Sunday, December 6, 2009


Wow. I just realized I haven't been in here for a couple weeks.
Well, as usual, things have been busy in the Moose Nuggets Household. Not anything too exciting, just the usual stack of chores and various projects in process. With the Christmas holidays around the corner, the reality of my procrastination has sunk in and forced me into my knitting, crocheting, and crafting stash in a mad rush to finish up Christmas gifts.
Those of you who read regularly know... I'm not into the commercialism of Christmas.
And in recent years, this one especially, I have really started a lifestyle of reducing stuff in my life.
Oh, there's a lot of talk about "reduce, reuse, recycle", and a lot about reducing your carbon footprints. And I'll agree...every little bit counts. But I DO find it amusing that the pop-culture of "greenism" has us spending MORE, buying MORE. You can buy (more) green products. You can buy green bags. You can buy an Eco-Ego and feel good "saving the earth".
Wouldn't it be better to REALLY save the earth, instead of buying the illusion that we are going green?
This has taken space in my mind recently. We've been asked (over and over and over again) why we chose such a small house, such a small mortgage when our budget "clearly allows" for something much bigger and fancier. These questions are usually from the same people who have asked us in the past WHY on earth we would want to raise our own food, bake our own bread, cloth diaper our babies, or (gasp! the horror!) breastfeed past a first birthday. Most of the time, I allow people to think we are just crazy hippies, minus the dirt and dreadlocks. But the truth is... The REALITY of "saving the earth" (and ourselves along with it) is not going to be done by buying green products while we continue to be wasteful.
If I've learned one thing in life, it's that you don't waste what you work really hard to achieve.

For those that have asked... the small house is because I have discovered the secret to saving the planet. You ready?
If you REALLY want to reduce your carbon footprint... (drum roll please)
Seriously. I'm a rocket scientist. Really.

Here's more "genius":
I have discovered that you waste a lot less food when you work hard to prepare it. Suddenly the last few slices of stale bread look like a good french toast instead of trash. And if you raise chickens (for eggs or meat), not only will you know where your food comes from, they are built in garbage disposals. They LOVE people food. So do pigs, if you want to raise your own pork. (I know, I know. Just a crazy hippie, minus the dirt and dreadlocks.)

Also on the genius scale:
You can't waste what you don't own. Meaning.... if you don't buy a lot of junk, you don't have to throw a lot of junk away. Or have to find room to store it.

A secret of the universe: Your kids will not die if they don't have their own separate rooms. (Our house rule: if you want your own room, get a job and an apartment. Until then, stay off your sister's bed.) They also will not die if they don't watch television. YOU will not die if you don't know who won the Super Bowl or if you don't find out what happened after Jon and Kate's divorce.

Yes, I am full of this kind of genius. I should write a book and go on Oprah, or something.

I'm gonna babble about some other stuff now.

I hope everyone had a good one. I will say that I found myself quite "homesick" this year for family. I come from a decent sized family (most holiday gatherings include over 20 people, and that's when only the local family shows up). We had turned down an invitation to share the holiday with some friends because we wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving in our new house. With just the four of us, it was pretty small and kind of lonely. Lesson learned: Next year, invite people or accept an invitation. Or maybe fly home for the holidays.
(Although last year's trip with ONE toddler is still fresh in my mind and I am not anxious to do 20 hours of travelling with two small kids. Thanks.)

I would also like to add that it was an extremely bad idea to watch Food,Inc the night before Thanksgiving. It was incredibly informative (more on that in a moment) but good grief, J and I both had a hard time choking down the Butterball Turkey that was raised in a CAFO and most likely dipped in a chlorine bath. (For the record, all poultry commercially produced goes through that treatment. Or so says the video.)
In conjunction with Food,Inc I had also been busy reading a couple books. "Farm City" (can't remember the author's name), and "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. Both are incredibly informative about eating locally produced food. The Kingsolver book really went the extra mile. Food, Inc was the icing on the genetically modified, bleached flour cake. I spent Thanksgiving Day reading labels on the very few processed foods we buy these days, and amusing J with tirades about the cost of transporting foods and the disgusting icky-ness of how that food reaches our table.
Lesson: Read these books and watch the movie, but NOT the night before a great feast. And keep reading, because next year, I'll be harvesting my own turkey. No more CAFO meats for our family.

The real lesson that came out of these books and movie: Raise your own food when you can, buy locally as much as possible. What is in commercially grown food is disgusting, for the record.

The Christmas holidays are coming up. The cabin has a small tree in the den and a handful of decorations. Beans has been busy inspecting the stockings (hung by the chimney with care, of course!) and trying her best to wait patiently for "Tenty-Claws". You know, the fat guy in the red suit. This year is FUN. Toddlers are so full of wonder and find all the new details amazing. I have had every Christmas tree in town pointed out with a breathless, "Wow! Amazing! Miss-a-miss tree, momma!" from the back seat. Little Nugget has been systematically un-decorating the Christmas least the ornaments she can reach.

The cabin has a definite "Little House" feel to it these days. We are settling into a lovely rhythm around the house of chores and family fun. The weather has been nice the last couple weeks, allowing some outdoor time in what little daylight we have these days. I've been willing to skip nap time, if it means Beans can tromp through the snow and work out some of her toddler energy. Most outings end with an exhausted Beans, who likes to lay flat, face up on the sled and demand I pull her home for "Hot Shocolate and Mush-Mellows" when she has finally had enough. The cabin is warm and cheery when everyone is awake. My favorite time of day is evening, when the outside is dark, the inside is glowing with dim lights and wood fire, and I can sit at my kitchen table with some knitting, getting the fire ready to be dampened down for the night. I really DO feel like Caroline Ingalls in the evening time.

The winter looks promising... lots of time for projects, and as soon as I catch up on all my holiday gift making, I'll be able to turn my attention to chicken coop plans and seed catalogs.
This time of year is so LOVELY.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


As in, the temperature. Yup, we have dipped below zero in the last week or so. When I arrived at my knitting group last week, we chattered, with teeth chattering, about the temps around town. An interesting thing about the Delta area, the temps can be drastically different within a few miles. It was 12 below when I left my home. There was a 9 degree warm up between my house and the library.
There was a much bigger difference between our cabin and the temps in Fairbanks, as we discovered this past Monday when we rode to the Big City to get a few things. I noticed my feet were feeling a little chilly in my boots, but didn't think much of it until we passed the college, where the digital sign proved that it was -20F.
Let the winter begin.

Meanwhile, back at the Cabin, we have been carrying on, life as usual. And by "usual", I mean as unusual as we always live.
J returned, the triumphant hunter, carrying six dead snowshoe hares. While I DO like to eat the spoils, I am not very fond of the dead animals being washed in my sink. Or listening to their tiny little rabbit bones crunching under the kitchen knives. But J was doing his best to make what tastes like chicken LOOK more like chicken, so he wouldn't have anyone crying over the little dead bunnies. Namely, me. Followed by Beans who only recently saw Bambi and has suddenly come to understand that the meat on her plate used to be a cute fluffy thing.
ANYHOO... once the rabbits looked a little less like rabbits, I cooked one down for a LONG time (hares are not as tender as cottontails), then made J pull the meat from the carcass before mixing it together with a bunch of yummy things into a pot pie.

Here's a recipe:
One dead rabbit. Boil rabbit for 15 minutes, then discard that water and rinse the rabbit well. Return rabbit to pot with enough water to cover.
Add chicken bouillon (2 packets of Herb-Ox is what I used) and boil until it comes off the bone (about an hour, depending on how tough your rabbit is).
After you get the meat off the bones, return it to your stock with 6 cloves of garlic (I keep it whole. When you come across one in your dish, you can mash it up on a biscuit and it makes the best bite of garlic bread ever).
Add some seasoning you like. I use Italian herbs in almost everything I cook.
Add one onion, some carrots, celery, and other vegetables you like in your pot pie.
Cook it down until the veggies are almost soft.
Thicken the broth into a gravy by adding flour to your pot.
Put a pie crust in a deep pie dish. Add your rabbit stew to it. Add another pie crust. Vent your pie crust. It helps if you make your vents into the shape of a little heart, so the poor bunny feels loved.
Bake it at 425F for 30-40 minutes or until the pie crust browns and the gravy starts to bubble through.
Serve in generous slices and talk loudly at the table about everyone's day, so everyone is too engaged to realize that Thumper has been served.
After dinner, realize that eating a rabbit was not so bad, and actually pretty tasty.


In other news, I also learned a new skill. You can add Woodsman to my "Jill-of-All-Trades" title.
The story is hilarious, so be sure you don't snort coffee all over your laptops, folks.

