Thursday, August 05, 2010
Off the Grid
I had plenty of downtime to relax at my friends, Tami and Bruce's house in the woods. They live 15 miles from Talkeetna, Alaska which is 2 hours north of Anchorage. Travel 2 hours from Anchorage, up the road that goes to Denali and eventually Fairbanks, turn onto the spur road to Talkeetna, take another turn and drive 6 miles, then a turn onto a gravel road for another mile or so, then up their mile-long driveway, through birch and black spruce trees, traversing a large meadow (watch for moose!), around a bend and ta da!, there you are.
The house has a wrap around porch and long overhangs on the roof so one can be outside in the intermittent (or continual) rain.
This small 400' cabin is where the family of four lived for 9 months while the larger house was being built. The kids each had a space in the loft and all was cozy and warm with a wood stove churning out heat. Tami designed both homes and now the cabin is office, guest quarters and storage.
Four years ago Tami and Bruce bought 280 acres of Alaskan wilderness, with the idea of starting an 'intentional community'. Five families could call this home, with a cluster of homes on a bluff. If a few trees were felled (likely) and on a clear day (unlikely), one could see Denali (and beyond that, Russia!). Only one other family has built a permanent residence and another family has built a weekend cabin.
Living this far out, there are no electrical lines or water pipes. They are totally off grid. Being an engineer, Tami devised the power system consisting of 12 batteries,
a huge and very colorful generator,
and the inverter, which converts DC to AC or 12v to 120 v. This is all housed in a small building about 100 yards from the house so you can't hear the generator when it occasionally is cranking away.
They heat mainly with wood, which is abundant on the property, with oil as a backup. The two woodsheds are nearly full with a 2-year's supply of warmth.
It was so cool (50's and drizzly) that we had a fire in their Vermont Castings stove. While folks were sweltering away in 100 degree weather, I had 2 shirts, a fleece vest and scarf on, happily sitting next to the stove reading 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' or knitting on socks.
I can hardly be in one place for long before I talk someone into letting me paint a room or two. I will paint any color but white, unless it's for trim. Their walls are all white so I picked some safe neutral colors to start. This nice green color is 'hunky dory', a perfect name for adding a bit of pigment to the wall. It's a nice frame for the greenery of their forest outdoors.
Here's the meadow where we looked for moose but didn't see one.
A bit of excitement was while Tami was taking clothes off the line, she heard a snuffle coming from near the wood shed that is about 5' from their house. She looked behind the shirt she had just removed and their stood a big black mama bear. Both were surprised to see each other, eyes got wide, maybe even an intake of breath from both of them, and mama bear ran into the woods and mama human came into the house to tell me. I grabbed my camera and we both ran onto the porch and saw two cubs scurrying up two different trees with mama bear beneath in the brush. I snapped a pic but my camera was on flash mode and it took a second longer to click and I only got the view pictured above. But it did look just like the photo below, which I did not take.
It was fun to see how mama bear instructed her cubs to get up those trees. When she realized we were not an immediate threat, she told them to come on down and off they went through the brush. Tami is now getting a bear proof trash can.