Saturday, August 29, 2009

On the road

The week of Aug 15 - 22, was one of research for writing (That's an excuse to explore). Early Monday morning I visited the Anchorage botanical gardens. Did you know that a bale of hay could be carved out to hold a small garden of mixed veggies?A sign warned that black bears had been seen around the herb garden which is fenced in with lattice work. I joined a couple traveling from Vancouver to hike to the herb gardens. While there a wedding party arrived and held a small wedding amound the flowering plants.

From the gardens I drove to the Anchorage Zoo which has been expanded since I visited in 2002. Most of the animals are rescues that cannot be released into the wild. Recently their prized elephant was sent to a warmer climate.

One of the most unusual animals is the musk ox. It is indiginous to Alaska but was wiped out by hunters years ago and has been reintroduced into the wild (and on farms). The under coat of the musk ox is the softest, finesst and warmest wool imaginable. Called quivet, the wool is gathered and given to Native coops where it is knit or crocheted into scarves, hats and smokerings.

As a cub this polar bear had a black bear cub for a playmate. As they reached age four they had to be separated.
This is as close as I want to get to a grizzly!

Look closly to the right side of the photo for another strange "animal" at the zoo.
On Tuesday I spoke to a group of ladies (WOM) at First Baptist Church in Palmer. I try to encourage everyone to write their own story as a journal or in memiors.

Lynne caught me doing house keeping duty. The water tanks have to be emptied!
This is the visitor's center in Wasilla, where we have been staying. Lynne is holding a bear carved with a chain saw by a friend of hers.

We made a side trip to Hatcher Pass, over 3,000 feet into the Talkeetna Mountains. This high valley above the tree line, was matted with the fireweed that had gone to cotton. Their leaves were a brilliant red.
Para gliders favor these high bluffs for the thermals that carry them into the sky.

I am sitting by the edge of Summit Lake, found high in Hatcher Pass. The water is near freezing.

The Susitna River racing down from Hatcher Pass sent spray of icy water as it toumbled over boulders.

On our way back to Wasilla from Hatcher Pass we stopped for chowder at a small cafe run by woman who is also a chain saw carver. This sunflower is one of her works.

Since traveling south from Delta Junction and the library, I've had a problem finding wifi andbeing able to send, so until next computer cafe.....
I'll think of you in Texas. Temp was 46 degrees this morning.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Week of August 9-15, 2009

This week has been cooler and with some rain. We added layers of leaves, dog hair donated by Sassie and Lady Jane, and bags of rabbit fertilizer donated by friends from church. They even brought the bags of droppings to us. Later we added a bale of hay and covered the garden to "cook"

Lynne took pictures to document that I really do clean the bath houses. We do this on a regular basis, between camps and will do a final cleaning before closing camp for the winter.

After all that work we took several children to the local "Dairy Queen" for ice cream. Alaska has the highest rate of ice cream consumption per capita of all the states. Why's that?

Dale and Levi are still working on the side of the church. Almost done!

Lynne and I attacked the gravel driveway to dig a trench for an electric cable.

Dale, with the help of Lady Jane, layed the cable that we then covered up.
Early Wednesday morning with a clear cloudless sky, I traveled the almost 400 miles from Delta Junction to Wasilla, north of Anchorage. Lynne and Dale will be following next week when the church is completed.In Anchorage I held three book signings, but without Lynne to take pictures, I don't have any to post. The first signing was in the rain under a pavillion at the Golden Nugget RV park. There were several other authors there.
On Friday I signed at the BX on Elmendorf Air Force Base, and on Saturday at Borders in Anchorage.
Saturday morning early, I visited the Anchorage weekend market. Hundreds of venders erect tents on a parking lot that was built after the 1965 earthquake lowered the street and buildings four feet.
On Sunday I attended services at this church. It was holding services on the the Laverne Griffin Youth Camp grounds when I first attended in 2002.

I'm sending this from the McDonalds parking lot in Wasilla. This mornings temp was 45 with sun. It is now 86! Where is winter?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lasagna Gardening and more

Sunday, Aug 2, we had our first freeze, 32 degrees. but by mid week the temperature was back in the upper 70s. This week Camp Baldwin hosted pastors and their families. Our jobs were to cook the meals and continue with our regular clean up routines.

On Wed. we invited the wives of the pastors to join us at a demonstration of lasagna gardening presented by the county ag agent.

We met with several other ladies in the garden area in frony of the Sullivan Roadhouse, an historical building. The first layer of the garden was a thick layer of newspapers to kill any weeds. This is our "noodles" and was well watered ("sauced").

Next we added several wheel barrows full of dry grass clippings, "cheese". The next layers of "meat" were buckets of chicken contibutions, old hay, buckets of wood ash and composted vegetation and more grass clippings.

All the layers of "fillings" were well "sauced" with water. Notice the thick haze in the background. The smoke from the wildfires in the Fairbanks area.

When the "lasagana" layers were as thick as the material we had on hand (about 18 inches), we covered the bed with transparent plastic and will let it "cook" for at least 6 weeks to compost. The plastic will be removed for winter. The ag agent said that in the spring the bed will be ready to plant.

To our disappointment we notice that the seed pods on the lower flower stalks of the fireweed were "going to cotton". The seed pods were bursting open releasing soft dandylion-like seeds. The "cotton" predicts that summer is over and winter should arrive within six weeks. Snow?

