Promise

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.

Anna

Friday, November 22, 2013

It's a Snowshoeing Day

Yep, started snowing late last night, and sometime during the night it warmed up to +26F (-3C), where it has hung for most of the day. When I got up this morning it was still snowing and by the time it got dark again this evening, there was a total of a foot of new snow. But what to do before the sun went down. Dishes? Groan - yeah those need to be done up too. But, it was such a nice day out there, and I do like walking in the snow, so as soon as my computer's battery abandoned me, I went out and dug up my snowshoes.

At first I was only going to walk my assorted paths around here around the house, but I just couldn't resist; I headed on down the trail. I tried to resist though. This was my first time on snowshoes this year, and it is a quarter mile or so one way down to the river. Sigh - Knowing full well I would be plowing a new trail both ways on purpose since I wanted to make it wide enough for the snowmachine.

Walking with snowshoes is a study in patience, and walking in foot-deep snow is like walking up stairs every step you take only you don't go up. Walking uphill or downhill, you need to be extra cautious. Going up there's the chance that your foot might slip back, taking away part of your stride. Going down there's the chance your snowshoes might try to turn into some clunky skis. Fortunately, nowhere along my trail are the ups and downs so drastic, but care still needs to be taken. Up or down, shorter steps are mandatory.

When I finally made it back to the house. Yeah, I was really tired. I discovered my husband working to get our snowmachines broken loose and moved over in front of the house. Groan - I had 0 energy left in me. Long before the house came in sight I was anticipating waffles, but no, snowmachines first.

He'd already brushed them off and was getting one of them started. I pulled at the skis, getting one loose easily enough but I couldn't move the other one until I gave it a good kick. Shoulda turned the machine on it's side and scraped the frozen grass and mud off but he took off anyway, scarcely able to turn and getting stuck once, which meant I, now snowshoe free, had to go up there and try to give it a pull and ended up stomping a bit of a trail in front of it.

Lesson learned, we scraped the skis before moving the second machine. While Don did a few laps around the house, I carried the assorted tools, snowshoes, tarps and covers up to the house. Walking in a freshly snowshoed trail isn't easy. That snow might be compressed to more than half its depth, but it is by no means packed. That takes time. Did I say I was pooped? Ah but a fat hash-brown patty later and a little time to recover, I'm rearing to go tomorrow. hahaha (not really) I doubt I'll be sore, but I don't think I'll be so venturesome.

Oh, river news: I did not venture out onto the river down there, but I didn't see any signs of overflow. That's a good thing. However, here at the house it is not the same. There was a foot of new snow on the pond out there and it is soaked with overflow. Ice that was flowing over the low spot we have has filled the gap to the point of just looking like a flat river has run through there - all frozen of course, and down in the little creek beyond, all manner of icy waterfalls now covered with snow. No water that I can determine is running past here, but that doesn't mean much. Last I could hear there was still some water flowing under the ice, and there has always been an underground trickle, no matter the time of year. However, I think the -11F temps we had for like three days in a row sure made a lot of ice and froze the ground down a good space. I don't think a foot of snow is going to get us down onto the river with the snowmachine, but it's a start.



Friday, November 15, 2013

Critters and Ice

One day last week, when I went down to the river for my daily walk, there was as yet no snow on the ground. I like to watch the daily changes brought on by the freezing weather, and I like the walk. That day I spotted a chocolate brown critter. I wasn't sure what it was; it was too big and the wrong color to be an ermine and not big enough to be a martin unless it was a juvenile, but still I've never seen a chocolate brown one. When I got home, my husband had the best suggestion, saying it was probably a mink.
Cute little bugger. When I first spotted him, he was gamboling around on the ice that was about a quarter inch thick that day. Maybe thicker in some places. He was searching around the edge of the ice, around and under the shelf ice that had been broken off as the water level went down, leaving sections of ice leaning up on the bank sometimes propped up on sticks or some uneven protrusion. He was on a hunt for fish left behind by the dropping river, and I'm not talking about the live variety.

Salmon, our summertime sport-fishing treasure, swims upriver to spawn and then they give up. Sometimes they become trapped in some little backwater upriver somewhere and sometimes they drift down river dying slowly along the way. My dog used to find some such carcass every year along there so I figured this little guy would find something too. He did. By the time I found a place closer so I could get a better look at him, he was ensconced under a shelf of ice gnawing at his find frozen into the mud there. All I could see was a sliver of his rump wiggling from time to time. Then I got cold so I went home.

Yesterday, I got another treat. A family of otters - mom and three half-grown kits were fishing a short distance downriver from where I stand. They too were far enough away where I had to guess what they were, but since they were in and out of the water, I didn't have to guess too hard.

Otters, minks, martins and ermines are all cousins and are similar in body build to each other but vary in size by quite a bit. I skinned one once that was probably 4 feet long from nose to tail tip. I hear the ocean going variety can get twice that size.

When I first spotted them, one had just climbed out of the water and was nosing around another one. That one happened to be laying still at the moment so I couldn't tell what it was - just a black shape on the white snow.

As I watched, I was able to distinguish the four shapes. While I was watching, mom explored the edge of the bank (my side) followed closely by one of her kits. The other two were more interested in the edge of the water and would go toward mom a short way and then back to the water as if impatient for mom to join them and show them more of the interesting stuff under the water and under the edges of the ice along the bank.

Mom eventually rejoined them. She led them into the water, heading directly across to the other side. She was probably being smart. That water was probably very cold and they couldn't afford to get too wet, though they are nature-made for their watery life. Mom then gamboled away from the edge of the water, taking time to enjoy a slide as soon as she hit snow. Her little shadow hung close to her side, the other two still played in the water. As soon as they joined her, poking at her with their noses to get her moving again, she led them close to the bank and then on downriver and out of my sight. Cute to watch.

While there's no way to know for sure, I like to think those who hang closest to mom as they grow up are the girls learning how to be moms, while those more inclined to range are the boys. Can't you just see the boys being more careless while sis hangs onto mom's apron strings? I spotted this behavior with a family of spruce hens this summer. Two could always be found close to mom, even after their number began to grow smaller. Ah, whatever, it's just my fancy. I love watching my world.



