Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So I guess it's well and truly winter

Absurd temperatures?


Returning from a half-hour run with a slushy water bottle?


Copious amounts of carbohydrates and bacon?


Monday, November 29, 2010

Warm Weather Record

November broke records for warm weather (temperatures above freezing).

Ho hum.

It's -20F/-29C right now. Brrrr! The girls were happy though, and there is good traction on the streets. And, miracle of miracles, I actually dressed appropriately for my morning run. :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How to clear a 120-foot driveway in five minutes

1) Wait until you see a neighbor plowing his driveway with a plow attached to his truck.

2) Grab the snow shovel and run to the top of the driveway and begin very ostentatiously shoveling the driveway.

3) Wait for said neighbor to drive over with the plow and offer to plow yours with the truck.

4) Voila.

Friday, November 26, 2010


As I made my report on Icepocalypse 2010, temperatures had already dropped below freezing, and snow was gently falling like forgiveness, covering the ice and binding the gravel to the road surfaces, making them safe again. Today, several inches of fresh snow are on the ground, it's continuing to fall, and it seems that the ice storm was just a strange dream... I mean, temperatures above freezing? Rain? In November in Fairbanks? Couldn't have been...

Here are my Thanksgiving photos.

All I get for supper the night before, and lunch that day. Salmon and vegetable soup. I am reserving stomach space:

My entry into the pie contest, a pecan pie with cranberry and chocolate drizzles. Goals: To use up some of my quart of cranberries, and some leftover chocolate chips I had sitting around. Achieved? No. I only used a few spoonfuls of cranberries and chocolate chips each.

Gathered together:

Mmmm food:


The girlie dogs were nice enough to pose together:

The pies:


Isn't Chewie adorable? If he were mine, I'd never be able to say no to that face:

Yeah, what Chewie wants, Chewie gets:

The girls hang out with Chewie and flash demon eyes:

Relaxing upstairs after stuffing themselves full:

The girls get comfy:

A game of cards starts at the cleared table:

Sammypants passes out:

As does Chewie:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My report on the Great Fairbanks Ice Storm of 2010

So Monday morning, as feared, I woke up to warm weather, exactly around thaw temperatures. Still somewhat clueless, I dressed lightly and headed out for my morning run. It was okay on the side streets, but as soon as I set foot onto the main road (Cripple Creek), I splatted onto the floor like Bambi on the pond. Then, for the life of me, I could not stand up. Arms and legs went every which way. Finally, the dogs dragged me to the side of the road, where I could get purchase in the soft snow and get my feet back under me.

When I got home, I called my adviser and informed him I would not be going in that day. Then I turned on the radio, called a few friends, and realized the extent of the storm. Rain had fallen and was continuing to fall, coating the world with a slick of ice. Within a few hours, my car, driveway, trees, and pretty much entire world had been covered with a crystalline sheet of ice.

In the meantime, I decided to make a snowman! The upside of warm snow! Yay!

The girls, as usual, were uncooperative with photos. "I need to clean the top of my head!" "I need to kiss you!"

Here I am, having given up on them:

I was pleased, and looked forward to the snowman hanging out in my yard all winter. Unfortunately, it was too warm even for that, and a few hours later, her head rolled off. I retrieved the carrot for Millie, but my hat was nowhere to be seen. We have no wind, and there were no human nor moose tracks near it. I suspect a raven. What excellent nesting material a straw hat will make!

Later that day, the radio reports indicated that the town was shutting down--first the school district and the University canceled classes, then it was announced that governmental offices would close, too. The highway patrol advised that no-one travel unless absolutely necessary. The mayor of Nenana phoned in to announce a similar situation in Nenana, and to tell his townsfolk to remain home. I thought that was amusing, that the mayor of Nenana communicates with his people by calling the local country music station. Radio announcers were comparing the current situation with historic ice storms (ours was worse than '92, but not as bad as '37).

Since it was Monday, and I generally run errands and take care of stuff for the week on weekends, I had plenty of food, water, dog food, and clean clothes. I figured if I ran out of water, I could always get water from neighbors with a well, so I didn't worry about that at all. I just settled down for a boring day. I have plenty of leisure reading, but it seems the older I get, the less patience I have for sitting still, even when I am enjoying my reading. I cuddled with the girls.

It occurred to me that if it continued to rain and ice built up on the power lines, we might lose power, so I ate all my ice cream. Yeah!

By the end of the day, reports indicated that five school buses had gone off the road, and there were several multi-car pile-ups on the roads. Flights into and out of Fairbanks had been canceled.

The thing that gave me cognitive dissonance is that when people think of harsh weather in Alaska, they think of bitter cold, howling winds, and piles of snow. They don't realize that we have no wind, and we are for the most part well-prepared for cold. It's mid-winter warmth that's a big problem. So there I was, in my jeans and light sweater, perfectly comfortable, warm and safe and in absolutely no danger, yet talking and hearing talk of this harsh and horrendous ice storm that was beating us up! It didn't feel like harsh weather at all. The rain was light, the air was warm. It's funny how the biting cold of a normal winter's day doesn't cause even a tenth so many problems as a warm day and a gentle rain.

At the end of the day, the weather prediction was that Tuesday would be just as bad, but temperatures would drop Tuesday evening, and we'd all be safe again. School and the University canceled classes for Tuesday as well. Late that night, my power began to flicker off and on, and it finally flickered out for good shortly before midnight. Good thing I had eaten all my ice cream! I turned off the lights, so they wouldn't blind me should power return in the middle of the night, opened the venetian blinds of one window to let in some light from the waning gibbous moon, and went to bed. By morning, power was restored, but the weather folks, in their infinite optimism, informed us that, oops, they had miscalculated, it would be warm for another day, and temperatures would not drop until Wednesday evening.

Another day of cabin fever! I put on my yaktrax, took the girls for a long walk, made two batches of cookies, finished the very heartbreaking novel I had been reading, visited a few of the neighbors bearing cookies, scored several invitations to Thanksgivings in the neighborhood, in case I couldn't make it to my planned one due to the weather, and shoveled the slush off my driveway, to minimize the ice buildup when temperatures finally would drop below freezing again. One of my neighbors decided to use the day to repair our block of mailboxes that had gotten wiped out by a car sliding off the road, and I helped him restore them into the ground, when he was done. Also scored a shower at his house. All in all, not a bad day, although being a person who is active by nature, I still found it excruciating.

The city of Fairbanks doesn't have salt for the roads, because it's normally too cold for salt to be of use. But they have plenty of gravel, and the gravel truck came and generously sprinkled the main road. The highways and main roads in town got plowed while they were soft. The power flickered off and on throughout the evening, and later that night, rain began to sprinkle again. I was very upset and felt that the angels were crying.

It seems the longer I live closer to nature, the more superstitious and religious I feel about things like weather, and trees, and rivers. Being sheltered from such things in the San Francisco area, it was easy for me to be a completely straight-laced scientist, but here, I take nature more personally. I remember one time skiing on the Tanana; the wind was at my back, so I hadn't realized how cold it was, but when I turned around to come back home, it bit at my face and threw loose grains into the patch of exposed skin on my cheekbones. I was so cold and felt the reality and depth of the trite phrase "Nature's wrath." I felt that the Tanana river gods were assaulting me, and I really took it personally. So, too, did I feel personally assaulted last night as the soft rain fell, creating more ice. But of course, that makes no sense at all!

This morning, I woke up to temperatures below freezing again, and falling snow, that remained frozen even as it hit the ground! Yay! Weather Gods, would it be too much to ask that you bring us another several feet of snow to replace what you ruined, and refreeze Rosie Creek so I can ski across it again soon? Thank you!

