Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tsunami Advisory for Bay Area

This is a new one on me. Good thing the potential danger is at night, when no one in their right mind is in the ocean, anyway.

And let us say a prayer for those who were killed or injured in the South Pacific, and their families.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Veggies and Fuzzies

My loot from the last farmer's market of the year. It was snowing lightly, but the market was still busy. I guess most of the farmers hadn't had frost yet, because the greens were in good shape:

I got turnips with greens, garlic (garlic in Fairbanks? Who knew?), a reasonable-sized savoy cabbage, collards, leek, chard, kale, and tomatoes.

I had a bunch of friends come over the other night to make s'mores on the wood stove:

A perfect way to ring in cold weather!

The girls are warm and fuzzy:

So are the doofi:

Five fuzzies in one shot!

I like fuzzies:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fred's got his studs on...

... and the dogs are going crazy. They just want to pull and pull. I hope we get enough snow to go 'joring soon, because they are quite unmanageable on the walks now.

And that is all I have to say for today. Enjoy what's left of the weekend, whether you are bundled up watching the snow or on the beach. It's a spectacular world we live in, isn't it? Let us all enjoy our own unique spectacles. :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

First Snow, I guess

I think this counts. It stuck around until the middle of the day.

Here is the view out behind my house:

Here is my favorite corner of the house. The view out those windows looks like a postcard:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sundry news

The PFD amount was announced today to be $1,305. For those who don't know, the Permanent Fund was established from oil royalties but is now invested in a diversified portfolio of mainly stocks. Each year, state residents who have lived here the previous full calendar year get a cut of the royalties, depending on how the portfolio performs over a five-year average. It is generally around $1000 a person, give or take a few hundred, and the IRS takes a cut of it. Emotions run high about it, from long-term residents' anger that new residents get a cut, to Outsiders' sneers at Alaskans' annual "welfare handout." There are also locals who are absolutely livid that a supposed flood of out of state residents move up here every year, just to cash in on the dividend. While all of these emotionally-charged opinions get flung around, I wonder, does anyone really think that about 800 dollars (after the IRS takes its cut) is some sort of windfall? It only just offsets the higher cost of living, if even that. Think about the cost of fuel oil (I just had my 200-gallon tank filled for about $580, and it'll probably last me two winters, but that's sharing my heating load with wood). Higher cost fresh produce, Winter tires in addition to Summer tires, more expensive warm clothes and boots, a higher power bill due to plugging in the car on cold days, etc all eat into that money. Granted, quite a few of these costs (like Winter clothes and Winter tires) amortize over several years, but even being generous and saying you come out ahead by, say, $500, is it reasonable to say that it's a windfall, or a legitimate reason to move over 3000 miles?

In other news, temperatures have now dropped below freezing for real. I dug out my trusty magic hat (comfy for a range of about 80 F degrees), my favorite magic boots (comfy for a range of about 50 F degrees), and a light scarf. I'm now ready for the next month of temperatures!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Equinox!

Happy equinox, everybody! From here on out, our days will be shorter than the lower 48's.

We had our first (meager) snow today:

The first good snow of the season usually makes people unexpectedly giddy, even if they dislike cold weather and do not welcome Winter. Just something about watching all that white fluff tumble from the sky seems to make people laugh. Of course, it helps if you are in the company of joyful dogs. But today's doesn't count. It's not enough to stick; just enough to make things grey and mucky.

I harvested the last of my garden for the year yesterday evening:

I will definitely do more Winter squash and potatoes next year! Both are so simple to grow, and are staples of my diet. And Winter squash are so beautiful, sitting in my garden like giant orange jewels. Potatoes have the added benefit of being amusing to dig out!

My alpine strawberry plants, which produced several handfuls of tiny, unbelievably tasty gems, are still lush and green, but are no longer producing. They are built for this climate, indeed!

In other news, behbeh rhino!

By Mark Keppler of the AP. Apparently he was born last Sunday at the Allwetterzoo Zoo in Muenster, Germany, and his keeper is called Michael Adler. There are more cute photos of him here!


