I promised myself that I would add one of these stories here every time I told one. I tell them at one point or another throughout the summer. There will be no chronology - not yet anyway - nor will there be much of a schedule. You never know; I might add a story every day and I might not. This is my life. Every day is an adventure.


Monday, December 3, 2012

The Tree from Hell is Finally Gone

I do believe Mother Nature created a new, fire-retardant breed of spruce tree. Last winter, on the advice of a helicopter pilot friend of mine, three trees he recommended be cut found their way either into our wood stove or into our woodshed. Two of them were spruce and one of them was birch. To date, these two kinds of trees do very well heating our house.

The cheery crackle you hear in your fireplace or woodstove is the sap taking off with little explosions. That's one reason forest fires are SO dangerous. You get whole trees literally exploding and showering sparks everywhere.

This tree, like I said, cut way last year, some of it we tried to burn then, but it was just too wet. The rest went into the woodshed to dry out for the summer. Now, granted, last summer wasn't exactly hot or even dry for that matter, but in the woodshed nothing was out in the weather. Never before did we have an issue of the wood not drying out...until now.

Not only was the entire length of that tree a real B***CH to split, but it was, of all things still wet this winter. And it wasn't wet with sap either. Not once that I recall did it go snap crackle pop. Now understand, this was a rather healthy tree, a nice big Christmas tree type tree. Generally, we avoid this kind of tree because it usually has lots of branches and this one was no different. The issue was how just plain water-wet it was. Heaven forbid we tried to heat the house with only that wood. Guaranteed the stove would go out (as happened last night).

This morning we went out and split up this gnarly stump we've been avoiding for the last couple years because it's so knotty, but it was dry, I mean really dry, and with that we got some heat in the house - no we weren't freezing in here, but it was rather cooler than comfortable for inside. I also took those last pieces of 'that tree' and split them up into much smaller pieces. Then we went out and dropped a small birch and a smaller spruce (of the regular kind) which we split and brought in. Now mind you, both the birch and the spruce are green but finally the house is getting hot. The best part is 'that tree' is now all burned up. We spent most of the afternoon with the flue wide open so that soggy wood would burn up and be gone. And believe me, it had to be wide open just to keep it burning.





Friday, November 30, 2012

Tick-Tock - Tick-Tock

Everyone has one of those things, and many people have all kinds stashed here and there. In fact, a nice big wall clock was one of the very first things I bought when I first got married and set up housekeeping in our first place. It's a wooden frame with a white face. I took some time selecting this clock. I wanted to be able to tell the time from across the room if need be. As it so happens I do believe the old saying, 'they don't make them like they used to' holds true for this clock. Not only have I managed to hang onto it throughout all of my moves, it has kept very good time and a single C battery lasts like two or three years.

I can't say the same for some of the newer appliances in my life. I recently had to buy a new chest freezer because my old one finally gave up the ghost after over twelve years of good service to us and who knows how many years of service to the lodge before it was given to us. They were going to throw it away because the guides at the time kept overloading the poor thing and then forcing the lid closed, so it was all bent and warped and the plastic inside was all busted up. We fixed all that and it worked just fine. Our new freezer is maybe a third the size and we had to get a bigger generator to run it.

Energy efficient - I wonder if these new engineers really know what that means. In my book, 'energy efficient' means that it takes less energy to run it. Apparently that is not the case. Our little generator would run it as long as it was running, but as soon as it started to cycle, the poor little thing didn't have a chance. More often than not, the starting up of the freezer would cause the lights and TV to blink completely off. It's a good thing our computers were always run on the inverter. Plus I do believe the generator doing that messed up our battery charger too, but I'm not sure. We needed a new generator anyway, and it was a hard decision whether to get another one like we had or go bigger. Bigger meant more gas - ugh - well you know that cycle.

But I digress

Back to the clock. Last spring one of the things on my shopping list was a radio we could wire into our house battery bank (12v). A car radio was the goal but little did I know those things are EXPENSIVE!!! So I opted for a 12v boombox. It's a little thing - less than a foot wide and that's with two speakers. It gets pretty good reception too, for way out here. The only trouble is, it gets 0 reception anywhere close to the inverter (where the house batteries are), SO it sits over by the kitchen sink on the other end of the house. Not so far away as far as hearing is concerned, but way far away as far as wiring it to the battery bank, so it runs on 8 C batteries. As with most modern 'energy efficient' things these days, it doesn't take this little radio very long to burn up 8 batteries. Knowing this (but obviously not well enough) I bought what I thought was enough batteries to keep us in a few hours of audio every day until we either went to town or could order a plane of supplies, which ever happened first.

By the time I got down to the last of the batteries, I was short ONE C battery - only ONE - Gaaa. This shortage prompted us to search through every flashlight we had and dig through every dusty corner in the house in search of a single C battery that might have some life left in it. The trash was soon filled with exploded batteries and dead flashlights, and we now have several ancient flashlights in working order that hadn't been touched in years. NO C BATTERY IN THE LOT!!! Well actually there was but nothing worth saving.

So what did I do? You guessed it. At 2:37 I took that one battery out of my faithful clock and put it in the radio. I mean really out here my days are clocked by the sun or by the battery life on my computer or by the battery life on the house batteries. We never really looked at the clock anymore. I got it down twice a year to change the time when daylight savings came around and left, and she got dusted off then too. We could do with out for a little while.

