carole-baker1Carole Baker, Gustavus artist, has been perfecting her talent for 40 years.  Carole, a quiet and unassuming woman, has extended her artistic reputation across Alaska and to places Outside as well.

Carole spent her early years in Florida.  She liked to draw from childhood.  She got some drawing instruction in grade school, but art classes were not offered after 6th grade.  She went to college at Florida State University, where she majored in medical technology.  She interned in lab work in Atlanta, Georgia.

She worked as a med tech for 8 years, coming to Alaska in 1969 to work for Public Health Service in Anchorage.  As she was an itinerant worker, she traveled around the state to the communities that needed her services.  One such job commute took her to Sitka, where she met her husband, Van.  A fisherman, he lived on one-acre Maude Island (part of the large_thumb_779f077c-7ebf-4dc8-bf52-adf487d597caGilmore Island group), which he owned.  Carole quit her job and stayed, fishing with Van at first.  There, she again started drawing.  Van bought her some dime store watercolors, and she began painting on typing paper.  Her son, Lee, was born in 1972 while they lived on the island.

In 1973, Carole accompanied Van on a fishing trip to Icy Strait.  Van’s uncle had a summer place in Gustavus, and the couple stopped in for a visit.  The
two liked the place so much that the next day they took all the money they had made that week and bought some property.

large_thumb_2a9b591a-3137-4ef2-ada4-eeca0508b8c7In 1974, they moved to Gustavus, staying at what is now Aimee’s Guest House while building their home. At the time the guest house was not well-insulated, and Carole remembers that it was so cold that winter that their homemade beer froze inside, on the floor of the cabin.

In the spring of 1975, they moved into their house, which is the same one they live in now.  Van still fished in summer.  Carole accompanied him less and less.  She got seasick easily and preferred to stay home with her son and work on her garden. She has had a vegetable garden every year since moving to Gustavus.  At one time the garden was huge, but as the years go by and the gardener grows older, it has gotten smaller.  Yet, she can’t imagine not having a garden.  She also admits to having her own personal war on slugs.  She drops them in ammonia water.  She believes she may hold the record for the number of Gustavus slugs annihilated in one year.  (Way to go, Carole!)

Carole grows the usual assortment of plants that do well in our climate.  These include cabbage, broccoli, kale, spinach, arugula, large_thumb_af3e3c9c-87a7-4b99-94c6-80589ca27597parsley, carrots and potatoes.  She loves Icelandic poppies, a perennial, so she nurtures them every year.  They are frequent subjects for paintings.

Though her garden is fenced, moose occasionally jump the fence or knock it down to get to the garden.  For the most part, these visits have only happened infrequently.  Once when Carole and Van were about to go somewhere, they saw a moose and calf looking over the garden.  They chased the pair away and then left.  When they returned, they discovered that the moose had also returned, gotten into the garden, and had a great meal.  They took a moose-sized bite out of the middle of each of their lovely cabbage heads and stripped the broccoli and kale.

Bears have regularly visited the strawberry patch out in front of their large lawn, but seldom come closer to the house, except for the crab apple tree incident.  Carole and Van planted the tree when they first moved onto large_thumb_d0f23fbf-00e1-4ded-bf12-b1a4d5c3a58cthe property.  The little tree struggled, as the moose would strip off the limbs for a tasty snack.  The tree was gradually winning the battle against the creatures when the bear came to visit.  There were two high, healthy branches reaching ‘way above the rest of the tree.  The bear decided to climb the tree for the apples.  The Bakers saw him sitting in the top of the tree.  The bear, too heavy for the frail tree, broke the two remaining long branches.  At present, the tree appears to have weathered the attack, though it is a few feet shorter after the bear visit.

Having more time at home, Carole painted more.  She met Carol Janda, an artist whose husband worked at Glacier Bay National Park.  She took a class from Carol, who soon became her mentor.  Carol lent her art books, large_thumb_0a5eae13-0d1f-4d47-8db7-8c3993c0766b-2critiqued her work, and urged her to paint.  The two of them drew and painted together every day for awhile.  In the late 70s Carole had her first show, at Jack and Sally Lesh’s old floathouse in Gustavus.  Her paintings then were priced from $5.00 to a staggering $25.00.  During that time period, the state bought two of her pictures to place on permanent display on the ferry, “Taku.”

Perhaps some of Carole’s inspiration comes large_thumb_896b0684-b7a9-4188-acb7-90cefe7d1377from her many trips.  She loves to travel, and goes someplace new whenever she can, usually once a year.  From another Gustavus resident, Artemis BonaDea, she learned the skill of bookmaking.  For her travel adventures, she makes small bound journals, often using watercolor paper inside.  With these she can paint, draw, add photos, and write an ongoing dialog of her adventures.  These books contain some intriguing and large_thumb_17340bb1-16ec-415a-88e4-d0f32e3f6849lovely drawings of places she has visited.  It seems to me that these wonderful little journals are a better souvenir of her travels than anything else she could bring home.  Among her journals are books from Spain, France, England, Japan, Italy, Ireland, Thailand, Nepal, Canada, and various areas of the United States.

Besides selling occasionally at various venues in Juneau and other places in Southeast Alaska, Carole gained acceptance into many juried shows.  These include the All-Alaska Juried Art Show and the Northwest Watercolor Society Show, which travels around the northwestern United States.  In 1990, she won Best of Show at the Fairbanks Watercolor Exhibition.

In the 90s she became more serious about painting flowers.  She says if she’d started painting at a younger age, she would probably have become a botanical illustrator.  Herwildflowers1377131-3
Alaska wild flower poster, notebook, and card come from that era. During that period, she began selling cards through Taku Graphics in Juneau.  It was through Taku that I first discovered Carole’s art.  I used to sell her cards in my Kodiak shop, long before I’d even heard of Gustavus.

For several years Carole did just watercolors.  Then, a few years ago, she started painting with oils, and is still using this medium for some of her work.  She has done some intaglio printing and woodblock print making.  She loves to do still life drawings — she likes to see what she is painting from real life, not from photographs.  Currently she is working on large_thumb_ee492221-ea0d-4553-b899-1e81f6a63153paintings of present-day Gustavus, attempting to keep the details as accurate as possible, so she can capture the picture before time and history change it.

Carole’s advice to a beginner is to draw at least 15 minutes every day.  It is important to work on art continuously.  Practice is necessary.    Composition (how we arrange the elements on paper) is important.   Carole likes to do several thumbnail sizes first, assigning the correct values of light and dark to the drawing.

If you would like to see more of Carole’s work, visit her two blogs.  Addresses of these and  If you would like to buy a piece of Carole’s art, go to  Or, for you Juneau folks, a special treat:  Carole will share my booth this year at the Juneau Public Market, open for 3 days at Centennial Hall right after Thanksgiving.  Meet this incredible artist in person and pick out an original painting or two to take home with you.


In its early years, people knew the small town of Gustavus as “Strawberry Point” because of the abundance of the sweet, wild berries fragaria-vesca-855375_960_720growing here.  The town name was changed to Gustavus in 1925 by the new post office.  This new name came from Gustavus Point at the mouth of Glacier Bay.  However, locals continued to refer to the community as Strawberry Point into the 50s and beyond.

The wild strawberry, or beach strawberry, as it is often called, is a member of the rose family.  It is a perennial from the Fragaria genus.  The plant has thick, scaly roots.  It starts new plants by runners, just like cultivated strawberries.  The leaves of the beach strawberry look the same also.  In the spring, a flower with 3 white petals blooms on a long, slender stem.  The juicy fruit grows up to 1 inch long.

The leaves, stems, and berries are edible and contain lots of vitamin C as well as iron, wild-strawberry-556015__180potassium, sulphur, calcium and sodium.  Eat the berries raw or in jam, jelly, and other desserts.

Gustavus black bears really like strawberries.  If you have a favorite patch, you’d better pick it before the bears get to it, or there will be no berries.  This spring I had a profusion of wild strawberry plants growing along my driveway. Some were still blossoming and some had begun forming fruit.  I watched through my window as a black bear ambled out of the woods and began munching on those strawberry plants.  He’d take a bite out of the middle of each one, getting flowers, berries and stems in the process.  When he was finished, he had successfully harvested all the blooming plants from the road edge.

To make a nice strawberry tea, pick 2 large handfuls of fresh green leaves and stems, put them in 1 quart of water heated to boiling, and steep for 5 minutes.  Serve plain or with fresh lemon juice and sugar.  This tea is also good cold the next day.

Medicinally, these berries may be used to prevent vitamin C deficiency.  They are high in antioxidants and will help rid the system of harmful free radicals.

The Cooperative Extension Service of Alaska, in their publication, Wild Berry Recipes,  supplied directions for the making of the following berry conserve.

Wild Strawberry-Pineapple Conserve

2 cups wild strawberries
2 cups canned crushed pineapplewild-strawberry-1433093__180

2 cups sugar
1 cup pecans or walnuts

Mix strawberries, pineapple, and sugar and let stand 3 to 4 hours or overnight.  Simmer slowly to develop the juice, and then boil rapidly for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add nuts.  Spoon into hot, sterilized jars and seal with paraffin and lids.


1plant-lore“Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island” identifies the most common plants in the Kodiak Archipelago.  It includes edible and medicinal plants and recipes for preparing them to eat.  There is a special medicinal index cataloguing all the medical  conditions for which the plant has been used and a short description of the method of use.  As Native uses of the plants are emphasized, the book is somewhat of an ethnobotany.

There are 336 pages in this book.  It covers over 200 plants, organized by habitat.  Supplemental indexes include a plant family index, a glossary of flower and plant parts, and a flower color index, including a section of beautiful color pictures (photos by Evelyn Wiszinckas.)  There is a medicinal index, a section on berry varieties, hints on cooking wild edibles, and a 2plant-loresection on making dyes.  There is also a glossary and bibliography.

Plant descriptions, recipes, and anecdotes about foraging trips are included.  Two artists, Barbara Burch and Sandra Coen, drew the illustrations that accompany each plant.

You will notice that my “Backwoods Botany” category on this blog provides you with articles about wild plants.  Information presented there comes from my book, but also often contains additional content that is not included in the book.

This book sells in bookstores for $82.00.  Order from me for a special price of $67.00, which includes priority shipping.


(Note from Fran:  This article is the first one submitted to my blog by a guest author.  Kim Warren is from Gustavus, and is a member of our writer’s group.)

kim-warrenI have a friend whose name is Jim.  He has lived in Southeast Alaska for nearly 30 years.  He is a trapper, hunter, fisherman and bushman of the first order.  I’ve known him for about 20 years.  Normally Jim hunts alone, but from time to time he has agreed to take me along to share his natural world.  Now, I am no newcomer to the Alaskan bush or to hunting, but I’m not in Jim’s class.  He talks to the animals!  Not only does he talk to them, but they talk to him and he understands.  I was with him once when he talked to the moose.  Cows would cautiously approach us to get a look at this bull they heard.  When they saw us, they would stand and stare in confusion.

Jim and I went moose hunting awhile back.  The weather was lousy; temperature around 40 degrees and raining.  It was still dark that morning when we left his cabin and headed for the area he wanted to hunt.  I had been to the area before and had way-points in my GPS so I could find the particular spruce tree we were headed for.  Of course, Jim didn’t own a GPS or know how to use one.

