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. 


Frigid Fairbanks

January 21, 2017

 

 

 

 

Cold weather report for Fairbanks, AK

Headlines of Fairbanks, AK newspaper

As the front page of the Fairbanks Daily News Miner reminds us of the cold snap, some people, mesmerized by the idea of living in such temperatures still ask, “What’s it like at 40 below? In pictures, I’ve recreated the last few days for just this question.

Cold, ice fog and snow blowing

6 am perspective on the day: ice fog and blowing snow

forecast for the day

Temperature at 6 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things just don’t work as well during this kind of weather.  For example, cars refuse to start.  A word to the wise–do not rent a car in Anchorage during extremely cold weather unless you inquire as to whether they are suited for travel out of town.  Most Anchorage rental car agencies do not generally offer winterization (i.e. a plug in) for vehicles that may travel north.  One of our guests had their own car from Canada that required an entire day with a space heater on the block to try to heat it up enough to start after being left overnight in 40 below temperatures.

You will see cars with hoods open, and other people stopping to help; it is an unwritten rule that you stop to help someone who’s car is stopped along the road (summer or winter, I might add).  Perhaps this is part of the comradery of living here, an empathy of having been in the same situation where someone stopped to help them too.  Are we better for it?  I think so.

 

 

But I digress.  Ah, there is the beauty of stark contrasts.  The following photos document today’s weather:  still 40 below, but relatively clear skies.  Is it these views that create the wonder that keeps us here?

Early morning sunrise

10 am sunrise coming over the hills

UAF sunrise

View from the University of Alaska: clear and (still) cold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


White Winter Dreams

December 26, 2016

img_1010Abundant snowfall has given us a very white Christmas.  No need to dream!
If you are ready to ski, the cross country slopes at the University are nicely groomed and clearly marked.  Downhill slopes are booming, particularly during winter break.  The closest, Birch Hill, on the Fort Wainwright military base are less than 10 minutes from the center of Fairbanks.  Local dog mushing teams practice on nearby hills, such as Farmer’s Loop Road–again just 10 minutes from town.

Ice delights abound, with at least three attractions wooing and wowing visitors.  In addition to the renowned Chena Hot Springs Ice Hotel tour, complete with carved ice martini glasses, during December and into January you can experience Christmas in Ice at the North Pole.   If you can’t get enough ice sculpures, you can visit the Ice Museum downtown, at least until the International Ice Carving Competition in March.

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Plan that Trip North (Part 2)

May 26, 2016

Planning a trip to Alaska can be akin to making a trip across the country; due to sheer distances, the analogy is true, as you will most likely travel through everything from a rainforest environment to a semi-arid desert.
When people question me about southeast Alaska, I really have to refer them to a more regional (hence more knowledgeable) source. It would be like someone in say, Kansas asking a local about Florida; they are worlds apart. Some good trip planning techniques are to segregate the land portion by flights, or waterways.

Moutains going north

Going north on the Parks Highway

Instead of backtracking one can plan their Alaska adventures in circles: Anchorage to Denali Park then Fairbanks, down to Valdez, then the Marine Highway to Whittier, Seward, Kenai, Homer, then return to Anchorage. The type of transportation between Anchorage and Fairbanks will depend upon whether one prefers a nostalgic train ride or 100 mile vistas via the road that rides the ridges for maximum views over valleys and hills.
For those looking to venture even farther north to the Arctic Circle, the car owner needs to be advised that this road is rough with lots of gravel and potholes. This will translate into the very real possibility of dings, dents and cracks in windshields. Looking at a map, it appears that a trip to the Arctic Circle (crossing the 66th degree latitude) should only take a couple of hours. Unfortunately for unsuspecting drivers, this road cannot be traversed at speeds people normally travel in the “lower ’48.” (This is a very colloquial term for the contiguous United States. ) You should plan on at least four hours one way.
Another alternative is to hire this drive. You can find many fine tour bus drivers who will point out the finer details of the terrain as well as landmarks that you might otherwise miss.


Plan that Trip North (Part 1)

January 21, 2016
northern lights above roof tops

circles of light

What should you know about traveling to Fairbanks in the winter months?

Believe it or not, March has become one of the busiest months in the year.  People from all around the world come to enjoy a wide variety of specialty winter activities:  our international ice carving competition, the northern lights, and several dog mushing competitions.

ice sculpture

Ice art competition

But you say how can I be warm then?  Not to worry.  While it seems that you might freeze in the winter months, most people come with a typical winter coat and prepare to dress with layers–long underwear, a warm long-sleeved shirt, a sweater or fleece layer and then the coat.  Similar guidelines follow for the lower body; long underwear, pants, and perhaps snow pants.  Warm boots are a good idea, particularly if you plan to stay outside and walk around the ice park, or wander outside and wait for the aurora to appear.

What about getting around?  We always recommend renting a car, because while Fairbanks is small, you will find you really won’t be able to walk around to visit the places you want to go or restaurants where you want to eat. Road conditions, generally speaking, are no worse than other places that get snow, and frankly, they may seem quite a bit better due to staying frozen or even showing bare pavement.  There is a public bus system that you may find helpful if you choose to not rent a vehicle.

What’s open then, you ask.  Lots!  You will want to visit the Morris Thompson Cultural Center, as well as the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  We have an amazing amount of talent in Fairbanks, which results in plenty of options for theatrical and music productions, and art displays.  Consider heading to one of the local coffee shops where you’ll find a wide array of local talent, happy to entertain you in just about any genre you could imagine.    Special events abound: dog sled races, concerts, downhill and cross country skiing.

What are you waiting for?  Time to get started on planning your visit–summer or winter!