The Last Frontier

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Seeking a Husband


Writing this post feels awkward to me. I never thought I’d find myself in this position. The primary reason for my awkwardness today is . . . well, the primary reason for this post. Back in the days of the early settlers, if a woman’s husband died, she had to either find another suitable husband, or she had to go back to the city and to her family. Even thinking about the possibility of having to move to town makes me feel sick, and I have no family left.

In some ways, I feel like I can relate to many of those unfortunate pioneer women. They were strong, independent and determined, but life alone in the wilderness wasn’t easy for anyone, much less a widow with children. That’s why I’m writing today. I want to find a suitable husband.

I haven’t posted since last year after my husband died. Chuck and I had a wonderful, solid marriage for nearly 20 years. I wasn’t at all ready for that to end, especially so suddenly. My sons and I had a rough winter, but thanks to the prayers and direct help of so many friends and even people we’ve never met, we’re moving forward with the life that Chuck and I began on our remote homestead in the Alaskan bush.

I love living in the bush, but I’m not determined to stay at my current location. I love Alaska and prefer to remain in this wonderful state, but I am willing to consider living elsewhere.

A little about me

If you’ve read much of this blog, you already know quite a bit about me. I’m 54 years old, 5’4”, average build, and in very good health. I cook and heat with wood. I have no indoor plumbing, which really isn’t bad. If I didn’t have to go outside from time to time in the middle of a cold winter night, I’d miss some incredible Northern Lights! Until a couple of weeks ago, I hauled our water from a spring. A great friend from the lower 48 came up for a visit to help, and now, among other things, I have a basic water system.  It’s a simple life that requires a lot of hard work. I wouldn’t mind having things a little easier, but I’m content.

I’m exceptionally devoted, honest and direct.

I prefer staying within Alaska, but I would consider moving to Montana, North Idaho, or possibly other rural areas.

My political views are very conservative. Living in the Alaskan wilderness was a childhood dream long before I knew anything about politics. Over the years of living in the bush, I’ve developed a definite prepper/survivalist mindset, and I enjoy learning and practicing bushcrafting skills.

I enjoy camping, hunting, fishing, trapping, shooting sports and just about anything outdoors. I love listening to rain on a metal roof. I love flying, and recently started training to become a pilot. I had to put that on hold for a little while, but I hope to pick it back up soon.

In many ways, I’m old fashioned and traditional. I homeschool my son. I bake pies and homemade breads, and make homemade marshmallows for cookouts. I grow a garden and put food up for the winter. I don’t really enjoy gardening, but it’s necessary so I do it. I pick berries and make jellies, jams, syrup, fruit leather, and an occasional batch of homemade wine. My son and I tap birch trees in the springtime. I make soap, and knit mittens and socks.

Things about you that are a must:
  • Believe in God.
  • Be very healthy and active.
  • Be courageous, loyal, hard working and respectful. In general, be a man with grit and strong character.
  • Willing to be a father to my 9 year old son. He is a wonderful, fun, active, homeschooled little boy who misses his Daddy and needs a strong father.
  • Have a good sense of humor.
  • Want to live (or already live) in a rural area.
  • Love the outdoors and be able to take care of yourself in the woods.
  • Know how and be willing to hunt and fish.
  • Be handy with tools.
  • Be mechanical (know how to maintain and do basic repairs on equipment, such as a chainsaw, generator, snow machine . . .) I’m not, but I’m learning.

Things about you that do not matter:
  • Your age (as long as you are very healthy)
  • Your appearance (as long as you are very healthy)
  • I do not care if you have been previously married or have children living with you, as long as they are respectful.
Things that are a plus (preferable, but not essential):
  • You are a pilot. (This one is a very strong preference, but not crucial.) I live remote now, so it will be difficult (not impossible) for us to get to know each other unless you fly. I love flying.
  • I prefer a man between the age of 48 and 60. A little younger could be all right, but older --- probably not.
  • Height --- not a major thing, but I prefer a man at least 5’10”. If you are shorter, that’s fine.
  • You raise (or would like to raise) livestock, such as goats, cows and/or chickens.
  • You play an instrument, such as violin/fiddle, banjo, guitar, piano, etc. I haven’t played piano in many years, but I sure love listening to music.
  • You enjoy gardening. I don’t, so if you do, that will motivate me :-)

If you are sincerely seeking a life-long commitment with a loving wife, and believe that you have the qualities I mentioned above, please send an email with a good description of yourself, your background, and what you want in a wife. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Update: Tragic News

