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In May 1999 Jay and Eileen Beedle set out to raise their children off the grid on Shelter Island, a skiff ride from Juneau.
‘South Shelter’ encourages readers to say ‘no’ to stress 030817 AE 1 Mackenzie Fisher, Capital City Weekly In May 1999 Jay and Eileen Beedle set out to raise their children off the grid on Shelter Island, a skiff ride from Juneau.

Jason, Eileen, and Merlin watch bull orca whales swim past South Shelter. Photo by Jay Beedle.


This deer, curious about Jay Beedle's camera flash, walked right up to him. Photo by Jay Beedle.


A pink salmon jumps. Photo by Jay Beedle.


Killer whale T 87 spyhops after his pod killed a Dall's porpoise near St. James Bay. Photo by Jay Beedle.


Jason and Jay Beedle delivered their couch to their home on Shelter Island via skiff. Photo by Jay Beedle.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Story last updated at 3/7/2017 - 6:39 pm

‘South Shelter’ encourages readers to say ‘no’ to stress

In May 1999 Jay and Eileen Beedle set out to raise their children off the grid on Shelter Island, a skiff ride from Juneau. Yearning to escape the stress from constant work and the bustle of Alaska’s capital, Beedle quit his job with the State and moved his family in an attempt to offer his children the best life he possibly could. Now, after almost 20 years off the grid, fueled by his desire to share with others the benefits of living a more simple life, Beedle has written a memoir.

Beedle’s book tells a story of disregarding nay-sayers successfully. He also gives readers specifics on what it’s like to clear land for and construct cabins, become homeschooling parents, fail at living remotely once just to try again, and what it takes to adapt to life away from society.

Shelter Island is nine miles long and has no roads or any cultivated areas. Its dense woods mean it’s normally used just for hunting and camping. It is about a 15-minute boat ride from Juneau’s Auke Bay harbor.

Beedle writes, “Bombarded with stock market reports every 15 minutes, non-stop current news on the radio and television about the latest killings and the sick disgusting things humans do to each other around the world, it seemed to me the media was addicted to scum and bound and determined to suck every bit of hope out of us.”

He first published his memoir, “South Shelter,” in 2014 after three years of writing and editing. When asked why it’s so important for him to try and get this book out now. Beedle answered, “I believe in it. I believe the message is there. It’s true people need to hear it.”

This book shares insight on what Beedle calls, “A different lifestyle that not very many people have lived.”

Beedle doesn’t try to sugarcoat living a remote life and makes sure to write about all of the hardships that go along with the good times.

“If you have dreams to live remote, not everything’s going to be perfect. But realize how good things are, and make the best of it.”

Beedle said honesty is the most important aspect to living a happy and successful life.

“We’re brainwashed in America. It’s materials and it’s capitalism. There’s got to be a balance,” he said.

In “South Shelter,” many times through his family’s quirky stories, Beedle emphasizes the importance of hydrating with water, the use of solar energy, the benefits of recycling and many other tips for an overall more healthy, enlightened life.

From a killer whale’s majestic head shot to his children kayaking out homemade, chocolate chip cookies to tourists, the colorful photos inside “South Shelters” pages bring the Beedle family, and their experiences with nature, to life.

Motherearthnews.com, which is geared toward being “the original guide to living wisely” was first to respond to Beedle after publication and added an entire chapter into one of its issues.

Beedle has written multiple articles in line with his convictions about sustainable living and protecting the environment. “Solar energy in Southeast, is it for real or is it a joke?”, published in the Juneau Empire Outdoors section in 2012, focuses on the possibility of solar energy in Southeast Alaska. In a 2013 My Turn published in the Juneau Empire’s opinion pages, “I love my Ford F-250 4x4,” addresses the issue of air pollution. As the former co-owner of Harv and Marv’s whale watching tours, he’s also written 16 “Weekly Whale Features” IDing whales by their tails for the Empire.

“South Shelter” is currently offered at Hearthside books in Juneau. Interested readers can also email Beedle atjislandimages@gmail.com.

An aside: After my interview with Beedle I was happy to find he wasn’t all just talk. As I turned on my car in hopes of heating it up enough to melt the inches of snow off its windows, Beedle trudged through the parking lot and without a word began wiping off each of my car’s windows. Good people do exist.

Mackenzie Fisher, a senior at the University of Alaska Southeast, is the Capital City Weekly’s spring semester intern.