Our blog and meandering thoughts...
A hailstorm had passed thru, dropping the night temperature to freezing. The crescent moon offered little in the way of light as it tried to peek thru the ominous cloud cover. The puppies, now 4 months old, were in the dog run for the night with their mother.
Nate and I had just crawled under the blankets when all three dogs erupted into a cacophony of vicious barks and snarls. There was something frantic in the way the pups were trying to bark.
My mind meld with them resonated, "hey humans, there's something REALLY big and scary out here in the dark and it's getting close! Come save us!"
Nate was first out the back door and had grabbed his bow as it was sitting conveniently nearby. I heard him yelling toward the barn, "get outta here!" Then, "grab a gun!!"
I grabbed my .45 handgun that is always on hand and ran down the stairs, pulling my sweatshirt on backwards over my head. Cursing under my breath as I struggled to turn my shirt around and get out the door, I considered getting a shotgun out of the gun safe. The frantic barking of the dogs and the urgency in Nate's voice to bring a gun, I opted to head out the door with my trusty handgun and flashlight, praying it wasn't a grizzly we'd be tangling with.
"What is it?" I asked as I caught up with Nate, now by the barn, scanning the dark woods with his flashlight in one hand, bow in the other. He stood there in his pajama bottoms, bare chested, ready to confront whatever had scared the dogs. I stifled a chuckle, seeing him bathed in the faint moonlight, chasing after monsters in his pajamas.
"A wolf I think," he responded. "He is huge! He was coming toward me when I yelled at him to go away."
He pointed toward the woodline, "he went that way. "
We walked up the hill and toward the trees, scanning the woods for movement. A flash of eyes caught the light from my flashlight. "There he is," I whispered.
Standing directly in front of us about 10 yards away, was a massive wolf, darker than night, squared off to us, head lowered, looking like he was deciding how we would taste. His eyes were transfixed on us. He was magnificent. He stood there, paws slightly apart, in a partial crouch, aggressively standing his ground. He was huge, my guess, about 150 pounds of lethal shadow, ready to tear us apart.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Nate draw back his bow and fire.
The wolf spun off to the right and bounded down the trail. A yip followed within seconds. He'd been hit. The chase was on. Flashlights scanning the ground as we entered the woods, we searched and searched for a blood trail, but it was too dark and too dangerous to continue. We decided to resume the search in the morning.
Morning came with no more trouble thru the night. I found the blood trail about 50 yards from where Nate had shot him. We followed the scant drops of blood for about a mile into the woods. The blood got lighter and lighter, until it just disappeared.
A flesh wound, nothing lethal. Hopefully the wolf will not return now that he associates pain with our property.
He was stalking our pups and was not afraid of humans. We will spread the word thru the area that there is an aggressive wolf nearby. This is the life we live in the remote Alaskan wilderness.
Living now in the darkest throws of winter, seemingly endless nights and bitter subzero temperatures plague the sanity of the mind. One would think being secluded from civilization for near half a year would create a state of peace and bliss.
Until you realize otherworldly creatures exist in the frozen North country... Call them sprites, fairies, gremlins, little people, whatever suites you, they tend to come causing mischief in the dark winter world.
Water sprites have infiltrated our homestead. I swear if you don't look directly toward them, you can see them flitting around water sources, seeing what mischief they can create. Today, they struck with the ferocity of Ghengis Khan, swooping down upon us in hordes.
Trying to hand tighten the main valve on the 55 gallon water barrel, it snapped off in Nate's hand. Water started shooting out the broken hole, dousing the water storage room in a glorious display of pressurized ice cold water, flooding the floor. Chaos strikes. Nate was yelling a stream of obscenities as we scrambled to find anything that would hold water.
The second 55 gallon water barrel sitting beside the spouting whale, has a garden hose section attached, which empties into a 5 gallon jug. As we are battling like Captain Ahab against Moby Dick, I see the 5 gallon jug now overflowing. "Turn off the valve!" I snap at Nate, "the 5 gallon jug is overflowing!! "
"What the hell?! I did turn it off!! What is going on!" He shouts back.
