Friday, December 29, 2017

Pucker Up!!




Lots of people collect things- coins, books, stamps, you name it. My daughter Camille likes to collect nail polish apparently. Last time I saw her she had enough to treat the toenails of every circus elephant in the world and still have some left.I used to collect comic books when I was young. Back then they only cost a very reasonable twelve cents each. A fellow I knew in grade school used to receive three cents a week for allowance. At the end of the month he had enough to go buy a comic book.How pathetic. His first name was Hampton and he seemed kind of like a three cent a week fellow. He's probably worth millions now. Anyway, displayed in the above picture is a varied assortment of lip balms. They belong to my daughter Jen. I'm not sure if they qualify as an actual collection, because she uses them all. In fact I think she's addicted to lip balm. She let me keep her stash overnight and the next morning she was getting kind of panicky because she claimed her lips were drying out and getting chapped. I find that hard to believe. Unless she had a 1200 watt hair dryer stationed directly over her mouth and turned on full bore, I don't think they could possibly dry  out for the next six weeks or more. She can't go more than a few minutes without reaching in to her pocket and applying a liberal smear of balm to those sun baked lips. Just this Christmas alone she ended up with I think six different lip products- no lipstick, just balms. Lets see, there's Fruit Smoothie, Berry Explosion, Melon Medley, Peaches and Cream and Triple Tropical which I believe are Blistex products. Blistex. I don't think I would have chosen that for a name of a product that I wanted people to believe would be beneficial to the well being of my mouth. It sounds like if you used it you'd get lip blisters. Guess it must work though. She's also got some stuff in a round tin that says Lip Shit. That too doesn't sound like something that I would care to apply to any area of my body. However, the name is catchy, so who knows. The round, purple thing  that looks kind of like R2-D2 is made by EOS or maybe that's what it's called. I couldn't find any more information on it. When you take off the lid there's a round ball inside that I assume is covered in some magical feel  good stuff for your lips. It reminds me of the ball that used to be part of the roll on deodorants people used. There's some Diamond Lip Treatment in the pink tube, some Alaskan Naturals Vanilla Moose Moose Lips Alaskan Size lip balm, some Honey House vanilla berry lip butter- at first I thought it said Honkey House, but I was wrong, some Perfectly Posh caffeinated lip balm that says Lip service 24/7 sweet lemon chiffon, and last but not least some stuff that Jan bought for her that is shaped like a green candy cane. It only mentions that it was made in China, so I'd be leery of using that stuff. Anyway, when it comes to protection for her lips, I think Jen will be covered for awhile.No doubt hundreds of years from now, should grave robbers raid her coffin, all they would find would be a skeleton with lips. Empty eye sockets and a pair of plump lips. What a sight.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Who Needs A Savior?



Christmas is just a week away. Like many people in the country, especially here in Alaska where mail can be hard to send or receive because of weather, I'm waiting for some gifts to arrive. I ordered in plenty of time, but competition for space on the cargo planes or mail trucks or however the packages get transported is at an all time high, so I'm waiting and hoping they get here in a timely manner. Unless you're buying a random gift for someone you don't really care about, like the fellow whose name you drew from the hat for the office Christmas party, you probably want to give a gift that means something. If you love someone, you spend a little time searching for something that they want or need.We want to give them something that shows we care. If we, in all our flaws and weaknesses care, how much more does God care? There was a slogan some years back, I can't recall the business, I think it was the FTD florists. The slogan was- When you care enough to send the very best.That pretty much sums up Christmas. Our heavenly father didn't hold anything back. He sent His very best. John 3:16 states-For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Everlasting life. It's the ultimate gift. You can't order it on Amazon or drive down to the mall to pick it up, but it's available if you want it. You can't buy it. All the money in the world wouldn't be enough. You can't earn it. There's no way you could be good enough. All you have to do is receive it. I'm reminded of that Far Side cartoon, by Gary Larson. It shows God in the kitchen. On the shelf there are assorted boxes;birds and insects and krill. The earth is in a pan on the stove and God has a salt shaker that says Jerks. He's giving it a pretty good shake. The caption is-"Just to make it interesting." I always laugh when I think of it, perhaps because I can relate. When it comes to being a jerk, I guess I'd have a place in the Jerk Hall of Fame. The sorry part is, I wouldn't be alone. I'd have lots of company. We don't even have to turn on the news or purchase a newspaper to see first hand the results of turning from God. It's apparent right in our own towns. You don't have to look too hard. The title for this blog post is Who needs a savior? The answer is, I do, and I would venture to say you do too. I hope that in all the busyness of the season, you will take some time to reflect on what Christmas is really about. It's truly something to celebrate. I wish all of you a blessed Christmas.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Decorating- Alaskan Style







 For the first ten years that I lived in Alaska, the only way that I was aware that it was Christmas was to look at the calendar, or perhaps take a trip into town during December. The farm, where I lived, was run by a Christian organization that didn't celebrate Christmas. At least not all the outward appearances that are so common in the country today. We had no trees indoors, except for the ones we cut down and chopped up for firewood. There were no decorations or gifts or fancy dinners. There was nothing to distinguish Christmas from any other day of the year. On the one hand I could understand the doctrine. The commercialization of Christmas that is so prevalent now bears little resemblance to the reason we celebrate the holiday. For so many people Christmas is a time of great stress- too much busyness, too much pressure, too much money spent, and for some, too much time spent alone. All that being said, here in the North country, the nights are long and cold, and Christmas provides us with a good reason to dress up our homes and businesses with tinsel and lights and ornaments. It's nice to pass by a place that has some colored lights in the window and some streamers of garland draped around the tree.  When I came to town to live, I decided that it would be fun to decorate the house a little. For thirty years, more or less, we've strung garland and lights on the front porch and hung lights and tinsel in the windows. It breaks the monotony and drabness of a dark winter night. Here in Hoonah I've seen homes with the outdoor lights still strung up well into March and beyond. More power to them I guess. I was out at the Forest Service building and one of the employees decided to add a little Christmas cheer to the usual displays. As you can see, in place of a mantle to hang a stocking, there is the open mouth of a small brown bear. I hope Santa exercises caution when he goes to fill it. An art project from some of the local kids is dressed up with a few Christmas bows, and the display of bear skulls has a ribbon of green garland framing it. Up above the cross tree on a troller down at the marine storage facility, a bald eagle serves as a sort of tree topper. Even the dog gets dressed up this time of year when it gets cold and snowy outside. He's wearing his ugly sweater, complete with little jingle bells that go tinkling with every step he takes. His biggest challenge is to keep from peeing on his sweater when he lifts his leg. Apparently the sweater is a little big. As he was walking  through the snow on his way to sniff out another dog's marking, he stepped on the back of the sweater and ended up walking out of it, right through the collar. I guess he needs something a little smaller, but kids, please don't send him any more. He's got a pumpkin suit upstairs in the closet as well as a red rain coat- neither of which he cares for. If he wasn't so old I'd try to get him a hot dog bun sweater, like the wiener dogs in the Heinz commercial, but I don't want to humiliate the poor fellow. In any event, I hope that you'll take some time this year to go out and enjoy the light displays that your neighbors have set up.  If you're with the electric company, I hope you'll be giving out generous bonuses and if you're just a schmuck like me who likes to decorate the house, thanks for making Christmas a little brighter.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mom






