Building On A Budget – The Alaskan Way

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Building On A Budget, The Alaskan Way

As anyone who has read my previous post about our finances knows, we are on a serious budget out here. But just because we don’t have money doesn’t mean work on the homestead stops! With winter fast approaching we knew we couldn’t let our water reservoir freeze. Last year we hauled all our water in 5 gallon buckets from a nearby creek, but this year we have running water in the cabin and we pull from our reservoir for that. So how to keep it from freezing? We thought about burying it, but it’d need to be 8 feet down and that is a lot of digging by hand.

We decided we would build our reservoir its own cabin.

There are 3 natural materials we have an abundance of out here: trees, moss, and clay. We started by felling trees, limbed and cut them to length, then moved them to our building site. We ended up using about 60 logs for the entire process. We cut some of our work by joining the water shed to our existing cabin.

Kyle notched the logs and stacked them just as he did when we built our cabin addition, with the exception that we left space for a door rather than cutting one out later. It may have made things a bit trickier, but we needed to be able to work from both sides of the logs. We used timberloks to attach the logs together and make sure the walls are sturdy.

We also timberloked the water shed to our cabin for stability.

After the walls were up, Kyle continued falling trees for the roof. The baby and I picked moss and packed it in all the gaps in the walls. B was a big help picking out pieces to hand to me. Then she went up on the roof with Kyle and helped him add a layer of moss there. After letting the moss dry, I added a layer of clay to fill any other gaps.

Due to the strict budget, we couldn’t afford to purchase much for the shed.

Instead of buying new roofing we bartered with our neighbors for some extra tin roofing they had. Kyle milled them stairs for their cabin in exchange. He also put together the most adorable door from lumber we have milled as well. Our sawmill has more than paid for itself in milled lumber! We also found a free wood stove and installed that into the water shed.

The end result is an “old school” cabin as our water shed.

We’ve already had our first snow here, and have spent several days in the low teens. I’m happy to report that our water shed has not dipped below 35°. We usually only light one fire before bed, but on especially chilly days we’ll light another in the morning. Every time we go outside we check the temperature in the water shed. If it’s below 40° we light a fire. We only have about 200 gallons in our 1100 gallon reservoir, so once we fill it the water shed should be even warmer.

I’m so glad we didn’t need to go back to our bucket system and gravity filters this winter!

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Winter Prep On An Alaskan Homestead

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Winter Prep On An Alaskan Homestead

Winter is nearly here in our little slice of Alaska. Trees are barren and we’ve already had our first frost. Seeing as winter is our longest and harshest season, we use the rest of the year to prepare for it. So what does preparing for winter on an Alaskan homestead entail?

Firstly, we heat with wood.

This means a lot of cutting trees, hauling, splitting and stacking for drying. Last year we stacked wood under a tarp. This year we built a wood shed to store it in. We’ve also upgraded from an axe to a hydrolic log splitter. It makes this chore go much faster! We also collect birch bark because it makes fantastic fire starter.

Our second biggest concern for this winter was keeping our water system from freezing.

We put the system in this summer so this winter will be the big test for it. We built a little mini “cabin”, complete with its own wood stove, around our water reservoir. This should keep the reservoir and pipes around it from freezing. On super cold days we’ll keep a fire going in there.

 

Speaking of fires, we also replaced to wood stove in our cabin for a bigger one.

Our old stove was a bit undersized, so replacing it means we won’t need to get up at night to build fires any more. Our cabin should be a more steady temperarure this winter. We’re also finishing the flooring in the loft, so more of the heat stays on the lower floor.

We also have more animals to consider this year.

Last year we kept our two dogs inside most of the time for winter, but this year we have FOUR dogs! So building dog houses for everyone and stuffing them with straw is a must. We also have a smaller chicken coop for the chickens. The old coop is big and airy. Great for summer, but not so great for winter. A smaller coop will help keep the birds warm with body heat, especially since we don’t suppliments heat in the winter. We’ll also be building a pig shed and filling that with straw for our pigs.

Another part of winter prep is putting up food.

I canned a bunch of salmon this year that Kyle caught fishing with our friends. Our first goal for next year is to purchase our own permit and fish all next summer. Unfortunately our garden was a bust except for potatoes, so those need to dug and dried for storage. Next year we will use what we’ve learned and have a much better garden.

This will be our second winter on our Alaskan homestead, and we’re ready for it!

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Pros And Cons Of Tiny House Living

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Pros And Cons Of Tiny House Living SledDogSlow.com

We live in a tiny house. It’s not the smallest I’ve ever seen, but it’s pretty small for two adults and a growing baby. Including our storage-only loft, our house is still less than 300 sq ft. I think it’s a mansion compared to what we started with out here, which was less than 100 sq ft. As much as I love our little cabin, it has always been a temporary space. There are lots of reasons to love it, and just as many reasons to be excited to start our larger forever cabin. Just like every aspect of life, tiny house living has its pros and cons.

Pros of living in a tiny house:

There is no room to collect junk when you live in a tiny house. This is a good thing for me, as I love a good junk collection!

It’s really hard not to be organized in a tiny home. This means almost always knowing where something is when you want it.

Tiny houses are super fast to clean when you do have the occasional mess.

