The Beginning – Chapter 30, the end

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.


Chapter 30
Well, it is the end of the old year and what a year it has been. The world has come to an end, as we knew it. As far as I can tell, there will be no commerce or government as such, any time in the foreseeable future. Whatever supplies we have on hand in anything, is going to have to last, and last, and last. There will be no running to the store if something runs out. We are going to have to find alternatives for just about everything. If not for ourselves, then for our children and grandchildren. In some ways, the future looks grim, in others, maybe the best that could have happened to us. There has been murder, there has been new lives enter our sphere. There will be more in the future. It is human nature. I am going to get married sometime in the spring. That is if we can wait until spring.

Some recipes used in the story, from my cookbook, “Don’t Use A Chainsaw In The Kitchen”

LAUNDRY SOAP
1 bar grated Fels Naptha soap, Heat on the stove in a large pot of water until melted. (About 1 gal of water) 1 C. Washing Soda, 1 C. Borax Add the hot Fels mixture to a 5 gal bucket, mix in the soda and borax, fill about 3/4 full with hot water. Cover the bucket with a lid and store it in a cool dry place. It gels. Keep a small plastic bucket full where you do laundry and use a 1/2 Cup dipper to measure into the washing machine. It doesn’t foam up like detergent, but does a good job cleaning clothes.

SWEDISH SAUSAGE
5 lb pork
5 lb beef
5 lb of veal
5 lb of potatoes
5 large onions
nutmeg 1 to 2 nuts grated, about 2 Tablespoons 2 tsp all spice 2 tsp cinnamon salt and pepper to taste grind all together starting with the coarse grind working to the smallest grind you have then stuff in casings.

MOCK CHICKEN FRIED STEAKS
To 1 pound of any ground game meat, add 1 raw egg, 2 slices of bread and 1/4 cup milk or water. Mix very well, but not until mushy. May beat egg, bread and liquid well, before adding meat. Form into 1/2 inch thick patties. Coat with flour, dip in milk or water, then into fine bread or cracker crumbs. Allow to set for 5 to 10 minutes, brown in 2 T. hot oil on each side, season with salt, garlic and pepper to taste. Serve with cream gravy. I usually use a coarsely ground game meat for this recipe. Bear, moose or venison works very well.

CANNED COLESLAW
1 head shredded cabbage 1/2 c chopped onions 2 cups sugar 2 tsp salt 1 tsp celery seed 1 tsp mustard seed 1/2 scant cup vinegar optional: shredded green peppers Mix, let sit 4 hours. Pack into jars, to 1/2 inch of the top. Process in boiling water bath 7 minutes – DO NOT OVER COOK!! This makes a sweet-sour pickle, served like slaw. You can drain and add some oil before serving if you want or creamy salad dressing. It is good just like it is, though.

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The Beginning – chapter 29

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.


Chapter 29
The temperature keeps dropping and by the next afternoon, it is -40. We have the wood stove going in the barn for the goats. It won’t keep the whole building as warm as the house, but we just want to keep it above zero or so., so the goats don’t suffer. We keep water on the stove also to give them liquid water to drink at least twice a day.
I have the windows open from the house to the sun porch to keep the chicken coop a bit warmer than usual. The vent holes in the walls between the house and the coop are also all wide open. The chickens aren’t dumb and are staying up near the vents. There is only 1 or 2 eggs a day now and they roll down the chute from the nest boxes onto a tray on the sun porch.
The transplanted lettuce is still producing but growing very slowly at these temperatures and I still have a few tomatoes ripening on the sad looking plants. I sprout a few seeds to add to the lettuce and onion pickings and a few celery leaves once in a while for a small salad each for us. I give the chickens some of the sprouts now and then, also.
I will try to enlarge my winter growing area on the sun porch this coming summer. It will be worth it. Rose does the same thing on her porch and shares with Kara.
When Noah goes out to check on the goats, I hear a shot. Then Noah is bursting through the door and he is ashen faced and collapses on the floor
I have my handgun out in my hand but still seated on the couch when another figure bursts through the door. He is bundled in furs but I can see the white on his face that means frostbite and it looks like he has a bad case of it. As I look closer, I see it is Royal. Of all the people to survive the quake and weather in Fairbanks, why did it have to be him? Somehow he missed Will and Shari’s place on his way by and stumbled into mine, instead. But Noah is hit. As I start to bend down to check, Royal waves his gun at me and tells me to stay still or join him. I ask him why he is doing this and why did he act as though his sons were still alive. Wrong thing to say. He goes into screaming mode and waving the gun around. In his rambling diatribe, he confesses to having rigged the accident that killed Shari’s parents so his son could have their money. Then they couldn’t find Shari to arrange an accident for her. But since they found her in the wilds of Alaska, they figured she could disappear and be presumed dead in short order. Maybe after wild animals had chewed her up enough to not show how she died.
While he is yelling, I see Noah open his eyes and look at me. At least he is still alive. As Royal goes on about what an ungrateful wife she was, I slowly raise my handgun beside my leg. Somehow he and his buddies had learned that Shari had been staying here after Rod and Rob were killed. In his mind, he thought she and I were in on it together. So I was going to have to pay. By this time the warmth of the house was starting to thaw his flesh and he was clawing at his face trying to get the pain to stop. His breathing is raspy also, as though he had frosted his lungs a bit. He was so intent on revenge that he didn’t cover his face and breathe through the fur.
As I am about to put him out of his misery, the door swings open yet again and Jeremy slides in behind Royal. He grabs him by some pressure point in his neck and Royal drops like a stone. As Royal goes down, I am on my knees beside Noah. I ask if he can talk and he says yes, he can, he is just nicked, he thinks.
By this time, Jeremy has Royal trussed up and unarmed. He offers to set him outside so we don’t have to look at him, but I just can’t bring myself to let him freeze that way. I was willing to shoot him earlier but this seems a bit cold blooded. Jeremy shrugs and says he knows it is cruel, but look at the man. He is so frozen already he will lose his face and probably parts of feet and hands, maybe other parts we can’t see and don’t want to see. It may be kinder to let him never regain consciousness. I guess he has a point there.
We pull off Noahs parka and shirt to see that he really was only nicked but not a good looking nick. The flesh was swollen around it on his side over his ribs. I took his fur parka outdoors and rubbed snow in the blood on the fur. It froze and came off pretty well. I hung the parka out on the entryway porch to air some. I would shake it out more later to get any other blood off it, I hoped
. Jeremy had Noah patched up pretty well when I went back in. He had recognized Royal as he skied by. Royal had not seen him. So he followed along a bit behind, trying to figure out what Royal was going to do. He was sorry he didn’t get here in time to stop Noah from getting shot.
Royal was coming around by then, so Jeremy said he would take him along with him unless we wanted to keep him. I certainly didn’t and neither did Noah. So the 2 men left. Royal was still screaming at Jeremy as they went out the door. I don’t think I want to know what is going to happen next. Noah is still a little woozy from the shock of being shot. So he stretches out on the couch. I cover him with a large quilt I have handy and he dozes off to sleep.
When he wakes up a bit later, he is flushed and doesn’t look or feel too good. I take the bandage off his side and it does not look good. I sponge him off and give him some aspirin to lower his fever
. I find some of my homemade medicines and also some essential oils. The oils should help get rid of infection. I have him turn so I can drop the oil directly on the wound. I place peppermint oil directly on it, then thieves oil around it and then on it. After a bit, the redness and swelling go down, around the furrow on his side. I fix some hot tea for him and sweeten it a bit and he sips it. His color is getting better, so I help him get comfortable and he dozes back off to sleep. I gear up and go check on the goats. They are doing fine and I stoke up their stove in there, then close it down enough to keep burning but not too much. The barn feels pretty good compared to outdoors. The goats seem content so I close up and latch all the doors and window shutters.
I grab an armload of firewood as I go back to the house. Make each trip out in this count. I feed the chickens and give them fresh water.
When I am done with the animal chores, I start a pot of soup going on the stove. It will be easier for Noah to sip some if he continues not feeling very well or even if he feels fine.
Noah wakes up as the soup is ready and he looks much better. I put more oils on his side and he barely flinches as I rub it around the wound. He tells me he probably would not have been shot except he didn’t want to let Royal come in with no warning. He also didn’t want to turn his back on him to come in ahead of him. Royal got the jump on him as he came out of the barn and was fastening the door. He certainly had to start paying more attention to what was around, even in these temperatures. This was no longer our comfortable old life. Even one slip up could be the end for any one of us.
As he sips his mug of soup, he looks at me oddly and then says “You were just going to shoot him, weren’t you?”
“Well, yeah, I wasn’t going to let him do any more damage to the man I love. Bad enough he hurt you at all.” Then I kissed him on the forehead. He grabbed my hand and tugged me closer. So I kissed him on the mouth. Much better.

The Beginning – chapter 28

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.

