Monthly Archives: November 2008

Frozen Range Report

Still sore from snowmachining, I decided that Saturday was the perfect day to head back out to the shooting range.

It’s funny, because while I’m plenty sore from the ride on the snowmachine, where I used muscles I wasn’t used to using, I barely notice the sore shoulder from shooting. I’ve got a bruise from that, though, so you’d think I’d feel it.

Anyway, I went out to the landfill with my sporterized M44 and a box of ammo. Last time I was out there, the snow had blanketed the place and you had to slog through knee-deep drifts to set up targets. This time, a plow had pushed right down the middle of the range. That made it easier to set up targets in the middle, but there was no way to set a target for one of the shooting tables at the far left.

When I first got there, four guys were sighting in their rifles. I assume they’re going to be hunting moose, since moose season is opening up again soon. I did some shooting at 50 yards from the far left table, shooting cross-range to the 50-yard target in the middle of the plowed section of the range. My rifle scope was still fairly accurate, which is good. I’ve had to sight it in a few times now, and I was afraid it was getting bumped around in the car and not keeping a good zero. But apparently it’s fine now.

After the other guys left, I moved to a center table, and I snapped a few pictures of the snowy range.

It’s hard to take pictures that show the shape of the snow well, but outside of the plowed portion of the range straight ahead, there are huge drifts to the right and left. Not fun to try to walk through.

I shot 10 rounds at 100 yards. By this point, I was freezing cold. Between that and my low-power scope, I imagine my accuracy suffered a little.

Nevertheless, you can see that I managed to get all ten rounds onto paper.

I’m not going to complain about that performance with a WWII surplus rifle, in the freezing cold, at 100 yards with a 2x power scope. With more patience in better weather, I could probably do a tad better. As you can see, it’s shooting to the left at 100 yards.

When I was out of ammo, I had a warm car waiting to take me home.

It was a decent range trip, I suppose. It’s still hard to shoot a box of ammo when it costs $25 to replace. A coworker from the courthouse is going to Seattle in late December, and is planning to buy a bunch of ammo. I’m going to try to convince her to let me tack on an order. It costs half as much to buy ammo in the lower 48, at least. That would make it a cheaper hobby.

Now I’ve got to run off and meet Samara for dinner. She, Ricky and Saramay are supposed to meet me at the Windmill Grille for a bite to eat.

Thanksgiving Report

We hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving.

We slept in, and then started cooking for our feast. We had quite a spread by the time it was all done, but the first thing to do was cook the bird. This was Samara’s first time cooking a whole turkey. While she was rinsing it off, it took advantage of the distraction of a phone call to try to fly away.

She grabbed it by the wings and subdued it, though. Then it developed a few butter pat tumors.

Despite all that adventure, when it came out of the oven later, it looked pretty tasty.

Samara carved one side, and I carved the other.

Yeah, my hair was a little wet and crazy looking, but more about that later. Samara may have done the bird, but I made the traditional light rolls. This is a recipe passed down from my mother, but I did an okay job of making them. First, the dough.

Of course, it was easier for me to make the dough than for my mom because I used Samara’s Kitchen-Aid mixer. A quality stand mixer for the kitchen can’t be beat, and there’s none better than Kitchen-Aid. I actually made the dough on Wednesday and then made the rolls Thursday.

I didn’t get a great shot after they were in the bowl ready to serve, but here’s the rolls sitting in the pans.

They turned out okay. I should have let them cook just a few minutes longer–the bottoms of the rolls weren’t as well-cooked as I would have preferred. But I’m getting better at my cooking endeavors.

Samara made deviled eggs, although I helped peel them.

Then turned out yummy.

Samara also made mashed potatoes. Not from a box, either. I peeled potatoes for that, and she cooked and mixed them up in her aforementioned Kitchen-Aid mixer.

I bet my sister Natalie wishes she was here for these mashed potatoes.

As you can imagine, there was more to our Thanksgiving feast than just that. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, deviled eggs, light rolls, cranberry sauce…

Sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole…

Fruit salad, a couple of dips, a cheese ball, and fresh carrots and cucumbers. We had some help eating it all as well. Saramay and Bobbie, both teachers at the school, came over to help us eat. Bobbie brought some board games, including the awesome Ticket to Ride, and we played well into the night. Samara and I didn’t get to bed until 2am.