I pause, and take a deep breath. "Water sprites," I curse under my breath.
I take the containers of water we've been catching and place them on the kitchen counter. It is shower day and water is heating up on the woodstove for dishes and showers. As I am offloading the scalding hot water into the sink for dishes, it hits a glass cup, swirls in and shoots back up at me in a wave of boiling water, which in turn hits my hand holding the pot, burning the top of my hand. My turn to one up Nate in colorful language.
As this is happening, Nate is dumping water from one container into a larger one and it hits the handle, cascading more water onto the kitchen counter. This has become a fiasco. So much so, we both start laughing.
On the bright side, we won the war. Dishes got done, bodies got washed. Casualties incurred: 1 water barrel with a broken valve port, 1 scalded hand. Not a bad outcome when going to war against water sprites...
7 a.m. It's dark outside. The kerosene lantern flickers and makes a soft popping sound. It swings gently in my hand as I trudge down the shoveled path thru deep snow to the outhouse.
The lack of sun to power the solar light in the outhouse has made it necessary to tote along a lantern. I discovered this last night at 3 a.m. with an inadvertent blind outhouse run. Normally you pull the cord in the outhouse and the solar light pops on. This early morning run it did not.
There's also been a wolf skulking around. Even though it's only 100 feet to the outhouse, one can't help but try to see glowing yellow eyes glaring thru the brush at the edge of the forest. A primal urge, alerting you that danger lurked nearby. You can't help it. It's there, deep in your brain. But your need to use the outhouse overpowers dark fear and you walk on, maybe a bit quicker.
Our dog rarely barks. She was out last night and suddenly broke into a crazy barking frenzy. I'd guess there was a predator nearby but we didn't see anything. Word around the area is a lone wolf is nearby. He's been seen on the river and at the airstrip, both of which aren't far from our place.
I tell myself I have no fear of wolves. I don't think I do. But running into one in the dark, on my way to the outhouse already, I think I'd probably pee myself.
The lantern cuts thru the darkness. The outhouse is straight ahead.
Temps have dropped back to zero. We keep the woodstove going all the time. My trip to the outhouse is quick. It's cold outside! I see the warm glow from the Christmas lights inside as I walk back to the house.
3 of my 5 kids will be home for Christmas this year. That thought makes me smile and warms my insides. Not so cold out when I think of that. I step inside, douse the lantern and hear the pile of puppies yowling. They are trying to howl. It's cute. The fire is crackling. Coffee is brewing and the aroma fills the room. Nate is sitting on the couch, sleepy but awake.
"Why the lantern?" He asks.
"Solar light isn't working." I reply.
Life in remote Alaska seems to always be throwing something at you. Isn't it just so romantic?!
We take showers by heating up a 5 gallon bucket of water on the woodstove. Then the bucket is moved to the bathroom where we have a tub installed but no running water to it as of yet. There is a drain in the tub that runs to the exterior of our cabin
where the grey water can drain into the woods. A 4 cup measuring cup is used to scoop the water out of the bucket and over your head. Get wet, soap up, rinse off. Simple. We get 2 showers out of 5 gallons.
Well, this summer we had discovered a portable shower head with a mini water pump on one end. It runs on batteries. You put the pump in the water bucket and hold the shower head to get a real shower! It's really great to mount the hand held shower head into the wall and stand under running water! We got spoiled.
A few weeks ago, the pump stopped working. We were pretty bummed. Back to dumping water over our heads with the measuring cup. Once we got down to the library in town so we could access the internet, I ordered a new pump. It showed up yesterday and now we have a shower again!!
It's pretty amazing how much you appreciate the simple things in life. Most people take for granted and never even think twice about what it would be like if they couldn't turn the faucet on and step into a hot shower. We know we appreciate it every day...