Tips for Dry Cabin Living

Only for the curious

I was recently asked for tips from someone who was going to be trying out the dry cabin lifestyle.  It is a big change to go from the option of having streams of hot water flowing with the twist of a wrist to hauling every ounce of water you will use to your home under your own power.

Dry cabin living is not for everyone, this was my first tip.  I think most people have a gut feeling if it is something they feel capable of tackling.  It requires, by sheer demand of exerted energy, that you form a much stronger understanding of your relationship with water.  When I first started living dry in 2009, I don’t think I realized how much it would change the way I think about water.

Tip 2: Each person pick a plate, cup, bowl, spoon, fork, & knife that are uniquely identifiable and stick to those items. See 170121: Dry Cabin Minimalism Marriage This really keeps you accountable for your own mess and in the rhythm of washing things before eating again, to prevent the “dish mountain”.   (We do have 2 cups each, but just because one may wander upstairs or stay bedside and then we still have an option without tracking through the house.  One is a french press thermos so we can drink hot things, and the other just a glass of our choice)

Tip 3: Do your dishes right after/ during cooking/ eating.  When the food is still moist on the plate or pan, it takes much less water to clean (also takes less time because you aren’t attacking stubborn food crusties.)

Tip 4: Most people will have a sink, and use Aquatainers, https://www.amazon.com/Reliance-Products-Aqua-Tainer-Gallon-Container/dp/B001QC31G6 because you can lay them on their side to be a faucet just by opening the valve.  The underside plumbing of the sink gets cut off so it will drain into a 5 gal. bucket.  (if you live in a warm climate you can set up a more complex drainage system, but here in an Alaska winter water would freeze if you try to divert it out of the house, and just form a gigantic ice mound… can you tell I tried it? ;))

Tip 5: CHECK THE BUCKET OFTEN. You need to make sure you are emptying the catch bucket once it gets around half way full.  When you are new to dry living it’s best to add an extra catch tray to set the bucket in, until you get used to internalizing that check as part of your water habit.  The Aqua tainers hold 6-7 gal and the bucket only 5… you see the dilemma.

Tip 6: Stay Aware of your remaining water.  I keep about 5-6 Aquatainers at my other place. (I will talk more about the water system in my current cabin in a follow up post)  When I’m down to my last jug full, I take the others all at one time to go refill.  We are fortunate here in northern AK to have such good water.  I can fill from a friend’s outdoor tap and get great fresh drinking water.  In Fairbanks there are actual water stations to fill, and my boyfriend can put 6, six gal containers upright in his hatchback and the hose has a stop valve so he can fill them all without even taking them out of the car.  More amazing is that we can get 36 gallons that way for 50 cents.  Yeah, sorry, you won’t find that deal just anywhere.  People in Fairbanks who have such good water set ups that you can barely tell it’s a dry cabin have 400-500 gal tanks in the bed of their pick up trucks to fill and just pump it out at home… luxury dry cabin living :). Those places often have gravity fed water and full water heaters and showers.

Tip 7: Get a teapot.  This is the water heater for a simple dry cabin.  Better than a pot because you have better control for pouring. I mix boiling and regular water in a dish pan with my dish soap and usually put some more on to boil while I wash in case I need a second round.  It’s also good to have a drain catch as the less food breaking down in the bucket the less smelly it will be.

Tip 8: Paper Towels are a good friend.  If you cook with cast iron, and even some other, a good pass or two with a paper towel will be effective in cleaning out a freshly used greasy pan. Lots of plates and things I swipe first with a paper towel to save on work that would otherwise require a lot of water.  Also if you have a pan with things stuck on, much better to add a little water and put it back on the stove to soak off than to apply more and more water trying to scrub it.

Tip 9: Outhouse.  These are surprisingly simple.  Make sure your pit is deeply dug, and the housing over the top is well built, I can’t give advice on that as mine was in place when I got my place, but it’s lovely.  I set up a small cupboard outside to set up an aquatainer, soap dish and hanging towel.. (I will have to take pics and post them on here some day).  If you don’t want another water station, always easy to wash hands back at the kitchen sink.  I like to have an extra one outside just for the ease.  Best not to put toilet paper down the outhouse pit, as this just wastes unnecessary space.  I keep a bin for used tp and incinerate it in the wood stove every now and again.

Tip 10:  Catch water.  I have some buckets to catch rain water off the gutter, just for using on plants etc.  There are much more advanced systems for this, but you get the basic idea, utilize your available water if possible.

Tip: 11: Friends/ Solar Shower/ Colander/ Mug/ Tea pot. I would like to eventually make a heated shower system.  But for now in terms of showering in winter I either go to a friend’s house, or just wash my hair etc with a mix of hot/cold water poured through a colander over my hair over the sink for a few rounds to wet, sham, rinse, cond, rinse.  Again I keep the kettle going in case I need more.  In summer time I use my solar shower It’s surprising how little water it actually takes, and I have shoulder length hair. I have a nice spot outside on the land out of sight.  I love being out in the sunshine for a shower.