Friday, November 8, 2013

Mother Nature is a Woman

hahahahahahaha Why do I say that? Because women love to redecorate and Mother Nature has been doing a lot of that here lately.

When we first moved here, the contours of the riverbank were different than they are today. This change was very slow, and truth be told, I didn't really pay much attention to the different changes. One place where we used to park, farther inside the little slough we currently park in, the bank has receded several feet. I know this because once upon a time it was possible to lay an entire sheet of plywood on the ground at the foot of the hill. Now, the bathtub I salvaged that sits there (a bad place to put it) has had to be moved twice in order to keep it from falling into the river. I won't be able to move it again and I can't get it out of there - it's too heavy to carry. I don't have the plumbing or the room for a bathtub anyway A few years ago, we dropped a couple trees there so we could park our big boat on a mud shelf held there by the branches. That worked then, but not anymore.

On the edge of our slough, there was a point of ground that nearly choked off our little parking place; it served to hide and protect our boats. This point was formed because out front, between our riverbank and the river I take to work, there is an island. That island was formed because something out there on the other side, something I have never been able to see or determine, caused the current to split off and cut toward our bank. The current, little that it was, coming out of our little slough, turned that little spur even farther, causing it to flow upriver where the curve of the bank again turned it back out into the main river out there.

That island, and the constant swirl of current there is the reason why we can never get a barge delivery of fuel here. I order my fuel one or two barrels at a time through the lodge where I work. That was kinda hard since I didn't work for most of the summer last summer.

Over the years that island has grown, though not in height. Spring breakup keeps it scraped off for the most part. The incoming river water has also always deposited silt inside our slough which was added to that little spur of ground. Every year, that sharp point of ground would build up during the summer and then as the water went down, the current coming from our slough would eat away what the river had deposited. This year, that in-out dance was very lopsided. It started last year. Well actually, I guess I really should back up even farther. Though I don't remember exactly the events that caused it, that point lost it's covering of swamp grass and whatever else grew out there. I don't remember what all - it wasn't much. It is under water during healthy chunks of the summer.

As the island out front grew, the current that was carried inside hit that little spit of land harder, and last year's flood caused it to eat away at it leaving it a couple feet shorter than it was. This year we have had two near floods here. The first one succeeded in turning my little spit of land into a little turtle-back as the incoming current succeeded in pushing it's way across the land at an inner point, cutting it down and trying to create another swirl around what was left of my spit of sand.

All the rain saturated the ground everywhere and there were several mudslides - small things that I've been able to spot along the edge of my little slough, but one fairly large one that has been waiting to go for some years now, taking a root ball of some small birch trees I cut several years ago in order to ease the pressure on that piece of ground. Now those small stumps sit nearly perpendicular to how they had been at their prime. That rain also softened my dwindling spit of sand. When the water went down again, the torrents of runoff coming out of my little slough ate away at my little lookout point, cutting in in half, making it impossible to walk out on due to the cut edge on one side and the sharp bank on the other side. I stamped down a little levelness but it certainly wasn't wide enough for a casual stroll.

Then come flood #2 I am so tired of rain. By the time the water went down again, the island out front was several feet fatter and my little spit of land was nearly nonexistent. Once was the time I could walk out onto the end of that point and kinda see up river a little better. Now the water is low enough that I can walk out there again, but so much ground is gone the island out front is probably shoulder high by comparison, and I can barely see water over it. I can still see upriver but the view is kinda puny now, not to mention that I have to wait half way into winter to be able to walk out there. 

Guess what!!!!!! They are predicting more rain!!!!! Gaaaaa!!! Well, I'm hoping that it's been cold enough that it'll be snow. I'm TIRED of rain. It's November after all.



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Life and Death Drama

This is the wilderness, so life and death happens every day somewhere. Usually not directly in front of me though.

Since my husband doesn't seem to be comfortable with silence, I really treasure my walks. I'll sometimes stand down there by the river and just watch the water drift by and listen to the silence. A lot of times, that silence is cluttered with bird chatter or some plane flying over somewhere within hearing, but mostly it's just quiet; I can give my brain a break and not think about anything, or maybe I take the opportunity to work my way through some issue in one of my books. Something that's very hard to do with a radio or TV going all the time seeming to demand at least some form of attention.

So yesterday, I was standing down there watching the water drift by when I heard a flutter behind me. There was some faint squeaking too but I didn't register it at first. Directly behind where I was standing was a big spruce tree, and I'll admit to being slightly alarmed to be hearing any noise that close behind me. I turned around in time to see something fall from the tree. The fluttering sound was a Magpie. The something that fell was a Lemming.

Now I don't see Magpies around much - I have always considered them scavengers, but I suppose they hunt too. This might have been proof. Now I have no idea how this scene developed. Was the Lemming already in the tree? Did the Magpie catch him there? Or did the Magpie catch the Lemming somewhere else and he brought him to this tree to feast on here. However they came together, the Lemming managed to escape his fate in the tree and make it to the ground in tact. A comparable fall for a person would have been fatal, but the little guy merely bounced once and then dived for cover in the dead grass and weeds under the half inch or so of snow.

The Magpie dropped down right behind him, but he danced away when I turned around. I decided to watch and see how this little drama would develop. Now the base of this tree was maybe four or five paces away from where I stood but the Magpie was bold and after watching me for a moment, and when he decided I wasn't going to interfere, started to look for the Lemming after all. Looking and watching, he started to peck at the snow-covered weeds where the Lemming had taken shelter and it didn't take him long to flush him out.

The Lemming made a dash off across the trail but there was no way he was quick enough to outrun wings across open ground, so when the Magpie caught up with him, he turned to fight. He was quite a valiant little fellow, jumping to the attack, and succeeding is causing the Magpie jump back several times. The encounter reminded me of maybe Puss-in-boots should he ever find himself in a fight with a man, or maybe Reepicheep, the swordsmouse in the Narnia movies. He was so valiant and brave, but the fight was moving around behind the tree where I couldn't see so I moved for the first time since the beginning. The Magpie danced off a bit and the Lemming dived for cover once again, close to where he'd been before.

