Early morning sun is just now touching the tops of the bare Birch and Aspen trees surrounding my new Alaskan home although it is 09:10 AKDT on October 10, 2013. The temperature remains a chilly but not unusual 25.8 F after a mainly clear night. There’s been some wildlife activity this morning as the dogs have kicked up a ruckus twice but the first time – at 07:20 – was far too dark to see outside and the second time – at 08:43 – I saw nothing but that hardly means nothing was out there. I’m slowly becoming accustomed to this much different lifestyle and the more I settle in the more I find I’m embracing it; the good and the not so good. I’ve spent many hours just slowly unpacking and organizing since I arrived on August 6th with a college buddy and a 26′ U-Haul van containing my household. Its taken me two months to get everything unpacked and organized on the main floor; my bedroom and office on the second floor are similar but the two spare bedrooms are unmitigated chaos. I’m okay with this idea as I suspect I’ll have lots of time to work on them during the long, cold and dark winter months which are now just weeks away.
In fact, most of my efforts ancillary to moving in and settling down have been directed towards preparing for winter. I’ve upped my gasoline storage on-site to 25 gallons and I’ve purchased similar supplies for the generator like oil, Sta-bil and ether based starting spray. Given the power has already failed eleven times since I moved in I’ve had plenty of chances to verify the generator’s operation; I can power the well pump, the fridge, the furnace and a couple additional electrical circuits in the house without really taxing the unit. This is good as I suspect its going to get a real workout come the more harsh winter weather. I really need a second heat source not tied to electricity; a wood stove is the obvious answer especially given the very low cost of ubiquitous birch firewood yet this house doesn’t have such a device and after carefully researching wood stoves I believe I know why. There’s no place to conveniently put such a device; at best I would have to surrender most of my dining area if I were to install such a unit. I’ve elected to try this first winter with just the existing furnace; if I have too many issues or the cost of heating this place is astronomical I will have to re-visit this idea. In a true emergency I do have a white gas cook stove as well as a small white gas heater good for warming a single room.
In addition I’ve updated my wardrobe to include more layering options – if there’s one thing Alaska taught me during my numerous visit from ’96 through ’05 it was the value of layering – as well as a new set of insulated boots, rubber ‘break up boots’ and snow shoes. I’ve never used the latter and so should have some stories to share the first time I try to head out while wearing them. I also have a balaclava and have on order heavily insulated mittens which seem to be worn by all the locals; personally I prefer gloves but I do know mittens are more efficient at retaining heat. I expect I will be spending time outdoors even when its -30 F as both my Alaskan Malamute (Anana) and German Shepherd Dog (Qanuk) love cold and snow. I put off purchasing either an ATV or snow machine until I’ve experienced all four seasons. The neighbors I’ve asked have all recommended a snow machine but then given there’s snow on the ground seven months a year this isn’t a surprise. An ATV tricked out with a winch and a plow would allow me to clear my own driveway and hence save money. Still, I remain open to either one and time will tell. One thing which will occur next fall is the construction of a shelter for my Escape and also for upcoming toys. I hate the thought of leaving it unprotected during this winter but there was no garage with this home and of the eight places I visited last April only one had a garage. I may never understand this but without question I’ll be assisting in putting up some type of protective structure come next October.
With the increasing daylight has come increasing clouds, Stratocumulus, which most likely signal approaching precipitation. We’ve seen an abundance of rain since late August as well as slightly above normal average temps; with a bit of luck this will change as I still have a lot of burning to handle regarding all the packing materials before the snow flies. Alaska does not recycle apparently because of the cost; I was told anything that can be recycled must be accumulated, condensed and then shipped over water to Seattle for handling. Seems like a potential business opportunity to me. At any rate as I head into the fall I feel I am materially well prepared for the upcoming winter. Just how well I am prepped mentally and emotionally only time will tell. I still feel I’ll have more difficulty with the long, almost ‘darkness dearth’ mid-summer conditions but again I have yet to experience either so I cannot be sure. I am looking forward to the learning’s that will come from experiencing all four seasons in my new home; while nothing is certain I’d wager they will be many and varied!