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May 25th, a few notable things happened on this date in history. Let’s walk down memory lane.

In the year 1787, the Constitutional Convention formally convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Even though years prior we thought we had worked out the mechanisms of this fledgling country, there were some issues. The States were still united but the road was bumpy. Without a stable government commerce was suffering. Taxes (revenue) weren’t being levied and uprisings were common.

This new convention would hem and haw until Sept 14, 1787 when they would sign their newly created Constitution and submit it for ratification. It only took about 4 months to lay the foundation for our two house system. Wow, that’s pretty fast considering how long it takes our modern politicians to act.

Also of note was Ford’s announcement in 1927, that it would not longer manufacture the Model T. A staple to early 20th century Americans for transportation.

The Model T was desirable for a number of reasons: low cost, durability, versatility, and ease of maintenance. Anyone with a few tools and thinking skills could alter or repair these mass produced marvels. Unlike modern mechanics which need a IT specialist to program the time and FM channels.

Fast forward to the last quarter of the 20th century and an event far more personal to myself occured. A joyful birth of a baby girl named Elizabeth! Happy birthday to a wonderful lady who’s gift of encouraging reading in children has touched countless young ones and continues to do so.


Exactly six months after the attack of Pearl Harbor, June 7, 1942 Japanese forces invaded American (territorial) soil, landing on the Island of Attu in the Aleutian Chain of Alaska. May 11, 1943 began the conflict to rid Attu of the Japanese occupiers. It lasted until May 29 and was horrific.

When the Japanese forces landed, they built fortifications and took captive the Alaskan Native villagers. 42 Unangax (Oo-nun-gahx) inhabitants of Attu Village were removed and imprisoned in Japan. Many died but those who survived faced another horror upon return, they found out that the US Military would not allow them back to their ancestral home and they were relocated.

The terrain is rocky and inhospitable, the land offered no place to hide outside of these machine gun nests. The weather was even worse, some say Nature took more casualties than the opposing army.

The Outdoor Boys have a video showing Dutch Harbor and some remaining military artifacts from this conflict. The National Park Service has some great information here. There’s actually a plethora of online sources regarding this “Lost War” including modern day remediation projects.

America lost 3,929 souls in total to brutal hand to hand combat, weather, disease and starvation. The Japanese Army lost at least 2,850 perhaps more, many committing suicide to avoid capture, including an entire hospital, staff and patients. Only 29 men were captured alive.

Go to the History Channel for more information.

On April 30, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated as the first U.S. President. *Insert some witty comment about last great president.*

In 1803, Cajun cuisine became an official mainstay of the American diet when the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France. At the bargain price of 60 million francs, the equivalent of about $15 million American dollars. Now we have Étouffée and Muffelettas, a deal at twice the price.

In 1926, a pioneer of female flight, Bessie Coleman died. She was the first American woman to obtain an International Pilot’s license from FAI. She learned French and went to France to get what America had denied her due to her skin color. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Determination looked good on you Bessie! Blessed memory!

On this day in 1945, Adolf Hitler and his newly wed wife Eva, committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin. There’s no joy in the loss of any human life. But…

In 1975, the horrid Vietnam War ended as the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon (AKA Ho Chi Minh City). fell to Communist forces. We still see the damage done to this day both public and private.

Around here (all over Alaska) you’ll hear someone define how Alaskan they are by how long they’ve (or their family) resided here. From there, if more evidence of their Alaskan acumen is needed, they’ll list their experiences especially the near death ones. The more rugged and raw the experience the greater the Alaskan Spirit. There must be an obligatory bear story, it’s a prerequisite.

We can’t help it. It’s like a giant game of one-upmanship. Until we find that Old Soul who embodies the spirit of Alaska. But it’s a celebratory game, we stand in awe of those who’ve survived whatever Alaska had to throw at them.

Most new Alaskans that I run into, like myself, have a relatively short pedigree. And sadly, we differ in that their quest for Alaskan experience is a tad bit lacking (non-exist). Occasionally I run across that special newcomer who wants to try all the Alaskan things, but they are increasingly rare. Maybe I need to meet some different new Alaskans.

But life for us “imports” goes further back than when we crossed the state line. When you meet a new Alaskan the first thing you ask is where they came from. Pay close attention to their answer. Generally one uses this litmus to determine how long you think this current “Alaskan” will stick around.

Beyond my current employment of becoming more Alaskan, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time exploring my family’s roots, seeing where my people haled from. What roads – oceans ultimately brought me to this point. It’s been fairly enlightening. Modern technology makes tracing your lineage so much easier than just 50 years ago. Even without a genetic test.

Much of this work has already been done for me, I get to enjoy the fruits of my ancestors labor. I’m thankful that they had the foresight to search and record our family history. My maternal Grandmother’s side is quite well documented thanks to books published like H. H. Beeson’s book on our genealogy. And the fact that many of my very early ancestors were Quakers. Those Quakers kept excellent records! This gives us ample data to reconstruct our tree.

Websites like My, Ancestry and countless others provide a plethora of info and simultaneously profit handsomely from folks like me searching the forest for our trees. So many relatives adding family information makes it even more simple. And it’s fun to discover you have a a previously unknown third cousin twice removed doing the same thing as you are.

My Dad’s side is a little is a little more work. But it’s there, just gotta know where to look. Determination, it’s hereditary.

At this point I know 14 generations back to England and Holland on my Grandmother’s surname branch. It’s amazing to see the names and dates of my ancestors, some of which we share. I particularly like it when a letter or note was written, you can get a glimpse of their existence through their words & experiences. Like many family’s from the early American years, my people were determined and hardy souls. I’m thankful they passed a little bit of that down to me.

Most of us want to know where we came from. Some of us get the privilege of finding out. The past offers encouragement for the future. And it reminds us to make our existence here count.

So while I strive on with being a good Alaskan, mother, friend, daughter, sister, partner, employee and human I hear an echo in the distance… What will your life story tell?

Slab o’ moo cow.

We celebrated illegally armed insurrectionists day with some popits and a big ol chunk of beast. Did we do it right?

Dwellings are a very important part of Sourdough Culture. We are fortunate to have a collection of historic cabins in this area. Kenai Kasilof, & Soldotna all have cabin parks, cabin museums and other preserved buildings.

Dean & I have done two historic cabin repairs over the years. Recently we restored a roof on a cabin in Kenai. Several years ago we replaced a rotten base log in a cabin in Soldotna’s Cabin Park. We have to be careful to keep historically accurate in our repairs.

I enjoy working on these old buildings. I’m touching wood, trees that were living in the 1800’s. It’s standing history that I get to play a tiny role in protecting. Think about all the happenings that these buildings survived. Everyday human events, epic volcanic eruptions. The biggest earthquake in Alaska’s history. Three major cultures: local first peoples the Dena ‘ina Athabascan, Russian traders and settlers, then other English speaking settlers evolving into Americans. All have left their indelible marks locally.

1896 Russian Orthodox Church,
Old Towne Kenai, Alaska.

Often you can still see the cut marks from hand hewing. And the craftsmanship is always an adventure. I love the dovetailed corners on many of these old cabins. Some have no spikes holding them together only joinery. Chinked with moss or mud, long gone over with the passing of time. Some have been restored and continue as dwellings today. Others are preserved for posterity, lest we forget where we came from.

Corner joinery detail at Veronica’s Cafe. Another historic cabin in Kenai.

In the era these old cabins were built, there were no lumberyards or metal shops around. Trees were cut and hewn for walls and roof supports but there’s nothing suitable for sheathing. So these resilient old souls hauled sod up and covered their roofs with living material. Complete with wildflowers. This shed the weather reasonably well and kept the cabins warm in the winter, cool in the summer.

1898 cabin with similar corner dovetails.

Another standout detail of these old homes was the overall height. These buildings were shorter than typical modern buildings. Doors between 4-5 feet tall, walls under 8′, often 6′ or shorter. Materials to build were hard to come by, it took brute strength and a lot of elbow grease to build. So making shorter buildings helped conserve energy. Mostly these smaller structures were easier to keep warm. After all, you really only needed a space for your meager belongings, a bed to sleep in, some place for your dogs and stay out of the severe cold.

Homestead shed, used to have a sod roof. Just about to become the latest victim of bluff erosion.
The cabin we repaired, looking good as new, err, I mean good as old.
History of this little cabin.

Hand hewn cabins are one of my greatest loves in architecture. Our modern day construction technology may be different but the same love and care goes into each log I prep for a cabin I’m building.

An old homestead cabin near Nikiski. Complete with sleeping loft and a king crab carapace.

Somewhere around this time, half a century ago, my existence in this realm began. Newlyweds and Valentine’s Day and all…

This being a milestone year I’ve been thinking a lot lately about things like accomplishments, unfinished business and future things. Thinky things.

Thinky things.

I like to think about this being the time that my parents were happy.

It was the only time, so far, that I’ve been to Canada. And with Canada’s draconian behaviour of late, I’m not planning on going again.

I was born in the snow and cold. (Well not literally, like my mom was inside the hospital.) But is that why I’ve always loved the snow? Is there a genetic reason why I love the snow? A geographical one? Or just a generic one?

I loved the mountains, even before I ever saw them in person. They were the subject of many of my juvenile drawings and again in my adult art class experience with Beverly years later. Mountains with pine trees with a log cabin. I need to live near them.

My first painting, circa 1993, after my first visit to Alaska.

Is all of this coincidence?

I’ve been on a health kick recently. Which has been building for quite some time. Trying to improve my overall feeling of wellness, increased energy, etc. They all say everything is harder to do after 50, so… Best get to it!

