Wednesday, September 22, 2010


For those interested, you can continue to follow The Little Farm on the Tundra adventures at:


If you stop by over there, let me know!
Moose Nugget

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I just read some NPR article about some college doing a week-long "ban" on popular social network sites.
I think it's a terrific idea.
The students were totally freaking out. One guy cited that not being able to twit or tweet or whatever you call it made it more difficult to get together with friends at Subway for dinner. he complained that his cellular bill would increase because of excessive text messages.

Are you kidding me???
Does anyone still TALK to people?
Folks, checking Facebook updates does NOT a relationship make. And are people really interested in your virtual farm, fishtank, zoo, etc?
VIRTUAL friends are just that... Virtual. Not real. Not tangible. Not gonna stop by your house on butchering day and help you haphazardly murder your flock and put them in the freezer.

I know, I know. I keep a blog. And I have virtual "friends" with cyber names too. But this is NOT the mainstay of my existence. And my world would not fall apart if websites were blocked. I would dare say that I wouldn't even miss a lunch date at Subway. (Um, providing there was even a Subway within a hundred miles of me. And had a gluten free/ dairy free menu.)

I recently removed myself from a social networking site. I joine because relatives and friends promised meaningful relationships and more conversations if I joined. What I found was that I had to weed through Farmville and other nonsense just to read a personal note. Something meaningful like, "My dog farted and it really stunk." or "Bob Dylan Rocks!"
Although I wholeheartedly agree with the latter (and the former was TMI, dude!) it doesn't fit my description of relationship.

I digress.
I was really struggling with leaving a social network site. Perhaps I was abandoning all my "friends". Was it wrong to ditch distant family thy hasn't called me in DECADES?
This is how those sites make you feel. Obligated to folks that you otherwise would see in a photograph and wonder what ever happened to them.
I felt torn for a while, until I spoke with a real-life friend of mine about my "gut wrenching decision". She listened politely for several
moments before interrupting me and saying, "Um, Nicole? I'm sorry, but what in the world is Facebook?"
And she wasn't kidding.

It's on that note that I am going to say that I am going to permanently "unplug" the blog
The intent of the blog was to keep family and friends posted of our happenings in AK...
I only know of one "real-life" friend still following and none of our family.
If I'm wrong- call or email or something!

To all my cyber-friends, y'all have been a wonderful wonderful audience. And I thank you for reading my Bly and I hope when I publish my crummy memoirs and books that they find their way into your hands. I've always wanted to write and be published and it's nice to know that I have attracted an audience with my writing style or writing material.
I've recently been keeping the blog for YOU- the faithful readers that keep asking for more, but I really need to break the blog addiction and focus more time on real life.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow-
Moose Nuggets

Friday, September 17, 2010

Putting Up and Putting Out

Another busy week is flying by. I always forget that Friday means a lot to the rest of the universe. With J's weird work schedule and no other agenda besides homesteading, I lose track of the significance of days. Chickens don't care about weekends and no one told the woodpile what day of the week it was either.

You can tell autumn is here. The work is partly frantic (shut of outdoor water! Chop wood! Stack wood!), partly leisurely (poke around in the chicken coop. Till under the garden, take down portable greenhouse).
Between frantic and leisure, the coop was mucked and prepared for winter, lights were put on timers (to keep hens laying), water spigots winterized, wood chopped, wood stacked, more wood hauled in. Sticks and stumps from land clearing were collected, and with burn restrictions lifted, set on fire. In the evening, when the autumn sun and crisp air make work really feel like a chore, the burning berms make for a good bonfire with marshmallows roasting. Summer's busy pace gives way for the opportunity to sit on the porch with a cup of tea with my sweetheart and watch the kids play in what's left of the evening sun.

The chickens are finally putting out in decent numbers! We have been getting between 4 and 6 eggs a day, and plenty more hens are starting to look ready.
Um... They look "ready" when their combs are large and red and, *ahem*, when they start letting the roosters do what they do best.
And they do it best... In the time it took me to feed and water this morning (5 minutes, tops!) Ricky Bobby had mounted three hens, and was chasing after more.
Thank goodness I'm not a hen. That could wear a gal out!

Monday is going to be the official butchering day. We'll be putting up quite a few birds. In preparation for freezer space, I have been busy in the kitchen putting up jam. I had about 30 lbs of fruit in the freezer. That takes up quite a bit of space. I currently have 8 pints of "Handful Jam" (a handful of this and a handful of that), and 10 lbs of blackberries waiting for counter space and sugar for pie filling and jam.

Liz- if J will relinquish some of the moose, I'm gonna try that jerky! And we should be able to try the breakfast casserole this coming week, so I'll let you know!

The house is hot and steamy from canning all morning. The breeze outside and balmy and calling to me as the girls take an afternoon nap. Time for tea and knitting on the porch while the house cools down.

Handful Jam:
whatever fruit you have on hand!
Today's blend in the Moose Nugget house was:
8 lb strawberries
15 plums or pluots. I can't remember what I bought!
4 peaches
1 1/2 apples (for pectin!)
4 cups sugar? Maybe more?

Cook and cook and cook until it starts getting jam-ish. Can In the waterbath canner.
If you want smaller batches, I usually use half the amount of sugar to the amount of fruit I have on hand.
You can HALVE the recipe if you want. Or even quarter it.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Monday, September 13, 2010

By Request

Good Morning from a warm and toasty Moose Nugget Household!
It was 34F this morning. J was kind enough to start a fire before heading out to cut firewood. Beans, Nugget, and I snuggled in the big bed, pulling the blankets up over our heads, and waited for the cabin to warm up.
Sweater Weather is my all-time favorite. The sun is lazy to rise, and this morning I had coffee brewed before the sun peeked above the treeline. I'm not much of a morning person, but Autumn makes it easier.
As the fire heats the log cabin, the scents of coffee, woodsmoke, and coffee cake (gluten free, of course!) mingle.
The roosters crow indignantly at the hens who dare eat breakfast without satisfying their breeding desires. This is the dance of the morning. The cackles of hens and cries of their jilted lovers mingle with the clatter of pots and pans, and little girls arguing over blocks or books or dollies.
I have a few moments yet to savor some sunrise and some espresso roast, then our day must begin in earnest. With the morning temps so close to freezing, the autumn chores can wait no longer.

JackDaddy- sounds like you left around the same time we did? (May 08)
I was originally there because of MAFB. My original reason to be there left. I finished up medic school and stayed a few more years. J was a govt civilian at Maxwell and Gunter. In addition to working with Haynes Ambulance for some time, I also worked as a medic on the base (Same company, but under contract). Knew lots of folks from the base because of it, and lots of lab owners too! :)

By Request: some recipes
Don't forget, you can sub milks and such with whatever your dietary restrictions are pretty easily! And send feedback! If I ever get past blogging and writing my crappy memoirs, maybe I'll write a cookbook. Or open a gluten free bed and breakfast. Or start marketing my recipes. Or just keep cooking yummy stuff for my kiddos...

*use a round cake pan or springform pan for best results. Um- square would probably be fine too?*
Prepare pan: spray with nonstick then dust with cornmeal

in large mixing bowl:
1/2 c quinoa flour
1/4 c sorghum flour
1/4 c corn starch
1/4 c tapioca flour
1/4 c arrowroot starch
1-2 Tbl Teff flour (adds texture and nutrition. Can do without if you don't have it)
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 ounce yeast (I think it worked out to 2 tsp if you dont have a scale?)
1 Tbl sugar

1 tsp olive oil
3/4 c WARM water (110F ish)

blend until moist, then beat with electric mixer on high for 2 minutes. Spoon into pan and spread dough to edges. Cover and rise 40 minutes or until doubled. Drizzle with olive oil and add any spices you like. (we do plain sea salt)
Preheat oven to 400F
Bake 20-25 minutes. Crust should be golden or beginning to brown and bread should be cooked through.
Has delicious chewy consistency that most glutenfree is missing. (Reminded me of domino's pizza crust, actually! Or bagels. Or a hundred other yummy delicious things we can't eat anymore! Crisp and chewy!)

And another recipe I tried yesterday. This was so good that even my pickier eater ate three servings of, and asked me to make again today.
You can use any kind of fruit you want- we used peaches and rhubarb. If you use a particularly wet fruit, adjust your liquids.
If you have leftovers, refrigerate and then reheat in the OVEN, or it will be soggy ickiness instead of yummy deliciousness!
Honestly, it reheats okay but next time I would probably half the recipe.

Fruity Coffee Cake:

3/4 c sorghum flour
1 c brown rice flour
1/8 c cornmeal (adds texture. Can skip if you wanted)
1/4 c tapioca flour
1c sugar (can use 3/4 if using sweeter fruit than I did!)
1Tbl baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c almond milk (can use subs!)
1/2 c oil
2 eggs
1-2 tsp seasonings (I used Ginger in this one. Cinnamon would have been good too!)

2 cups chopped fruit of choice

Preheat oven to 375F
Mix dry and wet ingrediets seperately, then combine, stirring until moistened and no lumps. Add fruit and stir to coat evenly. Spread into 9x13 pan (cooking spray helps!) and sprinkle with "fancy" sugar. (or regular sugar. Or make crumb topping if you can have butter. Or just bake the dang thing!)
Took about 30 minutes, I think? Top with be lightly golden and you should be able to have a toothpick come clean.

In the words of Beans, "I yike it! I even ate a peaches and it wasn't uh-skust-ing"
(NOT a fan of peaches, can you tell?)
she ate three adult sized pieces of it.
Beans mostly smeared it in her hair, along with some bacon grease for good measure. But she ate more than she put in her hair.
J declared it "awesome" and told me I should enter it into te Rhubarb Bake Off contest next year.
Must have been pretty good!


Off to start the farm chores and put a nice soup on to simmer. 'Tis the season for soup!

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Ramblin' (Wo)Man

First, Q&A time:

Hayley: I am pretty informal with curriculum since Beans is still pretty young. We read a LOT of books, I utilize lots of craft books, some preschool aged workbooks, and my mom (a Montessori teacher) has sent me a preschool Montrssori curriculum which we use some parts of. Most of our "school" stuff is arts and crafts supplies. The girls have very few toys, and they participate in all our daily activities. When we split wood, they are outside stacking. When we garden, they are there with their shovels and watering cans. We don't expect perfection, just participation. We answer all the questions (Why? Why? Why?) and when we get stuck for an answer, we look it up together or visit someone who knows the answer.
"Math" is currently explored by counting ("how many eggs did the chickens lay today? How many this week?) and with helping in the kitchen with measuring or recipes, counting plates while setting the table, etc.
I use a PBS series called "Signing Time" for teaching sing language and had to invest in a good ASL dictionary as her signing vocabulary exceeded the scope of the videos.
Hope that helps! :)
girl, I'll chat homeschool with you anytime!

