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.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Is it Winter Yet?

It might be, finally. It was 14F (-10C) when I got up this morning at about 10:30. I slept in. Sometimes it's kinda hard to get out of a nice warm bed, but someone has to stuff the stove or it won't stay warm very long.

It snowed a little bit yesterday dusting us with maybe all of another inch or so of the white stuff. Better than nothing, I suppose. Still, I wish it would just get on with it; I miss my snowstorms. Today I decided to take a walk down to the boats. I do like to see what critters are wandering around in our neighborhood, and the best time to do that is after a fresh snowfall. Today I immediately discovered the tracks of a large martin right here in the yard. I say he's large because his tracks are probably larger than a silver dollar, though it's been a while since I've seen one. I didn't trace all of his tracks around the yard, but it was obvious from his leisurely pace that he was on the hunt and not simply passing through as fast as possible. His tracks also came and went (or vise versa) a good distance down our trail, pausing to pay special attention to any mouse tracks that also crisscrossed the trail.

Speaking of those mouse trails. The mice we've seen this year are positively huge. How much of that is winter hair, I have no idea, but if I were to hold one in my hand (and not get bit) both their nose and their short tail would extend beyond my hand, and unless I squished to compress their fluff, my fingers wouldn't close around them. They are that big. Big enough to leave individual tiny tracks in their trails. I've seen smaller such trails, but they are for sure in the minority.

Another set of tracks I saw along the trail to the river was moose tracks. At first it was kind of hard to tell because his tracks weren't clear, so I don't think he was just moseying along, but I couldn't say what he was doing. It was just a single trail of a young moose. And I'm certain it had nothing to do with the young cow and her calf we saw day before yesterday.

That was funny. This pair came into the yard from somewhere slightly behind the house. We first became aware of them when we heard some thumpty-thumping going on outside. The calf was a little guy but he was fat and sassy, bounding around and harassing his momma. Momma wasn't too happy with his antics as her hackles were up and her ears back, but he could care less. He was bound and determined to be ornery. Out front, he stopped long enough to snatch at some fireweed and look at his momma as if to say, "I dare you to tell me no." It was so cute watching him. I'm betting his momma was fully ready to send him to his room for a while, and it was still early in the morning. hahaha That was my entertainment for the day.

Oh, and before I forget - The river report for the day is: still not able to travel around here, not out on our stretch of the river anyway. Can't get out on the river anyway, not until there's at least a couple feet of snow on the ground. Hope it snows soon.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ice, Ice, and More Ice

Where is my snow? It seems to have been misplaced over New York and surrounding countryside, and wherever, but most certainly not here. Instead, we get, of all things RAIN.

Things were going so good too. Back in mid October sometime we got our first skiff of snow, pretty much right on time so I was happy. It was just a little bit and water in the river was still going down, but I was certainly happy. Then there was a cold stretch where temps averaged in the single digits and maybe into the teens, possibly warming up into the twenties during the day. Frost heaves began to show up along the trail, and I must admit, it’s fun crunching them down. I never get them all; sometimes they’re just too thick and hard.

Not long after that first dusting of snow, after it had almost evaporated away, we got another dusting of snow, and in the mean time every tree limb and blade of grass, and absolutely everything in between became coated with a thick frost. It was really quite pretty out there. I should have charged my camera and taken pictures.

The river went down to it’s lowest and ice grew across it more and more each time I went down there. Someone posted on Facebook a short video of what it sounds like when you throw a rock across the ice. It really is a rather amazing sound, so I went down to the river and did it myself. My ice was thicker and that sounds becomes less spectacular with the thicker ice. It’s still awesome. I never walked out on it though. I don’t trust that ice until I’m certain it’s thick enough.

Then comes this massive storm swirling into the gulf. Everyone is certain that it’s every bit as big as the nasty storm that hit the upper east coast a few years ago; the storm that very nearly rearranged the beaches and businesses all along there with massive flooding and super high winds. Our storm wasn’t so spectacular. There were some winds I guess, but next to no damage – at least nothing that made the news. Here? Next to nothing at all. In fact it was a very non-wind that surprised me. Always there’s some kind of breeze, but it was quiet. Quiet before the storm is what I expected so we waited.

And we waited.

And it warmed up.

And then it started to rain. Rain? In Alaska? In November? I was completely insulted.

