Friday, February 29, 2008

The compass points to Terrapin.

However, the back of our house points North, and what a view of the North we get. Last night I was sleeping hard. Real hard. So hard that I had to pee something terrible but was just too tired to get out of bed to do so. So, after drifting back in and out of sleep several times, I procrastinated as long as I possibly could until I couldn't hold it anymore. As I was walking into the bathroom I gazed out the big window, and about near pee'd myself. I caught the most dramatic and amazing display of the Aurora that I have seen here since it started in the Fall. I cannot describe it in words, but have never seen anything like it (in real time at least) and in an instant realized just how 'small' I really was in the last frontier. I immediately woke Maryann with a hoot and a howl, and by the time she got out of bed and to the window, the display was just coming to an end. That is the way it usually is. Sometimes it is present for a while, sometimes for a few seconds. After that I couldn't go back to sleep and went into the dining room and sat a the table overlooking the North and continued to watch as it would appear in slight waves of rolling green, only to fade and come back again minutes later. Maryann would later get up to watch it and said that again, it was slight but still beautiful. There on the hillside going to the lake with the Aurora in the backdrop was a moose grazing on the tender tips of brush and trees poking out of the snow. Very serene.

So the weekend away in Homer last week was divine. We got some much needed rest and 'together' time. It was really the first chance in a long time. Not counting the ferry ride from Washington to Juneau. Now that was very relaxing! Unlike Maryann and Johns journey from Juneau to Whittier. Living upstairs from a bakery for a weekend....well, lets just say I am contemplating a membership to the gym! But seriously, it was a really cool place we stayed at and we really enjoyed it. We will be going back again before the busy tourist season in the summer. I did get a few really good pics of the sunrise the 2nd morning we were there. I was just enthralled in the setting full moon as it fell slowly into the Gulf of Alaska ever so slightly illuminated by the rising sun, just opposite the sky from it. It was really spiritual, as I caught the moment while someone off in the distance was walking the beach against the full moon taking in the moment as well. Then, as I turned around was able to get the morning sky coming to life across Kachemak Bay. Was just a spectacular morning, and turned out to be just a beautiful day all the way around.

The weather has been...well, spring like! Interesting point: In Dorrington where the average temps would range throughout the year between the upper 90's to the lower 20's, "spring" temperatures were usually in the 60's. Here, where the temps range yearly from - 30 below 0, and the low 70's, "spring" temps are like in the low 30's. Kind of different, eah?! The sun has been out, but still cold out. the snow is starting to melt a little where the sun hits it, but more the ice glazes over through the day and becomes the ice rink from hell. I have to say it is slick out there. Even the dogs who are usually unphased by ice due to their gripping clawage, are having a hard time of it. All in a days life.

John and I have been continually active in bringing home felled trees getting a head start on the firewood season. We will be having visitors in June, and look forward to the chance to introduce them to "Daylight Endurance Training", bucking and splitting firewood until 1:00 AM. And, they are seasoned from the good old days of wood whoring in Dorrington!!! Lookin forward to it guys! ;) Always looking forward to what the next day will bring, good or bad, just happy we took the 'chance' that we did, and when we did it. Just seems the more we look back and the more we hear, the timing was just impeccable. Have a happy Sunday, and our love to all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A wood whore is as a wood whore does...or, ode to a woodchuck!

