A preparedness perspective

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Bonnie Camp's recent post dusted off a couple of memories of my own that I thought might be of interest. (Thank you Bonnie.)

I'm 43, and I live in Los Angeles. Single, mother of an adorable 20 year old girl. I'm a web designer, and spend much of my time browsing the net for various aspects of my business. I lurk around in forums, read the y2k newsletters, and have come to my own conclusions about y2k, potential for havoc, etc., etc. I've worked in a food storage company, and am now a webmaster for a few y2k related sites. My hat is off to those who are calmly (or maybe not so calmly) preparing, materially, mentally, spiritually. My perspective is perhaps a bit different from some, and that is why this post.

I grew up in the wilds of northern British Columbia. No electricity, no running water, no TV, no radio. Our nearest neighbor was five miles away. I was educated in a one-room schoolhouse, being the only one in my grade. Fourteen kids altogether in about a 20 mile radius. We had a horsebarn on the school premises. The teacher lived in the back of the schoolhouse.

My dad built the school skating rink and maintained it himself. He hauled the water to the rink in barrels, and I remember him being quite proud when the ice was level. I do remember all that wood he chopped for the warming shack. And the wood stove inside the school too. I remember his frostbitten ears and how black they'd get by the end of the winter. The men were like that--they'd show off their ears like badges. And the women would just shake their heads. "Why don't they just wear their hats?" I kind of knew why.

Our monitor jobs included things like "Who is going to light the lanterns in the morning, who was going to haul the snow in to melt on the stove for drinking water?

Our school doubled as the church on Sunday. It was pretty interesting seeing our parents in those teeny little wood desks, listening so intently to the circuit preacher every Sunday. I played the accordian once in awhile, and I would practise all week for those damn accordian solo hymns; drove my sisters and brothers crazy, I'm sure.

I remember the community would take turns feeding the preacher afterwards, and when it was our turn, we'd always have roast chicken and homemade stuffing, and potatoes and carrots. No matter what time of year. My sister and I would kill the chickens in the coop. One would stretch it's neck across the chopping block, and the other would aim and do the deed. And the little boys would run around "chasing" the beheaded chickens, jumping wildly around in reflex action. Better to kill chickens that way--they bleed better.

While all that was going on, the water was heating on our wood stove. We'd haul those chickens in by the feet and dump em in hot water to pluck the feathers, and singe off their hair over a flame. Once in awhile we'd get a laying hen by mistake, and there'd be an egg inside, along with half a dozen growing ovaries. Mom would usually grumble a bit about our selection but then make some cheery remark about having really fresh eggs. She'd use those yolks in the stuffing or in bread or cakes.

There was always a connection between what was on the table and where it came from. We grew our own vegetables and preserved them ourselves. We picked the wild berries for preserves and pies. And the women had the treasure maps to the best saskatoon bushes in the area. We'd make a day of it! The kids would always come home with blue stains on their faces, I remember that.

I usually churned the butter and it was I who got the flack for making it too salty or not rinsing out the buttermilk well enough. Didn't happen too often though; I was pretty good at it.

I remember the butter was always more yellow when the cow had just turned fresh. Early spring. Sometimes the bull would get busy a little too soon and the calves would come when it was still cold. Those times my dad would empty out the wood box by the stove, and keep the newborn there so it wouldn't freeze in the night. I remember them still being wet and wobbly and crying for their mothers. Other times a heifer would have a difficult first birth, and we'd watch my mom play midwife to them, understanding them completely in their pain. She never lost a cow.

We didn't eat our cows--too valuable. We ate moosemeat instead. My dad would shoot two or three a year, and hang em up in a shed outside. No need for a freezer--he'd just hack off a frozen leg or two when we needed it. I remember those huge moose legs thawing out in the kitchen before we ground em up for burger. Big black hooves sticking out from the washstand, catching my sweater as I'd walk by.

We'd trade with the Indians too. Moosehides for moccasins. Sometimes they even came with beads sewn on, for the girls.

