Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ready or Not...

On the cusp of winter, one senses a feeling of hurried preparation in the northern air. As the fog drifts in and gray clouds bring the prospect of snow, all of Alaska's inhabitants are busily preparing for seven months of dark, cold, and white.

foggy cabin

While shrews and squirrels stash tiny tidbits, humans harvest the last of the garden, pick the cranberries, process the moose, and smoke the salmon. Summer toys are stored, winter gear is retrieved, tires are swapped. But most importantly, the majority of rural Alaska is collecting and preparing wood.

stacked birch

If you visit Alaska in the fall, be prepared to talk wood. You will overhear locals ask each other:

"How many cords have you put up?
"How dry is your wood?"
"Birch or spruce?"
"What kind of stove do you have?"
"How big is your woodshed?


As a kid growing up, I disliked the fall for the numerous chores it ushered in. Fall meant itchy-numb fingers, dirt caked under the nails, after evenings spent digging in frozen ground for the last of the carrots and potatoes. Or steamy sessions over the sink, blanching broccoli and cauliflower. Dodging hanging hindquarters in the garage while processing and packaging moose meat. Most of all, I remember hauling and stacking endless loads of wood. And now, as is the way with many things in life (i.e. mushrooms), my attitude has reversed. I actually find myself looking forward to the annual fall preparation. As an adult, there is something decidedly rewarding about looking at a full woodshed. We worked hard, and we will be warm this winter. 

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