Now cooking isn’t the only thing that happened Thanksgiving day. I had agreed to help the judge with a little errand. I was watching out the window for his arrival, and I caught this scene instead.

These ravens are all over town. They eat garbage and they get huge.

And they will swarm all over anyplace they find something to eat.

They’re fascinating creatures to watch, really. Smart birds. And did I mention big?

Now I’m afraid that I didn’t get any pictures once the judge did arrive, riding his snowmachine. He had asked my help to get one of his other snowmachines dug out and delivered to his judicial assistant, who he is giving it to.

The judge did arrive, though, and I rode with him on the back of his snowmachine back over to his house. I’d never ridden on a snowmachine before. It’s very cold on any part that doesn’t get covered up. I need a better face mask if I’m going to ride again–my scarf just wouldn’t stay up, and my face got cold. The judge lives across the flats on Wood River Road, and there’s plenty of snow and tracks already ridden. It didn’t take too long to get over to his house.

The judge’s machine is newer and has a smooth suspension. It was comfortable to ride on the back, even though it was hard to see where we were going. The machine he wanted to dig out is a long-track Polaris Indy Lite. It didn’t take much to get it dug out and the cover off. We got the skis loose from the ice and snow, and gassed it up. The judge took it once around the block (which involved a track through the woods, actually) and then we got ready to caravan over to his assistant’s house. I’d never driven a snowmachine. In fact, I’ve never ridden a motorcycle or anything but a car. But it’s easy. There’s basically just a throttle. It’s either on or off. There’s a brake as well, but it isn’t really that useful.

The judge took his machine, and I followed him fairly easily. We probably got up to 30 or 40 mph as we headed across the flats from Wood River Road, around the airport runway and towards the Airport Road where his assistant lives. We had to go through some trees on a narrow trail, across wide snowy expanses with frozen ponds, over small hills and across a few roads. The suspension on the Indy Lite is a lot stiffer, and I bounced around a bit. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun.

After we delivered the snowmachine, he took me back on his machine to my house. Dinner was almost ready, and I got to carving the turkey. That’s why my hair looked wet. The judge has one other snow machine that isn’t going to get much use this winter, and he mentioned that he might let me borrow it sometime. It’s a touring machine, from what I understand, so it should be fairly comfortable to ride. Samara and I might get a chance to take some more pictures of Alaska scenery.

To anyone that’s worried that I’d take off on a snowmachine jaunt right after I told the story about the woman dying (see my last post), here’s a small update that might be reassuring… it turns out that she wasn’t killed by a snowmachine accident. From what I understand now, the poor woman was out partying with friends and decided to walk home across the tundra from one road to another. It was extremely cold out, though, and the middle of the night. She managed to get hurt somehow, and was lost in the snow and got hypothermic. They found her using a tracker and got her to the hospital. Unfortunately, even though they tried to warm her up, it was too late.

At any rate, because of the tragedy, Samara cancelled her Thanksgiving Cook-Off. The entire SAFE family, as well as most people in town, have been affected by this death. I imagine it will be a slow weekend for us.

Do Not Send Fruit (and other cautionary tales)

As we’ve mentioned before, we get a box of produce from Full Circle Farms every week. With each box, we usually receive around four oranges, a few apples or pears and some other fruit, like some kiwis, a lemon or a lime. If we don’t eat all that fruit right away, it starts to pile up.


This is all the fruit we’ve accumulated recently. That’s a lot of organic fruit.

That’s right! Organic!

So Samara put it to good use and made a giant batch of fruit salad. Anyway, the point is: if you were thinking of sending us fresh produce, don’t. We have other preferences for care packages.

While I was at work today, I tried to snap a few other photos. There was a giant raven on top of a lightpost nearby, but those pictures didn’t turn out very well. I did take a picture of the Canyonero in the parking lot at the courthouse. Yes, that’s a pink dumpster. Yes, that snow pile from clearing the parking lot is as tall as my knobby-tired SUV.

Thanksgiving is coming up tomorrow. We’ve got a couple of folks coming over to enjoy food with us. In addition, I may be helping the judge with a little snowmobile moving operation that will require me to drive a snowmachine. That’s pretty exciting! (For the uninitiated, a snowmobile is called a snowmachine or snow-go here in Alaska.)

