Pioneer Potluck: About getting ready for visitors

Our summer visitors from the “Lower 48” get a peek at our home-style Alaskan living. We are always glad to see and greet them as they step out of their car-RV or out of our car after we gather them up at the Kenai Airport.

The first comment is, “”Wow! Do you live here year round?” Then as they walk to the edge of the yard and look out over the lake they say, “My goodness it’s quiet here!” The comments of “it is so beautiful” and “how much snow do you get” — we have the answers of course, because we have told it many times and each year with more enthusiasm as we cannot believe we are still here and have loved every minute of it – well, almost!Winters get longer and not necessary colder, because very year in the winter is different, from no snow, to just a little snow, to rain that turns everything to ice for days and back to snow. That is how this winter was for us! We lived with our cleats on our shoes. And I lived with ear “muffins,” scarves and a heavy coat. Seemed to be a little longer this year – but we are a little older too.

We have lived here in this little house that Bob built almost 30 years. Each season is different from year to year. The predictable things are the bugs and mosquitoes and dandelions and all the different kinds of chirping cheerful birds that stop by Bob’s feeder and for a feast.

Our visitors have different needs. Most want to find the fishing hole and catch the “big one.” Bob and I do not fish, so we just give them advice and point them in the direction of the Kenai and Kasilof River or make arrangements for them to go out on charters in Anchor Point and Ninilchik.

We also show them our “backyard” where the fishing is great at Bishop Creek and Swanson River. We take them through Captain Cook State Park to see the beauty of the water in Cook Inlet and the land across the bay in “The Land of The 10,000 Smokes.” (Volcanos in every stage of eruption.)

We also point out the oil rigs standing on legs sticking up out of the swift water of Cook Inlet. Bob is still able to name almost every one of them. He used to work on them.

But most important of all is to stop and smell the fireweed blossoms and wild Sitka roses. We also show them our favorite spot to pick blueberries, raspberries and wild strawberries. We warn them of the “devil’s club” that attacks you if you wander too far off the beaten path. Those devilish stickers will get you! We also tell them about the big ol’ bear that may be watching you pick HIS blueberries in his favorite patch. We tell the many bear encounter stories and the moose mommas and baby stories.

If they want to go sight seeing we point out Hope, Valdez, Whittier and Seward and its great points of interest. Sometimes we go with them, especially to Seward to go on a Kenai Fjords tour of Resurrection Bay to see all the wonderful sights. Lots of sea life and birds, and the surrounding area is non-stop beautiful. We usually end the trip with a tour of the SeaLife Center. It is impressive and educational and not to be forgotten on any tour of Alaska.

If you want to go to Whittier, you can catch a train and load up and go to Whittier or you can drive at certain times through the same tunnel that the train travels through. I have not done that and don’t figure I will!! You can get on a cruise ship in Whittier and end up in Valdez. Then take a bus back to Anchorage through a scenic tour that is breathtaking.

A train trip from Anchorage to Fairbanks is relaxing and so much to see. With highlight of a tour of Denail National Park that takes at least two days, but you must allow three days just to see it all. Back on the train with the slow ride over Hurricane Bridge. And on to your destination of Fairbanks — the great mining areas, great parks with all the museums of old mining are very interesting. Also, the general homestead living and the great aviation museum.

Hop on an airplane back to Anchorage or Kenai. You can rent a car or we will take you to Homer for a trip we both enjoy. We make reservations at Glacier View Cabins and say hello to the owner, our old friend, Kelly Cooper. We go see the waters of Homer and walk the beaches and marvel at the shining sun bouncing along Katchemak Bay. All kinds of fishing for halibut and salmon are available on charters. Fresh crab and shrimp usually is another reason Bob and I go to Homer. We scout out a local crab-shrimp man parked beside the road with a sign leaning on his pickup, advertising his shrimp and crab for sale. Or the supply stores on the spit and in Homer have already frozen crab, shrimp and other delights for you to buy.

The snagging pond is fun to watch and fish in. Usually you will get the salmon you want at certain times of the tides. We scout out a place to eat and have many choices in Homer and on the Spit.

Back at home, we end their visit with a big Bob bonfire, inviting all our neighborhood friends for a potluck picnic. We all get to tell stories and tall tales of our adventures over the years in the Land of The Midnight Sun.

As we get ready for our summertime in Alaska, we are sprucing up the place after the winter of sometimes brutal weather. There are raspberries bushes to trim, leaves and limbs from all the wind we had all winter to pick up and we are almost ready to mow the grass!

I most of all, am looking forward to plant my usually bounty of plants and flowers that daughter Susan so kindly grows and shares from Fireweed Greenhouse. They are the finishing touch of our welcome to visitors that come to see us. We are blessed.

The Pioneer Potluck series is written by 50-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 the stories will bring a smile to your day. Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci.net.

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