Tales from the Cabin
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My Cabin: Dreams Do Come True

Living simply on a wilderness homestead

Story by Tammy Trayer
Cabin location: Northern Idaho
Published: February 1, 2013
Tammy Trayer off-grid homestead cabin
The Trayer family is a model of self-sufficiency, living out of a canvas tent for nearly 8 months while building their home in the northern Idaho wilderness. More recently, they finished construction on this 20x15-foot guest cabin.
Photo by Tammy Trayer
Our dream to live in the wilderness and away from everything finally came true in April 2010. From our farm in Pennsylvania, we purchased land in northern Idaho, sight unseen, and loaded up a U-Haul and a GMC pickup pulling a 24-foot gooseneck trailer. We left behind many skeptical people thinking we were nothing more than crazy.  

When we arrived at our untouched wilderness home, we set up an 8x14-foot canvas-wall tent, where my husband and I, our 13-year-old son, Austin, two dogs, and a hamster resided for 8½ months from May until mid-December while we built our own home.  

That time was the most amazing time of our lives. Being in the fresh air 24/7 not only felt good, but it was also healthy and invigorating. Our love and desire for a simple, more traditional lifestyle confirmed our feelings of being stuck in the wrong era.
Trayer off-grid homestead sawmill
Austin and Glen carry a log to the sawmill.
Photo by Tammy Trayer
Tammy Trayer off-grid homestead
Tammy helps place the ridgepole.
Photo by Glen Trayer
Trayer off-grid homestead cabin
Glen and his cousin, Jonathan, use a crosscut saw to square up log ends.
Photo by Tammy Trayer
It was a wild time going to bed at night, with coyotes howling nearby, deer walking outside the tent (probably close enough to touch), and waking to grouse drumming and taking flight right outside our front door. Those noises were music to our ears.

Building our home required hard work day in and day out, but it was incredibly gratifying. Our reward is a home that we can enjoy and appreciate daily.

We are unlike average families and pride ourselves on needing very little. We make everything from scratch and try to gain as much from the land as we possibly can.

Our electricity is 100% solar-powered. To save on our use of it, we manually refill the well water in our 300-gallon holding tank. We use an RV pump to circulate water to our home and power that with a portable solar panel. Only seldom do we use a generator to recharge our batteries.

We know that we will be enjoying our northern Idaho wilderness home for a long time. Our love for the outdoors and the quiet brought us here, and our location and lifestyle has been life-changing for our son, who has high-functioning autism. Here, he has had the opportunity to find himself and grow physically, emotionally, mentally and academically. He is no longer in the hustle and bustle of a world that was overwhelming, unkind and stunted his growth.  

We became more self-sufficient in 2012 by fabricating a sawmill. With this we built a chicken coop to house 30 laying hens, a rabbit hutch and a 10x10-foot tree house on stilts for our son. Most recently, we built a 20x15-foot guest cabin using only the sawmill and tools that were forged by my husband or inherited from our ancestors.
Tammy Trayer off-grid homestead cabin
The inside of the newly finished guest cabin awaits Tammy’s decorative touches.
Photo by Tammy Trayer
The guest cabin is an alluring, traditional, square-cut log cabin nestled in the tall timbers. Its rustic charm is very inviting and provides an instant feeling of comfort and warmth. It is truly indescribable once the oil lanterns are burning. Next year, we will add a 20x8-foot porch that will provide many hours of relaxation along with a wonderful view.  

Next year’s lineup of projects also includes a greenhouse that will provide us with fresh vegetables year-round and a water wheel that will generate the power to heat the greenhouse through winter.  

Our off-grid lifestyle has been a life-changing experience and a treasured time for our family. We are hoping that it has been a time our son will never forget, one that he will share with his children and grandchildren someday.

To read more about the Trayer family’s off-grid lifestyle, click here.
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