Archive for February, 2011

Cabin Fever, Decisions and “What if..?”

February 18, 2011

February snows continue!

Feb 18, 2011

Although there is snow on the ground in most places in Alaska, as there also seems to be in many places throughout the US, many of us are thinking of spring.

The fishing gear flyers, seed catalogs, and the never ending paperwork for a fish oriented business are arriving with each load of mail.

We struggle between all these items pulling us into the spring and the desire to go ice fishing, planning for winter carnivals, and in some villages, potlatches.

The first forecasts for summer fish runs are out in many areas causing fishermen to pour over them for what is expected, the age/size of the fish they calling for. This information is used to order the fishing nets. Those fishermen who are targeting certain sized fish use this to order certain sized nets. Despite what many might think there is a fair amount of knowledge that goes into being a successful fisherman.

Any decisions about whether you want to order baby chicks, baby turkeys or maybe a piglet need to be made in the next few weeks unless you want to be raising SUMMER or fall animals!  Each spring this household goes through the ‘should we?’ and ‘if we ….’ until our brains are exhausted. Should we finally decide to try raising a few turkeys? (I have to say THIS might well be the year for that  “What if…” to finally happen!) If we do, where or how do we mix that with our current flock or any other baby chicks we decide to do?

Recently a state newsletter on agriculture issues came out. In it was the news that ‘hundreds’ of high tunnels are going up in Alaska under the new USDA program. This is so encouraging. Maybe Alaska can slowly get healthier and better food choices into the hands of the residents. To back that up it was mentioned in a conference call this week that the Kenai Peninsula alone has applied for over 80 more high tunnels to join the 50 or so that are already there.

A sample of reading materials hitting mailboxes!

In this little corner of Alaska our plans are being drawn out for planting times, varieties we want to try, fruit plants orders and all sorts of issues. The discussion of how to get water to things and monitor it when we are swamped with fishing activities has been spirited. How do we staff this bigger operation this year or do we see how it goes by stretching ourselves still thinner? What equipment is essential and what can wait? All questions that many business or operations face in these times.

Essential gear!

Over the last 3-5 years it has been refreshing to see real efforts by many portions of our state at attempting to answer the questions of where our food is coming from, what happens if that supply line is disrupted, and how can we promote more locally grown food and healthier eating.

In so many ways Alaska has the ability to lead the way in industries but I sure seem to find we are doing a quick race to catch up to things that seem to be  decades old.  I have my own theories as to why but in the area of agriculture I see some very dedicated people  sweeping past those barriers and bringing at least parts of Alaska into a healthier new time. Hopefully everyone will see the need and support the most basic of needs-getting food to those who need it and make it healthier for everyone!

Buckled Ice, Overflow, and Other Obstacles

February 16, 2011

Heading across overflow

Feb 16, 2011

One of the things that most Alaskans feel is a positive about our state is the ability for its citizens to get involved in the ‘politics’ of the state and stand the chance of actually having an impact if so desired.

Predator controls, aerial wolf shooting , a teacher killed by wolves, bear maulings, coupled with subsistence issues have all made the headlines in the past. All of these issues get dealt with, or ignored, by our state Board of Game, part of the state’s Department of Fish and Game. The Board members are appointed, once they voice an interest, by the Governor and then confirmed by the legislature for terms that  expire on a rotating basis.

There are a number of Advisory Committees, each dedicated to a specific geographical area and serve as a place for local residents and villages to address issues that come before the Board of Game.  Anyone can make proposals for changes in statues of how game units are run.  Every three years each area comes before the Board for those proposals to be reviewed and dealt with.

The Alaska Peninsula, that long skinny part of the state that stretches out to where the Aleutian Islands begins is up before the Board in March. Proposals have all been submitted months ago by a variety of local residents, village and city councils, guides, concerned citizens and of course the Department of Fish and Game.

Our Advisory Board, that deals with a small portion of that area, met this about three weeks in Pilot Point.

Due to a horrific event on Christmas Eve that happened in our yard the interest from this household was even more peaked than normal.  This interest comes on top of heightened interest due to an area teacher being attacked and killed by wolves last year, a continued issue with nuisance Brown bears and diminished opportunities for hunting game meat.

To make it to that meeting those of us in the villages near Pilot Point had one option of traveling over the frozen swamps, lakes and river to get there.

While making this trip under mostly blue skies, low winds and temperatures hovering around 0 degrees, not counting windchill it came to mind that many would have no idea what that entailed.