I took another step and that was too much for Mr. Magpie so he flew up into the next tree away, and when I stepped around to see if he was still there, I saw his form making a hasty retreat far off through the trees. Well, since it was time for me to go back to the house, and since I didn't want Mr. Magpie to find Mr. Reepicheep under such puny cover, I started to turn over the shelf of grass and snow, very carefully. I wanted to make sure he was unhurt, not that there was much I could do for him, but I also wanted him to find a different hiding place in case Mr. Magpie decided to come back and look for him after I was gone.

Like before, I succeeded in flushing him from his hiding place, but this time he went in a different direction, taking shelter next to a log that had some other things leaning on it. Much safer from some hunting bird. And though I couldn't tell for sure, he seemed unhurt. I hope he only had a few bruises. Satisfied I had done the best for him I could, I went home.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hanky-Panky in the Potato Patch

It turns out my potatoes may not be racist or separatists after all, but don't tell anyone. I wouldn't want someone to come out here and impound my potatoes for questioning, or DNA testing. Let me explain:

The last of the potatoes are washed and accounted for. The ratio in the gunny sack given to me by awesome neighbors seems to be about 2 parts red potatoes, 1 part purple potatoes (yes I said purple), with a fraction reserved for white potatoes. I have enough reds left over for another load tomorrow, and then I'll be mostly out of pint jars too. I'll still have some, but not even enough for a single layer in my canner (8), so I'll be bringing in the quart jars next. That's okay; between the purple and the white potatoes, I still have around 50 pounds of potatoes and there's no way they will keep long enough to use fresh. I'll have to whittle them down some more.

The reason I say hanky-panky is because of the appearance of the purple potatoes. They are very dark purple on the outside and in poor light may even look nearly black. Inside, unlike their red and white cousins, they are not white - they are in fact a very striking purple color. Rather pretty if you ask me. I saw my first purple potato some years ago, but there was only one and I don't rightly remember what I did with it. I'm sure we ate it, but I think I'd remember eating a purple potato. They served them once at the lodge a couple years ago and I was really startled, but then I tried some and they are really good - better if you ask me, than any other potato, being sweeter.

Back to hanky-panky: Yesterday, I was cutting up red potatoes, just chopping along, when I cut into one that was blood red inside. I do mean that; it was just as red inside as it was outside - rather startling. Now all along I've seen some with some degree of redness inside - a few lines, some darker than others. But what the heck, I had never grown red potatoes. In fact, I had never even tried red potatoes until rather recently, and since my husband likes them, that's the kind I buy, if I'm buying them. I didn't know but what some home-grown red potatoes had some red in them and it was something they culled out before they hit the market. I mean really, I wasn't thinking a thing of it until I saw that first really really really red potato, and then I thought, aside from the color, 'that's just like the purple potatoes'. I cut up two like that yesterday, and when I pulled the jars out of the canner, the water had turned all red too, like someone had added a couple drops of food color in there.

I cut up another load of potatoes today without seeing another one like that so I didn't think any more about it until I was washing up more potatoes to get ready for tomorrow's batch. I pulled this REALLY dark red potato out the muddy water. Sitting next to the red potatoes, it looked quite purple, and sitting next to the purple potatoes it looked very red (though dark), so which is it? Those I cut up yesterday didn't look any different on the outside than the other red ones. Was there some hanky-panky going on in the potato patch this summer? I would think so, but I suppose we can blame it on the bumble bees, hahaha.

I have no idea how the patch was planted, if the different potatoes were in separate plots at all or if they were just planted as they came to hand. I don't even know if the ratio I mention applied to the whole garden, or if that's just how it worked out in my bag. I'm most assuredly not complaining. A gift is to be enjoyed and relished, and if at all possible passed along.

Anyway, I won't be cutting up those potatoes until tomorrow, but I'm curious what I'll find.

Anyway - us country taters don't know nothin' 'bout political correctedness. We's just simple folk lookin' to git along.

~~~~~~~

Update 9/26/13
Those really dark red potatoes - they are pretty much what I expected, but substantially darker than the blood red one I cut up the other day. More purple but not as dark as the purple ones. Definitely half-breeds. hahaha 

~~~~~~~

Update 9/28/13
Yesterday was my first batch with quart jars. Because of the size of the jars, I decided to try whole potatoes, since I wasn't all that interested in packing the jars with as much as they would hold. Remember, there's only the two of us. One quart jar holds 3 potatoes. I picked those that would fit as well as possible; the top one had to be just a mite smaller than the other two. Also, boiled some up for supper so the amount was about right. After supper though, my husband requested that I peel the potatoes in the future. He can't see the peels and being toothless, he can't chew them either.

That first batch of whole potatoes: The skin was all cracked and curled so what the heck, today I peeled and cut my potatoes in half. This allowed for more versatility in the size of potatoes I chose while only making room for roughly another whole potato at the most. Not bad. I also discovered more hanky-panky. Some of those purple potatoes were pretty darn light colored underneath their dark purple skins. hahaha

I also discovered that despite their dark color, they didn't dye the water like the bright red ones did. We'll see when I get to the white potatoes, but I'm pretty sure the water is darker than that will be, but nowhere near as dark as I expected. Same with the potatoes themselves. They don't look white, but they don't look purple either. I wonder if they will be when I open them. We'll see.



Monday, September 23, 2013

Canning

I've had my pressure canner so long, I don't rightly remember where I got it. I think one of my neighbors may have given it to me when we first came out here. I do know, I certainly knew nothing about canning until then. She came over and taught me how. Since then I've canned up meats more than anything else - fish mostly, bear and moose too, some. When we moved here and my garden was in full swing, I'd can up things like carrots, turnips, and maybe beets. Yeah, I had potatoes too, but with two growing boys to feed, just storing them in a corner worked well enough, plus, those left over come spring went back into the garden as the next crop.

Since then, I've canned up salmon far more often than anything else. It's simple and I've taken to cutting the filets in chunks large enough to roll up and slide down into the jar rather than cutting them into one-inch cubes. It saves time and the end result is exactly the same. (and I'm lazy)

This year, what with us facing my having no job and no income to buy supplies with, we decided we'd be canning up as much fish as possible and then maybe shooting a moose and canning that up too.

Once was the time when I had this nice big freezer and such would just go there, but, a couple years ago my nice big freezer went belly up, and since it's just us two old fogies, getting another big freezer was beyond us. There wasn't any young guy muscle around to help get it out of the plane, into the boat, out of the boat, onto the 4-wheeler trailer, and finally up the half dozen steps and into the house. Course if we'd gotten a big one, it wouldn't have come into the house, but that's a small detail. Anyway, I had to rethink winter supplies. No more frozen vegetables. Not nearly as much frozen fish. And moose? probably not at all. One moose is too much meat for just us two anyway.

Come the end of July, I got a job at another lodge, and within a couple weeks they were talking about what to do with the leftover supplies. The biggest idea they were putting forward was give it to me, much to my delight. When it got down to the nitty-gritty, my boss, who sees everything in $$$ offered that the supplies would be instead of a bonus. Since I hadn't expected any kind of bonus, that was certainly fine with me.

Among other things, I ended up with lots of eggs, lots of bread, and lots of potatoes. The bread is outside in a cooler and we're going through it as fast as possible. We're hoping it freezes before they go bad. The eggs are in my little frig and I change out the ice frequently. We're trying to go through them ASAP too. Lots of fried egg sandwiches and such haha.

Before all was said and done, another lodge out there also gave us some leftovers, and then I had even more potatoes. Well, with a freezer that was now full, and knowing that there was no way we would go through all those potatoes. I decided to see about canning them up.

My recipe was to peal them, dice them up into 1/2 inch cubes and keep in salted water until there's enough cut up for a batch. There was also a cooking step involved before jarring and then pressure cooking for 35 minutes. Being admittedly lazy, I wanted to bypass most of that so I read further. My book also said that hot packing and cold packing was a matter of choice - what a relief. My next decision was whether to peal or not and if I really wanted to cut them into such small pieces. The answer was no, I didn't.

I told my husband that if he wanted them pealed, he'd need to help. He's not helping so they're not getting pealed. To satisfy the salt requirement in the recipe, which was only to keep them from turning brown, I decided 1/4 tsp of kosher salt per jar wouldn't be too much, besides, most of the time, the water would be discarded for final cooking, and if not, it would be diluted. A friend of mine said she used 1 tsp salt per jar, so I guess I haven't overdone it.

The day I planned to finally start, a neighbor stopped by while I was down at the river looking at the water level. Guess what he brought me. A BIG burlap sack FULL of potatoes. Ha!! Do I have enough jars? We'll see.

At this point, I'm about half way through that bag and I have 3 1/2 cases of pint jars left. So what will I run out of first, jars or potatoes? I figure if I run out of pint jars first, I can still use quart jars, I got lots of those too. I'm also thinking I might add spam to them and make them a ready-made meal. I'm not sure how the spam will hold up to more canning, but I'll make that decision when I get that far.

If you're curious about my recipe for bear and moose (it's the same for either one).

Caution: That's sweet black bear meat, NOT grizzly. Grizzly is a carrion eater and the saying goes, 'you are what you eat'. The grizzly is a prime example of that. Therefore, it is fit for little more than hide, claws and possibly teeth.

>>---> 1tsp each paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, & salt per quart jar of meat.

I put these in the bottom of the jar so the simmering can carry the flavor up through the meat. I have also packed my jars (to measure) then dumped each one into a bowl, added spices and given it a good tumble to coat, and then back into the jar. Either way works just fine.

Keep in mind that both moose and bear are very rich meats, and once canned, the best use in my opinion, is some sort of stew. Also, you don't need to use as much moose or bear in your recipe as you might use beef or pork. It can easily overpower your meal.

The favorite way I use my canned fish is to make fish burgers. To do that, I add 1 egg (to pint jar of fish) and a fistful of flour, then I shape them into patties. You can make two fat patties, or 3 not so fat patties, or 4 rather small patties. Up to you.



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Strange Doings on my Trail Today

Ever since getting off work, I've kept up my walks to where we park the boats. When it started raining nonstop, it was twice a day to keep the boats bailed out and floating. When the water got high enough, we were able to float them out over where they'd be parked, but they still needed to be bailed until the water went down enough so I could pull the plugs and let nature take it's course. Course, by the time I could pull the plugs it had stopped raining, but it still might.

Regardless of needing to bail the boats, I kept up my walks mostly because I like to walk and it's a destination, about a quarter mile, I'm told, so that's a half mile walk a day - not bad. Besides, it gives me a chance to spy on the doings of some of the creatures who decide to cross my path. Since I've been done with work, I've been hollered at three different times by those little black and gray tweety birds. None of them were there the next trip and it was silent again. I miss their constant chatter. I hope they move back in greater numbers.

I also know there is a young bull moose hanging around. I've seen and heard him two different times. Poor little guy; he's going to have a hard time finding a girlfriend. The big boys don't play nice and they don't like to share, not that there are many around, none that are available anyway. I did see a cow and a baby calf, or rather my husband saw them. By the time I was looking in the right place, she was gone. I did get to follow her tracks down the trail once; that's why I know her calf was little. I must have only been minutes behind her, because I got the chance to see her try to swim the river, but she headed back; I'm thinking her calf wasn't willing to brave all that water. It was still high, plus she may have spotted me talking to a guy in a boat who was lost by about 15 miles - the high water had him confused.

Well that pretty much catches you up to today. This time of year, bull moose are going into run. They have this plaintive little bleat that sounds so sad. And that is not age dependent; they all do it this time of year - about the only sound they ever make. The cows' call is longer, more of a call, though they still sound like a baby calf (of the beef variety). Another thing bulls will do is shed the velvet on their antlers. This has got to itch every bit as much as a child teething. They will dive into some available brush and just thrash it. I've seen some of this along my trail this year too.

