Our blog and meandering thoughts...
7 a.m. It's dark outside. The kerosene lantern flickers and makes a soft popping sound. It swings gently in my hand as I trudge down the shoveled path thru deep snow to the outhouse.
The lack of sun to power the solar light in the outhouse has made it necessary to tote along a lantern. I discovered this last night at 3 a.m. with an inadvertent blind outhouse run. Normally you pull the cord in the outhouse and the solar light pops on. This early morning run it did not.
There's also been a wolf skulking around. Even though it's only 100 feet to the outhouse, one can't help but try to see glowing yellow eyes glaring thru the brush at the edge of the forest. A primal urge, alerting you that danger lurked nearby. You can't help it. It's there, deep in your brain. But your need to use the outhouse overpowers dark fear and you walk on, maybe a bit quicker.
Our dog rarely barks. She was out last night and suddenly broke into a crazy barking frenzy. I'd guess there was a predator nearby but we didn't see anything. Word around the area is a lone wolf is nearby. He's been seen on the river and at the airstrip, both of which aren't far from our place.
I tell myself I have no fear of wolves. I don't think I do. But running into one in the dark, on my way to the outhouse already, I think I'd probably pee myself.
The lantern cuts thru the darkness. The outhouse is straight ahead.
Temps have dropped back to zero. We keep the woodstove going all the time. My trip to the outhouse is quick. It's cold outside! I see the warm glow from the Christmas lights inside as I walk back to the house.
3 of my 5 kids will be home for Christmas this year. That thought makes me smile and warms my insides. Not so cold out when I think of that. I step inside, douse the lantern and hear the pile of puppies yowling. They are trying to howl. It's cute. The fire is crackling. Coffee is brewing and the aroma fills the room. Nate is sitting on the couch, sleepy but awake.
"Why the lantern?" He asks.
"Solar light isn't working." I reply.
Life in remote Alaska seems to always be throwing something at you. Isn't it just so romantic?!
We take showers by heating up a 5 gallon bucket of water on the woodstove. Then the bucket is moved to the bathroom where we have a tub installed but no running water to it as of yet. There is a drain in the tub that runs to the exterior of our cabin
where the grey water can drain into the woods. A 4 cup measuring cup is used to scoop the water out of the bucket and over your head. Get wet, soap up, rinse off. Simple. We get 2 showers out of 5 gallons.
Well, this summer we had discovered a portable shower head with a mini water pump on one end. It runs on batteries. You put the pump in the water bucket and hold the shower head to get a real shower! It's really great to mount the hand held shower head into the wall and stand under running water! We got spoiled.
A few weeks ago, the pump stopped working. We were pretty bummed. Back to dumping water over our heads with the measuring cup. Once we got down to the library in town so we could access the internet, I ordered a new pump. It showed up yesterday and now we have a shower again!!
It's pretty amazing how much you appreciate the simple things in life. Most people take for granted and never even think twice about what it would be like if they couldn't turn the faucet on and step into a hot shower. We know we appreciate it every day...
For the past 2 years we have lived with curtains over our kitchen cabinets as there were no doors present. It has been on our project list, continually bumped to the bottom as other projects took precedence. Finally, with a majority of our projects completed and winter weather upon us, we have built cabinet doors. Using left over 1x3's, 1x4's and 1x2's, we built them. I sawed and shaped the antlers off Nate's fall caribou to use as cabinet handles. I sanded the wood, Nate placed the pieces together and nailed them into cabinet doors.
We mounted the doors and were elated! They look fantastic! The only problem was, we ran out of wood, so unfortunately, we still have 2 cabinets left uncovered. No lumber store here, so we'll wait for spring when the road opens and we can the drive 10 hours into Fairbanks to get resupplied.
It's sooo nice to hear cabinet doors closing! We've learned to really appreciate the simple things...
November 26 we had 9 pups born. The female is our dog. She is a mix breed of Bernese mountain dog and Karilian bear dog. The male she bred with is a purebred giant Alaskan malamute. The pups are huge! We have 6 males and 3 females. They are all very healthy. They are 2 weeks old now and some have started opening their eyes. Nate and I are keeping 2 males to raise and train as outdoor companions. We plan on learning skijoring. We'll be able to train our dogs young and they should grow to be massive sled dogs, who can easily pull each of us on our skis.
Friends of ours are taking 2 females and 1 male. That leaves us 4 pups to find good homes for. They are beautiful pups, well marked and good temperaments. We've ordered puppy shots to be flown in by Bush plane from Fairbanks in about a month. We'll have winter entertainment now as we watch them grow!!
It's the 10th of October, 2 a.m. Last trip to the outhouse tonight before climbing under the pile of blankets on our bed.
The night sky is dancing with swirls of vibrant green and shadowed white lights streaking across the dark canvas. Bright stars twinkle randomly as if cast playfully by a child throwing sand into the air. It is crisp outside. Enough to catch your breath if you breathe in too deeply. The current temperature is hovering near zero. The spectacle tonight is breathtaking. I stop and stare above, smiling and delighted in the beauty only Alaska can reveal. Cold icy fingers of Jack Frost slowly tighten their grip, giving me a slight chill as I stand entranced, watching tonight's aurora borealis.
The chill reminds me of my destination. The outhouse. I quickly head there, trying to shake the chill and finish my task. Heading back to the cabin I can't help but stop and watch the smoke from the stovepipe swirling upwards as if wanting to join in the dance of the northern lights as they ebb and flow above. The solar Christmas lights I put on the trees out front twinkle. It is a perfect picture of an Alaskan wilderness homestead. I take a mental snapshot and file it in my mind as a happy warm content memory.
I open the door to our home and step inside. The warmth cast from the crackling fire in the woodstove makes me smile as I am hit with a wave of warm air. I remove my boots and coat and set them neatly by the back door just in case a later trip to the outhouse is needed. I throw more wood on fire and bank it for the night, turning the damper and air flow vents down low.
Upstairs it's cold in our room. We have blankets piled on the bed. If we leave the door open it gets too hot from the warm air rising from the woodstove below. If the door stays closed its cold, but it's better to sleep in the cold and snuggle under warm blankets than it is tossing and turning as you sweat all night in gruesome heat.
I reflect on the past week. It's progressively gotten colder each day. We've got the deck replaced as the old one was rotten and ready to collapse. That could've been an interesting story...hopping down the rotten steps in the middle of the night headed to the outhouse, they crumble and you tumble, lying there in freezing temperatures, perhaps with broken bones, perhaps unconscious, not to be found til the next person takes a late night run to the outhouse, only to tumble on top of you since the stairs are now missing... Ya, we averted that story and finished a new deck. We got our food storage pressure canned and stored away. We are nearly finished with the new arctic entry addition, one more day should have that done. Solar Christmas lights have been strung on several baby spruce trees in our front yard to give a warm glow to the front of the cabin.
Solar power is amazing. It's so empowering to harness energy from the sun to provide a power supply to your homestead. I smile every night I go outside and see those Christmas lights twinkling in the trees, or walk to the barn and trip the motion sensor that activates the solar powered floodlight, or walk into the outhouse and pull a cord hanging from the ceiling to activate the solar light hanging inside. We have plans to install solar panels on the south side of the cabin and wire them directly into our battery bank along with the generator to have plenty of power for the cabin and barn. All free.
No power bill. We haul our water. We heat and cook with wood. We hunt and fish for our meat. We garden and gather wild edibles for our vegetables and fruits. We bake our own bread and make meals from scratch. There's nowhere to go for fast food. Fast food out here is a bear charging you right before you drop him. That's fast food!
There are no cell phones where we live, no cell service within 160 miles actually. Satellite phones and Garmin inReach devices work up here. We do carry our Garmin when we are outside for emergency purposes. If you want to get online, you take a trip into Eagle, population 80, and only half that live there year round. You go to the local library which is a cozy log cabin with a barrel stove in the center of the room that's constantly being fed 3 foot sections of firewood. You log in and get to battle the slowest server in America and have to reconnect at least 3 times as it constantly boots your device offline. You can't download movies or pictures, the server doesnt have that capacity. So we check emails, browse the web, sometimes get lucky and chat on messenger, scroll Facebook and update our blog if the server isn't overloaded.
We check the mail at the post office once a week along with a trip to the library. Having that routine is nice. Overall, we live a simple but rewarding life. Mostly untouched by the outside world. No tv to fill us in with the latest world news, no cell phones ringing, no texts buzzing in, no sirens, no street noise, no humming of civilization, no street lights to pollute the night sky, no air pollution, I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. It is a life filled with adventures, challenges and beauty. We work hard and play harder. We love the life we've carved out here.
We are now trying to finish up our firewood supply, do last minute projects that need completed before deep freeze sets in and then we can focus on indoor projects and making items to sell for the upcoming Christmas season. We are happy, healthy and free, ready to take on another winter in the remote wilderness of Alaska.