Sunday, October 7, 2018

Replenished







It's that time of year again. The time when farmers harvest their corn or at least I think they do. Where else would the corn stalks come from that show up in the supermarkets before  Halloween? I'm sure that the pumpkin harvest must be going on, as well as other fruits or vegetables or grains. I know that here in Hoonah, I once again took part in ravaging the crab apple tree in front of the Abundant Life church. Last year my daughter Jen and I picked a whole slug of crab apples and made jelly. It turned out wonderful, so I thought I'd try it again this year. I was down to the nubs in my jelly supply, and even though Jen couldn't help, her sister Autumn came down from up north and lent a hand. She really gets in to the whole growing, harvesting, processing thing. She would have made a good farm wife fifty years ago. Last year was our first attempt at harvesting the tree, so I took the lessons I learned and tried a different approach this year. We still used ladders, but this time I brought a garden rake and a leaf rake to really work that tree over, and we had a tarp on the ground to catch the little rollers. It worked out really slick. I don't know why, but when I see Autumn with that rake in hand, looking at the tree, I'm reminded of the Wicked Witch of the West- not that she resembles her in any way, but the rake makes me think of when the witch was addressing Dorothy,  with her broom in hand saying - I'll get you my little pretty! Well, I can tell you, she really got those crab apples. We ended up with four or five grocery bags full, and after we made over two dozen jars of jelly, we still had several gallon bags full of crab apples in the freezer. It was quite the abundant harvest. Of course I can't live on jelly, regardless of how good it tastes, I'm not like Pooh bear and his honey. It had been some months since our last Costco order, and the larder was getting pretty skimpy, so I decided to take a favorable ferry in to Juneau and do some shopping. I also dropped in at the Village barber shop for a haircut, and down to the Friends of the Library to get my winter's supply of reading material.  They have an overwhelming number of books there, all reasonably priced. I walked out of there with twelve hard cover books for $10.50. What fun.  I believe it was Henry Ford who mentioned that if you want to be rich, you must watch how much money you spend. My friend Buffalo Bob's father put it in a true New Englander fashion- It's not what you make, it's what you spend. I'm not sure that either of them would have approved of my recent shopping splurge, I won't mention how much I spent, but it was substantial. The fact is though, I was buying enough to carry us through the winter, so I had cases of canned corn and green beans, pineapple and applesauce, paper towels and toilet paper, laundry soap and dish soap and body wash. We needed juice and cup 'o noodles and baking supplies for the upcoming holidays. We had to have razors and bleach and peanut butter and coffee, to say nothing of two new pairs of jeans and a mattress topper. Oh, and don't forget the Trident Original gum. I bought five cartons, not packs, cartons. It all cost a pretty penny, but when the winter winds blow and we're snug in our home eating some toast and jelly and planning what to have for dinner, it won't take a trip to the local store. We just go around the corner to the pantry. What a blessing!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Made in America





When I find something I like, I usually stick with it. I'm fairly loyal. When I drink a soda, it's usually Pepsi. When I want salsa, I settle for nothing less than Pace Picante Sauce. The cupboards in my kitchen are Kraft made. I'll never get any other brand. I know what I like, and I support it with my money. Recently the blanket that I've had on my bed for over twenty years started to show signs of it's age. The edges were getting frayed, and there were spots that were looking kind of sparse in the fabric. The original blanket maker was Vellux. It was a velour blanket, and I loved it. Of course I wanted to replace it with another one. Well, I looked around on line, and all I could find were velour blankets made in China. There were assorted complaints about them, everything from smelling like formaldehyde to having them slide off the bed during the night and ending up in a pile on the floor beside the bed. Hmmm.... not good. I decided to check out blankets made in the good ol' USA, and ran across the American Blanket Company, out of Fall River Mass. I checked out the reviews and they seemed favorable. Frankly, the price was a little spendy. I'm normally a $30.00 blanket kind of guy, and the one that interested me the most, the Luster Loft, was ringing in at a whopping $99.00 plus shipping. Now, they do offer $10.00 flat rate shipping in the lower 48. I inquired about getting the $10.00 rate and it was explained to me that Alaska didn't qualify for that rate. It was going to be $55.00 to get it here via the USPS in three days. That alone was enough to make me really wonder if I wanted a good quality blanket that badly. I started thinking about the cost, and then figured what the cost would be if the blanket lasted twenty years. It worked out to less than $8.00 a year. If you spend about a third of your life in bed, $8.00 a year sounds pretty economical. I was still wavering back and forth when I called back and happened to speak to the most delightful young lady on the other end of the phone. She seemed genuinely  happy to speak to me, and when she found out I was from Alaska she convinced me that this was the blanket for this harsh climate. It was apparent that she believed in the products that they sell. Of course the added bonus is that the blankets are made in America, providing Americans with jobs. They're guaranteed for life,so maybe I'll be buried in it.  I ordered it, and three days later it arrived at the Hoonah post office. I had been telling me friend Mark, the post master, about the blanket, so when it arrived, I opened the box, peeled back the plastic covering, and stuck my hand deep in the folds of that wonderful blanket. I invited Mark to do the same, and no doubt we looked like a couple of freaks fondling that incredible softness right in the Hoonah post office. I had ordered the Patriot Blue, a dark, rich, blue color that looks almost snobby it's so luxurious. To say the fabric is soft, is like saying Alaska is big. It doesn't begin to describe the degree of comfort I experience every night now. When I told Mark I wanted to take my blanket home, he reluctantly removed his hands, but had the audacity to ask if he could come feel my blanket when he visits. I told him no, but to offset any hurt feelings, I asked Ari, The Blanket Lady, if she could send some swatches, which she did. Mark now has his own swatch of Luster Loft to comfort him in his quiet times. He wants to order a throw blanket, and he's discussed ordering the chocolate brown in Luster Loft, and already has visions of sitting on his front porch on a winter's evening wrapped in  his wonderfully warm, soft throw blanket drinking a cup of hot chocolate and looking out over Port Frederick. Can a blanket be so good it's sinful? I don't know, but perhaps it's just the opposite. Perhaps its a blessing from above. In any event, I'm delighted that I bit the bullet and purchased this wonderful blanket from a delightful young lady, who works for a great American company. If you're in need of a new blanket, I hope you'll give Ari, the Blanket Lady a call.
The number is 877-750-5331 or email them at www.americanblanketcompany.com
Tell her Tom sent you. And ask about their free blanket give away. I believe it's every Wednesday. Just to be clear, I'm not being compensated in any way for this testimony. I just really, really like my blanket. Sweet dreams!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Choices We Make