Today I found another bush thrashed and the tracks of a moose in something of a hurry. His tracks were pretty far apart and they displayed full dewclaws with each step. He wasn't running, but he was sure moving out.

My first clue that something might be kinda out of the ordinary was just down the trail and around the corner where it's still running some water across the trail from all the rain we had, I saw what could only be a wolf track. If it wasn't a wolf, it was a pretty big dog. I put my hand in more than one print (I found more down by the boats), and if you pretend I don't have any fingers after the mid-knuckle, that's how big his feet were. (To clarify: two finger sections off for each finger and one section off for the thumb) Anyway, Bigfoot to say the least. The first such I've seen for years, and by far the closest.

So, was moose chasing wolf? Maybe. Was wolf chasing moose? Also maybe. Did moose catch wolf scent and beat feet? Also a possibility. What actually happened? It is impossible to tell.

The oddest thing I saw today along my trail was a rub or drag spot. Only moose tracks were readily visible in this area, but it looked like something had hit the ground pretty hard and then was drug or pushed for maybe a couple feet. It also smelled pretty strongly of pee. Now if we were talking about dogs (labs I hear are the worst) I'd say they rolled in the pee, but we're talking about moose, and to the best of my knowledge, bulls don't roll in the cow's pee. They get kinda nutty, but not that. By the tracks in the vicinity, there was no battle that might result in one being knocked off his feet and shoved for a little bit before being able to get up again. Nor was there any sign that he'd tripped. There just wasn't anything to give me a clue what that mark was. Something big had hit the ground there and then was drug for a space. There were clear hair marks in the hard mud. So yep, strange doings on my trail in the wee hours of the morning. I pretty much know the time because the mud hadn't completely settled down in the tracks across the water that's running across our trail at the one spot.

Down at the landing, I found more wolf tracks; these heading downriver. I hope he doesn't get that calf, but such is the law of nature. Maybe that's why momma was so anxious to be elsewhere. Maybe that's why I haven't seen nor heard that young bull in a while. I thought it was the little black bear that was hanging around eating all the berries. I'm not kidding; he got 99% of them. Every time I saw him, he was munching away. He'd have been good eating, but I wasn't equipped to deal with him and being maybe three, he was really too small to bother with.

Such are the happenings in my neck of the woods.



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I miss the birdies

I haven't heard the flocks of little tweeters going through the trees in ages. This might be good news for the dragonflies - they seem to be hanging around longer than usual, but the resounding silence as I walk to the boats is deafening. Used to be you could almost always hear a Woodpecker somewhere near or far. We even had a family raised right in our yard some years ago.

There's a Spruce hen (Grouse I think) family around. She's got like eight babies, half grown now. I see them, or sign of them, rather frequently. Today there were marks of them digging in the gravel in front of the outhouse and their little dust bath spots down along the trail. She's such a good momma. I really enjoy watching them when I have the chance.

We also had a Robin this spring. Not at all shy, it would come to within a couple feet of whoever was outside in an effort to figure out what they were doing. I tried feeding it but it never checked out my offering - not that I know of anyway. It was gone for a while - sitting I think, and then next time I saw it, there was another. It might have been a chick or a mate, it was hard to tell and I haven't seen them since.

I saw a Gray Jay once but that's it for that. There's usually at least a handful around.

Haven't seen any crows at all, and though they don't hang around here much, I generally see them from time to time as they pass through.

We even had some Swallows early this spring. Three of them, darting around, playing with each other and chasing bugs. They too generally don't hang around here though I wish they would. It's not as if there's not plenty of mosquitoes for them.

And the little ground birdies - I don't know what they're called. There has always been at least one family down near the boats and one or two around here. I found a nest once - such a tiny thing. They're cute little birds that do as much running around as they do flying. I think I saw their tracks along the edge of the water down at the boats today, but I just haven't see or heard them anywhere. They're the birds that sound like you're clicking dice together - that's their alarm call.

It's the happy chatter of flocks of maybe a hundred or more small birds flitting from treetop to treetop that is most missed. The rest don't really make much noise during the course of their day.

Even the big Raven seems few and far between. I seldom see them let alone hear them. They used to come here to play with the dog two or three times a week, and even when the dog didn't play, they came around hoping. Comical birds.

So where are all my birdies? Do I blame the super late freezing weather this spring? Do I blame the super hot weather that followed right after? That's the only thing I can think of that was different. Heck, I don't even recall hearing Swans flying over this spring, but that's not so unusual. They don't always fly over. I hear them most when they start heading south for the winter - them and the geese.

I miss my birdies.



Saturday, June 1, 2013

Changes

Sometimes I wonder how civilization ever developed, but I know the answer to that easily enough. To move forward, you must abandon the past. Aahhh but I don't want to abandon what I have here. I like what I have here. But living this life here in this wilderness, needs careful planning, and sudden changes are difficult to manage.

Over the last few years, our sons have wanted us to spend winters at least in town. Their generous hearts are just looking out for our best interest, but neither Don nor I are very big on change, and spending the winter in town is a very big change. You might not think it is so hard - just go to town when summer work is over, but it's not that easy. I've spent years shutting down the lodge and getting it ready for the winter months, and shutting down a house is no different.