BOY WAS I WRONG!!! Every morning I'd glance at the clock to see what time the dog got me up. Usually somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30. Now I get up at 2:37. My husband had the generator timed. He knows that if we start it at or after 5:00 in the evening, I'll need to top it off by the time I go to bed or at least somewhere around 11:00. Now we start the generator at 2:37, and somehow 10:00 or 11:00 never come around so we have to top off the generator around 2:37. The other day, the generator actually ran out of gas because it was only 2:37, no where near time to top it off, even though it had been dark for hours. At night, I prefer to go to bed by or near midnight, now I go to bed at 2:37. Afternoon chores like splitting wood need to happen before dark, so once again we're watching the clock in order to be out there before 5ish, but it's only 2:37. My husband now tells me I contributed to his insanity. Who knew we still looked at the clock so much? It's not something I ever noticed. What time it was never really mattered that much, not until summer when I needed to be out the door by 7:00 in the morning having finished my advertising and checking my emails.

Now, my husband has brought my alarm clock into the living room and enthroned it in front of the TV. sanity has returned to our lives. It's 5:53 in the evening, not 2:37 hahahaha

So - how many times do you look at the clock? Do you know? I certainly didn't.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Decisions Decisions

Recently I was asked what it takes to live out here, especially with children. It got me to thinking; I've been asked before in one form or another. Other related comments mostly reflect astonishment that I live this kind of life and that I raised my kids out here.

What did I come out here with? My husband was already out here; he'd been working out here for two summers already, but he wasn't making enough along with my job in town, to pay the rent, utilities and buy food. I came out here with two dogs, two cats, two boys and a whole plane (bush plane - little) full of bags of clothes. That's it. I left behind so much. Everything else was stuffed in a storage compartment, and eventually nearly all of that was donated to the local charity.

When we first moved out here, my kids were six and nine. My biggest worry was school. Gad!!! Sure, I graduated from high school, I even had four years of college under my belt, though no degree, but what did I know about teaching? Especially my youngest. I didn't have a clue on how to teach him how to read and yet I was/am an avid reader. I was so lucky the school system had it all figured out for me.

Outside of schooling, I really didn't give the move much thought. I mean our ancestors moved their families hundreds of thousands of miles (by horse-drawn wagon) from civilization. What I did was not nearly so dangerous. They had to worry about Indians and starvation or freezing. All I had to worry about was possibly a bear.

We were caretakers our first winter out here. Part of our arrangement was groceries once a month. Our worst trouble was hauling in firewood. We didn't have a snowmachine until later in the winter when we could borrow one.

During the summers way back then my husband was the bread-winner. He worked as a fishing guide, and he was very good at it. Somehow, (I have yet to figure out how) he had all the different fish's habits down pat and could take you to whatever you wanted every day. I was the one to stay at home and raise the kids (and keep them alive so-to-speak).

Nowadays, my life is different and yet very much the same. Now, with a little creative trading, we own the property we live on. Now we live in a house the four of us built ourselves - part of the lumber came from a cabin we tore down for a friend who wanted it gone, part came from lumber we milled ourselves with a chainsaw, the rest, like the plywood and insulation, we had to buy and freight out here.

Now it's my paycheck that brings home the bread so-to-speak. I work summers at a fishing lodge where I have worked for over ten years now. When our government decided to require us to have insurance to cover our guests, we could no longer be self employed so my husband no longer guides. Our boys have grown up and now they are both married. I even have a grandson now; he's eight now. My how time flies.

Now, oddly enough, we have a satellite dish hanging on the side of our little house. Boy, it took me a while to get used to that, but because of that, now I am a published author, I have three blogs, and I'm well known on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Let me tell you, I certainly did NOT see THAT in my future way back when. hahahaha But it will be a long time before it pays for itself.

Here in this neck of the woods, there are several lodges. To the best of my knowledge, they all hire every summer. If you want to make a living year around, that's a little harder, but there's always someone who maybe needs some firewood cut or their roof shoveled when the snow gets deep. If you happen to be mechanically inclined, there's boat motors to work on or snowmachines. However, a good-paying summer job, with a little modest smart shopping, it's possible to be comfortable for the rest of the year.

Finding a home might not be so easy, but you could find somewhere out here to live. I'm trying to buy a small Bed and Breakfast see here, but I'm way short on funds, and because of my seasonal job, banks won't lend me a dime. You'd have to check local listings, but I'm sure there's plots of land with and without cabins all across the state. What remains to be seen is if they are within reach of work. Then again, there is always live-in work and take your summer loot to town, stock up on winter supplies and then go home.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Moosey Romance

Just the other morning I was treated to quite a romance - a moosey romance. I've lived out here for over twenty years and I've heard their love-lorn calls and seen signs of the males scratching the velvet off their racks, but never have I had the opportunity to watch such an interaction. Frequently, on Facebook, there are pictures posted showing one species of animal getting along, if not 'loving' another species of animal. There are even more showing affection between couples or mother and offspring. Though I enjoy these pictures immensely, they are generally quite cute, watching the real thing play out takes the cake.

As I said before, I've heard them calling. A moose's voice is small for their size. They sound like a calf and quiet at that, but the sound carries oddly enough. The female will wail her call, sounding lonely and needy. As we were all learning this call in order to lure a moose in close to shoot, my young sons were the best, if you ask me. My oldest son even succeeded in luring a bull in to only feet away from where he hid. Sadly, he was not armed with anything big enough to take down a bull. Ever since then, I would tease him saying he was so good because he was love-lorn and lonely too.

