Ice, Ice Baby

Well, its that time again…. Time to haul water for the tanks. We have no snow, but the lake and the spring are frozen. So, we get to dig a hole in the lake ice and haul water. First, we have to check the ice on the lake to ensure it is thick enough for us to walk on.

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The boys (Howie and Joe) are obsessed with the ice. Its all I can do to get them off of it at the end of the day! Joe loves hatcheting the ice and Howie chases the pieces that fly across the lake.

We found a good spot to place our hole with easy snow machine access  once the snow falls. For now, its the long drag across the lake.

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Today, we loaded the sleds with our buckets and harnessed Howie. He is learning that life here isn’t all fun and games. He loves to play, but when it comes to the work, lets just say he is a little less enthusiastic. We are easing him into learning to pull a small sled.

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It took about three trips with all the buckets full to fill the tank, the hardest part being hauling the buckets by hand up the hill to the lodge and then up the ladder to the tanks.

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Its time consuming and we are all exhausted after the venture, but we are happy to have it done. The effort it takes to get the water has helped us become masters at not wasting water. Its funny how precious something becomes when you labor for it. At the end of the day even Howie got a little break.

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While the ice has added to our work, it has also brought new amusements. Joe made a little ice rink for us and we dug out our skates and tested it out. Joe started getting pretty fancy by the end of our skate time. I think I better get us some hockey sticks and a puck before he learns how to do a triple lutz!

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Now, that our chores are done we get to settle in with some hot cocoa and enjoy the warmth of the fire. (Though, someone keeps asking about oatmeal cookies, so maybe I will bake  cookies first.) Our most basic needs   take a lot of work and effort out here, but our lives our so simple that we are never in too big of a hurry to stop and have some fun.

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"I don't want to be a sled dog!!!….wait are there treats involved?"
“I don’t want to be a sled dog!!!….wait are there treats involved?”

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Foraging

Winter has been creeping in slowly, the nights colder and the sun slower to rise up over the mountains in the mornings. However, our snow has held off, other than a few skiffs that quickly melted. We have been trying to take advantage of the delay by foraging for late bog cranberries and collecting cottonwood seeds.

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I had to keep an eye on Howie during my berry picking, since the bog cranberries are harder to get to he was tempted to just help himself to my bucket!

I have always heard about a way to make the ” balm of gilead” (mentioned in the Bible) from the seeds of the cottonwood tree (or any tree in the poplar family) and have wanted to try it. It is supposed to be excellent for cuts and scrapes, as well as sore throats and coughs. I love finding local herbs and plants that have medicinal benefits, it is quickly becoming a lost  art. So, Joe and I headed out a few days ago to collect the buds, we have a  small clump of cottonwood trees on the north bank of the lake.  When picking the buds, it is better to wait until they freeze, because the resin is very sticky. We probably should have waited another couple weeks, we did get a little sticky, not too bad though. We used the acidity from some high bush cranberries to help get it off.

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The beavers have been busy preparing for winter as well, they had already taken down a few of the trees and were busy working on another! I am always so amazed at their work! How they get some of those trees and branches through the tundra to the lake puzzles me!

Anyway, I simmered the buds with coconut oil on the wood stove for about 24 hour or so, strained it with cheesecloth and then poured it into a jar and let it solidify. (You can use other types of oil, but i prefer coconut oil for using on the skin) I can’t wait to test it out! I am hoping to also use it on Howie’s feet this winter. (He is always cutting them up on the ice and hates wearing booties) I will let you know how it turns out!

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Its amazing how quickly we adapt to becoming resourceful when supplies aren’t readily available. I find myself thinking more and more about how to harvest and preserve the natural resources around us. I am so thankful for knowledge passed down to me from my parents on how to live from the land. There is still so much I don’t know, but life is a schoolhouse and every day a chance to learn something new.

Laundry Day

Today we tackled laundry, not a big deal for most people, but since the spring has frozen we have to haul the water for the laundry and use the old wringer washer. (I never realized how much water you use to do a load of laundry!)

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First off, Joe had to heat up the motor for the wash machine with a heat lamp, so it would be warm enough to start. Then, while I put the soap, warm water, and clothes in, Joe hauled water for the wash cycle. There were times when living in town I thought my wash machine was noisy, well, i changed my mind…..it purred like a kitten! The Maytag wringer motor is so loud you have to wear ear plugs!

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The washing part is simple, just keep and eye on it. Then, my favorite part…. the wringing. (seriously, it is my favorite part)

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Then, all that’s left is to hang them on the line. Its funny, it takes twice as long, but I have a new appreciation for clean clothes and a sense of accomplishment.

Success!!
Success!!

So, for the rest of the winter the old Maytag and I will keep us all looking (and smelling) respectable! I have to admit it was kind of fun…. not so sure I will feel the same when its below zero.

Until Spring!!!
Until Spring!!!
Its a good to not need to wear clothes!!!
Its good, to not have to wear clothes!!!