Thursday, July 30, 2009

First two years in Fairbanks...

... and we have experienced record-setting heat, record-setting cold, record flooding, record dryness (we are now closing on the driest July on record), earthquakes, a volcanic eruption, and intense wildfires. And through it all, no-one's batted an eye or thought anything unusual was going on.

Actually, come to think of it, it seems that meteorological records are broken frequently, everywhere. When I lived in the Sili Valley, it seemed that during every heat spell, they would announce that "it was the hottest 22nd of June in 82 years" or something like that. Records are broken frequently, it seems, or newscasters always have a way to report it to sound interesting.

For my first few jobs out of college, it seemed like every time I started a new position, something rather calamitous would happen at the workplace almost immediately thereafter. A long-term high-level manager would quit, or there would be a fundamental reorganization, or a core project would suddenly be canceled, or funding would suddenly be announced for a project that had prior been considered a failure. It seemed that everywhere I went, a shakedown followed. But then, it got to be too much to be believable, and I came to realize that shakedowns happen all the time, it's just that you only notice them when you are there.

Garden Gorgeousness

Maybe the last of my peas, if I lose my battle with the p'eagle:

I love my lakota squash vines. Aren't they gorgeous?

And I've got so many Winter squash coming from them! Yay!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My peas got raided!

I'm not sure what sort of critter did it, but the tops of my pea vines have been nipped off! What sort of critter would do this? The only candidates we have are rabbits and meese, and neither seems likely to me. I cannot imagine either a rabbit standing on his hind feet, or a moose delicately nibbling, to get only the tops of the vines while leaving the rest of them, as well as the other veggies, intact.

In fact, the only creature I can think of who loves the tips of pea vines but would leave the rest alone is... MEEE! Did I, in a bout of somnambulance, wander outside and eat the tips of my own pea vines?

Oh, my friend M just sent these photos from berry picking. Some of us pose nicely for the camera. Others of us just show our best side.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The stars of my garden

Here are some photos of the most prolific and/or impressive members of my garden. Please excuse the poor quality of the photos. The air has an eerie glow at times, nowadays, thanks to the local wildfires. My camera doesn't know what to make of it.

First up is the Lakota squash. It's taken off like some gorgeous vegetable explosion, and it's got at least a dozen little yellow behbeh squashes on it.

It also makes the most beautiful of the squash blossoms.

These peas have given me lots of peas, though not a lot at once. I add them to salads and stir-fried veggie mixes:

One of the real stars, the bees. Alaskan bees are fast! I couldn't get a good photo.

All four of the tomato plants I started from seed have little green tomatoes now:

The tomatoes from Ann's starters are dwarfing mine:

The strawberries are growing like crazy and sending runners everywhere, but aren't producing strawberries. I'm not sure what to do about that.

I also got some alpine strawberries from Ann, and they are dee-licious and candy-sweet.

My first acorn squash! And I've got lots of them on the way!

The last zucchini of my current batch of zucchini madness, but I have more on the way within a week or two:

The sunbeam makes the prettiest plant--it's big and symmetric, and doesn't make runners. It looks like a bush, if you've ever heard of a squash bush.

And BT was right--my little patch of basil makes lots and lots of basil. I cut it back, it comes back.

The potatoes are also doing well. What didn't do so hot? Well, my eggplant seedlings died quickly after I put them outside. The tenderpod beans and butterbush squash are making pretty plants, but are not producing at all. The pumpkin also died in infancy. And I flat-out forgot to do butternut squash, although it is my favorite Winter squash. I must have been half asleep when I put in my seed order.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I went blueberry picking with some friends today. I filled one and a half quart jars. Not bad for one morning.

They are delicious this year--sweet and plump and full of blueberry flavor.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Some fruit and veggie pictures

Collards and kale from the farmer's market:

Rose hips from the end of our cul de sac:

Raspberries from our landlords' bushes:

There are a LOT of them:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Southern Food

How is it that the South is still populated? If I lived there, I'd eat until I exploded. I seriously could not help but stuff myself with their rich, ambrosial food--smoky, moist pulled pork drowned in sweet, spicy sauce, buttery biscuits that are so light and flaky they seem to float on air, creamy cole slaw, golden fried hush puppies that seem to melt in your mouth, the lightest, moistest, crispiest deep fried catfish I'd ever tasted... Even my free breakfast at the hotel--with the usual assortment of rubbery eggs, rock-hard rolls, and stale prepackaged cereals--was blessed with those levitating biscuits. I guess Southerners are just incapable of serving bad biscuits.

Oh, and Little Dooey, I am in love with you.

Deep fried goodness:

Mississippi State University has an extensive agriculture program, and they make their own ice cream!

And now... puppy pictures!

They are now about 6 weeks old. They are getting bigger:

And are playful:

And are curious:

They already smile, as all huskies do:

Poor mama getting mauled. The pups have little sharp teeth now.

She jumps on top of her house to escape:

Puppies are constantly on the move and are difficult to photograph:

And they are into everything!

"Pick me up!"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Starkville, MS, part 2

"So," I said to the front desk clerk. "Do you have one of those collections of brochures of stuff to do around here?"

His face went blank for a second, then he slightly smiled. "Stuff to do? In Starkville?"