It's been a long time since I updated my blog. Chuck and I had been very busy building our new log cabin that we hoped to be in by next summer, and we'd been expanding our garden. Then, the unthinkable happened. Chuck was killed in a tragic accident. The boys and I are back out at our homestead trying to rebuild our lives. I don't know how we're going to make it alone out here, but with the help and prayers of friends, I'm sure we will. It's going to be rough going, and I sure have a lot to learn. Please keep our family in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wild Greens for Supper

Wild Edibles  for Fritters
Wild Greens for Fritters


One of the things we love about this time of year is that we have so many wild edible plants right outside our door. I have discovered (and invented) some delicious recipes. Fritters are one of our favorites, whether they're made with Fiddleheads, Dandelions, Wild Chives, Alaska Ginseng (Devil’s Club) or just about anything else we find in the woods or in our garden. We are especially thankful for all these wild greens because we can’t even plant our garden until the end of May.

While my husband has been away guiding for the last 7 weeks, our boys and I have been working extra hard all day. Well, the boys do get a lot of well-deserved play time at the creek. They have been such a help to me while their daddy has been away. The last couple of weeks have provided special treats of new wild plants. Lately, we’ve been stopping work an hour or so before suppertime to go for a walk and gather part of our next meal. It is incredibly satisfying to be able to do that (not to mention FUN), and I am so thankful that we live in such a place. I was brought up in a very large city, and I certainly do not take this lifestyle for granted. I know we have been blessed.

I grew up in the Deep South, where a meal was not a proper meal if it didn’t include something deep fried. Tomorrow night, I’m going to add some wild greens and Dandelions to our pizza (not fried, but I’m not complaining!) Tonight we had one of our favorite meals --- Fritters!

You can make fritters from just about anything. If you don’t have the wild plants I used this time (recipe below), use whatever edibles you have, even if they’re from the grocery store or a patio garden. Cabbage, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, and many more vegetables all work just fine. Use just one, or a mixture. Add meat, if you like, or leave it out. Add other herbs and seasonings for even more variety. Careful on that. It's easy to overpower the wild greens with too many spices.

When I want a sweet fritter for breakfast, rather than a savory fritter for supper, I’ll usually stick with flowers. Dandelion or Elder flowers work great for this. Just remember to use no more than half the salt in the recipe below, and omit the pepper. You can make the batter sweet by adding a few tablespoons of honey, brown sugar, or other sweetener. You can leave out the sweetener in the batter, and serve the fritters with maple syrup, jam, powdered sugar, or whatever else you like. Or, just toss some flowers into your favorite pancake batter.

You really can’t go wrong with fritters. If you want them a little lighter, add a tablespoon of baking powder per cup of flour. If you want eggs, use them. If not, leave them out. I use powdered milk and eggs because we live in the bush and I don’t have fresh at the moment. But if you have the fresh milk and eggs to spare, use them if you like. Your fritters will turn out delicious.

Wild Fritters
(This recipe makes a LOT, so you might want to cut it in half the first time. We like to reheat the leftovers. The texture changes --- they become a little soft, more bread-like instead of crunchy, but we still enjoy them.)

4 cups of edible wild greens and flowers
1 pound of meat - optional (ground moose or beef, chopped chicken or whatever you like)
3 cups rice flour (wheat flour works well, but the flavor and texture are a little different)
2/3 cup powdered milk (or 2 to 3 cups of fresh milk)
3 Tbsp. powdered eggs (or 2 eggs)
1 tsp. black pepper (or to taste)
2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
2 to 3 cups water (omit if using real, liquid milk)
Oil for Frying (I like coconut oil)

Prepare wild edibles for cooking, and set aside. Preparation will depend on what you use. Today, the boys and I picked some Alaska Ginseng (Devil’s Club) buds, Lamb’s Quarter, Chickweed, Dandelion flowers, Watermelon Berry leaves and Wild Chives. I chopped the Lamb’s Quarter, Chickweed, Watermelon Berry Leaves and Chives. I removed the stems and most of the calyx (green part) from the Dandelion flowers (scissors help with this). The Alaska Ginseng buds required no preparation, but you can chop them if you prefer. A few Fiddleheads and young Fireweed shoots would have also been nice, but it was getting late and I needed to start supper. If your plants have dirt, wash before chopping. Try to avoid places where the plants are near car exhausts, and don’t use plants that have been sprayed with chemicals.

If using meat, cook it and set aside. If it is really greasy, drain and discard the fat.

Combine flour, milk powder, egg powder, salt and pepper. Stir in 2 cups of water. If it seems dry and thick, add a little more water. If your batter ends up too thin, stir in a little more flour. Stir in the meat and prepared wild plants. The batter should not be like dough, but it should not be watery, either.

