After a warm 2016 right through the end of summer, along with a mix of dry late winter and early spring months followed by some very wet summer months, this fall has started off a bit cool which has stoked my hopes for my first ‘real’ Alaskan winter across 2016 – 2017. I was warned by my neighbors when I first moved up here that winter can, and does, come on quickly and sometimes October sees some serious snow and cold. In checking the history of October snows in Talkeetna I find the month averages 26.67 cm (10.5”); since relocating in 2013 I’ve seen no more than a dusting of snow in any of the following Octobers. Maybe this year the weather will revert to more normal temperatures and precipitation..? One can only hope!
I’ve noticed the gleam in my Alaskan malamute’s (Anana) eyes and the spring in her step with the advent of the repeated hard freezes we experienced last week; she is true to her breed and loves the cooler temperatures of the fall and winter up here. Five of the last six mornings have seen temps drop to below -2.2° C (28° F); this morning we failed to do so only because of cloud cover and drizzle. With this said I’d forgotten how cold drizzle/rain can be up here when the air temp is getting close to the freezing mark. Thanks to said cold rains and some wind 90% of our fall color now carpets the ground; as is typical it was ‘short and sweet’ once again this year. My male GSD (Qanuk) doesn’t care much about the air temps as long as he can get outside and run; this does become problematic when the air temps drop much below -17.8° C (0° F) but I’ve learned to limit the time he exposes his paw pads to such conditions. I now have to carry leads for ‘the kidz’ when we take walks because the mushers are out with their teams pulling ATVs.
With the advent of the cooler air I find myself once again preparing for what I’ve come to know as ‘the fall routine’. This aggregate of necessary activities has been growing each year I’ve lived in semi-rural south central Alaska and has additional items new for the fall of 2016. There’s the ritual shuffle of items between the unattached shed and the mudroom; my battery charger/starter comes from the shed to the mudroom as does any other equipment I may need to access during the winter since every year thus far the snow pack has been sufficient to block the shed door and require shoveling to access. The Toyo Monitor furnace checked out just fine and has been running now for six straight days; I do not recall having to do this until early to middle October in the previous falls. The now almost seven month old gasoline in the two five gallon Jerry cans will be emptied into the gas tank of my Escape and I will refill them, and add a bit of ‘Sta-bil’, within a week. This ensures that should the power fail I’ll have clean and ready gasoline for the generator. I’m also trying something new this year; said generator normally sits on the front porch just outside the front door. Given it is wheeled I plan to unhook the output power line and wheel the unit into my mudroom from November through February when it is really cold. If I lose power during that time I need only wheel it back out to the front porch, hook up the transfer line and fire it up. The real plus will involve the latter; it will be at least 12.8° C (55° F) and so should start very easily. More than once in previous winters I really struggled trying to start the generator when the air temp was well below -17.8° C (0° F).
Time also to lock the windows closed and put up any ‘heat barriers’ in the upstairs ‘spare’ bedroom windows to keep their room temp air from dropping into the single digits Celsius (middle forties Fahrenheit) during cold streaks. As is common in a house which started as a cabin and grew over time there is no good circulation into any of the second floor rooms although I did open a hole in the master bedroom floor and embedded a fan which I can reverse as needed to either pull the warmer main floor air (said hole is right over the Toyo Monitor) into the bedroom or push the cold air near the floor down into the main room. I’ve already unhooked and coiled my water hose; it is stored in the shed. In addition I just removed the last of my window light barriers in the master bedroom; for me this is one of the cardinal signs the fall has arrived. I’ve pulled together all my cameras and camcorders, cleaned them of the summer’s dust and fully recharged their respective batteries in hopes of being able to catch some auroral shows this winter; I’ve done the same with my headlamp batteries. I’ve tested the crawl space heater to insure it is functioning; while it runs very little and only when outside temps drop below -26.0° C (-15° F) for a number of consecutive days it is vital to keeping my pipes from freezing. I’ve also deployed snow shovels to both the front and back porches.
Such chores are really not all that involved but I so enjoy them because they speak to me of the coming snow and cold. And they also remind me of the rhythms of Mother Nature which are so very predominant in ‘The Great Land’. Somehow it just feels so ‘right’ to have such activities dictated by the passage of the seasons. And living in Alaska it is impossible not be aware of the season’s dance…