I am a little disappointed this evening, to be perfectly honest. You see, Samara called me this afternoon and asked whether I wanted to be an emergency foster parent. SAFE has a children’s shelter, but they can only take a maximum of 5 kids, and they were already full. So when they had a new baby come in because his mother was in jail temporarily, they needed to find a placement for this little 5-month-old boy. Now I’m not sure I want my own kids yet, permenantly, but I was looking forward to taking care of this baby for a while. Kids that age are cute. But, as it turns out, they found another family to place him with by the end of the day and we didn’t have to crunch through the paperwork to take a baby home.

On the other hand, I guess this will be a more laid-back weekend than if we had a baby to deal with.

While I’m on a roll, let me tell you about another thing that I’ve recently run across. This is something that’s probably not completely unique to rural Alaska, but I bet it’s not often seen elsewhere. Alaska has two things that are probably not found in many places: native villages and cultish Christian sects. First, Alaska is different than a lot of the lower 48. See, down there, the US government pushed Native Americans farther and farther west and onto reservations. In Alaska, natives weren’t treated well by any means, but instead of reservations, you have tribes that still remain in the area where they originally settled. There are native villages with tribal governments all over the place, and they have some valid claims to sovereign rights.

Now I don’t claim to know much about tribal sovereignity and the related law, but I think that the treaties with Alaskan natives weren’t broken as often by the US government, especially since Alaska has plenty of open land (that no one really wants since it’s covered in snow) and Alaska didn’t become a state until 1959.

I’m getting off track here, but the point is that these tribes have an attractive quality: they have the right to run their own courts, if they choose.

The other thing that Alaska attracts is people that don’t like the government too much. Alaska has a strong Libertarian tradition, and there are a fair number of Christian sects that would rather be ruled by God’s law than man’s law. In fact, there are some particularly icky folks (read: racist “Christians”) who feel that they are “sovereign citizens” and aren’t subject to the jurisdiction of state or federal courts.

Now these folks seem to be getting together. I’ve seen some native defendants in criminal courts getting together with non-lawyer “advocates” who are advising them that the court somehow doesn’t have jurisdiction. These poor folks are refusing to accept court-appointed counsel or to do anything meaningful in their own defense, and they’re going to end up in jail unnecessarily. But they’re doing it because the “Christian” loonies are convincing them to make their standard anti-government arguments with a tribal sovereignty spin. Their arguments are somewhat attractive to someone with a simplistic worldview.

One argument, for instance, is that since court documents capitalize the person’s entire name, the court isn’t actually referring to the actual person, and therefore cannot exercise proper jurisdiction. Another argument involves asserting one’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel, while simultaneously refusing to accept court-appointed counsel and not hiring one own’s counsel. The advocates of this theory feel that they’ve hit upon some perfect Catch-22 wherein the court can’t allow them to be prosecuted because their Constitutional rights are being “violated.” Of course, that’s simply not the case.

These folks file long documents with the court that cite English common law, law dictionaries and miscite Supreme Court cases. They display a fundamental misunderstanding of legal concepts and sometimes even babble incoherently. They make semantic arguments that they think are somehow ironclad methods of preventing their prosecution in Alaska’s state courts.

You know what I think is the stupidest part of this whole thing? These folks are paranoid about the government, and yet they fail to see that the government is pretty much going to do whatever it wants as long as the majority of people let it. Even if they came up with the perfect argument by researching ancient legal documents, treaties, federal and state constitutions, and nutty semantic interpretations, the courts are just going to keep doing what they’ve been doing for decades. No judge or supreme court justice is going to suddenly rule that you don’t have to allow a court to have jurisdiction over you unless you specifically agree.

Mao said that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. I guess in a democracy you’ve got the couple with that with the consent of the governed, but since most of the governed can’t be bothered to care, I’d say the combination of the government’s strength and the governed’s apathy means that our courts can pretty much maintain the status quo no matter how linguistically brilliant your stupid legal arguments are.

Sorry. That was a long rant. But the point is, Alaska has some idiotic crackpots, and they’re not exactly helping the jailed native people who already live in an environment dominated by poverty and alcohol.

On a final note, Alaska can be a dangerous place. One of Samara’s co-workers lost her sister tonight to a snowmachine accident. We don’t know the full story yet, but my understanding is that she had some type of snowmachine accident and no one found her until she was already hypothermic. They did their best at the hospital to revive her, but couldn’t. It’s cold out here, folks, and sometimes that cold kills.

Snow mountain and potluck

I’ve had a busy couple of days at work. For some reason, there have been a lot of things on my plate this week in terms of pushing paper. That’s not so bad. It keeps me busy and I don’t have a chance to be bored.