We have found ourselves once again amidst a heatwave here on the peninsula. The past couple days have rendered unseasonably warm temps in the mid 30's. Now interesting thing of this is, that once again the moose are all over the place, and although snow is not really melting, the 3 or 4 inch layer of winters' perma-ice has become slicker than cat crap on sweaty tin roof in Georgia mid July. And there is chatter around and about that break-up is coming early. And there is chatter around and about that those who are chattering about early break-up are gonna find out different as it is by no means over yet. Meanwhile, us 'sourdoughs' are just lying low and obserbing quietly form a distance of the chatter. Personally, as much as I love the minuses....yes, crazy or not it stimulates me....I suppose I am getting a little antsy for the spring and ensuing 20 hours of daylight we will have before long. However, I am hoping that things cool down a bit and we get some more snow. It has been a really good money maker this season with the plow, besides the fact that we love snow. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Meantime, the wood scene is dwindling. we had 8 cord split, stacked, and burnable come fall. We are down to about a cord and a half now. Good news is that we won't be eyeballing any wooden furniture or the sauna with it's seasoned log sidings. We do have about a cord and a half on the 'ready rack', meaning it just needs to be processed and we are good another 1 1/2 cords. Or should I say were. We were good another cord and a half until today. See, there has been a little bit of timber harvesting down the road from us. These die-hard tree guys have been felling trees on private land the past month on and off as the weather permitted They pull out the trees through the snow with a tractor, cut them to timber length and haul it off between storms. One day a couple weeks back I noticed on my way home that there were tailings being left behind, and some were in excess of 6 feet or less long. Fortunately the guys were finishing a load and I stopped to ask them for whoring rights. They said to help myself, and so there, in -5 degrees below 0, were John and I loading my truck and making several runs home adding to the pile. Not a typical sight in Alaska I suppose, but nonetheless a necessity for the ones who burn wood for primary heat....especially for those who went through darned near 10 cords in a winter! As Scott says, wood is always a good thing. Thanks for the support buddy! Then there was today. I was coming home from work just floored from a long and tumultuous day and there again is a small pile of tailings and the guys pulling away. Now, I wanted it. Bad. I mean real bad. But body was telling me no chance. I continued the forward trek to the house all the time feeling a bit of guilt and a slight sense of self betrayal. But body said once again, "don't". As I came in the house it was killing me. I got a hair brained idea and called John because he was working with me this afternoon and I knew he was not far behind. Unfortunately as he picked up his phone he was pulling in the driveway. Fortunately through a trade off of his chores for the evening, I was able to coax him to go back and pick up the few tailings that were laying roadside. As I am getting ready to start dinner shortly after the negotiation of responsibilities, John returns with a sizable load of wood in the back of his truck. Cool, the pile is growing and I am feeling better about my bout of self betrayal. I figure John is going to come in after he is done, but no. He pulls away, stereo thumping and takes off down the drive. So I am going about things and a short time later he pulls in again, with another sizable load about his truck. I am watching him unload and now I am feeling really good about the activity in the woodpile. I am going to make John a good dinner for his he pulls away stereo thumping down the drive again. I say to myself, "your a good boy John. Make your daddy proud." Those words to myself I wood eat. Whole. A little longer a period of time transpired this time before he got back. He parks his truck and comes in the house, me in the bathroom oblivious of his arrival. As I come out and round the corner, there he is with a big shit eatin grin on his face and simply says, " I am proud of this one dad!" As I come to the door I glance out the window and I see no tailings in the back of his truck. No. Instead I see logs the size of half telephone poles hanging 10 feet out the back of his truck, ass end slunk down like an overloaded manure laden ranch truck. I look at him with my mouth agape and simply asked, Before I could finish my tongue twisted riddle of a sentence, he blurts out....still grinning like a Cheshire cat..."I put it in 4 wheel drive and backed down into the low end of the road, then I was able to just lay em on the tailgate and slide them in!" I am still looking at this spectacle in complete awe trying in my head to figure out how such a feat could possibly be done with just 1 person. Then he has the mind to say that he will need help unloading them. Ok! He was still glowing on his way out the door to soccer practice. Indoor soccer practice! I am still glowing knowing that the proverbial woodpile is getting bigger and spring hasn't even sprung. It is a good thing considering how much wood we have consumed. We are just thankful that the buyer of the Dorrington cabin let us take the woodstove. I still look at that thing sometimes at night as I am watching tv, snuggly warm, with a gleam in my eye! Just more space to heat than Dorrington, and extremely colder temps. Good thing is we do have the central furnace as a back up if need be. But with the price of heating oil, who wants to use that when wood is free. John is my hero!!
On other notes, Maryann and I are taking our first trip away since we moved here. We are taking a few days off to go down to Homer and explore. Our home away from home in California was Pacific Grove, and although the many memorable times we had, and the many wonderfully loved and missed friends we made will never be able to be matched, we are going to try and find new places, and new adventures. Now the really cool thing about this trip is that we are staying at a bakery that has an Inn above it. Is that sheer suicide or what! I am not sure what in gosh doodle Maryann was thinking when she booked that, but I am sure glad that she was!! ;) Best thing next to wood is baked goodies....I always say. I will mount a courageous display of self control. All I know is it ought to be a hoot, and what better than with the greatest woman in the world. Speaking of such a person, she should be home soon and I have to go and warm her dinner. And Johns. He should be home soon and I am going to adorn him with food and gifts for the gallant effort he put forth in the rebuilding of my wood empire. Maybe next post we will get a pic. As you may figure, crazy Jack down the road as well has already begun harvesting his pile for 2008. His pile will shadow that of the compounds' supply! At least it will be a running shot....of which I will need after living in the upstairs of a bakery for 3 days! Good times are here again. Until next time, take care and watch what wood you it may well be the wood of one who will keep your ass warm some day! Love to all.

Friday, February 15, 2008

So I lied...

