Okay, do we have everything?" Every contractor asks this question, but last summer it took on new meaning when I was hired to build a log cabin in the Alaskan bush. The road nearest to the job site was three hours away by boat, 45 minutes by plane. You can bet I checked the materials list more than once.

Projects like this one may be rare in the Lower 48, but they are no big thing around here. The job began when a truck showed up at my local harbor with a cabin kit from a supplier located 200 miles away. After a nearby lumberyard delivered the rest of the supplies, all 50,000 pounds of material were loaded onto a barge (1) to be towed up the...

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