David and Jenna Jonas have mostly lived in a homestead, enjoying life off the grid. David, then 17, spent two years in the woods of Vermont, where he built a cabin and learned to navigate and hunt animals without the use of modern tools. He had been living alone for months, eating wild foods, when he met Jenna, his neighbor across the creek who had spent several years exploring the Alaskan wilderness by foot, dogsled, bike, and boat.
They came across a Craigslist listing for private land on a cliff above the Tanana River surrounded by state forests in 2012. They saw the land as a source of food all year, so they bought it and began living in a wall tent. They built a more permanent earth lodge in 2013. Log cabins, according to David, are common structures in the area, but not every location where you want to build a log cabin has nice cabin logs, just like their property.
“That got you thinking about what other kinds of structures you could build?” David stated. They dug deep into the hill to take advantage of the earth’s relative warmth, lined the house with spruce trunks, insulated it with sod, and oriented it south to take advantage of passive solar gain. The small earth lodge is outfitted with a homemade wood stove, sink, and bed.
It is solar-powered, with enough energy to light and charge your phone, but it cannot accommodate larger devices. Jenna said her favorite thing about their earth lodge was its simplicity, and that everything except the wood made noise. The couple initially spent around a thousand dollars on the construction of their home and a little more on the spruce bow floor.
Jenna described it as a perfect starter home for them because they lived there for seven years without getting tired of each other and decided to marry while living there. However, as much as they enjoyed staying in that earth lodge, which they now refer to as the Sun Lodge, they decided to start a family and built the bluff log cabin that is their current home.
They began building a traditional log cabin with simple tools such as a gin pole and crane. They used locally available wood because it is expensive and difficult to build with imported materials. The log cabin took them three years to complete, but it was finished in time for Jenna to give birth to their daughter. When you enter their log cabin, you will find yourself in their kitchen, which has a wood stove for heating and another for cooking.
It has wooden shelves with glass jars of spices and grains on them. On the other side, there is a sitting area with a futon bed and a dining area with a lovely wooden table. Their bedroom is upstairs, and it has a nice warm bed for them and their baby. The solar panels in the log cabin are also larger than those at Sun Lodge. Their area is ideal for homesteading because it is rich in resources.
Jenna does some birch tree tapping in the early spring, and they use the birch sap to make syrup and Meade. In the summer, they can harvest strawberries, beans, peas, carrots, and other vegetables from their garden. Summer is also the most popular fishing season. Visitors to their hand-built wilderness homestead will learn about the genuine products, people, and ways of life that enrich and meaningful our lives in the north, rather than just beautiful landscapes and plastic stuff.
Watch the video below (courtesy of Kirsten Dirksen) to learn more about David and Jenna Jonas’ homesteading lifestyle.