Chapter 28
The weather cooperated and Thanksgiving Day dawned midmorning a bit cloudy but above zero, barely. Not a bad day for a hike. We prepared the load on the sled and headed over to Kara’s.
The house was toasty warm when we walked in and eager hands accepted the containers of food we carried. The eggs were an instant hit and Kara started some boiling to make deviled eggs for dinner. We would each get one, but it would be a treat. She said she had some, but they were getting old enough to not do well boiled or any other way, although she was still using them but breaking each one into a cup first, to see if it was able to be used. I told her I would try to get some to her for Christmas dinner, also. Next summer, if all went well, we would try to have a small flock of chickens at each place for eggs and later, some meat. Will and Shari came with the twins, Dallas and Savannah.
The babies had grown quite a bit, but fit in their buntings very well. Since I did not put sleeves on them, they were more of a hooded bag to hold the baby’s body heat in. Later, they could be opened down the front and used as a hooded cape.
I met all of Kara’s grown children and “adopted” grown children. She always took in strays when they lived in town and the kids needed a place to stay. So all grew up calling her Mom. They still knew the rules and limits at her house and it was fun seeing them all interact. Her grandchildren were so polite and nice, even being the only small children in a sea of adults, they behaved very well. She said that was because when they were little and cute, she didn’t let them get away with anything she wouldn’t still think was cute when they were 16. It worked very well.
There was definite tension between the 2 girlfriends her oldest son brought out when he came. I only hoped that would work itself out well. Both were very nice young women that got in and helped and made themselves useful. One started helping Shari with the babies. She was actually pretty good with them and by the end of the day, they made a deal for her to move over and help Shari. Sounded like a good idea to me.
Jeremy came with Will and Shari and was very quiet and subdued in the background, but everyone kept including him in the conversations and asking his opinion until finally he relaxed and enjoyed the day, also.
Rose brought up some bottles of soda that they usually made punch out of for holidays. Everyone was so surprised to find that dinner was a totally traditional Thanksgiving meal that these folks usually did every year. Rose confided that if they had turkey in the future, it would be some she had canned over the years. Not the same, but it would be welcome. She had saved the large bear ham and would bake it for Christmas dinner. We were invited if the weather was okay for travel.
As we were preparing to eat, we heard a snow machine pulling up and everyone went on alert. More guns materialized in hands than I realized were in the room. It was Al, and he had almost a whole moose on his sled behind the snow machine. He wondered if we could use part of it and if he came back and helped, would we show him some more sausage recipes and canning recipes so he could vary his diet a bit more.
Rose and I both said he was welcome to come learn any time and he should come in right now and have dinner with us. He accepted and his eyes bulged at the variety of foods spread out on the serving nook and counters.
As we ate, he told us how he got the moose on the sled. It had somehow managed to get it’s head through one of his wolf snares and strangled itself just before he got there. It was still warm, so he hurried and butchered it up. Then on his way by his cabin, he unloaded a couple of chunks to use fresh and brought the rest over to share. He dropped the hide off at my place, since he seen me working on the caribou hides he left last time.
After dinner, he took a shoulder down for Rose to butcher out for fresh meat for the group there and we all headed back to my place to store the rest and he would come by tomorrow so we could start on the meat. This had truly been a Thanksgiving that had much to be thankful for.
I showed him how to cut the leg skins next time to make himself a pair of boots from the hind legs with very little sewing. He was surprised and said he would do that on any more he got.
I trimmed a bit off the meat, sliced very thin, and marinaded it a while in some spices, then drained and set to dry on the rack I had over my heater stove. Before I went to bed, I turned the strips and they were getting firm. By morning, they were still chewy but could be considered jerky.
Noah and I started immediately on cutting up the meat. Al showed up a bit later and we asked how much he wanted as sausage. Then he tried a strip of the jerky. “Okay, you made this just overnight? I would really like some of the meat fixed this way, for trail food.” he said.
So we set some of the muscle pieces out on the porch to partially freeze and then brought it in and sliced very thin. I started more marinading in some stainless steel bowls I have, and we continued cutting meat and deciding what to do with it.
I made some chicken fried steaks from some loin and we ate them on warm rolls from the oven. We stopped work on the meat in late afternoon. Al went home and we took care of the animals again.
The goats enjoyed a bit of being out and running around in the pens. The chickens, not so much. I only let them out a little bit at a time so they didn’t freeze their combs or feet. That gave me a chance to clean their coop and keep it from smelling too bad in there.
When Al came back the next day, he came by dog power on cross country skis. He said it wasn’t as fast, but almost and saved gas. Besides, if he kept eating here, he was going to be fat soon and didn’t want that to happen. As I looked at his lean rangy body, I didn’t think there was ever any danger of him getting fat. The work done here indoors and out, does not support getting very overweight. The batch of jerky I dried overnight was moved from over the stove and a new batch put on the racks.
Al figured he should build himself some racks and he could take a bunch of the meat home and dry it himself. Since he had a lot of the caribou sausage left and it was too cold to smoke any more, he decided he would go ahead and take what he wanted of the meat home, and make jerky, now that he knew how. So we loaded up his backpack with the boned out meat and he and his dog headed for home.
I knew Kara only liked game meat as jerky and hot spicy jerky at that, so made a large batch of extremely spicy jerky to give her for Christmas. I made some teriyaki jerky and some brown sugar jerky with only a hint of spice on it.
The next several days was spent making jerky and the usual chores around the place. The hay cut during the summer was holding up very well. We had not fed out as much as I thought we would by now, so may even have some left over in the spring.
The Trapper hats I was making were coming along very well, also. I still had the wolf hides that I was working soft. I used the face pieces as mitt backs from the 2 we got around the old gut pile. The palms were made out of some leather I had on hand and I lined them with a fleece mitt and an Arctic hare inner liner. Both liners could be removed to replace or dry. I braided some leather thongs together and made a mitt harness to wear over the head so the mitts would hang handy if a person had to pull their hands out to work or do something the mitts were too clumsy for.
The big old wolf Noah shot between here and Rose’s, I softened and cut in wide bands for parka hood ruffs. I didn’t have enough materials to make whole parkas, but I did have enough to make hoods with the ruffs around them and a short cape to place over upper back and chest. Then a coat put on over would make it complete and give extra warmth where it is usually needed. Each one was a different color fabric on the outside, so they would be easy to tell apart. From the scraps, I made some small hoods for the twins. From a couple of strips, I made toy ice worms. I sewed some eyes at one end of each strip and these would be for the babies later and for the youngest child over at Kara’s.
I decided to give the older boy one of my knives in a holster I made for it. Every boy needed his own knife and although he may already have one, another is fine, also. Noah wanted to make something special for his Dad and brother, so we made boots out of the hind feet of the 2 bears we got in the autumn. These boots would leave very odd tracks and we decided the grizzly would be for Roman, the black bear for Thad.
Noah did the heavy sewing and I made some liners and inner soles to wear in them. Noah used some of the leather thongs to make wrap ties around the ankles and up the calves to hold the boots on.
We went out and found a small scraggly cartoon tree and brought it in and decorated it for our presents to go under. The ones we were to take over to Kara and Rose, we wrapped in old newspaper and labeled. We had a pretty good stack going there and the cats thought it was fun to run up and down the pile, knocking packages every direction. I was smart enough not to add the packages of jerky, yet.
Early on Christmas morning, we loaded up the sled and hooked up Pal and his 2 minions. I dumped extra feed in for the goats and the chickens and we were off. The dogs were in fine spirits and it was not a cold day, with no wind. We arrived in time to hand out presents. At Roman and Thad’s, they were so surprised with their gifts and had to put them on, immediately which set the pups into a frenzie, first trying to get to them, then trying to get away from them. Hmmm, maybe we didn’t get all the smell of bear out of them.
They handed us packages as we stepped out to continue on down the hill. Next stop was Kara’s and she was fixing breakfast for the bunch she fed every day. We had breakfast and handed out packages there and then on down to Rose’s. She was pleased with her hood and jerky and handed us a couple of packages to take home with us. We would open ours after we returned home.
Next we went on down to Will and Shari’s. They were very surprised to see us here. Shari loved the things I made for the babies and the hood for her. Ashley liked hers, also. Will and Jeremy were very pleased with the Trapper hats. The jerky we gave as being from us and from Al. They handed us a couple of packages to add to our growing pile and we headed back toward our place.
As we got to the driveway, we met Al, just coming from his place, so we all went on in to the house. The dogs were happy with the large bones I had saved from the butchering earlier, of the caribou then marinaded and smoked a bit for them, so they had flavor. They performed very well today and deserved a treat. I gave Al’s dog one also so he wouldn’t feel left out.
We hauled our packages in and placed them under the tree with ours to each other. Al brought in a package and added it, too. We gave him the packages we had for him and he was surprised to find a new Trapper hat and mitts. The wolf head mitts I gave to Noah. The marten Trapper hat was for him, also. Al asked about learning to fur sew sometime in the future and I said okay, any time. Noah told him about the bear feet boots he made for his Dad and brother.
Al thought he had some bear skins around and would look them over, so I told him to cut any he got in future with boots in mind and it would save a lot more sewing the same as with moose and caribou. Just cutting in different places. These won’t be good boots for anything but winter. Al doesn’t stay and we finally open the rest of our presents. Everything is something we can use or eat. Almost everything is homemade.
Rose made us each a vest with lots of pockets to carry gear when we are out working. Mine has items in some of the pockets to help out on different jobs. Kara gave us both homemade candy and cookies and a crocheted beanie type hat each. The guys gave us some different types of dried canned foods to add variety to our diet. We fix dinner together and talk over what a pleasant day it has been. We have been truly blessed.
As we relax that evening, Noah reaches in his pocket and hands me a very small package. It is a ring. He made it himself and says, “I don’t want you to think I am pushing a bit here, but I would like you to know I love you and plan on us having a future together. I am not asking right now, I am just wanting you to be thinking about it.”
As if I would be thinking of much of anything else. The thought of not having him here is painful. I look forward to seeing him each morning and feel like part
of me has left when he leaves in the evening. I think he may be the best thing to happen to me in a long time. I turn to him and say, “I love you too.” He sits there stunned for half a moment then grabs me in a bear hug and just holds me close.
“I don’t know how or when, but I want to marry you.,” he whispers in my ear. Then he goes over to his cabin for the night. Wow, okay, I was expecting him to say something, but that was way off in the future. It’s too soon to be the future.
I want to talk to someone else about it, and the next morning, suggest we go back over and visit at Rose’s. He can spend some time with his Dad and I will go talk to Rose. The weather is holding steady and we may not get another chance for quite a while. He agrees, so we harness up the little team and head out.
When we get to the main road, we go north to check the snares at the old gut pile and are surprised to find 2 wolves. We take them out of the snares and reset. Then we drop the wolves off in our driveway and go on south to Rose’s.
Noah stays up at his Dad’s and I go on down the hill to see Rose. She is surprised to see me and invites me in. I get right to the point and tell her there is a good possibility we will be getting married if we can figure out how to do it now. She tells me she is able to perform weddings legally and so can Kara, Paul and Samantha. I don’t understand until she tells me they are registered as ministers. She does not know how legal it would be since right now, there is no legal system anywhere, as much as we can tell. She says we can always start a registry and write in all the data. Keep it just to record births, deaths and marriages. Maybe property transactions also, in future.
We design a page to use for a license and print several out on her laptop. She says she should do a lot of the assorted papers they may need in future because she don’t know how long her battery system or ink cartridges are going to hold out. So while we are at it, we try to figure out what may be needed in the next several years an make several copies of each form. I take one with me when I leave to go home.
I stop and say Hi to Kara on my way by, then on up to Roman’s. The guys are out working with the puppies and Pal looks very disgruntled. He is training puppies to be good little sled dogs. Our 2 are actually a big help. With Pal in front and our 2 pups behind, the ones in the middle almost have to go where they are supposed to. They get nipped from the rear if they pull back and growled at from the front if they don’t stay in place.
They end the lesson and we head for home. We pick up the wolves as we go through the driveway. We will have to thaw to skin them.
The fire is very low when we get in the house, so I fill it up and let it burn a bit to make sure it is going well. The house isn’t cold, but it isn’t really too warm, either. I think the temperature has dropped since we left this morning. When I check the thermometer, I see that it is now -15 degrees F. When I check an hour later, it is -20. Yes, we may be starting another cold spell. Noah brings in firewood while I start dinner.
Over dinner, I tell him what Rose has told me. His face lights up and he comes around the table and kisses me. “You have been thnking about it too? Can we really do this? I would love to spend the rest of my life with you.” He tells me he wanted to propose the first day he met me. Wow, that would have sent me running. Probably for a gun.

The Beginning – chapter 27

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.


