By , October 19, 2015

I joke sometimes about our 21st Century Homestead, where we use outhouses and heat with wood, yet communicate via Internet and cell phone. Some days, though, our technology gets knocked back a bit by conditions.

Saturday, we received three phone calls. Actually, we got four, as one caller tried both of our phones. We consider this noteworthy, particularly since it wasn’t anyone’s birthday or anniversary here. This many calls in a day seems overwhelming to us!

Oddly, even though one of us was near the phones when each of these calls came in, we heard no ringtones.

The Homestead Phone Center, plus weather alert radio. Bluetooth headsets hang from nails above photo edge (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The Homestead Phone Center, plus weather alert radio. Bluetooth headsets hang from nails above photo edge (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Rain fell heavily all day, and the ceiling lowered practically to the surface of Lynn Canal. Our cell service cut back to almost nothing, too little to receive direct calls. Instead, each call went to voicemail. The messages, apparently needing lower connectivity than the calls themselves, downloaded to our phone either directly, or during a momentary increase in coverage.

We found it more comical than frustrating to receive these calls in a seconhand fashion, as it were. I’m glad that neither of us are type A personalities who might grow anxious when communications slow down.

The truth is, neither of us really like to talk on the phone. We avoid it when we can, endure it when we must. We use phones far less frequently than our contemporaries. Neither of us own or want a smart phone. I have a basic phone, Michelle has what she calls a “clever” phone: a basic with a pull out keyboard. More than enough telephonic tech for our interests.

When we moved to the homestead, cell coverage barely reached our property. We identified a few spots where we could make calls. Most of these spots stand in the teeth of the wind and weather, which made calls very difficult. We considered buying a satellite phone.

We found that we could hang our phones by their lanyards in the dooryard window to get a connection. We had to plug in a earpiece headset to talk. We did this sitting rigidly on the couch beneath the window, to stay within the headpiece tether. When we switched to Bluetooth technology, we felt amazingly free!

Since then, cell coverage has slowly improved. We still have limited range with the phones, and cell service routinely blacks out in the summer, overwhelmed by the hordes of phone weilding tourists who visit Haines and nearby Skagway. At the level my household uses phones, though, we almost always get through to those we try to call, or who call us.

When our Internet satellite provider shut down, we set up data service through our cell phone provider (see Eviction Notice). We are still working out the details of boosting the weak signal (see Switching from Satellite to Cellular Internet Service). A booster cradle has proven inadequate. We have a more powerful booster on order, which should give us good coverage, not only for the hotspot unit, but both phones.

In the meantime, we are truly “fair weather friends,” available by phone only when meteorological conditions allow.

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