The leaves are turning yellow already. The birds are making their pit stop in Fairbanks as they head south. I’ve had my first cold of the fall. Yes, it is Fall in the Interior of Alaska, and I’m freaking out. We are not ready! Though, we never are ready.
We’ve been busy preparing for winter by putting up food. Stocking up on summer yummies so we can enjoy it when the snow blankets the ground. We are pickle kind of people. In the past few weeks, I’ve made pickled beets, pickled cauliflower, and pickled zucchini. This weekend, pickled carrots, pickled green tomatoes, and more pickled beets. Also, freezing and dehydrating kale for use late this winter.
I’ve also been out picking this blogs namesake, Alaskan blueberries. Smaller and tarter than the cultivated varieties that most are used to. The picking was slim this year but happy to have some in the freezer. Even have some blueberry-basil vinegar brewing right now.
A few weeks ago, we raided our hives. A bit earlier than normal but we wanted to give the bees time to stock up on honey for winter. We want to attempt to overwinter them. We shall see how it goes since even 400 miles south of us (where we plan on overwintering them), winter is still long and cold. We got 3.5 gallons of honey which may seem like a lot but still doesn’t feel like enough when we plan to use it in place of sugar and would like to give some as gifts. I think we may have to get a 3rd hive next year.
A hawk was loitering by the coop this morning so no one will be free-ranging today or tomorrow. It appears that everyone out here wants to eat our birds which reminded us that we need to get them processed before someone else eats them. The ducklings are now rowdy teenagers, the drakes have got to go. The roosters are attempting to cock-a-doodle-doo. That is the next big to-do in our preparation for winter. It is a bummer because I have been enjoying our fresh veggies out of the garden. Dinners have been splendid lately.
On Thursday, we received notice that my husband’s endocrinologist was leaving his practice at the end of September. Due to the rarity of my husband’s disorder, finding a replacement endo is going to be a huge challenge. Add to the challenge, we live in Alaska.
Our insurance company has yet again switched their prescription plan, so we have been spending several hours getting everything sorted out. On Friday, yet another script was denied, and we paid out of pocket, left to argue more with the insurance company more this upcoming week.
We have been gearing up for a natural embryo transfer for the end of this month. Friday before we left for the cabin, the transfer was canceled for this cycle. I know it is for the best; you want everything to be perfect so better chance of it being successful, but it is still disappointing (that is putting it mildly).
I honestly feel at this point that this is how our life is going to be. Good things happening to others, but we will never catch our break. No matter how hard we try. The title of this blog comes from a text I sent my husband when we was talking about “our children”. I felt bad being the downer when he was trying to be positive. I’m scraping the bottom of the hope barrel right now.
This morning, I found the journal I started on 07 August 2013 when we first began to try for a child. I think of all the heartache and struggle we’ve endured since then. My marriage is stronger than ever, a rare disorder and infertility will test your strength as a couple. Right before I found out my transfer was canceled, I had lunch with co-workers. One had a baby in May, and she was there with her baby. An adorable and happy baby. It made my heart hurt, while I’m happy for her, as much as I try, they simply remind me of what I cannot have. I have another friend coming into town this week. She is very happy and very pregnant. I’m very depressed and very not pregnant. I simply do not want to be around that. I want to be left alone, to cry my tears in peace in my garden with my animals.
My mother-in-law has mentioned how aloof I’ve become the past few years. Reading that journal to my baby started in 2013, I realize how much more jaded, cynical, and depressed I’ve become the past four years. I look at our wedding photos, the happy and hopeful couple that had no clue what the first few years of marriage were going to hold for them.
We appear to be a very average couple. Very few people have any idea how often I cry, how financially stressed we are, or how tired we are from arguing with the heath insurance companies. It is hard for me to be happy for others when I’m working through my never-ending grief. It is hard for me to want to go out with friends because I simply don’t want to hear about how wonderful their life is. I don’t want people to say things they think are comforting, but they aren’t, they make me angry and more likely never to go out of the house again.
