Sunday, August 31, 2008

Oh pumpkins, where art thou?

As Summer draws to a close, I am carefully meting out my freezer and storage space of what Alaskan veggies I'd like most to have in the depths of snowy Winter. Mostly, it's the tender, leafy things that don't ship well, and also the veggies whose Alaskan versions are far superior to the ones shipped up. So that left me focusing on chard, kale, tomatoes, spinach, collards, and, to a lesser extent, broccoli. Lord knows I love me some Alaskan broccoli, but even the flaccid, rubbery ones that get shipped up from California in Winter actually taste just fine to me, once you cook them.

In the coldest cupboard, I hoarded magic potatoes and sweet local onions. The veggies and tomatoes I chopped into portions and froze the same day they were picked. By far the best bang for my freezer space is in tomatoes. Our local tomatoes have been sugary-sweet, dense, and flavorful, and anything shipped up in Winter will taste like plastic, so I allotted a lot of space for those. Kale and collards ship up just fine, but the Alaskan versions are sweeter, so I hoarded as much as I could. And I don't think multicolored baby chard is available in Winter anywhere, so I froze a bunch of that.

The only thing I'm sadly missing this year is pumpkins. Our unusually cool and rainy Summer means most of the pumpkins didn't ripen. I got two tiny ones, enough for our Thanksgiving pies, but I'd sure love to have more. Of course, I could buy some from Freddie's, shipped in from somewhere else, but it won't be the same. Ann's Greenhouses has a big ol' pumpkin right now... I wonder if they'll whack it up and sell off chunks! I'd love to buy a big chunk!

Edit: I went to visit Ann today, and she said she hadn't made plans for this year's giant pumpkin yet. She typically donates it to charity, like the food bank. Well then! Make me feel guilty for wanting it for myself! ;) She actually had quite a few decent-sized pumpkins that she hadn't sent to the farmer's market, though, so I bought three. That ought to be enough for all the pies and breads we can handle, and I'll use the two little ones I bought at the farmer's market for our Fall stews. Yum! Pasta e zucca! My favorite!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Okay, look...

You media people can scrutinize and criticize Sarah Palin all you want. That's what people sign up for when they go into politics. However, please stop sneeringly commenting on her love of mooseburgers. It's a low blow to make fun of regional differences just to make someone sound provincial. No-one made fun of Bill Clinton's Southern accent. No-one made fun of GW Bush's Texas accent. (Okay, we make fun of his elocution, but that's different.) Besides, in this particular instance, I think our regional difference is superior to the mainstream. I, for one, would MUCH prefer responsibly-hunted moose meat to factory-farmed CAFO meat, with its cruelty, antibiotics, hormones, and potential for disease. I thought that non-vegetarians making fun of hunters had become passe. Yet here we have the mainstream media doing it. Not a vegetarian? Okay, then shut up about subsistence hunters. Thank you.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Yes, yes, okay

This is a personal blog that eschews politics, but yes, our governor is McCain's running mate. I have not really formed an opinion of her, except that she kind of seems to fill the same PR role as Obama--relatively young, charismatic, good-looking, criticized for inexperience but lauded for being a fresh face in politics.

It will be interesting to see how this goes.

I also wonder how she will fare, personally, if she and McCain win. She has five children, the youngest of whom is an infant with Down's Syndrome. Her husband is part native Yupik and a competitive snowmobiler. By all accounts, her family loves their lives here in Alaska. Could she in good conscience uproot them to Washington DC, probably one of the harshest contrasts to Alaska that I could imagine? I'm all for women in power and breaking the glass ceiling and all that, but neither gender should sacrifice too much of their family. Oh well.

Earlier this week, I voted in person for the first time in my life (I'd always voted absentee, out of sheer laziness). Because we only moved so recently, my polling place is still in Ester, at the Ester Firehouse. Volunteers guided me through the process and had bowls of candy out. It was all so quiet and charming. Later, I had to run an errand in town, and saw that the polling place there had campaigners outside, just outside the minimum allowed radius. They wore loud colors, held signs, chanted slogans, and encouraged cars to honk their support. It was such a contrast to the quiet scene at the Ester Firehouse, that I'm not sure I want to change my voter registration address at all.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


This dude apparently cannot believe what he just saw, in a zoo in Augsburg, Germany.