The bull's call is more of a grunt, coming in a series of three or four at a time, most of the time. Using this call, the hunter might be able to lure another bull around. One bull is always interested in keeping his territory clear of other bulls so there is no competition for the ladies that might be there.

I've also heard the bulls fighting, something I've only seen in some videos once in a while. Though the fight is nothing like what we may all be most familiar with, big horn sheep squaring off and butting each other with tremendous force. Bull moose do this too but their clash carries on into something of an arm wrestling match before they back off and go at it again. I've heard of bulls actually becoming entangled and unable to disengage. Their only hope is to drop their racks before they starve to death. It's a toss up which comes first since bulls will go off their feed in order to woo the ladies. The sound of those fights, though, is astonishing. Picture if you will, a couple Herculean (or bigger) fighters going at each other, but instead of them wielding swords, they swing 2x6s at each other. The resounding whap sound echos through the trees like a gun shot.

What took place in my yard was diminutive compared to all that. There was no other bull to up the drama. There was only two young moose feeling the romance. It's difficult to determine a female's age, but the older a male gets, the bigger his rack gets. This young Romeo had a fairly small rack; I guess he's maybe three or four years old, but he was a really handsome dude. He was a rich chocolate brown with long white stockings. The Juliet, I haven't a clue, but the way she danced and played, she was no old mama. She was the more gray/brown color looking sun-bleached across her back. Both were healthy with good muscle and a generous layer of fat to see them through the winter.

Romeo might have been young enough to not quite know what to do, or maybe it's just early enough in the season that his urge wasn't strong enough, but they would rub noses and talk to each other, then she would dance away and he would find a bush to scratch his velvety antlers on. Sometimes he would test the air in her direction and she would dance again. She was being really quite coy, always coming back to him if he lagged behind. They rubbed noses frequently, and they talked openly, neither of them trying to attract any other attention beyond their little game. More than once Romeo would sidle up beside Juliet, but she would dance away, teasing terribly. Like most guys I know, Romeo would amble after her asking what he'd done wrong now. She'd giggle and come back around, offering a little nooky before dancing off again. The play went on for most of an hour here in my yard, but then they tootled off out of sight. Will this pair end up being the parents of a little kicker next spring? It's hard to tell. Seldom will such a young bull get his way with a lady.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I Have a Dream

A couple months ago, I learned that a small place upriver was for sale. Not much land but that's okay - I'm not a farmer, nor do I raise any livestock. Once upon a time, when we first moved out here, a friend of mine lived there, but when her husband died, she wasn't up to living out here by herself. It's not easy living out here, even with a man around, but alone and far from young, I wasn't surprised when she moved down to the lower 48 to be closer to her kids, I believe.

In the interim, at first, another not-so-close friend moved in there to take care of the place, and soon a new building was going up farther back from the river. Thus was the beginning of a small lodge. I stopped in to visit once, but really, I so seldom go in that direction, I kinda lost touch with the place and the happenings there.

At one point, this not-so-close friend was asked to leave, she was a terrible alcoholic so I assumed that was why. I think she was supposed to be running a business there but I couldn't say for sure. I never heard about the place since then. It was there, was all I knew.

The person who told me about the place, told me quite a few things. Apparently the local carpenter lived there for a while too. What all he did there I don't know, but somewhere along the line, the place gained a fuel barn, a sauna, a couple guest cabins and a gazebo. More recently, I think the first new building grew and was remodeled inside. I was able to peek in the window and what I saw was way different from when I made that one visit.

When I finally found the listing at the realtor's and saw that the price was under $300,000, I nearly fell over. The location plus the set-up, not to mention the very nice look, should have called for a much higher price. This I might be able to work out. I immediately sent them an email asking if negotiations were possible.

I had such ideas. Paramount being some sort of writer's retreat, but certainly open to any other options. I asked one of the fishing guides where I work if he thought fly fishing lessons would draw people. With salmon fishing seemingly questionable, I figured I wouldn't lean on that industry exclusively. The place was listed as a bed and breakfast and built to be run year round; I would make the most of that. I planned to offer internet access, and get a big screen TV for guests to watch sports (not that I'm any kind of a sports fan, but many people are). I also figured there would be certain kinds of meals on certain days of the week. Home made pizza on Fridays, for instance. Steak night. Fried Chicken night. Spaghetti night. Barbeque night. and others as I thought of them.

With the place being an unknown on the river and never having been advertised as anything, there was no established clientele, but as with all new things, word would get around, I was sure, and I fully intended to advertise everywhere I could think of.

I ran all this past the owner with the realtor as intermediary since the owner didn't do emails, offering to run the place on his okay and pay him for it a certain agreeable % of quarterly profits. My first glimmer of hope was his being willing to take a down payment. So would he work with me on the rest? Would he take my offer? He wanted me to get fire insurance; something I admit to not having thought of, but it was a good idea. To protect us both.

But now my hopes have been hit with a bucket of cold water. He wants monthly payments. Not that the payments were outrageous, quite the contrary, they were very reasonable. The trouble is, there is anywhere from four to eight months out of a year when there would be NO income. Where is the money for those payments supposed to come from then? Not to mention the simple problem of mailing a check. You see, the reason there would be no business during those months is because travel on the river is impossible during those months. That is the times when the river is either starting to freeze up and before the ice is thick enough to travel on, or when the ice is getting soft and breaking up and before it's safe to travel by boat. No one goes anywhere during those times.

So, that's where it stands at the moment; nothing I can do at the moment anyway. I've asked my family for help, but it doesn't look like they can help much. Maybe some other avenue will open up, or maybe the owner will see the light and understand that my offer is reasonable. One can hope.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

After Work

Is there such a thing? Sometimes I wonder. It hasn't even been a week yet and I'm still trying to catch up here at home. Having 2 days of drenching rain hasn't helped but I'm making a dent, I think.

Yesterday, I organized the woodshed and now there's room for the big weed-eater and the lawn mower, and still enough room to walk back to the wood. Still some work to do in there though. I've even taken a small stab at the shop but that's mostly just a by-product of needing to find a place for the things I put in there from the woodshed. Doing things like sorting out the nails and putting nuts and bolts into coffee cans instead of leaving them rattling around in the bottom of bad boxes or broken tubs made a huge difference in both places.

Today, I burned those old boxes, and boy, was that a chore. It was raining so hard, the boxes were getting wet before they could catch fire. I managed to get most of them anyway. I'll be burning again in a day or two so I'll see what's left from this time. Even though I wore my Riversong rain jacket, I was drenched by the time I came back in. I guess it's not as waterproof as I thought.

What with all the rain we've been having, we've been concerned about the boats. We pulled my boat, the last one, last Wednesday, the day after my last day of work. I had to paddle it into the slough where we park because the water was too low. I ended up poling my way in; the narrowness didn't give me much room to hit water on the sides and there wasn't much water under the boat anyway. Enough to float it but that's all.

As of this evening, there has been enough rain over the last 2 days to bring the water level clear up level with the bank again. What took a come-along and an extra length of rope (about 10 feet) last Wednesday could have been done by hand this evening, well almost anyway.

It stopped raining around 4 this evening and there was even a tiny window of sunshine, but I'm sure the river won't catch up with all the rain-fall until tomorrow morning sometime. I hope the water doesn't go up a lot more, but I'm about as prepared for it as I can be. The plugs are all in and the anchors are all out. The fuel won't be in any danger unless the water comes up another six feet or so. It's happened before. I don't look forward to it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

What the Water Hides

It never ceases to amaze me when I run across someone driving a boat who seems to believe that the ground totally vanishes at the water's edge.

Today, as I was driving to work (in my boat) I was going to pass someone in what was probably an 18 foot, semi-V boat with two big motors on the back. At this point, the river was a Y intersection. I was driving up river, approaching the intersection, coming down the left-hand arm of the Y. This other guy and his one passenger was also driving upriver, approaching the same intersection from the right-hand arm of the Y. I was headed on down to the leg, but the other guy was intending to go up the left-hand arm of the Y. Had everything gone without a hitch, he would have passed me barely before I was out of my arm of the intersection. However, things did not go without a hitch.

Believing there is nothing beneath the surface of the water, he took the corner WAY too tight. Surely a man who owns a big boat with two big motors would know something about driving on a river.

Now understand, this river, where I drive every day, is a glacial river meaning it's gray rather than clear - you can't see past the surface more than say an inch, if that far. It's been a long time since I stuck my hand in the water to see - I mean, it's cold, and if I'm sticking my hands in the river it's to quickly wash some mud off - I just don't pay attention to how far under I can see my hand. I haven't done that for a very long time.

But I digress - Since this guy ignored the collection of rather large river trash shoved into the corner he was intent on cutting too close, it apparently also never occurred to him that such things stay there, not only because they've run into the bank right at the intersection of the Y, but they stay there because the water is rather shallow. Such things even contribute to the water being shallow. Cutting around the visible obstacle, he hit a buried one. It knocked his motor up and the current spun his boat around and parked it right in the middle of the Y. 

No one was hurt. No one was thrown out of their seat, nor was there any further danger other than possibly being stuck and unable to push out if the corner. I tried to idle over and maybe help but I couldn't get closer than say 20 or 30 feet from them before my prop starting kissing gravel so I had to pull away.

I watched though and they were able to push away and back out into the current. Next time I looked back they were gone. Did he learn anything about driving on a river? Well, maybe. At least he knows not to cut that corner close again.

Still shaking my head

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Flying Lessons

Not me - baby birds.

Due to boat motor problems, our big boat is parked out on the river rather than in our little slough, and since I am not driving my own boat at the moment, I'm leaving my pistol in the seat while I'm at work.

Yesterday, when I got home, I tromped into the boat to get my pistol. I lifted the bench seat, which creaks like a door in a horror house, lifted my pistol out and set it on the folded front seat while I closed the bench again - it's kinda heavy and I don't want to pinch my fingers. Then I noticed, sitting on the floor of the boat right behind this seat, was a baby bird. It had most of it's grown-up feathers but it still had some baby peach-fuzz around the edges. I can only assume it screwed up by landing in the boat and somehow ended up down on the floor.

I have no idea what kind of bird it is, but I do know that they nest on the ground and spend a good deal of their time there. When alarmed, they chirp a sound kinda like an air kiss, and not the 'muah' kind - just a little clicking sound. They are always scolding the dog if she's with me.

It looked cold and was probably scared from all the horrible noise I'd just made, so I sat down and picked it up. I planned to hold it, giving it a warm place for as long as it wanted. It was a very trusting little guy, but it didn't seem to be interested in snuggling. It wriggled out of my hand and hopped up my arm until it ran into my upper arm. I reached to pet it and it flew to the front of the boat.

