Well, we had great intentions of getting out two blogs and two podcasts per month and we were keeping up. And then the world changed seemingly overnight. Because of a direct contact with a positive COVID-19 case, Rachelle and I ended up quarantined for two weeks. We came out just in time for the Stay-at-home orders, school cancellations, and runs on the grocery stores. Thankfully for us, our families, and friends (even those that tested positive) we are all healthy today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has contracted the virus and their families along with those that have lost their jobs.
While I may have dropped the ball on getting the podcasts and articles posted during these hectic and uncertain times, we have continued with our trapline, got the garden seeds started, and continued our foraging. Our next blog post will be on the spruce tree. We’ve been able to harvest the fresh spring spruce tips and we will discuss the value of this amazing tree. We will also have a follow-up podcast to include a discussion on the Spruce and catch everyone up on the trapline. (Spoiler Alert: We did catch several more…)
We apologize for the silence over the past few weeks but now that we’re adjusting to our new “normal” we should be able to get back on track so watch out for our article on the spruce, our next podcast and then we have a lot more content coming your way including, seed starting, Labrador Tea, willow, birch, old man’s beard, and lots more.
Sometimes you just get lucky and stumble onto something. This was the case when Rachelle and I were out checking the trapline. I had walked into the treeline the previous day to set a couple of snares in the trees. When Rachelle and I went to check them I spotted Labrador Tea under the snow along the trail. We took advantage of the opportunity and collected a handful of the very fragrant plant.
Labrador Tea grows throughout most of Alaska in boggy areas. Though some prefer to pick the leaves and flowers in the summer, it can be picked year around. If you are picking be aware that the poisonous Bog-Rosemary looks very similar to Labrador Tea. The difference is that the bottom of the Labrador Tea leaf is orange or rusty, Bog-Rosemary leaves on the other hand are white underneath and and are missing that very distinctive fragrance that Labrador Tea has.
Alaskan Natives have used Labrador Tea for generations. The leaves are broken up into pieces to release the oils and then boiling water is poured over them and allowed to steep. The tea can be drank as is or sweetened with honey. The teas medicinal properties are used for a variety of ailments to include stomach aches, colds, coughs, sleeping problems, heartburn, and arthritis. Labrador tea can help reduce pain and inflammation.
In addition to using it as a drink, you can also make it into a tincture, oil, or poultice. Labrador Tea can also be used for culinary purposes in place of bay leaves for your stews, sauces, and soups.
We’ll be sharing our recipes, uses, and experiences with Labrador Tea soon so be sure to subscribe to our blog for those updates. You can also follow our adventures on our podcast which you can find in your favorite Podcast app on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and TuneIn. You can also listen right from our website.
The calendar is telling us that spring is near. We just adjusted our clocks to “spring” forward but this year I don’t think Mother Nature is listening. This has been reported to be the coldest winter for the interior of Alaska in 44 years and while it WAS cold, the temperatures didn’t fall to levels of even just a couple of years ago where we had nearly 70 degrees below zero in Minto. However, normally, it gets cold for a few days and then warms up for awhile, then gets cold and we see an ebb and flow throughout the winter. This year it got cold and just stayed cold and then to top it off, it just kept snowing.
For the record, I love the snow. I love being out in it. I love seeing the way everything contrasts against it. It can be absolutely beautiful. However, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve shoveled the roof of the camp trailer, the deck, the driveway or cleared the work area around my saws this year. I have definitely been getting plenty of exercise shoveling this winter. Rachelle keeps showing me ads for snowblowers and I keep thinking, “It’s just got to be over now.” I’m sure as soon as I commit to the snowblower it will be….
In the meantime we will continue to take advantage of the snow by keeping the trapline going. We finished fox season without catching a single one. Rachelle was pretty disappointed but we did get an opportunity to really observe the behavior of the fox in our area throughout the two months we were out there. I feel strongly that next season we will be able to close the deal. The last week of the season we really noticed a lot of their tracks around our sets so some of the new bait that I put together at the end was certainly enticing them.
We ate or shared all of the rabbit meat that we had caught early on and were fortunate enough to have just caught two more this week. Now that we’ve found where they’ve moved to we put out several more sets to try to increase our catch while there is still time. We did post a video on the website and on Instagram of me checking the line.
