Unusual Alaskan Garden Produce


We’ve finally decided where to put permanent, hugelkulture-inspired, raised-mound garden beds. This will make next year’s planting go much more smoothly. This year, though, we are working hard to dig a bunch of pits to fill with upside-down sod, a layer of brush wood, and lots of compost mixed with soil. I’ll show pictures of that in a later post – this one’s more about our cool find than the process.

Husband dug the first bed:

He went a little deeper than I expected him to, which is fine – we can see the results of several years of working on improving the soil.

Lovely soil on top, silt and clay on the bottom.

We’re always finding interesting stuff on this property, as I’ve written about before, and lots and lots of old cans, alcohol bottles and other junk, but, um, nothing quite as mammoth as this!:

Yup. He uncovered a mammoth tooth. It weighs 5.8 pounds. Before you ask, it’s unlikely we’ll uncover any more of this animal. Our property shows signs of being bulldozed in the past, and since the tooth was at about the same level as the remains of an “ancient” campfire (complete with 1970s-era beer cans), it’s a good bet the rest of the creature’s remains are scattered around the 1.3 acre property or beyond. I’ve dug 48 more feet of garden row since he found this, and all I’ve found is a handful of rusty metal bits, some broken pottery and a thick piece of amber glass that has most of the word “Clorox” on it. Sigh.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found in your garden?

A Message from a Nurse


I’ve not written anything for a long, long time.  The world has be crazy since late 2016.  I will eventually get back to my own writing, but today, I just wanted to give one of my favorite homesteading you-tubers (who is also a nurse) some more views.  His message is important. Please watch.  Thanks!

A Nurse Speaks Out


Winter Beauty


This month has been odd.  We’ve had some really warm weather (Freezing rain? Here? In January?) that left a lovely layer of ice on the already snow-covered roads.  The ice was almost immediately covered by a big snow dump, though, and the temp dropped to a more normal negative 25 or so for a while. (It’s -22 right now.  It seems we’ll be getting out of January without any -40s!)  I’m not a big winter sports person, so I have not taken the opportunity to go skiing or snowshoeing or snowmobiling, but even for someone as addicted to the comfortable interior of buildings as I am, Fairbanks is undeniably beautiful under its blanket.  I don’t have a lot to say today, but I wanted to share some pictures.


Welcome to the outside

This is the view from my front porch.   Usually when the tree branches hang that low over the path, we just shake the snow off them and they spring back out of the way.  Now, there is so much weight on the upper branches, the lower ones are not going anywhere, even though we’ve knocked off most of the snow.


Across the street

This is the view from the end of my driveway.  All over town, the trees are bent over like this.  Well, mostly the birches, cottonwoods, aspens and willows.  The spruces stand straighter.  Depending on my mood, these graceful curves look like frozen fireworks or poor overworked homeschool moms, weighed down by responsibility . . .


Down the street

We get to drive under a snowy archway while approaching our house. The lighter stripe in the distance is a break in the clouds, just above the hills.  Some days the clouds and  hills are the same color, but you can tell where one ends and the other begins by the texture.  The forested hills look like terry cloth; the clouds look like smooth gray wool.  Other days the sky is a brilliant blue, and the play of sunlight and shadow on the snow-frosted trees is so gorgeous it makes your heart ache.


Farm entrance

This is the path into the farm.  Seed catalogues will be appearing in the mail any day now. 🙂

When I was growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, we didn’t get snow like this, and the heavy snows we did get usually melted in a few days.  Snow was a blessing and a curse – a blessing for the kids who got to play in it, and might get a day off from school because of it, a curse for the adults who had to shovel it and drive in it. (I’m sure there were winter sports enthusiasts back home, as there are here, but I don’t remember knowing any!)  Here, snow is just the way things are from October to April.  It’s best to acknowledge that reality and observe the beauty (even if I’m observing from inside.  With a cup of tea).

The Kind of Day I Need to Trust


My Girl got braces yesterday morning, and while she was at the orthodontist, the Boy (who is very math-phobic) and I worked on some cryptarithms. These are logic puzzles where the numerals are replaced by letters, and you have to use logic to figure out what the problem is.  For instance, HH + HH = OOT is (and can only be) 55 + 55 = 110.  (Letters next to each other represent place value, not multiplication.  Each letter must be a digit from 0-9.  Within each puzzle, a letter’s value is  constant.  In the above example, two matching 2-digit numbers with the same number in each place value spot add up to a 3-digit number.  If you add matching double digits, starting with 11 and continuing up, you’ll find that the first pair that makes a 3-digit number is 55.  Numbers high than 55 don’t produce a pattern that fits “OOT,” so 55 + 55 = 110 has to be the answer.)  This  is math he gets, and has fun doing.

After that, we picked up the Girl from the orthodontist’s office. Before she went in, she’d been studying the palette of color choices, and I was leaning on her, kind of heavily, to opt for the one labeled “obscure,” which looks like teeth.  The other options included black, hot pink, neon orange and what I call spinach green, among others.  When I was growing up, the only kids who got braces were the ones who had severe dental issues or a parent who was an orthodontist, and you could have any color you wanted, as long as it was silver. Having colored brackets seems weird to me. But I realized that they don’t seem weird to her and she’s the one who will have to deal with them.  She’s the one who will see them in the mirror when she’s brushing and flossing.  Yes, I will be seeing them a lot, too, but I’d rather see her happy and smiling with colored brackets than scowling because she doesn’t like the way she looks.  So, I backed off on the “obscure” brackets and said, “You know, I guess if I were the one getting braces, I’d get those, but I can’t wait to see what color you pick.”  She picked lavender.  And she’s beautiful. 🙂

New Braces
Turns out, you can hardly see the color.

After ortho, we went to lunch at Wendy’s (a Frosty seemed like a tempting treat after two hours of work on her teeth – even if it was -13 degrees), and had a big juicy conversation about the science of post-apocalyptic dystopias – what would it take to wipe out most of Earth’s population (short of nuclear war)?  How do nuclear weapons work? (The Girl surprised me by giving a pretty good explanation of that process.) What kind of diseases could wipe out millions?  How high would sea levels get if the polar caps melted? Etc.  We talked about math – if you are writing a book in which Earth’s population was reduced by, say 6 billion, what would a tsunami hitting New York City get you? (God forbid, for any of this, of course, but both kids love young adult literature, and you work with what you have!)  NYC has about 8.5 million inhabitants, so after the tsunami hits, you’d still have to bump off 991.5 million more people just to get rid of the first billion.  The Girl came up with a disease passed to humans from sea creatures that were now swimming in closer contact with humans, due to sea level rise.  The Boy proposed the classic comic book theme of a science experiment gone wrong, by suggesting that maybe, in trying to splice plant genes into humans, so we could make our own food from sunlight, something went horribly wrong and the plant-people hybrids became . . . zombies? Pod people? I don’t remember, but we were all giggling by then.

After lunch, they had a 2-hour indoor rock climbing class at Fairbanks’s Ascension Rock Club 

 While they were climbing, I went home to take in a webinar from Julie Bogart, of Brave Writer and the Homeschool Alliance.  I encourage any readers who are currently raising kids, and struggling, to check out Julie on YouTube, whether you’re homeschooling or not.  She is a fantastic parenting coach/cheerleader, and, although her business is focused primarily on homeschooling and the homeschool community, she has lots of insights that can be translated to just life.

After I picked them up from rock climbing, the kids played on School of Dragons and watched YouTube videos on Star Wars conspiracies (Just who is Supreme Leader Snoke? Whatever happened to Mace Windu – could he have survived the fall from that window on Coruscant?  Why does Finn seem to be Force-sensitive?) as I made dinner.  After dinner, the Girl and her Dad worked for more than an hour on a boat design she wants to build.  He helped her calculate water displacement (unit conversions! density considerations!) to figure out how much weight she wants it to carry.  They talked about physics while designing a workable propulsion system.  She had to draw plans to explain clearly what she had in mind – and she spent another couple of hours making a water-resistant scale model of her design from cereal box cardboard, packing tape and toothpicks.

I love these kinds of homeschooling days.  So much learning happens – and without any “school.”

