Friday, March 30, 2018

The Village Idiot

The Village Idiot

This Bald Eagle is enjoying his perch atop the Village Idiot's trolling poles




     While the above named post might lead the reader into thinking that this post is about myself, I can soundly reject that notion and would encourage you to look closely at the stern of the boat in the top picture. As you can see, plainly or not so much so, the boat in question is none other than The Village Idiot, home ported in what used to be a lovely little fishing village on the outer coast of Chichagof Island, at the very entrance to Cross Sound. Unfortunately, like so many fine places in Alaska, the area has been taken over by the tourist industry and it's changed the whole character of the the village.I believe that there are nine lodges crammed into the harbor now, puking out an ungodly number of charter fishermen several times a day from spring to the fall every year.  I would much rather see the moniker Village Idiot on one of those boats, along with Buffoon, Knucklehead, Bumbling Oaf, Greedy Jerks, Simpleton, Lawless and any number of other uncomplimentary names. However, in the years when Elfin Cove was still primarily a fishing village, the owner of the boat, Bob Bell  and his wife Deb along with their two sons, took up fishing for a living. Bob, or Bobbo as he's known, used to be a plumber as I understand. I'm not sure why he opted out of that, I'm sure the money is good, but I guess they like a little more adventure in their lives, and fishing afforded them a chance to make a living during the more pleasant summer months and then go elsewhere in the winter.  Debbie has a boat named The Madame Ching. Both boats are converted gill net boats I believe. To the best of my knowledge they fish almost exclusively in the area around Cross Sound and down the coast to Deer Harbor. When I first bought my GPS, I followed Bob as he trolled in a large circle from Hocktaheen to Surge Bay. I set the tracking function on so that I could get an accurate picture of where to fish and where to avoid. The area out there is peppered with pinnacles. You can be trolling along at 24 fathoms and all at once the water is only 20 fathoms deep or even less. I've lost more than a little bit of gear out there, and at $3.00 a pound for lead, you don't want to be losing a couple of fifty pound cannonballs, to say nothing of the flashers and spoons and other gear. The nice part is that fish are attracted to the area, so if you can keep your gear off the bottom, you can make a paycheck every day. Following the track that was laid down has proven to be a most profitable venture. I noticed that if I stray off of it just a little bit, the results can be disastrous. Both of Bob and Deb's boys are grown up and have their own boats, and to the best of my knowledge are both very good fishermen, maybe even better than their parents, since they enjoy the enthusiasm of youth and are a little more aggressive in their fishing. The Bell's enjoy a very adventurous life style, skiing in Colorado kayaking somewhere down south and this winter heading to Tibet or Mongolia, I can't recall why, maybe to ride horses in the desert. I look forward to their return this spring, but like many commercial fishermen this year, I'm afraid they'll be coming home to a rather dismal fishing season. There won't be any spring king salmon season due to a terrible reduction in the numbers of fish returning to spawn, and I just heard today that the price of halibut is down about $2.00 a pound from what it has been for the past three or four years; and that's on top of a fifteen percent reduction in the commercial quota. It's going to be a tough year to be a fisherman. Maybe Bobbo had it right when he named his boat.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Dragon Fruit



    On our recent trip down south, we spent a few days in Lewiston, Idaho. We thought we would try to save a few bucks on food by dropping in to the local supermarket and picking up some items to snack on. Because the price of fruit was so much more reasonable than what we are used to, we bought a bag of mandarin oranges, some green grapes and strawberries. I would like to say that we stayed on the healthy side of the food chain, but I'd be lying through my teeth. Just beyond the produce section of the store was the bakery, and wouldn't you know it, there were stacks of tasty fruit filled turnovers at a very reasonable price so of course we had to have a pack of those- twice. I should mention we returned to the store before we left the town with the honorable intention of maybe buying some more healthy snacks, but we fell prey to temptation and bought the second package of turnovers- cherry this time. While we were there, I noticed in the produce section, right next to the papayas and above the star fruit, a most unusual and beautiful pod that the sign said was dragon fruit. I'd never heard of it before, but I found it so attractive that I wanted to at least take a picture of it. I wasn't about to buy it at $7.99 each without knowing how it tasted. Today I did a little research on line and found that dragon fruit is not only tasty, but is very good for you in so many ways. Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, or pitahaya, grows in Central America in fairly dry, semi-tropical climates, but is cultivated in several places in Southeast Asia as well.It is the fruit of a particular type of cactus and is beautiful to look at in it's natural state. Because it needs a precise amount of water, it's hard to cultivate. Cross pollination is also difficult because dragon fruit relies primarily on night time pollinators like bats. One thing that sets it aside is that it only blooms for one night. I guess for this reason it's sometimes referred to as the moonflower. It's also known as the queen of the night because it blooms at night time. The plant still produces fruit six times a year though. The fruit can be used in fruit salads, smoothies, parfaits or just eaten by itself. The taste, according to the YouTube article I saw mentioned it as a "heavenly blend between kiwi, watermelon and pear." It sounds very tasty. Aside from just tasting good it seems to have many health benefits. It contains fiber and aids in digestion and can be used as a mild laxative. It's good for skin, teeth and bones, has both omega 3 and 6, is good for eyesight, helps lower blood sugar levels,is full of anti-oxidants  and aids in healing bruises and wounds. I suppose I would have called it Wonder fruit, but it gets it's name from the color and the scale like protrusions on the outside. The inside is white to pink to purple, depending on the type of fruit, and it is full of black seeds, much like a kiwi. When it is cut into cubes, it resembles dice.  When combined with other fruit, it adds a totally different and beautiful appearance to any fruit salad. I hope that you will go online and look up dragon fruit; this blog can't begin to do it justice. It's just another marvel of God's imagination and creativity and the way he's blessed mankind with every good thing. One thing is for certain, the next time I run across some dragon fruit, $7.99 or not, I'm darn sure going to buy it. I'll let you know what I think.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Scouting Around