Collard green for dinner

Yes, collard green, not greens. Singular.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Photos from my sister's visit

First, a note to my mother and brother-in-law: I am not posting photos in which my sister is clearly identifiable, because she is a very private person. I will send you all of the photos full-size on a CD via snail-mail, and there are some beautiful ones of her there, okay? Okay, now that that's out of the way...

The visitor's center in Nenana:

My sister taking a photo of me taking a photo of her taking a photo of me taking a photo of her:

A glacier visible from our hike:

An incoming storm, which chased us off the ridge:

Linden looking very happy:

Autumn looking very happy:

A creek in Denali, during the storm:

Behbeh goat #1 (smiling!):

Behbeh goat#2:


The piggie entertainment was that they stood in their troughs while their barley was poured over their heads. I do that to my rabbits. :) Oh, and guess what they get for fat? Falafel oil from the people who run the falafel stand at the farmer's market, who are old friends of my dogs' former mom.


Now here are some photos from berry picking.

A view to Wickersham Dome:

The dogs on the trail:

My sister on the trail:

My sister photographing the view:

View towards the mountains:

View towards the valley:

Linden sitting in her classic Dope Position (on one ass cheek):

Wile E. Autumn surveying her territory:

Autumn in the berry patch:

And on the last day, we went to Chena Lakes and rented a canoe.

Chena Lake, clear and calm:

The girls relaxing in the boat:

A beaver lodge:

The girls sun-worshipping:

A lake inlet:

My sister taking a photo of Autumn:

Phew! All done!

No photos yet, but I'll blabber a bit before going home to upload them properly...

My sister commented several times that it felt like Fall up here, and I guess it is. The first of the trees are starting to turn yellow, there are a few leaves drifting around on the porch, the sandhill cranes are starting to do their practice migrations flying around town again, and isolated patches of wispy fog hang in the cool morning air. I pulled out a merino wool shirt liner to wear this morning for my run, and the girls were raring to go, showing none of their summer lethargy.

I visited the dogs' former mom at the farmer's market today and we chatted a bit about my sister's visit and the adventures that we had taken her former dogs on. I had taken my sister to visit her farm over the weekend. She had had a pair of newborn goats (behbeh goats! !! !!! photos to come!! !!!!!). The day was perfectly beautiful and warm and sunny (as every day was, when my sister was here, that girl who apparently charms the weather), and as we enjoyed the goats and laughed at the pigs' antics, her human children came running up with the neighborhood kids, shirtless and smeared with red juices from ripe berries. They informed us that they had been attacked by a bear, and showed us the berry juice "blood" on their arms and faces (I wonder if they realized they were making a beary pun! Haha!). We all recoiled in mock horror. Bears! Attacking the children! Their mother scrubbed them with the garden hose as they shrieked at the cold water.

It was all so incredibly charming. It seems almost anachronistic, doesn't it? Children playing with berries in the sunshine, getting lovingly scolded and rinsed by a garden hose. Aren't children supposed to slouch and look surly, hang their oversized pants down low on their hips, and wear baseball caps backwards? I'm telling you, the hope for America may well be in family farms. I hope with a very deep part of me that they never go away.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Things to come!

I've been out of blogging touch as my sister was visiting. She brought with her perfect, sunny weather and clear blue skies.

I had composed a list of wham, bam, thank-you-ma'am nice things to do to enjoy the weather and food during her all-too-brief visit, and we hit them all. Oh yes, we did. And I also put her to work and now I have three pints of blueberries in the freezer, in addition to more pies. Oh yes, I do.

Tomorrow, I will be in an all-day seminar. Photos to come Thursday!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'll know I've found Heaven when...

... I have Alaskan veggies and California fruits. Until then, I celebrate what I've got, when I've got it.

Here are my future strawberries. Please cross your fingers for me that they turn into strawberries before it gets too cold!

Here is my loot from the Farmer's Market today. My sister is coming to visit us this weekend, so I get to buy more! To paraphrase something my father once said, you know what's better than veggies? More veggies!

(that is a quarter on the broccoli)

I've found love...

It's almost half the size of Linden!

It's almost one third the size of Autumn!

It's bigger than the tea kettle (and almost a quarter the size of the stovetop):

It completely fills a dinner plate!

