Summer Camp & Internship Opportunities

20170325_124325We are excited to be able to offer summer camp opportunities and internships for anyone interested in experiencing life off the grid in the most beautiful place on earth.

Opportunities for rising high school juniors and seniors:

Students will work 4-6 hours each day. Work consists of gardening, clearing brush, construction, painting, and other general labor duties.

All other hours of the day, students are free to enjoy many of the areas activities, including, hiking, canoeing, fishing, wildlife viewing, and more.

Student camps are available on a weekly basis, with a 7-day minimum stay. During the 7 days, students will work part days on 6 days of the week, and may have 1 day off for free time fun.

Cost is $1,500 week, including transportation to and from downtown Haines and three home-cooked meals daily. (Students will provide their own transportation to downtown Haines).

Students will be regularly supervised by mature husband and wife team.

The student will not have access to the internet, phone, or television, but may receive and send one daily text message to his or her parents or other loved one using the owner’s cell phone service as it is available.

Opportunities for Internships:

Internships are available on a weekly basis (7-days).

Interns should be 18 years or older, preferably in college or career preparatory classes, but not required.

Interns will work 4-6 hours each day. Work consists of gardening, clearing brush, construction, painting, and other general labor duties.

All other hours of the day, interns are free to enjoy many of the areas activities, including, hiking, canoeing, fishing, wildlife viewing, and more.

Internships are available on a weekly basis, with a 7-day minimum stay. During the 7 days, interns will work part days on 6 days of the week, and may have 1 day off for free time fun.

There is no cost to the internship. In return for work provided, interns will receive transportation to and from downtown Haines, and three home-cooked meals daily.

Interns will not have access to the internet, phone, or television, but may receive and send one daily text message using the owner’s cell phone service as it is available.

Accommodations

Students and Interns will stay in their own guest cabin, complete with a queen bed. The guest cabin has fresh water access, and is located close to the outhouse. The cabin is also equipped with a bathroom honey pot if guests prefer not to use the outhouse. Meals are offered family style in the main cabin. Guests are allowed to bring their own snacks.

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Getting to Haines, AK

The best way to travel to Haines is to take a major airline (like Alaska Airlines) to Juneau, AK, then to take a puddle jumper (www.flyalaskaseaplanes.com) to Haines. Travel can be tricky to arrange, but with a little bit of searching, you can usually find a flight that will match the puddle jumper schedule so that you don’t have to stay overnight in Juneau. A roundtrip ticket from anywhere in the US to Juneau typically runs $700-$1,000.

Get to know all about us by reading our blog at www.motesmountain.com

For more information on staying with us, text or call Nate and Jen at 512.539.8239 or email us at motesmountain0920@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

Three Bears, Two Earthquakes & One Neighbor

Three Bears

Watching our frozen ice field become a lake again was an amazing experience. It took about 4 weeks from the time the ice became too weak to travel on until it was completely thawed and we could put the boat back into the water. It was miraculous to see the large sheets of ice coasting by our dock in front of our cabin. The melting process is surreal and powerful.

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As soon as the lake thawed, we were excited to get into the canoe and go bear watching along the shore.  We got down to the end of our lake and we spotted a large brown/grizzly bear. We stayed there for a few hours, waiting and watching for more bears. Finally, we decided to boat back to our cabin. As our canoe neared our dock, Nate said, “Look, there’s a bear!” It was another large brown bear, but this one was in our front yard, digging in our garden. Nate had just planted 150 onion sets in the ground. These little bulbs were too tempting for the bear to resist. It is ironic to think that we were canoeing all over the lake trying to find some bears, while one was having a picnic in our garden. As we approached him, he was tearing up the onions. As soon as the bear heard us, he ran away, up the hill, behind our property. We were kind of spooked, so Nate got his gun and crept around the property on high alert. We were extremely vigilant as we navigated around our property. About twenty minutes later, we heard a banging noise coming from the cabin two properties over from us. We knew that our neighbors were gone for the day, so we were intrigued about what was making the noise. Nate headed in that direction, toting his gun. I followed closely behind him, holding my gun. As we neared our neighbor’s property, Nate crouched down, looked back at me and motioned for me to get down and stay still. I stopped in my tracks and looked, but I didn’t see anything. He whispered, “There’s a bear in their yard.  It looks like he killed their horse, and he is hunched over eating it.” Nate stood up, shot the gun in the air several times, and the bear ran away, up the hill. I was hopeful that the horse might still be alive because she was pregnant and was almost ready to give birth. But, unfortunately, she was dead, as was her baby. When our neighbors returned that evening, we shared with them the sad news about the loss of their beloved horse.

