Monday, September 11, 2017

Saddle Creek Trail to Grewingk Glacier Lake

At the end of July we took the boat over to Halibut Cove to hike the Saddle Trail with the kids to picnic at Grewingk Glacier Lake. It's a great trail for kids to master themselves, and Riggs hiked the whole way himself. Raina was in the backpack, but more because we wanted to hike at more of an adult-friendly pace and she loves to stop and smell the roses when she walks (which is fine most of the time, but this time we opted out of a toddler-led hiking experience). We used a trip-anchor to secure the boat to the beach while we hiked, and headed up with the stairs to the trail head.

The whole day was just what we needed as a family, and we came back and grabbed a pizza at Finn's before heading home to put the kids to bed. I did trip over a sharp root sticking up out of the dirt trail on the way back and got a pretty nasty cut between my pinkie toes that I had to go to the doctor for in the morning (just to get it cleaned out), but it was still a great day overall.

We'd love to hike more of the trails in the area both with the kids and maybe on our own for the longer ones, and I highly recommend making it over here to hike for any of my local friends.

Playing on the beach while we set the trip anchor.

Looking down at the boat as we head up the trail.
Perfect photo spot.

Raina was out right away once she was in the backpack.
First view of the glacier.
Picnic on the beach while watching the icebergs float by.
Riggs found a $20 bill on the beach so he was really happy haha.
Almost back to the boat.

Steve pulling the boat back in.
Riggs drove the whole way back.
Raina sleeping again.

Finns to end the day.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Our Skiff: Reconnecting with the Water and the Community Steve was Raised in

On the water in Tutka Bay with friends and family.

Having grown up on the water, in and out of boats of all sizes his whole life, Steve has always made it clear that when we moved back to Homer we'd be getting a boat as soon as we could. While we'd like a cabin cruiser at some point, a skiff was much more realistic for us right now, in regards to price, maintenance and ease of transport. After working every spare minute last summer selling our house in Palmer, moving to Homer a little bit at a time, and starting on our building project, this summer we were more than ready to carve out a little down time.

In the early spring Steve started thinking about boats, looking at boats for sale, and talking about boats. He has always loved the traditional lapstrake skiffs he grew up seeing around Little Tutka Bay, built by close family friend and neighbor, Dave Seaman (interview with Dave about life on the bay, here) and thought it'd be nice to have one built eventually. As a young teenager, Steve commercial fished (set netting) out of one of Dave's skiff with another neighbor/friend, Robert Purpura. He had told me many times how much he loved the experience and the boat itself, and had recently brought the boat up again, wondering what had become of the boat in the time after Robert had passed in 2015.

Painting of Robert in the Bianca
By some stroke of fate or luck I happened to log into Facebook in the middle of the day (rare for me) and one of the first posts I saw was from Roberts wife, Renee, with a post in the local buy-sell-trade page listing the 19ft skiff for sale. I called Steve right away, but he was at work and couldn't answer, so I took a screen shot and texted it to him for when he was able to steal a look at his phone. Steve called Renee that evening, and it turned out to be a perfect solution for both us and Renee. She wasn't interested in selling the boat to someone she didn't know, or who didn't appreciate the qualities of the traditional skiff, yet she hadn't used it since Robert passed and there was too much attached to the boat emotionally for her to use it in the future. Seeing a young family take it over was just what she was hoping for, and having watched Steve grow up it meant a lot for her to see him take over the boat.

Once the boat rode the ferry over from Seldovia and made it into our possession on the Homer side, we set to work cleaning her up and doing some maintenance that had fallen to the wayside over the past two years. It took a few weeks of Steve working on it at night after work and on the weekends too when work allowed it before we were able to splash the boat, but it was a fun experience, and we felt an extra sense of responsibility to get the boat back to its original condition, just like it was in when Robert was at the helm.

Bringing the Bianca home: just after we picked the boat up from the ferry.
Spraying her down
Picking up the kids from Grandma Dotti's: their first time seeing the boat.
Stripped off the old to put a whole new layer of bottom paint on - we went with black instead of red.
Keeping Steve company while he worked.
And she's done! Lots of hard work and she looks great.
Back in the water where she belongs.
Since we've had it in the water, Steve has already caught a seasons worth of fish and we've explored as a family just like we envisioned. It's been fun to have people all over across the bay recognize the Bianca (the name the Purpuras gave it when they commissioned Dave to build it in 1997) and smile with both their memories of Robert and the joy of seeing the boat freshly painted and being used in the water again. We can't wait to make years worth of memories in the boat that has so much history for Steve and many in the Little Tutka/Jakalof/Seldovia communities.

