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Pioneer Potluck: Mud, mud, mud!

Posted: April 18, 2012 - 9:28am

We built our house in the mud. The newly disturbed ground was saturated with torrential rains that started the first June and did not stop until the last of August 1989. When we walked across the yard, the mud would build up on the bottom of our boots, and by the time we got to where we were going we were at least 6 inches taller. Bob has hauled gravel by the pickup loads for the last 20 years into this yard, and we still have mud!!

We have five seasons in Alaska. Spring thaw, Breakup mud, Summer, Fall and Winter. 

We put tarps over our unfinished house and every morning we had to drain the water out of those water filled, fully suspended tarps. We built the house in the mud and the rain with the help of our unsuspecting friends. We hauled mud boxes, (used and discarded in the oil industry — I find this very funny) from the dump, and broke them down so we could have a mud box walkway. Part of the foundation of our house is mud boxes. We built bonfires in the mud. We sat on stumps by the bonfire in the mud.

This year seems to be especially muddy at our place, because the three- and four-foot snow berms dam up the water running off the hill from the 3 acres above us. I dig little trenches with a stick, dig big ditches with the shovel and if I could find the rake I’d drag it behind me, so it drains and airs out the soil. We call it irrigating the yard. But the rake and other garden tools are all … yes, I have told you ... buried under three- and four-foot snow berms. 

I cannot imagine building the Alcan in the awful mud through Canada and Alaska. Or traveling the unpaved road like a lot of my older friends have told me. I cannot imagine homesteaders clearing land so they could cut down trees, so they could take off the bark, so they could saw the logs, so they could build a house in the mud.

My daughter Gail lived on a homestead back on Boulder Point. The road — no, the trail — was muddy when there wasn’t any mud any other place. I give her a lot of credit for living there in the spring mud, the beautiful long summer and mud, and the deep snow in the winter. There were times she traveled by snowshoe to get out for supplies. They parked at the beginning of the trail and walked in with the supplies during mud breakup. Later on a four-wheeler helped them through the mud. 

I get very upset when big trucks or cars come down into our yard, leaving deep, deep ruts that dry out and become ankle bending, deep crevasses! It was an unspoken rule in homestead days, that you avoided driving into someone’s muddy yard or trail in the spring. Most of the homesteaders parked at the beginning of the trail or road and walked in for four or five weeks in mud season.

The newer residents of Alaska just drive in the new ruts that someone left and make it even deeper. I guess if you said I have a pet-peeve, it is leaving your deep ruts in my yard. Bob just says, “Well, I will just haul in more gravel!”

And don’t even get me started on those big four-wheel-drive pickups that come out of the woods and trails dripping from top to bottom with mud. 

Susan said she remembers our first summer in Alaska, how we survived on moose, fish and beans. She says that she remembers the big bonfires with big moose ribs roasting over the fire and how good they tasted. She remembers the sauna on Georgene Lake and how much fun it was to run around with other kids her age. The moose roasting slowly lasted way into the night and sometimes into the next day.  The days drifted into night and back into days. Have you ever eaten moose liver and pancakes for breakfast? Try it!

And when it rained, we just walked around in the rain, because at that time we did not have rain coats or boots. How much fun it was to tramp around in the mud, ride bikes into the mud holes full of water, leaving mud streaks up the backs of the bike rider. David was the master of having the biggest, widest streak of mud on his back and sometimes up the back of his head. Kids would come in with mud dots all over their faces, looking like a herd of freckle faced kids. (There were six in this family at that time, plus neighbors!) This mom would make crazy rules about not stomping in mud holes or not riding the bikes in the mud, because I had to carry those muddy clothes to the one and only laundromat.

And now I look back and remember how much fun all those smiling kids had in the mud!

Grannie Annie’s series of cookbooks are available at Fireweed Herb Garden and Gifts in Kenai, and  M & M Market in Nikiski. She can be reached at anninalaska@smcalaska.net

Pancakes and Moose Liver

Moose liver dredged in flour and fried in bacon grease was one of our first breakfasts in Alaska. Actually it is very good, if the liver is taken care of and the cooker knows exactly what he is doing. In this case the moose liver and pancake cooker guy was Onis King. Float those pancakes in syrup! Oh yum!
Until four years ago I did not know about chocolate chip pancakes. Bob’s grandkids were visiting and that was request most mornings. Since then my grandson, Grey requested them so often I bought him a “liddle griddle.” I prepared for him dry buttermilk pancake mix with chocolate chips mixed in. He now makes his own. He says when he grows up that is all he is going to eat!
My friend Bernie chops up apples and puts them in pancakes. Sprinkle the hot buttered pancakes with cinnamon and sugar. My kids, when they were little, loved peanut butter on them. Susan says I made them Mickey Mouse looking pancakes. Now they have different shaped pancake molds. I seem to remember one of the kids liked ketchup on their pancakes!
Bob and I like fresh or frozen blueberries sprinkled on one side of cooking pancake. Bob likes leftover cold pancakes spread with any kind of beans or refried beans, rolled up. Try sliced strawberries, raspberries, walnuts, or mix cinnamon and nutmeg in batter.
I make raspberry and strawberry or currant syrups or rhubarb-strawberry jam to go on top of hot pancakes.
Open a can of cherry or apple or peach pie filling and top a hot buttered pancake and a dollop of whipped cream. And don’t have them just for breakfast — they are a good suppertime filler upper.
And the next time you have fresh moose liver, you have to try moose liver and pancakes!

Alaska Reindeer Sausage Breakfast Skillet

1 28-oz pkg frozen O’Brien hashbrown potatoes
1 onion chopped
1/2 each red and green bell pepper diced
1 pound reindeer sausage (or Kielbasa or Polish sausage) cut in small diced pieces
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese shredded (or cheddar)
Fry potatoes according to package directions; add the onions, pepper and sausage, adding more vegetable oil if needed. When vegetables and meat is nicely browned top with cheese. Cover for 3 to 4 minutes. Serve from skillet with a big spoon.  

ADDITIONS:
Add 6 beaten eggs to hot potatoes and sausage. Stir until eggs are set. Or make 4 wells in the hot potatoes, and place an egg into each well. Pour a small amount of water down the side of the skillet and quickly close with lid. Simmer on low until the eggs are set — sprinkle with cheese — serve from the skillet.  A fun skillet breakfast, and good at a campfire.

Homesteader Breakfast

This takes the Yukon Gold potato, fresh grown spinach and eggs. Makes a hardy breakfast for the hardy Alaskan family.
Your recipe for fried taters.
2 to 3 cups of baby spinach leaves, washed, drained and chopped
12 large eggs, whisked to smooth
1 cup of cooked chopped ham, or bacon.
 
To the skillet of Fried Taters add the baby spinach and stir down to just wilted. Add the ham or bacon. With the skillet on medium-high add the eggs to the potatoes and spinach and ham. Stir with spatula until slightly set and no longer shiny. Sprinkle with a cheese of choice.
Serve right from the skillet with a large spoon. All you need to add to the tasty dish is a large piece of warm buttered toast. 

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