Let me start by saying, I simply cannot believe 2018 is nearly over! I have no idea where this year went or how it flew by so fast. Did it feel that way to you as well?
The good news is that we have much to celebrate about 2018. It was a good year for us and we accomplished many things. We were blessed beyond measure and continue to see the hand of our Heavenly Father at work in our lives.
2018 started out with us contemplating how to finance 5 acres with a small cabin on it. We have always told those we talk to not to finance anything because the off-grid lifestyle doesn’t exactly afford you the ability to have a “job” outside the homestead. Not wanting to do something we’ve told others not to do, we spent the first few months trying to figure out how to come up with the cash to purchase the property from our wonderful neighbor who told us not to worry about it because he would owner finance it.
Many nights Mr. Midnight would discuss with me the option of him going out and getting a temporary full-time job. And while it was a wonderful idea, we soon realized it would defeat the purpose. Because it takes us 45 minutes to an hour just to get to the main road and then another 20 minutes to go into town proper either direction we realized that he would only be working to cover the expense of fuel and maintenance on his vehicle.
We talked about doing a trade for labor with this neighbor, he had and still has many projects he would like to have done, but didn’t want to be beholden to someone else for our future. And then one morning it came to Mr. Midnight, clear as day, we should talk to the neighbor about trading our cabin for the land. This is exactly what we ended up doing and both parties are happy with what they have received in the deal.
Now then it was time for me to get to work on designing the new cabin. It is affectionately referred to up here as the Tree-House Cabin because the original cabin looked just like a tree house.
As you can see, the ground floor was very small. It measured out at 8×7. Inside the ground floor were only a set of stairs and some storage shelves. The upstairs was the actual living area. It consisted of an open room that held a small sofa, a small wood stove, a small kitchen area, and a bathroom sink. There was a loft that held the bed and 2 balconies, one on the south side of the cabin, and one on the north side of the cabin. (This picture shows the south side of the cabin.)
It was very cute inside and well done for a weekend cabin. However, it was not suitable for a family of 3 for full-time living, so some changes needed to be made. I love designing and so I went to work drawing up plans right away.
After about 6 different design options we settled on this one. It’s important to note that the biggest deciding factor for which design to chose was based on the placement of our wood stove. I think this is important for you to know because the placement of your wood stove can make a huge difference in how well your cabin heats.
We added a bathroom, kind of, using materials that were already in the tree house and a bathtub that we got for free from someone who was renovating their place. While we have no running water, we have a sink in the bathroom with a bucket under it. There is a honeypot for those midnight potty calls and a medicine cabinet. It has everything we need, and I am especially enjoying the full-sized tub!
The blank space between the wood stove and the office area is a pantry that Mr. Midnight built for me out of rough sawn lumber from the sawmill. It’s beautiful wood with live edges and I’m loving it!
We use a little more than half the space under the stairs for our wood box. It holds our paper to start fires, the small wood and all the large wood for the day. The other portion is where we keep the dog’s food and water.
We enclosed the south side porch and created the kitchen in that space. We had originally planned on enclosing the north side porch and using that space, about 4 feet or so, for the office and bathroom. However, after looking at the construction of what we had, we decided it best to leave it as it was. This made the overall cabin length 20 feet, therefore condensing a little bit of the space you see in the picture. (the picture shown was for a total overall length of 24 feet.) While this made things a little bit tighter, it’s really not bad.
We enclosed the south side balcony and created a bedroom for the man-child in it. He finally, after 3 years has his own actual bedroom! It includes a loft area for his bed and a loft area for storage. He has his own sofa and a great “office” area to do school in.
The main area of the original cabin is the living area for us now. It’s given us lots of room to spread out, a place to relax, watch movies, or play games.
We have since added a cubby system with a closet above it for our clothes right next to the stairs. It’s out of the way, for the most part, and it makes great use of the space.
The stove pipe comes up straight from below and passes up through the loft we use for our bed.
It’s nice that everyone has their own little space and we can each do what we want without being on top of each other.
While there is no root cellar in this cabin, I do have a few cold areas that I make good use of. Perhaps we will add a root cellar this coming summer, but we shall see.
It seems like it took us forever to get this place finished, but it was mostly waiting on the snow to thaw. Mr. Midnight finished framing in and the finish work on the man-child’s room in early May, but we didn’t really get to start working on the lower level additions until July. We were completely finished and moved in by September.
Along with all this work, Mr. Midnight also had to use the dozer to cut in a trail for now so that we can access the place. He had that done in just a few days since a pig trail was already there, so he just needed to widen it and smooth it out a bit.
He was a busy guy this summer, and we’ve jokingly decided that if you don’t have your summer schedule full by the time December is over, you’re not doing it right. Because he has such a wide variety of skills, he’s in pretty high demand up here and for that we’re thankful.
Of the many projects he worked on this summer, the three biggest (other than our own cabin) were a few pieces of machinery that our neighbor acquired. A JD450 dozer that was bought in partnership with us, a ’68 Oshkosk 4×4 dump truck, and a Bucyrus 15H excavator. Mr. Midnight spent the better part of a month rebuilding the dozer. It was in parts when they got it, but he has it running like a champ again!
I spent some time this summer gathering items from the Boreal Forest around us. There is so much that grows wild here that we can use for healing and food! My favorites this year were the spruce tips and the wild rose petals. Unfortunately, I didn’t get time to gather the rose hips this year.
Spruce tips are wonderful any time of the year, but I gathered them specifically for the wintertime. They are analgesic, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, and disinfectant. We use them in a tea and salves.
The rose petals are an emollient which makes them an excellent choice for a “bush bandage”. On cuts and scrapes or even those pesky bug bites (think mosquitoes) they help take the heat out and stop the inflammation.
I also spent time gathering Chickweed and Fireweed for salads, Dandelion for salves and potpourri, and Horsetail for salves and tea. I’m learning more each year about what grows up here and how and why to use it.
I was blessed to be able to visit my sister in North Dakota this summer as well. It was a trip that I really needed but didn’t realize I needed until I was there. Unfortunately, I didn’t really take any pictures of the two of us, I was just enjoying the time together.
The man-child has grown a lot this year as well. Physically, he’s nearly as tall as I am. Emotionally, he’s matured even more and is still a kind-hearted, loving young man. Spiritually, he’s learning more and more about the love, grace, forgiveness, and atonement that the Lord has to offer. He helps us at every turn, hardly complains about anything, and has a positive outlook majority of the time. Of course, being a 14-year-old, he still has his moments, no one is perfect, right? But we’re proud of him for his adventurous spirit, his willingness to try new things, and his determination to make it work. He has big plans to spend much of his young adult years traveling the US, and maybe even other countries.
At times this year, I have felt burdened with the need to garden or do more or have more accomplished than what we do. In those moments, I have to take a step back and realize we’ve only been in Alaska for 3 years. And I have to realize that all we’ve done in those 3 years is actually a lot! It’s then that I can how blessed we are to be able to live this lifestyle completely debt free and I can see the hand of the All Mighty in every step we’ve taken.
2019 is going to be another great year, and we already have our summer months planned out without a moment to spare. Be on the lookout for the next post where I’m going to put our plans for 2019 in writing, something I’ve never done before!
Here’s a video we made of the pictures from our homestead throughout 2018. We hope you’ll enjoy it!