Scarlett’s Letter July 11, 2013

Such an amazing day today!

My man had to work this morning, so I found myself “home alone”, and, when home alone, I am usually going to misbehave in some way, big or small. This morning, I had a Cali girl moment. Truthfully, though summer here, I have been just a little cold, ever since I’ve arrived. It is warm enough outside, which means two things; there are mosquitos in hoards and, because there are mosquitos, I’ll have to wear a flannel to keep them from devouring me whole, which is both uncomfortable and weird. A flannel in summer! So, today, I misbehaved. I took a nice, long, hot shower and got ready. Long showers are wonderful, but in an effort to not be perceived as “high maintenance” or “taking forever to get ready”, I have been taking very quick showers, just twisting my hair into a bun with a clip or a hairband, and applying a minimal amount of makeup, and only to act as sunscreen, of course. This morning, unsupervised, unobserved, and with “all the time in the world”, I decided to exploit the situation. After my long, hot shower, I took the time and luxury to get all the way ready, to my complete and total satisfaction. I had a commitment today, actually, I needed to be at “the shop” by early afternoon to receive a canoe that needed patching for an adventure planned for tomorrow. So, I was on a schedule, but a very relaxed schedule. In other words, I had time to write. And take a long, hot shower. And get all the way ready to my complete and total satisfaction.

I got beautiful, in that luxurious manner that I only get to savor on rare occasions when no one is waiting for me. And, when I was ready, I went downstairs to make my coffee, enjoy my plain yogurt and honey, and to write, leisurely, until I had to head in to town. It was chilly in the house. I was cold. Even with my usual cardigan on. So, I misbehaved. I turned the heat on, only a little, I just bumped the arrow up a couple of degrees. Being an Alaskan home, there is insulation upon insulation within the walls, retaining heat during the bitter cold winters, but also retaining coolness when it is warm out. And barely warm out, for a NorCal girl. So, even though it is July and everyone else is complaining about the heat, I turned the heat on. And I did something I haven’t done for many, many, many years.

As a child, I grew up in a split level home in Napa, my bedroom upstairs, with hard wood floors. Napa has a mild climate. I live there, again, now, and, honestly, in the mornings, when the marine layer is resting, low, upon The Valley, it is fricking cold. I have always tended towards being cold, so, for me, this is more pronounced. And, though fifty now, I have not yet entered the world of hot flashes that most of my peers complain of. I almost look forward to being warm, for the first time in my life. For now, I am cold. As a child, in my room, I was cold, especially in the morning. Year round, for winters are cool and summer mornings are cool. Which I really don’t think is so cool. So, as a cold child, in the morning, when the heat turned on, I would sit over the floor vent to warm myself. I would hold my nightgown down over the vent, creating sort of a tent, in which I could experience true warmth. It was bliss. And this activity usually caused me to be late for school, or for swimming lessons in the summer, or for whatever activity I was to be readying myself for. This morning was no different.

And so, this morning, as the heat kicked on and I sat at the dining table and felt no effect, I took a trip back to childhood; I sat on the floor, immediately in front of the heater vent and absorbed the warmth. As an adult, I had my coffee at hand, my super fuzzy, glittery, bedazzled, leopard print Jessica Simpson slippers on and my computer in front of me, and I made good use of my time as I absorbed the blessed warmth while I wrote. It was heaven. I figured I had a few hours to myself and made myself quite comfortable. I had the key to the “shop”, for the planned canoe reconnaissance. With only one article written, though, I received a phone call from my man, “where are you?” My man was done with work and at the shop, without a key. He had another way in, so I agreed to head in to town, shortly, to meet him. I wrapped things up, turned the heat back down, and rolled into town. I might have had the heat on in the car. Just a little.

I made it to the shop a little before my scheduled canoe reconnaissance mission, met my man there, and we headed off for lunch. We returned to the shop and I managed to post an article or two, thanks to my MiFi, from there. When the canoe arrived, visiting began and writing was abandoned, which is why, at this moment, more than a week later, I am still just a bit behind. But that is so okay! Two things I can do from virtually anywhere when there is nothing better to do; sleep and write. I will never choose one of those activities over any other. Ever. As much as I love them, even. And, I will usually choose to write over sleeping, if given the option and my eyes are willing to remain open. Time enough to sleep when dead.

As the canoe was patched, I had the opportunity to go bee keeping! And, so, I did! A friend I’ve made in Alaska not only keeps bees, but teaches others about keeping bees. I am a huge believer in the health benefits of including “local” honey in my daily diet. I, honestly, eat local honey absolutely, positively every day. Let’s talk about this a bit.

As a child, I was plagued with, really, life threatening allergic asthma. I was admitted to Children’s Hospital on a fairly regular basis, with pneumonia, as a complication of allergic asthma. I vividly remember, and I do mean vividly, being in an oxygen tent. I remember, vividly, being left alone in a hospital when my parents went home for the night, when visiting hours were over, as a toddler. For my entire childhood, I received allergy shots in an attempt to mitigate the effects that ordinary, everyday substances had on my ability to breathe; dust, pollen from virtually every tree, grass and weed, animal dander, mold. I was a freak. And without modern medicine, I doubt I’d have lived through my childhood. There are few of us that truly know the helplessness of not being able to draw in an adequate breath. It is terrifying. And frustrating. And humiliating. And limiting.

I like to think, as a result of my tenacity and sheer “mind over matter”, I began to overcome this condition. From the first moments I can remember as a small girl, I wanted a horse, more than breath, and when I was eleven, I spent my savings on just that; my very own horse. From that point on, much of my life was spent outdoors, in the fields and, usually, riding through a cloud of dust, and, presumably, pollen. And I was, for the most part, fine. From that point on, I only struggled with asthma during times of high stress, like midterms and finals. This may have been as a result of all those years of desensitization from allergy shots, or as a result of sheer will. Likely, both.

As an adult, I began, again, to suffer from allergies and related asthma. Fortunately, at the time, I worked for an allergist/pulmonary specialist and I had, readily available to me, allergy shots and related care. This, again, worked. Or was it sheer will to not have to live a life dependent on drugs and shots? That was twenty-five years ago and I don’t have any symptoms now; not a sniffle, nary a sneeze, never a wheeze. I am active, mostly outdoors, I live a completely full and active life, free from any allergic or asthmatic symptoms. I take no medication, prescription or over the counter, whatsoever. How can this be? Honey. In part, honey. Local honey. And sheer will. Okay, and stress management.

I will admit, for several years, in those “in between years”, in between allergy shots and discovering honey, I did rely on over the counter medications such as Allegra and Benadryl, and, against recommendations, sometimes both. After learning of the long-term, adverse affects of these remedies, and in particular, those of Benadryl, I stopped. And, out of sheer will, I made it through each and every pollen season, grass, weed, dust, smoke, mold, medication free. I didn’t have any discomfort, really, a few sniffles here, a sneeze or two there, teary eyes now and then, but certainly nothing I couldn’t just power through. I’d heard of using local honey as a means of desensitizing oneself to local pollens, many years beforehand, but had never considered it. A couple of years ago, I began to use local, organic honey as a substitute for sweeteners in things like yogurt and oatmeal, replacing refined sugar, and thus, realizing a double health benefit. I will never look back! I am 99% allergy and asthma symptom free, year-round. Learning to manage stress and keeping physically and emotionally healthy and fit, I strongly believe, have also been key contributors to a symptom free life. And while I can’t guarantee that this will be the case for everyone with chronic symptoms, it may be worth considering. You decide what’s best for you. If you truly do need medical intervention to prevent serious complications from allergies and asthma, I’m not one to criticize or to suggest that you don’t. I don’t. I’m blessed. And I feel I have the honeybee, and the power of positive thought, to thank.

I bee-lieve in bees! And I am terrified by the fact that the honeybee is facing difficulty as a result of climate change and the common use of pesticides and herbicides. Do you realize that if bees don’t survive we cannot survive? Without intervention. Unwelcomed intervention. When I say we can’t survive, I mean every living being on the planet, not just people who use local honey to desensitize themselves to local pollens, I mean each and every one of us. Bees pollenate all of the plants from which food is derived. And, yes, in an Orwellian world, this could probably be done manually, mechanically, artificially. But, being against genetically modified anything, I, too, am against the manual or mechanized pollination of, presumably, genetically modified plant organisms. The world, as designed, as it is intended, for our survival and for our health, relies on bees to pollenate plants from which we will derive our food, and from which the animals we consume derive food. In my opinion, we aren’t nearly as smart as we think we are, and replacing processes that have functioned perfectly for so many millennia seems a bit egotistical, on our part. True, we may understand the concepts and the mechanics and the chemistry and the science behind what happens, but I am certain that we don’t have all the information and skill and aptitude that nature has, after all, she has been practicing far longer than we’ve even populated this world. How presumptuous of us to assume we can even begin to do a better job, or even an adequate job replacing bees and pollination.

