Category Archives: Cabin

Information and pictures about my little cabin in Fairbanks, Alaska

The Dacha

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I got the roof on my dacha finally! It’s taken me two summers to get it finished enough to use when it rains, and I absolutely love it!

I started the dacha, my little summer cabin, last year when a neighbor offered a pile of 2×6 planks to me. The floor was easy to figure out, but was a lot of hard work. I used cinder blocks as a foundation and I leveled them all before putting the floor frame on them. I forgot to square the four planks I used as the basis for the floor though. Oops!

After cleaning up the planks-I had to remove some hardware and nails from the ends-I screwed the planks to the frame that was on the cinder blocks. I put the screen tent up and then decided I wanted a more permanent structure. I have this old Atco on my place (the last remnant from the last boyfriend), so I started tearing it apart. I couldn’t sell the damned thing, couldn’t even give it away!
I framed the walls in the now air-conditioned Atco, then added visqueen and mosquito netting before moving them to the floor and screwing them down. That was as far as I got before the summer was over, because I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for a roof.

This summer I decided to rearrange the walls before starting on the roof. Once that was taken care of, I bought some vinyl window material for the roof. It’s perfectly clear and would make an awesome cloud-watching cover! The roof isn’t the greatest; it’s not going to hold up under much of a snow load, but it’s adequate for rain and leaves. The clear vinyl didn’t work out; it’s too stiff and difficult to work with by myself. So the roof is visqueen over 2×4’s and 1×4’s, held down with lath lightly tacked down with big-headed roofing nails. I’m anticipating needing to replace the roof next year with corrugated plastic roofing that’s used on greenhouses.

I still have some finish work to do on the dacha; I’m using more lath to firmly tack down the visqueen and mosquito netting walls, and the door is pretty awkward. It’s a piece of mosquito netting that flies around in the wind and doesn’t do a very good job of keeping mosquitoes and other flying insects out. And sometimes Harpo can’t figure out how to get in! I also have to cover the triangles on the wall that support the roof and the header boards that support the roof above the door. But I can sleep out here and enjoy watching clouds, tree shadows, and rain!

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Playing catch up…

My sewing room

My sewing room

That I haven’t posted much this summer is kind of an understatement. I was busy in June with the NICOP field trip, and in July it rained and rained and rained. August was the fair, and then it dried up, and it’s been too nice to be inside. Those could be my excuses, but the real reason I haven’t posted is that I have been wrestling with what to do about the cabin?

I live in a less-than-400 square foot dry cabin. It is Too Small. I have Too Much Stuff. So should I build a sewing room? And should it be an addition to the cabin, or a separate building? Or should I buy another house? And rent the cabin out? Or sell it? Will I be able to sell it, since it needs a new foundation and it’s seven miles from town? Can I get a loan? Or should I fix up the cabin, keep it until the gas pipeline gets going, and then sell it during the boom years? What do I do? Who can I trust to predict the future for me?

I looked at cabin after cabin. Too small, too close to the neighbors, the yard’s too small, it’s too dark, it’s too expensive. I finally found a cabin I really liked; it was only four miles to work, on five acres, double the square footage of my current cabin. But the taxes were double what I pay now, and the heating bill made me choke. And the house payment… no more sewing goodies for me if I bought that cabin! And what if I can’t sell mine, or I can’t keep it rented? How do I make the house payment? Could I even get a loan?

So I sweated and wrestled with the numbers, and decided against that cabin. I started looking again. Talked to a realtor. Put the cabin up for sale. Changed my mind. And finally came to the conclusion that I just did not want to spend the money or assume the risk of buying another cabin right now. To the library for books on storage solutions. Lots of ideas, little drawings, measure, measure, measure. Paint; gotta paint before I put up new bookshelves.

I’ve emptied out the cabin and put almost all my sewing stuff into the shed. There are several paint splotches on the wall so I can choose between pale green and pale pink. And I like the empty cabin! It’s much more peaceful, so I am back to my original thought of a separate building for my sewing stuff, at least for the coming winter. And I can get by with the shelf units I already have, and build shelves in the shed instead. Less expensive. Easier.

My garden in four foot square boxes

My garden in four foot square boxes

Now it’s time to move things around, wash a wall, let it dry, paint it. Play tiddlywinks with the stuff pushed to one side and start all over again. I’ll do a few more things to make the cabin liveable for one more winter, and keep thinking about the different options. I would like to move closer to work, shorten the commute, depend less on the car, and spend less money on transportation. But I have a beautiful big yard with lots of room for Mr. Dog to run after tennis balls and frisbees. Neighbors that stop by and say hi when I’m in the yard. Plenty of room outdoors for painting/dyeing/printing on fabric and playing with the woodburning tool and all kinds of art projects. My own little bit of woods out back, and places to walk without a leash.

Lots of reasons to stay, and I will still think about moving. Someday.

Eatin’ beans!

Flowers and vegies

I finally planted this weekend! My boxes have been ready for some time, but it was still too cool to plant. A friend gave me nine planter boxes, each four feet square. I traded five of them with another friend for a couple loads of planting soil. Over the course of the last three weeks, I put the boxes on cement blocks, filled them partially with soil from my yard and topped them off with the planting soil.

