Mid-October and a balmy 47 degrees. Wow. It’s half-past 3:00 and I’ve already been to the musk ox farm, breakfast with Mom, and UAF’s Museum of the North with plenty of afternoon left to spare. I’ve been looking at house plans. Small house plans to be specific and wondering where to put the water tank. I’m building on a budget, by myself, and both space and finances are at a premium so my particulars are rather modest.
I have a 1700-gal tank under my house right now, but the new place will be nowhere near that size. It would be nice, but then I’d have to build another whole living room to have space for me alongside the water. I think I can live with less. I’m looking at roof material, interior walls, countertops, flooring, insulation. Do I want gas lights or hook up to generator? Do I want gravity-feed or pump? Do I even know what I’m talking about? Probably, but all options are still open, no commitment has been made other than the structure will be small, the walls will be well-insulated, and the roof will shed reliably. I lost a home due to failure of snow load to shed and it’s not part of this plan.
Being outside the borough boundaries means no code, no covenants, no restrictions other than to build wisely. There’s a kid nearby who’s developed quite a junkyard in the past year and a half he’s been working on his home – several old vehicles, metal trash, an old travel trailer, and general assorted garbage. At first I was annoyed that he would take a place so isolated, build a refuge for his family, and then crap in his own nest. But who am I to tell him he can’t surround himself with cast-offs and derelicts if he’s identified a use for bits and pieces somewhere down the line. I’m just thankful I decided to build on the extreme opposite side of my lot from where his borders mine. I considered being creative with fencing but will forego the insult since it was he who put in the road that makes it easy for me to get to my property. Give and take, and keep my mouth shut. I’ve learned a few things in the past half a century, tolerance among them.
I won’t miss a lot of things, and will yearn for others. I’m told Starband works there, which is good – I need it so I can work. I can haul water whenever I make a trip to town, and whatever is stored will be safe from freezing as long as the tank is in a heated area. The frigid temps dictate some foresight when it comes to water storage, as does the permafrost require foundation planning if I don’t eventually want to live in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s crooked house. I thought of cob construction, and cordwood, but perhaps a bit of testing is required before investing much time and effort with the discovery of impracticality. Then I remembered my friend Mitch, the one with the bagpipes, who built himself a tiny little house on wheels some five years ago. It sits off Farmers Loop in the trees, beside the new framed house he’s constructing since acquiring a wife. I’d be tempted to build mine along those lines, but romantic as a tiny house may seem, I’ve lived remote and isolated, and the world is close enough without four walls closing in on 150 square feet during the long winter. Besides, where would the water tank go?
All winter I’ll be looking at construction books, plans, DIY and beginner books for the heretofore uninitiated carpenter. I’ve helped in the construction of another of my homes – yes, the one buried beneath snow – and know enough to know I don’t know enough to be confident in my squares not becoming triangles under pressure. So now, with ten minutes until four o’clock on my watch, I’m off to Barnes and Noble to peruse their selection of instruction material to pass the next 4-5 months of long winter nights. You’re never too old to learn how to do something right.