Monday, July 25, 2011
OK, so Théa and I can't eat salmon, but I just spent the whole weekend slaying these incredible fish for the benefit of Mike's freezer as well as my friends and guests, etc., and what an amazing thing! The fish are so incredibly beautiful and strong and it is unbelievable that one can just traipse out into the water and pick them out with a net. I'm sore, and tired, and really done with processing fish, but I'll probably be back for more soon, this time with everyone in tow for a family experience. Onward.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
It's been way too long since I posted - the past month has been so jammed with great stuff as well as busy stuff (read: work) that it's been hard to find time to sit down and write for pleasure. But here I am and I've got to play catch-up a bit because we did some very cool stuff in the past few weeks that should not be forgotten.
Among the things we did was the much-begged for return to camping at Diamond Creek. It was only slightly less arduous packing up for a camping trip this time - equally as heavy, but since Judy and Oskar were on deck, they dealt with some of the logistics - kinda. We, of course, had a great time. Kids ran and played in the sunshine, again. The wind miraculously avoided our camping area, again. There was great fun collecting firewood, again. And the kids crashed out early enough for Judy and I to enjoy a bit of campfire time post-parenting. Excellent. A few things were missing - we managed to forget a fork of any kind, or a knife, or - most importantly, a bottle opener. Yoikes. But, there was one, lone, aluminum tent peg. After some frustration trying to effect the open-your-beer-bottle-with-a-lighter technique, which apparently we have the wrong stuff to perfect, I managed to force the cap off by simply fighting it off with the peg. Nicely done. And that tent peg also came in handy for other purposes - it was a hot-dog holding fork, a tool for removing and positioning hot pots of water and oatmeal, and endless other purposes for which a tent peg was never intended. Moral of the story? You really don't have to have everything perfectly planned to have fun camping - but a knife really is a good idea.
Another wonderful thing that has happened this month is that Olive, and her friend Isa, who arrived the second week in August, have pretty much joined our clan. The kids adore them - they play piano and sing together and are all together fabulous. I like the company and the help, and it all has worked out so well that right now they are tootling around Alaska with my car so they can see some of the state and return to the farm. Isa has to go back to school, but Olive will be with us as long as she wants. I'm thrilled. It's fabulous to have their energy, enthusiasm and humor around. I really have lucked out this year on the Wwoofer front, and frankly, I don't know how I'd deal with it all otherwise.
Last week I had lots going on work-wise, but on Sunday, Mike snuck me out on a halibut boat for the day. We caught oodles off fish and it was so fantastic getting out on the water - I can't even tell you. I'm baffled at how I can go from being so fearful of the water to wanting nothing more than to have as much access to it as I can. Happy. And fresh halibut! Yum!
This weekend, after cramming a bunch of stories out for the Anchorage Daily News, Mike and I set off to go dipnetting. In Alaska, if you are a resident, you can go pluck salmon out of the rivers for free with a very large net. It requires that you wear chest waders and carry a really large stick - with a net attached to it. We started off Thursday night at the Kasilof River. That was a bust, but it was a nice drive. On Friday, after another full day of working, we headed for Kenai. I'd never been before and was worried about the whole party atmosphere, combat fishing thing. But, there we were and it was great. The only thing that wasn't great was the wet wader factor. My waders (borrowed) had serious issues. But after the water warmed up a bit in there, it was fine. For a while. But at one point after about 2 hours, I was done. I was cold and grumpy and I wanted to be done. But I hung in there after a little Mike pep-talk and went back out. And then? Bammm. We caught 20 in about an hour. Amazing. I couldn't even put the net down in the water without catching another fish. Wow.
We spent the night at Kenai and got up in the morning to catch the next tide, but this time I tried a different set of waiders and they were worse by far. You are way out in the water with this net, getting hit by waves as they come in. Water goes down your front, your back, everything. When I caught one fish in the morning, I dragged it out only to find that my pantlegs were so full of water I was practically unable to walk. Nonetheless, I'm hooked. I would go back tomorrow if I can. I bought waders. I yearn for a longer pole. Oh yeah. Perhaps the biggest surprise came when we got home and had to process all that food. Wow. 25 fish (or so) is 50 fillets and that's 100 packages of fish to vacuum seal and freeze. Zoikes. Three hours later.
And about the same time as we got back to beautiful Kachemak Bay, the weather shifted to crazy. That was very worrisome because the hoop house II has been experiencing some structural issues. The plastic I put on it is inferior to the plastic on the other hoop house and thus, has started to fail. I found a couple of tears in it last week. Mike put fishnet over it for me, which saved the day today because it would have been gonzo otherwise. When we got back, it had split in several places and was on its way off, for sure. We put tarps over it and hoped for the best tonight. I sure wish it would stop blowing now, though. Otherwise the garden is doing well - zucchini came in this week, second coming of the broccoli - yuumm, cucumbers growing well, peas in (snap) chickens going through two red buckets of feed a day now, at least. 30 birds eat a lot. And poop a lot. Hmmm.
Busy weekend, busy week, but fulfilling and enriching and freezer-filling.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
The tempo of summer living is so incredibly different than the other seasons around here. It's not just the daylight, which stretches impossibly from one end of the day to the other. But that's not the biggest shift between the seasons. It's really the mornings. In the fall, winter and spring, we are up and out the door in record time, rushing to get to school on time. There is little time to ease into the day. But not in the summer. In the summer, morning stretches on and on.
This spring, Mike bestowed upon me the virtue of the porch couch. Sitting on his, gazing at the wonder of Kachemak Bay, I decided that any latent stigma that might be attached to having a couch on your porch was foolish. I wanted one. And, low and behold, he had extras. What a guy.
So now my mornings involve easily an hour on the couch, sipping coffee and listening to the bird calls, both native and those of my ever-growing flock of poultry. This heavy dose of nature to start my day has really defined my summer. Cuddling the children while watching the squirrels skitter nervously up and down the spruce trees is soul food. I can remember many years thinking that the number of times I actually sat on my deck and enjoyed the space were so limited. This year, it seems to have reversed. If last year was the year of reconnecting with Alaska, this summer is all about reconnecting with my own piece of land. That's a great thing.
Last night, as he was climbing into bed after another full night with a cluster of friends, Liam asked me, "Mom, are we really farmers?" "Yup, I guess so," I responded. "Well, if we are really farmers, there are just a few things missing." "Oh?" "Yes, I think we need a goat, or two or three." Oh, dear. What a slippery slope.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
I changed the blog today. It started years ago as a place to record the developments of my final journey into motherhood. It evolved with my life, and has become a journal not only of my children, but of our farm, our sometimes haphazard movement toward a more wholesome life, and a celebration of the successes we have rejoiced in along the way.
Liam and Théa and their impact on my life are still at the heart of it all, though. It's really all about them. In their lifetime, the world is going to change. We aren't going to be able to ship strawberries from South America to the Last Frontier because the cost will be too high, both to our environment and our pocket book. So it's perhaps not a bad idea to know how to grow one's own, or at least have a general appreciation for what a strawberry plant looks like. It's also time to leave behind the model of food production that we were born into and taste a tomato that tastes like a tomato again, without pesticides or modifications that make it store-perfect but nutritionally inferior.
It's also about building a life that puts family dinners ahead of a bulging pocket book, that puts music and art in their proper lofty place, and relishes the simple pleasures of sitting around a campfire and enjoying the company of others, friends new and old. It's about the joy on my daughter's face when she returns from the hen house clutching a freshly-laid egg in her hand. It's about living a wholesome life, living whole.
I believe it matters now, and it will matter a whole lot more in coming years. This is my gift to my children, passed on to me by my own parents, who were pioneers of sorts in their own generation. When they left behind the opportunities presented to them in exchange for a more wholesome life, they shaped mine forever. It took a long time to understand why, but I get it now. This is my chapter in the story I inherited. And I'm pretty excited about it all.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Today was Canada Day - and we had a big ol party at my friend and fellow Canadian Andrea's house. It was really the first time I'd seen everyone in a while since the routine of school ceased. That was great, but Canada Day is a bit bitter-sweet for me. I wish I could somehow gather up my plot of earth and move it across the border, sometimes. Part of that is political - I've never been a fan of the way the United States impacts the world. Part of that is about my children and their identity and what they value. I think Canadian values are different. And a big part is just that my own self-identity will always be that of a Canadian. I have a sweatshirt that has a canadian flag and (proud) in parenthesis below it. It's perfect. Subtle, yet poignant. I love it there. I miss it. Especially on Canada Day.