So, I bee-lieve in bees and all that they do for us. And today, I got to meet many, many, many, local, Fairbanks honeybees! I donned a legit beekeepers suit. I put legit beekeeper tools in my pockets and set off for the hives that were kept behind a garage in a residential area of Fairbanks, Alaska. In the next hour or so I was instructed on how to check the hives for several activities; honey making, worker and drone larvae, fertilization, and, hence, recent activity from the queen, ensuring she was both alive and active in the hive. I learned to spot tiny, rice grain like eggs in the honeycomb. I spotted the queen in a couple of the hives. It was exciting. It was fascinating.

I couldn’t have had a better teacher in all things bees! Dawn Cogan, of Science Based Art of Alaska, LLC, very knowledgeable and patient instructor and friend, gave me a thorough and very interesting and entertaining introductory lesson in beekeeping. Through Science Based Art, Dawn routinely instructs people interested in beekeeping and posts related information of their blog. I don’t know that I could, viably, be a beekeeper, at this stage in my life, with extensive travel for both work and pleasure, but, at some point in time when I decide I am able, again, to grow roots, I would love to consider it!  Until then, I am happy to pay a little extra for local, organic honey! And while beekeeping may not be possible for many of us, I do promote the inclusion of local, organic honey in the daily diet for two reasons; the personal health benefit and for the promotion of awareness of the vital part that honeybee plays in our environment.

Once we were done tending to the bees, ensuring that all was well within the hives and that they’d be busy as bees producing honey and pollenating and all those wonderful things, we strolled down the street a ways to discourage the guard bees from following us. At this point, we were safe to remove our bee suits. I can only imagine the sight, two people strolling down a suburban street, in bee suits, disrobing, and strolling back. Not a sight I’ve ever witnessed on the suburban streets I’ve inhabited! We made it back to the car, safely, with only a couple of bees following us, but, fortunately, no one was stung.

After a fun and educational afternoon of beekeeping, we returned home where day three of the “salmon saga” continued. Today, we stripped! Not what you’re thinking! Tsk, tsk, tsk, shame on you. We took a few salmon filets from our catch and stripped them for drying. I loved stripped, dried salmon as much, maybe even more, than Oreos. For real! So we sliced strips of salmon and soaked them in water salted enough to float a potato. Really. We patted them dry and placed them on racks in the smoker, outside, to dry in the warm air. No smoke, yet, just a screen held in place with magnets. Once the fish dry a bit, develop a “skin”, then we’ll smoke them to finish the drying process and to add the addictive flavor of alder wood smoke to the addictive flavor of red salmon.

What a great day! Learning about and helping in the preparation of two of my very favorite foods; honey and smoked salmon strips. Oh, and that bit with the heater, the coffee, my slippers and my blog! Heaven! To “bee” sure!

 

Misbehaving in the morning; me, coffee, and MacBook in front of the heater vent!
Misbehaving in the morning; me, coffee, and MacBook in front of the heater vent!

 

A day of "firsts". My first Philly Cheesesteak. Ever. OMG.
A day of “firsts”. My first Philly Cheesesteak. Ever. OMG.

 

Me and bees!
Me and bees!

 

An introduction to the keeping of bees with Dawn of Science-Based Art of Alaska LLC. I'm the one on the left.
An introduction to the keeping of bees with Dawn of Science-Based Art of Alaska LLC. I’m the one on the left.

 

Salmon strips cut and ready to soak before drying.
Salmon strips cut and ready to soak before drying.

 

Salmon strips are soaked in salt water with enough salt to soak a potato.
Salmon strips are soaked in salt water with enough salt to soak a potato.

 

Salmon, after soaking in salt water, ready to take out to the smoker.
Salmon, after soaking in salt water, ready to take out to the smoker.

 

Salmon will dry in the smoker for a couple of days before it is actually smoked.
Salmon will dry in the smoker for a couple of days before it is actually smoked.

 

Salmon drying in the smoke with screen in place to keep bugs out. I don't know about bears, but bugs can't get in.
Salmon drying in the smoker with the screen in place to keep bugs out. I don’t know about bears, but bugs can’t get in.

 

One thought on “Scarlett’s Letter July 11, 2013

Comments are closed.