Wednesday, August 18, 2010

School starting

Once again, I'm honestly not even sure where to start with a post. I will try to keep this from being another long one, but as usual, there is so much that has gone on in the past few weeks that it will be tough to cover it all quickly. I'm tired if you can imagine that. Actually, VERY tired! Our "vacation" to Valdez was not really a vacation for me. That's ok. I get breaks throughout the year that Rodney does not get. This was HIS vacation! We did have a blast even though the fishing wasn't great. The pink (humpy) salmon were in and we could have brought home tons of those but we're spoiled by reds (sockeye) and silvers (coho) which are tons yummier than the pinks. We didn't think of smoking the pinks until we were about ready to leave or we'd have kept more of them! Rodney smoked up the pinks we brought home and they turned out VERY well! The silvers were just starting to come in just as we were ready to leave so the silver fishing ought to be awesome by now! Rodney hopes to go back in another week or so and catch a bunch more silvers. We'll have been here a year tomorrow so Rodney can now officially go get all of his resident hunting and fishing licenses.

There are enough moose now that they've lowered the restrictions on the number of brow tines on moose for a couple of weeks so Rodney is looking forward to trying for moose soon. There has also been another bear in camp that has been calling to him, teasing him. There are tons of hunting and fishing options opening up to him as of tomorrow, plus all sorts of vacation time that begs to be taken! Now he just needs to get Nate to let him take some! ;)

Our computer is on the fritz, so I'm currently using Oksana's. It doesn't have Photoshop, so I will probably wait until mine comes back to post the Valdez pictures. I could have picked it up yesterday when I was in town, but I had taken the truck in to pick up Rodney's ATV and the truck decided not to start again once I got to the ATV shop. FRUSTRATING! It eventually did start again (after the ATV repair guy looked at battery connections and fuses and couldn't find anything wrong) with no explanation so we ran the rest of our errands without turning off the truck. It is such a habit to turn off a vehicle when exiting that I almost messed up at EVERY stop! Fortunately Arvin and Kathy Busenitz had arrived in town and they were in Anchorage dropping off some wood and tools that he had brought up from Kansas. They were available to help us get home if the truck had not continued to run. We were glad not to need their help, but it was such a relief to know that they were there if we needed them.

Speaking of Arvin and Kathy, it was such a joy to find them here when we returned from our fishing expedition! They are so much fun to have around! We wish they could be here longer, but we'll have to make due with about a month of them visiting. I'm sure the time will fly! Dennis and Heidi from Tuscon will be leaving soon so we plan to have them out for dinner tonight along with Ed from Vermont and Frizz and Darryl, a few fun summer staff leftovers. The summer certainly is winding down! I'm looking forward to the school routine (aside from getting up early every morning) but will also miss a lot of the people that are here for the summer. Annie will be here for at least a few more weeks until the Sherrers return from their time "outside" but she would like to stay on through the winter or at least part of it. She hasn't quite figured out how to do that yet and her mom would like her home again so we're waiting to see how that all works out. We do now have a vehicle available to pull our trailer to Alaska (a van in Michigan that was donated to the camp) but we don't have a person to drive it any more. The van didn't materialize early enough for the person who was willing before. So now we're looking for a willing driver again! Any takers? :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Let the summer begin!

That might seem like a strange title for this time of year, but it feels like summer has finally begun here. According to Weather Underground, July 2010 was the third coolest (average of 51.5 degrees) and fifth wettest on record (3.3 inches this month) . The 2010 average temperature missed being the coolest by only a half of a degree. August has started out with an abrupt about face in the weather. It has been sunny and up in the 70s almost every day.

It was so warm yesterday that when the wranglers (horseback instructors at Ranch camp) came for dinner last night, they and their horses were sweating as shown below. Boy does that bring back memories of my years on horseback as a kid! My poor mother must have had quite a time with laundry! Good thing I didn't get Reno's face in this picture so you can't tell who it is! ;) The counselors have camp names and they try to keep their kids from guessing their real names through the week. Occasionally they or someone else will blow their cover and the kids figure out their real names. Reno is a camp name, so you won't find out from me that her real name is Andrea! ;) Reno and Sergei sort of adopted each other as brother and sister the first week of camp. Boy do they ever torture each other like real siblings! She is hoping to stay on at camp for the winter so you might as well meet her now because I expect you'll see more of her. One of these days you might even get to see her face!

Another picture, this time of the whole group that came for dinner. Todd, Becca and Caleb are in the front row with the others behind. Todd and Becca Busenitz have come on staff to lead pack trips out in the wilderness. Andrei and Sergei went on one of those trips a few weeks back when they were trying to work out the wrinkles before campers started making the trips. You can also see the woodshed that Rodney is building off the back of the generator shed. The whole shebang will get a roofing job once he gets the back done. You can see my new "grocery getter" basket on my ATV. Nice, eh? No need to worry about people trying to run off with the ATV looking like that! It is NOT cool! But it IS handy! :)

The flowers are really putting on a display lately. There are a lot of wild flowers blooming now as well as many domestic flowers. The delphiniums that were here at the house when we moved in are in full bloom now. It is amazing how many shades of blue they come in! Delphiniums seem to do well in our area. If they didn't, I'm sure I'd have killed them by now. ;)

We have a momma moose with twins who frequents our yard and the area between here and camp. She has been through the yard many times in recent weeks. If you compare these pictures to the one a few weeks back you can see how quickly the babies grow. The twins were roughhousing like a pair of young bull calves!

