Monday, October 30, 2017

Mornings are golden

True, some more than others. This one was very golden, so I thought I'd share (sure is prettier than canned wieners).

Every day at sunrise, the dog and I walk over into our bay to visit with the beavers who are still adding more branches to their raft of winter food, and more logs to their huge castle. They're used to us and just go about their business.
Later on, it's like walking on sunshine with the sun angling lower and lower in the sky every day. Bliss.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Don't try this at home

I hope you’re not staring at your screen and thinking: “What the heck … canned dicks?!”

Well no, although interestingly, when I lifted the jar out of the pressure canner they were all erect and swollen, pressed up against the glass – and when my laughing fit subsided enough for me to break the jar’s vacuum seal by popping the lid open, they instantly deflated and became the flaccid little wieners you see here. Because that’s what they are: wieners.   

Just before I returned home in mid-October I did a bit of last-minute shopping for the winter and had this sudden craving for pea soup with wieners, so I bought two packages. Fast forward to a couple of days ago, when the moose meat I’d brought in on that trip from our freezer in the closest village had thawed out to the point where it needed to be canned.

We didn’t shoot a moose this year – because of my absence, there is still enough meat left from last year to tide us over to next hunting season. Since we shot the moose last year just a few days before C. dropped me off in Skagway to make my way down to Smithers and become a bear mom we didn’t have the time to do any canning. All the meat went into the freezer in the village and this week I finally wanted to do some canning.

As luck would have it, the last batch of meat was just enough for a couple of jars. Trying to make the last round of canning more efficient, I thought I’d give canning wieners a try. I figured it might be a good way to keep some on hand over the summer since our root cellar doesn’t stay at fridge temperature. Given the outcome of this little experiment, however, I don’t see home canned wieners in our future.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bring on the darkness

And so the year is winding down. An intense year with a multitude of new experiences that have left me emotionally and physically exhausted. Returning last week from an unplanned trip to Europe due to a family emergency, I stared down at the white emptiness of the Greenland icecap, Bylot and Baffin Island, and the stark beauty of the Barrens undulating below the plane. There is a strange kind of solace in that kind of untouched landscape; a promise that whatever happens, the land will always be there.

As I finally arrived home with over a thousand pounds of groceries and supplies, and the Beaver vanished back across the lake, silence seeped into me. Wilderness is mostly a very quiet place. It feels like it’s uncurling and unbending me, slowly coaxing back to life all the senses I can’t help but shutter when I am out in civilization.

C. is gone for the next few months, getting out to travel after playing hermit here while I looked after orphaned black bears. It’s just me and the dog in our solitary wild heaven. I begin to shape the days with the old familiar pattern: hauling water from the lake, chopping wood, going for long walks, looking for animal tracks, reading, writing. I’m still tired of the outside world. Bring on the darkness, let winter come.   

Friday, September 8, 2017

The constant buzz

... of wasps, hornets and yellow jackets fills the air and we encounter numerous dug up yellow jacket nests wherever we go.
They can't possibly all have been dug up by bears - we easily walk past 10 newly destroyed nests every day -, though there are a lot of trees with remnants of wasp and hornet nests where the scratch marks on the trunk tell exactly that tale.
The buzz that fills the woods tells a more complex story, though. This summer, a major outbreak of aphids and leaf beetles attacked the poplars, willows and even soapberry bushes in our area. Honeydew, a sticky sugary liquid secreted by the aphids as they eat the plant's sap, coated the entire understory of the deciduous forest, sticking to our hands, the dog's fur and everything else like glue. The leaves of fireweed and blades of grass turned glossy with the stuff.

Yellow jackets, hornets and wasps prey on leaf pests, so I assume their crazy number this year has a direct connection to the aphid outbreak - and the proliferation of wasp nests seems to draw more bears than we usually see into the area. Which in turn may have resulted in moose cows and calves keeping a very low profile. Maybe moose are also affected by the compromised browse and seek out areas that haven't been affected by the aphids? Either way, we hardly see any moose or even sign of them, which is very unusual.

The plague of yellow jackets even displaced us from our outhouse: I assume they are hunting for flies in the pit. Lowering bared sensitive body parts onto the seat and thereby sealing in stinging insects below is too unnerving; we've set up a temporary bucket system in our wood shed.

In mid-August, we paddled and portaged into a smaller lake and were rewarded with a reprieve from the waps, thanks to the prevailing spruce forest.
Our foldable canoe made the three portages easier:
 Our dog enjoyed living the easy life once again, getting conveyed across the lakes by his people and frolicking along the portage trails while we grunted and swore.
Golden sunrise after rain

Moose skull and antlers

Fall is colouring the trees now, who must be thorougly looking forward to shedding their poor sucked and eaten leaves. It's going to be an interesting moose hunt this year - are they going to return from wherever they've been hanging out?