In a heavy skillet, heat oil for frying. You should have about ¼ to ½ inch of oil. More won’t hurt. Drop tablespoons of the batter into the hot oil. When the bottom is brown, turn and brown the other side. Watch to make sure they don’t burn. If you fry too slowly, they become greasy. When done, remove fritters from oil with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Serve with mustard, barbecue sauce, or just eat ‘em as they are.  We had them with a green salad of new Watermelon Berry leaves, Chickweed, Lamb’s Quarter, Wild Chives, French Sorrel from my garden, and Wild Geranium Flowers. I’ll try to remember to take a picture of the salad next time.
Wild Edibles - Fritters 1
Wild Edibles cooked up into Fritters

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Simplicity Primer

Hooray! The Simplicity Primer is here at last! Some friends who have a cabin across the lake flew out and brought our mail. What a treat! And in that big box was my review copy of the new book by Patrice Lewis, The Simplicity Primer, published by World Net Daily (WND Books).

THANK YOU, Patrice, for sending The Simplicity Primer to me for review. I got a kick out of your note to me inside the front cover. I probably should have asked before copying your note here, but since it's really more about us, I didn't think you'd mind:



To Jenny & Chuck:
Most folks would say you're living the ultimate "simple life". These are the people who never met a grizzly bear face to face -- right?
I think Patrice is right about that. As I initially browsed through the book, I kept shaking my head up and down. "Simplicity" doesn't necessarily mean without complications such as a bear walking up on you. I believe that simplifying life has more to do with attitude (along with a healthy dose of determination) than anything else.

The description of the book on its back cover states, ". . . readers learn how a simple attitude adjustment can vastly affect their lives; how a few concrete changes can streamline daily life; how to stop financial leaks; how to simplify and strengthen relationships with partners and children; and how to avoid 'The Gospel According to Madison Avenue."

This book looks wonderful! I only wish I'd received it sooner so I could have been more help with her "Book Bomb" tomorrow, June 7th, which is the day of the book's official release at Amazon.com. The idea is to have everyone who wants the book wait and order on the release date. That gets her ranking up (It's already pretty high. Congratulations Patrice!). So, head on over to Amazon.com and order your copy of The Simplicity Primer by Patrice Lewis.

Now, for a little about the book. I have only had a chance to skim through it, since I wanted to post something before her Book Bomb Day at Amazon. But, so far, I love it. As Patrice said in her note to me, many folks probably think my family and I live the ultimate "simple life" out here in the Alaskan bush . . . The Last Frontier . . . the Wilderness. But this book is filled with ideas that will help folks like us, as well as people in the city.  Often, we overlook the obvious or forget the basics. Patrice is a wonderful writer, and through The Simplicity Primer, she provides ideas that have me saying, "Glad that wasn't a snake, or it would have bit my nose", or "So true", or, "I never thought of that, but she's absolutely right", "I couldn't agree more". This is a very useful book.

The subtitle is "365 ideas for making life more livable". Each of the ideas gets one page. Simple, which makes it easy to read and ponder. It's not a book you have to carve out a lot of time for. Just a minute or so each day (but you'll want to read much more).  The 365 ideas are divided into twelve sections: Getting Personal, Getting Along, Teach Your Children Well, Amazing Grace, Home Is Where The Heart Is, To Your Health, Your Daily Bread, Nine-To-Five Simplicity, It's Easy Being Green (not what you may be thinking, or at least not in the "greeny, politically correct way), Time Off For Good Behavior, Nothing New Under The Sun, and Radical Simplicity.

For a more thorough description of The Simplicity Primer, go to either Amazon.com, or to Patrice's website about the book.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Project Appleseed

Project Appleseed - April 19, 1775 When marksmanship met history, and the heritage began . . .
Recently, I learned about Project Appleseed, an activity put on by The Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA). My sons and I are thrilled that they are planning a weekend event here in Alaska! They hold these Appleseed weekends throughout the country. I'll post more about it after we've actually attended in late July. I'm sure we'll have a great time and learn more than we imagined. Check their website for an Appleseed weekend near you. Here is an excerpt from the Appleseed website that explains more about it.
"Project Appleseed is an activity of The Revolutionary War Veterans Association, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, dedicated to teaching every American our shared heritage and history as well as traditional rifle marksmanship skills.  Our volunteer instructors travel across the country teaching those who attend about the difficult choices, the heroic actions, and the sacrifices that the Founders made on behalf of modern Americans, all of whom are their “progeny.”

