Right this way, Old Man Winter.

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With Old Man Winter trying to move in for the next 6-8 months, Kian and I have been working out in the evenings to burn off some extra energy before bedtime.   And there’s the added benefit of fighting off the winter bulge because we always seem to be a bit ‘fluffier’ in the spring, especially in the midsection.  It’s sometimes challenging trying to get in a good workout with a kiddo who’s usually under your feet, wanting to be where the action is.

Challenging, but not impossible.  Kian loves to workout and do exercises.  He came up with this helpful core training technique all on his own.  Half the time I’ve got my eyes closed, praying to God that his aim doesn’t wander…..

 

Before the snowfall, Solomon, Tyler, and I took a boat ride to Akuleraq to try and catch some beavers.  They usually stir the most in the evenings and mornings.  We hunted that evening, stayed overnight in one of the old fish camp cabins, and hunted again the next morning.  We saw a few but were unsuccessful in bringing home any.  Very rarely do we return empty-handed.  I mean, not even a stick of firewood to show for the gas money I spent.  But we still had a great time enjoying the last boat ride of the year.

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I took this as a sign.   Beaver house at the end of a rainbow.  My pot of gold!

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Sadly, even with a sign from the heavens, we returned home unsuccessful.

These were some beavers I’d caught on a boat ride a few weeks before this last one.  I’ve already sent them to the Tannery in Fairbanks.  When we get them back, we’ll try our hand at making hats and mittens.

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I had some beavers in the freezer of the shop for awhile, waiting on a new fleshing knife to come in the mail.  Every day Kian had to open the freezer and check to see if they were still there, to make sure they hadn’t got out and ran off.

We usually put Kian down for a nap in the afternoons, but sometimes I have to keep him up while I do something.  Whether it’s finishing a meal I’m cooking or waiting on an airplane to get freight.  No matter what’s going on or where we’re at, when this kid gets tired, he’s GOING TO SLEEP.

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But once he’s been fully recharged, look out.

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A true Alaskan with his (Daddy’s) Xtra Tuff boots.

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Awhile back I wasn’t feeling good but I was in luck since there was a trained medical professional in the village.  Even luckier, he was in the house!

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After checking his Medical Book, he knew exactly what I needed:  A Shot.

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We’re ready for baby Isabelle to arrive.  It will be great for Kian to have someone to play with.  He wanted me to take his picture with his “friend” that he made.

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Kian helped me pick some of the pictures out to include in this post and he wanted these two so here they are.

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And with that, we are headed to check the river ice again.

Piurra.

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Fall Moose Hunt 2017

The changing color of the tundra grasses and the cooling evening breezes usher in a special time of year: fall moose hunting.  Last fall, Solomon and I went on a 2 day moose hunt, camped out overnight, caught a moose and returned home successful.  This year we set out again.  But instead of hunting Akuleraq, a place I know, he wanted to show me an area Northeast of here.  We saw lots of moose and even more birds (ducks, geese, swans, etc).

There were several places like this along the way.  Nothing around for miles.  Someone’s fish camp/hunting getaway.

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We ride around in the boat most of the time, checking both sides of the river for moose.  But when we see a clearing in the trees or a field, we usually stop to check it out.  Sometimes the moose are staying just barely out of sight of the river.

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Later that evening, we set up camp before it got too dark.  Even the best tents are a headache to put up in the dark.

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So with our shelter for the night secured, it was time for some warm supper!  It’s not as good as what I would’ve hoped.  But when you’re chilled and hungry, if it’s warm, it’s awesome.

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The next morning, I woke up a couple hours before Sol.  Some commercial fishing boats had passed during the night, coming back from the coast, and had him up for awhile.  I never heard ’em.  Some of the best sleep I’ve ever gotten is outside in the cold, tucked in a warm sleeping bag.  A little before 7:00 I rustled out, had coffee, and waited on the sunshine.

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Having the sun warm the chill from the air is a great feeling.  I never truly appreciated that when I lived in Arkansas.  It was strange when I first came here, my first winter; some days the sun would be out in full force but it wouldn’t raise the temperature 1 degree.  Not one single degree.  You could move from the shade to the sun and feel absolutely no difference whatsoever.  Knowing that winter is just around the corner made the morning warmth all the more special.