   I received a call from my older brother, Mark on Monday night. Our mother, Barbara Jean Botts succumbed to the disease that had been plaguing her for several years. It was a call that I both dreaded and almost welcomed. She's spent the last two and a half years in the memory care unit at the Kingston assisted living facility in Marion Ohio suffering with Alzheimer's Disease. I think most people are familiar with the disease and how it robs those afflicted with it of their minds and bodies over time. Towards the end she was sleeping 20-22 hours a day so that even the possibility of calling and carrying on a conversation was almost impossible. I don't want to dwell on her last days though.   For the past few days I've gone over memories from my past. The struggle to get us kids zipped up in our snow suits, and searching for gloves and hats in an overstuffed closet so we could go out in the snow and play, and ten minutes later having to deal with the whole zipper thing again because someone forgot to go pee before they left the house. The carefully wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree. It always surprised me that Santa and Mom had the same hand writing. The wonderful meals she cooked; never anything too fancy, just  good home cooking. The backyard barbeque's with friends and neighbors on a warm summer evening. Getting us ready for a night of Trick or Treating on Halloween. It seems like I was always a tramp, though I may have dressed like a woman once. It's funny what you remember.
 She was always Mom to me. The only time I ever called her Mommy was on a family excursion in Mohican State forest one fall day.We were on a hike and Dad thought it would be quicker if we left the trail and tried climbing a rather steep hill. We were slowly making our way to the top when Mom stepped on a piece of loose debris and started sliding down the hill. In a split second I had visions of her lifeless body at the bottom and a future without her. Thankfully, after about fifty feet she stopped sliding and was able to stand up. We found the trail again and made it back to the car before sundown. She was scratched and bruised, and we were all shaken up, but other than that she was fine.
 Mom was pretty low key. She seldom got dressed before noon, and spent long sessions on the phone talking to her neighbors. As was common when I grew up, Dad went to work and Mom stayed home with us kids. She always kept a neat house and more importantly, she was there when we came home, whether from school or playing in the neighborhood. I don't doubt that I caused her grief and more than a little heartache or heartburn growing up, but she never dwelt on that.
   Mom didn't learn to drive until her and Dad and my two younger brothers moved out into the country to a new house. I guess she didn't have much choice if she wanted to buy groceries or visit her friends. I think she was darn near fifty when she got her license. Dad bought her a big red Pontiac, about half the size of a school bus and it amused me to see this little woman in such a big car.
 She had a few odd habits. Mom would make four or five cups of hot tea each day, and then leave the cups half empty, scattered around the house. For reasons I never understood, she would occasionally get a desire for some crushed ice, so she would grab out a few ice cubes, hold them in her hand and smack them with the back of a butter knife so she could chew the shattered pieces. Whenever she was using ground beef for a meal she would break off a little bit and eat it raw. To the best of my knowledge she never got sick because of it. She loved playing Scrabble, and if you entered her home, it was almost certain you wouldn't be able to leave without playing a game or two. In all my years growing up at home I think I only observed her with her hair down three or four times. She always wore it up in a bun. I never asked why, it's just the way it was. One of the last times I visited her she had bought a wig that she wore. I'm not sure if it was because of thinning hair or because she didn't want to look older because of her hair turning white.
If you were to search for her name in a book of Who's Who in America, you wouldn't find it there.  She never held public office or cured a disease or ran a corporation. What she did do was to be a good wife and mother and friend and citizen. Things that really matter.
I miss her, and I suspect I will miss her for the rest of my life. Not the person who was stricken with Alzheimer's, but the Mom I grew up with. I'm glad that she's free from the confusion and fear that she experienced in her final years and that she's finally at rest. She's earned it.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Mr Cookies