Chapter 27
By the end of October, we all realize winter has really come to stay. I just hope we have an early spring to offset it. Everyone out here is hunkered in and keeping busy doing the usual things done all winter anyway. I guess something like the whole world pretty much ending, won’t really affect us much until spring. The shock is there, but not really sinking in for us. Once everyone is out of fuel and some food items, then it will start hitting and sinking in
. If it had been spring or summer and easy for the town folk to just hike out here, it would have been much different. Now, it is delayed a bit and maybe soaking in a small amount at a time. No internet, no radio except short wave and few of those left to listen to, also. We have to remember to be alert to anyone showing up with the intent to take what we have, but so far, nothing has happened like that. I am afraid we will become too complacent and be sorry later.
I start setting a trapline starting from the hill across a small gully from my place. I keep checking the snares around the old gut pile, but the ravens, jays and small animals have really been working on it. I only have a few traps and snares, so make a very small trapline I can check often.
I have limited success and move my line a bit farther north. I want to keep as many animals around as possible for the future, also. Pal is nice and helpful in harness, dragging my small sled when we do the trapline. I snowshoe the trails, he pulls along behind me. I carry my rifle when I go, in case I need it. I have a piece of duct tape over the barrel and one on the stock to replace it with if I have to fire it. The tape keeps snow and debris out of the barrel. Traveling on snowshoes is a good way to fall often and it is best to not have to clean the gun after each fall before being able to use it. Even snow coming off branches overhead can clog a barrel, besides going down the back of an unsuspecting neck. Noah comes along sometimes so he can learn how to trap and how to take care of the animals once they are harvested.
On days it has snowed quite a bit, he is handy breaking trails. We have both gotten much better on the snowshoes and now will be able to hike over to see Rose and Kara any time we want to. We are doing quite well at keeping the house fire banked enough to be gone several hours without the house freezing up.
In the evenings, we skin and stretch the hides and then work on softening and tanning the hides from previous days work.
Soon, we have enough to start making some hats, mitts and the baby bunting I want to make for Shari. So I start out by laying out skins and drawing on the skin side with a piece of charred wood from the stove. Once I have the pattern the way I want it, I hold the hide so I won’t cut fur as well as skin and cut out the pieces with a razor knife. I have a large box of dental floss I use for skin sewing. It is the best for that. The needles I have are hide sewing needles, with 3 sides at the point, so they slice through the leather.
The bunting goes together quite fast and I use some tanned strips of leather I have to make the ties to fasten it together. We plan on taking it over in the next few days sometime, if the weather holds around zero and not snowing hard.
When we get around the next day, it is fairly clear and no wind, so we decide just to do it today. We hurry through caring for the animals and gear up with the snowshoes. Pal is so used to the harness and sled pulling, he is standing by the sled as we come out the door. So we take him also.
The walk over doesn’t take very long and we are congratulating ourselves on how great we are doing on the snowshoes. Pal suddenly growls and tries to lunge in front of me. The sled holds him back some and almost knocks me down. A large wolf breaks cover right in front of us, heading straight for Pal. Noah has his handgun out and firing before the wolf has a chance to even touch Pal, but I was afraid he would get bit and grabbed his harness trying to hold him.
Pal finally settles down as he sees the wolf is no longer a threat. We load the carcass on the sled and Pal is happy to drag the wolf the rest of the way. I will boil the carcass up for chicken feed, they do not mind where the protein comes from. I do the same with most of the animals we trap. I try to waste nothing. I think by boiling it, maybe the chickens won’t get the taste for raw flesh and peck on each other. Also maybe head off any type of disease.
After we get to the driveway to Rose and Kara’s, we decide to stop there just in case Will and Shari are there for the baby. It is a good thing we do, as they are. Jeremy is watching their place for them and they are staying at Rose’s. Shari is very uncomfortable and totally ready for this to be over with. She is still helping out and even does some hiking up and down the hill to Kara’s. She is in very good condition, so it should be an easy birth, I hope.
While we are visiting, she gets up every few minutes and walks around. Rose and I look at each other and she nods. We think Shari’s wish is about to be granted. She loves the little bunting and shows me some of the other things she has on hand for the baby. Most are at home, but enough here to see her through a couple of days. I made the bunting big enough it will probably last the whole winter as the baby grows. The outside fur is marten and the inside fur is Arctic hare. The baby should need no other cover except in extreme cold. They can carry B B wherever they go without worrying it will get too cold.\
As Shari paces through the kitchen her water breaks. She has not realized she is in labor. She cleans herself up and apologizes for the mess as we mop. We are laughing by now and tell her soon she will see what the Bubble Bump actually is, or B B as we have been calling it.
She continues pacing, after the contraction is over. This is the best thing she can do, so we all walk with her and talk. We tell jokes and keep her laughing which really isn’t too good in a contraction, so we have to pay attention. Rose has a bed set up in the office that used to be her Mom’s room. Everything else is cleared out and it has a bed and a chair in the room. She used a filing cabinet as a small dresser so it wouldn’t take up much space but give Shari a place to keep clothes.
For a first baby, this one seems to be in a hurry. Shari finally decides she has walked as much as she can, so we let Will help her into bed and prepare her for giving birth. They have a pad on the bed to make it easier to clean up later. There is a tote set up with a pad and soft blankets in it to place the baby in. Everyone scrubs up very well and puts on long sleeved shirts over whatever they are wearing. Rose has some masks used for painting and we use them over our noses and mouths. We look like a comedy routine for backwoods childbirth. There is water heated on the wood stove, although I never figured why boiling water was always called for, no one scalds anything during a birth.
Soon most of us stay out in the living room. Kara and I talk about how we are going to keep our woodsheds filled, after there is no gas for chainsaws. We all have swedesaws, so it looks like we will start cutting each summer as soon as possible to fill the area emptied over the winter and still try to keep at least 2 years ahead.
It seems like only a short time later, but probably not, to Shari, when we hear the sound only a newborn makes and a soft thud of Will hitting the floor. He lasted longer than I thought he would, when he was already green looking when they went in the bedroom. Soon, the first cry is joined by a 2nd cry. Oh my, sounds like twins. I should have made 2 buntings. Of course, it only takes a little while to make one and I can use this one as a pattern.
When Rose comes out, she looks almost as bad as Will. No one had expected twins. Shari says they are common in her family and her ex was actually a distant cousin. She had twin siblings also, but only one had survived to adulthood. Then he was killed in Iraq.
The new twins were fraternal, a boy and a girl. I guess that is one way to help repopulate the world, have them in groups. I was never one of those women that ooohed and aaaahed over babies, but these 2 were special babies and they seemed to bring out the latent maternal streak I never knew I had. Shari was tired but in good spirits and happy when we finally started home.
We were away a bit longer than I planned when we left that morning. I was certainly glad the weather was not very cold, only around zero. When we get home, the houses are both cool but not cold, so it doesn’t take long to have the fires going again, warming them up. The wolf is brought in to thaw and skin. Noah offers to do that while I cut out another bunting. It is very late by the time I have it done. Noah was already gone for the night, to the cabin. He had his meals with me and helped out around the place during the days, but nights he stayed over there. He only built a fire in the evening to take the main cold off the cabin and let it die out during the night. He didn’t want to cut into my stock of firewood too much. We had enough for 2 houses for the winter, but did not want to use it all. Whenever he went along on the trapline, he picked up dead wood along the way and loaded the sled Pal pulled.
The puppies from the dog Roman and Thad brought out were big enough now to start simple training and Noah wanted to get 2 of them. He thought they and Pal could be a small working team and be a big help on hauling things. So 2 days later when we went back over to deliver the new bunting, we brought home 2 rowdy puppies. Pal was not amused. He did a good job teaching them not to chase the cats, although the cats did a fair bit of training on their own. He also let them know outdoors was for the bathroom. I think he housebroke them himself.
I made very small harnesses out of scrap rope pieces and when he was harnessed up, they also were harnessed up. At first, they ran along beside him and wanted to play. He nipped them into staying behind him. I started tying them to each side of the sled, so they would stay back and soon they thought of it as play and trotted along nicely or walked along depending on what Pal was doing. They even learned Gee and Haw and Stop. I baked some dog treats and would give them and Pal a treat each time the pups did well. I think bribery is underated.
The first trip we made over to Rose’s with the 2 pups in their harnesses, everyone was surprised and amazed we had trained them so well so quickly. However, Pal was the real trainer of pups. When the rest of the puppies came tumbling out to see them, Pal soon set them straight, and they all sat very quietly around our team. Roman and Thad decided they wanted to train the ones they had left and see if the mother was used to a harness, also. She looked like a sled dog should. Rose had some old harnesses she had picked up at the Transfer Station several years ago, so the guys decided to try it out. They went down and got the harnesses and found one that fit the female.
She stood still to be harnessed so they knew she was familiar with it. Rose also had some skis under the shop building that she had picked up, the same way. She said anyone wanting to try skijoring could give them a try if they figured out a way to fasten the skis as they had no bindings on them.
We needed to make some harnesses and tug lines if we wanted to learn how to run dogs. I guess this would give us all something to learn and do in winters now. That would be the time of year that it is easiest to travel in Alaska. No bugs and the ground is solid and so is the water. Well, unless there is overflow or a current under the snow on ice making an open lead.
If we started using dogs, we would need to also start making sleds. I know some of the sled makers use the small black spruce found only in permafrost areas for the frames as they are so fine grained they are extremely strong and flexible when crafted. I think the caribou skin from the caribou Al gave us, will need to be tanned and made into harnesses. The lower legs can be made into boots, and maybe I should see about making boots from the lower legs of the last 2 bears we got, also.
I will have to keep boots in mind each time we are skinning, now, so we can shape the hides right and not have to do so much sewing. Will and Shari were ready to go home with the twins. They were so happy to have 2 buntings now, Shari cried a bit and laughed, saying she was so happy. They were still using the little 6 wheel ATV and bundled babies and Shari in it so they were like a cocoon. After they left, we headed back home, also.
Roman and Thad loaded up our sled with some of the cans of food they stocked up on during the summer. They said that was Noahs, anyway and since he was eating at my place, it would help on food supplies. They didn’t want to overload our little team, so let me know there was also a couple bags of rice here for us, and more flour and sugar. I was surprised but it would be nice having even more supplies on hand.
I think this stuff should be stored in the cabin Noah is staying in. If there were ever a house fire, I would like to know we had supplies somewhere else to depend on, and maybe some in the ice house. I still had several empty totes and a few barrels with lids we could store food in and keep rodents and larger animals out. When I talk it over with Noah, he agrees, so when we get home we start filling totes and barrels in the ice house first and a few items in the cabin.
Most of the cans are freeze dried storage foods, so they were very light and there was a lot of them. I was surprised how many they sent over and our tiny team pulled so well. Noah was in the habit of using a large backpack every time we left the house, with some survival gear in it in case we got caught out in bad weather. He now pulled out a small box of chocolate candy.
He placed it in my hands and said, “You know I love you, don’t you?”
Now that was a surprise, the candy as well as the declaration. I knew we got along very well and he made my insides mush every time he looked at me, but love? Well, yeah, when he wasn’t in a room, it felt empty and I looked forward to seeing him every day. We worked well together and neither of us treated the other as anything but a partner in our jobs and chores. The thought of not having him around hurt to think about, so I think that probably means I love him too.
I am still staring at the box of chocolates in my hands and he is probably thinking I am really strange. I look up into his eyes and he has the most loving look in his eyes that I have ever seen in my life. Oh those eyes. They have been my downfall from the first day I met him.
Still looking into his eyes, I slowly reach up and give him a soft kiss. The next instant, I am in a bear hug and the breath almost out of me from the steel bands around me as he is kissing me. He suddenly steps back and even maybe blushes a little bit.
“I better not do that or we won’t be stopping any time soon,” he says and heads on out the door to the little cabin.
Well, this has certainly been quite a day. I set the box of chocolates on the table and stoke the fire. I think I will go to bed a bit earlier this evening and maybe do a lot of thinking.
I have never considered getting married again. The first time was enough to sour a person on that institution for life. However, right now, if Noah asked me, I would say Yes in a heartbeat. What an idea. Who would perform the ceremony and where would it be registered? Does he want a family or will the pets be enough family for us? Wow, he hasn’t asked and I am already planning a future together. So much for going to bed early. Now the thoughts going through my head are making it impossible to sleep.
After tossing and turning a while, I get up and light a small propane light. I pull out some of the furs we have tanned and start a Trapper hat. I am not sure who it will be for, so add a piece of elastic in back so it can fit anyone. This is from the first fox caught on the old gut pile. I use some of the leather I had on hand and lined it with Arctic hare fur. Hmmm, maybe I should make some to use as Christmas gifts this year.
Pretty soon there is a small tap at the door. Pal isn’t growling, so I open the door. It is Noah. He comes in and sits down across from me.
“Can’t sleep either? I am sorry if I am the reason and I hope I didn’t mess up our relationship by speaking too soon,” he said.
“Well, it was a surprise but a most pleasant one. I have had some thoughts on the subject for a while, but didn’t have a clue you did, also.”
A slow smile spreads across his face as he leans toward me. “Really? You really have? You sure fooled me.”
We sit and talk for an hour or so, then he lightly kisses me on the forehead and heads back out the door. I again stoke up the fire and go to bed. This time, I fall asleep almost as soon as I hit the pillow. We have decided nothing, and didn’t even talk about where we were heading. But it feels okay and it feels right. We will take one day at a time and see where it leads.
I was afraid we would be awkward with each other, the next morning, but no, it was more relaxed and felt like we had known each other forever. Our days fell into routine and we enjoyed each others company very much. We managed to work through any problem that arose without any yelling, name calling or sarcasm.
As Thanksgiving Day approached, we decided on what we would contribute to the dinner being planned over on Rose’s place. The actual dinner would be at Kara’s as her house was set up better to serve and eat dinner for large groups.
I had a supply of dried sweet potatoes and would make a casserole to take. Also some rolls and maybe a pie or two. Depending on what we could put on the sled easily to pull over without mashing or spilling. We packed some of the fresh eggs in a container so if any broke, they wouldn’t mess up the backpack, and Noah would carry them over.