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After Sol woke up, he whipped us up some powdered eggs.  I know.  It sounds horrible.  Surprisingly, it was pretty good.

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That was our breakfast.  Powdered eggs with some moose jerky I’d made a week ago washed down with coffee.   Mmm-mmm!

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We saw a couple of young bulls that morning a couple miles from where we camped but they didn’t hang around long enough for a shot.  They were in a bad spot too, right beside the water.  If we got a good shot and it fell in the water………oh Lord.  I’ve never tried to pull a Volkswagen Beetle out of a creek by hand but that’s probably what it would’ve been like.  Either that or we’d be quartering it up while standing in the creek.  Neither outcome was appealing.

We took Akuleraq on our way home.  A few miles from the main channel, Sol caught his moose with one shot.  100+ yards at a moving target, from a moving boat, off hand, a decent cross wind, with the sun directly in his eyes.   Not bad Sol.  Not bad at all.

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On our way home I was able to catch a couple more beavers.  I trap some during the winter, but I prefer this time of year to get beavers.  It’s a LOT less work.

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After they come back from Alaska Tannery in Fairbanks, we will try to make ourselves some nice, warm hats and mittens.  I’ve tried lots of gloves and mittens over the last several winters and I can tell you from experience that nothing compares to real fur mittens.

Another successful moose hunt behind us and some fur for winter clothes.  We’re already planning and looking forward to next year’s Fall Moose Hunt!

Berry Picking Adventure

Another one of the awesome things about living out here is the school field trips.  Instead of buses, we get boats.  Instead of chaperones, we get men with rifles in case there are bears.  Once everyone was loaded and ready, we set off on the first of many Cultural Days that we are going to have for school this year.  This first Cultural Day was Berry Picking!

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We stopped at the first cabin on Akuleraq and had lunch.  It was a beautiful day to get out and let the kids enjoy the tundra.

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Essie stayed at school to go berry picking around the village with the kiddos that stayed behind, so I brought Kian with me.  He always has fun getting out of the house.

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He fell in the water a little bit and got his boot and leg wet.  Shortly after that, I couldn’t find him.  I thought “Oh crap, where’d he go now?”  Apparently we were playing ‘Hide and Seek’ and I didn’t know it.

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So after a long day of picking berries and keeping an eye out for kids and bears and moose, it was time to head home.

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On our way home, we saw some fresh bear tracks.  These were on both sides of the river, some really fresh, some a day or two old.  These were fairly big tracks.

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Friday before last, the 18th, I took a boat ride up Akuleraq with Solomon and Tyler.  Tyler is the new teacher’s husband.  They are both from Arkansas and appear to be loving it so far.  My plan was to get a moose, but there were so many beavers that I changed gears and started catching those for the fur.

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We saw a few moose before we saw the young cow that I caught.  I didn’t get any pictures of the moose I caught since it was close to dark and I wanted to get it loaded and home before it got any later.  This is a cow and calf we saw that evening.  The pictures aren’t great.  I keep threatening to buy a nice camera, but it hasn’t happened yet.

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This is from one of our trips to Emo.  Kian found a new friend with Kaitlyn, the new teacher from Arkansas.

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Every time I go stack firewood or fill up the buckets with water for my next steam, Kian has to show me all around ‘HIS’ maqii.

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And he is always ready to help Dad go get more firewood.  Sadly, I’m sure this will pass by the time he’s big enough to really help.

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I’ll end this with a picture of a rare calm day.

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Seal Hunt

This past Sunday I took a boat ride up to Emmonak with Andy and his family so I could get a few groceries and buy my commercial fisher helper’s license.  We had a snack before we left: dried smelts and seal oil.   Ahh, it’s good to be back!

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On our way up to Emo we saw some beluga whales, which is always a welcomed sight.  Wasn’t able to get a picture, but a few miles outside of Emo, we joined in on a seal hunt.  We saw a couple boats chasing it so we joined in as well.