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In memory of the horse I nicknamed, “Princess”

Two Earthquakes

We fell asleep that night in awe that we had seen three brown bears that day, with two of them being close encounters on our property. We awoke the next morning to a jolt…a 6.1 earthquake hit our mountain at 4:30 a.m. We were a little disoriented, and at first, we thought it was an avalanche. When I was still half-asleep, I actually thought a bear was shaking our cabin. When we came to our senses, we realized it had been an earthquake. There were several aftershocks, then at 7:30 a.m., there was another earthquake. This one was 6.4 on the richter scale. And, several aftershocks followed this one as well.

Earthquake in the News

Neighbors

In February, a young couple came to live on the lake at a property that is contiguous to ours. They are also planning to live here year-round, like us. It’s kind of funny that in this remote area on our part of the lake, we were the only people living here. Now, there’s another couple, and they live within walking distance to us! At first, we weren’t sure how we were going to like having neighbors, especially so close, but it has turned out to be quite a blessing. We couldn’t have asked for anyone more perfect to live by us. They have very similar goals and values to us, and we have enjoyed getting to know them. We have relied on them to help us out several times (like when our 4-wheeler sunk into the lake), and we have also been able to be there for them when they needed us. I now have a different understanding of the word, “neighbor”. Back in the lower 48, I had lots of neighbors. Some of them, I knew by name. Others, not. Out here, it’s different. Neighbors truly are there for each other. You can depend on them, rely on them. We have high tech walkie talkies (thank you, Duke Gambino!), and so do our new neighbors, so its easy to communicate with them, when needed. The walkies are especially useful since cell phones are not reliable here.

Our new neighbors brought a herd of goats to their property (along with chickens and miniature horses). They offered us two goats, which we gladly accepted. We built an enclosure, which they proceeded to break out of constantly. Three or four times a day, Nate and I would be carousing and cajoling goats back into their pen. We finally tired of trying to keep them penned up, and Nate created long tethers and attached each goat to one with collars and a short leash. This seemed to work better. The goats were happier with room to roam. Unfortunately, one evening, one of them died. The neighbor brought us two more goats, so now we have three.  For now, they are helping us to clear some land on our property, and we hope to eventually breed them  so that we can milk them.

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Nate with Luda May

Nate has become like the pied-piper with these goats. He now takes them up the mountain every morning, and lets them graze freely. Then, in the afternoon, he calls them down to their pen, and they come running to him. He sits with them and they love to be petted by him. They each clambor for his attention. He has given them some fun nicknames…Blackie, Midget, and Luda May. They are all girls. Nate enjoys spending time with his girls!

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Nate with his girls, Blackie, Luda May & Midget

 

Our neighbors have been spoiling us with fresh goat’s milk, yogurt, and fresh eggs from their chickens. I have discovered that if I have an endless supply of milk and eggs, I hardly need anything else. Our neighbor taught me how to make cheese from the milk. I was excited about how easy you can turn a gallon of goat’s milk into 32 ounces of delicious mozarella cheese (in about 30 minutes!)  Hopefully, by this time next year, we will have our own milking goats and some chickens too! Our new neighbors live a much more agrarian life style than we do, so they are in inspiration to us. We are excited to learn from them.