Have you ever pondered the direction your life has taken? I suppose all of us would like a second bite at the apple. A chance to go back and correct mistakes we've made. Unfortunately we're not given that opportunity. We can certainly change our behavior and make wise choices from here on out, but we can't erase the past. Yesterday is gone and will never return. I remember a song I heard once, back when the kids were little. I believe it was on Sesame Street. The words were- Yesterday, today and tomorrow, whether they bring pleasure or sorrow, time is something no man can borrow, yesterday, today and tomorrow.- Truer words were never spoken. Anyway, at this juncture of my life, I find myself reflecting on my past, and wondering about my future. I don't want to feel like I wasted the time that God has given me, but that doesn't mean that every day has to be filled with activities either. I truly believe that we need to start every day with the Lord. Spend some time reading your bible and praying. Find out what God has in store for you today. It may be going to the same job you've had for twenty years, but perhaps he'll show you a new way to do it. Perhaps you're retired, and are bored. Maybe He'd like you to volunteer the skills you've developed  helping a disaster victim. It could be that a visit to the local diner is in order, maybe with an old friend you've lost touch with or a neighbor who is down on his luck. I once read a book titled The Blue Bear, by a Juneau author named Lynn Schooler. Lynn had a boat called the Wilderness Swift that he used to take clients out on for trips into the wilds of Southeast Alaska. One client was a famous Japanese photographer who hired Lynn to help him find and photograph a blue bear. Certain black bears have a blue or blue gray coat. Anyway, something happened on the trip that caused a conversation between the two about life and death. The Japanese man stated that when we are born, all of us are given a certain number of calendars. As each year passes, we're left holding one less calendar. We don't know when the stack will run out. As Dr. Stanley has so wisely stated in the above article, it would be disastrous if after we came to the end of our lives we discovered we had been pursuing the wrong things. I hope you'll take some time and reflect on your life. Are you spending time with God? Is He directing you to take a different path? When the last page is turned on your particular calendar, I pray that you will discover that you've chosen wisely and will hear the words, Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Infestation!






 I know that it's been awhile since my last blog post. My apologies, but it's fishing season, and I need to make money, like most of the rest of the world. Couple that with the fact that I'm getting old and tired, and by the time I get home and have supper, it's usually after nine o' clock,  I don't have much energy left to do a blog post. I'm writing one now because it's really foggy this morning and I wanted to do something before I go wet some lines.

