Skip to content

An Alaskan magnum opus

September 1, 2013

This posting was originally intended to talk about some of the changes that come about in people after they arrive in Alaska to live, however I have decided to make it a bit more personal. I found during my first years here that Alaskans especially those that live in remote areas are by and large very resourceful people. They may have for most of their lives been skilled at certain jobs but now they can do virtually anything. I bring this up because in my past life I was a printing pressman and in Alaska though I did work in my field for a couple years there is not much need for that trade.

When I first moved to Alaska I was an assistant hunting guide and later ran guided fishing charters. Like many things in life chance and circumstance offered to me by a close friend and fellow guide, I was to learn how to build houses. Rose, who during her years in Alaska was a hunting guide, taxidermist and gold miner purchased an 80 acre plot of land so she could build homes for her family.

Its a family & friends project

Its a family & friends project

She then opened the door to me to help her build these homes. Granted like most men I had done some remodeling, when first married, but to start with a bare piece of earth and finish with a 3,000 square foot home you could be proud of was way out of my league. There was a timetable for each building, of maybe four months, from clearing the ground to a roofed house. This was because we needed to have it enclosed before the snow started to protect the inside, and to allow us to work on the interior during the winter.

The first home we built together

The first home we built together

There are a few running jokes around here one of them is when building the last home for Rose’s daughter Kara she wanted a bigger bedroom than was originally planed for. Now I have been know to talk too much and once again I opened my big mouth when it should have stayed close and jokingly said why not a third floor just for your bedroom. All men should take a lesson from the picture below of a house with a third floor that is just for her bedroom.

Kara's three story home!

Kara’s three story home!

Or once as I was working on her kitchen she said she wanted an island counter to surround her stove. I thought Kara was joking….not!

Starting the island kitchen

Starting the island kitchen

It does look better finished

It does look better finished

I guess the tag line on this posting should have something to do
with never thinking you can not learn to do something new in life.

To me I think it just shows that no matter how old one is
there are many new doors waiting to be opened.

Door art by Rose and Kara

Door art by Rose and Kara

Advertisements
13 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2013 1:25 pm

    Need to talk. Shoot me an email tonight or tomorrow when you’re on. Miss you!!

    Like

  2. September 1, 2013 5:14 pm

    Hello, Pete. Hope you are prepared for the coming winter. Coming to Fairbanks this weekend to see my son off – he’s going outside – and to stock up on grub. Hope to see you sometime again.

    Like

  3. Ron G permalink
    September 2, 2013 6:12 am

    How do you get water and electricity to these homes? Or do you? I imagine there is a building inspector somewhere. And what kind of foundation? Poured full foundation or piers?

    Like

    • September 2, 2013 2:58 pm

      Ron,
      The homes are never inspected, no permits or regulations required out here. I make sure we wire and plumb them as we build, as it is easier then. The foundations are rock pads with treated 16″x24″x20′ timbers on them. concrete can shift and break up with no means of releveling if the freeze/thaw cycle messes up the level of the building. Wood foundation can be jacked up and releveled fairly easily. We do not have running water or outside source of electricity. We each run a generator a few hours per evening for entertainment, mostly. We do have satellite internet that is marginal, no phone or cell service or TV. No mail delivery, no UPS or Fedex delivery either, regardless of what their ads say.
      My first frame building was the cabin Pete lives in. I had built with logs before that. I designed 3 of the houses, Kara designed hers and we all worked on them. Pete was on salary. I am a firm believer in studying to learn and have managed to hold Boiler Operators license, Saw Mill Operators license and work as a goldsmith and jeweler besides the other stuff. Seems I manage to change careers about every 10 years or so. I still do some of the other stuff, but keep on learning.

      Like

    • Terry permalink
      September 2, 2013 6:44 pm

      I like that “a building inspector somewhere” :-)

      Like

  4. kara permalink
    September 3, 2013 3:44 am

    water we haul out from town, electric we have generators, and way out here there are no building inspector’s,,foundation is rocks and bridge timbers and some cement not much and its just support for the timber.s.living out of city limits and all it’s bull is really nice

    Like

  5. September 3, 2013 5:09 am

    Just goes to show what can be achieved when you put your mind to it. I marvelled at Alaskans resourcefulness when I visited this summer, something that most people seem to either not develop or loose when living in cities etc. Great post,, would love to see Kara’s finished home!

    Like

  6. kara permalink
    September 3, 2013 1:24 pm

    mine is the third story house and it’ll be a long time before i get the siding on it,, i’m doing the siding with license plates and road sign’s..

    Like

  7. Del permalink
    September 4, 2013 9:51 pm

    Yes remember those days well…. Living off the grid can be a challenge but when you get used to it; it’s really not that bad….And now 30 something years ago when I was living off the grid up there and now living on it down here I guess the only thing I would miss would be is air conditioning in the summer down here off the grid…. lol Other wise we still have the capabilities of living off the grid. Now if I can just get rid of the postal service that keeps dropping off those pesky bills…..

    Like

  8. September 5, 2013 1:35 am

    YEAH! Our brains, hands and stomachs seem designed for nearly universal applications; we’re made to survive most anywhere at all reasonable. Of which, if Alaska isn’t proof; then there isn’t any.

    It seems notable to me that during the Great Depression, young men growing up assumed and were expected, to be able to turn their hands to most things that needed doing. Most could repair machinery, rebuild an auto engine, fix declining furniture or even repair a radio. And many were capable outdoors too. It was just what boys learned to do while growing up. That no longer seems the case in the majority of the lower 48, a less remarked part of our original culture we’ve decided to forget…

    Like

  9. September 8, 2013 4:03 pm

    We’ve always had more time than money, so if we want something, we make it, or learn how.

    Like

    • September 12, 2013 5:36 am

      That produces capable and independent people that are productive and self-sufficient…the sort that built the U.S!

      Like

  10. September 14, 2013 5:17 pm

    Lovely piece of art by Rose and Kara! :D

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: