Thursday, April 28, 2011


First Mosquito Spotted!

I saw one bite my neighbor Tuesday evening as we stood chatting in his yard, but I am in denial about it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring still springing

The flamingos are emerging:

The yard is nekkid:

I've put the screen door back on:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Rest of the World

I think having lived only in California and Fairbanks, I've developed some peculiar concepts about weather. I forget that the Rest of the World is Quite Different.

1) The Rest of the World has four seasons of approximately equal length. (The Silicon Valley has two seasons: Rain and Not-Rain. The Tanana Valley has four seasons: June, July, August, and winter).

2) The Rest of the World has rivers that do not freeze solid. Fishing is not in general a winter hobby, but you can in theory go fishing without an ice auger. You may absolutely not ski on rivers. Rivers are not modes of transport for land vehicles. Cars, snow machines, and quads may not go on rivers. Only Jesus may walk on rivers.

3) In the Rest of the World, it snows every winter, but the snow is not permanent for the following six months.

4) In the Rest of the World, during winter, you can build a snowman whenever you darned well please, and don't have to wait for a warm snap. And a warm snap has a slightly less generous definition than "above 0F".

5) In the Rest of the World, one may not use one's porch, nor shed, as a freezer.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Signs of Spring, Redux

1) Switched from studded to summer tires.

2) Outdoor thermometer hit 65F yesterday.

3) Outdoor cookout with brats and hot dogs.

4) Dogs' toehawks are falling out.

Happy Half-Priced Chocolate Bunny Day, everyone! I have not celebrated since moving to Fairbanks because Fairbanks does not have a candy store. Hear that, investors? Hear that, folks looking to open a small business? Fairbanks doesn't have a candy store. We need a candy store so I can buy a half-priced chocolate bunny on National Half-Priced Chocolate Bunny Day. Hrrmf!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Mudder and Millie

P.S. Here are some lousy photos of two pairs of swans we saw on the Chena. The first migratory birds I've seen back this spring!

They dive!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Through an outsider's eyes

My mum has been visiting me. Unfortunately, it's not the best time for tourists, because it is neither winter, with its great skiing, beautiful snow-covered trees, and aurora, nor summer, with the rivers flowing blue and the exploding greenery. It's breakup, in all of its glory, and covered with a slick of ice.

The first thing I did was give her a pair of light-duty ice cleats and inform her that she was not allowed to leave the cabin without them.

She, like most folks, finds my cabin charming but the lack of running water quite painful. She also, like me, likes to sit and stare out the windows. But I was surprised that she finds areas that I find beautiful, plain, and areas that I find plain, beautiful. Her favorite part of my commute is what I think of as Dr. T.J. Eckleburg's Valley of the Ashes and Broken Dreams. How strange that she finds beauty in what I consider desolation!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Interesting moosey concepts

I'll confess I only skimmed it because I have, like, this pesky work crap to do, but the premise sounds interesting.

Here we have a profile of one Gary Olson, founder of the Alaska Moose Federation. His main mission is to rescue, rear, and release orphaned baby meese into the wild. His eventual goals also include a moose petting zoo.

My opinion? I adore animals in general and meese in particular, and am one of those irrational bunny-lovin' tree-huggin' idiots who cries over animal testing labs, even as I know that some of them benefit the human species. It seems obvious that I'd support this guy. But... but... I can't help but see his well-intentioned quest as foolish. From my understanding, human-reared moose generally do NOT become truly wild upon release. They are habituated to humans and will hang around humans. I think they would weaken the species by teaching poor habits to their future calves, and it would only be a matter of time before somemoose got killed by a car, starting the whole cycle over again. Not to mention... petting zoo of undomesticated animals? Even if this is a minor part of Olson's plan, that he even thought of it tells me that his motives are more "warm and fuzzy" than protection of and respect for the species and for Mother Nature.

I do have sympathy for individual moose when unfortunate things happen to them, but I have no sympathy for moose as a species. They are not endangered, and if they were, the solution to that would be habitat protection and reducing the amount of hunting allowed, not human-rearing the offspring of road-killed moose.

In other news, fellow Fairbanks dry cabin dwellin' UAF workin' blogger TwoYaks reports his incredulity about the Goldstream General Store's being now owned by an ultra-conservative who spouts his ultra-conservative views at his employees, who sued for harassment and won. TwoYaks says about everything I have to say on this topic, so I'll leave it at that.

Monday, April 18, 2011


The zukes are already striving for world domination.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


The Minor News says that Breakup is running behind schedule. However, the ice is also thinner this year, according to the folks who keep track of things in Nenana, so I'm thinking the ice will go out on the Tanana right on time.

Come into my pockets, money. Come on!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Po Girl Soup

Po Girl Soup:

It's got mooseburger, potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, and beer. All except for the beer Alaskan and squirreled away from the last harvest season, which now seems like a long time ago. It looks bland, but it's actually quite flavorful due to using beer as the base. We do have Alaskan beer, even in Fairbanks, and it's really good, but I cook with PBR because it's cheaper and comes in cans, and until very recently, Fairbanks only had facilities to recycle aluminum and not glass.

And in other news, I am so pleased to read that honeybees are making a comeback, at least in California. Among all of the doomsday scenarios with which we are pelted every day, Colony Collapse Disorder was one that was actually occurring, and was a definite, immediate, and catastrophic threat to our food supply. Everyone, from tree-huggers to global food corporations, were rightly concerned, and for once, the latter did not deny that there was a problem and plow on with their business as usual.

I remember how pleased I was to hear that Häagen-Dazs had earmarked a million dollars for donating to different bee research funds. They stated outright that their motives were self-interested--they were concerned about having a shortage of vanilla and fruit to flavor their ice creams--and paradoxically, it made me feel good to know that we don't have to depend on kindness for goodness to happen in this world. Self-interest can and does drive goodness, too, because we are all on this ship together!

Also, also! Check out these screen captures I got from the Fish and Game website:

Wowza. That's a lot of allowance for physical diversity! You'll notice that there is an option for pink eyes, so Miss Millie Bunn can get a fishing license if she wants to.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Not much to report

So here is a photo of Luk Chai, an adorable behbeh elephant at the Taronga Zoo.

More adorable photos of him here and here.

Seriously? How cute is he?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

AAAAAHHHHHHHHnnnnggggg *wibble*

Behbeh reindeer had JUST been BORNED. Mama reindeer still had some afterbirth mess on her bum! But she was up and about, and behbeh was clean and resting. :)

Behbeh reindeer calf watch

Monday, April 11, 2011

Broccoli Beef

The quintessential Chinese-American dish, developed by Chinese immigrants in America for non-Chinese palates, sneered at by "authentic" Chinese food snobs, beloved by myself:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chocolate Party Photos

Here are some photos from this year's Museum benefit chocolate party. Last year's here.

Ready to go!

The UAF table:

A fish chocolate tower!

I like zee leetle teacup truffles.

These musicians were very good!

Me with my friend B. We took another shot because of that ghostly blur, but B wasn't smiling in that one, so I posted this. :)

Me in the artistic outhouse again!

So I've decided that the chocolate party is maybe not the best idea. The problem is, it's way too easy to overdose on sweets and not want any more chocolate. Even though those caterers did a really good job at making small portion sizes so you could try everything, I just don't dig sweets that much. They need to make a CHEESE party! A fondue party! Simmering pots of cheese in every room, and everyone is issued a baguette and bread knife upon entry! Hell yeah! The problem is, my mum would absolutely have refused to be my date to that. And she was going to be my date to the chocolate party, if she hadn't caught a cold. :(

Oh, here are some photos from the girls' and my walk this morning.

Rosie Creek, all edged with thin ice over overflow and pretty much impassable:

New trees growing into an old burn area:

The aftermath of this fire has been extensively studied.

A shallower part of Rosie Creek that I could traverse on foot:

The girls being all cuddly and fuzzy with their multitudinous paws:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

One more ski before acquiescence to spring

The elevation of Ester Dome is only 660 meters, but at this latitude, that is enough to be quite a bit cooler and retain more snow. My friend M and I, both excellent candidates for being Narnian white witches, went up this morning to ski one last time.

It was a beautiful, crisp, clear day.

We could see the White Mountains:

And Murphy Dome:

The Whites again:

Where a raven had swooped for breakfast:

Poor little wodent didn't make it:

On the way back, we went to Ann's Greenhouses, for potting soil and seeds.

I'm only starting squash and a few herbs. I've learned that peas, potatoes, and herbs grow quickly enough to go directly into the ground after the last frost, and my tomatoes will *never* grow as quickly or heartily as greenhouse-started ones, so I don't bother starting them from seed. So all I start in my office are squash and the herbs I'm most anxious for (basil and cilantro).

Ann's got an astonishing operation going:

Oh, I finished splitting my full rounds last night:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Winter keeps up the good fight

This morning, I woke up to this:

The snow was warm, wet, and packable, but unfortunately, I had no time to make a third snowman. Most of this snow will have melted off the roads by the end of the day.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Millie eats baskets

Imagine how convenient packing food would be if we ate baskets! No worries about squishage or soggy bread! Just grab a basket and go! Backpacking would be so much easier--just string a bunch of baskets together and hang them off your pack!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Notes from Here and There

1) More signs of official springdom: Flamingo #2 is starting to appear from the snow, the slushy snow has made skiing (sigh) end for the year, my snowman has lost his eyes, and I've done a clothing switcheroo.

2) It occurred to me that my loyal readers and miscellaneous surfers might be curious about my heating costs. So after two winters here, I feel I can give a pretty good estimation. My cabin is tiny (16 by 20 feet), so easy to heat. But although it's well-insulated for a log cabin, with the logs cut to be full rectangles and with fiberglass stuffed in between logs instead of chinking, logs are still not, after all, as insulative as modern building materials, with an inner and outer wall sandwiching giant, fluffy batts of fiberglass. The net effect is still positive for me, because heating a large space is always expensive!

So the numbers (drumroll please): I go through about 100 gallons of heating oil and 3 cords of wood a year. Heating oil prices fluctuate like gas prices do, so in recent years I have seen it as low as $3 and as high as $5.50 a gallon. So let's take $4.50 a gallon and say that's $450 a year. Wood, I could get for free if either I were willing to harvest my own trees (which I'm not), or I had a big ol' truck I could drive out to where folks are allowed to cut their own wood with a permit (which I do not). So I buy wood for about $250 a cord if it's seasoned (dry), or about $180 a cord if it's green (freshly cut). I'm a pretty good planner, so let's skew that average on the low side and say I pay $200 a cord. Which makes my average heating cost about $1000 a year. Is that a lot? Is that a little? To be honest, as a native of California, where air conditioning is a bigger concern than heating, I have no idea. Local folks? Please chime in!

3) What am I talking about, "logs cut to be full rectangles"? Here, I drew a picture for you:

Full rectangles mean I enjoy the full width of the log's nominal cross-sectional size, instead of losing those bits at the edges of the round. Most cabin logs are cut on three sides. I prefer the look of three-sided logs (so from the outside, your cabin looks like it's got round logs, like the Abe Lincoln cabin stereotype), but I don't feel that strongly about it!

4) A.G. Ferrari Foods has declared bankruptcy? Nnnnooooo! Say it ain't so, Ethel! A.G. Ferrari's is awesome! And their house wine is ten dollars a bottle and as good a reliable, sangiovese/zin-based red as you'll ever find!

5) Here are is a video of* orphaned bear cubs planing with an orphaned tiger cub. Apparently for no other purpose other than to make our hearts flutter.

*Rena has reminded me that, ya know, ceci n'est pas une pipe.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Furry Entertainment

Borrowed Sam for a morning to have fun with friends and kids. Here we have a perfect display of how specialized dog breeds are. Sam fetches, huskies pull. Period. You can throw a ball or a stick for my girls, but they will give you a blank look in return.

Here I am serving as a "loose leader". :)

This is all behind Mushers Hall.

At one point, we accidentally went down the starting chute of the races. The girls accelerated while I ran behind and hollered, "Whoa! Whoa! WHHHHOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!" Our wee passanger just hung on and thought it was awesome and didn't realize that there was a problem. :) I think there must be some leftover "run as fast as you can" pheromones on that section of the trail. :)

Wee gent throwing a ball for Sam.

This blog provides privacy protection for folks under 18. :)

Sam luh-huhvs snow!

And giving kisses!

She can also serve as a loose leader!