Where we live, there are lots of maple trees. Our neighbors showed us how easy it is to hammer in a small tube into the trunk of these trees, attach a plastic bag, and gather maple sap.

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To make maple syrup, you have to boil the sap down 100 times. I wasn’t all that interested in working so hard for such a small yield of syrup. Our neighbors made some Maple candy, and that was really good. It tasted a little bit like a pecan praline. We also discovered that the plain sap makes a great, natural energy drink. It tastes a little bit like watered down sugar water, but it’s one of the most refreshing and healthy drinks, like coconut water. And, it’s free and ready for the taking all over our mountain, not only from the maple trees, but from the birch trees as well. The only catch is that all of these trees only produce this harvest-able sap during 2-4 short weeks after the last snowfall. You know the trees are ready to be harvested when you see the first mosquito. Next year, I might gather as much as I can if I can learn how to store the plain sap safely, or we might just drink all that I can gather each day. It’s exciting to be able to harvest a free energy drink out of a tree that’s just been standing there, hanging out on your property that you never gave much thought to.

In anticipation of hunting season, we set out our game cams, and although we didn’t capture any large bears, we were excited to see that we caught a pic of a wolverine!

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Wolverine pics caught on our game camera

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Spring in Alaska just started, and we are already off to an exciting start with our encounter with three bears, two earthquakes, and adventures with our new neighbors. Nate just got his license and tag to be able to hunt a black bear, so stay tuned. I have a feeling our next blog will be a gruesome tale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to Live Without

It’s been almost a year since coming to live this remote life in the beautiful mountains of Alaska. As I reflect on all of the things I have learned over the past year, one of the most poignant things has been learning to do without things that I used to think were so essential.  We brought a two year’s supply of provisions with us, and as we begin to run out of things (sooner than expected), we question whether that item needs to be replaced, or whether it is something that we can now learn to live without. It has been an interesting challenge to both Nate and I in different ways.  I have been surprised how most things are quite easy to do without, with just a little push to challenge your way of thinking and living.

When the nearest store is not on your way home, or just around the corner, you begin to question whether or not it is something you really need. In the waiting time between running out of something and the possibility of acquiring another one, you have already learned to live without it. In many cases, I discovered that I never really needed it to begin with and will never buy it again. This is especially true of paper towels.  I probably used 2-3 rolls of paper towels each week before we moved here. During our first year, we rationed our usage and initially were able to go a month or longer with one roll. When we ran out, we just got used to living without them, and now I am sure that I could have a nice fat retirement nest egg if I hadn’t bought paper towels my whole adult life.  The only thing we determined requires a paper towel is dog throw up.  So, whenever we eat lunch at a restaurant in town, we always bring home a few extra napkins for this purpose.  We have also tried to limit our use of plastic bags. I now use storage containers for anything which I would have used plastic bags for in another life, and when I do use a plastic bag, I try to clean it out and re-use it as much as possible.

Before moving to Alaska, I was kind of a “clean eating” snob.  I turned my nose up to anything fried or processed, or full of sugar. I ate lots of fresh veggies and fruits, and preferred fish, and non-meat substitutes, like tofu,  beans, Quinoa, and the like. I tried to avoid anything containing animal proteins, except for Greek Yogurt.  Eating this way has proven to be very challenging in remote Alaska. For one, it is difficult to make separate meals for just two people. We used to eat out a lot which can accommodate different tastes.  While Nate has grown to like my veggie burgers and no-meat chili, he loves meat and potatoes.  I have learned to compromise somewhat. I justify that some of the things I now eat are okay because they are homemade, and therefore, healthier for me. This may not be true, but it makes me feel better.

When we first came to our cabin in the woods, our days were very long. We worked long hours trying to get settled in and prepare for winter.  We were so tired that meals became a welcomed treat and respite from our work. I made lots of comfort foods. We ate big breakfasts of homemade pancakes or waffles and eggs with homemade biscuits and gravy. Lunch was usually a grilled sandwich with homemade bread. Dinner was lots of meat and potatoes, and I think for the first few months, we ate cornbread with every dinner.  While I still cook everything homemade, we are now making better choices, especially during the winter when our work day is reduced significantly, and we aren’t burning through the calories as fast.

One of our biggest challenges with food this winter has been the fact that we ate most of the vegetables we grew in the summer right away.  We managed to freeze and can a lot of zucchini, cabbage, and berries, which we used up very quickly, and that left us with little or no fruits and veggies for the winter. We did have lots of store-bought canned versions in our provision supply, but canned vegetables lose their appeal rather quickly. We both started to miss fresh fruits and veggies. In the winter evenings, we regularly watch a movie, and we would oooh and ahhhh about any fresh food that we could see in any of the movie scenes. It was really funny.  I never realized how nearly every movie has a scene with a fresh fruit bowl in it.  Early into the winter, our stock of canned fruit started to diminish quickly. It seems that the fewer cans we had, the more Nate and I craved them. To make matters more interesting, the 2 twenty-year old relatives who stayed with us in December and January also were craving the canned fruits. So, we had to ration them in order to make them last. It is interesting to learn what becomes valuable out here in the middle of nowhere. When the young guests were with us, we regularly played dominoes or a marble game called Wahoo in the evenings, and we liked having a prize for the winner (It helped to cure the boredom of l-o-n-g winter evenings). Each player would offer something for the winners “pot”.  Usually, the item was a chore or a favor, written on a piece of paper. Since Nate was the “keeper” of the canned foods, he would often offer a can of fruit. It was hilarious to see everyone get so competitive for the prize pot that included a can of peaches or pineapple.

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Playing scrabble

With our quest to eat anything fresh, we tried our hand at ice fishing this winter.

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Ice auger for drilling a hole in the ice for fishing.

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Fishing in the one open spot on the lake that never freezes.

 

As a result of doing without fresh food during the winter, we are excitedly dreaming about this year’s garden.  We are planning a big one, with lots of opportunities for storing fresh stuff away for next winter. We pulled out our collection of seeds and organized them, planted our first seedlings indoors, and have now begun transplanting the young plants outdoors.

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Getting the garden ready

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Warming up the soil

We are looking forward to a summer filled with fresh vegetables and lots of wild berries. We do, on occasion, buy apples and bananas from the grocer in town. When I have one, it’s a real treat. Before I moved here, I had an apple and a banana every day.  That’s not possible now.

In addition to making changes in our diet, we have learned to appreciate what we have and use our resources sparingly. Even though we have an endless supply of water flowing naturally down our mountain, it’s a lot of work hauling it around, and so we use our indoor water very wisely.   When we have guests, I sometimes cringe when they turn on the water at the sink. We have a 3 gallon container there, which takes some work to fill. It’s interesting when someone comes to visit, especially if they come from a house with running water. Guests will sometimes turn our sink container water on and let it run out completely,  oblivious to the fact that all of the water is just running down the drain.

A big chore at our cabin is laundry. Running the washing machine requires using the gasoline-powered generator, as well as lugging up 20 gallons of water and loading it into the washing machine. So, we try to wear our clothes as many times as possible before washing. Nate will now hand me a pair of his dirty work pants, and proudly say, “I have worn these for 7 days!”  Before coming to live here, I never would have worn something more than once without washing it, but in reality most of our clothes can be worn multiple times before they actually get dirty or start to smell funny.

We are continuing to perfect the art of balancing our use of energy.  During the winter months, we rely on the generators for electricity because we only have 4-6 hours of daylight, and no direct sun. So, we run the generator in the evening for a few hours, and cram all of our energy usage into that short time period. In the winter, our cabin is buzzing in the early evening as we scurry about to do laundry, vacuum, watch a movie, and operate my hair dryer in the few hours we have the generators on. But, as our days are now getting longer and our solar panels are receiving many hours of direct sunlight, our energy usage times change. I am now doing laundry and charging anything electronic during the day at the times of greatest sunlight. This method eliminates our need for generators at all during the evening hours.