I happened to be taking a nap when the first rain hit, and I remember thinking I should have my empty buckets in back catching the runoff, but I also figured my buckets would also get covered with ice (messy) and surely it wouldn’t rain for long and it would turn into snow soon.

Surely it would.

It didn’t.

I broke down and put my buckets in back. I made the mistake and allowed it to wait overnight and the next day (no rain), so I had to use hot water to get my water/ice out of my buckets. When I was finished with that project, I brought in two buckets full of rainwater. Far more than I expected. Figuring it was all done, I once again lined my buckets out front in wait for the next snowstorm. But what happened next?

It rained.

I was wakened by rain hitting the roof early in the morning so I got up and once again put my buckets out back to catch what came. That night (not waiting this time), I brought in two buckets + of rainwater. This time I left my buckets where they were, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be catching any more rain. Yesterday there were blue streaks in the sky upon occasion, and today the sky looks all blue.

The rain did make a royal mess though. My days started out around 35F, just above freezing, barely, and maybe warmed up ten or so degrees during the day. Warm enough to rain, but not warm enough for the ground to thaw, not even a little bit. Every drop that hit the ground added a layer of ice to the surface. Things up off the ground less so, but only because the water could quickly run down to a lower resting place. Anywhere it was still for more than a moment, it froze.

I walked down to the river yesterday on a trail that was utterly coated with ice. I can’t tell for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all the hollow frost-heaved places were now full of water, especially if they were spots were I’d broken through the top. I saw enough frozen puddles in such locations to make me believe that. Places covered with leaves were coated with a glass of ice as each leaf held its drops in place as well as between where the leaf touched the one beneath it. Now filled up to the point of only the highest points protruded above the level of ice.

The place where I normally turn the four-wheeler around down there was an ice skating rink. It was still brown, but it was coated thick with glass-clear ice who knows how think – it didn’t break under my weight, which, considering it’s fairly soft sand, it might have if the ice was less thick. It was so clear I could clearly see all the birch seeds that had fallen during the course of the progressing winter.

As I was coming back, I noticed that my footprints looked as if I’d walked through flour first – clear white prints marked where I’d stepped. This was caused by my crushing all those bits of leaf and grass that had protruded above the ice – everything encrusted with ice, now shattered to dust. I had stepped in those places to take advantage of the traction the protruding vegetation provided. Believe me, there were places where there was no such traction offered. Those places were polished slick and I had to be very careful.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Candles Candles Candles

Everyone who knows me knows how I love candles. Years and years and years ago, my mother gave me this candle-making kit. I didn’t use it for the longest time because making candles isn’t as easy as it looks. Wax shrinks quite a bit as it cools. Pouring a mass of wax into a mold of any size will almost always give you a hollow center. Dipping candles is probably the best way, but even that way takes a tremendous amount of patience, and you need a LOT of wax to make a candle of any length. It’s called dipping for a reason; you dip your wannabe candle down into a vat a wax, and if you want a candle that is a foot long, that’s how deep your vat has to be. Now this takes a whole lot of patience too. After each dipping, your wannabe candle has to cool COMPLETELY before you can dip it again. Dipping a warm candle doesn’t get you anywhere. Needless to say, I only tried it once just to see how it worked, and at that time, I only had enough wax for about a two-inch candle.

Back to those molds my mom sent me. They were little plastic molds made for the attention span of a kid. Two of the sheets had little one-inch deep molds in shapes like little stars and hearts that would end up being maybe two inches across. The directions said to make two of these molds and then glue them together (with wax) with the wick sandwiched between the halves. Needless to say, I never used those; I wanted a really useful candle, not a decorative toy. The other mold was a flat sheet. It was stippled across the bottom to look something like a honeycomb. The directions for this mold was to pour wax into it, wait for the wax to cool some but not too much, and then roll the sheet of wax up around the wick. Now THIS was a useful candle. I used roughly a cup of wax per candle and quickly used up the wick that came with the kit as well as more wicks sent along with it.