Miss Liz: I have another gluten free/dairy free recipe for a focaccia styled bread. If you (or anyone else reading!) is interested, let me know and I'll post it. My kids LOVED it and ate the entire pan at lunch time. Made GOOD pb&j too!
Also, if you hve a jerky recipe, leave it in the comments. Now I'm craving it and we can't have store bought because most have soy sauce (gluten!).
Also I'm dying to know if you ever baked the muffin recipe and if you liked it. :)

Olive-somebody (I shoul jaw double checked the name, I'm sorry!): when you get to salcha, let me know! We have friends in Salcha we visit often and could probaby help you get connected. Where is your place?

JackDaddy- do I know you in real life? When were you in Montgomery? And Jack woul probably love moose. He should come stay on our farm. :)

Road Kill List Questions: I will ask hubby the full details, but there is some paperwork from the state. Anyone can fill it out, not just established charities. Delta Junction is also considered a subsistence area, so I'm not sure if that affects our eligibility? Hubby would know.
Also- SOME roadkill, not edible. But an animal as big and tall as a moose usually gets hit in the legs. Most of the meat is usually salvageable. As far as an "off" taste, I've never noticed one. The endorphins and such can't be any worse than animals slaughtered in commercial plants. Not to get all "crazy hippie" on you, but do you know that many cattle are only knocked mildly unconscious at butchering, and some don't even get knocked out! They are alive and quite cognizant of their injuries in butchering plants. I would think that gets some
endorphins going!
SOME roadkill is completely not salvageable. Something with internal injuries (especially those that cause leakage from the bladder or bowel into the muscle mass) is not considered "safe". But a moose that the troopers have to shoot because of a leg injury is really no different from a moose that is shot by a hunter (especially if there is a poorly placed first shot!)
I had to giggle about the roadkill questions. They are all the same questions I asked my husband when he went out to retrieve the moose. LOL

If I forgot anyone's question and you want it answered, leave me a comment!

in other news: my hens are laying! I am so thrilled. I was beginning to feel like a chicken farmer failure. Ha! I'm not!
Many chickens will meet their fate this week. We are starting to have crowding issues in the coop and the weather is getting chilly. I don't know about y'all, but I would much rather only have to get water for a dozen birds than fifty of them. If it gets about 10 degrees cooler around here, I'm
gonna have to haul water from the house, as we will have to shut off the outdoor water supply soon.

Weather has been cool and rainy. Chilly mornings (38F or so) and cool, rainy, breezy afternoons (not above 60 ish).
My kind of weather.

A pot of caribou chili simmers on the stove. The tea kettle signals that my water is ready for a thoughtful cup of Earl Grey. A young hen cackles as she marches away from the nest, victorious. The girls nap, the sky threatens to rain, and my knitting calls to me.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Can Be Done In A Day

Whew! We had one BUSY day here yesterday. It started with WAITING. Waiting for the dozer rental companies to call us back (they did). Waiting to see if the rain was gonna let up (it did). Waiting for the dozer to be delivered (it was, eventually).
Not a single member of our family does "WAIT" really well. Toddlers have an excuse. When you are two, a few minutes seems like the whole day will pass before you are granted your wish. The real difference between grownups waiting impatiently and kids? You can send griwnups to time out for temper tantrums when they aren't getting their way.

The dozer arrived. J rushed out the door to start knocking down the remaining forest. I watched with the girls from the safety of inside. We soon tired of being spectators, all of us except Little Nugget, who screamed in excitement every time the dozer made a pass in from of the screen door. To preserve my sanity, I took the girls upstairs. Nugget screamed in protest, pointing to the door and crying, "My papa! Vroom! Vroom!"

A short while later, the phone rang. A friend of J's. "Hey it's me. Troopers just alled me. There's a moose over here hit by a car. If you help me out, I'll split it with you."
A million questions ran through my mind at once.
Why are troopers notifying our friends of moose struck by cars?
Is this a work thing? Are there injuries?
What exactly are we splitting?
Does my husband want to hear about this 30 minutes after renting a bulldozer at $500 per day?

Then it dawned on me: if we were splitting a moose, hunting season could be over! Oh for the love of all that is good!
I threw on muck boots and made my way through why used to be forest and tundra, and tried not to get run over.

It was gonna be a late night, by we were gonna be getting half a moose. J downed a bowl of homemade refried beans and some homemade salsa. Gone in 60 seconds.
Three hours later, J and friend returned victorious. It was a good road kill moose, only the legs broken and the troopers put the poor thing out of it's misery. The rest of the job was exactly like hunting.

For those still wondering (like I was) why troopers were calling our friends, well... I learned about something else I never knew existed: The Roadkill List.
No. I'm not joking.
Apparently there is a state list you can sign up on, and when it's your turn and there is something recently deceased, the state will all you and tell you to come harvest it.
Before you start saying, "Eeeewww!" keep in mind that if the state ever calls offering up skunk or something of that nature, we will decline. But a moose? With minor injuries? Which means my husband doesn't have to spend another week away from home in search of the elusive dinner? Sign me up for The Roadkill List.

That handled, some hot coffee to warm up the "hunters" (it was raining and chilly all day yesterday) and a short visit with our friends, and J decided to skip dinner and head back out to finish the dozer work. Not a small feat, mind you. The plan was about an acre or so of heavily wooded land. I don't know when he called it quits, I just know it was nearly 1 am when he crawled into bed.

Meanwhile, another friend dropped off our caribou sausage from THAT hunting trip. I made room in the freezers, and wondered where we were going to put a moose. I might be trying my hand at canning meat this fall. Or some of the salmon taking up space in the freezer.

The girls and I ate a dinner of popcorn and fruit salad. We wandered to the chicken coop between dozer passes and made an excitig discovery:
An Egg! From one of the young hens! Hooray! Hooray!
* Today there were TWO. Hopefully this means we'll be able to stop rationing around here soon!*
* Also, the first eggs a hen lays are usually smal. They are called pee-weed. Adorable! Tiny! And still edible. We celebrated by baking gluten free flat bread with the egg today.

Us girls continued our day from inside. We felt bad for J, in the dark and the rain, but when that man wants to get something done, well... Best to just leave him to it. I made a cozy fire, snuggled with the girls and read a hundred and one bedtime stories (ok, it might have just been ten or so), tucked the girls in, and fell asleep to the sounds of the dozer.
Poor J had to get up just hours after he went to bed. Off to work for the day. He was kind enough to let the chickens out for me. I made a hit cup of coffee, watched the rain come down, and surveyed the future farmland, animal pens, play yards of Little Farm on The Tundra.
It's gonna be fun.
Once the mud settles.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Guess Who's Not Gonna Be A Dairy Farmer

So our being able to consume dairy was a false alarm. It took a couple weeks to build back up in Little Nugget's system, and now we are back to managing severe tummy troubles and other issues.
Incidentally, we also had a gluten exposure, so Beans and I are itchy, scratchy, tummy troubled gals.

What I can say is this: after months without dairy, I thought I would really be excited to delve back into a world of cheese, yogurt, and ice cream but you know what? It wasn't really as good as I remember.

So, I don't ever have to worry about milking a cow at 40 below.


The chickens were granted a stay in their death sentences. We ended up knocking out a closet in our living room instead. We have discussed knocking out the closet before, but didn't plan on it being any time soon. After a leisurely morning of playing with the kids, we decided (at 5:00 pm) that the closet should go. So it did.
Demolition and clean up only took a couple hours.
This project added about 8 sq ft to the cabin. This is a lot when your cabin is already only 850 sq ft.
Other changes to the living room involves rearranging the furniture, then decking we are completely done with the television.
Um, this decision may have had something to do with an almost three year old shriekig at the top of her lungs, "I WILL SO watch tv whenever I want and you get my movie RIGHT NOW!"
Daddy wasn't having that little number, and within moments, the flat screen was in a box and in the crawl space.


The chickens also avoided sudden death today because J helped some friends move into their new home. By the time he got home and remembered thy he wanted to rent a dozer tomorrow to flatten the property, well... Let's just say he's STILL outside getting the rest of the brush cleared in preparation for that. No time for chicken killing.


The rest of the farm work is slowly grinding to a halt. A recent cold snap killed off the remaining pumpkin vines (sans pumpkins), and "Tommy Boy" (one of the turkeys who really does look like a fat man in a little coat) got to the last of my green onions. There are still three rows of potatoes to dig up and process, and a handful of tomatoes in the greenhouse trying to decide if they are goig to ripen or give up the ghost. The chickens continue to eat grain an feed without desire to earn their keep. A light and a timer will go
in the coop this weekend, as our daylight hours will finally fall below 14 hours of light.
Now is the season of "puttering".
The time of year where you wander around on the homestead trying to find work with a purpose. Aside from splitting and stacking wood, or making minor repairs, there's not a LOT of work to do. Or I should say, what's left is little tasks- draining and storing hoses, emptying the flower pots, pick up odds and ends debris, but mostly just take in the crisp fall air and wait for everything that's left to die or get buried in snow. There's still enough outdoor work (and sunshine with nice temps) left that you can't justify hunkering down indoors with winter projects, but not enough work to stay perpetually busy. Back in the south, that's what college ball was for.

I puttered a lot today. Let the girls play in the yard, watched J load brush on the trailer. Poked around in the chicken yard and watched Ricky Bobby try to woo the young hens, most of whom are undecided about chicken sex thus far. Enjoyed the fresh air, took in the scenery. Missed tailgate parties a little bit, then puttered around a bit in what's left of the garden. Was glad to go in and get supper on the table. (Salmon, peas, and potato salad, followed up with gluten free/ dairy free chocolate cake and coffee). Called a friend in the lower 48. Puttered some more.

Sure hope we can get a dozer in here tomorrow. All the puttering is driving me crazy. I'm ready for the next big project.
Meanwhile, it is time to sharpen the hatchet.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Whoo knows what evils lurk?

