down the road, with a few tips that I hope he uses.

I don't necessarily want to discourage folks from experiencing the wonders of Alaska-because much of it is truly wonderful in many ways....but on the other hand, if you have a pie in the sky idea that it's going to be Little Home on the Prairie.....well, you'll fail.

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  #14  
Old 06/04/12, 07:20 PM
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Alaska- Kenai Pen- Kasilof
Posts: 5,900

Yes, Auctions- sealed bids, counter sales, lotteries, and open bids are the way to go. The counter sale is one I really like--you know up front the dollar amount they want--think of it as "buy it Now" deal on EBay. Since so, many people do not know much about buying this way or that it even exists there really is little competion. I can not say it enough WALK THE LAND. Before you lay down money you better know it better than the person in charge of conduction the land deal does. Also remember everything is negotional (but the mineral rights -if buying from the goverment) Some people DO own mineral rights very few but private mineral rights in Alaska are NOT illegal.

Salmon--How about 110 acres --on the road --Paved no less--WITH ele on the prop
for drum roll---------------------102,000 at 10% down 6% interest if funding via goverment. Oh yea there is land and there are deals --what is odd is that if no one grabs it right away then people do not look at it for years. Everytime it seems like it is the larger plots. It is not like there is going to be a housing rush here any time soon (Kasilof) so few want to tie up money waiting for a market to sub. Note--the 110 land deal does have swamp and wetlands and an auto graveyard borders it on one side and a man made quarry swimming hole on the other side. Blueberries and TOO many brown bears hang there for my liking. Also Remember parts of Alaska got hit hard with the spruce bark beattle as such the trees have be removed or you have a fires hazzarded.

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  #15  
Old 06/04/12, 10:05 PM
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Missouri Ozarks
Posts: 5,069

Interesting Kasiloff. We actually thought about settling in the MatSu (Palmer area) and looked at a couple of places we liked but the growth in that area kind of scared us off plus I dreaded the commute to where I would be working on base (I would have had to work full time).

I think Pouncer had some good advice...check it out first. I am like Darn Tootin...the winters really started to get to me.

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  #16  
Old 06/04/12, 11:14 PM
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Location: Carthage, Texas
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What lonelytree said. Visit first. Summer and winter. I think your enthusiasm will be either tempered, one way or the other.

I worked there for ten years, and realized I wasn't going to spend all summer working to feed dogs for mushing, skiing isn't really bad knee friendly, and I don't really care for killing animals for profit (trapping). Farming (in the few areas that will physically allow it) also coincides with the time period where I needed to be out making cash. If your married, one person could have an away job, and the other could stay home and guard the livestock from wolves and grizzly bears.

I know people do do it, but it's a heckuva lot harder, with a world of more restrictions (doesn't sound right? does it?.... AK has phone book sized regulations on fishing/hunting, and a lot is by lottery! [or was when I was there last]) and that monster winter season hanging over your head.

Good luck, and have a good time visiting!

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  #17  
Old 06/05/12, 08:25 AM
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Location: Morganton, NC
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Not to discourage you at all, but I had a hankering to move to Alaska when I was a teenager. Four years in the high Appalachians cured me of any desire to live in a cold climate, now I live in the foothills! It's not so much the cold, but the duration that bothers me. My mom's family is from northern WI and everybody always seemed so happy when we used to visit, only recently did I realize that everyone was celebrating the warmth, all 3 months of it, before winter set back in. I still haven't been to AK, but my father has been 5 times in the past 3 years (all in the summer/fall) and is totally addicted to the state. I do want to take an extended vacation (6 months or so) someday just to see what it would have been like.

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  #18  
Old 06/06/12, 11:18 AM
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Vermont
Posts: 274

Lived all over AK and was born near Eagle on the Yukon. Witnessed many move up with the same dream only to bail in a year. Bottom line is it's very expensive. Gas/diesel is comparable in price to California. Groceries are at a minimum 20% more than the lower 48 and that's if you do all your shopping in Anchorage at Costco or Sams. Expect to pay more the further away from Anchorage you are. Cost of milk is ridiculous.

Cost of land is also ridiculous. The OTC land sales are fairly cheap, but most of the good spots are taken and the remainder is difficult to access, difficult to improve and not the best for homesteading.

My grandfather left me acreage northwest of Denali in the mosquito breeding ground. The land is high and dry, but surrounded by thousands of square miles of muskeg. It's bush plane access or snowmachine in winter. It might as well be on the moon.

On the other hand knew a few that made it happen. Those that succeeded lived in the cities, worked full time jobs, saved their money and worked on their bush places on the weekends. Most planned on continuing until retirement.

Even "Alone in the Wilderness" Dick Proenneke lived off a pension.

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  #19  
Old 06/06/12, 03:24 PM
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Location: Ohio
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I also would suggest a visit or a work stay on a farm in AK. There are so many different climates and temperate zones that make gardening and permaculture difficult. You'll need to know about season extension and cold weather gardening, hardy trees and shrubs, dealing with snow load, and most of all keeping warm in the real winter.

I've been to AK 3 times, never during what we call "warm weather". One thing that sticks out in my mind is that 56*F in Alaska is considered shirt and shorts weather. We ate at a Popeyes one day and they left the restaurant doors open even though the outside temp was close to 55. Twice while we were there it snowed. While deep and long lasting snow is lovely to look at, it's not much fun to drive or shovel through. The nights are incredibly dark which makes for great stargazing, if you are bundled in a sleeping bag while wearing a parka with 2 pair of long underwear underneath it. If you want to see snakes and butterflies you will be sadly out of luck. There are no raccoons to ravage your garden but the bear more than make up for that.

And the best place to see a moose really is in downtown Anchorage. They have bear there too though. Last time we were in Anchorage they had to shut down a trail in the greenbelt because of a sow with cubs. The wildlife people didn't remove the bears, they were citing people using the closed trail. The hikers were cited for harassing the wildlife. Dh and I thought some of the signs on park trails were funny (in an ironic way). In most states there are signs posted about fines for going off-trail or picking flowers. In Alaska the signs warn you that going off trail can result in death.

Medical care would be the most difficult thing to get access too. In the big cities (which aren't really all that big) there are hospitals and doctors. Outside of the towns you will have a hard time calling 9-1-1. Cell reception is spotty or non-existant through-out most of AK.

I would love to spend a whole year in Alaska provided I was properly prepared with food, shelter, clothing and firewood. But I really would miss my butterflies and snakes.

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Last edited by Danaus29; 06/06/12 at 03:26 PM.
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  #20  
Old 06/07/12, 05:53 PM
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Central Oregon
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You can go down to the southern end of Chile and get the same beautiful scenery and cold weather for a lot cheaper.

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