Do-it-yourself Surgery, Part 1

1941 Ten Mile Creek Homestead

We lived in the Boonies and loved it. Wild as the woodland creatures around us, none of us had much for social skills. We played in the woods and the swift running creek that in most places would be considered a small swift river. Then we decided the off-limits abandoned mill pond would be a better swimming hole.

We didn’t mind that when we waded in, it had 2 feet of water and 2 feet of soft mud. Some areas had only a foot of water and 3 feet of mud. The bottom had sharp rocks and some random bottles thrown in by the former mill workers. At least most were deep enough that we seldom found them.

As we found the bottles, we removed them from the pond. Then one of us got the bright idea to build a raft. We crafted our raft from green alder wood, which was easy to cut down with an ax and shape. We built it on the steep bank that dropped off into the pond. It’s a good thing the bank was so steep. That raft was heavy. We finally managed to get it into the pond and it floated nicely. Well, it floated nicely until someone got on it.

The two youngest boys ended up using the raft the most. With both of them on it, it floated, but was about 2 inches under the surface. Due to the high amount of mud under the water which kept the pond a rich mud color, it appeared that the two boys were standing in shallow water holding a long pole, each.

The first time they tried poling the raft, the poles stuck and stayed in the mud. The boys could hang onto the poles and let the raft float on away from them, or they could let go and leave the poles upright, stuck firmly in the soft gooey mud. They finally figured out just how to pole gently to travel around the small pond.

Before we upgraded the mill pond to swimming hole, we used to rescue stranded salmon fry in drying puddles along the creek and dump them into the pond. They grew quite well and soon the pond was stocked with landlocked salmon and good fishing. The fish would freak us out when they bumped into our legs in the water. We managed to scare each other with tales of monsters lurking under the mud.

Somehow, I managed to step on a broken whiskey bottle in the mud and sliced the bottom of my left foot badly, leaving a large flap of flesh hanging. It was bleeding freely and I sat on a rock beside the pond trying to convince one of the other kids to go up to the house and get Mom.

Since we were not supposed to be in that pond, no one would go up and let her know I was hurt. I ended up having to trudge up the dusty road and tell her myself. The flap of flesh was totally caked in dust and mud by the time I got to the house. I was trying not to step down on the wound, but there is not many ways to walk without touching the bottom of your foot to the ground.

Mom tried cleaning the dirt out of the wound and finally decided it was too dirty to replace the flesh flap into the hole. She sat me down on one of the steps outside so we didn’t mess up anything in the house. Then I had to hold my own foot still while she cut the large flap of flesh loose from my foot. She used her sewing scissors as that was the sharpest instrument she could find. My foot would start jerking as she started snipping away the flap of flesh. It took quite a while as live human flesh isn’t easy to cut through. I was having a very hard time holding my foot still. If I let it jerk, I got reprimanded or smacked. She finally tidied it up fairly well and poured merthiolate into the hole. That stuff burns and certainly took my mind off what we had just did.

Mom made a bandage of sorts to cover the entire bottom of my foot as most of it was involved in the damage. I wore a couple of pairs of socks over it to try to keep more dirt out of it. It took several months to heal and at various times it would get infected and it was back to the merthiolate. I had to clean it daily with peroxide and rubbing alcohol which was one way to make sure I never went back into that pond.


Family Fun

Broken Top Mountain, near the Three Sisters Mountains where we camped

Mom probably had a right to be a little upset. She not only had her own 3 children but the neighbor’s 5 to look after up in a remote area of the Cascade mountain range in Oregon. She didn’t know how to drive so Dad dropped us all off up there and was supposed to be back in a couple of weeks to pick us up. We only had a small Jeep, so after stuffing all the camping gear, food and kids in it, there wasn’t much room for wiggling around. This was well before the lightweight tents and sleeping bags of today. Tents were heavy duty canvas, requiring heavy pipe poles to hold up. Anyone touching the side of the tent if it rained caused an instant leak. Now we were well into our third week on the mountain side with no grocery store in sight, now cash on hand to pay for it if there had been. After all, why would Mom need her purse out in the woods?
We had already done all the usual things we did out of sight of the tent and Mom.
Found the quicksand bog – check
Took turns jumping off the log into the quicksand – check
Saw who would chicken out and beg to be pulled out before the quicksand got completely up to their chin – check
Finally pulled the irritating one back out just before the quicksand covered the mouth – check
Found the old time log bear trap – check
Cleaned out the debris in it – check
Checked out the trigger device – check
Released the log door so the one that triggered it could escape – check
Tried to talk the irritating one into trying it – check
By this time, Mom was getting a little irritable, she had thrown in a 25 pound bag of split peas in the groceries and we were down to eating those, three times a day. We had picked every berry that we could find, tried to capture fish with our bare hands and chased a deer that wandered by but we couldn’t catch it. Still no sign of Dad.
I don’t know if the neighbors had noticed their children were missing yet or not or just were enjoying not having them around, but no one seemed to notice we were overdue.
Finally, Dad showed up. Things were very quiet and tense and he even took us to a café in Sisters, Oregon for a burger each which was unheard of. The several hundred mile long ride home was made in almost total silence. The atmosphere was so thick it could have been cut with a knife. My parents never argued or raised voices in front of us, but we all knew something wasn’t too kosher in the Jeep.
Nothing was ever said in my hearing, so I have no idea how that played out in private. The next year when we went for out annual camping trip, we smuggled a gun under the load.

“Where did you get those bears?”

Bears in the yard
A couple of years earlier, one neighbor had been shooting bears all summer and I asked him if he would let us have one for sausage. He said he would. One morning, he woke us up, he had a dead bear in the back of his pickup, and did we still want one? We said” Sure” and he dumped it by the cabin.
My daughter and I dressed and were just started skinning when the neighbor was back. Do you want another bear? We said “Why not?” When he was walking back down to his cabin, another bear ran around the corner and almost ran into him. He shot it.
We skinned out both bears, her first time skinning anything, and quartered them. We spread clean sheets on the backseat of my old crewcab and loaded the meat, salted the hides, rolled them and put them in the back of the truck and headed for town.
Charlie was working at Pump Station 7 at that time, setting up the power house. In camp, the men had a habit of starting rumors in the morning and see if they could recognize their own rumors that evening. That very morning, Charlie told the group at his table that I had woke up in the night to see a bear in the cabin by the stove and shot it from bed, then as I started to get up another one came through the back door and I jumped up on the bed and shot it as it ran by. No one questioned how he knew all of this, as there were no phones or radio between our areas. They just laughed and said “Sure, Charlie”, as they knew I did mine on out the road another 80 or so miles.
Before noon, I pulled up at the gate where the security guard was stationed to have him let Charlie know I would be at home that night. He looked down into my pickup from his perch and spotted the hides in back and the fresh meat in the backseat. His eyes got a little bugged out and he asked what I had. I told him, “A couple of bears”.
That man didn’t even wait to let someone take his seat in the guard shack, he took off running down the hill into camp, yelling, “It’s true, it’s true.”
By the time Charlie came home that evening, I had all the meat ground up and in three piles on the counter and was working different spices into each pile. I made summer sausage, pepperoni and salami. Charlie eyed the meat but didn’t say anything.
The next morning, I took him out to work and as I was coming home, the rest of the crew were honking and waving at me out their car windows as we passed. Very friendly bunch.
By that evening when I drove out to pick him up, even the large trucks were honking at me as they met me on the road. Hmmm, they are always friendly, but not quite this much.
By the time I was done making sausage and went back out to mine, almost every rig on the road was flashing lights and waving at me. I sent some of the sausage to work with Charlie to share at camp.
Just before Christmas, one of the men that had worked at the camp that summer stopped by our house in town. He asked if we had any of that sausage he could send to his elderly father for Christmas as his Dad had always wanted to try bear meat.
Charlie went down in the basement to check in the freezer for some and while he was gone, the man told me, “You know, when Charlie first told us that story, we all thought it was just another rumor getting started even though it was better than most.”
For once, I didn’t spoil Charlie’s stories and kept my mouth shut and just smiled. I didn’t have a clue.
After the man left, Charlie looked at me and said he probably should explain what the man meant? Then he told me what he had done. We laughed a little and I started getting dinner. He looked at me a minute or two, then, “Just where did you get those bears?”

Making Do

Halya, Me and her Bear

Quick Repairs

When I was guiding down river, one of the Assistants managed to slash his thigh with chainsaw kickback. It looked like a bear slashed his leg with 4 ragged slashes.
The boat was not due back to check on us for another week. We washed out the cuts as best we could with boiled water, then I handed him the bottle of betadine and made him pour it over his leg.
After he quit jumping, cussing and swinging his fists around camp, we super glued his leg back together and butterfly bandaged with some duct tape strips. I checked his leg every evening and swabbed it a bit more with betadine, then covered with bag balm and he recovered very well with no infection.
We were lucky.

From my Life

Dinsmore Cabin on  Glenn

Bill wanted us to drag his old Volkswagen bus over from a cabin and claim they used to own and get it off that property. We saw the man living on the claim and said we wanted to come get it. He said fine, he was using it to store dry dogfood but would move it out. We went over one morning to see what would need done before we could pull it away.
We were in the old Ford crewcab pickup and the transmission didn’t hold too well in Park, so I slid over and held the brakes while Charlie and Kenny looked over the bus. My handgun had slid off the seat and was down near the door when the man walked down and looked me and the pickup all over. I think he was looking to see if we were armed. Charlie nor Kenny had any type of weapon. The bus had two flat tires, so they were bracing and jacking up the bus to take the tires in to repair. Kenny was using the star wrench to loosen lug nuts on the back tire while Charlie jacked up the front and used a crescent wrench to take lug nuts off with. The man, his sidekick, two strangers wearing guns, a photographer and a journalist from Europe all came running out of the house, coming down the hill toward us. I reached down and grabbed my handgun and tried to get Charlie’s attention. The men came around both ends of the bus, yelling and screaming about claim jumpers, with their guns pulled out, waving them around. The guy that lived there jumped in front of Charlie which left Charlie’s back to his young son. The other so-called tough bad man started taunting Kenny. Kenny was trying to get back to the pickup and the man opened fire between Kenny’s feet, into the rocks.
I didn’t know what to do. There were more men than I had bullets and that damn photographer was jumping around snapping pictures right in everyone’s faces. The Journalist was taping and writing notes like crazy over to one side and I pretty much blamed them for this whole incident. When the gun went off behind Charlie, he reached down and grabbed the jack out from under the bus and had it in one hand and the crescent wrench in the other, every time Rob stepped back, Charlie stepped toward him as Rob had a reputation of either belly shooting people or pistol whipping them with his handgun he wore in a specially made holster across his middle. He could shoot it without drawing it.
His hand kept hovering around the handle but if he had touched it, Charlie would have clanged the jack and crescent wrench on each side of his head.
Then Rob looked over at me in the pickup and I had the .357 magnum resting on the dash, aimed right through the windshield at the middle of his buddy Tom’s forehead. His buddy was still taunting Kenny but when he looked up and his eyes registered exactly what he was seeing, he turned white as a sheet.
I would have pulled the trigger if Kenny had cried out hurt or Charlie, either one. It could even have been from a rock chip, but I would have shot. I was afraid if I opened the door, they would all just focus on me and then I couldn’t save anyone. I would have shot Tom first, then Rob, then that damn photographer and he would have been the one I would have gone to jail for, he was unarmed except with his tongue which he kept yelling at them for more. There would have been the other two men and the Journalist and I would only have had two more bullets.
After seeing that I had a gun, Rob called off his minions and they all backed slowly up the hill. Charlie and Kenny got back in the pickup and I slowly backed down the hill, watching them and trying not to back off into the creek. Right on the dam over the creek, the pickup ran out of gas. Talk about a tense little bit while Charlie poured some gas into the tank from the spare can we had in back. The gauge didn’t work on the truck and we never left much in it as thieves in the area siphoned gas all the time. I expected rifle shots at any moment. Charlie drove from there.
I was shaking like a leaf by the time we got back to the cabin. I don’t think I have ever been that scared before. At that time, Charlie and I had been married just over two weeks.
We went down to Baker Creek and visited with the man that lived there at that time. He had a little cabin and a lovely garden and greenhouse. We were all talking about assorted stuff and I was still shaky, so told him about how close I had come to shooting as many of those people as I had bullets for. I don’t know whether or not he talked to them that evening, but about midnight that night, Tom woke up a neighbor over there and signed over everything he claimed in the area and left the State. He shot a policeman in Nevada and spent some time in jail. A real pillar of any community.

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”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 18

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.

Chapter 18

After dinner, we sit around talking about the small community we seem to be making, here. Yes, we are spread out quite a bit, but it is still a community of sorts. There are other people living a bit farther away from us, but not many of them. We talk about meeting them, but decide it would be better to include Rose and Kara in that discussion.
Everyone finally decides it is time to get some sleep, and we all go our separate ways. The long daylight hours make it hard to realize we have talked half the night away.
The next morning, I head over to see Rose after getting my chores done around the place and refilling my water tank for showers and laundry. I love that spring. She is up at the cabin the guys are building, so we go check how they are progressing. They have a woodstove set up in the downstairs room and pipe out the roof. They could stay in here if they needed to, before cold weather. Roman has put laminate flooring down, on both floors. This is going to be a very nice little cabin. The guys have most of the insulation in and are working on putting the foil faced foam board up over the fiberglas insulation. It makes a thermal break so heat doesn’t transfer out at each stud and rafter. They have taped the foam board seams, also. Then a good vapor barrier over that, with the seams taped and taped around the electrical outlets also. They cut small pieces of the foam board to place inside each outlet box and have caulked where the wire comes through to cut heat loss, ice buildup and drafts. The
guys are following Rose’s building pattern that she used for the houses built here. It seems to work well. They have large homes and very easy to heat. This little cabin should be easy to heat and very comfortable, no matter what the weather.
They are fixing a small shower stall and toilet under the staircase and to the other wall. The door will open from the kitchen area. Roman dug an outhouse hole just behind the cabin, and is piping the bathroom directly into it. They will have a kitchen sink with a pipe running into it, also. He will place a vent pipe up the back of the outhouse to near the roof of the house, for odors. This is going to be one very nice little cabin. Amazing what you can do if you have a little bit of money and can buy new. Kara comes up to open the shack and we all go over and take up the discussion from last night at my house. Will and Shari pulled in about that time, so that was perfect.
Some customers pull in and Kara is busy for a bit, so we wait until she is free again to start. Shari actually starts the conversation about us being a community. That girl is getting some backbone out here. When she finishes, Roman says a few words, then Will chips in and Noah. Rose and Kara take it all in and think it over. They agree that we are a loosely knit community and maybe we should start meeting others in the area. Kara says some have been coming in to buy meals and cigarettes. So she can talk to them a bit more. Some are very much out here too be left alone. She was on pretty good terms with most, as they knew she also did not welcome visitors to just stop on a whim, if she didn’t know them.
Lots of people were curious about the houses here and the whole area, but most actually did pay attention to the road signs and word did get around after Kara shot over the heads of some guys that were determined to use the driveway for access to the property on down the hill from here. Kara got a lot of business from folks that were just plain curious about what was in here. Why on earth the State decided on making remote parcel staking available near here, I will never know. There really is no access to it. So Rose and Kara get to deal with a bunch of jerks. The guys coming out to stake weren’t so great, either.
Kara says she will mention to the other folk in the area as they stop in, about us all being a bit more of a community for helping each other if in need or someone injured. One fellow had almost froze last winter as he fell and broke his ankle and couldn’t get firewood in very well. He had crawled in and out, dragging one piece at a time, every day and his ankle still wasn’t too good. It had healed solid, so didn’t bend now. We wondered if we should haul a load of firewood over and drop it off at his house, just as a hello and sorry he wasn’t doing so great.
Noah drove down to the river to see if the guy clearing his lot had more trees too get rid of, and he had about another trailer load. So the guys went down and loaded it up. Rose rode along with the guys to deliver it, as she knew where the man lived and had spoke to him a couple of times. Kara sent a sandwich, the kind he had ordered, when he had stopped in a couple of times.
He lived just a short distance beyond my place, so I followed them as far as my place and went home. Later, Noah told me the man was very surprised to see them and after Rose talked to him, he was okay with the delivery. The guys unloaded the logs and he said he could cut them up and he appreciated the thought, wasn’t sure he wanted them to ever do it again though. Rose gave him the to-go box and they backed out and came home. Well, to Rose’s place which for the time is their home too. As nice as the little cabin is, that they are building, it looks like they could be settling in for a very long time.
The guys head on in to town after dropping Rose off. They want to get more supplies to finish up the cabin and start stocking it a bit. It’s a good thing the building supply store is open early in the morning and late into the evening, in summer. They hauled everyone’s trash in, since they took the trailer, also
. When the guys come back, we know they have found the joys of visiting the transfer stations in Fairbanks. These are areas set aside, with roofs over them and concrete pad for folks to set out stuff that is too good to trash and not the time and energy to sell. They have found older cabinets they need for the kitchen and possibly a propane cook stove, with pilot light instead of electronic ignition, if it works. Those are hard to find for folks living way out with no electricity. They also had some used windows and doors on the trailer. Everything looked in excellent condition. I have found clothes folded and set out still warm from a dryer. Most of my carhartt pants are from there. I certainly can’t afford to buy them.
They had managed to make it to the supply store and had some nice light fixtures to hang in the cabin, a sink and more sewer line, some counter top and some totes they have filled with groceries. On the very back of the trailer, they have some polydrums of fuel. We need to get their woodshed built, so they have an area to place those without water getting in them or anyone seeing what they have on hand.
They had picked up some more of the pier blocks, so we would start on their woodshed in the morning. They laid out the size and set the pier blocks this evening. I will come over in the morning to help.