I finished putting my pistol belt on, figuring if it was still sitting there, I'd take it up out of the boat and maybe a little further away from the water. Not far - I could hear mom calling. But, this little guy wasn't interested in getting reacquainted. It flew out of the boat, but not up enough to land up on the ground. Instead, it landed down on the bank. In no danger of getting washed into the river, but I could have wished for a better landing spot. With tail feathers only about half an inch long (maybe), navigation wasn't it's strong point and that was likely why it had managed to get into it's original predicament in the boat. It just hadn't figured out how to do 'up' very well yet.

I left him alone. He was out of reach from the boat and if I tried to catch him from the bank, he might try to fly away out over the water and I didn't want that. I felt certain he would make it out of this spot even if he had to climb out - a possibility.

This morning, as I walked down to the boats to go to work, the whole family flew up into the trees. Flying lessons had progressed to 'up' just fine.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I went out and did some raking again today. I'm trying to get some of the Fireweed stalks raked up in the hopes the areas can be mowed. This time I didn't wear my wool shirt and I lasted much longer than last time. I lasted until a sneezing fit drove me into the house to wash my face. I've grown allergic to spruce trees when they dust their pollen all over the place, and early spring is when their dust is the thickest. Left over dust from winter doesn't help though.

During my raking I discovered a few clumps called Niger Head grass. I cringe every time I hear that name but if they have some more official name, I don't know it. Niger Head can get quite big - big humps of root clumps. Found out on the trail or on the perimeter of a swamp especially during the winter, they can dump a snowmachine over unless the trail is already packed and such lumps are compensated for. I don't think I'm going to have that kind of trouble with these little clumps. The lawn mower or the weed eater will have something to say about that.

All around the edges of our yard is last year's native grass, now all dry and laying down. Once was the time I'd go out and collect that dry grass by the haystack to use for the chickens and ducks the rest of the year. At the time I wished for a hay baler because finding a dry place around here to store a haystack isn't easy.

Of course, the vast majority of our yard is the normal yard grass most everyone has in their yard. Personally, I prefer the wild grass kept cut. You can't cut that short like you can lawn grass. Maybe if it was cut every few days, but I doubt it. Cut short, the wild grass is not so green and rather course. Cut kinda long though, say six inches or so, and it's really quite soft and rather lush. Course, if you don't cut it, it doesn't take long for it to reach six feet and a tunnel would be necessary to get to the outhouse.

Domestic grass really must be kept short. Allowed to grow long, it's no less lush but it lays over and can trip up one's feet. Sadly, it rains a lot here (usually) and cutting the grass in the rain really sucks in so many ways. The grass, however, loves the rain and positively explodes with growth, so waiting for it to dry enough to cut between showers just might not be possible. Therefore, it's either cut the wet grass when the opportunity knocks or wait for an extra long sunny break. Needless to say, such days don't always happen, so cutting the extra long domestic grass is a huge pain involving a good deal of raking.

This all leads me back to today. Though I'm concentrating on Fireweed, much of the rest will get my attention too, until I have to go to work, and if the ground isn't dry enough to rake before then, well, maybe I'll manage to get it raked up before we need to mow again. The whole thing is complicated this year. We dropped two trees in the yard last winter. I'll likely get the branches moved sometime this summer.

In case you're curious, there's still some snow here and there. There's still water running across the trail and now the ground is starting to thaw out there so it's getting really muddy. I'm taking the raked up grass and walking it into the mud. It helps, and with luck, enough seed heads are present to start some grass growing there. The roots will help to stabilize the mud somewhat.

It still freezes at night, but just barely, and the water in the river is still too low to drive a boat anywhere. I guess we should have kept the jet boat. It might have been eighteen feet long but it drove well and it could manage this level of water.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I Need a Cat or Two

My first experiment with a picture. Let me know how it works out for you. Yes, this is what the snow has left for us on the sunny side of my house. You can see in the upper right hand corner the ladder, right above that is my satellite dish.

These are mouse tunnels all carefully insulated from the snow by the grass they packed against the top of their tunnels. There are a few places where the tunnel goes down into the ground. I never see these little buggers, but there must be quite a few of them. What do you think? Do I need a cat or two?

I haven't had cats here for four years now, and though our dog catches a mouse or a shrew now and then, she obviously isn't keeping up with the population explosion. I love cats, but over the years I have increasingly grown more and more allergic to them. However, I have been thinking. There are other things I had been growing increasingly allergic to, apples being one of them, but since I started to lose weight last summer, eating apples was one of the pleasures I was able to re-indulge in. I know one allergy is not connected to another, but dare I hope?

Every day on Facebook I see the most adorable pictures of kittens and cats all doing what kittens and cats do. It makes me miss them all the more. I think, therefore, I am in the market for giving it a try. Allergy or not, I want another kitten around here. This place is just too quiet.

My only concern is, old dogs scarcely tolerated my other cats. They were mine, therefore they weren't to be chased, but that didn't mean she didn't REALLY want to. Same with the chickens I had back then.  Since I have decided I won't be spending great chunks of time away from here in the winter, having assorted animals around has been something I have been longing for. Maybe not so many as before, and maybe not chickens. I'll have to think about that one. It got to the point where an egg averaged about $2 when cost of feed was figured in to how many eggs I ended up with. Then there's the damage they were always doing to the yard.

