Saturday, July 19, 2008

Squirrel Catch, Take 2

Bushy was captured. Her Stupid Little Squirrel Babies or boyfriend or whoever she has shacking up in the roof with her are still here.
Last night, they were rather disappointed that their fearless leader went missing, so they spent the entire night tormenting me with running up and down the walls and running the length of the house. And if that wasn't bad enough, right before I dozed off, I heard the most dreaded noise: scratching INSIDE the house, not the walls. I flipped the lights on, rushed to the scene of the crime (which involved standing on my dresser, since the scratching was coming from on top of a closet in my bedroom) and while I didn't discover the the little critter, I DID discover the little critter's NEST. IN THE HOUSE.
Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
I love wildlife. Outside. Where it belongs.

So... another call to the landlord. You know, usually I am nice and don't say mean things on my blog (you never know who will stumble upon your writings), but enough is enough.
They came back and set the stupid squirrel trap back up and sealed off the visible squirrel entries to the house. And when I asked about the INDOOR varmint, um... the wife portion even kind of chucked as she told me I could get some mouse traps, as it was probably a vole.

First, I don't care what kind of critter it is. I want it out of my bedroom. Strike that. I want it out of my house. The varmint is lucky I don't ask it to leave Alaska.
Second, I don't own this house. Varmint trapping is not my job.
Third, I am done being nice. They asked me not to kill Bushy. They didn't say anything about the rest of the critters that come through the yard (and, um, the HOUSE.)
Fourth, it is probably not a wise idea to chuckle at a southern girl when she asks you to remove mice, vole, or squirrel from the home. It's good way to ensure buck shot holes in your walls, since 30-ought buck shot is MY idea of a better mouse trap.

In all seriousness, folks, I just CAN'T coexist with vermin IN the house. I can't. I have this "insane" need to know that I am the only one munching on my raisin bran crunch, or snacking on my homemade sourdough bread in the middle of the night. I know, I know, call me crazy, but life without vermin is just one of my basic needs.

I'd like to add that I actually paused in the middle of my vermin story to go investigate a strange noise outside. Bushy has found her way back down here. I know it's her, because she has a distinctive tail injury that causes her tail to look like a feather plume. And she's back because when the landlord covered up the entry holes, um, he sealed at least one of Bushy's roommates inside.
Oh little bunny huggers, don't worry. Over the last few months I witnessed Bushy and her roommates stockpile enough food in the roof that I am SURE they will live long enough to eat their way into the house.
Meanwhile, Bushy is frantically calling to her babies who are frantically calling back. And when they both get riled up and frantic, they begin some crazy squirrel jumping ritual that sounds like someone pelting my house with rocks. Bushy is frantically trying to break into the house, the babies are frantically trying to break out. It's a vicious cycle that is driving me crazy, and will cause me to start launching grenades into the roof if those Stupid Squirrels wake up my precious baby who is FINALLY asleep.


My husband had to listen to the unedited version of this story, complete with LOTS of words that would likely get me banned from blog spot. He has promised me (I made him swear on our marriage vows and his left, um... arm) that he will take me to Walmart and JoAnn Fabrics on Monday.
"HUH?" You may ask? Let me explain. Walmart for the vermin rifle, JoAnn Fabric for whatever gauge needle and thread I need to turn Bushy and her mates into lovely coin purses for all my friends back home who want "Alaskan Made" gifts for Christmas.

The rest of my day was nearly lovely. Beans and I headed to the Farmer's Market in Fairbanks to check out the scene there. I brought home some rhubarb (J loves the stuff), some goat milk soap that is scented with Alaskan Spruce (ahhh... perpetually Christmas!), and after talking to a local about the benefits of fresh ground wheat versus the stuff you buy in bags at the store, I bought a bag of wheat that was milled right in front of my very eyes, as well as some whole wheat berries (the kernels that get ground up for flour) to "grind" myself in my food processor.
I would have bought even more fresh vegetables, but as we were planning on staying in town for some time, I decided I would drag J back there later this week.
I did take time to check out all the other vendors. A lot of homemade crafts and artwork. I've decided I could totally sell my stuff at the Farmer's Market, and it may be a good place to head with all the things I create over the winter.
One last stop at the Delta Meats booth for a Buffalo Hot Dog and a lemonade, and Beans and I went back to the van to nurse and wait for Susan.

