Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Nonstop to Talkeetna"

For those of you who might not get the title inference, it's an almost quote from the movie "Snow Dogs". I have watched that movie a few times and it still gripes me but I guess you'd have to be an Alaskan to get why. Anywho, that's not the topic for this particular post. Dad and I drove my poor, unsuspecting heifer to Talkeetna yesterday. She made the acquaintance of the most magnificent beast, Obsidian. He's an Highland bull, in case you couldn't tell.
I had to drag her out of "bed" at 6 a.m., shove her unwilling body into a trailer and make her stand for six hours to get there. Okay, I didn't force her to stand, she was in a trailer and could have laid down if she wanted to. She didn't have to ride backwards either but that was what she chose to do. I kind of understand, "I know that I got in here through these things, now if I can just get them open somehow!" We stopped in Wasilla to see Charlie and have breakfast at IHOP. (I had an omelet, just so you know) and then moved on to Talkeetna. In actuality we turned off the road before we got all the way to Talkeetna but it's easier to say that we went there then try and explain the directions.
Tony's place is a lot like ours in that he's got his own thing going. His cow corral is right next to the house so that made me feel better since he can see everything that's going on out there. His corrals are really big but they are made from electric tape and barbed wire, neither of which are familiar to Bonnie. Which leads us to a really funny story and the entire reason for this post. And now...
"The Bonnie Saga or Moodini, Part Two"

It is a beautiful, sunny day as we roll into Talkeetna, towing our charge behind us. We could tell that she sensed something because our white, Explorer began to jerk and sway with the movements in the trailer. As we, uncertainly because I left the directions at home, turn down a twisty, dirt driveway my father looks at me and raises his eyebrows.
"I don't think this is it"
"It's the twisty one after the straight one and that 's what the directions say... I think. I'll call Mom and ask her to run home and read them to me if you want."
"No, if it's not then we'll ask directions or turn around and try another driveway."

As the SUV rounds the last bend a small, log cabin comes into view. Standing in front is a slight man, long bearded in Carhartt overalls. Through the trees I catch a glimpse of an immense, shaggy blackness. Butterflies erupt in my stomach as Dad hollers out the window that we're looking for Tony.
"That's me." Mr. Carhartt says and sticks out his hand. After Dad shakes it he introduces me and the chatting begins. As we slowly fall from the cab, it was a LONG ride after all, we run through the various pleasantries that perfect strangers seem to do. When I pop the side door on the trailer, to check my baby Tony comes around to check her out too. He notices right away that she is mixed blood but he doesn't seem to mind cause she is beautiful after all. Dad is unsure about how she will react to being in a strange place so he unloads her. Actually, he throws open the door and stands back as she flies from her confines. My sweet cow doesn't freak out though and I am able to lead her safely to the first corral. As Tony turns off the electric fence and pops the divider out I let Bonnie wander around and sniff things. It seems at times that she is a dog, with the incessant need to explore her world with her nose. She is incredibly interested in the small paddock that holds an eight week old heifer calf, the product of an illicit affair with the Black Angus bull down the road. As I lead her to the, now open, corral that houses her future baby-daddy she doesn't seem too nervous. I, on the other hand, can't help noticing the massive animal moving in our direction. He is GORGEOUS! All horn and hair and patient, rolling gait, getting closer and closer. I ask Tony if I could just turn her loose, he says sure and I reach for Bonnie's chin. Normally, this is her signal to bolt from me, kicking up her heels and playing but as she takes her first hop she finally notices that boy that is so close to her. Her jump seems to change in midair, from vertical to horizontal and she bolts away from him. Fortunately, she also bolts away from us. Tony has very nicely put a rope on Obsidian's halter so that occasionally he would step on it, slowing his progress and allowing his reluctant mistress to scamper away. As he moves past us I can't help but admire the sheer power of him. His horns are so perfectly formed and as he moves through the trees he tilts his massive head to accommodate them. Perfect!!!!!
Parched from the long ride, Bonnie stops at the water tank and is rewarded with an eager nose shoved into her... Well, that part doesn't need description, I think everyone gets the picture. As she moves around the tank, a persistent Obi follows her until she stands still long enough for him to get a decent sniff. While he curls his lip, testing her readiness with the organ in the roof of his mouth, she moves on to the enormous pile of hay, just laying there waiting for her. Of course, being a healthy male, Obi has to make sure she is absolutely, positively out of of heat before he can relax and they make several rounds of the corral before things calm down. But as Bonnie becomes less concerned about Obi, she becomes more curious about her new home. As we're standing there watching, she meanders over to the side and sticks her head between two hot wires and begins stripping a sapling on the other side. Panic ensues until the fence is restored to it's position and Bonnie's head is on the same side of the fence as her body.
"She's never been around electric fence before so she may not realize..." My sentence is halted by Bonnie's jerk as she touches her wet nose to another section of fence and is given a shock. Maybe she'll get it now and not stick her head through it again? HAHAHAHA!!!!! Not my Bonnie! Five minutes later, I must run out the gate, around the corral and grab her with my bare hands as she meanders around in the woods outside the corral! She had nonchalantly stepped through another section of fence while we all stood there and watched her and poor Obi, powerless to make his new female stay inside with him. As I start to pull her back to the fence she stops to pull a few weeds up and gazes at me with her big eyes as she chews. When she realizes that I intend to put her back with Obi she gladly goes back through the fence and canters to the other side. I realize that this could get old, chasing her though fences so I sidle up between them and grab her halter. Apparently, Obi takes this as his signal to throw his big shaggy head onto Bonnie's back, preparing to attack, er mount, her. Of course, since she is not receptive, Bonnie lunges away from him, crushing my right foot in the process. Okay, it's not crushed! Not even broken but it sure hurts real bad!
I allow Bonnie to drag me to the hay and stand there, foot throbbing as Obi ambles up behind and starts to get friendly again. I'm prepared this time and warn him off, pushing his nose to the side. He's not that tall and I'm wary of the horns but I've got control of her and it's my job to watch her back... and other rear parts. Tony comes to the rescue with a lead rope and a chain. Since Bonnie gets chained up all day, every day I tell him that it shouldn't be a problem having her tied beside the hay. He's leery since he had a cow that got tangled in a rope, panicked, fell and broke her back. I assure him that she is familiar with being tied and can untangle herself. So long as she can get her rear end away from Obi if she needs to then she'll be fine. And with Bonnie safely restrained in the corral, Obi standing protectively close, we saddle up and hit the road. It's been an eventful trip but I, for one, am eager to get home. Have a fun stay my Bonnie

The End

Stay tuned for the continuation of our story, or " Cow Among Tony's Cabbage"
In the meantime, here's some pictures so you can better appreciate the previous events.

Night,
~Pam

This is the Highland/Angus heifer calf. She's coming home with Bonnie. But she's not gonna stay. The owner of our borrowed trailer wants her.


This is Obsidian, ambling through the trees, in pursuit of his latest lady.


Bonnie was approaching him this time and he turned to look at us. When we left she was trying to get him to play with her but he's too dignified for that.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saurekraut

Well, my cousin Andrea asked me about the sauerkraut a couple posts ago. I started to type a reply to that comment but realized that there was too much information for that method. A post seems the best way to convey all of the intricacies and the nuances of such an art.

Watch the tutorials on YouTube!

There, post finished.

Later,
~Pam

Just kidding Andrea!

Okay, I made my sauerkraut using the salt-only method. This is the second batch I have made this way. I am considering using the "cheater" way but just haven't gotten around to it.

Salt Method Of Making Sauerkraut:

One head of organic cabbage (I say organic cause it cancels a lot of the health benefits if you use cabbage that's been grown with synthetic fertilizer, insecticides and herbicides)
Unrefined Sea Salt (it still has the trace minerals in it that can only make you healthier)
A crock or glass jar (one head of cabbage filled a gallon jar)

Shred the cabbage very thinly. I mean THIN. You've all seen sauerkraut! Alternate layers of cabbage and salt in your container until the container is full. You don't have to completely cover each cabbage layer with salt though, just a teaspoon or so ought to do. Remember, salt is pretty powerful and you don't want your sauerkraut to be too salty.

After the container is full, use your fist or a mallet, or something equally blunt to crush the cabbage until juices are released. Try to get enough juice to cover the cabbage completely but if you can't then cover it with salt water. Try and shoot for juice coverage though so you don't get too much salt.

Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least two weeks. The warmer the ambient temperature the faster your kraut will ferment. I had to leave mine out for a month since I made it in January, in our chilly kitchen. Start tasting as soon as you want and when it's fermented to your tastes then put it somewhere cool so it'll last longer. This is how I made my first and second batch. The first batch had cabbage, beets, kale and beet greens in it so it was a really nice shade of pink but it was too salty. This batch is much better in that regard but it is purely cabbage. I tried to make pickles the same way but I really need to do it with gherkins instead of the slicing cucumbers you buy in the store.

Now, the "cheater" method and the easiest way to predict results and also the best way to ferment salsa and relish is to use a yogurt starter. Instead of layering the product with salt, just fill your container, crush and add starter that has been put in water. (1/4 cup water per packet of starter seems to be the consensus) . You can buy yogurt starter in most health food stores. I've been toying with the idea of making relishes and some salsa since the company that makes those products doesn't ship to Alaska for whatever retarded reason.

