Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Visit to Saskatchewan

Last week, I made a brief visit to Saskatchewan to meet with folks from SaskPower, which is the power company of the province of Saskatchewan, and from the communities comprising the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, who have inhabited the region "since time immemorial". Northern Saskatchewan has some similarities to Interior Alaska. Like Interior Alaska, it is a sparsely populated region (3% of the Canada population live in Saskatchewan, and 3% of the Saskatchewan population live in the North). Both are flanked and judged by larger population centers (Alaska by Anchorage, and Saskatchewan by the Prairies region in the South). Like Alaska, Saskatchewan has a scattered population of mostly indigenous peoples dispersed throughout the North, who live a combination of traditional subsistence and modern ways. However, unlike Alaska, most of their rural communities are accessible by road, and connected to the provincial grid. Their power consumers pay the same flat rate as the people in the cities. Even their few electrically islanded communities whose powerhouses are diesel generator sets pay that same "postage stamp" rate, which is $0.12624/kWhr CAD ($0.10/kWhr USD). In Alaska, our per kWhr rate is about $0.22 on the grid, and $0.50 to over a dollar in diesel communities! Alaskan rural consumers are subsidized by the Power Cost Equalization program, but it's nowhere near $0.10/kWhr.

Other similarities are sprawling boreal forest dotted with lakes too numerous to count, moose, bears, mosquitoes, blueberries, deep cold, rolling woodlands, snow, fish, cold, and more cold. Other differences are that they catch and eat comparatively humble lake fish (they are very impressed when they catch a fish that is 8-10 inches long!) year-round, while in Alaska, ice fishing is less popular, and more people stock up on giant and plentiful river salmon in the summer, and fill a freezer. When I asked them about that ("So you don't get a year's worth of fish all at once?"), they were a little surprised. "Why would we do that? We can get fish whenever we want to!" I wasn't sure how to respond. I felt guilty and greedy. "So you guys don't use fish wheels?" I asked. The response: "What's a fish wheel?" The chief spoke up: "I saw a fish wheel once... in a reality TV show in Alaska!" :)

They also catch comparatively smaller amounts to sell commercially (fish gets shipped out twice a week), mostly to the gourmet restaurant market based out of Seattle, and grow long-grain wild rice in their lakes. And when they say "long grain", they do not mess around:

photo credit:!wild-rice/c139r

Here is an interesting article about it. I had one of those air boats pointed out to me. "Chinese rice thresher!"

photo credit:

Some of the descriptions are quite poetic. For example:
As in parts of Manitoba and Ontario, the harvest on White Earth is an important Anishinaabe tradition. Wild rice is the food that grows on the waters – the prophesied destination of a long migration westward to the ricing areas around the Great Lakes region. Traditionally, the grain is hand harvested in canoes, dried, parched over a fire, hulled by foot with special moccasins, and winnowed by hand using birch bark trays.

Here are some photos from the fish processing facility. Inside this humble building, people cut, clean, and fillet the fish by hand, and apparently process 600,000 kg of fish annually!
(all photos in the communities provided by my colleague, Greg Poelzer, of the University of Saskatchewan.)

Look at the humble little lake fishies!

The guy on the left here is the current elected Chief of the PBCN communities, Peter Beatty:

This is the community of Deschambault Lake, from the window of our Beaver floatplane:

Rural Canadian communities also share similar problems as rural Alaskan ones: unemployment, substance abuse, domestic violence, poverty, etc. But wow... in the Canadian lake communities, every house sure has a million-dollar view!

The Deschambault high school is heated by a water-source heat pump that uses the large lake as a source. We are examining feasibility to heat homes using the lake as well.

The PBCN lands also have plenty of woody biomass resources:

Here we are approaching the community of Pelican Narrows, which is on Pelican Lake:

The Pelican Narrows school buildings are not very well insulated, but they are cheerfully maintained, with bright colors:

School boiler:

I guess that's all I have for my report. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bear cub!

This bear cub charmed his way into a permanent home at the Portage wildlife center

(Adorable photos by Doug Lindstrand of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center)
(There are more in the article.)
(OH MY GOD he is so cute.)

"It was saved by its personality; it's such a nice bear." Awwwww!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Interesting dam video!

In 1967, Fairbanks suffered a catastrophic flood. In response, the Army Corps of Engineers built a really dam nice system and spillway to divert excess water from the Chena River when it's high. I have driven by this dam and spillway many times, but never knew quite exactly now it was laid out. There are some dam nice aerial views in this video:

And that's a dam cool contraption that guy is flying in!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Summer turns to fall

I forget that during this time of year, it can be warm during the daytime, and cool down at night. :)

The first few leaves are starting to be touched with yellow, and in the mornings I wear a sweater, which I take off by midday. In the height of summer and winter, the temperature is the same both day and night.

After about eight years, my camera has quit working, so there will be no photos for a while. In the meantime, please enjoy this photo of Booger getting her ear scratched:

I will spend the next week or so thinking of ways to entertain y'all with WORDS!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Notes from visits with Starbuck's elderly friends

Starbuckeroo and I are making our rounds through the elderly care facilities that we visit. Quite a few elderly folks have difficulties communicating, and we have to judge cautiously whether they would like a visit from Starbuck or not. A lot LOVE dogs and are sad to see her walk by without a visit. A few HATE dogs, and we need to steer clear. So I try to judge from faces.

I am delighted to round a corner and hear a voice come up the hall, "Hello BAYBEE PUPPY!!! Come here BABYBEE moo-moo-boo-boo and give me a kissy!" Starbuck complies. Her lack of general dignity serves her well in this circumstance. The lady maneuvers her wheelchair so she can bend over and put her nose against Starbuck's. Starbuck politely kisses her face. "Awwwwwwww it's a bay-bee puppee moo-moo-boo-boo-kissy-kissy puppeeeeeeeee!" And I had been concerned that Starbuck's wolf-like appearance would make her job more difficult! It turns out that her desperate need to dispense love is evident to strangers, even at a glance.

There is LOVE in them paws.

This lady and I fall to chatting as she holds Starbuck's head in her lap.

"Where are you from?" she says. I know what she is asking, but I make people dig a bit.

San Francisco

"Oh!" Pause. "Your eyes look different from most people's! Like this!" and she proceeds to pull back her eyes a bit, that way that my second grade classmates used to do, mocking, "Chinese eyes!" But she's not mocking; she's making a straightforward observation.

I'm Chinese.

"Oh!" Another pause. "But I can understand you perfectly!"

Well... I guess you are fluent in Chinese!

"Oh! Maybe I am!" A longer pause. Then, gently, "Can you see okay out of those eyes?"

Yes! I've had them all my life!



Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016

Dachshund Dash!

DL and I attended a Dachshund race at the Fair this year. Yes, we did. I have nothing to add to these spectacular photos: