Monday, August 13th, 2012
The Blueberry Nazi declares the 2012 season open. Let the picking begin.
Monday, August 13th, 2012
The Blueberry Nazi declares the 2012 season open. Let the picking begin.
Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
For maximum delight, I recommend watching the video first, without any preparation for what it shows. The focus is in and out and the lighting is bad, but there are reasons for this. It’s less than a minute-and-a-half long. Mark, set, go.
One of the goals of my recent visit to Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge was to enjoy a day off with Mike. He’s twice taken the skiff out to Granite Island at the head of the bay, between Aialik and Northwestern fjords. There’s terrific scenery along the way and, once there, a good place to catch rock fish just off the island. I had not yet been there in the skiff, and Mike was eager to share this trip with me.
The first day we planned to go, we woke up to thick fog down to the deck, the proverbial pea soup. Not the best condition in which to sightsee, so we opted to stay in camp and work. The fog eventually burned off, revealing a clear blue sky and bright sunshine, which along with calm seas is a somewhat rare and special day in this part of the world. We worried we might have missed our chance, but the forecast was similar for the next day, and we decided we’d go, even if we again woke to fog.
We did, and we did: We awoke to fog, and we went anyway.
The trip that usually takes Mike an hour took us three hours as we putt-putt-putted slowly in and out of coves, keeping the shore in sight so as not to get lost in the soup. Every now and again, the fog would thin, and we’d see outlines and shadows of the tops of mountains above us. Rock formations rose up out of the mist as if by magic, and I thought that this, all by itself, was exciting and beautiful. If the fog didn’t burn off, this would still be a good trip.
And then, not far away, we saw a dark shape rise above the water then melt back into it. We knew what it was: a humpback whale. There were two: a larger and a smaller one, a female with a calf. Like us, they seemed to be following the shoreline. It was just sixty feet deep where we were, and they seemed to be resting, staying up near the surface, breathing frequently. We putted along with them for a while, never forgetting to keep the shore in sight; it was still very foggy. Our paths began to converge, so we turned off the motor and sat still.
The boat rocked gently and waves swished on and off the rocky coast. Occasionally a gull squawked, and every so often a sharp pwhoooo exhaled not far away. We watched the dark backs of the whales rise and fall, coming quite close–fifty feet, I estimated–to where we bobbed in our little boat.
Then they seemed to disappear; although, there had been no evidence of a deep dive. They can remain under water for twenty minutes, so we sat, waited, and listened. The fog snugged in around us. Mike claimed he could still see land, but I could only hear the waves lapping gently on shore. No sights. Few sounds. Just us rocking in a boat. Serene.
The next thing we noticed was a vague dark shape several feet underwater, not far from the boat. I could make out the white spots that are barnacles and scars and whatnot on a whale’s skin, but my first thought was that it was just a jellyfish. The spots were gone before the second thought surfaced in my brain.
But then it made a second pass, a bit closer to the surface. This time, I could make out the shape, particularly the tail, and I was keenly aware of how much bigger it was than our boat:
A humpback whale can be 50 feet long; our boat is 18 feet long.
A humpback whale can weigh 40 tons; our boat might weigh…what?…half a ton?
If it had a mind to, it could flip our boat with nothing more than a shrug. Who knows what kind of day it was having. Mike was thinking along the same lines. “Is your life jacket zipped?” he asked. Of course it was.
It came back for a third pass, this time breaking the surface. My camera was on and at the ready. If you listened to the video, you know we both saw it underwater as it rose up right beside us. I sound breathless in the video, which I probably am; although, I am also whispering because that’s what you do around wildlife. But even as I type this now, almost a week later, I inhale deeply and my stomach feels hollow at the recollection. What a thrill! Awesome, exciting, scary. Amazing.
I could have reached out and touched its tail.
And the day was young. Though this was unquestionably the highlight, the next six hours weren’t too shabby, either. More about that next time.
Thursday, January 5th, 2012You know I’m into vegetable and herb gardening. Would you believe I have no houseplants? Surely seasonal herbs don’t count.
Well, my friend, Ellen, gave me her amaryllis before heading to Thailand for the year. I’ve never had an amaryllis, though I once gifted one to my mother. (Thou shalt not verbify nouns!) Check it out!
The leaves were all dying, and I was about to cut it back and put it to bed—literally under the guest bed where it’s cool and dark—when this stalk shot up. So I cut the leaves when they dropped and let the stalk fend for itself in the dimming winter light.
Way to go amaryllis! I’m watching the flowers open more every day.
I think the bold stalk and giant red flowers (the color of the drapes on the glass doors) are a perfect solo plant for this house. They actually match: simple and bright.
Thursday, November 17th, 2011
I consider temperatures in the zero to +20 range to be a fine winter temps. Window glaciers indicate the walk to the mailbox will be especially cold.
Even this is tolerable, though, thanks to my awesome ski pants, down parka, and balaclava. It’s the wind that makes the walk challenging. Today, I’ll add ski goggles to my practical and fashionable ensemble.
Here I go!
Monday, October 17th, 2011
This is what I woke up to this morning: Snow!
When summer blogging fell to the wayside, I shrugged it off. Summers are for gardening and playing outdoors. I had hoped to continue blogging on a lesser scale, but I was okay with taking some time off, too. I had every intention of beginning again in September, meaning on or about September first. Here it is October 17. I’ve managed a couple of posts over at Ari’s Garden and I’ve posted a few thoughts in the S4L Book Club, but that’s it. And it’s October 17th!
This is nuts!
My excuse is that although the garden was put to bed several weeks ago, I’m still working outside. I don’t regret what I am doing; I only regret that I can’t do it all.
Today I finished hauling topsoil to the new raspberry beds. The area we disturbed when building was a wonky shape. I’ve had a mind to smooth it out a little, expanding the strawberry/raspberry bed, and we’ve finally done it.
The picture was taken before most of the snow melted. The new beds are the ones that look shiny and new. That’s where the hill starts to get steeper, and that’s the area we just dug out. Most of what you see in the picture are strawberry beds. You can see a few raspberries on the left side of the image. Old beds will get new wood…well, sometime. New walls and beds trump spiffying up old ones.
Though we had a decent crop of strawberries this year, I can’t say we’re “swimming” in them yet—especially what with the resident squirrels—and that’s the goal, swimming in strawberries.
We’ve had a terrible time with moose and hares eating our raspberry plants, but we managed to grow some waist- and shoulder-high stalks this summer, and I’m thinking the hare population might have crashed, as it does every seven or so years, after it builds up to an unsustainable high. Unfortunately, our successful raspberries are too much in the shade by the house, so they don’t ripen until September, and then only the earliest berries ripen at all. Sigh.
I’ll transplant a bunch of raspberries to those new beds next spring, and I’ll get rid of the old never-taller-than-twelve-inches raspberries in the lower beds, re-making those as strawberry beds. Runners got away from me this summer, and there will be many babies to transplant next year.
Mike’s building retaining walls/terraces for our cut bank on the other side of the house, and I’ll probably stick more strawberry plants over there. In the picture, on the left side, you can see the tundra stairs that end the just-finished retaining wall behind the house.
When we get to terracing the front slope of the house pad, oh, that will be a sweet, sunny strawberry location. Then—then—we might be swimming in strawberries.
Friday, April 8th, 2011
Planted March 21. Celery beats cantaloupe.
I thought the celery was doomed before we even started because of its high-maintenance moisture needs. Surprise!
Planted April 3. Green cabbage wins! It beats collards, kale, red cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, zucs, cucs, rosemary, thyme, sage, basil, parsley, and probably a few other things.
We’ve gotten a few inches of new snow the past few days, but the lingering sun just laughs and shakes its head. It’s spring, whatever the snow tries to make us think. The seeds and I have faith in the sun. Race you to summer!
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
It’s that time of year. The days are getting longer; the sun makes me feel warm, whatever the temperature; birds are just beginning to sing. We’ve still got plenty of snow, but it’s time to make plans and start seeds for the garden.
I started celery and cantaloupe seeds a couple of weeks ago. Long shots, to say the least, but I’m going to try. I’ll start a bunch more seeds this weekend.
I also inventoried the freezer to see how well we’re consuming last year’s produce. Do I want more of this, less of that? I was a little surprised—and overjoyed—to discover we’re actually going to finish all of our greens (kale, collards, chard, spinach, cabbage) this year. In fact, it looks as though we’ll finish everything but the grated zucchini and the potatoes, which remain in surprisingly good shape here at the end of March. We’ve still got a good many snow and snap peas and—surprise, surprise—blueberries, but there are still five months before we start getting new ones. We’ve also been stingy with our strawberries in an effort to make them last, so we’ve got seven quarts still in the freezer, and that’s after the strawberry-rhubarb pie I made last week.
I’ll cut back on the potatoes, but, otherwise, I think I’ve got a handle on garden planning. Now we wait and see what grows. I hope the herbs do better this year. And the beets. Oh, and I hope our nine rhubarb plants come on strong, and the strawberries, and, and….
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
Looking out our windows is something we do regularly, out of habit, searching for animals, interesting light patterns, cool clouds and fog, etc. Yesterday, when I looked out the window at about 4:45 a.m. I was rewarded with bright greenish-white streaks and swirls in the sky. Mike is not the early-morning person I am, but I got him up anyway. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Northern Lights.
They appear more green in the images because the shutter is kept open to gather more light. In the picture of the lights over the glacier, we can see a hint of pink along with the green. Note the gradient in the band, how the greenish color at the top fades to yellow then blends into pink at the bottom. That’s what we attempted to portray in The Trail Home. We’ve seen better examples in real life than the ones we saw yesterday, but I think you can get the idea.
Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
It’s early February, but I can see and feel Spring marching toward us.
Fresh snow and below-freezing temperatures mean nothing.
It’s all about the return of the sun.
Thursday, January 20th, 2011
It’s been a quiet winter in terms of wildlife. We see signs of hares, but rarely see the hares. We hear great horned owls and often have fox tracks on the driveway. But we’ve seen absolutely nothing of moose–at least, not in the yard. This place is usually rotten with moose. Where are the moose?
My guess is they’re up in the hills. We’ve got little snow, so the gettin’ around in the Bush is still easy; they have no need of cleared roads and packed trails.
Today, however, for the first time in months, a couple came to call. They helped themselves to some frozen twigs; one took a nap behind the house; and then they moseyed up the hill.