The Last Frontier

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up - June 19, 2010


I have enjoyed reading the Weekly Wrap Ups from Mary and others, so I thought I'd join them. I will try to post either Friday afternoons or Saturday evenings.
On the Heart and Mind:
We have only one year-round neighbor out here. Bud is an 86 year old widower with great stories to tell. He's quite a character. When he was a teenager, his dad moved the family from the mid-west to the west coast, built a small boat (his first one ever), took the motor out of his car, installed it in the boat, loaded up his wife and many children and headed to Alaska for a new life. What an adventure! During World War II Bud was in the Alaska Scouts --- one of "Castner's Cutthroats", as they were known. They were some of the toughest men around at the time.
Bud and his wife homesteaded out here 6 years before we met them and obtained our homestead entry permit. They'd always lived in the bush, but this was where Bud planned to live out his days. He wanted to be buried here, had the place all picked out and said he'd even built his own box. He talked to us about what he wanted and figured we'd be the ones to bury him. But now Bud has decided to move to town.
He said his children convinced him that the land would be nearly impossible to sell if he was buried on it, so he agreed to be flown out when the time came. Then they convinced him that he couldn't keep living in the wilds of Alaska at his age. All these years that we've been here, Bud has accepted very little help from us. My husband offers to help him haul in firewood, shovel his roofs or help with other chores. Bud always says that when he gets too old to do those things for himself, then he's too old to be here. He's never stopped doing those things, although he has slowed down quite a bit. He always figured (and so did we) that he'd die living the life he loved most. But now he has his daughter looking for an apartment in town for him. He says he's only going to live there in the winter, and return to the bush for the summers. But, I imagine city life will be hard on him. If he leaves, I doubt he'll ever be able to return. Makes us sad. Bud has been a great friend.
Here are a couple more pictures of Bud, and then the rest of my Weekly Wrap Up:
Bud with sled
On the Home Front:
Until this week the boys have enjoyed lots of freedom to play at the creek below our house, get snacks from the garden at will, and go just about anywhere within earshot of the cabin. But we have started seeing both black bears and brown bears in the yard lately, despite our trusty guard dog, "Bear".
Thursday night just before I went to bed a brown bear came through the yard looking for a free meal. It wasn't until he decided to try to get into the outhouse from the back wall that "Bear" even noticed him. It's shooting light around the clock here in Alaska, so my husband went out after him. He was standing his ground under the cache against our dog, but when Chuck went out, he ran off through the bushes. From the sounds of our dog's barks, I think he stayed around a few hours, but he didn't come back into the yard again.

moose track
Moose Tracks

Friday we found tracks all through the yard and in our garden. The width of the front paw track plus an inch is supposed to be a good estimate of the size of the bear (in feet). Chuck estimated this one to be about 7 to 7 1/2 ft. tall. Chuck and I both got a decent look at him the other night, and he looked like a fairly young bear. There have been tracks of a smaller bear on the creek where the boys play, and Chuck saw him Monday evening. Some folks who have a vacation cabin on the nearby lake saw a young brown bear chase a moose cow and calf across the water and into the bushes Thursday. That calf was probably his supper. The bears have just about wiped out the moose in this area. We've been seeing a moose cow and calf around our cabin lately, but that calf is probably gone by now, too.

Our boys don't always play it safe. :) This is a wall tent frame
we built for overnight guests since our cabin is so small.
The boys run boards across and like to climb around

