Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dry cabin living

I thought some of you might be interested in a few elements of dry cabin living.  The photos below are separated into 3 sections: 1) Logistics, 2) Leisure activities, and 3) Around the cabin.

1)  Logistics:  

Our mail boxes are on the main road, Goldstream, just over a mile and a half from the cabin.  It is curious that there is no order to the boxes (i.e., the mail carrier must more or less memorize which addresses are where).  There is also no standardization of  boxes in terms of size or shape, and many are in poor repair -- for example, on mine the door is only hinged on one side (the other being completely broken) and therefore it must be wedged at an angle to keep the snow out.  In addition, after having been here for nearly 3 months, I am still getting mail for the former tenant forwarded from her previous address. 

This is the Fox spring where I get water -- about 15 minutes from my house.

As you can see, it gets pretty icy.  The ice built up one time to about 4 feet above the grid.  Most people use 5 gallon containers.  I can lift them but they are heavy.   With all the ice and the rather steep downhill grade back to the car (which also gets icy), I have chosen to make more trips using the 2 gallon containers pictured above.  There is no way to fill any of the containers without freezing your fingers.  

Doing dishes is what I like least.  One tends to become compulsive about conserving water -- and that is somewhat incompatible with getting dishes clean.  It is a two-step process that requires you to heat water as well.  That is a 5 gallon container on the counter.  The water drains into a bucket under the sink which has to be emptied outside before it gets too full.  The bucket is heavy and it is a disaster if you forget to empty it.  We use biodegradable detergent as the animals will feed on the residue left after the water is absorbed by the snow/soil.

The trash transfer station in Fox is not so bad and there are usually a lot of ravens around.  I drive my trash here (or to one near the university) about every 3 days.  You cannot put trash outside because of the animals.  In this case it is mainly dogs (not bears) that get into it as there are many free-ranging canines about.  With the cabin being so small, one resists filling it with trash.

Laundry and showering are done at the B&C Laundry (I sometimes shower at the university as well). Last week something went wrong with their propane tanks and there were no dryers for 5 days.  Surprisingly,  there are not many laundromats in Fairbanks.

The Goldstream General Store is an alternative for both showers and laundry, but I have been told the water is very hard and the driers very expensive.  It is a quaint little store, though, and it is right next to Ivory Jack's (where I went to hear Hobo Jim).  The store is only about 4 miles from the cabin.  There is a gas pump out front -- but again, gas is costly here.

One last comment on logistics.  Last night I ran out of fuel!  Luckily it was not 30 below zero outside.  The temperature was about 10 below and the cabin got to just under 50 degrees.  Chris brought 15 gallons this morning which should tide me over until I get a delivery on Friday.  

Leisure activities:

"Expresso Yourself"

This is an example of the drive-through coffee shacks that seem peculiar to Alaska.  There are a few in Fairbanks, but not nearly as many as Amanda and I saw in Anchorage.  Very convenient for coffee on a cold morning.  There are no drive-through Starbucks here.

 The "Arctic Daily Grind" -- another one near UAF

Much of my time is spent at the University of Alaska Fairbanks library -- the source of free internet access.  The sculpture above is a raven if you hadn't guessed.  Parking is somewhat of a problem but there are meters available (only $1.00 for 2 hours).  They are often full, however.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Library is really very nice, and there is no charge for parking.  It is quite a bit farther from the cabin than the university but if I have to go into town I use the internet access here.  I also check out DVDs and books for entertainment.

Walking is a primary activity in Goldstream.  We have a pack of three (sometimes four) dogs that do a 3-mile circuit with us (me and Ann).   Chicken (left) and Duke are Ann's dogs.  They are ALWAYS ready for a walk.  We have gone as late as 11:15 pm.  This is the best way to see the northern lights.

... and this is Noly (my landlord Chris' dog).  

Around the cabin:  

Bird feeder as seen from the outside

View from inside the outhouse looking out ...

Tibetan Prayer Flags

A present from Ann, I have hung them along the path to the sauna.  "Tashi deleg" to all.


  1. Love the photos as usual, Jackie. I instantly recognized the drive-thru coffee stands. Too bad there's not a Zorba's!

  2. Yes, it is too bad. I didn't get anywhere near Zorba's when I was in Anchorage -- maybe next time.

  3. Jackie, love your blog. I've been keeping up with you through it and living vicariously through you!

  4. It was great seeing you again during your visit south. Have fun counting sea mammals - take lots of photos to share.

  5. Cool blog! I'm from the lower 48 and was curious about UAF when I stumbled upon your blog. Thanks for the insight. Looks like an amazing lifestyle.