A Visit to Michael’s Cabin

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I love including posts here about people who are doing cool things. Making interesting things happen. And I don’t just mean that in a “find your passion” sort of way. I am inspired by people who live a life that fulfills them and is not heavily influenced by what others think, that might in some way contribute or add something interesting, beautiful, or thought-provoking to our world. My first conversation with Marie of My Life in Sourdough, you can read here.

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Today I’d like to share a visit to my little brother’s cabin. I had plans to do a proper story but was there last weekend with camera in hand and decided to just snap a few unposed photos. Michael and his wife, Audrey, have for a long time lived life way off the beaten path. Living an intentional, low-impact life influenced by travels to the countryside in Georgia, Mongolia, Siberia, Benin, Peru and, and many other places. I asked Michael to sum up his lifestyle philosophy in one or two sentences. He says, “My lifestyle is inspired by village life in the former Soviet Union. Specifically the republic of Georgia and Siberia where my friends build their own houses, grow their own food, fix their own cars and where previously, participation in the cash economy was minimal.”

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Michael teaches himself about lots of different things from carpentry to bird watching. He and Audrey built their house and the banya (sauna) next door to it.
Many of the materials are cast-offs from friends or family. The window sashes are built from reclaimed cedar steps and the glass panes are from an old truck cab.

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Michael still wants to add mud to the walls inside the cabin, which has a small living room, kitchen, and woodstove downstairs, and a sleeping loft upstairs. The house has an outdoor shower and an outhouse. They collect rainwater and try to keep their water usage to two gallons of water a day. They produce just one small plastic grocery bag full of garbage a month. They aspire to be self-sustaining, inspired by the former Soviet Union where until 2004, 70% of produce was grown by household gardens (that percentage was probably closer to 90% in the countryside).

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Nearly everything they own is recycled, thrifted, or bartered.

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Above, the Russian-style sauna, and the entryway to the house.

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Michael is passionate about living a life true to his values. He says, “It used to be that parents and community taught children the skills of subsistance and how to sustain traditional culture. Now we are taught in school how to build empires. I am trying to regain the old skills. I am not interested in building empires.”

Thank you, Michael for the visit! If you have questions for Michael, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Photos by Chelsea Fuss.

10 Comments

  1. Wow, Michael’s lifestyle is so inspiring. My long term goal is to be living off-the-grid and growing a lot of my own food, so this really resonates with me.

    I’m curious as to how old he was when he started pursuing this path, and also what was the very first thing that made him consider living a low-impact lifestyle?

    Again, such an impressive choice for him and his wife to make, and also… their home is beautiful!

  2. So nice to put a face to some of the stories you’ve told me! I really admire people who live true to their values. It can be difficult, there is so much pressure to do certain things a certain way, even among “counterculture” groups.

  3. Not so long ago my grandmothers and great grandmothers lived this kind of lifestyle. They lived in the rural south, went to town once a week and only bought what they absolutely couldn’t grow, raise, or make themselves. I aspire to that, but know that I’ll never have quite that lifestyle unless we move from our small town to the country. I grew up on a farm and dearly miss it. I do make an effort though to grow much of my own produce in the summer and we only make about two small bags of garbage per week. This is definitely something I could have seen myself doing had I not got married. My hubby is definitely NOT going to have an outhouse. 🙂

  4. I love this story as I hope to be living a totally sustainable lifestyle at some point. One question for Michael: what’s one thing anyone can do to reduce their environmental footprint?

    • Try to view everything you see as materials and not as products. (for example, view a computer cord not as ‘a charging cord for a mac that costs 70 dollars at wherever’, but as copper wires that run through a transformer that reduces voltage from 120 volts AC to 9.5 volts DC (not so much a transformer as metal plates surrounding wrapped copper wires using induction to reduce voltage) Once you start embracing this view point (which is how our Hunter Gatherer ancestors viewed everything) it will improve the environmental footprint of every part of your life by increasing you ability to reuse and improvise, instead of going to the store. For a specific example instead of throwing out your old couch, salvage it for materials. Wood frame for fire. Wood, elastic, fabric, zippers, and stuffing for your next sewing project. Screws, nuts and bolts for you next fix-it job.

  5. This is such a great interview. It’s always so refreshing and inspiring to see people living this way. And even more helpful to learn how they were able to ditch the work/pay/die cycle and actually create more meaningful, intentional, sustainable lives. It reminds me of the “Get Back, Stay Back” book you mentioned. Which my husband bought and we read cover to cover. We dream of living this way and talk constantly about how to transition. We’ve also been inspired by a couple of my brothers who’ve set out to do the same – only their living situations are much less idyllic than Michael’s :). Thanks so much for sharing. And congrats again on your new adventure. Sending so much good vibes, strength and happiness your way!!!

  6. I yearn for this type of simple, beautiful life. The photos reminded me of a wonderful documentary I saw recently on netflix, “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga”. So awesome to see you and your brother taking ownership of your lives, living authentically, conscientiously, and graciously. Thank you for the inspiration!

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