And guess who loves it most of all? Miss Millie?

Or Mr. Grumphus Bumfus Bunn B. Doofus?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And here we have...

... two thirds of a bunch of Alaskan collard greens (I forgot to take a photo before I took out and chopped what we used for our and the wabbits' dinners). This should put into perspective why two or three dollars a bunch is a bargain.

Giant vegetables don't taste much different from ordinary ones. They aren't tougher or more or less flavorful. They are better than supermarket veggies simply by virtue of being fresh and local, but that is true of any produce in any geographical location. The only things that are markedly different from their lower 48 versions are the root vegetables (which are sweeter) and the salad green mixes (which are darker, more bitter, and more fibrous). I guess even a baby lettuce wants to be a big badass, in Alaska.

First Frost?

First frost possible tonight

I still have about a dozen green strawberries. Will I ever see them ripen? Ayah!

First rule of gardening in Fairbanks: Everything is an annual.

I was looking forward to Winter, until Summer began to cool off and the mosquitoes went away. Now I am sad because I was enjoying this particular weather pattern. I can promise you this, though. After this Summer, I will never again complain about heat in Fairbanks! No sir! The last time I complained that Summer was too hot, it rained for two months! Jeebus!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Misc Photos

Another day, another weather:

What a view of the valley!

Linden with her Papa. I could not get this shot with Autumn, because she would not leave my side. Dan called and called, but she just stood beside me and looked puzzled, like, "Uh, you're twenty feet away from me... why do you need to call me?"

A woodpecker on campus. I cannot say the word "woodpecker" without snickering. :)

The girls doing their best "Woe is us" look:

In other news, the new grad students are arriving this week. I'm not in on the engineering gossip yet, but the incoming physics grad students are unusually large in number this year--eight--and all boys. Physics seems to have had bad luck with girls the past few years. In 2006, it was one other girl and me, and we both left due to medical emergencies in our respective families. In 2007, it was one other girl and me, and we both changed our fields of study, she to do a master's in teaching, and I to engineering. In 2008, no girls at all. I know of only one that was offered admission. She came up to visit and was quite shy and self-conscious. I was sorry to realize right off the bat that she most likely would not come. On the other hand, a girl in a male-dominated field cannot afford to be either shy or self-conscious, whether it's in academia or industry, in a "wild" place like Alaska, a big sophisticated city, or a small town. I sure do hope she finds herself somewhere.


I really can't think of much to post right now. The weather has been beautiful--clear blue sky, not too hot, not too cold. Thunderstorms in the evenings that clear by the mornings. We attempted again to go blueberry picking yesterday, but as the evening's storm blew in, we thought it best not to be out on an exposed ridge. We got just enough for two tiny pies. They were just as good as last year's. We have another month or so to get blueberries, so I'm not too disappointed with our slim pickins.

Anyway, so since I couldn't think of much to say today, I thought I'd tell you the story I had meant to post with the beagle photo, but had forgotten to do. The other day I was in the parking lot at Freddie's. I normally park at the far end of the lot, because there are always spaces available there so I can be sure I can park in the same location each time I shop, sparing me cumulative hours of wandering around looking for my car. Anyway, as I made my way toward the store entrance, I saw an elderly golden retriever in the back of a truck. I am a sucker for elderly golden retrievers, with their round, soft heads, their gentle, noble eyes, their whitening muzzles. Anyway so I walked over to say hello. He was soooo sweet and put his paws on the side of the truck so I could pet him better. I thought it made a sweet photo, so I began digging out my camera. As I did so, he moved over to his companion, a black lab mix, and began humping him! And there I was, standing there pointing a camera at them.

It'll be great once word gets around that I like to shoot dog porn. Truly awesome.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Outside the Blue Loon last night

A beagle puppy!

Awwww! I would not want a beagle puppy though. You know what happens to beagle puppies? They turn into beagles.

Rainbow from a quick thunderstorm:

When I used to commute from Ester, I'd drive by this little area every day. On one side of the highway is the Blue Loon, which is a great pub with great food that shows movies and hosts concerts, and on the other side is the Gold Hill Grocery, which has the best wine selection I've ever seen in a gas station liquor store. There are also two construction yards, some ramshackle cabins of indeterminate purpose, a cluster of brand-new cabins that just popped up in the last year, no trees, and a lot of dust in the Summer. It reminds me, sadly, of the Valley of the Ashes in the Great Gatsby. All that's missing is Dr. T.J. Eckleburg's billboard.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sunny Days

Miracle of miracles, it's been sunny!