I spend every other week in the village of Minto for work. Minto is an Alaska Native village approximately 135 miles northwest of Fairbanks. This is the village that Rachelle is from and that I lived in for a couple of years. During my time there I was given permission to trap and hunt on their land.
past week I was asked to work a couple of my days off in the village
and Rachelle was able to travel with me. During my downtime, I
showed her my old trapline and we were both amazed by the amount of
activity. I had brought the remainder of our trapping gear just in
case the opportunity presented, and IT DID! We set out nearly a
dozen sets in the hopes of closing out the season strong.
On my return to the village this week I spotted tracks in the middle of the road just a few miles from the village and stopped to check them out. I knew there were wolf in the area but was surprised to see the size of this one. I think next season we will pick up some snares and see if we can get few of these guys. There are a lot of them in the area and they have been decimating the moose population. We’ll have to step up our game if we’re going to go after wolf though.
In spite of the fact that it continues to snow we are preparing for our spring gardening. We’ll be discussing our planting selection beginning with the herb garden. We are planting multi-use (culinary/medicinal) herbs and will be discussing their uses and our plans for them next time. We also talk about collecting and using birch water, so please don’t forget to subscribe to our blog to ensure you get all of our updates.
Check out this short video of me out for a day on the trapline. We’re working on a few more videos of both Rachelle and I as well as one detailing the building of the cubby sets we used.
Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog so that you get notifications when we post. Please note that our subscription is a double opt-in, so you will get an email sent to confirm your registration. You MUST verify by clicking on the link in that email. Sometimes these initial emails find their way to your junk mail box so please check there if it doesn’t land in your Inbox within just a few minutes of you subscribing.
Also, subscribe to our podcast via your favorite app and listen to our adventures. We are posting a episode about once every other week so join us.
And the cold just
won’t go away…. It’s now the end of January, which IS typically
cold but it has been sub thirty below now for what seems like the
whole month. It did warm up into the negative teens and Rachelle
commented about how nice it was to be able to take off her mitts on
the trapline without instantly freezing.
I love Alaska and I
love winter but when it’s this cold outside, getting things down
takes more effort and more time and that includes just getting ready
to go outside. Once outside you find yourself in one of two
situations. One, you have a packed snow that is as hard as concrete
and slick as ice or two, a very fine powdery snow that is equally as
difficult to walk through. While I have been shoveling snow from the
driveway and around the house all winter in the hopes of minimizing
the amount to water near the house come spring, I definitely couldn’t
keep up with the snowfall. I should still be able to remove the snow
from the area around the sides and back of the house which little
traffic to compact it but the driveway area is solid and there to
stay until breakup.
the driveway, I walked out of the house recently and found myself
staring at moose who had decided the willows in the driveway would
make a nice late morning snack. I’d say we had a lengthy
conversation but it was really just me talking and her standing there
munching away and occasionally glancing my way. After about 15
minutes, she finally decided to head down the hill behind the house
and I went about my day. A couple days later, I opened the front
door and spotted a fox running down the driveway. While many may
consider all the wildlife in the yard a nuisance, we see it as a
blessing. The opportunity to witness so much beauty right from our
front door, is one of the things we love about living here.
On the subject of
wildlife, we have had a pretty successful couple of weeks on the
trapline. We’ve bagged five rabbits already in spite of the
temperatures. One of the fox sets has tracks all around it but it’s
being extremely cautious. After skinning and processing the meat
from the rabbits, we added a few leftover parts to the back of this
fox set to help entice it into the trap. Hopefully, in our next
posting we’ll be able to tell you that it worked.
As I mentioned, we
skinned and processed four of the rabbits. The pelts are nice and
full. We went ahead and put them in a bucket with our tanning
solution. We have a total of eight hides in the solution and in the
next couple of weeks should have enough ready so that Rachelle can
start working on the mittens she’s been planning. You’ll have to
make sure to come back to hear all about that project.
We did make a big
pot of rabbit stew and shared it with Rachelle’s 88 year old uncle.
He said he grew up eating rabbit but hadn’t had any in years so he
was really excited about getting some now. We have shared much of
the remaining rabbit with others as well. We strongly believe in
sharing our bounty and believe it comes back many times over.
Rachelle got a
chance to skin her first rabbit just in the last couple of days. She
has watched me do it numerous times but with me out of town for work,
she took it on and now has a nice pelt on the stretcher. She’s a
fast learner and you wouldn’t be able to tell it was her first time
skinning by looking at the hide. She did an amazing job on it and I
couldn’t be more proud.