Monday, September 21, 2009


Okay, first of all... BEHBEH PANDAS! Twins! And a sweet, gentle, content mama. Awwwwww!

Summer is over for sure, now. I guess the Equinox Marathon served as well as the actual equinox as a start of cooler weather. I bust out the light hat and gloves to walk the girls this morning, and the oil stove, set to 54F, actually kicked on for a bit. I do believe we dropped below freezing last night, as at 7 a.m., my outdoor thermometer read 36F/2C. Tonight, my potatoes and Winter squash are coming out of the dirt and going into my coldest cupboard. The dogs are bouncy and happy and difficult to keep calm. When I first get home, I have to let them run at least several laps around the yard before I can even give them a pat on the head. Otherwise, it's like trying to pet a tornado.

Here they are in a calmer moment:

And just to be fair, here are the doofi:

Here are some photos of our local honey. It is the best honey I've ever had--rich in texture, but light in flavor. It also seldom crystallizes, even in my cold kitchen.

Isn't it beautiful? It's a shame that it's twice as costly as the gallon bucket I get from the feed store, which is also an excellent, delicious honey, but not quite the same.

Finally, here is the recipe for green tomato relish, also called chow chow, and delicious in sandwiches or, in my case, by the spoonful.

Green Tomato Relish, AKA (Chow Chow)

20ish normal-sized green tomatoes, more or fewer if you have huge or tiny tomatoes
4 bell peppers of any color. I used 3 green, because they are the cheapest, and 1 red, for aesthetics.*
3 medium sweet onions (I like yellow)
2 cups cider vinegar
1-2 cups granulated sugar, depending on how sweet you like relish. I use 1.5 cups.
About 3 tablespoons kosher salt
About 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seed
About 3 tablespoons celery seed

1. Chop up all the veggies into small chunks.

2. Put everything into a large, non-reactive pot. Stir well and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring from time to time and skimming as needed, until it cooks down and thickens, about 2-2.5 hours.

3. Fill hot sterilized jars, screw on sterilized lids, and simmer in a hot water bath--about 5-10 minutes for half pint jars, 15-20 minutes for pint jars.

4. Let sit on the counter overnight. Check the seals the next day.

*What's up with green bell peppers being 80 cents a piece, and red, yellow, and orange ones being 2-3 dollars?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Equinox run and green tomato madness

Yesterday was the Equinox Marathon. Runner's World magazine ranked it among the top ten most beautiful marathons in the U.S. After being disappointed by the urban setting of the Honolulu Marathon, I was skeptical, but when I looked up the race course, I saw that it followed the ski trails behind campus, and then went up and down Ester Dome via the truly beautiful Ester Dome Road. Ester Dome, I must confess, is unbeatable in the Fall for its beauty. Not feeling up to spending Summer training for a marathon, I decided to do it as part of a relay team. The relay divides into three sections--the first is essentially flat, the second goes up Ester Dome, and the third goes down. I found a friend willing to run downhill, which I refuse to do, and then let my other friend pick which of the remaining legs she would like. She chose the uphill, so that left me running the ski trails behind campus. I had never been on them since they don't allow dogs, so it was nice to check them out. They were really pretty, with bright, yellow trees.

Anyway, after I got home, I finally faced facts that my tomatoes wouldn't ripen, picked them all, and made green tomato relish.

I had so many!

Knowing I'd have to leave room for peppers, onions, spices, vinegar, salt, and sugar in the pot, I diced as many tomatoes as I figured I could cram into my biggest non-reactive pot and still be able to stir it. I managed to cram in about 20 medium-sized ones.

Feeling very Alaskan, I simmered the mixture on the wood stove while the jars sterilized right next to it.

When I was done, I had two pint jars and three half-pint jars of green tomato, relishy-goodness. Smelling this stuff, I understand why a certain friend of mine often drinks pickle juice straight up.

Then I looked back at my original pile and saw that I had hardly made a dent!

Recipe posted tomorrow.

A few phone calls to several gastronomically gifted friends took care of the problem! I suspect quite a few green tomatoes are being cooked throughout Fairbanks today, and I've now contributed mine.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Late season veggies from the farmer's market:

Flowers on campus:

Mt. Denali peeking out from behind Chena Ridge, as seen from campus only on days like these:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

People are Funny

The woman in front of me in line at the supermarket today used reusable bags, didn't put any of her produce into the little plastic bags, and bought all organic. She also had approximately 30 items in the "12 items or less" lane and gave me an unprovoked cold look when I stepped into the line behind her. As I began to load my stuff into the conveyor belt, I found that I couldn't reach the next rubber divider. She watched me reach and did nothing. The lady in front of her passed it to me.

It's interesting how people can care about being "green" and preserving the earth and such and yet be complete jerks to their fellow humans. It makes me wonder... for whom are they trying to preserve the earth?

In other news, Fairbanks has instituted a bag tax of 5 cents per bag on people who don't bring their own bags to the store. The money will go to fund future recycling programs. I sure hope they come quickly, because I feel bad throwing away things that could have been recycled had we the infrastructure.

And in other other news, the UAF cooperative extension is reporting success in growing apples in Fairbanks! Yay! I love apples!

Oh, and here is a moose on campus:

Tonight I'm going to The Ester LiBerry Music Festival. Pie! Pie! Pie!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Enough, already!

Tonight I am not building, sewing, cleaning, moving, organizing, stacking, chopping, splitting, cutting, or studying anything.

I just recalled today how I had a blog post or two in mind about The Unique Experience of Buying a Cabin in Fairbanks, but I'm not going to do that tonight, either!

I'm having dinner with an old friend, and then plopping down with my leisure reading. Hah!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Choices, Choices

On the 19th, I can either attend a benefit dinner for Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, featuring all locally-grown veggies and fruit, and rub shoulders with all of the other tree huggers of Fairbanks. Or I can attend my friend Peter's Deep Fryer party. Here, I quote from the invitation to the latter:

"If you can dream it, you can fry it... Got a deep fryer, need to break it in in glorious fashion. Bring something to deep fry, or an alcoholic beverage, or both."

I think that wins!

Ah! I missed it!

I had wanted to post a post at 9:09:09 on 9/9/09, but I got into the office 51 seconds too late!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fall kisses Ester Dome

Fall has begun in earnest. Today, however, has been an unusually warm day. I took the girls to Ester Dome.

You could see to the White Mountains:

You could also see the Alaska Range:

Oh, and I found out Friday that I FAILED both physics comps! Oh well. Better job next time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Of Dogs and Humans

Results of a study in Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, Hungary indicate that dogs, unlike wolves, respond to human teachers just as human babies do. Dogs and human babies will trust the human teacher rather than what they see with their own eyes. I guess this explains why Autumn sometimes jumps into the back of my car before I open the hatchback. Ouch.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

First Day of Classes

My only class meets Mondays and Wednesdays, so today means nothing special to me, except that all of these kids are milling about campus, livening up the atmosphere. I saw a girl in the hallway just now, mincing about atop three-inch stiletto heels. Now, I can rock stilettos for a party, but school? School in Fairbanks? Sorry, but no. This kid is either going to drop out and move back to her out-of-state home within a few weeks, despondent over the lack of shopping opportunities in Fairbanks, or change her fashion approach very quickly! I can say from personal experience that dress shoes + ice = a very, very bad idea.

In other news, free food! There are tables with cookies and coffee and popcorn lining the hallways! Yay! UAF is such a friendly school like that. Neither Berkeley nor SCU ever passed out food on the first day of classes! They don't do end of semester cookouts either! I wonder if all of those tiny little liberal arts colleges in small towns that you've never heard of are super-duper friendly. It seems like they would be. On the other hand, they might also be racist/sexist/fill-in-the-blank-est. I wouldn't want to go much smaller than UAF.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fall is beginning

From my morning run:

And from my commute: