Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter 2016

Once again we have made it through the longest night and, officially,winter begins today.  But even in a mild year this does not match up with the weather in the Yukon, where it has already been cold and snowy for a long time.
Winter 2016

Because the change from water to ice is so dramatic I think of winter as beginning at freeze up, usually around the beginning of December.  For weeks before that the lake is shrouded in mist as the cooling water meets the much colder air, and the sun rarely breaks through.  Then, sometimes all in one night, sometimes in stages over a few days, the restless waters are stilled and all the activity of an event-filled year seems to come to a halt as the dawn reveals the lake silent and flat as far as the eye can see.
Winter Sunrise

Wishing you all a moment of quiet and peace as we begin the new season.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Hello Guitar People,

I have been looking for a new electric guitar, but couldn't find what I liked, aside from a pricey custom job.  So my project while I was in Whitehorse in February and March was to try to build one for myself. I started with a slab of mahogany and a neck nicely made to my specifications from Warmoth.  I designed and cut the body shape, then hollowed it out and added a top of Baltic birch plywood to make the lightest guitar ever.  All the woodworking was done at Yukonstruct, a wonderful community shop that has every tool you can think of and lots of friendly and helpful people.

The hardware came from all over:  a hi-fi Alumitone pickup, a modified Supro reproduction bridge from Paris and a 1960's Harmony tailpiece like the one on the first guitar I ever played.  Patrick from Hamilton and Son Guitar Works did the expert soldering of the electronic components.

There were countless ways this project could have gone south but everything came together.  She looks cool, plays beautifully and sounds awesome.  Annuit coeptis!

Homemade Guitar

Monday, December 21, 2015

Solstice 2015

Early autumn is a lovely time of year at Frances Lake:  the fall
colors are everywhere, wildlife is on the move and the mosquitoes are
gone.  The characteristic sound of the season is the purring bleat of
migrating cranes.  They pass over in dozens and hundreds, rarely
landing here but often pausing in flight at the end of the lake to
regroup and set their next heading.

Early Autumn
Caribou are also traveling then, to their winter ranges.  I watched
the shore obsessively for weeks in September and shot a fine bull, who
will be honored at mealtimes all winter.
Last year berries were scarce, but they were abundant this year, and
very welcome to all who enjoy them — birds, bears and people.  In an
hour I picked enough cranberries around the house to make 12 pints of
But this season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is fleeting.  By the
time autumn actually begins with the equinox most of the leaves are
already on the ground and we are moving into the drab transitional
time until the snow brightens the landscape again.

Winter also anticipates its season.  I think it begins when the lake
freezes over, which happened a couple of weeks ago:  until then the
open water moderates the temperature, but after that the deep cold can
begin.  My building project this year was  a woodshed —- it's good to
see the firewood split and stacked ready for any weather.
Eric at the Woodshed
Now, with the coldest days still ahead, here’s a wish for full
woodpiles, larders and freezers for everyone.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Early Breakup

After a couple of months in the big cities of Whitehorse, New York, Williamstown, Mass. and Vancouver, I got back to the lake in mid-April.  Although I was weighted down with onions and apples the trip in was good:  one day up along the shore on the ice of the West Arm to the wall tent; the second day through the forest and across the frozen ponds home.  All was well here except that my internet connection was not working.

On the Way
Now six weeks without YouTube is bad enough, but since the VHF radiotelephone tower was decommissioned last fall email and Skype are my only connections outside.  And on trips like these I always set a date:  if I am not heard from by a certain day, the search will begin.  I really did not want the Mounted Police out here in a helicopter looking for me, so my only option was another long hike, more than 25 miles in the other direction on the lake, to the Lodge.  Conditions were nearly ideal, but it was a long day.  Thank goodness the folks were there and I could get the message out that I was OK.

After that I enjoyed a very peaceful time until breakup, untroubled by any news from outside.  I had a few projects:  I cut firewood and restrung some snowshoes with nylon — I like the traditional frames, but babiche is no good in wet spring conditions; I worked on a new woodshed.  But mostly I spent the lengthening days observing the spring changes.  I watched the ducks, geese and swans who were already gathered in the open water where the river flows into the lake — paddling around, sitting quietly, or circling off when the eagle flapped over.  I waited for favorites like the first rattle of kingfishers, Spring Azure butterflies and camass lily shoots.  It was good to be here to welcome them all, though as usual there were more than enough mosquitoes.  Finally the first caribou, looking rather shabby, came plodding up the beach on the way to their summer ranges in the mountains — three cows, all heavily pregnant, one had already lost an antler.   These two bulls, with their growing antlers in the velvet, crossed the creek about a week later.  I photographed this earnest bear right from the porch — he reluctantly ambled away when I banged on a saucepan.

Stringing Snowshoes

Spring Bulls

Spring Bear
There was very little snow last winter and the beaches and trails were clear early.  Sped up by an unusually long stretch of hot sunny weather the ice mostly melted away in place and the waters began to rise quickly, coming up around ten feet in just a couple of weeks and hiding all the beaches.  Even before the lake was clear I saw an orange tint on the clouds signaling smoke from distant early forest fires, a real mark that summer had already begun, and on my first boat trip to the landing there was a fire burning in the Narrows about 25 miles away.   On my way back the the flames had come right down to the water’s edge and the lake was shrouded with heavy smoke for miles.

Fire in the Narrows

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring Thing

Wellesley Townsman 1972

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year

It's hard to believe that we are not very far from the beginning of winter -- it has already been cold and snowy here at the lake for a long time.  Still, I am reminded of the words of the poet:  "O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

Will and Joanna, who enlivened things for the last couple of months, snowshoed out before the Solstice, so all is quiet here.  The jaybirds still come to my whistle most days, but they are usually joined by I don't know how many shirttail relatives and the decorous raisin handout is now often a scrappy free-for-all.  When they don't show up I imagine them feasting at a wolf kill somewhere nearby.  The summer migrants are gone and the only new birds are ghostly white ptarmigan, blown down from the mountains, who scuttle in the snow under the willows on their big feathered feet and sail off when alarmed.

The nights are very long this time of year, but when it is clear all the stars that were hidden by the summer's midnight sun are bright, and the sky is filled with light.  So many stars to wish upon!

Sending you good wishes for the New Year,