 I baked some chocolate chip cookies for my mother this past week. She's in an assisted living home back in Ohio, and like many elderly people, she's developed quite a sweet tooth. She never used to eat too many sugary snacks, but  time has had a way of changing all that. Anyway, I wanted to send her a little something. It wouldn't be very practical to send her down some turkey and stuffing, so I opted for some Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip cookies. I've only baked them once before that I recall. I was baking them for Mom last year, and I had my friend Whitney, the downs syndrome fellow helping me. He had never baked them either, so it was an experience for both of us. While he was stirring the mix, he sneezed right into the bowl. We ended up sending that batch to HIS mother. Fortunately the heat from the oven must have killed any germs. I had the same problem this time that I had last time. I followed the directions to a T, but the cookies kept creeping in to each other. As I recall, the directions said to use a tablespoon of batter per cookie, which I did, but it didn't seem to matter. They were attracted to each other like the two poles of a magnet. They were almost big enough to use as targets for shotguns, like clay pigeons. The difference is that you could eat these. Actually, that's not a bad idea. If cookies were used instead of clay pigeons, after they were shot, you wouldn't have to deal with the mess. Either the birds or raccoons or some other wild animal could come and clean up afterward. They could almost be used for Frisbee's too. In fact they would probably be the perfect size for playing Frisbee golf. As you can see from the forth picture, trying to separate cookies that have an attraction for each other is very difficult. It's like breaking up  a family, very traumatic. At first I thought that I would just eat any of the broken ones. When it became apparent, after about the third giant cookie, that if I ate all the broken ones, not only would I have very few to send to Mom, but I would put on an additional few pounds that I'm trying desperately to keep off. Losing weight in Alaska in the winter is almost a joke. Not only do I spend more time inside sitting around, but I get hit with the double whammy of Thanksgiving and Christmas. To top it off, certain family members think they are showing Jan and I love by sending candy or fudge or cookies. I should send them a picture of us naked so they can see the damage that they've done. I can promise you that never again would we be the recipients of such goodies. Nothing but The Fruit of the Month Club or gym equipment for us. Back to the cookies. When I got near the end of the cookie dough, I was forced to put less on each spoon to kind of stretch it. They actually came out looking pretty good, although by comparison they seemed a little small. On the plus side though, they were easier to get off the baking sheet because I was only trying to remove one at a time. When I was trying to package them for shipment, I had to lift them en-mass into the gallon freezer bag. If I'd tried to separate them, there would have been nothing but crumbs for Mom. This way she can bite off as much as she wants. The Keebler elf I am not, but if my idea of chocolate chip clay pigeons ever catches on, I'll have a full time job in my retirement.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day 2017





Today is Veterans Day. It was first celebrated to mark the end of WWI and the Allied victory. In a number of cities across the country there are parades to honor those who have served and who are still serving in the military. A number of restaurants have chosen to honor the vets by serving free meals, including I Hop, Applebees, TGI Friday's, Outback, and Hooters. Apparently there are a number of others as well, not mentioned here. I find that admirable.  Of course, because this is America, and because millions of young men and women have made the sacrifices that it takes to serve in the military, we have enjoyed freedom in this country. That freedom even extends to those who hate the military or the government or the president or people like myself who don't agree with them. I see that Bradley (Chelsea)Manning had something degrading to say, and some students at Brown University felt the need to go around and rip up flags that were set in the ground on the campus. I don't doubt that is some of the milder stuff that has happened. Personally, I'd like to go through and rip them a new one, but they're entitled to their opinions, even as I am. As President Ronald Reagan mentioned, -if those who are protesting got the kind of government that they want, they wouldn't be able to do the things that they're doing. That fact gets lost in all the liberal teaching that is being passed off as an education on so many campuses today. It saddens and frustrates me, and I fear that one day this country will most certainly reap what it has sown and the things that they yearn for, they'll get. I would encourage them to take a good look at Venezuela to see what they can look forward to if they get what they want. In any event, this post isn't about the dissenters and anarchists, it's about the vets. Vice President Pence gave a speech today at Arlington National Cemetery, and one thing stood out to me. He mentioned that the benefits that vets receive aren't entitlements, they've been earned by the sacrifices of the vets and their families. I was very happy to hear him say that. My family has proudly served in the military down through the years, from my grandfather during WWI, to my father at the end of WWII to myself during the Vietnam War, to both of my sons. As the saying goes, freedom isn't free. So, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to my fellow vets, wherever you are. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. God bless and keep you.

Monday, November 6, 2017

My Dog is Sick


 A few weeks ago, Jan and I decided to send in our eleven year old daschund, Rigby, in to the vets. He'd been having problems with peeing on the floor, and getting up two or three times a night to go outside to pee. We noticed that he was drinking an uncommon amount of water as well. Needless to say, the interruptions played havoc with our sleep patterns. Jan was gone for a few weeks, so all the babysitting was left to me. I slept with the bedroom  door slightly cocked open so he could push his way in and wake me up in the night. It wasn't any too restful to say the least. On more than one occasion he pushed open the door after he had already peed on the floor outside my room. Lovely. Anyway, we finally decided to send him in and see what the vet had to say. I was reluctant to send him in, I knew the bill would be a doozy, and I also hate to put him through the trauma of going into a kennel and transporting him on the plane. I'd rather be in the cage myself. I know, I know, he's terribly spoiled. I knew that would happen if I had a dog. I also knew that vet bills would be part of having a pet, and that when a mammal eats, it also produces waste. All things that I didn't want to deal with. Just today I was checking the anti-freeze in the truck when I stepped in a pile. I was really happy to have to find an old tooth brush and give my shoe a thorough cleaning during my lunch hour. I just finished and decided to don my slippers and go back to finish the job. I promptly found another pile hidden in the gravel of the driveway. I love my dog dearly, but I'll never have another. My heart will break when he passes on, but as we enter our golden years, there is less and less gold to go around, and his latest vet bill is going to set us back about $1,000.00. Plus his meds, which apparently he has to be on for the remainder of his life, costs an additional $72.00 a month. The hits just keep on coming folks. The bottom line is that he has Cushing's Disease. I guess it's caused by small tumors on the pituitary gland, causing it to put out too much  cortisol. The end result is the uncommon thirst, the need to urinate frequently, a rather large abdomen (not totally the result of the disease), and some hair loss. As it was, he was already taking thyroid medicine. Two pills a day. He has hypothyroidism. Unbelievably, so do Jan and I. All three of us are taking meds for it. What are the odds? In any event, if things keep going the way they are, all three of us will be sharing  the dog food, because we won't be able to afford both the medicine and food. Isn't life grand?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Trick or Treat?


