Friday, August 18, 2017

Walking Tour of a Remote, Off-Grid Home in Alaska

I'm not sure what people envision when they hear that someone lives in a remote home in Alaska.  Certainly, the places I have visited vary quite a bit.  Even cabins for the tourist industry can be stunning resorts or, more often, modest fish camps.  Many homes we fly over and visit are in a constant state of transition - Tyvek on one side or a new plywood Arctic entry or the ever necessary additional storage buildings surrounded by a motley collection of trucks, RVs, ATVs, snowmachines, and boats.  We, too, have added structures and vehicles bit by bit since we bought the undeveloped land in 2007, but being a bit of a neatner family, we maintain a pretty orderly looking place, inside and out. Below is a tour of this remote homestead.

Home sweet home
If you flew by float plane air taxi to visit in summer (there are no roads over the mountains, bogs, or forests here), you would chug up to one of our two little wooden docks.  If our little plane or kayak were in the way, the pilot would maneuver toward a part of the shore with few trees (in the bog or among the fool's huckleberry) and jump into the water (in waders) to tie the plane to some bushes.  You would step down onto the float and then leap to shore.

Our five acre property is on the east side of the lake, looking west at two mountains (beautiful sunsets in winter).  No other homes are in view. (The other full time family lives on the same side of the lake as we do, and I do not know of any other full time residents within many miles.  30?  Uninhabited state land surrounds the lake.   I love the view, which varies, hour by hour, and season by season, from Alpen glow to auroras to storm weather barreling through the gaps in the mountains.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Remote Living: Food, Don't Take Mother Nature For Granted

The biggest lesson I have learned from increasing our reliance on personal food production is:  “Don't expect last year's harvest to repeat.” Maybe Mother Nature has a sense of humor.  She certainly throws some curve balls.  Because each season's harvest varies, I am learning observation and humility, and rebounding with a range of preservation techniques and alternative crops and recipes for when X or Y disappoints.  Below is a summary of this year's results with birch sap, honey bees, chickens, berries, vegetables, and herbs.   High points:  raspberry mead, nasturtium pesto, and naturalized cilantro. Oh, and moose didn't linger to devastate the berry bushes and apple trees.  Low points: birch sap and a rainy July.
An 8 foot tall swarm of honey bees

BIRCH SAP:  We were TOTALLY SKUNKED on birch sap collection, which absolutely blindsided us since the prior three years had been so easy and successful. In fact, we nearly doubled the number of tapped trees in anticipation (from 30 to nearly 55) and finished off the remaining sap and syrup from the prior year. The desultory drips and measly harvest result, I learned, from meager diurnal temperature differentiation.  Ah, yes, that.    Heard and noted.  So no syrup this year (need to reduce 100 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup).  We made twenty gallons of beer with the sap, which was fine, but this year's carboy of birch sap wine tastes watery.  Darn.