We followed Susan to the other side of town and then walked down to the river. After stopping for a pretzel (compliments of Susan- thank you!), we sat on the bridge and chatted, then meandered down to the river side to get a better look at the Rubber Duckies. With a few minutes to spare before the race began, we sat on a log and watched Beans eat dirt and river rocks. Susan snapped a few pictures of my little Muddy Miss. Poor Beans had about reached her limit of playtime by the time the first little ducks headed down the river. This topped her tantrums for about 2.5 seconds (OK, maybe a little longer) and she waved and cheered to the duckies for a few moments before she made herself perfectly clear that she wanted to go home. I snapped a few pictures of the ducks before we packed up and headed out.
What I had to say about the ducks: Absolutely stinkin' CUTE. You see one little yellow speck turn the bend, then another, followed by hundreds of little yellow ducks, bobbing in the current. There was an apparent front-runner, beelining for the finish, the pack, and then a few stragglers, poor unlucky little ducks that looked as if they were taking on water and beginning to sink. VERY cute to watch the children throwing rocks or trying to splash the stragglers back into the current (against the "rules" to touch the ducks!). I wish we could have stayed longer. I wish Beans had been a little more cooperative, but we weren't that lucky.
At least she dozed on the way home, and I drove around in circles a few times before getting home to the Squirrel Debacle, letting her rest.

MOOSE ALERT: On my way back into North Pole, right on the edge of town (for locals, right on the corner of Airway and Badger), a moose in the ditch, munching on trees, her baby laying peacefully in the grass next to her, taking a nap. So sweet!


I had a great time in town today, and had great company. I have invited Susan out for another walk this coming week, and hope we have some good weather and can talk her into showing me another nice place to "sight see" and walk.

I am looking forward to a "day of rest" tomorrow, though! I'm hoping Beans will feel like power napping her way through teething (looks like a few on the top are trying to come in all at once). I think we are going to play hooky from church and spend the day at home. We'll get the house cleaned up, the laundry caught up, and play blocks and read stories, and all the stuff she really likes to do. (For the record, Beans LOVES doing laundry! She tries to put everyone's clothes on, and looks especially precious playing "peek" with dada's boxer briefs on her head.)
I'll read library books during naps (or maybe even take a nap myself!), maybe crochet a bit or sew. Whatever I do, it's going to be fun and relaxing, and not involve leaving the house, unless we have to go to the dump, and then I'll allow for some treasure hunting.


This coming week, watch for a squirrel update. No idea what kind of rifle we are going to get. No idea how to shoot it. But I'm gonna learn, and I'm gonna learn fast. Then I'm going to dress up like Annie Oakley and shoot me some squirrel.

The rest of the weekly forecast:

- Looking forward to reconnecting with my friend, M, and her little ones. Between her in-laws being in town and me running all over the place this week, I've really missed her company!
- Dragging J to Creamer's Field in Fairbanks. It's a local wildlife watching spot (mostly birds) with a good walking trail. We'll be suiting up, rain or shine, packing Beans into the backpack, and taking a little trek.
- As mentioned before, hopefully another trek with Susan. We've got lots more wildlife to see, wildflowers to identify, and pictures to take. And walking with her makes me so much LESS afraid of the wildlife.

Until my next entry, Happy Moose Trails. Meanwhile, I am going outside to build a better slingshot and get some target practice.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Squirrel Has Left The Building!

That's me, breathing a sigh of relief. That. Stupid. Squirrel. has AT LAST been captured. And she didn't have to get turned into a nice fuzzy change purse either.

So, my landlord finally got a REAL squirrel trap from the animal shelter. And much to my chagrin, That. Stupid. Squirrel. even initially managed to SOMEHOW evade capture in the trap. Seriously, nothing is more frustrating than to come home and see That Stupid Squirrel happily running in and out of the set and baited trap, carrying peanuts from the trap to the roof. The trap was malfunctioning.
My first thought was: WHY didn't I buy a gun at Walmart when J was oohing and ahhing over the Bear Blaster 9000 and convincing me that it wasn't "just" a rifle but an important accessory to our Alaskan ensemble.
I couldn't stand it anymore.
It was time for something drastic.
I silently unlocked the back door and waited. It wasn't long before Bushy made another trip to the trap to confidently gather more peanuts to store in my roof.
With a rebel yell, I threw open the door and ran outside, screaming my Squirrel Hunting War Cry, scaring the ever-living-you-know-what out of Beans, who had been minding her own business inside playing with blocks. Ordinarily I would feel very bad about terrifying my own child, but in this particular case, her screaming in terror helped. Bushy was petrified, her prized peanut falling to the ground in slow motion as jaw went slack like a cartoon character. I ran out the door and my stomping on the deck made the trap door slam shut. I screamed and began a Squirrel Capture Dance. I am sure my neighbors probably think I've gone off my rocker or assume I am trying to do cheap imitations of tribal dances, but I couldn't help but celebrate.
As I jumped up and down, hootin' and hollerin', Beans finally realized that Mommy was making happy noises and stopped screaming and started laughing at me. I scooped her up and we went out on the deck for a closer look at our victory. One very angry, freaking out, scared out of her mind squirrel, who was desperately seeking an escape plan.
The landlord came over immediately to claim and relocate the squirrel. Thank goodness, though I still think relocating the squirrel is a very dumb idea. And if she happens to relocate right back to her roof, I will be returning to walmart for the Bear Blaster 9000.
If I had known we were going to capture Bushy today, I would have bought a celebratory beverage while I was at Safeway today.
Instead, I am celebrating with an entire box of (very overpriced) Mike and Ikes.


In other news: today was a FABULOUS day! I met Susan Stevenson out at Dalman's Family Restaurant for breakfast.

First, I have to explain Dalman's.
What I love about it: As Alaska restaurants go, the food is actually pretty good, and even worth paying for. In the mornings, it's full of men who look like they just walked off the set of "Deadliest Catch" or "Tougher In Alaska", or families that look like they just came out of the Bush for a day in town. These dudes are tough, unshaven, Grizzly Adams type men. They look tough, they talk tough. And that's just thier kids.
Yeah, it's awesome.

And then, today, I discovered that the really tough, grizzly-looking guy that bought me and my husband breakfast last week (compliments of Beans flirting like a pop star) is actually a YOGA INSTRUCTOR.
Yeah buddy. It's tougher in Alaska. teehee.
Ah, I digress. So, Beans and I met Susan for breakfast where I basically talked her ear off for most of it. Beans did her best to smear greasy homefries on Susan's pants, and Susan was graceful enough to accept this.
We had a really good time. Ever meet someone you feel like you've known for years? It was kind of like that, a good fit as far as friends go.
We must not have been horrible company ourselves, because after breakfast, we all loaded up into my van and went to Chena Lakes Recreational Area.

This is where I should mention a good "survival" tip to anyone else new, visiting, or wondering about Alaska. Today, I decided to do something "Alaskan-ish", and that was: Never Let the Weather Dictate Your Day.
Today was rainy and drizzly, and kind of chilly. Back in the lower 48, I would have considered it a good day for indoor activities, or maybe even not getting out of bed. If you do that here in Alaska, you will pretty much never get out of bed again for the rest of your life. Seriously, on my way to the dump today, still rainy and cold, a family was having a picnic at the park. You have to just get out there.