Dry cabin living can be done in many places, but it is not always simple to source water affordably if you don’t live near friends or a metropolitan location.

If you have any questions feel free to write me.  Since I’ve been living dry since 2009 it’s hard to think of all things one may wonder.

2017 World Ice Art Championships

The multi block teams only have three days to complete their sculptures, and this year it was in the -40s F while they worked. That’s what I call dedication to your art form.

Although these sculptures are now well on their way to melting, I would like to share a few of my favorite ice carvings seen this March in Fairbanks, Alaska at the 2017 International Ice Sculpture competition. There are a number of categories in which people may compete.  There is single block competition, multi- block, children’s, and amateur divisions.

The image here is a close up of the cage and key part of a phoenix sculpture.  I am so amazed by how even they are able to do the widths and curves.  Just blows me away.IMG_6971

The bee here is also part of the single block competition as was the image above.  This sculptor did such a great job with proportion and texture, which was definitely not true of all the sculptures I saw. IMG_6972

I think this is supposed to be Trump, looking up at Lady Liberty.  My friend thought perhaps he was supposed to be pondering immigration…  (A multi block piece)IMG_6974

 

The multi block teams only have three days to complete their sculptures, and this year it was in the -40s F while they worked.  That’s what I call dedication to your art form.  This piece below is a close up from another multi block piece, you will see a soaring bird in a later pic that was also from this sculpture.  I am amazed at some of the concepts that are designed for the contest, not all achieve their desired results, but this fetus in the womb was very well illustrated.

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One of the last pieces we saw, but one of my absolute favorites was this hummingbird that was being worked on by the man in this picture.  I could hardly believe it when I saw that he was carving this for the amateur competition.  Personally, I think it was one of the most beautiful and elegant pieces of the entire park.  IMG_6988

The picture below is just focusing on how the nature around was transformed through the lens of ice.  This carved sphere inverted the woods around it, and was strikingly effective in it’s use of simplicity.

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One of the single block sculptures is shown in the detail below, the entire dragon was done, but I cropped the image down to show you more detail.  The single block competitors I believe are limited to one to two sculptors.  IMG_6957

 

This single block sculpture shows a bit of the international feeling of the event.  There were multiple teams of Asian carvers, and some Russian and Scandinavian I noticed.  It’s amazing that people travel half way around the world to be outside carving in arctic temperatures.  IMG_6958

 

Another globe I really loved was this one below that looks like spikes were all joined together, somehow more clouded in their appearance and then having a clearer sphere around them.  Not sure how it was done, but it turned out great.  (just a small detail of a larger piece)IMG_6984

 

The bear head here gives you an idea how molten the ice can look when carved by an experienced carver.  The union of great sun or lighting can really affect the pieces.  It was surprising to feel the carved ice on some of the mazes and sculptures that were placed throughout the park for a more interactive experience. It didn’t feel wet at all, just very smooth, a unique touch experience, I really loved the feel of it.   There are also a lot of ice slides built for kids to use, and little sculptures for them to climb… in addition to the official sculptures that are hands off. It would be a great place to go with small kids in the winter, tons of spaces to explore and have fun. IMG_6953

 

I can’t begin to image how this carver was able to create such a thin sheet of ice for the wings and texturize it without having it shatter into a million pieces.  But there in lies the art of ice sculpting.  This was also a single block piece. IMG_6964

 

This single block sculpture of what I think is a carnivorous plant I took mainly for my cousin’s son, who has a healthy obsession with these plants lately.  Thought he might like to see this larger than life sculpture of something he loves. Hi Seth!IMG_6962

 

And last but not least, just a simple bird soaring in the sunshine.  If you would like to attend this cool competition in the future or just learn more about it.  Feel free to visit http://www.icealaska.com/www/en/IMG_6978

2017 Iditarod Race begins in my backyard

My most favorite moment can be seen below as 4 time winner and reigning champ Dallas Seavey spent his two minutes right before his starting bell by taking a moment with each of his dogs.

For only the third time in the 45 years since the inception of the Iditarod race, there is too little snow in Anchorage to start the race.  So lucky for me, this year they started in Fairbanks, and I got to see the action up close.  You can visit my channel to see video footage of some of the mushers at the start and right before they get to the start. Here is real video of mushers at the start in 2017.  One of my favorite bits was seeing the dogs as their excitement builds right before they hit the starting line.  My most favorite moment can be seen below as 4 time winner and reigning champ Dallas Seavey spent his two minutes right before his starting bell by taking a moment with each of his dogs. He got back on his sled with just 5 seconds to spare.  I didn’t watch all the mushers in their final pre-moments, but this one was pretty great. IMG_6789

It was really fun to see how differently the mushers choose to arrange their sleds and prepare.

