Locals keep telling me this has been a mild and gentle transition to winter weather.

“It should be five below by now,” Sherry said, sporting a wool hat with ear muffs plopped on top. We met on Dalton as I was walking to campus this afternoon, snow falling lightly yet relentlessly.

I feel awfully fortunate that the transition has been an easy one. Although my ancestors hail from New England, I haven’t had much experience with snow since I was in middle school. And I’ve had no experience in the Arctic.

Here’s a few things I don’t know.

I don’t know how long it will take me to use 900 gallons of water. I have a sink, a shower/bathtub and a washing machine. (An outhouse definitely saves on water usage.)

I don’t know how much wood I’ll need through the winter. I have a healthy supply in the woodshed and some stacked under a blue tarp. I don’t know if it’s enough.

I don’t know how much diesel fuel I’m using for my Toyo heater. I’ve been told they “sip” fuel. I don’t have any idea what “sip” means in terms of gallons per month. It’s a 300-gallon tank. I’ve been in my cabin almost two months. Maybe I should take a dip and see where we’re at.

And because I don’t know much about taking care of myself in arctic conditions, I’m taking a course next weekend in Wilderness First Aid, sponsored by Outdoor Adventures at University of Alaska Fairbanks.

I also don’t know how to cross-country ski, so I’m joining the Friday Lunch Ski Clinics that Outdoor Adventures offers from 12 to 2 p.m. The chair of the Department of Journalism, Brian O’Donoghue, is waxing the skis that Joy Morrison, director of the Office of Faculty Development, gave me. Julie Wies, whose husband, Richard, teaches electrical engineering, gave me a pair of ski boots. And one of my students, Howard, who works at Play It Again Sports in Fairbanks, checked out my gear for me.

One thing I do know: it’ll take a village–or at least a fair number of UAF faculty and students–to raise this Alaskan newcomer to an arctic adventurer.