Tutka and my dad in the bow with fish jumping in the background.
Bounty of fish.
Kids sleeping on their favorite cushion (me) in the bow.
Exploring the back lagoon with the kids.
Steve teaching the kids about driving the boat - Riggs was able to run the outboard all the way back into the
harbor from Halibut Cove, with Steve right there to guide him. Steve was just loving being back on the water
he grew up in, teaching his own son how to do the things his dad taught him at the same age. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

2017: the year of the fledgling garden

I wasn't sure what progress we would be making on our house this summer with Steve doing linework and I didn't want to have any false expectations, but I knew I wanted to get started on establishing a garden space on our property. Because Steve was working so many hours, I knew I wouldn't be able to count on him for help with some of the more intimidating (to me) parts of the project I was undertaking. Building raised beds were a little out of my comfort zone, in big part because Steve is so handy and quick at any building project that I always feel completely incompetent when I try the things he makes look simple and easy.

I knew if I started the project I was going to have to finish it, so I waffled for a few days before mentally steeling myself and just diving in. The first thing I did was go to the property and make a rough plan and layout in my head for where things would go. Then I did some google research to figure out how I would go about building the beds, and went back to the property to measure and figure until I decided on just the right spot for the three beds I was planning on building.

I decided on 4'x8' beds with plenty of space between them to run the lawn mower through, trying to plan ahead for when we would eventually have grass (now I'm thinking of just doing woodchips between the beds, but I'm still glad for the space I left as it's been just right for watering, weeding and harvesting).

Once I had a list of the materials I would need, I went to Spenard Builders Supply and sat in the parking lot for at least a full minute or two before going inside. This may seem irrational but having to order the materials at the counter was one of the most intimidating aspects of this whole project for me. I don't like having to talk to people about decisions I'm making, and I knew the guys at the counter would have they're own opinions about what I should be getting for the project, which feels like being pressured to me and I start sweating (which I'm probably already doing and avoiding eye contact and its just awkward all around. Steve always laughs and says I'm too sensitive - "You don't have to do any of the things they suggest, they're just bored and like to give their two cents on everything." Which I know of course, but still. Awkward, and I feel like they're extra pushy because I'm a woman and couldn't possibly know what I'm doing (the same feeling I get from the guys at the counter at auto shops, am I right?).

Anyway, I eventually went in and went up to the counter and yes the guy did try to give his suggestions, but I have to admit a few of them were legitimate ideas and I took him up on at least one of them and altered my own plans a bit. I got wooden stakes and 2x12s and metal stakes with fencing (moose protection) for the three fruit trees I picked up at the Wagon Wheel. Then I got to the yard to pick up the materials and anxiety started all over again. I hadn't thought ahead about how I was going to tie down the lumber and had to pull over just outside the yard and try to brainstorm some sort of solution. Which made me feel completely incompetent, again. I really, really didn't want to call Steve, but eventually I gave in and dialed his number. I was just planning on asking his advice on how to secure the lumber, but it turned out he was nearby and he and his coworker stopped by to help me out.

Building the beds, getting fill and peat moss and compost for them was a lot of work, but it went more quickly than I expected and it was so exhilarating to see everything come together. We had many moose visits leading to a dump-procured netted fence being put up, which deterred them well enough (other than one break in). It was a chilly, wet summer and as far as I've heard no bodies gardens were overflowing with growth like the last couple of years, but it was still a great learning process for me (and the kids) and I can't wait to take what I've learned this year and apply it to next years garden (more sweet peas and more fencing, of course).

May 14 - Laying out a plan for where the beds will go.
Cold hardy fruit trees! Sour Cherry and two types of apple.
First bed, done!
One of the giant stumps I had to hack at and dig out to level the ground under the third bed.
May 19 - All three beds done!
Trees fenced and beds done. 
I love where our garden is but the downside is you can't drive up to it, so I had to shovel all the soil into a
wheelbarrow from the truckbed, wheel it over to the garden and then shovel it all out into the beds. 
May 23 - All filled!
May 29 - Plants in the ground.
June 2 - Planting carrots and radishes to mark each row of carrots.
Painted a pallet and planted some strawberries in it. 
June 8 - Three tiny rhubarb plants with mulch (bottom right)
Watering the garden - the flowers Riggs are watering are his, he picked them out at Wagon Wheel and planted them himself. 
June 20 - Cranes in the garden.
June 26 - fence put up after moose stole some cabbage and broccoli 
July 9 - first radish harvest!
August 12 - morning sun in the garden
cauliflower coming in
Cabbage heads growing (the few that survived the moose munchings)
Garden salad &heart;
Fireweed from the garden harvested and turned into Fireweed Jelly