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Lots of people come out to cheer on the mushers, not just here at the start but out on the rivers and at towns all along the route.  IMG_6774

My first vantage point was at this picture above.  I was right at their first downhill turn where they can start to pick up speed.  Mushers need to be careful controlling their sleds so they don’t tip or run into the crowds of people.

After watching the first mushers head out, I walked closer to the official start point, where mushers hug their loved ones before heading out on a long and dangerous adventure.  IMG_6790IMG_6785

The dogs are so excited to get running IMG_6772

and we all LOve Alaska!IMG_6756

It’s fun to see everyone come out and support the efforts of these mushers who love their dogs and carry on the spirit of the first great race, where lives were saved.  IMG_6814IMG_6797

170206 CC ski to a remote cabin in AK

I forgot there are no lights so we hung our headlamps and Taylor even fashioned a shade over his to disperse the light using one of our beloved Orikaso folding camp bowls.

This past weekend we skied 5.7 miles to a remote DNR cabin we’d reserved out by the Chena Hot Springs in Alaska.

The last time I did something like this was in 2007, my first winter in Alaska. That time it did not end so well.  I arrived to a tiny cabin full of skies and people I didn’t know and quickly realized my “winter gear” of a wool vest and wool skirt were not pro gear for the 11 mile (one way) ski up and down steep terrain.  They had special names for the “type” of cc ski we would need for this adventure.  I had gotten mine a month before at the Play It Again Sports shop in town for about 30 bucks (poles and all)…needless to say someone winded up coming back on a snow machine for me long after everyone else had glided smoothly to the cabin and were busy warming up.

So this time we took it easy.  We got a slow easy start to the morning and ran a few last minute errands.  We ended up hitting the trail around 3 pm and were super happy to discover it was groomed. I tried to phone for trail conditions, but the line is down on the weekends…oops.  As it was the temps were mild hovering around 0 degrees. ( I know this sounds cold if you don’t live here, but remember it’s a dry cold in the interior, so that offsets things.)  The outset looked like this

The granite tors were behind us and sloping hills in from each side.  It was beautiful and didn’t take long to get beyond the sound of cars from the road.  We saw one other skier heading in with a sled towed behind heading for Lower Creek Cabin.  He must have made good time because we never saw him again.  The only other people we saw were about 1.5 miles in and headed back to the parking area on two snow machines each towing a load of kids on sleds having a blast!

We got into a bit thicker trees covered in some fun, fluffy snow formations and a few small portions where it felt like being in a winter wonderland cathedral with the slim trees arching over the pathway.  Rabbit tracks could be seen now and again crossing over the path.

After passing Lower Angel Creek Cabin at about 3 miles in the sun was getting low behind the hills and the conditions for skiing were a bit colder, but also smoother.  There were less straight shot passes and a bit more small hills to keep things interesting.  At this point I got into a bit of a rhythm, and started cruising for the cabin, trying to arrive before dark.  But then I lost track of Taylor so I was torn between trying to get there fast and not being worried that he had been plowed over by a mama moose.  He caught up to me and we arrived to the cabin after 6pm, thankful to find it was still a bit warm from the people who had stayed the night before.  Temps around 50 degrees F inside as we set to stoking and stocking the wood in the sweet little wood stove.  Fortunately people had left fire starter logs and extra wood behind so we didn’t have to start scrounging for dead wood to saw down after the long ski.  We just used a small bit of fire start and saved the majority for people in need arriving to an entirely cold cabin.  I forgot there are no lights so we hung our headlamps and Taylor even fashioned a shade over his to disperse the light using one of our beloved Orikaso folding camp bowls (I’m so sad this company is no longer manufacturing, they were the best!).

For dinner the plan was wild rice soup with dried ground turkey…but we tried to use turkey dried this summer for a trip to the boundary waters, and it had gone stale… so yuck! I will eat almost everything, but this did not make the cut.  So instead we stuck to cookies, rum cream and fireball with summer sausage and cheese to keep us a float.  The morning was better with power waffles (no wheat and some cottage cheese. I will have to have Taylor share the recipe as they are real good and filling.) We made them before the trip and froze some to just reheat on the stove and eat with homemade yogurt and some maple syrup. Luckily one of the far windows was a bit leaky and that ledge acted as fridge for a few of our sensitive food items (like the quiche we ate on the way in and out and some tuna we mixed up for seaweed rolls)

Above you can see us packing up again out bags on the sleeping platforms, (yes we did use sleeping pads for comform) and we were on the trail by check out time noon, and headed toward a relaxing soak at the Chena Hot Springs as our follow up.  I was a little slower the second half of the way out but it took us about 3 hrs each way and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.  No wind and mild temps.  Glad we didn’t book for this weekend though, as temps dip back down to -30 today!  Here’s a few pics from the ski out.