Our heritage program vividly portrays the Battles of Lexington and Concord with the kind of care and immediacy that is absent from most formal schooling. Modern listeners are confronted with the danger, the fear, and the heartbreaking separations that arose out of the choices made on April 19th, 1775. They are also reminded of the marksmanship skills and masterful organization that ultimately helped set the colonists on the path to success. Those who attend gain a better understanding of the fundamental choices faced by our ancestors as they began to set the stage for the nation we now enjoy."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Puppy Needs a Name

The boys and I are SO EXCITED ! ! ! As soon as Chuck returns, we will have an adorable new puppy. She is half Karelian Bear Dog, and half Siberian Husky. She looks mostly like the full Karelian, from the description I have of her, except that she has blue eyes that are so common with Huskies. We need a name for her, and I'd like your help in either deciding between the two names we've come up with, or with a new suggestion.

Siberian Husky Puppy
(I found the picture of this adorable Siberian Husky puppy here)

Right now, our friends are keeping her until Chuck finishes guiding and can bring her home. I wish I had a picture of her to share. Until then, our friends would like to know what to call her. First I'll tell you the names we've come up with, and why we like them, and then tell you a little more about the breeds. We wanted a puppy to grow up with our boys, be a loyal companion to them, warn us about danger, such as bears, and protect our boys from bears. We also wanted a dog that can be trained to pull a sled to help us haul water and firewood. The mix of Karelian and Husky is perfect for us! I won't go into the details, but the way we ended up with her is an amazing story. We are thankful beyond words. OK, on with the names:

"Tala" or "Tally" after the Talachulitna River, which is a beautiful river here in Alaska. We love going fishing there.

"Nugget" - (as in Gold Nugget). Huskies were used during the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska and Canada. Karelian Bear Dogs and Siberian Huskies are wonderful, and extremely useful dogs. I'm sure this puppy will become a very valuable and much-loved member of our family. 

So, please leave a comment and let me know what you think. Feel free to suggest something else. Here's some info from this site that I found about the Karelian Bear Dogs. There's lots more info out there, but this one sums it up somewhat briefly.
The Karelian Bear Dog has a good sense of humor. It is sensitive, independent, intelligent, skillful, tough on itself, and energetic. A robust, persistent, and powerful dog, it is willing to take on virtually any game animal. This dog is very loyal to its owner's family and makes a good household companion when it has owners who know how to display leadership and the dog is extensively trained. This is not a breed for the casual pet owner, the Karelian Bear Dog is a hunter of unyielding bravery and determination. It will put a bear to flight or attack it with great pugnacity. The true outdoors enthusiast and dedicated hunter can look to this hard-working breed with delight and utter satisfaction. The training should be very consistent with both a firm hand and affection. This is not a breed for inexperienced dog owners. They are affectionate towards people and will announce both welcome and unwelcome visitors. Visitors the dogs knows well will get an enthusiastic welcome while strangers may be treated coldly. This breed is very protective. They will protect you with their life. The Karelian Bear Dog can live with other household animals if they know where their place is in their pack (blow all others) and if the training and socialization is properly handled. This breed has a small appetite for its size.
Origin:
The area once known as Karelia in northern Europe has always been populated by tough, big-game hunting canines. For a long time, similar dogs had been bred in Karelia for hunting large game. These dogs were known to have followed the first settlers to Finland thousand of years ago. These early tribes of people survived on what they could hunt, which is why dogs that were hardy, brave and tough enough to tackle bear, wolf and lynx were so important. The Karelian Bear Dog closely resembles the Russo-European Laika. It evolved in the part of Finland claimed by the Soviet Union earlier this century. The Karelian Bear Dog, which is more numerous outside its own country than any of the Russian Laikas, is used by elk hunters throughout Finland, Sweden, and Norway. It was first exhibited at a dog show in Helsinki in 1936, but after World War II the breed almost became extinct. All modern Karelians are traced back to forty dogs found and saved after the war. The Karelian Bear Dog was very popular towards the turn of the century when it could be found in vast numbers. Its numbers declined in the 1960's, but its popularity has been on the rise and it is now being breed in North America and many European countries. Among this avid hunter's game are the buck, wild boar, hare, and moose. He is also fearless enough to fight the wolf and bear and therefore functioned as a protector by hunting these large wild animals. In his homeland of Finland, the dog is used mostly on elk and is the favored dog of native big-game hunters.
Here's some info from the same site that I found about Siberian Huskies. Again, there's plenty more info out there, but this site just sums it up nicely.
Siberian Huskies are loving, gentle, playful, happy-go-lucky dogs who are fond of their families. Keen, docile, social, relaxed and rather casual. This is a high energy dog, especially when young. Good with children and friendly with strangers, they are not watchdogs, for they bark little and love everyone.  Huskies are very intelligent and trainable, but they will only obey a command if they see the human is stronger minded than themselves. If the handler does not display leadership, they will not see the point in obeying. Training takes patience, consistency and an understanding of the Arctic dog character. If you are not this dogs 100% firm, confident, consistent pack leader, he will take advantage, becoming willful and mischievous. Huskies make an excellent jogging companion, as long as it is not too hot. Huskies may be difficult to housebreak. This breed likes to howl and gets bored easily. Does not do well if left alone for a long period of time without a great deal of exercise before hand. A lonely Husky, or a Husky who does not get enough mental and physical exercise can be very destructive. Remember that the Husky is a  sled dog in heart and soul. They are good with other pets if they are raised with them from puppyhood. Huskies are thrifty eaters and need less food than you might expect. This breed likes to roam. Siberian Huskies can make wonderful companions for people who are aware of what to expect from these beautiful and intelligent animals and are willing to put the time and energy into them.
Origin
Siberian Huskies were used for centuries by the Chukchi Tribe, off the eastern Siberian peninsula to pull sleds, herd reindeer and as a watch dog. They were perfect working dogs for the harsh Siberian conditions: hardy, able to integrate into small packs, and quite happy to work for hours on end. The dogs have great stamina and are light weight. Native to Siberia, the Husky was brought to Alaska by fur traders in Malamute for arctic races because of their great speed. In 1908 Siberian Huskies were used for the first All-Alaskan Sweepstakes, an event where mushers take their dogs on a 408 mile long dogsled race. The dogs gained popularity in 1925 when there was a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. Siberian Huskies were used to bring in the much needed medicine to the people. In the late early to mid 1900s Admiral Byrd used the dogs in his Antarctic Expeditions. During World War II the dogs served on the Army’s Arctic Search and Rescue Unit. The Siberian Huskies talents are sledding, carting and racing. The Siberian Husky was recognized by the AKC in 1930.