Now, the reason for the salt, in case you don't know. Salt kills bacteria, most of them anyway. Salt in your ferments will retard the growth of putrefying bacteria long enough for the lactobacilli to take over. Lactobacilli produce lactic acid, which pickles things. Using the starter simply adds the lactobacilli from the get go so there is no contest with the nasties and your product ferments faster, better and you're better able to predict the final result. There's the added bonus of not getting it too salty. I haven't done it so far cause I wanted to do it the "right" way. I wanted to make authentic sauerkraut, authentic kefir and authentic sourdough. I'm loosening up a bit and might give the starter method a try. I'll let you know how it goes. You can also use whey from making cream cheese to make your ferments. Just put some yogurt in a cloth, suspended over a bowl. The clearish liquid that drains out is whey and it is loaded with the same bacteria as the yogurt. The drained yogurt can be used as cream cheese and makes a really great, healthy spread for bagels and stuff!

Okay, now for the mini lecture cause you knew it was coming. The health benefits of fermented things have been known for centuries, but Western civilization has forgotten. And since it has been forgotten and phased out of the typical American menu, it's harder to get people to at least try a fermented product. Fermenting something increases the nutritional content, makes those increased nutrients more available for our bodies, makes food easier to digest, introduces probiotics to our systems and tastes down-right delicious. Digestive issues can often be resolved with the introduction of fermented food.
There are many, many, many things that have been or can be fermented if you are creative enough to try. Happy fermenting!
Later,
~Pam

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Life is so surreal sometimes. At times it seems like I'm fully in the moment, I'm fully aware of my life and what's been happening to me over the past three months and then I seem to fade back into this world of just existing. I often think of Raisa and what she meant... means to me. She is still a huge part of my life, just a huge missing part. Sometimes it's like she was just here yesterday and I know I'm going to see her tomorrow. I'm looking through pictures of her sisters, laughing at the funny ones, sighing at the sweet ones and absolutely falling apart when I realize that that sweet baby girl is in the background and I had never noticed her before. Some days are good, some days are bad and some days are so completely lost to me. I can spend an entire week, busy about my life and be brought to a standstill by the "sudden" realization that she is never coming back, that I don't get to hold her and breathe in that sweet smell that was so uniquely her and I end up on my knees, wracked with grief so raw that I can't breathe. It seems strange to others that I am so attached to her but she was like one of my own babies. I couldn't love her more if I had given birth to her and it still wrecks me to think of life without her. She was taken so suddenly and I never had the chance to see her or say goodbye. Her parents were there for her entire struggle. They were there to say goodbye when she took her last breath but I never got that chance and that hurts a lot. They split her ashes so she could be buried in Alaska, by her mother's family and in South Dakota, by her father's family but I have nothing. I have pictures and memories and some of the things that were used for her while she was here but I have nothing of HER. Not a lock of hair, not a handprint, not a footprint... Nothing but what I carry around inside of me and that will never be enough. I know my memories of her are already fading, being replaced by new ones of her sisters and the rest of life and it's like saying goodbye all over again when I can't remember things.
The pig roast is quickly approaching. What's that got to do with this post? Everything! The pig roast at Pastor and Anita's last year was where I got to parade her little eight week old self around and show her off. Everyone cooed and sighed and everyone held her. I know people just do that to babies but that day it was about Raisa, MY Raisa, not some anonimous baby that belonged to someone else. Angela took a picture of us that day and I cherish that picture. It reminds me always that she was here, that I touched her and held her and loved her. It reminds me that for one brief, golden year, my life was better because she was in it and even though, at times, it seems that grief has enveloped my entire being, I know that I'll see her again. I'll be able to touch her and hold her and love her in person again.

~Pam

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Somethin' freaky this way comes!

So, this year has been weird. We've had eighty degree temperatures, lupine like crazy and some of the strangest wildlife I have ever seen.
We saw a moose with three calves the other day, the first I've ever seen. One of the triplets was a lot smaller than the other two and it made me wonder if perhaps it wasn't a foster. That would be cool if it was and it makes it!


There was a really strange squirrel in the bird feeder.


And there's a giant mosquito hangin' around in the driveway. It took three strong men and a trailer to make it go away! Unfortunately, it polished off a couple of kids before it could be vanquished.


~Pam

Monday, June 15, 2009

My favorite...



This is my favorite shelf in the entire refrigerator. Left to Right: Partially drunk gallon of raw milk, full gallon of raw milk with the cream risen, sourdough starter and lacto-fermented saurkraut.

YUMMY! YUMMY! YUMMY!

