Friday, January 14, 2011

A New Year!

And now...on the home front... there's snow everywhere! Has been for awhile now. At first it was that paltry three inches that delighted us with a white Christmas. Then I looked out the kitchen window and the goose feathers were coming down, quickly piling up to a good foot of white at last! Adam rummaged around the shop and turned up our cross country skis and we were off to the lake, frolicking in our scanty hours of daylight. Indeed by the time we were done scampering around the lake and writing notes in the fresh snow with our ski poles darkness was upon us. Gliding home through the silent woods with nothing but a headlamp to compete with the stars was even better. The dogs love to play in soft snow which is great because it's almost as good as giving them a bath!
This is the road to our shop from the house...and this is what peeks out when you knock on the door just before Christmas...a hammer wielding Elf pokes his head out and chases you away! We have to take turns in the shop this time of year and be diligent about cleaning up every scrap of evidence or the other one is sure to guess what you're making for them. Hmmm...acid soaked paper towels around the etchant, must be damascus, or, well look at this leather dust under the grinder, looks like someone's making a gun sling etc. etc.
We started a tradition last year of a Winter Solstice Party. Bonfire...hotdogs N 'shmallow...cider, you know the kind. We even had three small boys to tow around the frozen lake on sleds while their mother and I rode tandem snowboard style on a pallet board drug behind the Yamaha at high speeds. It was pretty hard to top that, especially considering that the previous mail plane had brought us no kids. Awwelll...this year we had a light show! It was the first Winter Solstice in many years, and the last we shall ever see, that had a lunar eclipse on the same day. We all gathered around a roaring fire while Debbie, the only other lady wintertime resident, passed out cheesy buns in tin foil and I concocted a watcha-got-in-yer-pantry version of Hot Buttered Rum. Pretty much consisting of brown sugar, honey, spices, eggnog, hot water and a dash of brandy. This was declared a winning combination...probably because the only thing it had to compete with was Alaska White beer which froze instantly upon opening and climbed out of the bottle in a long white snake of ice. There was much fussing with camera's and tripods to try and catch a good picture of the eclipse, which I never really did....awwell, I can't imagine forgetting the sight anyway, you wouldn't believe how red the moon got at certain points.
We had an Aunt and two cousins in the inlet for Christmas this year. We were able to have almost the entire wintertime population plus three together around one table with enough food to feed an army of Cossacks. The boys concocted a cannibal stew style hotub from half an old wooden, army fuel tank...petroleum being famous for it's skin healing properties you know. So the water was heated in an old bathtub over a campfire and then run through a gravity hose into the fuel tank. A bucket could be dipped out of the 'hot tub' and hoisted into the trees with a pulley to gravity back into the tub over the fire with another gravity hose. GENIUS!! We soaked after dinner with Christmas lights strung above in the trees ( decadently using up precious electricity) and Christmas music floating through the combination of steam and wood smoke.
Then after a week or two it rained...torrentially. The crick had as much water running over the ice as under it. Adam stretched out the hose, fired up the Hond pump and we had a 3" stream of water at the house! I hurried to scrub every funky rubbermaid tote, cooler and bucket I could find. Free water at the house is a washing opportunity not to be wasted. We could finally wash clothes after three weeks now that everything had thawed so that night the house looked like a Vietnamese laundry. We got a dryer this past summer but it takes a great deal of electricity and is quite slow so I do alot of line drying. Adam battled his way to the stove with an armload of wood getting caressed by wet pillow cases and clobbered by swinging carhartts. He's such a sport. As always it's a challenge in our little cabin to find a place to hang the sheets. I hooked one end on a nail above the stove..."Hey, can you pound a nail in for me on the ceiling?" I ask. "Where ya need it?" He says sweetly so I stretch our the bedding full length and declare "Here!" I've decided that dryers are for people who don't have hammer wielding husbands...tsk, tsk, tsk.
And then it froze...hard...I've still got one load of laundry outside on the line and make an executive decision to freeze-dry it. I've heard my Grandma talk about it and figure a woman with 10 kids aught to know just about everything there is to know about laundry. It works! The clothes dry almost all the way and, unlike the usual line dried crunchiness they are gloriously soft from the freezing action. Enough about the laundry...ahem.
We've been 'shopping' like madmen (our term for putting in the knife shop hours) this last month and the finished knives are once again piling up in the dry box. Adam had been making some amazing damascus daggers, this of course requires days of making that amazing damascus to start with. Here he's shaping the rough forged dagger blade in the press.Shaping the curves on the damascus guard...Filing the guard to shape...I have been trying my hand at handle carving and filework. This requires you to 'bed' the handle with epoxy so that you can fully shape it and then take it all back apart for filing or bluing/etching.
Here you can see the handle fully shaped and getting disassembled so the center spacer can be fileworked with a rope pattern and the others gun blued.
Here's the filework can see the knife and handle pulled apart in the background.

Here it's all put back together again and finished.Same process here except with an ivory handle and the spacers will be left silver. You can see how the rope was left proud of the other two on this one. Something I've been wanting to try for awhile.This was a pretty straight forward handle that I carved with files after it was completely finished. It was great fun, alot less work than those above. I think I'll be doing some more of this.And the end result...About 11:00 on New Years Eve I was on the phone with my family when Adam brought in two buckets of water he'd hauled up from the crick. "Hey I caught a fish!" I was surprised and not too credulous given the fact that our crick was down to a mere trickle and he must have spent 10 minutes chopping through the ice just to make a hole big enough to dip out of. "Welll..." he said sheepishly "I bombed his home" Sure enough there in the bucket was what looked like a little coho salmon. Adam had used a seal bomb to blow a water hole/'ring in the new year' and this little guy had been the casualty. I suppose we could have eaten him but growing up with brothers has given me the experience to know that fish caught with this method are rather mushy. So we treated the dogs with the catch of the new year. Somewhere we've had the time to go deer hunting, bagging three between the two of us. After a few hours of meat processing, which included a husband powered, hand crank meat grinder, we've a nice pile of roasts and burger in our freezer.
We also took advantage of the frozen ground to fall some trees back in the boggy-in-summer muskeg. Adam bucks the downed trees into rounds splitting the bigger ones in half to make 'em girl sized while I load them in the four wheeler cart and we haul it bit by bit back to the house. It's then split with a maul and packed up to the wood shed. Firewood being rather important when it's 6 degrees out.We had a little .22 handgun contest this morning over two days worth of dishes. The water was frozen up yesterday so there was quite the pile. When Adam challenged me to a shootout I was quick to up the stakes to include the dishes. When I got outside all geared up in my wool pants for a hike Adam pointed at a towering mound of firewood rounds. "Ya see that HaggenDaz box settin' there? Just to the left above the ice cream bar picture there's a blue dot. We each get one shot." He said laying down the rules. "For the dishes right?" I confirmed...oh here I sit on the couch with a cup of tea writing our blog to post later while my sweetheart 'man-cleans' the kitchen. It's a well known fact that my Walther P-22 is more accurate than his and I suppose we'll have to switch pistols for the next round and I'll lose, but for now...Queen Of The Range and enjoying every shred of prestige that accompanies it!