It reminds me how naïve people are when it comes to infertility. They will never know how bad it truly hurts. This has been my life for longer than I care to admit. I’ve heard all the advice, received numerous pep talks, and have over thought it all. When I need or want to talk about it, I will. I’ll blog about it or I’ll talk to a friend of choosing. If I don’t bring it up in conversation with you, I don’t want to talk to you about it. Leaving my five-acre haven, I’m reminded constantly of what I cannot and do not have. So I hide away, separate myself from the rest of the world and watch from a distance as other live the life I wish I could have. Life looks a lot different on this side of the fence.
Shane is out on his first forest fire assignment since his diagnosis. This is all thanks to a new pharmacy insurance plan that covers the brand of medication we want and not just the brand the insurance company is in bed with. I’m alone manning the rental, the “homestead, ” and working full time but I’m okay with that because, for the first time in three years, Shane is in the middle of reclaiming his life. I honestly thought he’d never go on another wildland fire again as we thought of how the hell we could operate a mini-fridge in the wilderness. The new meds do not have to be refrigerated, he feels great, and out into the wilds of Alaska he went.
Second day of bachelorhood, I had zucchini bread and coffee for brunch after dealing with slight flooding in one of my labs, cheez-its for lunch while cleaning the rental, more zucchini bread for an 8 pm dinner after the critters were fed and watered. At 8:40 pm, I realized I needed more substance, but we haven’t been grocery shopping in awhile (thinking about 2 weeks as of today). I ended up with an open-faced hummus, pickled radish, and feta cheese sandwich with a glass wine and freshly made kale chips. Not too shappy.
I’ve also been reading the book Animal, Vegatable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver which has encouraged me to continue to be more mindful about my food.
Now how does all of this relate? While Shane is gone on this fire assignment, I have decided not to grocery shop. This includes, not eating out when I’m sick of the lunch I packed myself (was already today hence the cheez-its). I’m going to forage in my own house and garden. Clean out the fridge and cupboards. Use what we already have – we have a lot of food tucked away plus a full wine cooler. I’m set for the week!
As a child, I use to stand in the middle of my bedroom, eyeing the mess I was to clean, and break out in song. Why wasn’t my stuff flying about and putting themselves away? I practiced this along with flying, I never succeeded in either.
“In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game”
I have never felt that way about cleaning. Ever. There is not enough sugar in this world to make cleaning go down more smoothly. I hate cleaning though I enjoy the final product.
The other night after a day judging 4-H fair projects, spending time with a friend that needed some friend time, stuffing food into my face, and taking care of animals it was already 9 pm. I had a house guest coming at midnight. We had got home from camping two days before but went right to work the day after camping. Shane was still at work (48 hr. shift). The house was a wreck and I was tired but I felt obligated to clean. I’m sure the houseguest appreciated the clean sheets and toilet. I tidied the kitchen/living room enough so I wouldn’t be too embarrassed. During all of this, I noticed that we needed to dust the TV area, that the walls I’ve been meaning to wash have yet to be washed (the dogs like to rub their faces on my walls), the couch vacuumed, and the kitchen cabinets wiped down.
While as an adult, I now know I cannot sing my way to a clean house or eat sugar, I’m opting for a better way to make this task go down. I’ve talked about adjusting goals to make them attainable in an earlier post. A goal that I have control over. My new life goal is not for me to become a better housekeeper, that is simply not going to happen. I do not have the time or energy to spend cleaning my house. I’d rather spend my time at work, volunteering, running, sleeping, or getting a root canal (I’ve had one before, and I’ll take it again over cleaning). My new life goal is to budget better so we can afford to hire a housecleaner. Someone to come in once a week to dust, mop, clean the showers, wipe down the walls, wipe down light fixtures, wash windows, wipe down kitchen cabinets, etc.
“Wanted a housekeeper for two adorable adults
If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts!
Play games, all sort
You must be kind, you must be witty
Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings, give us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets”
I can maintain a somewhat surface clean but I fall so behind on the deep cleaning and it shows when I slow down enough to notice. How the hell people maintain a clean house is beyond me. I figure if we just had a little bit more help doing the household cleaning, it would lighten the load and make it easier to keep the house in shape.
We are doing a natural transfer and I’m in need of ovulation prediction kitS (OPKs). I haven’t bought or used one of these in years. I hopped on Amazon since I’m needing them in bulk and to my surprise, you can buy them used! What?!?!
I found a non-used one that seemed promsing. Turns out customers that bought this OPK also bought plastic cups. It took way longer than I’d like to admit why the hell people were buying plastic cups with and ovulation prediction kit. I’ve been out of this game way too long. The outdoor inflatable lounger chair and couch, I’m still in the dark. 😉
For my 35th birthday, Shane made reservations for two nights at a public use cabin. We went there two years ago for my birthday. We had reservations for our anniversary last summer when Shane ended up having to go in for work-related double hernia surgery. A few days before this trip, Shane got a call to go on a fire in Montana. While we desperately need the money, he turned it down to spend these few days with me and knew I’d be disappointed to be cancelled on two summers in a row.
I got off work early (4:55 pm) and headed home. Shane was in the midst of baking my birthday cake from scratch (!!!) and finishing packing. He had hoped I would get hung up at work like I often do so I would have come home to a packed car. The dogs knew fun was about to happen and sat in the car for an hour waiting for us to get out shit together.
The plan was to stop for dinner in Delta at the Drive-In for dinner that is about a two hour drive from Fairbanks. Even though the hours said they were open till 10, they were not. We ate a dive nearby. And it was a dive – lukewarm soup, iceberg lettuce drowned in dressing, and a calzone that was simply a pizza folded over.
We finally make it out to the trailhead about 9:30 pm with a quick mile walk into the cabin. We still have about five hours before it gets “dark”. The dogs that have been sitting in the car for the hour before the trip, the three-hour drive, and the hour stop for dinner are out of control excited. They zoom down the trail, barking their brains out, and driving us mad. We get to the cabin and swim the dogs, hoping this will take the edge off so we can go to bed.
These photos were taken at 10 p.m. I love Alaskan summers!
It doesn’t. Every freaking 15 minutes they are up, pacing. Echo puppy starts whining at 2 am. I attempt to just let her out, thinking that she needs to go potty. Nope, both dogs bolt past me and sprint off into the woods. Here I’m naked on the cabin porch shaking a bag of dog food in the dark (more like dusk), yelling and cussing at the fucking dogs. Happy fucking birthday to me, this trip sucks. Once back inside, it is the same routine for the rest of the night – pacing, whining, and us considering feeding the dogs to the coyotes.
The next morning after the shitty night of sleep, Shane makes us some strong black tea and French toast. The dogs proceed to stare a tree for hours. Really, you got me up for that, assholes? Echo eventually gets bored and runs around the woods but Ade has to keep us safe from the squirrels.
The day improves the trip as we simply: Eat. Nap. Wine. Naked on the beach. Wine. Cake. Naked in the lake. Wine. Naked playing yatzee. Wine. Clothes on for downpour. Wine. Cake. Read. Wine. Fish. Wine. Read. Wine. Sleep.
Ade’s day: Stare at tree. Nap. Stare at tree. Forced boat trip. Stare at tree. Sleep.
Echo’s day: Stare. Run through woods. Chase bird along shore, back and forth. Swim. Check-in with Ade and stare at a tree. Run. Swim. Nap. Swim. Run. Nap. Run. Swim. Nap. Run. Swim. Sleep.
Thankfully the jerks slept the 2nd night, they were in bed before we were.
The next day, we finished up the trip with a short walk and swimming the dogs. I think the dogs had a great time.
I had heard of permaculture but had no idea what it meant until I read an article about it in Mother Earth News this summer. Turns out, I’ve been accidentally practicing permaculture for years!
