Year, 1985 to 2016 Christmas trees and Doggie Treats.
For the past few weeks I have been writing about Christmas trees from the time I grew up in Colorado to the first Christmas in Alaska.
Fast forward to 1985, Bob and I moved into a little one bedroom log cabin in need of repair in North Nikiski, Alaska. The yard that was full of trees, shrubs and undergrowth, such as the horrible stuff called Devils Club, a pokey, prickley plant the reaches out and grabs you as you are tramping through the woods. It leaves thorns that burn and sting in your hands, legs and anywhere else it may touch you.
Beyond the neglected hillside was a beautiful lake.
Bob spent many weeks cleaning up the hill side and hauling truck loads of garbage away. Old broken bottles and cans, discarded refrigerators and stoves were thrown over the side of the hill from various people who lived the cabin for years! Bob’s work resulted in a beautiful place on a small flat spot not too far from the lake. He built a big fire ring and fueled it with the cut and chopped under growth- tree’s and branches, willows and other things that were burnable. We spent so many wonderful nights around the bon fire with friends singing to the moon and moose and listening to the hooty owl join in. Once in a while a big moose would wander over the edge – take one look and skirt around the noise in her neighborhood and continue on down to the lake for a long drink of cold water. We had great times with great friends.
When our first Christmas rolled around Bobs creativity sprung into action and the result was a beautiful small tree on a ledge he built inside the big window in our tiny living room space. The kitchen on one side, the fireplace on the back wall and the living area took up the rest. One bed room and a small bathroom made up our cozy little cabin.
First we had to search for the perfect tree. We sped off in Bob 1963 Ford Pickup looking everywhere for the perfect one. Well, you do not find perfect trees in Alaska. So Bob in his creative mind, finally stopped the pickup in an area along side the road where there were several small spruce trees. He picked out one not so perfect, then another and another and another for good measure. We came home with four small trees in the truck and smiles at the good time we had.
He magically shaped and wired, three of the trees into the perfect four foot tree. He built the stand for it and because we did not have room for a tree on the floor he built a ledge for the tree to rest in front of the big window in the living room area. Then from my sewing stash, I had some quilt batting that he placed around the bottom of the tree. I had a few left over ornaments from years previously I loved were hung with care. We did not have tree lights and our tiny budget was almost depleted, but we NEEDED lights, so we splurged and bought one strand. They lit up the tree like magic. I had ribbon and some garland. We hung popcorn rope – which takes a long time to string! Somewhere along the line we were given two more strings of lights and Bob put those around the window and the door way. When we turned out the house lights the “Bob tree” was perfect!!
I made a few gifts and baked lots of cookies. I was happy and content as I put the homemade gifts under our perfect tree. But Bob was not through yet! We had lots of snow on the ground and noticing the birds and the squirrels scrambling around in the snow covered trees, he decided that fourth tree with a few branches missing should go up on the outside of the big window. In no time he had it up and ready for decorations. We put popcorn rope, cranberries, orange rind, dog food tucked in the branches for the squirrels and left over bread crusts, biscuits, pancakes and a few more morsels were added each day. The whole Christmas and through to about March we filled that tree with goodies for the birds and squirrel and on occasion a moose. The “Bob tree” was our winter outside television. White Alaskan Christmas at it’s best.
The next two Christmas was the same kind of tree with more ornaments that I acquired through the year. 1987, Grandson,Arleigh was almost one year old ,as his birthday is January the 6th, 1986. We also acquired a neighbor, John Turnbull, who moved into the cabin next to us.
In our winter nights of brain storming and inventive minds, we dreamed of getting rich! We needed an invention to make us rich! We pondered and pondered around the bonfire in the snowy winter, roasting on one side and cold on the back side. After a night bonfire and a morning of coffee and breakfast, John came up with the exact thing that would make us rich!! Make Dog Biscuits!! Yup!! He was convinced that was the growing trend and that we should help him make them. Our golden retriever, Penny would be the guinea pig, along with a few cats that we acquired. Well, I like to invent different food concoctions, but never thought of Dog Biscuits!! Researching the contents of several commercial packages at the M & M grocery store where I worked, I bought the ingredients, and drove “clear to town” (Kenai) for bone meal.
In my big stainless mixing bowl that I made bread in, we measured, wrote down each ingredient and I stirred and added more to make it the right consistency of cookie dough. Arleigh helped mix, and roll out the dough. We used a small drinking glass to cut them out, I put them in the oven and slow baked them. From the oven came a smell of garlic, bone meal and other ingredients that we added. Penny moved closer to the stove and the cats were up and meowing as I took the doggie biscuits out of the oven.
After they cooled, we gave one to Penny-dog who chewed, swallowed and slobbered and begged for another. The cats were all making noises like they were left out – so Bob gave each of them one. They slobbered and chewed and begged for more. John was elated, Bob was happy we were gong to be rich and I was appointed to bake more dog biscuits along with cat biscuits with a little canned salmon juice mixed in. So the next day, more stirring and half following the recipe from the day before, I baked more dog and cat biscuits.
After they were cooled and bagged, They had to be named – Bob came up with Mutt Muffins and Pussy Pastry.
John and Bob headed out to see if the rest of the world would buy our great invention. The first stop, of course, was Lamplight Bar where Hayward Wik’s pickup was setting. He had a constant companion, Mandy the Basset Hound. Bob gave Hayward a bag of biscuits explain they were for Mandy and that we were going to sell them. Hayward open the bag, took one smell and plopped it in HIS mouth to Bob and Johns astonishment! “No No Hayward, those are for Mandy.” Hayward looked at Bob and said – “Why would I give something that good to her?” So our Dog biscuits passed the human test also. For the next two months we passed out tons of dog and cat biscuits. We were not getting rich and I was very tired of being called the dog biscuit lady. Besides were gave away far more than we sold. That is the end of the dog-cat biscuit tail. Pune intended!
Living five years in the cabin, we bought our land two lots over from the cabin on the same lake. We built in the mud and rain and more sticky mud and lots more rain. Thank goodness for blue tarps. Bob came home for Unocal each night and did what he could before he fell asleep to the pounding rain. We moved into an unfinished house in October and at Christmas time – with ladders and sheet rock and lots of tools, we had no place for a Christmas tree. That did not detour Bob. We went hunting for three or four little trees. He mashed and wired all three together. He built a ledge outside out living room window facing the frozen lake. We popped corn, strung it – decorated the tree with cranberries and raisins, orange rinds and lots of bread, biscuits and pancakes. We sat in the morning and watched all the grateful birds and squirrels helping themselves to Christmas goodies. In the evening by lamplight, (no electricity) our outside Christmas tree was perfect once again fashioned by Bob.
We have had many trees since that time some 26 years of living in our house Built by Bob and most of them were perfect. We have toned down our excursions into the woods for three and four little trees and gone the easy route, opened up the box we stored our tree in from last year. We did splurge on a fiberotic tree last year for the Bob’s cave and a prelighted tree for the house. We are happy and we hope you are too.
Merry Christmas and Don’t Forget to Say Thank You for All Our Blessings.
The Grannie Annie series is written by a 47 year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski.Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.
Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci. net
The “Grannie Annie” Cook Book Series includes: “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ on the Woodstove”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ Fish from Cold Alaskan Waters”; and “Grannie Annie’s Eat Dessert First.” They are available at M & M Market in Nikiski.
This Saturday the 24th, this Grandpa and Grannie Annie, are celebrating Christmas with a bonfire,with all our relatives and friends dropping by to a sledding party and lots of food including the three soups following.