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Snow Horse Ranch

Making Berry Syrup

Cynda LeTullierToday I got to be a child again – I got my hands messy and enjoyed throwing perfection out the window. Today's modern kitchen allows for one to fix beautiful elaborate meals with little mess. But when you are in the wilderness with very little to work with it can be fun and messy!

With only a pot, fork, spoon and screen cloth I made Cranberry Syrup.

Yes, my hands were covered in berry juice, and it made me think of when I was a child making mud pies and mud-clay dishes.

What an enjoyable memory and experience.

OK, so this blog is short and sweet – I just thought I'd share my experience.

Making Berry Syrup  Making Berry Syrup

Living In The Wilderness In Harmony With Nature

Cynda LeTullierWhen people move out to the wilderness, they are moving into the wildlife's domain. Because God gave man dominion over God's creation, it puts man in the responsibility to be a good steward of nature.

We must live in harmony with nature and care for the environment as well. The wilderness has wild animals that can become destructive, therefore one must take special care not to desensitize ("tame") or endanger the wildlife.

Living in harmony with wildlife means taking necessary precautions such as keeping a clean homesite (or camp) so as not to draw in predatory animals (bears, etc.) as well as putting a fence around gardens to keep out the wildlife.

Moose visitors in the night - but they quickly disappeared into the  forest.

Moose visitors in the night – but they quickly disappeared into the forest.

Caring for the environment is also part of living in harmony with nature. When cutting firewood, choosing dead, damaged or diseased trees helps to make a healthy forest. Taking only what one needs as it is needed and making sure not to waste also preserves the land. Sticking to paths keeps from destroying the environment as well.

Photographing wildlife instead of killing it leaves it to live another day and is an easier way to keep memories than a stuffed trophy. Killing everything you see is bad stewardship. It's one thing to take what you need for food (abiding by local hunting laws) but killing for killing sake or just for a trophy is selfish and cruel. My dad use to say "There are only three reasons to take the life of an animal: 1) for food/necessity, 2) protecting life/property, and 3) for humane reasons if the animal is suffering.

If one is careful there is no need to have wildlife become a nuisance – and all can live in harmony. Living in harmony with nature, enjoying God's creation brings joy into the soul and music into the heart.

Living in the wilderness is hard work, but it is enjoyable and rewarding if one lives in harmony with nature.

Denali - enjoying the view is pleasant.

Enjoying the view of Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. The peak is Mount McKinley, which stands at 20,320 feet, the tallest peak in North America.


Foraging and Cooking Wild Food

Cynda LeTullierLiving out in the bush and limited trips into town means that one needs to have a different lifestyle than the suburb living folks who pass a store almost daily. Learning to forage for wild food subsidizes gardening and farming for a well balanced table. Foraging also gives one time to be in touch with nature. While picking blueberries, one can listen to the birds singing and observe nature all around. Wearing bells and making noise keeps the wildlife at bay, but it goes against all my nature viewing instincts.

When it comes to blueberries, it is easy knowing how to fix them in a variety of ways for the table (Blueberry Dumplings being our favorite), but when it came to fiddlehead ferns, having only eaten them once before, never having fixed them and not having any recipes for doing so, I had to step out on my own and experiment. I was however quite pleased with my very first fiddlehead dish. My choice on how to fix them was quite a hit with both my husband and myself. I sautéed the fiddleheads with onions in sesame oil and served them with a pasta dish.

I must add a warning here, BEFORE eating anything make sure you can positively identify it and know that it is eatable.

Recipes by Cynda LeTullier.

Fiddle Head Ferns 

Fiddlehead Ferns:

Harvest and clean 4 cups fiddlehead ferns. Cut and dice 1 large onion. Add 1/8 cup sesame oil to large skillet.

Place fiddlehead ferns and onion in skillet and sauté together.

Serve hot.

EDITORS NOTE: Be aware there are different varieties of fern fiddleheads, and some may be mildly toxic. The best type for eating is the Ostrich Fern; Cinnamon Fern and Interrupted Fern may be bitter and mildly toxic. Bracken Fern fiddleheads have been shown to contain a carcinogen; cooking evidently destroys this chemical. Millions of people consider the Bracken Fern fiddleheads to be edible.

