It's high noon on the Winter Solstice as light trickles through the spruce trees.
As the winter season settles in, we have been busy preparing for and enjoying some of our favorite holidays of the year. As is typical, they roared by in a blur. Even though the winter solstice was a few days ago and it is easy to look at these as the darkest days of the year, we remain filled with gratefulness and joy by the reminder of what these special holidays stand for. We get to celebrate Thanksgiving, our Daughter’s birthday, the solstice, Christmas, and then, just like that, the New Year is here. There’s an empty 2021 sitting in front of us just waiting to be filled with accomplishments, creations, new friendships, and beautiful memories.
Winter in Alaska is even more enjoyable when you have a freezer full of moose and salmon from the preceding months. We’ve enjoyed eating salmon since long before moving to Alaska, but moose is new to us and we have enjoyed experimenting with it in different dishes. We cut a lot of it into steaks which we vacuum packed in family-sized portions, but the majority we ground up and use in almost any recipe that calls for ground beef – tacos, spaghetti, casseroles, and ‘moose-loaf’. In addition to the moose and salmon, Pete has still been pumping out 1-2 loaves of sourdough bread per week which we use for sandwiches, garlic toast, croutons, stuffing, bread crumbs, or just plain eating! He also made a handful of loaves to bring to neighbors and friends this Christmas season. There’s just something so comforting about fresh warm, homemade bread!
We were fortunate to make a trip to South Dakota to see some family, despite the holiday hustle and bustle and the global pandemic. It was the first time many of our family was able to meet our daughter, and she certainly enjoyed being the star of the show. Not wanting to go too long without fresh bread, Pete dried out some of our sourdough starter, crushed it up and brought it with us. When we got there, he re-hydrated it in a jar and quickly brought the sourdough back to life. He made a loaf of bread and some garlic naan, then gave it to his mom before we left.
Pete has also made a lot of progress with getting Wild North’s workshop up and running. Unfortunately, getting the workshop insulated was one of those projects that didn’t quite get done last fall. Now, all of the insulation panels are frozen in a stack outside, thanks to the week of rain we got just before the first snowfall. With the days being short and the nights getting cold, even with a gas heater it’s difficult to work in the uninsulated space for too long. Sometimes, we pretend to be tough when we go out there and work for a while, then come back in when our fingers or toes get too cold. Pete wants to install a small wood stove to make things more comfortable, but maybe we should just use these few months to make sure we have all of our summer plans ironed out so we can hit the ground running once the snow melts in 5 months.
One small unexpected surprise came when Pete was using the snowblower for the first time this season and a wheel fell off, which led to a gear sliding out of place in the transmission compartment. When he opened the compartment to put the gear back in place, he saw that nearly the entire compartment had become a mouse home. When he looked closer, he saw that there were several acorns in the nest. Knowing that there aren’t any trees which grow acorns in Alaska, we realized they had to have come from the last place we lived. Funny to think that maybe we relocated a family of mice 3,000+ miles from their home!
With the winter solstice in our rear view, we are excited for the daylight hours to grow back once again. We have so many hobbies that the short days of winter aren’t much of a bother. There is a nice layer of snow on top of the frozen lake behind our property, and skiing around it is an excellent way to soak up a bit of the sunshine that we may get in a given day. On Christmas morning we went for a wonderful family ski outing. With baby strapped on Dad’s back and the dogs running laps around us, we skied through the black spruce forest and then around the lake.
It was a gorgeous clear day and from the middle of the lake we could see three different mountain ranges. Being only 15 degrees, we made sure to bundle up and ate a hearty breakfast of sourdough french toast beforehand. Then, when we got home we warmed up with some homemade Alaskan blueberry mocha lattes. Don’t worry – they were delicious!
Looking back on 2020, we are comfortable and happy with the progress we have made and the skills we both have gained. Even if things feel painfully slow or bitterly repetitive at times, we are learning lessons in all of it. With a one year old, our patience has grown like a sunflower. Funny how some of the most frustrating moments can turn into fond memories, with just a little change in perspective. One of the cutest things to see is when our Daughter puts her delicate little hands on Pete while he’s tinkering on a project. She will also lean in to get a closer look. She is a fast learner and I am confident she will be a big help (in her own little way) as we begin building our house next summer.
That is all – Thanks for reading, Everyone!
Cheers to the New Year!
Hello, I am Melissa, owner of Wild North Design. Recently, my husband and I decided to pick up and move to Alaska. This dream has been a couple years in the making and we are enjoying the journey so far. We love to learn and make all kinds of things. From wood craft, to painting, to vehicles, landscaping, building, exploring...we love it all! We are finding out that Alaska is a great fit for our restless minds and bodies! Excited for what the future holds for our expanding family!
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