This distance between the two villages is only about 7 miles by way of the crow flying but overland in the winter it turns into about a 10-12 mile trek.  Snowmobiles and 4-wheelers traversus a frozen river, a number of creeks both frozen and not, frozen lakes, and a swamp that can frozen but again can have spots where it is not. (the thing to remember is we are near active volcanoes and this means there is activity that keeps some things from freezing solid all winter)

There has been some good snowfall in the week beforehand that I had heard caused a few places in the trail to need shoveling to clear. Also the trail is not marked except by tracks from traffic which can disappear from either more heavy snowfall or thawing that erase them.

We have to deal with things like ‘overflow’ which is where the tide as it moved up and down seeps up into low areas where the ice is cracked.

Overflow...where water seeps up through the ice when it rises.

We must also move through areas where the ice has not frozen smooth. These types of areas can have parts where it is just a little heave…..

Buckled ice on the edge of the river

….or these heave areas can go on for some time and be higher or rougher than you can transverse with a snowmobile or 4-wheeler.

Trying to find a safe way off or onto the river.

There is also the issue of getting on and off the actual river. Think of it this way….if all the ‘beach’ is taken up and all you have are the high banks of the river…how do you get up and over it?

Of course we have the normal issue of things like fog.  I have literally seen fog move fast enough to overtake a speeding skiff!! Just the other day I watched the fog roll in ……

Looking north toward our village, watching fog move in.....

…….and cover more than 8 miles in less than 5 minutes!

Still looking north but less than 5 minutes later!!!

So,  given all these issues sometimes getting to a meeting to lend your voice to an issue needs a little extra ‘consideration’  than just jumping in a car for the short 7 mile ride!!

Flying Wild Alaska…Pretty Darn Good Slice!!

February 12, 2011

Feb 12,2011

Author’s Note:  We are having technical difficulties with embedding the trailer for Flying Wild Alaska’s Tundra Taxis episode.  You can find the trailer here for now.  Thank you.

As many farmers are not into camping as they ‘rough it’ enough day in and day out with the elements, many Alaskans don’t watch much reality TV. We deal with ‘reality’ enough each day in ways most have no clue, so why watch hyped crap like the TLC mess with SP?

Flying Wild Alaska is getting a decent viewing here in, at least, this part of  ‘bush’ Alaska!! There might be a few whines about the planes,their under-carriage shots, jumping around between types of plane by those who can tell one under-carriage of a plane from another by way of the camera BUT  most of us are enjoying the series. The slice of life it shows of the conditions we deal with and the basic things we enjoy are pretty darn close.

When you hear Jim Tweto, the COO of Era and dad of the family, state that they get category 1 hurricane winds ‘all the time’ he is not exaggerating at ALL. You learn to fly and work in things many have no idea of.

When you  realize there are young pilots all over this area doing things like flying dangerous things out to remote villages to help us have clean water and supply winter food, it is real. When you read that one of these young pilots lost a battle to short but brave battle to cancer, at 37 y/o leaving a two-year old daughter and wife, you realize we too have people who are ‘real’ and just like your struggles.

When they show that getting teachers and kids to school events and work despite the less than grand traveling conditions, that it real. No spoof, no hype, no ‘staging’ of an event, just life out here.

When you hear 60 cents a pound to ship a wedding cake, that is real. Oh how I wish we had that reasonable of a rate in this part of Alaska:-)  Just ask for rates to get your 400-500 pound ATV, remember it is like a car for most of us, from Anchorage to your village. It is not unusual to hear over $1000!!

Also when you see how people share their moose with others, we deal with the all too common issue of youth suicide, and do work to give others a chance at a neat career at things like flying, it is real.

Getting to see how one couple lives that even most of us in ‘bush’ living Alaskans seldom get to see, just plain fun interesting!!

Just MAYBE people will start to remember these things when they hear we have to have billions of federal dollars to help with roads, monies for essential flight service, airstrip building and other  basics. MAYBE they will start to realize that the costs of things have ‘real’ reasons. There are real people here who work and live and contribute.

The show gives a small slice of “REAL ALASKA” and we have to have faith that if this continues to be a popular series we will see less of the hype and messed up series shown on that TLC show recently.

The show is doing rebroadcasts so if you want to see more of an actual slice of Alaska check it out.   Episode guide can be found here.

Rogues of Alaska – WTF Moments!

February 4, 2011

Feb 4, 2010

The Kenai Peninsula’s Tustumena 200 (T-200) sled dog race held Jan 29th – 30th brought more attention to one of our favorite dog teams!

The Rogues Gallery Kennel team of Kasilof, Alaska

Wasn’t The Fastest,

Wowed The Fans,

Won T-200 Fame

by receiving two coveted, hard earned awards while also finishing in 4th place!

One of the team’s stars shows off  her goofy antics and racing spirit.  Metoo is a perfect name for this gregarious girl who loves to race,  train & play, then gets to sleep on the bed.  Let’s not forget about the couch she hangs out on, or the toys she covets.  God knows what else but I think this is a pretty darn good life.

