Banjo – It’s Good for What Ails Ya

Back before I ever learned to knit, I spent my first winter in Alaska in a small, Park Service cabin in Denali Park.

Quinn-dog loved to sing along every time I played banjo... at least, I think he loved it.

If you’re living alone in the middle of the frozen tundra, a banjo is a great thing to have.

"As soon as a child is born, he or she should be issued a dog and a banjo." ~ Charlie Brown

It’s cheerful, helps pass the time, and being alone, you don’t have to feel bad practicing your frailing technique over & over on the same three chords.

My nephew, Chad's first old time banjo lesson, 1996.

Once I learned to knit, I spent less time with my banjo. After all, there’s only so much fidgeting with your fingers a girl can fit into a day…

But last June, I went to Miles of Music Camp on Lake Winnepesaukee, and fell in love with my banjo all over again.

After 16 years, I’m still just a beginner, but I love me some old time banjo!

What about you? Do you play the banjo? (Or would you rather not admit that in public? 😀 )

25 Random Things About Me

I got tagged on Facebook.

I decided to play along for a change and write up this list… which turned out to be more fun than I expected.

So here it is:

1. I ignore almost 100% of chain emails and messages (this is the first one I have ever responded to!)… and won’t be offended if you don’t respond back.

2. I have a tattoo: a celtic spiral on my right hip.

3. I have quite a sweet tooth… and the cavities and crowns to prove it.

4. I worked for 4 summers in a salmon cannery in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

5. I think it is valuable to have worked such a crappy job… it’s a great base-line comparison for the rest of my life.

6. Working at that cannery made waitressing on Lanai seem like heaven!

7. My best job ever was a volunteer dog mushing gig in Denali National Park.

8. I met my husband scooping poop at the Denali Park Kennels.

9. We lived several years in a 16′ x 18′ single room cabin, without electricity, running water or telephone.

10. In winter and spring, the closest we could park was 2 miles away, so we’d ski, skijor or hike in & out.

11. I really loved living in that cabin, and never minded using the outhouse, even in negative 40F weather.

12. I was pretty clutzy growing up, and spilled my milk at the dinner table nearly every night until I was about 14.

13. I am fluent in German, having lived a year (after high school, before college) on exchange in southern Germany.

14. I lived there on a bio-dynamic turkey farm, and learned how to clean turkey stomachs with the best of them!

15. I can say: “hello”, “beautiful”, “delicious” and “thank you” in Thai, having traveled there alone for two months one winter.

16. While in Thailand, I attended a meditation retreat, where I didn’t read, write or speak for the entire 10 days.

17. I can say: “hello”, “beloved”, “hurry up!”, and “I don’t like you, you’re ugly” in Tagalog, which I learned from a sweet little fillipina grandmother at the salmon cannery.

18. I studied Italian one year in college, but the only phrase I remember is: “I studied Italian in college, but I don’t remember what I learned.”

19. When I was in the 5th grade, I had to take speech therapy classes, because I was talking too fast.

20. I am an avid hockey nut: I play about 6-8 hours a week, and am a vociferous, loyal fan of the Dartmouth Women’s Hockey team.

21. I’m not much into regular girl things, like clothes, make-up or fancy hair, but I do like to paint my toenails in the summer.

22. Despite being a bit of a tomboy, I make half my living as a fiber-artist, knitting, felting, sewing and embroidering warm winter hats.

23. I don’t have to look while knitting, and enjoy spectator activities (concerts, hockey games, movies) best if I am knitting at the same time.

24. I love old-time banjo music, and really only tolerate bluegrass.

25. I was adopted as a baby, and have recently been reunited with my birth father and his family… I finally look like somebody else! 😉

Dog mushing in Denali Park.

Dog mushing in Denali Park.

Skijoring with Pippi.

Skijoring with Pippi.

In front of our little cabin, with my brother Tim, nephew Chad, and sweet husband, Andy.

In front of our little cabin, with my brother Tim, nephew Chad, and sweet husband, Andy.

Dry Creek, Alaska. You can just make out the roof of our cabin in the spruce trees below that gravel bluff.

Dry Creek, Alaska. You can just make out the roof of our cabin in the spruce trees below that gravel bluff.

Knitting at a Laura Cortese concert.

Knitting at a Laura Cortese concert.

Knitting at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival.

Knitting at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival.

Knitting between hockey games.

Knitting between hockey games.

Some of my felt hats.

Some of my felt hats.

I bake a mean strawberry rhubarb pie.

I bake a mean strawberry rhubarb pie.

Me & my Labradad!

Me & my Labradad!

Hats off to Uncle Earl’s “Waterloo, Tennessee” tour!

Make that “Hats on!”

Fiber artist, Carrie Cahill Mulligan assists Uncle Earl with cd sales at Club Passim during the New England portion of their "Waterloo, Tennessee" tour.

I was lucky enough to catch the band during their spring tour in support of their new album,”Waterloo, Tennessee,” released on Rounder Records last month.

Produced by John Paul Jones (of Led Zeppelin fame), this second album does a great job capturing the exuberance and energy that characterize the g’Earls’ live performances.

I love handmade things: hats, pies, furniture and especially stringband music. If you have the chance to catch Uncle Earl live at a festival this summer, do it!

Until then, check out “Waterloo, Tennessee”. You’ll be happy you did.