Over the years, I quickly used up all workable string I could lay my hands on, learning what worked best and what didn’t. Cotton worked best, but the fatter the string, the faster my candle burned. String with synthetic fibers did more melting than burning so they went into the trash. At the time, I was feeding chickens and dogs and cats, and those bags are all sewn with string, so packrat me, I hung onto every inch of it. Chicken food bags were made out of waxed paper so they weren’t of much use, but dog food bags were made out of woven plastic that was painted with a plastic film. They were useful, at least for a little while, for things like covering firewood, and I’ve used them to keep the generator shed waterproof, at least until that plastic film comes off. They still work fairly good. Someday I’m going to get a real roof on that little hut. I think I have something now. I’m going to have to check that out tomorrow. You see, the roof we had over the big generator eventually fell down as the posts rotted off at the ground level, and this fall, we (I) finally got around to taking it apart and getting it off the generator. That had a tin roof and not all of it was full sheets. We had to put a short extension on the back to keep water from dripping on the muffler. I don’t know if they were three feet long or four feet long. Guess what; if it fits well enough, it’s going up there. Yay!

Anyway – back to candle making.

Eventually I ran out of string suitable for wick. All that string from all those food bags was too skinny to work well for what I wanted. I sometimes toy with the idea of braiding some together, but somehow simply never get around to it. I still have it all though. Maybe I’ll get desperate again someday. Anyway, I was constantly on the lookout for suitable string and saw some at work. The string the chefs use to tie up steaks or whatever would be perfect, but it never seemed to pan out them ordering more for me. I suppose they forgot, or maybe it just wasn’t on any of their ordering lists, which meant someone would have to go to a specialty shop to get that kind of string. The string I liked best was what came with the powered milk I ordered. The bag inside was always tied together with nice hefty string that was about a foot long. That was like three candles worth, and since I buy powdered milk like every other year, I didn’t have much of that string.

While I was on the hunt for string, I was also on the hunt for wax. I frequently bought candles in town, but I also watched out for candles at work. They’d buy those big candles in jars. They’d light them and burn them for a couple hours, then they’d do it again the next day, and so on. Pretty soon they couldn’t get their hand AND a match into the jar to light it, or the wick drowned, then the wax, jar and all, went into the trash. Fortunately, I went past the trash often enough that I think I rescued most of them. Sometimes the staff would do the same thing back in their rooms, leaving behind the candle when they left. I rescued those too.

Accumulating candle-making supplies wasn’t the only trouble I was having. Since my mold was made to outlast the interest of a child, it eventually gave up the ghost. It was pretty durable for a plastic thing, but you heat it up often enough, it’s eventually going to warp. That was okay at first, the mold was small enough I could pour the wax and then pin down the corners until it cooled enough to continue, but eventually it developed a crack on the side that leaked, and, well, wax is kinda oily so tape wouldn’t stick well, and even if it did, it wouldn’t last through making a candle. It wasn’t long before I was making more of a mess than a candle, so I had to bid the poor thing good bye. That left me without a mold.

Now I do go to town once in a while, and since my son is living within reach, such shopping trips are no longer a mad dash all over the place trying to find everything in as short a time as possible. One such trip, I got stranded in town while my husband was out here with a blown knee. I went to town for a quick shopping trip, but almost as soon as I hit town it started to snow out here and suddenly there was three feet of new snow on the ground. My husband having a blown knee meant he couldn’t manage the snowmachine well enough, and if he was unlucky enough to get stuck, he certainly wasn’t going to be walking home. We had to wait. It works that way sometimes, but it is frustrating, and I ended up spending a week or more in town longer than intended. Anyway, I tortured my son by making him take me on a hunt for candle molds and wicks. Between Eagle River and Wasilla, no such things existed. I could buy all the candles I wanted, but no hobby shop anywhere I looked had a candle-making kit of any kind. Time to try to figure something else out.

I’m getting kinda old and change is frustrating for me (or maybe I’m just normal) anyway I like the candles I could make; they lasted about eight hours unless the wick was off center, but I didn’t mind if they didn't last so long. I used them to read by at night and the melted wax from used up candles always went into the next candle. I didn’t even pay much attention to mixing colors, though I did make some effort to keep the colors somewhat separate. Without a mold, I couldn’t make any candles. Since my son got me a Kindle, having a candle was less important, but I still, like candles – I still watch for wax and string, and I have accumulated quite a bit of wax over the years. I had a cookie sheet, but it was so big, good enough for maybe a dozen cookies or some such, but it had a kink across the bottom. Then came the day when I spotted the perfect thing. Every time I go shopping, I like to go through the cooking isles just to see if there’s anything I might need, and there was this cookie sheet, half the size of the one I had (nicer too). It was still twice the size of my original mold, but at least it was doable. Now all I had to do was find string. Since scavenging wasn’t turning up anything much, my son and I combed the store for string, and guess what; I found some of that too. It’s called butcher’s cord. It came in rolls 250 feet long, 100% cotton – perfect. Unfortunately it was made in China. Ahh, but this was Wal-Mart we’re talking about – what can you expect? I bought two rolls; that will keep me candle making for quite a while. Best of all, I also found some wax scents; now I can make my candles smell good too. And as far as scavenging for string – I got mail the other day, and the postmaster tied it together with string, same stuff too, I think – most certainly close enough. He usually uses rubber bands – yeah, I keep those too.

Needless to say, I’m making candles again. I use about two cups of wax. I know this because I have this perfect little cereal bowl. The wax I scavenge always has old wick, usually burned matchsticks, and more than likely bug carcasses in them so I have always melted them. All the yucky stuff usually falls to the bottom, and if not, it floats to the surface where I can fish it out. I then pour the clean wax into my little bowl. When the wax is cool, like I said, it shrinks and pulls away from the sides, and since the bottom of my bowl is rounded, the cleaned wax falls right out. Over the years, I’ve accumulated over 60 such cakes. So now, I’m pairing up these little wax cakes and making candles. The first one was an experiment, and I’m thrilled with the way it’s working. Maybe they would be better if I had fractionally heaver string, but they certainly work, and I couldn’t be happier. So far, not counting my experiment, I’ve made 8 such candles, and I have enough wax to make 25 more. I think I’ll have enough candles to last me for a while. Which is good since my new boss doesn’t buy candles so my source of wax has diminished. I’m going to have to talk to Lisa, the wife of the new owner at my old workplace. I’m not sure it they buy candles over there, but I’d sure like to take it off their hands if they do. Do you buy candles? What do you do with them when you don’t want to burn them anymore? Send them to me; I’ll love them all over again.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Watching the Seasons Change

I went for my walk today - I do like my walk, and now that it's more than likely the bear(s) have moved on, I can actually walk rather than ride the 4-wheeler. When I'm driving, I miss all the little things, like birds tweeting, tracks along the trail, being able to stop and just listen once in a while.

I learned something today though, something I hadn't really thought of before, but should have suspected. The course of a river is sculpted by more than gravel, waterlogged trees and rocks. Clay can do it too.

Over the years since living out here, I've watched the river change. It's a very slow change and most of it didn't affect me very much. I mean, the water comes up - I go to work. The water goes down - I stay home. The water freezes - I wait for the water to thaw out and come up again.

The big river has gone through some evolutions over the years. Up past Lake Creek, the river has eaten away at a corner, washing away the bank a little or a lot over time, the cut band up there says this, but I never really paid much attention to it - I don't know anyone who lives there anymore. What I see is marked by where the planes park when they land out there. When I first started working at Riversong, they used to park right out front, on the other side of the island out there, and to help ease the traffic, there was another place a few yards upriver called Magic's beach. At some point trees and sand gave away and the current was pushing harder against this bank. Magic's beach went from a sandy beach to a nearly unusable cut back in a single year and got worse after that. The already shallow landing site across from Riversong got shallower so the owner found a new parking place for his traffic at the bottom of that island. They had to retrieve their guests by boat anyway and it was simpler to go directly down inside of the island rather up and around. Eventually that too grew too shallow and muddy. Now, most of the planes land on a narrow muddy, sometimes sandy spit at the bottom of the island where Magic's beach used to be. I don't work out there anymore so I don't know where Riversong's traffic is landing, but I think it's at the same place. Their traffic has been lesser over the last two years though - things have changed.

Closer to home: When we first moved here, there was an island in the slough out in front of our trail. During the bulk of the year, it is under water. It's presence makes it impossible for us to get a fuel barge in here because it would be where his engines would need to be idling in order to maintain parking during offloading. This island was created because the water, for some reason I have yet been able to determine, swirls around it all the time, at least until the water goes down far enough that it no longer makes it around the downriver end.

Also, where our little creek empties out into the slough, there used to be quite a point reaching nearly all the way to the other bank. Since we parked our boats inside this creek, going in and out meant making something of a hairpin turn around that point and to miss the island. Recently, probably because of our traffic back and forth nearly every day, the point began to wear away. When the water gets down low, like it does every year shortly before freeze-up, it would also wear away at this point. A few years ago the top layer of grass washed away and that was the beginning of the end of that point. Last year at this time, it was completely gone. I liked that point; I liked walking out on it because it gave me a little better view upriver - not much, but a little. Unexpectedly, during the course of the summer, a healthy lump of sand was piled back up there. It isn't exactly in the same place though, and when the water went down this year, it didn't flow around the other side of it like it had always done in the past. This year the current leaving our little creek curved past that pile of sand on the close side. It cut away more at what was left of the point, which was next to nothing anymore. During the summer months, the water cutting around the outer island kept bashing into the bank that used to be the foundation of that once-upon-a-time point, shaving away at it.

