Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thoughts on minus 50

When spilled water freezes to the floor, when a child cannot roll up her sleeves, because there are too many, when plants are freezing on the window sill, when the propane gas turns to gel and the propane bottle and the generator move inside to warm up, I know the outside temperature is close to minus 50.

While my range of motions shrinks and my lungs wince, the mountain vista is usually breathtaking: clear air, sharply outlined mountains tainted in orange light, and frost covered trees that seem to ignite in silver-cold December sunlight (up on the hills in a distance and out of my reach of course, because we are without sunlight for a total of 3 ½ months).

Mountains in the distance (26.12.2013)

Mountains in orange sunlight (26.12.2013)

Monday, December 23, 2013


As we went to get water, Anya and I came upon a flock of red-polls. In a distance, the small birds were feeding off alder-seeds. Anya wanted to go closer to get a better look at them. I told her that if she did that the birds would fly further away. She was wondering about that, and I shared with her what I know about flight initiation distance and the birds' instincts with regards to us being potential predators.

Later, I started to wonder about the extent to which I convey my beliefs along with what I know. And what do we really know? Science is not static, it evolves, expands its insights constantly. In 100 years from now, some of what we take for "granted scientifically proven facts" will be obsolete.

I would love to hear some of your thoughts on that topic!

Believes in snow angels (December 22, 2013)

Solstice Fire

We lit our annual winter solstice fire last night. It was windy and cold.

While everybody else watced the fire from the living room window, I spent some time enjoying the cold, the darkness, the gusts of wind and the thoughts about light and darkness, warmth and cold and about life in general.

Here is a link to a video I took:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Keeping it simple: Man & machines

We do like to make use of man's modern inventions, like electric meat grinders. But it seems that the durability of so many tools has suffered over the past decades and - in order to keep sales booming - the quality of many items of everyday use has gradually been decreasing.

We found that out - yet again - a few days ago, when we processed moose meat with our two-year old (hardly used) "industrial strength" meat grinder (stainless steel, electric, 1 HP). After about 60 pounds of meat it broke down - the gears had been ground down faster than the meat we were going to process into sausages.

Now, Gaetan is looking into buying a manual meat grinder (cast iron, made 1904). It would fit nicely into our collection: a sausage stuffer (made around 1910) and a Singer sewing machine (made 1914), both of which work reliably, are easy to fix if necessary, and will most likely survive us by generations!
Anya with our Singer hand-crank sewing-machine (November 28, 2013)

Using our manual sausage stuffer (December 16, 2013)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Building an Igloo

The days are really short now and when clouds obscure the sky it seems that the day is over before it has even begun. On the bright side, we are only nine days away from winter solstice!

Anya and I have been working on an Igloo: After piling up snow for the past few weeks, we started to dig out the interior yesterday. Anya - not prone to claustrophobia - crawled inside and says the igloo has potential! In our dry and cold climate, we had to pack the powdery snow and let it sit for a while, before it was hard enough to hold its weight over the cavity.
Anya in front of the igloo (December 11, 2013)

Anya inside the igloo (December 11, 2013)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Payback time for Lance the dog

Lance is the best dog we could wish for! He treats Anya with polite curiosity and yields to her - sometimes erratic - movement patterns. He always accompanies us when we are outside and reports any uncommon events (then he comes to me for protection).

He knew from the day he met Anya, that she is very special to us, but he did not know just WHAT she is. I remember seeing that spark of enlightenment in his eyes when she first started walking: "THAT's what she is, a little HUMAN" ... seemed to be reflect from his big golden eyes.

When Anya was small, he did not get very much attention, at least not much petting from me. Now, Anya is chipping in, very much to Lance's delight. A soft sigh makes it out of his lungs and vibrates in his dense winter fur as he rests next to the hot stove, when Anya is petting him yet again from back to front.

Anya petting Lance (December 2, 2013)

Anya and Rabbit petting Lance (December 2, 2013)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Quiet space losing a dimension

It is quiet here this time of the year: The few birds that did not migrate south are busy finding food and staying warm - they do not have any intention to sing, the sounds of the river and the creek are trapped under their ice-cover, and the snow muffles the sounds of anything that falls or anybody who walks. When - on top of all that - there is no wind and it is not too cold and I am standing still, it is utterly impossible to experience space.
Quiet winter world, February 13, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Frosty Math: -35 + 17 = -18

It never fails to astonish me how rapidly the temperature changes here at times: We went to bed at minus 35 degrees and woke to a balmy minus 18. Hardly any wind was noticeable. And the night sky (the darkness extends well into our days at this time of the year) was still clear except for some hazy ice fog over the river.

Addition: By the end of the day we measured (a shocking) minus 5 degrees.
Cold river, November 21, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A pile of wood on an arctic winter day

At minus 35 degrees (Celsius that is) a pile of wood looks like the manifest promise that the cold can do us no harm.

The river ice held, and at these temperatures it is unlikely that it will move again before breakup.

Beautiful firewood (November 21, 2013)

Thursday, November 14, 2013


The river-ice just stopped here last night. We are doubtful whether it will hold since it is rather warm with only minus 8 degrees. If the ice moves again, big blocks of ice will make for difficult traveling with the snowmobile this winter.
The river a few hours after the ice stopped (November 14, 2013)

Anya loves to play outside. Her current favorite: pulling her toboggan everywhere. I offered to pull her (so we would get home faster), but no, she wanted to pull. Back home, she tested her slide again.
Anya enjoying the balmy temperatures while playing in the snow (November 14, 2013)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Winter has arrived!

For the past three days, the Yukon River has been carrying ice. As the temperatures are dropping, the ice sheets are getting bigger.
Yukon River, ice, the boat (on the shore), and a sunny day on the other side of the river (November 7, 2013)

Ice sheets on the Yukon River, (November 7, 2013)

Yukon River, ice, and a sunny day on the other side of the river (November 7, 2013)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

About this blog

I started this blog when I first moved to Poppy Creek, a long way from the closest human settlement in Canada's Yukon Territory. After a few years with just Gaetan, Lance (our dog) and me, we were joined by baby Anya in 2011.

Life all of a sudden changed a lot for us. I did for example not have much time to write while Anya was very young. Gradually though, Anya is growing up and I - having more time - published my first book.

"Wilderness Life in Canada's Yukon Territory" is available on Amazon and includes some of the articles originally published on this blog, but also lots of new photos and stories. 
This blog is to host short notes and photos about my family's life in the Yukon wilderness.