Falling into winter….

It is that time of year, again. Here in Alaska, the leaves start going yellow. We usually have that one night where we go to sleep and awaken to all the leaves yellowed and falling off. We are almost there. We have termination dust – that’s the first bit of snow on the peaks, letting us know summer has been terminated. And I am sad, and yet I am ready, too.

Matanuska Glacier

We took some friends around Alaska the past couple of weeks (they stayed 11 days and it was such a blessing) and it is amazing how quickly the summer was ending. We wore sweatshirts almost daily, and we usually were dealing with some off and on rain. Seeing as how they were from Oregon, rainfall was not an issue for them. The skies are so clear after a rainfall and it makes these vistas so breath-taking. I try to remind myself how blessed I am to live in this incredible place so many millions have on their “bucket list.” For some, Alaska is a place to visit, but they could not imagine living here. And I am very okay with that. For me, it is a dream-come-true. I recall joining some “Save the Whale” groups back in college, complete with coffee mugs and bumper stickers. So much of the literature was about Alaska and I dreamt of leaving Southern California for the “Last Frontier.” Only took me another 40 or so years, but I made it. And I cannot imagine living anywhere else.

Eagles dining on the Kenai River

I still sit in wonder and awe some days. We were blessed to be offered a chance to stay in a cabin on the Kenai River with our son and his family for an extended weekend. What a trip. The trip, in and of itself, should have an entire book written about it. That is for another time. The photo above occurred on our first night. We sat at our table on the shore of the river, dining on grilled steaks and some amazing garlic potatoes, while we were privileged to watch two adults and 1 juvenile Bald Eagle eat their dinner. It was like having National Geographic up close and personal. The site brought us all to silence as they flew in and out, enjoying fresh-caught salmon. And I felt so blessed.

Fishing the Kenai River

Watching our grandchildren fish for the first time was such a joy. They were having a ball, just casting away. They aren’t big on particulars; they just loved the process. And their interaction with their grandpa made my heart just soar. They all had so much fun and he was one of the biggest kids out there. These small snippets of time we grab with family make for a lifetime of memories, if we can hold on to them. This weekend was insane insofar as disasters and mishaps, but like our son said, “We did it!” We made it to our destination and we crammed in as much sightseeing and being family as we could. And it was very, very worth all the hassles.

Sunset with Dad and his dogs

We discovered our dogs are amazing travelers and adapted to our car and a cabin, instead of our truck and trailer just fine. They also discovered life on the Kenai River and were loving splashing around in it, seeing all the fish near the shoreline. They loved watching all that nature was throwing at them and we loved having them alongside us. We are so pleased that we have two dogs to accompany us on our many adventures in the future. Kolbe (Black Standard Poodle aged 2) and Maggie (his sister, a cafe au lait Standard Poodle, aged 5 months). Between us and our son and his family, we had 6 dogs along with us on our trip and it was just so fun. It wasn’t too much of a hassle and they all did so well. More of these trips are waiting for us next camping season. And I am so excited for next summer. Hopefully both families will have acquired better trucks to get us where we want to go by the time the snow melts and there is once again Spring in the air!

New Wood Stove and Surround of Fossil Rock and Granite

Our summer house project was pulling out our gas surround and installing a wood stove. It was the project of “I know a guy.” It was hilarious as well as costly. But you know what? I am beyond thrilled with the results. I started this post 2 weeks ago, and since then we have had our first snow. We had to race to get the veggies out of the garden. Harvesting our peas was an adventure in frozen fingers and ravenous dogs – who knew dogs would love peas and their pods so much? My husband has been working tirelessly to save what we could from the frost and snow. And I’ve been busily processing that bounty. So when we got our stove finally installed, I almost wept with joy. It is a gorgeous brown enamel (Chestnut) and it burns cleanly and efficiently up to 30 hours! It warms our entire home. And the installation came right as we got our first snow. How great is that????

One of the most amazing things is the the rock comes from Alaska and it is almost exclusively “fossil rock.” As I sit and look at it I can see fossilized leaves, stems, sticks, and shells. And it makes the archeologist in me just glow. To be surrounded by local history that is 1000s of years old is just amazing. Our son put in lights above the stove and the way the rocks are highlighted makes me feel like I am in a museum! Watching our stone mason (another “guy”) work was watching a master craftsman. It was incredible how he made all the pieces fit perfectly. A game of Tetris in real life. Another “guy” in the project was the granite man. He measured that so perfectly, when they installed it there was no gap anywhere. I was stunned. He was hilarious, too. In a Russian accent he schooled me on the differences between average and works of art. After our discussion and his measuring, he told me he knew what I wanted. We went to his stone yard and he picked this piece out for us. It was a perfect choice. I loved working with all the “guys” on this project, as haphazard as all the recommendations were. So funny. “I know a guy” – hilarious.

Some of our harvested veggies…

And so I have learned more than I ever thought possible about preserving vegetables. I have had catastrophic failures and some major successes. I have learned to can salmon and how to vacuum seal. I have made my own cole slaw from everything in my garden. I have 50 pounds of tomatoes waiting on processing, but I also froze sliced leeks, and shredded, halved and whole cabbages. I learned to blanch and freeze peas. I am putting potatoes and carrots down in the crawlspace with gunny sacks and sand. Who knew? I fermented some sweet peas with garlic and onion (from my garden). A friend made us cabbage rolls and we have relished each meal we have had of them. I am getting ready to take an online canning class this afternoon. Why not? I have so much to learn of all these lost arts. I was pushed to the academic side of life by my parents and never was taught all the womanly arts of keeping a home and feeding a family. We never grew anything – we had gardeners most of my life. The only time we had something to eat from our yard is when we bought a house with a fig tree. My brother and I hated that thing. We used to throw figs at each other and I never recall my mom doing a thing with them, other than to tell us to rake them up and put them in the garbage can out back. I was never modeled all the things I have talked about in this post. And so for me, this summer was packed full of new things. My brain feels like it is going to explode and still, there is more.

The world is spiraling out of control. Keeping my feet in the dirt has helped me in so many ways. I loved gardening. And I never knew I would. It gave me peace when all around me is quarantined and locked down. When the doors of the Church were locked to me, I could garden. When my Church was afraid, I was gardening. It has been a revelation to watch things grow; to get my hands so dirty I would just have to cut my nails to get them clean. And it gave me time in the sunshine to commune with God and with my dogs, and alongside my husband. It filled me when the world around me was sucking me dry. I got to learn what it is like to load all my stuff in our little trailer and camp away from it all, with our son and daughter-in-law, grandkids, and all our 6 dogs. We spent time as a family and it was – and is – precious to me.

While everything is out of control and our world is literally falling apart around us, if we keep an eye on God, He will be in everything. And I trust God more than I trust man. Will things get worse? More than likely. We are trying to plan for the worst, but hope for the best, as the saying goes. But all the while, we keep focused on God. Because in the end, not only is God the victor, that is truly all that matters. Keep your head up – focus on God -pray – and live your life to its upmost. Do not live in, nor accept, a life lived in fear. Find your joy amidst this chaos. And be sure your preparations are twofold – practical and spiritual. Because I am feeling something is coming. Not sure what, but something ominous is coming. Pray for your friends and family, pray for our country, and pray for God’s merciful blessings. And prepare.

Amazing photo with our dogs on the road to Homer, Alaska