Today I went down to see how things had progressed. The water flowing from our creek was, and had been, cutting away at this odd pile of sand. I would guess it's about half gone now; it's as if Mother Nature had changed her mind and now wanted the island gone. Of course all this sand has to go somewhere. You guessed it. That island out in the slough gets bigger every year. Not taller, just bigger.

So what was it I learned today? About clay? Where I thought for sure the water would continue to carve it's narrow little slot down to the gravel like it has done every year I've lived here, it has moved over. It's not Mother Nature being fickle apparently there's a thick foundation of clay down there. I knew there was clay, I can see it. I fight with it every time it gets soggy. That stuff is really slimy when it gets wet enough. So this clay may not last against the current like rock or gravel would, but it's protecting my parking lot for a little while longer. Interesting.

Another interesting thing: There is a clay here in Alaska that when fired makes a creamy item laced with red lines. This has always fascinated me because, as I understand it, there is no way of telling where the red lines will end up - they are invisible in the raw clay. A couple years ago I discovered a pottery maker on Facebook. Anyway, I asked them about it, about how I might be able to tell if what I had here was this kind of clay. Or even how to tell for sure if it is clay and not just slimy, silty buildup. They offered to test a sample if I could send them some, so all year I've been trying to figure out the best place to collect a good, clean sample. I think I have. Time will tell. Just like with everything else I need to mail from here, this too will have to wait until such time as I can mail something - probably some time next summer. I'll be sure to keep you posted on the outcome.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

An Interesting Summer

Yep, an interesting summer indeed. Now I know for sure that I'm getting old. The start of work was a bit rocky in my opinion. Getting to know a new boss is not always a smooth journey. It seems he couldn't trust me to get the job done, concentrating more on how many hours I put in rather than the fact that I was forced to wait on the others to accomplish certain deeds before I could finish what I had going, and so needed to move on to a task I really wasn't ready to move on to. Ah but I'm just complaining; I can do that once in a while. I'm rather set in my ways, and I realized that I was rather spoiled over at my last place of employment.

As the summer progressed and things settled into a rhythm, a new kind of spoiling was discovered. Since I was expected to be there through dinner, my day ended up averaging 13 hours long, but for the duration of the King fishing season, there were empty cabins, and it was expected that I take a nap. Of course, my boss told me more than once that I would have to clean up after myself before the cabin could be rented during Silver season - as if I wouldn't know such a thing - as if he thought I would 'move in' to a cabin to the extent that it would require such 'cleaning up' after. There was no such place during Silver season, so those 13 hours were really long, even though my afternoons could still be considered down-time and I could just sit down somewhere, sleep was not an option. I took my computer to work so I could do some writing or editing. That worked out just fine until I got too tired to think. You see, there isn't even a day off. It's 13 hours a day, 7 days a week. The only days off are a week or so between King season and Silver season. I didn't really need the break to rest, not then, but it was nice to be able to catch up on things here at home.

As soon as the chef got his start-up supplies in, I put in my first list. Since my freezer was nearly empty, I ordered things to fill it. My reasoning was that since there were some things down in the bottom of the freezer, it would be easier to keep things frozen if it was full - meat stays frozen better next to other frozen meat rather than next to a volume of air - it just seemed hard to get the freezer to cycle. Then again, maybe I was imagining things. Next year I'll be ordering meats last.

Since my boss couldn't be bothered to buy a flight in order to get supplies out here (I'm talking about lodge supplies) my stuff didn't come and didn't come and still didn't come. The lodge was running out of stuff too. I was getting worried, I mean I had two more big lists of stuff to get out here, and if it was so much trouble to get this much, I was wondering how I would be getting the rest of it. Of course, the chef was fit to be tied as his options for what to fix for his guests were getting skinnier and skinnier. You see, at this lodge, they get their supplies only 'space available', meaning if a plane has to come out here empty or only partially loaded for someone else, they'll throw something of ours on, and since it was start-up season for all the lodges in the area, very few planes came out here empty - hence the occasional need to buy a flight at the cost of what one guest pays. Ah but that would have cut into his profit margin; we were expected to suck it up.