In the pictures above you can see that we've been visited by an infestation of hungry caterpillars. These particular ones are called Wooley Bears, at least that's what I've been told. I normally don't have anything against caterpillars. When you see one or two around town, it's kind of a neat thing. However, I guess due to the extended spell of hot, dry weather this summer, we got inundated with the blasted things. I had dozens of them every day on my flowering crab apple tree in the front yard. In the second picture you can see the destruction that they bring. They have an appetite that is unrestricted. They don't stop eating until they've consumed everything, and then they move on to the next green bush.  They only seem to like particular plants, and of course those appear to be the very plants that I have in my yard. Go figure. I've never seen so many caterpillars in my life. Jan and I went out the road last week for a drive and they were crossing the road by the dozens. It was like Wooley Bear New York City. I personally picked probably a hundred or more from my tree and bushes, and yet every day there are more. Where are they all coming from, and why aren't there any birds hanging around feasting on them?  Every winter I spend big bucks making sure my feathered friends don't starve to death. You would think that there would be a little appreciation and they'd come back and start chowing down. What's not to like about a big, juicy, fuzzy caterpillar? Especially if you're a bird. It's like your job to eat them! Ah well, nature out of balance. I need to stop here and get ready to conk some fish so I can make some money so I can sit at the computer all winter and do whatever I do. I hope wherever you are you're pest-free and enjoying the green things that grow around you.  Have a Wooley Bear day!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Scratch and Sniff



 How often have you been somewhere, when out of the blue a scent wafts past your nasal passages and you're instantly transported back to another time, another place. I'm not suggesting that the memory will always be pleasant. Perhaps you'll get a whiff of someone's old gym shoes and you'll be reminded of Phys ed class in ninth grade when a bully made you smell his socks under the threat of a thorough pounding. Maybe it's something more pleasing, like a lady passing by on the street and you catch the slightest scent of her perfume and you're transported through time to a summer romance from your youth. In what is the first of it's kind in the world, the USPS has come out with scratch and sniff stamps. As you can see, they look like frozen treats, and actually, you don't even have to scratch them to get a whiff of the delicate sweet scent. Perhaps receiving a bill from the electric company will be a little less unpleasant with a scratch and sniff stamp, unless of course, somewhere along the way some spoiler scratches it before you get a chance to. I think the IRS should buy a trainload of these stamps for any correspondence that they may have with us taxpayers. It would be even better if they stuck a lottery ticket inside each tax bill. There's always a chance you could be a winner, and then it wouldn't hurt so bad to pay your taxes. I rather like the idea of scratch and sniff stamps, so I was a little surprised to read that the American Lung Association had sent a letter to the postal service asking them not to issue the stamps. I guess they're afraid that folks with asthma would have an unpleasant reaction. I used to have an unpleasant reaction any time I had to change one of my kids diapers, which I admit wasn't often, fortunately. Now if for some reason the post office was to come out with a scratch and sniff dirty diaper stamp, I have to admit, it probably wouldn't make it into my stamp collection. I don't think we have to worry about that though. I was looking through the different posts for scratch and sniff and was surprised at how much is out there. Apparently the scratch and sniff technology utilizes encapsulated micro fragrances where tiny droplets of scented oils are surrounded by a coating to create extremely small capsules. When they are broken (scratched) the scent is unleashed. I read where some natural gas companies were producing scratch and sniff cards as a training tool for children, so they can identify a gas leak in their home. Not a bad idea. Of course when I first saw natural gas scratch and sniff, I immediately thought they were talking about farts. They weren't. HOWEVER.... there was a movie that came out some time back called Polyester that was filmed in odorama . I believe the movie goers were given cards that they could scratch and sniff at the appropriate scenes that would really transform them right into the moment. Scents included sneakers, skunk and flatulence. I don't know why anyone would want to go to see a film like that, but no doubt it had it's takers. Upon further review, I saw that there is a book called the Scratch and Sniff Guide to Beer, A Beer Drinker's Companion. I guess throughout the book you can smell the various ingredients that go into good beer making. The author is Justin Kennedy, and I imagine it's available on Amazon, for those of you who are looking for a gift for your beer drinking friends or family. I see that Captain Morgan, the rum making company has a new rum called Watermelon Smash. The outside bottle is shaped like a watermelon and is made to scratch and sniff so you can decide if it's right for you I guess. Sounds interesting. There is also a Cocomero Rose' wine with a scratch and sniff bottle. I guess Cocomero translates to watermelon in Italian. If you happen to be in Oak Park Illinois, there is a delightful store called - you guessed it- Scratch and Sniff. They have quite a delightful selection of gifts for people and pets. If I'm ever in the area, I'll be sure to stop by. It looks really interesting. Finally, last but not least, a fellow by the name of John Sherman is marketing Scratch and Sniff wall paper. It's called Flavor Paper, and comes in three designs- bananas, cherries and citrus. You apparently can order different colors.  While I don't think I'll be hanging any new wallpaper any time soon, I did purchase several of the new stamps. Of course one is in my stamp collection. It will be interesting to see how long the scent lasts. Maybe I'll buy a few extras so that I can have them put in with my ashes when I die. Then instead of thinking of smelly boots and fishy gloves when folks think of me, they will have visions of creamscicles and summer treats. How pleasant indeed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Fishing for Fatties or Flatties or Fat Flatties












