Eating and Singing

Those two words pretty much sum up the holiday season Petersburg-style. Julebukking continued, with the largest number of places hosting on Christmas eve. The Rexall drug store had their fabulous pastrami sandwiches, the electronics shop had chili, the gallery had a big spread, the Trading Union had a huge spread, and Hammer’s Hardware had the best… great food and “moose milk”.

Julebukking in the hardware store
Smoked salmon

“Moose milk” is a dreamy concoction of softened vanilla ice cream and White Christmas liqueur put in a 5 gallon paint bucket and mixed in the big paint shaker.

The 5 gallon paint shaker put to good use!

The result is poured into a silver punchbowl and served with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

One of the other businesses hosting Julebukking this year was Synthesis Metal Shop. Josef is not just a welder and fabricator, but he’s also a very talented artist. He served traditional krumkake and lefse, home-made venison jerky and cucumber sandwiches, and he had a gingerbread BOAT (with a welded aluminum frame underneath).

His shop was full of artistic creations and I’ve seen boats that he’s built, but the highlight was this octopus he made (welded, not cast) for his marine scientist girlfriend.

While all this Julebukking was going on, Jim was busy singing with the Oxford Carolers group, spreading holiday cheer up at Long-term Care in the hospital, then moving to some of the different julebukking venues… the bookstore, Cedar Box, hardware store (pausing for a sip of moose milk), pharmacy, Trading Union grocery store, and the art gallery.

Caroling in the Pharmacy
Caroling in the art gallery

And if that wasn’t enough, the Oxford group organized a Community Concert where over a dozen different musicians and groups sang and played to a packed house. Just in case you weren’t feeling the holiday spirit enough, the concert definitely did the trick.

As we’ve walked to and from all these events around town we’ve been seeing river otters playing on the dock more often. They’re cute, but they tend to be party animals and they leave a mess. They’re pretty wary and we’ve only seen them when it’s dark out. We try to walk by and not disturb them too much but they usually snort at us and dive into the water. It’s important to stay alert on the dock in the dark because you never know what’s in the shadows. Sometimes a blue heron suddenly takes off with a loud squawk when we pass by – I’ve been pretty startled walking down the dock half-asleep in the early mornings.

We gathered with dear friends for Christmas eve and Christmas day dinners, and Jim really out-did himself making a jule log dessert.

A few days after Christmas we were invited to the annual White Elephant party, where 26 people gathered to surprise one another with tacky gifts that are then traded around. The rule is that you MUST take whatever you end up with home… if you leave it behind you won’t be invited back next year. We chuckled, we giggled, we howled, and we cried laughing so much. People were really good about embracing awful gifts, wearing ugly hats and wigs with pride.

The pink flowery wig was pretty popular, as awful things go. Never take yourself too seriously.

As I write this I’m listening to our local radio station, KFSK, and Orrin announced that we’ve gained 5 minutes of daylight since the Solstice! Unfortunately it has been hard to tell that the days are getting longer since we’ve had a relatively warm and very rainy winter so far. The rain isn’t so bad, but the gloom from the heavy overcast skies is getting old. On Friday we had thick fog (the street lights never turned off all day), and Alaska Airlines couldn’t land one of the two jets that day. We knew people flying back from Seattle who got as far as Wrangell (the nearest town on another island), and the group of Petersburg-bound passengers had to hire a boat to take them the rest of the way home. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

Tomorrow we’ll check out the annual New Year’s Day Polar Plunge, though we plan to dress warmly (and in rain gear) and just watch. In the meantime it’s peaceful here. We wish you all a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Winter Solstice

The holidays continue to keep everyone busy, though we’ve had a long string of gloomy rainy weather that had some spirits flagging. It’s bad enough that the daylight is so short, but when you add the heavy overcast it can be hard to take – day after day. Finally we got a little snow, and a tiny bit of brighter light to give us all hope for winter weather that we can go out and play in!

North Harbor and Petersburg Mountain

Even with all the rain and strong winds we had last week and now the colder temps, a crane barge and crew showed up to replace one of the old docks in the harbor. I can not imagine working in those conditions, holding onto big hunks of cold wet metal! But they worked hard until yesterday when they hung some lights from the crane and made a Christmas tree – so I guess they’re taking a break for the holiday.

Meanwhile, Santa took some time off from his preparations to visit the Recreation Center, arriving by helicopter! His reindeer are resting up for their big night, but the red flasher on the helicopter did a good imitation of Rudolph’s nose.

Santa has landed!

Jim has been very busy baking treats to bring to pot luck dinners as well as for gifts… spending hours in the galley and making the whole boat smell wonderful.

He’s also singing with the Oxford Carolers again this year. They performed at the Museum Open House last weekend, and they’re starting to get around town to entertain in more places.

Between all that baking and rehearsals, he’s been a busy guy! I’ve been knitting gifts and haven’t had much time to get outside for photography, though the weather hasn’t been good for it anyway. We had our usual horrid weather for the day of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count (citizen science!!), but I enjoy getting outside and working with friends to identify and count as many species as we can find.

The stores are all decorated and the streets have a very festive feeling with all the lights. We’re big on lights around here – to counteract the “dark days”

Each store puts a lot of effort into its window displays, and some stores change them every few weeks throughout the year. Men’s and Women’s “Night Out” give local stores a chance to inspire some shopping, and people around here do try to shop local as much as possible… though the daily load of Amazon boxes is hard to compete with.

Julebukking is in full swing now, named for the “buk” or “bock” – the mighty goats that pulled the Norse god Thor’s chariot. Petersburg has it’s own take on the Norwegian tradition, and various stores and organizations around town host an open house type of thing with food and drink. The newspaper and radio station publish the schedule of which day and hours each business will be hosting – this morning is the airport, and one of the banks will be open just for Julebukking on Sunday!

Julebukking at Lee’s Clothing store
Julebukking at the Sons of Norway hall

Christmas eve is the busiest day for Julebukking – stay tuned for more tales from the land of groaning tables full of treats, and Moose Milk! These little doggies got all dressed up, hoping someone would let them in on the Julebukking…

But yesterday was about more than just Julebukking. It was the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year. We never paid much attention to the Solstice when we lived farther south, but up here it’s a pretty big deal! The sun has been rising around 8:30 in the morning and setting around 3:15 in the afternoon. That’s when you can see it at all… when it’s not overcast and raining, and we don’t actually see the sun at those times because of the tall mountains all around. One never really gets over the urge to fix dinner at 4pm when it’s dark then. But the holidays help because of all the pretty lights and decorations. A lot of people put their holiday lights on in the mornings as well as the afternoons and evenings, and it’s appreciated by all.

Yesterday the sun peeked through the clouds just a little in the early afternoon – right at the moment of the Solstice. Everyone around town was happy – not just from the sugar rush of so many treats, but because now the days will begin to get longer again. The light is coming back! The weak sunlight kissed the boats in South Harbor, and the mountains were looking beautiful with their powdered-sugar dusting of snow… sublime.

May Contain Nuts

The holiday season is in full swing here in Petersburg, and if you’ve been following the Blog for any length of time you’ve seen some of the festive fun.  This town is crazy about the holidays!  It all begins around Thanksgiving, and if the promise of a tryptophan coma from Thanksgiving dinner isn’t enough, the Sons of Norway also hosts a Harvest Pot Luck dinner towards the end of November.

Featuring ham and smoked turkey, no respectable fishing community would have a dinner without some crab and smoked salmon too.  With very very few restaurants open for dinner, pot luck dinners are fairly frequent events around town and everyone puts a lot of effort into their contributions.  “Feast” is truly the right word for it.  And since Jim loves to bake we usually bring one of his sweet creations.

The night after Thanksgiving, Santa leads the whole town in a parade down the main street for the town tree lighting.  Some members of the high school band were playing holiday tunes and the Sons of Norway handed out cups of hot cider.  One of our elderly veterans was chosen to throw the switch for this year’s tree – it’s a big tall beauty!  One of the many benefits of living in a National Forest is that there are plenty of trees to choose from.

We had a pretty temperate fall, and even into early December the nearby (lower) mountains were still pretty naked.  Finally the temps started to drop and the mountains got some snow, and when the overnight temperature got into the 20s we were gifted with some hoar frost – so beautiful!!

It didn’t last too long before the rain returned, but we had dry weather long enough for Jim to get the boat all decked out with Christmas lights.

He has the lights on timers so they come on in the dark mornings as well as in the afternoons – it really helps with the short daylight that we have. 

