Christmas off the Grid!

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Our water comes off the hill behind us. I guess just about all of Southeast Alaska is one big “hill.” It’s pretty much vertical everywhere you go around here. For instance there are 110 steps from our floating dock at sea level to the upper generator shed on the hill behind us. When you include several ramps (without steps) it is about 100’ vertically to the top of our property before the bush takes over. Our water source is about another 50’ feet vertically up the hill through the bush and trees. It starts as a 55 gallon plastic barrel half-buried on its side in the bed of a little stream that flows for 2,500’ out of the mountainous watershed above it. There is a 12” square hole cut in the top (the side of the barrel, as it lays in the stream) with a section of mesh from an old screen door over the hole to keep out debris. A piece of 3” black plastic pipe diverts stream water to the screen and into the hole in the barrel. A 1” plastic hose runs the 400’ down the hill to the house. We have no water tank. No pump to provide water pressure. Mother nature provides an unlimited, steady stream of fresh water off the hill and gravity provides 150’ foot of head pressure at the taps in our house at the water’s edge. Free. (The watMINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAer system for our house is independent from the Lodge in winter. The Lodge water system is winterized, filled with 500 gallons of RV anti-freeze at this time of year.)

The heat for our house and most cooking comes off the beach. Logs are everywhere, escapees from log booms, cut away from river banks or eroded off shorelines. It is a never-ending supply of fuel for the wood stove, which will drive you out of the house if you don’t open a door or window, even in the dead of winter. Yes, the logs have to be bucked up and split. But a Stihl chainsaw and a Honda-powered hydraulic log-splitter make quick work of a log found floating in front of the Cove, or pulled off the beach with the skiff on a big winter king-tide. Two kettles sit on top of the wood stove at all times, boiling away any stream-borne bugs like Giardia, that cause “Beaver Fever,” a close relative of Montezuma’s Revenge. A quick mug-up of hot tea or cocoa, or a hot buttered rum at the end of the day is a side benefit. Toast is done in a frying pan on the wood stove, oatmeal takes just a few minutes, and a propane gas range and barbecue takes care of anything more complicated.

 

Generating electricity with the large diesel generators used in the summer for the Lodge gets really expensive for just the two of us. Even our smallest Genset, at 60kW will burn 30 gallons of $5.00/gallon diesel in a day. Yes, it’s off the grid, but…! Solar panels, that charge a bank of batteries that in turn drive an inverter for AC powered small appliances works great – in the summer with our long days, but not so much in the winter. Fortunately there is one great big refrigerator just outside the door, and a propane-powered clothes dryer takes care of that otherwise big electrical load, as does a propane hot water heater. For everything else there is the little Honda suitcase generator that burns about a quart (litre) of gasoline every 6-8 hours. But we seldom run it more than a few hours a day, unless we are curled up in front of the fire in the evening, reading or watching a movie. The Honda will run all the lights, the heated tile floors in the bathroom, three boot dryers, a full-size refrigerator with freezer compartment, the sewer pump when it cycles on, and a small microwave. What else is there?

 

We have no TV, but we could have a dish if we wanted. We choose not to have TV, but we have Sirius XM satellite radio, excellent AT&T cell phone service (with a great data plan) and we can create our own wi-fi hotspots with an iPhone, an iPad or a Hotspot device about the size of a pocket calculator.

 

Food: Our dinner last night centered around liver and onions. Venison liver. No I didn’t shoot the deer and all that entails. But we sure could have. There’s no shortage of Bambi’s around here. But this was a gift from hunters that we hosted at the Lodge last month. And it was delicious. Smoked salmon salad went with it.

Our neighbors live a subsistence lifestyle and they are always gifting us with a venison roast, or a generous section of choice tenderloin “backstrap.” We haul all their freight and fuel on our weekly freight runs in the summertime. This is their way of saying thanks, along with keeping an eye on the place when we are gone. We don’t need to hire caretakers. They live here.

Christmas Day Fishing
Christmas Day Fishing

Keeping vegetables fresh is a problem, but every other day or so the taxi, (a DeHavilland Beaver on floats) comes by with things for somebody in the Cove, or to pick up or drop off a neighbor that is going to, or coming back from Town (Ketchikan). So it is a simple matter to call up Safeway and have them run an order of fresh stuff over to Pacific Airways for delivery to the door, well maybe not the door, but the floatplane dock in front of the house.

Fresh bread comes from the oven. Patty has a beer batter recipe that is to die for…but it does eat into my beer supply!

Christmas Cod
Christmas Cod

 

 

Today we went fishing, as is our custom on Christmas day when the weather permits. It was a beautiful day, flat calm and bright sun most of the day. We caught enough True Cod for five meals for the two of us.

Freshest Cod Ever!
Freshest Cod Ever!

Fishing for Cod Preparing the Cod Eating the Cod

 

Tomorrow we will rig the shrimp (prawn) traps and crab traps (Dungeness) and set them not too far from the Lodge.

Crab, Crab, Crab
Crab, Crab, Crab

We’ve been too busy to get to them this Christmas. Tomorrow is the day. Success ~ Crab, Crab and More Crab!

 Cooked the Crab outdoors, ate it right there, YUMMY!

 

Christmas Crab Feast
Christmas Crab Feast

 

 

The weather has been mild, not even freezing yet, but it is not always like this. We typically will have several hurricanes a month from December through March. Not big ones, but 60-70 knot winds are not unusual, and 30-40 knot storms with sheets of horizontal rain are the norm. We don’t get a lot of snow, but when we do, we get a lot. It is not unusual to wake up in the morning to 2-3 feet of snow. It is then that we see we are not alone. Critter tracks everywhere. Otter, mink, marten, deer of course, and the occasional wolf track up at the back of the lot.

The Calm of Christmas Day
The Calm of Christmas Day

 

New Year’s eve we will get together with our three neighbor couples in the Cove. We will tell stories, play penny-ante poker, drink beer and mulled wine, and graze for hours on a feast of delights from the land and sea.

Christmas Crab
Christmas Crab

 

It’s not for everybody, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

We hope your Christmas was filled with what you enjoy most, and the New Year brings all that you hoped for.

 

 

Mac and Patty

The frigid digits of the North

 

 

 

 

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