Saturday, July 5, 2008


A recent wind blew a tree down on our fence. No, it wasn't a strong wind. Yes, it was a dead tree. A very dead, and very tall tree.
One thing I love about Alaska is the trees. I never really cared for evergreens until I moved here, but something about these towering black spruce trees is really breathtaking. I would guess they are around 20 feet tall, maybe taller, and to watch them sway in the breeze is just amazing... watching and wondering how they manage to not fall down.
Or, sometimes they do. Right in your yard.

The landlord came over today to move the said spruce off the fence, and to cut down a few other dead trees. That's good. The one that fell was further back on the property. The remaining dead trees are pretty close to the house and good wind, a heavy snow, or some other event could easily have brought them crashing down on the house.

This will amuse friends back home: just a few short months ago, I used to think trees were pretty to look at, and nice for shade. I was momentarily lamenting the loss of shade these trees provided us, until I saw the wood was nice and dry, and even seasoned already. Translation: good fuel for burning in the wood stove! I hurried outside to see if there were any other good, dead trees for my landlord to cut down before he took his chainsaw back home. LOL
You know you live in Alaska when....

Interestingly enough, it didn't take long before curious neighbors were asking if we were interested in selling the wood. One neighbor offered me a couple hundred bucks for it. Realizing we are sitting on a "gold mine", and um, realizing that I have to cough up the money to fill the fuel tank eventually, I refused all offers and am wondering if I could learn how to use J's chainsaw to cut it up before he gets home...

WILDLIFE ALERT: Yet another moose came through the yard today! This time, she looked MAD, and was running at a full sprint. It even scared my landlord, who's an outdoorsy Alaska dude. From his experience, he said she was upset about something. (Ya. I kind of figured moose didn't run at full tilt for fun.)
I'm hoping our chopping down trees today didn't seperate her from her calf or cause her little one to run off in a fright.
Still... mad moose or not, she was amazing to watch (from the safety of my porch, of course!), and once she got her bearings, she jogged down the road and into the brush around the corner toward the slough.

MORE Wildlife Alert: I hate Bushy. With a passion. The stupid rodent was gnawing on the clothes on my clothesline the other day! I have officially offered my friend's son $2 for the capture or death of Bushy. (Before you think I'm stingy, he's 5 years old!)
I also told my landlord this. Um, the husband portion of the landlord doesn't mind, and actually considered using his new chainsaw on the little rodent. The wife portion loves the squirrel, and her children have become attatched to the dang thing. They actually want to relocate Bushy to thier new house. I have been forbidden to kill him. (That's why I'm paying a 5 yr old to do it.)
More power to them. Hopefully they find Bushy before my 5 year old HitMan does. hehehe
In my ever humble opinion, that squirrel would make a 5 yr old a very nice little hunting trophy.

For the record, the dang squirrel is smart enough to not get "trapped". The landlord (at the wife's insistence) set up a humane trap with a few of Bushy's favorite treats as bait. The first couple days, it drove Bushy insane to look at these delectable items and not be able to eat them. She carefully studied the cage, and found a way to hang over the side and steal these delightful little treats without getting herself caught in the cage. Even a few of the local birds (who I do NOT consider an nuisance and wish I could feed without Bushy ruining our roof) have managed to get food out of the cage without getting trapped.
I used to think squirrels were cute.
Ah, not so much, anymore.

BEANS UPDATE: well... after 3 trips to the doctor this week and over a week with a fever, and now an itchy rash, we have a verdict. We went back to the doctor today and (this was the doctor's actual diagnosis), "She either has roseola or hand-foot-mouth virus. I don't know which one, but whatever one it is, she's contagious and the treatment is the same. Benadryl and tylenol, come back if her fever spikes up again, and keep her away from other kids."
The doctor should have just said, "Get used to your house for the next week and I hope you enjoy your own company, 'cause you ain't going nowhere, lady."

This is, of course, after I trusted the doctor we saw earlier in the week who assured me that Beans was fine, and could resume normal activity... and I exposed all our friends and thier kids.

It is an absolutely gorgeous day today... around 80, dry, and a nice breeze blowing in. I'm off to pull laundry off the line (while watching out for moose on the loose!) and bury myself in a library book for a little bit before bed.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Moose On The Loose

Well, Happy Fourth of July to my fellow Americans! In spite of all the complaints we often hear, we really do live in a great country, and it is great to be free.
A special thanks to all the people who work hard to keep it a free country, too.

This week has been a very busy, very hectic, and very trying one. Beans was sick for the majority of it. Starting with a 102F fever (eventually peaking out at 103.5F), a couple trips to various doctors (to be told it was "a virus"), and still going today, day seven of being sick and miserable... with a nice little rash all over her body. Not sure what it is. Apparently, neither are the doctors. I've kept a Mommy-Styled vigil of Tylenol, cuddling, nursing, snuggling, begging God to make her well, and begging her to go to sleep.
I spent most of the week feeling a summer version of cabin fever. It's just too nice out to be inside. Poor Beans is sick, I know. So I filled my craving for the great outdoors by doing load after load of laundry in the glorious weather we've been having... bright, sunny, and "hot" by Alaska standards, around 80+ degrees.