~Pam

Monday, June 8, 2009

Vacation Bible School 2009 was over on Thursday. We had a pretty good turnout. A couple kids from the neighborhood came but since "my" kids were out of the state or Daddy was home I didn't bring any. Bummer. But, the girls are back in the state, Anchorage and I should have them tomorrow. Kelley and Riley are coming over on Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat and Sun so my schedule is officially full. Dad is deckhanding again so my days should be full of children and empty of Father this summer. I can't say as I'm disappointed.

The Diamond M called today and we are getting raw milk again!!!!!!!!! I have missed it so much. Since we are at the bottom of the list I guess we get called when the supply gets to be more than the demand. We're getting our two gallons a week, $6 a gallon and Mom can swing by and get one on her way home, Wednesday and we can get the other when we go shopping on Saturday! I'm too excited can you tell?

Bonnie still has her date in Talkeetna at the end of the month. I guess the whole crew (Dad, Mom, Kathy, Me and Bonnie) are going. Mom has never been to Talkeetna, Kathy just wants to get away, I want Dad to go in case something breaks on the truck and to see the setup, maybe get some ideas from someone who farms in Alaska, and I have to go cause I'm footing the bill and cause it's my cow that's why! June 26th is when we're taking her up. I guess we're gonna get a room and spend the night so that Kathy doesn't have to ride all the way up and back in one day. Tony (the cow guy) and his kids will bring her back in August, after she's been bred. They are just gonna come down and go fishing or something. I guess this area is one of their favorite places to fish. I wonder why? I am too excited about that too, can you tell?

I managed to make a tiny, little infinity bun today. It feels cooler than it looks. I'm excited to be doing neat things with my hair. It makes me feel justified for having long hair, as if I need it. And again, I'm excited. Can you tell?

Well, I've run out of very exciting news so I'm leaving now, can you tell?

~Pam

Monday, June 1, 2009

VBS

Vacation Bible School started today!!! Yay!!!!!! We didn't have the turnout that we were expecting tonight but we have three more days yet. I helped Miss I-Can't-Do-Crafts-To-Save-My-Life-Jaime do the... crafts. The kids made bookmarks to put in their Bibles, or a favorite book. Hopefully more kids will show up tomorrow. I'm sure having an evening VBS makes it hard for some parents but we are only a small church and evenings are the only times we can all be there. At least some kids get to come! It'll be great fun irregardless.

We moved the turkey poults outside today. I can't remember if I posted about them or not and I don't feel like searching so y'all get to read about them again, maybe. Dad and Uncle Dave went to Nikiski and picked up a pig about two weeks ago. It was the last one he had and it's back feet are malformed. Actually, they are straightening out nicely now but they were very malformed. The guy also had a lot of Standard Bronze turkey poults for $6.50 each. We got six of them. Standard Bronze turkeys combine the size of the Broad-Breasted Bronze with the ability to mate and raise their own young. A large Bronze tom can stand close to four feet tall and weigh 30 pounds or more. The largest tome of the six we had last year was at least 50 pounds, live. I have to carry the carcass with two arms cause it's so heavy. I love the size, so nothing will mess with them, and the natural brooding. One of the poults died about four days after we got them but the other five moved outside today. Dad, Mom and I built a steel "tractor" yesterday. It's fifteen feet in diameter and about three and a half feet tall. It's covered with concrete reinforcing mesh, then wire over the top of that. We put it in the corral because Bonnie leaves bug traps all over the place and she never eats the grass. It can be chest high and she'll turn up her nose and eat the hay. Stange cow! This way, the turkeys can eat the bugs that are attracted to her "offerings" and the grass but be protected somewhat better with her in there. I just hope she doesn't shove it around and end up squishing them. She's outside grazing all day so nighttime is the only dangerous time for them but she's sleeping then anyway. Hopefully, we'll have a bird yard built before winter so the turkeys can go to their own place over the winter. We're gonna wait until next spring to decide which turkey's to butcher so we can get a pair.
Okay, that's all the news I have for this post. If I think of anything else it'll just have to wait!

Night,
~Pam

P.S. Jaime got her hair cut! It is a lot shorter than she thought it would be. The hairdresser (Mrs. Lambert) told her it would be two inches shorter but since Jaime has had long hair for years she was unprepared for how short it is. She's glad the damage is gone, but kinda bummed about the lost length. I feel for her! Maybe we could have a "hair party"! Sounds fun!

About Me

We're a family that came to Alaska in shifts. We've been here since 1995 and don't plan to leave any time soon.

For Jaime

Comment from a SMART President

" The government that is big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have."

Thomas Jefferson President 1801-1809
Died on JULY 4th, 1826

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