Now that we’re back from our semi-annual shopping trip, I should be able to post more often. But, with things heating up by the moment in the Middle East, and gas prices (and prices on everything else, for that matter) soaring, I think we’ll still have to limit our computer use even after we get our new inverter in a few weeks.
If you’d rather skip all this gab, scroll down for lots of pictures. The Rabbit Trails are labeled in bold, and some of you may prefer those. But for those inquiring minds who want to know how bushrats spend their time in the “big city”, here’s a play-by-play. I don’t know why I get asked so often about what we do in town. I supposed we do about what everybody else does, only we do it all in a few days instead of each week throughout the year. We shop, visit friends and sometimes play. Well, we play a lot in the bush, and visit bush friends out here, but we do more of the visiting in town, and of course, that’s the only time we have to bother with shopping.
|Looking for the airstrip|
The weather here at home was beautiful the day we flew out, but when we arrived over town, the clouds were nearly on the deck. The first picture shows us flying sideways over the airport (mostly a bush plane airport) looking for the airstrip where small planes on skis are supposed to land. Our pilot had never landed there before, and my boys were a little green around the gills by the time we found it. All went well, despite the dubious “up to the minute” weather reports of a 1000 foot ceiling and visibility of 2 miles. I wish those weather guys would look out the window from time to time.
Our friends were waiting for us and pulled up to help unload the plane.
|Unloading the plane in town at the airport|
Overall, this trip into town was fun because we were able to stay with friends who live in a rural area, rather than in Anchorage. Don’t misunderstand me. We’re always very thankful for our friends in Anchorage who welcome us into their homes and let us borrow a car to go shopping and run errands, and it’s always fun to visit with them. But it was a relaxing change this time to be able to let the boys play outside with the dogs, meet and go sledding with neighbor kids, and feed the horses and chickens.
|View from the deck|
The first day, our friend took us to Anchorage to get our Costco shopping out of the way. We stopped at the chainsaw place for a bar and couple of chains for my new-to-me little chainsaw that I’m learning to use, and then went to the craft store for some knitting needles. I’m really not schizophrenic, although that last sentence might have you wondering. I enjoy knitting beside the woodstove in the evenings, but I also love the feeling of self-reliance that I get from being able to bring in the wood we need for cooking and heating (without dependence upon my husband, should something ever happen to him).
Rabbit Trail #1: I know what you’re thinking. One of the first things I mentioned today was the chaos in the Middle East and the gas price increases, and now I’m talking about gas-powered chainsaws? How incongruous! We’re planning to get a load of gas flown out very soon, and I suspect that it will be our last for a very long time to come. As long as we can get somewhat affordable gas, it makes our lives much easier. However, the next skill on my list is learning to fell trees with only manual tools. I’m sure I could do it now if I had to, but I really need to learn how to be safe with the tools and get in better shape for that. I feel certain that the time is coming when that will be a necessary skill, among many others.
Rabbit Trail #2: We all do a lot in the bush, but there’s always much more to learn. It is my goal to learn to do everything necessary to live independently out here, if at all possible. I’m not sure that my goal is even attainable, but I am sure that I have a very long way to go. It’s a bit discouraging sometimes to think about that, but when I look back on how far I’ve come over the years since moving to Alaska, I’m encouraged to keep plugging away, one step at a time. It is satisfying.
Here are some pictures of our trip. Our friend has a mini-horse, Rosie. We sometimes took her and the dogs for a walk down the road to visit with neighbors.
|Jed and Zeke loved playing with our friend's mini-horse|
|Taking the horse and dogs down the road|
We enjoyed the fresh eggs for breakfast, and feeding the chickens. I’d love to get chickens out here again, but feed is too expensive, especially to fly out.
|Feeding the Chickens|
My boys had never been around horses before, so this was quite a treat for them.
|The boys got to play with horses for the first time.|
|This was a big treat for the boys|
|The horses at sunset|
|Two of our friends horses|
A moose cow and her calf browsed by each morning. This is a picture of my son in the snow watching the moose and horses from the deck, and then another shot of the moose.
|Jed watched the moose and horses in the snow from the deck.|
|Moose in the woods behind the horses|
We’re very thankful to another of our friends and her son for taxiing us all over town one day to finish running errands. She was sick and had a fever, but didn’t let a little thing like that spoil her fun. She even took us back to her house so that we could see her menagerie. My boys’ favorites were the geese. She has beautiful sled dogs, some with impressive backgrounds. I am hoping for one of her pups soon.
Rabbit Trail #3: We always begin taking a mix of vitamins and herbs a few days before heading to town to avoid getting sick when we see people. I suppose we’re kind of like the Indians when the Europeans arrived. Their immune systems were not able to fight off diseases they’d never been exposed to, and they didn’t know what to do when they came down with those horrible, strange illnesses. When I lived in the city years ago, I rarely got sick. Now, if I don’t take the vitamins and herbs while in town, I get to feeling rotten within a few days.
