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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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!



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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Trials Of Living In A Rainforest Environment

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I am a desert baby. I’ve always lived where it’s hot and rain is there and gone in a flash. I planned my gardens around heat loving plants with low water needs. Moving to South Central Alaska’s rainforest environment has been a huge adjustment for me. I didn’t expect it to be so hard to adapt to this area and it’s more… interesting challenges.

Besides everything being wet all the time, everything is muddy all the time. I have never seen so much mud in my life! Good, waterproof shoes are a must here (if your feet aren’t swollen and will fit in them anyway). I switch between flip flops and rain boots depending on how deep the mud is. Kyle and I are always slipping too, which isn’t fun, and can be dangerous depending on what we are doing. However, it is hilarious when the chickens slip and slide while trying to run! We ended up buying a huge tarp to put over our addition as it kept getting wet. It kind of reminds me of a circus tent, but it did extend our living space quite a bit having a dry spot to leave shoes and such. Hooray for less dirt in the house!


Another thing neither Kyle nor I expected was just how much growth you have to get through to get to actual dirt. There are a lot of fallen trees that grasses and moss grow over before they decompose completely. The ground looks like its just under the grass, then surprise! There’s a tree and another 3 or 4 inches of growth built up under the tree as well! It takes a long time, and a chainsaw, to clear any room for building or planting anything.


Speaking of plants, my whole gardening strategy is turned upside down here! Last year I had a Pinterest board called Drought Resistant Garden, but here every pot has moss growing in it, and some of my plants drowned, literally. I need to rework my garden ideas for cold tolerant plants that love water. When we build our actual cabin, one of my requests for Kyle was a lean-to style greenhouse off one of the sides. Then it can share heat with the house and maybe we’ll get hot weather fruits and vegetables like tomatoes that way. My admittedly small garden was almost a complete dud this year. We’ve gotten a few cucumbers, some broccoli and strawberries, and peas are coming in now, but that’s it. Good thing I have all winter to plan for next year’s garden.

Something that really came out of the blue here were slugs. They get into, and onto, everything! In your shoes, the dish washing bin, my laundry station, the bed (gross!) and even just on your clothes walking around. Every time we move something there is always a few slugs underneath, though sometimes we find piles of 20 or 30 of them. We’ve even found slugs on the dogs before. The chickens don’t eat them, so I’m seriously considering possibly getting a few ducks next year to save the garden from slug infestations. At least the chickens do eat the mosquitoes though!


We don’t have our wood stove set up yet since we are in the process of building the extension still. I’m really looking forward to the stove so we can get some dry heat going in the studio. I’m not used to the humidity so everything feels damp to me unless it’s in direct sunlight. Even my skin feels damp with humidity. Doing laundry is kind of a bust until there is a sunny day, otherwise things don’t dry properly. And right now we are officially in the rainy season, so the sun has been gone for a week. Once the stove is set up laundry can be hung near it to dry, so I’m excited for that. At least it’s one thing living here that there is an easy solve for!

The amount of rain we’ve had recently has also made our access a lot sketchier than it used to be. Kyle fixed it the other day so he can drive right up it in the 4 wheeler now, but I always get off and walk. The rain runs right down the access and creates a nice clay slick to slide around on. It also washed away the dirt around a few big rocks, making it that much harder to get a good slope going up. We are planning on talking to the borough since they own the access and seeing if they will send someone out to fix it. Now that there are people living out here year round I’m hopeful that they’ll fix it quickly.


Rain for weeks on end, mud everywhere, a drowned garden and an over abundance of slugs are all things I’m just going to need to get used to here spring through fall. I wonder what challenges winter will bring us!

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