MEET CAROLE BAKER, GUSTAVUS ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE

carole-baker1Carole Baker, Gustavus artist, has been perfecting her talent for 40 years.  Carole, a quiet and unassuming woman, has extended her artistic reputation across Alaska and to places Outside as well.

Carole spent her early years in Florida.  She liked to draw from childhood.  She got some drawing instruction in grade school, but art classes were not offered after 6th grade.  She went to college at Florida State University, where she majored in medical technology.  She interned in lab work in Atlanta, Georgia.

She worked as a med tech for 8 years, coming to Alaska in 1969 to work for Public Health Service in Anchorage.  As she was an itinerant worker, she traveled around the state to the communities that needed her services.  One such job commute took her to Sitka, where she met her husband, Van.  A fisherman, he lived on one-acre Maude Island (part of the large_thumb_779f077c-7ebf-4dc8-bf52-adf487d597caGilmore Island group), which he owned.  Carole quit her job and stayed, fishing with Van at first.  There, she again started drawing.  Van bought her some dime store watercolors, and she began painting on typing paper.  Her son, Lee, was born in 1972 while they lived on the island.

In 1973, Carole accompanied Van on a fishing trip to Icy Strait.  Van’s uncle had a summer place in Gustavus, and the couple stopped in for a visit.  The Continue reading

WONDERFUL WILD STRAWBERRIES EVERYWHERE!

In its early years, people knew the small town of Gustavus as “Strawberry Point” because of the abundance of the sweet, wild berries fragaria-vesca-855375_960_720growing here.  The town name was changed to Gustavus in 1925 by the new post office.  This new name came from Gustavus Point at the mouth of Glacier Bay.  However, locals continued to refer to the community as Strawberry Point into the 50s and beyond.

The wild strawberry, or beach strawberry, as it is often called, is a member of the rose family.  It is a perennial from the Fragaria genus.  The plant has thick, scaly roots.  It starts new plants by runners, just like cultivated strawberries.  The leaves of the beach strawberry look the same also.  In the spring, a flower with 3 white petals blooms on a long, slender stem.  The juicy fruit grows up to 1 inch long.

The leaves, stems, and berries are edible and contain lots of vitamin C as well as iron, wild-strawberry-556015__180potassium, sulphur, calcium and sodium.  Eat the berries raw or in jam, jelly, and other desserts.

Gustavus black bears really like strawberries.  If you have a favorite patch, you’d better pick Continue reading

LEARN ABOUT WILD ALASKAN PLANTS: MEDICINE OR FOOD?

1plant-lore“Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island” identifies the most common plants in the Kodiak Archipelago.  It includes edible and medicinal plants and recipes for preparing them to eat.  There is a special medicinal index cataloguing all the medical  conditions for which the plant has been used and a short description of the method of use.  As Native uses of the plants are emphasized, the book is somewhat of an ethnobotany.

There are 336 pages in this book.  It covers over 200 plants, organized by habitat.  Supplemental indexes include a plant family index, a glossary of Continue reading

HUNTING WITH JIM, by Marshall (Kim) Warren

(Note from Fran:  This article is the first one submitted to my blog by a guest author.  Kim Warren is from Gustavus, and is a member of our writer’s group.)

kim-warrenI have a friend whose name is Jim.  He has lived in Southeast Alaska for nearly 30 years.  He is a trapper, hunter, fisherman and bushman of the first order.  I’ve known him for about 20 years.  Normally Jim hunts alone, but from time to time he has agreed to take me along to share his natural world.  Now, I am no newcomer to the Alaskan bush or to hunting, but I’m not in Jim’s class.  He talks to the animals!  Not only does he talk to them, but they talk to him and he understands.  I was with him once when he talked to the moose.  Cows would cautiously approach us to get a look at this bull they heard.  When they saw us, they would stand and stare in confusion.

Jim and I went moose hunting awhile back.  The weather was lousy; temperature around 40 degrees and raining.  It was still dark that morning when we left his cabin and headed for the area he wanted to hunt.  I had been to the area before and had way-points in my GPS so I could find the particular spruce tree we were headed for.  Of course, Jim didn’t own a GPS or know how to use one.

We picked up the trail that would lead us to the area of the target tree.  A limb knocked my hat off. Jim patiently waited while I put my hat and Continue reading

MEET ROGER AND MARY WILLIAMS, dba ALASKA METALSMITHING

Roger & MaryRoger Williams met Mary in Indiana when he went to a restaurant to visit a friend.  Mary was working there as a waitress.  They were both drawn to the other, and soon they were a couple.

The two were married in 1972 and traveled to the East coast.  Seeing pictures on a calendar of big trees in British Columbia, they decided to move there.  However, since they could not work in Canada they ran out of money and moved to Ketchikan.  Here Roger worked in a fish plant.

Ketchikan was a wild town in those days.  The mills and fish processors operated around the clock.  The town flowed with money.  Oncespoons-spatch2-2 when the couple were walking down the street, they saw a man thrown bodily through a bar’s swinging doors.  He landed on the street right in front of them.