As most of us who live in the U S know, last night was Halloween. It's a night when multitudes of children dress in costumes and go around the neighborhood knocking on doors and asking for candy. Of course the popular phrase when someone answers the door is "Trick or Treat! I recall years ago hearing from some friends, that the neighborhood where they used to live had one old grouch who, when the kids spouted their usual phrase shouted "Trick!" and poured soup in their bags. No doubt he would have been a candidate for the flaming bag of dog crap landing on his front porch. I have to admit that Halloween isn't my favorite holiday, but I go along with it. I remember it being a highlight of the year when I was a kid, and I don't want to rob other children of the chance to enjoy it. I do, however, like to have a little fun too. Last year when one group of kids came knocking, I answered the door and said that we didn't have any candy, but I'd be glad to give them some meatloaf. The leader of the pack looked a little crestfallen and said he didn't like meatloaf and turned to leave. Of course we stopped him and made sure he left with some more desirable loot. His father was escorting the kids, and couldn't stop laughing. He's mentioned it several times over the course of the year. This year, I thought I'd try something different and offer the kids a choice of Cream of Mushroom soup, a can of spinach or an instant lunch, like a Cup O Noodles. The first kid that knocked on the door was a nice little guy from down the street. When Jan mentioned that we didn't have candy, but we had soup. spinach or Cup O Noodles, he kind of mumbled that he didn't really like noodles. I don't believe he was all that fond of the other two choices either. Fortunately we had a bowl full of more desirable treats to share. We offered the alternate gifts to most of the kids who came knocking, with the exception of those too young, who in later years might be traumatized by the event. There were a few kids who liked the idea of the noodle soup, although no one seemed in the least bit interested in the cream of mushroom. At the end of the night, the same kid who was offered the meat loaf came by. When Jan offered him his choice of alternate treats, he piped in that he wanted the spinach. Since he was the last beggar of the night, I don't doubt that he left with an ample supply of candy, and Jan threw in the can of spinach as well. When he was walking off the porch he exclaimed to his father-"Hey Dad! I got a can of spinach!"  Oh Boy! Snickers and spinach, who could ask for more? Jan and I were both a little surprised that there weren't more kids out and about last night, but I guess that when the treats involve meatloaf, spinach, noodle or mushroom soup, you only attract a certain clientele. In any event, we didn't have to extinguish any flaming bags of excrement last night. Thank God we had some candy in case our other offerings weren't acceptable.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Move Over Smucker's There's a New Kid in Town

crab apples

Weighing them on the scale

Jen doing the tedious work of cutting them up

After they're cooked

Running them through the seive

The final product
  Several weeks ago, as I had mentioned, my daughter, Jen, and I went out on a rainy afternoon and raided the crab apple tree in front of our church. Last year it had actually fallen over because most of the branches were on one side of the tree, and a wind storm had knocked it over. Fortunately, our pastor is a tree person with the U. S. Forest Service, and there is an arborist out at the farm and with the help of some machinery, they managed to right it and secure it with ropes and stakes. They were so successful that the tree bore a bumper crop of fruit this year. I don't know what got into me, I guess that ancient desire to prepare for the upcoming winter, but in any event, I had a hankering for some crab apple jelly. I'm not even sure I've ever eaten crab apple jelly before, but nonetheless, I wanted some, and since I've never seen it on any of the store shelves, I thought I'd make my own. I discovered that it's quite a labor of love. First of course we had to get the crab apples off the tree, which was a feat in itself. I used a ladder, but the tree is located on a hill, which also happens to be lumpy, so standing on the ladder was a real challenge. I convinced Jen to go up the ladder and I would hold it for her. Foolish girl, she should know better. However, I needed her help after the harvest, so made sure to hang on tight, and no one got hurt. It wasn't until after we had tempted fate that I got the brilliant idea to get a rake and a tarp, and rake the tree and catch the fruit when it fell. Oh well, I'll know next time. Once we got the fruit home, it had to be sorted and washed in the sink. Then it had to be cut up. The stems and blossoms had to be removed and any unsightly bruises needed to be taken out. These things aren't much bigger than a marble, so by the time the parts that needed removed, were, there wasn't much to them. Thank God we didn't need to core or peel them or we'd only be left with a whiff of the original fruit. According to the Certo pectin box, we needed to have 3 1/2 pounds of cut up fruit to make a batch of jelly. We got them cut up, weighed, and dropped into a large pan of water and started cooking them. Eventually they were rendered down to a pink mush and they were soft enough to put through a sieve. You can use cheesecloth  too, but fortunately a friend had a sieve we were able to borrow. Once we extracted all the juice we could, we added a packet of Certo and seven and a half cups of sugar. Not a cheap operation. The jars were $12.00 a case, the Certo was $7.00, the sugar was probably another $3.00 or so. A little spendy, but when I did the math, we still came out cheaper than if we were to buy jelly from the store. The whole operation took about  three hours or so, but it was so worth it. I wish that when the kids were little we had done something like this. It was really fun, and I had the pleasure of spending time with my daughter. I still haven't tried the jelly yet. I wanted to use the store bought stuff that was already opened first, and I kind of want to wait until the winter winds start blowing before I crack open a jar, and even in the unlikely event that it tastes like crap, I'll at least have the memory of making it with my daughter, and you can't buy memories in a store.