Here are some reports:

This one has video of people playing on the ice. It very funnily says, "Here are four videos posted on YouTube by people in Fairbanks enjoying their ice time and showing no fear of falling, meaning they are young."

Icepocalypse! Note that one of the featured photos in this article is of a car driving through a puddle. Liquid water? Outdoors? What is that? Take a photo and put it in the headlines!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Here is my favorite piece of Thanksgiving reading, ever. It'll only take a moment of your time, so please enjoy. From Jon Carroll, a columnist with my hometown rag with a run of several decades thus far. He closes with:

And the final bead on the string is for this very Thanksgiving, this particular Thursday, and the people with whom we will be sharing it. Whoever they are and whatever the circumstances that have brought us together, we will today be celebrating with them the gift of life and the persistence of charity in a world that seems bent on ending one and denying the other.

Thanks. A lot.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Photos 'round the hood

A warm front is bringing snow and a threat of temps above freezing. Please cross your fingers for us that this does not occur!

An overcast day:

A glimmer of sunlight on the horizon:

Tall spruce on the permafrost-free ridgeline:

The girls scout the trail ahead:

Part of the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest, evident by the trees that Do Not Belong Around Here:

God only gives us black spruce, aspen, birch, poplar, and the occasional white spruce. These are something else:

Happy, happy! Joy, joy!

The remnants of a lightning-destroyed tree. This is an important landmark for me:

On the protected side of the ridge, aspen can grow:

Permafrost-stunted trees at the lower elevations:

I'd never thought of myself as a "No Trespassing" sign kind of person, but one day I saw some quad tracks approach too close to my cabin for my comfort, so I put this up at my trail spur:

I put one up on my neighbor Tony's trail spur as well, since the track came up his, then crossed the property line to my land.

Here is swath of where the tallest trees were cut to mark the boundary between private and State land. To the left of this frame is the State, to the right is Tony's and my land:

Climbing this hill to the back of my cabin feels steeper and steeper every time!

Dawg waiting in her truck in the Freddie's parking lot. Isn't she sweeeeeeeet?

Them's our gas prices, too. I'm told they're quite high. People think we ought to have cheap gas, but we don't have much in the way of refineries, so the oil gets shipped down, then back up.

Edited to add: $%#&!!! Just go away, Chinook, please, and leave us with our snow!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Scenes chez moi

What do you do when the lever snaps off the valve on a water jug? Two screws give pretty good leverage.

There, I fixed it!

Cranberries and blueberries cooking in my oatmeal:

Dried rose hips in my tea:

Due to previously described Fairbanks produce market pressures, giant pomegranates are now $3 a piece!

My flamingos, wearing caps of snow:

The girls keep my company while I shovel the driveway:

We finally have had enough snow to cover Rosie Creek, so I can ski over it instead of taking off my skis and mincing across the ice! Yay!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


And: Please stop dying, mox! You need to stick around and provide entertainment for visitors! And make adorable behbeh moxes every spring!

The sunrise highlighted the mountains very nicely this morning, so I snapped a photo from a hallway window:

That's Mount Hayes, the highest peak in the Eastern span of the Alaska Range.

College of Engineering and Mines Thanksgiving Lunch

Here is yesterday's sunrise, around 9:30, two photos about 5 minutes apart:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


A sun dog:

Supervising Rufous while he picks snow clumps from between his toes:

My girls are lucky and only get snow clumps rarely (dunno why... something about their coats). So they don't generally need booties.

This morning as we got back from our run, my young neighbor across the street was waiting for the school bus, as usual, but this time her dad was with her. He called out to warn me that there was a mamamoose with her this year's calf nearby.

It's interesting that in some places, parents will wait with their kids for the school bus because they are afraid of predators of the human kind, in other places, they are afraid of predators of the beastie kind, and in my neighborhood, they are afraid of prey animals that just happen to be very large and thus equally capable of hurting a human.