....or at least understated my intentions. The last post I mentioned the mountains across the bay and how they look so enchanting in the morning alpenglow with their illuminous glow. And I also mentioned that I wouldn't even try to take a picture of such beauty because it would never do justice to what they really appeared to be before the naked eye. But on one particular morning on my way into town the other day at the crack of dawn.....9:00AM.... I saw some pretty breathtaking footage, and as I quietly cursed myself for not having the camera, again, it dawned on me that in fact I did have it that morning. And so it took only seconds to devise a way to pull off and try to give to you some kind of visual image of what the morning alpenglow looks like. In all fairness, I have to submit a disclaimer, that what you are about to see is only a photographic re-enactment of the real thing. Nothing you are about to see gives the actual sense of calming allure that one would observe with ones 'tangible' senses. Nonetheless it gives you a striking idea of what the alpenglow is. Technically it is the refraction of light through the particulate ice matter in the air. As we have stated in the past, this is visibly present throughout the clear daytime in the winter, as the sun never really comes fully up in the sky. Now, it is best seen in the evenings and early mornings on the clear days, which we were fortunate to have for the past couple of weeks or so. Mind you the temps were absolutely sub-zero for those couple of weeks thus enhancing the morning sunrises, as you can see here. By the time I was done with each picture, the lens was frosted over, and my fingers hurt from the extreme cold. I would have to stuff the camera into my body warmth...along with the ol phalanges to warm up for the next shot. The cool thing about these pics is that I caught them before the sun even crested. Here you can see Mt Redoubt. The next photo is of Redoubt and Mt Illiamana. The first couple miles out is completely encrusted in ice. Then there was this fog bank that was developing where the mouth of the Kenai River, meets the inlet. Like I said, does nothing to seeing it in the real. As I worked my way on down the road a little further, the sun continued to make it's way to crest. What really threw me into an absolute excited frenzy, was after I got through Kenai and was making my way across the tidal flats. As I looked over towards Mt Redoubt, I nearly lost control of the truck and went off the road. In some drug crazed flashback from Woodstock, one could easily have thought Mt. Redoubt was about to blow due to it's glow. I on the other hand thought, screw if I am late for my appointment or not, this is fabulous! Can't find the words to describe it. I did pull off the road, and managed to capture the moment. As I panned over to the right I caught that fog bank from the other side!What was really neat was as the sun continued to rise, the colored hue reflecting off of Redoubt got bigger, eventually encasing the entire range. Then of course is the culprit of all this eye candy, "Our friend, Mr. Sun". Remember that film from science class??? What a great start to the day, this all was for me. It just kept getting better from there on. I was late for my appointment as a result to all of this, but hey, sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses.

The other day I was walking out of Safeway in Kenai, and as I was strolling cautiously down the ice ladden sidewalk towards my truck eating my container of Cashew Chicken from the deli, cold wind gently pelting my face with blowing ice, I had a revelation. It hit me at that moment. What the frig did we do! I mean, the fact that we picked up everything we owned, left a successful business and our loved friends and family, and just did it. A dream of mine for 18 years finally came true. Now I have had enough and am going back home! Naaa. Just kidding about that. But really, anyone who truly knew me for the past 18 years, knows how badly I wanted to someday move to Alaska. Mind you, in later years as Maryann knew of this dream she too wanted to see it become reality. But here we are. And doing so much better than we could have ever expected in just 9 months. And it just keeps getting better! Sure, we do have our moments, and things do go awry as things will always do. But an 18 years dream come true. What a story for our grandkids.

So I leave you with something rather unusual yet undeniably Alaskan, that I saw a few weeks back. As I was coming into Nikiski at days end I pulled into the gas station to gas up. I am pulling to the pump, and I see in the island next to me this guy in one of those small miniature Sports Utility Vehicles. He is sitting in the driver seat bundled up in a heavy arctic coat, gloves, and a full-on motorcycle helmet. I am thinking....ok. Then I notice his front windshield is gone. Now this is starting to make sense why he is so bundled. Then I see his girlfriend coming back to the vehicle, also bundled up in arctic gear, get into the vehicle, pull the other full-on motorcycle helmet off of the dashboard and proceeds to strap it on and pull on her gloves. After making sure her seatbelt was fastened, he starts the ride up, and barrels out onto the highway and heads on down the road. And I though up to that point that I had truly seen everything. Have a great weekend. Our love.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

You know your in Alaska when...

