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.





Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cabin Life: A Summer Snake Encounter

The Big SnakesI just got back from the neighbor’s house, where we had a couple of beers by the fire.  Even though I tend to have a beer by the fire whenever it’s not raining, it is nice to share the fire with friends.

On top of the pleasant evening, it is actually starting to feel like summer.  We’ve had almost three whole days without rain.  I am really excited. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cabin Life: A Banner Year For Small Fruit?

First StrawberriesI love it when a few moments of laziness lead to something good.  I had weed whacked all around the big fire pit and hammock a couple weeks ago, but there was one section of lawn that I just buzzed through quickly, and I did a poor job on about a ten square foot area.  Last night as I was moving some junk wood into the new wood rack, I caught a glimpse of some bright red in the slightly overgrown region:  two wild strawberries.

Only one of the very small strawberries was ripe, so after taking a couple pictures of the first strawberries of the season, I popped the ripe one in my mouth.  That was the first strawberry I’ve had in quite a while, and man was it delicious.  There was enough flavor packed in that little pea-sized berry to make all the rain worthwhile. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cabin Life: ‘Awash In Babies’

The Four GirlsIt’s been the kind of week where I am just awash in babies.  This is not a bad thing, although it is a far cry from my normal lifestyle.  I’m sitting on the patio of my brother’s house in Orlando, Florida, waiting for my niece and nephew to wake up.  Their official greeting of spit-up all over me was warm and gracious, if unconventional.  But trust me when I say that the two month old twins are too cute to be upset with.

The other babies I’ve been seeing a lot of lately are my chickens.  The four of them are staying in Amy’s garage while I’m out of town, but I got to spend plenty of time with them before I left.  Amy took her seven larger chicks plus one very tiny chick and put them in her new coop.  That left my four little girls to themselves in a heated cage.  Once I’m back, though, the girls will be my responsibility. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cabin Life: Preparing to Raise Chickens

Future Chicken CoopWell, there’s finally been a bit of a break in the rain, and even though the bugs are bad and the hammock is soaked, I’m really enjoying sitting outside in the sun.  After spending the last couple of weeks cleaning up the yard, I’m about ready to move on to another project. Fortunately and unfortunately, my next project has a deadline of two weeks.  That’s when I will be getting chickens, and I’ve got a lot to do before they get here.

During my yard cleanup, I actually dragged something additional into the yard.  Back behind the woodshed in the brush was an old trailer with a wooden box built on it.  One of the tires was flat and the frame of the trailer is not square, but I pulled the trailer out into the open hoping to find a use for it.  The wood of the box is largely rotten and covered in moss, but other than not being square, the trailer is in good shape and when Amy asked if I wanted some chickens, I realized what I could do with the trailer. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Cabin Life: Spring Clean-Up

The Wood RackI have a love-hate relationships with the morning.  I am a morning person, and like getting up early and maybe even accomplishing a few things before work.  On the other hand, I hate getting up.  I like lying in bed with the animals and listening to the birds chirp.  I like flipping the pillow over to get the cool side one more time before I roll out of bed.

During the winter, it’s easy for me to get a good night’s sleep.  The sun goes down before dinner, so by six or so in the evening, I’m ready for bed.  I struggle to stay awake, and light every candle and lantern in the cabin to keep myself up so I don’t end up sleeping twelve hours every day.  But now it’s tough to go to bed.  The sky is light until after nine and the sun is up so early that I’m usually awake before my alarm goes off. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cabin Life: The Forgiveness of Snakes

The Wounded SnakeI don’t usually think about snakes, but I’ve had a few run-ins in the last couple of days, and I haven’t really had a choice but to think about them.  Now, I’m not one of those people who screams like a little girl when he sees a snake (anymore), and when I do happen to think about them, it’s usually because a garter snake is slithering away out in the driveway or curled up on one of the rocks out in the yard.

The other morning, I stepped out of the front door and was handed a small garter snake.  My friend had picked the ten inch snake up right outside the door.  We each let him run through our hands and then dropped him back into the grass.  Now, I know it’s bad to handle wild animals, but it’s nice to feel the soft motion of the snake on your hands.  It’s also a reminder that these guys aren’t out to do us any harm, and just want to eat the bugs around the garden. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cabin Life: Apple Blossoms and Snow

Apple BlossomsWell, I woke up to pouring rain this morning.  It’s really coming down, to the point where my alarm didn’t wake me up, the pounding of the rain on the tin shed roof did.  All the windows are even closed due to the cold temperatures, and the rain was still loud enough to break my slumber.  But at least it wasn’t snow coming down like this.  The forecast has called for a chance of snow for the next few days, and while it wouldn’t be a major inconvenience to get some snow, it would be a little depressing.  Plus, I’m worried about the apple trees. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cabin Life: A Rock in the Garden

The Water BarrelDespite the half inch of snow we got earlier this week, spring is rolling along.  I jerry-rigged a rain barrel, and I like not having to rely on small supply of drinking water to take care of the garden.  The thirty-five gallon barrel has a spigot on it and I set it up right next to the garden.  Unfortunately, I do not yet have the barrel set up properly.  I have a gutter that runs along the front porch, and a five gallon bucket that sits under the end of the gutter.  When we get rain and the bucket fills, I take the bucket a few feet to the barrel and dump the water in the top.  It’s not the best design, but it’s working well.

