North Nikiski, Alaska
This recent cold snap has reminded me of our earlier days after we built our house in the mud and the rain in 1993. That winter, it snowed so much we were snowed in. We had to leave our vehicle at the cul-de-sac about a block away and we walked out or in all that winter.
Although we are not homesteaders we have a lot of friends that are. They have shared their stories and recipes with us. I feel my family has homesteading qualities as it takes a certain type of hardy individual. Hard, hard work, love of the outdoors, love of nature and animals and trips to the outhouse in the middle of the winter at below zero will make you leave Alaska or stay because you love it.
Falling trees and chopping wood, splitting and stacking and hauling it into our house-making a fire in the cold, cold stove and of course the trips to the outhouse. Those trips, bundled up, sometimes walking over and around snowdrifts will make you one hardy person. Bob has shoveled his share of pathways to the outhouse from the house, sometimes the path had six-foot walls.
There are many stories about how to heat an outhouse. The one we liked the best was just taking the toilet seat with you that was warmed, parked behind the wood stove. It hung on a wire hanger. Grabbing it as you hurry out the door after you are all bundled up takes a lot of advance planning.
Bob built our outhouse as a “state of art” — see-through corrugated roof, linoleum on the floor, bright yellow toilet seat and a sun-powered light inside. Spring and summer is no problem at all. I actually enjoy the trip. We used our outhouse for four years, and then I needed running water and a bathroom. All I had to do was ask. Bob built a very nice bathroom, installed a tub and shower. Made an entry way and hooked up the long awaited washer and dryer — then running water! No more carrying water up and down the hill. No more heating water on the woodstove. No more lugging laundry in or out into the cold to the car, driving to the laundromat, hauling clean clothes back to the car. Back home, out of the car, loading on a sled and up the hill and down the hill to our house. We did that for four years! We do however heat our house with the same woodstove as we prefer wood heat, besides that we get our daily exercise hauling in wood. We play the game of who’s going to bring in the wood-sometimes I do. But most of the time we help each other.
Cooking on our woodstove inspired my first book “Cookin’ on the Wood Stove.” It was a challenge to figure out how or what to cook. I just put myself in the shoes of my grandmother and my mother in earlier days. It worked. So I guess we can call ourselves homesteaders even though we did not clear land, plow the fields and plant a crop as required for homesteading. My hat is off to those hardy tough people. They know how to survive in the land of the North. We cleared our land with a bulldozer, we built our house in the rain and the mud. We read to each other by candlelight and lanterns. We laughed a lot and we worked hard. We wish we could do that again — well, just once in a while.