Yesterday was so beautiful out, that sick baby or not, J and I were not content to stay indoors. We decided that Beans could snooze in the stroller just as easily as she could indoors, and prepared to go for a walk.
Ok. Here's where the fun begins.
There is no spontaneous getting out of the house with a baby. Even a short walk into town for coffee and a haircut for J (a little over one measly mile) involves packing diapers, water for everyone, making sure everyone has pottied (and those in diapers have been changed), making sure Beans has a blankie and whatever other comforts we imagine she might need, applying sunscreen followed by mosquito repellant (affectionately known here as "bug dope"), and the another check of the diaper before we head out the door.
We were JUST on our way out when we saw a large object pass in front of the bay window. J was whispering, "Hurry, come look!", Beans was squealing with delight (then trying to wrestle her way out of her sun hat), and I came face to face with a moose hiney in our window.

Momma moose had a relatively new and little calf, and was literally RIGHT outside the window. I scrambled for the camera and tried to get a picture, but between dead batteries and a malfunctioning shutter, I ended up cursing the camera and trying to sneak out quietly outdoors to catch a pitcure once she moved on. Too late. She and her baby became aware of our movement in the house and moved on across the street, headed to the slough.

It was a beautiful sight, this momma and her baby. But it also reminded me of how close the wildlife really is, and I began to recall the numerous stories I've heard since I've been here of momma moose kicking humans to thier deaths for being a perceived threat to thier calves. I was now scared to take a walk.
J encouraged me to go, and I tromped along, making lots of noise. Beans and I made up a silly song, and stood hesitantly, singing in scared voices (well, me singing, Beans looking at me like I was nuts) near the neighbor's mailbox when J returned to the house for a cell phone, at my insistence, should one of us get kicked to our death by a moose and have the need to call 911.

In fair disclosure, I should mention that the path we were walking is along Richardson Hwy. it's a pretty busy road. IF we saw any more moose (which we DID, more on that in a moment) and IF one should decide to kick us to death (they didn't), um, we would have been seen by about 30 cars flying past us.

ANYHOO.... Beans and I waited nervously, singing our song:
"Momma Moose don't you worry about your little calf,
Don't worry Momma, we will surely let you pass.
Momma Moose we don't want trouble,
We'll get out of here on the double,
Momma Moose, Momma Moose, don't be mad."

Like I said, Beans looked at me as though I belonged in one of those white suits where the buckles are in the back.
And to make matters worse, J stopped jogging back to the house abruptly, told me to stand still right where I was, and took a more cautious path to the house for the phone. I was certain death by moose kicking was imminent. Turns out, the momma and her baby stopped in the neighbor's yard for a quick snack on my neighbor's garden, and other than giving us a bored but guarded look, really paid us no attention at all.

Our walk commenced, me nervously chatting all the way to town, J looking like he was growing slightly impatient with my lack of "wilderness" training, and Beans chatting happily to herself, probably telling her daddy how she was glad I was no longer singing the crazy moose song.
I was JUST starting to relax, enjoying the scenery and oohing and ahhing over the variety of wildflowers along the path when J jerked me and the stroller to a halt. 20 yards away stood ANOTHER momma moose and calf, only this calf was not obeying momma in a way that made her happy, and this moose eyed us and all the traffic on the road with great suspisciousness. Her calf darted back in the woods, Momma gave chase, and the calf wandered back out of the woods and fell in line behind Momma as the two of them decided to cross the street to the slough.
I'll tell you, by the time I reached my favorite little coffee shack (The Mocha Moose), I would have much rather had the young lady give me a scotch on the rocks instead of an English Toffee Latte, but I took my latte and gulped it down like the addict I am, and was relieved to reach the roundabouts in North Pole.

I would also like to ad that I have a tremendous amount of respect for wildlife photographers now. Not only do I think it takes a certain amount of bravery to come face to lens with these (and other) animals, it takes a fair amount of skill. I was smart enough to grab the camera on the way out the door, but not close enough or quick enough (dang that stupid shutter!) to get a good shot of the moose crossing the road.
Susan, if you are reading, you are now my new hero! I'd love to know what kind of zoom lens you have, and how close you actually have to get to get your pictures!
Everyone else, please check out Susan Stevenson's website. (I'll try to find and post it, but you can google her, too!)

In all fairness, by the time J was done getting his haircut, Beans had rubbed sunscreen into her eyes and was howling like WE did it, and on purpose. I was no longer concerned about moose and just wanted to get home. AND get some wildflowers. Ok. I can't remember the exact rules. I think picking wildflowers is illegal. If it is, then I only admired them from a distance. If it's not illegal, then I am currently admiring them in a glass jar on my table. The Queen Anne's Lace is in full bloom, and it is maybe one of my absolute favorite wildflowers of all. The wild Iris is in bloom too, but I DID leave those alone. They are so beautiful, and they don't last long once you cut them (and I know for sure messing with them is illegal). Between that, Wild Sweet Pea, some yellow stuff, some other purple stuff, and the heads forming on the various grasses (there's one that looks like a feather plume), I had collected a beautiful handful and had all but forgotten about the moose.

We spent the rest of the evening unwinding, had a neighbor stop by for a visit, and J got ready for work. He went back to work, Beans and I went to the parade and festival in North Pole for the 4th of July, which was ok but HOT and we weren't in the best company. We spent the afternoon of the 4th in the comfort of our new friends' house, and came home for a quiet dinner.

I have so much more to babble about... but since Beans and God have finally answered my prayers for Beans to go to sleep, I am going to take advantage of a few minutes to unwind and turn in myself...