There was always a connection.

So, how on earth does one make the mental jump from a widened moosetrail off the Alaska Highway to Los Angeles, CA and soon to be back again? That is another story or ten, but today I just want to tell you that it can be done. Whatever your situation is now, and whatever your plan is for the future, just know that you can make it okay. You can make the connections that this artificial environment has caused you to forget or never really know before.

As for me, I'm stocking up on imported crotchet yarn and java programming manuals. You never know. :-)

-- Caroline Letkeman (carolinl@concentric.net), April 25, 1999


Thank you Caroline....you brought back some of my own memories. We were not living in the backwoods but had similar circumstances and experiences during summers spent on the old chicken ranch of a relative. How I loved those times..riding on my bike to the old one room schoolhouse and then crossing the road to visit the graves of many relatives. Life was real...eating fresh vegies, helping to pluck feathers of the chicken (or turkey) that was to be supper. Picking eggs twice a day and following my Uncle to the barn to milk Bessie and watch as he would sqirt milk to the barn cats. Life was easy but busy. No time to get into much trouble. I recall my Uncle building an airplane out of a boxcrate and putting it on a cable so we could really 'fly'. Memories are golden. I thank you for bringing some of them back to me this morning. Today we live in a fast changing world and we have been lulled into different thinking, changing values. Y2K may bring us back to realizing what it important in life...shelter, food, and life sustaining needs. Maybe we will once again have time to get back to Mother Earth and back to life without television, violence and strife. We may be too busy to spend much time dwelling on negative stuff and have more time to make some new memories of living life one day at a time. It might be even fun to create some toys and games for children that will one day provide them with some of their own golden memories. Hopefully there are enough people who are prepared and soon more people will get the message that life is changing and we need to change with it. This message board has been a blessing for me and my family. We are making changes in our life and it is good. Simplify is the new motto....Simplify...simplify!

-- Old Gramma (Gotitincalif@webtv.net), April 25, 1999.

 Great post! Where did you live? It would sound like Fort St. John but maybe Fireside or up on Showboat? :o) I lived in Yellowknife NWT, Whitehorse, Mackenzie BC and have spent time in many other towns up north. Great people, salt of the earth. It is this type of lifestyle that is still happening and many have lived through. My Ex is native from Alberta and lived without power much of her youth. Trapping, berry picking, dog sleds and all the goofy experiances that come with isolated living and trying to keep one's self amused. I want her to write something up but she has refused.

  Hind quarters thawing out in the house, big pots of tea, skinning animals, chopping wood, ice on the windows and door enterances, mitts and liners drying, crib games, CBC radio (the only radio you got during the day), radio phones and on and on.

 Got a kick about the frozen ears bit, what amazed me was how many guys would wear cowboy boots in the winter. In Yellowknife the folks would just wear jackets and a baseball cap. -40 below didn't make a differance. Also one would see alot of frozen fingers, noses (right on the bridge of the nose from snowmobiles) and toes. Up in Dawson city they had the big toe pickling in this bottle of booze and folks would actually buy shots from it. Then someone stole the bottle with the toe and they had the press up in the Yukon asking for frozen toes to be sent up to this bar.

 This shows the mystery of the north and the people that call it home. To make it you had to be tough. Some of the old timers were real tough. I had the privilage to work with a few of them. Amazing stories of survival, feats of strength, and hard work ethic. Shame that I didn't keep a diary of those times as memory slips away. Every day was an oppertunity to test your resiliance. When a person gets in a position of risk and the lack of doing something to fix the risk is worse that actually dealing with it right away is a moment of truly being alive. It is kind of like going on survival auto pilot and actions are automatic no matter the risk. Kind of like being in a car and having to avoid an accident. It comes to you right away and delay is not an option.

Anyway enough blathering, I loved the north from my heart and I sure hope you leave LA Caroline and get back to the north. It took over a decade before I stopped having dreams constantly about it. Specially the spring time. 24 hr daylight is something that is really special.

By the way I have a web site with my experiances in dealling with the cold up north

 Chop wood haul water


Its a year old now so I am going to have to change it. But  something that might bring you back. Go to the forth link on -40 at the bottom. It is the best.

-- Brian (imager@ampsc.com), April 25, 1999.

ops! When talking to a northerner it is down north and not up north. South is up.

-- Brian (imager@ampsc.com), April 25, 1999.

I'd send this privately, but concentric's mail server is down...Just when I was getting over my crankiness about having to confront the northern climate again, you come along with a web site, and stick me in it again. Everything you advise on your site is completely valid, and important. I've had my share of frozen fingers and toes. Not too fun. The thing to do with frozen body parts, btw, is thaw them out gradually, in a bucket of ice water. Minimizes tissue damage. If they end up in a bottle of hooch, well, I guess you'll have some friends to commiserate with at least.

Ice on the windows? Yup. And around the baseboards too. I remember mornings when it was so cold, my pajamas or blanket would be frozen to the heads of the nails on the wall. I'll never forget hearing the little rip rip rips when I'd tear myself out of bed. No lie. The condensation of one's breath freezes on the metal.

I'm going to take along a lot of pictures of palm trees. Maybe even some hooch.

cl PS 20 miles in from Mile 73...I hear it's a fair metropolis these days...power and everything.

-- Caroline Letkeman (carolinl@concentric.net), April 25, 1999.

WOW!!!! A fellow Yukoner!!! The LAST thing I expected to encounter on this forum!!

I grew up in Whitehorse.....and points north. So many times during the last year as I prepare for Y2K, memories of life in the Land of the Midnight Sun come flooding back.....

Brian, if you'd like to, please feel free to email me. It'd be fun to find out if you were in the Yukon during the same time as I was.

Caroline ..... I'd also like to know where you lived......could it have been Atlin?

-- Sheila (sross@bconnex.net), April 25, 1999.


Feel free to Email :o) you might like to discribe what it is like to live around grizzlys, you must have better bear stories that I have. Mile 73.... positively southern eh? I would imagine the highway has changed alot over the last 20 yrs.

An interesting story for the U.S. folks on the board. during the second WW the US Army pushed through a oil pipeline from Norman Wells NWT to Whitehorse Yukon. Of course the US thought that it was Whitehorse USofA :o) It appearantly was an engineering marvel to do such a feat. When they got up there the army cleared an airstrip and it melted right away because of the permafrost. The equipment got stuck (this was in the summer) It was hardly documented and there was only one Canadian involved. A reporter that was curious. In the winter the army workers would sleep under the trucks. What a life. Getting out of the "fart sack" in the depths of winter is no fun ordeal.

Another interesting point, you will have heard the expression "keep the home fires burning" well when you have wood heat it is most important to have the house warm when getting in from a days work. Nothing is worse that trying to warm yourself and the house up when you live alone. Reality check.

-- Brian (imager@ampsc.com), April 25, 1999.


Oh no.... another northerner, now we can really dazzel folk with all the BS :o) I have found with northerners that you cut what ever they say in half and you have the truth. Of course this doesn't apply to me **VBG**

-- Brian (imager@ampsc.com), April 25, 1999.

Thank you Caroline and all the other northerners for your stories, yes there are more of us than one would expect; but then perhaps the character built in the north is conducive to "getting Y2k"?

As someone with kids who are fifth generation my fear is that as the north has grown we have many people living here who are totally urban, (no ability to burn wood etc) not good when one considers the unique challenges of the environment. Oh well, just that much more to prepare for I guess. If life gives you snow, make snowballs.

-- Will (sibola@hotmail.com), April 25, 1999.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Artic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee

(from The Cremation of Sam Mcgee

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou.

(from The Shooting of Dan McGrew)

-- rb (phxbanks@webtv.net), April 26, 1999.

Time to snooooor! Don't take me wrong, this is very nice. Better than all the rest.

-- VeryNice (This m@kes.My day), April 26, 1999.

And for all, a book that is onling about the north. HIGHLY recomended

The Call of the Wild

-- Brian (imager@ampc.com), April 26, 1999.

Funny you should mention bear stories, Brian. I did think of a couple...

There had been this old grizzly hanging around for a long time. It was obvious later when he finally got his ticket--his carcass was so full of old bullet holes, it wasn't worth tanning. Actually, I think the guy who actually brought him down threw it away because he was too worried about having to taking the heat for everyone else who hadn't gotten the job done. Nobody would ever talk about the one that got away.

But anyway, our neighbor (15 miles away) lost a draft horse who had wandered into a bog and got stuck. That grizzly actually pulled the dead horse out of the bog and was in the midst of burying it when he took his final round. Can you imagine what it takes to lug a dead draft horse out of a bog?! You don't want to mess with those grizzlies.

A closer call, and one my dad doesn't mind talking about...I remember waking up one night to gun fire. I'd been out hunting before so that sound didn't really worry me too much and I just went back to sleep. But the next morning everyone looked a little green around the gills, especially my mom. My dad took us all out and showed us the claw marks on the side of the house, where the bear had climbed up. There was a hole in the roof right over my little brother's bunk bed. Kippy was probably about 5 at the time. Apparently the bear had smelled him and was trying to get at him when my father scared him off. They're pretty hungry in the spring time, and not too shy.

And yes, that roof did get fixed in short order. And yes, my brother did get sentenced to the bathtub a little more often for awhile, just in case. Those claw marks were visible for years and years. What always stuck with me though was the idea of my dad flying out of bed in the middle of the night, back panels of those long johns flappin' in the wind, and him cranking that shotgun with those huge hands of his.

So what does this have to do with y2k? Loving your dad, I guess.

-- Caroline Letkeman (carolinl@concentric.net), April 26, 1999.

Sounds cold.

-- humpty (no.6@thevillage.com.au), April 26, 1999.

Back when we were first repairing the cabin and pre-addition and insulation, one morning I made hot water on the stove and poured it into the mugs to make hot chocolate. The mugs cracked instantly from the hot water they were so cold! another morning, my Alladin chimney shattered when I lit the lamp from the heat hitting the frozen cold chimney......

We've got more and better woodstoves now- actually got thru this winter without any major freezeups(only the car and a few pipes). But it only hit 32 below......

But- I think you would agree that the childhood memories you have of your life in the backcountry are precious ones. And I doubt you felt deprived at all. And your memories are doubtless better than those of many of today's kids who have MTV, video games, the mall and total suburban comfort.

-- anita (hillsidefarm@drbs.com), April 26, 1999.

what are you saying!my chicken comes wrapped in plastic!!there's a connection?don't tell y2kpro!

-- zoobie (zoob@aol.com), April 26, 1999.

Hi Caroline!

I've enjoyed everyone's comments, but I've got a question for Caroline.

I've spent a winter in Quebec City, and an autumn in greater metro Tweed, Ontario, and I can say that in both the francophone and anglophone communities the skating rink ice freezes level. Every time. Guaranteed.

Apparently in lotus land the ice freezes with one goal uphill from the other, as you say that your dad was so proud those times when your ice was level.

If word gets out, maybe people might become interested in what happens west of Toronto. Nah!

-- GA Russell (garussell@russellga.com), April 27, 1999.

Level does NOT always mean one end the same height as the other. It could also mean smooth, as in without great ridges from where the water froze before spreading out. My college had something of the same problem years before I went there, when they would simply dump out a barrel or two of water between periods of the game. Then one of the bright engineers we created up there invented the Zamboni, and the rest is histerical, eerrrrr historic.

Chuck, who is a stealth Techer, and STILL finds he has his frosh beany, even after using the 6 year plan.

-- chuck, a Night Driver (rienzoo@en.com), April 28, 1999.

