Look for the bare necessities,
the simple bare necessities,
Forget about your worries and your strife;
I mean the bare necessities
are Mother Nature’s recipes
that bring the bare necessities of life.
— The Jungle Book
June is typically one of the rainiest months here in the North Fork. Our driveway is a slip-’n-slide; the veggies in the garden, if they’ve survived the frequent frosts and hail, start to yellow and wilt; and Chris and I have to force ourselves to mellow. With no hiking, picnicking, exploring, or outdoor photography, we’re left with nothing to do but the to-do list, and much of that monster typically involves being outdoors.
It’s a frustrating time because we’re so anxious for sunshine, open trails, and fishy rivers that we can hardly stay inside our own skin, much less the yurt. Outside our windows the young aspen leaves shimmer in the wind, a glistening invitation to set up the hammock under the crown of their grove. And we can hear Hay Creek gushing wild with muddy snowmelt and new rain. Her roar says, “Not now! You can fish me later.”
Then there’s the sun, who comes and goes like a tease. Just when you think it’s going to be a beautiful day for a hike at Bowman Lake or Apgar Lookout, the clouds converge to bring not only rain, but hail. And this, of course, after I’ve just planted a twenty-gallon container with Red-Cored Chantenay carrots, the seeds taken out by ice pellets twice their size.
Luckily, between rain/hail storms (for the most part) Chris and his son were able to start on our sand-point well. With these wet conditions they hit water at only two feet, but had to drive the pipe down another twelve feet, for what we hope will be clear drinking water year round. Now all we need is one of those good old-fashioned hand pumps and I’ll be able to water the garden without a trip to the artesian well thirty miles away.
Of course, these challenges are nothing—nothing—compared to what the homesteaders of this area experienced during the early 1900s. As part of the Homestead Act of 1862, the North Fork was filled with farmers and fur trappers trying to make a go of “proving up” their land within five years in order to gain legal claim to it.
Apparently many gave up, as our population is now one-third what it used to be at the height of homesteading. In fact, the North Fork once had two post offices. Now we have none. For Tom and Marie Peterson, who moved here in 1919, checking the mail meant a half-day trek by foot up steep hills, and across a river via cable with a wheeled seat (which apparently was easy to start, hard to finish). In the winter the trip was so tiresome that Mr. Peterson had to relieve his leg cramps by tying ropes to each of his snowshoes, marionette style, so he could make his legs move. Fortunately, whoever checked the mail brought any post back for his neighbors as well.
Chris and I complain about the chilly mornings when there’s been a frost overnight, but that can hardly compare to what Mrs. Peterson describes in her publication, “Homestead Memories.” She remembers that they had no sooner gotten the roof of their 12 x 16 foot cabin covered with roofing paper than they had a “terrible blizzard and 50 below zero.” They banked the snow around the cabin and moved into the kitchen, where they had a small cook stove and heater. Still, “the water pail had ice on top.” Unable to leave the cabin even if they wanted to, because the snow was so high up the door, they wore their coats and “sat on the bed on our feet and played cards.”
Chris and I know a little something about card-playing, and we’re still looking for a game that I can win more times than not (in case you haven’t heard, Chris wins just about anything he plays). Tonight I think we’ll play Quiddler. The rain has yet to stop, and I hear thunder over the mountains in the west. The good news is it’s not snowing or freezing. And when it comes to the bare necessities of life, well, we’ve got those covered … knock on wood.
Now, for one of our favorite songs from Disney’s Jungle Book, click below. That is, if you feel like smiling and tapping your toes and just feeling pretty good about life …