Off Grid Grit

If you’re looking for the bare necessities, skip The Jungle Book and head straight to Passadumkeag
Words By Heather Chapman
Photos By Lauryn Hottinger

If you want to get a Mainer in a muddle, ask them what they know about Passadumkeag. The most common response is a series of squints and head scratches, perhaps the vague recollection of a road sign en route to the Penobscot River for a rafting trip. Otherwise, the town (population 356) slips under the radar. 

Unless you’re Kate Wentworth, who purchased 18 acres of woodland here in 2019 after a decade-long search for the perfect parcel. If you ask Kate what she knows about Passadumkeag, she’ll share stories of a vibrant local community and land rich in opportunity for self-sustainability—a topic the earth-skills instructor, seasoned off-gridder, and two-time Discovery Channel Naked and Afraid contestant knows a thing or two about. 

The three-season A-frame she began building on the property at the onset of the pandemic—hammering each board and nail by hand—covers the bare necessities. “It’s not connected to the power grid, and it doesn’t have running water,” Kate says, explaining her process for harvesting rainwater for drinking, cooking, and washing. The structure is illuminated in the evenings by candles and lanterns, plus the occasional battery-operated strand of string lights for extra ambiance. “People have varying degrees of understanding and defining ‘off-grid living,’” Kate says. Despite growing the vast majority of her own fruit and vegetables—canning and preserving leftovers to store in a hand-dug root cellar (little more than a hole in the ground) sees her through the winter—and hunting, Kate says, “I still make the occasional trek to the grocery store for supplies and heat with a wall-mounted propane heater, but I am very much disconnected from the main power grid and many modern comforts.”  

Earth-skills instructor and seasoned off-gridder, Kate found her parcel of land in the vibrant, self-sustaining community of Passadumkeag.
Without power or running water, daily chores are crucial to off-grid living.
Travelers rent the A-frame for a one-of-a-kind getaway.

Passing up Netflix and electricity for a richer goal has given Kate an ironclad sense of self-reliance. “When I set out, I knew the ins and outs of this lifestyle, but I’d never built an A-frame. I just knew it was what I wanted to do, and so I did it. I just started and found my way forward one step at a time.” 

Now, those interested in a truly one-of-a-kind getaway can rent the A-frame, dubbed Missy’s Hall, on Airbnb and Hipcamp while Kate completes the second build on the land: a 12-by-14-foot single-pitch cabin. Including a sleeping loft and spacious front porch, this latest structure is yet another example of resourcefulness and a “try, try again” attitude.  

Kate’s latest challenge has been building a single-pitch cabin.

I never stop from sunup to sundown, and this lifestyle is incredibly fulfilling. My vision is for self-sustainability and reduced waste to become a new-old way in this modern world; for people just like me to walk like our ancestors did,” Kate says.  

Walking like our ancestors necessitates a waste-not approach, which Kate is highly attuned to. “When I hunt deer, I not only consume the meat, but I also tan the hide. When I hunt bear, I use the tallow—a portion of the animal that typically gets discarded—to make salves, lip balms, and more,” Kate explains. In her newest venture, Bear Hand Necessities, Kate shares her zero-waste bear fat salves—made with rendered bear tallow, beeswax, and essential oils—on Etsy, cracking the door open for individuals near and far to learn more about her unique approach to a handmade life in rural Maine. 

Kate grows the majority of her fruits and vegetables, preserving leftovers to store in her hand-dug root cellar.
Books and nature-based art decorate the small yet functional space.

“They say, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ I’m just one woman, but so far, I’ve received a surprising outpouring of interest and support from others wanting to strip back to the bare necessities, too,” says Kate. “Can you imagine what our world would look like if everyone incorporated even a portion of these principles into their daily lives and routines?” 

Although it’s still off in the distance, this vision for the future—in Maine and beyond—glows bright.