  Last week I went out with my number one crew hand Adam, and in what turned out to be a very wise decision on my part, a lady friend who owns the F/V Talache. I was having a heck of a time finding a second crew hand, when the idea occurred to me to ask Barbie if she would like to go.She jumped at the chance and I was so glad I asked  her. She was the perfect addition to the crew. The trip, as often is the case, didn't start off so well. I hooked up the long line drum and when I turned on the hydraulics, the motor that I had purchased just three years ago started puking hydraulic fluid like a college kid after an all night bender. What a hassle! The only person in town who works on hydraulics was out of town on vacation-go figure. Soooo..... I had to send the motor over to Juneau and order a new one, for a mere $775.00. We hadn't even set the first hook and I was already in the hole. Anyway, the second day I got the new motor hooked up and we made a set in Adam's hot spot. Two weeks earlier he had set 20 hooks for a subsistence set and caught about 200 pounds, including a hundred pounder. So, of course we thought we'd set ten times the amount of hooks and get the whole quota in one fell swoop. Of course things being what they are, we went out the next day and for the first 75 hooks or so, we didn't catch a thing. Pretty depressing to say the least. We reset in three different places and went home. The next day when we pulled the gear we ended up with almost a thousand pounds total, but still needed about 400 pounds, so we ran up the bay and hoped for the best. I anchored the boat in sixteen fathoms of water and we waited for a few hours while the bait soaked. I entertained myself by killing horse flies by washing them off the deck with a washdown hose. I think I killed about fifty or so. Adam decided to try jigging up a halibut with his pole. After about 30 minutes he got bored and climbed up on top of the hay rack to soak in some rays. About fifteen minutes later he yelled "FISH ON!" I thought he was joking, but he wasn't.  He ended up pulling up a thirty pound flatfish, so it was a good way to start our trip up there. After the baits had soaked for about three hours, we went out to pull the gear. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the state was prospecting for king crab, so there was about six or eight crab pots with big orange bouys right in the area where I wanted to set. I had to lay a set in an area that I was unfamiliar with.  I was afraid that we wouldn't catch any fish at all, but as it was we ended up shaking three or four fish in an effort to keep from going over the quota limit. If that happens, you lose the extra poundage you caught, you have to pay a fine, and they reduce your quota by that amount next year. Of course when we finally got in to the cold storage and got the final weight, I discovered that I was under weight by about 100 pounds, so the fish we shook would have just about been right. Ah well. There seems to be a fair amount of halibut this year, so there's a chance I can get the rest of my quota while I troll for salmon. All in all it was a pretty good opening. I made a few bucks and enjoyed the company of my friends. We'll see what next year brings. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fishing for Dogs







Obviously this post isn't about the four legged kind of dog we all know and mostly love. I say mostly because my neighbor has decided to dog sit for a friend of theirs whose dog is unruly and loves to stick his big mouth out the window and bark-for hours on end. I so wish I could live on my own private little estate away from unruly dogs, neighbors and other riff-raff. However, I digress. This post is about fishing for chum, or dog salmon as they're known. It's about the only game in town right now. The king season is closing tonight, and it has been poor, and so far the humpies and cohos haven't shown, even out on the ocean. I'm not sure what to make of it. The upside of such poor fishing is that the price to the fishermen is good. The downside is that there are few fish, and the consumer is going to pay a lot more.The second picture shows the difference between ocean bright chum, and one that is ready for the creek. The closer they get to fresh water, the more pronounced the purple and green stripes on their bodies becomes. They are tremendous fighters, and are a lot of fun to catch, but they can be a challenge. For one, you have to troll R E A L L Y slow for them, like one to one and half knots. They seem to prefer a smaller hoochie since they are primarily plankton eaters, although I've caught them on bait before, and just the other day I caught four or five on a spoon that I was running for kings. I caught some really big ones this year, several over fourteen or fifteen pounds, and my friend Kevin said he caught one that weighed 24 pounds on his hand held scale. I was landing one the other day that I thought was going to tear my arm from the socket. It was like being attached to a paint mixer- holy crow! In the third picture you can see the canine teeth that the males develop as they get near the fresh water. All the better to fight over females I guess. I don't know if that's why they're called dog salmon or if it's because they're  the primary food that the mushers feed their dogs up north. Fortunately the cold storage is buying these fish in the round, which means we don't have to clean them, and of course with the guts and gills intact, they weigh more. Just land them, bleed them and toss them in the slush. The eggs of dog salmon are the largest of all the salmon and are desired by the Japanese, although I don't think that the younger folks have the same desire as their elders. Too much Western influence I guess. Anyway, if you're out fishing, keep your hooks sharp and your lines in the water. If you're not fishing, then I guess I feel sorry for you.