Blog, throwback thursday

Throwback Thursday #51 – Learning New Skills

Welcome back to Throwback Thursday. This week Lauren is back taking us on another walk down memory lane.  Head over to her blog to get the details, and then join in!

This week’s prompt is: Learning New Skills

Lauren posted some great questions this week as inspiration. I do write a lot of nostalgic posts so I have written about most of the these on my blog before. Instead of repeating those stories, I am going to take a different approach to her questions. Lauren, please forgive me for bending the rules.

Learning any new skill is always interesting to consider as we all learn differently. I like to think I was well rounded with the life skills I had been taught, but just how did that transfer of knowledge take place?

Growing up in such a rural community, we were all a part of growing food and preserving it for future use. Of course, I had no idea I was being taught anything – it all seemed like chores to me. But what I did learn was how to plant and fertilize a garden. I knew about crop rotation, what plants to plant close to each other, and the importance of flowers close by that would attract pollinators. I knew when vegetables were ready to be harvested and how to harvest them. I watched my parents and grandparents sterilize glass jars and lids and how to cook and process the food for canning. I learned the importance of hot paraffin wax poured on the jelly jars before sealing.

I developed my love of tools (which I have also written about before) by spending time with my grandfathers in the barns and shops where they maintained their tools. Those tools were often my toys as I explored how they worked and what they were used for. I was particularly fascinated by things like plumb bobs, planes, chalk lines, and folding rulers as I watched these men use them to make or repair everyday items.

I learned to cook in the same fashion, by participation and involvement. From breakfast to dinner and of course dessert, I learned by doing. Did I fail  at it sometimes? You betcha. I made a few pans of inedible biscuits in my time.

I also learned about my physical environment by conversations and walks with my elders. I could identify trees and plants, steer clear of poison ivy (leaves of three, let them be) and stinging nettle. I learned about gathering ginseng and may apples. We leaned to make sassafras tea (it made the perfect ‘witches brew’ for our Halloween parties.) l could smell the rain before it arrived and paid notice to the leaves that turned upside down before the rain.

I think the most valuable skill I learned was my ability to research and problem solve – there is little I would fear to tackle. I am thankful for those who took the time to help me develop basic life skills.


The Alaska Canada Highway – A Trek to Remember, Part Two

Click here for Part One.

When we arrived at the border, the officials told us the only way we could cross the border was if they sealed the back of the truck from being opened while in Canada. All our clothing, suitcases, etc., were in the back of the truck and we had a good long haul ahead of us and would need access to the back of the truck. After much negotiation, the Canadian border officials finally relented but only if we wrote a complete inventory of the contents of the U-Haul. So we sat at the border and tried to remember every article packed on the truck. Hours later, we  were finally allowed to cross the border.

I will never forget how beautiful Lethbridge Alberta was. Golden fields of wheat shimmering in the sun. I remember thinking to myself it was so beautiful I thought I might be able to live there.

The anticipation of crossing the Alaska Canada highway was ever present. We anticipated it would require five days to traverse. Advice from The Milepost magazine led us to expect we would encounter some level of difficulty along the way. The addition of screens to protect radiators from rocks, spare engine parts, tool boxes, and emergency flares were often suggested as well as emergency food supplies. There were not an abundant supply of mechanics or service stations along the route. Lodging was rustic and in short supply.

The long range vistas on this drive are spectacular. We saw bison, elk, caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, moose and even a few Musk ox. At the time, the entire highway was not paved so dusty roads and flying gravel was not unusual. Things were going well until they were not.

Road  construction required major machinery. It was around 4:30 pm when we hit a section of the road that had been graded and sprayed with water to minimize the dust. This resulted in a lot of disturbed soil and – you guessed it – mud. The truck was stuck!

There was not a huge amount of traffic on the highway but even if there had been, dislodging a fully packed U-Haul truck was a big ask. Thankfully, the universe aligned and one of the heavy equipment operators was still on location. In a dark cloud of swarming mosquitos, a bulldozer driver was able to push us free and we were again on our way. We could have been stuck there overnight.  Another stressful moment for sure!

A day or so later as we approached the Yukon Territory, the sky began to darken and the sun was like a red ball of fire hanging in the darkness. There was a forest fire. We could see helicopters dotting the sky and emergency vehicles on the highway. We stopped at a little town called Fireside. They assured us this happened from time to time and they were not unsettled by it. We drove on until we reached a roadblock. We were one of the last vehicles they allowed to pass before they closed the road.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful. We tried to find a place to sleep overnight, but with no locks on the doors and the idea we would need to sleep separately, we continued on.

