Thursday, June 30, 2011

Address Post

Hm... this didn't come out as beautifully as it looked in my head. I think I need to wait for that fireweed to bloom fully.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Multiple ways to interact with plant life

Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, is fat, happy, and very secure in her place in the world. She hardly drinks water nowadays due to the voluminous quantities of fresh greens she is getting. The yard provides grass, fireweed, and dandelion greens, and there are always trimmings and rejects from my CSA pickup for her as well.

I decided to walk partway down the hill behind my cabin to see how the berry blossoms were blooming and make note of where the berries would arrive a few weeks. I headed for the path and found it smothered and overtaken by fireweed!

I whacked it back open with a machete. Can you see the path in the photo? No? It's there, I assure you!

The weekly pickup: Radishes, braising greens, kale, lettuce, escarole, bok choy, spinach, and... more of that mystery purple flowery vegetable that I don't care for. More snacks for Millie!

My spruce, all split and stacked! Yay! I'm going to have the Mormon missionaries help me cover it with the giant tarps that I'm always fighting with. They always want to help me with chores, so I saved that for them! :)

I tried to take a group photo, but the girls wouldn't face the camera. :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On Tea

In 2009, Sipping Streams Tea Company opened a specialty tea house in a busy, but otherwise unpromising-looking, location in the basement of what was then a rather unappetizing Chinese fast food joint. I was happy to see this, since I drink a lot of loose-leaf green tea, which westernized stores don't carry, and I had been internet ordering from this joint in my hometown. Since its inception, Sipping Streams has done cheerful and extensive marketing all over town and the internet, hosting artistic events, catering at street fairs and festivals, having tea booths at the farmer's market and tourist joints, donating tea for the annual Chinese New Year dinner held by the UAF Chinese Student Association, and maintaining a steady stream of Facebook chatter. It appears that they are doing well and will be around for a while. That is good!

Today I learned that the owners have won an international tea infusion competition in Las Vegas.

"Steven said that he and Jenny practiced and studied three hours a night for the past three weeks with samples of the unusual teas chosen for the contest. They made about 100 cups, using a variety of teas, before the contest... Steven said that making a perfect cup of tea under the circumstances was a challenge because the convention center is big and the water cools fast.

'Some of these teas you have to infuse three times,' he said, adding that there are also differences in water temperature and it is important to not use too much tea or too little."

Huh. Good for them! Although I wonder if any of us mere mortals could ever taste the difference between tea that is subtlety brewed to perfection and tea the way I brew it--dump tea leaves into pyrex cup, dump boiling water at an imprecise temperature, let sit on desk beside keyboard. :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

On Wickersham Dome

You can see a lot of the Pipeline from the White Mountains' southern reaches:

Autumn taking time:

We could see a wildfire:

Mud along the dry creekbed, which you have to cross to get to the next ridgeline:

Little flowers were everywhere. Berry season is coming soon! Yay!

A marmot who shouted at us all through lunch:

Autumn looking regal in the shade of a tor:

Linden looking a tad less regal, sitting on one butt cheek:

From the top of the Dome, we could see another fire:

More berries to come!

Yay raspberries!

Wild delphinium:

Wild lupin:

This field will be full of berries!

A breather in the shade on the way back:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Silicon2tanana comparisions: The Less Charming of Beasties

Small beasties:

The Silicon Valley has fleas, ticks, scorpions, and black widows, but fewer mosquitoes. But the mosquitoes may very occasionally carry West Nile virus, and ticks can carry Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

The Tanana Valley has none of the above, but many, many, many mosquitoes. On the other hand, the mosquitoes are not vectors of any known illnesses. In other words, none that can kill you, only annoy you, but annoy you so very, very, very much!

Medium-sized beasties:

The Silicon Valley has raccoons, skunks, weasels, rats, gray squirrels, opossums, coyotes, jackrabbits, and rattlesnakes, to name a few. Of these, only rattlesnakes and raccoons are real hazards. A rattlesnake bite can kill. Raccoons steal your food when you are camping, and if you're backpacking and depending on every calorie, this sucks. The rest of the critters are theoretically pests, but I like them. :)

The Tanana Valley has red squirrels, flying squirrels, ravens, wolverines, porcupines, and beavers, to name a few. Hmm... this doesn't even sound like a list of pests, just little critters. None of these bother me at all! Except for the slight fear that my dogs will entangle with a porcupine.

Large beasties:

The Silicon Valley has mountain lions. The Tanana Valley has mostly black bears and the very occasional brown bear.

There are way fewer mountain lions in the Silicon Valley than there are black bears in the Tanana Valley (0.031 mountain lions vs. 0.076 black bears per square mile, respectively), but mountain lions are more frightening to me because they would very much like to kill and eat you. They would stalk and pounce on you, catching you unawares, and would have every motivation to kill you for a protein source. Black bears are mostly vegetarian and generally only attack people when you startle them, stumble on their food stash, or come between a mama and her cubs. And they are likely to back off if they realize that you are not a threat.

The problem with taking comfort in this, of course, is that even if a black bear does not have strong motive to kill you, it can hurt you very seriously, very easily, with just a casual swat of a paw. The other thing is that they would steal your food at night, so you need a bear can to camp in the wilderness. Mountain lions, on the other hand, are not known for stealing Clif bars and cheese! Black bears also sleep all winter, while mountain lions stay awake, looking for things to eat (like suburban pets and small children).

And those are my musings on the less charming of beasts. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Here is my haul for the week:

I wonder what the story is with that napa cabbage. Greenhouse-started, for sure!

My own cilantro is also coming along swimmingly:

Tofu with green onions, cilantro, sesame oil, and salt:

You squish it together like so:

And another salad:

And what did I eat for carbs yesterday? Cookies. Cookies did just fine. :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Solstice!

Yahoo Weather doesn't know what to make of Fairbanks numbers. For example, it has a.m. and p.m. confused. Also, in winter when both the day's high and the day's low are below 0, it calls the lower temperature the 'high' and the higher temperature the 'low', I suppose because it thinks in absolute values.

In the meantime, temperatures are soaring in my native Bay Area. I wonder if Arizonans and New Mexicans laugh at Californians during their heat waves, much as Fairbanksans laugh at Lower 48ers during their cold snaps. Stay cool, Sili Valley-ites!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Misc Photos to Share

Leaving a pub around midnight:

The Tanana Valley from the side of Ester Dome:

Roses in the woods:

Blue sky!

Crowd at the Solstice Festivities:

Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, in all her corpulent beauty:

Friday, June 17, 2011

More Food Photos

These seem to be a theme with me lately, eh?

Anyway, I bought the funniest melon the other day. It looked like a cantaloupe on the outside, but it was like a honeydew on the inside. I'd had the reverse before, but never in this direction. I had no idea when I brought it home, either, so I was a little surprised.

Once when I was in China, I bought some cantaloupe candy called "meron candy", which I thought was hysterical! I wish I'd saved just one wrapper for kicks.

Per my sister's suggestion, I made arugula pesto:


Have a good weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Utter miscellany

So first we have a photo of an artichoke that is nearly the size of my head.

Probably my last Outside vegetable purchase for a while. I couldn't resist, and they were two dollars a piece! My late almost-stepfather told me that where I grew up near the edge of San Francisco used to be acres and acres of artichoke fields. That was before, of course, the fields were cleared to make way for residential homes.

Miss Millie B. Doofus, Supreme Ruler of the People's Independent Republic of Bunnistan, at her repast:

Rosie Creek Farm is nearly all seeded in:

My veggie pick up for this week:

Salad greens, braising greens, arugula, radishes, bok choy, and, inexplicably, jiu cai.

I still had jiu cai and bok choy from last week to use up, so I tapped into my mother's cooking repertoire and fried the former with egg and the latter with garlic. Noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil rounded out the meal.

That looks like a lot of food, but it's not. You know how folks say that when they eat Chinese food, they are hungry again soon afterwords? It's because you need to eat more. We Chinese eat truly gargantuan piles of food.

Look what I found in Tok (pop. 1393):

My favorite olive oil ever!

Found at The Tok General Store, which specializes in health foods. Which is really surreal considering that Fairbanks doesn't even have a health food store of such caliber. The interior of the store looks like it's lifted straight from Rainbow Grocery.

I paid $20 and was astonished to find what I believed to be a minimal markup, but today a quick online search shows that the going price in the Outside world is $13. So the markup is actually a whopping 54%. On the other hand, in California, I would have paid sales tax, which would reduce the Tok markup to 42%. That's still a lot. The California price of $14.11 is a hell of a bargain for a 16.9 ounces of hoity-toity olive oil that is organically grown, to boot. No wonder it was my favorite back in the day!

