judy-c-1A woman of many skills, Judy Cooper has lead an interesting and active life.  She was born in 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin.  When 18 she entered Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and received a B.A. from there, with a major in biology and a minor in art.  The summer she graduated she went to the Michigan State University Biology Station at Gull Lake, where she took biology courses.  She attended the University of Colorado in Boulder for 2 years, where she studied botany, zoology, chemistry, and geology.

In January, 1964, she took Peace Corps training and went to Bolivia for 2 years, where she worked with the Aymara Indians at 12,000 feet above sea level on the Altiplano.  Most of the indigenous people of the Andes were conquered by the Incas.  The Aymaras, however, joined the Incas, thereby retaining their own language and culture.  Judy was involved with a community development and preventative public health program, dealing with such diseases as tuberculosis.

After her return from Bolivia, she took a job for 2 years in North Carolina with a War on Poverty Community Action program.  While she lived there she had a brain hemorrhage and was taken by ambulance to Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  She was fortunate to have one of the best neurosurgeons in the country as her doctor.  When she recovered, she returned to her job and stayed until funding was cut.  Then she returned to Wisconsin and worked in a store until she had enough money to go to Alaska.

In 1968, Judy got her first Alaskan job in Hoonah, where she directed the Parent-Child Center.  This facility took in children from judy-card4birth to age 3.  Judy worked with the parents and the children.  After 2 1/2 years, she moved to Juneau, where she worked for Parks and Recreation in an after-school program for street kids.  Judy took them on camping trips and hikes, and they learned about appropriate behavior and safety in the mountains.

In 1972, Judy joined Local 941, Laborers International Union of North America, and went to Anchorage to learn how to do heavy construction.  As many workers had left to work on the pipeline, local jobs were available. She did jobs that were unusual for a woman.

Finally, Judy got a job on the pipeline itself.  She first worked with an insulation crew, claiming she is the only person who has ever crossed the Yukon River twice on her back.  She worked on the underside of the pipe, squirting sealant into seams.

Judy’s pipeline jobs were in Prudhoe Bay and North Pole.  On several jobs, she spent hours as a flagger, by herself in the middle of nowhere.  She played soccer with rocks to stay awake.  She also learned how to talk to the judy-card6ravens.  She and the raven would have contests to see who could make the funniest noises.

At North Pole, Alaska, Judy worked at the refinery as the only woman on a crew of 6, spending 8 to 10 hours a day unloading gravel from a dump truck into a wheelbarrow, then shoveling it into dish-shaped retainers around the oil storage tanks.  One man on the team remarked, “I never thought a woman could work so hard.”

The pipeline was finished in 1977.  Judy went on a cross-country ski trip, following Cliff Lobaugh, veterinarian for Juneau and the Yukon. They skied from a cabin on Atlin Lake to the Taku arm of Tagish Lake and back. judy-card5 Cliff, a big man, moved fast on his skis, and Judy couldn’t keep up, partly because she kept stopping to take pictures.  On such skiing trips, she always took a dog with her.  Finally, she hitched herself to the dog, and kept up easily.  On Tagish Lake, Cliff introduced her to a woman with a dog team, giving Judy a chance to see what mushing was like.  As the mushers like to say, “She caught the bug, and she was hooked.”

She bought a cabin in Tagish, Yukon Territory, spending winter months there and running sled dogs.  She started with 3 or 4 dogs, and went from being pulled by a dog while on skis (called “skijoring,” from a Norwegian word) to mushing.

Judy decided she would move to Fairbanks, so she could have a garden.  She settled in Two Rivers, close to Fairbanks, and known as the mushing capitol of the world.  While in Two Rivers, her dogs multiplied, until at one time she had 52 animals.  (As the number of dogs increased, it was harder to keep track of dogs in heat, so a couple of accidental litters pushed the total higher.)  She kept and trained all of them.  As the mushing trails started from her yard, she would take dogs on runs most days from the house, starting training in winter.  By early spring, they would have enough stamina to go on a long trip.  She would use a different team every day, 8 dogs to a team.  Thus they all got exercise.

Judy is fascinated with animal behavior.  She says, “to ask a dog to do something, you have to figure out how to motivate him.”  She loves dogs and loves raising puppies, and tries to train them all so they perform to the best of their abilities.  She worked up to running judy-card2them 10 to 18 miles a day.  Racing mushers would ask her, “How many miles do you have on your dogs so far?”  She didn’t keep track, because she had no means to measure distances.  She just kept working them until they reached their distance goal.