There are many things that we have learned during our first year in Alaska, and I am most proud of the ways we have learned to do without some things, and to be wiser about our energy usage. It feels good to be aware of how we use all of the resources at our disposal.  We have also learned not to take anything for granted. In many ways, these lessons all add up to learning how to live a simpler life, which is the primary reason we came to live here in the first place.

 

 

Mishaps & Misfortune

Becoming complacent can be hazardous out here.  The weather and the terrain change regularly, so it can be dangerous to assume that however you traveled the day before would work for today. “Traveling” refers to everything from getting from our cabin to a friend’s house on the lake, going to town, or even walking to the outhouse.  In fact, some of the most dangerous terrain I have encountered has been on the walk from our cabin door to the outhouse. From waist deep snow to large slabs of slippery ice, traversing our property on foot in the winter can be quite treacherous. And, like I said, you never know what you are going to encounter, so you had better be ready for anything.  Nate and I have both taken tough falls on the ice, but luckily we haven’t had any broken bones yet, just lots of bruises!

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Two feet of snow and it’s still snowing!

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One of the walkways to the outhouse

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The outhouse is just over this mound of snow (note the patch of slippery ice on the left)

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Deep snow covering our guest cabin.

Traveling on the frozen lake in the snow has required us to both learn how to ride snow mobiles. We have become somewhat proficient in snow machining. We have mastered riding in the snow, and hooking up a sled to pull cargo behind the snow machine. We’ve learned how to get “unstuck” when the machine plunges into deep snow. And, we’ve learned how to let off the gas in wet water snow so as not to snap the belt.

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My only complaint about the snow mobiles is that they are very tough to start. The pull start mechanism is a little like a lawn mower starter, but one hundred times harder. I can barely pull it, and if you can start one, you will probably have to put one leg up on the foot rest, and throw your entire body back into the pull. Nate had a sore shoulder when he first started them, but now he has mastered it. I tried and tried, but the only time I was able to start my machine without Nate was when my daughter and I pulled the start tether together.  Eventually, I gave up trying to start it by myself. I just don’t have the upper body strength.  Having Nate start my machine isn’t that much of an inconvenience since most of the time when we are riding the machines we are together, however, my reliance on this would prove to be somewhat catastrophic.  We had taken our snow machines to a friend’s house, and when we got ready to leave, Nate started his machine and moved it down the hill onto the frozen lake. He started my machine and moved it to the top of the snowy hill, facing down to the lake. Because it was on an incline, he put the emergency/parking brake on. When I mounted the machine, I simply pushed the throttle and enjoyed the rush down the hill in the snow. I didn’t think about the brake being on because when I parked it, I didn’t put the brake on. We started heading home. It was cold and getting dark, so we both rode fast. About 500 yards from our friend’s cabin, I looked down and I could see flames coming from the engine by my left foot. I squeezed the brake to stop, but there was no response. I waited for the snow machine to slow down on its own, all the time looking down to make sure my foot didn’t catch on fire. Just as the machine started to slow, Nate pulled up alongside of me and yelled for me to jump off. When it was safe, I jumped.

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Note: This is not a pic of our snow machines, just a stock image to add to the drama of our story!

Luckily, I wasn’t hurt, but the brakes on the machine were fried. Luckily, Nate knows how to cut melted-shut brakes out of the system, and we were back up and running in no time. (Note: This machine is now for sale!)