Unmet Friends


I’ve been searching out gardening info on the internet, and I’ve come across a couple of vlogs I’d like to share.  The first one is Justin Rhodes’s channel.  Justin Rhodes and his family (wife Rebekah – aka the Beautiful One – and 4 sweet kids – Jonah, Josiah, Lily and Gideon) are traveling around the country in a converted school bus they call Mabel, visiting homesteads, organic farms, and backyard gardens on the Greatest American Farm Tour.  They have a farm/homestead in North Carolina (that is currently being maintained by some friends), and the channel is a wealth of info on working with chickens to cut down on the amount of physical labor associated with gardening.  Justin contracted Lyme disease a few years ago, which severely curtailed what he was able to do on their farm.  They had run a CSA and/or a market garden, and a summer camp on their land previously, but with the Lyme disease knocking back his energy, they had to reimagine their future.  They scaled the farming back to “just” grow enough for themselves, got involved with the permaculture movement, produced a movie called Permaculture Chickens, and started a daily vlog.  Their climate is totally different than ours, but I LOVE watching their vlogs, both the older ones, where they document life on the farm, and the newer ones, where they are showing all the places they’re traveling to.

The other vlog I want to share, ART & BRI, is also not arctic.  This is another vlog with a family of six living on a farm/homestead in North Carolina.  These folks are friends of the Rhodes’s – in fact, before the Rhodes family left on their cross-country trip, they gave Arthur and Brianna all their poultry.  Arthur and Brianna also have goats and a dairy cow, which we are most likely never going to have.  Arthur is an RN, and Brianna is a stay-at-home homeschool mom.  He had been spending so much of his time working, the kids hardly ever saw him.  He and Brianna wanted to do something to change that situation, and wanted to do it together, so they started a vlog to earn a part-time income while focusing on projects to improve and expand their homestead.  They share a lot of great information on a variety of farming/gardening/homesteading topics.

Both of these vlogs are very well-edited and filled with inspiration for people who want to grow their own food.  The settings are beautiful and the joy and contentment of the vloggers is palpable.  After watching many of the videos from both these vlogs, I feel like I have friends in North Carolina, even though we’ve never met.  One caveat: if you are trying to build this kind of life yourself, BEWARE!  It is very easy to spend far too much of the day watching other people do it!

Early Harvest


The other day I posted about most of the stuff we are intentionally growing this year.  Here’s some of the stuff that just grows (good and less good):



Yarrow is a “weed” that has lots of uses, besides just being pretty.  Mosquitos don’t much care for its scent.  Two years ago, I infused yarrow flower heads in oil, then made a salve with the resulting fragrant oil, a few drops of tea tree oil, and beeswax.  I probably should have made a lotion; because the salve was a bit heavy, we didn’t use it much, just kept using the stuff from the store.  This year, we ran out of store-bought bug dope, so I got out my old experiment.  I’m not sure if the mosquitos aren’t biting because of the scent or because they just can’t penetrate the wax/oil base, but I am definitely going to use this stuff from now on! (And the bunch of yarrow in the photo will become more – but I’ll try a lotion this time!)


First Wild Strawberries

While I was out picking yarrow this morning, I noticed something red in the grass.  Wild strawberries!!  Our first berries of the season are not from any plants I purchased, and there aren’t enough of them to top a bowl of cereal, but there were enough for each of us to have a taste.


After a day and a half of rain, the weeds are very happy.

It rained nearly all day yesterday and last night.  It is lovely not to have to water the garden, but my plants are not the only ones that like water.  The paths have fewer weeds because the ground is more compacted.  We are way behind with getting the garden mulched (have to rent a chipper to deal with the mountain of brush we’ll be using), and it can be discouraging to see the amount of work I’m going to need to be doing on my knees, but I still love seeing how life insists on having its way.


What’s Growing – June 2017


2017 is yet another year when we won’t be getting much from our gardening efforts to shorten the food chain; not having a spot to start seeds early enough really cuts down on what I can get out in the garden in time.  We are still working on it though.  Next year I WILL have an indoor seed starting area, somehow.  In the meantime, here’s what we’ve got growing this year (We also have 15 adolescent chickens who will be providing eggs in a couple of months, but I missed getting a picture of them.):