Saturday, August 23, 2008


Due to the predations of hungry ungulates, Fromage and I have had to create an extensive barricade around our garden. At first, I thought that the chicken wire quonset hut fences would be enough....but no! Next, I thought that 'out of sight=out of mind' might apply to moose, so I covered the fenced garden with rowcrop fabric....but they sniffed it out. Third step was to surround the garden with any and all manner of materials we have sitting around in our yard---ladders, plywood, wheelbarrows, extra fencing, lawn chairs, etc. You get the picture. The end result is a bunker that neither moose nor ourselves can penetrate without immense efforts! Added to this, we hung bells, chimes, windchimes, and tin cans all over the inside of the fences: if the moose so much as BUMP the structure, there is an unholy racket and we can chase off the animals.
So far, we've chased off 5 moose in 3 nights. "Chasing" is euphemistic for 'running outside in our pajamas/naked at 3 a.m. screaming our heads off and throwing rocks.' Surprisingly, it's been a real bonding experience for Fromage and I, as we're united in the struggle to protect what's ours! Needless to say, our sleep hasn't been that good for a couple of weeks. We wake up every night to phantom bumps in the night. Once, we both woke up to what we thought were munching noises. But we never did figure out what it was or where it was coming from....

Here is another view. Not attractive at all, but very, very serviceable. Plus, it's only temporary.....only until I finish harvesting the garden. An olympic feat, at this point....

In addition to about a hundred pounds of garden greens, I've also been berry picking. It's a bumper crop year for crowberries and cranberries, but so far, blueberries are in short supply out there on the hillsides... Above, crowberries. They are described in the local berry guides as 'insipid,' meaning that they are edible, but not enjoyably edible. Usually they are collected to be used as an extender or filler in combination with other, more sweet and juicy berries. Myself, I like them on their own.

Lowbush cranberries!

I've taught myself to do canning this fall. Special thanks to my mother-in-law for giving me her extensive stock of old canning jars and the big pot to do the hot water processing baths in. So far:

  • Indian Pickled Cauliflower
  • Napachinni relish (Napa cabbage + zuchinni)
  • Rhubarb chutney
  • Cranberry marmalade (the best!)
  • Cranberry Goo (a failure of either syrup or jam = goo. Still tasty on toasts in the morning...)

I love canning. It is SUCH a thrill! Especially fun is listening for the "tink!" of the lids making a proper seal when the jars are cooling.

And last but not least, a self portrait with cabbage. We had 2 OS Cross cabbages---about 5-7 lbs. each. We shredded them and salted them, packed them in a bucket and are awaiting our first batch of sauerkraut. What this means is yummy 'kraut all winter, but currently we have to live with the vinegary-fermentation smell in our kitchen for 3 weeks....

This is the time in AK when everyone is preparing for winter in one way or another. This is also Caribou and Moose hunting season. Fishing season is just winding down. It's time to harvest the garden, pick berries, make preserves of all kinds and haul A LOT of firewood.

I am reminded of a great photographic essay book, "Upterrlainarluta: Always Getting Ready. Yup'ik Eskimo Subsistence in Southwest Alaska" by my friend and local artist, James Barker. That's what I feel like these days of Autumn.....always getting ready.

The end result?

A lot of food for winter. Check.

A good way to take a couple of months off of painting. Check.