It’s a Long Winter

Where have we been? It has been too cold or wet or slushy to enjoy outside very much this winter – meaning that there weren’t too many opportunities to take photos and none for flying the drone. This winter has been particularly gloomy – overcast and precipitating for all but three days in January. When it was nice outside, it looked like this!

And when things started to melt, it looked like this…

Huge icicle

We had a little bit of hoarfrost when the temps got really cold for a week, but even that didn’t last long.

February hasn’t been much better, weather-wise. It snowed, it rained, it melted and got slushy and froze again overnight. Repeat. Despite the weather our community remained vibrant though – busy with exercise classes, science lectures, volunteer gigs, an awesome concert by Gideon Freudmann on the electric cello, and the annual Lutefisk Dinner at the Sons of Norway.

Now, lutefisk is an acquired taste – I remember my Dad saying how much he hated it as a young boy. Frankly, I’m not sure how many people in town actually LIKE it, but we are Norwegians and we eat lutefisk because that’s what good Norwegians do. And at the annual Sons of Norway Lutefisk Dinner they also serve ham. Whew. It makes giving thanks for our dinner a little more heartfelt.

The BEST part of the Lutefisk Dinner occurs beforehand, when lots of people gather to transform balls of potato dough into that most lovely of Norwegian treats – lefse. Rolled thin with lots of flour and cooked on a special griddle, carefully turned with a narrow stick – flat on one side and slightly curved on the other… lefse is an art. We eat it smeared with butter and dusted with cinnamon-sugar (or just sugar, for the purists), still warm… mmmmm. I love that every year we teach others how to make it, and share the effort to produce about 500 of these yummy Norske crepes to accompany our dinner. The joy of the lefse takes some of the misery out of eating gelatinous fish! (Okay – so the fish isn’t all that bad, some people really like it, and I shouldn’t comment since I don’t even eat fish of any kind, no matter what.)

It’s all about tradition, man.

Rolling lefse

I was able to get “off the rock” for a long weekend to attend the fiber arts retreat in Tacoma – Red Alder, successor to Madrona. As always the classes were inspiring and informative. The yarns for sale in the marketplace were delicious – colors and fiber combinations that were impossible to resist! (I did resist, but only a little.)

These yarns are dyed in colors inspired by different National Parks!

Besides some advanced technique classes, I took a class about dyeing wool with lichens commonly found in the Pacific Northwest from the fabulous Judith Mackenzie.

Judith Mackenzie

Living in the middle of a National Forest full of lichens, I’m anxious to explore the colors I can produce. The lichens can even be fermented to get different colors. I predict lots of experiments in my future. I’m “dyeing” to try it out!

Lichens readily found in my backyard

Over 70 different sheep breeds and samples of their fibers and the yarn spun with them were on display…

…I was just disappointed we couldn’t meet some of those nifty sheep in person!

Of course, knitters and spinners and weavers aren’t always devoted to wool… sometimes we kick up our heels and get a little crazy. To support three international charities, the organizers held a fundraising Disco Night with dancing, costumes and woolly door prizes.

Crochet pants – yowza!

The thing I love most about the Fiber Retreat is the diversity of people, styles and skills. It’s a place where everyone is happily wearing their handcrafted things, and we shower one another with admiration – for an interesting pattern, for a color choice, or just for how nice something looks on someone. We all have something to offer one another if we just open our eyes and our ears and our minds. We share, we smile, we laugh, we lend a helping hand – and we each leave so much richer for it.

Winter Wonderland

The year is new, the decade is new, and the endless rain FINALLY changed to snow! People in town have been calling in sick to work so they can head out the road with their snowmobiles, others are looking forward to this cold snap so the slough will freeze over and they can go skating, and I plan to head out on the snow shoes tomorrow.

The patterns in winter are so beautiful!

The first bit of sunshine inspired me to head out the road with the Mavic drone to explore some of the lovely winter landscape. Enjoy!

Two More Minutes…

Today we have two more minutes of daylight! Winter’s Solstice was a couple of days ago, and from now until later in June the days will be getting steadily longer. With only 6 hours and 42 minutes of daylight on the shortest day, every little bit matters. Adding to the darkness of the “dark days”, it has been very rainy for the past two months – a good thing to help erase the drought, but not helpful when you’re craving some bright clear skies. We had some sunshine on parts of the island for a few hours just in time for the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. It was a cold day, but not raining/sleeting/snowing and windy as it has been almost every year that we’ve been here.

Devil’s Thumb and Frederick Sound on Bird Count day

Everyone’s calendars are bursting with holiday activities such as the annual Winter Dance Recital. 164 children from ages 3 to 18 participated, often in multiple dance numbers. This year’s theme was “game night,” and the dancer’s energy and joy was a delight to behold.

Petersburg’s small Museum had a holiday open house, and the Oxford Carolers (which Jim sings in) provided a little entertainment to go along with the ornament auction and homemade cookies and treats!

Oxford Carolers. Jim is 2nd from the left.

Festivities continued with the Sons of Norway Holiday Julbord dinner. The lodge made turkeys and hams, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and the members brought side dishes or desserts. Wow! The lodge is decorated beautifully, and we all enjoyed a terrific dinner.

Meanwhile, Julebukking got started a little early at the marine construction and welding supply company. You can get your propane tanks filled while you fill your belly, or shop for a new welding helmet. Their metal artwork was really impressive!