My tray of seedlings is doing OK, even though I forgot to pull them inside the other night during a frost.  Luckily all the seeds that had sprouted survived, but I have a few trays with nothing growing in them.  The carrots, spinach and tomatoes better get their acts together. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cabin Life: The Colors of Spring

Apple BudsThe first clouds we’ve seen in a while are rolling in, and there have even been a couple drops of rain that have fallen from the sky.  So instead of writing this while lying in the hammock, I’m sitting in the old rocking chair on the front porch.  I can see the four-wheeler, the wood pile, and the lawn chairs that I’ve been too lazy to put away.

The grass is turning green except for the area where I almost always park.  That grass is dead and carries the color of dried wheat.  Other than that, the colors are coming out, and the rain we’re about to (hopefully) get will only make them brighter. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cabin Life: Winter Without Summer

The last week has been nothing but sunshine and warmth.  The change in seasons was quick, and it Daffodils seems like we went from zero to sixty in the temperature department, but it’s been good for the mind.  The trees are blooming and the daffodils are shining bright yellow in the hot sun.  It’s a good time of year even though my nose won’t stop running and my eyes are always itchy.

The last time I got an allergy test was a few years ago in Jacksonville.  The doctor pricked both of my forearms with different allergens.  On my right forearm were things like dust mites and pet dander.  On my left arm were all the different types of pollen.  After about five minutes, the nurse checked in on me and saw my left arm.  She left and came back with the doctor, who decided that the red, swollen flesh necessitated immediate action.  He cleaned up my arm and handed me a bright red inhaler that he recommended I carry with me at all times. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cabin Life: Birds In The Yard

View from St Regis MountainSpring has decided to show up fashionably late.  I woke up to snow the last couple of days, and even though it’s been melted by lunch time each day, it has been discouraging to say the least.  However, even with the new snow showers, it is clear that winter is gone, even if spring hasn’t set in completely yet.

Pico and I went hiking the other day up St. Regis Mountain.  It was a crisp morning, but with clear skies forecasted all day, it seemed like a great opportunity to hike one of my old favorites before the bugs are out in any sort of force.  We set off and wandered through the woods down behind Paul Smiths and up the mountain. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cabin Life: Seeking Comfort When Tragedy Strikes

The SyrupI made my maple syrup yesterday, and it turned out really good.  I know because I drank more than a couple shots of boiling sap and syrup during the process.  I did not mind the taste-testing.

Due to the incredibly windy conditions up here and the fact that there’s a residential burn-ban in effect, I decided to boil down the sap at Amy’s.  I ended up with about five and a half gallons of sap which boiled down nicely to about a pint and a half of syrup.  Not a ton, but enough to enjoy and even share.  Making and tasting the syrup was a much needed break after the events of the past week.  I think most of us needed a distraction or two this week. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cabin Life: The Tardy Spring

Ice on a cherry logSo far, spring has been a big let down.  There were two robins in the yard this morning, hopefully representing a soon-to-be change in the weather.  Between the upper field and lower field, I’d say about two-thirds of the area is still covered in snow.  In the woods, I can post-hole my legs up to the calf when not wearing snowshoes.  Luckily, the freeze and thaw effect has left a fairly heavy crust on top of the snow, making it a little easier to walk around.

The little path that Pico and I have made to the sugar maples is a safe walk, and I have no problem doing it in sneakers.  I might break through three or four times, but the falls through the crust into the four or five inches of snow don’t seem to matter now.  The end is in sight. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cabin Life: Mud Season

Stream in the SpringWe’re here in April, and there’s still quite a bit of snow on the ground.  The days have been warm enough to start melting the snow, but the cold nights and occasional snow showers have hampered the quick onset of spring.  Pico and I went for a last ski down the railroad tracks near a friend’s house the other day, but now the snowshoes and skis are stashed, and unless something crazy happens with the weather, I think it’s time to call it a season.

A couple of weeks ago, it was so warm that we got our first taste of mud season.  Now, for those of you who don’t know, mud season in a semi-official time of year between winter and spring.  Mud season is not something that is well celebrated, but in some ways, it can be the best time of the year. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cabin Life: A First Syrup Season

First DripI love my dog Pico.  But there are times when he can be extremely annoying.  Like right now, he’s licking my elbow and won’t stop.  I lifted my arm up off the table but he just jumped up on me to keep on licking.  I don’t know why he is doing this or what I could have possibly gotten on my elbow to make him want to lick it so bad.  He’s just a little weird sometimes.

I noticed another oddity out here this week.  I tapped a few maple trees so I could make a little sap this year.  Last year, I was all primed to do the work, but then maple season came and went in a week in February, and I was caught off guard and left with no syrup.

This year is a test run.  I bought some taps and used a few old milk jugs as buckets.  Trying to do it on the quick and cheap, I’m really only expecting a couple servings of syrup.  I don’t have the equipment or the time right now to handle a big production, but now that I know what I’m getting into, I can make a bunch of syrup next spring. » Continue Reading.



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