December has been an exciting month in Colville Lake! My classroom is full and excitement has been high. The students who were living on the land returned with many stories of their adventures. They all had great success in trapping and hunting. Last week the Game Warden was in town and bought all the furs off of the trappers. My students brought their furs to sell as well.
December has been an interesting month. Having 5 students return after a few months of absence combined with the excitement and preparations for the the Christmas concert has resulted in a slower pace in our academics. I was proud of the students who were away as they all worked hard on practicing their reading and writing. They have quickly adjusted back to the routine of going to school each day and are adding a fun dynamic into the classroom.
Our school Christmas concert was a huge success. We were worried that all the presents wouldn't arrive in time, but were fortunate that enough came in time for each student to have something to open. A month ago a very kind donation came in of backpacks for the students. I have been adding school supplies and winter gear to these backpacks over the past few weeks and was able to give them out at the concert.
Colville Lake School hosts a feast along with the Christmas concert each year. The school provides all the food and community members spend the day cooking and preparing. The food was delicious and the kids did a great job preforming thier songs!
Louie ordered in hats for all the children and worked hard to decorate the gym with her students. Grades pre-k through to grade 4 did a song and dance. The middle school preformed The 12 Days of Colville Lake Christmas.
As a last minute decision I decided to travel to Surrey for our Christmas break. However, because I decided so late in the game I wasn't able to get a seat on the flight with the other teachers and ended up traveling alone at a later time.
I have being keeping things low key and more quiet while being in town. As much as I would love to see everyone, I have recognized the importance of really resting during this time.
This Christmas I am so thankful for the love and support I have received over these past few months. Despite being physically isolated, I have felt overwhelmingly surrounded and carried.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Last week Martin and I had to go out and re-set the fishnets. The first time the fishnet was set it was in a location where the water was too shallow. We are only in the beginning stages of winter and the ice is going to get a lot thicker in the coming weeks. The water at our original location was only 8 feet deep. Ideally, the net should be set at a location that is about 25 feet deep. You want the net to sit at the bottom of the lake with plenty of room between the top of the net and the bottom of the ice. Keeping the net away from the bottom of the ice helps the process of checking because if the net is too close to the ice it will freeze solid.
Jenn and Martin went and pulled the net out of the first location and it had 25 fish in it!! They were able to go deliver those around town. Re-setting the net was a lot of fun. We borrowed a jigger from a local elder and set out for the middle of the lake. On the way Martin cut down two spruce trees. The branches are used to insulate the holes and the trunk is used to hold the string of the net out of the water.
I find setting and checking nets to be quite fascinating. A hole is drilled into the ice and the jigger is inserted and attached to the bottom of the ice. I sat at the end that the jigger was inserted and slowly pulled on the blue rope. With each tug on the rope the jigger moved further along the bottom of the ice. The net is 24 feet long. Once it the jigger stopped moving we had the task of finding where the jigger ended up and then drilling another hole. This process was harder than i expected. We measured 24 feet in the direction that we sent the jigger and then laid on the ice and listened for its clicking. The echoes of the ice can really throw you off.
Once we located the jigger, we drilled a second hole and threaded the net under the ice. My first guess was about 10 feet off.
Next we attached either end of the net to the tree trucks and covered the holes with spruce bows. The net will stay in the water until the ice thaws in the spring.
You cover the spruce bows with snow to keep them from blowing away in the crazy arctic winds.
We have checked the nets 4 times since setting them last week. Each time that it has been checked there has been 15-20 fish in it (and once there was 40). The dead fish are stored away for dog food and the live fish are distributed to the community.
Today Martin took two of my students with him to check the nets. They loved their field trip and were each able to bring 3 fish home to their families! The skills and experience that the students will gain from this net is so valuable!
November has flown by! The weather is colder and the days are shorter now, but we are still managing to get out and enjoy all that the Arctic has to offer. The skating rink is fully up and running now and I have enjoyed making use of it during my P.E. block. We have not yet introduced hockey into the mix because we are focusing on building up skating skills. We have enough helmets and skates for the kids, but don't have enough safety gear for hockey yet.
The kids look forward to skating days. We load up the skidoo with chairs, helmets, skates, and shovels and head down to the rink. We end our adventure with hot chocolate back at the school.
This month three of my students were chosen to take part in the Sahtu District Science Fair, which was help in Fort Good Hope on November 28th. The girls worked for weeks on their projects and the result was amazing. I was so proud of their effort, determination, and drive to do their best work. Unfortunately, the weather got in the way of us actually participating in the event. We were scheduled to fly out the morning of the 28th and to return the next day, but all flights were cancelled due to bad weather. The girls were devastated.
Setting Fish Nets
Ice fishing in the this part of the world is much different than I expected. Before embarking on this adventure I pictured myself sitting with a fishing rod beside a hole in the ice waiting for a fish to bite. The water is actually too cold here for that type of ice fishing. Instead, the people here set fish nets that remain in the water and are checked every few days. The school has a fish net that Martin and I set and will check in the coming days. On average, people get 15 - 20 white fish every time they check it. The fish is used to feed the dogs, make dry fish, and cook into delicious meals. We have a few families at the school who do not have nets set and we will be giving fish out to them as we collect.
Setting a net is a multi-step process. We loaded up the skidoo with all the needed tools and headed out into the middle of the lake (where the ice is not as thick yet). On the way we cut down two trees. Once there we cleared the ice and began making hole about 2.5 feet wide. I took all the branches off the trees to use as insolation over the hole so it would not freeze back over. The long remaining stick was used to hold the net in the water.
Martin headed out to finish setting the nets today with the needed tool. The tool holds the net and shoots it out under the ice. Once the end of the net is found he will dig another hole to hold that end of the net. The net will remain in the water during the coming months and we will venture out to check it regularly.
Living Off the Land
This month we have learned more and more about the preparation of different meat from the land. Martin shot to ptarmigan and a friend of ours, Laura, taught us how to properly prepare the meat. Families have been returning from bush with the various animals they hunted and trapped. Pictured above is a caribou meat that a local elder was preparing in her house. She set out a tent and has been making dry meat.
I was also gifted some moose meat from one of my students. I made baked moose meat spaghetti and look forward to experimenting more with it.
I have been loving my weekends. The daylight hours are getting less and less, which has really forced me to be purposeful with getting outside. Jenn and Louie have been enjoying their weekends inside away from the cold. Jenn has been perfecting the art of playing ukulele and has been exercising everyday. Louie is the master baker and has been exploring all new types of decorating and creating. I find that I go stir crazy and need to get out, so the rink has been the perfect adventure. Martin bought a new tool to clean the ice and it worked perfectly. Our evenings are spent by the fire playing games, eating, and listening to Jenn and Martin play ukulele.
One of my students returned from the bush. I am so happy to have her back in the classroom and to hear about all the adventures she had. Living in the bush is hard work and she developed such valuable skills while away. She spent her time setting traps, hunting, and maintaining the camp.
While away she successfully trapped 6 marten. She almost caught a 7th, but a wolf beat her to the trap and ate the majority of it, leaving the fur too damaged to sell. I had the opportunity to join her in the the skinning of her martens. Each fur will bring her $65. The Game Warden will come into town later in December and will buy all the fur that has been trapped. If fur is ruined or has not been properly skinned he will not purchase it, which made me feel very nervous when skinning it. Luckily, I did not make any mistakes and she will be able to sell the marten I skinned.
Gearing up for Christmas