Bears


This spring has kept my family busier than usual, which is why I haven't posted much lately. My husband is a big game hunting guide, and is away for nearly two months guiding black bear hunts. That has left me with all of the chores he usually takes care of, like splitting wood, hauling water, tilling the garden (with a shovel), and all the other "little" things he does all day, in addition to my usual things. Our boys have been a great help, but we'll all be glad when he returns.

The hunter is on the right; Chuck is holding the paw on the left.

Chuck writes a blog for an outdoor network, and has just posted an article, along with some great pictures, about their Icy Bay hunts. Some of these bears are HUGE! Take a look. This one makes the one I shot last year look like a cub.

Oh, and you might notice something familiar about his blog ---- the name. I was setting up my blog about the same time he began writing for the Outdoor Blog Network, and neither of us communicated with each other on the name. So, take a look at the other Last Frontier.

Here are a couple more pictures from his articles.
 

This one really shows what a bear can do.



Friday, April 29, 2011

Boys With Slingshots vs. Squirrels

Squirrel on the run
Boys trying to shoot a squirrel with their slingshot while the dog waits for a snack. 


My sons have been busy with their slingshots keeping squirrels out of our cache. I don’t think they’ve hit one yet, but at least they've kept the squirrels on the go. I think we might spend a little time over at The Slingshot Channel blog to see if we can pick up some pointers on good homemade slingshots. He has some neat videos on YouTube that have inspired my sons.

Boys with sling shots
Most years, the squirrels just run around doing their thing and leave our food alone. However, about every three or four years, we seem to get a particularly pushy bunch. They get into our cache and eat their way into 5-gallon buckets of grains, peanut butter, powdered milk and eggs. They eat through plastic totes and make nests with our clothes we’ve stored for the off season. Food (and clothing) is expensive enough in Alaska, but the cost of flying it out here in a chartered bush plane sometimes doubles the cost. When a squirrel, marten or other wild animal gets into our food supply or makes a nest with our winter coats, well . . . . things have gone too far.

Yes, I’ve heard the lame argument that “the poor little animals were there first, and they’re just doing what comes natural to them.” I’m not buying that one. We were here long before any of those animals that are getting into our cache (with properly stored food and clothing) were born. There are thousands of acres of natural food for the wild animals, and only one little cache that’s off limits. Needless to say, the squirrels have kept me busy lately, too, and have provided tasty snacks for the dogs!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Matzo Recipes: Regular and Gluten-Free

Making Matzo

Here are a few recipes for delicious Matzo, including two recipes for gluten free Matzo. I know it’s a little late, but there are still several days remaining for Passover. I intended to post this earlier, but I have been plagued by a sinus infection. More on the wonders of Activated Charcoal and Spruce Pitch in a future post.

The first recipe is for wheat matzo that I found on a Jewish website several years ago. I did not write down the web address, so I cannot give proper credit. This Matzo is so delicious that I serve it to family and company throughout the year. Friends often ask for the recipe, and tell me that it’s so delicious that they even serve it to their guests. Rather than viewing matzo as a “bread of affliction”, we have always looked forward to a week of this wonderful unleavened bread.

