The Beginning – Come on, chapter 7

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.

Chapter 7
I start unloading the pickup as soon as I get home. I have some old barrels with one end cut out, so put them in a corner of the woodshed and put the bags of dog food in a couple of them and the chicken feed into a couple more. I use plywood covers with a handle to keep voles and squirrels out. This enlarged woodshed is great. I don’t have to worry about everything getting wet now. Maybe I should have made it even bigger. I fasten a come-along to the top pole and back the pickup over as close as possible. I hook a chain around the top of a fuel barrel and to the come-along and rachet it up a couple of clicks, then pull out from under it. I have a small cart on wheels that I put under the barrel and use a stepladder to let the barrel down onto the cart. Then I pull it into the back corner of the woodshed and write today’s date on it with magic marker. Then back for the other one. The water barrels are handled the same way at the back door of the house.
The chicks are in a huge cardboard box on the sun porch and Pal is still on his leash fastened to a doorframe in the house. I am not sure how he will act around Aristotle and Socrates, my half grown cats. Not that they are so well behaved, but one disaster at a time. I would rather referee their meeting.
When I go in the house, I needn’t have worried, the dog is laying on the floor with both cats asleep between his front paws. He is looking like the big protector. I unclip his leash and he stays where he is.
The smokehouse fire went out while I was in town, so I restart the fire and set it back in to smolder along. The meat, being fairly lean, will not require a long smoke to give it the flavor and preserve it. If this had been a Autumn bear, then it would have been extremely fat and may not have cured and smoked as easily. I would have trimmed and rendered as much of the fat as possible, but this one didn’t have much fat on it. I had a small amount of the fat on ice, waiting to render when I got a chance though, as bear lard is the best for baking and deep frying doughnuts.
I look around the outside of my house, trying to decide where to add a small chicken coop to let them benefit from the house warmth a bit, during the winter. One end of the sun porch doesn’t have very good growing space as I had ran out of windows when building it. Now I can just add on there. It doesn’t take long to lay out a small addition. I have a lot of salvaged lumber and this will make good use of it. I think the nails will be the only things new in it. I can add the nice little touches later, but the chicks need a home, now. I think I will make a small doorway onto the sun porch, also, so I can take care of them in winter without having to go outdoors. I have a door I picked up that was probably for a bathroom or closet. Only 21 inches wide, so that will fit between wall studs. They are 24 on center.
Once the walls are up, I cover the outside of the studs with feed bags as house wrap. That should help cut the wind a bit. Then that is covered with some old T1-11 siding and the outside is almost finished. At present, a tarp over the top is the roof. This has been one long day. There is a lot to be said for 24 hour daylight.
The next morning, I get right to work on the chicken coop. More feed bags go over the rafters I stick on and some of the better sheets of metal roofing I have stockpiled out back. I don’t want this to leak. Then the Plexiglas sheets are installed as windows. I will probably wish I had made them opening, later. Maybe just add some vents I can cover in winter, on each end. I end up putting two sheets of Plexiglas with an inch of airspace between them, caulked and sealed in. That should help keep cold out in winter and also to keep heat out, in summer.
The exterior door is narrower than I thought, so I have to add another stud in the opening. Then the door is cut into the sun porch. That one I have handy, so make the space to fit and hang the door. Insulation in the ceiling and walls and a good vapor barrier over that and I start looking for scrap plywood to cover the inside so the chicks don’t peck holes in the vapor barrier and get into the insulation. It won’t be a pretty job, but it will work fine. While looking around for scrap, I find some old broom handles I had on hand and thought they would do well to make perches with. So they got added to the pile going up to the house. Pal wasn’t sure what to make of this activity, but he came along and stayed close at hand no matter what I was doing. I’ll have to see how he does on pulling loads. I have an older garden cart around here with a broken handle. Maybe he can pull it. That will have to be a future project though.
While eating my lunch, I pull tiny weeds in the garden. The chicks, already over a week old at least, should love them. They aren’t sure what to do with them when I first drop them in the box with them on my way in to finish up their new home. One brave chick pecks and jumps back with a bit in it’s beak. Hmmm, maybe this stuff is not so bad after all and pretty soon chicks are chowing down on weeds.
By late afternoon, I have the coop pretty well finished for it’s new inhabitants. I put a small propane wall heater up where it wouldn’t be too easy for them to burn themselves on it and run a line out the back to hook into a small propane tank, in cold weather. For now, I think the little room with it’s Plexiglas windows and well insulated walls and ceiling should hold enough heat to keep them comfortable. I will leave them in their big box overnight with a towel over the top, to hold their body heat in until they seem big enough to make it and before they get too crowded in the box. Part of the garden is better looking and the chicks seem happy with the new addition to their diet.
I cut some vent holes from the coop into the sun porch to screen and use for heat in the winter. I hope enough will filter through to keep my newest residents comfortable. I have some old rolls of small mesh chicken wire and build the vent frames with the wire inside to keep cats on one side, chickens on the other.
I think the chicks will be okay in the new home when they are ready. I wish I could pour a concrete layer on the floor, for easier cleaning. Instead, I have some linoleum and glue that down and partly up the sides of the walls. Maybe that will be okay for being able to clean the floors better.
This has been a productive day and I feel the chickens will be a good addition to my dream of living out here on very little income.
Before I shut down for the evening, I hike out into the woods a short distance where I had spotted an ice buildup during spring thaw. I had tied pink ribbons of surveyors tape all around the area, so I could find it again and I could see a small flowing stream of water coming out of the bank where the ice had been earlier. Maybe, just maybe, I could dig it out and have a source of good water on the property.

The Beginning – yes, it’s chapter 6

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

Chapter 6
The trip home was pleasant and no problems from any of my passengers. I see the signs for The Hit & Run Snack Shack far enough ahead to slow and pull in. I have been curious about this place since I moved out here. Now I have a good excuse to pull in and snoop, er, see.
A cute little homemade cabin on a trailer frame is the first thing I notice. It has an Open sign on it. So I pull up and stop. I am not sure how Pal will be, so leave him in the pickup with the window rolled down a bit.
The woman at the window smiles pleasantly at me and I relax a bit. She don’t look like she is mean and unpleasant which is all I had ever heard about the people here. Maybe they hire someone to run this.
The signs explained Hit & Run. A mean smiling mosquito was beside Hit and a evil smiling bear was beside Run on the T shirts and hoodies.
The woman says Hi, then waits patiently for me to make up my mind. I decide on ice cream while I am thinking, so order a peppermint bar.
I finally decide on a turkey wrap, with all the fixings. She assembles it in short order and we talk a bit about the road and the weather and assorted odds and ends. I compliment her on the food and the signs. Then tell her I had copied some I particularly liked for my driveway. She laughed and said now she knew where I lived, too. I asked how long they had lived here, and she told me 14 years. I said she must have thought it was getting too crowded when I moved in, since I was feeling that way about the newest additions.
We both started laughing and then she added about them wanting the roads kept in better shape and I about choked when we both said and we bet next was trash pickup, then electricity and mail delivery.
Pal was looking mournfully out the window and she asked if it was okay to give him some scraps she had on hand. I said sure and went to let him out. I wasn’t sure if he would make a break for freedom and head back for town or not, so grabbed his leash as he jumped down. I told her I was his new person, and we were not acquainted yet. So she handed me the meat scraps she had, to give to him and begin our getting to know each other so he would expect food from only me.
Then she noticed the chicks in the backseat and we talked about chickens and how to keep them alive year around, here, without electricity. I decided I better add the chicken coop against my house, so maybe enough heat would leach into it to keep them from freezing up. If I kept it clean and made vents near the ceiling and floor maybe, it would work out okay. Insulate it very well, use Plexiglas for the windows to let in light and not much heat loss. I could put a run to use in warmer months out from that.
I figured I better head for home or my chicks would die from lack of food and water. She said she was busy mornings cutting firewood, so only had the afternoons in the shack, but maybe after she got enough firewood in, she could stop by and give a hand. Yay, I had found a friend.
Just as I was leaving, her daughter came up and said she was sorry to be late, she was finishing up today’s load of firewood for her house.
The shack belonged to the daughter, the mother had just been filling in. She was building a little tiny cabin out back of the shack to rent to hikers, bikers or anyone else coming through that needed a small place overnight. I walked back with her to see it and it was so cute. A small octagon shaped cabin with a psychedelic door with a cartoon lynx face on it. She said the shape of the cabin was her daughter’s idea, also the door. They had found the door at the dump and sanded it down, primed it and the daughter had done all the painting except for the lynx. It is certainly one of a kind. I like it.

The Beginning – moving right along to chapter 5

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

Chapter 5
I get up and head down for the wood lot as soon as I wake up this morning. Lots of space to fill, now. After falling and limbing a couple of hours, I went home and had some breakfast. Then took the pickup back down to start hauling. Noah was gone when I went by his place so I figured he must have to work during the week. I cut, hauled and stacked, all day.
About the time I figured I better stop or drop, Noah pulled in and jumped out of his truck. He reached back in for 2 carry out containers and came over offering one to me. He said there was a small stand near the road and he figured since I had been feeding him he would return the favor. He didn’t know what I would like, so had got me a club hoagie with chips and a huge pickle. I was wondering what I was going to fix for dinner.
He said they had the same attitude I had on getting public utilities out here. He didn’t know how good business was for them, as they had some interesting signs out by the highway, very much like mine. I told him that was where I had gotten the idea for some of mine. One of these days I was going to stop and introduce myself, but figured they would feel a lot like I do about newcomers in the area.
They sure did make good sandwiches though. He said they also offered some hot sandwiches but due to regulations, they could only offer microwave hot food. Well, this would give me a good excuse to go introduce myself, since I was a “newcomer” of sorts, only having lived here about 5 years now. They probably felt about me the same as I felt about the newer newcomers. Maybe my waiting a while to stop by, would be in my favor. After we finish eating, I grab the containers and head for the trash, “Doing the Dishes, since you supplied.”
We were both too tired for a late evening of visiting, so shortly after eating, we went our separate ways and some sleep. He wasn’t a bad neighbor.
The days passed quickly, wood cutting, gardening and repairing damage from the winter filled my days. Noah and I shared a few meals, but he had work to do and so did I.
I needed to take my bear hide and skull in to F&G to get it sealed before 30 days was up, so figured I would go in a couple of days. I rough cleaned the skull and packed it in salt so it wouldn’t stink. The hide I had already fleshed and salted, so it was okay. The hams were in brine, curing to be smoked and the loins, we had eaten as roast and steaks although I don’t think the neighbors had any idea they were helping eat the bear they watched me kill and butcher.
I found a nice stand of alder, so fell a few nice large shrubs and peeled. These would make a nice smoke for the hams. The shoulders were in the brine as picnic hams, and 4 cured smoked hams would last a good long time.
After checking the hams in brine, they looked fairly well cured, so I hung them to drip dry and checked the smokehouse. It needed some cleaning out and I brought out the charcoal grill I used in there as a source of smoke. I started a good small fire in it, to get a bed of coals to put the green alder on and let it burn outside the smokehouse. I had some cheesecloth bags I sewed up a while back and put each piece of meat in it’s own bag. By this time they had dried and had a glazed looking surface. So I hung them from the cross bars in the smokehouse, put the green alder pieces on the glowing coals in the grill and rolled it back inside and put the lid on it, tightly. A top vent and a bottom vent would keep it from choking out and it let out enough smoke to haze the air in the smokehouse. A few pieces of peeled green birch would add some good flavor, later.
I added some wood just before I went to bed that night. The smokehouse was smelling good. I sure hoped that had been the only bear in the area right now. I planned on leaving early the next morning and really didn’t want to have the smokehouse raided.
I loaded the trash into the pickup and tarped and netted the whole load. No need to scatter it along the way in. The roadside looked bad enough with out adding to it.
When I woke up, I grabbed something to eat on the way and a bottle of water. Then stoked the smokehouse fire again and shut it down to smolder. The meat was looking pretty good now and soon would have enough smoke for good flavor and to inhibit the growth of assorted undesirables.
I pocketed the little vial of gold I had panned out during breakup to sell in town. I wanted to stock up on a few items. I grabbed a couple of pet carriers, just in case.
I slowed as I passed the driveway where the snack shack was located. The signs were easy to spot, even the ones for the business. The Hit & Run Snack Shack. Hmmm, wonder what that represents? Too early to stop in now, as they open from noonish until 7-ish. Yes, we should get along fine. Looks like they pay as much attention to the time as I do. Ooooo they have ice cream. I will plan on stopping in on my way home instead of some drive through in town.
I’m waiting for the guy when he opens the door for turning in the bear at F&G office. He fills out the paperwork and pulls a tooth from the skull, then measures it. Then the tags are fastened to the skull and hide and I am good to go. Now I can finish cleaning the skull and tan the hide.
Next stop is to sell the gold and see what I will be able to buy on this trip. I get quite a surprise, the price has gone way up. So maybe I will stop by the feed store and check out the chicks and some feed for them. That is something I have been wanting to do.
I’m in luck, they still have some and they are growing well. I pick out some Barred Rock and some Orpingtons, get some feed and load the chicks into one pet carrier. They get the back seat of the pickup. The feed goes under the tarp in the back.
I stop at the fuel supply and fill the 2 drums in the back, with gas and add some Pri-G from the boat shop. This will go the farthest back in the woodshed.
Then it is on to the water wagon to fill up the water barrels and my pickup is starting to look loaded.
The member warehouse is next, to get some #10 cans of dried and canned foods. I stock up on diced tomatoes to re-can at home and to make other things with, like spaghetti sauce as it is never a sure thing to grow enough fresh tomatoes to supply all I want for the year. I see that they also have powdered tomatoes on hand, so get a couple cans of those, also. Powdered eggs, flour, sugar, salt, cooking oil, shortening, yeast, baking powder, baking soda, powdered milk, tea, chocolate, and a bag of rice pretty much rounds out my shopping there.
Then on to a regular grocery store to stock up on odds and ends. Fels Naptha soap, washing soda and borax will make gallons of laundry soap.
I find a good sale on TP so get a lot of that until I am afraid I may not be able to put much more on my pickup load. The inside is almost as stuffed as the bed and I am glad I have the tarp and net to hold everything on with a bungee cord here and there to reinforce it.
As I come out of the store, a guy is standing at the door with a beautiful big dog. He has a sign he is writing out, free dog. The dog looks at me and grins, yes, he grins. I kneel down and he puts out his paw to shake. I am sunk. The guy says his name is Pal, he is well behaved and likes to pull. He will include 3 bags of feed for the dog and a harness.
Looks like I have a new best friend. The man has to leave State and can’t find anyone with the room to have him. As we load the feed, dishes and harness onto my load, 2 kids in his truck are crying and waving to the dog. The man looks like he is about to join them. Pal presses his face to the window looking out at them and seems like he might cry too. I better get going, or we will all be crying soon. Well, it isn’t noon yet and I have increased my local population by about 21 new residents.
I check my mail on the way home. It is in a row of locked boxes in the parking lot of the Fox General Store, located in beautiful downtown Fox. Well, that is what they always say it is, I personally have never noticed the beautiful part. It is all old tailings from back when the huge dredges went through here, mining and dumping the round gravel out the back.