Here's a list of the things we did last fall to get ready to go to town.

outside:
  • Make sure the boats are secure and the motors safe - we hauled 3 motors to the house
  • Make sure the gas was safe and as hidden as we could manage - we didn't want someone to stop by and help themselves
  • Make sure there was some firewood cut and ready for when we came back
  • Make sure the generators were safe and ready to be used when we got back
  • Make sure nothing was just laying around to be buried by the snow and therefore lost for the winter
  • Make sure all my water buckets were upright and safe - it would make my first collection of snow easier

inside:
  • There were a few frozen meats and such left in the freezer, so we moved them to the outside freezer - the hope was that winter would be cold enough to keep them good - that ended up not being the case
  • Make sure all jared and bottled liquids were in the sink or in the shower so if they broke from freezing, I'd have less to clean up.
  • Make sure there was no standing water, bits of coffee, or any other liquids sitting around
  • Would have needed to make sure the propane was shut off but that bottle ran out that morning, so no worries there
  • Hide all our handguns and our most valuable rifles - for the same reason we hid our fuel. We didn't want someone to break in and help themselves
  • Make a list of supplies to bring out with us
  • Try our best to make sure the battery bank was charged up as much as possible to protect them from freezing
  • Pack: clothes, computers, power cords, internet cords, (forgot my camera)

shoulda:
  • Put all dry goods not in a bucket into the now empty inside freezer
  • Ordered propane before going to town - we're almost out now
  • Made sure snowshoes were at the house - so glad we bought a pair in town

Well, that's most everything, and there's always the constant looking around to make sure we didn't miss anything.

So all that is just for getting ready to go to town. Being in town wasn't so bad but what with Carrs just a stroll away, it was way too easy to go buy a pack or two of cigarets, some candy, or muffins. Sometimes there was the Salisbury steak TV dinners or for me just red meat to fry up. Sometimes there was a few cans of chili, or tuna - whatever we were hungry for at the time. I got pretty good at keeping coffee available and bought our share, that and honey to put in it. Donnie is looking out for healthy foods and honey is healthier than sugar. At any rate, we ended up spending about $50+ every other day or so. So, our trip to town, counting the flight to and from, ultimately cost us a lot more money than we would have spent just staying out here.

I wanted to do it once though, at least. There were some good things that came from this trip. Don allowed me to buy a couple filleting knives from Amazon, which in turn allowed me to publish one of my books through CreateSpace, a free Amazon self publishing company, and THAT ended up being a good thing because it has paid for my internet for 2 months in a row so far. Also during my trip to town, I was able to hold a book signing. Now that was rather anticlimactic, but kinda fun. One of my books never made it to me, so I was a book short, but the bookstore bought 2 each of my other two books, and I sold 3 to customers (one was the book store owner's sister, but that's okay, she wasn't buying them as a favor to her sister or me. Another thing I wanted to do is look into some place where I could join some kind of exercise class. I was hoping to find a Kung Fu class, but would look into Yoga if I saw something. I did see a yoga place in my walking around but it was never open when I went by. And then there was the Alaska Club - probably why I didn't see anything else around. So I stopped in and just couldn't see myself spending $80 bucks for no less than six months. What I would have preferred is pay as I go in, maybe $10 per trip at the most. I wasn't going to be in town for six months, nor was I going to be able to go there every day. They tried their best though. I got the grand tour, and was impressed with all the things they offered, and with how clean the place was. Ha, maybe I should have applied for a cleaning job there. I might have got something that way.

Another thing I wanted to do is find a winter job. That way I could work out here for the summer and then have a job to go to in town for the winter, thus giving us a year-round income, but really this winter was more of an experiment so I didn't look very hard.

Then the floor gets pulled out from under me.

I heard a rumor. The lodge where I work went bankrupt - well, more correctly, the owners went bankrupt. I wouldn't have my normal job this summer. I kept hoping and hoping something would change, that surely someone would run the place to keep the money flowing and pay whatever the bill was. The previous owner even came down to look the place over, but what with the flood last fall, and with ongoing problems that needed to be fixed. He wasn't willing to make the investment. So, there it sits, soon to be abandoned in the care of the bank until someone decides to buy it. I need to get there and get my things before everything is inventoried and claimed as their property, and I have yet to be able to make it down the trail with the 4-wheeler. I can walk there, but there's no way I can carry a motor down there, and boats don't go very far without a motor.

Not to worry much, I do have work, but only part time. A friend at a neighboring lodge has been after me for years to work in his yard. Now I have the time. And the list of things I want to do here has grown over the years. Looks like I'll have time for some of that too, however, working here at home isn't going to earn us much, and such things like food, gas, and propane, cost money. Thanks to our now frivolous-seeming trip to town, and a bunch of other rather frivolous-seeming spending over the last few years, we are ill prepared for a sudden summer without work. I'm pretty sure we'll make it just fine, but there won't be any left over - back to scraping by from summer paycheck to summer paycheck, and if we lose our internet, book sales and publishing will also plummet. I so wanted my writing to support us someday, but though it is improving, that hasn't happened yet.

I'm kinda pissed about the lodge. It seems the owners had declared bankruptcy very early last summer, and they didn't trust me with this information. Had I known last summer the potential developments of this summer, I could have arranged for work then, and been all set, and no worries. But no, John, the caretaker, and I, were left scrambling for work, and him, for a place to live. He has lived at the lodge for 3 years now, I think, year round, though the flood drove him out of the cabin where he lived. I think that now qualifies as condemned. If they were worried that I'd quit early, they didn't know me very well. I have invested over 10 years into that place; it is my second home. Even now, I won't completely abandon it. I fully plan to stop by frequently and tend my gardens there, and mostly just keep an eye on the place. I'll be working almost next door anyway.

Last summer I looked into buying a small place upriver, but the owner wasn't willing to work with me. Who knows, that was last summer. I asked my family for financial help in that direction, maybe they will come through for me this year. I know I can pay them back; there's just no way I can get my own loan. Banks don't loan for buying businesses out here, not with a part time work record. They want their monthly payment every month, and no business out here will have a monthly income year round, not when half the year is spent with un-travelable conditions and winter business being thin at best, especially at first.

Living out here takes planning, and somethings I plan an entire year ahead. I came to work at Riversong because I couldn't get a firm yes from the lodge where I had worked before. My first stint at Riversong was the very last 3 weeks of the season with a for sure promise of a job next summer, and I stayed there ever since for the same reason. When hope for any kind of work at Riversong finally played out, I sent an email to a couple other of the lodges here on the river, but I was too late, they were already filled up. They too plan ahead, and rightly so. I'll still go around and offer my services on call. Maybe someone will quit or get fired. I've seen it at Riversong a few times. Some people just don't know what they're getting into coming out here, and end up not being able to take it. Some people think it's a working vacation and end up playing far more than working, and get themselves fired. Not that I wish anything bad for those hopeful workers, I'm just needing to work. Most of them are just filling a summer.