Santa stopped by the Recreation Center, arriving by helicopter! (The reindeer are resting up for the big night.) School band concerts were last week, first the high school concert and jazz bands…

High School Jazz Band

…followed by the Middle School Bands – the 6th grade Beginner Band and the 7th-8th grade Band. In our school, every 6th grade student is required to learn a musical instrument and play in the Beginner Band. Participation is optional after the year, but I think it’s a wonderful thing to expose all students to music like that. In addition to the band performance, the music director offered any of the 6th graders the opportunity to play a short solo at the beginning of the performance. Over a dozen young folks lined up at the microphone to play a solo or duet, introducing themselves and giving it their all. Such confidence! We absolutely loved seeing them stepping up like that. Bravo!!

Holidays in Petersburg means baking… everything made with “butter and love” as the motto goes. Jim has been busy baking different kinds of cookies every day, and I’m always amazed at how much he’s able to do in our small galley. The biggest cookie sheet that will fit in our oven is 12×14″ so he has to bake everything in small batches. He’s normally smiling, but he’s got his “game face” on in this photo.

The Master Baker at work!

Holiday parties and just general silliness infects everyone… You can’t live here unless you can connect with your Inner Child!

As I write this I’m relaxing after the final round of Julebukking around town – treats and eats galore! It has been quite a week.

Lee’s Clothing store

You can see that Sig’s salmon is pretty popular, as is his pickled herring and pretty much anything else that he makes!

Sig’s salmon plate

The airport, the radio station (KFSK – Fish Head Radio), the bookstore, the art gallery, the native crafts store, electronics store… the list of businesses hosting Julebukking is a long one, particularly on Christmas Eve. The spread at the Sons of Norway hall is the biggest of all…

…though the hardware store and it’s “Moose Milk” beverage – made from softened Tilamook French Vanilla ice cream and White Christmas liquor, mixed in a 5-gallon paint bucket and shaken in the big paint shaker – is a particular favorite. I’ll bet there are sticky spots on every shelf in the store after today!

The mist is hiding Petersburg and Bearclaw Mountains with their dusting of snow right now, but Nature gave us a nice Christmas gift with the sighting of some humpback whales in the Narrows passing by the harbor this morning! The harbor staff called the radio station so they could share the news, and I could hear and see them blow as they swam against the incoming tide.

The days may be dark and a bit gloomy, but the people and the spirit here is nothing short of Merry and Bright! We wish you all a Joyous Holiday Season, and a New Year filled with Health and Happiness.

No One Can Beat Petersburg…

…when it comes to the holidays. This place takes “festive” and “fun” to new heights, and I’ll share some of it with you in the coming weeks.

But first, I want to show you how Alaskans shop. I’ve probably mentioned that things are very expensive up here because of the transportation costs. We have it pretty nice because Petersburg gets two barges a week from Seattle, all year ’round. More northern coastal communities may only get a barge once in the summer months, and all the Interior towns have to rely on air freight. So whenever we’re “down south” (anywhere in the Lower 48) we try to shop for heavy and/or bulky things, or things that are expensive to mail order. This trip we bought new engine start batteries, wine, some Christmas gifts, paper towels, a new rug for the galley and lots of shelf-stable favorites from Costco and Trader Joe’s and loaded them onto a pallet for the barge from Seattle to Petersburg.

It’s just another part of the routine now that we live in an interesting place.

Meanwhile, the whales have been very active in Frederick Sound on the north side of town, breaching and blowing. It sure is nice to be back home.

North Harbor

I promised to show you some of the ways that Petersburg hits the ball out of the park when it comes to holiday events. First, we have the lighting of the town Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. Here the Power and Light crew are getting the lights on the monster of a tree we have this year. When it comes to choosing a Christmas tree, it sure is handy to live in a National Forest.

The whole town gathers at one end of the main street, carrying candles (or light sticks for the tots)…

Santa leads us all in a parade down to the Municipal Building where the tree is waiting for the big moment. Some of the high school band members play holiday music…

and we all count down…

…and we warm up with some cups of hot apple cider that the Sons of Norway hands out. It’s old-fashioned and lovely and if that doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit then you’re a Grinch or a Scrooge!

Right after the tree lighting the roller derby team hosts a “Brews and Stews” contest where we can taste all kinds of interesting chilis and stews as well as homemade beers, wines, cordials and meads. The chili pictured below was my favorite – I didn’t know that musk ox was so tasty! Venison, moose and elk as well as the more traditional beef and chicken were all represented. We have some really good cooks and brewers in this town!

Next up was the always popular (and VERY competitive) Pickled Herring Contest.

Other kinds of pickled seafood as well as smoked seafood round out a variety of categories, and judging is serious business.

Two guys ended up winning the top choices in every category… and the gentleman on the left has won the contest countless times over the years.

As soon as the judging is FINALLY over with, the assembled crowd devours what’s left. I wish I liked seafood because the spread here is some of the best you could ever hope to taste.

The last event I’ll report on in this post is the special presentation of a Quilt of Valor to Jim.

The Raincountry Quilters in town make a patriotic quilt for every Veteran, and this one was made by a dear friend of ours – making it even more special.

There’s much more to come… concerts, dance recitals, and of course… Julebukking! Stay tuned.