The Beginning – on to chapter 4

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

Chapter 4
I wake up still slightly embarrassed by last night. Noah left right after he introduced himself and I went on in to bed. I looked at the clock and it is only 4:30 a.m. so I head on out to the woodshed and see what would be needed to enlarge it. I decide to make the shed roof into a peaked roof and just add another shed, slightly wider, on the other side. That will be simple and give me one wall already in place. I drag some concrete pier blocks over and set them up, 8 feet apart, opposite the ones I used on the current woodshed. I have some peeled logs behind the house, so drag them over, also. I will need 6 cut to 6 foot lengths. I cut them and notch the bottoms to fit the holders on the pier blocks. Then get a few peeled poles I had left from another project and I am ready to start assembly. I tack a couple of boards partway up a log to swing freely and use as braces when I get the pole into the block. Once the first one is in place, then I can nail poles across to hold it upright and straight. This will probably be the fastest woodshed I have ever worked on, since it does not require much actual extra work. The ground is already cleared and as level as it will ever be.
Noah shows up just about the same time Will and Shari pull in. They are all gaping at me like I am off my rocker. I have all of the logs up and tacked together. I will have to drag out a ladder soon, to fasten poles across the top and figure out exactly where I want a doorway. The walls will be open for ventilation so the wood can keep drying, but I do put uprights ever foot or so to hold the wood from just rolling out.
“What? Just fixing the woodshed.”
Everyone came back to life and started talking at once. Will and Shari thought Noah had built it and Noah kept shaking his head saying “No.”
I wanted breakfast so went on into the house and they wandered in behind me. They decided I didn’t know how to ask for help. I didn’t know what they were so excited about, this was an easy job. So I told them sure, I could use some help, I really hate ladders and it was about time to do some work on it that needed a ladder. I pulled a pan of hot muffins out of the oven and asked who all wanted tea or hot chocolate. I fixed the tea and chocolate, started bread pudding from the leftover honey cinnamon loaf and we all sat down and ate while the muffins were still hot.
While we ate, we discussed my new project. Everyone volunteered to help, so after we finished eating and I had covered the remaining muffins, we went out to get started. I found out quite a while back it is easier for most folks to understand a project if it is drawn out for them. So I used a sharp stick and drew what I wanted to do, in the dirt. Shari decided she would like to assist and she really got a kick out of the first nail she pounded in. No one had the heart to tell her it didn’t go into anything. After all, it is the thought that counts. I found her an old carpenter apron she could carry nails in and she is happy. I turned off the oven while I was in looking. The pudding was almost done and it would finish in the hot oven as it cooled down.
By noon, we had the frame pretty much finished. When I mentioned food, everyone was more than ready. I washed up quickly and while they washed up, I chopped leftover roast very fine, added some chopped onion and pickle, added some ranch dressing and a dash of mustard and had lunchmeat ready to spread on sliced homemade bread. My early lettuce pickings were pretty much gone from salad last night, so just stirred the remaining salad into the lunchmeat mix. I had sweet tea made and fairly cool and the pudding set out for dessert.
Everyone ate like they were starving and the food was soon gone with everyone sitting back and wondering how they could eat so much. Physical labor does that to you, makes a good appetite. I cleaned up the crumbs and started some steaks marinating in a teriyaki sauce, scrubbed and oiled some potatoes and preps for dinner were done.
We were moving a lot slower on our way outside. A few sore muscles on the folks unused to working like this, had a few groans and moans. But as they moved around a bit, aches eased and soon everyone was looking at the lovely framework we had built and ready to put the roof on it. We used poles for rafters and old salvaged pieces of metal roofing on top. I did have new roofing screws to put it down with. We had a patchwork quilt affect from the different types and colors of roofing, so it was rather a different look for a roof. But to me, it was beautiful, it would work, it was paid for. Now my woodshed could hold more than double the amount it had before and since the doorway was 4 feet wide, I could also pull my small ATV in out of the weather if there was room. Since I planned on filling it entirely with firewood there would probably not be room, most of the time. I put a smaller opening for a door at the other end, so I could go in and out whichever end was handy.
I snipped some little chives on my way back into the house, started the oven and put the potatoes in. I was going to have to haul some water at the rate my rainwater was going down, unless it rained soon., I never expected this many people to be using it. While everyone again washed up out under the water tank, I fired up the BBQ.
While the potatoes baked and the steaks were grilling, I opened a couple of jars of canned coleslaw, drained them and added some dressing. I stuck some rolls I had made a couple of days ago into the oven the last few minutes the potatoes were baking and dinner on the table in short order. While we ate, a brownie pudding was baking in the oven. Noah said he had a little bit of ice cream left in his camper fridge, but wasn’t sure how much. I asked him to bring it over and was taking the brownie pudding out when he came back in.
A square of the brownie, a small scoop of the ice cream and some of the hot pudding sauce from under the brownie on top, yum. A lovely quick dessert. Noah got up and started on the dishes, Will looked surprised but went in and helped him. Shari was almost asleep. I doubt if she had ever worked so hard in her life.
Everyone was relaxed and yawning within minutes after dishes were done, so sleepy goodnights were said and all headed home after I thanked them very much for all the help. This would have taken me at least a week by myself.