....the perfectly yellow banana you left in the truck overnight shifts to dead black! This is what the difference of what a banana left at room temperature looks like, before it is left in a truck at -25 below 0 over night. Today I was doing a small plumbing job at a clients home. She told me to help myself to anything in the kitchen. Nobody ever told her...... (hee hee hee). So I grabbed a diet Coke off the counter that was at room temperature as I was leaving. I figure, no problem, I will just put it in the bed of my truck for the 10 minute ride to my next stop, it is still well below zero out and it will get cold quick, right?! When I arrived at the next stop 10 minutes later, I went to grab it eager to quench my undieing thirst and if it wasn't frozen ass solid. Strange happenings! Notice here how that same thermal deprived banana was decimated in the process. It was literally liquid......and I swear I didn't play a few rounds of racquetball with it! As you have probably guessed by now, the sub zero cold which we have been anticipating has arrived. Just like history has tended to prove, the last week of January and so far the first week of February have been the coldest yet, with temps still expecting to fall even more this week. You hear only stories of the happenings in the type of cold, but really have to see it to believe it. In Maryann's case she had to experience it to believe it. She started her truck the other morning just like she always does, and after letting it warm up for 25 minutes, jumped in and left for work. I am loving up to the woodstove and get a calm call from her 10 minutes later, stating that her temperature gauge is crawling into the red.......and now all of a sudden, the check engine light has come on and she is going down...... Thankfully she was right in front of the Tesoro gas station just outside of town, and not in no-mans land between here and Kenai. Feeling a sense of panic knowing how fast someone can chill in these temps I suited up in my thermo-insulated coveralls....very warm, man.....and began a saving dash to bevy her rescue. Turns out her thermostat had froze shut, even with a block heater, and the rest is history. Thank God I have a heated garage to work in! It is interesting how many people experience these types of problems, and other problems....of which we won't speak of......when the temps drop into the extreme minuses. Heck, for all medicinal purposes, it even slows down the time it takes for an email to go through. For instance, I sent you an email 3 days ago Mike K. It just came back to me last night marked something like "Delivery time went past 1 day and has expired". Go figure! ;) In fact Maryann and I have heard from many people that it is just a given that folks won't show up for work or otherwise on days like this because either they can't get there, or just plain won't!

Now here is something interesting. This isn't a picture of a kaleidescope, rather a picture of one of Maryann's studio windows. Pretty cool, huh?! Good example of 'ice cactus'. This sporsystian life form that resembles that of little clingons, is ice cactus that formed on the inside of the window. We are having an issue with keeping her studio warm this winter. A priority to resolve by next winter! Then there is this one of the inside of the bedroom window. There is no issue with keeping our bedroom just happened because the window is that cold. Cool beans!

On other fronts, just as swift and mysteriously as they came, Moose Camp absolved and they have all gone wherever moose go. We haven't even seen the baby. We still figure with that couple days of 33 degrees and the trees tendering up, was a good reason why they were all over the property. Why ours....who's to say. Mind you, they are still abound on the roads, and slower than ever these days. The days have been very beautiful as even though we are lucky to break 0 degrees by day, it has been sunny, and spectacular. I have to say, the snow capped range across the bay has an illuminous glow as the sun comes up in the morning. I mean, it is beyond words, and I won't take a picture because it would do no justice to the tangible beauty. The entire mountain range all the way down to Mt. Illiamna looks just like a softly lit luminescent night light in the morning sky. A good example of 'alpenglow'.

Lastly, we did venture across the lake by way of snowshoes the other day. Was quite fun, and the dogs were in heaven just a runin...and a runin.... It was a unique experience to walk over and see up close, what we have only seen from afar since landing in June. And we got some good photos of what the property looks like form 'the other side'. How was it walking on ice you that show "Ice Road Truckers". It's a bit of a rush at first. Mind you, you are looking at water that was continually freezing deeper and deeper throughout fall and into early winter, then add feet upon feet of snowfall that has been packing and stacking on the surface all winter. The dogs found pleasure in sinking their heads down into the hoof holes left on the surface by crossing moose. They looked like a couple ostriches. Sid and Max would have just disappeared.... ;) John chose not to explore with us, rather than to kick it with the company he had over and look periodically out the window in amazement at the attempt of self entertainment that his folks and the dogs had bestowed upon themselves. We are at 8 hours and 20 minutes of daylight now. It is amazing what a few hours of daylight does.

I read something today written by a native Alaskan that went like this. "An Alaskan is someone who is living in Alaska because they love living here, not because it is someplace to live. An Alaskan is someone who chose to spend their life living in Alaska, not because Alaska was somewhere to spend their life. An Alaskan is someone who can use tools and has the guts to live within the tests of nature and the land. An Alaskan will live here at peace with himself (or herself for those who are genetically correct) and love every day that God gives them in the Great Land. We truly feel honored to live in this 'Great Land'. Our dream come true.