A foodborne illness was attributed to undercooked fiddleheads in the 1990s. Do not eat them raw. Proper handling and cooking reduces the risk of illness. Many authorities recommend cooking fiddleheads for 15 minutes when boiling, at 10 to 12 minutes if steamed.

MMMM Good ~

Blueberry Dumplings:

6 cups blueberries
1 cup honey

Dumpling Mixture:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter or corn oil
1 cup water

Place blueberries and honey in large pot and bring to a slow boil

For dumplings: Combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Add liquid ingredients and mix well.

Spoon drop dumpling mixture into hot blueberries and cover. Cook at a low simmer until dumplings are cooked through (not doughy).

Serve warm with fresh sweet milk.

From Trees To Lumber

Cynda LeTullierToday I am going to share with you how we made our own lumber from the trees on our property. First I want to warn that one must take care of the land and not rape it of its resources. We must give back to the land when we take from it and we must manage it properly to keep it healthy. (OK, so that comes from my Native American side and being taught to respect nature and love its Creator ~ but it is the truth.)

We had to clear our building site for our home. With the trees in this area not having deep solid root systems and the risk of them falling easily in high winds and under heavy snow, we opted to clear out every tree within 100 feet of the house. This gave us plenty of firewood for cooking and heating, but there were also nice trees that had good wood and what a shame to waste it by burning it. We decided we could save two ways by making our own lumber out of these trees. First, the cost of lumber is not cheap and then to sling load it out to our property is quite an added cost as well. With a borrowed Alaskan Saw Mill (we plan to buy our own now), we gave lumber making a trial run.

Cutting down 72-foot spruce tree 

Cutting down a beautiful 72-foot Spruce tree is heartbreaking at best. Care must also be taken that nothing is in the way of its falling path. We put a rope high up in the tree and pulled it the direction we wanted it to fall, if there is any question it would fall where it could damage anything or fall down the cliff side out of reach to harvest. After felling the tree, it was time to cut the limbs off the trunk and cut the trunk of the tree into logs a little longer than the length of the boards we wanted. A 2-by-4 was attached along the top of the log for the first cut in making the boards. After that each cut was made from the cut before it.

Here is a short video clip showing the process from tree to board: Enjoy.

Well, friends, I hope you enjoyed the video clip. I will close for now. My next blog post will be about foraging and cooking wild food. In the meantime, have a wonderful and blessed day,

Cynda ~ Snow Horse Ranch

Building an In-Ground Cooler

Cynda LeTullierAs this is my first blog post, let me introduce myself. I am Cynda, and my husband is Frank. We live out in the Alaskan wilderness. The Alaskans call it “The Bush.” We moved to our property June 1, 2014. After four years of searching for the right place and two years of planning and preparing, we were finally home.

While living under a tarp draped over a rope for two months, we cleared land and built the first room (12-by-16) of our homestead. The first week of bush living we knew we needed a refrigerator, but without electricity and out in the middle of nowhere that was not an option. Frank decided to dig a hole in the ground and place the eggs and other food items that needed to stay cool in it and see if it would be cool enough to work as a cooler. BINGO! The “in-ground cooler” was a success. So now it was time to make it permanent. 

The cooler must not be insulated from the ground’s coolness for it to work, so Frank decided to build it out of corrugated metal and insulate the cover with Styrofoam. Frank built shelf boxes for the top so it could easily be accessed to retrieve the daily-used items. He also made the cooler deep enough to store bulk items below the shelf boxes. 

In Ground Cooler Closed
The in-ground cooler with the lid closed. 

In Ground Cooler Opened
The in-ground cooler with the lid open.

By placing a thermometer in the large compartment below, we could monitor and make sure it was staying a safe temperature. To our amazement the temperature was so constant it did not vary more than 2 degrees in the complete 24 hour day, even during the hot days. The temperature was a constant 45 to 47 degrees F.

Cooler Thermometer
The thermometer in the in-ground cooler allows for monitoring the food temps.

Although Frank used corrugated metal to make our in-ground cooler, a rock-lined in-ground cooler would also be efficient though you would still need a well-insulated cover.

Well, I am delighted to have this chance to share bush living experiences with you.

My next post will be on how we made lumber from our own trees.