Friday, October 13, 2017

It's Harvest Time in Hoonah





  I'm not sure what's happening in the rest of the country, but here in Hoonah a harvest of some of the fruits of the land have been taking place lately. Actually, all year long is harvest time here if you consider the different seasons each offers. In the spring, fishing for King Salmon and halibut are on a lot of people's minds. I believe that's when folks go out to get their seaweed from select spots as well. During a large ebb tide, when the water falls below the mean low water mark, or minus tide, certain rocks provide an anchor for a particular kind of seaweed that the natives have harvested for years. I understand that it's high in Iodine which I believe prevents goiters. "Look Ma, no goiters! I've been eating my seaweed." They dry it out and put it in freezer bags and put it in the freezer. I think they like to cook with it in soups and it's popular to have with herring eggs, another spring time favorite. The herring spawn on kelp and rocks and it's a tradition to put spruce branches in the water for the fish to spawn on. One of the local boats makes a trip to Sitka every year to lay branches in the water and harvest the eggs. When he comes back to town, the word spreads and cars line up all over downtown to meet the boat at the city dock. People walk down with garbage bags and plastic totes and whatever else they can find to fill with the eggs. As spring turns to summer, dog salmon and sockeyes start to run. Dog salmon have the biggest eggs of all the salmon and for some folks they are a delicacy. I've tried them cooked in scrambled eggs once out at the farm. We managed to ruin a whole case of eggs  doing that. The fellow whose brilliant idea it was, loved to experiment. He thought that it would provide us with extra protein. That only works if you can eat it. Anyway, water under the bridge. The sockeyes are coveted for their oily flesh, which makes for some excellent smoked fish. A number of people go out and cut down Alder trees to put in their smoke houses.Alder provides a lovely smoke that flavors the salmon with the most delightful taste. I've got a partial case of smoked sockeye in the pantry right now that will be tapped sparingly throughout the winter to try and make it last. Coho salmon run from mid-June until September, and a number of people, especially those without boats, wait until the fish start to run up the rivers where they can catch them from the banks. With the beginning of September, it's the official start of the "R" months, when it's supposed to be safe to eat the clams and cockles that are prolific on the beaches around here. Shellfish are filter feeders and sift out what they need to survive from the water. If the water has something like red tide, the folks that eat the shellfish can contact Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. I guess there's less chance of that happening during the months that have R in them, because the water is colder and the algae is less able to survive.Of course,year round, folks that have boats and pots harvest Dungeness crabs and shrimp, if they can find them. The crabs are fairly easy to catch, the shrimp require a little more skill or luck. Unfortunately, what happens on occasion is that a fellow goes out to check his crab pot and someone else has already been there before him. That always starts off a round of suspicion about various folks who have a reputation of showing up with an uncommon number of crabs. King crabs live in the bay as well, but to the best of my knowledge they aren't allowed to be harvested. I've caught them on a number of occasions when I was halibut fishing, but I'm not allowed to keep them. Sitka Blacktail deer are abundant on the island, and the season opens for bucks only on August 1. Personally I've never hunted them then. They are almost always on top of the mountains during that time and I'm neither young enough, strong enough or ambitious enough to pursue them then. Actually that describes me now as well. Hunting is a lot of work, and I've found that I can go to Costco and get the meat I need for less than the cost of bullets, gasoline, and wear and tear on my body. Of course it's not near as much fun walking through the isles at Costco as it is rambling through the woods, but so far I haven't had to worry about bears when I was shopping. When most folks think of harvest time, they think about pumpkins or Indian corn. We don't grow either here. There is not enough darkness in the summer to grow corn, but if it grew in the winter, we would have bumper crops. I'm not sure why we don't grow pumpkins, I suspect it's too cold and not enough sun. We do grow cherries, apples, plums and lots of berries. Blueberries, salmon berries, raspberries, huckleberries and nagoon berries. The neighbor behind me has a plum tree that produced so many plums the branches were threatening to break from the weight. I've never seen so much fruit on one tree in my life. The cherries didn't fair too well this year, but I think I have some from last year in the freezer still, and a few weeks ago I made a delightful apple crisp out of some apples I picked from Jen's trees a year ago. This year I don't know if there will be enough to make even a pie. Jen and I went up to the church last week and harvested a couple grocery bags full of crab apples from the tree out front. We're going to try to make some crab apple jelly. Of course by the time we figure in the pectin, the sugar, the jars and the work that goes in to harvesting them, each pint will probably be worth about ten dollars, but it's awfully hard to put a price on something you harvest yourself. Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October Delight






  This past weekend was absolutely gorgeous. Sunday was the kind of fall day that you want to imprint on your memory and drag out in the middle of January when yet another winter storm is raging and the landscape is covered in snow. I grabbed up Jan and Jen and we took a ride out to False Bay, a delightful little spot down Chatham Strait. We passed over the Spasski River and saw a number of Humpies  enjoying their last hurrah. They were looking pretty washed up, with large splotches of rotting flesh on their bodies and tails all tattered. We were hoping to see some bears or deer, but the only other wildlife that showed themselves were a number of daring squirrels that dashed across the road in front of the truck. It wasn't too much of a feat actually; the truck was unable to pick up speed from the bridge all the way out to False Bay. We couldn't travel twenty feet without running in to a pot hole, and usually not just one, but a whole succession of them. It was like the engineers had used a slice of swiss cheese for a template and applied it to the road. Twenty eight miles of bliss. It took almost two hours to get out there. I think I could have traveled faster if I'd been stuck in a traffic jam in L A. When we were most of the way to our destination we came upon an old Geo or dilapidated Suburu or some such thing parked right in the middle of the road. The owner is a fellow who has been accused a number of times of stealing fuel from various fuel tanks around town. However, he was loading up some firewood into the back of his car, so maybe he's changed fuel sources. I'm fairly sure he isn't the one who felled the tree. It certainly wouldn't make sense to run twenty miles out of town across a pot hole laden road to pick up enough firewood to heat your house for half a day. I'll say this for him, he's an opportunist. In any event, we had to wait until he had finished loading a round into the back seat and pulled over. When we finally arrived at our destination, two local teachers were eating a snack at the picnic tables. They had driven their car part way out and then decided to bike the rest of the way. They finished up and headed on down the road toward the area known locally as meals on wheels because of the large bear population. They didn't have any guns but they seemed confident that the bear spray and  noise makers they had would be adequate.  I guess they were right because I saw their car in town yesterday. The day was bright and sunny but cool so Jan stayed in the truck while Jennifer and I walked along the beach looking for interesting drift. She found a grocery bag and put it to work collecting oyster shells and a few barnacles and a nice piece of driftwood. If she could have, she would have walked half way back to Hoonah on the beach. I know the feeling. I wish my body would allow me to walk further and faster, but my days of long walks have passed, sadly. It's not all bad though. As you age you learn to compensate, and when the chance to go on  a drive on a nice fall day arrives, you take it and thank God for the opportunity. Anyway, it was a day to remember and I was pleased to be able to enjoy it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

