Despite being extremely happy and thankful to have made the beautiful 2,000+ mile journey up to Alaska, the first few days on Sunny Spruce Farm weren’t so sunny for me… feeling sad to see Alvin go, especially without cell reception to communicate.. and tremendous sadness about Shelton’s deteriorating condition. It was hard to see him struggle in such a beautiful place that he would have normally loved to explore. After a rough weekend, Shelton passed away. My sad lonely heart couldn’t have been in a better place. Tracyann and her two children, Owen and Parker, were there to help put a smile on my face and give support in any way they could, jumping on the trampoline, rock climbing, and various story telling.
Daily work at Sunny Spruce consisted of feeding dogs, scooping poop, letting geese out to graze, watering and weeding the garden, turning the solar panel for optimum light, feeding the family, and daily house chores. One morning, I walked out of the van up the porch steps for breakfast, sleepy-eyed, to be surprised by a bear skin outside and a big toothed boiling head in a pot on the stove. Andrew was home! Growing up in a vegetarian household, I have zero experience butchering. I really appreciate Tracyann for teaching me a few things and letting such an inexperienced person handle this precious resource. The family relies heavily on wild sources of meat and are very thankful and respectful for what is provided. She reassured me that I couldn’t mess things up, nothing would go to waste, all the scraps would be used as food for the sled dogs. The family’s resourcefulness was particularly inspiring. We cut ribs, back strap steaks, and meat chunks for sausage. After we had all the meat cut, we put it through a meat grinder. We also put pork fat (leftover from Pinky Edgar Ham, their pig from the year before) in the meat grinder to make a bear/pork sausage mix. In the end, we made 4o pounds of sausage with a few different flavors: maple, fresh herb, spicey, penzey, and basic. That night we had breakfast for dinner with freshly made sausage, YUM!
One of the first things I noticed was the use of humanure. They use black buckets in the outhouse (about 4 total, one underneath the seat at a time) and currently have three compost bins located near the garden (two left to sit and bake, one for current poo). After you do your business in the outhouse, there is a bucket of sawdust/grass clippings to sprinkle over to help eliminate odor and absorb liquid. Once the bucket is full, it is dumped into the appropriate compost pile where it is covered with grass clippings, food scraps, leaves, straw, etc. The right amount of carbon-based cover material is essential to the process. If your compost is smelly with flies around it, you need more cover material! The hot Alaskan sun does a great job at baking. Once baked, the finished product goes into the garden to nourish the plants. The Humanure Handbook is a great resource for anyone interested in more details!
One morning, I was startled awake by an excited Fitzroy… it was Alvin!!! He was able to call from calling card a few days earlier and after hearing about Shelton, decided to try and hitch a ride back to show his support. After a long day of cycling, waiting and driving, he biked the long 8 miles down a gravel road at 3am to the farm. After a quick morning celebration, we drove to Anchorage for the weekend where I was going to take a Wilderness First Responder recertification course. The van had other plans and we ended up in The Fred Meyer parking lot in Wasilla with a broken cv joint. I never made my class and 10 miles after leaving a repair shop, we heard a noise like there was a helicopter inside our van. We stopped and decided to get a tow to Anchorage where there was a recommended Westfalia mechanic. Despite all our frustrations from the weekend, we returned to Sunny Spruce in good spirits after picking up Ashlyn, daughter of Tracyann’s best friend, and longtime best friend to the boys! Alvin decided to stay a few days extra and work on the farm. First on the agenda… BMX racing!
I have really loved spending time with the George family, their awesome kids and loving pets. They have given me love, new understandings, and made me feel part of their family. I could spend hours on end learning from their book collections, listening to stories, and watching the animals. Tracyann and Andrew’s kind and humble nature was rejuvenating and inspiring to me. They have so much knowledge to share about subsistence living and homesteading. They spend about a month in the summer on the Yukon River at fish camp cutting and drying chum. This winter the family will spend 3 months in the bush trapping and living simply. I have really just scratched the surface of their wealth of knowledge. A part of me wishes I could stay longer, perhaps forever, but I feel an obligation to previous commitments at other farms. Like a bird, as quickly as I flew in, I must fly out. This isn’t goodbye though, merely, see-you-later.