It seems that we have to do more and more these days to stay well. It used to be that I’d take a capsule with a mixture of Echinacea, Goldenseal and Elder twice a day while in town, and that would be plenty to keep the bugs at bay. Now it’s more complicated with many more herbs like garlic, wild chives, wormwood, rosemary, sage, oregano, comfrey, as well as vitamins C and D. Even with all those, the boys and I still ended up with a mild sore throat and the sniffles. Not nearly as bad as most folks in town. None of us even got a fever. I suspect it is (in part) because of the overuse of antibiotics causing these strong, resistant infections. I won’t go any further with that thought right now. End of Rabbit Trail #3.
One of our stops was the sporting goods store. Last summer, my boys made several bows and arrows from sticks, and then shot rubber ducks off stumps. This trip we looked at more “high tech” bows. The guy at the store was very helpful, and the boys had fun shooting a real bow for the first time in the back of the store. I took an archery class last spring, and now I’m hooked!
|The boys were excited about shooting a real bow.|
Once we got our required stops out of the way, we had more time to play. Here’s a picture of my boys sledding with a new friend.
|Sledding with a new friend|
The dogs and boys kept each other entertained for hours.
Another moose in the yard.
|Another moose browsing in the yard|
We hope to get a few more goats very soon. They are the only animal we’ve found that can totally feed themselves out here. Without grain, the does don’t produce as much milk, so we’ll need to have more, but as long as they can survive well on browse, that’s great. They are stronger and healthier than animals raised on hay and grain. While in town, we stopped by one farm. Now I’m trying to coordinate everything to get some Toggs.
|We'd like to get a few of these goats|
|Mama and her kid|
|The boys are looking forward to getting goats again.|
After checking on goats, we decided to take a drive through the pass on the way back to our friend’s home. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather! My boys have begun standing in their sleds as they zoom down hills, so it was a surprise for them to see real snowboards.
|The boys and I at the pass|
|After seeing the goats, we went for a drive through the pass|
|The boys had fun watching snowboarders at the pass|
Time for the trip home. The wind was screaming in town and at our lake, so I was a little uneasy about the flight. But the winds were coming straight down the airstrips in both places, and the pilot said it would be “not too bad” once we got out of town. He was right. We bounced around a little, but not too much. Here are a few pictures from the plane as we neared our lake and came in to land.
|The mountains beyond our cabin|
|Approaching the lake|
|About to land|
The welcoming committee! They were so happy to see us they almost jumped in the plane as soon as the door opened.
|The welcoming committee|
Once we landed, we unloaded the plane, put the boys and as much stuff on the sled as we could, and then Chuck and I road on the snow machine pulling the sled. This machine is very tippy anyway, and really too small for both of us to ride, so it took a lot of time and determination to get to our cabin. We didn’t have any trouble on the lake, but the high winds caused snowdrifts on the trails --- or what used to be trails. The boys howled with laughter every time the snow machine tipped over on us (they remained upright).
We’ve had over 13 feet of snow this year, so we didn’t get bruised up too bad. The snow had a bit of a crust, and every time I tried to pull myself out, I’d break through and sink again up to my neck. Chuck was holding onto the handlebars, so he could get out pretty easy. Lots of alder under the snow, so we were able to find branches with our feet and push off enough to grab onto the snow machine. After about the third time of getting dumped off the machine, I swam through the snow to the sled and retrieved my snowshoes. I don’t usually find this kind of ride very amusing, but I was so happy to be home that I was laughing right along with the boys.
Once we finally arrived at the cabin, I started supper while Chuck hauled the rest of our things back from the lake.
Rabbit Trail #4: Bush life is so much simpler than town life. I love cooking on my antique woodburning cookstove. In town, I’m always forgetting to turn on the stove, and then, once I finally remember an hour later and the food is done, I forget to turn it off. At home, if the house is warm, that means there’s a fire in the stove and all I have to do is put a pot of food where I want it, either on top of the stove or in the oven. When the food is done, I take it off the stove. That’s it. I add wood to the fire as a matter of course, but I never have to concern myself with preheating an oven or remembering to turn it off. I just close it down good before leaving the cabin for the day or going to bed.
In town, I stare at all the buttons on the dishwasher until someone notices my bewildered look and shows me what to do. In the bush, washing dishes is pretty straightforward. Pour water in the metal dish pans, place them on the stove until the water is hot (no need to turn on the woodstove as long as the house is warm and there is a supply of wood). One pan is for washing; the other for rinsing. Then the dishes drip-dry on towels. Much more intuitive than a computerized dishwasher!
Thankfully, there was already some coffee in the pot our first morning in town. Trying to figure out that coffee maker would have thrown me over the edge. I’m so glad to be home. End of Rabbit Trail #4.