The Beginning – still continued

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

Chapter 3
The next day is just like a continuation of yesterday. There is never any real sunset or sunrise involved. The sun just goes behind a hill to the north, then swings around and is just as light and bright as ever. There is never an overhead noon time sun. It just circles the sky. If I can’t sleep, I can always go out and work in the garden or cut some firewood.
I head down the hill fairly early but hadn’t checked the time. I figured I could get a lot cut and ready to haul before I bother taking the pickup down so just cut across the yard and hike down the hill. By the time I have a couple of loads cut and dragged to the road, I would really like a break, so hike back across the hill to the house.
I dunk my head in the water barrel at the corner of the shed on my way by and it feels cool and refreshing so I am ready to fix something to eat and drive back down. I about jump out of my skin when someone says hello right by my door. Government guy is standing there and I didn’t hear him coming. I better start paying attention or I may be a meal for some hungry bear. He has gone pale when I realize I have my gun out and pointed at him. Well, maybe I won’t be a bear meal just yet. Reflexes still work.
I apologize and put the gun away. I ask him if he would like lunch and he says it is breakfast time. Oops, maybe I should have checked the clock before heading out, but with daylight 24/7, it doesn’t make any difference for work. I have some homemade bread I had made a couple of days ago, so sliced it and made some sandwiches which he didn’t seem to mind for his breakfast. Since it was honey cinnamon bread slathered in “apple butter” made from rosehips, it was similar to a breakfast roll, anyway. I cleaned the sandwich makings up as I was using them, so after eating, I was ready to head down with the pickup and get the firewood. He tagged along, so we made short order of hauling the wood up and stacking it in the woodshed. I was surprised at how easily we fell into a routine and worked quietly but well together. I cut more wood and he loaded the pickup while I was cutting. Six full loads today. That is much more than I could have done by myself. I suppose I should find out what his name is.
When we got to the house with the last load, I went in and started the potatoes I had ready. Then we finished stacking the wood. At this rate a couple more days and the woodshed will be full. I may need to add on and see if I can have an extra year in reserve. That would certainly make me feel better. I like to have things in reserve just in case I get ill or hurt and can’t go get more for a while.
When we get in the house, the evening meal is smelling very good. Maybe it is from all the work done today, or maybe it really is just as good as it smelled, but we definitely did justice to the food. A slow cooked bear roast that had marinated all night in beer then cooked in it with garlic and seasonings. The baked potatoes were good, with the brown gravy from the roast and a very small salad made from the first trimmings from the early planting in the garden. Homemade bread on the side.
I am ready for sleep when I get done eating, but government guy is relaxed and seems to want to talk. He picks up the dishes and has the dishpan full of hot soapy water before I can even say I will do them. He tells me since I cooked, he will clean up. Dang, this guy is too good to be true, he must already be married or an ax murderer just awaiting his moment.
I jerk awake as someone is carefully covering me with a throw and look straight into the most beautiful eyes. Melting chocolate comes to mind and I love chocolate. It should be illegal for a guy to have eyes and eyelashes like that. He laughs gently and says, “My name is Noah.”
Oh man, did I actually just call him government guy?

