The Ebb and Flow
Alaskan Tiny Home Living Ups and Downs
Somedays, in the woods of Alaska, you wake up to an exact serving of fresh coffee grounds and the sweet sound of the tea kettle already boiling water. Your kitchen promises two dozen eggs at your disposal and the woodstove glows with last nights logs, now in beautiful coal form which means, lighting a fire will be a cinch and that the house is already likely above 50 degrees. Plus, a huge stack of firewood rests at your disposal next to the fireplace. You barely have to step outside for more than your morning “restroom” break (read: one must learn the art of the nature pee to live out here).
You spend your morning drinking your coffee, having scrambled eggs with veggies (you have tons at the moment) and your favorite cheese and even some orange juice on the side. You’re freshly showered and the laundry bin is empty as you spent the day yesterday doing laundry, depleting your water stores, and then hauling water to replenish them. You are stocked up in all avenues: food, warmth, clothing, hygiene, water and you even have some extras sprinkled on: orange juice, special cheese, freshly cleaned socks.
You are, as my Mama would say “In ’em”.
Things are looking on the bright side and lining up quite nicely.
On the other hand, some mornings, you wake up to a house at 37 degrees. You gingerly grab your robe, cursing the logs you had hoped would “catch” before you went to sleep and cursing yourself for not babying them further to ensure they would put out warmth. You go downstairs to find that there not only are no grounds, but there is no coffee, at which point, the rummaging begins to find where exactly in this tiny home of yours, you’ve hidden this gem from yourself. You further find that you are nearly out of water but luckily enough, you have just enough for coffee and so delicately fill up the tea kettle, hoping not to spill a drop. You’ll be hauling water shortly.
You go to light a fire and find that the fire did not catch well, but did leave you with a charcoal mess, by the time you organize it, you look like a chimney sweep. You resign to build another fire but there is no wood in the house at which point you decide to venture outside into what will, of course, be a brr-inducing morning and find that there is no chopped wood outside either. Being a stubborn beast, you decide to chop wood, despite the cold, with bare hands and slippers in your robe. Wild-haired, sweating with soot on your face, you return to start a fire, just as your water boils. Now it’s time to build a fire, find the coffee (and hope that you, in fact, do have extra coffee) and grind it. 15 minutes later, you’re finally getting the day started. It’s breakfast time but you realize your last egg went down the gullet yesterday and so you opt for oatmeal instead but realize you don’t even have enough water. A slightly mealy apple it is.
And now it’s time for water.
It’s still not even chimed 8am.
In all likelihood, your last shower was a bit too far off for comfort, your socks have been “recycled” once or twice (let’s be honest, at least twice) and your fresh food supply is starting to not even meet Alaska Good standards (a term my girlfriend created in California as a way to gauge if something was indeed too far gone to eat. Alaska Good is still edible, but it’s close. Really close. I’ve been known to grab things before people throw them in the compost, saving apples with little bruises and lettuce that has a few slimy pieces but I do cap it at Alaska Good, most of the time). You’re dirty, hungry, under-caffeinated, out of water, out of wood, warm only because of the exercise your just beginning day already required and the only extra you have sprinkled on is the plethora of chores you have to do. The only bright side is that you can see the beautiful fire you just made because in the ebb you made an amazing concoction out of orange peels that takes away the grime and leaves you with this:
You’re, as my Mama would say “Not in ’em”.
Some days, you’re in ’em and some days, you’re so far out of ’em you don’t remember what ’em looked like.
The ebb and flow here might as well be called the drought and the downpour because that is exactly how it goes.
Home from Town?
You’ve got meats and cheeses and eggs, oh my! Juices and fruits and veggies! You even have spinach.
Spinach, people. In the woods. That stuff barely keeps in the city but somehow, if you baby it every day, you can make it last a week here.
And then, a week passes and suddenly, supplies are rapidly decreasing. What felt like a boatload of supplies starts to look more like a mere bucket full and the rationing begins.
Ebb and flow.
Drought and downpour.
Yet oftentimes, just as you’re about to grab your divining rod, Alaska smiles upon you in the drought. Just as you crack your last egg, your friend’s chickens come out of Winter production and he’s selling again. Just as you face down your last bell pepper, your girlfriend picks you up one as a present one day while doing a laundry journey into Close Town.
And the same rings true in reverse. Just as your neighbor runs out of salt, there you are, having bought extra with extra to spare. When all of your avocados ripen at once, you make a guacamole to share or you send one along as a gift. And then it returns, for just as you feel you can’t possibly cook another darn meal (as you cook every meal you eat, every day), someone calls to say they made extra chili if you’re hungry.
Of course, you are and you have a block of cheddar to top that chili with.
The go around come around makes the drought and downpour feel a little less torrential and a little more like an ebb and flow. It makes a life that can be hard, a little easier for even though the hard is what makes it good, sometimes you just need a little reprieve.
I’ve never lived a life where I couldn’t just pop into the store for what I’ve needed. I’ve never relied on my neighbors or felt comfortable enough doing so to call them at 9 pm and ask if they have an extra can of tomato paste. I’ve never cherished fresh as I do today or looked at a salad as if it were a goddess.
So, despite the sometimes harshness of the drought and downpour, the frustration of there not being wood, or not being water, or feeling like I may as well put in to be a member of the Garbage Pail Kids, the appreciation provided by the times where we are “In ’em” is enough. This place makes gratitude easy for the necessities are obvious and the ebb or flow of them is immediate.
may your water buckets (or pipes) be full, may your pantries be stocked, may your baths be often (I am living vicariously through you, a bath is a gift from the Gods) and may your neighbors be kind enough to send over a little sugar once in a while.
I hope you’re in ’em.
Miss you guys, see you mid May
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Who is this? I bet I miss you too!!
Your posting warms my heart and a knowing smile covers my face,
thank you for reminding me of a life I once lived
and thank you for writing this delicious ‘day in the life’ article
that could only be written by someone who has (lived)
that day many times.
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Thanks, Pete! It’s a good life. Glad to make you smile. Have a good day.
Got really excited to buy an eight-dollar-not-too-slimy cabbage from the village store – omg fresh stuff! – this week, so you can extrapolate. With a little luck, Geoff will fly in to town this weekend or next (visiting the dentist has perks?). Meanwhile, we live a life tragically without the high end chocolate chips I so depend on. Also spinach.
But! I grow microgreens in the cabin! A flat takes about ten days to mature to tastiness, and they’re freaking awesome in the lean weeks. Not a bad way to go out here. (only I haven’t been on my game lately, so there are no tasty little greens to enhance the cabbage salads. Alas)
Ha. Ebb and flow is right.
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I hear ya, sister! I’ve been slacking on the sprouts. Do you do those too? I haven’t tried micro greens but that is genius! What’s your chocolate fix? Sometimes I enjoy running out but…sometimes it’s the worst. And haha funny, we might have to have some dental shopping as well! Hope it goes well 😊
Sprouts, naw. I should, I think I’m just suspicious of any plants that grow without soil (although I guess that’s not valid? Because I totally have an avocado tree growing in just water?) But microgreens are wonderful.
For me, Green and Black’s 85% is the only chocolate fix. Nothing else will do. I can nurse a bar of that stuff for two weeks.
For cookies I like Ghirardelli’s bittersweet chips. Or semi, i guess. Sometimes. If the cookies are for kids.
I try not to run out. I justify it to myself – oh it’s no worse than coffee – but. but. Anyway, I try not to run out. Fortunately the famine right now is confined to the chips. I have been forced to make gingersnaps for the last few kids’ birthdays, but they don’t seem to mind.
Good luck with your dental shopping. I am compiling an epic list for Geoff to take to town (and probably lose). There’s something so satisfying about the extensiveness and the categorizing.
Haha don’t be sketched out – they are awesome!
Do you guys get mail?
Funny, after you mentioned Green and Black, my girlfriend showed up with a bar that night! Amazing. You have great taste.
Yep I love the list making – I go way overboard but it’s wonderful once you’re there and forget everything you’ve ever know, ever.
Good luck to Geoff! Enjoy the spoils of his journey!
He gets home today – so stoked. And yes we do get mail, thank goodness. It can be a little spotty, but we have a post office that is open most days. If you want to send up some mud season (or springtime) it’s Keely and Geoff, box 22066, Arctic Village, AK 99722. Don’t get too carried away though – the P.O doesn’t have running water, so mopping up spilled mud-mail is a real chore.
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Wow – that’s pretty regular mail! We are in California and I realized that mail comes on Saturday- I almost fell over from surprise. Showers and Saturday mail – what luxury 🦋
This is why we here in Alaska grow gardens, hunt, forage, can our own food and make our own breads. Many a time the road has been closed from here to Anchorage for extended periods due to avalanche(s). You either hunt, grow your own food or starve. Been through it for 37 years now. I only rely on stores for flour (organic),sugar (pure cane), salt (organic), pepper, coconut/safflower oil and a couple of other things I cannot make at home. Grow your own tomatoes and you can make your own sauces. I get raw milk from a friend with a couple of cows, make my own butter from the cream and get eggs from her also. Life is great here but you need to learn how to stay away from “stores” to live cheaply.
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Oh yes, we grow and store too but still are working on our root cellar (it’s in the idea phase) so we have some work to do! Way to go! There is no livestock out here but there are chickens we get our eggs from.
You’re an inspiration and spending less at the store is the ultimate goal. Hopefully sooner than later!
Ebb and flow perfectly describes Alaska life, where you never expect things to go as they do in the lower 48 aka “smoothly”. Feast or famine also comes to mind as descriptors. Love reading about the normal everyday.
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Thank you! Feast or famine is perfect! Good call. Enjoy – I hope you’re in feast mode 😊