I don’t mean to sound busy or to use this format as a way to track a to-do list or to receive validation from anybody other than myself and my family, but these are the things that are on my mind so I am going to write them down. Like many Alaskans, we are busy during this brief and rainy summer season trying to enjoy the outdoors, to stay warm, to fill the freezer, work hard, and have fun. Is there really such a thing as a balance in Alaska’s extreme seasons?
1. Fence: We are fencing in 11 acres by cutting down trees, peeling their bark with a draw knife, burning the ends, digging holes, and putting up 13 H-Braces and 4 corner posts for the first time in our lives. It’s been a fun learning process that is time consuming, tough, and well worth it. We couldn’t have done it without our hired help this season, Marcus Hunt. A 16 year old boy who work hard, loves motors and engines, and eats anything we set in front of him. He is a joy to have around. Marcus and I put up all of the H-braces and corner posts and last Saturday we started putting up T-stakes and barb wire until he had an accident by dropping the post pounder from the T-stake onto his head. We had to rush him to meet his mother in Ninilchik where she brought him to the Emergency Room. The doctor said he had an extreme concussion and needed to rest and “do nothing” for 7 to 10 days. Since school is starting next week, we don’t expect to have him out here again for the rest of the summer. But we sure hope to see him out here again next season. After 2 months of having Marcus stay in the yurt from Thursday-Sunday, we sure will miss him. We had some fun bike rides in Homer and on our road, lots of ice cream, thousands of shared calories around the dinner table, and some good laughs. Having a set work schedule has been a game changer for us this season, rather than tinkering a little everyday, we are able to stay focused on working during work days and hanging on days off.
2. Salmon. We were able to go dipnetting, which means you stand in a river next to hundreds of other Alaskan residents with a 20 foot long metal pole and a big net on the end waiting for salmon to swim into the net. My buddy Barry and I went two days, the first day was slow and we caught 12 salmon (SUPER BLESSED!) and the second day we came home with 70. At least 45 of them were caught in a single hour. It was a bloody, gory, awesome mess on the beach as hundreds of Alaskans raced in and out of the water with flapping fish on the beach, in coolers, and trash bags. It was crazy. Barry, Donna, and I spent the next two days filleting and vaccum-sealing the salmon. We must have over 200 pounds of salmon now in the freezer. Our freezer went from almost empty to full. Salmon is a vital food source in our household, it has been since I was an old enough to eat. My daughters love salmon, my wife loves salmon, and I love salmon. Smoked, canned, baked, fried, dried… All of it.
3. Garden: Our expanded garden space is doing better than we could have expected despite not testing the soil. We have grown and canned dozens of jars of pickled radishes. We have been eating and freezing kale. Eating beets, broccoli, lettuce greens, garlic scapes, peppers, chives, rhubarb, and I forget what else. We are waiting on potatoes, which are looking decent, cauliflower, peas, beans, tomatoes, and sometime next month— garlic. We are hoping and praying for a good potato and garlic harvest, and we keep telling ourselves that if we have salmon, potatoes, and garlic we can live for years. Let’s hope the potatoes are growing well underground!
4. Tractor: Thank God for Barry White! Without that guy, who the heck knows where we would be. He loaned us a tiller and a tractor this season, so we have been able to see how much we can actually get done with some machinery. They are saving our backs and clearing out stumps and other forested lumps for the fence. Last night I was up at midnight looking up tractors… now that we know what we can do with one, we’re trying to decide if we want to go in debt for one. Barry fixes things for us, teaches us how to build, shares meals with us, and loves or kids like they’re his own.
5. Kodiak: We drove the car onto the Alaska State Ferry and went on an overnight journey to Kodiak Island to camp in our cousins’ yard for an entire week of visiting, hiking, video games, good eats, and a whole lot of fun. It was so fun to get the girls with their cousins and monumental to spend some time with our own cousins. I am so proud of my cousin Dave, who owns the Suzuki Dealership in Kodiak, he is killing it as a mechanic and businessman. And of my cousin, Athena, who is making huge moves with her kindness, hard work, dedication, and loyalty. They are incredible parents and people and it was an honor to spend a week hanging out with them. We came home from Kodiak with a butt ton of stories and a roof rack overloaded by a giant trampoline.