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Nate fixing the brakes that got fried

 

When the snow is melted and the surface of the frozen lake is a sheet of ice, we usually take the four-wheeler if we want to traverse long distances. On one particular night, we had arranged to bring dinner to some friends. Nate made a cornbread-stuffed pork tenderloin, and I made roasted potatoes. I secured these to the back of the four-wheeler, and we headed out for the big lake to our friends’ cabin. As we neared the narrow section of the lake where the little lake and the big lake converge, Nate told me that the ice we were riding on top of looked very sketchy. Three seconds later, the ice beneath us broke and we both plunged into the icy lake. When my head came up out of the water, I grasped at the ice to get out, but the ice was fragile and every attempt to climb out just broke more ice around me. Nate had found a thick section of ice and was up and out of the water in a jiffy. I struggled through a few attempts, and then finally found a section of ice that was strong enough for me to carefully pull myself out.  We had traveled approximately a mile from our cabin, so we walked briskly back home to change into dry clothes and warm up. Once we changed, we went back to where we had sunk the four-wheeler to assess the situation. It was evening and the sky was growing dark. We noticed that the depth of the lake where we broke through was reasonably shallow, maybe 12 feet deep. The four-wheeler was upside down, but the tires made it buoyant and it was floating. (Dinner was no longer attached to the machine, so we assumed it was forever lost in the bottom of the lake.)

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Our 4-wheeler upside down in the lake

We solicited the help of a neighbor friend who is new to the lake, and we tried lassoing the four-wheeler to try and pull it out by hand. Working this close to sketchy ice was hazardous, and all three of us broke through and fell into the cold water at different times. As nightfall closed in on us and impaired our vision, we decided to tie the other end of the lassoed four-wheeler to a tree and retire for the evening and reassess the situation first thing in the morning. The next day, Nate and our neighbor friend cut a path in the ice with their chain saws and dragged the four-wheeler through the water to a very shallow area. Nate jumped in the frigid waters, flipped the four-wheeler right-side up. This way, we were able to pull it onto the hard surface of the ice by pulling it with a rope tied to the snow machine. We were then able to tow the four-wheeler back to our cabin with the snow machine.

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Pulling the 4-Wheeler out after it cracked through the frozen ice.

 

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Nate took the four-wheeler apart, cleaned and dried out each part, replaced the oil and the gas, and remarkably, it started right up.  We thought it was pretty remarkable, but a good testament to the quality of a honda machine!

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Nate fixing the 4-wheeler

 

Before we sunk the 4-wheeler into the lake, we got it stuck in the snow!

 

With all of our machine challenges, I vowed to get mush dogs for traveling next year!

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Our water comes from a small waterfall that runs down our mountain. We have a dam near the house and a hose that brings the water (via gravity) close to our cabin. It’s constantly flowing, even in the winter. However, some debris got caught in our dam strain, and we didn’t notice it for a little while. As a result, the water trickling through our hose froze solid. I was concerned that we were going to have to haul water all the way from our dam, but Nate came up with a quick fix for our problem. He disconnected the 300 yards of hose, rolled it up, and brought it inside the house so that the ice could thaw. The next morning, the hoses were thawed. We reconnected them outside and, “Voila!”, we were back in business with our water.

 

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As the winter turns into Spring on Motes Mountain, we have entered the time called, “Breakup”, when our lake is not stable for travel. The ice is too weak to support a snow mobile or four-wheeler (or even a person on foot), and there is too much solid ice to be able to have a boat (or even a canoe) in the lake. And, so we are in a holding pattern, waiting and watching. The locals tell us that “breakup” is different every year. Some years the ice is broken up by mid-April, other years, not until late May. And, the breakup can happen over a 7-10 day period, or it can take 6 weeks. While we are “stuck”, we plan to prepare our garden, and do work around our home and property. We have moved beyond the short winter days and now we have lots of beautiful sun, beginning at 5:30 am, and lasting until 8:30 pm. So, while we are stuck at home, we are busy working, enjoying the chance to be working outside on these beautiful days which will be characteristic of our entire summer for the next 4-5 months. The air is full of butterflies and bees. The squirrels and woodpeckers have returned to the trees. All manner of birds can be heard and seen. Greenery is peeking up from under the newly uncovered earth. We are carefully and cautiously aware that moose and bear will be on the move, searching for food. We are happy to say goodbye to the mishaps and misfortunes of winter, and we are anxiously awaiting all of the miracles that spring will bring.