So next week is
FINALLY supposed to warm back up with highs nearing zero and we are
planning to get out and extend our trapline. We still have a number
of traps and snares and with fox season closing at the end of
February we need to get busy. Rachelle’s primary goal of the
season was to catch her first fox and we’re running out of time to
make that happen.
It’s January here
in the interior of Alaska. It’s been hovering between -30 and -40
for more than a week making everything just a little more
challenging. Rachelle remembered to plug her car in but
unfortunately the extension cord was plugged into a GFI outlet that
had tripped and we hadn’t realized it. Needless to say, her car
was frozen and wouldn’t start and I was out in the village for
work. So once we worked through the issue, reset the outlet and gave
the car a few hours to thaw all was well again. Once I made it home
I did replace the extension cord she was using with one that has a
glowing connector so there is a visual indicator that there is power.
First lesson learned in 2020……
Trapping season is
in full swing but our line isn’t out yet. We had been living just
outside of North Pole until we purchased our house mid-year. This
meant finding a new place to trap. Rachelle and I did some
preliminary scouting in the fall and identified what we thought would
be a great place. We had plans to get out early in the season to
maximize the time we had to fill our traps with fur. It just didn’t
happen and so here we are, late in the season, playing catch-up.
Let me stop for a
minute and explain a few things. First, along with our website/blog
we are launching our podcast where we are also sharing all of these
adventures. We’ll talk about our plans, successes, challenges, and
even our failures. Since it’s trapping season that’s where we’ve
decided to start but we’ll also be talking about other activities
we are doing which include hunting, fishing, rockhounding, foraging,
camping, and hiking. We’ll discuss stuff related to all of these
things we love doing as well, such as the tanning of the furs and
what Rachelle will be making with them, the uses of the plants and
berries that we’ll collect to include soap and candle making. We
want to show off all the resources that nature has to offer here in
Alaska. So we hope that you hit our website (www.roamingalaska.com)
and subscribe to both our blog and our podcast.
So back to trapping
now. We don’t do it for the money. We both have full time jobs
and only take what we can reasonably use. We respect the land and
the animals and believe that the way we put out our sets and how we
treat and use what we catch reflects this.
It’s -40 degrees
and I’ve got a week to get our line out before I leave for the
village again. With less than five hours between sunrise and sunset,
most of the trapping will done in the dark by headlamp over the next
month. We lay out our clothing and start layering. We’re inside
the 75 degree house and now it’s a race to finish getting dressed
before we overheat. We rarely ever win that race but we try anyway.
Rachelle beats me
and races outside where it’s literally 115 degrees cooler but I’m
just a minutes or so behind her. We load up the gear; traps, snares,
wire, etc. and head out. I find our trail that we had cut on a
recent outing and began looking. As we moved along the trail there
are signs of rabbit and an occasional fox. I stopped several times
considering sets but decided to push in further. About a half mile
later, the trail turns south for a short distance before turning back
to the west so I’m now nearly parallel the first part of the trail.
Almost instantly, the tracks of rabbit, fox, squirrel, and moose are
everywhere. I stand there looking around at all of the activity
trying to decide where to place our first set. The options are
A short distance off
the trail I find a spot where a rabbit trail runs underneath a young
black spruce that, under the weight of the snow, has laid over
creating an archway just big enough for the rabbits to go under.
Afraid of knocking the snow off of the spruce, I opt to set a leghold
trap right in the archway. I anchor it to another tree a foot away.
As I turn to head back to the path I spot another heavily use rabbit
trail just a couple feet away. This trail passes between a group of
small spruce trees that provides me a perfect funnel to set a snare
and I make quick work of the set before continuing further down our
trail. We set a few more snares before coming into an open area where
one or more fox have been moving back and forth. The tracks are
everywhere and at least one of them is a male who has taking the
opportunity to mark his territory. I locate a spot under a leaning
tree where the fox had passed recently and set a trap. Above the
trap I hang a piece of bait to entice and distract our little red
Rachelle and I
continue on and set several more sets for both rabbit and fox before
finally calling it a day and heading back home to a hot cup of Tang.
(By the way, if you
haven’t tried Tang hot, ESPECIALLY, after coming in from the cold,
you’re missing out. I was skeptical when Rachelle introduced me to
it. I had grown up drinking Tang (cold) and honesty had been happy
not drinking it for at least the past 30 years but give it a shot
Come back soon for more. Not only do we need to check our line but we’ve got plenty more sets to get out. It’s going to be a great season. Make sure you subscribe to our Blog and podcasts.