6. Parenting: Gymnastics, horseback lessons, counseling, doctor’s appointments, more appointments and more appointments and libraries, Salmonfest, playgrounds, groceries, bike rides, naps, sleep time.. The things that parents take care of that go unnoticed and unseen but keep us exhausted and busy, busy, busy… Being that we live out in the middle of nowhere, we have to drive 3 hours round trip to go to gymnastics, the same for grocery shopping… everything is a drive, and you know what, it’s all good. We signed up for it. Would we rather be walking and/or riding a bike? Yes… But would we rather live in a town or city than the country? No… Not at this time, at least. One of the most time consuming parts of being a parent is the nap time/sleep routine that we have got ourselves into. Primrose, our 3 year old, won’t nap unless she’s in the car or on a bike ride… Marlena, our 1 year old (in 4 days) won’t nap unless she’s being carried or in a seat. Savanna and I have to put both kids to sleep at night, Primrose in her bed downstairs and Marlena in her bed upstairs. So needless to say, Savanna and I sleep on different floors in different beds. I sleep with the older girl and Mom with the baby. When will this change, dear God? It takes a lot of work, but we stay positive about it and know that it will eventually come to an end. We are secretly hoping it’s when Marlena is big enough to sleep with her big sister…
7: Mechanics: With a 30 year old pick-up truck, a 20 year old car, a 2021 Toyota forerunner, two generators, a borrowed tractor, a four wheeler, and a handful of bicycles there is always something breaking down that needs fixing. I am not a natural born mechanic/practical thinker, I am more of an artist, no doubt, so it takes a lot of patience, work, and help from Barry White, Youtube, and others to help me when I need to fix something. And let’s just say that I stay busy by learning and doing.
8: Conex: We bought a 20 foot shipping container this year to use for storage. So we used the tractor to clear out a space near the driveway, ordered a couple loads of gravel from a neighbor, spread the gravel over Typar, set the railroad ties on level ground, and finally got the Conex delivered. It’s been a game changer for our storage! All of the totes from inside the house and in our generator shed are now in the Conex, labeled and stacked. All of our 5 gallon buckets full of dried food are no longer under the house, they are in the Conex. Beekeeping equipment, backpacking equipment, fishing equipment, gardening, carpentry, mechanics, clothes… All of it is now in the Conex. And it’s bone dry and fun for the kids to play with and in.
9: Chickens: We started the spring with 35 free-range laying hens and 3 roosters. We now have at least 25 baby chicks that were born in the woods, 3 ducks that we raised from ducklings, and 27 Freedom Ranger meat birds that will be ready for harvest in a few weeks. The meat birds will go into the freezer and be used for meals, stock, and all of the goodness that comes from them. The baby chicks will either be given away to people wanting to start a flock or added to our own. But we really don’t have a large enough coop for 60 + birds to stay inside all winter, so we need to get ride of some. It’s been a real blessing to see the hens disappear into the woods for weeks on end, come sprinting out every day for a few pecks of scratch and feed before sprinting back to their nests. And eventually, seeing baby chicks enter our little homestead life. There are drawbacks to this, no doubt— like the amount of feed we are putting out everyday, and the deaths that come from chicks born without a mama around. And yesterday, I watched a hawk fly down and grab a baby chick and land in a nearby birch tree. I could hear and see the chick in the hawk’s talons, it was chirping like a cute little baby, until the hawk starting tearing at its flesh until it was dead meat. Predators can be a real drawback with free range animals. Last year it was a bear that wiped out our bee hive, killed over half our meat birds, and devastated our raspberries. This year it’s a hawk.
10: Bees: I will say this… we were advised that the bees were weak coming to Alaska due to some late frosts that struck California. And yes, they were very weak. More dead than ever before. How the bees are still alive today after this rainy, late summer– I don’t know. But they certainly aren’t producing any honey, they are barely surviving on nectar. So we are planning on going into the winter without any local honey, but it is what it is.
