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, March 24, 2013

Cabin Life: Patiently Waiting for Spring

An Old FenceWell, they say that spring is here, but the eighteen inches of snow on the ground out here says otherwise.  While snowshoeing up in the back of the property, I took an old ax handle and checked the snow depth.  There’s still two feet of snow where the sun doesn’t shine.

I needed a break this week.  The wood stove is once again giving me problems with negative pressure causing smoke to come into the cabin.  I would be a lot more worried about this if it was December or January, but since it’s the end of March, it’s really not bothering me that much.  Obviously, the stove and the chimney need to be replaced, but now is not the time for that. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cabin Life: Reflecting On Winter, And Spring

Wood PileWell, we had a nice March thaw.  I’m not sure it really made things better, but it sure was pleasant to have a couple days of sunshine and warmth.  I was even able to let the fire go out for about thirty-six hours, marking the longest period I’ve gone without a fire in the wood stove since January.

While I enjoyed shoveling in just a shirt with no gloves necessary, I was still a little upset at having to shovel.  Needless to say, I have had more than my fill of shoveling this winter.  The driveway is passable, but not in good shape.  The ruts I made when the snow was soft are now essentially the tracks I have to take to get in and out of the cabin.  I basically have no say in how I get up and down the driveway, but so far, I’ve still been able to drive it.  I don’t mind hiking, but if it can be avoided, it seems silly to hike. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cabin Life: Spring is Near

Melting SnowThere’s a gentle thud as another icicle falls off the roof and lands in the soft, heavy snow on the ground.  It’s not that warm today, but warm enough to sit out on the porch and read for a while.  I needed a winter hat to sit out there, though the sun was warm when it poked out from behind the clouds.

There’s a noticeable difference in the amount of snow on the ground.  It’s not really melting, but it is disappearing.  Almost like the surface of the snow isn’t changing, but just sinking closer and closer to the ground.  The days haven’t been very warm, but we’re starting to get those days when it feels a little humid out.  This is the snow’s way of saying goodbye I presume. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cabin Life: The Paradox of the Season

IciclesIt’s forty degrees, the icicles are dripping snowmelt off the roof, and it’s snowing out.  Today seems to be a perfect example of the paradox of the season.  March starts tomorrow, and the end of winter is in sight.  But there’s a pretty solid likelihood of getting a bunch more snow, as well as days and nights that are bitterly cold.

This, for me, is often the toughest time of the year.  I’m still enjoying the winter skiing and snowshoeing, as well as the sight of the white woods.  But as we get deeper into March and closer to my birthday, I start getting antsy for spring to be here.  Last year, there wasn’t really a part of the winter like this, seeing as it was so warm and light on snow.  I mean, I went canoeing on my birthday in late March last year.  That was definitely a first for me. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cabin Life: A Crank Radio Companion

Psychologically, I am ready for winter to be over.  I like the snow and the skiing and the trips to the Evening Entertainmentgym that I just can’t justify when it’s nice out, but I would really like some nice warm days to come our way.  Maybe I’m not ready for winter to be completely done, but I could use a February or early March thaw.

I was sitting here reading the other night, when the radio suddenly turned off.  This is a common occurrence, due to the fact that my radio is a “solar” radio.  I put solar in quotes because this is what the radio was advertised as, but it is, in fact a crank/rechargeable radio that happens to have a small solar panel on it.

This past summer I spent a little bit of money getting solar lights and this radio.  Last winter I had used an old digital alarm clock for my radio.  That clock was the same one that’s been waking me up since I was a freshman in high school.  It was a good, old-fashioned plug in clock radio that had a battery backup so that if the power went out, your alarm would still go off.  I went through a lot of nine-volt batteries listening to NCPR last winter, so many that I had to repair the wire harness a few times.  I took that clock radio to the campground last spring and decided to leave it there when I got my new solar radio. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cabin Life: Apples and Honey Bees

bee cropWell, I survived Winter Carnival, along with another monster snowstorm.  So far this winter, I’d say that I’ve gotten between four and five feet of snow, most of it coming in two big storms.  Luckily, I had a friend with a plow help me out this time, so I’m not having to hike in to the cabin.  There’s no way I’m moving that much snow again.  I’d rather hike than shovel.

Last week I house-sat for some friends of mine who live in Saranac Lake.  It was glorious to have running hot water, fast internet and unlimited electricity.  Out of the three though, I would still take hot water over the other two. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cabin Life: Ready For Winter Carnival

ToolsLike most people, I sometimes make decisions that I regret.  Last week I made one of those decisions, and I have been regretting it ever since.  The decision I made was to shave off my beard.  On the coldest day of the year.  It’s not that I’m worried about my ability to grow another beard, but it’s been, well, cold and for some reason I seemed to forget how much insulation I get on my face from the beard.  In hindsight, it was a horrible decision.

I made another decision recently which is turning out to be much better though.  I bought a double-bit ax for use around the property, and I could not be happier. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cabin Life: Five Cords Of Wood A Year, Part Two

CherryIt’s twenty-four degrees below zero outside, and even though it’s warm in the cabin, I’m still going to be wearing longjohns under my jeans all day.  I had a problem with the wood stove last night.  One of the metal grates that keeps the fire and coals up above the ash trap got knocked off kilter.  Not wanting what was sure to be a very hot fire sitting in the ash pit all night, I attempted to put the grate back into its proper place.  Even with a big metal poker and heavy leather welding gloves, I still managed to burn my thumb pretty bad.  The smell of burnt leather and flesh made for an aroma that was… unpleasant.

