NORTH NIKISKI, ALASKA 1985 to 2013
This recent cold snap has reminded me of our earlier days after we built our house in the mud and the rain in 1989. That winter, it snowed so much we were snowed in. We had to leave our vehicle at the cul-de-sac about a block away and we walked out, or in, all that winter.
Although we are not homesteaders, we have a lot of friends who are. They have shared their stories and recipes with us. I feel my family has homesteading qualities — as it takes a certain type of hardy individual, hard, hard work, love of the outdoors, love of nature animals and good friends. But trips to the outhouse in the middle of the winter at below zero will make you leave Alaska or stay because you love Alaska.
Falling trees and chopping wood, splitting and stacking and hauling it into our house — making a fire in the cold, cold woodstove and, of course, the trips to the outhouse. The trips, bundled up, sometimes walking over and around snowdrifts, will make you one hardy person. Bob has shoveled his share of pathways to the outhouse and sometimes the path had 6-foot walls.
There are many stories about how to heat the seat of an outhouse. The one we liked the best was just taking a toilet seat with you that was warmed, parked behind the woodstove, hanging on a wire hanger. You grabbed it, as you hurried out the door after you are all bundled up. It takes a lot of advance planning!
Bob and friend JT built our outhouse as a “state of art.” It has a see-through corrugated roof, linoleum on the floor, bright yellow toilet seat and a sun-powered light inside. Spring and summer is no problem at all. I actually enjoy the trip. We used our outhouse for four years, and then I needed running water and a bathroom. All I had to do was ask.
Bob built a very nice bathroom, installed a tub and shower. Added an outside entryway and hooked up the long-awaited washer and dryer — to running water!! No more carrying water up and down the hill. No more heating water on the woodstove. No more taking baths in a dish pan in the kitchen. No more lugging laundry in or out into the cold to the car, driving to the laundromat, hauling clean clothes back to the car. Back home, out of the car, loading on a sled and up the hill and down the hill to our house. We did that for four years!!
We did, however heat our house with the same woodstove, as we prefer wood heat. Besides that, we got our daily exercise hauling in wood. We played the game of who’s going to bring in the wood, but most of the time we helped each other.
Cooking on our woodstove inspired my first book, “Cookin’ on the Wood Stove.” It was a challenge to figure out how or what to cook. I just put myself in the shoes of my grandmother and my mother in earlier days and it worked.
I guess we can call ourselves homesteaders even though we did not clear land, plow the fields and plant a crop as required for homesteading. My hat is off to those hardy, tough people. They knew how to survive in the land of the North. We had our land cleared with a bulldozer; we built our house in the rain and the mud. We read to each other by candlelight and lanterns. We laughed a lot and we worked hard. We wish we could do that again — well, just once in a while.
NOW, WINTER of February, 2019
I wrote that story in 2013 and now in 2019. We are having several different kinds of weather. Rain, ice, snow — lots of it —drizzle and this morning, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, we have pea soup fog, with drizzling, very light rain, encasing everything in ice.
Bob has used up every space in our yard to pile snow 10-feet tall. The very good thing about this is we do not have to traipse to the outhouse anymore, and we have a vehicle that will get us up the hill and to our destination. I give a large shout-out to our Subaru — vintage 1998. Bob’s Olds 88 1998, does a fine job of getting us where we are going, except in deep snow. Bob and his knowledge of Wyoming weather and roads get us through all the winter times. He is amazing.
We have lived here 30 years and have no reason to go anywhere else. Bob built all the buildings, my sewing room, the woodshed and, with help, his cave. Our house is snug and comfortable. We have made some changes. We are not using the woodstove anymore. We now have a Rinnai propane heater that keeps us warm. No more chopping, splitting and hauling wood into the house every evening. That’s very nice!!
We now get water from a well. In the middle of the winter, Bob does not have to battle his way down to the pump house at the edge of the lake anymore to see what happened to the pump — again! That was a brutal job in the deep snow!
Bob still hauls wood into his cave each day but has a nice wire buggy with large wheels that help him. And while I am talking about him — he still works half days for Felix at M&M, Nikiski, as a meat cutter. This week he worked all week. Of course, this would be the week that it snowed every day so he had to plow snow when he came home from work. He will be glad to get back to his twice-a -week work schedule. Not to bad for a 77-year-old man. And guess what? We would not have it any other way!!
MOIST APPLESAUCE-LEMON MUFFINS
Follow the directions exactly.
In a 1-quart measuring cup heat in the microwave:
1 cup low-fat milk.
Stir in 1 cup old-fashioned oats — not the quick kind
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Cool this mixture for 10 minutes.
While cooling, mix the following in another bowl:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons salt
Stir dry ingredients with a fork until well mixed. Add the cooled milk mixture, stirring very gently until flour is just blended. Batter will be lumpy. Do not over mix. Fill sprayed or foil-lined muffin tins 3/4 full. Sprinkle with a pinch of oats and sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Bake in hot oven of 400 degrees for 18 to 20 min.
Next time you bake another batch, try the following. Add dried cranberries or fresh cranberries about 1/2 cup. Or 1/2 cup each: dates, walnuts or chocolate chips. Or, try 1 cup fresh blueberries or 1 cup diced fresh strawberries. For a new different taste, sprinkle with sugar and cardamom in place of cinnamon. These freeze very well.
This is from our friend Judy.
1 cup butter room temperature
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans
Cream butter add powdered sugar. Add vanilla mix slightly, and then add flour. Mix well, add pecans and mix. Use small cookie scoop or a teaspoon to scoop out dough and shape into small balls. Place in refrigerator 24 hours or overnight. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar while warm. Tips for making a round cookie:
Use only real butter
Be sure they are well chilled and hard before baking
Roll in powdered sugar while warm and when cool hide them away in a bowl with lid. Give as gifts to friends and bake another batch for Bob Our dear friend Dan Fenton Loved these also.
This comes from Good News Pres(byterian) in the Our Daily Bread column sent to me every month from La Salle, Colorado — Thanks sister Elaine Oster!
8 ounces of macaroni
12 ounces of Polish or kielbasa sausage, thinly sliced
1/4 cup butter
2 large onions, chopped
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
4 teaspoons spicy mustard
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Cook and drain macaroni. Brown sausage slices in 1 tablespoon of butter and set aside. Add remaining butter and brown onions, stir in flour and cook until bubbly. Stir in milk and cook 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients, except the cheese. Place macaroni sausage mixture in a shallow 3-quart baking dish and place shredded cheese on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Recipe was from Doris. Thanks!
• By Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg