“There was such a vastness,” Tammy Trayer says, recalling the first time she left her hometown in Pennsylvania and headed west. “It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and it gave us the freedom to live on our terms.”
Tammy and her husband, Glen, looked for land in Montana and Wyoming before purchasing a 5-acre parcel of land, sight unseen, in northern Idaho in 2010. The self-described “extreme outdoorspeople” pitched a canvas tent, set up a woodstove and started building their off-grid homestead.
Their 1,000-square-foot cabin runs on solar power, and a woodstove keeps them warm even in the coldest Idaho winters. Glen, a blacksmith, made many of the tools they use on the homestead; wood for structures such as the barn and guest cabin were harvested from trees on their land; and Tammy makes soap and candles. The couple has also grown vegetables; raised chickens, rabbits and goats; and hunted turkeys, elk, deer and moose to fill their propane-powered freezer.
“Once you start living simply, you realize how little you need and how rewarding it is,” she says. “We’re not caught up with keeping up.”
Tammy wrote a book, How to Embrace an Off-Grid Lifestyle, to share her lessons about living off the grid and help others inspired to be more self-sufficient. The couple’s passion for homesteading also led them to start Trayer Wilderness, a series of classes to teach others the traditional skills they use on their homestead, including blacksmithing, canning and preserving, hunting, trapping, foraging and natural medicines.
After Tammy was diagnosed with a chronic illness in 2016, the couple scaled back their homestead: They sold their livestock, and the garden lay fallow. A friend brings fresh organic produce that Tammy preserves; Glen still hunts.
“[Our family] will continue living this lifestyle that we love,” she says. “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
In some regards, homesteading prepared the couple to navigate a long-term illness. Despite going months without an income, the Trayers never missed a meal.
“When you live off the grid, you’re going to have struggles,” Tammy says. “We don’t see the struggles as a bad thing, just a stepping stone to moving forward, and we always look for the blessings, no matter how small.”
Although Tammy and Glen already embrace what some would call an extreme lifestyle, they plan to move even farther from civilization. Their Idaho homestead is up for sale—some of the proceeds will cover medical bills from Tammy’s extended illness—and the family dreams of living deeper in the wilderness, perhaps in Alaska.
“The longer we’ve been doing this, our mindset, needs and desires have gotten even simpler,” she says.
This article appeared in Living Off the Grid, a 2018 specialty publication produced by the editors and writers of Hobby Farms magazine. Aside from this profile of people who’ve established new lives in remote areas, Living Off the Grid includes stories on renewable energy, growing plants without seeds and permaculture. You can purchase this volume, Hobby Farms back issues as well as special editions such as Best of Hobby Farms and Best of Urban Farm by following this link.