9 pm. After playing 20 questions with a toddler who didn't care that it was bedtime or that her sister was trying to nurse and sleep, everyone is finally tucked in.
Outside, Alaska makes it's presence known. Night is returning. The 9 pm sky was dusky enough to cause the shadows to play tricks on me. Every dark patch is a potential moose, bear, or wolf. Simple things like a chicken squawking because it was locked out of the coop make you jump out of your skin. I hurried through outside evening chores. Didn't pet chickens or talk to the turkeys as usual. Wanted to get back to the house before the shadows ate me. With the chickens locked up in their coop, I scurried up the path to the house, a watchful eye on the treeline, a skittish glance around the corner of the house to make sure the water was turned off.

Only once I was safely on the front porch did I pause to really survey the scenery. The dark of twilight gave sharp contrast to the yellow hues of the birch and cottonwood trees. Details like peeling bark stand out against those same spooky shadows. A glint of light off an owl feather high in the spruce trees makes me glad the chickens are tucked away. "That's MY dinner" I say out loud to the night predator.
Smoke curls from the neighbor's chimney. Wood smoke is carried through the damp chill of the autumn-like night. I take a deep breath of it. Damp, smoke, rotting leaves, wet dirt, and even yucky chicken yard... I love this season.
I survey the 2.65 acre homestead and think about tomorrow's work. Much to do.
Meanwhile, I should head in and build a fire. It was 36F this morning when I let the chickens out. There was ICE in their waterer. No doubt now. Summer days, driftin' away. That's okay by me. I'm ready to settle down for the big chill.

Farm work is calling this week! We'll begin by butchering a few chickens tomorrow. By Tuesday evening, we'll be eating from our own stock. (For farm rookies, "resting" the meat after butchering makes it more tender. I could tell you the science of that but don't want to offend anyone's taste for meat.) It's a bittersweet occassion for me. I tried hard, but I admit that I love all my little birds. Even the surly rooster that really needs to be butchered because he's come after me twice. He has a name, but I can't print it. Poor guy. He's first on the chopping block.
*Ricky Bobby might be spared. He's a good rooster. It's a toss up between him and another really good fellow. *

We'll only be butchering a few birds- mostly roosters and the Cornish Rocks that were selected as meat birds from the start. We'll do the major culling and butchering once we establish a good laying flock. Still waiting for eggs from the freeloading hens.

Once butchering is done, we'll finish clearing off a portion of the land and try to get a bulldozer in here to level it off. Once that is done, we may be able to get the flock to higher ground.

The potatoes will be harvested this week. The rest of the garden was ripped out and will be tilled under, along with a blend of poo to fester under the snow all winter long. Maybe then we'll get a better garden. If I can get them in time, I'll try to put in garlic starts.

Then, the task that will continue until it's too cold to be outside (because it will neve be "done")- splitting and stacking wood. And even when it's too cold to be outside, J will likely continue to split and stack wood, because it will still need to be done. Me? I'll be knitting by the fire, or homeschooling at the kitchen table, or watching reruns of my favorite Little House episodes on DVD.

I should be reviewing butchering instructions in our poultry raising library.
Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wood Rich

Some years ago, a song called "Hood Rich" was a big 'thang'. Not my particular genre, but it was popular during my paramedic days. In Montgomery, AL. So of course, my work partner and I knew all the words.
This song randomly came up in my head today while stacking firewood. That's the only reason I mention it.

Sometimes, when performing an otherwise mundane chore (like stacking firewood), I amuse myself by doing random calculations in my head. I stacked 2 cords of wood today. Going rate for firewood is $250/cord. Between J cutting, hauling, and splitting and me splitting (or splintering) and stacking, we saved ourselves $500. And that's just the first pile of wood we put up.
We are hoping to hav 10-12 cords of wood set up before winter hits.
And we have a head start on next year's wood. All the trees we cut down while clearing land this year has been cut and stacked on the side of the property, creating a wall of wood along the property line.

Other calculations for the day (interpretation: more mundane tasks):
- clean chicken coop: priceless. Seriously.
We built the coop in spring. We covered the roof with plastic until we had time to shingle it. That project fell to the wayside. A recent wind storm (which rivals a few of the tropical storms we experienced in the south) tore the plasic all to bits. We removed the remaining plastic and planned to put up shingles on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the rainy season started on Sunday. Translation: water filled chicken coop.
Anyone who has experince with chickens knows that a chicken coop doesn't smell pretty even at it's very best. Add water, wet hay, wet feathers, mud, and wet manure... Oh my. Disgusting.
We spent the morning tacking up new plastic (in the rain). Then we finally decided we needed to expand the chicken run, because, well, the yard was also flooded. In fact, the yard was essentially mud, straw, and poop. Lots of poop. Chicken yard expanded (in the rain). The chickens are eternally grateful. They ran for higher ground and cackle ridiculously at me until their coop was shoveled and dried out and reparations made. Translation: fresh grain of their choosing and lots of salad greens from the fridge. The roosters also demanded a romp with the hens through the potato patch. Poor potatoes!
I spent the afternoon continuing to muck the coop and find suitable dry bedding. Also fancied up the nest boxes in an attempt to make the hens find it desirable to lay some eggs. Dang freeloading hens. J laughed at me for hanging curtains in the nest boxes. For the record, I have read an heard on good authority that the hens like some privacy for laying. And the darker, cozier environment should keep potential egg eaters out of the nest. J still laughed at the fact that the chickens have curtains and our cabin doesn't. I told him to go be productive. (Or something to that effect.)
J decided to till up the muddy chicken yard. For the record, um, yuck.
The chicken yard is now tilled up mud, straw, and poop. We desperately searched our resources for absorbent materials. We made a haybale walkway surrounding the coop. We dumped sawdust into the soggiest spots. I suggested digging a pond. My suggestion was not well received from the guy cleaning chicken manure and mud off his brand new tiller.
I decided NOT to mention that I had requested a different location for the coop when we built it. I decided NOT to mention that I had pointed out the extremely wet mud pit (the kind that sucks your boot off your foot) right in front of the coop when "they" decided to build it there anyway. I'm not sure the poop covered guy would have been thrilled about a poorly timed "I told you so".
I finished the coop decor and went back to stacking wood.
In the rain.
Priceless. Though I'll be happy to have shingles on the roof as soon as we hit a dry spell.

Land clearing continues. J and the chainsaw are good pals. Rumor has it that he may be ready to rent a 'dozer next week. IF he's not moose hunting instead.

Today is Open Season (moose). Delta Junction is one happening place. Hunters from all over AK are in our woods, trying their luck.

I pulled a 2 gallon pail worth of potatoes out of two rows today. Time to try some
of those recipes.

Jack's Daddy: I liked the 'recipe' you posted, but did you know that McDonald's lists "dairy" and "wheat" (gluten) as INGREDIENTS in their French fries? How weird is that?!? Silly me. I thought French fries were potatoes, oil, and salt.

Oh! Anyone who wants a dog but isn't allowed to have one because your husband doesn't want one (or anyone who just likes
dogs, especially labs) should check out
I confess to shamelessly using Jack as my virtual dog.

Mis Liz: if I could get my hens to lay me eight eggs, your breakfast casserole would be at the top of my list! I might halve the recipe an give it a try, because it sounds so yummy!

Ok. Time's up! Time to tuck babies and birds into their nests for night-night. Then some sleep for this coop muckin', curtain hanging, poop tilling, potato digging, wood stacking TIRED woman!

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, MOOSE!

That's a recipe for moose stew. Just in case you are having better luck hunting than we are.
I jest.
Actually, that seems to be what is in our garden. I can't recall if I mentioned the humble potato patch. The story goes like this: Never ask you husband to accompany you to the garden store in spring. He might be overwhelmed with all the choices of possible potato crops and decide you need to plant 15 pounds of seed potato.
For non-gardener types, that's a LOT of potatoes. I think I planted 60-70 potato plants. Considering that each potato plant yields 2-6 potatoes, I would say that I would be doing MY part, should we end up in another potato famine. Since that does not seem overwhelmingly likely, I am turning to readers for help.
Please, for the love of all that is good, post potato recipes in the comments. I welcome any and all recipes, though I would prefer not to eat potato soup from now until next year's harvest.
And anyone that knows ways to preserve or store potatoes, speak up. I have so many potatoes that I don't even think I will be able to give them away. (As a side note: family should cautiously open Christmas gifts this year. You all like potatoes, right?? Yup. You can thank me later.)

Meanwhile, a moose has been holding me hostage. It started with J, who decided to cut down a large number of trees on the property. (This decision was in response to several complaints from a wife about not being able to see wildlife lurking in the woods, as well as requests for more farmland. All of my good garden space was taken up by yukons, reds, and bake kings. Ahem.)
I digress.
J proceded to cut down the forest. I can officially see the wildlife lurking about. Um, the wildlife is also wildly attracted to those delectable birch, willow, and cottonwood leaves that were JUST out if reach on those trees. Cutting down the forest essentially the same as opening a Golden Corral in your backyard for the moose, only without the $9 cover charge. A huge cow moose has been grazing for a few days. While this provides lovely photo ops, it also prohibits being able to turn little girls loose to rIde bikes, play in the yard, or even the ability to allow the farmer to let chickens in or out in a timely manner. Apparently, the moose's favorite dining times coincide with exactly when Ricky Bobby likes to be let out, and about the same time as te hens like to be locked back in.
She is a good size moose, and several times a day I lament the fact that we don't live in a hunting area, and that you can't just go shooting a cow moose. (Restrictions apply). It would make hunting season so easy. And so OVER. And it would be a nice addition to the potatoes. Alas, I must relinquish my husband to the woods for yet another week, to try his luck.
This is why it is called "hunting" and not "shooting".

In other news, the chickens are frustrating me. I want eggs. The older hens are going through a molt. I am rationing the precious eggs. I refuse to buy them. I have chickens. It would be insane to buy eggs, right? The young hens seem to be more interested in downing bag upon bag of organic feed, with no thought to how they plan to repay the debt. I am starting to notice decent sized drumsticks on them all.