I can do a cat or two. Maybe if my kids will read this, they will bring me one or two this summer. Do my kids read this? If I get a kitten this summer, the answer will be yes. haha We'll see.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Pleasant Stroll

Actually, my day started out with another little surprise. When I let the dog out this morning (at 6:30 in the AM), I saw my first little tweeter bird; I haven't seen any all winter long. I know the harsh cold had to have taken a hit on them. I found a little frozen body some years ago that looked like it had been blown out of a tree. I didn't find any such thing this year, but the absence of their cheerful chatter said that either they had migrated (I hope) somewhere further south, or that something much more dire had happened to them. I have yet to hear them twittering to each other so this one little guy doesn't have anyone to sing to yet.

But in other pleasant news: Since we have been expecting to need to babysit the boats through breakup, I have been doing my best to make it down to the boats from time to time. It's been unnaturally warm over the last couple weeks, and the snow has been melting fast. I have also kept in contact with the lodge for river news. Since the entire winter was so abysmally cold all winter long, we expected breakup to come with the roar of an ice dragon (note, I didn't say 'lion'). Instead, unless it somehow isn't over yet, it came rather like a kitten, leaving the water quite low.

I walked down there on the 30th of April to discover that pretty much all of the portion of river I could see was clear leaving only our runway floating free but still in one piece. Surprise me, but if I didn't know that there was probably a lot of intact snow still blocking the narrower channels further up river, there might have been enough water to drive the boat completely out. But I say that just as an indication of what the level of water was, not that it was at all drivable.

Knowing the snow on the trail was soft (it hadn't frozen at night for several nights in a row), I wore my snowshoes. I took the dog with me too; she does take her duty as guard dog quite seriously and gets upset with I take off without her. She is getting old and she was having some trouble with the soft snow. Where she was having the most trouble, the snow was only around knee deep for her but she's kinda stiff now and she wasn't at all anxious to trot on ahead.

There's a place along the trail that fills with spring snow-melt every year. This time there was only the highest ridge of left-over trail above the water. I side-stepped across that part, managing to break it down for her to walk across, but she didn't follow me, opting to wade across the icy water that was nearly neck deep for her.

When I went down there again day before yesterday, I left the dog behind. I was planning on trying to find a way around all that water and I knew the walking would be that much more difficult for her. I would likely be going through deeper snow and it wouldn't have been packed before. As it turns out, going around the water wasn't as easy as I'd hoped, so I'm doubly glad I decided to leave her behind.

The river day before yesterday was a surprise. After only two days, the runway was completely gone, leaving behind only a handful of truck-sized chunks of ice stuck along our side of the river right in front, and the water level about two feet lower than it was before. I called the lodge to learn that most of the main ice was still there, so breakup wasn't over yet.

Planning to walk down there again yesterday, I called the lodge for another river update to learn that he already had a boat in the water and had made the drive up to Skwentna. Was breakup over already??? and without the normal water levels rising and lowering three or four feet (if not more) four or five times as jams shoved their way down the river, getting stuck from time to time. Well, okay so I didn't bother to walk down there today. I had dug out a pair of waders to wear and I didn't relish walking in them. I don't get along with waders very well.

So, I headed out this morning wearing only my snow boots, figuring I'd turn around if I couldn't get across that spring run-off spot on our trail. Much to my surprise I could step across where the water was running in one spot and in another spot, I made it across water that was only ankle deep. Surprise, surprise. When I reached the river, it was to see that I had missed another bit of breakup. More ice had been shoved up onto the island out front and some of it was stacked up on other chunks. There was even one spot where a third piece of ice was on top, though I can't imagine how it got there unless it was already on top of it's perch before it all got deposited down here. The water had also gone down another foot or more. Sigh - I can't go anywhere until the water comes back up. Not to mention that the water is so unnaturally low. That is an indication that one or more of the rivers upriver from us has yet to cut loose, but it could also be an indication of just how dry the snow was this year. Who knows; it's still early. I don't NEED to go anywhere (work) for another two or three weeks at least.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Study in Patience

Walking. I bet you didn't even consider that walking might be a study in patience, did you? Well, it can be, especially this time of year, and more so this year. As the days are warm and the nights aren't so cold, the snow that once was a hard-packed trail, grows soft. Trouble is, they aren't the soft of new snow or even of mushy snow, easy to slosh through. The surface is uncertain; one step might be solid enough but the next one gives way. To preserve the integrity of your back, you need to be patient with every step. You need to be ready for every step to give way. Allow yourself to be pleased if it doesn't but don't trust that it won't until you have completely moved on to the next step - and the whole thing must be done all over again.

The best strategy is to take small steps, nearly heel to toe, not perfectly so but far shorter than a comfortable stride. Those of you ladies who like to sway your hips might find the necessary stiff back hard to accomplish, but it is a necessity. The step that gives way, seldom does so with any warning.

To add to the lesson in patience, and to reinforce the necessity of taking short careful steps, is the fact that the snow is still nearly knee deep. Not very deep, you say, but if your step suddenly plunges down and you are already throwing your weight into the next stride, you run the very real risk of leaving your knee behind stuck up in the hole your boot created while the surrounding solid surface didn't give way for the rest of your leg to move forward.

So, no matter how far you have to go, patience is key to keep your extremities in tact. Soon enough, when the snow is less deep, there will be an added dimension to the patience of walking.  At the moment, the only problem is that you break through and your step goes straight down. Likely by next week, not only will the foot go down at unexpected moments, it just might go sideways too, and any direction is game.

Oh, and I suppose I should mention, whenever I'm going somewhere out there, it's usually to carry something back, so I'm a pound or 3 or 5 or 10 heavier, depending on what I went to get. That means that just because some spots might have held me up on going one direction, doesn't mean that same spot will hold you up on the way back.