This time of year, it’s pitch black when I get up in the morning, and it’s pitch black when I get home from work. Well, okay, there might be a moon, but the sun is nowhere to be seen. That doesn’t leave much time for taking pictures. I took the camera to work today, to see if I could provide some better fodder for the blog.

One of the funny things about Alaska is the amount of snow we have already. Apparently this is a slightly unusual amount for this early in the year, but not unusual overall. Across from my office window, there’s a mountain of snow that’s been piled there from clearing the roads.

And a closer view…

Of course, if you’re a kid, it’s a prime spot for adventuring.

After work, Samara and I took the turkey from SAFE over to the Youth Center for the potluck. There was a Thanksgiving dinner put on for the community. It was nice. I helped put up a sign down near the fire station.

The turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and rolls were yummy. I got to hold a cute little Yu’pik baby for a while, too.

I’ll try to keep the blog updated with some good pictures and stories.

Super Chill Tragedy

It’s quite different living in a place where going out to the dumpster is a big production. I’ve got to have on boots, and those boots have to have some kind of cleats so that I don’t slip on the packed ice. I also have to wear my coat and keep the hood up, otherwise my ears will freeze. It’s dark already at 6:00pm, and the snow is blowing and swirling around in the freezing wind.

Samara and I just returned from the grocery store (after a final day of training at SAFE). My drink of choice here in remote Alaska has been Super Chill Classic Cola.

It’s a generic cola, obviously. Most people think it tastes like RC Cola, so maybe that’s why I like it. It’s also only $5 for a 12-pack, which is the cheapest soda here. By contrast, a 12-pack of regular Pepsi is $11, or $8 on sale.

So you can understand why I’d be drinking Super Chill cola. It gives me the caffeine I need in the morning, and I like drinking soda with lunch and dinner. It was shocking to me, then, when we got into the AC Value today, and there was no Super Chill cola! It was all gone. We asked the boy stocking, and he said they probably wouldn’t get more this winter, because it’s a barge item. Now that food is only really arriving by plane, no more cheap soda.

They did still have Super Chill Grape, so I’m going to try it.

It doesn’t have caffeine, but I’m hoping it’ll be tasty enough to substitute for my lunch and evening sodas. Otherwise I’m gonna have to buy some expensive Pepsi! That sucks.

At the SAFE training, they fed us. On Saturday, we had a beef stew. We didn’t have bread with that. We had Pilot Bread. Sailor Boy Pilot Bread crackers.

For folks that have lived in Alaska their entire lives, this is standard fare. It is a large round cracker and is unsalted. Apparently they expand a lot in your stomach and are really filling. All I know is that it was good with butter and salt with my beef stew, so I bought some to eat at home.

Temperature

How’s the weather down in the lower 48? Here, well, it’s cold.

Do you know what my least favorite temperatures are?

Anything that starts with a minus, and also 1.

Today it’s 1 degree out. With winds at 15 mph. That’s freaking cold.

So enjoy your mild winters, oh denizens of the lower 48.

Me, I’ll be trekking over after work to get my Basic Orientation & Advocacy Training at SAFE as one of Samara’s volunteers. And it’ll probably be one of those temperatures that start with minus, by then.

Temperature

How’s the weather down in the lower 48? Here, well, it’s cold.

Do you know what my least favorite temperatures are?

Anything that starts with a minus, and also 1.

Today it’s 1 degree out. With winds at 15 mph. That’s freaking cold.

So enjoy your mild winters, oh denizens of the lower 48.

Me, I’ll be trekking over after work to get my Basic Orientation & Advocacy Training at SAFE as one of Samara’s volunteers. And it’ll probably be one of those temperatures that start with minus, by then.

Tuesday is Hummus day!

On Monday, we received a package from Ann. This was no ordinary package. This package contained dried chickpeas. (Thank you, thank you, thank you.) This is very exciting for 2 reasons: I can’t find any chickpeas (dried or canned) here in town and chickpeas = hummus. Plus, dried chick peas are $5 for 4 pounds. Canned chickpeas are about $2-$3 for a 16oz can. Premade hummus is about $6 a container.