The rest of the farm is slowing down. Other than harvesting potaotes and allowing Beans and Nugget to raid what's left of the snap pea vines, there is little left growing. Some ailing carrots, some beets and lettuce (all bolting and destined for the chicken coop), a handful more onions, and some ailing pumpkin vines that have flowered but have little interest in forming actual pumpkins (so it seems). The greenhouse holds a few more tomatoes trying to ripen, a cucumber or two, and a handful more carrots, but it is not likely to produce much more.
I've come to terms with a token nod from the garden this year. Fir our first year breaking ground, and managing the garden among toddlers, well...
At least there is the potatoes.
Next year holds better planning, and better soil. I hope.
There is a more permanent chill in the air. The woodstove seems to be in operation at least once a day for a short fire to knock the chill off. The last couple days have not even crept above 60. The next few weeks will be spent dismantling the garden... Harvesting what's left, somehow preserving it, then tilling in all that lovely byproduct of chicken farming.
And stacking wood. Lots and lots of stacking wood.

A cool breeze stirs up outside. I sip an Earl Grey tea and watch the moose taunt Ricky Bobby. I can hear him
clucking his disapproval at her mere precense in the garden. I chuckle and wonder if she would eat some of the potaotes for
me. The wood fire crackles. The house smells like autumn. I decide to pull a chair close to the door so
I can knit as I watch the moose eat what's left of the forest. I hope she moves on before dark, so I can get the birds back
in the coop.

I look forward to potato recipes from y'all! Extra "points" if they are gluten free, but Nugget has recovered from the dairy allergy, so we gladly welcome cheesey, milky deliciousness with our potatoes! And if your recipe contains gluten, don't panic. Post it anyway. I'm good at adapting, at least in the kitchen. Any superb recipes we try will ge reprinted here with appropriate credit and honorable
mention on the blog! That goes for preserving tips as well.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Friday, August 20, 2010


I am on the mend. I'm not (much) of a complainer when I'm sick, but this one has been a toughie! Yesterday, J even called out from
work to take care of me and the girls, as I pretty much hit that level of sickness where you just become good for nuthin'.
J did a great job. The girls were happy to have their Pappa home. The chickens didn't starve. I didn't have to make my own hot tea. Other than nursing Nugget, nothing was required of me. Other than being woken up a few times by Beans to find out if I was feeling better, I slept most of the day away.
Oh, that was nice.

Feeling better is nicer, though. And while I'm not 100%, I am better than good for nuthin', so J headed off to work while i begged the girls back to bed. "We are laying in bed like slugs today!" I declared.
They weren't buying it, though they did humor me for a short while. And they were content to have a low-key day today.
The weather helps.

Yup. I'm gonna say that autumn is creeping in on us.
The temps hover in the 60s. The nights dip into the 40s. Dark happens each evening, earlier and earlier each day. The chickens turn in to roost before I even head out to lock them up for the night. They fluff their feathers in a huff at the chilly air I let into the coop in the morning.
As I went about the daily chores, I noticed the leaves turning yellow, and noticed more than a few piles of leaves falling to the ground.

This IS my favorite time of year.

When J called from work today, we found ourselves simultaneously longing for hot apple cider. I'll have to see if I can find some this early in the year. Now if I could just find a pumpkin patch, I would feel complete.
Alas... I've had no luck locating one in Interior Alaska. (Though I am futiley trying to grow them in my garden!)

As the sun sinks in the backyard, I realize it won't be long before I need a lantern to accompany me to the hen house at night. And a coat.

We had a fire in the wood stove last night. A little too warm by the time we were settled, really, but the season is coming.

For those who have asked:
No, we haven't gotten Internet at home. The iPhone manages to pick up the 2G network (yes, the TWO G), as long as the wind isn't blowing too hard. (No. I'm not kidding. Or exaggerating.) Hopefully that explains the sudden increase in typos, strange formatting, and occassionally bizarre sentences and words that don't make sense (darn you, auto-spell!) They drive me crazy, too. I am normally WAY too fussy and ahem, retentive, to tolerate poor grammar, incomplete thoughts, or otherwise incongruent writing. Unfortunately, if I try to spell-check, proofread, or edit, strange and bizarre things happen- like my posts get eaten.

Farm News:
the old hens are coming out of their egg strike. Thank goodness. I actually had enough eggs to scramble some
the other day, instead of rationing them out for baking.
The new hens are still not laying.
It shouldn't be long though... The new roosters are desperately trying to court the ladies. This is a sure sign that the roosters think the gals are old enough to start leaving the potential next generation in the nest boxes.
Also, the new roosters have been testing out their vocals. Seems we have four new roosters in our flock. Their pathetic new crows are giving Ricky Bobby the fits. He spends most of each day at the fence that separates him from these new "enemies", crowing out his own place in the barnyard, and puffing himself up to look twice his actual size. Poor fellow. I remind him several times a day that these new boys are stewpot bound. He cares not.
I hope our neighbors don't hate us by butchering time.

Getting dusky. I am off to tuck the hens into bed before it gets too dark.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tupped Up

Sorry for the lack of posting. The girls definitely decided my life would not be complete without their cold. I've been mouth breathing all week and really would just prefer to be in a hot bath or sleeping than anything else.
While moms don't really get sick days (not the laying around in bed all day, luxurious hot bath soak types, anyway), Beans has been bringing me juice boxes and tissues while Nugget pats me on the head and says, "Oh! Baby!"
J has proven himself as the best husband in the world... taking over homestead and farm chores (because chickens don't care if you are sick), doing the "hard" (monotonous) work with the kids, and even cooking a couple meals, and doing it without complaint. I haven't even once heard how he could be out stalking moose right now. That IS a good sick day!

The girls are tucked in early tonight. J even volunteered to wash the dishes and lock up the chickens. The tea kettle is going and I am just the right kind of tired and sick to hunker down under a good momma-made blanket (MY momma, that is! Makes me feel like she's here tucking me in on a sick day) with a hot tea and a new knitting book- until I get sleepy enough to doze off and sleep some of this cold off.

Meanwhile, the woodstove is crackling. It never made it out of the 60s today, and the evening air is around 46F.
The sky is overcast and rainy. The perfect day for sleeping off feeling crummy.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What A Tease

Oh, Autumn!
Such a tease.
I was folding lovely, cozy, warm long sleeves today... In 80 degree heat.
Ok, so I feel a little sheepish compaining about a "measley" 80 degrees when most people are sweating in 100+, but for us... Well, it's uncomfortably warm. And after such wonderful football weather, too!
That is the nature of early Autumn, though... Especially in Alaska.
The sky still holds promise, though. The sun hangs a little lower in the sky these days, and the willows and aspens have started to change color. I wonder what the drive to Fairbanks is going to look like this week? Seems like the drive through Salcha and up to Fairbanks always shows a little more progress through the changing seasons.

The weekend passed uneventfully.
Well... Mostly.
The girls woke this morning and each of them let out a series of sneezes, complete with boogers hanging to the chin.
A virus.
Just what I wanted.
On the other hand, it explains why no amount of consolation, story reading, or Popsicles made anyone happy last night, and why I was up a half dozen times tucking everyone back into bed well after everyone should have been dreaming.
Ah, well.
Sick girls are also sleepy girls, which usually means a very S-L-O-W pace here. When the girls are sick, I throw all rules and routines out the door. We eat Popsicles for breakfast. And maybe lunch. And dinner. We watch movies all day. We drink unlimited quantity of juice (at least until a couple hours before bedtime, because otherwise I am guaranteed to be up several times in the night for the potty). I offer healthy food and stories and such, but other than nap time and bed time, I force nothing on sick days.

With the girls content to drain juice boxes and watch "The Bee Movie" for the zillionth time in a row today (Beans' favorite), I attempted to ignore my own throat tickling and begged my own case of the sniffles to be on account of dust or something.
Moms don't really get sick days, ya know.
I grabbed a pitchfork and headed to the chicken coop. It needed cleaning. Bad. The scent of ammonia was enough to clear my sinuses, and I shoveled manure out of the coop. I also fussed a bit, trying to make the nest boxes look like very attractive places to lay eggs. I do hope the hens start laying soon. A $25 bag of organic feed and a $8 bag of barley once a week starts to add up. Time for some of these gals to earn their keep!
While most of the birds scrambled off in a panic when I entered the coop, a couple poked their heads back in through to door to check on my progress. They are content to listen to me talk to myself out there. I tried asking them when they would start laying eggs. They only clucked dejectedly in reply. I hope that means, "tomorrow" in chickenese.
Meanwhile, "Tommy Boy", the largest of our two turkeys, has taken to following me around like a lovestruck teenager. He comes to the fence and coos at me. If I'm in the yard, he fans his tail feathers and struts around like he's the king of the hill. When I tell him he's not my type and shoo him off, he sulks, and then chases the hens around the yard. Then he comes back and coos at me, as if to say, "See how big and tough I am? Give me some sugar, baby."
Yes. I know I personify my Thanksgiving dinner too much.

I collected a few meager offerings from the garden, including our first ripe tomato fro
the greenhouse. Beans and I aet half of it, and added the other half to our dinner. Beans wants me to be sure to say we had steak soup for dinner. "Because I'm do not like beef stew, ok Momma?"
For the record, the ingredients in "steak soup" are the same as "beef soup" but if calling it "steak soup" means she eats something besides Popsicles today, well then, steak soup it was.
Nugget decided the only thing worth eating today was momma milk. So it was.

The house is quiet. The ceiling fans have a steady rythym as they move warm air around the house. Both girls have a little nasaly, wheezy snore as they doze in their beds. The sun sinks a little lower than this time yesterday.
I sip on hot tea. Alas, I can no longer pretend that I don't have the girls' cold.
Time to tuck the birds in for the night, and then do the same for myself.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Friday, August 13, 2010

Rattle, Rattle, Plink!

I love the sound of canning!
If the house is quiet enough (ours usually is), there is the steady hum of water boiling, a gentle rattle of the canning pot lid as the water heats to a rolling boil. A steady drone of play from the girls comes from the "toy room", interrupted only by minor skirmishes or even more dreadful prolonged silences.
For the record, today's prolonged silence was courtesy of Nugget, who found a lone apricot slice on the floor and decided the toy room walls needed sprucing up. Beans was also quiet, as she was licking apricot off the walls.
With the last batch of fruit in the canner, I tucked babies in for naps. As I turned the stove off, the rattle faded away, the last of the steam hissed to a stop. As I sat with a cup of coffee on the couch, surveying the overall state of chaos (canning supplies fill the sink, toys scattered on the floor, apricot clinging to the wall), I am at once exhausted, knowing the cleaning up waits for me, and comforted by the intermittent "PLINK! PLINK!" of each jar of apricots, peaches, and cranberries sealing themselves. Nothing lives in a vacuum... Except for some sweet treats for this winter lining my kitchen counter.