So, patience is walking - a necessity. Are you patient enough?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Civilization -Taking it for Granted

Every once in a while I have simply got to rant a little about civilization. There's a reason I live out in the wilderness. Yeah, it's harder to live there in a way. Things aren't quite as convenient as they are in town, but really, it's only hard to get used to at first, it's most assuredly not hard once you've passed that hurdle.

I arrived here in Eagle River Saturday before last and over the last week plus I have been monopolizing my son's time driving me around all over the place to find this and that wherever it may be until I finally got almost everything on my list. It's been so crazy (in a way) I haven't really had much of a chance to just look around.

All in all, Eagle River is a nice little town. My last experience with spending any time in town was when I went up to Fairbanks to get my book published. You can find my spring rant here. I don't know, maybe it's because of all the snow this year. Fresh snow always makes things look prettier. All the yuck generally drifts to the surface as the snow melts.

Speaking of 'all the snow', for some time now, it's been all over the news to the point of even being a point in local politics. There's not enough money to pay the guys that plow the streets and there's nowhere to dump all the snow anyway. I went for a little walk today all by myself and discovered a brand new layer of snow all over everything. Everything except the roads, streets and lanes are all pretty and white again.

Two or three inches of new snow is certainly no obstacle to walk through, but it got me to thinking. In my little half hour jaunt I saw absolutely no one outside on this really nice day shoveling or even sweeping the snow off of any sidewalks. Okay so some of my chosen path was across parking lots or maybe down streets that didn't go in front of any shops, but still. If everyone is so concerned with all the snow or the snow removal, why isn't anyone out there contributing their two cents worth? Once was the day when shop owners were outside keeping the front of their store clean and neat, not to mention chatting with passers by. It was a far more basic concept than keeping the sidewalk clean - friends will go shopping at stores run by people they know and like. Where has that feeling gone? Poof, with the explosion of civilization, this was lost and we didn't even know it was missing.

But I digress. Back to your two cents. If everyone is so concerned with all this snow being hazardous, why isn't anyone out there shoveling off the sidewalks? It wouldn't take much. And not to toss it off onto the street either. Snow from the sidewalks tossed up on the lawn isn't going to hurt it much, whereas they are always spreading salted gravel or some chemical to melt the snow onto the streets. Who knows what that does to the lawn, and I won't even mention getting all that gravel out of the grass once the snow has melted.

The plows will come by and scrape snow and ice off the street onto the sidewalks and then they will go by again and scrape that off further onto the yards. They can get that stuff hauled off from the bigger streets but not everywhere. At least that's what I see everywhere I've been. And since there has been really quite a lot of snow this year, rather large piles of snow has developed in some rather dangerous locations forcing drivers pulling out of some lane or parking lot to edge out a little far in order to see if someone is coming. Yeah, most everyone has been either the person pulling out of the parking lot or the person they're trying to look for, so everyone watches for this, but it's no guarantee. My son just had his car totaled because someone pulled out right into the side of his car and shoved it into a meridian pole. The pole was taken completely out and my son's car was mushed in on both sides. Fortunately, no one was injured. Also fortunately my son had a vehicle to fall back on so he can still get to work.

Ach, I've digressed again. Rants can be that way, you know. The entire point of this is, if everyone contributed their two cents either to creating some emergency fund (and I'm not talking about a tax) to make it possible to pay the over time or hire more guys to plow the streets, or simply get out there and do a little shoveling themselves, especially in bad places like mentioned above (we all know where those places are), wouldn't things be just a little better? Wouldn't everyone who has to slog through a few inches of snow to get to wherever they're going be just a little happier? Ah but I suppose if things were a little more walk-friendly, people would drive less and therefore spend less money on gas, and we can't have that, now, can we. Gas prices are climbing again and yet I do believe I heard somewhere that the price of oil is not going up. Hmmm I better stop. I've made my point for this post. I really shouldn't digress too often. So get out there once in a while and do a little work yourself rather than complain that the other guy isn't doing it good enough or soon enough or often enough. Go for a walk to the store and buy yourself a soda as a reward. Pick up a piece of trash from the street and get it to a trash can. I did. You can do it too. Wave at your neighbor while you're at it; you might discover he's a pretty nice guy.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Magic House

My dog, Gizmo, is convinced our house is magical. She's really pretty good at catching small bits of food such as popcorn tossed at her, but you have to get her attention so she can see the toss. However, if it manages to hit the floor, it didn't fall to the floor, it popped up out of the floor. When the floor pops, she simply has to watch that spot just in case it pops again. Sometimes it does you know, though never in the same spot. She has been known to stare at a certain part of the floor for hours or until she gets bored and falls asleep.

That's not all this house does. Every once in a while it eats me up and surely it spits me outside somewhere, though she has never been successful at finding me out there. I'll go back to the bedroom and disappear into the bed for a nap. She'll then pace the house looking for me in the bedroom and then asking to go outside and look there. Then she'll come back in and look in the bedroom again and then back out. Around and around, whining and worrying until I get up from my nap. Only then will she settle down.

There is of course no way to know what she's actually thinking. Sometimes I wish I could, especially at times like these.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Sounds of Silence

The Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools", said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence

You know how sometimes a song just springs up in your brain and sticks there? Well this one did that to me today as I was walking down to the boats to get a can of gas. Though the lyrics don't really fit the circumstances, the title sure does. Silence. The sounds of silence was everywhere. Not a peep. Not a squeak. Not a rustle.

