Spring….almost

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

We took a hike last Sunday with some friends up Petersburg Creek thinking that it was nearly Spring weather.  As the day progressed, dark clouds roll up the Narrows and a few sprinkles occur.    The sedge grass is just poking up and many birds are arriving on their northward migration to the interior tundra.

Our hike takes us through the muskeg on this newly built boardwalk, thanks to the U. S. Forest Service.    The muskeg is an interesting biological unit with very unique plants including a Venus fly-trap like plant called a Sun-dew.  When these get active, I’ll put up a photo on this blog.

After visiting the creek, we hike back down an old CCC road and stumble upon this old truck–about a 1937 or 8?  It’s full of bullet holes, of course.   This road is a great trail along the shore and connects with our loop trail and Petersburg Mountain (posted here).

The Red Crossbills are showing up, along with the Sandhill Cranes and Hummingbirds.  April 16th seems to be the day.  These Crossbills are hilarious to watch–they hop around on the kelp and eat small kelp fleas (or whatever they are).  As I took this photo the one on the upper right zoomed by and made a perfect landing.  I put up this pole on our dock two years ago and not one bird perched on it for over a year–they need time to check it out.  Now, everyone  is fighting over it.

Here I am out walking the deer…..  Otters run up and down the beach–one crossed our front yard while we were working in the garden–completely oblivious to us.  And we’ve a squirrel that is raiding my caulking cotton in the net shed for a nest and runs right by me, within feet even, without showing any concern.  Spring is here….

We stop and talk with some clam diggers after pink necks–our most edible clam.   This fellow is 93 years old, born and raised here, and still digging.  Clams are abundant on our beach–our house is on the right in this photograph, so it’s a quick dinner opportunity if the tides are right.

This time of year, we are thinking garden–and I think of my new ‘old’ tractor and drag it out.  Watch this movie–is this a monster or what?  This behemoth weighs in about 300 lbs. and is no easy ride.    I took off the front wheels so I could really turn some soil–this hurk could dig a hole to China!

Here is a modern version–the new Stihl Yard Boss–what a powerful yet lightweight rig.  I’m driving this to town next week to show it off.  Stihl is a great line–I’ve a woodshed full of their chainsaws.   In 1973 I built a log home with a 031 (and a horse).  This saw later sunk for a week in the Frazer River saltchuck (aboard my ill-fated tug, Winamac)  and after a few sprays with WD-40, fired right back up.  Just had it completely rebuilt which was cheaper than having it bronzed for the fireplace mantle!

We find more “Mayan Ruins” in our front yard and decide to dig them out.  Beautiful old rock garden beds.  This used to be the front yard of an old white house which had a very nice lawn.

Here’s a photograph taken in May 1969 of the same area.  We’re motivated to restore these gardens and most of that motivation comes from a friend, we met in Antarctica, Maryann, who spent her holiday with us working.

Here’s the view the other way with the old house and the newly built corner of our current cabin.  Can’t wait to see the flowers bloom again.

Here, Maryann and Martina labor while I take pictures.  Our house is now finished and the gardens are the finishing touch with our (now) six year restoration.

This was taken Monday morning about 7am with the fog just lifting off the ferry dock a mile away; our sunrise is now 5:30am or earlier.    Devils Thumb and the Coast Range loom in the distance.  Below is another close-up photo taken a day or two later–spectacular stuff to look at–notice the shadow of the “cat’s ears” on the Thumb’s face.

Now, if it would just warm up.  Stay tuned.

Outhouses and Bat Houses and more….

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Spring has sprung as you can see by this rainbow in our saltchuck. It’s time to get working on more projects. First is the smoke house–Martina comes from Bavaria and many of the Germans here in Petersburg have encouraged her to start smoking meat…..and I want to smoke fish.

So I build a smoke house for that purpose–this is a big one to hang meat from the ceiling and place filets on removable racks. The success of a smoker is: 1.) lots of ventilation, 2.) all wood construction and 3.) carefully following marinating recipes. We’ll keep you posted on our results….

Then it’s on to the guesthouse outhouse:

Don’t laugh–you may be sitting here someday. It’s all recycled from other boats–including the Katahdin’s pilot house doors–another room with a view and fairly good library. Next step is to sand and paint. This is where a straight flush beats a full house….

So it’s on to the next project: Always wanted to build a bat house. The internet is the place to start so I redesign the basics: 1.) use untreated wood, preferably cedar, 2.) allow landing areas, 3.) add ventilation, 4.) score the interior shelves for climbing, 5.) allow a ‘crawl-over’ at the top where the temps are warmer, 6.) seal totally (bats don’t like drafty/wet roosts, 7.) tar paper the outsides to heat the house, and 8.) place on at least a 10′ pole SW/SE facing–morning sun/afternoon shade is best.

OK, here is the basic structure–note the scored interior baffles to allow bats to climb up. They are all staggered and open at the top where it is warmest.