I woke yesterday in a particularly bad mood. Don't ask why. I have no clue myself. I found myself snarling and hissing at everyone in the house. Even Little Nugget. Around lunch time, J had enough of my bad attitude and decided we should bundle the girls up and go outside to do some work. After some snarling and hissing, I agreed. I stood glumly outside, Little Nugget strapped to me in the baby carrier, Beans bundled up like a character in "A Christmas Story", and I pouted at the winter sky. After a few minutes of standing around pouting and realizing that J was not paying me one bit of attention, I decided to get to work. Also, when it's 5 below zero, standing around is really not very fun anyway. I began stacking wood. And filled the wood crib in the house. And stacked more wood. J was busy, whistling to himself and digging snow away from the spot that the next wood pile needed to be stacked.
Well, in 5 below, girls get cold and tired long before the work wears out. I was just starting to work into a good rhythm of stacking when the girls needed to go in to warm up. I'll admit, this part of mommy-hood always disgruntles me a bit. I LIKE to work hard. I LIKE to challenge my body. I can be girly, but I honestly get a kick out of testing myself to see if I can do a "man's work". (My mother, one of the original girl-power hippies, would say there's no such thing as "man's work"- only work.) Good grief, that's why I was a paramedic in a state where the average human weighs about 300 lbs. (And no, they do not send "lifting assistance" to us girls out there!)
ANYHOO... my job was in the house with the kids. I made some hot cocoa and tended fires and babies. When J came in wanting to know what was for lunch, my Girl Power kicked into high gear and I demanded that HE tend food, fires, and babies. I threw on some gloves (not very good ones, in hindsight) and a light jacket (also not a good choice), and went out to the wood pile.
It didn't take long of me abusing the poor axe and maul before J came outside to "help".
In his defense, the poor guy only wanted to show me the proper way to split firewood. The way that doesn't destroy an axe and maul, and the way that doesn't injure his wife. And also, the way to actually split the wood instead of just splintering it all to heck.
This is where I should mention that I DON'T LIKE HELP. Especially if I am already in a pretty surly mood. The more J "helped", the more I noticed that I had inherited my mother's involuntary lip twitch... the dreaded lip twitch that always said, "Wow, kid. You really pushed too far this time." When my mom was madder than a wet hornet, her upper lip would twitch. And that's when I knew it was time to cease and desist. And get my hind quarters ready.
J finally stopped trying to help. I'm not sure if it was the enraged lip twitch that clued him in, or the fact that I was no longer facing the woodpile but the axe, but staring directly at him.
I stayed out at the woodpile hacking our precious firewood into bits until my hands-in the not very good gloves-started to hurt. I went in, defeated, and hands burning from the searing cold. J innocently asked how many logs I split.
Darn that lip twitch. I didn't have to say a word.
He simply said, "Oh. Well, cut yourself some slack. You've never split wood before. I'll teach you another time."
Oh. Poor guy. That was the wrong thing to say to a Girl-Power Chick who was just defeated by a "man-job".
As soon as I could feel my fingers, I dug out some better gloves. I laced up my heavy duty winter boots, and I donned a much more efficient jacket. Little Nugget stared at me with curiosity and giggled. Beans asked, "Mommy? Play snow? Yeah?"
"No baby. Mommy's not playing in the snow right now. You stay here with daddy."
I ignored J's questions... "Where are you going? Are you taking the car? When will you be back?"
As I shut the door, I hollered back (and excuse my language here folks...), "I'm NOT going to let some stupid piece of wood kick my ass."
I went outside, took a deep breath of very cold air (that hurts, by the way!), and gave that woodpile everything I had. Every ounce of my bad mood, every drop of surliness I could muster up, and every lip twitch I had. There was a little cussing at that wood pile. I'm pretty sure I told several pieces of wood that one way or another, I was going to split it, even if it was splintered into kindling before I landed a "good one" on it.
It took a few tries. And eventually, I did get the hang of it. Especially after I sheepishly looked around to be sure J didn't see me taking his advice on how to hold and swing the maul, and tried it his way. (Um, he was right. The first one I hit with his method split into two perfect pieces.)
After about an hour in the cold, and thinking about things, I suddenly realized I wasn't mad anymore. And while I wasn't frozen to the bone, I was getting a little chilly. And as my anger was whittled away in the woodpile, I started to notice the blister on my leg where my hastily tucked pant leg had been chaffing between my boot. I took a look around and noticed that I had hacked up about 1/4 cord, and thought..."That'll do, Moose Nugget, That'll do."
Panting, I leaned against the house. On the one hand, I was wishing I had the energy to finish the rest of the woodpile (another 1/4 cord, maybe a tad more), just so I could go in the house with a "See, Girlz Rock" attitude. Then, I realized that I just didn't have enough energy left in me to go back in saying "Nyah, Nyah, Nah, Nyah, Nyah". Nope. I had left getting up on the wrong side of the bed out in the stack of wood. It sure was gonna feel good to throw one of MY pieces of split wood into to the stove to warm up by.
By the time I stopped panting, but before the dull ache in my hands and back that every new woodman feels could set in, I tromped in the house, glasses fogging up as the warm air hit them and said, "Hey you! Man! Go look at the wood pile!"
I was pretty proud. And I can say that I would definitely chop wood again. If I had to.
For the record, my hands still ache. But gosh, that fire sure was cozy last night.

Plenty on the to-do list this week. The holidays are coming up, and those of you who have been reading for a while know that Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. This week will be full of preparations... there's cranberries to boil into sauce, there's pumpkins to cook down for pies. There's potatoes to mash, Green Stuff to make, and lots of other goodies. There's also the guest list to attend to. It's a Moose Nugget tradition to invite folks that would otherwise be spending the holiday alone. I just can't bring myself to ignore someone who would otherwise have to spend Thanksgiving eating Chow Hall Turkey.
If you are a reader, give some consideration to your own guest list. Whether you are hosting or you are a guest in someone else's traditions, see if there might be room for one more chair at your table, and invite someone who needs to feel like they are a part of a family for the day.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Learning Curve

There is a learning curve to a wood stove. Just like each person is unique, so is each wood stove. I seriously think they all have their own little personalities, and they interact with the house and each operator on an individual basis.
We've been on a bit of a learning curve with our stove. The previous owner/builder was incredibly proud of his "airtight" design. And "airtight" is great, if you happen to be a Ziploc bag. If you happen to be a wood stove, or a family trying to operate one, a little air-tight would be nice.
There's a lot of science behind a wood stove. Kind of makes me wish I had payed attention to the boring droning of Mr. Wooten instead of making goo-goo eyes at Aaron Whats-His-Name in high school. But seriously, I never thought I would REALLY need to know things like "combustion" and "draft", or REALLY need to know what happens when you create a vacuum.
For the record, when you create a vacuum, bad things happen. And when you live air-tight, you create vacuums every time you turn on a "mechanical draft" (another term I should have payed attention to in school).
Mechanical draft happens when you turn on things like your clothes dryer. Or an electric fan. Or a vent fan in the bathroom. And when you create a vacuum with this mechanical draft, FIRE (and smoke) tend to follow the path of oxygen, which, unfortunately, is NOT up the chimney. Nope, it's right in the direction of that mechanical draft, which happens to be IN our house.

Not to worry. We haven't burnt to the ground. A frantic call to the wood stove dealer -and a few chuckles from his end of the phone as he listened to me tell poor little Beans, "NOT NOW BEANS! THIS IS AN EMERGENCY AND YOU MUST GO PLAY WITH BARBIES IN THE OTHER ROOM UNTIL I'M DONE!"- solved the issue temporarily. Turns out that you can counter a mechanical draft by simply opening a window near the wood stove. Another detail I should have payed attention to in science class.
The long term solution is to have a guy come put some holes in our house. Specifically, some kind of venting system that allows outside air in the house. He's coming Tuesday.

Meanwhile... we have been busy learning other lessons in fire. Like how to build up a good coal bed, or just how far to damper down the stove so you don't have to get up in the middle of the night to build another one.
Or, how to communicate with your spouse about the plans for the day so that he doesn't stoke up a hot, hot fire right before he leaves for work when you were planning on canning some applesauce and baking bread this morning.
Phew! That was one HOT, HOT house. A thermometer in the house claims it was 84F. I made applesauce and pear compote and cranberry sauce as fast as I could, got it canned, and decided that the bread would have to wait one more day. I'll let that coal bed burn down a bit, and get my bread started in the morning, and let the oven knock the chill off a bit.

Speaking of chill... today was warmer than the last few, but we've already dipped below zero here! The days have been hovering in the teens, though today, we did see 30F again.

Otherwise, the news is uneventful. We have a few finishing touches on the inside of the cabin to make it homey and maximize some storage space. Since much of that requires a trip to Fairbanks (which is on the books for next week anyway), and the cabin takes little time to clean, my week was free to pursue home school projects with abandon and begin working on J's grandmother's crazy quilt. I've almost finished up the patch work from where she left off. Hoping to be able to get to the handwork next week, then all that will be left is to quilt it up.

The cabin has a lovely peacefulness to it. I thought I would certainly have TV withdrawal, but I haven't. My evening was spent doing some journalling. I could hear Beans quietly playing with legos under the dining room table (a favorite hiding spot these days). Little Nugget fell asleep at the breast, and as I looked up from my journal to stretch my neck, I noticed that the only other sound was the quiet hiss of the tea pot on the wood stove, promising me a nice cup of something hot after I tuck the kids into bed.