So - planning is vital - change can be painful - and hindsight can really torture sometimes




Sunday, May 12, 2013

To-Do List

When we first move here and build our little back-woods house. I had a 40 foot by 40 foot vegetable garden out back. A neighbor had come over with his big earth mover (big for me anyway - probably tiny by out-in-the-world standards). Anyway, he came over and shoved some stumps out of the yard creating the little pond out front. He also widened our trail down to the boats (there were a couple places where our little three-wheeler ATV would rub it's wheels on the trees, not tight but still a rub).

It being my first summer here, I had started clearing a row for a garden, figuring that during the course of the summer, I might be able to get another one or two cleared and ready for the next year. I guess he saw me hacking away at the alders with a machete and an axe, and then with a pick to get the roots up. Our neighbor came over to where I was and set his blade on the ground, just at surface level and four passes later I had a huge garden bed all cleared and ready for turning up and boxing into rows.

With a book of Square Foot Gardening in hand, I made use of the left over slabs from milling the lumber for our house, I ended up with 8 rows each 4-foot wide, with two-foot isles between, and by coincidence, they ended up being 40 feet long. Accidentally perfectly square - I was thrilled. I grew carrots, beets, rutabagas, with satisfying success. I also used up 4 rows with potatoes with great success at first but diminishing since. Another row was devoted to bush zucchini and other summer squash. Then there were bush beans in another row. Spinach and lettuce in another row. I even tried broccoli and cauliflower. I was in gardening heaven.

Then I got work out on the river. We needed the money. My efforts to feed us only covered part of our bill. So I'd go to work all day, and then come home and head directly out to the garden to try to keep it weeded (a full time job by itself). But then, after an hour if I was lucky, my husband would come get me asking to come help entertain our guests. Sigh - well, with me there, conversation could be at about the level of a two year old rather than an infant, and my husband had been dealing with him all day. You see, he was very German. He knew a few English words, probably better than my German, but my husband couldn't speak any and horribly mispronounced what he could say. I'd taken German in high school, and tried to take more in college, but quit when I realized I just couldn't remember the vocabulary. I was okay with grammer and spelling, mostly, and I could follow a conversation by gist if not specifics, but actually carrying on a conversation was beyond me - I simply didn't have the words. So, with this guy (bless his heart) I tried to be something of a translater/go-between in the conversation. I was not very good at it, but it served to pass the evening.

Next day, it was the same routine, so my garden began to deteriorate quickly. I planted less and less each year until finally giving up. My boss offered that I could order supplies through the same companies they ordered their food, and she would take the cost out of my paycheck. It would save us trips to town costing airfare, taxis and motel costs - a huge savings for us. So, I gave up on my garden, much to my dismay and sadness.

A couple years ago, my son and daughter-in-law were staying out here and they decided they wanted to plant potatoes back there. Back to the pick, machete, and axe, but he's a big boy and he had three rows cleared in only a couple days. He was sure dirty and sweaty when he came in after working out there.

So what's all this about?

Guess what I decided to do today?

Mother's day of all days

Have you guessed yet?

Yeah, I took a stroll this afternoon just assessing the yard and such. Still too much snow, and where there's no snow, it's still really soggy. My stroll ended up back at my long neglected garden. For lack of something more constructive to do, and since I did buy some new seeds this year, and since it looks like I won't have much work out on the river this year, if ever again. I went to the woodshed and got my tiller-rake. That's a four-toothed tiller on a long rake-like handle. I have a little three-pronged thing I can use for closer, easier work. This long handled thing is really handy for raking dead cane out of raspberry bushes and other such things since it combs through long stuff really well. My goal - to rake last year's dead canes and such off at least one row. Also, a couple years ago we dropped a spruce tree across my garden so there were all those branches to clear away too.

That sounds simple enough, but then I decided to cut the elder bushes away from the edge to make it easier to rake - branches were hanging over where I was trying to rake. Out of breath anyway, I took a trip to the house for the hand saw.

That project evolved into locating the chicken wire I had once kept around my garden. You see, I used to also have chickens, ducks and geese, and given the opportunity they were always back in the garden as opposed to anywhere else. I haven't had them for five years now so the fence posts have almost all rotted off at ground level and the fencing had been crushed down by snow. There was also a really heavy wired fence I'd teepee'd down one row for peas to climb once upon a time back when. That worked fine, but without being able to weed, my harvest was pitiful. When my son cleared the row, he tossed that aside - it was useless for potatoes. Anyway, I found that, and I found the fencing. It was one of those things I've always wanted to do and never really having the time or energy to do it. The best time being like now, before anything really starts to grow. Some of it is still frozen down, but with luck I'll be able to move it all tomorrow, then I'll drag it out into the yard where I can straighten it out and roll it up.

My mother's day accomplishment - lots of raking (for a first time in a while). Branches cleared and crap raked off of one row. Two stretches (40 or so feet long each) mostly loosened up and pulled free. Boy am I pooped.

My plans for tomorrow - Maybe another row raked but maybe not - still snow there. But at least I will be cutting more alder bushes away from another fence line. If I can't clear that second row, I'll be trying to free up another stretch of chicken wire at least. In the process, I hope to find a rhubarb plant and a chives patch I used to have back there. I'm curious to see if they survived the neglect.

Progressive plans - whether I plant them all or not (I doubt it) I intend to rake off the entire patch and find all that chicken wire. I've been wanting to do it for years - now is the time.

Anyone wanna come help?



Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Adventure in Town

Early last January, we made the trip to Eagle River for the bulk of the winter. There were a long list of pros and cons to the idea. One thing I intended to accomplish was to have my very first book signing with real books. To that end I ordered a box of books (Prince in Hiding) as soon as I hit town. Sadly those books were sent to the wrong address and subsequently went completely missing. Another thing I accomplished was to buy something from Amazon.com which allowed me to publish my blog novel, which I was able to order within a week. Looking forward to my book signing, I now had three books to show, or at least I would have if that box had reached me. Early in February, I started the finishing process with one of my publishers to get yet another book out there. Now this one I hadn't really planned on showing at my book signing, but I sent them an email asking if maybe it might be done on time. Well, it was, but then I had trouble ordering the books. First my husband's card didn't work and then mine didn't work, so I asked my bank what the issue was. No problem on their end so I don't know what the issue was, I ended up having to mail a check, so sadly that book never made it to Eagle River so I had them send them to me. It is probably up at the post office now. Well, the book signing went swimmingly just the same. Not a big turnout as I'd hoped but it was just a little book store way out in Eagle River. I managed to sell three of my books to customers and four to the store itself. I was happy with that paycheck.

Another happy thing that happened to me was that Donnie and Marylou were able to get me a Kindle Fire for Christmas. I now have fifty brand new books on it, some old favorites I haven't read in MANY years but mostly new ones published by writer friends of mine or simply very interesting books available at $2 or less most of them. No longer will I be languishing for something to read. hahaha And you know the best thing about my new Kindle, the screen lights up so I don't need a night light to read. I'm thrilled.

I also tried to take a stab at a non-fiction writing job but that was an abysmal failure.

So that was pretty much the extent of my excitement in town. The rest of the time was rather boring, A few movies. A few shopping trips. Walking to the store a couple blocks away about every other day. The occasional walk to the bank to deposit a royalty check (those were a pleasant surprise). Most of the time being spent on line accomplishing not much productive.

No TV was kind of annoying for Don, but we could have watched movies if the ceiling to the apartment above had been a little more soundproof. One very annoying thing about that apartment building was the design. Who would put a bedroom over a living room? All the doors are in the same place. Most of the windows are in the same place. It makes no sense to me. So since out living room was directly under their bedroom us watching anything on TV was almost impossible without keeping them awake. So about the only time we could watch movies was on the kids' days off when we could watch something in the middle of the day.

The biggest con about our trip to town was the return. When our planned date came around weather wouldn't let us fly. That was probably a good thing though. Let me explain.

Since we couldn't fly to land on the river, a fete that would have been fine despite the two or three feet of snow since we went to town. It wasn't the landing or taking off we were worried about it was the getting around after we were on the ground. The pilot was willing to wait and my son was planning to come out. He was intending to help us dig out the snowmachine and get us mobile again, and then he would fly back with the pilot.

When that plan fell through Don called the people who fly choppers out here from time to time and they gave us a great deal on a flight, so we decided to go that route and they could land us right here at the house, something I made sure could be done summer before last. So we had bought a pair of new snowshoes for Don, thank goodness because once I broke through the crust I was up to my waist in snow.

Here in the house, we discovered we'd had a little house guest for a time. He pigged out on an entire case of Wheat Thins cereal, some of the ramen noodles and whatever saltine crackers we had left here. We haven't been able to figure out if it was a martin or a squirrel, I'm leaning toward martin because I think a squirrel would have moved in permanent; the visitor was only here enough to eat and potty somewhere (I'll find it) and then go.

We got out here Thursday afternoon, and the rest of the day was sweep up the cereal crumbs and throw out the empty boxes, split some firewood and start a fire (wash off the stove first). Hook up the propane to melt some water for drinking, coffee and washing off said stove so it can be lit. Dig out and get the generator started. Oh, and bring in our new TV and other things we didn't want to freeze outside. The bad thing about doing all that was the need to put snowshoes on in order to go anywhere in the yard.

Yesterday was a big dig-out day. Don headed down to the docks to dig out the snowmachine, a two hour project (see why it wasn't a good idea to fly out?) Donnie might have been able to dig the machine out in quicker than two hours but then again maybe not, and that's not counting getting things to the snowmachine cause there's no guarantee we'd be able to get the machine up and down the hill, let alone with any kind of a load. If we'd taken a plane out, we'd have been fighting to get everything to the house until dark, and then we'd have still had to do all the other things. Having to snowshoe around everywhere was a bit of a pain but still tons easier than the alternative.

I first dug out the freezer to check the supplies we'd left here (They survived the warm winter just fine, by the way, something we were worried about). Then I started in shoveling the snow off the bedroom. Poo I was SO out of shape from my leisurely stay in town. I would stop every so often, mostly to listen for Don to come back. He didn't ... and he didn't ... and he didn't. So I got worried and headed down there to see what there was to see. Dang that wasn't easy either. I had to stop and rest along the way more than once, and the walking wasn't all that hard, there was something of a crust, just not hard enough to just walk. As it was I only sunk a couple inches at the worst. Anyway, Don met me before I got all the way there so I got to ride back. Yeah, that was pretty much it for the day for us old people.

Today was almost a day of rest. Rather than finish shoveling the snow off the roof, I decided to find the kitchen I'd put all freezable things in the sink in case they broke from freezing. That stuff all survived the winter well too, the only thing that didn't was a soda I forgot sitting on the counter. It froze and got sticky all over. So some Simple Green and water I had heating on the wood stove and everything got washed off and put away again. My next task, also in the kitchen was to finish finding all the cereal crumbs. I'll probably be finding cereal crumbs for a long time, but I got the bulk of it, and I have a kitchen again, until I need to wash dishes.

We got some new things while we were in town and we're slowly getting them all hooked up and figured out. Got a new TV but can't figure out how to get it to recognize the DVD player, so all those new movies we bought, we still can't watch. We also bought a solar panel and currently we have it leaning up in the front window. It's a disadvantaged location but it's mostly just to see how well it works. It works really well but doesn't quite keep up with our standard usage so we might need another one or maybe two. Got a new inverter too; I'm hoping that will make a difference but I'm no electrician so I have no idea.

So, though my trip to town was kinda fun in some respects, I don't think we'll be doing it again for a while. Not unless I can find some kind of job while I'm there. Here, I might not do much, but I do more than I did in town. Shoveling snow once in a while. Splitting wood every day. Going out to get a tree once in a while. It all serves to help keep me healthy.