Yeah, in case you haven't guessed, I don't have a very high opinion of my new boss. For him, all his decisions are based on his profit margin or his personal advancement or image. That is no way to run a lodge. That's also a whole other rant.

But enough about my boss. He pays, so I will work there until I get a better offer somewhere else.

I finally got my meats and filled the freezer, and since the summer wasn't very hot, we were able to run it every other day most of the summer. There was an unanticipated side-effect to having a full freezer though. Something compounded by the cool summer which produce very nearly no berries - hungry bears - bears that know what a freezer is. So for the duration of the summer, my husband had to stay home and guard the freezer. There were at least two black bears who came around from time to time. Don was able to run whichever one off each time, but one time he actually had to fire his pistol off to do the job, and even then, the bear seemed to think about it. This happened by the time I reached work. One of them came back since I've been home and even though I'm a light sleeper, I wasn't able to prevent the bear from mauling the freezer. At 2:30 in the o'dark morning, I heard a noise and jumped out of bed. By the time I reached the front of the house, I heard another noise near the front door. Looking out the window to the right of the door showed me nothing out of place so I went to the other side of the house to look out over the freezer - there he was, highlighted by the moonlight, half way across the yard and heading away at a leisurely pace. I stayed up for another hour just to make sure he didn't come back - he didn't. The next morning I went out to look around and discovered an empty trash can tipped over and all kinds of muddy footprints all over the freezer. Seriously, he couldn't have worked on the freezer for very long, but still my newish freezer now has at least three new scars. He was biting at the lid, trying to get in. I think pure luck kept him out, like maybe he was leaning too hard on the lid while he was biting it and he didn't get a good hold on the lid, only pinching the top at best. Close call. We've been talking all summer about moving the freezer to the shop, or maybe back inside. This pretty much decides the issue. We also need to get a dog. I'm a light sleeper but a dog is better. 

Another thing that happened this fall, and earlier this summer I wish I'd seen, was a young moose came calling. When I saw him, I heard a thumpty-thump and thought it might be a bear (this happened before the previous account) so I jumped out of bed and went to look. There, standing in the middle of the yard was a young bull - maybe a 4-year-old. His rack was still bloody so he only just lost his velvet and he was cranky with rut. As I watched him, he started to make a head-down approach at our snowmachines. He could pick on most anything else, but not the snowmachines so I opened the window to holler at him. He backed off from that to check out the new distraction, but he wasn't done. I had to holler at him and even step out of the door to wave at him before he gave up and moseyed on up past the guest cabin. That afternoon, I jumped on the 4-wheeler to check the boats and saw him still hanging around up the sizeline not far from the cabin up there. I haven't seen him since.

Earlier during the summer, my husband told me about a young bull and cow that came calling. He said it was so funny. The poor bull was trying his hardest to impress his female friend by mock-charging various things in the yard, namely the big smoker still set up in the middle. Apparently his girlfriend wasn't too impressed, but that didn't stop him from trying. He didn't hurt anything so my husband just watched. When I got home, he told me about it, making sure I knew how badly the female of the species tortures their male suitors. haha It did sound so cute and so funny. I wish I could have seen it.

Yesterday, I went down to drain the rain out of the boats, they're pulled now, by the way, unless the water comes up again. My boat is tentatively pulled and left still low if that event happens - I couldn't even get the boat out of the slough until it is floating again anyway. I pulled the plug so my boat could go pee and then stood there looking out over the river. Around the corner came a pair of otters. I haven't seen otters for a while now - they are such a comical creature. The first one swimming around the corner immediately dove, but the other one did something like a double-take and the cocked his head to the side before following the example of his companion. I sat down in the hopes that my non-upright posture would be less threatening and they would come close again, but they didn't. They did hang around farther out though. They were hunting dieing fish, so I left so they could get on with it.

So there are critters around again, not like last year when my world was rather devoid of wildlife, to include those of the feathered variety. Not many of those around still though, but they are around. I'm thinking it'll be a while before the big flocks build up again. My spruce hen momma raised another family here. She had five chicks this year, and I'd occasionally meet them on the trail. It's rather funny when they decide to just walk along in front of the 4-wheeler. They are rather short-legged, you know. Their leisurely pace is really quite slow. hahaha I got a big kick out if it though.

I do love my life here. I would miss all of this if I moved to town.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring is in the Air

For the last few days, there's been a light haze in the sky. Not enough to call clouds, but more than perfectly clear skies. This time of year, clouds have a different effect than you might think. They're rather like a blanket for the Earth. No clouds is rather like trying to sleep without any blankets at night - all the heat that may have accumulated during the day simply goes away during the night. Clouds will hold some of that heat in, at least until the sun comes out again. But it always has the opposite effect during the day, shielding the surface from much of heat of the sun. In the end, without clouds, nights are colder and days are warmer. For some time now, it has been 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 to -15C) in the morning when I got up and reached nearly into the 40s F (5 to 10C) by mid-afternoon. With clouds, over the last three days, it has barely frozen at night, and only reached mid 30 during the day.

These warming days set other things in motion. I'll be going to work come June and I need to make some effort to getting ready for that. The hardest part is getting up earlier in the morning. Being 'solar powered' like I always say, it's hard for me to get up in the dark, but the days are now longer than the nights, not by much but still longer, so getting up earlier is easier. Still, if I don't go to bed earlier, getting up earlier really sucks. So I set my alarm every morning, but since I don't HAVE to get up - well you know how it works. I'm getting better though, slowly.

I've also taken up my walks again, and kudos to me, I do 20 leaning push-ups off a tree at the river. Can I keep that up? I think so. It's not much really, but it's something.

This morning I got up to snowflakes, but it didn't even accumulate half an inch, and it was all gone by this afternoon. There's still 2 feet of snow out there, but over the last few days, another step became visible out front. I've also started to accumulate buckets of water. I collect snow to drink and this winter, a bucket has equaled a third and more recently, a half a bucket of water. So I let it melt, and now I'm consolidating. When I get eight buckets filled with water, I'll keep filling the last four with snow as they empty until I run out of snow or until it starts to rain, whichever happens first. Speaking of which, I need to check to see if there's room under the eves in back for the buckets. 

At work, it is my hope that I'll be able to do my advertising and maybe some writing during the afternoons when everyone else takes a nap. Napping is something I've been told to do, and I probably will at times, but sleeping while I'm at work just doesn't feel right. I've spent 12 years thinking that while I'm at work, I'm 'on the clock', and I always felt guilty even stopping for lunch. Previous housekeepers have been in-house employees so they had a cabin to retire to for those long afternoons. Since I go back and forth to home, the housekeeper's cabin has been assigned to other employees this summer, leaving me without someplace to sleep, so I'm going to take my computer to work and see what I have time to do. They have internet; I'll have to see if I can do my advertising there, but if not, at least I'll have quiet to write. I also might do things in the kitchen like canning whatever fish they catch for me, or baking some cookies or bread. There will be empty guest cabins from time to time, so I'll be able to sneak a nap once in a while. We'll have to see how things develop.

Last summer, the last three weeks of the season, I had four books here that I could sell. With the lodge being primarily Swiss, the last thing I expected was to sell books. This summer, I anticipate having six books here, or I will as soon as I can get them here; the mail hasn't been cooperating this winter in that regard, and with luck, there might even be another one here by the end of summer - I hope so. Last summer there was room for a couple of my books at a time in the little rack where they have folders and papers displayed. I guess this year I'm going to have to drum up a bookend so I can have them on the end of the counter, or maybe I'll come up with a better idea.

Sigh, the days will be LONG, but summer is short. I can do this. Soon enough, I'll be back here at home annoying all you fans with my book covers.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Alone in the Wilderness

The snow we got the other day was only two, maybe three, inches deep, but it dusted all the trees again in a winter wonderland glory. It also covered all the ice that had grown dirty with assorted traffic and wind blowing dust, seeds, and bits of moss out of the trees. Here in the yard, only the toughest winds will carry branches this far, but it's happened before.

This morning was a normal February morning; -7F (-22C) and clear blue skies. With new snow on the ground, I decided to go for a walk. It was a little warmer around two in the afternoon when I headed out, but still quite brisk, but without a breath of wind, it was really beautiful. Plus, I was curious if we had any furry neighbors in the area.

Last week there was a couple young bulls right here in the yard early in the morning. They were close enough to identify them as bulls; it can be hard to tell this time of year, after they drop their racks. In this case, one of them still had one rack, but the other one had lost both his. When I say they were close enough to tell, I could see what is called buttons on the one's head above his eyes. They can sometimes be hard to spot. Of course the other one still having a rack made identifying him easy. I kept hoping he'd drop it here in the yard, but no such luck.

