I’m working on a few pieces that require quite a bit of thought and tact, which is a time consuming process for my monkey brain. In desperation to offer something interesting to read while I work on the more difficult pieces I finally came up with an idea. Since our lives are so unconventional, I thought readers might be interested in reading one of my journal entries from last winter. Tyler has always kept a detailed journal since we started life on the trap line. Preferring to read rather than write, I never kept one until the last two years. Last winter, cooped up in the cabin with the baby most of the time, finally allowed me time to write. The following is a mostly unedited copy of an entry out of my journal – written in a wide rule, spiral bound notebook.
1/25/18 Hans (one of the DJ’s in Ft. Yukon) is on the radio playing music from the 90’s, right now the song is ‘I Get Knocked Down’, by Chumba Wumba and I’m surprised to find I still kind of like it because of it’s odd lyrics…”Pissing the night away, pissing the night away”. I’m busy processing the last moose quarter from the fall. I hear a noise at the window, the Downy Woodpecker has come to visit the feeder. I made it a couple weeks ago so Sydney and I could lure the birds in for some close-range viewing. She loves to look at the woodpecker so despite having bloody hands I go over to her where she is dancing around in her bouncy chair and lift the whole contraption up so she can see. She is mesmerized. As soon as I put her down she protests, disappointed to have left sight of the woodpecker and loosed from her mothers arms. I ignore her complaints and go back over to the giant hindquarter dangling from a tie log that supports a shelf at the front of our cabin. I dance around and act goofy while I work, trying to entertain the baby and buy more time to get the job done. I’m not a trained butcher. I just hack off a large section of meat from the quarter, trim what needs trimming and make cuts from it that I want to cook with. Some of the larger sections with lots of tissue I will dedicate to roasts, the more choice meat I will cut into steak. I’m not going to grind any of the hind quarter. The front quarters are best for that. When I have my roast trimmed or a set of steaks cut, I drop the pieces into zip lock freezer bags and put them outside to freeze and store. The baby is being demanding so I’m tempted to rush through my job but this is the best moose we have ever had, a very tender young bull whose quarters we smoked. I want to take good care of it. The meat is as tender as filet mignon and as good as Kobe beef, actually I’ve never had Kobe but I bet it is. It smells of alder smoke – just beautiful. Only a quarter of the way through with processing the meat I have to take a Sydney break. She wants to nurse and I change her cloth diaper. While my hands are clean I decide to have a little lunch myself, a leftover moose burrito. As we have our lunch we watch the chickadees at the window feeder eat lynx fat. Tyler’s been busy handling lynx skinds lately, which generates plenty of the Selden brand of suet – lynx lard, and during this frigid time the local birds are crazy for the calorie boost it offers.
I put Sydney down in her play yard and go back to work. As I cut meat Sydney and I are gabbing at each other and playing her favorite new game – fake sneezing, Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Chooooooo! I trim another piece and wash my hands again so I can put a big pan of clean water atop the stove to heat up. This job is going to require a mopping when I’m done. Surrounding the stove are a couple dozen pairs of underwear drying on the line from the mornings’ laundry. Sydney has taken a liking to pulling laundry out of the basket and appears to have an affinity for our dirty underwear so I thought I ought to get them out of the way. It’s cloudy outside – windy and 5 below. I look out the window at a dog left in the yard and he is looking towards the river, the direction from where Tyler will be coming home. I gather from Larry dog that he’ll be home shortly. The babies gone quiet so I turn to have a look at her and she is doubled-over with a toe in her mouth, attempting to poop. I scoop her up as quickly as I can, rip off her diaper, and set her on my lap over her pail. I am rewarded for my quick observation by not having to scrub a soiled cloth diaper. Bless her heart! I’ve saved scrubbing many a poop diaper by watching for Sydney’s crude bathroom cue. The radio station starts airing a high school basketball game which I’m not interested in so I put on a podcast, which I download onto hard drives when I’m in town. It’s nice to have the option of another form of winter entertainment other than the radio. I pick a story and hack off another chunk of meat to dissect. The Radio Lab podcast is sad. It’s about a one year old baby who gets a rare cancer and dies later at 4, something completely inconceivable to me. I am so sorry any person has been forced to endure the loss of a child. I look at mine with eternal love. I get the butchering done and start mopping the floor as Sydney whines to be let out of her pen. Tyler gets home just as I finish cleaning. It took me 5 hours to process one moose quarter. Three times longer than it would have before Sydney came along but she is worth every extra minute. For dinner we have the last of our blanched and frozen broccoli from our garden and the last jar of pesto, also made from our garden, served over pasta, topped with thin slices of tender moose meat. It’s a special green meal to remind us of summertime. Today Tyler came home with 2 lynx and a wolf. A good catch. We are fortunate people.