Gail and Gary living on Homestead at Boulder Point, 1985-1992
My daughter Gail and her husband Gary lived on a homestead at Boulder Point, the land that juts out north of Arness Dock, Nikiski.
They lived there seven years. Some of those years, Gary worked on a seismograph crew on the North Slope. Gail has lots of stories about homesteading that I will not be able to put in this article.
Both are hardy and have endured very cold, brutal temperatures. They hunted moose, were stalked by bears and had a nice corral with a horse, goat and pigs.
Chickens were one of Gail’s great accomplishments. They were very big, and when it came to butchering in fall they looked like small turkeys. They made the best roast and chicken noodle soups. Bob still talks about how good those chickens were.
She had a big wonderful garden full of broccoli, kohlrabi and all the things that grow in rich, well taken care of soil. She also raised mushrooms for a while.
When breakup came in spring and the road turned to Jell-O, they walked into the homestead in the mud. They plowed themselves in and out most of the snowy winters. They drained mud puddles and hauled gravel.
Gail walked in and out in the middle of the winters with a backpack when Gary was gone. Sometimes she took shortcuts across the lake. One time coming back home with a loaded backpack of goodies, something hit her from behind and knocked her face first to the snow. A big white owl had swooped down and tried to carry her away in his talons. Her backpack was so heavy it pinned her down and she had to wiggle out of the backpack and roll over to see what hit her. She was wearing a big sheepskin cap and it had a big rip in it.
Another time taking the shortcut across the lake to get home, she had snowshoes on and was carrying a long pole “just in case” she fell through a hole in the ice. That long pole saved her life. Her snowshoes broke through and she went up to her waist in the frigid water. By using the pole she finally got out. She says that she was never cold, but her Carhartt she was wearing froze and by the time she got home she was taking tiny steps.
One time an out-of-state visitor who was being taken back to “civilization” saw a moose and jumped out of the pickup with his camera to take a picture of the local Momma Moose. She was known to charge anything to protect her territory. Stupidity saved his life. Momma, her hair standing up on her neck and her ears pinned back, was ready to charge. Unaware of the warning “be careful of the mad-moose stance,” the visitor clicked away and got back in the pickup, totally unaware he was about to get stomped to death.
The ongoing Swan Lake Fire brings to mind the Swanson River Fire that me and my then-six kids, Betty Coulter and her two kids were in. The year was 1969, but it might as well have been yesterday — I remember every vivid detail. Probably the most terrifying situation I was ever in. Especially, at the time, when I was in charge of six kids! Betty was not any better because she went in to high-overdrive nuts!
The CB — our only mode of communication in those days — squawked on and we heard Gene’s excited voice telling us to load my car with valuables, such as guns and old coins. Gene said we had to get out of there and go to the beach (the upper end of Nikiski Beach) — “there is a fire coming your way.” Betty heard “fire” and in all her excitement ran in the house and grabbed the toilet paper, ran out the door and flung it into my old turquoise-and-black, ’50s-something, four-door Dodge. The toilet paper zinged off every corner in the car and came to rest in the driver’s seat.
In goes Betty and out comes Betty with a big black roaster pan she had in the oven, full of moose roast, carrots and potatoes. She was a little more careful about placing that in the car. She turned around at me — I was lining up the kids — and shouted, “WHAT ELSE!?”
I shouted back, “Do you have any money, old coins and silverware … ” Before I finished my sentence she ran back in the house and grabbed the silverware drawer, ran out and gave the whole drawer a fling. Clatter bang, the silverware was now scattered all over the car. I finished my sentence, “ … and guns?”
We went running back into the house. Betty, acting like the house was already on fire, handed me some guns from the corner of the bedroom. As we ran by the bathroom, I grabbed some towels I shouted, “wrap the guns in towels.”
“OK! OK!” she shouted. She wrapped them gently. I personally laid the guns in the car. I did not know if they were loaded or not, but knowing Gene I was sure they were, and I did not want Betty to fling the guns in the car with bullets flying everywhere!!
I hollered at the kids to get in the car and told Paul to get in the Jeep with me. He was a sweet boy with a handicap and riding in the Jeep was the highlight of his day. We ran back, got some coats and off down the trail to the beach we went.
The house was saved by the airplanes dropping pink retardant on it. In the process, our new blue Ford pickup got pink all over it too. It finally came off, but we scrubbed on it for a while!!