In March and April she took trips with a friend to the White Mountains, a BLM recreational area with cabins spaced a few miles apart.  They would rent different cabins so they could run the dogs between them.  Sometimes getting to places could be difficult because of the weather.  Creeks would be overflowing.  The trail was not flat, but slanted, and the sled slid off it sideways.  To counteract this slide, the musher had to stand on the uphill runner of the sled and lean uphill, much like on a sailboat.judy-card1

One winter, Judy and a mushing friend from Haines went on a trip to a small fishing resort on Tagish Lake.  The Haines friend brought her team and a basket sled, so Judy decided to use hers as well, instead of the toboggan sled, a decision she later regretted.  The toboggan sled has a large piece of plastic on the bottom, which allows it to ride on top of the snow.  The basket sled has narrow runners that dig into the snow.

The pair left from the town of Atlin at about 10:00 a.m.  They crossed Atlin Lake and then crossed the isthmus onto the Taku arm of Tagish Lake.  Everything looked fine when they started the trip, and Judy felt confident they’d get there with no problem.  She knew the route very well, since she had traveled it many times.

When they made it across the isthmus, the trail suddenly disappeared.  The wind had blown the snow into deep drifts, and no one had been over the trail since the storm.  Though weather conditions remained okay, the lead dogs struggled to break trail through the drifts.  After floundering in the snow for a long time, they became very tired.  The basket sleds didn’t help.  They were harder for the dogs to pull in the deep snow.  Judy would walk ahead for a distance to mark the trail, then urge the dogs forward.  They changed lead dogs, to give the original leaders a break.

Afternoon turned into a winter evening.  They couldn’t camp, as they had no cooking pots and no water for the dogs.  They couldn’t start a fire, as they had nothing resembling dry wood.  After some hours of travel, they realized they could not go back, as they had progressed too far, but had to continue forward.  They could not change routes and go across Tagish Lake, as they could easily get lost in the dark and miss their friend’s place completely.  Being on the lake ice at night was very unsafe, as there were soft spots in the ice that they couldn’t see, and they could break through and plunge to the bottom.  Unfortunately, the left shore of the lake where their trail ran had received the most drifting snow, and they had no choice but to go through it.  By now it was very dark and they could just see the outlines of the large trees close by…these trees were all they had to steer by.  In the distance they spotted the light from the friend’s place, but it was still a long way off.  Stress and weariness settled in.  Every so often, Judy’s companion would ask, “Are we getting closer?”

Finally, they parked the sleds.  Judy left her friend with the dogs and sleds and walked about one-third mile to the house on her snowshoes.  Her friend there had been worried, because she knew they were coming.  When Judy finally arrived, she was so dehydrated that she drank a quart of water.  She walked back, judy-card3taking water to the dogs and to her friend. After all, their very lives were dependent on the dogs’ ability to take them to safety, so she took care of them first. They hitched up, then followed Judy’s snowshoe tracks to the cabin, arriving at 4:00 in the morning.  Judy says that the simple route that she’d used so often turned into the trip from hell.  Instead of four to five hours of travel time, it took them fifteen.  They never would have made it if she weren’t so stubborn.

Her Fairbanks garden was wonderful.  She grew such vegetables as zucchini, lettuce, beets, carrots, chard, and green beans.  She tried to grow plants that the moose wouldn’t eat.  She had an added moose deterrent:  The dog kennels were spread out in 2 rows in a big circle with an alley down the middle.  The garden was planted inside the circle.  An 8-foot fence surrounded the whole area.  If the moose wanted to get to those plants,, it would have to jump the fence and go through the double row of dogs.

In Fairbanks, Judy started a B & B called Earthtone Huskies, renting mostly to summer guests.  The cabins had no running water, so she had to appeal to hardy folks who didn’t mind a somewhat primitive lifestyle.  Most guests were Europeans.  She met many interesting people.  Her guests’ fees helped pay for dog food.  Judy would take guests out for 30 to 45-minute rides with the team, which they all claimed was the highlight  of their trip.

Judy’s artwork is a reflection of the outdoor area where she lived.  While in junior high, j-block2she learned how to make linoleum block prints, and while in Hoonah, she began making Christmas cards.  Soon a business was born.  Now she makes one or two designs a year.  As her line of cards grew, she joined the Artist’s Coop in Juneau and did art shows in the fall and winter.

Here are instructions from Judy on how to make linoleum block prints:  First, you have to draw the picture.  Put it on tracing paper and reverse the image so when you print it, so it j-block1comes out right-side up.  Put the design on the block with carbon paper.  Use the kind that is found in triple-copy documents, as that carbon design cannot be rubbed off with your fingers.

Once the design is on the block, start carving.  Be aware that what is white on your final picture is the area that you have carved away; color stays on the raised portions.  Roll ink on the block and place paper on it to make a judy-card6black and white copy.  Rub the paper with a tablespoon until all the ink is on the paper.  When inking, lift up one side of the paper at a time to see if it is inked properly; if not, touch it up with the roller.  Make prints until you get a really good copy.  If color is needed, put it on that final copy with a magic marker.  Take it to a commercial printer.  Judy gets 500 to 1,000 cards made from her copy.

Judy ran dogs in the Yukon and in Fairbanks for 25-30 years.  Besides loving the dogs, she likes to be outdoors.  She says mushing is good exercise in winter, and the country looks totally different than in the summer.  Her mushing career evolved from skiing to skijoring, and finally, to mushing.  Often she would go skijoring when in Juneau.  The dog team picture in this article was taken outside Juneau at Spaulding Meadows, a 3-mile hike up to a great place for skijoring.judy-skijoring

After 15 years in Fairbanks, Judy moved to Gustavus.  Her hands were suffering from the cold winters, and she needed to be someplace warmer.  She thought Gustavus was a good choice because she also needed a place with flat terrain.  A knee injury from an auto accident made climbing hills difficult.

Though now she only has 12 dogs, Judy still runs them.  Their “trail” is Rink Creek Road.  The team pulls a dog cart or her car, which is a Geo Tracker.  She uses 6 dogs for the car, though 5 will pull it.

Here is a picture of Osa,  one of Judy’s lead dogs.  She also gets to be a housedog.  Osa is an AKC Siberian husky, daughter of Ruby,judy-osa-2another AKC husky, who was killed by wolves in Gustavus.  Judy bought two male AKC Siberians, Kumo and Barack.  One of Kumo’s pups is in Colorado, where he lives with a boy with some serious health challenges.  The dog has helped the boy a great deal, and his health has improved.

Juneau people can meet Judy in person and buy some of her wonderful cards at the Juneau Public Market, held in Centennial Hall the 3 days after Thanksgiving.  Judy’s booth is in the same place every year in the Egan Room.  Be sure to stop by and say hello and make your card selection.


stephanieThis story comes from guest blogger, Stephanie Shor. It is a report on the dedication ceremony of the new Tlingit tribal house in Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Park.  Stephanie is the editor of our sweet local paper, “Strawberry Point Pioneer.”  Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing the story of this historical event with us!

“We heard our ancestors singing as we came into the bay.  They’ve waited a long time for us.  It’s hard to hold back the tears of joy.”

The shores of Glacier Bay were humming with people, young and old, native and non-native, as three traditionalcanoes2 Tlingit canoes slowly emerged through the morning mist of Bartlett Cove. Hoonah Tlingit children, grandchildren of the tribe in their ancestors’ regalia, waited with wide eyes to receive them in a long-awaited return to their homeland.

The first day of the week-long tribal house dedication event included a color guard for Hoonah veterans, a naming ceremony for the tribal house, a spirit song and a collective breath of life into the structure.

As the canoes, carved over long months from 400-year-old trees, drew closer to the sight of the new tribal house standing on ancient Tlingit land, elders and their grandchildren began to sing.  Hoonah’s youth met the
tribded2rowers and were handed the individually carved oars of their elders as the crowd lifted the canoes to carry as a whole onto land.

Huna Tlingit history began in this land of lower Glacier Bay, where there were at least 3 ancient tribal houses, like the modern-day version now in Bartlett Cove. About 300 years ago, they were forced to flee their homeland as glaciers advanced and overran their settlements, according to park service documentation. The retreating Tlingit clans eventually settled in modern-day Hoonah.

Tlingit elder, Ken Grant, watched from the new tribal house as the people sang and danced through the crowds and up the hill of their ancient birthplace.  Many had tears streaming down their faces.  The children were solemn with understanding.

“What we ever do is for our children and our grandchildren,” he said.  “They can say, ‘I was there and I am Tlingit from Hoonah.’”tribalhouse86

Grant stressed the importance of the Xunaa Shuka Hit, or “Huna Ancestor’s House,” in incorporating “the ancestors before you and the children ahead of you” to keep their traditions alive.   Young adults and elders were ceremoniously dressed in their regalia by members of an opposite clan to symbolize partnership.  The new tribal house in Bartlett Cove represents four different clans.

One of the many purposes of the tribal house, which took nearly 20 years of collaboration between the National Park Service and Tlingit people to complete, is to foster a sense of healing between communities and within tribded3individuals.  In fact, as master carver, Wayne Price, and others crafted the canoes in Hoonah, youngsters collected the wood chips from the ground and community members wrote names of loved ones suffering from personal struggles such as addiction and depression, to burn in symbolic release.

The process of burning wood chips was incorporated into the soaking and steaming of the canoes, which the entire Hoonah community helped to accomplish.  Tlingit master weaver, Darlene See, visited Gustavus often to provide updates on the massive project underway. She said Hoonah residents rose at 6 am for every  soaking and steaming to carry the unfinished canoes down to the water.

Upon completion, canoers paddled tirelessly from Hoonah to reach Glacier Bay in time to see their tribal house.  At the opening ceremony, elders thanked not only the trees for their contribution, which they likened to their revered women, who constantly bring life, but also their neighbors in Gustavus and all across Southeast, tribded1both native and non-native.  This was a first in history for the National Park Service and a native group to collaborate on such a project, and NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis bestowed a partnership award on the accomplishment.

Southeast residents joined the park service and their Tlingit neighbors at the ceremony, and all helped to breathe life into the tribal house, meant to not only bring tribded4the Tlingit people back to their homeland, but to bring all people together, Grant said.

“This house to us is a keystone that holds up the bridge between the National Park Service and the Huna Tlingit,” he told the crowd.  “I wish the rest of the world could be like that.  Instead of fighting with each other, let’s talk.”


Raven walked along the sandy beach, alone.  He wanted someone to talk to.  You see, in those days, animals and people understood each others’ languages.  So, when Raven heard voices crying, “Let us out!  Let us out!” he knew the voices of people and he searched for the source of the sound.

He came upon a giant clam shell, and from inside came the voices.  Raven pried the clam shell open with his strong beak and let the people out.  Now he would have someone to talk to!

“Thank you, Raven,” said a small spokesperson.  “But how shall we survive?  We are very cold.”

I will bring you a sun,” said Raven.  “He will warm you.”

Raven flew to the part of the sky where the suns lived.  While they slept, he grabbed a small sun in his beak and flew away.  But the baby sun was hot, so Raven nestled it in a bank of clouds and flew to the North Pole.  There, he dipped his talons repeatedly into the cold water until they were thickly covered with ice Thus he was able to carry the little sun home in his talons.

When he reached the People, the ice on his talons melted and a great shower drenched them.  Soon, however, the People dried in the warmth of their new little sun.

So the People talked to Raven and grew stronger, and bigger, and as they grew, so did the sun, so that it could take care of their needs.  But Raven did not change.  Finally, the People became as we are today. Raven still talks to us; however, now that we have grown up, we have forgotten his language.

This sterling silver “Emerging Mankind” bracelet is designed by Barry Herem.  Mr. Herem, a best-selling artist, has worked in the emer-mankind6Haida style for many years.  The etching represents the clamshell creation myth when Raven helped the first people emerge from the clamshell.

This bracelet is 6 1/4 inches long and the gap is 1 inch.  At the ends the silver is rolled in, making this bracelet very comfortable to wear.  The bracelet is 7/8 inch wide at its widest
emer-mankind4part, tapering to 1/4 inch at the ends. It is machine made, but with accurate detail; thus it bears the artist’s signature. Inside, it is signed “Barry Herem,” then the MAG stamp (Metal Arts Group) and the word, “sterling.”  Retail price of this bracelet is $206.00.  It is available for sale in my Ebay store.  Just click on the Ebay link to go there.

The sterling silver “Raven Steals the Sun” bracelet is a design by Danny M. Dennis.  Mr.
ravensun2Dennis is a native Gitksan of the Tsimshian tribe, from the village of Kiwanga.  He is self-taught.  He has been producing Northwest Coast art since 1978.  He uses a variety of materials, including metal, ivory and silkscreen prints in the Tlingit style.

This bracelet is 6 3/4 inches long, with a gap that measures 1 5/8 inches.  The bracelet is 1 1/8 inches wide.  It is machine made, with great attention to detail and excellent quality design reproduction.  Inscription inside includes the artist’s signature, D. ravensun1Dennis; the MAG (Metal Arts Group) stamp, and the word “sterling.”  Retail price of this bracelet is $338.00. It is available for purchase in my eBay store.


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.