Noah is late getting to my place and telling me all about this, as he is unloading some bags of groceries in my kitchen. I’m not sure what he is doing, but he explains they have ate so much at my place, they felt guilty, so wanted to replace some. Knowing I don’t have electricity, they bought cans of dried storage foods, which is great but expensive. They did buy a couple of 50 pound bags of flour and of sugar, also. He said they really like the breads and cinnamon rolls.
I will save the cans of dried foods and continue feeding them bear, hare and whatever else I manage to kill around the area. I would like to get some more of those, could store them in the back of the ice house in totes to keep them dry. Maybe I should pan the creek some more and see if I can afford to buy a supply.
Very early the next morning, I went down to the little creek down the hill and panned a while. It is hard on my back, so I don’t stay long. I do find some color and save it in a small bottle. This is going to take some time to earn enough for groceries and fuel. I need to pick up some more chains for my chainsaw, spark plugs and bar oil.
By the time I get back to the house, it is time for breakfast and then over to build another woodshed. I stash the pan behind the seat in my pickup and heat up a bun for breakfast.
Noah shows up just as I have it ready to eat, so I run out the door with tool belt in one hand and hot toasted bun in the other. He asks if it is for him. Oh darn, I tear it in half and hand him half as I get in the truck. He looks slightly guilty but goes ahead and eats it.
We pull in as the rest are starting to place the first post. By now we have this down to a routine. This woodshed should go up very fast. By noon, we have it ready to roof. Noah goes over and buys me a sandwich to make up for eating half my breakfast. Well, maybe I will share better after this.
I visit with Kara while I eat. We talk a bit about getting supplies on hand. She thinks it is better to have extra of everything. Bad weather, anything, can make it difficult to restock and the last couple of years, the stores in Fairbanks are noted for being out of stock on a lot of items needed. It always comes in, but we don’t go to town often enough to keep checking for new stock on the shelves.
So she and Rose have been trying to keep as much on hand as possible and replacing anything as they use it. Sounds like a good idea to me. I think everyone out here is on limited income, one way or another, so we can’t afford to just go to town even if we wanted to make that long trip every few days. At least all the locals or long term
folk are. Rose offers me a ride home so Noah can stay and help roof the woodshed and whatever other projects they need to do. They will probably go check and see if the guy has any more wood they can salvage. Later, I find they have gotten about a full load, but he is almost done.
Rose was interested in all I had built here. She had never been over here before. Most of us out here are private people and give others their privacy, also. She says great minds think alike as we have done a lot of similar things on our properties. She weeded as we walked through the gardens just like I was. It’s hard not to do things you see needing done.
We went in the house and she liked my artwork, suggesting I come see some of hers, also. It is funny, we had never met, but had worked in a lot of the same fields. Guiding, taxidermy, mining and several others.
She had been a Registered Guide, I, a 1st class Assistant. Whatever, it is hard work. The was what her place was supposed to have been. A hunting and aurora watching lodge. Her partners never coughed up the money and she spent every dime buying the land. So she refused to add their names on the title and another reason she makes everyone sign a lease.
Alaska has an Adverse Possession Law. After 7 years of claiming property, a person can advertise the owner out. A woman near here was being nice and allowed the folks with property beyond hers to cut across her land to reach theirs. They served her with Court papers to give them the Right to that strip of her land and she lost it. They had used it free for 7 years and never bothered to build the driveway that was platted, to theirs. Then they sold their property and hers went with it, no longer hers and no Right to stop others from using it. Really makes a person want to do good deeds
. After Rose left, I started a batch of bread dough. It seems to go quite fast. I think I will make large buns and a loaf of bread. The cinnamon rolls are a given
. As I am taking the rolls out of the oven, Noah and his Dad and brother pull in. They are going looking for areas to cut firewood. They figure maybe they can deal with some of the mine owners up the road, to clear the trees out of their way. They immediately decide a short break is in order and have a cinnamon roll and one to go on. A good thing these guys work hard or they might get fat here.
I stick a couple on a paper towel and go work in the greenhouse. I must be losing it dreaming about lovely melted chocolate eyes, and ate one without even noticing, because when I go over to the paper towel, there is only one on it. Unless the Jays are getting into the shelf in the greenhouse. Or a squirrel.
I have a pot of stew on the stove from the remains of the bear. It is getting pretty slim pickings. I am glad I canned every bit, it has came in handy often this summer. So when the guys pull back in to let me know how it went, they have dinner with me. Stew and buns, filled with melted cheese. Then another cinnamon roll for dessert. I wonder if they will ever get tired of those.
I ride over to Rose’s the next morning, to see if there are any projects needing attention. I find Rose and Kara cutting up the firewood and stacking it in the woodshed. They are also stacking the stack they had against the house over in the other half of the shed. We work until shortly before noon, then Kara goes to get cleaned up and head up to open the shack.
Rose and I walk down to her house. It is very large and nice looking. She has a sun porch across the front and grows salad veggies on it in winter. In winter, it is a large walk-in fridge, too. Not very warm, so only cold weather crops survive most of the winter on it. She transplants what she has late started, just for that. I really like her artwork. Most is in a soft black and white and portray animals and people, not many people. Some oils and some pen and ink.
She also has published some books. She says they are only self published, not like a publisher bought them and did it for her. She says it is one way to earn a bit of extra money living way out here. They have internet when the generators are on, she says if I have a laptop, I can bring it over at free time which is between 10 pm and 2 am. The system doesn’t work very well, but out here, it is nice, anyway.

