Monday, April 23, 2012

Skunk Cabbage

This past week has been crazy busy. I had to send my new book down to the publishers electronically, which was quite the fiasco. I'm already computer challenged and when you compound that with an old computer and internet service that can be iffy at times, I was a basket case by the time I finally accomplished what needed done. Then there's all the work that needs done on the boat. I started replacing the interior skin of the boat with some 1/4 inch plywood, and since nothing is square on a boat, it's been a real fun time. I spent almost all day Friday trying to figure out a pattern. I never did get one and finally gave up and left in frustration around 5:00. It was quite unpleasant. Anyway, I've been really busy and just now felt like I could take some time to do a new blog post. It can sometimes be a challenge to find something to write about, but because it's getting to be spring here in Southeast Alaska, I thought I would write about one of the harbingers of spring, Skunk Cabbage. This is Western Skunk Cabbage, Lysichiton americanus, as opposed to Symplocarpus foetidus, Eastern Skunk Cabbage. I didn't even know there was two different kinds, but as the old saying goes,  you learn something new every day.  I guess it's also known as Swamp Lantern, though I've never heard it called that in all the years I've lived here. However, I often heard it referred to as Stunk Cabbage by my daughter Autumn when she was a toddler out at the farm. We would grasp her little hand and walk down the boardwalk on the way to or from the tabernacle and every time we passed a patch of it she would point and say, Stunk Cabbage. For about the first hundred times it was kind of cute- after that it was kind of annoying. By the time she turned twenty one and was still saying it, it had lost any sense of delight. (Just kidding Autumn)I should have taught her the Latin name, then it probably would have been entertaining to hear it more often. Of course half the entertainment value would have been in having me try to pronounce it. One of the local bear hunting guides has mentioned that the Brown Bears dig up the roots of this plant soon after they come out of hibernation. It's one of the first things they eat and serves as a laxative. I haven't seen any bears yet, but it's not uncommon to pass by areas in the early spring where  a number of Skunk Cabbages have been dug up. I think the deer feed on the plants when they first pop up too. When the plant is full grown the leaves are enormous. You could probably use one as an umbrella. It usually grows in swampy areas; muskegs and in drainage ditches. It's always nice to see at the end of winter- a bit of a promise that spring is really here. Speaking of spring, I understand that places back east have just experienced a blizzard dumping eight to twelve inches of snow in areas like New York and Pennsylvania. Guess that will put the old Symplocarpus foetidus in a tailspin for a bit. I guess if you want to experience some spring you better come up to Alaska. As you can see our Swamp Lanterns are burning bright.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Update

It's been a while since I last posted pictures of the boat, so I thought I would take a minute today and update you on the progress. As you can see, its coming along. John is doing beautiful work. We've replaced even more than we were going to- as he worked his way down the side he would see another plank that just wasn't up to par and the shipwright in him couldn't let him leave it. The only problem is that he's working full time getting the cannery up and running and the busy season is upon us both. Unfortunately I can't do any of the plank work myself so I have to wait for him to find time to do it. To compound the issue, I had to go to Juneau the other day to pick up supplies. The return ferry trip which should only take three and half hours if it's direct to Hoonah, took twelve hours because the geniuses who set up the schedule, bypass Hoonah and go down to Tenekee and Angoon first and then come back to Hoonah. So the normal amount of time is quadrupled- it takes over twelve hours now. I love it. After twelve  hours on the ferry my back feels like I was practicing to take over the duties of a couch for a Japanese Sumo wrestling team. It would almost be funny if it didn't hurt so bad. To add insult to injury, some of the local boats are catching king salmon close by. Several guys came in with kings from Spasski Bay and Floyd Peterson brought in fifteen for two days of fishing from one of his favorite haunts. Obviously I won't be going fishing any time soon, so I get pretty spastic when I hear the good fishing reports. I don't know why. Every year I tell myself that next year I'll be ready to go get them, but when next year comes, there is always some reason why I'm not out there. I'm kind of running out of next years. I'm hoping that we can wrap this project up before the gnats or No-see-ums  hatch. The misquitos are already flying around looking for a treat (me, of course) and if I have to deal with the hoards of gnats I don't know what I'll do. Maybe I can invite a bunch of bums down for a smoke- I 'll buy them all cigars and have them follow me around to keep the bugs away. I might just lather myself in Crisco and when the bugs land they'll get stuck. When I'm doing some mundane work like painting, I like to turn on the music- it helps to lighten up the mood, so you can imagine how pleased I was when saw load after load of logs being placed across the street from where I was working. The good folks at Sealaska corporation decided to unload a bunch of pulp wood in the lot right across from the boat haulout so that the locals can cut it up for firewood. There's nothing like the sound of four or five chainsaws revving in the morning to cheer you up. Whistle while you work- but if you can't whistle, crank up a chainsaw!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Money

