SOS See Our Skies

November 30, 2017
Brilliant aurora lights

Brilliant lights

Now that we actually have snow and cold, we can offer the star-struck skies and awe-inspiring aurora viewing to those who travel from around the world to see this wonder.
Pieces of advice.
Don’t waste your sleep if it is snowing outside and clouds are low-lying. If it’s not clear, you won’t be able to see the northern lights. Look for stars; if you can see a few, then perhaps it’s worth losing sleep to stay awake and chance that skies will clear enough to see the lights.
Check the aurora forecasts—most notably, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute has a website with forecasts nightly and even weekly. The website is http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast. According to their website these are the recommended sites around Fairbanks for getting away from city lights:
• Chena Lakes Recreation Area
• Ester, Wickersham, and Murphy Domes
• Haystack Mountain
• Some turnouts along the Elliot, Steese, and Parks Highways
• Cleary Summit
If you are interested in taking pictures, (and need a little help like I do with photography skills), you might enjoy my new favorite app—aptly named “Aurora.” It will automatically adjust the settings on your phone to help you capture the faint glows in that faraway sky.
Additionally, there are many tour guides who offer to drive you to different locations where you can enjoy the warmth of their vehicle (not to mention not worry about unknown road conditions) and wait for the aurora to show up.
Even though I have lived here for fifty plus years, it is still amazing to see the aurora shimmer across the sky.

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Fall Hunts

September 23, 2017

Maybe Facebook isn’t your thing (too many cute puppies and baby pictures) but it seems my friends in Alaska are posting lots of wildlife: dead or alive.

While fall can mean the changing of seasons, and time to hurry and wrap up all those things on the to-do list you’ve been putting off, for some, there is a different call of the wild:  the hunt.

Yes, it is hunting season. One of my North Slope guests was sharing with me the good news that her village had just harvested their first whale for the season. This apparently is great reason for rejoicing in the village as it will be shared by all.   Some other guests hire guides to take them out to parts unknown to see their trophy.  My brother-in-law posted “Clear Creek or bust” on his facebook page before heading north to Fairbanks to hunt a moose. And even my newest niece posted her “prize” catch of a moose.

moose pic

First moose

My husband isn’t fond of hunting for moose, but he made two trips to Chitina to try to catch some red salmon.  Two trips, because the first was a total bust:  he and a couple of fellow employees got skunked and came back empty handed.  (Water was too high, they claimed.)  The second time was slightly more successful with a few fish, but he certainly didn’t limit out.  Wouldn’t you know, a cheechako friend (that’s Alaskan for a newcomer) just posted on FB today that he and a couple other guys netted (no pun intended) 60 red salmon!

Moose crossing road

Fall moose crossing road

Then there are those who post other kinds of pictures of wildlife, like my brother; a picture of “traffic”–a moose crossing the road on the way to work.  Or the same niece with pictures of dahl sheep in Denali Park.  Fall is holding on tenaciously–fortunately for those who hunt.  And those of us who procrastinate.  Beautiful yellows on the birch trees that line the roadways.  We are enjoying no frost here yet; very unusual for the third week in September, as we usually experience frost by the Equinox run.

H  auling equipment

U  nknown parts

N   ot knowing what

T   rials and tribulations await

 

 


Fair Days

August 4, 2017

With fall comes, not only school days, but also the fair.  As July ends, and August begins, Fairbanks now has a couple of weeks of fun, food, and fantastic entertainment.  Golden Wheels Carnival is in full swing with lots of rides.  Thankfully, the weather has been cooperative.

 

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Be careful if you instill a love of fair entries into your children:  it will perpetuate!  My daughter has always enjoyed winning a ribbon or two, as well as some cash rewards, so before she ventured out for a vacation, she packed a box of fair entries and begged me to deliver them on the due date, which of course, I, as a good mother did.

The Tanana Valley Fair theme is “Raven about the Fair”.  Each day of the fair focuses on a theme as well–mining, seniors, kids, military, and this year a new one–“Think Pink”.  The dates are August 4-13.  Gates open at noon.

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If you enjoy admiring the handiwork of others, there are beautifully decorated cakes (this year with ravens on them, in keeping with the theme, carefully stitched quilts, intricately woven clothing–a myriad on display.  Perhaps you would like to see just how big a cabbage can grow–visit the exhibit hall for vegetables and flowers.   Then of course, there are the animals–horses, rabbits, pigs, goats, with their owners all looking to win that blue ribbon.

The midway, and oh, the food–that killer shrimp, the elephant ears, roasted corn on the cob and a myriad of other culinary delights. Vendors with the latest and greatest of gadgets, art, and health aids.   Non-stop musical entertainment from country pickin’ to rock and classic–did I mention the bungee jump?

Come on out and join us.  Run into old friends and meet some new–you are bound to find something to your liking.

 

 

 

 


Just Duckie

July 18, 2017

Rubber, real and rows of ducks appear for several months, mostly in summer, but we do have lingering ducks well into winter, even swimming on the icy waters of the Chena during November.

Here is one of the first ducks we found on our property a little over a month ago.

 

Mama with 7 ducklings

Ducklings crossing the road

As a chance meeting, I witnessed this cute parade of a mama duck with her ducklings, crossing Fairbanks Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the upcoming attraction you will spot at locations around town is the large rubber ducky advertising our crazy fun in the midnight sun over Golden Days.