The landscapes were awe inspiring. I can still remember well places like Watson Lake and Muncho Lake. They were stunning.

When we arrived in Anchorage, we were tired but glad to have arrived. I remember well the Anchorage newspaper headlines:


We definitely had some angels watching over us.


The Alaska Canada Highway – A Trek to Remember

In late July, 1982, my ex and I loaded a U-Haul truck with everything we owned and started a journey to return back to Alaska. It would be a very long journey with all our belongings packed in that truck. Two adults and two children on the bench seat of that U-Haul was going to make it a long trip (have you seen how large and cumbersome the gearshift is on those old trucks?)

The first order of business if you plan to drive the Alaska Canada highway (lovingly known as the AlCan) is buy a copy of a publication called The Milepost. It is packed with hints and tips, maps, photos, roadways, precautions, warnings, and suggestions to consider before embarking on the journey. In 1982, much of the highway was still gravel (or dirt) and could be precarious. Stops with facilities were (and are) quite far from each other. Accommodations were often rustic so preparation and planning is a must.

We drove from Maine on to Virginia to see my parents before we returned to Alaska. After a few precious days with family, we drove toward Montana where we would cross the border into Canada.

It was in the early morning hours we pulled into a gas station in Sweetgrass, Montana. The kids were asleep as the sun wasn’t quite up yet. I sat in the cab of the truck as my ex filled the tank with gas before we would head to the border. Suddenly a pickup truck pulled up and out jumped two people with nylons pulled down over their faces.

To say I was alarmed is an understatement – I was in full in panic mode. Every penny we had was in my purse. I locked the doors and slowly started pulling cash out and tucking in all over the cab of the truck. I knew we were going to be robbed and I was trying so find a way to keep my kids safe and still have some money for emergencies.

What started as pure panic quickly turned into anger as it became clear these two people were ‘friends’ of whomever was working and they were pulling a prank on him. Not funny. These days it would be a certain way to end up dead. I was relieved but still shaken.

With the truck gassed up and money back in place we headed on to the border.

Part 2 tomorrow



Drifting Thoughts on a Sunday

Twelve years ago, my sister Rosie lost her battle with cancer. It is always tough, these grief anniversaries. I try so hard to transition from a grief mindset to a memory mindset, but it is not always easy.

It would be easy to just say she had a tough life, but statements like that devalue the lives of those we loved. I certainly do not want to be remembered for my struggles, so I will not do that to her. She was smart, quick-witted and wielded a powerful pen. She was kind, generous, and opinionated. She had the biggest heart and never knew a stranger. She was musically gifted and taught herself to play the guitar. She made the most beautifully tailored clothes – I was rather envious. She continually tried to hand me the genealogy reins in the family, but I was not interested at the time. Oh, how I regret that decision. Of all the things she was, however, she was my sister, and that is the small aspect of her I miss the most.

I am gradually coming out of this three weeks of sickness. I passed this bug on to hubby, and we are both in the final annoying stages of a cough that just does not want to be over. I still have 5 days of steroids to take and then my medicinal regimen will be complete.

All our children’s families are in back-to-school mode. There is such a long list of things to complete, and for the two college aged grandchildren, packing and moving – one into an apartment as he enters his third year, and one into the dorm as she starts her freshman experience. Such an exciting time. Our youngest granddaughter just turned five and will start kindergarten on Wednesday. She got her first haircut ever on Saturday and seems to have matured so much overnight.

Wednesday I will go back to physical therapy for my exit appointment. I joined the gym the physical therapy place runs so I am anxious to get back. These last three weeks may have jeopardized all the progress I made, but onward and upward.

We have had a juvenile bear come to the house a few of times in the last week. Food must be getting in short supply because he was here in broad daylight and managed to bring down the bird feeder poles, destroying one of the feeders. He actually came back four hours later and again the following day. I will post some pics and videos below. As a result, we will take a break from feeding the birds for a few days.

We also had a bobcat visit last week, but he managed to slip by the game camera by moving along the outside wall of the house. I tried to snap a pic with my cell phone, but he got startled and ran before I could get a photo. All signs the seasons will start changing soon.

We grew tomatillos for the first time this year. I hope to make a salsa verde today. It is always exciting to try something new, especially from our own garden. We managed to harvest a few blueberries, some peppers, and some yellow pear tomatoes. This is the least successful gardening year we have had since moving here.

I wish you a peaceful Sunday. I am going to spend some time honoring my sis today. Thanks for hanging in here with me.

(Turn your volume down on this one.)

Quite impressive when they stand!

Garden harvest
Garden harvest