We've had a trio of camp-robbers hanging around most of the winter; I've spotted them about once a week or so, give or take a day or two, and recently a raven has been hanging around too. Since the raven showed up, I haven't noticed the camp-robbers so they may have moved on, not willing to risk contending with their bigger cousin.

Anyway I wanted to see if anything else was hanging around and fresh snow is the best way to do that. The snow has been so hard lately even those moose were walking on top of it most of the time. After a quarter mile down to the boats and back, all I saw was maybe a half dozen mouse trails crossing my path; no squirrels, no rabbits. Kinda depressing. I even stopped to listen for a couple minutes; except for a far-away plane, nothing. I miss the little birds that used to always be around flitting from treetop to treetop.

I guess we're home alone in my winter wonderland. I live my life here, but it gets kinda lonely when nothing else is around to watch or listen to.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Snow vs Rain

So what's with the weather these days? It seems like Mother Nature can't make up her mind what to do with all the precipitation. Last year (September, 2012) she dumped inches and inches of rain, causing the rivers to crest over their banks by several feet, doing quite a bit of damage in the neighborhood.

This last fall, she tried again only it was later, in October, when the rivers were mostly empty. The water made it over the bank but not by much, enough to float the boats sitting there, but only just. Not satisfied, she tried again with less success. I guess she was just trying to do a little house cleaning.

Anyway, whenever it rains like that in the fall, I wonder if it's all going to come down as rain, or if there will be something left over for snow. There always has been, but you know how it can be. This year, that might be the case. This year, there's only about two and a half feet of snow, compared to the normal five or so feet.

But snowfall, or the seemingly lack of it, isn't the only oddity. Over the last few years, it seems that the winters have been getting colder, or the cold spikes have been getting longer, however you want to look at it.

What I used to consider normal was temperatures ranging from -10F (-23C) to +20 (-6C) with the occasional cold spikes down to -20 to -25F (-29 to -32C). Sometimes these cold spikes happen in November but nearly every year they happen in February, lasting only a few days, maybe a week at the most.

I no longer know what normal is. Those cold spikes now last sometimes weeks, though still centered around November and February. Average temps now hang around minus something, and occasionally it will warm up to 0F (-18C) or so and drop some dry snow. This winter, it has warmed up to above freezing and actually rained - twice - how depressing.

But the weather, the temperature, isn't much of an issue - it is what it is, it's the lack of snow that's really making things inconvenient around here. For us to get on and off the river, we need to shovel in a ramp. It's like shoveling a ramp down from your second story balcony. Two feet of snow on the ground for some distance around, both at the top and at the bottom, got us our ramp, but it's kind of steep.

Another issue of lack of snow, is being able to drive through the woods to get firewood. Elders and other bushes average around 4 feet high. Normally, snow weighs them down and covers them over and driving over them isn't hard. There's not enough snow for that yet.

And the rain. Poor trees. The high humidity + the very cold temperatures caused frost to cover all the trees. No problem and really rather pretty. Snowfall sticks to the frost and coats every branch, making them look all pretty and white, still no real problem. The wind blows and knocks most of it out of the trees and they're fine, but add rain to the mix and suddenly you have these snow-coated branches, and now that snow becomes saturated with water. It freezes and the wind won't dislodge much of it. The first bout of rain was bad enough but it hasn't snowed much since then, some fine dry stuff most of which sifted away, but not all. Now it's rained again, quite a bit actually, maybe a quarter of an inch of water in the bottom of the buckets I had outside. Now all the young birch trees and thin branches are bowed hard over.

This morning, when I was out in the rain packing trails and such, I heard a tree somewhere back of the house break. I'm pretty sure it was just a branch or maybe the top of a small spruce tree. I couldn't see it and it wasn't a big sound as if a whole tree had fallen. If it stays warm, and maybe a wind blows some of that will be knocked loose, but the warm will cause new issues. Overflow on the river. We need to pack a runway, and day before yesterday overflow was already showing up out there. It's going to make packing a runway very difficult. It really needs to get cold again. If we pack a runway like this it would be ruined, leaving ruts that will freeze and never smooth out. Ruts in a runway might damage a plane, if not cause landing problems.

So yeah, blame the rain on me cause I was wishing for more snow, now I want it to get cold again. I guess I'm not much different from Mother Nature. I need to make up my mind. hahahahaha