Almanack Contributor Justin A Levine

Justin A Levine

Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.





Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Lip Balm, Or Death Of A Microwave

Lip balm and cutting boardThe snow has come and gone, and then come and gone again. It’s been a wet fall, but with the transitions from rain to snow and back again, we still don’t have a lot of the white stuff on the ground.

The chickens are happily pecking away in their new coop and run, and I do feel better having them in a fully insulated coop, now that the night temperatures are getting into the single digits. They’re all huddled on the perch, snuggling to stay warm. At least now I can flip a switch and they have heat. Last winter it was warming a piece of granite on top of » Continue Reading.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Homestead: The New Coop

The New CoopThe sound of the furnace startles me a little every time it fires up.  It sounds like a car pulling in the driveway or something like that, and I am still not quite used to the sound and commotion.  Not that it’s not welcome.  We’ve got about six inches of snow on the ground, not terrible, but it did seem kind of sudden.

Last week it was warm and nice out, and even though we know it’s inevitable, the snow just sort of seemed to come out of nowhere.  After moving an old set of tires into the garage and digging out and picking up a few other things that were out » Continue Reading.


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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hot Showers: Cabin Life Moves To The Homestead

The Green EggHot showers.  Man, I could literally write an entire column about how much I love hot showers.  It is such a pleasure to take a shower each morning.  I used to get up and throw wood in the stove and then stand there and let the heat wash over me for a while before I got my day going, but now I can let the heat of a hot shower actually wash over me.  It’s one of the main reasons I get out of bed every day.  Well, that and work and animals to take care of and my soon-to-be wife and stepson.  But really, the shower is the best part of » Continue Reading.


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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cabin Life: Some Big Decisions

The New GirlsRainy and in the forties.  This is the worst type of weather I face all year.  I know, the snow is just gone, and I had to have my chickens live in a tent in my kitchen for a few nights, but hiking in and saving the chickens from the bitter cold were easy decisions.  This weather presents a much tougher decision:  whether to burn the precious little dry wood I have left.

Even with a few weeks off from the cabin this winter, my wood supply is quite low now.  The wood I found over the winter isn’t quite dry enough to burn, and it’s a tough call to use » Continue Reading.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cabin Life: The Want-Ad

spring 2Roommate Wanted!!

Experience the excitement of living off the grid, while enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds of Mother Nature right outside your door!

I’m looking for a roommate who isn’t afraid of roughing it and having some adventure!  You will get back to nature by having to venture outside to use the bathroom, regardless of the temperature.  Oh, and forgetting the warm toilet seat hanging over the stove when you go to the outhouse in the middle of winter should be the definition of adventure in the dictionary!  You will make faces and sounds you never knew were possible, but don’t worry, there won’t be » Continue Reading.



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cabin Life: The Chickens and The Fox

The Fox TracksThere’s a steady stream of water pouring off the roof in front of the big window.  There are no more icicles, and the shingles are showing for the first time in months.  It finally feels like spring.

I sat outside most of the afternoon, relaxing in a lawn chair enjoying a good book.  As I sat there soaking up the sun, the snow melted around me.  The chicken coop roof is clear after being baked in the sun all day, and the snow fossils of old footprints are melting away.

The chickens have been enjoying the warmer weather and are basking in the sunlight. For a couple of months, I hadn’t gotten » Continue Reading.



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cabin Life: The Owl’s Meal

owl crop2The sun is shining later and later each day, and some of the snow is melting and dripping off of the roof in front of the big window.  It’s officially been spring for almost a week now, but don’t bother telling Mother Nature that.  The forecast of thirteen degrees below zero tonight isn’t as bad as the negative twenty-three we got a couple of nights ago, so I guess, in a way we are getting more spring-like temperatures.  But again, temperatures in the negative teens aren’t that spring-like to me.

I’ve been back at the cabin full time, and having a few weeks off from living out here was definitely nice.  After three winters having to » Continue Reading.



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cabin Life: The Plowed Driveway

Ice on a spruceI’d like to tell you that it’s been a long couple of weeks out at the cabin.  That, however, would not be the truth.  The truth is, it’s been a couple of very lazy weeks lounging around in the comfort of an actual house.

The weather has been terrible. I was having to hike into the cabin, my firewood is running low, and I was sick of dragging a forty pound jug of water a quarter mile uphill twice a week.  So I’ve been staying at my girlfriend’s with Pico and Herbie.  And the Levine men have officially taken over the couch.


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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cabin Life: The Life And Death of Small Mammals

Woodland jumping mouse (Wikipedia Photo)The wild winter weather is continuing.  Friday it was so warm that even several hours after the sun went down, there was still a steady drip-drip-drip coming off the roof.  In the forties Saturday, the season just can’t seem to make up its mind.

That’s not to say that it has been an easy winter.  And to me, there has been a recurring theme out here at that cabin that demonstrates this better than anything else.  I have had a steady supply of small rodents around the house looking for food.



Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cabin Life: The Snow

The DrivewayWinter is really upon us now, finally with some snow to go along with the bone and soul crushing cold.  It’s a mixed bag for me, us getting a bunch of snow.  With snow comes a lot of hardship, and also some benefits too.

One of the immediate benefits of the eight or so inches of snow is that my cabin is much better insulated.  The old pink fiberglass insulation in the attic is more for show at this point than actual insulating value, but the snow on the roof just bottles up the heat from the stove and makes the cabin much more comfortable.

However, I may think the cabin is more » Continue Reading.


