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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chick-cicles and warmish Holidays....

Well the chickens are NOT quite chick-cicles. 

The Holidays have rolled around and we are are pretty much relieved to see the cold weather show up and stay for good after the odd unseasonably warm and wet winter start.  We finished the changes to make the coop more winter resistant and I thought I would post what I am doing in that department.... 

We switched the chicken waterer to a 5 gallon bucket with a 250 watt in-water heater with a built in thermostat and nipples on the bottom.  So far so good!  They drink from it, the nipples haven't froze yet, though I dread having to haul the five gallons of water out there at least I don't have to refill it nearly as often.  The only problems I have run into is that I have to raise it as I raise the straw floor level (as you can see in the picture it needs raising again) and for some odd reason the chickens stop drinking from it...or can't get water from it as well...or something.....when the water level drops to about three inches.  I have not figured out why really.  The only reason I figured it out it was happening was because every morning with their hot chicken food mash breakfast I bring a cup or two of warm water with a touch of vinegar for them to drink if they feel like it (since the in-water heater is in the bucket I can't add the vinegar to that water cause it will corrode the metal) and when the water in the bucket level drops they are absolutely super thirsty in the morning. 

As you can also see from the picture I only have a 60 watt regular bulb on a timer, and a 50 watt red heat bulb that stays on continuously to heat the coop.  On the wall I have a small low watt heating pad plugged in for when it gets really cold at night.  I have been surprised at how well the coop and chickens are performing.  I have a remote thermometer that shows me live readings of the temperature and the humidity and keeps records of the lows and highs and I am obsessed with checking on it a billion times during the day and before I sleep.  They haven't shown any signs of being stressed or frostbite or even of really being cold.  So far the coldest it has gotten outside the coop is -45 degrees.  Though I do worry a bit about them getting bored.  I try and open the door to the covered run area for them on the warmer days but most of the time they prefer to sit inside and dig through the bedding for BOSS and forgotten treats.  I get 5-7 eggs from them a day, and it's amazing not to have to buy eggs anymore!  There were a few days where the eggs would freeze before I got there but now the girls bury the eggs once everyone is done laying for the day.  I have to be extra special careful to keep the straw clean and check thoroughly for buried eggs but so far I stopped getting frozen eggs.  

I also have been playing with ways to add a few degrees of heat when the weather gets really cold in the next month or two.  It is known to get well below -60 to -70 some I'm planning on it happening! I bought a microwavable 'thermo' type disc that is used for pet beds.  It is supposed to release heat for 10 hours but I found that in my conditions with only works a few hours at most.  It helps in a pinch and is easy to do for nights that I know will be cold.  You can see it in the picture's the weird pick disc being held up by rocks on the waterer.

Other than that the chickens are happy being chickens.  I had a brief battle with them to try and get them to stop pecking at the blue board insulation we put up, which we should have thought about before we installed it all. lol.    I took one of the tamer hens to the school for a show an tell day where I did a little speech about them and showed the eggs and such.  The kids were utterly fascinated and I'm officially known as the Chicken Lady.  The elementary school teachers have told me that they have an incubator and so I'm going to try and get them some eggs for them to hatch in the spring.  My rooster has stopped crowing since it has gotten chilly but he is still louder than everyone else and is incredibly bossy. 

As it is Small business Saturday I encourage everyone to buy a few of your Christmas gifts  from small shops this year!   There are tons of them that are amazing

A couple that are my personal favorites that I buy from frequently are:

Asiannataq Nay's Shop (my cousin): ASIANNATAQ
Honeyrun Farm (my honey supplier):  HONEYRUN FARM

Please feel free to add links to your favorite shops in the comments!

And now some random photos!

We adopted a dog that was ill and we were told that she has never been in heat and would probably not go into heat, so we weren't too anxious to get her fixed.  ....She had 7 pups.  I engage in Puppy therapy several times a day. 

Everything is covered in frost

I have made a bunch of doll Christmas Tree ornaments for sale with real fursies.  More info here:

New product in my store!  Found a really awesome use for coltsfoot leaf.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kefir and Caribou....