Small spaces are easier to heat, which is especially nice if you are off grid and heating with a wood stove.

Smaller houses are cheaper to build and maintain than an average home.

Cons of tiny house living:

There isn’t much room to spread out in such small spaces. This means things like big baking projects and art projects don’t really happen.

More than one person in a tiny house means a lot of bumping into each other! It also means it’s hard to have friends over, so we usually end up visiting rather than having visitors.

Unfortunately, living in a tiny home means little to no privacy. There are no doors in our house for example, just a wider than average doorway leading from the main living area to our bedroom.

At least with small log homes, there is no sound dampening. I can hear Kyle running the chainsaw outside, or the chickens singing the egg song, or the goats playing.

Coming home from grocery shopping is like playing Tetris, sometimes more than one round. We will often bring in half of our goods, rearrange and put them away, then bring in the second half and do it again.

If you think you can handle the cons along with the pros, a tiny house might be right for you!

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Rookie Mistakes We Made As Beginning Homesteaders

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I’ll be the first to admit that when we first started our homesteading journey, we made a lot of rookie mistakes. We spent to much on things we didn’t need. Then we turned around and didn’t buy things we really should have. We skipped around when adding animals, buildings and tools. That is, until we learned to prioritize better. We have learned a lot of lessons the hard way. Starting a homestead from scratch, and building all our own infrastructure, is much harder than I had ever imagined it could be. Hopefully writing this all down will help you avoid a few of the mistakes we made!

Rookie Mistakes We Made As Beginning Homesteaders - Sled Dog Slow

Our biggest rookie mistake was not planning anything.

Sure we had ideas for what we wanted to do, and we wrote things down, but we never really had a set plan. There was no “house goes here, chickens go here, garden goes here” kind of plan. Not until we had already put the chickens too close to the house. So as we expanded we just threw things where it was convenient right then, rather than were we knew we wanted them permanently. If we had planned better we could have saved ourselves from a lot of the other mistakes. A homestead planning binder is necessary to keep everything organized.

Another mistake we made was jumping in to new things without preparing.

We’d get an idea and go for it. More chickens? Heck yeah. Pigs? Lets do it! Greenhouse and garden? Check! And then the inevitable fail. We wanted everything to work and be productive right away. Kyle was so disappointed to find out our chickens wouldn’t lay until the spring after we purchased them. At least we were able to push our pig order back to this summer, and have learned enough to hold off on beehives and other animals until next year.

We didn’t understand the weather in our new area well either.

Personally, coming from a desert area, I didn’t truly understand what living in a rainforest meant until we were hit by our first rainy season here. A little drowned garden and a lot of mud later, know I know how wet it can be! It also helps to know where the low spots collect so we can avoid building there. We also thought we were prepared for long winters, but they are much longer and darker than I could have imagined!

Also, we made the mistake of not budgeting from the beginning.

We have spent so much money on materials for our homestead, when we should have just invested in a saw mill from the beginning. Small purchases can add up really quickly. We should have figured out sooner that just because something is new doesn’t make it better. At least we have a few places we know to go for cheap homestead goods now!

The biggest lesson we’ve learned in starting our homestead from scratch is that it’s okay to go slow.

There is no reason to push to the point of injury to get everything done in one day. Pacing yourself in the endless work (it is endless) of beginning a homestead is extremely important. There should always be a realistic timeline for goals to be completed. This will save so much frustration down the line.

All things aside, we are still learning on our homestead journey. I’m sure there will be many more mistakes and lessons for us in the future!

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Three Surprising Places To Find Cheap Homestead Goods

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Homesteading is not cheap. From animal feed to fencing to the animals themselves, there are quite a few things a beginning homestead will need. When we first started out we made the mistake of purchasing everything from a big box store. We spend thousands of dollars before we realized we could buy things way cheaper, we just needed to know where to go.

Second Hand Stores

One thing we’ve figured out is that second hand stores are often full of tools. Shovels, picks, drills, chainsaws. You name it, a second store probably has it. I’ve even seen a few bigger ticket items at the second hand stores around here, like tractors. Second hand stores are also great places to purchase homestead goods because you can usually haggle the price.

Peoples Yards

If there is something in the neighbors yard they don’t use that you could, why not ask to buy it? While this may seem somewhat odd, anyone who’s seen the show Pickers knows that its worth it to ask. We’ve gotten old trampolines, building materials and even a saw mill this way. It’s also possible to get plant cuttings or seeds and bulbs like this. Even if the person says no, you didn’t loose anything by asking. Just make sure to have cash in hand for an offer!

 

Facebook

It seems like Facebook is taking over the world (or at least the internet) these days. We’ve purchased second hand cars, goats and chickens this way. Facebook is also a great way to get information. Our peninsula has Facebook groups just for animal and garden advice. Take a look around, maybe there is a group in your area that will be useful. I also find Facebook especially helpful when I have something in mind that I need. It’s easy for responders to tag friends who might know something in the comments. Even if the person reading my question doesn’t have what I need, they usually know someone who knows someone, and I end up getting the things I need.

I’m sure there are a lot of other great places to find cheap homestead items, but these are the main three that we use here. Where do you find your homestead deals?

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