In order to get back into the swing of All Things Alaskan, Ethan and I went up to Fairbanks last week to visit our friends Heidi and Dan. Heidi and Dan live off the grid, which means they haul in their water, use solar panels and a composting toilet. They are currently living in a 16 x 20 ft cabin that Ethan and I helped build 4 years ago (here's the original post, if you're interested). Heidi and Dan have done a lot of work since then, and I have pictures, but I can't seem to find my camera cord, so you're SOL for this post, sorry.
As I said, we were getting back into Alaskan activities, so while we were there, we went four wheeling, canoeing, and hiking. For you city-livin' folk, four wheeling involves driving an ATV* around on trails or off road all together. This was my second time on a four wheeler ever, and I had a lot of fun, until Dan got his four wheeler stuck in the mud and had to winch it out for about the 5th time using a hook on the front of one of the other four wheelers. Standing around in the muddy tundra, swatting away mosquitos, I thought, hmmm, I can think of other things I'd rather be doing. But then we retraced our route out of the bog, and rode back up the hill over logs, roots and rocks.
I even managed to keep my four wheeler upright and on the trail, until about half a mile from the trailhead, when I ran it off the road and into some trees. When I came to a stop, the four wheeler was sitting on 3 or 4 trees that I'd mowed down, with a small tree upright directly behind the rear bumper. It was pretty impressive. I had to get Dan to back me out while Ethan rolled his eyes and Heidi waited at the trail head, wondering what had happened. It was little embarrassing, but not entirely unexpected, given my clumsiness.
Canoeing and hiking were fun, and thankfully less eventful. We started our canoe trip in the worst weather of the week, so I was pretty happy we didn't tip and get ourselves even wetter than we were from the rain.
I really enjoyed seeing Heidi and Dan again, but one thing I've learned is that living off the grid is a big pain in the butt. Heidi and Dan haul in their water from town in this big container in the back of their truck. They have to heat the water to cook or wash dishes, and they have an outdoor shower that they can only use during the summer. They have the indoor composting toilet, which is a toilet with two containers -- one for liquids, one for solids. When the containers get full, they have to dump them into the outdoor outhouse. They also separate the toilet paper, which they have to burn later with the rest of their trash.
They also build and maintain everything themselves, which requires a lot of knowledge and ingenuity. They are constantly learning new things and problem solving, which both of them are really good at. Here in the House of Laziness, however, Ethan and I like to use flushies, take showers indoors, and call a repairman when things go wrong. So don't worry, Mom and Dad, you won't be forced to visit us in a solar powered cabin any time soon.
*So I was totally going to link to a picture of an ATV, but one of the first that came up was Sarah Palin on an ATV, and I thought, I don't need to associate myself with her any more than I already am by living in this state. You can google it yourself if you don't know what it is.