The Beginning – continued

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

Chapter 2
The trees were budding out nicely, giving a green haze to the hillsides and the smell of fresh growing things made it hard to stay indoors. Spring in Interior Alaska is a lovely time of fast growth and renewal. From the first sign of green growth until the trees are fully leafed out is about 10 days to 2 weeks and then it is summer. This usually happens sometime in May. Daylight hours have increased to the point of not being able to see any stars. It isn’t exactly sunshine all 24 hours, but the sun just dips behind a hill and right back out the other side. Summer is so short, everyone works until they drop, sleep a while and do it all over again. That is the secret to enjoying winter. It is the time to rest up from summer. By the actual first day of summer, June 21st, we start losing minutes the next day and are on our way back to winter. So everyone works.
I started seeds in egg cartons a couple of months ago, on my sun porch on the front of my house. So now I was busy getting everything transplanted into the garden I had tilled below the house. I soaked seeds of the plants not pre-started, and planted them. That would give them a week or so head start on growing also. With such a short growing season, every little bit helps.
Later in the afternoon, I heard another vehicle coming in my driveway. What is this, ignore the driveway signs day? If I had wanted people around, I would have lived in town, or at least a lot closer to town. This one is a nice looking older model pickup. Wow, a nicer looking older model driver, too. Umm, forget I said that.
If I must be interrupted, at least this one looks good while doing it. How shallow is that? But true.
The first words out of his mouth may cancel that. He is from the government, so help me, if he says he is here to help me, I may kick his shin. Okay, maybe he got that, just from the look in my eyes, he didn’t say he was here to help me. He is doing some sort of survey and is looking at improving the communication system in the State. So I tell him I like it the way it is. If I wanted better communications, I would live near town. If it gets very bad out here, there are always smoke signals. He did not appreciate my attitude when he thinks he is doing something nice for us deprived Bush people. He isn’t so jaunty walking back to the pickup, but the view is still good, going as well as from the front. Oh, how can I even be thinking like that. So inappropriate. He works for the Government for crying out loud. Oh well, my tax dollars at work, whether I want them to be or not. Wait, he is coming back.
He sort of hemmed and hawed a bit and finally asked if I have a phone number and when I start laughing, he grins sheepishly and says, “Yeah, figured you didn’t. But I would like to stop by and visit?”.
I am not sure why, but okay. “Sure, any time.”
After he left, I kept thinking about how good he looked and he did seem nice. But I have been fooled by seemingly nice guys before. Even married one for a while.
The rest of the day was fairly normal for out here. I got my tiller started, after a few false starts and started tilling the garden patch. The ground is still frozen down a ways, so will have to make do with the shallow pass over to get any recently sprouted weed seed. Then the fun part. I used the rake and make raised rows in the garden to plant in. The very early started area was looking green under the plastic I put over it after I planted it in April. After I had a couple of rows built, I used the hoe and went down the center, making a hoe wide valley with raised edges. Carrying water to the garden makes it a necessity, and this warms the soil for the roots and saves water for the plants I want, not extra weeds. Then I uncovered the part that was growing under the double thickness of plastic and started transplanting the little seedlings over to the new rows. Most of them were nice sturdy little plants now and already used to the cold soil and the outdoors. The seedlings I had on the sun porch would go out into the greenhouse.
I finally stopped and realized how hungry and tired I was. The sun was still bright and warm and it was 8 p.m., no wonder. My outdoor shower had more than enough water in the tank from a rain shower to make a quick shower possible before going in and fixing something to eat.
If all the traffic in here keeps up, I will have to start taking a change of clothes into the shower house with me. The water drains out into a container to use it on the plants in the yard.
I finish planting my garden the next day and my back is complaining about it. Now I see why folks had large families in the old days. Short kids closer to the ground could do the planting.
A year ago, I ringed some trees down on the lower end of my property so they would dry standing to cut later for firewood. I go down and check them and they seem to be ready. So I started falling them. After I have a few down, I cut and haul them up to my depleted woodshed. Last winter had dragged on long enough I was getting worried about maybe not having enough in there. I’m pretty sure I can get enough cut and hauled in 2 weeks to have enough for the coming winter. I know, it isn’t exactly even summer yet. I just like to be prepared.
After the first week of cutting and hauling, the woodshed is looking pretty good. While unloading my old pickup, I hear a motor so check the driveway and there is a newer looking pickup with a camper on the back, pulling in. I guess I am going to have to update my entrance signs, no one is taking them seriously.
However, as the guy gets out of the pickup, I may have started salivating just a little bit, it is the fellow from the government. This is late Friday evening, is he lost? Government guys don’t work late or weekends.
“Need a hand?”
“Sure.”
Yeah, I’m a brilliant conversationalist. He pitches wood out of the pickup and I stack in the woodshed. We finish unloading the pickup and he is sweating. Somehow, I don’t think his job requires a lot of physical labor.
As we walk over to the house, he asks if I would mind if he camped here while he is doing the survey farther on out the highway. He wants a place he can unload his camper and not have to haul it all over the bad roads farther out. I offer to share my meal with him and show him where he can unload after we eat. He offers dessert. Wow, I am impressed. The man has stopped at the best place in town that makes their own ice cream and brought their home style wild blueberry ice cream out.
After we have our meal, I show him a fairly level area along the road I am hauling my firewood from. It will give him some shade, too, so the camper isn’t an oven when he returns in the evening after work. The plus side is, I can’t see it from the house or yard.