Naturally the soil dried out quite a bit, so Saturday I finally started using the 50 gallon water tank I purchased last year. I was a little nervous about hauling 400 pounds of water in the Subaru, but ‘Ru handled the weight like a champ, and I hauled two loads of water. I still have some work to do to make hauling that much water easy, but I did get the soil wetted up enough to plant and fill up my house water jugs as well.

Sunday afternoon I finished wetting up the soil and then bought two kinds of lettuce, basil, oregano, thyme and marjoram, and two six packs of pansies. That filled one of the boxes, with one six pack of pansies left over. It sprinkled a bit while I was messing with my water, so I figured it wouldn’t be long before we finally got some rain. But, because it was windy and not yet raining, I covered the unplanted boxes with some plastic to keep the soil moist and called it a day.

I woke on Monday to the sound of dripping eaves, and was very happy to see that a very light rain had started. I yanked the plastic off the boxes, glad to note that not much water had collected on the coverings, and let the rain finish up what I started the day before. By the end of the day, the boxes – and the rest of the yard – was thoroughly soaked. A welcome relief from the serious fire danger of the last few weeks!

I had some bean seeds soaking, so planted all of them – over half a box of bush beans! – and some dill seeds. Today I’ll get some lettuce, carrot, radish, and pea seeds and plant all that ASAP. And if that doesn’t fill the last two boxes, I have some flower seeds that can get spread out too. Considering that I have 1.5 acres, it seems a little silly to plant a garden in boxes, but it sure is a lot easier to work up the soil and my back is much happier too. I can’t wait to start harvesting some fresh veggies!

Butterfly garden flowers

My sister sent me some seeds for a butterfly garden, so those went into three planters last week. They’re already coming up! So the pots by the driveway (two tires turned inside out) will soon be colorful beacons waving in the breeze.

Summer evening

summer evening

This is how I’ve been spending the last few nights – lounging around in front of a campfire out in the backyard. We’re having a really dry summer so far; we could sure use a little rain (actually, a LOT of rain), but I’m going to enjoy the good weather and hope it sprinkles at night.

Gizmo’s catching his breath, after spending a good share of the evening chasing a tennis ball. I usually bring a book or a sewing project out with me, and trade off between sewing and slapping mosquitoes. Not too much skeeter slappin’ this year, at least not yet. The wasps aren’t bad yet either, though I’m sharing the outhouse with a couple of persistent fellers. I hope they don’t take up housekeeping in there!

And oh yes, it was about 10 p.m. when I took the picture. Love those AK summers!

Spring in Alaska

spring spring spring

It’s spring! It’s spring! My roof slid yesterday! At least the sunny side did-as you can see from the pictures, the shady side is going to slide any minute. This happens almost every spring, and I usually am in too much of a hurry to get to work or whatever to take pictures. Believe me, I do NOT walk under this! Even though the path to the garage is under the roof overhang.

Little cabin in Alaska

Back of cabin

I’m a member of Houseblogs.net, a community site for people interested in home improvement. They’ve started a new section, Topics, with cabins as one of the topics. Houseblogs.net and DIY Network are doing a cross-promotion, each of them featuring the other blog, in connection with DIY’s Blog Cabin Sweepstakes. I happen to be one of the few people on Houseblogs.net that labeled their home a cabin, so my blog is one of several being featured on the DIY Network blog right now. So, I thought I should show you a little more of it.

I live in a small frame cabin with an attached garage; the structure is 24 feet square, with half of that devoted to the garage. “My” half of the building-the living area-also has a 12×8 loft above the kitchen area, and I store my books and my bed up there. Access is by a drop down “attic access” ladder, which is really handy, since that leaves a large open area in the cabin, uncluttered by stairs.

Gizmo

I live here with Gizmo, my 105 lb Labrador Retriever. I think the cabin’s a little too small for him; he prefers staying outside in his doghouse, unless it’s too cold. “Too cold” starts at about zero for him. He’s a bit on the rolypoly side, and loves romping in the snow. He dives enthusiastically into snowbanks to retrieve frisbees, tennis balls, and sticks, and is a frost-and-snow covered black dog when he finishes his walks with me.

I don’t have running water, so I haul three 5 gallon jugs home once a week. No running water also means wintertime honey buckets and an outhouse. I shower at work, and do laundry at a laundromat. I’ve lived this way for about twenty years now (except for a stint “Outside”-the lower 48) and don’t really want the hassle of running water. I can leave the cabin in the winter with no worries about breaking pipes and a mess when I get back from a trip.

I do have electricity, which I would really miss! No computer, no sewing machine, no drill or skill saw; life would be a lot different. My Monitor oil stove runs on electricity, and I also cook and heat water with electricity. I used to have a wood stove, but the cabin is so small and it just takes up too much space. I use 100-150 gallons of heating fuel per winter, so I don’t feel that’s excessive, compared to some houses that use 600 gallons or more per winter.

I love living this way; it’s very common in Fairbanks and the town is adapted for those of us with “dry cabins”. Many businesses provide shower facilities for employees, and all the laundromats are equipped with showers and a place to fill water jugs. I like that my house is paid for, and I have an acre and a half to play on, as well as lots of room to take Gizmo hiking. I live about a mile from the Alaska pipeline, and can walk or ski to miles of trails off the pipeline. I picked several quarts of blueberries there this summer, and I’ve gone grouse hunting off the pipeline too. It’s a great life!

Cabin