The Beginning – Chapter 13, finally

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.

Chapter 13
I think they must have maxed out credit cards or had a lot of cash on them. The SUV is loaded and then some. Shari has her new canner and lots of #10 cans of fruit and veggies to start learning to can on. She has cases of empty jars and some empty flats from the plants they had bought in town and planted at home before coming over. They planned on planting the bag of sprouted potatoes they had bought, tomorrow. That being the first of June, they should have a good garden from it all.
They had also made an appointment for her to see a doctor to check on the baby. They had already decided to move to town the month before the baby was due and stay until it was about a month old before coming home.
We unload most of the canning stuff into the little shed they are staying in and would bring it over to my cabin as we use it. Maybe a canner load per morning, before we get started on regular chores for the day. They insisted I get half, as I was taking my time to teach them and we finally settled on I supply my own jars.
I was surprised the next morning to see Will ready to learn right along with Shari. Yes, I have revised my opinion of the man big time. He might be a cheechako, but he was willing to learn. I decided fruit would be the best and easiest thing for them to learn. So we re-canned peaches and pineapple. I get out my canner too, so we could finish faster. I started a large pot of water heating to rinse the jars in and put the lids in a smaller pan of water on a back burner.
Soon we had all the jars sparkling and ready to fill. We opened cans and filled jars, wiping the rims and putting the hot lids on and then the bands. We are using the pressure canners as water bath canners for fruit. They work well for this and if in doubt, let the pressure build up to 1 pound before shutting them off at the end of processing time.
We have breakfast while the canners are processing, and then place the hot jars out on towels on my counters to cool, covered with another towel to keep drafts from the hot jars. The hot water from the canners is poured into the dish pans and used to wash and rinse dishes. Then let cool down and would water plants with it after it was cool. When you carry water, you conserve.
The water from the spring I had dug out was slowly inching closer to my garden area all the time, so maybe I wouldn’t have to pack water for that, soon. Then my rainwater system would do most of the water needs for the house during the summer. If the spring cleared up enough, I would be filling buckets for winter and storing them. It didn’t have high volume, but it was steady. Maybe I should try digging out a large enough hole to dip a bucket here closer to the house, line it with river rocks so no mud in it and have that handy. Maybe the next project.
After the canning is done for the morning, I go back to my ice house project. They are amazed at how it is coming together and we set up a bucket brigade and get the rest of the dirt on top much faster than I had been doing it. Then we start on the foliage squares. It is a good thing I cut them fairly small or we would not have managed as well as we do. They have stayed frozen better than the plain dirt chunks because of the plants and root system on them. I put an upside down bucket over the chimney in back before I started the dirt last night and no one even asked about it as we placed the plant squares around the roof. Soon it is ready for the doors and I stuffed a sheet of foam board in the hole and left it there while I rounded up the supplies to make the doors. It is still pretty cold in there and I want it to stay that way.
I have an old insulated metal door down behind the lower storage shed, so go to check on it. I thought it would do well for one of the doors, a homemade one would do for the outer door. I make a frame of 2×6’s to hang the door and another one to drop down inside to keep the door closed. It would work on a hidden latchstring on the wall. I bolted the hinges through the door, so it was fairly sturdy and might keep a bear out unless he was determined. The chimney would be the weak link in this building. I planned on planting some small spruce trees around the edges in back and maybe fairly close to the chimney or at least enough to confuse the outline a bit. Maybe make a couple of metal cutouts to plant there, to look like trees unless checked up close.
That evening, when Will and Shari came back from cleaning on their house, they told me they would probably be able to move back in it in a couple of days. But was it okay to stay until then and continue the canning lessons? I said sure. I was getting used to having them around and hadn’t seen Noah in a few days as he was taking care of his survey farther out and not coming back each evening. I was getting used to neighbors.