  Jan and I took a little trip down to the lower 48 last week. We were on the lookout for a new place to call home. The trip didn't start off all that great. After checking out the ferry schedule, and coordinating the with doctor's office to see that we could get appointments around the ferry, and making arrangements for a flight on Alaska airlines that would require the least amount of down time, I got a call from one of the attendants at the local Alaska Marine Highway office the day before we were to leave,  informing me that the ferry was broken down (again) and they weren't sure when it would be up and running again. Frankly, I wasn't shocked at the news, but I was really angry. I needed my car in Juneau when we returned from down south so we could run around to the doctors and shop at Costco and Fred Meyers and load up. The potential savings on groceries alone is enough to offset the almost $300.00 it cost to take the truck to Juneau round trip. However, it didn't appear that that was going to happen, so I had to beat feet out to the airport and hope we could get a flight the next day. There is never a guarantee that there will be any flights on any given day in Southeast Alaska. Especially in the winter months. As it was, the weather cooperated and we were able to get one way tickets for the rather hefty price of $170.00. That's with a twenty dollar discount for booking on line. It's about a twenty minute flight, so that's a little over $4.00 a minute each to go over. At least they were running as opposed to the ferry. The ship that broke down, the Leconte, is the same one we came to Hoonah on back in 1976. I hesitate to think of the hundreds of thousands of hours that its logged in its long career. It really should have been replaced at least ten years ago, but unfortunately it wasn't, so breakdowns are the normal now. The only two ways to reach Hoonah from Juneau are by airplane or boat, and since Juneau is landlocked the only way out is the same. I don't know how many trips we've made south in the forty two years we've lived here. A few, and they all involve lots of planning and money and more than a little good luck to carry out. It's things like the difficulty and expense of getting out of here that have kind of cemented the idea that we need to leave. The closest hospital is in Juneau, as is my doctor and dentist and bank and tax accountant. Because everything has to be barged in, the cost of every day items are high. The last time I got gas in town it was over $3.50 a gallon. Milk is over $6.00 a gallon. There are no plumbers or electricians or barbers in town, although there are folks who can perform those duties on a limited basis. For years I've tolerated these things because the fishing has been good and the scenery is hard to beat. Most of the folks I know are friendly, I've felt safe and it was a good place to raise the kids. Now my youngest is in his mid thirties, and the tourism industry has flooded the town every summer with folks gawking and crowding the streets. The harbor gets full of whale watch and charter boats and I have to work harder to find a spot to fish. I've been spoiled by what used to be a fairly isolated existence. All things change with time though, for better or worse- it seems like change is usually for the worse. Anyway, if I have to put up with a lot of people, I'd like to have the option of at least getting in the car and seeing something different. We flew in to Boise and took a trip west to Sequim and Port Angeles Washington. We have friends there. We covered a lot of beautiful country, most of which I couldn't get a picture of because I forgot to take the charger for the camera battery-go figure. Anyway it was a fun trip. We had a good time, ate some good food, saw some awesome scenery, talked to some great folks, slept in some so-so beds and spent a bundle of money. The bottom line is, we're on the lookout for our next home, one where we can drive to the hospital or take a car to see the grandkids or go on a week end road trip. It won't happen right away, but we have to start somewhere. I'll keep you posted as time goes on.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

What The Heck is That?



 I was poking around on the Internet one evening and started looking at space; in particular nebulae. I find them fascinating. I really wish I had paid more attention to my science classes in school, but I was too caught up in daydreams and fantasies to be a good student.My eighth grade science teacher was also a model, so it was hard to pay attention to the science stuff.  If only I could go back and do it again, but I can't. Anyway, I guess I must have signed up for something. I started getting pictures of nebula and other space shots; then telescopes and observatories and all kinds of other things that I wasn't all that interested in. Usually I just delete them and carry on, but today when I turned on the computer, there was this thing. I wasn't really sure if it was an Internet trick or what, but after doing a little research, I found out that it's quite real. This particular picture is compliments of Live Science. The above life form is a tardigrade or waterbear. Apparently a new species of tardigrade was found in a parking lot in Japan on some moss that was growing on a building there. From what I can gather, these things are very small, less than a millimeter in length, and they are quite tough. Much tougher than human beings. They have the ability to develop a cryptobiotic state, which as I understand means they can shed their skin and all of the liquid in their bodies and basically shut down until the conditions are more favorable to life. They have been found in hot springs and under layers of solid ice and can endure temperature extremes from minus 328 degrees F  to 303 degrees F. They aren't indestructible, according to one scientist. They could die if exposed to the water in your shower, but if they had time to get into a cryptobiotic state, they would be much harder to kill. They were even sent to outer space and endured the cold and radiation of that environment. They're quite a fascinating creature, and the one in the picture looks almost cuddly. I really don't know too much more about them. I'm not sure what purpose they serve, if they are good or bad for mankind, but no doubt they have been around for quite some time, and as tough as they sound, they'll be around long after we're gone. When I see things like this, I start to get the smallest glimpse of how fantastic this world is that we live in, and the wisdom of God to create it all is well beyond my comprehension. I hope you'll take a moment to reflect on all that is seen as well as unseen in this universe, and thank God for showing us the wonder of it all.