Friday, November 16, 2007

Cabin Life

This was a short work week, and now we’re into a four-day weekend. Life is good!

Last weekend Helen and I packed up the dogs, loaded the sled, and headed up-river to our cabin. The weather was bright and sunny but still cold, with daytime temperatures close to minus 20 and down near minus 30 at night. We spent a relaxing weekend reading, eating, playing cards and snoozing.

Our next-door neighbours are about 30-metres away, and other friends have a cabin on the opposite side of the river, about a quarter-mile distant.

We all have wood-stoves. Helen and I burn scrap lumber, but our home-made wood stove is only used for quick heat and then we let the oil stove take over. Barb and Alistaire are heating with artificial fire logs until Al gets his oil line repaired. Kerry and Irene use fire logs as their primary heat source, with a little propane heat as back-up.We all cook with propane. Kerry and Irene have a nice marine-type stove with an oven. The rest of us just have two burners - no roast chicken for us, unless we prepare it at home and transport it up-river.

Kerry and Irene now have a fancy propane-fired, incinerating toilet. Barb and Alistaire, Helen and I, just use the good ole’ "honey-bucket" system with a disposal pit. Simple and cheap, if nothing else.

Kerry and Irene have a solar panel for electricity. Helen and I have the same, in addition to a wind generator. This set-up provides all the power we need for lights, stereo, satellite TV, satellite radio, the ham radio set-up, radio-telephone, computer, etc. We can live there very comfortably and could easily do so year-round, with a weekly trip to town for mail and groceries. The biggest problem in winter would be getting enough water to take an occasional shower or wash clothes. We’d likely have to revert to the old system of cutting ice in the fall. Of course, water is not a problem in the summer - we simply use a gas-powered pump and fill a 1,000-litre storage tank beside the cabin.

The trip to the cabin is a 30-minute snowmobile ride or a little less by boat. Any heavy supplies, like lumber, propane or heating oil, we take in the springtime by snowmobile and sled, thus avoiding the need to carry things up the hill from the boat.

I bought the cabin in 1974, but had to re-build ten years later after a big flood carried the original cabin away. The RC Mission had a cabin next door since 1942, when it was hauled there from Coppermine by dog-team. In 1984, the same flood finished off their old cabin and Father Lapointe and I re-built that summer, when I was still a strong-as-an-ox 36-year old and Father was well into his 70's. Father’s new cabin eventually became the property of Alistaire and Barb. Kerry and Irene’s cabin was built by an Anglican minister in the mid-1980's. It has been very nicely finished and well-equipped. They use their cabin as a base for hiking and snowshoe trips. We have to admit that Kerry and Irene keep themselves in much better shape than the rest of us!

There are several dozen cabins in the Kugluktuk area, but we three couples are the only ones who felt the necessity of obtaining leases. Expenses are reasonable - $110 a year for the lease and last year I paid $11.70 in property taxes.

We have other things in common besides the fact that we all have cabins in close proximity to one another. We have all lived here for the last 30 to 40 years. We all arrived with the shirts on our backs and little else. In varying degrees, we have all been successful, by dint of dogged perseverance and plain hard work. None of us are strangers to long hours and working many months without a break. We three men are all the same age, closing in on 60, although our wives are somewhat younger. We’re now able to reap some of the rewards of all the hard work we put in over the last three or four decades. We all guard our hard-won success with considerable vigor.

We have managed to carve out very nice lives for ourselves here in arctic Canada. This is largely due to one other thing we have in common - we all arrived at a time when the economy was booming and before Big Brother started to mess things up.

No, we can't complain about how our lives have evolved. What I find frustrating is that many other people in this community have not advanced an inch in the last four decades. It's sad to see people wasting their lives. But that's a subject for another installment.


Photo: Looking across the river from our cabin to Kerry's and Irene's. (You can click on this or any other photo on this blog to see the picture in the original size).

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