Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Seldovia Sawmill

The Seldovia Clinic has a small collection of historical Seldovia photos on display. One of them is a picture of the old sawmill (the one from the 50's). Here is a picture of that picture. We also found out (from Susan Woodward's book, Seldovia) that the sawmill was repurchased for service as far back as 1932. At that time it was purchased by a school teacher whose wife was a nurse and by 1933, according to news clips from the time, it was back up and running. Other pictures of the sawmill in the 50's show that by then, it had fallen into disrepair and collapsed. Pictures from the turn of the century (1906) show some men milling logs on a beach in Seldovia. It was unclear whether or not that was the same location as our mystery mill down the beach, but it does lead us to believe that the sawmill in Seldovia had four distinct periods of use. First at the turn of the century for the herring fishermen and Russian fox farmers, then in the 1930's when the newspaper quoted large orders from all over the Kenai Peninsula- from locations such as Seward, Portlock, Port Graham, and Homer. The next era was the 50's in which it was used for a couple of years before being completely abandoned. An owner is listed on the back of the photograph in the clinic and we will update you with his name later. The next era, was when logs were milled in the 70's after the Native Association sold rights to have hundreds of acres logged. Grandpa worked on the logships then and will probably have even more stories about that time. Today, in the tradition of the early turn of the century settlers of Seldovia, there are a handful of private personal use mills in operation. While none of them produce the large orders that the Seldovia mill must have had in its heyday, they do service locals and provide a way for folks here to use local wood if needed. Most people, however, drive on up to Home Depot in Kenai or Anchorage for their large wood orders because of time and cost factors. Join us again later as we attempt a project from our deck to test the power of the outgoing tide. It's a full moon week and that means the tides are really high this week, so we want to see how powerful the tide is. Signing off for now, even as a large log goes floating up-slough on the incoming tide.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Indiana Zack and Samuel Jones


Well, we asked Grandpa about the mysterious finds in the slough. It turns out that back in the twenties (maybe earlier) there was a large sawmill not far down the slough from where we live. This saw mill was the largest in the area and served all of the south peninsula as Seldovia was the prime port of the area at the time. The thing that we thought was a vehicle, was actually a type of fly wheel engine that must have been used to run equipment in the mill. The mill stood vacant and unused and was left to fall apart. Then when people started to purchase pieces of the property and build homes along the slough (in the 50's or 60's) they pushed things that were left up against the sides of the banks and covered them with fill to protect against erosion and high tides.

The Anna M. and Her Black Stallion

Grandpa also told us that when he first came to Seldovia in the early sixties, he bought some land along the slough. He also bought an old broken down barge named the Anna M. to live in. He stuffed the holes in her bottom with some old mattresses and waited until the Fall high tides to float her up the slough so he could moor her there and live in her.

Many, many years later, a man showed up at his door asking questions about the Anna M. It turns out that the Anna M. was used to carry horses down to a cattle ranch in the Aleutian Islands before World War II. He was writing a story about one of her trips that didn't end so well. According to what Grandpa says, on one particular trip, after running into foul weather and being delayed, the captain ran out of feed for the horses and didn't have any more money to feed them. He ran the barge aground (it was a self motored landing barge) and let the horses go. This was somewhere across Cook Inlet where there are lots and lots of Grizzly Bears. When the barge company and owners came back to get the horses in the spring, only one was left, a black stallion, who had learned to fend off the grizzlies and somehow, against all odds survived the winter.

Grandpa said that when he sold the property, the new owners had the Anna M. covered with fill so they could build a home on the property. We took a walk on up the slough to see if we could find some signs of her. This is what we found, but we'll have to look more when the snow is melted.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Slough Mysteries

What is it?

This vehicle is buried underneath a retaining wall.
What type of vehicle was it?
A fly-wheel engine for the old sawmill.

How old is it?
We have reports of the mill being used back in the 20's or even as far back as the turn of the century. Susan Woodwards book, "Seldovia" details a news clipping about the mill being repurchased in 1932 and getting back into business by 1933 with several large orders. By 1950 it was in a state of disrepair and was torn down within the decade.

The more we walk along the slough, the more we find. The slough played an important part in the history of this town, but for years, as we understand, before there became a general awareness about environment, it was common to dump things into it, and leave things there. We also know, that much of what once existed along the slough has since been torn down, burned down, or fallen down, perhaps mostly because of the 1964 earthquake. Here are some of Sam and Zacks biggest finds. They are mysteries of the slough. We'll ask Grandma and Grandpa and some other old-timers about them and we'll update this blog when we find the answers!

What is it?

These pilings across from Hags Nook once held a building.

Was it a home, a warehouse, or a dock?

They were a mooring dock for some boats.

Who owned it?

Probably the Mars family. Not sure about that.

What is it?

These large planks are enforced with iron and are tied up on the bank.

What were they for?

Don't know their purpose but may have been part of the old mill.

Were they part of the old barge that was once anchored in the slough?


What is it?

These tall spruce poles are anchored to the ground above some old horizotal posts.

Did a home once stand here?

It was a docking spot for a boat.

Or was this a dock or mooring spot for a boat?

What is it?

This engine is tied up to an long pole so it won't wash away.

Did it belong to the vehicle in the previous picture?


Is it being used to cure the wood for some purpose or to keep the pole in place?

Not sure yet.

What is it?

These remnants of some type of boiler are sitting under the posts in the picture above.

Was this a boiler from the tug or the vehicle or someones home?

Probably a boiler from the mill.