"Something you tell people, 'Well, while you're in Starkville, you must go see this!' Local sights?"

"Well, there's not much in the way of shopping... We have a movie theater..." he offered.

"A place to take a walk?"

Finally his face lit up. "There's a park just a few miles away with a lake and everything!"


"But it's fixin' to rain," he pointed out mournfully.

So I shuffled on back to my room. Maybe I'll check out the park tomorrow. It's purty country around here, as one person pointed out to me, and I have to agree. It is purty, with soft scenery and gently rolling green hills as far as the eye can see.

I'm unimpressed with the road system, however. I was told that the city architects had a French influence, which led to the roads curving every whichaway. I only have two comments. 1) Why do city streets suddenly spit you onto highways, with little warning? In most nice, sensible areas, Fairbanks and the Sili Valley included, you must make a deliberate choice to go on the highway. You aren't just poking along sightseeing and suddenly end up getting barfed onto a highway and having to step on the accelerator. 2) Why are highways long-term commitments? In most sensible places (like, ahem, Fairbanks and the Silly Valley), if you should accidentally end up on the highway (not that this often happens; see point #1), you can get off in half a mile and turn around. Not so in Starkville! You are stuck for 2-3 miles, while you fly past alarming signs that say, "You are now leaving Starkville." Geeze!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Greetings from Starkville, MS

I have a meeting with my sponsors and sibling-researchers from other Universities, so here I am in Starkville, MS. It has a quarter the population of Fairbanks, but it is much more "civilized"--it has strip malls, city lights, hotels, motels, fast food, chain restaurants, paved roads, and indoor plumbing in all facilities. What more could you want?

It's dark at night, though, and not just in comparison with Summer nights in Fairbanks. I mean, even in comparison with Winter nights in Fairbanks, which are lit up by reflectivity off the snow, and with nights year round in the Sili Valley, which have street lighting and tons of other ambient light. It's dark out there.

By the way, traveling from small town to small town is no fun. It took me a total of 15 hours, the same as between San Francisco and Hong Kong, and 5 flights. My way home will be better--only 3 flights, and from late morning to early evening, so, a normal day.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Donnelly Dome

Today a friend and I hiked to the top of Donnelly Dome:

Donnelly Dome is surrounded by flatness, so you have a 360 degree view from the top.

Here we are halfway up. The trail up is wicked steep, bombing straight up with no switchbacks.

Look how far above the highway we are! We are parked down there beside it.

From the other side of the Dome, you can see the Pipeline:

ceci n'est pas une pipe.

Here is a view down the ridgeline:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Some relief

The winds have changed direction again, and the smoke has dissipated from town. Temps are in the cool 50s F, and the girls and I enjoyed a long, slow, refreshing run this morning.

Here is another use for garden zucchini madness, Minestra di zucchine:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

They... asked me how I knew...

... my true love was true...

...Oh, when your heart's on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes

I have two small, unique, unmarketable gifts. One is that if I need, say, 12 screws or nuts or rivets, and I go to the little drawer and pinch out a small handful, 90% of the time I get exactly 12 screws or nuts or rivets. It's like I have magic hands. The other is that I get astonishingly appropriate popular song lyrics in my head at exactly, astonishingly appropriate moments.

Anyway, the smoke is still thick today, but it is showering off and on, which makes the air more tolerable. Surprisingly, the particulate levels are only a smidge higher than they are during the extremely cold days of Winter, when we have static ice fog from people's wood stoves--258 micrograms per cubic meter at 3 p.m. yesterday, as opposed to 249 mpc on Dec. 29, the highest one-hour reading of last Winter. It sure feels ten times worse than it did in Winter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Smoky smoky

Last night as I took the girls out for their last pee, there were wisps of smoke curling along the ground. Apparently the wind changed direction, and we get to smell the fires again. Damn. Well, at least we had a lovely weekend.

Here is today's "weather":

Hey, some relief is expected in the form of thundershowers. Cool.

Here is what it looks like outside right now:

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fairbanks salad, and portraits

The current Salade Niçoise, a little different from the Winter version:

This one is almost all locally-produced. The zucchinis and peas are from my own garden, the lettuces, tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes are either from the farmer's market or from the "Alaska-grown" section of Freddie's, and the eggs are from the farm where Autumn and Linden grew up. Only the tuna and the olives are from Outside.

Here is Linden looking very Linden--silly and cute.

Autumn and me:

Linden and her paw paws:

Autumn and her paw paws:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

All kinds of miscellany

The wildfires continue to burn, there are lots of whales in the SF Bay area (how cool is that?), and here are some a lot of photos.

On and around Wickersham Dome:

Rock cairns mark the trail above the tree line:

A few early blueberries:

And a few shots of my garden:


Alpine strawberries I bought from Ann. She says they will over Winter.

Lots of little zucchinis:

All four of the tomatoes I started from seed have flowers now. The ones I got as seedlings from Ann already have little green tomatoes. Today is hot enough to drive away the mosquitoes, so I did some pretty ruthless pruning.

Early girl. Looking good, but not as good as the others.

4th of July. Looking the best of the four:

Northern Exposure:

Good 'n Early. This one didn't start out so hot, but it was the first to put out flowers.

My Lakota squash is going crazy:

All of the squash are, actually. Here is the Sunbeam:

Squash blossom: