Monday, May 27, 2013

Life On Moose Mountain

I moved to Alaska in the middle of December, a week after I graduated college. Along for the ride were my dog, my shotgun, and my body weight in luggage, making for an interesting journey with extra paperwork through several stages of airport security. I don’t even remember it being cold enough for more than a light sweatshirt it Colorado. The weather in Fairbanks was a bit chillier. It was 40 below the first week I was in Alaska. That’s COLD. My poor little dog, Roxi, was not so sure about Alaskan life or dog booties at first, but now she loves the snow and I have more trouble getting her to stop swimming in snowbanks than I do convincing her to go outside. We have a few handy indoor tip offs that the temperature outside is extra cold. If the bathtub won’t drain and the gas intake line is enclosed in an ice jacket, it’s probably in the negatives. When it’s that cold, we don’t set things too close to the wall because they’ll get frosty. I have pictures of inch and half thick icicles that reach from the roof to the ground in front of the glass front door. Fun fact: even Alaskans have been saying this is one of the longest winters on record. It’s snowed like crazy the past week, the temperature is something like 20 degrees below the average this time of year and I fell into a snowbanks up to my waist yesterday. Luckily the inversion works in our favor. Since the air is so still, it settles in valleys. We live in the hills, so the weather at our house stays about 20 degrees warmer that down in town when it’s hot or cold. This means instead of 40 below, it’s only 20 below at our house. And also, when its 70 in town, it can be as warm as 90 at our house.

I arrived just in time for the winter solstice and the non-end of the world on the 21st of December. That day we had less than 4 hours of daylight, a kind of disorienting situation. Our house is set up with the majority of windows facing south and a skylight, so we do get a brightly lit up house when the sun is out. Also weird to see was the location of the sun and the stars. The constellations are in totally different places obviously, and the sun sticks close to the horizon, so it feels like sunsets and sunrises go on forever. I saw my first good showing of the northern lights on Valentine’s Day. That’s an experience that was on my bucket list, and it really is something impressive to see. I was amazed to see how much ambient light then produce and how the movement was so different than cloud movement.

And because Alaska just wasn’t exciting and unique enough, we decided to live in a yurt. I had no idea what one was until we found ours. Basically, it’s a round house with a cone shaped roof. The outside walls and the entire roof are made of a canvas material but the inside walls are made of wood. Insulation is a must, obviously, but you still get a camping vibe. (Note to my mother: I really don’t live in a tent in the wilderness without modern amenities, I promise) When it rains or snows, you can hear the sounds of it hitting the roof. From the loft, the precipitation sounds are extremely cool. Inside, the yurt is essentially split in half. The back half of the yurt is into two rooms, an office and bedroom. There’s also a bathroom with a washer and dryer by the bedroom. The front half is a big area we use for the kitchen and dining room. We have a kitchen island. I have always dreamed of a kitchen island and this one is especially awesome because we can move it anywhere if we wanted. Currently the island is also home to our fermenting homebrews. I’ll write a whole post on the brewing hobby later. Our yurt also has a loft portion that makes a good size living area.

The next door neighbors have a nearly identical yurt. On the inside, theirs is a mirror image layout. Sometimes we can hear each other, not in the have a conversation way, but in the very low level of background noise way. The neighbors yurt is apparently more attractive to the wildlife than ours is. I’ve gotten a few early morning texts to the effect of, “FYI, you might not want to go outside yet, there’s a moose outside our door.” And my personal favorite, the “A moose fell on our yurt and shook us awake this morning,” story. The rest of the neighborhood is pretty spread out, but our landlady lives on the other side of our yurt neighbors. The last phone call we got from her was in invite to dinner. We also have the aforementioned neighborhood moose and a gang of neighborhood dogs. We are in the process of trying to convince Roxi that the thug life is not for her and that she shouldn’t run away from home or break into garbage stashes just because everyone else is doing it.

So far Alaska life has been entertaining and I’m pretty pleased by it. And I definitely want a yurt to live in permanently. Though, I’d add a few yurt wings and some traditional building materials. Yurt living is the life for me.

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