Saturday, July 31, 2010

freezer filling

I keep waiting for the time when I have time - time to write all the things we have been up to this month. But it never comes. So I'll jam it in.
There are only three weeks left before school starts. How did that happen? But slowly things are getting done, progress is measurable, and the freezer is filling.
The past two weeks have been manic. First, I went across the bay overnight with my friend Jennifer and painted a house in Bear Cove. The cove was mystical and healing, and Jennifer and I, who share many life experiences, both past and present, spent most of the two days trying to sift through the riddles of life. We came back through rain that exfoliates in a skiff, feeling cleansed inside and out.
Then it was back to the farm, where my first genuine wwoofer (willing worker on organic farm) had shown up. I've known people in the wwoofer circuit for years - my sister has them, as do my parents - but I always felt they would be an imposition on my life and privacy. Not anymore. Srishti came through for a week, took over my garden with ghusto, cleaned, weeded, helped me get a truckload of wood, and insulated my chicken coop with random pieces of insulation. She rocked. I think she's coming back, too. Yes!
On Friday, the kids came back and we piled immediately in the car and headed for Kasilof. Every year, the dipnet fishery fever hits Homer. The nets appear on the top of nearly every car and people talk in code about the tides and fish caught and processed. I had never participated because I can't eat salmon (allergy) but when my friend Judy and her son Oskar came through from Oregon and wanted to camp out on the river for the night while their friend Alan fished, we jumped on board. It was a great time - people everywhere pulling in fish after fish with huge nets and waders. And the kids rallying on the sand, playing and splashing and wondering at these amazing fish. Another connection to our world that they couldn't get any other way.
We returned home the next day smokey and smiley and set to work on the many things we had to get done around the farm. The hoop house is so full now - vines climbing everywhere, lettuce almost going off it's so big.
Sunday, Liam and Matt went out fishing and Thea and I spent the day hanging out together. It's always interesting to have just one of the kids - a completely different experience than having them both. Thea and I played and gardened and mucked about, generally enjoying the space.
Then Judy and Oskar came back for the week and our house overflowed with people, but it was a joyful full house. Judy is a outdoorswoman extraordinaire, so I took advantage of her expertise to dispatch our chickens during her visit. We spent an entire day chopping off heads and plucking and so forth. It was a big job, but one I am so glad we did as several of the birds were getting too big to survive much longer. At the end of the day, I had 100 pounds of chicken - the birds averaged 10 pounds each.
It was interesting that Liam and Oskar were far from bothered by the whole process - they were more intrigued than anything else. But mostly, it was a nonevent. Chicken goes in hand-made funnel (feed bag nailed to tree - smart Judy) and the heads were cut off. Liam was impressed by the blood. That's about it. Thea wasn't there that day so I don't know what she thought. But a few days later when we got the birds out of the cooler and processed them, Thea was very interested.
One day this week I snagged Liam and his friend Casey and went back to Kasilof and tried my hand at dipnetting. It was a really strong current when we got there, and it was hours before a fish came through to anyone's net, but eventually we pulled a couple out of the water. Lessons were learned, the kids played like crazy on the beach and at the end of the day there was fish in my freezer for bartering and gifting, and the kids slept all the way home in the car.
The last thing that happened this week of note was that I got my dryer back. For weeks, I have been trying to hire or otherwise cajole someone into coming up and helping me rewire my dryer, a 220 plug that was taken out by the remodel. Many, many friends were wary of touching the 220. But Eric, my oh-so-good friend, came up on Tuesday night and lined me out on what to do and the next day, armed with the right wire and boxes and so forth, I tried my hand at electrical work. After a couple hours wrestling with conduit, I prevailed, wired, boxed, flipped the breaker, waited for smoke, seeing none, plugged in the dryer, and whadayaknow? It worked. I danced around like a crazy woman. Then wired the rest of the re-addition. That was a productive day by any standards.
Today is my weekend day with the kids - two sisters, farmer's market, pick-n-pay, dump run, weeding, planting, insulation work, and the ice cream party in the afternoon - Liam's prize for participating with ghusto in the summer reading program at the library. Busy, busy. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Living large AK-style

This summer continues to amaze me. In a lot of ways, this feels like my first summer here. I've fished, camped, run across mountain passes, brushed footprints with brown bears, stood 20 feet from a black bear, seen more sunrises and sunsets than I can count, and now, I can add dipnetting to my list of Alaska firsts nearly 20 years after coming here.
On Thursday night, my friend and I sauntered across the bay on a beautiful evening, leaving the harbor around 8:30 at night and nosed our way into China Poot Bay. If I've ever been there before, I certainly don't remember. On the way out of the harbor, I had a chance to drive the outboard motor - another first, and I really enjoyed that, too. Anyway, skies which had been swollen with rain for days finally began to part, and as we skimmed the surface of the water, I got that rush of freedom that is so often within my grasp on the water.
When we arrived at the waterfalls where people go dipnetting, there were a few guys coming out with bags filled with salmon. I can't eat salmon, sadly, because it turns my guts into a war zone, but I was game for the experience. Unfortunately, we weren't really prepared, but that didn't stop my lifelong-Alaskan companion, who simply rolled up his cuffs and sauntered up the (veryveryvercold) river in search of fish. While I waited for him to return, I sat on a rock in the middle of the river, watching the swirling water foam around me, and eagles tango over my head. At one point, this one downy feather came loose during a tussle. It floated along the air currents, so slowly, drifting lazily down the river corridor into the sunset-filled horizon. A simple, little thing, but one, I realize I am privileged to see.
After my friend returned empty handed but dry and pleased that he tried, we cruised around the other side of the bay, exploring little knolls, grassy knots and marveling at the extraordinary surroundings. The south side of Kachemak Bay is like another planet. Everything is lusher, wilder, more rocky and Alaska-esque. It reminds me more of Cape Breton, where the weather has obviously shaped the land with a rough hand. I drink in the cooling air as the sun finally sets around 11:30 p.m. and we cut through the glassy murk, growing quiet because at some point, there is really nothing more to say that can sum up the feeling of privilege at being here, at experiencing this extraordinary place.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

parades and pandomonium

Truth be told, Sunday night after both kids are settled in for the night is a victory moment of sorts for me. If I made it through the weekend without coming unglued, then I pat myself on the back. If I didn't (and this is one of those weekends where I'm afraid I didn't), I eat some chocolate, sink into the couch, write it all down and am thankful in the knowledge that at least it is just one weekend and I get thousands and thousands more chances to get it right before I can say definitively that I have screwed them up.

In my defense, there were circumstances at hand this weekend that would test anyone's mettle. For example, there was the farmer's market incident. Théa is a bit of a flight risk these days, and no matter how often I explain the rules, she pretty much takes every opportunity to dash off on her own whim. So I was on her, the whole time at the market, which is as much a social opportunity than it is a chance to find yummy greens that didn't fly half way across the globe to get to you. She tried to bolt - I followed. She twirled on a pole, I didn't take my eyes off her. She attempted to rob someone of flowers - I intervened. And then I bumped into someone who asked me a quasi-complicated question about web design, and the next minute I looked up and she was gone - no-freaking-where. Liam pointed toward the gate and said she went that way. When? I asked. Why didn't you tell me, I hollered (excellent, make the kid feel guilty, way to go, Mom.)

So I dashed up the to the parking lot, all the while looking around at the swirl of people in hopes of seeing her not tangoing with RVs. Nope. Then I saw a couple of 70-year-old leopard-skin-wearing-women in the parking lot pointing and gesturing, and I figured I must be close. Sure enough, three rows of cars from the gate, there was Théa, heading straight for my car, and I later found out, to find her "kitty", a stuffed animal. Good god.

Then, later in the day, we went for a walk down the road, and while I was chatting with my neighbor, Théa went running off up the road toward the house. No problem, I thought, I'll catch up with her. Then she veered right and ran right into another neighbor's house, one I actually don't know. I found her on the far side of the deck in the back (a slightly sketchy deck, I might add) with her pants down, peeing. Had anyone been home, they would have gotten quite a view.

So, no, I didn't quite make it through the weekend without my voice hitting that octave I'm never quite proud of, nor do I think is in any way productive. On the other hand - I am only human.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I love the randomness of summer - like yesterday, when I arrived at KBay and found my longtime friends Sam and Kevin lounging on the porch. Sam and Kevin live in Palmer now, but back in the day, we shared an illustrious career as servers in many of Anchorage's better establishments. It's funny to look at my friends and think how far we have all come in the past decade and a half. Like my friend Christine, who now has so many letters in front of and after her name, I can't keep track. Suffice it to say, if you are ill, she can take care of you. And I couldn't think of anyone more competent or dedicated. When I met her, we were both working at the Homer News for so little that our cars were held together with duct tape. Sam and Kevin are now acupuncturists, and have a whole-body approach to healing that is evident in everything they do. Every time I see them, I feel that warmth that comes from knowing someone for a very long time. It's that self-created family Alaskans seem to specialize in. We cover a year's changes in 10 minutes, share some laughs and head out on our way for another year. But the fact that we only see each other once in a long while doesn't matter. After all, it's family.