Sometimes the holiday lights draw interest from the local wildlife – friends sent us photos of a buck that had someone’s lights tangled all around his antlers!  Fortunately he dropped one antler a day later, though the tangle remained on the other one.  His antlers and their decorations are now somewhere in the woods – and we’re glad that they didn’t cause him any problems.  I’m sure someone in that neighborhood is wondering who took their lights!

All around town the holiday lights brighten the “dark days”, and many will leave their lights up well into January.  Right now we’re down to about 7 hours of daylight, and when it’s overcast or rainy it doesn’t feel like much light at all.  Reflective bands or flashing lights are popular, and we’re awaiting delivery of some new rechargeable lighted/reflective belts to improve our safety walking around in the dark.

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without the dance troupe’s biennial presentation of the Nutcracker featuring 180 dancers ranging in age from 3 to 18.  For a small community on an island, that’s a LOT of young people committing their time and talent to bring the production to the stage!

The little ones are my favorites – wave upon wave of heart-melting cuteness in tiny tutus or bow ties.

Personalities really shine during these performances, with some little tykes intently focused on their teacher, some doing their own thing, some directing the other children, and some suffering from stage fright.  During “Little Chinese Tea” one little gal wasn’t happy about being on stage…

Hiding in her costume

…and at one point she poked her head out…

…but it was a fleeting moment.  She took one look at the audience and did her best imitation of a turtle, pulling her head back into her costume.  The little guy next to her had to tug her sleeve when it was time to leave the stage. 

The number of dancers en pointe seems to grow every year, elegant sparkly young ladies in toe shoes gliding around the stage.

Three hours of watching these wonderful young people – if that doesn’t make your heart melt and put a smile on your face I don’t know what will. 

Coos Bay and Cape Arago

Our final stop on the Oregon coast was the area around Coos Bay.  The weather continued to be more “fall-like”, which is a euphemism for dreary, misty, and rainy.  But it provided a suitable moodiness for the craggy coastline – just a different kind of beautiful.

We hiked several trails in the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, hoping for some migratory bird sightings but keeping our expectations low since it was not the best timing.  Regardless, we had fun exploring the trails through the forest and marshes and got a lot of good exercise in the process.We spent a rainy afternoon walking around the small downtown along the Coos River, capped off by a visit to the Coos History Museum and Maritime Collection – which was superb.  We have found that little museums in smaller places often far exceed their modest settings.

We spent another day exploring three state parks along the coast – Cape Arago, Shore Acres and Sunset Bay.Barking sea lions were numerous and loud enough to be heard over the crashing surf, and black turnstones and sea birds searched for food around the rocks.  We hiked down to the wild beach, marveling at the logs flung high up on the shoreline and tangles of bull kelp.Someone got pretty creative with smaller drift logs and a natural cave.It was also pretty neat to explore some of the odd alien-like rock formations.

In 1906 the wealthy, generous and influential Louis J. Simpson built a mansion and magnificent gardens on the cliffs near Cape Arago, calling it Shore Acres.  Now a state park, Shore Acres still has an amazing array of beautiful gardens – formal, Japanese……unusual……and a rose garden.Late October is not prime season for touring gardens in coastal Oregon, but we enjoyed seeing the few blooming plants as well as watching an army of electricians installing the annual holiday light show.  Lighted sea lions leaping, birds flying and a spouting whale were just a few of the delights to brighten the dark holiday evenings.We were disappointed that we wouldn’t get to see it all completed – I’ll bet it’s quite a treat for the eyes!  Regardless, the view from the edge of the cliff – where the original mansion was built – was awesome.Virtually next door to Shore Pines is another of Oregon’s MANY state parks – Sunset Bay.  It looks like it’s a popular bathing beach in the summer months but it was also nice to just stroll, do a little beach combing, and to hike up to the viewpoint above it.

Our last of the many lighthouses to visit was Umpqua Lighthouse on the Umpqua River a little north of Coos Bay.  The lighthouse sits on Coast Guard property, adjacent to CG housing. We arrived in the nick of time for the last tour of the day, and it was also the last tour of the season for the volunteer gentleman who took us up into the light.He said it was more fun to give a tour to people who knew something about navigation and who appreciated the importance of lighthouses.  Imagine keeping all those pieces of the first-order Fresnel lens clean back in the day! 

The lighthouse was a great way to wrap up a marvelous road trip.  We’re so lucky to have been able to do and see so much, yet we feel like we barely scratched the surface of what the Oregon coast has to offer.