I've noticed that two things will always get most folks attention- discussions about money and discussions about sex. When I did the post on the chicken bras, there were a number of ads on the blog listing lingerie. That didn't surprise me, nor was I shocked when I saw that I had a record number of clicks on the ads for bras and other lacy underthings. No doubt most of the interest in those things was from the male readers- but that's ok; being a man I understand very well the interest in such matters.  However, this post isn't about ladies underwear or sex, but that other thing that seems to occupy the mind of so many- money. Cash, moola, green, coin, bucks, scratch- call it what you will, we all need it to survive, and most of us seem to want more than we  have. It's why we work overtime and do jobs we hate and tolerate obnoxious bosses and petty co-workers.  I used to stand on top of forty foot high fuel tanks in the middle of the night in a freezing wind  transferring fuel. It wasn't fun, but I had to do it- I  had to keep the bucks flowing. Just over a week ago folks were going nuts trying to buy the winning ticket for the mega-millions lottery, even though the odds of winning were like one in one  hundred seventy six million. It seems like the very people who can least afford to play the lottery are lined up, spending money that would be better spent on clothes for the kids, or groceries or the electric bill. I understand the desire to get rich. Though I've never played the lottery, I fish for a living. That's a pretty big gamble. The boat could break down in the middle of the season, the weather can be lousy or the fish may not show. All that taken into consideration, my odds of having a profitable season are still considerably better than taking the money I spend on the boat and buying lottery tickets with it. Some years back we would receive the big packet from Publishers Clearing House that would strongly suggest that we could win a million dollars or whatever the amount was. For a long time we were foolish enough to spend the postage to send it back, hoping somehow we would miraculously be picked out of the hundreds of thousands of other people who were  hoping for the same thing. We even bought a few magazines, thinking it would increase our odds.... but noooooo... not gonna happen Tommy boy. I would have been better off investing in the company who prints up all the paper for PCH. I watched ABC's show 20/20 last week. They were describing how winning the lottery had changed the lives of those who had won- mostly for the worse. Some had gone bankrupt, gotten divorced, one fellow's granddaughter died- I can't recall if it was a drug related situation or suicide. He had been giving her $2000.00 a week. That's a lot of money for a teen to get without any direction. All of them are inundated with requests for money, not only from relatives but from strangers as well. For some reason if you come into a bunch of money, a lot of people seem to think you should share it with them. More than a few of them said they regretted winning the lottery, and yet it doesn't deter people from throwing their money away for a chance to get rich. I read a book by Max Lucado who pointed out a survey that was done about what Americans would do for ten million dollars. 7% would murder for money, 4% would change their sex,25% would abandon their family,23% would become a prostitute for a week,16% would leave their spouse, 3% would put up their children for adaption. There are more stats that I didn't list. If you want to read them all you can get the book When God Whispers Your Name by Max Lucado. It's kind of scary to think that we would let money have that much control over us or over our neighbors for that matter. Personally, I think we have a responsibility to be good stewards over the money we have. I subscribe to the general policy that I heard a popular television pastor mention  concerning money- spend some, save some, give some away. If you need wisdom concerning monetary issues, I would recommend Dave Ramsey. He's a Christian fellow with  a financial website and he dispenses some pretty good advice in my opinion. I know several people who have benefited from his wisdom. I believe he put out a book called Total Money Makeover  that provides sound advice for getting out of debt and securing your financial future. Finally, I will offer a quote from the book of Matthew. "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul."  A little something to think about. Now its time for me to go to work. I hope you all have a great week.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Freezer Boats

I  was planning on doing a post on something entirely different, but as sometimes happens in life, my plans were changed for me when the battery on my camera decided it was worn out and needed a recharge. That's ok though- I looked through the archives and pulled up some pictures that I took last year. I intended to do a post on this topic anyway, and as they say, there is no time like the present. I went down to the float last year when the F/V Kelsey Michelle was tied up. F/V stands for fishing vessel, just like M/V is motor vessel and USS is United States Ship- like a navy vessel. I just thought I would throw that out there; something from my vast storehouse of knowledge. I'll probably find out later that I was wrong about something. Just a word of caution, never use this blog as the final authority on any subject unless you want to appear foolish in front of your friends. You never know when you might be speaking to someone who knows a whole lot more than you do about something you profess to be an expert in. That being said, I will now expound on what little I know about freezer boats. As the name implies, the boat has a freezer on board. This particular boat is a relatively small operation run by two or three people. To the best of my knowledge, trollers and trawlers are the only two vessels who freeze their catch on board, although there may be some long-line operations who do. Lest there be any confusion, trollers catch their fish one at a time- one  hook for one fish. They can run multiple hooks at once down a wire, but they still come on board one by one. They can choose which fish to keep and which to return to the water. Trawlers use huge nets to bring fish aboard. While fishing for one species they might inadvertently catch another species. While they may or may not return unwanted or illegal species to the water, the chances of them being alive are slim, since they have been dragged around usually for several hours before being winched aboard and dumped with hundreds or thousands of other fish. Now,  back to the Kelsey Michelle. Once the fish is caught, it's gutted, headed and bled. On this boat they use a special needle attached to a small hose which forces water into all the the blood vessels and forces the blood out, thus providing a premium product. The fish are laid on trays and frozen. Freezer boats have the advantage of staying out fishing until they are full, unlike boats that utilize ice which have to come in every few days to sell and replenish their supply of ice. The disadvantage is that once they are full, they have to go through the process of boxing up the catch and storing it or shipping it off. The big guy holding the coho salmon is Aldwin Harder, he's the owner/ captain of the Kelsey Michelle. The way he's displaying that fish he could probably get a job working for the Price is Right, showing off the prizes. I hope that next time you're in a restaurant or the local market and order salmon, that first,you will insist on only wild caught salmon, none of that phony farm raised stuff, and next that you will keep in mind guys like Aldwin. The small, independent fishermen who risk their lives and their fortunes to bring a quality product to the public.