Mark and Chera rescued and renovated an old cabin and transformed it into an epic off-grid home for their family of 5. The catch? There's no road to get there, so they had to figure out how to do absolutely everything by boat and barge: transporting building materials, equipment, belongings, workers, as well as commuting to and from town for school and work.
They were limited in how much they could modify the existing cabin, so to make space for the kids' bedrooms, they attached a yurt to the house with a mudroom. For heat, they have a wood stove in the house, a pellet stove in the yurt (to keep a constant temperature for the kids), and backup wall-mount propane heaters for really cold days, or times when they're away from the house during winter (to prevent pipes from freezing). Since propane has to be delivered on a barge, it's really expensive so they try to limit their propane use as much as possible.
For electricity, they have 3 systems. First, a solar power system with 18 panels and a large battery bank which works great in the summer even though they're surrounded by mountains. But during the colder, rainier months, the system doesn't keep everything running so they installed a hydro turbine which creates electricity using water pressure from a creek up the hill, and this provides 24 hour electricity for most of the year. As a backup to these two systems, they have a propane generator but they try not to use it unless they need to.
The kids still attend school in town, and Mark and Chera have flexible jobs so they can work in town or from home as needed. They have 2 enclosed boats with GPS and heat for the 20 minute commute back and forth to town.
We loved getting the chance to spend a whole day and night with this lovely family and seeing how they've made off-grid living comfortable and fun for everyone!
[Music] I think we were drawn to this place because of how remote it felt yet close to the city and being on the waterfront has always been one of our dreams and also how peaceful we feel when we're here I just remember being up here there was this little stellar Jay that kept following me around and I just lost my dad and I'm a little bit weird that way I quit you know animal figures to loved ones sometimes and the old man I could hear him saying oh it's beautiful up here my boy you know and it almost willing me pushing me in that direction sometimes you take it as a sign the off-the-grid thing came later it's like oh yeah by the way there's no road to get here no power or anything up there so we kind of had to ad-lib out of necessity yeah and won't it be a great adventure we can just learn as we go so that's what we did we had a lot of help because there's a real community up here and they they kind of gave us a lot of guidance on what to do [Music] we have three kids and they're aged fourteen twelve and eight so fairly younger still we moved up here about three years ago and I think it was the perfect time so yeah they seem to love it I mean they we talked about it all the time and make sure that you know this is where they want to be because a lot of people say oh how can you do that to your kids you're removing them from other their social interactions and stuff and I go well you know when it's school time of the year that they're at a school all day they do their after school stuff and they don't miss out on anything like that and then when we're home we have family time and it's nice you know and in the summer there's a great community up here so they're not really missing on in my opinion in fact they're you know becoming really great little people yeah I think it's expanding their horizons they're learning more they're doing more outside in the woods in nature which I think we've kind of lost touch with so we definitely are completely off grid here when we do whose face southwest so we got quite a bit of Sun so we have 18 panels which is more than adequate in the summer to run what we do which is quite a bit you know we have a proper dishwasher and a couple of fridges and you know we laundry and lots of LED lights everywhere for our phone we have satellite telephone we have satellite Wi-Fi that sort of thing so it does run that fine but come wintertime when the Sun is gone and it's all rainy like it is today we we've just this summer we brought in a really cool system it's a turbine system and we can do that because we have a river about a thousand feet off there's a river and it's pretty reliable it's about 11 months a year it's running pretty well so we basically draw water from that River and by the time it comes down the hill two-inch line thousand feet we got about a hundred psi and we basically have a hydro turbine it splits into two jets it it spins that thing real fast generates electricity goes right into our battery bank the beauty of that is even like today like today normally the generator beyond right now we here but we don't even hear the generator with the turbine now because it does the job and keeps our batteries topped rate up it's been a real awesome addition to our setup so now we basically have solar turbine and as a backup we have our propane generator so if our turbine breaks down there's always the propane generator that kicks in automatically if the batteries get down to a certain level it was a shock it was it was probably wetter inside that outside yeah and it was we had an inspector come in and he said absolutely do not try to bring this house back to life yeah he said tear down the family room used to be a workshop with a mud floor and a leaky roof so it was part of the cabin so we were allowed to renovate it I had only took us about 8 months before it was livable but we didn't have parts of the house finished or the yurt setup yet the yurt was going to be more for storage yeah and then I remember I said to you one day