After our evening meal, we went over for ice cream and visited with the women there for a while. Roman was due back in a couple of days with his tool trailer and would be parking it there, while he worked on the equipment. He had asked to rent one of the small guest cabins while he was there. Rose said she thought he was earning the use of a cabin with all his work. He told her it was the most fun he had had in years and what was the price for a cabin. We were waiting to see how that turns out.
After visiting a while, we went on over to Will and Shari’s house to see how things were looking in the garden and the greenhouse they have started. It is assembled and ready to plant the plants they have picked up in town. We look it over and talk about how much room some of the plants will need, and set about planting as we talked. We soon have it all planted.
As we walk around the garden plot, the smell of the old outhouse out back, is a bit strong. Guess a person would have to only work out here when the wind was the right direction. There is a newer one closer to the house that is in use now. No wonder they built a new one.
We go back to the house and it is nice seeing it all neat and clean again. They have done a lot of work on it in the last several days.
We talked about their spring and they said they have not had time to do any more work on it yet. But it is on their list. Their list is getting as long as mine. They are excited about doing the work themselves as much as possible. Neither have experience but they figured if I could, so could they.
They want to build an addition onto the house and make another bedroom and a pantry. I always wondered why the folks that built it and lived in it for years never added a pantry, anyway. Living this far from any town could get difficult to get groceries or other supplies if the weather turned bad. We look at the area they want to add on to and check for how it could be added to the roof. There is a window there so that could be the space to put a door. They decide on size and we start a material list for them to pick up in town next trip in. Their house is on a compacted gravel pad so adding to the house should not be a problem.
I go to sleep that night and dream some more about melted chocolate eyes. It doesn’t help that his voice goes right along with the eyes. Dang, that guy can kiss.
Well, that wasn’t exactly a restful night’s sleep. So I am a little grumpy the next morning when I go out to the garden and pick weeds for the chicks. But watching them zoom around their little pen chasing mosquitoes and each other and the weeds I toss in has me in a better humor by the time Will and Shari show up for today’s lesson in canning. They look like they had a rough night also and Shari is still a little green around the edges. Seems morning sickness has struck.
She is feeling fine now and we get right to work on the peas, corn and string beans she has picked up in town. They have to process longer at 10 pounds of pressure but with the canners we have, once they have started timing, we can go outside and do other things until the time is up. She wants to learn to do meat, also, so whenever we get something to can, we will have more lessons. She is amazed at how easy it is.
We built the insulated outer door for the ice house while the canners worked indoors. She uses her cell phone as an alarm and it went off before we were totally done. We go in and turn off the stove and left the canners to reduce pressure at their own speed and back out to finish our project. When we go in about a half hour later, the gauges are down to zero so we take off the rocker weights and open the lids. Again we placed the jars on towels and then cover them and use the hot water for my pan of dishes. The canners are dried out and placed to finish cooling on the cold heater.
We are just coming out of the house when a vehicle pulled into my yard. It is a neighbor from farther up the road and they are upset. Someone has broken into their storage shed and stolen food and some gear.
We all feel a small shock to realize we were becoming complacent about the 2 guys still possibly in the area and the unsolved murder. We all talk it over and no great ideas popped up. They didn’t think it was enough stuff to make a trip to town for, but wanted everyone in the area to know there are thieves or a thief around. They did ask if we would let any Trooper that wandered by, know. We said we would and they headed back home.
We figure we better lock up every time the houses are left unattended. Even if it was just while we are working out of sight of the doors. I think I better fasten a key to my pants pocket or I will be losing mine and have to break into my own house. That would be embarrassing.