This phase of life has me seeing my first born graduating highschool and eventually moving out on her own. Of course I knew this day would come. I’ve tried teaching her all necessary skills and instilling what wisdom I have to impart. And yet I find myself wondering how we got here, quite so fast. It’s hard for me to imagine daily life without her right here, with me, in my house. At the same time I’m looking forward to having an adult child to experience life with. I’m excited for her and all the new things she will get to experience.

Then the second one will follow in a few years… And before I know it, they all will be out in the big world on their own. Whatever will I do with myself?

Oh, I have plenty of ideas.

But I’ll think about that tomorrow. Along with those other inevitable things I don’t want to think about right now.

So thanks to my Mom & Dad for giving me life. Thanks to G-d for bringing me to this season, and with HaShem’s help, I’ll get through it.

This year marks 8 decades since the attack on Pearl Harbor. There are very few veterans of that era left. It’s up to the rest of us to teach their story to the next generation.

All history is important. It explains the how and why we got to where we are now. It allows us to take pride in our good deeds and more importantly, to learn from our mistakes. If we don’t teach a full history then we do ourselves, those who came before us and those yet to come a grave disservice.

This week we’ll be talking about WWII, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and many other details of that dark time. With one history buff in the household who loves this topic I’m sure we’ll be in for a lot of enlightenment!

This part of history is personal to us. My Grandfather served during this conflict. He was injured severely. By G-d’s Grace he recovered but the scars remained throughout his life.

When I was in Hawaii many years ago, I took the opportunity to visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and Pacific Historic Parks in Honolulu. It was very somber. There were people of all nationalities there, including Japanese. We are all connected to this history. The park has adopted the theme for this year’s commemoration: Valor, Sacrifice, and Peace.

Here are some resources for learning about Pearl Harbour.

NPS History

History Channel

Military History

Why Did the Japanese Attack?

Share your thoughts, links or resources in the comments.

Thing 2 has been interested in kayaking for several years now. I bought him a starter kayak about 4 years ago I think. We don’t often use it but every once in a while a kayaking opportunity arises and we must go!

We’ve been kayaking to Cain’s Head out of Seward, across Kachemak Bay out of Homer and on Arc Lake and Stormy Lake. Once again we had the opportunity to kayak to Cain’s Head with IDEA for our beginning the year field trip.

We booked a cabin for the night before at Miller’s Landing. It’s a quaint little Alaska campground. It started out as a family homestead and the campsites are named after people. There’s a Wes and a Janet among others. I don’t recommend “Matt” as he’s a muddy mess with lots of tree roots!

Our cabin was a “tree” cabin, Alder, and sleeps 4. Me, my teens and one extra: Thing 2’s buddy, since it was his birthday trip and all. Trips like this are always the best because our friends are with us.

Staying over the night before is important, a 7:30am roll call on the beach with a two and half hour drive before isn’t very fun! So overnight it was.

We managed to get to the beach on time and started out paddling at 8 am.

Our crew on the beach.

The weather wasn’t awful but it wasn’t stellar either. Overcast and light to moderate rain all day. We had a brief moment of partly cloudy skies then the rain returned. But we managed to stay mostly dry with good rain gear. There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.~ old Norwegian saying.

Five miles out to the North Beach access. A nice uneventful paddle. Lots of birds and jumping silvers. We saw a jellyfish waiting to make our landing.

All that’s left of the Army’s dock at the North Beach site.

Then a two mile hike up to Fort McGilvray. An altitude gain of 650′, a “moderate” hike on the difficulty scale.

A scenic vantage point along the trail. The Seussical trees bordering a wetland.

We saw so many berries on our way up. Thing 1 was taking photos every other step. Moss, mushrooms, flowers, berries, her boyfriend, me…. Trees and rocks and … Everything.

Me and my girl on the Fort Trail.

We made it to the top and a quick walk through the Fort and then lunch break. Thing 2 discovered that he forgot to pack his lunch in so we all shared a bit of our lunches to help him out.

While eating lunch he spotted a porcupine up in the top of a tree above us. Strange creatures porcupines. Stellar Jays we’re fussing at us the whole time. We were in their space.

Then we started our descent. The trip back is always quicker. Too quick to pick all the berries I saw. I hate walking past berries and not picking them.

Safe to say that we’re all pretty tired at this point. Five miles kayaking, 4 miles hiking. Now another 5 miles back. Oy vey

Settled into our kayaks, ready as we’ll ever be.

All the muscles fussed at us on the way back. Even those we didn’t know we had. But by 3:03 pm we were back on the beach at Miller’s Landing.

These children decided they deserved ice cream after their efforts. We headed into Seward for ice cream and coffee for the Moms. There were still some congratulatory posters and banners up for Lydia Jacoby which was cool to experience.

Looking forward to the next kayaking adventure! But maybe not so far next time? Maybe.