Here is a view of the top before it is enclosed. Note the top (at left) has a screen attached to the underside so bats can hang there. The baffles at the top clear the ceiling by at least 3/4″ so bats can crawl over between baffles.

And here’s the bottom. The landing area has screen door material stapled to a 4″ panel so the bats can land, then crawl up into the warm house. The baffles can be seen here. I made the first (back) baffle 1″ instead of 3/4″ on the advice of one internet site.

And here’s the finished bat house. I’ve stapled tar paper on the upper (roosting) half, added vents on the bottom 1/3 (about 5″ to 10″ above the bottom opening). What got me started on this project–Martina and I were boating up Petersburg Creek last week and bats were flying around like cliff swallows catching insects in broad daylight.

Bats do not interfere with birds or their pollination efforts–in fact they actually pollinate some flowers. They are the only mammals that fly! They can eat a gazillion insects and are generally (no, absolutely) beneficial to the environment. Bats fly and hunt at night and return in the early morning to bat houses like this–if they can find one…..Visit this site for more information. Here’s the final installation…..holy cow, Batman….

OK–more projects await: Last summer, we completed our greenhouse, then carried water all summer (it was a very warm, sunny summer) into the greenhouse, let it warm, then poured it carefully under the tomatoes. This summer, we’re going to catch all the water off the roof and recycle it into the greenhouse with this system:

We’ll attach soaker hoses inside the greenhouse. I’ve added a valve to direct water to the rain barrel–a source close to the garden beds instead of running hoses from the well house and energy is conserved!

Well, that’s it for now. While Martina is visiting relatives in Germany, I’ve started all the plants inside–as you can see here looking through the front window where the sun streams in. Best lighting for not only plants but also for the keyboard. On the music rack is Brahm’s Intermezzo in A major–a piece I started years ago and am now determined to complete. And this is the view directly behind me while I practice:

Stay tuned…..

Summer Project Summary

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Canoing.jpg

We had a great summer–nearly three months of sunny days with up to 80F temps. We’re long overdue for some R&R–here is Martina and her niece Alex (visiting from Munich) canoeing in our slough at high tide. Doug’s got that work ethic so he’s off building projects:

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First, after delivering and schlepping 5000 board feet of lumber up the beach, I cut it up and finish the boardwalk–now totaling over 300′ in length and crowned by our gazebo in the saltchuck, where the canoe photo (above) was taken.

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The diesel shed, begun two years ago is finally cleaned out, sealed and painted, then the upper structure framed in and skip-sheeted to match the woodshed. And a roof–what a concept. Now I can contain any oil spilled and recycle it.

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Our greenhouse worked fantastic. Here we’re about mid-way through the summer. We must have harvested 500 tomatoes and they are still ripening. We also grew dozens of cucumbers and more lettuce than we could eat. Outside, we did fairly well except for beans. We’ll keep you posted on the harvest in the next blog

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The guest house was the biggie. We began with new floor beams which allowed me to lengthen the porch to a full six feet. Next was a new roof, then we gutted, insulated and paneled the interior in yellow cedar with red cedar bunk beds. Add a nice bamboo floor and a spiffy (and expensive) Norwegian Jotul stove. Finally, we clad the exterior with waterproofing and shingles. We’re open for visitors….

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Here’s the woodshed–finally full of dry wood and skip-sheeted to keep out the snow drifts. We extended the floor, raised the log splitter (it’s on the left), wired for electricity and tied it all together with the boardwalk. Whew! I’m getting tired just writing about it.

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It’s time to climb Petersburg Mountain–shown here clouded with smoke from BC fires. It tops out about 3000′ above our house. We’ve been looking at this mountain for four years and it’s time to ‘knock the bastard off’ in the words of Sir Ed.

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Our USFS crews have built a marvelous staircase up this thing–it’s about half done and you rarely touch ground.

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The only problem I have with this trail is it destroyed the forest you walk through–here’s the clearcut. These trees are over 250 years old! That’s the Alaska mentality. If they’d cut the rest down, the view would be terrific…..

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But we prefer to hike for our view–here’s Martina on the summit ridge–nice relief with the Baird and Patterson Glaciers across Frederick Sound looking north.

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And here’s a 180 degree view (south) to Petersburg, airport and all. The Wrangell Narrows runs south to Sumner Strait about 30 miles distant separating Mitkof Island on the left and Kupreanof Island on the right. Here’s a close up showing our property:

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You can faintly see three buoys #58, #56 and #54 (with a little boat southbound) just to the left of the tree-top. Our little point is to the right on Kupreanof Island–our dock is almost white in this telephoto.

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Descending, we find lots of Chicken of the Woods (Sulfur Shelf) mushrooms–we carefully cut off about 1″ off the border allowing it to continue producing mushroom. We fry it up like you would chicken tenders and add it to pasta and season with garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese! Stay tuned….