The Silence is Deafening (but the Excavator is Loud)

I must let you know how sorry I am at the distinct lack of communication from my end these many long months. So this here is a bit of a long post with many catch-up pictures!

By way of explanation and excuse: I became somewhat ill in the early spring and into summer and have been learning to navigate the treacherous waters of the American health care system. We still don’t know what the cause is, but I am finally able to manage the symptoms and am feeling more myself than I have since leaving YK. On a positive note, I have lost quite a bit of weight and feel very svelte (though, I probably look older too).

I suppose, in the end, I simply didn’t acknowledge the stresses involved in packing and moving from my beloved Northern home, purging and packing 45 years of my parents’ life in Niagara Falls a month later (my mum went into a home due to early onset Alzheimer’s), ferrying my dad and kids back across the country and being separated from them for 3 months while going through the mosh-pit that is US immigration:  all in a six month period.  I used to be able to push through stuff like this, but lesson learned. Respect the stress!

Somehow, despite becoming increasingly sick, I doggedly tried to keep up with a summer’s worth of kid and family activities and a plethora of chores. It began in the spring when I allowed the Hairy Half to acquire a new mistress!

new boatPick up day!

We christened her ‘Green Slip’ (what a pilot picks up for overtime). And we took her out to Neah Bay, WA in July to launch and crossed the straight of Juan de Fuca to cruise Barkley Sound (west coast of Vancouver Island) with the kids for a week.  Magnificent weather and a special place we remember fondly from our lives BC (Before Children)!

20150718_210812At achor


20150721_210643Taking it all in

We also did our fair share of prawning and crabbing right here off Bainbridge Island.

2015-05-13 22.47.49

2015-05-02 12.34.34

And we got one more fishing trip (sans kids) to bring home some chinook.



The kidlets took some sailing lessons and we managed a couple trips to LaPush to round out the summer.

Jan-jul2015 603 (Medium)

Jan-jul2015 578 (Medium)

As usual summer went by too fast.

So now that I appear to be on the mend, it is time to focus on our upcoming build.  I know you’ll want to pay attention to this since this is where we will put you up when you come to visit!!  🙂

Our architect is wrapping up the engineering drawings and submitting the permits for approval on the studio/guesthouse.  The first concrete step was the removal of 3 massive firs. I was devastated to lose even one, but no matter how we tweaked it, the foundation would severely compromise their root systems and they would have to come down eventually, if they didn’t fall on our lovely new building first.

makingthecutNo way we were scaling a 120ft tree. Brought in the professionals!


felledTree litter

On a very positive note, none of it will go to waste. All the timber has been milled (right around the corner by the great guys at Coyote Woodshop) into trim and lumber that we will use on property.  I am even have some fabulous live-edge slabs milled for a future dining table and other furniture.


Picking up sticks.


Couldn’t get it all on the truck, so some will be firewood.

All our rough-cut lumber actually arrived back here last night and looks fabulous!! Now it will sit and dry for much of the winter while we get on with building.



Look at those lovely fir slabs (even smaller maple ones too). I am stoked!

Of course,  after all the tree felling nonsense, we were left with some monster stumps, which we needed to remove.

one of three

One of three.

So a very excited Hairy Half rented a lovely baby excavator to dig around the roots and hopefully pull up the stump and root ball. He dug; Uncle Tony dug; I dug; we chainsawed the roots and power-washed….



The excavator almost tipped over. More than once.

So we broke down and hired a bigger excavator and a guy who does this for a living….



Yup. That worked.

Now we are ready to level and trench for the footings. Hopefully all will be in place for the first pour the day after the permit is approved.

I think our architect is in a state of disbelief that we are going to do this ourselves. Truth be told, I have to keep looking at this project as a series of small tasks or else I do freak out a little myself!


The snow-rain conundrum

My favourite two weeks of the winter have recently wrapped up in Yellowknife!  School winter break and the Long John Jamboree are the winter we-wait-all-winter-for up North. The sun is above the horizon longer and radiates a palpable warmth on the back of the parka as we play on the lake and in the woods for hours, compensating for months sheltering from the wind-chill and freeze.  … I get homesick thinking about it!

icesculptureIce sculpture contest

mapletaffyMaple taffy on the snow…mmmm

OK, I truthfully did not miss other winter things like my morning car seat that felt like sitting on a concrete retaining wall or the first 3/4 km of driving on square tires nor leaving the car running in the Timmies’ parking lot terrified my diesel may not start up again after. But hey, the suffering equated to bragging rights!  I would feel like a twit whinging about some rain now…. Frankly, there hasn’t even been that much rain here near Seattle this winter.

Mostly I miss my community of moms, teachers, neighbours, businesses and friends who make winters fly by with a sense of humour and down-to-Northern-earth wisdom.  I have been reminded that the Wet-Coast require a much greater effort to get to know people (due to everyone’s being water-logged I am sure). Fortunately, our community of Bainbridge Island shares much of the same sense of belonging and identity as Yellowknife.  And it will only take some time before I feel at home (I suppose I was only reunited with my kids and Hairy Half in December).

I do feel like I have stepped through the looking glass some days: I have been puttering in the garden for the entire month of March. The grass is always green. The trees constantly block the view.  Traffic accidents are more likely to be caused by sun glare than rain or ice. Cars can grow moss. …Whoa. Just wrong.

march gardenmy front garden in March

Back door viewout the back door…

For those who know me for more than soaps, here are some personal updates. The Hairy Half is still over-the-moon-happy flying for Delta on the B757-767 (should be: gets to Hawaii at least once a month on a trip) and is home a lot (I mean, in my face, constantly).  He has plenty to occupy himself with on the property and is narrowing down his search for the next great family boat. Our progeny are thriving in their new schools. Daughter belts out a mean saxophone tune now and son is leaping ahead in reading and math. More importantly, they are responding well to their teachers and enjoy the school day. They miss NJ tons though and still talk about their teachers and friends up there.  The dog is as goofy as ever. But her hindquarters are pretty crippled (she is 10 after all). She does not miss the Northern winter. Not one bit.

Dungeness Beach

I am slowly ramping up the soaping for select clients but am hampered a bit by the lack of proper facilities (did that workshop spoil me, or what?).  The architect will be on our project for a studio/guest house in earnest this month and the Hairy-Half and I will undertake the build on our own (that is just the way we roll), so the summer will be a busy one. I will be sharing that project with you on this blog as it gets underway. After all, many of you who will come down to visit us, will want to see what we are building for you!  I am still debating whether or not I want to dabble my toes in the local farmers market over the summer. I would love the chance to stretch those soaping muscles and meet new people, but there is so much to do first….

the Move

So I suppose you have been thinking… “hey is that soap-lady still alive and kickin”?   Or maybe you care not (since you wisely stocked up on soapy goodies like we told you).  But I thought we’d check-in and let you know I am not dead-in-a-ditch somewhere along the great Canadian artery that is the trans-Canada highway!! Sadly, neither am I in my new home bossing around my progeny and the Hairy-Half yet.

Here is the long and short of the journey this summer:

Our end of the move from Yellowknife in late July was smooth and uneventful (the same could not be said for the Hairy-Half’s end). We managed to slip through the highway fire-closure during an 8 hour window right on schedule. Just from what we could see along the highway, the volume of timber consumed by the fires this summer was staggering. It was otherworldly to see fires burning 15 feet into the air as we whizzed by. (Though we didn’t miss breathing it in once we arrived South.)  A huge ‘thank you’ is due my parents-in-law for their perseverance and physical support throughout the move. They subbed-in for the Hairy Half who was unable to be there, and drove my truck and camper to Winnipeg (where Hairy Half later collected and moved them to Seattle).


All our worldly goods…


The view south (as in ‘not much’) of Edzo

A short, family-filled rest in Kenora, ON, and the kids and I were off to Niagara Falls. I had promised the kids we would camp along the way in Lake Superior Provincial Park (on the stunning east side of the lake), and despite the misty rain (which they were happy to see after the drought), the kids would not hear of stopping at a hotel…. Imagine my consternation upon discovering at the campsite that I had forgotten to pack the tent poles….. Doh!!  So like the resourceful Northerners we are, we scavenged branches and rocks and made a suitable shelter out of the tent fly!  A dinner of chicken drumsticks on the fire, and we spent a most comfortable night despite a little wind and rain.  Kids think it was the best camping – EVER!

IMG_20140730_172241Ah, the lake-life

IMG_20140811_194410Necessity (mother of invention and all that)

After arriving in Niagara,  we (my father, brother, sister-in-law and I) laboured for 2 weeks to purge and pack 45 years of my parents’ worldly goods and move it into storage (my mother had just gone into a home for early-onset dementia and my father had sold the house). Please don’t ask me to help you move any time soon…. I need a few years off….

IMG_20140825_120731Dump Run!

Utterly exhausted (on every level), we packed ourselves up, pointed the cars westward, and crossed the country again, this time with my dad in tow. The Hairy Half met us in Abbotsford, BC to take possession of the kids and father-in-law and scoot across the border to our new home so the kids could start the new school year next day. As a condition of my immigration application, I am not allowed to cross into the US until my case is approved. So I remained behind, turning around a day later headed back to Toronto.

IMG_20140903_132117Nice rocks (too many trees)!

So, four car tires and a set of trailer tires later, I am spinning my wheels waiting for the grinding gears of a broken immigration system to spit me out and allow me to rejoin my family.  In the meantime, I am parked at my brother and sister-in-law’s lovely home, with unfettered access to my 3 yr old niece. I am close to downtown and not too far from my bff and her kids!  I am ever so fortunate (and only occasionally depressed)!

IMG_20140929_121941Somebody has self-confidence issues…

Update: I was hoping to publish this post weeks ago, but had to get into the bowels of my wordpress theme and fix some issues.  I have since had a whirlwind visit to YK (seen my kiddies), been granted an expedite from the Montreal consulate, had the National Visa Center complete my case and send it up, and I am now awaiting an interview date. But, I will fill you in on those details in another post!

The Scoop on Soap this Summer

The curing racks are groaning under kilograms of silky soaps, and our noses barely rise above the soaping buckets these days.  We are in the throes of stocking up for our beloved Northern clients before our departure in July.

Here is the timeline laid out for you:

End of the first week of June –  last available orders  due for our private clients ( online and local).

End of June–  cease production for wholesale clients (with the hope we are delivering this week).

beginning of July-  Raw North Soap Company closes its doors in Yellowknife. Re-opening south of here: TBA.

On that note, I ask  that my individual clients to take stock of what they may need to weather the soap drought.  I am trying to keep the website up to date, but if you are looking for something that shows ‘out of stock’, ask, we may have it or be making it.  However,  I am trying to divest the workshop of oils and fragrances that cannot be moved (and not reorder more) so please be patient!

The shop will be closed for the entire summer and possibly late into the year dependent on my immigration visa timeline. I will keep you up to date on our whereabouts on the blog and through facebook though.  I will be making soap again as soon as plausible, and my little artisan company will be back…. Promise.  I love it too much to abandon it!

In the meantime, Sutherlands and the Northern Frontier Visitors’ Center will have a large amount of product stockpiled. Oh, our last batches (for some time) of  our whipped shea butter ( ‘Wicked Whip of the North’) will be arriving at Sutherlands by the end of the week!

On a positive note, we found the perfect little house on 1.2 acres with massive Douglas firs and cedars towering above and giant windows to take it all in…. There is also the most excellent spot on the property to build a dedicated artisan studio!!!  After an agonizing wait…, it is all ours now! Hurray!


The future home of Raw North Soap on Bainbridge Island, WA!

Denial. Not Just a River in Egypt.

Denial is useless….


Despite the obvious ‘signs’ staring us in the face (or sitting squarely in front of the house), I am in a depressed denial that my life is inevitably changing and sending me South.  Despite the raging, crying and cussing,  this  summer will indeed be our last in Yellowknife, and we will be leaving our fabulous home, our amazing neighbours, our wonderful teachers, and our beloved North. This is due to the Hairy-Half landing the job of a lifetime at Delta airlines (for which he has dreamed and sacrificed for over a decade). 

Fear not though, I will take a giant piece of the North with me, as well as my soaping obsession (and will have the luxury of traveling back regularly).  I will continue to concoct all the soaps and goodies under the ‘Raw North Soap Company’ banner. They are too near and dear to my heart and my Northern clientele to abondon, and I have some wholesalers here in town still ready to carry our products (not to mention the ability to fulfill the needs of our mail-order friends through the website). We will update you on that later. It suffices to say we are staying through July to enjoy the Northern summer to which we are most entitled after this arduous winter.

But please don’t ask me about life after Yellowknife yet, I am still processing and grieving the upcoming upheaval….


On The Backside of the Solstice

Please allow us to extend a late, but heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all the marvelous folk that made us part of their gift-giving this past year.  It makes me practically giddy to think of our little bubbly Northern bars being unwrapped all over the continent, and beyond, throughout the holidays (don’t forget to make them USE the soap).

And thank you to all who stopped in at the markets with such kind words and great stories! The markets can be such hard work  (particularly with the hairy-half away), but the greatest self-serving reward they afford me is the opportunity to meet and chat with my amazing clients one on one!

The holiday season, now come and gone, was a quiet one around the workshop!  We didn’t even crack open the door for days at a time.  Frankly, it still looks like a bomb went off in there.  This is most definitely a ‘clean-up’ week!  Back to production next week.

We have been on another mitten-making binge again. (We can always sew when the kids are underfoot!)  For the parents, more sheared-beaver lined leather mitts:

for him mitts


for her mitts


mitt detail

bead detail  (daughter insisted Grandma’s should have beading)

Oh, how decadent (and warm) that sheared beaver is: like sliding you hand through warm butter. Mmmmmm.  Another set of mitts went to my lovely neighbour, Jeff.  He has always wanted a pair of beaver gauntlets to get through the frigid months of nursing gelled propane tanks, knocking ice off the chimney, plowing my driveway with the quad, ice fishing and playing on the snowmobile.  I managed to snatch up some gorgeous ‘silver’ beaver pelts. The pics do not do them justice. The fur has lovely blond, red and silver hues depending on the light.  Lined with a thick wool duffle they turned out beautifully.

furry gauntlets

Silver beaver gauntlets


Happy warm snow man

And finally, a pair long-ago promised to the daughter:

red duffle

bright and warm!

I love the bright red duffle (two layers thick…: toasty)!

Now, off to the workshop to tidy up.  Maybe a little shoveling in this balmy 22 below weather as well!

It’s a Sickness.

Why, would any of you sane people ask, would the Crafter need a new hobby?   She can barely meet her present-day obligations: feeding  and raising her progeny and making soap to coddle and make you happy.  Nonetheless, as part of her relaxation and meditation she continues to pursue new avenues of creating (crafting for us is a strange dichotomy:  part rehab, part illness).  So this past summer she picked up a few kits, a few needles and started needle felting. Here are the first attempts:

felted bunnya crazy bunny-creature for the niece’s  2nd birthday

Felted sheepa sheep to hang out in the spinning basket

And since she couldn’t stop there, she is now surrounded by a flock of felted ptarmigan in their winter plumage: waiting for the first flakes to stick around!  Roz at the ‘Down to Earth Gallery‘ has kindly agreed to carry the critters alongside our soaps. It will be hard to part with them, but the workshop is already filling up with curing soap and they keep getting in the way.

Felted Flock

the willow ptarmigan hanging out

Felted ptarmiganthe felted flock

Mating felted paira mating-felted pair?

Now the next felting project will be a pair of slippers…. That bathroom floor gets awfully cold come winter!

Naturally that wasn’t all we’ve been up to.  A few dishcloths later, we have refreshed our rusty crochet skills too. Truthfully though,  I would rather stick to spinning it.

DSC_0301it’s the colours…. they are irresistible!

Finally, our Northern garden is all cleaned up and put to bed. We harvested a bumper crop of calendula petals (all grown in pots on the deck), and have already infused them into our ‘Where the Northern Folk Rock’ soap.  The soothing petals are so much more vibrant collected and dried from our own garden than bought through our usual supplier. Oh, and see our lovely new soap stamp?

Calendula petals

Calendula officinalis

Folk‘Where the Northern Folk Rock’ 

I’d love to tell you that is all the Crafter has been up to.  But I would be wrong.

More to come in a future post….

Splendors: Autumn and Otherwise

Our Northern summer may not have lived up to expectations…, but, oh my, autumn here has been stupendous!  The green and greys have given way to a palette of glowing fire-weed red and shimmering birch gold. And a blessed breeze-less weekend has allowed us an extra few days to enjoy the show.

Northern Autumn

 the difference a week makes…

futher into fall

glorious golds

sunflowers arrived just in time…

But, even the tamarack are beginning to turn this week and the wind and rain will come to strip the sparkling foliage. The Crafter knows that turkey and touques can’t be far behind.  So, we are back in the workshop toiling in earnest to prepare for the comfort-food-feasting, gift-giving, hot-showering season ahead.

The Crafter spent some quality time this past summer exercising her passion for all things artisan.  And, what better teacher than Charissa to introduce her to some beautiful and functional artisan skills.  For starters, here are some of  the mittens (and harness) we made to get us through the bitter weather with style:

manly coyote

coyote wrist-length mitts for the Hairy Half  with harness

girly rabbit with coyote

short gauntlet rabbit mitts with coyote inset for the Crafter

snowflake guantlet

loooove these rabbit/stroud snowflake gauntlets

little boy gauntlet

for the darling son some stroud gauntlets with beaded feathers (or the Crafters best attempt at feathers)

sheared beaver

and lastly, for now, these melt-in-your-hands sheared-beaver lined suede babies

I know, I know, how many sets of mitts does one woman need?  If you have to ask, you’ll never understand!!  These won’t be the last ones the Crafter makes either! They were just too much fun. Thanks again to Charissa for such patient instruction and a discerning eye.

In posts to come, I’ll share some more summer crafting we have been up to.  In the meantime, mark your calendars for the ‘Handmade’ Christmas craft sale at Northern United Place November 23rd. We’ll be there.