These were taken Sunday after our hike. Sam's parents came to pick her up hours earlier than expected. They said that Denali was socked in by fog and rain and not much fun.

Enjoying the sun:

Three fuzzy lumps:

The sun streaming in our front windows:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Meeting my meat

For most of my 20s I avoided ranched meat. This made me essentially a vegaquarian (hah! I love that word! I learned it from my friend Debbie) because very few people in the Bay Area hunt.

When Dan was on chemo, however, I wanted him to eat richer, so I cooked store-bought meat. And ate store-bought meat. Sorry, veggie-heads! I only stand with you until I get too lazy... and I will not cook separate meals for us! People asked how I felt, and did my body have to make adjustments. Nope.

And I've been eating meat since. Since I've moved to Alaska, the combination of the harsh weather and my physically active lifestyle have made it difficult for me to get enough calories and nutrients without meat.

I used to be one of those people who said that I'd never really cared for the taste of meat, so it wasn't so difficult to give it up. But now... well, I would have a hard time giving it up. I actually crave meet, especially when the weather is cold. I have also found, somewhat surprisingly, that I have a real knack for preparing it. It seems that every chunk of animal flesh I cook just turns into savory juices. I didn't learn this growing up; my family generally cooked and ate Asian-style, which meant that the meat was finely sliced or ground, nothing like the chunks of meat I buy and prepare nowadays. But I bring home packages of meat chunks and body parts, cook them up, and wow. Damn, I'm a meat-eater now! Whoda thunk?

I still try to be responsible with my meat consumption. Alaskan game hunting is mostly responsibly managed, so I'm hoping to gradually move away from the store-bought meat and toward the moose and the caribou. In the meantime, I try to stick to meat from ranches that have good reputations for their animal husbandry and care practices. Even Freddies offers such options. We've been eating quite a bit of Durham Ranch Buffalo lately. Yeah, I know, it's shipped all the way from Wyoming, so it's not very tree-hugger friendly. But it is from a free-roaming herd. Have you herd? Heh. Um... okay I brought this up because I have this theory (please correct me if I am wrong) that it is probably generally healthier to eat unconventional animals because they generally come from smaller ranches that tout their novelty. I bet most of them offer tours and probably have a petting zoo with fuzzy behbehs in the Spring. That being the case, I'm thinking they are probably less inclined to keep their animals in cruel or unsanitary conditions. Am I being naive?

And by the way, buffalo is delicious!


UAF hosts quite a few conferences that would be esoteric anywhere else but that are very pertinent to the arctic.

UAF is kind of bizarrely civilized, not only by Alaska standards but even by the standards of the bustling metropolis that we call Fairbanks. It has vast green lawns, paved paths lined with cultivated flowers, and, strangely, no mosquitoes and no mud. So UAF can host these conferences and have all these foreign visitors in their sharp suits, and said visitors never have to realize that just beyond the borders of campus, there are swaths of permafrost, bogs, mud, and marauding moose.

Earlier this Summer was the Permafrost Conference, and this morning, a sign at the entrance to campus welcomed attendees to the Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians. So of course I had to google it. It sounds fascinating.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Foggy walk at Ester Dome

San Francisco is a very foggy city. So many jokes have been made about it that not a one can make a San Franciscan laugh. They are all cliches. Yes, that one too. Heard it. Anyway, today Ester Dome looked like San Francisco.

We are babysitting Sam for the day while her parents take her grandma, who is visiting from Montana, to Denali.

Dogs going!

Dogs coming!

So happy! Linden enjoys Sam's company because she also acts like a puppy, like herself. After talking to the three of them for an hour or so, I started calling them things like, "San" and "Lindum." Their names together kind of become a tongue twister.


My girls in the mist

Have you ever tried to get three dogs to pose with a nice piece of scenery in the background? Not possible. Autumn is the closest to cooperative.

Rosehips I picked last night and washed and laid out to dry on top of the oil stove. it seems silly now, but Dan or I will much appreciate a cup of hot rose hip tea with honey some cold Winter day not long from now.