 

Rubber duckie outside Sunrise coffee kiosk

Rubbie Duckie for Golden Days

This year, the Golden Days theme is “friends in cold places” (not so aptly named for this time of year, with our 70 and 80 degree weather the past few weeks). To enter, you must purchase a $5 or $10 ticket for your rubber ducky’s chance to win one of many coveted prizes, including two round trip tickets wherever Alaska Airlines flies, a Mexican or Caribbean cruise, a variety of donated prizes, and money of course. Hurry, you still have a chance at this one of many events Golden Days has to offer! Maybe you will be the next lucky duck.


Summer Start-up

May 30, 2017
Chokecherry Blossoms

Chokecherry blossoms

A waft of the heavenly scent of chokecherry trees.  The smell of freshly cut grass.  Early blooms of floral rose, stock and petunia scents abound at greenhouses.  Yes, yet another reason Alaskans live here:  summer is upon us!  On this, the eve of the last day of our three day Memorial Day weekend, our outdoor activity lists expands.

Will this be the year to try a peony in the yard?  (Particularly since the discovery that they grow very well, and have a prolonged season here in Alaska?) Or maybe this is the year to train to run in a 3, 5 or 10 k run?  How about the long awaited trip to McCarthy and the Kennecott Mine?

What to plant in the garden?  Did I do too many potatoes last year?  Maybe I will try more broccoli and stagger the planting and harvesting.  But zucchini!  How will I ever keep up if I get as many as last year?  Decisions, decisions!

Camping; Is the tent gear ready?  Or should we just travel with the camper on the pick-up…(a little less work, but..)  Which weekend will I go?  If we time it right, we could go fishing too.  We could maybe slip out before the fair starts.

The fair!  Which recipe should I enter in the culinary division?  Did I finish that cross stitch?  Hey, I did those starts for cosmos from seeds–I could enter that this year for the flower show.

Remember that building project; we must lift that rental unit up before it sinks any farther in the permafrost.  I wonder if I can get some day labor to help with that project before the snow flies.

Even with the expanded hours of daylight that make us run 18 hour days, it is still difficult to get done all the things that we can only pack in during our short three months of summer.


Silently Waiting

March 24, 2017

Beneath all the feet of snow (several this year) lies the good soil for planting. Gardeners are gearing up–already, despite the -15 below temperatures at night–doing everything from purchasing seeds to signing up for classes. Several greenhouses have a great line-up of classes starting this month: drip irrigation, composting,  and dinnerplate dahlias.

planter vs snow

planter in greenhouse-amidst the snow

Some of the excitement is clearly due to eager anticipation of the long sunny days of summer warmth.  Another factor for some is geared toward healthy eating; yet another impetus is sustainable living off the land.  You don’t have to be a trained gardener to get things to grow in the summer here; check out the Tanana Valley Fair in the fall, and see the myriad of monster vegetables that some of the school aged children grow as proof!
Yes, we do grow things big in Alaska.  But you must remember that we have a very short growing season.  Rule of thumb is that you do not put out any plants before June 1, and plan on harvesting prior to September 1.  I have lived here for over 50 years, and vividly remember gambling by planting my 150 foot driveway with zinnias  because it had been so nice and warm that May.  Sadly, I lost them all, as there was an unanticipated frost that killed them all.  I didn’t plant zinnias again for almost ten years.  This year I’m determined to start more from seed and I’ve already picked up several varieties of seeds from one of the local greenhouses so I can get a jump start on my floral fix.

Pink flowers in yrad

Pink flowers in barrel

Silent now; but soon, the sounds of lawn mowers will replace snow-blowers, and boat motors on the river instead of snow machines.  Soon…with every drip off the icicles hanging from the roof.

 


What is “Alaska” to you?

February 27, 2017

Ice, snow, dogs, aurora, snowmachines, moose?

What words does your mind conjure up when some says “Alaska”?

Well, they are all here, all right now!

For the next month, the International Ice Carving Competition is in full swing—starting with small blocks (think six feet by four feet), and ramping up to twenty plus feet of carefully sculpted displays with intricate detail.  Take a complimentary loaner sled to enjoy the ice slide, and be sure to take your camera! 

Ice carving of chair and polar bear

Picture yourself here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dog team with musher at finish line

dog team enjoying salmon break

 

 

Next week we are privileged in Fairbanks to host the beginning of the Iditarod. It’s normal starting point is from Anchorage; however, due to a lack of snow fall along the course (not so sure that is true due to the latest snowstorms) Fairbanks will be watching the start-up on Monday March 6th.

While this week the activity levels have been fairly good for aurora viewing, the cloudy skies have prevented clear view of the northern light.  Keep informed by checking the predictions at www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast.

Yesterday the town was packed for people to see the finish of the Iron Dog snowmachine race.  Several of our guests were here to pick up their friends and family or simply view the event. 

Today is ideal weather for building a snowman.  Frankly, the snow here in Fairbanks is normally very dry and “crunchy.”  You have heard that one of the indigenous languages here in Alaska has perhaps 50 words for snow?  Well, today’s snow is heavy, wet and perfect for that snowman if you happen to feel up to that.  As the snow gets deeper, moose come closer into town to graze on vegetation that is easier to reach.  I happened upon these moose a couple days ago in our neighborhood.

Two moose wandering through the neighborhood

Moose meandering the neighborhood

What adventure draws you to the frozen North this time of year?  We are ready and waiting for your arrival.