Today has a definite sense of "football season". When we lived in Alabama, we were serious spectators of SEC college football. (I could care less about professional football... But college boys on a football field running into eachother? THAT makes for a great Saturday afternoon!)
when the weather begins to cool, and the air gets a little crisp, the wave of "homesickness" always surprises me. I suddenly long for fall afternoon football games followed by friendly skirmishes in the backyard, or picking pecans with our old neighbors, or spending allday with a Boston butt on the grill, or my "famous" buffalo wing dip in the crockpot and a house full of friends.
Fall makes me miss our old friends.

Buffalo Wing Dip:
in a crockpot, combine:
2 large cans of chicken, drained
2 packages cream cheese
1/2 bottle ranch dressing
1/2 bottle (or more) Franks Hot Sauce

Let it simmer a few hours before game time. Serve with tortilla chips. That recipe will get you invited back year after year. In the word of one of my old redneck friends, "HooWee! 'Ats some good stuff right there, buddy!"
That recipe can even make you tolerable to folks when they don't like your team choice,
though I don't recommend being the ONLY Auburn fan at an Alabama vs. Auburn game, even with that dip. You might want to bring along some brownies AND that dip to that kind of party. Especially if Auburn is winning.

I digress.
Seeing as how it isn't Saturday, we don't have TV service here (nope, not even antenna service), and we can't eat wing dip on account of dairy anymore, I had to find something else to do with our perfect fall weather.
Our day started early. By 8:00 am, I was already done with our usual morning routine. Kids were pinging off the walls. Well, Beans was pinging. Little Nugget was rubbing her eyes and regretting her decision to get everyone out of bed at 5:00 am. She was soon content to "nursey and night-night". Beans and I wasted no time donning long sleeves and light jackets, and getting outdoors. By 10:00, we had all the farm chores (plus a few extra projects) done. By 11:00, we had worked together to stack a 4 ft high wall of wood between several trees on the property. This is next year's burning wood, wood from trees we cut down from clearing more of the property for next year's farming. It was pleasing to see it not going to waste.
With little of the morning shade left, Beans and I sat on the bench in the garden, Beans eating snap peas from the vines, me listening to the sound of chickens clucking.
I never tire of that noise. I grin every time I hear the content noises of our flock talking amongst themselves.

A small cry interrupted our repose. Nugget was inside shouting, "Wake! Wake! Hiya!"
Beans grabs my hand and practices hopping like a frog all the way to the house.
"Mama, can I have eggs an' bacon for lunch? With avocado and chips? And a grapefruit?"
"Sure thing, little one." my little farm girl always manages to capture my heart when she's doing litle independent things like hoppin all the way to the house.
A few minutes later, bacon is sizzling and my farm girl is helping me crack eggs into a bowl. She identifies which eggs are from which chickens. I love that. She pushes her head against the screen door and yells outside, "Thanks Big Momma! Thanks Little Red! Thank you for my yummy lunch!"

I'm not sure it gets much better than this.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gluten Free Dairy Free Blueberry Muffins

I'll post farm news later, but thought I would put this up before I forget.
You can successfully make any substitutions you need to, just add you liquids last so you get good consistency.

Total of 2 cups gluten free flour.
I used:
3/4 C quinoa flour
3/4 C brown rice flour
1/4 C corn meal
1/4 C tapioca flour (if you sub this, make it something that helps bond ingredients, like arrowroot flour or potato flour)

2/3 C sugar
1 TBL baking powder (not a typo!)
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp xanthan gum (do not substitute! This Does the job of gluten without the severe stomach pain for those who can't have it!)
1/4 tsp salt
nutmeg and cinnamon to taste

3/4 C almond milk (don't panic! You can sub in any safe "milk". The almond milk was my own sub for regular milk!)
1/2 C canola oil (or other, if you are fresh out of canola)
2 eggs (don't panic! Any egg replacer will work. Also, you can soak flax seed in water overnight, then use about 1/4-1/2 cup of that gooey mix to replace the egg. You'll also have the benefit
of adding serious nutrition to your muffins)

1 tsp vanilla extract
Blueberries. Fresh, frozen, canned (drain if you go
this route), wild, domesticated, whatever. As many as you like in your muffins.
preheat oven to 375•

Important: DO use separate bowls to mix wet and dry. I know, I hate the extra dish to wash too, but with gluten free flours that don't absorb as well as wheat, you'll need to mix at the last moment or it will be clumpy lumpy. Who wants that?

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients separately, then add the wet to the dry. It's going to be thick! If it seems too thick, add more milk substitute. I added liquid until
it was a bit thicker than cake batter, but not as thick
as cookie dough. (hope that's not too confusing!)

Add berries, stir to coat evenly. Spoon into muffin tray. I DO use liners! (Because who wants to wash out a muffin tin? Not me!)

Bake 18-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes
out clean.

Brew a pot of percolated coffee. Have a muffin and contemplate your day. Try not to eat the whole pan in one sitting. You should save some for lunch.
These muffins are best enjoyed with a toddler who says, "Momma, deez muppins are da awesome-est ever!"
awww... I think I wanna make more muffins now!

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

And Now, Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

So it took me a few hours, but I got over yesterday's post.
Many thanks to the Lind and supportive commentary from those of y'all that offered it.
And many thanks to my oldest son. I called him this morning to give him a heads-up. He reads his mom's blog with about the same consistency that most teenagers complete their homework, but I didn't want him blindsighted, either.
For the record, he is MAD. He found it unbelievable that someone would dare make assumptions about his family or his feelings.
In his words, "Yeah, I'm totally cool with what you wrote though, mom." Then he gave me a stern lecture about really needing to know how the Internet works, and how some people ON PURPOSE find blogs to disagree with and start cyber-fights.
"Seriously?" I asked him.
"Um, yeah, mom. Some people just don't have anything better to do with their time."
I suddenly felt a little better about having kids that "waste time" playing video games. At least they aren't picking cyber fights.

Back to farming.
I meant what I said last night.
Farming doesn't hurt as bad.
I was feeling a bit deflated last night as I tucked the girls in and sent the chickens to the coop. And lonely. J is off hunting again. (No luck on last week's moose hunt, and this week was the subsistence caribou opener.) I generally don't mind the hunting trips (can't complain about free, organic, free range food, really). But feeling small and lonely stinks.
I'll admit, I stuck around in the chicken coop looking for a little company. At least until the fumes got to me.
I watched an Alaskan late summer version of a sunset. By sunset, I mean I watched the sky look a little like rain was coming. I scanned the garden for signs of life or food. I looked at the temperate gauge and realized that the chill in the air wasn't just hurt feelings- fall is in the air.
I took a deep breath of crisp, cool air. I saw the sun poking through the tree line in that way that confuses you for a moment as to wether it's sunrise or sunset. I zipped my jacket and headed back to the house, kicking loose rocks down the driveway as I went.
The warmth of the house hit me as I walked in. I'd been canning all day and the house still had a good steam built up. 7 pints of blueberry syrup, one pint canned blueberries, 2 pints of raspberry-rhubarb jam, and a half-pint of fresh blueberries sparkled like jewels on the kitchen table. I set the fresh berries in the fridge, contemplated a cup of coffee and some knitting, then accepted defeat and headed to be instead.


Morning found me in better spirits. Apologies at once to those of you suffering from heat waves in the lower 48, but I woke in a chilly house at 6 am to girls bouncing on the bed demanding breakfast. A quick check of the thermometer outside confirmed it. It was only 48 degrees outside.
I grinned in spite of myself. I always get a kick out of Autumn. Anything that even remotely feels like Autumn gets me feeling pretty zippy. I handed the kids bananas and prayed they wouldn't kill eachother as I threw on some day-old jeans (the best kind!) and a sweatshirt before ducking out into the morning air.
Oh! Fall! It felt like it. It smelled like it. The air even tasted like it. I grinned at the sun peeking through the tree line in that way that confuses you as to whether it's sunrise or sunset. I dialed my son's number as I fed and watered birds.
I made gluten-free, dairy-free blueberry muffins that didn't suck. (anyone interested in the recipe, post in the comments. It's easy and hot skippy! They were good!)
The aroma of hot coffee and blueberry muffins mingled in the air. I surveyed the day's work and after downing a few muffins, got to business.
A mid-morning break and I called my mom to chat. We aren't "every dayers" or even "once a weekers", but it sure was nice to hear a voice from home.
I wondered how hunting was going.
I read stories to the girls.
At nap time, I lingered in the chicken coop, trying to see if any of our new hens are acting like they might want to lay. This is the time of chicken season where you want to start seeing results. It coincides with the time they start eating about 40 lbs of organic feed a week.
The chickens are now 17 weeks old. We should be getting eggs any day now.
The rest of the day passes uneventfully.
I am relieved.
The girls get tucked into bed.
I wander outside to the homemade bench we have by the chicken coop to watch what J calls, "The Chick Channel" (haha).
I watch birds establishing peck order. I watch then do the same things they do every night- peck ground and preen feathers. I watch another late summer Alaskan sunset, and linger for a few minutes even as it starts to rain.
Tonight, I no longer accept defeat.
I brew a cup of coffee.
I listen to rain hit the metal roof.
I knit.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Truth Be Told

So... Anyone who reads the comments on this blog is probably wondering a lot of things. So let me just publicly reply to my latest critic, "Karen", who I can honestly say I have no f-ing clue who she is, but has decided to throw down the gauntlet.
To answer some questions:
I am "Ms" (Mrs, actually) Nicole.
And to answer your questions and assumed accusations about my other children (two sons):
- you are absolutely right. I had zero moral character twelve YEARS ago when their dad and I divorced. I was an alcoholic, borderline drug addict, selfish, self-serving horrible excuse of a mother and human being. My self-serving attitudes coupled with addictions led meticulous a place in life of absolute debasement and worthless life decisions one after another.
Go ahead.
-Yes. I LEFT my boys. I willingly left them with their father and loving, doting grandparents who have spent the last 12 years providing them a stable, NORMAL life, even a tad induldged, by my standards. A life I certainly would not have been able to provide for them for quite some time after the divorce from their dad.
Go ahead.
I still stand by that decision. My boys have had a life full of love and normalcy that a mother who really needed to get her act together could not have provided.
- No. I have not seen my boys since I moved to Alaska. This seems to be by mutual
agreement. My younger son has informed me that he considers me his "birth mom" and his stepmom his "real
mom". My older son seems to have the same sentiment, though he is less outspoken about things like that. Regardless of how he feels about that, we maintain contact and keep in touch.
Go ahead.
All the family members involved seem to be on the same page. All of these decisions have been discussed among all the parents involved.
We all knew a long time ago there would be aftermath in everyone's lives.
All of us (boys included) think that it would be more difficult and more detrimental to everyone's sense of normal and comfort fo me to barge back into their lives and assume the role of "mom", regardless of how well I've cleaned up over the last twelve years.
Many times I have been judged as being unfeeling or uncaring about what I left behind.
I am not unfeeling or uncaring.
I just know I did a lot of damage in the past.
Sometimes, the best way to "make ammends" is to apologize and then keep the hell away. Especially if that is what those that were hurt want you to do.