We've had visitors in the yard! Hare trails are all over the property. Another set of fox tracks have followed one of the bunny trails into the trees. Beans and I suited up on one of the warmer days last week and followed the bunny trails around the property, wondering where they disappear to. Grouse and other birds chatter in the woods all day long. I wonder where they are and if I'd be a decent shot with an air rifle. (Hey, grouse and rabbit make good dinner!)
This is my new TV sitcom... Animal Track TV and Wood Stove TV. I could watch those two channels all day.

Well, little feet are pitter-pattering the back of my seat, signalling that my time in the library parking lot using the wi-fi is over. Time to get my brood back to cabin and get the chores done. Dishes to wash, wood to bring in for the night, and laundry to fold... not to mention bathing and sending two little ones off to bed so I can have that cup of tea.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Post Card Perfect

The move is nearly finished. J has been making frequent trips to the old rental to bring home the "little things", as we see what will fit in our cabin and what won't. It's amazing what you decide you can live without when there really is no room for extra junk.

Already, the skeptics have offered their opinions. As we continue to downsize, we have gotten several well meaning comments and questions about "HOW" we are going to live in our new space.
Truth is, we love it.
We love the downsizing. We love realizing that we THOUGHT we "couldn't live without" something, and discovering that life is easier and more pleasant without that thing.
Example: We had to leave the microwave behind. There really is NO room for it. And it took me a full week to even notice it was gone. And when our leftover biscuits were warmed up in the already-warm oven that I cooked dinner in, J and I both wondered why we had ever used the microwave to do this task. The biscuits weren't soggy or chewy, the way a microwave can make them. They tasted like I had just baked them. Spread with some homemade apple butter (not mine, a gift from a neighbor), they were perfect.
Another Example: With limited closets, we had to downsize wardrobes. It's amazing what you can find in your closet when you look. We donated enough clothing to dress another family! And I promise, we still have "too much".
When we looked at what we own vs. what we use, it was nearly shameful. Even being more conscientious than most consumers, we are still so sadly wasteful. We gave away, sold, or donated nearly almost an entire household worth of stuff. Several friends are amazed and pleased with their new treasures, and I'm glad we found useful homes for our things that had to go, but it was with a heavy heart... NOT because I miss those things, but because at one point in life, J and I must have thought, "Our lives will not be complete or operate smoothly without that thing".
What an enormous amount of waste.
And amazing that we still have plenty of luxuries left over. I still have some of my fancy pants kitchen stuff. J still has some fancy pants tools and personal items. The girls still have more toys than they need.

So we are nearly finished with our move. The finishing touches and unpacking are in full swing. The experience has me seriously rethinking the necessities in life.
I took these thoughts outdoors with me this morning to stand in the fresh air and look at my new surroundings. Snow began falling some time in the night, and the cabin had a light dusting of snow. There was about an inch of the white stuff on the ground. I noticed a moose wandered through the yard and left some tracks shortly after the snow began falling. The trees were beginning to hold some snow, and it truly was postcard perfect.

The downsizing and organizing continues.
Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Moving Day

A short break among some very busy work...

We finally got the keys to the house, and Little Farm on the Tundra is slowly setting up shop. I would much rather skip to the fun stuff (chicken coops and greenhouses) than the current task (trying to figure out how to fit 1500 sq ft of belongings into 860 sq ft of space), but the reality is we need to get our stuff in the house, and soon. The skies are threatening to snow, and a light dusting of the white stuff has already made the roads a little slick.

The first day in the new homestead was a lot of sitting around and waiting. We were lucky enough to find someone willing to install our new Princess Ultra Blaze King wood stove the same day (and didn't overcharge us, either). And while it went quickly for stove installations, it did take some time. It was worth it though. After a little bit of playing around with the controls, we managed to get a good burn and were able to damper things down to keep the house at a comfy 70-ish degrees. The fire lasted through the night. No one froze or even woke up too hot or too cold. There were still even a few coals in the bottom this morning, and a few pieces of wood this morning started the heat cycle again.

The first night was pure bliss. Even in a place as small as Fort Greely, you can forget what QUIET sounds like. After babies were snoozing, I ducked out to take a peek at our surroundings. With no porch lights and trees between us and all our neighbors, it was dark enough to not even be able to see J's truck, which wasn't parked but 10 feet from me. The QUIET startled me at first. It took a moment to realize that the rustling I heard was my own two feet, and the exhalations weren't from animals lurking in the dark, but my own steady breathing. An nearby dog barked once or twice, and the occasional bunny in the brush caused a stir, but the only other sound I could hear was my own gentle noise. For a mom with two babies, it felt like I had died and gone to heaven.
I headed in after a short break (let's face it, it was getting pretty chilly and spooky out there in the dark). The house was a warm-your-face kind of warm from the wood stove. The air in the cabin was dry, and smelled like warm logs. I tucked into some comfy jammies and headed to our loft bedroom. Beans was gently snoring in the next room, Little Nugget hunkered down next to the warmth of mommy milk, and I fell asleep to the sound of J stoking the fire and heading up the stairs to snuggle in next to Nugget and me. It WAS Homestead Heaven.

Back to reality this morning. It's time to load up the trucks and get the rest of our belongings over to the new house. I'll admit, it looks a little like a bad episode of The Beverly Hillbillies right now, but the cabin should start coming together in a day or so. Meanwhile, I'm gonna keep heading outside for sips of snowy air and QUIET, and keep daydreaming about those chickens.
Pictures coming soon, y'all. I promise. It's just gonna take a while to find all our belongings, including the USB cable for the camera.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Little Farm on The Tundra

It's nearly official! Little Farm on The Tundra is about to be reality, folks.
J, Beans, Little Nugget, and I met in the real estate agents office today and closed on our Arctic Homestead.
I say it's "nearly official" because the paperwork still has to go to the title company to be recorded. Apparently, when you live in such a remote location, these things do not happen as instantly as they do in big cities. While this normally only takes an additional two business day, Monday happens to be "Alaska Day" (whatever that is?), and the recording office will be closed. Our homestead ownership will be official on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the former owner will have packed his bags (and boxes) and give us the keys Sunday, and we will waste no time getting moved in.

So, the details...
It's a SMALL homestead. The appraisal officially marked it as 864 sq ft. (Told ya. It's small!) It's a new (2007) construction log home that reminds me a lot of Lincoln Log structures I built as a child on my mom's living room rugs.
For those of you familiar with the TV version of "Little House on The Prairie", it looks much like the Ingalls' home on the inside. The door opens into the kitchen and dining space, with a cozy wood stove tucked in the corner.
J has promised to switched out the barrel stove for my dream wood stove, a fancy little number from the Vermont Wood Stove Company that has a separate baking oven in the bottom and a cook top on top, surrounded in warmth maintaining and radiating soapstone. The cost of that little stove (and the shipping) will likely count for my next five years worth of Christmas presents, but I won't mind when the smell of wood stove baked bread wafts through the house, or when I don't have to pay the power company to set a pot roast on for dinner.
The tour continues with a single bathroom (with full sized washer and dryer tucked in), and a downstairs bedroom that we plan on converting into our family room/den. A small built in desk sits strategically under the loft stairs. The stairs climb to a loft that we plan on converting to the grown-up bedroom, and the adjoining master bedroom will become the toddler haven and sleeping quarters. That's it for the inside. (Pictures will come, eventually, so y'all can see the homestead.)
The fun part is outdoors. A separate well house will double as some storage space, and two attached carports (one on either side of the house) are set to house vehicles and a freezer. The house is nestled on a cozy 2.5 acres which is begging for a roost of chickens, a garden, a greenhouse, a handful of meat rabbits, and maybe even a milk goat and yarn sheep (eventually). J would also say that the place is begging for an oversize two stall garage, but I'm getting my chicken coop first. (Fair enough, since the coop will cost about 25 times less to build!) The girls will have their own little area cleared for the playground of their wildest dreams (not hard when all they really want is a swing and a slide), and there is already a good half acre cleared that just needs tilling and planting for next year's harvest.
The acreage is covered in wild high and lowbush cranberries, and plenty of other wild plants to identify and explore. We've seen moose prints, lynx prints, and the previous owner claims to have discovered bear scat on occasion. I'll believe the lynx and the moose. I'd better not ever see a bear. On one of my many drive-by stalkings of my new house, I crossed paths with a handful of ruffed grouse, and there are more bunny tracks than you can count. We might not be able to completely live off our little parcel of land, but we wouldn't have many excuses for starving to death either.
The wooded lot is speckled with birch, spruce, cottonwood, and aspens, and these trees do a good job of hiding the house from plain view. The ones we clear will do a fine job of proving heat in our upcoming winters (after they dry out, of course), and the ones that remain will keep our homestead sheltered from the Delta winds.

I'm excited to know that this winter, instead of dreaming, I will actually be sitting in a rocker by my wood fire stove, knitting and crocheting to heart's content, and spending the darkest days of winter poring over seed catalogs that I will actually order from, instead of living vicariously through my lucky friends who are already hobby farming.

