March Moose and Other Wild Things

March 12, 2015

Now that the trails are filled with Iditarod mushers on the way to Nome, and the Great North American is just around the corner, Alaskans reach with gusto to enjoy the final stretch of winter.

sled dogs

Sled dogs anxious to run

With all the great races in March, there are additional attractions on the more leisurely side. In this case, the occasional meandering moose that wander through the neighborhood, or even stop on the street to munch on branches.

Backyard moose

Backyard moose

How about great sunrises and sunsets?

Crisp and clear sunrise

Crystal clear sunrise

Better yet, many visitors set their sights on the northern lights.

Aurora Glow

Northern lights above the arches

Whichever kind of activity you choose this month, they are all here in our backyard, waiting for your visit.

And while it may be cold right now, we offer a warm welcome to you as you come to enjoy our wild, and not so wild attractions.

Bragging Rights

February 3, 2015
fog on the road

Haze of ice fog on the Johansen on the way to town

Alaskans in general seem to enjoy their bragging rights. Consider the fact that when Alaska is superimposed over the “lower ’48” one end of the Aleutian Islands to the southern eastern coast it spans the entire United States. We’ll bypass those slogans that circulated in pipeline days regarding Texans and Oklahoma and suffice it to say that Alaska is BIG.

We do things in a big way up here. This last year was a prime example. If we are going have rain, we are going to do it big, have rain the entire summer,  and beat out all previous records. It seems God smiled on us after that and gave us a record warm winter–at least until last week.

If we must brag, it could be about anything. Vegetables? We grow them big, and in just three short months of summer. If it’s a dog sled race, we don’t mess around–it’s a thousand miles, through vast stretches of wilderness and bone-chilling temperatures. Then there are the unique benefits of living here; I mean, how many other states send a yearly check in the mail to every man, woman and child in the state, just for being a resident?

Today we have completed more than a week with an average temperature of 30 below zero. Somehow, the challenge of keeping the home fires burning, the cars running, and just surviving make us appreciate our home a little bit more when we have a slight warming, and suddenly people are not bundled up with barely a face exposed to the cold, but running into the grocery store with just a fleece jacket and sweats because “it’s warm outside.” My, what a difference 20 degrees makes at this time of year!


April 23, 2014

Spring is here; melted snow has revealed green grass over half of the front yard. You see people on the sidewalks at 10 pm taking a leisurely stroll because it’s not only warm (+45 F) but light out still at that hour now. Bicycles are on the roads again.
The greenhouses are open; people are out raking their yards of the winter debris and prepping for the long-awaited gardening season. Just yesterday a guest stated what I was thinking; give me that dirt to dig in; it doesn’t drain me, but rejuvenates. Apparently it is therapeutic for more than just me.

Newborn reindeer

UAF Agricultural Farm Baby Reindeer

A drive by the UAF agricultural farm reveals brand new baby reindeer. Just down the hill from the farm you can see some of the returning geese, swans and other migrational birds feeding on the grain that’s spread out over the fields in anticipation of their return. Spring and new life is in the air.
Bird migration

birds feeding on grain

March Madness

February 26, 2014
Bear Sculpture with ice carver

Bear sculpture with carver trying to decide where the fish he’s caught should go

The headlines in the local newspaper had it right:  February Fun, March Madness.  We are definitely feeling that momentum. 

As February closes out, the dogs have run their races (Iditarod and Yukon Quest). The Festival of Native Arts begins Thursday. The days are getting longer with the sunlight lingering from 7:30 am dawn until 6:30 pm dusk, and the whirlwind of activities begin.

Aurora Borealis

Northern Lights

March:  the Aurora Borealis, or northern lights; the ice sculpture competition at the World Ice Art Championship, and all the activities associated with it for the entire month of March; more dog mushing; spring break; and this year, the Arctic Winter Games.  You almost have to pick and choose because there is so much to do.

For those of you who ask what it’s like to live here in the winter, March may exemplify what Alaskans love about living here: the challenge–the cold and the ice; the culture and people; the long winter night skies filled with stars and lights. Here’s hoping you get a chance to visit.

Is It Spring Yet?