I don't even begin to pretend or think that I am a perfect mom these days. It took me nearly a decade to feel like I was worthy enough to pursue a happy marriage or any more children. I am
more keenly aware than anyone how I don't DESERVE a bit of my current life or happiness, but truly for the Grace of God, and accepting that Jesus died for really shitty moms and addicts- GOD has redeemed me and seen fit to give me such a wonderful life.
That's really good, because before I accepted that forgiveness, I almost nearly ended my own life because of the guilt that I was carrying around. It's a horrible feeling, being disgusted with yourself.

When I talk about my current life, express my opinions, or otherwise share on this blog, it IS from my new life.
"If any man (or woman) be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new."
Thank God.
Thank God.
I do like the "new creature" I am better than the old thing I passed myself off for before.

So, Karen- if you are still reading my blog (in spite of your threat to leave) I hope that clarifies a bit. I hope throwing down the gauntlet achieved what you wanted. Think what you want to. Stop reading if you want to. Don't buy my crummy memoirs when I get around to writing them. I don't give a shit.

Family and friends- sorry this exposes so much personal stuff. Boys, you especially- I hope that the judgent other people pass on our family dynamics don't stick in your spirits. I've said "I'm sorry" a million times to both of you. I love you in that "birth mom" kind of way, and I am so glad that in spite of my decisions, you still let me peek in on your lives from time to time, and that you still treat me with more respect than I deserve from you. I am so grateful to your "real" mom and dad and grandparents for doing what I couldn't.
I only hope to do better by your sisters.

So.. All readers, sorry to mind vomit on this. Many of you have asked questions over the years. I hope you can see why I never really brought it up.
Also sorry for the swearing. I hate to hear yucky words, but in this instance, I just couldn't think of anything more intelligent to say.
If you are a local reader, please respect my privacy and my personal heartache that I have carried for years- don't ask me about it. My past, this post, this chapter in my life.

Now if y'all don't mind, I'd like to get back to just blogging about the much simpler life I am currently carving out for myself. Farming sure as fuck doesn't hurt as bad.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Now if y'all don't

I don't like to get preachy, but you know what? Thank GOD for forgiveness. Mine. An anyone else who calls on Him
and asks for it. It is His free gift for the taking.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Favorite Part

Ah. I DO love my little life carved out here...

I almost named today's post, "Off With Their Heads!" but out of respect for a sweet, almost eight year old friend, I resisted.
Beans, Nugget, and I got an impromptu invitation to observe a chicken butchering at a friend's house today. Considering that we will be butchering our own birds in a matter of weeks and we are novices at this, I decided this was a good opportunity to learn something.
It was homeschool for grown-ups.
With Nugget in the baby backpack and Beans in my arms, we gave the two ill-fated birds their final petting. Our friends showed us a few tricks to get the birds to be calm, a hachet delivered a swift blow, and without a squawk, the hardest part was over. The birds were hung To bleed out while preparations to dress the birds were made. The kids found that gross fascination with parts like the decapitated heads and removed wings and feet that all curious youngsters have. Homeschooled kids (in my personal opinion) have an even deeper fascination. Mere moments passed before all the kids (except Nugget) were asking great questions about why the body continued to move, or what chicken brains looked like. (Nugget continued happily clucking at the chicken remains.) Even Beans had some good questions, for a two year old. "Why did we do that?" and "Does the chicken feel better without his head?"
In attendance were three adults, one teenager, and youngsters aged 1, 2, 6, and 8.
Yes. I let my kids observe.
Nugget cared not. In fact, she merely squawked happily at the other chickens roaming the yard. Beans was curious but not disturbed. We have talked many times since buying our own chicks about how chickens provide meat and eggs. Once the excitement was over, she toddled off to play with more exciting things. Her interest peaked again after the "Women's work" (cleaning the chickens and preparing them for freezing and cooking) was done; when the birds looked more like dinner than livestock. Then she decided she was hungry.

I got some good experience and anatomy/dissection lessons. I don't feel nearly as intimidated about our upcoming butchering day as I did before. And I even think I could infidently handle the dispatching of birds... a job I had definitely ensured my husband would handle before we started the chicken venture.
The job was easy and fun as we visited with our friends. I love the interplay of homeschool families working on a task together. It makes me sad that formal education takes all the FUN out of learning. I gleaned as much information from my friends' children as I did from my friends. When the older kids tired of the lesson, they joyfully (and without being asked!) took Little Nugget to play so I could enjoy the rest of my learning experience.
It was a modern day "Little House on the Prairie" day. I loved it.

And my kids? (Before someone gets their knickers in a knot about me exposing my kids to the facts of food production)
I'm thinking they survived the exposure. When I tucked Beans into bed, I had our usual conversation:

Me: "Did you have a good day? What was your favorite part?"
Beans: "Um, yeah. Mine favorite part was getting that chicken
and chopping off his brains and then maybe we are gonna eat him right up!"

I think I definitely have a farm girl in the family.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Friday, August 6, 2010

When Life (or your husband) Felts Your Wool Hat...

You should quit complaining about it and make yourself a really cute little purse.

J washed (and dried) a wool hat I made for him. Personally, I am suspicious that it may have been on purpous, but we'll let it stand as "an accident". No problem. I made him another hat (didn't think I would let him off THAT easy, did ya?) and after sulking over the ruined hat for a while, decided I could so do something cute with it. Someone in my family is getting an adorable little bag for the holidays. Stay on the "nice" list- it's really a cute bag!

Anyhoo... The moral lesson is really this: stop whining. NOTHING is "The End of the World" except for, well... The End of the World.
Alaska, farming, and toddlers are teaching me that.

The garden is looking pathetic. A lack of nutrients and a lack of water are the primary culprits. (The goats did not help.) as the days get cooler and begin to show signs of being shorter, I find myself excited for and wistfully longing for fall. I am ready to harvest what precious few things my lack of skill and dilligence in the garden will yield to me, and till it under. Better luck next year (and maybe a little more perseverence by me).
The chickens are also on borrowed time. Oh, don't mistake my statement for frustration! I am, afterall, the "Crazy Cat Lady" of chickens. I adore those critters and will miss some of their clucks when harvest time comes. But...

As Alaska summers wind down into Autumn, a funny thing happens. Residents can sense winter coming. Spring and early summer are exciting, playful times. Fishing trips abound and we add our campers to the parks and roads just like the tourists we complain about. We forget the summer is (so) temporary- for just a little while.
Late summer hits, hunting season draws near, the salmon begin to run, and suddenly every Alaskan Resident has a serious case of "The End Is Near"-itis. The panic sets in. There are leaky windows to repair, firewood to gather, outdoor projects to finish (or, ahem, start). And the thought of spending a precious weekend repairing windows just does not compare to spending a weekend on Fielding Lake, roasting marshmallows and eating fresh caught lake trout.
J and I find ourselves in the midst of prioritizing projects. What HAS to be done vs. what SHOULD be done vs. what's gonna get done because I'm totally going camping.

The days are visibly shorter now. The house is actually dark at night. Morning still comes early, but you can tell that there was an official sunset the night before and a sunrise in the morning. I'll bet we still have more daytime than most places for now, but not for much longer.
In the evenings when I lock the chickens up for the night, I catch myself gazing at the sky and wondering when I'll get a glimpse of the moon again. I also know that the best time for Northern Lights is coming soon (usually September-ish), and I find myself wishing the night sky was dark enough for them to make a noticeable August appearance.
I am aware that this is where I digress from the main population here- but goodness! I do love the winter.

Meanwhile, the chickens could stand to get a little heavier before heading to the freezer. I'll be getting aggressive about fattening them up over the next few weeks, though no chicken will be sentenced to the choppig block until our pullets start laying AND my sweetheart has gotten his hunting done.

other thoughts:
- I am halfway done with a pair of hand knitted socks. J has alreay laid claim to this pair. They are nice enough that I contemplated "accidentally" making them too small... Like maybe my size. Lucky for J I lost track of rows and they definitely fit him now.

- Have had lots on my mind including a good book called "Created to be His Help Meet". Seriously, gals should read this book.

-Upcoming year's homeschool "plan" in the works. Beans has been asking for her school stuff every day for the last week. Little Nugget has been chiming in- "School! School! School!"
Ahhh- I LOVE homeschooling! While everyone else's kids are crying about only having so many days left of summer break, my girls are begging me to leave the great outdoors and come up with some school projects.

- "Met" (Internet) a new friend (I think she's gonna be, anyway) this week. I love stumbling upon kindred spirits- it helps me feel way less weird than I really am! (snort!)

Enough banter for one evening. Babies are dozing off. That means it's time to lock up some birds and indulge myself in a cup of tea, some dairy free chocolate (I agree- real chocolate is WAY better but I really have no choice until I cease being a dairy cow for Nugget), and work on the other half of my pair of socks.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hometown Fair

The day started with sunlight pouring through the room darkening shades this morning. This is a welcome change from the seemingly constant rain we have received this summer, and immediately motivated me to do something today. Well, that and the fact that two kids bounded into my room with cries of, "Wake up, Mama!" Ignoring those requests for very long usually means sweeping gluten free cereal off every surface of the main floor, or cleaning up an entire roll of toilet paper or something of that nature.

The Fair is going on this weekend. In truth, I almost skipped it this year. Other than my auction items, I didn't submit anything this year, and with our recent hectic schedule, cranky girls, and a myriad of other lame excuses, I almost allowed myself to think it wouldn't be worth the "hassle". I'm glad I got my head out of my you-know-what. The Delta Fair is always worth it.

