Winter came early this year, but we were just sitting around waiting for it anyways.
Just kidding! We are now realizing how fortunate we were to have a late winter two years ago when we were building our cabin. Then, we didn’t see our first snow until November, just as we were moving out of the camper and into the cozy cabin. This year, however, the third week of September brought our first dusting and we have had overnight temperatures in the mid 20ºs since then. After the first frosty morning it’s like an hourglass has been set out and there is a laundry list of items to complete before time runs out, that is, the ground freezes solid and is buried in snow for 6 months. The first frost is the signal to stop what you’re doing and reassess the project list. Which things can be done in the garage or outside over the winter and which items absolutely have to be finished before the ground freezes or the snow piles up? Earlier in the month we had still been in “summer” mode – clearing the pasture of stumps and saplings for the farm, planning and building sheds and other outbuildings, and putting away firewood. However, as soon as we got a whiff of winter we immediately had to switch to things like winterizing the irrigation system, draining and storing hoses, and preparing a comfortable place for our animals to live this winter.
Having never done it before, keeping animals over the winter here feels like a daunting responsibility. I cannot imagine living here without heat in the winter, yet I know the wild animals somehow survive just fine and I’m sure our chickens and rabbits will be happy with their thick straw beds inside their nice homes. Even then, we still feel obligated to keep their water unfrozen and their bellies full. On top of that, maybe a little artificial light for a few hours each day wouldn’t hurt them either? To do this, we are planning to move all 9 chickens and both rabbits into the same structure together, keeping the rabbits in their cages. In order to have a light for them, we will need to get electricity out to the coop, which is kind of a big project involving a long trench, so we may just rig up something temporary for this winter. We currently keep a big jug of water on a shelf in the coop to refill their water from, but now that it is freezing we will need to keep the jug inside the cabin and bring them fresh water each day as part of the chores – I’m sure we’ll find room for the jug somewhere.
Other projects have included felling dead trees around the property and turning them into lumber and firewood. Pete built a rock solid foundation for the sawmill and it has allowed us to make good use of our timber resource. In just one day, he was able to mill all 6 posts, the beams, and braces for a 20’X12’ shed and assemble most of it. However, shortly afterwards we got our first frost and priorities shifted. The shed roof and walls is one of those projects that can be done with snow on the ground, so it sits unfinished for now.
In the garden, some progress has been made on the greenhouse, but it just doesn’t look like it. We have milled all of the needed lumber for framing the walls and roof, we received the greenhouse plastic for the roof, and we have all the insulation for the walls, we just need to install it all... We do hope to get it closed in before too much snow falls. We don’t plan on actually growing anything in it this winter, but any covered and enclosed space is in high demand around here in the middle of winter.
Also in the garden, Pete is preparing all of the planting beds for snowfall. He harvested all of the carrots, beets, and onions – all were very fragrant and delicious! The moose came in and mowed down all of the peas, reminding us we need to fix the fence. We also did a thorough cleaning of the chicken coops, getting all of their manure worked into the compost heap and giving them a thick bed of fresh straw before the cold sets in.
Hopefully things settle down a bit in the next few months and we have some more time for blogging and designing. Until then, take care everyone. Thanks for reading!
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Hello, I am Melissa, owner of Wild North Design. Recently, my husband and I decided to pick up and move to Alaska. This dream has been a couple years in the making and we are enjoying the journey so far. We love to learn and make all kinds of things. From wood craft, to painting, to vehicles, landscaping, building, exploring...we love it all! We are finding out that Alaska is a great fit for our restless minds and bodies! Excited for what the future holds for our expanding family!
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