A Typical Day: A Panty Party

I’ve often been asked what a typical day is like out here.

What do you do all day?

In preparing to move here, I tried to remind myself that no matter how much you plan, Alaska often decides for you and having never spent a winter in Alaska, I was going in totally blind.

But that didn’t stop me completely. I planned. I planned on reading a lot, on learning to knit and to get better at sewing, to Billy Madison myself (start over and learn it all again), to create a daily exercise regime, to make art and do all the home projects we weren’t able to complete in the fall.

…and then I got here.

And now I get it.

The first week I was here, I wanted to do it all but the thing is, everything else needed to get done. And that’s a typical day. The overarching theme of a day is to decide:

  1. What needs to get done and
  2. What is actually feasible

I first started Today lists like this:

  1. Wake up early and go for a walk, then 30 minutes of yoga
  2. Make breakfast
  3. Read
  4. Laundry
  5. Call mom
  6. Have lunch
  7. Write a letter
  8. Chop wood
  9. Call bank
  10. Call car insurance
  11. Make dinner, heck, even make cookies

And this is all fine and dandy when you have power and life isn’t contingent upon weather but this is the actual day that follows a list like the above:

  1. Wake up at…the time your body is ready. My first week I set a daily alarm for 8am and I could not wake up to it. I was beyond tired. Unless The Chief is headed to work (which is atypical for winter but luckily present this winter and so we do have alarm days) we don’t set an alarm. This gave and still does give me a bit of a panic…and that is why I’m here, to learn to listen to my body to take the hours it needs. It feels overindulgent for a busybody worker bee like myself and that’s when I know I need the lesson even more.
  2. Get up and bundle up to go pee. Oh yes, nothing like a brisk 20 below zero and a chilly behind to wake you right up. This is the time of day you wish you were a boy (unless you already are…congratulations). Ah, and brace yourself for what we call The Ramp of Doom. No sleepy eyed wanderings down this bad boy. Hidden frozen patches will have you on your behind in no time.


    There’s even a gap between the landing and the ramp for added fun

  3. Make a fire (unless you had to chilly pee in the middle of the night and also stoked the fire – two gold stars for that one, but who needs stickers when you’re warm in bed?) thumb_DSC_0207_1024
  4. Make coffee and assess the day. Laundry? Booyah! It’s beyond overdue (it’s amazing the things you suddenly decipher as “clean” when all your laundry is by hand). But, a slight kink in the plan…you’re out of water. These bad boys (two 5 gallon buckets) are how we store water in the house. thumb_DSC_0231_1024But again, they are nearly empty.
  5. O.K, so get the genie (generator), hook it to the well and fire that baby up! Wait. It’s 20 below. The generator is outside, frozen. Well, good thing you made that roaring fire earlier this morning (FYI, time to add another log). Suit up (Snow pants, boots, snow jacket, long undies, hat and gloves). Go outside. Grab the genie. Place it by the fire for a few hours.
  6. At this point, nearing 11am, you realize that there are only a few more hours of good daylight and that your woodpile is getting low. So, you chop wood, stack wood, bring wood inside to keep the fire raging to warm up the water that (thankfully) still remains in the large pot on the stove (this is where the laundry magic will be happening).
  7. O.K, now it’s noon. Time for that walk. You have to chase the sun here and get out while it’s out or before you know it, the day clouds over and your direct line to vitamin D is done. So, out you go. Suit up again, find the pup and head to the river and hey, two birds one stone, call your mama. During the call, your phone will die from cold but at least you’ll hear her voice and at least you’ll be here: thumb_IMG_4603_1024
  8. You return to a warm-ish generator and to a starving tummy (you also need to do an outfit change because walking through snow is apparently more of a workout than you thought, Sweaty Betty). Anyone who knows me knows that eating is one of my top priorities in life but somehow, it’s 2pm and no stomachs have been filled. Rectify this with a quick fried egg and…you’re off to fill the water!
  9. Not so fast. The generator is warm enough but it’s out of gas. Suit back up. Walk the genie down the ROD (Ramp of Doom). Go to the barrel. Pump gas. Take the gas to the genie and fill it. Overfill it (my new perfume these days). Alright! Fire up that genie (eventually) and you’re off! thumb_DSC_0216_1024
  10. Run inside, grab the buckets, connect the well, fill the buckets. Run the buckets one by one up the ROD (I’m not quite strong enough for the double duty yet). Fill up the tub under the sink (to which is connected a pump that gives us a running sink, as long as it’ full). This takes both buckets. Run back outside. Fill up the buckets. Repeat until everything is full. The kettle. The shower bucket. Water bottles and water on the stove (try not to spill and nearly put out the fireplace like last time) . Run outside, turn off the well. Plug the house into the genie. You’ve got power, heat and water. Booyah!
  11. Change again (getting water got you watered). It’s 4pm. While you wait for the added water to heat on the stove you start on dinner.
  12. It’s 5pm and the water is warm enough. You wash socks and skivvies and hang them to dry when there’s a whistle outside and a friend pops in…to a panty party:thumb_DSC_0515_1024So much for that second load and hello to a welcome break. Dinner, dishes and adieus later and it’s time to go fetch more firewood to stoke the fire for the night…or maybe until that gold star midnight pee run. And hey, maybe you can get a few pages into your book before you settle in for an eight hour nap.
  13. Nighty-night. Don’t let the chore-bugs bite. thumb_DSC_0367_1024


I never would have thought my days would be decided by weather and water but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It cracks me up, keeps me on my toes and humbles me.

Thank you Alaska.



  1. Geez woman, did you volunteer as tribute in The Hunger Games or something? I actually had to take a beat to think about why getting water is so extensive a process when you’re up to your eyeballs in snow. But that’s because in California we don’t have to think about things like that. 😉


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