Follow the link to RGK’s blog post T200 Finish to enjoy Amy G’s  impressions as a newly minted race volunteer which she wrote in the comments.  I’m sure she had a few WTF moments herself (purely conjecture – it’s just fun to say).


Colleen Robertia Wins T-200 Humanitarian and Sportsmanship Awards

By Joseph Robertia


Just a quick post with lots of pics. Usually after a big race weekend we hit a bit of post race depression, it’s hard to go back to work after three day of fun, excitement, anxiety, adrenaline, etc. However, we got a bit of great news last night at the T-200 finishing banquet that makes it impossible not to be happy.

In addition to placing 4th overall in the race, Cole was honored to receive the Humanitarian Award, which is presented by the race veterinarians to the musher who took the best care of their dogs through the race.

During the speech of why Cole was the recipient, they said in addition to her dog care, she had the best looking team at the finish line (see pic above [by Will Morrow] of them still steaming their way into the finish chute, Penny and Zoom leading the way) with several dogs still hammering their harness and barking to keep on going. This is a real honor to receive this award and it means more to us than any placement in the race ever could. But to be fair, the award should have gone to Metoo, Quigley and Zoom, for I’m sure their tireless antics helped the veterinarians make their final decision.

For her award win, Cole receive a beautiful engraved plaque with a photo of a sled dog on it (which I’ll edit this post later and add a photo of her with it. We got home too late last night to take a pic and she had to work early this morning). She also received a fur ruff to add to her parka to keep her warm in blowing snow storms, so she can continue to take great care of her dogs.

Winning one award is always special, but Cole was also humbled to win the Sportsmanship Award as well last night. This award is chosen by the other mushers in the race, and goes to a musher with a positive attitude who helps other mushers out. We never heard exactly what it was that earned Cole the award, but she was happy throughout the race, cheered for the Jr T and T-100 mushers when they went by on passes, and helped park a few of the T-200 teams when they came in, so maybe some or all of this lent to a few votes.

For the award, Cole received a monetary prize, which as someone guessed in the comments on my last post, will get added to her race winning to help pay for the huge repair bill we accrued when the dog truck broke down twice earlier this season. That’s the sad irony of this sport, even when you win, you don’t break even, but we don’t do this to get rich, we do it because e love spending time outdoors with the dogs.

I wanted to mention a few other quick things. For anyone who didn’t read Amy’s entry in the “comments” of the last post, please do. Cole and I have been doing this for a while so we sometimes forget how things look through the eyes of a beginner. Amy wrote a beautiful and eloquent journal of her experiences this past weekend, and it gives great insight into so many things I would never have thought to mention. Please check it out.

Also, Amy, I forgot to mention in the last post, the loaf of super nutritious and delicious bread you gave Cole went a long way after the race. Cole was so, so tired after running for two days without rest, she came home too tired to make anything, too tired to even get out of her cold, wet mushing clothes. She just collapsed on the couch, and began to munch on the bread until she fell asleep. We had several of the racers in the house that night too, so below is a pic of her and Penny eating together just before they fell asleep. Our house dog Jeeves is also nosing his way in to make sure he isn’t missing out on anything too good.

O.K. all for now. Check back later today or tonight and I’ll add some pics of Cole’s award and her new ruff. thanks again to everyone who supports us and RGK. We couldn’t do this without your positive thoughts and comments. Oh, and for those who were worried about Buliwyf. He’s doing great. Yesterday we ran all the dogs who didn’t race and he was jumping around and doing his best to try and get to the team. He seems back to normal, but we’ll be conservative and still give him a week off from running just to be sure.

O.K. That’s it for real this time. Here’s several pics people have sent us from throughout the race:

Metoo doing her best impression of a Mexican jumping bean in the starting chute. That is Cole’s sister-in-law unsuccessfully attempting to hold Metoo on the ground.

Another shot of Metoo going wild. This time Cole tries to calm her down, while Penny says “Get this maniac away from me!” It’s hard to imagine Metoo is such an amazing sled dog, and yet she has lived in our house and slept in our bed every day since she was about 4 months old.

Reprinted with permission

The Rogues Gallery Kennel rescues and rehabilitates dogs.  If they can turn these misfits into racers, they can and will.  If they can’t, they lovingly care for them anyway.  This means there are a lot of happy, hungry mouths to feed.

If you know a business who would be interested in a tax deductible sponsorship…I can’t think of a more deserving race team than Rogues Gallery Kennel!

More than ever, they could use a  reliable truck for transporting their dogs to races away from home. Alaskan winter road conditions are just what you know or imagine them to be.

Read more about Rogues Gallery Kennel and enjoy their blog!

This sponsorship request is solely the responsibility of the author of this post.