When I go on these walks, I like to stop and just listen and look around from time to time. I do, after all, like my life and my surroundings. Most times there's the chitter of little birds as they fluttered from tree to tree in search of seed pods waiting to drop next summer, or those that didn't drop last summer.

The only sound I heard was the far-away hum of some sort of motor. It might have been a snowmachine, or a generator; it was too far away to tell - almost too far away to hear at all. I might not have noticed at all if it weren't so quiet otherwise.

Though I didn't see or hear anything, I did see a few tracks. A martin came down from the rough vicinity of the guest cabin, ran along the trail for a few yards and then was off further east. Then I saw moose tracks. Sometime yesterday or last night, he came up the trail and then circled around the edge of our yard, eating the small tree branches and whatever brush tips he could find, before wondering on, also in an easterly direction. Who knows how long either of them kept to that direction. Down at the boats, an ermine made lacy loops along the bank in search of a route down onto the river. It looked rather comical; I wish I could have seen him.

I do love my walks and taking in my world, but I do wish it would warm up a little. Or maybe I should say, I wish it would warm up a little more. I woke up to -28F (-34C). It was -11F (-24C) when I went for my walk and that was the heat of the day. For us to get a runway packed, it would be really nice if it would warm up above 0F for a few days. If this is Global Warming, I think someone needs to go back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


As some of my long-term readers may recall, I tried to get into town last winter too. Mostly poor planning was the reason for the delay last year. This year, Mother Nature is purely against the idea of us getting out of here.

For the last many years, getting out onto the river before December has been one of the 'gee-I-wish' things, so I was thrilled when the river froze in November hard enough to walk on and soon to be hard enough to drive a machine on, all that remained was for there to be enough snow to shovel in a ramp down off the bank.  That happened soon enough and we were planning to be in town by Thanksgiving. I was excited, not that I like town, but I had plans to talk to people and get my book on some shelves, maybe have a book signing or two. Don wanted to get some firewood laid by for when we came back out and needed to thaw things out again. No sooner had we a couple standing dead trees in and were looking for something more dense than the temperature plunged and Don ran out of tobacco. He gets so dizzy and even ill when he's trying to quit.

The cold hung on and on, and it didn't look like we were going to make it to town anytime soon, so we ordered an airdrop of tobacco and continued our struggle with the cold temperatures. Those of you who are my friends on Facebook know from a couple comments I've made, that old folks and machinery tend to break when it's so cold, so we don't move around much.

It's been in the -20s for the last couple weeks, or at least it sure seems so; I'm not kidding about the temps though. And now that it finally warms up some (+8 this morning; +11 earlier), it's dumping snow by the foot. I bet we've accumulated two feet since this morning. By the time it stops snowing I'll be snowshoeing the trails again - back to square one, and we haven't even been able to pack a runway yet. We did make it down to the river, finally and Don has driven out, made a turn-around and made it back up the hill. The worst part is, Don's out of tobacco again.

We went down there day before yesterday to get gas and he spun on the switch-back coming back up. When it snows at these temperatures, the snow doesn't have enough moisture to pack well. It's like packing sugar. It'll pound down solid enough, but the moment you disturb it, it shifts around and becomes sugar again.

The thing about going to town is, what do we want to leave here for the frozen months? What can we leave and what will be ruined? I ordered supplies to last until December even though Don said November would be enough. Past experience said November would never work. Now, here it is January and we are running out of everything, and I do mean everything. The contents of my freezer now fits in a cooler sitting outside on the picknick table. I have like a quart of cooking oil left. Vegetables have been gone for a while now, as have anything that resembles fresh food like potatoes. We're down to assorted Romin, various kinds of noodles, an assortment of gravies, canned fish and chicken, dehydrated hash-browns, and bread baked on top of the wood stove so I can stretch the propane as far as possible.

At this point, I'm so bummed. It's snowing my favorite kind of snow - all pretty and fluffy - and yet it's another set-back to us getting to town. For two winters now I've been looking forward to getting together with a few of my readers. I even started an event on Facebook offering my book on sale for $10 giving an address for a check or money order to be mailed to and I'd mail back a signed book. It looked so good for us to get in by the first of the year.

Ah well. So much for spending any quality time in town. It'll all be a rush once again. I've books to order, and maybe even NEW books to order. Here in a couple months, I'll have a new book coming out, and if I can, I'd like to have a box full out here to sell. Who knows, I might even have a third book published, or close to it. Just click on the sword tab to the right and you can read it. It'll be finished in April, but I'm not sure how long the publishing part will take. I'm looking into getting a cover made for it now. That's not all I need to do. Since I lost 50 pounds last summer, I need clothes for work this summer. Last spring, I bought three pair of pants - I so needed something. They now fit only because of the elastic in the waist. I also want to set up a PayPal account, but I don't trust my computing skill, not to mention my understanding all the paperwork wrapped around doing that.

My trip to town will happen even if I have to go by myself. I simply have to go. The worry now is, what with all the really cold temperatures, breakup could be really bad, meaning our boats might be in danger if left to their own devises. A few years ago I had to spend breakup down there in the boats watching the ice grind past (wishing I had a camera with me), keeping the boats from turning sideways and drifting half off the bank. The water was well over our bank. I paddled a tiny boat out to the other boats. Don came down at dark to check on me and he couldn't even wade half way to where I was in the boats and he was wearing chest waders. So that concern means we'll have to be back out here sometime in late March or early April.

I love my life out here, but planning a winter in town is such a pain.