In the last couple of years I have slowly been trying to make our diets more healthy.  And yes it's pretty much me making changes and dragging my husband along with me!   In a village in the Alaskan boonies with extremely limited access to what normal America sees as a requirement to having a healthy diet (like veggies and fruit) it's been a learning and seemingly endless experience.  What we have found that works for us is by making a few small changes every few months, pretty much addition and subtraction of one or two things.  The months in between the changes give us time to adjust our taste buds and give us a chance to see of the change works for us or not.  For instance the first change I made was to purchase a 50 pound bag of whole wheat flour.  It pretty much began our adventure into cooking our own foods and creating our own healthy dutch oven no-knead bread, and healthy breakfast muffins, and whole wheat pizza....  the list goes on!  And it only cost me about $50 for the initial flour and shipping and another $20.00 for the food safe buckets and lids to store the extra.  I lost ten pounds just from the single change. 

Amongst the long list of changes we have made (including adding chickens to our household for the eggs/meat/compost for veggies!) I do often experiment with other means of making our diet more and more healthy and natural.  Our diet is pretty meat heavy sometimes...low inventory of veggies and fruit at the store...or we already burned through our own stores of canned and frozen veggies and fruit.  Our ancient subsistence diet is actually supposed to be 45% non-meat, which is really the hardest part! I began looking at ways to help our poor abused guts from these lapses.  literally.

So we tried kefir.  Kefir is a 'fermented' (I really don't like that term for some reason!) add a few grains of kefir to some milk and a day later you get a thickened version of milk that tastes like unsweetened yogurt.  You strain the grains from the thickened milk and start the process over again.  I was extremely hesitant about the stuff but gave it a try anyways....and I loved it!  My yogurt loving husband did NOT.  Which I thought was hilarious.  I loved the tart and yogurty taste and enjoy it as part of my breakfast (and I save a bit for my chickens a couple times a week)  I throw it into a cup with some honey that I get from Honeyrun Farm to sweeten it, a few pieces of frozen banana or strawberries,  and eagerly drink it down every morning.  I found that to get my husband to drink it a couple times a week I have to water it down with soy milk (he is lactose intolerant of course) and add more sweetener and some vanilla.   But this little gem has really completed our changing healthy diet!

One if the things that I have found has been a barrier in having kefir here in the boonies is having a steady supply of milk.  What I have found that has worked is that I keep the batches small...only keeping enough grains to produce a little more than a cup of kefir a day....and by mixing my milk sources.  Our house relies on the super shelf stable Ultra pasteurized milk that you can literally keep on the shelf for a year or more, but this milk doesn't really lend itself to a thick healthy what I do is mix a tablespoon of powdered whole milk ( LINK) into it to give it a bit more lactose and thickness.  When the store does have 'normal' milk, I buy a small amount of it to 'freshen' our grains.   So far so good! 

The caribou have finally arrived in the mountains and everyone is scrambling to harvest and store enough meat for the winter.  Our weather has been chaotic...going from normal low temperautres to spring time temperatures with rain...and back down again.  Confusing all the animals...humans included! 

Hope this finds you all healthy and happy!.....and now some pics!

Our chickens are now producing about 3-5 eggs a day!  such pretty eggs! 

My brother-in-law drinking coffee outside of the family cabin

And actual picture of my normally stoic husband...smiling!

A bull caribou at the verge of rut surveys the path ahead as he guides his small herd of females

In a land without trees and brush we get pretty good at carefully sneaking up on caribou...Patience is a must have!

My husband performs the ritual first cut at the the third vertebrae....

A caribou herd wonders back north...pretty confused by the warm weather...

Kefir!  I also found that dried strawberries work well as a healthy addition!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cloudberry/Salmonberry/Akpik Jam Recipe

Quick post!

We are busy busy busy, processing meat for the winter, picking berries and freezing them too, prepping the chicken coop, working on vehicles and basically running around babbling and surviving off off coffee and quick meals.

This year I didn't get to do my usual slew of floral jellies but I am going to get to do my berry jellies and jams.  I thought I would share the cloudberry recipe. Cloudberries are the arctic most beloved of berry!  They are also called salmonberries (though they are a different berry) or Akpiks in our language.  This year was a good berry year!

4 cups of berries
1/2 lemon or a couple of tablespoons* of lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon of butter
1/2 packet of Surejell pectin
4 cups sugar

*I guess abit on the amount of lemon juice! You just need a good splash of it in there.

Set aside two cups of the berries - I choose the 'pretty' ones without blemishes and cleaned of leaves and such.  Take the other two cups and press them through a strainer, retrieving as much of the pulp and juice as is possible. Take your time. I repeatedly mix the seed/pulp with water and then press through the strainer.  Take the juice/pulp and add clean water to it to make two cups of juice.

Add this juice and the berries to a small saucepan (big enough to handle twice as much as the juice and berries) . Add lemon juice, and boil for 2 minutes. Add butter and stir till melted (you can omit the butter, it is just there to reduce the amount of foam). Add Surejell and stir and boil for 1 minute.

Add sugar (you can add more sugar, about 6 cups total to get more jam, but I like mine to be more intense berry flavor, do not use less than 4 cups because the sugar is needed to prevent the berries from going bad.)  Boil for another minute while stirring slowly.

Makes about 6 cups of jam, or a little more than 32 oz. 


Put in hot sterile jars if you plan to preserve them and you can hot process them in a hot bath to ensure they will stay safe.  I sell some jam online but most of it is eaten up right away and it never lasts long.

You can strain ALL of the seeds out to make a very, very pretty jelly!

You can also save the seeds, grind them up to  powder and mix them with a  little bit of olive and and use them to buff the dead skin away from your face, they contain all types of anti-aging goodness that brighten your skin!

And now some pretty cloudberry pictures!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Giant Garden post

I thought it was about time to do a good post on my tiny garden!

Here is a layout drawing of the plants I grew and the location of these plants.

This year I decided to try and to begin to improve my soil from the get go.  Our soil here is very nitrogen and nutrient poor.  It also lacks organic material.  Most of the wild arctic plants grow in the thin topsoil layer that consist mainly of dead plant material and rabbit and ptarmigan poo and such.  This year I added a ton of coconut coir which was cheap to buy and ship and which expanded into larger quantities.  I also mixed in worm castings, a sprinkle of bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal, and a good quality organic fertilizer.  I chose to use organic enhancements in the hope that they would add to the soil in later years as well as this year.  I plan to add these types of stuff to the soil every year. 

Last year I started a small compost bin, using the dead plants and home scraps, coffee leavings and such.  It is basically a 30 gallon plastic bin with a lid in which I have drilled a ton of holes.  I opened it up at the beginning of spring and was extremely surprised to get the wonderful earthy rich smell of awesome compost and steam.  I started another separate bin this year, and will add to that the chicken poo and straw and such.  I plan to let these bins sit for two years, so next year I can start using the compost.

I started planting seeds as soon as the soil was ready and warmed.  I cheated a little by covering the beds with cheap plastic, which helped to heat the beds and the seeds faster.  For the hot weather plants like the tomatoes and squash and peppers I made small sturdy tents out of plastic and placed them around large bottles of water to help keep them from getting too cold.  The only plants I lost were the winter squash, which really did NOT like the sudden drops in temp.

We started eating from the garden about three weeks ago.  It started with lettuce and herbs but now I can harvest things almost every day, the chickens have been loving the excess or damaged greenery.  The only problems I have had were mysterious insect holes showing up on my turnip leaves, a occasional rabbit wondering in and eating the chard (oddly enough the chickens go nuts and scare it away!), the occasional drop in temps, and a dog dumping out the lavender plants and killing them. 

I have found that 90% of my plants absolutely do better in cooler weather.  We had couple weeks of 75-85 degree weather and though the herbs and sunflowers did okay, everything else went dormant and looked quite poor.  Then when the fall time coolness and humidity rolled in they came back to life in a frenzy.  The sweet corn did well in the heat but we got a drop in temp and it pretty much disabled the corn.  So I pulled the baby corn and replaced them with winter rye.