May 15, 2013

IMG_0219Usually a balmy 70 degree temperature is what you would find as you roll into Fairbanks in mid-May . The trees would be green with fresh growth, flowers would be placed in pots throughout the city (even if they did come back inside at night in the rare event of frost at night). On the hills a beautiful green glow of promised spring would be evident.
No so this record breaking year. This morning’s Fairbanks Daily News Miner pronounced that not since 1964 has the record cold been broken: it was 21 degrees early yesterday morning, and not much warmer today at still below freezing, 28 right now. While not unusual to see piles of dirty snow in shaded areas around town, they still remain in even larger portions in abundance. I watched as my son got into his car this morning, with his telltale frosty breath still visible at 6:40 a.m.
I know summer will come. It’s just that it is taking too long. The starkness of the birch that have not yet budded is rather haunting, like a deserted and forgotten frozen north. Yes, the sun is bright and daylight began at 4:26 this morning, and won’t set until 11:10 tonight. But do you know that they are predicting SNOW on Friday, with a 50% chance of precipitation? How are we supposed to justify buying flowers in greenhouses when survival chances are against the odds with this kind of weather!
I do remember snow on May 15th, followed precisely four months later with a September 15th dusting; but it didn’t stay around either time. The concern I have this year, is that if it did snow, it might just stick around a little longer….
My housekeeper gifted me with beautiful tomato and zucchini plant starts that are guarded inside on my kitchen windowsills. I dare not place them in the greenhouse, where normally they belong. Even with the passive solar design, it is just too cold.
My advice, as usual, is that you definitely need layers when you come to Fairbanks. Only this time, the layers you might bring should be ones that keep you warm at just above freezing.

Hunker Down

January 28, 2013

On the way home from church this morning, I chuckled at the line of cars waiting at the entrance to University. Three or four cars were lined up/turning around to take their pictures in front of the time and temperature marquee. adventuresome souls will leap out of their vehicles in tee shirts, shorts, even bathing suits to pose in front of the sign.

There really was no need to rush to the sign, as the temperature didn’t even rise above -40 F, but only vacillated between -43 F and   -40  F today. Usually, there is a slight elevation in temperature, but this is one of those extremely ice-fogged -in-days.

It was a good weekend to stay close to home and occupy one’s time catching up on the news, watching a movie, or otherwise engage in warm indoor activities. I believe the group that schedules a retreat for the last weekend in January every year has figured this out. It is definitely a good time to work on quilts and cross stitch projects.

If you determine to fight the instinct to stay inside and conserve energy, you may find your car may think otherwise.   This Saturday,  just in our parking lot alone, 5 individuals had car issues; we just pushed one car into a garage bay to allow it to warm up in our garage where we emptied a space to defrost and diagnose why it wouldn’t start after 24 hours of being plugged in.

Man against the elements:  this, too, seems to be one of those requirements to be a “true Alaskan.”  At least that’s what my kids tell me when I prefer to stay inside and keep warm.

What DO you do in the Winter?

November 26, 2012

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Fall Foliage and Silver Salmon

September 26, 2012

Spectacular!  No other word for it; the beautiful expanse of these fall sunrises.  I’ve been scaling the penthouse stairs almost daily while the early morning light paints the sky in reds, oranges, yellows and pinks. 

You can still see many people out in their yards, raking leaves, pulling dead flowers up, rolling up hoses, or passing over the lawn for the last time this year.  Topics of daily conversation include the threat of a deep frost, only to discover some of the heartier varieties have survived.  Hunters drive through town with their hard-earned rack  prominently displayed in the back of their pick-up truck.  

We spent a good week “harvesting” and preserving the fish my husband, Paul scooped out of the Chitina River in the middle of the month.  His good friend, John, routinely comes up from Anchorage to visit and make the trip down the road to dipnet with him in the muddy Chitina waters.  They spent only a day this time, catching 8 silvers as soon as they got down, with another 22 the next day.  John is very good about gutting and filleting them, so all we had to do was soak them in brine.  The actual smoking process seems to be the hardest part; something about cleaning off the oven racks to place in the recycled oven proofer turned “smoker.”  A day of tending the hot plate and replenishing the alderwood chips, and voile, we now have plenty of bags of smoked salmon for all kinds of recipes, as well as the traditional breakfast  of bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon.

Fleeting Summer Days

July 26, 2012



 Golden Days in Fairbanks celebrates the discovery of GOLD–of course.   Events include a wonderful fundraiser called the Rubber Ducky Race.  Hundreds of locals and visitors gathered on the banks of the Chena River downtown to watch hundreds of ducks float their way downstream from the Wendell Street Bridge to the Cushman Street Bridge.  The lucky duck that reaches the bridge first brings in a grand prize, and the subsequent ducks also garner their “owner” valuable gifts. What we won’t do to entertain ourselves in the fading summer sun! 


The Great Garden Plot

June 23, 2012

The “greening” of Fairbanks comes quickly–usually within one week.  Perhaps the locals this year felt it was a bit delayed, due to an unusually warm April.  The balmy temperatures of 60 degrees that early in the year tempted us to believe it was almost warm enough to consider planting something.  The rule is never plant before June 1, as it can always freeze.

Behind the Inn is a huge garden plot, which for years has been greatly devoid of anything worthy of being called a garden.  However, this weekend, everything changed. 

Well over a dozen folks descended to make this area a beauty to behold.  Jill and her extended family have been scheming up how to make all things beautiful.  Given the four hours that tranformed the garden from a heap of stones, two truckloads of compost, and scattered leaves, the garden plot is prepped for a tgreat transformation.  With tags for the future rows of beautiful veggies all placed, stay tuned for sporadic updates on the greening of the garden.

After the team arrived