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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Cabin Life: The Burial Of Ed

The final resting placeIt’s been a couple of weeks packed with transition for all of us out here at the cabin.  The chickens are out of the tent, Ed is buried and Herbie is acting like he never has before.  We’re all making adjustments and getting on with life, even though the bone-chilling temperatures haven’t always made it that easy.  The chickens are getting better about laying eggs again after their days in the tent.  It took a few days but Whitey finally started laying again and Blondie has dropped a couple of eggs too.  Brownie never really stopped.

Two days after Ed died, I decided that I needed to bury him.  It » Continue Reading.


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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cabin Life: Surviving The Chicken Tent

The Chickens InsideI can freely admit that I am not an expert in basically anything, but let me give you some advice:  Don’t share your four-hundred square foot anything with a dog, a cat, three hens, and a rooster.  Now, nothing against the chickens, but they are noisy.  And stinky.  And no matter what, the rooster will crow whenever he feels like it, regardless of your sleep schedule.

With temperatures predicted to be about thirty below zero without the wind chill, I decided that the time had come to let the chickens have a nice warm night inside.  Now, keep in mind that the chickens had not ever been inside my cabin.  Nor had » Continue Reading.



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cabin Life: In Memory of Ed

EdI’m sitting at my table writing because right now, this is the only thing that will keep me from curling up in the fetal position on my bed and sobbing uncontrollably.  Ed, my little gray cat, the first pet I ever had, just died in my arms.  And I am not handling it well.

This is actually the second article I’ve written today, and even though it’s late and I have to be up early, I know that lying in bed will be worse for me psychologically than staying up and doing something productive.  I’m upset for the obvious reason that my cat and one of my best friends of eleven years just passed » Continue Reading.



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cabin Life: The Brown Eggs

Fresh EggsWell, the low temperature last night was still above zero for the first time in a week.  It’s not much, but it’s something to look forward to.  And then tomorrow they’re saying that the highs will be above freezing.  It has been a wild winter so far, weather-wise.

While the rest of the nation was experiencing record cold last week, we were watching the snow melt and the ruts in the driveway disappear.  Then we had bone chilling cold with nasty wind.  So much so that if I didn’t check the chicken coop every hour or so for eggs, the eggs I did find would be frozen and cracked.

One nice development out » Continue Reading.



Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cabin Life: The Wet Firewood

The Little StreamAs is my new custom, I’m sitting at the table looking out the big window at the winter weather, and I’m sweating.  The new stove is amazing, but way too large for my little cabin.  A wealth of heat is not necessarily a bad thing, but having the cabin feel like a too-hot summer is a little disconcerting.

I open one of the windows a little more, since all the windows that can open, are already open.  I’m greeted with sounds that are both welcome and unwelcome at the same time.  The sound of snow and ice dripping off of the roof is nice, but the sound of freezing rain is unpleasant.  » Continue Reading.



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cabin Life: The Chicken Diapers

Midget, aka Little Jerry SeinfeldMy off-grid, simple living, homesteading lifestyle can sometimes lead me and my thoughts down very different roads.  For instance, if you had asked me five years ago, (heck, if you had asked me five months ago) what would be occupying my thoughts this winter, chicken diapers would not have entered my mind.  But here I am, wondering if and where I can get myself some chicken diapers.

Now, I don’t just go around thinking about chicken diapers.  I actually have a very good reason for shopping around for just such a thing.  It turns out that one of my chickens is a rooster.  Poor old Midget, who is no longer » Continue Reading.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cabin Life: The First Eggs

The First EggsYesterday morning, I let the chickens out into their run, just like I always do.  I sprinkled some food in there and gave them my customary “Hey Ladies!”  I’ve stopped trying to keep them in the run, as they seem to get out now whenever they feel like it.

Even so, I closed the plastic over the opening in the run, and went back inside to have some tea.  Whitey is far and away my most vocal chicken, and she was squawking up a storm.  I looked out to see her relentlessly attacking the plastic covering the opening, and as I watched, she escaped.  But to my surprise, she immediately hopped » Continue Reading.



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cabin Life: The Escapee Chickens

Whitey and MidgetThe chickens have become escape artists.  I don’t know how they figured out the elaborate trap of chicken wire and plastic that comprises the door to the run, but they’ve managed to get out for two days straight.

I don’t mind letting them roam around when I’m around.  But as the weather gets colder and the predators get more desperate for calories, I’m thinking that the door to the run may have to be reconfigured.  It’s sad to admit, but my half-assed door can’t even contain a bunch of literal bird brains.

It is nice to see them out and about in the yard though.  They have thoroughly picked over the spots » Continue Reading.



Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cabin Life: Wrestling With The Dark

Recycled CandlesI currently have twelve independent fires going inside of my cabin.  The one scented candle is making the mixture of burning candles, lamp oil, and spiced apple almost pleasant. Almost.

This time of year is the roughest, psychologically, out here.  When the sun starts to dip before most people eat dinner, it’s tough for me to stay positive.  Especially on a day like today, when it was overcast all day and never really that bright out, the night seems just about unbearably long.



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cabin Life: The Rain Barrel

First SnowThe snow is falling quickly and quietly outside.  I have a nice fire and a glass of bourbon to keep me warm and dry though, so all is right with my little world.

I love the first real snow fall of the year.  Everything looks so clean and neat, and the world is quiet.  The birds aren’t making any noise, the few deer that took off running when I let Pico out hardly made a sound, and tree limbs are hanging low, heavy with fresh wet snow.

This is isn’t the first snow of the year, but it’s the first one that might stick and be around for a little while.  Every night » Continue Reading.



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