So we gathered up the "rain gear". Our "rain gear" consists of my "fancy" tourist styled jacket for "crummy but not too cold weather" (bought at Fred Meyers), and Beans' Land's End full body rain suit that we found at the dump with the tags still on it. (I LOVE treasure hunting!) Oh, our "rain gear" also consists of the frame backpack for carrying Beans, and two barrettes for my hair, which I don't even remember if I bothered to brush before going out this morning.

So, Chena Lakes is a BEAUTIFUL place. It's actually part of the flood plains. There was a huge flood here in the 60s that covered everything in town except the college. Everyone lost everything. After that, the dam was built. The recreational area goes all over the place. There are hiking trails, lakes, places to rent canoes in the summer and icehouses in the winter, a swimming lake, a few fishing spots... it's an outdoor paradise.
After taking us on the grand tour and getting the lay of the land, Susan directed me to a parking area where we left the car, suited up, and headed out on our walk.

PAUSE. I want to add a side note that another thing I love about Alaska is that you can find outhouses/porta-potties just about everywhere. And amazingly enough, most of them are pretty clean and well cared for. I know, you guys were all wondering about the potties in Alaska. So I thought I would share.

So, like I said, we suited up and headed out. I have no idea how far we walked. We actually stuck to a paved trail and observed a lot of wildflowers. Susan (who knows a TON of gee whiz information about these flowers!) pointed them out to me, naming them off like a botanist. I'd be lucky to even remember the name of one of them. But she also showed me a nice wildflower identification guide, which I purchased this afternoon at Safeway as well.
ANYHOO... along the trail was some wild rasberry, with a few berries just about ripe. I nibbled one and they tasted delicious. I really hope they were raspberries, and not poison berries. Good news is: I'm not dead yet, so I guess they were ok.
Along the way, we also saw some kind of owl in a tree. And some other birds that we think were maybe domestic chickens. We were hoping for a moose spotting, but no such luck today.

We chatted about life, our backgrounds, and other "getting to know you" kind of stuff. And I had a really good time. Like I said, it kind of gave me the "running into an old friend" kind of feeling. Beans was slightly less cooperative with the walk back. Maybe due to her top teeth trying to break through, but also maybe because by the time we turned around, she was hungry, wet and cold, and facing into the rain for the walk back. Susan and I chatted above her screaming, which she continued to do on the way back to Dalman's as well.

You can check out what Susan had to say at her blog:
as well as some great pictures of me and Beans.


I had a really good time. I DO want to mention that when I shared my story with a couple locals today, I was highly advised to never go there again without a rifle or a pistol, preferably a .44.
I was skeptical about this, especially considering that Susan was not even slightly concerned about bears, so I asked my landlord when he came to retrieve That Stupid Squirrel. He agreed that it was not very smart to meander through Chena Lakes without a weapon, and gave me a pseudo-scolding for traversing a few trails at Chena Hot Springs without a rifle as well.

Well, all's well that ends well. I didn't get eaten by a bear. I didn't even SEE a bear. I survived my first couple walks in the "woods" in Alaska. So I feel kind of tough.
Even if I am still a cheechako.

Oh. I also learned that Alaskans do not have snow mobiles. They have snow MACHINES. And EVERYONE will know I am still cheechako if I say snow mobile.

Tomarrow's agenda: we apparently did not offend Susan too much. Beans and I will travel to Fairbanks tomarrow to check out the Farmer's Market, then meet up with Susan to go watch the Rubber Ducky Races and check out some of the vendors and festivities in town for Golden Days.

A note on that: Next year, I am TOTALLY going the first day of the festival. People in town dress up as pioneers and they do a big reenactment thing of some guy taking his gold to the bank, and then a contest with the costumes. I am TOTALLY going to dress up as a pioneer woman, and dress Beans up as well.

