Monday, February 29, 2016

Jr. Iditarod Race from Our Front Porch

Living out in the boonies as we do, we see more eagles than people. But once a year, we have front row seats for a dog mushing race that runs right past our cabin.  We look forward to this each February.
A racer passing by our porch
The Junior Iditarod is a two day, 150 mile race for teenaged competitors (14-17) that has been run in the vicinity of Willow, Alaska since 1977.  Each musher must raise, care for, train, and race his or her own team of dogs (usually 10), so the competition is the culmination of many months of commitment.  The entry fee is currently $150 – 250, depending on date of payment.  The prize money of about $10,000 is split among the fastest finishers, but that surely doesn't even cover the expense of feeding and training a whole kennel of dogs. Before the recession (before 2009), the peak number of participants I found was 22. Most years, though, the entry pool consists of only 9-12 intrepid racers.

It is fair to say that more volunteers than competitors participate, many of whom are long timers.   They have volunteered their time as pilots, snowmachiners, ham radio operators, check point timers, cooks and bottle washers.  Each gathering includes some reminiscence of the kids who graduated from this race to enter the “senior” Iditarod – the grueling 1000 mile race that starts  the following weekend (First weekend of March) and lasts for ten days.  Our only full time neighbor (within ten miles) has offered his small lodge as a check point for a decade or more, which is why the race route passes us.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Refrigeration Alternatives Off-Grid

I love icy cold fruit juice and white wine.  How can we accomplish this at our off-grid cabin?
How do we store cheese and other dairy products, as well as fruits and vegetables? 

We rely on a mix of powered and natural methods that vary somewhat according to the season.  Each is highlighted below.  Non-powered methods include a cold-hole, canning, and drying foods, as well as the simple expedient of utilizing freezing temperatures, snow, and shade. Powered methods include a propane powered refrigerator and solar/wind powered electric freezers.  Some of these approaches can work for anybody, anywhere.     

Year Round:
Many years ago, we dug outside our food shed a “cold hole” that functions as a refrigerator.  It is not as big as a basement or even a root cellar, but it functions the same way.  It is the depth and size of two vertically dropped, welded, food grade 55 gallon drums. Over this hangs a beam from which dangles a metal cable on a winch.  When we lift aside the double layered wood and polystyrene lid, we attach the cable to a sturdy eyelet on the top of a set of five, layered lucite shelves that fit within the double depth of the canisters.  Each shelf can support 8 - quart jars of food, or a net bag of vegetables, or several packages  of dairy products.  The temperature varies from top to bottom of the hole, at different times of year, but it is always above freezing and below 52 degrees, so functional for refrigeration.  I have been very pleased by its reliablility for storing potatoes and unopened cheese all winter, for example.  It is not convenient for everyday use, but excellent for long term storage and occasional retrievals.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

What If??? --- Stocking Our Emergency "To Go" Bags

The FAA requires each private pilot to carry emergency supplies, not only for him/herself, but also for the number of passengers on board who could also be stranded in a remote location and have to fend for themselves either until help arrives or until they hike out to find some.

Aviation and personal gear, winter
My husband and I think that this is such a prudent idea that we also apply it  to our car and snowmachines.  Each one has an emergency bag, too.  Even our home, in a way.  Because it is small, we store clothes, food, matches, and supplies in various outbuildings. Perhaps some of those structures will be unimpaired even if our cabin is damaged by fire or earthquake.  Each year, we re-evaluate our “to-go bags” with the goal of reducing weight/bulk while improving efficiency and effectiveness. Currently, the largest (blue) one (for the plane and snowmachine) weighs about 25 pounds.  The small (black) backpacks weigh about 10 pounds.