The Beginning – chapter 26

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.


Chapter 26
We decide the old gut pile and now the new one is too much to leave laying in the edge of the yard for more bears to come around for. They don’t hibernate until later in the winter and are always looking for more food to keep their weight up. We break the old pile loose from the snow onto a tarp and pull the new pile on, with it. The two of us drag the tarp out along the roadway as far as we can make it, on past the graves of the men. At least it won’t be so close to the house and my animals.
I go back and bring out a few small traps and a few large snares. It is not trapping season yet and pelts won’t be prime, but we may not have the chance for getting furs later in the winter or as easily. I set the small traps on obvious small game trails close but not too close to the bait. I do not want to catch the ravens and jays that will come feed. I go farther out and make some snare sets even farther out on possible trails toward the bait. Then I place sticks to make open areas less desirable for predators to walk on to get to the bait, leaving my snared trails as the best routes. I don’t think we will have a game warden showing up to cite me for trapping out of season.
Noah wants to learn about skinning and preparing hides, so we work on the grizzly and the black bear hides all evening. Since the grizzly has been salted a while, it is easier to work on, fleshing it nicely down. We comment on how human the hands and feet look, skinned out and decide to help the antisocial signs around the place by tacking the skinned parts to the signs. It will give the jays something to pick at during lean times ahead.
Early the next morning, we go check my traps. We have a marten and a fox close to the pile, the snares are still empty. We take them home after I reset the traps. The fur looks better than I thought it would, so I am careful on the skinning and stretching them to tan and use for clothing, later. They dry very fast, so I cut the skulls open and smear the brains over the flesh side of the hides and work it in to help soften the hides.
Late afternoon, we check the traps and snares again, but nothing during the day. The following morning, we find 2 wolves in the snares and those will add a good fur supply for garments, later. I carefully remove any sign they were caught and reset the snares, also. It looks as though they were alone, so no other wolves saw them caught.
We take them home and skin them out, that evening. I save the skulls to open later for the brains as these hides will take longer to dry. Once they are dry, I lightly sand the surface before adding the brains. This removes the membrane that makes it hard to tan a hide at home.
We continue checking the traps twice a day and manage to catch a couple more marten and another fox, then I pull the traps and only leave the snares. I don’t want to kill all the animals in the area. I will trap farther out and in other directions later in the winter when fur is more prime. These are all in very good shape though, so they are getting prime very early this year from the weather.
The hams and bacon are done and we sample to see how it is. I like this one a bit better for bacon, the hams are about the same. Maybe I am just getting more practice and better at making it.
The fellow with the snow machine comes over to check on us and brings 2 caribou on his sled. He said he was out setting up his trap line when he came across the small herd from the White Mountains near here. He shot 3 young bulls as that would not harm the small herd any. He kept one and was bringing one for us and the others to share.
I gave him a large ham and a side of bacon since he did not get any of the last one. He was surprised that I cured and smoked meats. I told him I would make sausage from some of the caribou if he wanted to come back in a few days for some. It would take about 2 weeks. He offered to go back for part of his caribou to use also, for a larger share. I told him if he had brown sugar and black pepper I would make all he wanted as I had plenty of salt and could share the salt.
We started skinning and by the time we were done skinning, he was back with most of his caribou. He helped finish cutting them up and then we cleaned out some of the intestine to make sausage casings out of. We squeezed then clean then poured water down them. We soaked them in salt water and then rinsed yet again, turning them inside out. The next soak was even
stronger salt water to leave then in until ready to use. We cut out the backstraps for steaks, and made some nice roasts from parts of the hams. The rest was mostly cut to grind up for sausage and burger.
I have a large, heavy duty meat grinder and with 2 guys helping, we deboned and ground a lot of meat that afternoon. The man’s name was Al and he was delighted to learn how to make sausage. I let him look through my notes and cookbook and he picked out a couple of sausages he really liked.
The Swedish Sausage sounded good to us all, and we had plenty of potatoes and onions to try it with, so we decided on that one. Then a basic recipe with only black pepper as seasonings besides some brown sugar and salt. It is nice in a lot of recipes. Then we decide to make some pepperoni, also. Pizza sounds very good.
We divide up the meat and weigh it out into piles required for the recipes. We tripled most of the recipes to make sure everyone had some of the finished product. The rest we packaged as plain burger to divvy up for each household.
While I package, the guys peel potatoes and onions for the Swedish Sausage. We have the counters and table divided up for each flavor sausage and we each start making. Then we rinse the casings yet again and turn them right side out. We stuff the mildest sausage first. The end of the casing is tied twice, very firmly into 2 knots. If one gives way, the other should hold. Ever so many inches we twist the sausage roll to make links. Only so much casing will push onto the tube from the grinder at one time, so we make several loops of each flavor sausage. We try to make each flavor
into different length sausages. They do have slightly and not so slight difference in colors, but better safe than sorry.
I build up a bigger fire in the smokehouse and we hang the finished sausage loops from racks I have hanging in there. The double knots at the ends have to be carefully handled so nothing comes undone. Once they start drying, they will stay tied much better.
It is getting a bit late, so I fix us some dinner and Al joins us. Chicken fried caribou steaks with cream gravy and mashed potatoes, fresh salad and rolls. Al pats his tummy after dinner and laughs, saying he has ate better and talked more today, than he has in years. I offer him the little cabin for the night, if he don’t have to get home and he can take some of the meat over to Rose, Kara, Will and Shari, tomorrow, if he likes. Noah is still using his camper so the cabin is empty. He decides that would be nice, so goes on over and starts a fire in the heater in the cabin. He comes back and we all visit a while. Then I check the smokehouse one last time for the night and add wood. The weather is a little warmer, so I am trying to speed the smoking up by running it night and day. The black bear is done so I will send some over with Al tomorrow for the rest.
I fix breakfast the next morning and Al offers to take us over to visit, with his snow machine. We will have to scrunch up tight to fit, but following the roadway, it should be okay. Then I go dig out an old sled I have had for a while, and we get to travel in style, instead. We pack the meat and I stand on the sled runners, Noah rides behind Al and the meat is packed
in the sled.
It has been so long since I rode on the runners I figure they will lose me somewhere along the way. But somehow, we make it over in one piece. Everyone was not expecting anyone to drop in, and some that didn’t know us, were not sure they should be welcoming us. The sight of all that meat helped tip the scales in our favor. When we got down to Kara’s house, she was very happy to see us.
Shari had been having some pains and was down at Rose’s place. They were keeping an eye on her to make sure she was okay. We unloaded the share we brought for Kara and she was happy to have meat to feed the group she was cooking for. She sent some homemade candy she had made home with us. We then went on down to see the rest.
Rose let us in and Shari was feeling better. These were the Braxton Hicks pains she had read about, but still had scared her. Will put their share of meat in the covered back on their little 6 wheeler ATV to keep the ravens and jays out. Rose put hers on her entry porch to freeze up. She gave us some jars of canned diced chicken to vary our diets with and a couple of jars of it for Al, also. She also loaned me some books on goats.
She says she has never raised goats either, although they had goats, just not tame ones. The ones they had were not milk goats, just roamed the hills around their place keeping the brush down. They did raise any that were orphaned and had a hard time keeping them in any pen or fence. Al is looking fidgety, maybe overload of people around so we say our goodbyes and head for home.
This has been so nice, getting to visit and sharing what we have. Rose has a frozen turkey in her old freezer on the porch, that she will prepare at Thanksgiving as a surprise for everyone and probably the last one ever available in our area and we are invited. She thinks maybe it would be good for us all to try to be together once in a while and celebrate the fact that we are alive. The snow keeps up, not a lot at any one time, just steady off and on. It is accumulating but slowly. So we keep shoveling and clearing larger areas of the yard.
Before the ground freezes too much, I dig out some gravel to keep in the chicken house for them. I know they need it for digestion in their gizzards. I guess I will be keeping all of them over the winter and I think I have enough feed for that. I will let all the hens set that want to, in the spring and raise as many as possible to share with everyone wanting to have some chickens. Eventually I will manage to have enough we can have a chicken dinner. But at present, I think fresh eggs will be the best part.
My pullets are starting to lay now and I am getting a few eggs every day. I am saving them back and will share when we go to Rose’s for Thanksgiving. Most Bush households are used to buying the 5 dozen egg packs when they grocery shop and most households keep a can or 2 of the powdered eggs on the pantry shelves for the in between shopping trip times. However, powdered eggs just are not a good choice for deviled eggs. By Thanksgiving time, most folks will be dipping into powdered eggs for any eggs used.

The Beginning – chapter 25

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.