Permaculture is the development of an agricultural ecosystem that uses less energy and resources and is self-sufficient and sustainable. In my mind, who wouldn’t do that? I have called it lazy, cheap, and resourceful farming/living but permaculture sounds more like you know what you are doing. Yeah, sure I planned all of this.
I collect rain water because it is free compared to the $0.08 a gallon I pay to have it delivered since we don’t have a well. However, merely collecting rainwater doesn’t make an ecosystem.
The rainwater is used to fill the duck ponds, duck water, and water the garden. The duck pond is also a substantial dog water dish (ewww), and for the puppy, the best way to drink out of it is standing in it (double eww). They have a plenty of dog dishes, but the ponds are their favorite. The pond water is used to water our Arctic cherry tree. According to the tag, it should start to producing cherries here soon. I highly doubt it, but I’m holding out hope. A grill that is no longer able to grill is now a goose-proof flower bed (tall enough the goose cannot reach to eat all of my flowers).
The garden is used to feed us and the birds, saving us money both in buying the produce and duck feed but also gas by not having to go to the grocery store. The ducks and chickens maintain the weeds and keep the mosquito populations in check – they free range when we are home. We eat the duck eggs and the drakes. We’d love to keep them all as pets, but too many males disrupt the peace in our ecosystem. The chickens are for meat this year, but we plan on overwintering a few next year with the hopes that they’ll make more chickens the following year, so we no longer have to buy chickens. The birds also provide hours of entertainment. I never get tired of watching them.
One of the ideas of permaculture that this ecosystem supplies everything one would need “including entertainment to fuel”. Trees cleared for the house were used to heat our home. Much more affordable than heating oil though we use that too since winters here are long and oh so cold plus I like my house at 70 to 80. I can’t bring myself to set the thermostat higher than 60 though (oh so cheap), so the woodstove makes the house comfortable to live in. The trees we cleared last summer to expand our garden are going to heat our home.
The excess garden gets frozen or canned. Garden tidbits like stalks, roots, and such gets fed to the birds, this year made into stock or composted. I’m an oh so lazy composter and do the slow compost method which does cause a fly issue. BUT the chickens love hanging out by the compost to eat the maggots – gross, I know but PERMACULTURE! Shane just shakes his head and walks away when I say that to farm grossness. Like the dogs licking duck shit off the pavement. PERMACULTURE!
In the garden the last two summers, I have increased the number of flowers we have since we now have honey bees. Plus I hate having to hand pollinate, so I wanted to encourage my bees to make the trek up to the house. I love the increased color and watching our bees pollinate all of my plants. We eat the tomatoes and raspberries that our bees pollinated and honey they stored away. Also, notice that I used birch trees for part of the posts to make our garden fence.
Part of permaculture is still retaining native plants and animals. Squirrels surround us in the woods. In the spring (when the cat refuses to go outside due to snow) we have bird feeders which also feed local moose (ugh). Occasionally, the neighborhood fox makes off with one of our birds, double ugh but part of living in the woods. Our bees take advantage of all the wild roses and wild raspberries. We enjoy both. Most of our lot is still heavily forested providing both shade and a buffer from the road.
Feed bags become weed control in the garden path. Dog food bags become trash bag liners. Wood crates scavenged from work became a chicken coop. An old dog run wrapped in plastic is our greenhouse. Boxes from a CSA have become drawers in our entry way. Old clothes become patches and rags. New sheets for us are old ones retired from the vacation rental. They’ll eventually become painting dropcloths or dog blankets. Old milk crates organize the back of my car, are cubby shelves in the garage, a seat for weeding in the garden, my office standing desk is made of them and old shelves, they are the perfect size for a small propane tank, and two milk crates and a 2×4 makes an excellent chicken roost. Uses for old towels are endless.
Standing desk out of used shelfs and milk crates.
One of the many rain catchment systems.
My husband calls me Half-Penny Hildebrandt [my maiden name] since I’m always looking for ways to stretch a penny or use what we have around the house. I guess my new name should be Permaculture Powers [married name].
Shane shakes his head and walks away. I triumphantly yell PERMACULTURE!