Jerry and Kent from Michigan put a new deck on the back of the house and roofed the pelton wheel shed. They did a nice job, don't you think?

We REALLY enjoy the new deck! :) The day they finished up, Annie, Oksana and I were all wearing pink shirts so we just had to get a picture of that! I wanted to get a picture of Kent and Jerry in chairs on "their" porch, but they were off to the next job already.

The boys hiked up to Anthracite with some of the wranglers after church on Sunday. They hiked for 8 hours, with Sergei running literal circles around the others. He would run up the hill and take pictures of the rest climbing up, then he'd run down and get pictures of them up on top from below. If only I had a small fraction of his energy... I could do an entire post with just pictures he took on that hike! Since there was so much more to tell than just that trip, I tried to pick one that would tell a big part of the story. The peak shown there is Victory Peak (shown as Strelshla on most maps), which is the peak shown on the Victory logo and in many pictures taken in camp (not the one out our front window). If you double-click on the picture, a larger version will come up to see details. To the left of the peak you can see the glacier, through the center is the river coming from the glacier and cutting through the valley between the two mountain ranges, the Chugach on the far side and Victory and Anthracite in the Talkeetna range on the near side. Also on this side of the river you can see two lakes with the camp buildings in between. Shallow Lake is on the far side of camp, Index, the one we live on, is on the near side.

I had to get a picture of some of the rhubarb for you. It is HUGE! This picture really gives a good perspective of how big that stuff is. I only need about 2 1/2 stalks to make a pie. Rhubarb grows like a weed up here and it grows through the entire summer. It is a good thing, because all the work teams seem to want rhubarb pie. I have tried to make all sorts of different varieties, but the rhubarb pies are the first to go so I've pretty much given up and just make rhubarb when the work teams come for dessert. We have another session of double booked teams right now (Vermont and Kansas) so they are keeping Rodney hopping trying to get them enough work to do. I had originally anticipated working with the teams this summer but it hasn't quite worked out that way. I've actually been spending more time cooking and having people over for dinner and/or dessert than working directly with teams. Between having people over two nights a week, spending on average two days a week in town with kid appointments, and another day helping out in the kitchen or elsewhere in camp, I run out of days to get work done at home or to be available to help Rodney. A lot of people like to come out to see this house though and we are enjoying spending some time getting to know people so it seems to be working out well all around. I have never enjoyed cooking in the past, but the other day I actually had FUN doing it! Maybe with a different incentive to cook the ability to enjoy it has also changed??? Sergei has spent most of the summer working with the work teams which seems to be a great fit for him and the work teams seem to enjoy him. He has really thrived this summer in that capacity.

The boys are spending the week as campers at Ranch camp. Sergei wasn't sure he wanted to take direction from Reno during the horse classes but so far it hasn't been the problem he anticipated. They have a great counselor and are having a BLAST! There is another Russian boy in their cabin who was adopted at about the same time as they were and is about the same age as our kids. This is at least the third Russian camper the kids have met this year. I think the other two were siblings adopted from Russia about 6 years ago. There are so many opportunities for them to meet others with a similar heritage here! Despite all the Sarah Palin jokes, Russia really is closely tied to Alaska and the Russian influences abound here. In addition to Dwayne King's (Kingdom Air down the road from us) multiple Russian ties, we run into Russians on almost every town trip. We just can't get away from them! Oh wait, we never could anyway because they live with us!!! ;)

Speaking of Russian, Oksana has been diligently studying her first language this summer. It has been nice to have her prodding me to get back into studying again. I've forgotten so much! I'd better get at it soon because she is going to quickly pass me if I don't get to work! She is very excited about home schooling this year and has already started work in most of her subjects. It is good to see her excited about school again. She had gotten to the point where she hated even history last year which was so out of character for her. History has always been her favorite subject and it was hard to watch her start to hate it. She really loves to learn which makes home schooling a joy for me. I don't need to prod her to work. She usually wants to delve deeper into subjects than the book even goes. The challenging job is to find enough material to keep her happy!

And finally, a few pictures to wind up all that has happened the last few weeks. We went to lunch at the Matanuska Lodge (where Dianne VanDaam works) for Annie's birthday. Here Carol Cornfield, Maggie and Oksana enjoy a toast to Annie. The food and atmosphere were AWESOME!!!

Annie and I went to Anchorage to pick up her parents from the airport. We watched the sun set at 10:30ish, then when we got home at 4 am it was thinking about coming up again. It was nice to see the moon again for the first time in many months.

All of this means though that summer is actually winding down despite the weather thinking it has just begun. We are currently into the last week of camp so the counselors will be leaving soon. The 25 pies I made last week were for the summer staff appreciation dinner which is normally held just before that last week of camp. Most of the counselors will leave right after camp ends on Saturday so things will start to quiet down a bit. We still have work teams for another month yet, but there are only two people on the next team. With such a small team in, we will take a long overdue vacation next week and then Nate and Maggie will take one the following week. It is a good thing that Rodney has the flu now instead of next week! If you remember in my last post I thought I had a cold. It wasn't a cold. It was the flu. It made the rounds at camp unfortunately. I'm still coughing a bit yet (more than a month into it) but never did get pneumonia thankfully. Ah well, light at the end of the tunnel regardless! We made it! We've survived not only the summer but also almost one year here! By the time I post again, it will probably be one whole year in Alaska! Certainly something to celebrate. I think I love it even more now than I did when we arrived. God is good.

Morning commute

Morning commute