Yes, Chuck had the right picture--it would tend to ripple and ridge, especially in -30 and -40 weather--freezes up really quickly. And of course he'd have to haul the water from our farm in barrels. He'd dump the water from the barrels, as I recall. No fancy hoses or ice machines.

And no-one west of Toronto could fire up enough spare interest anyway, so don't worry about *that*.

That whole rink thing reminds me of a good trick my family used to do for refrigeration. We had a very well insulated ice house made of logs. It was probably 8'x 6' on the inside. By insulated I mean the cracks between the logs were filled with some kind of mortar. I want to say it was made with sawdust and flour, but I could be wrong on that. Anyway, my dad cut blocks of ice from a pond in the winter, roughly 12"x12"x12", and layered them with sawdust in a bin which took up most of the icehouse. The ice lasted pretty much all summer in there, and kept things perfectly cool.

-- Caroline Letkeman (carolinl@concentric.net), April 28, 1999.

PS I was just *kidding* of course, about the easterners Not interested in fanning any flames about that east/west thing. :-)

-- Caroline (carolinl@concentric.net), April 28, 1999.

Hi Caroline!

I always enjoy tales of life without electricity, and I hope that you'll share more of them.

I imagine that you, living in LA, are unaware that the BC Lions have a real shot to win the Grey Cup this year!

-- GA Russell (garussell@russellga.com), April 28, 1999.

re: BC Lions--Wow! No I didn't know. ...Life without electricity. Well at one point I remember we got a gas generator, which we'd fire up once a week or so to power my mom's washing machine. It was *really* noisy! I didn't like it. But with a big family my mom decided it was pretty much necessary. We didn't have a dryer, and so would hang up the clothes on a line. In the winter time, the clothes would freeze-dry outside, literally. We'd take them in after a couple of days and stand the pants and long johns around the heater until they got limp again, and then used an inside clothes hanger around the heater to finish up the drying process. The drying clothes doubled as a curtain for our uh, weekly baths. It would take a lot of snow to make enough water for a bath, so we conserved. The kids used one batch of water, and the girls always got to go first. Here's a picture. (I'm going to take it down in a day or two.) http://www.livingmall.com/b_b.html

-- Caroline (carolinl@concentric.net), April 28, 1999.

Hi Caroline!

Funny, you don't look like it's 40 below out!

Now I wonder. Did Eastman invent and widely market his Kodak camera (I suppose it was the Brownie) before Edison got his electric power widely installed?

Anyway, thanks for sharing that memory with us!

-- GA Russell (garussell@russellga.com), April 29, 1999.

Seen the movie, "The Matrix"? The camera is like a glitch in the matrix, for sure. My dad used to love taking pictures--developed everything in slides, so we could have picture shows once in awhile.

I was warm in the photo because the wood heater is about 4" from the tub, off the left edge of the photo. (No separate bathroom--what for?) Washing was done at the washstand in the kitchen area, and bathing was done behind the heater. Outhouse was well, outside.

Talk about glitch: From where I live, I can see the Hollywood sign. I.e., right in the city. This morning I went for my daily early morning walk, and a deer had come down from the hills, apparently lost. It walked right across the street in front of me, maybe 30' away. Was wandering around manicured lawns and back yards. Hope it got back to the hills okay.

I guess we'll probably see a lot of "glitches" in the next year or more--high tech meeting low tech in ways that might seem odd from either perspective.

-- Caroline (carolinl@concentric.net), April 29, 1999.


Just what you need. Photos of the Northern Lights. On the road to Detah (2 pics :o)

City of Yellowknife - Photo Gallery 3

-- Brian (imager@ampsc.com), April 30, 1999.

Thanks very much Brian. Northern lights...the larger picture. Would take my soul away. Probably about this time of year, after a chinook, when the temperature suddenly climbs to melting temperature and then drops again... the world is a crystal chandelier: every branch of every naked tree an icy mirror for the greens and lavenders of dancing skies. Disco light for the gods.

-- Caroline (carolinl@concentric.net), April 30, 1999.

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