Another note on being "tougher in Alaska". I passed another rite of passage here last night. In stoking my fire in the wood stove (yes, it IS still chilly enough at night to use the wood stove!), um, I grabbed the wrong part of the stove door handle. I am now the "proud owner" of a 2nd and 3rd degree burn to my hand. That's right, folks... I burned it pretty good. A small area, but charred and without sensation. I called my husband panicking, with tears welling up in my eyes, wondering what to do. He promptly reminded me that I'M the paramedic in our family.

The best thing about being a paramedic? Being able to look at my own injury and say, "Yep, that's a 3rd degree burn on your hand, alright."
The good thing about a 3rd degree burn? Well, it doesn't hurt, except for the area around the burn that is only a 2nd degree burn.

I certainly hope the remaining rites of passage to being "Alaskan" are not nearly as painful (or scarring) lessons.


Alright. Time to find a way to get the Teething Wonder back to sleep. Looks like she has three cutting in at the same time. Poor girl!

Stay tuned for our adventures at the Farmer's Market, attending the ducky races, and the excitement of festivals!

Happy Moose Trails, y'all...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chena Hot Springs

Today was nice. We went to Chena Hot Springs and wandered around for a bit. The drive was spectacular, about an hour through the foothills and along the Chena River. With so many things to look at, I should have let J do the driving, as I was swerving around on the road looking quite drunk, I'm sure.

Oh, I should mention that I am incredibly phobic of ANYONE, including my sweet husband driving me anywhere. J and I learned early on in our relationship that it was best if I do the driving, otherwise our trips usually end with my fingernails permanently imbedded into the dash, having a cramp from slamming on the "passenger side brakes" every time we go around a curve, and J with a splitting headache from me screaming, "What are you doing? Are you trying to kill us?!?!?" the whole way to our destination.


The Hot Springs were actually a little dissapointing. I was expecting something really spectacular, and it turns out to just be a small little mud pit of hot water. And, since the Hot Springs are privately owned, they charge $15 per person to get in the water! WHAT????

I probably will go back to get in the water at some point, just to say I've gotten in a hot spring, but I was really expecting something more dramatic.

The surrounding area is beautiful though, and the owner of the campground has several greenhouses and an organic garden, along with about 100 camp sites with cabins, wall tents, and a lodge for renting.We wandered through the campgrounds, along the airstrip, and around the gardens.
There is also an Ice Hotel (everything is made of ice!), but that's a $15 per person tour (and an additional $15 if you want an appletini in a hand carved "glass" made of ice), and we didn't really feel like staying until the next tour anyway.
We ate lunch at the restaurant, and THAT was fabulous. J has a salmon buger (which Beans and I ate nearly half of!), and I ordered the fried halibut and "chips", which was pretty good too. We followed that up with coffee and a delicious chocolate mousse, then walked off a little of lunch, chatted with a few tourists, and headed home.

As a side note, I have to admit I was slightly offended when a tourist scoffed at our move from Alabama to Alaska and actually said, "WHY would ANYONE want to move here?"
Um, I felt a little Alaskan Pride welling up (I know, I know, I haven't been here long enough to have it!), and came very close to telling him to vacation somewhere else. Instead, I smiled politely and walked away, secretly hoping he would be eaten by bears on his guided hike.

ANYHOO (again),
We headed home and stopped at one of the river side pull-offs. I'm sure I've said it before, but here goes again: One of the things I LOVE about Alaska is the ability to pull off and set up camp just about anywhere you want. Seriously, at any of the little scenic view spots, you can pull in and find tent campers and RVers setting up "house" and enjoying the view.
Well, we stopped, adding out minivan to one of the lesser populated views, and I sat on the river bank nursing Beans, watching the river flow and listening to the ravens calling out. It was beautiful. I could have spent all day there. It made me want to go buy lots of camping gear and set up "house" along the river bank.
Alas, we had to return home, as I had left sourdough bread rising at the house and had a tired and cranky baby on my hands.