Chapter 25
I am so glad I have kept it harvested all summer as things ripened. Just a couple of days ago, I transplanted some lettuce I started late, kale and mint. It was now protected on my sun porch. I set it up with some LED grow lights I was checking out that a friend had sent me. My little solar panels were also on the porch in the windows and charging the batteries on any clear day.
I gear up and go out to care for the goats. They are enjoying the snow, at the present. I think after a while they may get tired of it just like most humans do. At present, I am thinking it may be saving us from some unpleasant encounters with town folks. Maybe by the time they decide to head this way, they won’t have fuel for the trip. Right now, the only way they could reach us is by snow machine and they would have to be hauling extra gas for the trip.
Late afternoon, the guy on the snow machine stops back by to let us know the latest news from the other direction. He found everyone warm and cozy and at Kara and Rose’s they were even happier.
Their family in town had rounded up some motorcycles and trailers right after the earthquake, loaded up all they could find and came home. They got to the place just before the snow hit too hard. They said the bridge was out just north of town and they came through the river. The next bridge was cracked and they went over it one at a time, being very careful, the lightest loads first. Then at the last large bridge, they again crossed in the river as the bridge looked like it was not safe.
Town had been hit harder than the reports stated. The underground
utility tunnels under the Bases and under downtown Fairbanks had all collapsed and no utilities were working. The runways were all buckled and broken. No flights could enter or leave, except helicopters and only if they had enough fuel in the tanks as the tank farm was on fire. The roads going south from Fairbanks were clogged with traffic thinking they could drive somewhere and get away from the disaster. No one was headed north but them.
Both of Rose’s great-grandchildren made it out with their parent. Their community had increased, but Rose and Kara both planned on them being there in emergencies, anyway. Some of the little extra cabins were just for each adult to have their own place. The “adopted” ones were also welcome and also had been planned for. They hadn’t exactly planned on the one grandson bringing both of his girlfriends out, though. That could get interesting in the days ahead.
We shared our meal with the man and he accepted another bag of rolls and some bread to take on his ride home. He left soon after and we were glad he had stopped by. That was the best load of firewood we ever delivered.
Noah and I sat and tried to figure out exactly what was going to happen next and how to deal with it. We know we could survive out here, if we are left alone. It sounds like Wasilla may now be ocean front property. So the coastline has changed drastically.
I am wondering how Interior is going to change if the ocean levels are rising or have risen. Most of the Yukon and Tanana valleys are not very much above sea level. What if we now could catch ocean fish just down in our valley? We will probably have to wait until the coming summer to find out about that.
The next morning, I awaken to the sound of the goats in a panic and loud barking from Pal. I jump out of bed, grab a gun and head for a window toward the barn. I look out and see a very large grizzly trying to tear into the barn. I am so glad it has rock lower walls. I open the window and sight carefully. I gently squeeze the trigger and the bear slumps down. He starts to rise, then slumps over again. I will wait a bit before going to check. Noah comes racing around the corner of the house pulling on his coat and hat. I unlock the front door and he comes on in. “What on earth…?” he starts. I just say “Grizzly.”
After a few minutes, we put on some wet weather boots and heavy mitts and coats and go check to see if it is really dead. As we wade through the snow, Noah asks if this is a usual occurrence. “No, actually I have never shot a grizzly before,” I answer.
We walk up on the bear from behind with guns at the ready. If the bear even twitched, it was going to get shot a whole lot more. It didn’t twitch. I poked it’s eye with the rifle barrel, no response. I think it is dead. We drag the bear over away from the barn a ways, and spread it on it’s back with legs out. I pull out a quick change utility knife to start skinning. Noah asks why I use that. I tell him they stay sharp, only have to twist the handle to change blades if they get dull and they work very well.
I make the first cuts to make a nice shaped hide when finished and then start skinning. Noah starts on
the other side and it does not take us long to skin the bear. It is an adult male in very good condition. There are no bad odors, only the usual butchering odors, so it must have fattened up on blueberries. I will cure and smoke the hams and maybe try making bacon if there is enough meat over the ribs.
I bring out some large clean totes and we start trimming fat off the body to render for lard. I cut down through the fat over the ribs to the ribs and find it is over 2 inches thick. I will try making it into bacon. I cut both sides off, peeling it down to the ribs. And place it in the tote with the picnic shoulders, hocks and hams to be cured. The ribs and back and brisket will be used as roasts, BBQ ribs and maybe corn the brisket.
We soon have the bear cut into nice cuts of meat and take the totes to the sun porch to keep them cooler than in the main house. The hide will be worked on in the evenings. I did skin the head and feet out before they were cut from the body. That is easier to do at that time. But I will still have to flesh it out better and salt the hide. I cut the head from the body and consider trying brain tanning the hide. The neck has a lot of meat on it so maybe make mincemeat from that. I sort through the gut pile and remove the heavy fat deposits through it all and around the kidneys. This adds a lot more fat to the pile to render for lard.
After the bear is butchered up. The gut pile is dragged over as far as we could get it from the house, with all the snow. We took care of the goats and let Pal know what a good dog he was for barking at the bear. He showed no interest in going after the bear, so he is a smart dog.
When we get back in the house, I check the meat and it is cooling nicely. I mix up the cure to put on the meat and start by putting a layer in a tote, then a layer of meat, and another layer of cure. The heavy hams go on the bottom and the thin bacon slabs go on top all covered in a thick layer of dry cure. The first totes used are rinsed out and set to dry. I put a towel over the meat in the other tote so nothing gets into it. The extra cure mix is left beside it to be added the next day when the meat is turned and checked. The hams are very nice shaped and should be good.
While I was doing that, Noah filled my woodbox and started breakfast. We worked together all through the day, clearing snow off roofs where we could and shoveling trails around the yard. I finished harvesting the greenhouse and the garden. The large tomato plants I brought in last week, are doing fine on the sun porch. It isn’t warm enough for them to grow, but all the green tomatoes on them would slowly ripen and we would still have fresh tomatoes into at least January.
The late zucchini would be great fried and as soup or as bread. I placed them out on a shelf on the sun porch, also. It is more of a walk-in fridge in winter than a sun porch, but it is nice to have the fresh veggies most of the winter.
The extra fat we had cut off the bear, I coarse ground and set on the back of the wood heater to slowly render into lard. It would be a welcome addition to the food stores and make excellent pastries and doughnuts. I only had a small fire going in the wood stove, to keep the chill off the house, so didn’t have to worry
about the lard burning as it rendered. I set the leftover stew pot on the stove to reheat while we worked, also. When we came in at lunchtime, it sure was nice to have it ready and the water hot for a drink. I keep a large pot of water on the wood stove all the time for wash water and to do dishes or bathe. When I am working outdoors, I also put the teakettle on the wood stove to have it ready for a hot drink.
Noah was used to having running water and electricity, so this was going to be a learning experience for him. The good thing is, he seems willing to learn and go along with it.
The rest of the day, we work at making sure everything is as ready for winter as we can make it. In some ways, I hope this doesn’t last and that we get our usual Indian Summer but knowing the possibility of hungry people heading out from town if the roads clear, makes me selfishly wish this was the actual start of winter. There is nothing I can do to help all the thousands in town. I can help the folks in my immediate area
The next day, we build in the room and hay ricks in the barn. All I can hope is that I cut enough hay to last the winter, for the goats. I have never raised goats so am not sure how long it takes to gestate or how long until the young are weaned. I don’t know how much to feed them a day, even. I better start reading my books and see if I have the information there. This will be a learning experience that I will have to learn and fast, no room for mistakes. It starts snowing again, late in the afternoon and continues into the evening. Maybe winter has set in early.
We settle into a routine, of shoveling snow, packing firewood and caring for the animals. The meat is curing nicely and soon we have to go find some alder bushes for wood to smoke the meat. I hope it isn’t too cold to take a smoke well. The bacon sides are cured first, so I hang them to dry. The lard rendered out very well and I use the leftover cracklings as flavoring in a batch of cornbread. I heat the lard to boiling and pour it into hot jars and seal. After they are cold, I will store them in the pantry in a cool dark area. After the hams are smoked, I will try sharing with Rose and Kara and also with Will and Shari. Best if we all keep helping out, I am thinking.
The hams are finally cured and I have found a nice stand of Alder brush near the roadway to cut and peel for the smoke. Noah and I finally have enough peeled that it should do the whole batch. I sewed some cheesecloth bags to hold the hams in and we will place the bacon sides flat on screen, so they hold their shapes. It seems to be warm enough during the day to smoke and I bring them to the sun porch at night. It only takes a few days to have them with enough smoke to consider done.
We decide to try our hand at snowshoeing over to see Rose and Kara. By the time we are about halfway there, we realize neither of us are in shape for this. So we turn around and go home. At the rate we are going, it would have taken us all day just to go a couple of miles. If this were a needed trip, yes, but not just to visit and share some hams.
Will and Shari show up a couple of days later. They have a plow on the front of their little 6 wheel ATV and have made a small road to each property. They said they realize gas is a premium item now, but if we can keep some sort of trail open it will be better for us all. Will shares the latest news from his radio. None of it is good.
The entire world has been affected by the quakes and no cities are left standing, anywhere. Ones along oceans have slid into the seas, civilization has just stepped back in time a few hundred years and not a lot of the current population have any idea how to live in those times. The only hope is that there are people with the knowledge to make and operate old fashioned tools and equipment.
Even a lot of the Amish folk now hire or rent modern tools and equipment, just as long as they don’t do it themselves. So not even as much knowledge with them on old farming practices. Much of Southeast Alaska is apparently bare hillsides since the giant tsunamis washed through. Most of the Pacific Northwest is the same.
The after shocks are so bad in some areas that what buildings did survive are unsafe to go into. More people have died from cave-ins in apartment buildings and underground facilities. The huge volcano expected to erupt somewhere near Yellowstone seems to have dissipated by flowing into large unknown faults running along the east side of the Rockies and passing through near the former site of Denver. All the government underground facilities there are now full of lava. Washington DC is under water, so is New York City as far as anyone can tell. Florida is a few small islands. The new inland sea that used to be the Mississippi Valley now has dolphins and whales. South America and North America no longer join. Europe, Asia and Africa are the same, now separate continents, separated by oceans. No one has heard from Australia or New Zealand.
The early snows of the Alaskan Interior have reached far down into Canada. People that survived the earthquakes are succumbing to the cold. The fear of outbreak of diseases has escalated because of the inability to bury the dead. Rodents, the usual carriers of disease, run rampant in the ruins. Looters are being shot on sight. So far, there does not appear to be any organized raiding.
After all this unhopeful news, we visit a bit and Shari is nervous now about the birth of her child soon. I offer to help but tell her to ask Rose as she is closer. I will be happy to help, though. She thinks she has enough clothes for the baby and did buy a lot of disposable diapers for the first few months and then will switch when she runs out to the cloth ones she already purchased. I will make a small Arctic hare fur bunting for the baby.
When they leave, they take their ham and one each for Kara and Rose. I divide the bacon up and share it for each household, also. I smoked the hocks, so they would be good seasoning for beans and shared those, also. I don’t volunteer what type of meat it is, and they didn’t ask.
The bacon is a little different but acceptable when we try it for breakfast the next day. I will have to practice cutting it thinner.
As we are eating breakfast, Pal starts growling at the door. We look at each other and head to the window to see what is out there. I see a large black bear out in the trees heading to the gut pile and Noah sees 2 guys, also sneaking through the trees, unaware of the gut pile or conflict of interest about to happen. The guys are only watching the house and have guns drawn and pointing toward us. This is something I consider offensive, so I grab the rifle leaning against the wall near the window.
As I start to open the window, the bear decides these hairless bipeds are after his meal and steps in. He takes a swipe at one and practically takes his head off, at the sound, the other one turns and pulls the trigger at the same time. His 1st round goes high and wide and then he fires again, directly into the bears belly. The bear already thinks the guy is a thief, now he is enraged with a belly ache, too. The bear takes another swipe with his paw and tears out the man’s throat. Then I shoot the bear.
Even though he has saved us a lot of problems in the future, I really don’t want him as a neighbor and once a bear finds food anywhere, they always come back checking just in case there may be more. At this rate, we are only going to have my least favorite meat for the winter. But I can’t pass up free meat, so we once again spend part of the day skinning and butchering. There is nothing to be done for the 2 men and I recognize them as the 2 that came out with Royal to harass Shari. I’m pretty sure with all this snow before freeze-up, that we can still dig graves for them.
We drag them and as many parts as we can find up out of the woods and straighten them out so they don’t stiffen in bad positions. I don’t want them in my yard, so we walk out to the roadway. There is a small gully over on one side of the road, with a nice dirt bank above it and we decide to just cover them there. I really do not feel too sorry that they are gone. I just wish I knew what happened to their leader. I would have preferred the bear took care of him.
We drag the men out to the gully, push them in and start knocking the bank down over them. We try to at least make it deep enough with dirt and a lot of rocks, to deter scavengers from digging them out. It should freeze solid soon and that will help over the winter, anyway.
In the snow, the yard now looks like a bloodbath has taken place here. The grizzly at least had a bit more snow after we finished with him. It is cloudy, so I will pray for snow tonight to cover this mess up also.
I think we enjoy the bear meat more after it is cured and smoked, so I start this curing again. This was a large very fat old male, so he has enough fat over his ribs to again make some bacon. It is very fatty bacon, but will be all we will ever see again, unless someone out here has hogs. I have not heard of any, that does not mean there aren’t. I doubt if any of the folks on up the road know I have chickens and goats.
As long as the weather stays near freezing but not too cold, I can still smoke the hams and bacon after they cure.

The Beginning – chapter 24

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.