We picked up the trail that would lead us to the area of the target tree.  A limb knocked my hat off. Jim patiently waited while I put my hat and headlamp back on.  He didn’t use a light.  After about a mile of stumbling along with branches slapping my face, we moved into an open swampy area spotted with small patches of spruce trees and willows.  The ground had a thick covering of moss and grass, with standing water.  Stealth was out of the question, so we made noises like a moose and trudged on for another mile to our tree.  Jim had led us straight to it.  I don’t know how he is able to navigate like he does.  He doesn’t even know how he does it.  If you ask him, he’ll tell you, “I just know where I want to go.”

By the time we reached the tree it was just light enough to see outlines.  While I was taking off my pack and fiddling with my gadgets, Jim scampered up the tree like a squirrel and began to call.  I could hear him moose-850391__180softly rattling and making moose sounds — AAUGGHHH!  AAUGGHH!  AUGH!  AUGH!  He even poured out some of his precious coffee, making a splashing sound like a moose taking a leak.  He was serious today!

Just as I reached for a limb to begin my climb, Jim says, “There’s a bull!”  “Where?” says I.  “Straight out in front,” says he.  Well, my front and his front were 90 degrees off, so confusion reigned for a couple of minutes.  Finally, I saw the faint outline of a bull at 75 yards.  “Shoot!” he whispers.  The bull looked like he was standing quartering away from me.  So I shot him in the middle of the ribs, expecting the 250 gr nosier partition from my .338WM to carry forward through the lungs and heart.  At my shot the bull turned broadside to me.  Jim whispered, “Shoot him through the shoulders!” I took a little more time looking at the bull through my scope and realized it had been quartering toward me, not away.  The next shot caught him in the shoulder and he took off.  Jim couldn’t stand it any longer. BANG!  He dropped the bull with a neck shot.

Jim climbed down the tree and we headed for the bull.  It was a nice, medium-sized animal.  We looked it over and I found my two bullet holes and Jim’s neck shot.  I complimented his shot in poor light at a running target.  All he said was, “I was aiming for his heart.”

Jim did most of the dressing.  I tried to help, but just got in the way.  I carried out the back straps and Jim packed out a hind quarter.  Back at my house, we rounded up family and friends to help with the rest of the moose.  With a festive air, several of us spent the rest of the day packing out all of the meat.  Over the next two days we all butchered it and packaged it.  I shared the meat with everyone there.  Anyone who kills a moose here shares in this manner.  That way no one goes without winter meat.

Jim is always ready to go hunting.  I’ll go deer hunting with him as soon as the weather breaks.  You know, he is still more comfortable talking with the animals than he is talking with people.  Nonetheless, I’m really glad I have a friend named Jim.


Roger & MaryRoger Williams met Mary in Indiana when he went to a restaurant to visit a friend.  Mary was working there as a waitress.  They were both drawn to the other, and soon they were a couple.

The two were married in 1972 and traveled to the East coast.  Seeing pictures on a calendar of big trees in British Columbia, they decided to move there.  However, since they could not work in Canada they ran out of money and moved to Ketchikan.  Here Roger worked in a fish plant.

Ketchikan was a wild town in those days.  The mills and fish processors operated around the clock.  The town flowed with money.  Oncespoons-spatch2-2 when the couple were walking down the street, they saw a man thrown bodily through a bar’s swinging doors.  He landed on the street right in front of them.

From 1973 until 1997, when the family finally moved to Gustavus, they lived a bit of a nomadic lifestyle.  They spent time in British Columbia, Juneau, and Game Creek on Chichagof Island, returning to Indiana for a few years now and then.  Roger made his first spoon at Game Creek, cutting a chunk off a 100-ounce bar of silver to do so.  New children graced the family regularly, and by the time they moved to Gustavus, there were 10 of them.

4 spoons

Their most remote residence was their home at Game Creek on Chichagof Island.  Roger saw a recent internet report that claimed the island had the highest density of bears anywhere in the world.  Bears were part of their way of life.  Once when Roger was cutting wood on the beach, he saw a very large bear approaching his cows, grazing nearby.  As he watched, two of the cows saw the bear and charged it, chasing it off.  Another time he watched a cow and a horse gang up on a bear and send it running.  In a third incident, he and Mary were out walking.  They could see the cattle grazing in a higher pasture.  When a bear came on the scene, the cows lined up and ran at the bear en masse, sending the large animal packing.

In 1997, the Williams bunch finally found a home in Gustavus.  The family had visited Gustavus several times before they moved. big-ladle
 Roger thought he could make a living making jewelry and doing repairs.  He set up shop at the Gustavus Dray and started making a few spoons.  Then they moved to their own small shop on Wilson Road in Gustavus, where Roger made jewelry and they sold fast food.  Said Mary, “Making food was a good way to get acquainted.”  Two of their daughters also worked in the little restaurant.

Mary says they home-schooled the children for a time in Gustavus.  They had cows, sheep, and a horse.  Roger and a friend invested in some Icelandic sheep, for the wool.  They milked the cows and sold the milk to Gustavus residents.

Mary recalls that the biggest problem they had with the children was keeping track of all of them.  It became important to count heads, to make sure no one was missing.  Once in Juneau, they were almost home from a church service and realized one son, Elijah, was not with them.  They drove back to the church and found him waiting at the door with a lady from the church who stayed to wait with him.

On a ferry trip, Roger saw a spoon for sale that was made of pewter.  The bowl almost looked like a coin, giving him the idea of doing a spoon with a coin in the bowl.  He thought shop-picthat spoons could be made from silver or copper and sold as souvenirs.

By 2002, Roger was making more spoons than jewelry.  He uses a lot of coins in his creations.  Popular are Irish coins or the Alaska state quarter featuring a bear design.  One of his sons built the small structure between their house and the road that would be used for a shop.

Roger now works in copper and German silver, making ladles, serving spoons, coffee measures, spatulas, teaspoons and tablespoons.  His daughter, Hannah, does  silver spoonsome of the designs stamped into the spoons, a process called “chasing.”

Roger’s spoons are well-traveled by now.  He remembers customers from Israel, England, Poland, the Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and most of the states.  He says he doesn’t think that he’s sold a spoon to anyone from Nebraska.

If you would like to purchase one of Roger’s lovely creations, you can do so on the internet site, “Etsy.”  Type in the following URL:, and you will go directly to his collection.

Roger and Mary are members of a faith called “Brethren.”  They do not proselytize; rather, they demonstrate their faith through example.  From observing these two people, I would guess that the Brethren are family-oriented, peace-loving people, kind to all and happy to lend a hand when needed.  They treat all people with respect and are soft-spoken, not argumentative.  They believe that love and caring are stronger forces than strife and anger.  This description might not fit all Brethren, but it fits Roger and Mary Williams.


According to the Huffington Post, last year a man in a realistic-looking bear costume, complete with head, ran through the area close to a weir on the Chilkoot River near Haines.  A crowd had gathered near the weir to watch a sow and two cubs who were feeding there.  They were startled when the man, dressed as a bear, began to jump up and down and then got within 5 to 10 feet of the cubs.  An Alaska Fish & Game technician moved the sow away for the man’s safety, and then tried to talk to the man, who refused to identify himself.  The man then drove off, never removing his costume.  The article said troopers were investigating and the man could face wildlife harassment charges.

Why was he bothering the bears in the first place?  No one knows.  Perhaps he felt they were getting more than their share of salmon.


This adorable bear is carved from mammoth ivory. Created by Zealandia Designs, he hangs from a silver bar which is engraved with a formline bear design. Turn him over and you will see loops for a chain so he can become a pendant, and a pin-back, if you prefer to wear him as a pin.DSCF2096[1] He measures 1 1/2 inches high and 3/4 inches at his widest point. The silver bar is 1 1/4 inches long. He sells for $396.00, with first-class insured shipping included.
You may order this bear directly from me by going to my “about me” page and either emailing or calling. Please do not enter your payment information in an email. Leave me a phone number and I can call to collect your payment information.