That's the first time I'd ever bought a pantry staple while on a road trip, and I surely didn't expect to do it in Tok!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chicken Report

Chicken, Alaska has a year-round population of seven, most of whom consist of the postmaster and the postmaster's family. The next logical question, I posed to the bartender: To whom does the postmaster deliver mail? To which I received the reply that folks who live in Chicken in summer, have their mail forwarded to them wherever else they are during the rest of the year. So much of this boggles my mind. Mail flying into Chicken, which is not road-accessible in winter, and then getting sent back somewhere else. A family staying in Chicken, all by themselves, all winter. Huh.

During the Chickenstock Bluegrass Festival, the population swells to a whopping 200 or so, 2900% of the town's population. There is plenty of space for camping; the outhouses never get full or smelly; you can carry your beer from the festival while you walk all over town; dogs are allowed everywhere, including the festival grounds; what's not to like? Oh, the best part? A local colony of swallows keeps the mosquitoes at bay.

Another interesting thing is that unlike most other small Alaskan towns and villages, Chicken and its (relatively) nearby communities of Eagle, Circle, Central are predominantly white and not Native. That's because they were settled by miners and, more recently, outdoorspeople looking to 'get away from it all', as they say.

Chickenstock "works" for several reasons. Firstly, the pun is completely irresistible. "Tokstock", "Eaglestock", or "Circlestock" just wouldn't have the same ring to them. Secondly, it's the perfect distance from 'civilization' (five hours' drive from Fairbanks) to make it feasible as a road trip, but far enough away to force you to spend a night, and some money, locally. Thirdly, bluegrass as a music genre tends to attract peaceful folks. For a music festival to be out in the middle of nowhere, in a small town with no police presence and no security force, I think bluegrass is the only type of music that would attract a relatively safe and peaceful crowd. I'm sorry to stereotype, but I don't think a heavy metal or rap concert would work in Chicken. Fourthly, the local folks in Chicken are warm and friendly and genuinely like their visitors. A lot of small-town Alaskans who live off the road system (Chicken counts in winter, when the Taylor highway is closed and it becomes accessible by air only) really like their privacy and solitude, if you know what I mean. They would not take kindly to 200 hippies showing up to camp and play music for a loud, lively weekend.

Anyway, here are my photos:

Rather a nice lunch spot, wouldn't you say?

Lupins are already in bloom here:

Linden not stealing food:

See, I have the World's Most Perfect Dogs.


The Taylor Highway going North from the Alcan to Eagle:

The potholes and frost heaving/buckling in the Taylor Highway are repaired using locally quarried gravel. The local rock is pink, so parts of the highway are pink!

Welcome to Chicken!

Fairbanks Exploration Company Gold Dredge No. 4, sister to Dredge No. 3, in Chatanika:

Downtown Chicken:

There are a tourist trinket shop, a pub, and a cafe. What more do you need?

The pub:

Dawgs! Chicken is very dog-friendly, and is filled with friendly dogs.

Phew! Are they pooped!

This is across the road. The suburbs of Chicken, if you will.

Cool old trucks in the suburbs of Chicken:

Lupins and daisies! Sorry this is a crummy photo because Autumn and Linden wanted to be in it, and I had to shove them back.

Chicken Creek:

The old sluice next to which we camped:

Somehow we cheesed off this bird. He perched there and eyeballed us and made hrrmfy noises at us for a good ten minutes.

The excellent says he is a White-crowned Sparrow.

The girls have to be tied while we hang out at camp. Huskies are very motivated at taking self-guided tours!

Most folks camped by the gold dredge:

The festival grounds:

Meese take their babes to Chickenstock, too!

This way, this way! Meese want to have coffee and shop for trinkets!

"Hurry, hurry, before we miss the best music!"

"Let's set up camp first, then sight see."
"But Mama! I wanna go to the cafe and have pie and ice cream!"

"Don't wanna camp too close to these featherless bipeds. They smell funny."

See even MORE meese photos here.

Time to go home! The Taylor Highway, looking South:

Lunch on the way home is as beautiful as lunch on the way there:

Beautiful drive!

One of the rivers we crossed (I forgot the name) was still covered with ice! It's like spring plumb forgot to come to one river! How weird!