Will and Shari head on over to their house and I go back to work on my ice house project. I transplant some small chokecherry trees around the edges of the roof and set some currant bushes near the chimney so make it harder to spot. Moose don’t eat either one, so thought maybe that would help keep them away from the roof. As the small trees grow, I will interlace the limbs to make it more of a fence. Figuring I wouldn’t want them to go up the front area either, I plant more of the small seedlings around the whole place except the door. A few of the seedlings are actual cherry seedlings that grew from seeds and are about 3 years old. I know they won’t grow true to type, but any will be better than none amd make good jelly. I plant all the seeds from fruit I buy in town. Just maybe I will get some apples, pears, plums and cherries that survive the weather here. The moose and voles are my main problem although many of the seedlings die the first winter from the cold. However, a few of each is struggling along.
I pick up my tools and put them away for now. I want to do a bit of work on the inside of the building, build some shelves along the inside walls. I plan on building them sturdy enough they could be used to sit on. I may have to pick up some lumber to make the shelves as all my projects have used up most of the spare stuff I had laying around.
I measure out the spaces I want to build and write down the materials list as I go. It is all short and small pieces, so maybe I can scrounge up enough to do the job.
Pal starts barking and I go check. There is dust hanging in the air from a vehicle that has evidently just backed around the drive out of sight. I hate things like this. Is it just an innocent snoop that don’t believe the driveway signs, checking out the road or is it the rental SUV with the other guys in it from Shari’s ex? Or just some jerk? I am so glad I have Pal, now. He certainly is good at letting me know when anyone is around.
I take the pickup down to check my assorted building materials. With the list and tape measure in hand, it doesn’t take long to pick out what I will need to get started. I have more on hand than I thought I did. After loading the pickup with the pile of materials, Pal and I drive back up to the house. After unloading, we go into the house. The cats are acting jumpy, so I pay close attention and soon spot something moving through the brush and trees out across the yard. Watching closely, I see a man sneaking through the trees. I open the window over the table and fire a shot into my wood pile. The man dives over the bank and I hear cussing and crashing as he bolts down the hill. Anyone sneaking through the woods around here is not my friend. If he had walked right up to the door and knocked, I would not have reacted that way.
Noah pulls in a while later and I tell him to be watching for some guy out in the woods. And that I had fired a shot into the woodpile since he was sneaking through the brush. Noah looks a little funny at that, but doesn’t say anything except to be careful. I’m planning on that.
While I’m working on my shelves, I hear Pal bark again. Dang, Grand Central Station around here. I go out to see what’s up.
A State Trooper vehicle. Hmmmm, wonder what he wants?
It seems the person on my place earlier, called me in. I ask the Trooper if it is illegal to shoot my woodpile. He says it isn’t and I show him where the shot hit, right on the target I have set against the pile. Then I explain the circumstances and also mention the thievery at the neighbors. That and the murder and all my signs around the place should make it open season on snoops. I asked if he had noticed the Private Target Range, Helloooo Target sign at the driveway and he said he did. So why is someone that is sneaking through my woods complaining about me? Because I didn’t hit him? Seems the guy thought it was a shortcut down to the river to fish. He lost a bunch of tackle and his pole when he dove over the bank. Myself, I think it was cheap at the price, I could have hit him, easily. I tell the Trooper, if the man has the guts to come apologize and hunt for his stuff on his own, he can have it back. The Trooper is laughing as he leaves to go check out the theft at the neighbors. I go back to building shelves.
When everyone comes over, later, I tell them about the guy and him calling the police on me. I have seen more Troopers out here in the last few weeks than I have seen out along this road in all the years I have lived here.
They find it hard to believe the guy had the nerve to call me in to the police. He was obviously in the wrong. So when he shows up later, to apologize but with attitude, he is surprised to find I am not alone and my friends think he is an idiot. Shari tells him if he can’t see where he is in the wrong, maybe a load of buckshot in his tail will help him understand. Wow, she is certainly finding herself out here. Then she tells him about the unsolved murder and the thievery in the area and a dim light starts glowing in the recesses of his brain. Then it dawns on him that I could have shot him and been in the right. He about passes out. Will is so proud of Shari, he is about popping buttons.
I do tell the man if he ever sneaks through my yard again, to expect to have a worse reception.