This year I also installed a rain gutter system, which was the absolute best idea ever! Last year I was hauling water in the hot spells from the nearby river to my water tank.  Which made interesting things grow in my beds.

Next year I plan to build a small greenhouse around the beds in the northwest corner of the garden.  I plan to put the corn, peppers and cucumbers an such inside. Since my husband was so incredibly sweet to me and built me the absolute best fully insulated chicken coop, I pretty much have to wait till next year to bother him again!

And now some pics!

I have about 30+ green tomatoes growing on my six tomato plants


baby squash!

Thought I would throw a pic of the inside of the coop in the post.  I LOVE the coop!  The food and water are hidden by the wall.

One good days worth of yummy!

Chard, a new favorite of mine that really reminds me of my grandmother.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

quick garden and chicken pic post!

The finished insulated coop front.
The chicks aren't really chicks anymore! 
Baby Kale
Baby sunflowers
My first tomato babies have arrived!
The finished coop and run in the back with some of the garden.  You can see my mini-compost blue bin.  It's working great!
The chickens first steps into the run.
With the crazy weather we have been having we decided to invest in a really awesome inflatable kayak. Here is the Hubby and my youngest brother testing it out.  This thing is SO much fun!

Our weather has been horrendous to say the least! we had two weks straight of 80-95 degree weather, which finally broke this last weekend.  Which was fortunate since we had three days of smoke filled skies from all of the fires that spread across the interior of Alaska. Some places south f us were reporting temperatures of 140 degrees in the sun. Which is horrible! 

We built the coop and started the garden which is why I have been MIA for awhile. The plants and chickens are doing great! We still have to finish some parts of the coop but we are pretty much set up.  Just in time for mosquito season! I have lost count of the bug bites I have but I am very happy that everything is set up and will need little upkeep for the worst part f the summer.

I hope to be able to getting around to doing a more in depth post about what I planted this summer, so far everything is doing great with the heat. 

Stay COOL people!  Don't let the whacky weather get to you!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Springtime? O.o pics...

 I's finally spring!  It feels like spring.  But the last time it felt like spring we suddenly got a week of snowy blizzards.  Every moment is spent fixing up the garden and setting up the chickens.  My superman of a husband built a fully insulated chicken coop.  Complete with a small storage space and window.  We haven't completed it yet but enough of it is done to house the growing chickens and keep them safe from the resident weasel and the flock of migratory ravens.  I'll get better pictures once it up!

The garden is slowly coming together.  I lost quite a bit of my seedling in the 'great flash freeze of 2013' but I was able to revive a few and so far just lost a handful of the more delicate squash.  There is absolutely nothing more tedious than hardening seedlings! 

The chicken coop in the process of being built.  A carpenter husband is incredibly valuable!

The plants seem to say that it's finally spring, as they hesitantly green themselves up

everywhere we look is hints of green.

We found a robins nest hidden amongst a gravel slope.  We vowed to keep it's location a secret.
Springtime here means occasional showers and thunderstorms. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Galena Flood reflief fund raising...

Please take a few moments to say a prayer for those that are impacted by the flooding of the small Alaskan town of Galena. We in Alaska are very tightly bound to each other and when nature causes tragedy we find a way to help each other out.  This spring is bringing many natural disasters across America, but some are small and don't make the national news; though they are just as devastating.

If you would like to donate funds directly please go here: GALENA FLOOD RELIEF

Join the Facebook group here for updated news on fundraising efforts here: GALENA FLOOD RELIEF FACEBOOK GROUP

 Any and all help is greatly appreciated, even if it is just to pass the information along via facebook, twitter, or email.

Stay safe everyone!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Video....Springtime Shmingtime....

Here is a photo I just took today.  The last few days have been the same.  Cold temps, blowing and heavy snow.  Just a couple weeks ago it looked like spring would finally show, the snow was visibly melting, the sun shone bright and warm.  But Mother nature had other ideas apparently.