2017 Fishing Season- All Done but the Crying









 Well, the 2017 fishing season is pretty much in the bag. At least as far as the cohos go. Without a doubt, it was the best year I've ever had in the thirty nine years I've been commercial fishing. One of the most fun for sure. For  most of July we had the best weather I'd ever seen. Day after day of calm seas, coupled with a steady run of cohos passing through Icy Strait from the beginning of the season to the end. We had so many good weather days that I was starting to wish for a little storm to pass through just so I could get some rest. Frankly, I was exhausted. Catching too many fish isn't the kind of thing that you want to bitch about too loud though. "Oh gee, I'm so tired of making all this money." Of course being  money, it comes and goes like the tide. I look at my checkbook and wonder where it all went. I know I made some, but where's it at? I learned years ago that when you have a good season, you need to invest in your business. Get the new equipment you need. Have a few more planks replaced, order the fishing gear that you might need next year now, don't wait. The money may not be there next year. For as good as the season was, there were still a few drawbacks. My radar went out on me-twice! I spoke to the technician who worked on it down in Sitka and asked if this particular model of Furuno radar was known for having problems. He assured me it wasn't. "It's just that all of your issues with the radar are so strange!" Go figure. Why can't I have normal problems like everyone else? Of course, maybe there really isn't any such thing as normal problems. Anyway, the last day I had a desperate desire to make the trip across Icy Strait to Homeshore. The water was calm, but the day dawned foggy as my brain when I first awaken. Unfortunately, it stayed foggy on the Homeshore side until after 3:00 PM. It takes me an hour and half just to go over there and of course the same to come back, so going wasn't really an option. Of course my friend Fagan was sure to let me know what a great day he had. Seventy five compared to the sixteen I had to settle for on this side of the Strait. Oh well, that's life. One nice thing about being out on the boat, you never know what you're going to see. I liked the rainbow quite a bit. We actually get quite a few around here because of it being a rainforest. I came into the bay recently and a pair of yearling Brown bears were walking along the beach at high tide, maybe searching for any dead fish that washed up onto the gravel. They're pretty industrious in their food search, and not that picky. Some bears will dig up rocks on the beach to get whatever marine creatures are hiding there. If there aren't any fish they'll dig clams or eat beach grass, or skunk cabbage. A few years ago there was a whale carcass on the beach out past Point Sophia that seemed to attract quite an audience. I can't imagine how they could get past the smell to scarf down any of that rotting flesh, but they don't seem to be particular. They used to go up to the dump and were known to munch down on Pampers. All the more reason not to eat one of those bruins. On another day I was in the bay when I spotted what I thought was a pair of porpoises. As it turned out they were just a couple small Orcas. Later I spotted one of the adults. I think they send out a scouting group in advance. As you can imagine, the fishing took a turn for the worse for awhile. The bottom picture shows two cruise ships, one tied to the dock and one anchored close by. I believe that was another day that it was foggy in the morning. I was sweating blood trying to make sure I didn't get in their path. There would be nothing but splinters and paint if I was to have an encounter with one of those monsters. One day we had three of the damn things in port at once. One was getting ready to leave, one was anchored out and another one was wanting to tie up. Way too many ships. It's my understanding that next year there is going to be a ship every day. I wouldn't bitch so loud if I could collect a fifty cent head tax from each passenger to offset the aggravation. I can pretty much guarantee that isn't going to happen. Anyway, I still need to try to catch 652 lbs of halibut for the city before October 10. On the eleventh the winter king season will open. I'm hoping to go catch a handful. It would be a nice way to end the fishing season.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Are You a River Or a Reservoir?



  Unless you've been living in a cave without any opportunity to hear the news and stay abreast of current events, you most likely know that Houston Texas was hit with a devastating hurricane  a week or so ago. It appears that Florida may also be in line for a pounding from the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. To say the least, the devastation is overwhelming. Honestly, I can't imagine what those poor folks are going through. Can you imagine losing your home, having to evacuate to a shelter with a whole bunch of other people whom you don't know, depending on someone else to provide you with a place to sleep, something to eat, perhaps something to wear. Privacy would go out the window. I don't doubt that everyone is stressed to the max from the storm. Throw in crying babies, confused elderly folks, the total lack of creature comforts, the lack of almost everything you're familiar with, and most likely the fact that you can't return to your job if it's in the flood zone. It sounds like a nightmare to me. All that being said, I saw on TV a number of folks who stepped up to the plate and helped their neighbors, or even perfect strangers. There was a need and they met it. It's the way it should be and it's heartening. Most of us don't live in Texas or Louisiana and aren't directly impacted by the hurricane. Every night since Hurricane Harvey, I've laid down in my soft, comfortable bed with clean sheets. I get up in the morning and have a few cups of coffee and some breakfast, go get a long, hot shower and go to the closet and dresser to choose what clothes I want to wear that day. I sit in my easy chair and read my bible, turn on the TV and watch the news and enjoy the relative quiet of my living room. A lot of folks down in Texas and Louisiana don't get to enjoy even the most elementary comforts that I do right now. Through no fault of their own, their lives have been turned upside down. From what I can gather, it's going to take a lot of work, and a lot of time - perhaps even years to get Houston and surrounding areas back up and running totally. It's going to take time and it's going to take money. A lot of it. The government will help out of course, and if you pay taxes, you're indirectly helping I suppose. However, I hope that you will examine your hearts, and put yourself in the place of those folks and see if you could send a little something to help out. Personally, I like Samaritan's Purse. The Salvation Army is also a very good organization when it comes to helping out in natural disasters. Obviously the Red Cross is doing a lot down there. I know that I've been blessed, and as a christian, I have an obligation to help those in need.It's the right thing to do. I've often heard it said that you can't out give God, and I know that it's true. The bible says that those that give to the poor are lending to God. He's going to repay, with interest! So I'll ask, are you a river, or a reservoir? Will you let the blessings that you have flow out and bless others in their time of need or will you try to hoard it all? I assure you, if you give, then at a time when you may have a need, it will be met. Please be generous and help out our fellow Americans in their time of need. Thanks so much, and God bless you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Cell Phone Mishap


