When I was a kid, my family cleared acres of wilderness for gardens and for a six-bedroom house we built. Some of my (and probably my siblings') most vivid memories are of hauling, for hours, day after day, spruce, hemlock and cedar branches down to the beach to burn. Then we rolled away rounds of the trees my dad had sawed and, when they were chopped, we stacked them.
I thought of those days of youthful hard labor often when my dad and I tackled two storm-downed trees that had crashed down across our path to the waterline.
I had carried his Model 66 Husky chainsaw over earlier. He had a newer chainsaw, a Stihl 311 that he'd gotten three years ago, but it didn't have the power it should and nowhere near what the Husky has. My youngest brother Chris had found the Husky at a garage sale in Ketchikan twenty years ago. It didn't run but he knew my dad could fix anything mechanical and he was right.
It's still going strong today and my dad sawed through the fallen trees with ease. He could power through when the rounds fell in and pinched--his Stihl would have been stuck.
While he sawed, the chainsaw's roar reverberating through the quiet forest, I hauled away the incredible amount of limbs lying around. Most of them weren't from the downed trees, but from the trees around them that had been stripped when the two spruce trees crashed to the forest floor in the hurricane force winds.
The limbs from the big spruce that broke and fell were as big around as my leg and twice as long. I wound up getting quite a workout.
We worked steadily for a couple hours as he sawed through first the big spruce, then the one beside it that had been uprooted when the big guy (about three feet in diameter) broke and went down. The wood of both were dry, though the big one had some rot--undoubtedly why it broke--and the rounds rolled easily as I moved them out of the way, in between carting away the endless quantity of branches.
We will have a handy source of firewood to help us get through the rest of the winter once we get around to chopping up the rounds and sawing up the larger limbs. As anyone who uses firewood for heat knows, wood warms you twice: when you're working up a sweat sawing, chopping, stacking and hauling it--and when you burn it.
My grandmother made kelp candles when she first moved to Southeast Alaska back in the days, not that long ago, when we all used kerosene lamps for light and supplemented with candles. I took over when she ceased operations, mainly to use the kelp candles as gifts.
It's a fun hobby to have and gets you outside breathing in fresh air and delighting in the scenery while hunting the kelp to harvest. Some always wash up after the really big storms. And, of course, in the fall all the old bullwhip kelp loosen their holdfasts from the rocks and wash ashore in great, tangled rafts.
Today it was a beautiful, sunny day, but my hope of finding kelp for candles wasn't very strong. The new kelp hasn't yet replaced the old rafts, and the old rafts that had washed ashore had long since rotted and broken up. But still, every now and then you can find a few whips worth harvesting.
And I did find a few old ones, on the verge of rotting, but at least one was still worth harvesting. My kelp collecting companion celebrated our find by stop, dropping and rolling in the sun-warmed gravel.
Back home, I collected the simple materials I use for making the candles: Old crayons for tinting, wax, a roll of wicking and a tin can to melt the wax in.
I cut the whip off the kelp until I have the shape I want. Making a simple bowl out of the round air bladder works best. Then I slice a thin section off the bottom of the bowl so it will sit level. Next, the wax is melted in the can, adding what crayons I want for color, and then the wax is poured into the waiting kelp bowl. The appropriate length of wick is inserted in the melted wax. To keep the wick upright I put a strip of cardboard, with a hole in the middle of it for the wax to go through, across the kelp.
After that it's a week's worth of drying. The kelp will tighten around the wax as it dries and form a leathery holder that will last forever.
My signal is being uncooperative, so this will be a short entry. I thought people would like to see the results of our winter storms. At the height of one of our worst storms of the winter, with winds in excess of 100 mph, I heard in the middle of the night the tremendous gunshot crack of a tree breaking. It was followed all night long by the sounds of other trees going down. When my dad and I went and pumped the water I stood on a hil and did a slow 180 and saw raw, broken wood of wind broken trees everywhere I looked.
But what caught our attention the most, and that of my cat Katya, was the enormous spruce tree that had broken and fallen across our sawdust trail that leads to the waterline, dam and pump. When it fell it took out another tree, uprooting it, and delimbed every other tree in the process. Katya was highly disturbed by this change in her area and kept looking at it and then meowing at me and when I didn't take her advice and immediately remove the blockage from her path she went and sat with her back to me, staring at the fallen trees, to show her displeasure.
Tara Neilson (ADOW)