When I hear of forest fires in Alaska, I still feel the fear I had that day. The Swan Lake Fire that they have been battling for a long time is still not out and is 5 miles, as of Tuesday, from Soldotna. As I understand it, no buildings or injuries have been reported. Alaska is vast. Alaska has beetle-kill trees in many regions. Many fires are remote and started by lightning and eventually burn themselves out. Not so, this Swan Lake Fire. I pray the fire will be out soon and all those wonderful firefighters can go home.
My thanks to the brave forest firefighters and the sacrifice they give up of a home, beds and family. Some firefighters have been flown in from the Lower 48. We could not do without these brave workers. Thank you again!
GOCK WITH BACUS (broccoli with cheese sauce)
Gail had a huge garden on the homestead and one of the most delicious was broccoli. Arleigh could not say broccoli and pronounced it “More-gock-please!
Steam broccoli to your desired tenderness. While broccoli is steaming, make the “bacus” — a word that Bob taught his kids and all my kids and grandkids, meaning anything that was a sauce, gravy, cheese sauce, ketchup, anything that was to cover up something else.
In a small pan melt:
2 tablespoons butter
While stirring with a fork add:
2 tablespoons flour
Stir until blended and gradually add:
1 cup milk and salt and pepper
Stir until thick and starts to bubble.
Reduce heat and blend in one 4-ounce package cream cheese and pinch of cayenne.
At this point you can stir in 1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheese or just pour the cream cheese sauce over drained steamed broccoli and bake 20 minutes until nicely browned. NOTE: baking is not necessary, just sprinkle cheese on top and serve.
Grandson Joey tells me that Bacchus was the Greek God of Wine and Celebration. We leave the wine out and celebrate by eating every last piece of gock with bacus.
And that is end of the Gock and Bacus story.
GAIL’S MOOSEMEAT MEAT LOAF
This makes a bunch. Her own crew at one time was four hungry boys. She also cooked for a bunch of people for several years on a fishing site. She is a very fine cook and invention sometimes has to take over in Alaska.
Here is her delicious version of meat loaf.
Ground moosemeat by volume. You should have 2/3 parts moosemeat to 1 pound of Jimmy Dean sausage or a good breakfast sausage.
3 medium Alaska potatoes, grated and the moisture squeezed out. (She grated potatoes on paper plate, rolled it up and squeezed out the moisture. Or, you can put a baggie on your hand and squeeze out the moisture).
1 large onion, grated or a “dump of dry onion” — probably a handful!
3 or 4 stalks of celery, sliced fine. In a pinch, grated parsnips will do
1 green pepper, diced fine — if you have it
A sprinkle of Montreal Steak Seasoning, or garlic salt, pepper and cayenne
If you care to use dehydrated vegetables, rehydrate them in a little hot water first.
METHOD: Put baggies on hands and knead the meat and rest of ingredients with hands until they are well mixed.
In a large lasagna pan, shape three loaves. Put pan on hot woodstove on top of four canning jar lids, to keep off direct heat. Put another lasagna pan over top to form an oven. (Shaping in loaves cooks the meat in the middle).
Make sure fire is hot, at least 350 degrees, by holding your hand over the stove — if you cannot holed it there very long, it’s hot enough!*
*The easier way put into a 350 degree oven for one hour.
*If the moose meat loaf is too juicy, throw in a handful of long grain rice around the outside edge of pan while cooking. You can brown the top under a broiler afterward, but it’s not necessary.
Serve with Gock and Bacus and garlic bread to hungry kids and adults and have a plate for yourself. Sit outside on a rock or stump and watch the Cook Inlet waves come in and go out in the late afternoon, while the sun bounces off the top of the mountain ranges.
GAIL’S BAKED VEGETABLES
Gail grew the best kohlrabi, parsnips and broccoli and lots of other things in her homestead garden.
Dice assorted vegetables into a buttered loaf pan. Dot with butter and a tablespoon of water and cover with foil. Place directly on the surface of the wood stove, or put into you modern oven for about one hour at 350 degrees.
Bake a potato — put halved on an oiled, foil-lined cookie sheet and place a big lasagna pan over top to form oven. Or, bake in the modern oven for one hour.
P.S., her sons, Arleigh and Grey, call kohlrabi “cabbage apples.”
• By ANN “GRANNIE ANNIE” BERG, For the Peninsula Clarion