11: Travel/Moving Plans: This is something that has been occupying our minds and hearts since we first met. Recently, we started studying Ecuador and looking into potentially spending part of the year if not multiple years there so we can focus on family, art, and culture. But after spending a few weeks studying, praying, reading, watching videos, and finally looking deeper into logistics… we decided that it would be too difficult to move our dogs, cat, and humans to and from Ecuador, a country that does not allow you to enter by car. So… we decided to buy plane tickets for Mexico, where we will revisit some of the towns we fell in love with two years ago and continue to travel to new places in that country. Will we eventually start spending more time south of the border? We don’t know at this time… But are we open to what God has planned for us? Yes. Do we know how to differentiate the signs and messages from God from those of our friends, family, and selves? We are learning. But right know we know one thing, we have a sitter scheduled to stay at our home from October 29-February 1st, and we have our tickets and lodgings all set for 2+ months in Mexico and 2+ weeks in Missouri. It’s going to be a blast. Thank God we love living right here right now!!!
12: Writing: I am an Author!!! I have to keep telling myself that so I can try and squeeze in some writing time. Isn’t it crazy that writing is last on my list? Geez… but that’s just the way things go sometimes. I have been recording an Audiobook version to Warflower and am almost halfway done with the book. By doing so I have been coming upon too many darn grammar errors to count, and I have become a little embarrassed by it, to include being embarrassed about exposing so much raw material to the world. But it is what it is, I made the changes and paid IngramSpark to upload a new copy of the book but the changes were never made… So there’s nothing more I can do at this time. I am really excited to finish the Audiobook so I don’t have to continue being hypercritical of my voice, reading rhythm, accents, audio quality… not to mention the damn writing!!! But hey, I want to do it myself and I don’t have the money or time to pay a professional recording person to do it for me. And… I’ve been squeezing in a few minutes here and there working on the second book. I’m really excited about that! I am still receiving an incredible amount of support and reviews from people who were touched by Warflower, which motivates me even more to promote the book whatever way I can and to write the next one.
The recording process has driven Savanna and I to start a podcast of our own... because why not add more things to our “to-do” list. You will all know more as the first episode nears airing…
13: Weekly Dinners: During Covid, right after Primrose was born, we started a weekly dinner tradition with Donna and Barry White. They are definitely our closest friends in the neighborhood, and they love us and our children like we are blood family. Every week we go to their house at 5 to hang out and chat before Donna serves a delicious dinner at 6. We all sit around the table (Primrose generally runs around and Marlena crawls on the ground) and we talk about the week and what’s new. We finish our meal and either play outside, watch TV, keep chatting, or Donna takes Primrose into the swim spa to teach her how to swim. We have dessert around 8 or so before leaving sometime after 9 to come home. It is a staple in our schedule, a consistent foundation for our children, our family, and the Whites. The kindness and generosity they have shared with us is exceptional. Every week Donna buys the groceries, plans and prepares the meal and dessert, and then does the cleaning up. It really is an incredible act of generosity that I can only hope to share with others as our resources continue to grow in abundance.
So all in all, these are some of the things we’ve been up to lately. We are so grateful to be given the opportunity to spend everyday together as a family. Sometimes it can be so damn stressful to feel like all we are doing with our lives are parenting, or as I put it “pacing around the house until one of the kids calls.” Our number one duty at this time is to provided for our kids by filling their needs. They are slowly gaining more independence as we are slowly stepping away from over-parenting, but all of these things take time. So I would say that we are learning more and more patience, wisdom, and faith in God and what God wants for our family than we are able to check boxes on a to-do list. And I would rather be growing into a more spiritual man than a more practical man, at this time in my life. But you know what, maybe there is a balance that we are finding out here? Or maybe not, either way, I’m saying my prayers everyday, doing my Bible readings and Video studies with Savanna, and we are praying together and working on being better people everyday. We are happy, joyful, busy, and purpose-driven.
Thank God for that!