I said we'll just stick the kids in the yurt and everything's cool and she's like there's no way the kids are sleeping in a tent and are gonna walk out in the middle of the night with the Bears all over and so what are we gonna do and then we said no big deal right we'll we'll connect the two mm-hmm with a mudroom and that's how the mudroom came to be believe it or not everything was brought up here on a barge or somebody's boat or our boats you know so we were constantly juggling work and oh yeah we got to grab like you know fifty two by fours and some two by six like tonight so it was there for the guys in the morning otherwise they you know they didn't have anything to do so yeah we did some crazy stuff you know we had to bring our excavator up on the barche we had to bring all of our building materials for the road based everything else that's on the property I had to come up on a barge the RV every single thing we have a couple of different ways to heat the house originally we had two wood stoves and we have a lot of wood supplied for fuel so we're good that way but what we found is unless you had a fire going all day we come home to a freezing-cold house which wasn't as bad but a very freezing cold yurt and the kids wouldn't want to sleep in their beds we had to put hot water bottles in there and it just wasn't working just this past summer we got a pellet stove which I think a lot of off-grid people might be opposed to because you have to go out to the store and buy the pellets it also draws a little energy you know feeding the one pellet at a time yeah and also the fence so you have to have a good power system before you can use a pellet stove so once we have the pellet stove in the year it stays warm because we can load the pellet stove up with pellets for three days and it's constantly heating even at a low temperature it keeps it comfortable enough for the kids and then our other source of heat it used to be a smaller old wood stove but this year we upgraded to a bigger wood stove and it warms more square footage in the house it finally feels now that the whole house is heated and then we actually if it gets really really cold we do have little wall-mounted propane burners as well but propane as we said is expensive because it comes up in a barge and and they charge a premium so that's sort of you know if it's really cool that we crank those on drinking water we get from the creek as well at the same place we get our turbine from and then we run it through two filters we have a large sort of particles so you don't get the sand and the rocks out and then we have like more of a mining filter and then it's supposed to go through a UV filter but I haven't hooked it up yet we actually did bring a septic system in we had a guy set it up and what they ended up doing was we have a small holding tank you know gravity feeds into that holding tank and then we have this macerator pump that basically takes everything and it shoots it up a two-inch line into our septic field so it's gets it away from the ocean and where it needs to be and it works really well the first place we rent it up here for a few months while we built this had a really basic set up and I remember I'd be out there in my underwear in the pouring rain pouring gasoline into the generator you know otherwise the alarm would be going b.p if you know your food is going bad it was a nightmare and I said we'll never ever do it like that like you know we gotta figure we learned a lot from that place we sure did there's so many different ways of doing off-grid and the way we did it is a little bit extreme because we also wanted that comfort level and convenience factor so we did end up spending a lot of money on our power system and our water system but there is another way of going about it where you can just keep it simple and affordable and do it yourself I think we were a little surprised at how much everything cost them let's face it by the time you brought like all the things we did it was it got it a little bit beyond what we thought it would be for transportation we decided we would get one boat as our main boat to get back and forth because it's about a 20-minute boat ride from dock to dock we say so from our dock to the dock in the marina but we found that I was staying home a little bit more to work here and I felt pretty vulnerable when he was in town with the only working boat and I didn't have a way to get away or get help when I needed something in an emergency so we then purchased a second boat for safety and also convenience and inevitably when you're driving a boat all the time and this kind of a climate environment one's gonna break down depending on the time of the year this sort of routine would be me get up around 6:15 or 6:30 you something like that throw on a fire feed the cat make the lunches you know and I'll just I'll scoot down to the boat if it's dually out it can be kind of wet and cold so we got little heaters and our boat saw this crank on the heater by the time we're ready to leave that boat is toasty warm it's D fogged so we booted down to the boat kids jump in we go and then we're at the marina and somebody will drop the engine for me one of them will jump out grab the line tie up the boat will usually have garbage recycling and everybody grabs a bag you know might have a gas can and we just like into the car and we just dropped all this off first of the high school and then two minutes later the kids go over to the elementary and then I go to the office and it's another day yeah we love living here and I I wouldn't go back I wouldn't go back to the city ever I don't think yeah feels good to be and please share this video if you liked it also be sure to subscribe to exploring alternatives and check out our playlists for more stories like this thanks for watching [Music]