For a number of years I avoided  having a cell phone. I didn't like the fact that everyone seemed to be connected to them like they were an integral part of their bodies. At the airport, as soon as people entered the terminal, out came the cell phones and they proceeded to call or text whomever. In the store I was privy to private or what should have been private conversations while I was checking out the baby carrots or cucumbers. On those occasions when I have to take a trip to Juneau on the ferry, it's not uncommon for three four or more conversations to be going on right in the main lounge, regardless of the time of day or night or who might be listening, intentionally or otherwise. I find cell phones very invasive. When we get together as a family during the holidays, cell phones seem to be part of the table setting,alongside the plates, silverware and napkins. Personally, I think people spend entirely too much time on them. That being said, several years ago when Jan and I were traveling down south, we were visiting our daughter Amber in Iowa in the fall. After we left and were on our way to the hotel, a tornado splashed down in the immediate area. We had no way to get in touch with the hotel, which had lost power and was totally black inside, so we passed by it several times looking for it. We couldn't contact our daughter or anyone else for that matter. It runs in my mind that we stopped at a roadside rest stop to use a pay phone which didn't work, and ended up driving almost to the Nebraska border before we could find a place to land for the night. That should have cemented it right there, we needed a cell phone, at least for traveling. However, being the ever wise man that I am, I held out a little longer- until fishing season. Most of the rest of the fleet conversed on cell phones as apposed to using the VHF radio, which used to be the most common way to call each other. I'm not too proud to admit that I frequently listened in on radio conversations between fellow fishermen to try and determine where they were fishing and if they were doing better than me, which they almost always were. My friend Fagan Skafelstad, who is a very good fisherman, finally told me he wouldn't talk to me on the VHF- I needed to get a cell phone if I wanted to know where he was and how he was doing. I still held out until a few years ago when I was going on a trip south to visit Buffalo Bob in Vermont. Jan was visiting her mother in Wisconsin, and we needed to be able to communicate, so I broke down and bought a cheap go phone from AT&T. It came in really handy, letting my friends and family know where I was and when I would be at such and such a place. I'm still not a big fan of them, but they do serve a purpose. Of course so does the atomic bomb in the right circumstances. Anyway, several days ago I was working on the boat. My phone was in my front pocket and I was doing chores in preparation for going back out fishing. I dumped the water out of my slush bag, which flowed into the bilge where the float switch should have activated the bilge pump. I waited for a moment, but the pump didn't come on. I opened the cover to expose the bilge and bent over to check the switch.When I did, the el-cheapo phone fell right into the bilge, swimming with the grease, fish blood, salt water, oily residue and whatever dirt and debris  had called the bilge home. I promptly pulled it out and rushed home to rinse it in cold water. For a moment, the phone buzzed and hummed and acted like it might make it, but alas, it's life was short lived. I looked on line to see what could be done to rescue it, and was surprised at the number of people who have dropped their phones into water. The most common being the toilet bowl. I don't know which is worse, the bilge or the toilet, but there is something less repulsive about the bilge. I can't help but wonder why people feel the need to take their phones into the bathroom with them, but it is what it is I guess. In any event, I now am the owner of a new, more expensive, more complicated phone which I now have to learn how to use. While there is always a chance that I MAY drop it into the drink or the bilge, there is almost no chance that I will ever be fishing it out of the toilet.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Raising the Roof






  When we first came on the scene in Hoonah, house fires were a common occurrence. It seems like there were two or three every year, especially during the winter time. I suspect most often that wood stoves were involved with the possibility that alcohol may have played a factor in some instances. In recent years, there fortunately have been considerably less fires, something that both homeowners and their insurance companies are grateful for I assume. A few years ago however, a home just a few houses away caught fire. It was a relatively new home, having been built in the past six or so years. The owner had just returned from spending the winter in Nebraska. No offense, but how is Nebraska any better than Alaska for spending the winter? Anyway, the first day home he decided to make a fire in the wood stove. I can't say whether any adult beverages were involved in the unfortunate incident or not, but the bottom line is, the house caught fire.  It was one of the larger homes in Hoonah, and at the time the owner wanted to make it even larger than the three floors it was comprised of. Fortunately, planning and zoning put the kibosh on that. While I applauded that decision, the same planning and zoning group allowed a trailer to be brought in from the logging camp and un-ceremoniously wedged between two newer homes. The trailer has a roof that extends well over two feet from the edge of the walls, no rafters, just the metal roofing, so that the snow, when it accumulated, bent the roof down on the ends so that it now covers about half the wall. To this date there still isn't an occupant in the trailer. Anyway, I digress. The house you see pictured in the above photos is the same one that caught fire a few years ago. At the time, the owner had family come up from Nebraska, and in record time they took off the roof and removed the third floor and replaced the roof. Now the new owner wants to restore it to a bed and breakfast and has decided a third floor would be an asset. I don't know all the ins and outs of this little project, but somehow the contractors managed to separate the roof from the rest of the house, and with hydraulic jacks and cribbing, raised the roof and are at this moment putting in the beams and studs and all the other house building materials  necessary to enclose the third floor. It was really strange. I went out fishing one day, came back two days later and saw this. I'm sure the contractors and owner are grateful that  a storm didn't choose now to make an appearance, or they might have been replacing the second and first floors as well. Never a dull moment in Hoonah.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Breakdowns and Blessings