Last week, I wrote about my plans to build a new wood shed this summer.  I estimated that I will burn a little more than four cords of wood this year, and so I would like to cut, split and stack at least five cords of wood for next winter.  My supply this year is getting pathetically low.  I have a lot of extra soft wood that I can burn when the hardwood runs out, but on nights like the last couple, I want nice big hunks of cherry and maple roasting in the stove, not pine and poplar. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cabin Life: Five Cords Of Wood A Year

800px-Cord_of_woodWell, the January thaw made for a nice weekend, even though the skiing suffered a little bit.  It was warm enough last Sunday that I actually was able to get the four wheeler going and plow the driveway.  I only had to hike in for a week or so, and can now once again drive all the way up to the cabin.  I really didn’t mind the hike and since the four-wheeler won’t start unless the temperature is about forty degrees, I’m sure I’ll be hiking in again before winter’s over.

It was also a nice break for the wood stove, and more importantly, my wood supply.  Or more specifically, my dry hardwood supply.  The stacks of wood were definitely in need of a break. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cabin Life: A January Thaw

Red Breasted NuthatchThe sun is slowly creeping up over Whiteface, turning the sky into a mixture of pastel blue, deep purple and burnt orange.  The icicles hanging down in front of the big window reflect the colors as the first chickadees of the morning start to come to the bird feeders.  Herbie and Ed are both on the couch, heads darting back and forth.  The view out the window looks like a Bob Ross painting.  Soft lines and happy little trees everywhere.

The January thaw is upon us here in the Adirondacks.  It’s a nice little break to have temperatures above freezing, but the rain that’s coming surely is not welcome.  Over the last couple of days, I’ve lost almost a foot of snow to the warm, humid air, but I’m not complaining about that.  There’s still plenty of the white stuff on the ground.

So much snow, in fact, that my driveway is no longer drivable.  I’ve been parking at the bottom for over a week now.  There’s obviously a pretty big downside to this, but also a few perks.  I’ve gotten good at not forgetting anything when I leave, and shoveling a hundred yards of driveway is definitely preferable to shoveling a quarter mile of driveway.  Also, the driveway is steep enough and snowy enough for me to ride the sled down to the car.  So even when I have to haul groceries or water up, I at least get a sled ride in exchange.  It’s really not a bad trade. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cabin Life: Life At The Bird Feeders

I woke up this morning, as usual, buried by animals.  Ed was lying on my chest, Herbie was at my shoulder flicking me in the face with his tail, and Pico was on my left, resting his head on my open hand.  It was nice and warm in the cabin even though I hadn’t gotten up all night to feed the stove, and I would have been content to lay there for a while before getting out of bed.

I thought about how my car was buried in a snow bank halfway up the driveway and how it’s going to take an hour or so to get it free.  I thought about how I’m still not done shoveling more than a week after our first big snowstorm.  I thought about how nice the bed felt.  Then Ed stretched and farted, and I jumped out of bed more quickly than I would have liked.  Pico and Herbie didn’t wait around in the danger zone either. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cabin Life: A Snowy Trip to Nick’s Place

The snow is still falling, but not as fast and furious as it was earlier.  I heard on the solar radio that this is now called Winter Storm Euclid, but I think most people will remember it as the Blizzard of 2012.  I’ve got about twelve to fourteen inches on the ground, and it is still coming down.

I woke up early this morning to a text message from a friend letting me know that she had made it to Colorado alright.  The sun wasn’t up, but it was starting to get light out, so I got up and fed the pets and the wood stove.  » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cabin Life: Some Snow And A Bobcat Sighting

Well, the world didn’t end, so we got that going for us, which is nice.  In fact, on the official first day of winter, we finally started getting some snow.  It rained all day, then switched to the very fine snow that blows around and looks like it’s snowing like crazy.  I woke up hoping to go skiing, but there’s still only an inch or so of snow on the ground.  I really want to go skiing.

The fine snow somehow makes it through the screens on my porch, coating everything out there.  I always try to sweep the porch before walking on it too many times, but Pico doesn’t care if the porch is clean.  He loves the snow.  When I let him out, he usually stares at the screen door like it’s the biggest barrier he’s ever seen.  But when we get snow, he noses open the door and takes off to prance around in the fresh white stuff.
» Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cabin Life: Looking Out The Cabin Window

The best feature of my cabin is the big window.  It’s probably four by four, with two smaller windows on either side that open to let in fresh air.  With myself, a dog and two cats living in this one room cabin, fresh air is a precious and much needed commodity.

The big window is on the south side of the cabin, looking down the driveway and over what used to be the garden.  I can see Lower Field, Left Trail, and last year’s junk wood pile.  The old plow is right in front and a half-dozen apple trees are in plain view.  I can see Whiteface Mountain, but only the summit. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cabin Life: Tracks in the Snow

Every morning there are tracks in my driveway.  Sometimes they’re deer tracks, or the random dog that occasionally wanders through, or like this morning, they’re fox tracks.    With only a dusting of snow on the ground, I’m not sure why different animals seem to frequent the driveway, but I almost always stop on my way to work to see who had come through the night before.

I do mean a dusting too.  The lack of snow is great for getting things done outside, but obviously horrible for skiing.  Last week we got about six inches.  I got the plow hooked up to the four-wheeler and, miraculously, got it started.  I plowed the snow off the driveway just to practice with the new set up.  By Monday afternoon, the only place there was snow was where I had made snowbanks.  Good thing I didn’t actually break my finger putting the plow on.  It really felt broken when I slammed it. » Continue Reading.



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