Below Dale is preparing two pink salmon for the grill. Cleaned, the salmon each weighed about five pounds. All those salmon steaks came from two fish. Oh so yummy!
While we women worked on the camp, Dale and Levi continue to
make repairs to First Baptist Church.

On Friday I visited the Museum of the North located on the campus of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. This ultra modern building was built since I visited in 2002The large natural history section of the museum is guarded by a grizzly measuring eight feet and nine inches. Wouldn't want to meet him in the forest.

In addition to mounts of native animals and birds the museum has the preserved, petrified body of "Blue Babe" a step bison found several years ago during placer mining in an area north of Fairbanks.

I spend hours exploring the art and crafts representative of the many language groups of Native Alaskans. This Chilkat blanket woven of goat wool and cedar bark is from the Tlingit in the Southeast.
I watched a film on the Alaskan winter which told how people and critters survive the bitter cold. Minus 50 degrees is not uncommmon in Fairbanks.
Another film explained how the Aurora Borealias are created in the heavens. I saw white Northern Lights several years ago. I hope this year to see some of the magnificent colors of red, magenta and green.
The museum has several galleries of contemporary art. This marble polar bear intrigued me. Many paintings by masters and contemporary painters join modern craftsmen who are recreating baskets, carvings and other crafts in the traditional manner as well as innovative designs.
What's my blog without a moose? This young female has made herself at home on our newly planted playground, disregarding the keep-out tape.

We became so interested in the lasagna gardening that Dale drug four huge rail road ties to a sunny spot and made us a raised bed. We started with a layer of flattened carboard boxes, added grass clippings, bark shavings, peat moss from under the spruce and birch trees, ash from the campfire and even dog hair. Friends from church donated a couple of huge trashbags of rabbit manure.
We've added shredded newspaper and loess, the glacial silt that looks like sand but feels like talcum powder, and kitchen vegetable scraps. Oh yes, we watered every layer. A heavy rain helped. Now we have to cover it with plastic for a couple of weeks and it will be ready for spring planting. Can't wait.
A young gyrfalcon posed for pictures outside the dining hall windows one evening. Lynne got quite close to it before it flew.

In our spare time, Lynne and I tried making earrings from procupine quills and beads.
Sunday after church we ate at Rika Roadhouse. This time I was prepared with my camera to capture the illusive bison sipping a coke.

This comming week we will give the bathhouses, cabins and dinning hall a thorough cleaning.
I will be going to Anchorage this week for several scheduled booksignings. I have no idea when or where I'll be able to continue to blog, but until then.....

God Bless.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Time off!

Ok I goofed. some how I added this picture of my booth at the fair at the beginning instead of the end and then doubled it instead of deleting it. Oh well, I'm still learning.
Enjoy the blog!

Although we had no youth campers this week, our work never ended. Dale and Levi are rebuilding the back side of First Baptist Church, Delta, because the high winds have driven so much sand against the original logs that the building is deteriorating. The winds have been extremely strong, up to 60 mph, almost every day for the past month. Smoke from wildfires often stings our eyes.While on our weekly excursion to the library to send emails, we saw this huge RV. It is German made and carries 26 German tourists with places to sleep in the tiny cell like beds by the windodws.

Last Saturday the three of us picked blueberries in a burned out area. Here we are sorting and washing the berries.

We made batches of blueberry and blueberry/rhubarb jam.

If you are are on my "friends" list I'll share blueberry jam, fireweed jelly, raspberry vinegarett or fireweed honey with you!

We made friends with the agriculture agent who gave us some rhubarb root stock for the camp.In addition to our weekly (sometimes daily) visits of the young male moose, we've been blessed to see a great grey owl. (The picture is a little fuzzy). There is a nest of young gyrfalcons who are now flying around the camp, and we've seen hawk owls.

The Deltana Fair is a social event for Delta. Held Friday with high winds, Saturday with a low of 32 degrees, and Sunday with sun and a high of 80., we had fun with a book signing booth.
Here are two little boys in a mini-tractor pull.
I'd never witnessed a tractor pull before. The Powderpuff pull with lady drivers was a hoot.
In our "off" time, Lynne and I completed some crafts projects and entered the fair.
All of our enteries won a ribbon. My loon wall hanging, made from birchbark, lichens and dried flowers, won a blue ribbon and championship ribbon.

This beaded loon wall hanging won a blue.

The large loon quilted wall hanging won a red ribbon. The quilt competition inspired many excellent entries.

My little birch bark bird house earned a blue ribbon.

Lynne created a t-shirt quilt using t-shirts from her many missions trips surrounded with Alaska themed fabric. She won a blue ribbon for her first quilt.

Lynne's two beautiful birch bark baskets both won blue ribbons and championship ribbons. Way to go girl!

Saturday, we watched in awe as a seven year old Native girl performed with hoops. Then her grandfather, a 65 year old Indian from Seattle danced with the hoops, after he had been dancing for nearly an hour. The anouncer said that Indian dancing was Native arobics. The man was in excellent physical condition and quite agile.

These Russian ladies, and the many locals made for a colorful parade of fair goers. People watching is such a fun activity at a fair.

Back to work. We have campers arriving this afternoon.