(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.)
I 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
Roger 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. Once 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
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. 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 adding 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
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.
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 animalscratched into its surface. Continue reading
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. 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.
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.
“Alaskan Attitudes” is my story of my life on a Spruce Island homestead, close to the island of Kodiak. I spent 20 years living on Spruce Island in a house I helped build. I lived by myself much of the time, and the book details my adventures Continue reading
Spring comes to Gustavus when the dull colors of winter give way to the greens of the forest under-story and grassy lawns. Then, we know the season has arrived for sure when the first dandelions appear. Their bright-yellow flowers, like little suns reflecting back from the ground, lift our hearts and bring smiles to our faces.
As spring continues, the dandelions become more and more prolific, until they seem to be trying to take over the world. Never fear — I have a solution here for you. When you get tired of looking at that field of yellow, you can make a very fine wine from the blossoms. You’ll need 15 quarts of them for your first batch, so start picking!
Soon after you start your wine the remaining Continue reading
The dandelion (Taraxicum genus) is a perennial, and a member of the very large composite
family. “Dandelion” comes from the French name, “dent de lion” (tooth of the lion.)
Roots, crowns (parts between roots and ground surface), and tops, from young leaves to flower buds and full blooms, can be eaten. They are an excellent source of vitamins B, C, and A. The plant is especially high in calcium, and also contains potassium, phosphorous and sodium. Here is a summary of ways dandelions can be eaten:
Roots: Scrape, slice, and boil roots in salted water until tender, then eat as a vegetable. Being part of the chicory family, the roots may also be dried in the oven, ground, and used as a coffee substitute. I would recommend Continue reading
Sir John Suckling created cribbage in the early 1600s. It is derived from an earlier game called “noddy.” Sir John, an English courtier, poet, and gambler, and an expert at cards, dice, and bowls, developed the game with personal gain in mind. He went around the country Continue reading