Wheat Matzo
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. olive oil
6 Tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour and salt. Add oil and water; stir to mix. Check the time to make sure that no more than 18 minutes lapses between the time you add liquid to the flour and the time it goes into the oven. After the ingredients are combined, knead it a little. For a light, crisp cracker, the dough should be fairly stiff and a bit dry, although not at all crumbly. If necessary, add a little water, 1 Tbsp. at a time. If you want the matzo to be harder, add a little more oil and water.

Divide dough in half. Keep one half covered with plastic wrap or wax paper while working with the other half. Using a floured rolling pin, roll each half very thin and place on lightly greased cookie sheets. It is easier to use pans without sides, and then roll the dough directly on the pans. Even when I roll the dough on the table, I rarely have to use any extra flour. When the dough has been rolled and is on the pans, prick with a fork. Using a knife, score dough into squares, rectangles or other shapes. Try not to cut all the way through dough. If you prefer to break your matzo after it bakes, omit this step. Sprinkle with salt or other seasonings if desired. Bake at about 350 degrees until lightly browned, turning pans if necessary. Remove from oven and cool on rack. When cool enough to handle, break apart at score lines.

NOTE: During Passover, I only make one batch (2 pans) at a time to keep the process under 18 minutes. At other times of the year, I often triple the recipe. I have found that covering the dough with plastic wrap for about 20 minutes prior to dividing and rolling helps it roll out easier. In addition, I usually keep Passover matzo simple; however, when I make this at other times of the year, I often add minced, dehydrated onions, minced garlic, or other seasonings to the dough or sprinkle on top.

Gluten-Free Matzo

One of our sons has Celiac Disease, and the other has a gluten intolerance. In the past, I’ve always made gluten-free matzo for them whenever I made regular matzo for everyone else. I have recently learned that I can’t handle gluten either. My husband isn’t a picky eater, so now we’re all gluten-free, which has made a world of difference! I miss the delicious, light, crisp wheat matzo, above, but here are two pretty good gluten-free substitutes.

I adapted the following two recipes from one I found on this site. Ellen’s matzo recipe uses a Breads from Anna gluten, soy, and rice free bread mix. Depending on the traditions you follow, these recipes may not be acceptable to you for Passover. If you go to Ellen’s site, be sure to read her comments. I don’t buy bread mixes, so after reading the list of ingredients in the bread mix and looking up a few other gluten-free matzo recipes, I experimented with ingredients I had on hand. Since I live in the bush, it is often difficult for me to get all of the gluten free flours I want, so I did the best I could with what I had. I’m still learning about gluten-free baking. For these recipes, I made up my own recipes, based on the mix that was used in the original recipe and what I had in the pantry, and then I followed the instructions Ellen gave in her video (I've posted the video below. Just scroll down a bit). This is a great video, and making matzo is very quick!

Gluten-Free Matzo #1

This is the favorite of my sons and my husband. It’s quite hard and crunchy. Since both of these recipes go from not cooked to burned in the blink of an eye, I only make one pan at a time. The recipes are for only one pan, but I usually mix up enough of the dry ingredients all at once to make about 10 batches, and then store it in a covered bowl until needed. To use, scoop out ¾ cup plus 1 tsp. of the mixture, add the liquid and go from there.

3 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. tapioca flour
2 ½ Tbsp. powdered milk
1 ½ Tbsp. white bean flour
2 Tbsp. sorghum flour
½ tsp. xanthan gum
½ tsp. salt
Scant 4 Tbsp. cold water


For dusting the board, dough, rolling pin and hands, have on hand a bowl with a half and half mixture of white rice flour and tapioca starch. Use this generously!

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients. Mix water into the flour mixture. Add a little more of the flour mixture if it’s too wet; add a little extra water if it is too dry and won’t come together.

Generously dust your work surface with the rice flour/tapioca starch mixture. Spoon dough onto floured surface. Knead a few times, flatten with hands, adding more of the dusting flours as needed. Roll out as thin as possible with a floured rolling pin. Roll the dough around the rolling pin as shown in the video, and transfer to a cookie sheet. If using a cookie sheet without sides, you can roll the dough directly on the pan.

Once the dough is on the pan, prick with a fork. If desired, score into shapes as described in the previous recipe. Bake in preheated oven about 5 minutes. Watch it very closely because it burns quickly. It is helpful to turn the matzo over with a spatula about halfway through the baking. Remove from oven and transfer immediately to cooling rack.


Gluten-Free Matzo #2

This one is similar to Gluten-Free Matzo #1 above, except that it has a slightly lighter, crisp texture, and is not so hard and crunchy. Like the previous recipe, I mix multiple batches of the dry ingredients, store in a covered bowl, and then measure just over ¾ cup of the flour mixture, add the liquid and go from there.