A couple of days ago I had to glue my son back together. He was running with a stick, fell and poked it into his leg. If we lived in town I'd probably have taken him to an emergency clinic for a few stitches. But, since I can't do that out here, I decided to try Super Glue. When I worked as a nurse in a clinic, we used to use something similar. Zeke was a great patient. He never kicks or screams when I try to mend him. I wish my husband had been home to give me an extra hand, though. If he'd been here I think I'd have been able to do a much neater job. I won't get into the gory details, but I think it will heal all right. So far it doesn't look like there's any infection brewing under the super glue. By the time the glue dried he said the pain was gone.
From the Schoolroom:
I know this isn't politically correct, and it might offend some folks, but to tell the truth I was really hoping to give the boys a good anatomy lesson on a real bear this week. Oh well. They got a mini lesson with Zeke's leg. They paid extremely close attention and learned about the layers of fat and muscle under the skin. Thankfully, Zeke did not provide us with an opportunity to study the skeletal system. :)
We have a garden, and this year the boys are trying to grow a little one of their own. They are too curious for their own good. Just as something starts to grow, they get all excited and dig it out to see if the roots are growing, too. Then, of course, it stops growing. So far they've had comfrey (still going strong -- that stuff is impossible to kill), rhubarb (still only about 2" tall because of their daily inspections), and a second or third crop of chickweed, lambs quarter and dandelion that they actually planted in there. :)
Family Read Aloud:
We usually have two books going, in addition to the Bible, but during the summer I only manage one in the evenings. Earlier in the week we finished a wonderful old biography from the Childhood of Great Americans series, "Jim Bowie - Boy With A Hunting Knife" by Gertrude Hecker Winders. Books like that provide so much more than history lessons!
After we finished Jim Bowie, I attempted to read a few stories from the Schocken Books edition of Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris. The boys LOVED it, but I had a hard time with the dialect. I thoroughly enjoy reading the stories silently, but fluency suffered terribly when I read them aloud. I used to have a link to a site that had delightful audio downloads of most of the Uncle Remus stories, but I can't find it now. If I run across it I will post it later. For now I think I'll put the book away until the boys are a little older and able to read it to themselves.
Friday we began another biography from the Childhood of Great Americans series, "Buffalo Bill - Boy of the Plains" by Augusta Stevenson. My husband is from Kansas, so this one is easily holding everyone's attention.
Camouflage Soap
In the Craft Corner:
I made a batch of camo soap this week. Here is the post with more pictures.

knit hexagons
When I found Canadagirl's wonderful blog a few weeks ago and read about the hexagons she is knitting for an afghan, I thought that sounded like a great idea as a keepsake for my boys. They love anything camouflage. I have lots of yarn in green, brown, beige and black. Zeke drew the longest straw and gets the first blanket. So far I am up to 11 hexagons. I think I'll need somewhere around 95 (my hexagons are fairly large), so this will be an ongoing project. I hope to finish one blanket before fall when I'll need to start socks, hats and mittens.
In the Woods:
Blue BellsThis time of year I spend lots of time in the woods, and the boys go with me to pick wild plants for various uses. They are only six, but they already know all the plants around here that are good for salads, the ones that are edible but not choice, which plants are medicinal and how they are used, and which ones are poisonous. I love being able to send them out with a basket before supper to pick a salad. The picture at the left is of Bluebells. The flowers are a pretty addition to wild salads. The greens are edible, although not choice because they're kind of fuzzy. Maybe this should have gone "In the Schoolroom"?
I wrote two posts earlier in the week about two plants that we use often: Alaska Ginseng (Devil's Club) and Spruce Tips.

In the Kitchen:
I've been busy in the kitchen this week. Our "Old Timer" neighbor, Bud was kind enough to give me some of his sourdough. I've kept a jar going for most of the last 20 years or so, but I've been without it for a while now. I made the most delicious sourdough pancakes a few Sourdough Jardays ago. All of us love sourdough, and I can't wait to make a few loaves of bread with it.
I also picked some Rhubarb from the garden this week and made a buttery rhubarb pie. Canadagirl told me how she makes rhubarb juice. Now I think we're going to have to get a LOT more plants going for next year! That is a wonderful drink! I let it simmer a bit too long, so I took the pulp and made rhubarb sauce. It's a little like applesauce.
Spruce Tip Jelly

At the beginning of the week the boys and I picked spruce tips and made a batch of Spruce Tip Jelly. If you'd like my recipe, click here.
If you would like to join Weekly Wrap Up, just write yours and then visit Canadagirl.

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