The hunters eventually abandoned the camp. Mr. Carns, who grew up in nearby Laughlintown, can remember playing in the empty cabin as a child.
“The windows were broken,” he recalled. “It was the worst thing possible.”
An outdoorsman all of his life, Mr. Carns purchased the property 37 years ago as he was looking to move home after working as a forest fire warden in the Northwest.
“I fought some hellish, dangerous fires,” he recalled.
There was no feasible way to bring utility lines to the camp, so necessity became the mother of invention for Mr. Carns, who started slowly at first, with a wood-burning stove and oil lamps.
“This has all been an evolution,” he said.
For inspiration, Mr. Carns turned to Ruth Scott, a family friend who was an environmentalist and close friend of Rachel Carson.
Then he married Kathy, a high school acquaintance and outdoor enthusiast who also craved “the simple life.”
They have been married more than 30 years.
“I’ve always been an outdoorsy person,” Mrs. Carns said.
Mrs. Carns, 59, is a social service director for the Bethlen Home in Ligonier while her husband works full time coming up with new inventions and power sources — each of which he builds himself.
“I was the support for him when he thought he couldn’t do this,” she said.
The Carns use seven alternative power sources: a wind turbine, six 75-watt solar panels, a stationary bike connected to a 12-volt battery, wood smoke, biodiesel fuel, ethanol and thermo-electric power.
Mr. Carns is building a propane-fueled refrigerator and an ice storage shed. The stationary bike is operated mostly by Mrs. Carns, who is a triathlete.
WASTE NOT, WANT NOT
The key to self-sufficiency, the Carns have found, is always completing the recycling circle and never wasting anything.