The Last Frontier

Monday, January 31, 2011

Prepare for Uncertain Times

Freedom Through Teaching Others Self-Reliance

American Preppers Network Forum is an excellent website filled with lots of very helpful information on topics such as gardening, food preservation and storage, animals and livestock, construction manuals, building plans, survival manuals, recipes and cookbooks, homesteading, shelters, wilderness survival, medical and first aid, and much more. The site header sums up their goal: “Freedom Through Teaching Others Self-Reliance”.
On the Downloads page, (either click here or go to the home page and scroll down until you see the image link on the left that says "Free Survival Disk), you will find an incredible number of articles, all free. You are welcome to download as many of them as you like. If you don’t want to spend the time to download, the site administrator is generously offering a free CD containing all of the articles. He only asks that you contribute $2.97 to cover shipping. It is well worth it to have all of these articles in one place when you need them. It will save you a great deal of time, and if your computer crashes, you will still have the CD. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the Downloads page for instructions on how to receive your free CD.

The main feature of this website is the active forum. Once you register on the site, you will be able to ask questions or help others by drawing on your experience to answer their questions. I’ve added American Preppers Network to the links in my sidebar so that you can find it easily.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Swine Flu Vaccine in GMO Corn

This is nuts! No more of my Grandma's Southern Cornbread for our family. I stopped buying corn meal years ago when I learned that most of the corn in the world today is GMO. This is one more BIG reason to give it up. Here are just the first two sentences from an article you can find here at
"The onslaught of vaccines will increase as we know the scientists at the University of Iowa are already working on inserting the Swine Flu Vaccine into genetically modified corn. Well the pharmas and monstanto have teamed up to bring you the newest breakfast ceareal you can imagine: The New GMO Swine Flu CornFlakes"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to Make and Use Balm of Gilead

Balm of Gilead is a very handy addition to your first aid kit. In this article, I will tell you how to make Balm of Gilead, and how it can be used. It is mentioned in several places throughout the Bible. I’m not sure if the Balsam Poplar (Cottonwood) trees that we have in Alaska are the same ones mentioned, but they are of the Populus species, are commonly called Balm of Gilead, and have wonderful medicinal properties. In a future article, I will show you how to make Balm of Gilead cough syrup and cough drops.
Balsam Poplar Buds
Balsam Poplar buds

How to Make Balm of Gilead

The buds of the tree are used to make healing balms and cough remedies. The resin causes the buds to be very sticky; therefore, they are best collected when the temperatures are below freezing. If you wait until spring when the leaves begin to sprout, they will not be as potent for medicinal uses.

It is best to pick the buds during the winter
It is best to pick the buds when the temperatures are below
freezing because the buds are sticky when warm.

Collect at least a cupful of buds. You may want to make cough syrup after I post my follow-up article, so collect extra buds now and keep them in your freezer, if you have one.

Do not wash the buds. Try to collect them in dry weather, if possible, to reduce the water in your salve. Place the buds in a pan and cover with vegetable oil or melted, rendered animal fat. You may also use vegetable oils that are solid at room temperature such as palm oil and coconut oil. Melt them prior to pouring over the buds. The amount of oil isn’t an exact science. Just cover the buds so that you can stir them around a bit.

Infuse oil with the buds over low heat for a few hours
Cover buds with liquid oils, or melt rendered
animal fat or vegetable oils that are solid
at room temperature, such as palm or coconut.
Warm over very low heat for at least two hours. Because we have so much snow, I leave the lid off the pan for a little while to evaporate the water in the buds. If you are in a drier location and your buds aren’t covered with snow, covering the pan with a lid will retain more of the volatile oils. I set the pan on the coolest part of my woodburning cookstove for a few hours, and sometimes up to a few days. You could set the covered pan in the oven with only the pilot light burning. Just remember not to preheat the oven for baking while the pan is in there. Heating the oil and buds in the top of a double boiler for two or three hours is another good way to infuse the oil.