Chapter 24
Shari comes by the next day and looks worried. I think this is the first time I have ever seen her out driving by herself.
She says she and Will have found signs that someone has been camping around the back of their property, where they can watch the house. She is worried that it is the fellows from her hometown. I agree it probably could be, but really don’t want to scare her more than she is already. I ask if she has heard anything about Royal and what is happening with that.
She says somehow, the Court didn’t see how he was a danger and let him loose. They suggested he head home, but no plane tickets saying he did. The Trooper is upset and so are Will and Shari. Uh-oh, this does not sound good.
She says he only stayed in office as Sheriff through intimidation and voter fraud. So many had signed the voting lists that have been dead for almost 100 years that it was fairly obvious.
While we are standing in the yard, talking, we suddenly lost balance and just as suddenly, regained it. Oops, a small trembler. This was Shari’s first and she did not like it. I reassured her they were usually harmless and happened quite often up here. She turned on the radio in her SUV and finally found a station we could hear through the static. Seemed to be quite a few earthquakes happening around the world, but none were major. Some damage and some loss of property. Nothing too bad, but we both felt a sense of something not quite right. She decided to get home and check on Will, I went to check on the canned goods on my shelves.
Right then and there, I decided to add better bars across each shelf to keep jars on them. Nothing had fell, but some had jiggled to the edge. I found some 1x2s left from roofing and started fastening them along the shelves, a couple of inches above the shelf. That should help a lot.
After finishing mine, I go over to see if Rose and Kara need any help fixing theirs. Rose has very low ones on hers and would like higher ones on them and Kara has none. So we find more 1×2’s and start with the screw gun and fasten them up, starting on the top shelves first. Nothing like a small wake up trembler to remind us we live in earthquake country. Rose has not had a problem with hers even through the 7.9 that shook the State several years ago, but would just rather not take a chance on one larger or closer.
After I get home, I feed my animals and make sure they have water. The chickens are big enough now to be considered chickens, not chicks. I would like to have got a few more as these seem to be about half males. Noah built a small chicken ark that rolls along between rows in the garden and lets the chickens fertilize and feed on weeds at the same time. An unlucky vole wandered into reach one day and they had meat with their greens. 3 of the roosters are very friendly and good natured, so I put them in a separate pen.
I think as a gift, I will give one rooster and one hen to Rose and to Shari, so they can start their own fresh egg factories. Since these are nice, we will each have one and save them from the ax. The hens are all very good natured, which is one reason I got these 2 breeds. Large, good natured and pretty good layers and brooders, also. The other males will be nice chicken dinners as soon as I find someone that don’t mind chopping off their heads. I may have them all winter, everyone has made pets of them.
I make another trip to town with the little bit of gold I have panned in the last couple of days. I buy feed for the chickens and the goats. I stock up on salt blocks and mineral blocks. I find some building supplies at the Transfer Station and finish loading my pickup. There are a couple of very nice rugs also, that go over the whole load, then my tarp and net and I am headed for home again. Just after I cross the last large bridge, my pickup has some steering problems and I almost go off the road. I slow way down and proceed with extreme caution.
As I proceed, I see that several trees are down along the road that I had not noticed before. These are close enough to come get for firewood. I turn my radio on, just to see if maybe that was another earthquake. All I find is static and dead air. That is not unusual with my radio and I think nothing of it until I get closer to home and as I start past Will and Shari’s, I see them outside, sitting on the ground, holding each other. Something is wrong so I pull in.
Shari is crying and Will is upset. This does not look good. “Is it the baby?” I ask as I stop.
“No, Bubble Bump is fine. But I think the rest of the world is in trouble.” she replies.
“The early reports are of massive damage and loss of life all over the world,” Will says. They have been using a broadband radio he bought a while back and are monitoring the short wave stations. None of the usual stations are on the air. He says the reports out of the Anchorage bowl area say there is no more Anchorage, no more Seattle, no more cities left standing around the world
. Major fires from ruptured pipelines. The underground facilities everyone thought were foolproof and completely safe have either collapsed or flooded out. Whole countries are no more. Islands have disappeared and a few new ones have emerged only they used to be inland mountains. There is speculation that possibly 2 or more of the countries developing nuclear weapons may have detonated at various places at about the same time and set off worldwide earthquakes of a magnitude beyond the Richter Scale.
We go inside their house and find only a few items out of place and it seems sound. I want to stop and check on Kara and Rose on my way home to see what damage my place may have sustained.
I pull into their driveway and see that Roman’s cabin and buildings seem to be okay. I go on down the hill and the guest cabins seem to all still be standing. Kara’s house looks okay from outside. I stop and go to the door. No one answers so I go on down to her Mom’s.
Kara is there and we go inside. Rose is fine and picking up a few items that had fallen. Nothing major seems to have happened and the house looks okay. Kara says her place is fine, also. I tell them about thinking my pickup is breaking down. We laugh but it is not much of a laugh.
If Fairbanks didn’t get hit very hard, soon there are going to be thousands of hungry people looking for food wherever and however they can find it. I tell them what I heard at Will and Shari’s. There was no mention of damage to the Interior city or towns. We are far out of town, but not that far if they still have fuel to drive. All the military bases are a worry, also. That is a lot of people needing food in the immediate area.
Since it is late August, the nights are starting to get fairly dark again for a few hours. None of this is good news. I tell them I planned on giving Rose the 2 chickens to start her own small flock with, but now she won’t be able to buy food for them. It may be too late to harvest grass seed, also. It is a good thing that chickens will eat just about anything. She says she will feed them whatever she is eating. Just like her dog and cats will have to do.
I have to get home and see what damage I have and how my animals are doing. As I pull into my yard, I see a stranger sitting on my steps waiting for me. When he sees me, he places his hands on top his head in a classic prisoner pose. He holds this as I walk toward him with my handgun in my hand. “Who are you and why are you here?” I ask.
“My name is Jeremy Rhodes and I killed Rod and Rob before they could hurt Shari. I caught your goats after the quake and put them back in the pens. I’ve been keeping an eye on Will and Shari’s place since Royal and his buddies showed up. I don’t want to hurt any of you but I really, really need a meal and someplace to stay, if possible. I know you should just turn me in, but honestly, I won’t hurt anyone here.”
Strangely enough, I believed him. It had to be someone they knew, to get so close to each guy and knife them while they waited in ambush for Will and Shari. I asked him exactly what happened that day, then said “Wait, why don’t we go over and let you tell it to everyone here and we will decide what to do. After I check in the house first to see if everything is okay.? He said he checked under the house and it looked solid and okay. So I unlocked the door and he went in ahead of me. There were some pictures off the walls and a few items fell from shelves in the living room, but overall, it looked pretty good.
We stopped at Rose’s and she and the guys and Kara followed us over to Will and Shari’s. Shari was shaken to see Jeremy but hugged him saying she knew he wouldn’t hurt her. Seems he is her cousin.
Once we were all introduced, we waited for the story. Jeremy started right from when they left the airport. He only came along to be the calm voice of reason, he thought, so they could talk over some legal matters needing cleared up by the death of Shari’s folks. They did not think Rod was all that bad, and left him some property jointly with Shari, in their Wills with Rights of Survivorship. Rod decided he wanted it all. But Jeremy didn’t know that until he was tied in the back of the SUV and heard what they were planning. He was to take the blame and they were going to use her own rifle to shoot her and if they had a chance, Will, also.
Rob was only backup and to make sure Will didn’t show up too soon after Rod had his little talk with Shari. Jeremy finally managed to work loose from his bonds while they trashed the house. He went in as they were going out the back and they did not see him. He found the large sharp knife where they stuck it into a sofa back. He followed Rob first and came in behind him as he hid behind the old outhouse. He was making too much noise to hear Jeremy who had been in Special Forces in the military, slip up behind him and slit his throat without a sound. He quickly stuffed him into the outhouse and then stalked Rod.
He found Rod just as he was taking aim at Will. He wanted to taunt and punish Shari, so he was going to shoot Will right in front of her. The other woman (me) being there didn’t even slow down his plans. He figured he would get to punish 2 women instead of just one. Jeremy slid silently up behind him and stuck the knife up under his ribs just as he started to squeeze the trigger and the rifle went off. There wasn’t time to hide him or the rifle as we started directly for the sound of the shot. Jeremy just had time to get himself hidden before we got to the body. Then, the Trooper showing up, really made it impossible to do anything and Jeremy was afraid they would haul him in
and he would never see the light of day again. He had been keeping an eye on Royals’ buddies since they were now wandering the woods out here, also. He apologized for stealing food once in a while, but eating berries and roots and small rodents just was not a good diet. He was sorry he took my cinnamon rolls in the greenhouse, but just could not resist. When was I going to make some more? Well, since the earthquake, we had no idea whether or not there were any Troopers left to come out or if there were any type of Court system left in the State.
We talked it over while Jeremy sat in the other room, and decided he probably had saved several lives by the 2 he had taken. If Will and Shari were willing to have him stay here, the rest of us had no problem with that. They were willing. He was very surprised when we told him the decision.
Then talk turned to the earthquakes and Will turned the shortwave radio back on for us to hear the updates. There were still a few HAM operators on the air and trying to let everyone know the extent of the damages. It sounded like the earth as we knew it was totally gone. There may still be a few small towns and villages here and there, but the roads, trains and shipping was gone. All the major cities, also gone. It was hard to think that Fairbanks may be the largest city left on earth. It had no means of supporting itself, so it soon would cease to exist as a city, either.
I finally got home and unloaded my pickup. It would probably be the last load of anything I would ever be able to buy in town, ever. This was it, there won’t be any more. Noah helped me put the feed away and unloaded the building supplies and rugs into the barn. We are both silent as we part and he goes back to his camper which weathered the quake fairly well.
The next morning, we awaken to a freak snowstorm. There is about a foot of heavy wet snow on everything and more coming down. Oh, this isn’t good for the survivors in town. If they have no electricity most won’t have heat. As deep and heavy as the snow is, no one will be driving out this way, anyway, so maybe it is good news for us.
I go out and make sure my animals are all closed up in their pens and buildings. I drain my water tank and tip the washing machine to drain the pump. I start filling all the water containers from the spring and storing them in the old ice house and in the house. The new ice house is also loaded up with some half full containers of water to allow to freeze, later, for ice.
The snow continues all day and there is the crashing of tree limbs breaking from the load on limbs still covered in green and gold leaves. Trees are bending and the brush is almost flat on the snow banks. The wind has come up, so it is blowing drifts across the roadway.
I ask Noah if he wants to try making it over to be with his Dad and brother. He says no, he is comfortable where he is, but if it gets much colder, could he move into the little cabin out back? It does have a small wood stove in it. Well, yes, it would be nice to have him here.
The snow keeps falling and during the night, the temperature starts dropping. I feel sorry for anyone out in this weather and the poor folks without homes now are to be prayed for.
Early the next morning, I hear the sound of a snow machine coming in my driveway. It is the fellow we delivered firewood to, this summer. He comes to the door and says he is just checking to see if I am okay and is going over to check on Rose, Kara and the new folks. He asks about the earthquake so we tell him what we have heard on the radio at Will and Shari’s. He is dumbfounded and just shakes his head. I ask him if he will be okay and he says yeah, he has over a years supply of gas for his snow machine and chainsaw and seldom ever went to town, anyway. I send him on his way with a bag of cinnamon rolls to either keep or share at each stop he is making this morning and invite him back for a meal on his way home. He accepts after thinking it over a second or two.
After he leaves, Noah comes to the door and I let him in. He has shoveled a path from the house to the barn and to the woodshed. I fix breakfast and he is very happy to come in and get warmed up and a hot meal. After breakfast, I start bread dough and a large pot of stew from the remnants of the garden.

The Beginning – chapter 23

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.


Chapter 23
The building projects on each property are all coming along very well. Rose would like another woodshed near her house, but can’t enlarge her current one without closing her driveway or building a new driveway to the house. Finally she decides to just add it to the north side of her house and move the oil tank, since she doesn’t heat with oil any more. She could put it right up next to the entry porch and use the 2nd door from the porch to carry wood in, without ever having to go completely outside. She says she is getting lazy in her old age.
Maybe we can do that after Will and Shari’s is filled. They are close to having it done, now and so is Roman and his sons. Those guys have been working very hard on making the little cabin and outbuildings into a wonderful area. Rose and Kara wish they had met them when they first started building out here. Or before. Some of the “help” they have had has been less than stellar. Roman has been stocking his building supply shed every time he goes to town. He has also been stocking the cabin with supplies they will need for winter. Will and Shari are doing the same and both groups ask us questions all the time about what they will need to make winter easier. When they found the fur dealer in town, they bought some excellent hats, mitts and mukluks for winter wear. They got some military surplus flight pants and parkas, then some bunny boots, which look like cartoon bunny feet. Big white air cushioned military surplus. I think they are the warmest boots ever made and feet sweat in them, very badly, but they don’t freeze.
These guys have some money to spend so they can just go buy what they need. It would be easy to be jealous of that, but they are so nice and they share when we need something before we even realize what they are doing. They earned it, so no matter what, it is their right to use it as they want. I am super thrilled when Shari drives down the hill at their place in a little 6 wheeled ATV that looks like a small pickup. It has room for 2 people and a small dumpbed on the back for hauling dirt or whatever. That is the cutest little vehicle and she says it is very fuel efficient. She has been dragging wood down to their house from the woods out back with it. Their dogs love running along beside her. I am glad she is never totally alone out there.
She is starting to show her baby bump fairly well and says she is not sick at all now. Will cuts and hooks up the logs, she drags them down and unhooks, then back for the next load he has ready. I ride up and back with her on her next trip, but don’t want to slow them down as they have a good system going. So after one trip, I go over to see how Rose and Kara are doing. Kara has the shack open and I get an ice cream, then go on down the hill to see
her Mom.
Rose is peeling posts to use as the uprights for her next woodshed. She has cleared out the area and leveled it some with the grub hoe. She said with the loose hydraulics on the backhoe, she would probably take out a wall of the house if she tried digging with it. She has hauled quite a bit of gravel to make the floor of the shed. She asked the guys to pick up any old rugs they find at the Transfer Stations for added floor in the woodsheds. Some that they have found are so nice, she is storing them in the shop. They will be fine in the small cabins she has been building for guests or family to have privacy if they visit.
I like that idea and have used my old little cabin that way, too. I should put up a couple more and can use them for dry storage if needed. Maybe put them out through the woods on my place, not in my yard. That is what Rose is doing. A cabin here, a cabin there. Privacy and quiet for everyone. When I get home, the pets are acting nervous and jumpy but soon settle down. I still get that feeling like someone is watching, once in a while and I guess it gets to the animals, also.
I decide to do laundry and go to get the sheets out of the little cabin. Someone has used it since the guys and did not make the bed as nicely as they did. Dang, I better start locking things again. Maybe the feeling of being watched was for real. Nothing seems to be missing, at least.
Pal sticks close to me while I do the laundry, I am glad of his company. Now I wonder what I did without a dog for so long. I know he would let me know before anyone came in the yard or got too close.
After hanging clothes and as the next load is washing, I go turn hay along my driveway and the small amount left out along the roadway. Some is ready to pick up, so I load it in the pickup.
I unload the hay after adding the rinse water, and turn the hay on the pallets. It is getting as dry as it needs to be, so I will have to hurry up on the barn.
After hanging the last load of clothes, I start on the barn walls again. I place heavy duty frames around future windows. Then back to the rocks and concrete. I am having a hard time going up a ladder with rocks or concrete so I guess it is time to switch over to log sections. First, I place the bolts in concrete along the top of the wall, then drill holes in the plank I will use on top the rocks to nail the log sections to. I place the planks before the concrete is set up, I may not have drilled the holes totally straight and want it to actually fit. Probably not the right way, but it should work. I have set bolts on up through the planks, also, to put through the log sections as I don’t think nails will hold it very well. It’s a good thing I had a lot of those long bolts.
The guys show up after I have finished cleaning up the concrete mess. They are a bit upset that I didn’t wait for them to do the heavy stuff. Well, they have stuff to do also and why should they feel obligated to come do my work?
This concrete seems to be the quickset stuff, so we go ahead and start stacking the logs I cut earlier. We have to measure and drill, but it still goes quickly. Soon we have it high enough to set the poles across for the floor support for upstairs. I will probably need some more pier blocks and add some uprights down the center of the building to support the weight of the upstairs floor if I start storing much up there, like feed and hay. Well, hay anyway. I mark where I would like an overhead haymow. It will go directly over the widest door downstairs. If I put in a pulley system and hooks, I can fill the loft with it.
After the logs on the walls are notched out and the poles placed across, we continue stacking the logs up another 4 feet for the side walls. If I had more logs, I would build the side walls higher, but I don’t. I will have to frame in the rest of the gable ends. The guys want to know if I want a regular barn shaped roof on it. I am not sure how to make one of those. Roman says he does, and if I want, we can do it. However, we will have to build trusses for that. I am not sure I have materials for trusses, and have never used them. I am running low on salvaged materials with all these projects.
It is so late by now, my stomach is complaining loudly about the lack of food. Kara closed a while ago, so can’t even go get a sandwich from her. I do have some pocket bread I made last night, so I can heat some chili and stuff those. So I invite the guys in and start opening chili and heating it. Then chopping some green onions from the garden and shred some cheese into a bowl. This will be a simple meal, but I hope it fills them up. I fix a large bowl of salad to go along with the chili and have some leftover chocolate fudge cake on the counter. Not the best meal I ever prepared, but not the worst, either. I set the salad on the table and the items to add to their sandwiches, then fill the pocket bread and place on plates and set around the table. Everyone is quick to sit and start in. I never have to worry about leftovers with this group.
Roman says we should build the floor upstairs then build the trusses on the floor to raise into place. Much easier than building them on the ground, then lifting up almost 2 stories into place. Makes sense to me. Noah places a gentle kiss on my lips as they go out the door, just a hint and a whisper of a kiss.
In the morning, I am up and hauling all the 2×6’s I can find over to the barn. Maybe I have enough to do the floor. I also need to place the future staircase. Too bad I don’t have one of the pull down staircases, although they might be hard to use carrying a load. I think I will leave open spaces to fork hay down into hay racks for feeding. Maybe make a small raised edge around each one so I don’t just walk off into open air some winter day while feeding. So, I need to place where things are going to go, downstairs before trying to do much upstairs.
I think I will put a small room in the center to store dry feed in, easier than hauling large bags up stairs and then back down to feed. That will help support the upstairs, also. I think I should add a chimney so I can heat the barn if needed. Not sure where to put a chimney with hay in the upstairs. Maybe an insulated pipe out through the downstairs wall and then up at the gable end of the building. It won’t have as good a draft, but it should still work. I will have to put a cleanout at the bottom of the elbow so I can brush the pipe often, since it will be outdoors. Now to check all the stovepipe I have stored. I think I have an insulated elbow. I can strap the pipe to the building all the way up, to support it, if I use a metal pipe to strap it to, then strap that to the building.
While I am sorting through pipe, the hair on the back of my neck feels like it is rising. I whirl around and see someone duck in behind some trees, farther out in the forest. Dang, what a time to forget to bring Pal with me. I know better
. I pretend not to know the man is there and slide my handgun into my hand and start walking back up the hill to the house. After I get to the upper edge of the trees, I fire a couple of shots into a stump, just as warning. I don’t know who this is, and it could be one of the guys from Shari’s home town or just some fool looking for access to the land below mine. Either way, I am not happy about it. When I get to the house, I let Pal out and keep him near me. I worry that someone may hurt him if he catches them on my property. I’m not too worried about them, they take their chances if they are trespassing.
As the days progress, we finish up my barn, and I put the now dry hay up in the loft. I cut more as I found it and started putting the pallets in the barn and drying the grass in there. We are going into August and it is usually our rainy season. We have been lucky to have a dry summer so far and no local fires to worry about
. Rose’s new woodshed is finished and starting to be filled. I have panned a small amount of gold out and sold it. It was enough to buy some much needed supplies and 2 young goats. I was lucky enough to find 2 that are unrelated, a male and a female. Now I will have to build some fences as goat proof as possible. Especially around my garden. I also bought as many seed packets from a local nursery of Alaskan type seeds. Most are heirloom, so if possible, maybe I can save seeds from them.
Carefully, I pack them in a cannng jar with a good lid and store it out in the ice house. I also store several boxes of ammo out in the ice house in canning jars with good lids. These are placed in an old tote that fits in behind the shelf unit I built in the back. I placed an old handgun in the tote, wrapped in an oily rag and then in a ziplock plastic bag. The inner and outer doors are always locked on this building, so I consider them quite secure. Later, I add a shotgun and shells for it, also. Since I seem to have folks hanging around in the woods, I cover everything I carry to the ice house, so no one can see what is being stored. I’m starting to feel a bit paranoid.

The Beginning – chapter 22

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.


Chapter 22
Noah, his Dad and brother drive in about the time I think I better quit on this job and take care of the other chores needing done. They have brought concrete, from the dog run they built and had left over. Well, maybe I am not so tired after all and the other chores will still be there.
With all of us working, it doesn’t take long to have it looking like real walls. It will still need more concrete, to continue, but it looks really good. We placed rough cut lumber in slots in the walls to frame in 2 doors, then built the rocks up around them. One 4 foot wide and the other 3 feet wide at the other end of the barn. We did not place then at the side closest to the driveway, so have to go to one end or the other to enter. Seems like a good idea at the moment.
I run in and add dumplings on top the stew I have simmering on the stove. I think it will feed us all. I have some canned blueberries left from last year, so stick them on and add dumplings on top of them, too. Not a very well rounded meal, but it is filling. I think as long as there is any type of dessert, the guys will like it. Too bad there is no ice cream to put the hot berries and dumplings on. The guys finish cleaning up the mess from mixing and working with concrete and come in for dinner. I was right, they will eat anything with any type of bread on or in it. The stew is new produce from the garden, not enough of any one thing to make a meal, but several small amounts of quite a variety. I added a jar of cooked burger that had not sealed from the canning at Rose’s. A bit of powdered broth adds rich flavor and it is filling.
Will and Shari have been going to town and buying a lot of supplies. Food, building and clothing, both for themselves and the new addition they are expecting. Shari wants to be set to stay out here without having to drive when the roads are bad in winter. On one of their trips, they bring back a load of concrete and tell me Happy Birthday. They had found a super sale on it, in town and could not resist. My birthday is not for a few months yet and I try to refuse such a wonderful gift. Shari gets a bit bent out of shape and says after all I have done for them, it is also a big thank you.
Wow, how can I refuse? This is enough to do the barn and the floor in the ice house and chicken coop. Maybe even some for part of the floor in the barn. This is a lot of concrete. They borrowed Roman’s trailer and had it full and covered, just in case of rain. So far we have been lucky on our building projects with no actual heavy rain. Each of us have a sense of needing to get as much done as we can and stock up on all we can afford. No one wants to talk about it, but the urgency is there.
Prices on food have been going up so fast, it shows, week to week on the shopping trips to town. The shelves in a lot of the stores have been very thinly stocked and some have moved the shelf units farther apart to make it look like they have more supplies. Sometimes it is hard to find items normally considered staple goods. Now it is buy it when you see it, it may not be available next trip in. I really need to do more panning before the next trip to town. Maybe I can buy the goat or two I have been wanting.
I better start cutting grass to dry for hay. I have an old scythe and although it has been years since I used one, I guess I can get used to it again. My main problem will be how to dry it. I will have to cut along the roadway, as I don’t have enough ground cleared and growing grass. The seed heads are forming on the native grasses, so I better start my cutting program in the next few days. It is a good thing the highway department is lax about mowing along the main roads.
I start early the next day, and soon find my rhythm. However, not too long after, I also find I have not done this in years and am going to be in pain in a large way, very soon. I better quit this for today. Maybe pound rocks or something easy.
I start working on the barn walls again. The walls are a good foot thick, maybe thicker. I’m not being too careful on making them totally even, it is still a barn. However, I am trying for fairly straight. I would rather the walls not fall down because I tilted them too much.
Rose shows up about the time I am totally worn out. She has brought me part of a roll of used roofing membrane to use as waterproofing against the sides of the building before dirt berming it. She has a lot of it, and is sharing it. We walk around the project and she comments on certain points. She suggests I make high narrow windows on first floor and use Plexiglas in them to keep it warmer and not so easy to break. That sounds like a good idea, I didn’t want it dark in there, but also didn’t want it easy to damage. We talk about how high the ceiling should be, on the ground floor. She says she usually goes for 7 feet at least. That way it doesn’t feel so much like it is a cave and still low enough for holding heat in. She suggests I add a chimney just in case I ever have to heat it. If a goat is birthing, in cold weather, may increase the chances of survival for the young one and mother, both. She also suggests I insulate the upper floor just in case I don’t want to heat the upstairs storage, also. If I have enough insulation, I may do that. Hay doesn’t need heated.
I need to find enough long poles, strong enough to span the distance to place in the walls to support the floor for upstairs. Down near the river are some stands of spruce that are needing thinned but are fairly straight and tall. I may just go liberate, ummm, borrow, some of those.
By evening, I am so tired and sore I feel like I have been run over by a truck or two. When Noah shows up, he hands me a weed whacker with a chain instead of string head on it. He said his Dad had it in the shop trailer and he thought it might be easier to cut hay with. Oh my, I think this is probably one of the nicer things anyone has ever done for me. The next morning, I can barely move as I slide out of bed and creakingly stand up. I have aches where I didn’t even know I had muscles. I slowly stretch and move and soon I have loosened up enough to get dressed and start the day. Okay, I guess the scythe is something to work into slowly.
After the morning chores, I take the weed whacker out and start along the roadway again. Oh yeah, this is a much better idea. It cuts the grass right at the ground and even small saplings. Goats won’t mind the saplings, either. I check the grass I cut yesterday and it seems to be drying very well. I brought a rake along with me, and rake it into small windrows along the road to pick up later. I will have hay before I have a barn. But it has to be cut while the seed heads are full but not dropping yet or it is straw and worthless as animal food. After raking, I go back to cutting, again. I would like to have enough to fill the loft of the little barn.
The weed whacker is much easier on my back, arms and body in general. I think I love that man. Well, extreme like anyway. He is so thoughtful, good worker, helpful and nice, just plain nice. Well, he is pretty good to look at, also. The fact that he is an excellent kisser is beside the point, we have been very careful not to repeat that.
I cut all along my driveway and down to the house, then go out and down to the wood lot, also. I had nice wide sides on the roads, to act as partial firebreaks, so there was a lot of good thick grass along that. This sure makes my place look good. The main road is looking better, also.
I place some pallets side by side and make a raised area, near the barn but out of the way a bit. Then I take the pickup out and gather the hay I had windrowed. I placed it in one pile on the pallets. Then I gathered the first grass I had cut this morning. I spread it out better on the rest of the pallets to dry more. I continue picking up the cut hay and spreading it on the pallets until I have quite a lot spread out and no more room to spread it. It needed dried better so couldn’t pile it. I would have to go turn it every day until it was dry.
A lot of the stuff I cut along the main road had clover in it, in full bloom. That would be excellent hay and I needed to keep it separate a bit from the plain grass hay. Maybe I should pick up some clover seed in town and scatter it along my roads on the property. It won’t help this year, but should improve next year’s hay crop.
After my day of haying, I am beat, yet again. Even using the weed whacker, I am sore and tired. I grab my chainsaw and go down near the river and cut enough long fairly straight poles to use as support for the loft floor in the barn. When I limbed them, I cut fairly close so there won’t be much peeling to do on these. I’m glad spruce is so much lighter than Birch, small trees are easy to load and tie down on the pickup. They may drag once in a while, so I have to be careful. They aren’t the only thing dragging. By this time, most of the new woodsheds are fairly full. Having 2 years’ supply of firewood on hand is wonderful. Every time I think of ever having to cut wood by hand, I cringe inside and vow to keep at least a full year ahead. What if my saw breaks, what if I can’t afford gas, the possibilities are endless.

The Beginning – chapter 21

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.


Chapter 21
Rose planned on going to town the following Sabbath and asked if I would like to go with her. I had never thought much about religion or church, but thought it would be nice, so accepted. She said she would be there by 7, as services started at 9:30 am. That would give us time to stop early during business only hours at the warehouse store and pick up some things before the crowd. That sounded good to me, also.
She said there was no actual dress code, just clean and covered although no one had ever said that, even. She usually wore either clean jeans and shirt or long skirt with pants under and shirt. She said she felt naked without pants covering her legs.
Sabbath morning, she was there, right at 7 am and we left right on time. She is not a slow driver so we made it to the warehouse store in good time for shopping before leaving for church. She picked up some cases of canning jars and some of the dehydrated or freeze dried storage food. There was some marked down burger and some skinless boneless chicken breast and she bought quite a bit of that. She has a cool chest in the pickup that plugs in to the lighter and keeps things cold. She also got some lunchmeat for the shack and some cigarettes that Kara sells. Then we headed for the little town south of Fairbanks, North Pole, where she goes to church.
I’m not sure what I expected, but this is a nice little church and everyone is very nice and friendly. It is like coming to visit family and we enjoy ourselves a lot. After services, there is a potluck and Rose has brought a large pan of rolls she had made and a dessert, another of those lemon cakes. Oh, yum.
We stop on the way home and pick up the ice cream Kara needs for the shack. The meat gets moved to cool bags with ice and the ice cream goes into the plug in cooler.
We stop and check the mail on the way home, at the little locked boxes in Fox. It is only a 50 mile drive to check the mail.
Rose will be canning meat tomorrow, so asks if we should stop and invite Shari to join us, if I wanted to come, also. This sounds good to me, I can always use some new ideas on meat canning. So we stop and Shari is very happy to come over tomorrow.
Rose takes me on home, thanks me for going with her. I can and do hope she will invite me again. She says she seldom gets to go as the trip costs so much now. Then she goes home to unload her purchases. This has been a very nice, pleasant day.
The next morning, I ride over with Noah. He and his Dad and brother are finishing up the cabin, woodshed and the outhouse. They have hauled some firewood for the woodshed and are cutting and stacking it whenever they have spare moments. I hike on down to Rose’s and Shari is already there. They are cooking the meats in assorted ways. They made some small meatloaves and are canning them in thin brown gravy. The chicken, she roasted the night before and they are dicing it up. Some of the diced chicken gets covered in Buffalo Wing sauce and they use that to top pizza with. Most of the rest, she cans in broth and uses in recipes calling for diced chicken.
They are browning a large pan of the burger to just can dry, to use in recipes, also. A pint is the equivalent to a pound of browned burger. Some, she added diced onion and celery and green bell pepper to, and will pour in a #10 can of diced tomatoes. That can be spiced any way when opened to use.
Shari is even taking notes. She really wants to learn how to do these things. She is also making a grocery list. I think Will is about to have a large hole in his bank account.
Roman and his sons have started buying barrels of gas and diesel each trip to town and storing them in the back of their woodshed. They also picked up a nice small generator in addition to the larger one he has in his shop trailer.
He has been loading up on nails and screws, house wrap and vapor barrier rolls. He says he wants to build a large home someday and wants to buy it while it is available. So do his sons. He is buying roofing ever so often, also. He was thinking of building another shed like the woodshed to put building supplies in. He asked Rose if he could sell building supplies from here and also do diesel mechanic work. She told him yes, if he got insurance to cover it as she only had the policy listed at the driveway. He thought that over a bit and agreed, he would buy insurance. He offered to buy blanket coverage for the whole place as he said it wouldn’t be any different in price. So she said yes. Her signs keep out the wussies, anyway.
The next few days, the guys put up another structure and roof it. Then start adding pallets of supplies in under it. They will pick up some T 1-11 next trip in and cover the walls so it is more secure. This may be the middle of nowhere, but there are still thieves.
That trailer is getting a good workout and is used every trip they make to town. They can haul a lot of material home on it and never fail to make the stop at the Transfer Stations. They have found enough windows to make a very nice greenhouse with real glass. Several metal clad insulated doors, assorted fixtures, electrical and bathroom. Kitchen cabinets and appliances. They are picky and only bring the very good condition items back. Now they are placing them with care in the new shed. It is going to require an addition very soon at this rate.
They have also been buying a lot of dry food supplies. One trip back, they also bring a dog.. They said he followed them and they couldn’t resist him. He turns out to be a pregnant female. So now they have a dog.
They also build a run out the back door for the dog, so when they let it out, it has the pen right there handy. They decided Will had the right idea, so they also mix and pour concrete for the floor and around the posts to keep the pen easy to clean and no digging out. Until everything is set up and dry, they keep her tied to the bumper of one of the trucks or in the house with them. She seems to be well behaved and housebroken, so that is a plus. She is not a fancy
looking dog, and looks more like what is known as an Alaskan sled dog and maybe something heavier built thrown in somewhere down the line. She has one blue eye and one brown eye from the sled dog line. She does not seem to bark, which is okay, but not much help for a watch dog. She does growl when something bothers her though. That night, they get to hear her howl and she does a very good job of it, too. She settles in happily and adds one more creature to the collection in the area and soon to add more.
I want to build an earth bermed shelter as a barn, I think. That should help keep animals warm, if I manage to get goats. If I don’t, it will be good storage. Maybe I should start it and try stocking it with supplies for animals, just in case I ever get some. The next morning, I start laying out an area to build an earth bermed barn. I don’t want it into the permafrost bank as that would defeat the purpose. So I guess maybe build on top the ground and haul dirt in around it. The area where nothing wants to grow very well should be a good spot. It is mostly rock. So I measure out and move a few rocks around, to give an idea how it will look. Then I move some more and think there are enough rocks here to make a foundation, of sorts. By the time my back is complaining loudly, I have a low foundation set out in the far corner of my yard. The larger flat stones I had scooted over into place, trying to have a fairly large one at each corner. I would have to come measure and square it later. I don’t think it is all that square, but it is a barn after all. Square is over rated. So is level and straight.
At the lower end of my place is a large rock outcropping, so I take my pickup, a pick and grub hoe down to check it out. Maybe if there are enough rocks, I will try making a mostly rock barn, insulate the outside or inside, whichever, and dirt berm that to help make it warm for the animals. Should help it be fire proof or at least fire resistant. The more I think about it, the better I like it, so I start loading rocks into the pickup. I still have a couple bags of concrete in the shed, if they are not too hard, I will start using it to hold the rocks.
When I am unloading, Noah shows up and helps. He wants to help on building the barn, and offers to pick up more concrete in town, next trip. I tell him I don’t have the money for it now, so it will have to wait. He just smiles and we keep on working. We haul several more loads of rocks up from the ledge down the hill. Most are rather flat and should be fairly easy to stack. Noah leaves after we get done with the rocks. I have some long bolts I had picked up at the Transfer Station one time and brought home just in case. Well, this will be that case. I can set them in between the rocks and concreted in, then place through a board on top to nail to and hold the upper section of wall and roof on with.
Our piles of rocks are looking pretty good. I think we may have enough to make the lower 3 or 4 feet all rock and concrete, when I get some. That should deter a fire fairly well, if I put a metal roof on it. I mix up the concrete I have on hand and start placing the rocks in the walls I have marked out. It
doesn’t go far, but it is a start. I peel some more of the logs the guys brought as firewood. I think they will be part of the future barn.
Maybe I should cut 2 sides off and stack them, like kids toys. I should do that to the rest before peeling, will only have half the peeling to do then. So I get out the chainsaw and an old board to tack on the log and use as guide. I make a quick block for each end with a couple of 2×4’s and nail 2 small pieces on each side to hold the log in place and start to work on that. If I have everything ready to go, once the rocks are stacked, it will be quick work to do the rest of the building. I am thinking of adding a short side walled upstairs for dry storage, also. Depends on how much material I have when it is being built