That's the news for today, my friends! We are off to have a very busy week ending and week beginning... packing up the old house, seriously downsizing, and moving into our Little Farm on the Tundra. The next news y'all hear from Moose Nuggets, we'll officially be homesteaders.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Here Comes the Dark

The last few mornings have caused some mild confusion around the Moose Nugget Household. I mean, more than usual. *AHEM*
I thought it was my imagination at first. Then, I thought the girls were waking earlier, continuing their quest to make sure I never sleep again. The truth is, the Dark is coming.
I am sharing my morning coffee with moonlight this morning. 7:30 am, and not a smidge of dawn in the sky.

I have a few friends that are dreading this time of year. But I find it invigorating. And while I had lots of fun this summer in the midnight sun, I have missed sunrise and sunset the way you would miss a dear friend. I've been homesick for the Dark.

The weather has also taken a definite turn. It's not cold by Alaska standards, but what's going on outside is winter in the South. I was chuckling to myself the other day, when I realized that a couple winters ago, I was standing in 40 degree evenings in Alabama and complaining to my coworkers about how cold it was outside. Imagining a day back down south, I realized that I also would have pulled my gloves and winter coat out in this kind of weather, and would be wearing a cozy sweatshirt under that. Now, if I had a wood stove, I don't even think I would light a fire, except for at night, when we are dipping into the 20s here. That does make for a chilly morning.

Speaking of wood stoves... the wood stove was the winner of the "Which is better?" poll. Which means I was able to bring bragging rights to the dinner table when J brought up the pellet stove again. (Thank you to my dear friends who stuffed the ballot box as well!)

So... "Why all this talk about pellet stoves and wood stoves anyway?" You may be asking.
The dream is close folks. REALLY close. It's a matter of paperwork, and then, The Little Farm on the Tundra will be a reality. More details when it comes to fruition because, as you know, if you talk about the dream, you lose it... BUT...
The agent assures us that "probably next week" we should be signing some papers and looking for a moving van. Then, I'll be looking for some chickens and spending my winter planning the garden while J clears land for my new hobby.

So, while I'm not going to divulge much this week, I give you little clues about the dream because it is going to drastically change Moose Nuggets Updates. In fact, it's going to drastically change lots of things. While TECHNICALLY Internet service is available there, our choices are dial-up or satellite. I didn't even think dial-up existed anymore, and the start-up cost for satellite is pretty expensive. We can afford it, but when the Wi-Fi at the library is free, I don't see why we should pay a couple thousand bucks to get Internet or cable.
THE PLAN is to go to the library once a week to do all my Internet stuff. That includes Ye Old Blog, so Moose Nuggets will continue to exist. And truthfully, as frequently as I update, most readers are not likely to see much of a difference. And to make a few readers happier (for those of you who remember Mr Anonymous who complained about my boring life and reading my tortuous blog)... there should be a few more interesting things happening in the Moose Nugget Household, as we finally start living out my Little House on the Prairie, Arctic style.

A few little notes:
-I finally bought my new coat. Yes, I am retiring the Hot Pink Easy-For-Search-And-Rescue-to-Spot Jacket. I also finally found a hat I like, and replaces the gloves that were lost in the Seattle Airport last year when I needed them most. 45 Below zero was NOT the time for gloves to go missing.

-Knitting group was a blast this past Monday. I was recently accused by one of my jet-set, city-type friends of being "an old grandma with boring hobbies". I felt kind of self conscious about that for a couple months until I went back to gab with the gals over yarn and hot cider. I was wearing The Very First Grown-Up Size Sweater I have Ever Crocheted For Myself (it turned out pretty good, actually), and was happy to be working on a new project. In the middle of sharing my latest tales and hearing the latest gossip from the other gals' lives, I found myself in that happy glow you get when you laugh so hard your cheeks hurt and you are surrounded by people that "get" you.

-The Baby Update: The girls are doing great. Beans is a ball of energy, as usual... AND turning two very very soon! Birthday party plans are coming together, and I need to get off my duff and start getting the invitations made. It's bittersweet... she's growing, but she's growing too fast!
Little Nugget is desperate to keep up with her sister, and has started CRAWLING these past few weeks. Initially, it was just little frog hops in the right direction. Now, it's a deliberate hand-hand-knee-knee-slide to her destination, which is usually a toy that Beans is trying to play with. Little Nugget officially has Beans on the run for a safe place to play with toys undisturbed, though Beans does enjoy instigating the cat and mouse game, tempting her sister with a fun toy, then running away screaming, "No! That's MINE!"

So now, at 8:00 am, as the sky begins to turn Dusky Dawn Gray, I'm off to play with babies and prepare for our coming week, which promises to be busy. Should have one more update before anything major happens around here, so stay tuned!

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Some Days, It Hits The Fan

Oh, nothing major. Just starting out to be a rough morning in the Moose Nugget Household.
Beans was fitful most of the night, but since J was at work and Little Nugget was permanently attached to my milking apparatus, it was difficult to go check on her. Every time I was able to disengage the avid milker, Beans would settle back down and I would decide that I should let sleeping girls lie.
I woke this morning VERY early to cries of "Momma! POOP! Tummy Hurts!"
And in my pre-coffee stupor, I ended up sticking my hands in poop as I helped her get out of her underpants. I decided I should turn on the lights and assess the situation, and discovered that in addition to poop, she was covered head to toe in barf.
I left her sitting on the potty to check out the full situation. Not good.
I dunked her in the tub and seriously started praying, "God, don't let it be swine flu!"

A side note here... I called for reinforcements. They still have not arrived. One day, I will discover the correct way to communicate that we need help and you need to get home.
Apparently, saying, "Um, half the upstairs is covered in poo and puke, both girls are hysterical, I have vomit in my hair and poop on my hands and shirt. I really could use some help!" is NOT the correct way to solicit help.
The response was: "Um, like RIGHT NOW? You need help now or all day or what?"
Just then, Beans pooped in the tub and started freaking out. I didn't have time to respond, so I am pretty sure I said, "Dude. Are you serious? I said I need help. I gotta go. I've got poop and bathwater all over the floor."
I think J decided that meant I had things well under control.

And two hours later.... mostly, I do. Have things under control. Sort of. Beans has been made more comfortable with movies and Popsicles. Little Nugget stopped wailing as soon as I returned her milk supply, and is now snoozing between meals. As soon as I can stomach it, I will be stripping down the beds and starting some laundry and cleaning out bathtubs.
For the record, I don't do barf. Even when I was a paramedic, barf was just not my thing. I used to make my partner clean it up ("Ah, lowly little EMT partner... I save lives, YOU clean barf.") Seriously. And luckily, my partner had a stomach of steel and could be bribed with a free lunch.


The weather report here is: Cold and snowy. We've had slushy rain falling for a couple days now. Snow in the morning and evening, rainy slush in the warmer afternoons (and by "warmer", I mean like 40F). I wouldn't call it a "white out" this morning, but I will say that visibility is limited. I can't see past the end of our block this morning.


Alright. I am being summoned with cries of "Tummy Hurts!" again. I've got to go catch some barf.
Hope y'all are doing better than we are here.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


That is not a misprint.
We've had our first official snowfall. And it actually stuck.

While I am one of the crazy people here that absolutely love winter, I have to admit that I felt a little sad to see that autumn (my all time favorite season) lasted a mere 10 days or so. Last week, the days were still a bit balmy and the leaves turned golden reds and yellows. A few days ago, they began to fall off the trees in large numbers. A trip to Fairbanks two days ago proved that there were more leaves on the ground than on the trees. By the time we drove home from Fairbanks, snow was falling, and by the time I got the girls tucked into bed, it looked like a Christmas card outside.

I would like to take a minute and vent about the irony of snow on the autumnal equinox. Not only is that just weird, I was not very well prepared.
Even more ironic is the fact that I was standing in Fred Meyer (the trendier version of Walmart, for those unfamiliar) eyeballing the new Columbia winter coats. I found one I loved and discovered they didn't have my size. "No problem" I think to myself, "I don't need it just yet. I'll check again the next trip."
For the record, if you live in Alaska, the right time to buy your winter gear was about three days ago.

Don't worry mom, we are far from freezing. I do have my coat from last year. The one that I bought in Nearly Neon Pink because J had me convinced that if I got lost in a blizzard, I should look like a complete moron so I would be found quickly.
Now that I know I am not very likely to be somewhere that search and rescue would need to see me from the space shuttle, I am thinking of buying a coat in more subdued colors.
Beans received some great hand-me-downs... a full set of toddler arctic gear. And her Nearly Neon Pink gear (bought to match mine because if SHE got lost in the arctic wilderness, search and rescue would also see her from space and know she belonged to the moron in the matching jacket)... it still fits.
Little Nugget has plenty of warm stuff, and the truth is, um... we don't plan on doing any crazy glacier hiking or being anywhere that we need full arctic gear for her, so I think we'll all stay warm.

I will admit that seeing snow this early was a little tough to swallow. I DO love fall, and it just doesn't seem right to have the white stuff quite so soon.
But... it's Alaska.
And it didn't take long to slip into winter mode. Beans demanded snow boots nearly as soon as she saw the white stuff, and she and daddy had a good snowman building adventure before tromping slush through the house, demanding hot chocolates.
I spent the afternoon digging out hats and gloves for everyone else, and making a winter gear shopping list for our next trip north. This morning, temps were hovering around 20 degrees until well after the sun came up. 'Bout time for that new coat, I'd say.

Hold on tight, y'all! It's autumn in Alaska.

Also, anyone that can clear up the heated discussion about the advantages of pellet stoves vs. wood stoves (ha ha! "Heated" discussion!)... feel free to add your two cents. My personal opinion: why give up a free source of heat (wood stove) for something that costs about $5 a day to run (pellet stove)? Am I missing something here?

Until Next Time!
Happy Moose Trails

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Autumn Lights

I know, I know. It's still a day or so before the official start of autumn, but seeing how it's my favorite season, I'm ready to jump the gun.

Speaking of guns... hunting season is officially closed for all us non-subsistence hunters. We have caribou in the freezer, but no moose. J tried hard (and I have weeks of loneliness and insanity caused from being left alone with two kids under two to prove how hard he worked), but long story short... he didn't get a moose. Ah, well. It's about time for rabbit hunting, anyway.

There is a lot of local folklore about the beginning of autumn... the first day of school, the seasonal closing of the Drive-In, The start of hunting season, Snow on the Dome (which I can not confirm or deny, since the dome has not been visible much of this week due to rain). My own official start of fall is a little more, ahem... mystic. Fall starts when I feel a certain chill in the air and begin to smell wood stoves in the night. Those cues are followed by an insane urge to dig through my stash of crochet, knit, and sewing projects and find something to curl up in a chair with. When I suddenly interrupt the constant flow of coffee for a cup of hot apple cider, it's Fall.

That said, I should mention that my recent Autumn experiences have been in the Deep South. Beautiful days like today, where the temps hover around 48F and the constant rain slows to a drizzle, frankly is what Christmas in Alabama might look like. On a really cold year. (For the record, the last Christmas I spent in Alabama was 78F and sunny.)
If I had to describe a day like today to family, I would actually liken it to what a typical Halloween Day in Northern Virginia would feel like. (I mention Northern Virginia because that's where I essentially grew up.)

So, I HAVE been feeling the urge to nestle down with fall projects. I am one sleeve away from finishing a sweater I have been making... the first grown-up size sweater I've ever attempted. I generally stick to things for little people, but found a cute pattern. Besides, my blanket winning at the fair-and my mom bragging about it to all my relatives and telling me I should open an Etsy shop, kind of made me feel invincible in the land of crochet.

On the Moose Nugget Home front, great things have been happening. J might someday, eventually return home. Between hunting, overtime, and rumors of rabbit hunts and fishing trips, we haven't seen much of him.
Beans has been hard at work with home school activities. (Yes, I am homeschooling my two year old.) She's caught on quickly and really enjoys "school time", which frankly doesn't look too much different from the things we were already doing in our day, only a bit more organized and planned out.
We have also successfully completed potty training! Any kid (or grownup for that matter) that can "hold it" from Delta Junction to Fairbanks is potty trained in my book!
Little Nugget is growing in leaps and bounds as well. Not wanting to be left out, she has already figured out a little frog hopping crawl. Too bad she mostly goes backward. Many a photo opportunity is lost because she gets so frustrated that she's gone backward instead of forward. She is quickly learning to propel herself in the right direction however, which keeps Beans in a constant state of picking up and moving her toys away from her little sister.
Oh, yeah. The word "MINE" has entered our vocabulary in the Moose Nugget Household.
I hate the word "MINE" (unless it pertains to my stuff, of course!)
Beans was quick to call me on my own selfishness this week. I was preparing a bowl of coffee ice cream with chocolate syrup for no one except for me, myself, and I. Beans asked for a bite and I answered, "No, this is MINE". To my surprise, instead of the tantrum I braced for, I got a stern lecture. "No, mommy! YOU SHARE IT!"
Hmmm.... hope that ice cream was at least decaffinated. I was outwitted by a toddler.

More excitement is occurring in the Moose Nugget Household, but I'm not at liberty to discuss it...yet. I'm going with a friend's adage... "If you talk about the dream, you lose it." Just know that exciting things are in the air, and the Moose Nugget Farm could be less of a dream and more of a reality in the Hopefully Near Future.

Meanwhile, Little Nugget has propelled herself backward from every toy in the house and needs a hand scooting in the right direction. Beans is busy hoarding toys and screeching "MINE!" over who-knows-what-her-sister-tried-to-touch, and there is a rumor that J may actually make an appearance at home tomorrow, so I guess I'd better make it look like I've been cleaning and doing laundry instead of scraping school paste off the dining room table.
Mental; Note to Self: Don't ever leave the glue sticks where a toddler can get a hold of them.

Until Next Time,

Happy Moose Trails!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Secret Moose Camp

I heard a phrase this week that sums up my life this month: Hunting Widow.
That sums it up, those two words.

The good news is, The Mighty Hunter (J) has already returned with a caribou. More specifically, a caribou head. The edible parts are at Delta Meats, being processed into the ingredients for upcoming meals. Why the head is in the back of The Suburban (AKA, "The Junk Truck"), um, I'm not sure. Seeing as I am definitely the "gatherer" of our little "hunter/gatherer" team, I don't quite understand the concept of dead animal heads being kept for decor.
For the record, I am using my long history of being allergic to absolutely everything on the planet as the primary reason why this poor animal's head (or any other head, for that matter) will never get past our doorstep.
I made eye contact with the dead animal and, "I hope you taste better than you smell." Beans made a trip to the suburban with daddy and did a much better job at stroking the hunter's ego by oohing and aahing over the thing. I drew that line at showing the caribou head to Little Nugget.

Secretly though, I somewhat envy the ability to go out and shoot something. Being a hunting widow kind of makes you feel like shooting something is not such a bad idea.
And, for those in the lower, Alaskan Women DO hunt.
Maybe one day.
Meanwhile, I had my husband's company for about 12 hours before he turned around and trekked back to the woods on the search for moose.

For those that don't hunt, I'd like to share some new-at-a-husband-hunting wisdom.
The hunt begins with a month (or longer) of preparation. You have to sight in rifles. You have to ooh and aah over other guys' rifles. You have to come home three hours later than you promised to be home to give your wife a break because you are discussing rifles and hunting tactics. (Silly me. I thought the tactic was: Buy a gun. Find a moose. Shoot it. I was wrong.)
After your wife is thoroughly annoyed, you must then spend a week pushing her past the point of caring about a moose in the freezer by going to the woods and "glassing" for moose. This means you sit in the woods and drink beer with the fellas, and look for moose poop and stuff. This is very important. Somehow.
After that, you spend another week making sure your wife is completely losing her mind trying to hold down the fort by setting up you Secret Moose Camp.
A word about Secret Moose Camps. They are only a "secret" from your wife. From what I've heard, all the men have secret moose camps which are in plain sight of all the other guys' Secret Moose Camps. I am 90% sure this has something to do with making sure the beer is evenly distributed, but I am told this is not the case. I remain skeptical.
Only after your wife has threatened to run away and join the circus (which also coincides with Sept 1, the season opener for moose hunting), can you actually begin your hunt.
Or if you really want to go the distance and get your wife packing her clown suit in a suitcase, you tell her that you need to leave Aug 31, so you can already be in your Secret Moose Camp when the moose walks by at 12:01 am the following morning.

So now, we wait. By "we", I obviously mean me and the girls. Specifically, we are waiting for Barnum and Bailey to pick us up, because we have officially packed for the circus. At this point, I think the circus would be a relaxing change of pace. For starters, in the circus, you only have to worry about your husband falling off the tightrope. Not being eaten by bears, accidentally shooting himself, or rolling a 4-wheeler on himself.
I keep telling myself, "This moose is gonna taste great. It's totally going to be worth it."
But I'm not feeling it right now. Right now, I am a tired Hunting Widow who is totally going to begin planning my Secret Spa Camp.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Blue Ribbon

Hooray for me! I'm a winner!
Yup. Took a blue ribbon for the blanket I almost didn't enter because I thought it might not be good enough.
I'm proud of me!
I also wish I had entered a few of my other projects. After scoping out the competition, I think I could have put a hurtin' on the contest. Or at least earned back my fair entrance fees.
The fair was good fun, and for anyone local, there is still one more day to check it out. Beans had a fun time consuming more junk food than she has ever seen in her life, and visiting with the animals in the livestock pens.
Boy, that was FUNNY.
You know, learning the sound an animal makes is basic stuff for kids. Everyone knows a cow says, "Moo" and a pig says"Oink". But watching Beans hear these noises come from actual animals was HILARIOUS. I mean, I do a good cow impression (Hello! I am still a human milk machine!), but nothing compared to the deep sound of an actual bovine. I thought Beans was going to come out of her skin when she heard a rooster crow, and a pig snort while checking her out to see if she was edible.
We have a nightly ritual where I ask if she had a good day, and ask if she remembered what we did that day. Putting her to bed last night, I asked the usual questions.
"Did you have a good day today?"
"Um. Yesh."
"What did we do today?"
"I'm go fair!"
"That's right! We went to the fair! Do you remember what we did there?"
And darn if that girl's eyes didn't get wide and brighten as she let out the loudest and most adorable, "MOOOOOO!"
After a good giggle and mooing fest, I tucked her horse-scented little body into the bed (no time for a bath last night!) and heard a giggle anda good "Cockle-Doodle-Doo!" as I left the room.
Not to worry... she DID get a bath today, after another trip to the fair. The parade rolled through town, and though I cringe at the amount of C-A-N-D-Y Beans was able to collect and consume at the parade, I darn sure wasn't leaving until I saw the MOPS float with all my hard work on it. It took an act of congress to stop Beans from collecting candy, and after the parade passed, she still stood close to the road, waving at cars and yelling, "CANDY!!!"
We checked out a few more booths and made our way to the animal pens again, because you can't leave the fair without visiting Kate the Mule, who was the BIGGEST mule I have ever seen in my life. Seriously, she stands taller than the horses in the adjoining pen! Beans and Little Nugget and I spent the rest of the day in the company of some good friends until the sugar overload was more than I could bear.
Side note: you know you've gone "small town" when you realize you know most of the people at the fair. And also when you can spot the tourists. When I had a few minutes to reflect today, I realized it was really nice to go somewhere that the people don't just recognize you, they KNOW you. They remember to ask about your visit with your in-laws. They notice you took a prize for your blanket. They know your kids and point out that they are pushing their baby sister's stroller out the door (with little sister in it!) while you are busy looking over someone else's quilt.
So, I LOVED the fair. I have to admit that growing up in the 'burbs has limited my experience with real county fairs. In the city, they bring these little fairs into town that are mostly carnival games and rides. If there are animals involved, it's usually a pony ride pen. There's no contests, quilt shows, or cook-offs. This Deltana Fair was The Real Deal. Just like in the old stories like Charlotte's Web. It's a Wanna-Be-Farm-Girl's dream.
And dreaming, I am. I have serious land-envy and also want a pony. And chickens. And rabbits (for eating). And turkeys and my very own rooster. And I can't wait for the girls to be old enough for 4-H and FFA and looking as cute as all the 4-H girls out there in their braids and overalls, taking care of their animals at the fair.
I won't name names, but a friend I was with today (a fellow city girl) said the fair was "ok", but she couldn't do it for more than a couple years. That tweaked my sad little heart-strings, because personally, I could see myself living the small-town life for the rest of my life. I really truly do want to be the 70-something little white-haired lady at the fair, cooing at the new babies in town, passing out candy to the kids, and telling little boys to get their mitts off the Reserve Grand Champion Quilt. (And hopefully, I'll be saying that because it will be mine! HaHa!)
Speaking of quilts, I am going to give a shameless plug for my mom's new etsy shop. If you are inclined to look at some quilts (and soon, embroidery and bags!) then check out
And then please buy lots of quilts so my mom can come visit me in Alaska and maybe dad won't complain about her bazillion dollar quilting machine.
I'm going to give another shameless plug to my mom, too.
Mom grew up in a Kansas farming family. And truthfully, to hear the relatives tell it, when she was old enough she got as far away from the farm as she could. That explains why I'm mostly city girl. But mom still taught me to crochet (one stinkin' granny square at a time!), and a few other farm girl tricks, proving that you can take the girl out of the farm, but you can't wash the farm girl off of her.
I used to envy her box of ribbons for showing horses at county fairs like this one. Every time I asked about them, she always used to get a sentimental and embarrassed little look about them and shove them back into her hope chest, tucked under her childhood teddy bear and Grandpa's Purple heart.
I think I finally kind of get it. It's just a ribbon and a few bucks, but it also kind of proves that your talent matches the amount of hard work, sweat, and tears you put into what you entered.
Thanks for passing down the farm-girl heart.
I'm still on an adrenaline rush from my first blue ribbon. I made the blanket a few years ago, while I was on bed rest and waiting for Beans to safely make it into the world. It's stitched with a lot of prayers for her arrival, tears of worry on the bad days, tears of joy on the good ones, and daydreams of wrapping her up in it. It was good enough to just get her to full term and home from the hospital, and snuggle her in the blanket in the rocking chair for the first time. It was enough to tuck her into bed under it, or snuggle up in it for a story. I'm glad I now get to pass it down to her with a blue ribbon, $3 (my prize money!), and a story of my first county fair.
And since I'm on an adrenaline rush, I came home and went through all my crochet magazines and books, and began selecting items to crochet for next year. Like I said, I've got a good eye on the competition now, and plan on giving those gals a run for the prize money next time. Time to start coming up with some award winning patterns, jams, and various other projects. Good thing winter is just about on the way! (Oooh! I know Susan is gonna get me for that comment! BTW- when you come through town, call for sure! We should be home that Monday and would love to see you!)
Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

When I Say Move, MOVE!

Good grief. Ya know, I grew up being an Army Brat (mom and dad are both retired!), so I know the "Hurry Up and Wait" game well.
J and I have been in a "Hurry up and Wait" mode for a couple months now. We were told at the beginning of summer that the base intended to demolish our home (and several others) to begin construction on new housing. We were advised that we would be moving "at some time in the summer". So, we waited. And waited.
Then, the phone rang.
Thursday afternoon, to be exact. J called and informed me that the movers would be arriving on MONDAY.
So, there's your "hurry up" part.

I was somewhat ill-prepared for the move. Not only had I just barely scooted my father-in-law and Other J off the premises, I had seriously committed myself to Other Activities for the weekend. There were more berries to pick, more jam to make, friends to keep play dates with, and more importantly, a float to assemble pieces for the Fair.
And even though I knew I had committed to designing these pieces for the float nearly a month prior to their due date (Wednesday), I had unintentionally procrastinated until the weekend before the Fair. Like I said, there were berries to pick, jam to make, in-laws to entertain, and play dates to keep. I mean, I could think of a hundred different ways to spend my summer days besides covered in glue and scrapbook paper with two screaming kids begging to do something besides watching Tinkerbell for the fifth time in a row. Not that my weekend went that way at all.

I can hear my mom's voice in my head... the same tone as the night before my diorama was due in sixth grade, asking me exactly how long did I know I needed to construct a replica of the Roman aqueducts out of plaster of paris and where did I think I was going to find that at 7 pm on a Tuesday night.
Followed by the chuckle she has adapted since I became a grown-up... the chuckle that says, "I'm so glad I don't have to pull plaster of paris out of thin air for you now, kiddo. Ha, ha."

Against better judgement (according to whom?), I picked berries to my heart's content on Saturday. Since J was working, I went with another friend and her husband's shotgun. Little Nugget was blessedly cooperative, and slept the entire afternoon. Beans was pretty content to eat berries beside me until she and her playmate decided a sword fight with sticks was a bright idea, and Beans lost. Still, I managed to pick a decent number of berries before heading home to tend to Beans' (minor) wounds, which were mostly to her ego.

Once everyone was bandaged up, did I begin packing?

Of course NOT. I made my jam, then observed my messy, sticky kitchen with disgust. Then decided I should really start that float project.
The float project took up my entire Sunday, and I must admit that the glue had hardly finished drying when the movers arrived on Monday.
But dang, my part of the project looks good.
And Beans only had to watch Shrek three times and eat her weight in popsicles for me to finish it.
Lesson learned?
Sure. Don't agree to put together a float when berries are in season.


So, the movers arrived, and for some reason, it took them two days to move us less than three blocks across the base. And good thing we didn't move across the country. When J and I returned to the old place, we found several boxes worth of stuff that they forgot. Important things. Like my aprons. And various other stuff too... but that all belonged to J so, not as important as my aprons, right?

The new place is nice. We have hardwood floors now, which is a definite bonus in any house with toddlers that are potty training. After four days of me solidly cursing the movers and my husband (who did NOT deserve to be called half the names I called him, really), I have most of the house unpacked and somewhat in order. My only complaint now is that I had to be responsible and tell my friend I couldn't go berry picking because I had to unpack.
But I only did that because J told me if I went berry picking instead of unpacking, I would have to clean the old place all by myself over the weekend. With both babies in tow.
So, yeah. Moving won, despite my arguments of how berries don't pick themselves, or how J would really regret not berry picking when we eventually run out of jam (um, probably in like three years, at the rate I've been making jam).

Around 5 pm today, life returned to somewhat normal for us. Being Thursday, we had to stop everything and go pick up our organic produce box. We desperately needed the breather... J and I were hollering really nasty comments about where laundry baskets belong at that point in time. (Boy, you can argue about some ridiculous stuff when you are moving, ya know?)
The drive relaxed both of us a bit, and mercifully lulled one crying baby to sleep. The other baby was content to sing her own special version of the ABCs in the backseat, so all was well in the Moose Nugget household.
We took advantage of the break, and extended it to an impromptu barbecue, putting steaks on the grill and adding some grille zucchini and a salad. Beans was thrilled to be released from indoors, so we had a nice dinner at the picnic table, then watered the few plants that survived the move and colored with sidewalk chalk.
Yup. Sidewalk chalk makes it official... we are moved in.


Met some new neighbors while we were out playing. Fellow homeschoolers and newbies. Seem like nice folks and looking forward to spending time with them.

Not much else to report from here. Moose Nugget plans for the weekend involve getting to the Fair in time to stand in awe of my awesome project, and admire how the other gals involved made my part look a lot nicer than it really is. Also enjoying some Fair fun, and checking in the needlework tent to see if I've won a prize... I entered one of my crochet blankets in the Fair for judging, so here's hoping!
Also some plans to FINALLY meet the new school principal's wife! Only been planning on that for a few months now!

That's the update from this side of the neighborhood!
Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Overcoming the Fear of Berries

Or more specifically, overcoming the fear of berry picking.
No, no. The berries themselves are not frightening, but the large mammals that eat them are.
I finally convinced J to put together his new shotgun and take the girls and I blueberry picking. We headed out with another friend of ours and her children, and armed with the shotgun and a couple large bowls, set off for Alaska's bounty.
We were definitely IN bear country but found a nice open meadow with enough berries for everyone, and came home with enough blueberries to put up twelve jars of jam and a few cups of berries in the freezer. The kids all came home with blue poop (you wanted to know that, right?), which is a good sign that we ate as many as we harvested. I spent yesterday evening washing berries and making jam, and planning our next trip to a few more berry patches we scoped out along the way. Now that I know what the plants look like, I am realizing we have been passing up a good number of potential harvest sights!
And (thankfully), saw not one single bear or other berry eating mammals.

The girls and I set out again today with a friend to pick more strawberries. This afternoon's agenda involves strawberry-apricot jam, since I have a large number of apricots from our farm boxes this week. Berry picking was short, but plentiful today, and only involved one mishap, when Beans wandered off into the woods. I spent a couple minutes in a panic, but thanks to her bright pink jacket (which I only put on her as an afterthought today! GULP!), she was quickly found with the help of my friend.
Lesson learned: Always wear bright colors, and look up from the berries a little more frequently. Missing a kid in the woods is the quickest way to feel your throat drop to the pit of your stomach. This post will never do justice the the feelings that hit you when you find your little one and hold her close, and suddenly experience a mix of relief and anger at the same time.
And little Beans? Not frightened by her adventure. Nope. She threw a tantrum when I demanded that she come out of the woods at once and stay close to mommy.
But thank goodness she is safe!


The rest of our week was fun. Pops and Other J enjoyed the fishing trip, and the guys came back with a good forty or fifty pounds of fish and shrimp (prawns, really!) for the freezer. The guys returned smelling of campfire and fish. J and I stayed up until 1 am cleaning and packaging fish. Halibut, China Rock Fish, Black Bass, and Quill Back, along with fifty very large prawns are now residing in my freezer. Looks like we'll need another freezer before hunting season starts, but that should get us through a good bit of the winter. J is checking the fishing reports this week, and may be heading out for salmon in the next week or two.
After packing everything for the freezer, I finally got a moment to check out the pictures, and I have to admit, I have a serious case of envy! The guys claim to have spotted two whales, and have pictures of seals (seals!) and icebergs! They were telling stories of hauling smaller icebergs to shore, and using that for their ice supply. The camp site was amazing, and even had me wishing I were brave enough for tent camping.
While we won't be going as hardcore as the fellas were, I have insisted that J bring me to Valdez before the end of summer for a night or two of (RV) camping.

Monday was a day of recuperation for the guys, and we spent the day driving Pops and Other J around Delta, showing them the general area. Pops, being from a farm in North Dakota, was especially impressed with the agricultural area of Delta, and hugely impressed with Clearwater River and the lake it empties into. We wrapped up our day with a trip to the park for Beans, and ordering pizza from Birch Brothers, our new little pizza shop in town.

Tuesday, Pops and J decided that it would be best to spend the night in Fairbanks, since their flight left early in the morning on Wednesday. We loaded up the girls and both cars, and made it a day of shopping. We wrapped up with another trip to the Salmon Bake, and headed to the hotel.
We were ready to make goodbyes, when Pops locked the keys to the rental car in the trunk. Oops. J and I headed to the airport for the extra set of keys, and while it took a little time, we eventually said our tearful goodbyes and headed home.
I love living in Alaska, but saying goodbye to family always makes me wish we were a bit closer. I'm already looking forward to the next trip, and missing Pops and Other J terribly.

So now, with everyone gone, the weekend plan is to get the house back in order, get the girls back on their routines, and then finish up my obligations for the Fair. I have my assignments for the MOPS float, and there is lots of cutting and pasting to do around here. Also, more jam making, scarf knitting, and various other projects that have deadlines looming in the near future. Should prove to be a busy weekend, and next week should be full of more berry picking, jam making, and float construction.

On that note, I have kids and jam to tend to, so...

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The In Laws Are Coming!

Well, technically, they are here. My father-in-law and brother-in-law got into town last weekend. We've been busy, and the schedule has been hectic. With the guys gone for a four day fishing trip, I am glad to have a little "break", to get some work done!

Our week started with some Delta Junction tourism. In all fairness, it's not a long "tour". And since both fellas are from larger cities, I am not sure they were impressed by our new small-town digs. That's okay. I still like living here. (grin)
We hit all the local "hot spots", and ended our tour with a stop at the drive-in for lunch. Then we dragged them home for dinner with a local friend of ours.

Tuesday's camping trip was ruined by the forest fire smoke, so we made a trip to Fairbanks instead. I hope the in laws had fun. Me? Not so much. If the smoke is bad in Delta, it's 100 times worse in Fairbanks. The smoke was thick, and while it lifted slightly in the afternoon and evening, it kept our fun indoors. At Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart had a purpose, since the guys needed gear for their upcoming fishing trip. It was also well timed, since my computer got a nasty little virus that burned up the mother board and was rendered completely unrepairable. This means I was able to buy a new computer.
For my readers who get email from me, do not open ANYTHING from my yahoo account, which is how it entered. If you need my new email, leave a comment and I'll email ya. (Jenn in Ohio- if you are reading, the email address I had for you doesn't work anymore! Send a new one!)

ANYWAY... the smoke cleared enough in the afternoon to take the girls to Pioneer Park for a ride on the train. While we were there, we played on the playground and then a round of mini-golf, though I think that was mostly to kill the boredom that was setting in with the family. The guys are not exactly Museum Types. In retrospect, Pioneer Park was probably not the best choices of places to go for them, but the girls and I had fun. To make up for the kiddie tour, we took our guests to dinner at the Alaska Salmon Bake.
Oh, locals, I know. It's on the tourist circuit. And I'll admit that I had never eaten there before. (The fact that's it's $30 a plate contributes that fact.)
But I will say this: It was actually really worth it. The "All-You-Can Eat" prime rib, salmon, halibut and cod, along with the salad and dessert bar was really tasty. And the fact that it was outdoors lent to the ambiance AND made it acceptable for my girls to wander around and scream their heads off during dinner.

Wednesday was another smoky day, but not quite as bad. The men, ever eager to break in their new fishing licenses, gladly headed to Quartz Lake, when we met up with a couple of my father in law's friends who are also vacationing in Alaska. The fish weren't biting, so we loaded up and headed to Twin Lakes here in Delta, and set up a nice camp fire for cooking a meal of hot dogs, lake trout, grayling, and S'Mores. (Because what is camping without S'Mores???)
The fishing wasn't much better at that lake, but the company was great. We dragged my father-in-law's friends with us, and they were happy to set up their RV in the more secluded area for the night. The guys inflated the raft boat, and went trolling for a couple hours, while the rest of us stayed back in camp and cooked, cleaned, and played on the shore.
We left our new friends in camp, and headed home... full of good food, company, and smoky from the camp fire. Pops and J and Other J packed up for their fishing trip, and the girls were bathed and tucked into bed.

Thursday morning was a welcome relief for me. I love when we have visitors, but it IS exhausting being the um, Camp Wench. I say that in the most friendly of terms, especially since I know I have in laws reading this! (grin) But playing host is always tiring, and in a small town with few (and expensive) restaurants, there is a lot of work involved in hosting these days.

So the men are off fishing in Valdez. I am hoping they come home with plenty of halibut and shrimp. They are also suggesting the opportunity to catch rockfish, and while I have no idea what that tastes like, I won't turn down free food for the freezer, ya know?
Providing the men do not get eaten by bears, they should return Sunday evening, in time to enjoy their company for a few more days before they return to "The States".

Meanwhile, Beans, Little Nugget and I are holding down the fort in Delta. (Um, no. I wasn't brave enough to take two kids under the age of two on a fishing trip.)
While the men are busy being hunters (well, fishers), we girls spent the day being gatherers of wild Alaska strawberries, and actually harvested enough of the little buggers to make a pint of jam, adding in handful of fresh currants I needed to find a use for.
We also have a handful of household chore to tackle this weekend, as well as some preparation for the Deltana Fair, which is coming up, at the end of the month. I'll be entering a few of my crochet projects, and maybe some jam, if I can find time and a berry patch to spare.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Smoke

Ah... nothing like the fresh smell of forest fire in the morning.
Today started off smelling like a small campfire. Now (noon-ish), our skies are thick with smoke. Not sure the cause yet, but I am guessing that someone's 4th of July celebrating went horribly wrong. After spending much of the night waiting for a phone call from J, I received a text at 6:30 this morning saying, "Am OK. Just got off call from 1830hrs last night. Will call after I sleep."
That pretty much confirms that something big is (or was) on fire.

Meanwhile, the girls and I are holed up in the house, windows closed to try to block out some smoke, filters on, and hoping for rain.
While trying to entertain a toddler stuck in the house on an otherwise sunny day is proving challenging, we are putting the time to good use, finally getting some pictures in an online album, coloring, painting, and various other activities to try to distract Beans from the idea that the playground would be a perfect place to be today.

Otherwise, we are trying to stay cool. With the windows closed and no air-conditioning (um, it's ALASKA. We generally don't need air conditioning), and the house getting full sun all day (east and west facing windows), it's getting pretty warm in here.
The Moose Nugget household has officially become an unlimited Popsicle zone.

More updates as we get them.
Until then,

Happy and smoke-free Moose Trails!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bikers, Hitchhikers, and Campers, Oh My!

What an exciting week for the Moose Nugget household!
Monday started as a typical Monday in our household. J got home from work in the morning and the usual conversation over coffee took place:
J: "What do you wanna do?"
Me: "I dunno. What do you wanna do?"
This conversation continued until Beans, in a bored state, decided to dismantle the house. This is also a regular part of our Monday routine. Meanwhile, Little Nugget really didn't care what we were gonna do for the day, as long as her milk source was nearby.

We decided to be tourists in our own town, and took a short trip to Rika's Roadhouse in Delta. Roadhouses used to be set up all over the Last Frontier, as boarding houses for travellers and miners. And patrons complained about the high Alaska prices back then, where bed, breakfast and a bath could cost you a whopping $2.
We did a meander through the collection of boarding houses, barn, main house, and gift shop. Then, because Beans was wining and pretty much threatening to demolish the rest of the museums if we didn't feed her RIGHT NOW, we wandered to the acclaimed restaurant.
Maybe our timing was bad. The "acclaimed" restaurant was devoid of human life AND food. I ended up bribing Beans with S-O-D-A... and that allowed us to finish our tour, which was worth the bribe.
* In fairness to the park, we did get to the restaurant close to closing time! I am assured that the food is great during the earlier business hours!*

I say it was worth the bribe, because we ended up meeting a really neat fellow, John Slade (check him out at John is a guy from the UK, bicycling through Alaska. Pretty much, "Just because", as one of the things to do on his list of things before, as he said, he "settles down, whatever that means." He started his journey in Prudhoe Bay, and having made it into Delta, was checking out the Roadhouse scenery for a good place to set up camp for the night. After a short chat in the park, J and I convinced him that he would find better food and amenities a little closer to our own stomping grounds, and sent him in the direction of Green Acres, an RV park in Delta Junction. He mentioned needing a few supplies, including bike tires. J and I headed home for a few things and to hit up a couple of our bicycling friends, then circled back around to the RV park to drop off supplies and kidnap our new friend for dinner at the drive-in. We (literally) put him in the back of our Subaru Wagon, and had a nice dinner with great company. After asking him a million and one questions, we reluctantly loaded him back into the Subaru and gave him a lift to his camp.
Seriously, folks. This is one interesting guy, so check out his blog. He's also making some pretty good time!
John, we are thinking about you and tracking you on your blog, and Beans (the older of the girls) is still asking where her friend, "Bike" is! Be safe out there! I hope you are getting better weather.


Meanwhile, the rest of our week proved to be equally adventurous.
After our late evening at the drive-in, we got packed up and ready for our first family camping trip. Tuesday morning started with a bunch of cranky, tired girls (me included), but everyone's attitudes improved after the hour long ride to Birch Lake.
On arrival to the Air Force campground, we were a little less than impressed with our dirty cabin. This was quickly remedied by Tika, the new camp manager, who insisted we take one of the rental boats out while she had the cabin cleaned for us.
Boating with the girls initially seemed a bit intimidating, especially given the mood of Beans. I had visions of tantrums and of her flinging herself overboard, but we decided to give it a go. The ride around the lake was great. Beans' only lack of cooperation was in the initial getting on the boat. Once she realized she was going to be okay, she snuggled close and was content to watch the scenery.
Along the way, we saw a young bull moose grazing in the many water lilies. He was as curious as we were, and when we got a little too close, he really started giving us the old moose evil eye. We backed off and continued our boating tour of the lake. When we ran out of snacks, Beans was ready to head back, so we docked the boat and headed back to the cabin to set up house.

Birch Lake is really family friendly. There is a great playground, and a nice beach for the kids to play on. Little Nugget slept contentedly on shore while Beans and I played. The water was cold but Beans didn't care, and after a couple hours of being soaked and sandy, I had to drag her back to the cabin to dry off and get into warmer clothes.
Friends of ours arrived for a cookout as the day started to cool. We made another trip to the lake shore so Beans and her friend could play in the water (and another change of clothes), then back to the cabin to start a campfire and roast hot dogs, heat some baked beans, and of course, make S'mores.
I should add that it would have been better to bring our own wood to camp. While the staff sells a "bundle" of firewood for $5, the "bundle" is ridiculously small. It cost $10 to cook dinner, and we ran out of fire before we had finished making S'mores.

Our evening ended late, and after we sent our friends on their way, we got tucked into sleeping bags for some sleep.
Um, THAT did not go so great, for the record. The cabin was cold (mental note: next time rent one of the cabins with a wood stove!), Beans was overly excited, Little Nugget was less than thrilled with the sleeping bag idea, and J kept stealing the top sleeping bag, leaving me and Little Nugget in the cold night air. Next time, I am sleeping in my own bag.
We all woke up cranky, and with not nearly enough sleep. Anyone with any experience with a toddler knows that this means our day was quickly going to a hot place in a hand-basket.

We decided to cut the trip short (deciding not to camp another night), but took advantage of the "no refunds" policy by staying late into the day.
We rented a boat for an hour, which was quickly dubbed "The $15 nap", since both girls fell fast asleep. J and I took a leisurely troll around the lake a couple times, and when our hour was up, reluctantly woke the girls to head back to camp.
Our second campfire was more successful. J used some charcoal, then some scavenged wood. Our fire lasted well into the afternoon, allowing us to cook our lake trout and potatoes, and giving us enough fire to pop popcorn, make S'mores, and even enough fire to put my percolator in the embers and make campfire coffee. It was a perfect afternoon, and we nearly reconsidered our decision to head home, but as we were discussing the option of staying, we remembered the lack of sleep we had the night before and decided to clean up camp and go home.

All in all, we loved our stay at Birch Lake. I can say that it would have been a better bargain to rent a camper from the base and stay in a camper site instead. Or even (gasp!) camping in a tent. That also would have made it feel a bit more like camping instead of renting a hotel room that didn't have running water. But for camping with VERY small children, it was a good time, and definitely something we are already planning to do again.

Side Note: My fear of bears was completely ridiculous in this particular place. Even I have never heard of bears that want to be around jet skis, boats, and screaming kids. While I am still not brave enough to camp in a tent with kids, if I were, this would be an easy, most likey bear-free place to do it.


It was nice to sleep in our own bed Wednesday night, as well as getting everyone into bed at a decent hour. Thursday, everyone woke with improved moods, and we set to cleaning the house and getting all the camping gear cleaned up and put away.
Our week ended with mosquito bites covered in calamine lotion, a clean house, and looking forward to our coming week.

The weekend plans are pretty tame. I'll be getting the house ready for J's dad and brother to come for a visit. As the day approaches, I am getting excited about showing off Alaska to a couple of tourists. *snicker*
Seriously, I am so glad to finally live somewhere exciting to show off. I'll be spending the week making some campsite reservations and planning a few day trips for us while they are in town. There will also be lots of cleaning and baking, and raiding a friend's garden for some fresh rhubarb so I can bake a few of my father-in-law's favorite treats.
Pops and The Other J, if you are reading, I can't wait to see you guys! Safe travels as you head this way, and don't forget to look out of the windows on the plane. The flight over Canada and the Alaskan Tundra looks like it's right off Discovery Channel!
And bring jackets! While I tell tales of outdoor fun, this ain't Texas or Alabama, y'all! Evenings are still dropping inthe 40s, and a few places we might check out could be even colder than that!

Also, we will soon be meeting new friends, as the new principal comes to town. I've been e-chatting with his wife (another hippie homeschoolin' momma) for a few months now and eagerly awaiting their arrival sometime this coming week!

Hoping to get in here and give y'all some updates, and with my brother-in-law's computer genius, I might actually figure out how to get some pictures on here for you, too. Might be a couple weeks before an update, since between visitors and summer activities, we are bound to be pretty busy.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!