After doing some chickpea & hummus research (plus asking the crockpot lady), I decided I was going to cook the chickpeas in the crockpot. I have no real method. I don’t measure things. I have no idea if the things I cook are going to be edible. Poor Aaron. This is what I did:

  1. Add dried chick peas to crock pot–I have the 6 qt with the removable crock and I covered the bottom.
  2. Add cold water.–Enough water to cover all the chickpeas and allow the chickpeas to expand about 3 times their size.
  3. Let them soak over night–I let them soak for about 18 hours
  4. Drain the water
  5. Add water–I filled it about half way full making sure all the peas were covered with room for them to expand
  6. Set the crockpot on low for 8 hours.
  7. Drain reserving about 1 cup of liquid

THESE THINGS ARE AWESOME! They are perfect for making hummus. They are perfectly cooked. I was worried because some recipes called for adding bicarbonate (baking soda) to the peas as they were cooking. I did not do that so I was worried. But these things are perfect without it. I made about 8 cups of hummus.

I didn’t exactly have all the things most of the hummus recipes called for so I used what I had and I’m not not one to measure–I just eyeballed it. Here is what I did (roughly):

  • add 4 c. chickpeas to blender
  • add the juice from 1/2 a lime-most people use lemon juice
  • add 2t of tahini
  • add 1/4 cup of oil-I used canola oil instead of olive oil
  • add 1 tsp of salt
  • add 4 cloves of chopped garlic
  • add 1/2 cup reserved liquid

Blend. Shake blender. Blend again. You can add more more oil or liquid if its too thick. If its too thin, I have no idea what to do. Mine turned out wonderful . I made 2 batchs. One was plain. One was made with extra garlic, Mrs.Dash, and cayenne pepper. You can add what ever you like, more garlic, less garlic, dill, cajun seasoning, really add what you want.

I have to say this is the best thing I have made. And I am so super excited about making more.

The View From Our Window

It’s getting cold enough that we aren’t going out much. The view from our window is nice, though. As I write this, I can see the ice floes in the bay. We have huge tides, so at any given time of day, the water is flowing either quickly into or quickly out of the bay.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to get a picture that really shows the brilliant white beauty of ice and snow as far as you can see.

What I did get a picture of is the bushes outside our window covered in snow. Each branch is thick with wet snow.

Compare that view with the non-snowy Alaska in this previous post: Big Sky Country.

It’s definitely different once it starts to snow.

Sunday lunch–Pasta with creamy pesto sauce and Zucchini Bread

There are very few things to do when it is dark and snowing here. One thing I do is cook and I’ve been doing a lot of it. On Saturday, I decided to make pesto with my food processor (which by the way, I love this thing. It will be worn out before I move). I had ordered .25lb of organic,fresh basil from Full Circle farm for $3.00. The recipe was so simple.
2 c. fresh basil
1/4 c. toasted pinenuts (I toasted them myself in a dry pan)
1 c. Parmesan cheese (I used the kraft green top because I can’t find the real stuff here)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c. oil (it calls for olive oil, but I used canola oil)
Add everything to the food processor. Pulse until it looks like pesto. I suggest letting it sit for 30 minutes to let the flavors combine, unless you like for the garlic to bite you back. I had it refrigerated over night.

In the mean time, I made Zucchini bread with the zucchini full circle sent last week. My friend Daisy had made it the other day and I decided I would as well. This version is more like a dessert bread since it has chocolate chips in it. (I think it would make good muffins) It is a very good bread for what it is. I think I like savory foods more than sweet foods. But again, it was very good. I might use thick slices and make french toast. The recipe makes 2 loaves. The first loaf I greased the pan, but the bottom still stuck to the pan. For the second loaf, I also floured the pan. I recommend doing this. It made life so much easier.

So today, we were watching the show, “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” on the food network. This show travels all over the US to different restaurants to see what foods each one makes. Watching the food network is one of our new past times. It also has the added side effect of making us hungry. I decided I wanted some pasta and creamy pesto. I had figure out a way to make a cream sauce. Here is what I used:

3 tbls. butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 c. milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (again with the kraft green top)
salt and pepper
fresh made pesto
Melt butter in sauce pan on medium-high. Whisk flour into the milk. Get rid of all the lumps of flour. Add to milk to melted butter. Now, you must continue to stir the mixture until it starts to thicken. When it starts to bubble, remove from heat. Add cheese and pesto. Ta-da. Creamy pesto sauce. I added it to pasta. It was so awesome. I only wish I had some garlic bread to go with it.

Tonight I plan on making Chicken tortilla soup with cornbread muffins.