 I'm well aware of the fact that I haven't posted anything for awhile. It weighs on me like a lead coat, or if I were Hillary Clinton, a lead pants suit. I don't know why, it's just something else that needs done when I feel like I don't have enough time to do all the other things that need attended to. As I've mentioned here before, in the summer, my primary interest is in fishing. Blog posts, trivia, visiting and all manner of other things don't hold the same high priority. However, that being said, I'm posting now, for better of for worse. In case you don't realize it, the thing you're looking at in the upper picture is a radar stand, which is mounted on the mast. What you don't see, and what should be on that stand, is the radar. And now for my sad tale of woe.... The beginning of the salmon season this year has been painfully slow. I don't think I even caught a king salmon until June, and then I only had a total of six, versus twenty nine last year. With that in mind, I was anxious to try and catch my share of kings on the outside coast when the summer season opened on July first. As it turns out, the first was a dreadful day out on the ocean, with high winds and high seas, neither of which I will venture out in. As it happened though, I was blessed when  a friend of mine asked if I could catch him some dogs and humpies for halibut bait. Since I wasn't planning on being on the outside coast on the first I said sure. In about 5 1/2 hours I picked up about 150 humpies and six dogs. I received a good payment for them and was happy as a clam at high tide for the success. That happiness however didn't extend beyond the first of July. I spent the night in Flynn cove and started out for the coast, glad that the forecast was more reasonable for fishing. When I rounded Point Adolphus, I was met with a bank of thick fog. No problem, I had a radar which I turned on, and a GPS to guide me out through South Inian Pass and on to the ocean. Wonderful. What wasn't so wonderful was that as I was passing Lemesuire  Island, the radar decided it no longer wanted to work. As my friend Buffalo Bob would put it- it crapped the bed.  I waited until the fog lifted and went through the pass and hung a left into Elfin Cove. I borrowed a ladder from a friend at the Elfin General Store and checked to see if the problem was just a slipped belt. HA HA HA HA- of course it wasn't anything that simple! How foolish of me to think it could be! I went ahead and ran out to Cross Sound in hopes that there would be some fish biting there, but the place looked like a desert on the video sounder. No sign of fish or feed, or even birds. I spent the night at Ewe Ledge and went back through the pass on the third. I had to send the radar down to Sitka for repair. Since it was MY equipment that needed repaired, it came as no surprise when the technician called me and said he had no idea what the problem was, which always means you better have a wad of cash that will choke a horse, because this is gonna cost you.  So, here it is, two weeks after my initial attempt to get to the coast, and I guess my radar is repaired  for a mere $666.00 and  change, plus of course the cost of the freight to get it here. 666- hmmm, not a very good number according to the bible. To add salt to the wound, the boats fishing outside, which is almost everyone with a boat, are having a record year fishing for cohos. The weather has been good and everyone is making money. Actually, I should be happy about that. I've prayed that the fleet would have success. It's  not that I haven't caught any fish, it's just that I haven't caught as much as I could have that bothers me. Oh well. But that's not the end of my story, oh no, no, no.Yesterday I decided to go try Eagle Point for a few hours. It took me two hours to get there. I slowed down the boat to trolling speed and turned on the hydraulics only to hear the most ear splitting screeching emanating from my hydraulic pump. I'm not mechanically inclined, so of course all I can see is more money flying out the window. I shut off the pump and turned around to make the two hour trek back home. Fortunately my friend, Kevin Friday, who has been a real blessing to me on more than one occasion, came over and looked at the pump, determined that it was fine and made a suggestion to correct the problem. So now, even though I don't have the radar yet, it's on its way, and the hydraulic problem is fixed. I may get a chance to salvage the day and go fishing, although I have to tell you, I'm always a little on edge wondering what next. The bottom line is though, no matter what problem comes up, I'm not left without a way to correct it. God in all His mercy has sent me friends who are willing to help, and even though I'm not catching the numbers of fish that my fellow trollers on the coast are, I'm still making ends meet and then some, and I don't doubt that by the end of the season I'll be in the black and re-living the experiences I've had this season-for better of for worse.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Treasures From the Deep










  As any fisherman knows, there is no guarantee that you're going to catch something when you go out. That was made very real to me this year. For the first six or so times I went out trolling, I was skunked. It was quite a contrast to last year when I picked up  a total of 29 king salmon during the spring opening. Finally a week or so back, the fish decided to make an entrance. I was out fishing last Wednesday and picked up a few dogs, a couple of sockeyes and some pinks, which was all fine and dandy, but I really wanted to land a king. When my tattle tale spring started jumping, I could tell it was a decent king salmon on the line. When I started pulling it in with the gurdy, he was towing the 50 lb cannonball around pretty good.I was starting to get excited when the line went dead. I wasn't sure why I lost it until I examined the spoon he hit- the hook was broken in two. He swam off with the business end of the hook and I was left with a great bit of disappointment. I was pretty bummed and figured that would probably be the only king I'd get that day. Fortunately, I was dead wrong. Not long afterward the spring started jumping like a kid on a trampoline. It was  a 29 lb red king. I was pretty jazzed, and then a short time later a got another strike. When I got the fish to the surface I could see that it was even larger than the first one. That's always kind of scary. They're so powerful that one wrong move and you can lose them. Anyway, I was blessed and was able to haul him over the stern, although I thought I might suffer a hernia in the process. I really wasn't expecting anything else, but shortly before I pulled the gear I picked up a third king. The second and third ones were both whites- the meat is white instead of red, something that only happens around Glacier Bay area I understand. The two white kings had a combined weight of 59 lbs. Needless to say, I was having quite a grand time that day. While the weather is still good, and I could get the crewmember I wanted before he goes back to work, I decided to knock out my halibut quota. It took several trips, but we got it done. No really big fish- I think the largest was 101 lbs. I took my daughter Jen with me.It was her first time halibut fishing, and we all had a good time. Lots of laughs. When you're bottom fishing, you never know what you're going to get. We snagged some red tree coral, as well as some other coral that a basket star fish had taken a liking to. They are unique in that their many arms can move simultaneously rather rapidly, unlike their more sedentary cousins. They're both beautiful and kind of scary looking at the same time. I didn't take any pictures at the time, but we caught four king crabs on the set up the bay, and I think we caught a total of eight or nine wolf or money face or clown face eels. When it comes to eels I'm no expert. They were all about four feet long, and almost always they swallow the hook, making it necessary to dispatch them in order to retrieve the hooks. I've tried using them for bait before, but the halibut don't seem to like them. The meat is really white and firm. I've actually eaten it before when I gave an eel to the Chinese couple who were running Mary's Inn restaurant. It was quite tasty. We also caught a handful of skates and a few rock fish and grey cod. I guess the skate wings can be passed off as scallops. I've never tried them, I always turn them loose. Anyway, it's always a surprise to see what the sea will yield. Sometimes snails, sometimes Arrow tooth flounder, sometimes the target species. Tomorrow I'm going out to try my hand trolling for kings. The summer king salmon season is going to open Saturday, but the weather is supposed to be foul, so I may have to fish around here. In any event, I won't be posting anything for awhile. Its the busy time of year for me. Hope you all enjoy your summer.