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As the minutes rolled by, more boats joined in.  It was a beautiful day, so there were lots of people out on the river.  When they’re trying to catch the seal, they have to wait on it to come up for air and then try to either harpoon it or throw a spear.  You never can tell where it’ll surface so the more boats, the better.

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Andy’s boy, Jermaine, was the one who finally caught it.   Jermaine is in the blue sweater.  The seal popped up right beside the boat and he was able to harpoon it.  They decided to give it to an older gentleman who was out there in another boat.   It’s important to note that when I say “we” joined in, and “we” tried to catch the seal”, I’m using the term “we” very loosely.  It’s illegal for a non-native to participate in this.  I can sit and watch and that’s about it.  Still, it’s pretty special to witness them doing something that has been in their way of life for as long as anyone can remember.

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After we left Emo and headed back for Nunam, we stopped and got some wood for smoking fish.

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Always up for a reason to get out of the house, we all stopped at Munson Island and had a campfire picnic.

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Oh, the good life…….

Spring moose hunting, my favorite!

     Well, it has been awhile since my last post.  I haven’t written anything in some time.  I actually deleted the website since I never thought I’d do this again, but here I sit.  We’ve had some people ask why we quit it and to be honest, it doesn’t seem like very much happens in our lives up here.  Nothing spectacular anyway.  Nothing to write about.  But it gives our family and friends a few more stories and a few more pictures to see.  And it does feel good to sit, relax, and ‘download’ your day when the sun is low and all is quiet in OUR world (which usually means that Kian is asleep).

He still thinks he’s a BEAR!

     Essie moved from being the Special Education teacher to the new K-3 teacher.  She seems to enjoy it but I’m a little worried about the long hours.  She kind of got Preschool dumped in her lap, so now instead of getting off at 3:30 or 4:00, she gets home about 7:30.   And when Kian is in bed by 8 or 9, it doesn’t leave much family time.  That was one thing we cherished about our life here, all the family time.  Money doesn’t mean much if you’re stuck at work all the time.

     I’m still working as the Head of Maintenance at the school, too.  My day is usually done by 4:00 or 4:30.  I’ll walk to the babysitter’s house, pick up Kian, and sometimes get to take him to preschool to be with his mom and other kiddos his age.  He really enjoys it when he gets to go, and so do I.  These are usually the days when I get to go hunting and checking my traps in the evening.  I’ve gotten 2 moose this year, caught a few foxes, and a couple of otters.  I only have a few traps out at any given time since I don’t have much time to spend checking them.  When I do though, I’ll take along a .22 rifle and keep an eye out for ptarmigan.  Sometimes it’s hard to see a white bird standing in snow…

Out for a ride on the Yukon River

 

My first moose this year. I caught it fairly close to home, so I decided to roll it in the sled and take it home to work it up. I wanted to try it this way so I could get the hide off in 1 big piece. I thought it would be easier, but it’s probably about the same as doing it out in the tundra, wherever the moose falls. The main difference here is when you get cold, you can step in and warm up and have coffee.

I wanted to take the hide off in 1 nice big piece because I’ve been wanting to try to ‘brain-tan’ a moose hide over the summer. I’ve watched 2 YouTube videos on the subject, so naturally I should be able to accomplish this with no trouble at all….

Here lately, I’ve had the opportunity to travel within the school district working on diesel engines for different schools.  I went to Pilot Station a couple of times and LOVED it!  It really spices up the day when the school charters a plane to come pick you up and take you somewhere you’ve never been.  Even better when it’s just you and the pilot and it’s a little 207!

The day after I got back from Pilot Station the 1st time, I got my 2nd moose.  We didn’t need the meat, but some elders and a couple others said they’d be grateful for some.  I enjoy being out in the wilderness even when I don’t have much of a reason for being there.  Having a purpose for going out, that’s just icing on the cake!

I was alone when I caught this moose, so I had to set the phone in the snow to take a picture, which may be why it’s blurry at the bottom. And let me just say, working up a moose by yourself is A LOT OF WORK!
I took this right after I got finished loading the moose on the sled, and got back on the river. It took about an hour and a half to get back home, so it was good and dark by that point. Beautiful ride back, though.