Special Report: Off The Grid

Imagine having two ways to get home.

During boating season, you’d be able to hop into your boat and drive 2 miles to your dock. But during the winter and when it’s stormy out, you’re walking!

That’s exactly what a couple who lives on their own island off of Drummond Island does almost every day.

Corey Adkins shares their story in this special report “Off the Grid.”

“Look UPS came! We have to get packages delivered here because UPS and Fed Ex do not deliver to the island,” explained Julie Covert as she stopped by Drummond Island’s Schooner House.

Julie and her husband build schooners at the Schooner House on Drummond Island. It’s one of the places she works, but it’s also part two of her trip home. Part one is hopping on a ferry to Drummond Island, then she drives across the island to get her hip waders.

“Then continuing a couple miles on pavement, then couple miles of dirt road in the Jeep, and then 3 miles of two-tracks,” said Julie.

She literally has to journey through a river, but it’s not over. 

The fun part really begins with part 3 when she sets off on foot.

“Hey honey, I’m at Larry’s. Here I come,” said Julie as she checked in with her Husband, Hugh, as a safety measure. “We got a half a mile before we cross the water, then a couple hundred yards across the water, then a mile or so for the hike home.”

Let the fun begin!

Shelter Island is home for Julie and Hugh Covert. It’s 40 acres completely off the grid.

“We’re on the far end of Drummond and the far end of the road and almost to Canada,” explained Hugh.

Hugh bought Shelter Island in 2003 and built their place. He met Julie in November of 2009, they fell in love and she got here as fast as she could in the spring of 2010. They got married in 2011.

“It’s a little more remote than I originally intended, but it’s not so difficult a place to live. It’s beautiful here,” explained Hugh.

But being this remote, how do they do it? Hugh had an option to run power out there.

“A local contractor give me a quote of around $50,000 to run power out here and I said I can buy a generator and a lot of fuel for that, solar panels and inverters,” said Hugh.

So he did.

“It turns out that this part of Michigan has enough sunshine to make solar energy work for us. We have a low energy budget. We have LED lights and a propane refrigerator, rather than electric. No air conditioning. We’re far enough north where we don’t need air conditioning and we have a propane water heater,” explained Hugh.

Julie added, “We heat with wood. We have two stoves. One is a wood cook stove, which I actually love cooking on. It’s so much fun and it’s really easy to control the temperatures.”

Hugh explained, “You can run the whole house on very little power. What I’ve come to find out living up here is, because it’s not Arizona or New Mexico where the sun doesn’t shine all the time, the thing for us has to be able to charge and recharge quickly, and the only way to do that is with a big battery bank.”

Anyone who’s been to Drummond Island knows it’s basically one big rock.

Drilling wells can sometimes be difficult, so Hugh and Julie get their water straight from Lake Huron.

“This part of Lake Huron, it’s cold and highly oxygenated. There is no industrial or agricultural sources of pollution, there’s no residential sources either. It’s good clean water,” said Hugh.

For all of us sitting at home, it may seem like a hard way to live, but they love it.

“The idea of actual intentional living, having to think consciously about everything we do,” said Julie.

Zelda Fitzgerald said, “Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” Look at where their house is placed on Shelter Island. I’d say it can hold quite a bit.

“This is our television, we’re always tuned to the Nature Channel. Every day it’s playing a different song,” said Julie.