Stir the buds occasionally, and then strain through several layers of cheesecloth. I have found that I get a cleaner salve if I first strain through a wire sieve to remove the buds, and then through a few layers of cheesecloth.

If you are using liquid oil, you will probably want to thicken it with beeswax. Measure the infused oil and return to a clean pan. To each cup of oil, add 1 ½ to 2 Tbsp. beeswax. Over very low heat, or in the top of a double boiler, stir and melt the beeswax. Pour into clean tins or jars. Allow to cool and solidify before covering with lids. If your balm is too hard for your liking, melt with a little more oil. If it is too liquid, melt with a little more beeswax.

Beeswax can be purchased in blocks and chopped.
Use about 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp. per cup of infused oil
to thicken for salves.
Vitamin E and Benzoin are good, safe preservatives. You may wish to add a dropper of liquid Vitamin E oil or ¼ tsp of Tincture of Benzoin or Gum Benzoin to each cup of your infused oil prior to pouring into containers.

How To Use Balm Of Gilead

According to Janice Schofield in Discovering Wild Plants, Balsam Poplar and Quaking Aspen are in the Willow family, and contain salicin and populin. These glycosides are similar to aspirin, and are effective in reducing pain, inflammation, and fever.

Of all the herbal salves I make, this is the best one I’ve found for chapped hands and lips. Most people love the fragrance of Balm of Gilead. When my boys were babies, I often used it on their bottoms to prevent or heal diaper rash. Friends have used it for saddle sores. It helps heal cuts and scrapes, and is helpful for arthritis and sore muscles. Be sure to make plenty. Once you try it, you’ll want to share it with friends.
Jar of Balm of Gilead
Jar of Balm of Gilead, ready to use.
Another excellent book that will help you learn about using plants is "The Way of Herbs" by Michael Tierra. I refer to this book often.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Prepare With a Very Informative Site

I recently found a wonderfully informative survival blog called The name might put off a few of you, or it might intrigue others, but either way, this uncluttered site has a huge collection of easy to find articles. There is something for everyone. One of the things I like most about The Survivalist Blog is that the site owner, M. D. Creekmore keeps his blog and his articles simple.

MD says that is “dedicated to helping people, on a budget, prepare for an uncertain future.” Like my family, MD lives off the grid, and he has years of experience. Whether you just want get motivated to better prepare for something relatively small such as the next ice storm, or you’re on the other end of the spectrum and consider yourself a serious prepper getting ready for a major disaster, you will learn a great deal from the many articles at Survivalist Blog.

Here is a partial list of the article categories:
  • Food
  • Gardening
  • Firearms
  • Homestead
  • Medical
  • Trapping
  • News
  • Life & Mindset
My family and I live in the Alaskan bush, not because we thought the sky was falling and wanted to head for the hills. We’re here because it provides a peaceful lifestyle that both of us have dreamed about since we were kids growing up in different parts of the country. We’ve been drawn to Alaska and to the bush most of our lives. Since we’re so remote, many people think we’re sort of “experts” on . . . . well, I’m not exactly sure what. We’re just a family raising our children and living a life we love, which just happens to be in the wilderness of Alaska. We’re learning as we go. I’ve been very impressed with The and have learned much. I hope you’ll visit his website soon. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Snow Caves and Slickin'

(If the Sildeshows and Pictures don't show up, click the title of this post and they should show up there.) We live in a pretty high snow area. So far, we’ve had almost 9 feet of snowfall, which is much less than normal for this time of year. A few weeks ago, it warmed up to near 40 degrees and rained. Yuck! Then the temperatures plummeted to 20 below zero, so now there’s quite a crust of ice on everything. After a good snow, our boys spend many hours either slickin’, as they call it, or building snow caves.

The first slideshow has pictures of some of the snow caves they built earlier this winter. After their first one collapsed, they figured out that it works better to pile up the snow and let it set up a few hours or more before digging it out. At one point, we had three small snow caves in the yard. After this last snow, they pooled their efforts and built a big snow cave that all of us could have slept in. It was surprisingly strong and well built, especially considering it was built by two 6 year olds. Unfortunately, they crashed it before I got a picture.

Here are two more that they made yesterday when they both crashed through the snow nearly up to their eyeballs. Both of them were beside spruce saplings, and decided that would be a good place for a snow cave. They dug themselves out, broke off some branches, stuck them around, and then packed lots of snow around to keep out the wind. I think their imaginations will serve them well if they ever get stuck out in the woods on a snowy day when they’re older.

Zeke’s snow cave with spruce branches.
Zeke in his snow cave he made with spruce branches
after he fell through the snow up to his eyeballs.

Jed’s snow cave with a spruce tree
Jed in his snow cave he made after falling through the snow
right beside Zeke. He made it with a spruce tree.

Here are some pictures of them slickin’, as they call it. A few were taken in the yard. Most are at the lake where there’s a steep hill. Jed takes his sled everywhere. You just never know when you’ll find a good hill. (If the slideshows don't show, click on the title of this post above and they should show up there.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Firewood and Independence

Most of our 

firewood for the year
Most of our firewood for the year.
We heat and cook with wood, and burn about 10 cords each year. One cord of wood is a stack measuring 8’x4’x4’. (We live in a little frame cabin now. Once we get our log cabin built, we’ll go through much less wood.) Today I finally did something I’m terribly embarrassed to admit that I’ve never done before. I learned to split wood with a splitting maul! I know. With a blog like this, you’d think splitting firewood would be a daily thing for me. I’ve learned lots of skills living in the Alaskan bush, and now at last, splitting wood is one more! It may seem silly, but I felt such a sense of accomplishment.

All these years, I’ve depended on my husband to take care of the wood. How foolish of me! What if something happened to him and he wasn’t here, or was injured and couldn’t do it? I know I could manage, but an emergency is the worst possible time to learn a necessary skill. It isn’t that I’ve never thought of it before. I just “never got around to it”. Very unwise.

Today the thermometer read 33 degrees below zero, and since wood splits easier when it’s really cold, I decided now was a good time to learn. But when I went outside and asked him to teach me, he just handed over the splitting maul, set a piece of wood up for me and said, “There ya go”. I asked how far away to stand. He said, “Far enough so you hit the wood”. Well, that was certainly helpful! I asked how to hold the maul. He said, “However it works best for you”. Clearly, he wasn’t about to make this any easier for me.

He was actually happy that I wanted to learn to split wood, but he has split so much of it over the years that it was about like trying to explain to someone how to talk. To him, you just swing the maul, hit the wood, then pick up the pieces. To me, this was some highly technical skill that required detailed training (kind of like whitewashing a fence). However, it didn’t take long to get the hang of things, and to realize that the old saying is right --- “Wood warms you twice. Once when you split it, and again when you burn it.”

Last summer, Chuck began teaching me to use the chainsaw. I need to get back on that and practice. I don’t want to depend on it, though. I want to learn to do everything required to get the wood in --- cut down the tree, cut it into lengths, haul it in (with the dog), and split it, all without depending on a gas engine. I know nothing about motors. They make me feel so helpless when they don’t work, and I hate feeling helpless. Another reason I don’t want to depend on a gas engine for anything is that affordable gas may not (probably will not) be available in the not-so-distant future.

Splitting wood today made me feel a bit more independent. It’s the same feeling you get from hauling your own water from a spring rather than turning on a faucet. Or picking wild greens for a salad and cauliflower from your garden rather than driving to the grocery store and picking it from the produce counter. Or serving meat or fish for supper that you killed or caught yourself rather than buying a neat little 2-pound package of it at the store. It just feels good.

firewood with the homemade sled
Hauling firewood is easier and faster in the winter. We use this
homemade sled Chuck built mostly from an old fuel drum.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Frosty Mornings

After breakfast, we often go snowshoeing to check the trapline, or just to enjoy the morning. Here are a few pictures I took last week.

I took this picture of our cache as we were leaving the yard.

Sunrise Over the Homestead
Sunrise over the homestead.

The next two pictures are of alder cones covered in thick frost.

Covered in Frost
Alder cones covered with heavy frost.

Frost On Alder Cones
Alder cones covered with heavy frost.

These pictures were taken another day while we were snowshoeing after a heavy snow.

After a Snow
Our cache after a heavy snow.
Spruce Tree
Snow-covered spruce tree.

Knit Hats For Israeli Soldiers

On cold winter evenings, I enjoy knitting beside the woodstove with the soft glow of an oil lamp. For the last few weeks, between knitting hexagons for a bedspread for my son, I’ve been knitting hats for Israeli soldiers. I found this blog of a mom in Israel. Her son is in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and told her that he was cold while on patrol. She knit him up a stocking cap that, unlike the hats issued to the soldiers, is warm, comfortable and can be worn under his helmet. Along with gals from her knitting group, “Chicks With Sticks”, she knit more and more hats, and now there are folks around the world knitting and crocheting hats for Israeli soldiers. This year her goal is to help 5000 more Israeli soldiers stay warm with handmade hats.
IDF soldier wearing one of these warm hats in the snow --- yes, it snows in Israel
An Israeli soldier wearing one of these
handmade hats. It actually gets cold
and sometimes snows in Israel.

The soldiers appreciate these hats!
Israeli soldiers are happy to receive these hats

She’s been doing this for several years and has had articles written about her in major Israeli newspapers. If you knit or crochet and would like to whip up a few hats, please visit her blog by clicking here. The patterns are on her site, and hats can be crochet, or knit with straight needles, circular needles, and/or double-pointed needles. Circulars are easier and look nicer, but I only have dpn’s in the correct size at the moment. The pattern is simple. Even a new knitter can do this. She asks that the hats be mailed to her in an envelope rather than a box, and that the declared value be less than $50. Otherwise, she has to pay an enormous fee at the post office when she picks them up.

Here is a hat I'm working on, along with one I just completed. I'll mail them out as soon as we get another plane out this way.

I knit hats in the evenings beside the wood stove, by the light of an oil lamp.
Here's a hat I'm working on, as well as one I just finished.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Turkey Bomber

(Side Note: Our generator is running today to power the washer, so I'm taking advantage of it to write a few posts. Below this one is a post about wash day at the creek during the summer. For those of you who don't know, our inverter died, and we can only have electricity when the generator is running. Since we have to charter a plane to fly gas out here, it make for very expensive internet time. So, until we get another one next time I go into town in a month or so, I won't be able to post much.)

I know that Thanksgiving is long gone, but since this is a blog about life in the Alaska bush, and since I wasn’t able to blog during Thanksgiving, I thought I’d write about it now. First, I’ll give you a little background, and then you’ll understand the title of this post. (Pictures at the end) 

We live way off the road system. The only way to get into town is by chartering a small plane, and then it has to land on the lake about ¾ mile from our cabin. Thanksgiving comes during the midst of freeze-up, which is when the lake is beginning to get a layer of ice, but it’s not yet strong enough to support a plane.  Our lake is deep and has lots of warm springs, so it’s later than most in freezing up. Since most lakes in the area begin freezing around mid-October, and ours doesn’t usually have safe ice until around early to mid December, there’s about a 6 – 8 week span in there when we can’t get a plane to make a shopping trip or get mail even if we wanted to.  

We also live way off the power grid. I must either can or make jerky with all of our meat, except when we get fresh meat during the winter when the temperatures are consistently well below freezing, which is usually from the middle of November until sometime in March. No electricity to run a freezer. A propane freezer, and the propane to run it are out of our range. This means that there’s no way for us to have a turkey or any fresh meat for Thanksgiving.

Nevertheless, this year, like all the other years since we moved to the bush, The Turkey Bomber made our Thanksgiving dinner complete. There’s a wonderful man and his wife who live on the road system about 50 miles or so from us. Each year, a few days before Thanksgiving, they purchase about 40 large, frozen turkeys. He loads them into his little bush plane, flies around this part of Alaska, and airdrops turkeys to families like ours who would not otherwise be able to have turkey for Thanksgiving. He’s known around here as The Turkey Bomber. What a blessing he and his family have been to ours.