Does it cover the secret back entrance to another world?

Yes. It covers the secret entrance to a magic world called Clumsia. Only people with pure hearts who believe in magic can gain entry. As a result, very very few adults ever make it in. More about Clumsia later.

What is it?

This cable lays between the engine and the vehicle on the beach.

What was it used for?

Probably a cable used in the mill.

Do you think it might come to life as a sea snake at night in the dark?

Yes, the Prince of Clumsia put a spell on this snake that turned it into a large rusty coil of cable. Unfortunately for the Prince, he hadn't eaten a full breakfast that morning and his spell only partially worked. So, sometimes, during the fullest of full moons and the darkest of dark nights, the rusty cable begins to twitch to life. It slithers along the slough beach, searching all the while for the entrance to Clumsia so that it can seek revenge against the Prince. So......SHHHHH.....don't tell him about the boiler!

Monday, March 22, 2010

First Day of School in Seldovia

This town is so small it doesn't even have a school bus so we have to wake up early and walk to school. On our way to school a google eyed monster tries to block our path. We throw giant snowballs at it and this gives us just enough time to dart past the terrible beast. We are so scared that we hold our breath and run as fast as we can all of the rest of the way to school. When we walk into the school it is emptier than a leaky clam bucket and it smells like one too. We tiptoe into the principals office and notice a black folder on her desk. It says:

Enrollment Requirements

-At least one black, green, or pointy tooth
-Horn in back of head
-Stinky Feet (smells like onion)
-Beard (the longer the better)
-Really, really, long fingernails
-One Eye (extra points for patch)
-Long Nose Hairs

We are worried now, because we don't have any of these things (except for maybe the fingernail part).....and it looks like they won't be letting us go to this school. Just when we're about to leave, a walking light bulb with a big smile comes out and locks the front door. We think its the teacher and we ALSO think she is from another planet. She grabs us by the back of our coats and drags us to class. The classroom looks like the movie set of Frankenstein. Our new class mates look like monkeys and goats, and even like Frankenstein himself, and they are all staring at though we are the WEIRD ones!

The teacher shows us to our desks and tells us that we need to get started on Math right away. "Every day we do math for FOUR hours," she says, "and then after that we do oral language, and then after that we do science." "Today we're working on an enlargement potion for the classroom hamster." For math we count how many eyeballs each student has and we are shocked to find out that we are the only ones in the whole class with only two. We have never felt so normal in our whole lives!

The only fun part of the day comes when the teacher messes up the formula for Hamster enlargement and horns grow out of the hamsters head instead. We laugh so hard that Mrs. Light Bulb takes us to the office to see the principal.

The principal offers us a choice of fish eyeballs or raw clams to snack on. When we decline, her face turns bright red and steam comes out of her ears. She screams "Dragon, Dragon, Dragon!!!!" at the top of her lungs and then she opens a door in the floor by her feet. We can't believe our eyes when a dragon pops out of the floor, sniffs her bucket of eyeballs and clams, and then heads straight for us! We can't tell you how the rest of the week at the Seldovia School went because the dragon ate us instead of the clams. We don't blame him.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Sunday Walk on the Beach

The city plow broke during the last big snow storm so we can't drive all the way to the beach. Uncle parks the car at the Y in the road and we get out and walk the dogs up the snowy path for a little over a quarter of a mile. We follow the tracks of some snowmachines so we don't sink into the snow. The dogs are really happy to get to the beach and they run down to chase the waves. The sun is out and the sky is blue blue blue. The first thing we see is our favorite of all mountains in the world, Mt. Illiamna, an active volcano - part of the ring of fire! She says hello to us as she smiles down on the dozens of fishing boats that are in the water for the weekend's Winter King Salmon tournmanent. At the end of the beach we decide that the tide is low enough for us to safely jump the rocks to get across the slough to the other side of the beach. Today the beach gives us peace offerings, a beautiful white shell- which Sam puts in his pocket for luck, and perfectly washed beach glass that we will send to a friend. Zack picks up a rubberband that came in with the last high tide. He will carry it home in his pocket. We know that because our beach gives to us, we should also take things away from it that don't belong, like rubber bands. We feel happy and we go on home. Tomorrow will be the first day of School for Sam and Zack in Seldovia.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Things We Find and A Pack of Turkeys

Now that we're back in Seldovia again, we can go beachcombing along the slough on low tides. We take the dogs down and walk slowly, stopping to pick up interesting things along the way. Todays finds are; six blue marbles- two with chips, one black marble, a rusted butter knife handle, pieces of an old silver grate, several wires, and a discarded tin can. We carry the treasures back to the house and build something with them. Its a time-morphing space continuim device that our lego people use to jump from the real world into a space world. We also find out today that large chunks of ice and snow from the side of the slough, when jumped upon, will fall into the water and form instintaneous miniature iceburgs that our dog Maddie will swim to and then stand upon when we throw stones onto it for her to fetch.

When our Mom goes to the store, the neighbor tells her about the pack of turkeys in our neighborhood. They roam free but the people in the neighborhood feed them sometimes. There is one Tom and seven hens. Our Mom and Grandma run into them today. This is what the Tom looks like. Its a big job to rule over seven lady birds and Mr. Tom takes his job very seriously. He runs at Mom while she is taking his picture, and then when she jumps back into Grandma's car, he chases it down the street just like a dog. It is pretty exciting to live around turkeys. Turkey feathers are very pretty and quite good for making quill pens like they use at Hogwarts Academy in Harry Potter.