I have to say that today was a nice break from our usual routine of chores and work. It was nice to not be "landlocked" by the house today, to get out and be tourists for a few hours.

Coming up is a very busy weekend for me and Beans. Tomarrow will be spent getting everything caught up at home so we can:
1. Meet the infamous Susan Stevenson for Coffee
2. Attend the Rubber Ducky Races and other Golden Days festivities
3. Visit the Farmer's Market
4. Visit with our friends
5. Check out a new church
6. Finish sewing projects

BUSHY UPDATE: Stupid Squirrel is still on the loose. Landlord is trying to "build a better squirrel trap" still. Landlord's son was trying to be helpful and dumped about a week's worth of peanuts and squirrel food about 3 feet from the trap, so Bushy is not intersted in the food that she has to climb in the trap for. Husband, ever frustrated that he is not permitted to shoot the RODENT, has taken to throwing javelin-like sticks at the squirrel, in hopes of spearing Bushy. (Hey, the landlord said we couldn't SHOOT the squirrel. She didn't say anything about spearing it!)

Ok. Off to bed to rest up for our busy weekend!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rumor Has It...

...That someone shot the bear. I talked to my landlord this morning and she heard from someone at church that someone down Plack Road shot and killed a small black bear sometime earlier in the week. My landlord called Fish and Game to confirm this, but they said there hadnm't been a report of this rumored bear shooting. Probably someone without a license or without a bear tag. Either way, here's hoping the rumor is true.
And before any of you "bunny huggers" freak out and think I'm a horrible, mean creature for being glad the bear is rumored to be dead, um... you are welcome to hang my laundry for me if you are so concerned about it.

Bushy Update: I am so close to cussing in print here. The. Stupid. Squirrel. Not only did the squirrel demolish my husband's favorite shirt (and he wasn't exactly pleased to see it this morning!), The Stupid Squirrel has started digging apart and shredding our roof insulation.

Let me explain, for people who don't live up here. A lot of the houses have some kind of wierd foam-looking insulation on the roof covering. I have no idea what it's called, so don't ask me. I used to think it was kind of ugly, but I am thankful for the warmth it provides, and I DO realize that in a couple more months, it will be covered in snow and ice anyway.

Well... Bushy decided that she is REALLY mad that she's not being fed. No longer content to try to burrow into the living room, I woke to the sound of Bushy hammer-chewing her way through this insulation. I can only hope this stuff is toxic and might kill her. (Yes, yes, I know. Bunny-huggers hate me.)
I did the "right" thing and called the landlord. I told her this squirrel was about to meet an untimely death, especially since her trap is not working as planned.
I was once again instructed not to kill the squirrel. Apparently, her children ask about the squirrel daily, and want to move it to thier house, since The Stupid Squirrel is no longer a welcome resident with us. I personally think she is insane, and I can't wait to see what her husband thinks of the idea. Um, they also don't exactly live far enough away from us (they still live on the same street) for Bushy to get the point that she needs to live a few houses down. All I have to say is once the catch this stupid squirrel, it's open season if I catch Bushy in my yard again.
MY husband called HER husband and explained the squirrel situation in greater detail. HER husband was NOT happy that Bushy is now eating the insulation on the house, so he went to the shelter to get a 'specially made squirrel trap. (Um, is a .22 not an efficient trap???)

OK. J is finally home from work, so I'm off to enjoy some time with my husband, or even better, see if he would be kind enough to entertain Beans for the afternoon so I can lock myself into my sewing room for the day.
A drizzly day here, with peeks of sunshine. Not enough to get the clothes out on the line, but sunshine none the less.
To my dear friends in the lower 48 dealing with the miserable heat... our forcast here today is supposed to be "partly cloudy, a high of 65". To you I say, "Nyah, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah!" *grin*
Love you guys!