The Beginning

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

The cover for my first novel, Book 1 of a Trilogy.

Chapter 1
It was a dark and stormy night, well, actually, it was a bright sunny day. But it felt like a dark and stormy night. The day had started without any sign of the mess to follow. However, I should have known as soon as I burnt the biscuits at breakfast time that I was not going to have a nice day.
The bear wandered into the yard as I scraped the char from the least burned biscuits and I cut my hand on the knife. I know, don’t run away from a bear, it kicks in the charging instinct and besides, I didn’t really run. I backed up in a hurry to the porch, stumbled over the stick of firewood I had dropped earlier, sprawled up the steps and skittered on up them and through the door into the house. So, technically, I didn’t run. However, the bear did. I must have scared it half to death with all my backing away and the smell of blood from my cut hand didn’t act as an enticement either. Maybe it was the conversation I was having, too. The bear probably never heard an almost middle-aged woman ranting to herself about the way the neighborhood was going to pot and using a large serrated knife to accent the conversation with scraping sounds and an occasional yelp as I missed the biscuit.
Now people were moving in a couple of miles down the road. That would make 8 people living within a 20 mile radius. It is getting positively crowded around here and I can feel the changes coming. First they will want the roads kept plowed and trash hauled away and phone service and electricity by just flipping a switch instead of starting a generator or whatever. I still haven’t figured out why people move out into the wilderness to get away from it all and then start immediately trying to drag it all out with them.
After I got settled down and cleaned up the breakfast mess, a huge SUV pulled into my yard, totally ignoring my subtle signs at the turnoff by the main road. The “Private Target Range, Hellooooo Targets” sign, the huge “Stop” sign. Of course, it is my new neighbors. The driver jumped out immediately as the vehicle stopped moving, a large man that would fit right into the Monday night football lineup with little problem, just starting to get a little lardy around the middle and jowls. He gets my dander up as soon as he opens his mouth and bellows, “Howdy Little Lady.” He finishes putting his foot in his mouth when he continues the bellow with, “Is your Old Man around?” First, I am not little and few have ever accused me of being a lady. Second, I bought this bare land, built my road system and my buildings, mostly by myself, no Old Man. Not even a Young Man. Once in a while help from a friend, male or female.
This man seems to know exactly all the buttons to push to really make points with me. He has not stopped to let me get a word in edgewise yet and just keeps lowering himself in my esteem. Now it’s “I brought the Little Woman along to keep you company while your Old Man and I discuss the road maintenance around here.” Uh-huh, next he will mention trash, bet on it.
The woman getting out of the SUV looked exactly like I figured anyone living around this guy would look. I know she must not have always looked like a shadow, but that was my first impression of her. Slender and fluttery, I hated the way she ducked when he swung towards her, motioning towards the house, telling her to get on in there with me while the men talked over the important stuff. Not the first time a guy was going to be disappointed that I wasn’t a guy.
I’ve always wondered if guys think the additional weight of a pair of boobs on a woman’s chest made thinking impossible for a woman. I know I have seen men stop thinking entirely when confronted with said appendages, few could ever tell what color my eyes are or even if I have eyes. They seem to carry on their part of any conversation with my chest. So, living down to his expectations, I flapped my hand vaguely toward the outbuildings while stepping back to allow the “Little Woman” into my home.
As soon as the door closed, she seemed to gain substance and character, introducing herself as Shari. I told her my name is Maxine, most call me Maxie.
Shari and Will had only been married a couple of months, having moved to Alaska from the Midwest somewhere. She was very vague about actual background and I was doing my best imitation of a non-snoopy person and didn’t ask more than she volunteered. This was a very jumpy woman and I felt that she would vanish if anyone asked something she didn’t want to answer.
Soon the thumping up the steps announced the arrival of Will at the door. He seemed not to be amused by the search for a guy through the outbuildings as they only consisted of an outhouse, a smokehouse and a small storage shed attached to a woodshed. Light seemed to be penetrating as he actually looked around the room, noticing only my jacket hanging with his wife’s by the door, only my boots by hers, under the jackets. I didn’t volunteer information so he finally asked if I lived here alone. I told him I did and asked if he would like some tea or hot chocolate or I could make some coffee but wouldn’t vouch for it as I don’t drink it. He settled for tea and I set out a plate of homemade cookies while we positioned ourselves around the built-in table/bench set I had made.
I don’t think his eyes settled anywhere as they darted over the interior of my home. I was rather proud of it although it would not win any prizes in Home Beautiful. I built it for comfort and with what I had on hand, scrounging at the dump, picking up old materials anywhere I could find them. I did buy new insulation and new insulated chimney, but very little cash outlay was visible in it. I added on as I had the money and it is getting to be a very comfortable home. The storage areas under each seat and bench help keep the clutter down a bit and all the walls have bookshelves at least halfway up them, with my artwork above. The bear head wearing a do-rag and granny glasses seemed to startle a chuckle out of the man and Shari started to relax a bit also. Will didn’t relax to the point of suddenly becoming chums, but there was a dim possibility of at least being civil to each other, maybe…..
Will sat there a few minutes, drinking his tea and eating several cookies before he cleared his throat and hemmed and hawed a couple of times. Finally, shifting around on the seat, he resembled a guppy, but found his voice and offered a bit of an apology.
“Ummm, sorta stuck my foot into it when we first got here, didn’t I?”
“Just a few toes, I answered.
“Maybe we could start over a bit? Pretend I didn’t just assume a whole lot?”
“Ah well, you know what they say about assuming…” and he surprised me by bursting out laughing.
“So, did you actually do all of this?” He was slightly incredulous, but willing to listen.
“I did have a helping hand once in a while, but for the most part, yes, I did do the work here. I have a firm belief in only building what I can afford and waiting and saving for the next improvement.” I told him.
Will and Shari were both looking at me like I had something stuck between my teeth.
Shari was the first to react, “But how do you live, here in the wilderness, with no man around to help and protect you?”
“Protect me from what?”
She was at a loss, flapping her hands to encompass everything, but no words to express it. I honestly didn’t know what to make of her. Will hugged her to his side and murmured softly, soothingly to her and my first impression of him made an abrupt about face. The man obviously cared deeply for her and wanted to shelter her from anything that upset her. He could tell I was at a loss as to what was bothering her, so he murmured something else softly to her, she first shook her head no, then stopped and nodded yes.
“I’m sorry, we should explain a bit about ourselves. I first met Shari when she was married to someone else, down South. Her first husband was a good old boy to the other good old boys. But the first time I was invited to their home, she had a black eye, puffed lip, a sprained ankle and could barely walk. Fell down the steps, they said. The next time I stopped by, her other eye was swollen and turning purple, she had a cast on her arm and was favoring her other side when she walked. Fell down again, they said. I may be a bit slow, but not entirely stupid. She was scared to death of him and with good reason. She was from good family and had never been exposed to the likes of Rod. He was good looking and could pour on the charm when it suited him. Once he had her inheritance in hand and her under his thumb, he ruled with an iron rod. I really believe he would have continued until she was dead, if I hadn’t sorta stole her one night when he was passed out drunk after beating her to within an inch of her life. I drove all night and got her to another state and into a hospital. The police were all set to arrest me, thinking I had done it to her, but she woke up long enough to say it was her husband and that I wasn’t him. She was in and out of consciousness for several days before they were sure she would make it.”
Oh Geez, now I had to rethink my opinion of him entirely. He might have some antiquated ideas on woman’s place in the home, but if she was good with that, that was her problem. They looked like it suited them fine.
My morning bear must have gotten curious about the smell of charred biscuit still lingering around outside and made an appearance near the woodshed, slowly peeking around the edge. By this time the Jays had carried off all possible crumbs, so I didn’t have to worry about the bear finding anything to eat, but was thinking it was getting a little too accustomed to people. I think I about gave Will and Shari heart attacks though, when I stepped out the door and shot the bear.
I guess Will hadn’t noticed the handgun on my hip. Shari about climbed his frame, so guess I should have said something first.
I took care of the skinning and butchering, bringing in the meat and stacking it on the table. I started mixing up some brine to cure the hams and shoulders to smoke later. My visitors watched wide eyed and very little comment. Shari finally asked what it would taste like. I told her if I did it right, it would be very similar to pork. The bears in this area are usually fattening up on berries, so fairly good eating as bears go. I offered them half the bear and they were trying to be polite and not green around the gills as they declined. Bear isn’t my favorite meal either, but I try not to waste anything. After I had the meat in the brine, I started fleshing on the hide, to get it ready to tan. Like I said, I try not to waste anything. When I had the hide fleshed fairly well, I salted it and rolled it up to finish tomorrow. My guests had stayed for the whole thing.
Shari was a little pale and Will was hovering, again. I asked if they would like more tea and I was going to fix sandwiches, if they would care for some, with homemade bread. Maybe the idea that I had just killed and butchered something had a bit to do with their refusal, But that was okay, I figured I would see quite a bit of them, around here.