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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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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.
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!
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?
Yesterday I got the chance to try canning salmon for the first time. Our friends Mike and Sue had a big haul and asked if we were available to help process. They ended up will 66 fish in their net. That is a whole lot of salmon!
So the other day I decided to try and make some fireweed jelly since we have so much of it around here. I went on a little walk with the dogs and collected some fireweed blossoms, as well as watermelon berries and blueberries I came across.
One of the biggest changes in moving out here has been living without a fridge. They just suck up way to much power, not to mention I wouldn’t even know where to begin in getting it out here until winter!
So how have we been living without a fridge? We’ve done a lot of research and spoken to other cabin owners out here to figure out what to do with food that spoils quickly. It turns out things like mayonnaise have enough preservatives in them that they don’t actually need refrigerated after opening. It seems really counter intuitive to leave mayo out, but so far we’ve had no issues with it. Jam and jelly are another big one that we get out here often. We usually go on PB&J binges when we receive homemade jam in care packages, otherwise it would go bad just a few days after opening. Store bought jam has never gone bad so far, even after being open for a week. A lot of what we buy is stuff that doesn’t need refrigerated. Dehydrated foods and fruit, and canned goods. We were a little late moving to have a garden this year so we are really missing fresh fruits and vegetables. I have a water bath canner that I’ve canned blueberries with here, hopefully next year we’ll have lots of garden produce to can.