6 ½ Tbsp. white bean flour
3 Tbsp. sorghum flour
2 ½ Tbsp. milk powder
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
3 Tbsp. cold water
Scant 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, if desired, or omit and use all water instead.

For dusting the board, dough, rolling pin and hands, have on hand a bowl with a half and half mixture of white rice flour and tapioca starch. Use this generously!

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Combine the dry ingredients. Stir in the water and vinegar. Add a little more of the flour mixture if it’s too wet; add a little extra water if it is too dry and won’t come together.

Generously dust your work surface with the rice flour/tapioca starch mixture. Spoon dough onto floured surface. Knead a few times, flatten with hands, adding more of the dusting flours as needed. Roll out as thin as possible with a floured rolling pin. Roll the dough around the rolling pin as shown in the video, and transfer to a cookie sheet. If using a cookie sheet without sides, you can roll the dough directly on the pan. The thinner you get this, the lighter it will turn out.

Once the dough is on the pan, prick with a fork. If desired, score into shapes as described in the first recipe. Bake in preheated oven about 5 minutes. Turn over with a spatula about halfway through the baking. Watch it very closely because it burns quickly. Remove from oven and transfer immediately to cooling rack.

I would like to find or come up with a recipe that makes even lighter matzo. A friend suggested using a combination of almond meal, potato starch and ground flax seeds. When I find some potato starch, I will try that.

Here is Ellen’s video on how to make gluten-free matzo.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April Blizzards Bring May . . . ?

April Snow




When I woke up this morning, my husband said to put on my knee boots before going outside. Huh? This is April. We never get more than a dusting of snow this time of year. But I looked out the window and could barely see the cache.  Now it's about 3:00 PM, and so far today we have had 18". I know that "April showers bring May flowers", but blizzards ! ? ! Where's global warming when you need it?

In mid-March I stopped keeping track of our snowfall. At the time, we'd hit a record-breaking LOW snowfall for the year of 13ft. 3in. I know that sounds like a bunch of snow, but for us, it's skimpy. By the time it all packed, we ended up with only about 5' - 6' on the ground, which was barely enough to cover the alders and get around good on the snow machine to haul firewood. If this snowstorm keeps up for the next couple of days like it's supposed to, we might hit our average of about 16 ft. after all. Ug! I'm ready for spring! Real spring, with rain and flowers. But, in about a week or so we'll be snowshoeing through the woods tapping birch trees. Mmmmmm. I can just taste that sweet sap now.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Medicinal Plants: Usnea

Usnea
Usnea (OOS-nay-uh or US-nay-uh) is a lichen, which is a symbiotic combination of an algae and a fungus. Usnea has numerous medicinal, as well as food uses, which I will get to in a moment. Some of its common names include Old Man’s Beard, Beard Lichen, Beard Moss, Moose Moss and Tree Moss (although it is not a moss). The common names pretty well describe the appearance of Usnea. It resembles Spanish Moss, however, the two are not related.

Usnea grows on every continent. In our area, Usnea primarily grows on the branches of spruce trees, but I’ve also seen it on birch and cottonwood. In the southeastern United States, it is commonly found on oak trees, as well as other types of trees. There are many varieties of Usnea, so search online or ask a local herbalist about which ones grow in your area. Some are a pale yellowish-greenish color; others are reddish brown. Still others are black. The stem of Usnea has a white core that can be seen when it is pulled apart. The “hairs” are a bit stretchy.

Some years, Usnea is abundant and the yellow-green variety that is found here often grows well over 12 inches long. Not this year. When our family went out to gather some a few days ago, we had to really hunt for it. I think I’m going to have to start selling my Usnea soap as a “limited edition” this year. I just made a couple of batches and will post pictures soon.

Medicinal Uses of Usnea

Usnea is an extremely useful antimicrobial, both internally and externally, effective primarily on the lungs and skin. It is often used to treat bacterial, viral and fungal infections. All of my resources really stress its antibacterial properties! It is reported to be an effective treatment for pneumonia, bronchitis, staph, strep, tuberculosis and urinary tract infections. I have successfully used it to prevent and treat colds and flu. It boosts the immune system and can be used like echinacea. Another great thing about Usnea is that it has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.

I have found Usnea to be most effective as a tincture when I feel like I’m coming down with a cold. It is not effective as a tea. I have since read that water does not extract the usnic acid, which is the primary medicinal component of Usnea; alcohol is necessary for that.

To prevent or treat infections, I usually take about 8 drops of the tincture, made with vodka or similar alcohol, two to three times daily. I also like to add usnea to my herbal mix when I make cough drops. It doesn’t actually help suppress a cough, but it has helped cure whatever has caused the cough and helps loosen it.