From 1973 until 1997, when the family finally moved to Gustavus, they lived a bit of a nomadic lifestyle.  They spent time in British Continue reading

MOUNTAIN ASH — THE TREE WITH AN ALIAS

We in Southeast Alaska are fortunate to have many mountain ash growing in our forests.  They flank the road down half my long driveway, and are lovely at any time of year.

Did you know mountain ash has an alias?  It is also known as the rowan tree.  The ancient druids revered it.  This group included lawyers, poets, and doctors, but were best known for being religious leaders.  Druids believed the tree, having the power to enhance life and create magic, held forces that could counteract evil and give protection from witchcraft. Mtn Ash 2 For this reason the tree was often planted in churchyards.  It was also believed that by wearing a sprig or a cross made from the wood, the person would be safe from such negative powers.  Druid priests also used the bark and berries of the tree to make a black dye used for garments at lunar coronations.

A member of the Sorbus genus, mountain ash is part of the rose family.  The berries are edible, though rather bland.  They are sweeter after the first frost.  Nutritionally, they are high in vitamins C and A.  When made into jam or jelly, their flavor may be enhanced by Mtn Ash 1adding sugar, ginger and apples.  The birds, however, need no additions but find the berries to be choice food.  Thanks to these feathered creatures, the seeds have spread throughout the woods of remote Alaska.

Though the berries are edible, this shrub or tree is valuable at any time of year as an ornamental.  Its leaves, pinnately compound, are attractive by themselves.  In the spring  clusters of white flowers adorn the tree.  These flowers gradually wilt and turn brown; they then transform and ripen into stunning bright red berries.  Once the berries fall from the tree and the temperatures drop, the mountain ash leaves change to spectacular shades of red-orange and yellow, creating yet another beautiful display.

Many ancient groups have legends about the mountain ash under its rowan tree alias.  There is a Greek legend concerning Hebe, the goddess of youth.  Hebe had a magic chalice from which she served a drink to the gods from time to time, to keep them young and healthy. Continue reading

THE TRUTH ABOUT ALASKAN IVORY

Have you ever thought about buying a piece of Alaskan ivory? Has something stopped you?

As you are probably aware, because of the tragic slaughter of thousands of elephants for their tusks, national and international trade in the ivory of threatened species such as African or Asian elephants is now illegal, as well it should be. But what about Alaskan ivory? Because it is often fossilized and does not come from an endangered species, ivory used in Alaska is quite legal, and very much a part of Alaskan Native art and culture.bear-carving
When you hold a piece of fossilized ivory in your hand, let your imagination take you back through the ages to the time when that ivory existed as part of an ancient animal. Can you imagine its prehistoric world? Close your eyes and let the piece float in your mind. What do you feel and see? It is awe-inspiring to try to comprehend the age of the piece you are holding.

Ivory has had a wide variety of uses since ancient times. Prior to the introduction of plastics, ivory was made into cutlery, billiard balls, piano keys, Scottish bagpipes, buttons, false teeth, fans and dominoes, as well as jewelry and simple to elaborate carvings. The ancient Irish decorated their sword hilts with ivory from whale teeth. The Chinese valued elephant ivory for both art and utilitarian objects. Early whalers scratched designs on sperm whale teeth, then rubbed India ink into the scratches, a process known as scrimshaw. In modern times, artists have used scrimshaw to create some beautiful pieces, such as tusks displaying a complete scene from Alaskan life, or a pendant with an elaborate flower or animalDSCF2090[1]scratched into its surface. Continue reading

MAMMOTH IVORY BEAR PIN/PENDANT by ZEALANDIA DESIGNS

Bear This adorable bear is carved from mammoth ivory. Created by Zealandia Designs, he hangs from a silver bar which is engraved with a formline bear design. Turn him over and you will see loops for a chain so he can become a pendant, and a pin-back, if you prefer to wear him as a pin.DSCF2096[1] He measures 1 1/2 inches high and 3/4 inches at his widest point. The silver bar is 1 1/4 inches long. He sells for $396.00, with first-class insured shipping included.
You may order this bear directly from me by going to my “about me” page and either emailing or calling. Please do not enter your payment information in an email. Leave me a phone number and I can call to collect your payment information.

Bizarre Alaskan Story II: New Twist to Bear-Baiting?

According to the Huffington Post, last year a man in a realistic-looking bear costume, complete with head, ran through the area close to a weir on the Chilkoot River near Haines.  A crowd had gathered near the weir to watch a sow and two cubs who were feeding there.  They were startled when the man, dressed as a bear, began to jump up and down and then got within 5 to 10 feet of the cubs.  An Alaska Fish & Game technician moved the sow away for the man’s safety, and then tried to talk to the man, who refused to identify himself.  The man then drove off, never removing his costume.  The article said troopers were investigating and the man could face wildlife harassment charges.

Why was he bothering the bears in the first place?  No one knows.  Perhaps he felt they were getting more than their share of salmon.