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Them That's Doin': An Alaska Homestead

Even before we began easing ourselves out of the "system", we knew we loved Alaska and that we wanted to live here. But where? Not near Anchorage: too many people, and real estate prices that long ago soared beyond our budget. Then, in May of 1973 ...

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Patricia Ford shares her and her family's experiences buying a new home and of the harsh winter environment endured in their Alaska homestead. By Patricia Ford | May/June 1975 (function (d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));         The author shares her homesteading tales from Alaska in this edition of Report from Them That's Doin'. PHOTO: FOTOLIA/JORGE MORO #carousel-custom { margin: 20px auto; max-width: 500px; } #carousel-custom .carousel-indicators { margin: 10px 0 0; overflow: auto; position: static; text-align: left; white-space: nowrap; width: 100%; } #carousel-custom .carousel-indicators li { background-color: transparent; -webkit-border-radius: 0; border-radius: 0; display: inline-block; height: auto; margin: 0 !important; width: auto; } #carousel-custom .carousel-indicators li img { display: block; opacity: 0.5; } #carousel-custom .carousel-indicators img { opacity: 1; } #carousel-custom .carousel-indicators li:hover img { opacity: 0.75; } #carousel-custom .carousel-outer { position: relative; } .carousel-caption { color: #000; text-shadow: none !important; text-align: left; position: relative; left: 0; right: 0; } /*.carousel-caption:not(#caption-0) { display: none; } .carousel-caption:not(#caption-0) { display: none; }*/ .recipe-meta-item { padding-left: 5px; margin-top: 20px !important; } @media (max-width: 1201px) { #slider_captions { padding-top: 10px; display: inline-block; } /*.carousel-caption { padding-bottom: 0; max-width: 280px; float: right; right: 0; left: 0; }*/ .recipe-meta-item { display: inline-block; margin-left: 20px; margin-top: 54px; width: 90%; padding-left: 30px; } #carousel-custom .carousel-indicators { display: inline-block; } } @media (min-width: 1200px) { /*.carousel-caption { position: absolute; top: 0; text-align: left; left: inherit; right: inherit; width: 280px; padding-left: 5px; }*/ #carousel-custom .carousel-indicators li { padding-bottom: 15px; } } In the summer of 1973 — when we found the 8-1/2 acres of Alaskan bush that would be our home — there was nothing here but wilderness, stately spruce, aspens, a beautiful blue-green river running past, and a spectacular view of the Wrangell MountainsOne year later, we made our move back to the land to an Alaska homestead Creating an Alaska Homestead My husband and I had talked and dreamed of the step for years but like so many others of our generation, we were caught up in the middle-class suburban way of life that is spelled T*R*A*PWe bought the usual "musts" — the washer and dryer, dishwasher, color TV, all the modern push-button gadgets — and then spent more money on sports equipment and spa memberships to get some exerciseWorse still, our children were growing up in a world that didn't prepare them for what we felt lay aheadThe oldest was ready to enter junior high school, and the time had come for us to act or forget the whole thing and stop talking about itSo we acted: just jumped in with both feet ("up to our ears" is more like it). Fortunately, we did have enough sense to realize that we couldn't make it with a millstone of bills around our necksWe've known others who tried to swim with such a load and ended up back in the 9-to-5 grindSo we spent two years working, saving, scrimping, and buying only those things that would fit the new lifestyle we were to embark onWhen the washer broke down, we bought two No3 laundry tubs, a hand wringer, and a "stobby stick"and I learned to wash on a rubboard. Even before we began easing ourselves out of the "system", we knew we loved Alaska and that we wanted to live here. But where? Not near Anchorage: too many people, and real estate prices that long ago soared beyond our budgetThen, in May of 1973, we heard about a state land auction to be held in early JuneThe available acreage was in the Copper River ValleyWe'd never been there, but geological survey charts and maps of the area provided by the state convinced us that it would be worth the 400-mile-plus round trip to take a look. -Advertisement- GS_googleAddAdSenseService("ca-pub-7979199038709626"); GS_googleEnableAllServices(); GA_googleAddSlot("ca-pub-7979199038709626", "MEN-Parallax-Ad"); GA_googleFetchAds(); GA_googleFillSlot("MEN-Parallax-Ad"); After five days of tramping through miles of underbrush and nearly being carried off by mosquitoes, we felt ready to give up and search elsewhereEvery piece of property we looked at was either 1,000 feet above the river, or right on the highway, or totally inaccessible(If we couldn't get in with our 31-year-old four-wheel-drive Jeep, we didn't want the place.) Then, the day of the auction — tired, discouraged, grimy, hot, and besmeared with mosquito goop — we stumbled onto our small piece of the Good EarthWe knew immediately that it was what we were looking for: a hillside suitable for building (with only a minimum of trees to cut down), six acres of meadowland to farm, and best of all, a breeze blowing down river to keep the mosquitoes groundedNeedless to say, we bought the property. READ MORE In August we came back again, this time for three weeks, to fell and limb some of our trees and stack them on skids to season over the winterWe were greener than commercially picked bananas when we started and more bruised than overripe ones when we finished but we did it, nevertheless, with all hands pitching in to helpEven our nine-year-old hacked off branches with a small bow saw, and among us we managed to clear a house site and a 30 foot by 70 foot section for the garden. The only really stupid thing we did was leave the bark on the trees we felled(The sooner a trunk is peeled after it's cut, as we now know, the easier the job is to handle.) To be honest about it, after the sap stops flowing — about the end of July here — logs don't "peel" anyway but at least they do "shave" more readilyWe had read that the logs would check (crack) less if they were felled in the fall and stripped the following springThat may be so, but they're a durn sight harder to work on when they've lain that longThe bark seems to glue itself to the treeIf we had been here in April and early May to get started on them, our book learning might have applied but since we didn't begin until mid-June, we really had a difficult time of it. Anyway, after our initial three-week stint as lumberjacks that first fall, it was back to Anchorage no longer "home" but a place to wait out the winterWe passed the time learning more about what we planned to do and collecting a years supply of the food staples and equipment (tools, etc.) we'd require for the new life we were stepping intoOur resources were limited, and we wanted all our building materials paid for and enough of everything we'd need to last until we were established. Many lists were made and remade, until our "priority" items were pared down enough to fit our budget. -Advertisement-

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