Dealing With Business Needs

Believe it or not the needs of any business, at least for us, that happens in the spring through early fall, has almost as much work happening when there are chilling temperatures outside. Most farmers, many fishermen, and for sure seafood processors know this is true, if you want things to run smoothly you do  lots of off-season planning.

I have put off digging deeply into the needs of our various businesses these past few months, partly as there have not been overly pressing needs, but also as I knew any decisions made would probably not be sound. I am also well aware that there are a lot of pieces that need to come together to make it successful, even on the short term and unless I fit things together well things will fall apart quickly.

(Off-thread…woke up in the wee hours this morning wondering if I had checked the oil on our generator lately. I got up, bundled up, grabbed the headlamp and headed down to the generator shed in wind and dark to shut the engine off. Remembered in the middle of writing this post I had not checked the ‘gen’, after letting it cool down and the oil to drain down. Off again to the generator shed to check. Glad I did as the level was much too low. I think we have a “safety” on it to switch it off if it gets too low, but I am not sure. I now need to get back into the habit of checking on a set day each week, like I used to do on my car when I lived in the city.)

While I work on gathering a crew for our fishing operation I must also finish up our planting schedule for the farming operation. On top of that comes pulling our spring fuel order together. We get our fuel in via a tug & barge, usually only once a year and we must have the entire year’s need calculated not only for our operation but for those of our customers.

This is the portion of the businesses we run that I am the most “nervous” about.  Lots of planning as to amounts, putting what fuel in what tanks, double checking the on hand amounts,  working out our prices, etc. Since our goal with this business is to drive traffic and support the area businesses we keep our prices very competitive. We also sell a small amount of heating fuel to area villagers which means I need to second guess their needs. It is not anywhere near the bulk of our business, nor was it set up to be, we still find it to be important for some residents in the area.

Unfortunately, at least in our area, we have seen fuel needs for residents and businesses being used as a ‘tool’ to hurt at times. We have seen a city run their own fuel needs (putting heating and power needs for the entire city in jeopardy) so low just to make it hard for a business to conduct their business. Don’t think this is a racist, or even a small city thing…it happens with tribes too.. as we have seen it happen within families.

It is a control and jealousy thing that happens and in these closely related villages….sadly. It is common in the tiny village we live in for a group go out of their way to not include some residents in plans to buy bulk fuel or to help each other, thus we now carry fuel for locals so no one has to stop living out here due to the lack of access to reasonably priced fuel.

We are not ‘white knights’ but are people have seen much to much crap happen to good people and where we can make a difference, we do our best to do so.

So these next few weeks I must battle the desire to ignore the calendar and instead plow into the tank charts, spreadsheets and customer lists to deal with keeping this portion of our, now my, income up and working.






Overlooking the River, and Out To the Mountains

This week has been filled with a number of tasks that for many are probably not a ‘big deal’, but to me they are the foundation of skills I must either remind myself I have or must learn to be able to survive at our place here in bush Alaska.

Getting spark plugs pulled-burned out until replacements arrive, getting cold circulation pumps going-with oiled gas in the air intake area,  securing heavy tank loads with chain and a come-along, making sure equipment is plugged in long enough to warm for starting in our below freezing weather, knowing just how far you can take a 500+ gal tank up in the air-tilting it down so you can gravity feed the tanks…..all without either getting hurt, spilling fuel all over or damaging something. On top of all of this happening, with the everything being coated in ice due to earlier freezing rain, you are trying to stay warm while it rains and freezes MORE.  Lots of little tasks that added up to a win for me, and reminding me I should be capable to accomplish much of this.

Now after working several days to get things secure for a cold snap, down to single digits or less, that should roll in tonight I can sit at our bay window that looks out to the “front” yard….miles of river just steps away and a mountain range some 20 miles or so away that is made up of active (steaming almost daily) volcanoes.

While the critters dream and snore on occasion I can watch the winter sun travel the last hour or two out towards the bay and then finally setting. When asked why I do not “pack it in” and return to a life in the big city, filled with restaurants, live theater, and a much easier life, this is why. The beauty. The peace. The quiet. The wildlife. The wonder of rural Alaska!!

If the cold does roll in overnight and tomorrow is too cold to do more than the most critical chores I will probably catch up on some bread baking, more planning for the plant seeding that much start soon and some much needed paperwork.

Coming Home

It has been right at three months, although I try hard NOT to count the days, since I lost my  spouse. The death was unexpected, immediate and a total shock. Having now come home from being ‘out’ for the holidays,the tough part of starting to really pick up the pieces of our lives and mold them into some type of life for myself needs to start in earnest.

There has really been little chance to shut down and just ‘grieve’ as we have businesses to keep going, although they are mostly seasonal and this  is the time of year when it is more planning than doing.  Too many things, from making sure there is power to critters needs, call on me daily for attention so succumbing to any type of inaction just cannot happen without a risk of actual harm coming about.

Almost each day, it seems, brings some new task I must learn more about to have things run smoothly or even at all.  Yesterday it was dealing with routers that run our Internet system. I was finally able to work things around to get all of our systems up so I can communicate with the ‘world’.  The day before it was helping to get a kinked and broken propane line  repaired. Learning what it took to flare the end of the copper tubing once the kink was cut out so the fitting could be connected again, and  get propane running into the house, enabling cooking to happen once again. Today seems to be going well enough, so far, that I am getting a break although I can see a possible issue with the solar (panels) tracker. I will need to reach out to my “renewable power guru” via email and pictures to tackle another day. Oh the havoc a 100+ mph wind can cause, especially when you are not there to take precautions.

At this point I am going to stick with the chore of sorting a months worth of mail and working on a planting schedule for the season coming up.


How I Got to This Place

After coming to live in rural (the bush) Alaska some years ago, joining my spouse who grew up in the state, I am now trying to make it on my own in an area that is less than friendly.

We built a hard working but successful life that includes a number of businesses, not unusual in this state. We have a commercial fishing business, that includes a processing portion that his mom started some almost 60 years ago, a small but quickly growing farm and finally a fueling business on our private 5000′ airstrip.

We were a partnership that worked hard together and most importantly enjoyed doing so. Our educations and life experiences complimented each other. We both believed strongly in the ability of this area of Alaska to be sustainable and to offer a way of life that is hard to find any more. We have worked hard to support other area businesses and those wanting to keep this a great place to live, while offering opportunities to those who want to join us in the area.

It might not be the easiest thing to do, carrying on alone, but our dreams are intertwined with the hopes, dreams and businesses of others and I am going to do all I can to keep our end of that going.

I decided to put this all ‘down on paper’ so, hopefully, when I reach those points where I wonder if I can on I will be able to review what has happened up to that point and gather my courage to continue.

Whether I have any of this go ‘public’ is yet to be seen.