By Christina Whiting
As a little girl, Robin McAllistar used to pretend she was Laura Ingalls Wilder from the “Little House on the Prairie” books. She dreamed of living in a cabin in the woods, surrounded by family, friends, music and laughter.
Born and raised in Anchorage, McAllister joined the United States Forest Service in the 1970s as a teenager and moved to Cordova on her own.
“I fell in love with the community, the wild and the water,” she said.
Over the next decade, McAllistar worked trail crews, repaired sonar sites and fish ladders, mapped vegetation in Prince William Sound and studied trumpeter swans. She also fished several fisheries in the area, and for several years was a deckhand for Ed Bilderback on his boat, the F/V Valiant Maid.
With a six-pack license and a kelp pound permit, McAllister was preparing to get her own boat and fishing permit when the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill happened, forcing her to return to her family’s home in Anchorage. She returned to school to study counseling psychology and started a private practice.
In 2008, eager to return to live, work and play by the ocean, McAllistar was making plans to move back to Cordova when she got a phone call for a job interview with Cook Inlet Council on Alcohol and Drugs (CICADA) for their Homer office. During the interview, she was offered the job.
“I was heading for Cordova, but got swooped up to Homer,” she said.
For the next year, McAllister counseled women and adolescents. She also bought a house and a little sailboat. The following year, she returned to private practice, and has now been counseling adults and couples for the past 23 years.
“I love watching people transform their lives,” she said. “I consider it my job to help people get where they want to go.”
McAllister said she draws from many paths to achieve that goal, and has developed a client-centered approach she refers to as the empowerment method.
Driven to be a force for good, McAllistar forges ahead where she sees a need. She recently started “Dragon School,” an alternative treatment program for individuals with addiction issues. Using a holistic approach, she provides individual and group counseling, and refers clients to Homer Acupuncture Project for addiction-specific acupuncture — as well as Many Rivers for yoga.
“There is great research that supports the combination of yoga, acupuncture and supportive counseling as an unbeatable approach to addiction,” she said. “I have seen it save lives.”
McAllistar is community-driven in many ways beyond her work as a counselor. She is a member of the Kachemak Bay Celtic Club, and created the Highland Games for Teens this year to provide an opportunity for youth to participate.
An avid gardener, herbalist and permaculturist, she raises rare-breed chickens for eggs and compost, has 2,400 square feet of covered garden — including a 90-foot high tunnel — a food forest full of fruit trees, grapes, berries, vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants. McAllister named it Shire Organics, and is working to turn her farm into a small, community-supported agricultural farm to feed her family, as well as 10 other families.
“The goal for my garden is to be sustainable by the time I leave this world,” she said. “It will grow on without me, as will the people that I’ve helped and the family that I’ve raised.”
She is also involved in the Homer Garden Club, Homer’s High-Tunnel Group and Transition Town Movement.
“This is a movement whose mission is to imagine and begin to re-skill a society that is not dependent on fossil fuels,” she said.
McAllister also created a skills-sharing Facebook page called Homer Wisdom Cooperative. She called it a place where individuals working on projects like natural building, mariner skills, food-catching, growing or preserving, can connect with others wanting to learn and trade wisdom for help.
Family is important to McAllister. She shares her home with her 15-year-old son Aaron and her 86-year-old mother Donna. Daughter Katie lives just down the street with her family.
“We are in this world to love,” Robin said. “We need to start in our own homes and spread out to our community and to our planet.”
Despite how busy her work and passion for community service keeps her, McAllistar makes time to nurture her creative side. Last year, she took her first painting class and now says she cannot stop painting. She loves contra dances, plays ukulele and regularly hosts music jams at her home. She also loves to sing, dance and act.
“I adore that there’s room to grow these parts of me in this community,” she said.
Indulging in her many passions year-round, McAllistar maintains a sense of balance because she has learned truth in, “to each thing is a season.”
“I have discovered the season for gardening, the season for nurturing creativity, the season for sailing and the season for skiing,” she said.
Sitting in her little green house on the hill, fed by a sense of community and sustainability, McAllistar thrives among her gardens, chickens, fish, canned fruits and vegetables and the sounds of friends and family laughing and singing that spill out of the windows and doors of her home. For Robin McAllistar, this is the pioneer life she dreamed of — and this life is her Little House on the Prairie.
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