I have heard that the river folks have been having flooding in the interior of Alaska, with this late and haphazard break up.  Up north the sea ice is misbehaving and preventing most of the communities from harvesting whales and other important sea life, causing heavy risk for the hunters that venture out on the ice.  Here in the mountains we usually get two weeks of good geese and duck hunting.  My husband just went out in this mess, with heavy gear on and with a few buddies. They have ventured out to try and hopefully get a few geese and ducks for the freezer.  The birds have been flying aimlessly at the edge of the Brooks range, flying incredibly low, searching for open water...of which there is none.  We even see small flocks of seagulls huddle in the center of frozen lakes....

I have a house full of plant seedlings and young chickens that are supposed to be out of the house in the respective raised beds and chicken coop.  But who knows when this weather will finally let up!  My husband started building the coop, but had to stop because the weather has made it almost impossible to work on it. 

Most people suffer from major cabin fever and get upset, but here in the village we find other things to do: visit friends, start a long night of card games with wily old ladies, work on gear that needs mending or replacing, and a million other mind engaging tasks saved for this purpose.  Me...I am enjoying watching sci-fi movies, catching up on reading chicken how-to books and digging through my old digital library reminiscing on warmer weather.

I found this little video on my ipod, and thought you would like to see it. It was taken in the spring of last year...around this is the approach to the village through these ancient amazing mountains.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Video...first fishing trip to Shanin Lake...

I have come to the conclusion that if I am given more time during an outing, I will come back with more media to share.  This last trip we went on was to Shainin lake which is a good distance from Anaktuvuk Pass to the North West. You can catch monster lake trout there if you are lucky!  Since I had never been there before, I jumped on the chance to experience it.  I ended up making a little video of our return trip which was easy since I wasn't driving our snow machine...though I couldn't help it being so wobbly!  The drive there was a crazy adventure through 3-4 feet deep snow that involved a lot of digging snow machines out and holding our breath as we plowed through it all.  Driving through deep powder is kind of like driving in have to have speed and use weight to maneuver...and if you will probably sink!  I was the only person to catch a fish when we got there.  We realized a bit late that we should have consulted with an Elder to find the best places to fish before we left.  The surface of the lake was already wet in some spots from water seeping through deep cracks in the springtime heat.

My husband, making a trail to follow with our Ace through some deep snow.  It was up to my hips when I took the photo.

Taking a break on top of a foothill slope.  It was so intensely bright I was sure all of my photos would end up blown out.  

Shainin lake with a snow machine for perspective.  All that undisturbed snow makes you want to run through it and make tracks!

fishing under some on the nearby craggy mountains.  We noted the small avalanches with nervousness.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Spring photos....with Chickens...and fish


I have been busy busy busy....but I thought I would post some photos just to show you what has been going on.  Stay warm and snug everyone and enjoy!

We travel for 30 miles and immediately start drilling holes.  Here is my husband and his brother.

Pretty view taken while the guys were drilling holes.  An Elder who went with us showed us a grave marker where her grandfather was buried.  The bears keep tearing the markers down in the summer months.

On the way back one day we spotted a wolf who was acting weird and running parallel to us.  My husband shot it.  It was a very very old wolf, that was very very underweight.  His teeth were worn down to nubs.  We opened his mouth and saw why, his mouth was covered in hundreds of porcupine quills.  He was probably looking for humans.

A Arctic char my husband caught.  Yummy!

you can see us in the distance.  Such a wide and beautiful place....Lake Chandler

My husband caught these lake trout one after the other!  It was very exciting! We give away about half our fish and freeze or dry the rest to eat over the summer into fall.

The ice is at least 7 feet thick.  It still creaks and cracks and moves beneath our feet in a a very unnerving way.

Sometimes you could see the bottom of the lake near the edges through the ice.  It actually made me a bit dizzy gazing into the depths.  It felt like I was miles above....floating on glass.

Fishing in long rows of people. 

Yes we now have chickens!  I forgot to take photos of them when they were cute. lol.  They are feathering out now...and they look like punk stars with their half formed feathers.  i have ten Black Langshans, with pretty feathered feet.  I'm sure I will posting about them tons in the future!