The first picture was taken as he made his run over the lake and was about to toss the turkey out the door of his plane. This year the weather prevented him from flying until the day after Thanksgiving, but it was still a fun day for us. Chuck drove the snow machine with Zeke riding up front with him. Jed and I rode to the lake in the sled pulled behind the snow machine. The boys sledded down the steep hill while we waited for the “turkey bomb”. He dropped it right beside a hole in the ice. Chuck walked out with a sled to fetch the turkey. The ice was about 4” thick --- fine for walking, but not for a plane to land.  We tied the sled to the snow machine sled and came home. Part way home, the boys wanted to walk and pull the turkey themselves with their little sled. It was a fun day for all of us.

Flying in low to 

drop the turkey
Flying low, getting ready to drop the turkey out of the plane.

Fetching the turkey
Chuck pulled the sled out onto the lake to fetch the turkey.
The lake ice wasn't thick enough for a plane to land, but
there was enough for people to walk on it.

Bring home the turkey
The boys watched as Chuck got the turkey to the bank of the lake.

 Wish I could adjust the picture sizes better. The one below is beautiful, but when I make it the next size larger, it's huge and runs off the page.

mountains were beautiful - Mt. Foraker and Mt. McKinley
Alpinglow on Mt. Foraker and Mt. McKinley was beautiful as
we were leaving the lake to head home.

Our dog chasing us in the 

Our dog loves to chase us. Chuck and Jed were riding on the
snow machine, I took this picture as Zeke and I were
being pulled in the sled behind the snow machine.

Wash Day At The Creek

Winter has barely gotten started good, but I already began dreaming of summer while doing the laundry today. Washing clothes is never my favorite chore, but during the summer it’s much more fun, at least for the boys. People often ask me how we wash clothes in the bush with no electricity or running water. Well, in a way, we do have running water --- the creek runs all summer, and all we have to do is run down there.

All of us haul clothes, plastic totes, soap, a pitcher and my handy, dandy “Rapid Washer” down the hill to the creek behind our cabin. Then we just make a day of it. We fill the totes with creek water, add a little laundry soap and clothes, and then I let the boys have at it ---  until they lose interest. There’s nothing Zeke would rather do than play in water, so he’s as handy as my Rapid Washer on wash day! 
Boys Helping on Wash Day at the Creek
The boys helping wash clothes at the creek last summer.
Here’s a picture of my “Rapid Washer”. It sort of looks like a metal plunger. Does a pretty fair job of cleaning clothes, as long as a steady supply of elbow grease is available.
Handy, Dandy Rapid Washer
"Rapid Washer" - It's sort of like a plunger
only it's metal. It's great for washing
clothes by hand.
To rinse clothes, I put a plastic basket in the deepest part of the creek (all of about 6 inches, if I’m lucky). Then add a few clothes, swoosh ‘em around a little and let the creek do the rest. We hang the wet clothes on branches to drip for a few minutes, and then hang them on a rope strung between some trees in the yard. If it doesn’t rain, we have clean clothes to wear the next day . . . but it always rains when clothes are hanging on the line.

Rinsing clothes in the creek
To rinse clothes, I put a few things in a
basket and then let the creek do the work.
Sure beats wash days during the winter. We have a little portable electric washer, and a drain pipe that goes through a hole in the floor. We have to run the generator for this, so it makes for a noisy day. While I wash clothes, Chuck uses the snow machine to haul water in 5-gallon buckets from the spring. Even little washers use LOTS of water. Then we have clothes hanging all over the cabin for a day or so. At least the washer has a spinner on one side. Before we adopted the boys, I used to wash clothes during the winter by hand in the cabin sort of like we do at the creek, only we had to haul the water up the hill to the cabin, and we didn’t have a snow machine back then. I can hardly wait until summer. 

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