Usnea Tincture
Usnea being made into a tincture.

Usnea tincture can be used externally as a liniment to treat infections on the skin. It can also be used straight from the tree as an emergency wound dressing to prevent infections and gangrene.

To make Usnea Tincture, place crushed usnea in a jar, cover with at least 60 proof alcohol such as Vodka (not rubbing alcohol). Place the lid on the jar and keep the jar in a cool, dark place. Shake the jar daily. After at least 2 weeks, (but preferably 8 weeks or more) strain and pour into a dropper bottle. In his book, “The Way of Herbs”, Michael Tierra states that the usual dose is 5 to 10 drops.

Usnea on a drying rack
Usnea on drying rack.

Usnea as Food

Usnea is very high in Vitamin C, and is a carbohydrate. Before eating, Usnea should be soaked in several changes of water. The usnic acid can be very irritating to the digestive system. In the book, “Tanaina Plantlore”, Priscilla R. Kari states that the Inland Dena’ina Natives of Alaska sometimes eat Usnea as an emergency food or camp food after first boiling it in water.

Caution

Usnea, like all lichens, readily absorbs pollutants, such as heavy metals and radiation. Be careful where you collect lichens. Also, do not eat animals that have eaten contaminated lichens. The poisons have been known to pass to humans in this way.

Use caution and common sense when trying Usnea, or anything else, especially the first time. You never know how your body will react. Some time ago, usnic acid was found (or at least thought) to help with weight loss. A company produced a weight loss pill containing usnic acid, and from what I’ve read, it sounds like a few people over did it and had severe liver problems. I have read that once the ingestion of usnic acid is stopped, the problems will resolve. One thing to consider in this is that one constituent of Usnea was removed and used in a pharmaceutical preparation. However, plants, in their whole, natural form have many balancing constituents, and are therefore usually much safer, in my opinion, than a processed drug containing only an extract of a plant, possibly in concentrated amounts. Do your own research, talk with a knowledgeable healthcare provider, and then make your own decision about what to ingest.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

City Folks: Observations of a Three Year Old

City
The comments on my recent post about the resourcefulness of my sons and their homemade skis and snowboard reminded me of one of our trips into Anchorage about four years ago. My husband’s brother, Chris used to live there, and we always stayed with him during our visits.

Zeke was only three years old at the time. As soon as we walked in, he began roaming around, checking out the construction of the house like a building inspector. Then, with a look of approval on his face, he said, “Uncle Chris did a very good job building this house”. I told him that someone else built the house, and then Uncle Chris bought it. He looked confused at that, but accept it. He understood that people make or produce things, sell them, and that people use money to buy things they want or need. But I think he was confused about why his uncle didn’t just build his own house like we did.

When Zeke sat down at the table that evening for supper and saw steaks, he yelled, “Oh Boy! Uncle Chris shot a moose!” When I told him it was beef, he asked what “beef” was (because he’d only had wild meat such as moose, caribou, fish, grouse, etc. up to that point in his life). When I told him that beef was the name for meat from a cow, he said, “Oh Boy! Mama shot a cow ! ! !”  I explained in simple terms, “No, someone else killed the cow, sold the meat to the grocery store, and then I went to the store and bought the meat. That’s the way things are done in the city”. He looked very disappointed as he just said, “oh” and began to eat.

The next night when he saw fish on the table, he said, “Oh Boy! Mama caught a fish!” So, I went through it again. “No, someone else caught the fish, sold it to the grocery store, and I went to the store and bought it.” Another disappointment as he quietly ate his supper.

During our last night in Anchorage, we had chicken. Same story, only this time he’d figured it out. “Oh Boy! Chicken!” But with a little question in his voice and a look of suspicion on his face, he asked, “Mama killed the chicken?” I shook my head. Then he said, sounding very sad, “I know. Someone else killed the chicken, sold it to the store, and mama went to the store and bought it.” I said, “Right”. He just looked at me, shaking his head and said, “Things sure are different in the city, aren’t they, Mama?”

When we landed at home in the bush the next day, he told Chuck all about his shocking observations. It went something like this: “Daddy, people in town aren’t like us! When they want something, they pay somebody else to make it. Why don’t they do it themselves? Did you know that Uncle Chris didn’t even build his own house?!!! He paid somebody to do that for him. People there don’t even catch and shoot their own food. They pay someone else to go fishing and hunting for them, and then they just drive to a store and buy whatever they want for supper. They don’t do anything for themselves, Daddy.”

Now that the boys are a little older, they understand things a little better, (although, to be honest, I don't think he was that far off in his assessment). It's kind of interesting to listen to young children verbalize the way they see the world.
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