170126 Photography-Fairbanks, Alaska

I need some outside eyes to tell me which, if any, of these are captivating.

I would love feedback on these.  It’s hard for me to be objective, because somehow I see right through the photos to the moment as it had been when I took the photo.  I need some outside eyes to tell me which, if any, of these are captivating.  Through repeated feedback from others I hope to gain a more critical eye.  These were taken on Thursday 1/26/17 a little after 4 p.m.  So fun to finally be feeling the lengthening of the sun light again.  Inklings of spring begin. img_6425img_6429img_6426img_6427img_6424

170222: 2 Recipes- Berry Good Frozen Yogurt

Berry Ginger Frozen Yogurt &
Banana Berry Frozen Yogurt

Lately Taylor has been making some delicious homemade yogurt.  He has also been repeatedly frustrated trying to make the perfect homemade ice cream.

Since following my blood type diet has made huge improvements to my digestive health I try to stick by it generally.  Ice cream is one thing I am supposed to avoid, and frozen yogurt is one of my medicine foods. So,  I thought I’d use some of his yummy homemade yogurt as a base for making a frozen treat.

Here are two versions that I created tonight, we like them both but in different ways.

Berry Ginger Frozen Yogurt (pictured on left)

1 C homemade yogurt (I will try to get Taylor to write a post about this process)

2T honey

1/2C frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries

1T maple syrup

1T homemade candied ginger

1/2C cream

Before blending it will look like the version you see on the left in the last picture.

Blend, put outside at -25 F and mix with hand blender every 10-20 min. til fairly firm and transfer to freezer. The consistency after beating will look like the picture at the top of this post. Then I added some granola after it froze so it would not get soft.  See the first picture below to view with granola.

Of the two recipes this one has the heavier concentration of yogurt giving it a smoother, more tart and tangy taste.  It is also less thick than the other version.

Banana Berry Frozen Yogurt (pictured on right)

1C frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries

1/2C yogurt

1T lemon juice

2T honey

1/2C cream

1 frozen banana, broken into chunks

blend and put in freezer

This is the thicker, more fruit heavy frozen yogurt so it is a bit sweeter, but still creamy and doesn’t really need any more whipping to get a great consistency.  Give it a whirl!

170121: Dry Cabin Minimalism Marriage

We each get one bowl, one plate, one knife, one spoon, one fork, two cups….So last week we took all the other serving dishes and put them up on a shelf, off limits except for guests.

Yes, we live in a dry cabin, and it is the dry cabin and minimalism which are married here, not my beau and I.  I never intentionally set out to be a minimalist, (and trust me I have a long way to go), but sometimes it’s just the natural answer.  I have lived in a dry cabin on and off since 2009.  But I have never lived with anyone else in a dry cabin until mid Nov. 2016. So it’s just been a few months and we were fortunate to get a sweet little place.

But time to time we have still struggled with “the dish mountain”.  First it’s just a dish or two and you think, “oh that’s nothing, I’ll get it next time around”.  Then you get sick for a few days and feel elated if you can muster the energy to make tea. Before you know it “the dish mountain” has appeared.  We try to take turns and stay on top of it, but like all things, sometimes we fail.  Not liking to fail the same way twice our newest solution is one that we tried on when we were first living together down in Montana in September.  We each get one bowl, one plate, one knife, one spoon, one fork, two cups.  We cheat a little because we have 2 extra bowls.  One is extra large for salads and one is a mini for sauces/ snacks etc.  So last week we took all the other serving dishes and put them up on a shelf, off limits except for guests.

So far it’s going well.  I love having a clean counter, more space to prepare food and more ease finding the cooking implements I need most. The bowls and plates we use I made in college using an oven safe glaze, so I can warm and bake directly in them if the container warms up with the oven.

I also reduced some of the cooking utensils we don’t seem to use.  Now we are easily accountable for clean up.  We have to if we want to use our bowl, fork etc again! ;).

UPDATE 1/28/17 I’ve never been so excited before when all my dishes are dirty!  I’m not excited to wash them, but was so excited to see how small the pile is, when we even have our favorite pans and utensils all dirty.  Wish I had a before picture, but just compare it to your own load when you have a lot of dishes.

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So here is a a picture I took yesterday of all of our dishes being dirty and the empty shelf where they would be if clean.  (The white coffee cup and everything behind it are usually on the counter, not part of dishes.) It feels great that it doesn’t seem daunting.  Actually, it was so undaunting that my boyfriend did them all last night of his own volition, beat that?!

If you are curious about dry cabin living, or minimalism feel free to ask questions.  I’ll post more in the future on these subjects, I’m sure.img_6271