Small town fairs are just beautiful things. Straight out of books like "Charlotte's Web" or shows like "Andy Griffith". The parade is fun- and being a townie means recognizing almost everyone on each float, tractor, or fire truck. Standing in line to buy tickets and watching young men helping little old ladies manage their walkers, running into friends you only see a few times a year because they live "way out" or "over the river", and being surrounded by a good collection of cowboy hats just makes a wanna-be-country-girl sigh with contentment.

Last year was fun, but this year was different. Last year we were still really new in town, the odd faces in the crowd. This year, it took twice as long to make our way through the fair, as every ten feet or so we were greeting by the friends we've accumulated over the last year in Delta.
These are REAL relationships, folks. When I lived in the city, I "knew" people, but I really didn't "KNOW" them. There is a distancing our society has learned to keep- everyone at arm's length. We stay polite, but frankly don't tend to give a you-know-what about the people in our own homes, much less our neighborhood.
Where I live now is so different from that old me. A few years ago, I would have been annoyed by all the "interruptions" on my way to the 4H barn (who am I kidding? I wouldn't have gone near a barn back then!). Today, it was a relaxing pace, running into folks and remembering to congratulate them on their Fair Exhibit ribbons, or ask how their grandkids did in their latest ventures, or find out their latest farm, family, or work news.
We did finally make our way to the 4H barn, which is where I got my first dose of envy for the day. I wanted Johnny's alpacas and Lois' chickens. I met a very young man (maybe 10 years old) who actually convinced me that a drawf Nubian goat would be the answer to my desire for a goat that did not behave like the devil. I saw a turkey auctioned off for $190, and a pig that weighed 1000 pounds. If J wouldn't have killed me, I would have bought that pig. I fell in love with every chicken, turkey, and duck in that barn, and I left wondering why on earth I didn't bother to enter a couple of our own birds. We might have had a winner in there.
Next year. I just have to.

For all my old Southern friends who remember me as a city girl, I've got news for you: I went to my first Mud Bog, and LIKED it. I even suggested that J should take his beat up suburban and race it next year. Something REALLY country might have even come out of my mouth. Something like, "I dunno baby. I think the 'burban could do it. Plus, you'd look darn sexy doin' it!"
(I know, I know. I'm beginning to think the old me was abducted by aliens.)

We talked to another twenty or so people we knew on the way back to the main fairgrounds. I'm so happy to be a "local". I really do just love our community and friends. We personally know folks running for office here. One of them even grows the hay our animals sleep on. Our whole community is connected. I stopped at the Rifle Association booth to talk to my knitting friend. She's working on socks, doing a fund raiser for the rifle club, and sharing news about her grandson. She and her husband are the same folks who raise the bees that make my annual supply of honey. A dress she knitted for my baby girls is hanging in the exhibit hall with a blue ribbon on it. She made it when Little Nugget was sick. I can hardly contain my grin. I love this place. I love these people.

The exhibit hall struck my envy bone again. Why, oh why did I let myself be "too busy" to enter stuff? I recognize more than half the names on exhibits this year. As I gaze at Grand Champion ribbons, I also marvel at a dear friend's modesty. I recently asked this friend if she knew how to sew. She said, "A little, but nothing spectacular." she has most of the purple (Grand Champion) ribbons in the hall.
I meander through the fruits and vegetables on display. I wonder how to make my own garden produce stuff like that. I kick myself again. I could have entered my herbs.
Next year.

I chat my way through another sea of friendly faces on the way to the truck. The girls are tired, full of kettle corn and cotton candy, but happy to be riding in the wagon I've been pulling along. I load up the truck and think about how far I've come in the last year. I've lived in a lot of places in my thirty-something years. I have more friends, more fun, more REAL relationships in my life than I ever have before. My girls wave goodbye to the fair and ask if we can go tomorrow. I am noncommittal- still grinning at the way things change in life- and head for home. The girls are glad to see the house and to get out of the sun. I throw together a quick but nutritious dinner, settle the girls, and see my garden, livestock, and knitting projects in a new light. I can cultivate some winners here.

Each night, I ask the girls if they had a good day. "What was your favorite part?" This is a nightly question. They fall asleep telling me about mud bogs and giant pigs.
I love this life.

I watch the sun sink a little lower on the horizon tonight. Autumn is coming. You can feel it in the way that the nights require a sweatshirt, and you can tell by the fact that it actually gets slightly dark very very late in the evening.
I lock the birds into their coop. I close up the greenhouse. I take in one more sip of a summer night sky. I think about the neighbors. I am glad I know most of their names.
I'm glad I went to the Fair.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cold Wind Blowing

Hard to believe, but the air is changing already around here. The last few nights have been chilly, dipping in the low 50s again. A reminder that we are overdue to haul in the winter's wood.
Homestead life has been busy. The chickens and turkeys are growing. We tried a couple week stint with goats. What's left of the garden (post goats) is doing well. After spending two weeks wreaking havoc on our homestead, the goats have found a new home until they are butchered. I should have blogged about those beasts when the stories were still fresh, but suffice it to say that many an artist has depicted the devil as a goat for good reason. Goat herding can be summed up in two words: Never Again.
Removing the goats brought instant peace and sanity back to the farm. Or at least made our usual chaos seem rather mild.

Meanwhile, we have been busy turning our plot into a regular little homestead. J has been working on his hunting and fishing skills and the freezer is stocked with bear hams, salmon, and a variety of fish. Subsitence hunting opens next week for moose and shortly after that, caribou. While he's tromping through the boreal forest for dinner, I'll be tending garden and babies, and fattening up chickens between trips to our berry picking spots. Raspberry jam and canned blueberries have already begun scenting our cabin and gracing pantry shelves. Homemade salsa joins the jams and berries on the shelves, and as the farmers market, garden, and God's country begin to do what they do, I do what I do... Preserve as much fresh bounty as we can (ha ha!) for the months where we forget that our ice land produces amazing fruits and vegetables.

This coming weekend is the Delta Junction Fair. If you are in town you should come on out. Be sure to stop
in the quilt hall and bid on the hand-knit items being auctioned to benefit Relay For Life. The two adorable pinch hats (if I may say so myself) are made by someone ya know. ;) Everything is beautiful and I am the newest knitter in the bunch... There is some good stuff out there for a great cause, so pony up. Then enjoy the heck out of the fair because it won't be back 'till next year. The 4H barn is always wonderful, and this year I have some little friends showing off their livestock. Hoping the best of ribbons for a few hopefuls!

With that, there are girls to tuck in and animals to pen up for the night.
Until Next Time,

Happy Moose Trails!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Changing

When you see something every day, it's easy to miss the subtle changes that vastly change the greater picture. It is true of many things.
I've been pondering this thought lately... I thought of it the other day while taking a walk with a friend. Early in spring (truthfully, when we still had snow in the forecast) we walked the woods and trails and noticed each miraculous plant and flower emerging from winter sleep. We were springtime detectives, noticing any bit of new growth.As we walked the same trails yesterday, we both giggled over how enamoured with spring (OK, desperate for it!) we were a couple short months ago. And while we still love foraging and our nature hikes, it is only the truly amazing or spectacularly large plants that catch our attention these days. As the spring rain, warmer temps, and (literally) a full day's sun lights on our Great North, the world has started growing so quickly that you can hardly even imagine the icy winter or the need for the wood stove.

I had a similar reminder of how much a thing can change this week. I'm not usually a big fan of things like Facebook. Aside from the fact that without Internet at the cabin which makes it tough to post often (a necessity, apparently), I am usually not prone to the otherwise ridiculous banter of things like that. "My dog farted and it was gross", and various other amazing things that people feel the need to share. (In all fairness though, I do occasionally post such ridiculousness, if only to fit in with my peers.) Otherwise, it's (supposedly) a tool to keep in touch.

Anyhoo...I found a handful of old friends from my paramedic days. Most of them are still hauling patients out of ditches and living the night life of sirens and coffee. I love my old friends. I really do. And I loved my old life.
I didn't realize how much a PERSON could change until I began catching a few of my old friends up on the Life and Times of Moose Nuggets. I have two more kids than most of them remember me having. I worked a full time job (for pay!) back then. Most of them can tell you that they couldn't ever even imagine me having the temperament to parent, much less be a farmer in the North.
One of them sent me a wonderful, heartfelt email. I had almost forgotten old nicknames I had on the ambulance (I'll spare you and my dignity of those!). This friend even told me they just couldn't imagine me in the life I describe here on my blog. I found that odd for a moment (what ELSE would I be doing???) and then it dawned on me,
I have changed. A Lot.

I am wrapping my mind around being so different. It happened like Alaska spring... a slow, nearly imperceptible thaw, an emergence of new growth, and suddenly, I am in the middle of an overgrown summer.
To go from trendy VW Bug driving, makeup wearing, espresso drinking, weekly manicure/pedicures, fine dining in trendy restaurants, and having ATTITUDE at ANYTHING "country" or "farmer-ish". Do you know that once upon a time, I dared to routinely utter the words, "I'm bored!" (Oh! I really did!)
I caught myself slowly driving through the mountain passes in my old Suburban. My hair hasn't seen a trim in month. A cup of percolated coffee was held in my dirt stained hands (what's the point of a manicure if you are shovelling chicken poop after breakfast?). I'm sure we probably had moose, caribou, or some kind of fish thawing in the fridge for dinner as I headed home to my farm. My exciting night life these days includes getting the kids and chickens to bed early enough to have energy to knit, or enough time to finish a book.

When did this happen?

A LONG time ago (maybe two years now)I mentioned how Alaska seemed to harbor some kind of vastness or hidden "power" to make you give up things that just aren't important. Two years ago, I was referring to old mind-haunts, things that I had trouble letting go of in my life, wrongs I received or doled out, those things in our minds that generally haunt us to our graves. Being in the vastness of Alaska made me realize they weren't worth holding onto anymore. Ditching those old haunts left me trying to figure out who I was without that anger, espresso, and enough loud city noise to drown out any calling I might have felt to lead me to a quiet place.

My dear friend was thrilled with my new life, even if they can't imagine me being the one living it. The difference between the old me and the current me has been rolling around in my head, and I find myself grinning like a pig in you-know-what as I do the quiet and unimaginable, like wash dishes, hang laundry, feed chickens, and muck out chicken coops.


In Alaska news, we are a day away from Summer solstice. The sun isn't as bothersome this year for me. I haven't even traded out our regular curtains for room darkening ones this year. This is our third spring, and the first one that feels like it's moving all too quickly. Maybe it's the homeownership (and realizing that any repairs and improvements have to be made in the next couple months before ice and snow return), maybe it's the busy-ness of farming, or finally being able to take the little kids exploring and adventuring. This spring flew by, and I have a feeling the summer is going to go just as quickly.
Oh, I won't lament winter time arriving. I still love Alaska in all it's extremes (plus, I'm itching to have time for all my winter hobbies again).

J returned from hunting with a 7'3" black bear. It's off being processed into a rug and sausage. (Also some bear jerky.) He'll be off in a week or so to get salmon, and I'll be busy filleting, wrapping, freezing, and possibly canning to replenish our cache. Our plan to grow, hunt, fish,forage, or raise most of our food is going well. I can't wait until the garden gets productive.

We've had rain and cool temps. I forget that the rest of the counry is sweating and begging for their air conditioning to work. I actually had to light a small fire in the woodstove this morning. The rain falling on a metal roof with a fire crackling in the wood stove and chickens cackling outside the door are just enough to make me giggle... Nope, Toto... we sure aren't where or who we used to be.
I'm okay with that.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name

Would be trail mix.

Beans and I have been studying plants and learning about safe foraging. (important things to learn about when you are two and something called "bane berry" looks inviting.) Alaska has an incredible number of wild and edible plants. Every day we learn or identify something new, I am amazed at how God provides for humans... Even in places labelled "barren".
Our own yard (not including our thriving garden) is full of so many amazing plants that are edible, medicinal, and just amazing.
We are quickly becoming foragers, and even putting some of our "mountain medicine" to good use. Combined with our garden, we have concocted some tasty teas with added benefits of curbing headaches, tummy aches, and even helping mosquito bites to stop itching. Here's one of our recent tasty teas:

Moose Nugget Forager Tea:
mint (from the garden. We used peppermint this is 50% of your tea)
wild rose petals (edible! Good trail snack!)
wild bluebells (also good trail snack)
wild raspbery leaves
strawberry leaves

dry all ingredients in a warm oven (170F ish) until dried. Cool and store. When you are ready for tea, lightly crush enough for your tea. Steep 5-10 minutes. Enjoy!
This is a great "reviving" tea when two small children have completely worn you out by nap time!


The rain stuck around for a few days. Now that we have a lull in the grey skies, Beans, Little Nugget and I ventured out to inspect the gardens and give the baby chicks some time in the sun. The baby chicks can hardly be called "babies" any more. They have their adolescent feathers, their combs are growing, and a definite pecking order is being established. We have a variety of breeds: Americaunas (they will lay green and blue eggs! Really!), Orpingtons, Brahmas, Red Sex Links, Black Sex Links, Silver Wyandottes, Columbian Wyandottes, Australorps, White Cornish, Black Cornish, Polish Chooks, Silkies, and one Bantam. We affectionately call our three older hens and our rooster "chicken mutts", as they descend from a line of various hens and *ahem* zealous roosters.
The six turkeys are Bronze (a breed, not just a color). What a clucky peepy little entourage they are. They are as eager for wild Alaska greenery as we humans are, and they make weeding the garden a pleasure. Beans and Nugget like to poke dandelions through the chicken fencing and watch the birds gobble them up. Ricky Bobby is a sucker for fireweed, and Baby Girl will get downright pecky over lamb's quarters.

Speaking of the garden, I suppose I could let y'all in on what's been planted.
We've got rows and rows of potatoes. J came wih me to the greenhouse and got a little excited about all the varieties of potatoes available. What I'll say about that is there are twothings I'd better not hear this winter. One is "I'm sick if potatoes". The other is "we are out of potatoes". Wih five rows planted (each row about 30 feet long), we'd better not run out of potatoes.
Onions make another 60 feet of garden space.
Strawberries and rhubarb grow together, next to rows of cauliflower and broccoli. Kholrabi, four varieties of lettuce, carrots, andradish make up about half of the remaining garden space. We have two pea tepees where green arrow peas and sugar snap peas are starting to grow. Celery, turnips, beets, zuchinni plants, green onions, and yellow squash fill the othe half, and an experimental bed of pumpkins round out the outdoor garden. The greenhouse is filled with tomato plants, cucumber, and several varieties of peppers.
A short walk to the house finds the porch surrounded with container gardens of herbs. Beans' "tea garden" consists of peppermint, lemon balm, spearmint, lavender, anise hyssop, and lavender bergamot. My kitchen herbs consist of rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, cinnamon basil, and chives.
It sounds full and crowded, but I must make room for more. A dear friend gifte me with a chocolate mint plant, and I couldn't resist a couple of Roman chamomile plants in the nursery. I have several more starts coming from Washington State next week, and will start planting fruiting trees and bushes as well. I have two choke cherry trees waiting for holes to be dug when it dries out a little but more, as well as some edible flowers from seed and starts to be planted.

Phew! That makes it sound like a lot, but I am already looking forward to expanding the garden space next yer! There is so much more I WANT to grow!

Well, nap time is about over, and it looks like I'd better get the laundry off the line before the next set of storms rolls in. After that, a cup of Forager Tea and snuggle time with my sweet girls. Several of our butterflies have been emerging from their cocoons... A perfect segway to story time and craft time while we observe our new additions.

THIS is what I love about homeschooling:
from some measly caterpillars comes science, reading, arts and crafts, biology, and even religion... If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away. Behold, all things are become new!

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rainy Day Women

Yes, another Bob Dylan reference.

It's been a rainy week. I'm not complaining. I love Alaska in all it's facets. Summer rain is amazing. It's the only time the sky gets "dark" this time of year. Plus, it means that I don't have to water the garden.
Lots of people go out in the rain here. J is one of them. He's off in Cordova, bear hunting.
Me? The rain rolling in makes me feel cozy. It's cooled off a bit (50s today) and even justified a small fire last night in the wood stove to knock the chill off. I've spent the rainy days catching up on mending and sewing... 3 aprons, a skirt, a dress for Beans, lots of mending and taking in some things. (The good thing about food allergies? I've dropped two sizes since we had to ditch gluten and dairy!)
I got ambitious with the sewing and seriously decreased my stash of stuff.
This is a good thing.
Earlier in the year, a friend of mine and I started a challenge to use up or finish all the projects and materials we already had in our stash. No new purchases at the fabric and yarn stores except notions. Well, I'm not sure where she is on her stash, but I officially only have two more projects in my sewing bin. (um, don't ask about the knitting stuff. Or needle work. I'm sure I have plenty of projects to finish before I can make a trip to the store for anything new!)

The rain on the green metal roof of the cabin has established a meditative patter. The girls have been busy with reading and playing. The chickens (Ricky Bobby in particular) are chattering angrily at the rain, and they apparently lackthe common sense to get in the coop instead of getting wet.
I am wondering how the bear hunt is going... WonderIng what bear meat is going to taste like (I'm told it tastes exactly like ham), and wondering which of our cabin walls is going to be sporting a dead animal.
For the record, I never ever once in my whole life ever thought there would be dead animals on my wall. Ever. But it seems that it's going to happen, so I'd better get used to the idea. And choose a good spot. I certainly don't want a snarling bear staring at me while I'm eating my breakfast or (gasp!) trying to sleep.
On the other hand, it's better than having a LIVE bear watching me do those things.

So the women folk are tending the farm and catching up on sewing, reading, and eating popcorn for dinner. The Mighty Hunter returns soon and will want an audience for bear tales and other excitement.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Some Answers

So the doctors have come up with some new test results. The recent diagnosis is that Little Nugget has a grown hormone deficiency. Her levels are so low it indicates that she's not even really producing growth hormone yet. We are headed to Anchorage in August to see endocrinology for the next step.
I am relieve to have some answers and really ticked at the same time. A simple blood test could have given us this answer months ago, sparing Little Nugget and the rest of us a heap of agony. The last time I posted, I could hardly talk about it because the doctor we were seeing was so convinced of her (wrong) diagnosis that she actually told us we had a month to find another opinion OR replace her feeding tube, or she would call the state on us! OF COURSE we got a second opinion (from a doctor that wasn't still in highschool when I had my two oldest children) who ran some additional tests (including the growth factor), and VOILA! The answer we had been wondering about for over half of Little Nugget's life now.

Anyway... Back at The Farm:
Life is going along as it always does... Too fast and full of daily grind adventures. The weather is finally turning gorgeous (50 degree mornings and 80 degree days), and there is 24 hours of daylight, though we still had official sunrise and sunset times.
I was thinking this morning as I hung clothes on the line, living in Alaska is like being on a perpetual camping trip.
Summer has a smoky haze ("summer" and "forest fire season" are synonymous here). The morning air is crisp, with the faint hint of campfire (ok, forest fire!). There is a peacefulness while hanging clothes. I LOVE air dried clothes, particularly with the faint hint of campfire to it. Animals scurry about, adding their own habits and noise to the rythym of our day.
I never had been a morning person prior to getting chickens, but I must say that nowadays, sleeping past 7:00 makes me feel lazy.
Farming in Alaska makes me feel ALIVE.
I learned the hard way this week to always (always!) scan the tree line before heading to the chicken coop. I surprised a moose as much as she surprised me, and it was o ly my proximity to the front door that saved my hide from becoming a hit target.

I watered the garden with the smell of forest fire creeping in a little thicker. I hope it's not going to be too dry a year for us.

J headed out on a bear hunt this week. Why men feel the need to hunt things that could eat them is beyond me. I hope he gets his bear hide and then gets his own hide home safely.

Off to lock the animals up for the night.
The official farm count on Little Farm on the Tundra:
48 chicks
3 laying hens
1 rooster
6 turkey poults
and Bub, the goldfish that won't die. Two years old now.
Oh! Also residing in the cabin: 10 caterpillars in cocoons. The latest homeschool project is butterfly hatching. Beans has become obsessed with bugs and hatching butterflies was a compromise, since she was begging to study spiders. Ever try to choke down your own squeamishness about something to allow your kids unadulterated learning? Yeah... I don't really like spiders, but she loves all kinds of bugs at the moment, so, I'm trying. Caterpillars are just about my limit though.

Alright. If there is one truth about farming, it's that the animals won't wait. I'd better get everyone tucked in for the night, then tuck myself in. Daylight and campfire start early these days.

Until next time,
Happy Moose Trails!