Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall and chores

Sufficient wood is split and stacked for this winter now. It'd be good to get ahead though, so as long as the weather is fine, I shall keep at it:

Autumn and Linden can't hang out with me while I do yard work. They'd get in the way and create a hazardous situation. But after I'm done, they always run outside to check out what I've done. They sniff the new wood piles, dance on the newly shoveled driveway, pee on the piles of weeds, sniff the newly planted seedlings, or whatever. But they always show proper appreciation for my work. :)


Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth,
you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom
and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one
may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet
to come may continue to praise you for your bounty...

--For the Conservation of Natural Resources, Book of Common Prayer

Edited to add: Look! It's a behbehelephant taking a baff! :~D

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fall continues to do its thang

I feel like we are having an extended fall this year. It started early and is lingering late. Migratory birds have been spreading their takeoff time over nearly a month now. Yesterday I was doing yard work and saw two enormous flocks of swans take off (numbering hundreds each):

I also went to Rosie Creek Farm's annual Fall blowout sale and bought some beautiful squashes and stocked up on garlic and onions:

Also on offer, which I declined: brussels sprouts (no room left in hands), tomatoes (ditto), giant cabbages (thanks, but no thanks), eggplants, and some other miscellaneous stuff.

Yesterday I attended a workshop hosted by UAF's Cooperative Extension Service on how to build a Rocket Stove. It was led and taught by one Lasse Holmes, an impressively bare-footed, almond-butter-packing, legitimate hippie from Homer (he gets the stamp of legitimacy from this Berkeley girl).

The premise of a rocket stove is that instead of lighting a fire and then damping it down by choking the air intake, as I and other conventional wood stove users do, you light a hot fire, burn the heck out of it (which results in a cleaner burn), insulate the burner itself, and feed the heat to a large thermal mass, which then heats your home slowly and retains its warmth long after the fire has gone out. What's innovative about the rocket stoves is that instead of having the thermal mass in a giant stone hearth around and on top of the combustion chamber, as traditional masonry stoves have, they build the thermal mass off to the side, in a long bench. This enables easier servicing of the combustion chamber as parts inevitably wear out, and also gives you a nice warm bench to sit on.

We build some demo stove cores after the classroom part of the workshop. This is the design developed by Lasse himself:

I have to say, I was impressed and had fun learning about masonry, but I'm pretty happy with my little wood stove just as it is. I go through about 60-70 gallons of heating oil and 3-4 cords of wood a year. My power bill fluctuates between 30-50 dollars a month. That's crazy impressive by Fairbanks standards, even when compared against other little cabins comparable in size to mine. I attribute most of this to a simple, open building design (no separate rooms for me!), quality construction (thanks, Mr. Farmen!), and, finally, my own (as well as Autumn's and Linden's) low-temperature comfort level. I am most comfortable when I maintain my home temperature at 65F/18C when I'm awake, and let it fall to 50F/10C when I'm sleeping. (I love my pile o' blankets and my doggie cuddles, and I hate waking up sweaty and gross). To others, this is a mite chilly. When I have friends for dinner, I build up the fire a bit, and as soon as they leave, I fling the door and windows wide open to cool it down as much as possible before I go to bed.

So I can't really get on board the thermal mass heater thang. Lasse said that his room temperature lags his fire control by about 2 days. If I had a giant thermal mass, and it were -40 outside, and I built up a big fire, and then two days later, a warm Chinook blew in and swung temperatures up to, say 30F/-1C (which happens not infrequently hereabouts), the dogs and I would be pretty danged miserable. Probably sleeping on the porch. Also, also--I have no interest in sitting on a a warm bench. I am perfectly capable of warming up my own butt. Plus! I get to eat more bacon when I am warming my own butt!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Sleeping with dogs is like working with quick-cure epoxy. You have three minutes to set your position; then you are committed. And the subsequent reaction is exothermic.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Happy Equinox!

Today, it's chilly and sleety, with damp snow coming from a grey sky and coating everything with frozen muddy slop.

The sun rose at 7:33 and will set at 7:51.

The temperature hovers right around freezing.

This morning, a friend from work and I borrowed a gi-HUGE-ous university truck and drove a trailer down to Healy to pick up a donated meteorological tower. The trees still looked like fall, but wet snow was drifting down:

Autumn and Linden remained behind, cleaning their teef:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

PR'ed at the Equniox!

PR'ed by 10 minutes at the Equinox with my racing snail pace of 5:35! So apparently here is how to improve my race time:

1) Don't train properly. In fact, don't do any long runs at all.
2) Screw the Power Bars, the Clif Bars, and the GU. While running, eat Oreos, pretzels, and donuts.
3) Along the route, collect every available hug and pet every available dog. :)

My treasured and beloved colleague MC came out to cheer on AB, HM, and me. Here is one shot of me running up to collect my hug:

And here is one of me running by:

PR or no, I'm still in the slowest 5th percentile for my age group of marathon runners. And that's fine by me. :)


Official results are in, and I... *drumroll please* came in 13th out of 32 in the women's 35-39 age class, and 106th out of 216 total women!

I finally broke the 50th percentile marker! Yay!

Oh, I should also mention that it was ccccccooooold and gorgeous. There was snow and ice on top of Ester Dome! But we could see Denali! Yay!

Edited to add: The winner this year was a first-time marathoner! So cool! Congratulations, Mr. I Win My First Marathon Man!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Annual Department Cookout

Our annual chilly cookout. And by that I mean chilly as in cold.

The Dean and the Director were there with the IT staff and our office manager. Rather a random cooking staff. :) And now I can say that my boss's boss's boss made me a cheeseburger. :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Welcome Fall

OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOD brusselssproutsandbacon:

This is the BestThingEver.

In other news, the snow has disappeared, and Fall has gently whispered:

now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened

- e.e. cummings

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A "Yay Snow!" and an "Only in Valdez"


And here is our "only in Valdez" moment, compliments of The Mudflats:

It's a charming photo, but I like it only in a photo, thanks! Maaaan, our Southerly tramontane friends are so blasé about bears, from black bears playing on backyard swing sets to brown bears running along with their fish. Here in Squarebanks, when anyone sees a bear, it is front page news, the locality is shut down, and wildlife troopers go out to investigate whether it might be a "problem bear". I hope I never start to feel comfortable in the close proximity of bears! That ain't natural.

Edited to add: The Permanent Fund Dividend payout this year will be $900.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fall falls on Murphy Dome

First snow expected soon! But ,as I heard on the radio, it won't stick, and "skiable snow" won't come for another month or so. I'd never heard that phrase before--"skiable snow"--and I like it. It reminds me yet again of what a communal experience small-town life is, especially when our lives revolve around the seasons, which are shared by all of us.

Another Only in Alaska Note, from the church newsletter, section "Upcoming activities":
"1PM Harvest Dinner, bring a dish to share, something you caught, shot, picked, ran over, etc."

Aaaaanyway, without further ado, here are our Fall colors springing to life.

This is my morning commute:

I don't think I will ever see a more beautiful sight than our trees in the Fall, shrouded with discrete patches of fog.

This is the main trail off the top of Murphy Dome:

This is Murphy Dome exploding with color:

Linden hanging out while I pick cranberries:

And Autumn looking regal in her namesake surroundings:

The crowberries were ripe, too, so I picked half a quart:

I'm not that crazy about them, but there are so many that it seems a shame not to pick any.

The tundra in glorious fall:

It was so clear we could see Denali:

And the familiar shape of the Eastern Alaska Range:

Murphy Dome Road:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

This is the best dinner ever I can't even...

How to make the Best Dinner Ever:

1) Make bacon.
2) Take bacon out of pan and set it on paper towels.
3) Drain pan.
4) Use bacon grease-lined pan to sautee bitter greens.
5) Make omelette with sauteed greens and cheeeeeeeeeeeezzzzzz.
6) Put omelette on plate with bacon and oh yeah home made kimchi from your friends K and M.
7) Add tortillas toasted on the wood stove.

This is the best dinner ever--indulgent, yet nutrient-dense. Has veggies, has protein, has cheese, has bacon, has kimchee. Yup. Best dinner ever.

And here is Linden, being cute:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fall produce

Yesterday evening, I picked up my last veggie share:

Thank you Rosie Creek Farm for another awesome season!

I also picked all of the low-bush cranberries from my tiny personal patch behind Casa de Fuzziness:

There is just over a pint! I shall have to go drive somewhere to get more, if it isn't too rainy this weekend. The tartness of cranberries is a welcome addition to my diet; blueberries alone can get too sweet and insipid.

While I was picking, I also found a few crowberries and gobbled them up.
I've now found every major local berry on my property. In order of happiness factor, they are:
low-bush cranberries
high-bush cranberries

Monday, September 9, 2013

Notes from Here and There

Remains of late beloved Ft. Yukon Chief are brought home for burial.

The lovely St. Matthews Episcopal Church in downtown Fairbanks:

I lovelovelove the plaque on the front door:

"To all who are joyful and thankful * to all who mourn and need comfort * to all who are weary and need rest * to all who are friendless and wish friendship * to all who pray and to all who do not, but ought * to all who sin and need a Saviour, and to whosoever will * this Church opens wide the door and in the name of Christ the Lord, says WELCOME."

We've only had one frost, but it's soup weather!

Soup for me!

The girls at floppage:

Sometimes Linden is so cute I can't even... I mean...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Two interesting articles

You know you're in Interior Alaska when...

What makes a cabin a cabin?

Would you like my opinion? All places without running water are cabins, but not all cabins lack running water. I also think frame homes (not logs) can be cabins. To me, a cabin is just a small, simple place, usually with under 3 rooms, and maybe or maybe not a loft. Those giant log homes along the Chena are definitely "log homes". There is no such thing as a cabin mansion!

How do I know I am in Interior Alaska? I like the ones about how you can't ever go grocery shopping without bumping into multiple friends and acquaintances. Also, the heat vs. cold, the mosquitoes, yes, all of those. Two that they forgot are:

(1) You know you're in Interior Alaska when you can't tarry by the side of a road without everyone stopping their cars to ask if you need help.

(2) You know you're in Interior Alaska when you and everyone you know is covered in dog hair.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Wind farm photos!

Yesterday, a colleague of mine whose dad owns the Delta Wind Farm just outside Delta Junction invited me to go out there and watch the workers erect a new turbine. It was awesome.

The three blades of a beautiful new EWT turbine were laying on the ground, ready to go!

They are huuuuge:

The "man shack", where the workers stay onsite. I was the only woman present. Our host made a huge pot of coffee and proceeded to cook up a mountain of food for... second breakfast or first lunch or whatever meal it is you eat at 10:30 in the morning--bacon, biscuits, eggs, ham, and grits for his crew (and visitors). *pats belly*

The hub for the new turbine:

And the foundation:

The grounding is done via these huge, beautiful, pure copper cables:

The met tower:

While they had the giant crane rented (the largest crane in the Alaskan interior, I was told), they utilized it to make some repairs on an existing turbine:

The blades were removed and laid on the ground:

And I crawled inside and looked down each blade. Here is a motor that controls a single blade's pitch angle:

Then I took Autumn and Linden for a walk around the farm. Earth was already dug for foundations for the next three turbines!

The hub is going back on!

It is manipulated the old-fashioned way!

More land needs to be cleared on the property if they build new turbines!