Archive for the ‘guest blogger’ Category

Garden Notes From a Neighbor…

April 25, 2012

With fewer than  723,000 people spread over its roughly 586,000 square miles,  Alaska is the least densely populated state in the United States. However,  almost 388,000 folks live  in the Anchorage/MatSu region   , so most of the state has considerably fewer than the 1.2-1.3 persons/square mile so often quoted. 

We  think of ourselves as neighbors,  however far flung we are, and the internet has made visiting with  each other regularly a delightful reality not possible  before the advent of the “tubes” due to distance and dollars. When  weather and electricity cooperate, email allows for daily visits . Blogs by Alaskan neighbors expand the visiting  further and have become a wonderful way to peek in on projects , join conversations, and keep up with each other.

One of our favorite Alaskan blogs is Nasugraq Rainey Hopson’s Stop and Smell the Lichen .  Rainey lives in Anaktuvuk Pass , a village in the North Slope Borough, north of the Arctic Circle.

 Rainey’s art and blog reflect her love of her home and community. These works of her hands and mind are as meaningful as her home place is beautiful. It is always a pleasure to find a new post on her site , whatever the subject is!

Rainey plans  to learn  how to grow vegetables in her far north home . She has agreed to share her 1st year gardening adventure here with us at Anonymous Bloggers.

I asked her if she had “before” pictures of the to-be garden space  we could share here but, as it is apparently still buried in snow  , we’ll have to wait for “before” until “after”… :-)

Thank you for sharing, Rainey!

An Arctic vegetable garden….the details of stage one.

by Nasugraq Rainey Hopson

A while back I had a reader ask me if I was really going to be able to plant a garden here.  The answer is yes!Of course living where I am living poses some pretty big obstacles,  which meant that I did a lot of research and planning and general milling about in anxiety.  I thought I would share the beginning of this journey! 

Location.  The garden will be located behind our house.  I did find out that there was an elder that grew a  small vegetable garden here but she did it far out of town, to avoid the dust and exhaust.  We decided to use our back yard, which is protected by several buildings, some dense tall willows, and the luck of being shielded from the road by some neat tricks of the wind.  Since we have dried meat there we know that it gets good air circulation, sunlight galore, with very little contamination, which is a must.  Plus it will be closer to monitor and work on!

Cold.  The cold is probably the biggest barrier.  The permafrost layer is not far beneath our feet, and this chills the earth so much that it will prevent or hamper most vegetable plants from growing.  So I will be using above ground warming techniques.  My husband is building several raised beds from wood, in which I will fill with soil from a fertile spot away from town that I know has escaped being contaminated by human beings.  The beds will be taller than what you usually see in most areas, at least a foot high, and long and slim rather than more of a squarish bed.  Having the earth exposed to the warmer air temperatures will keep them warmer.  I also plan to use an army of plastic buckets and bins for the plants that can tolerate being in a container, this will give me the option of moving them inside to a more protected area (in the arctic we call this part of our homes the ‘kunnichuck’ or ‘vestibule’ in English.)  Since I plan to have a few water loving plants I am going to try and build a few self watering buckets.  I will also be using some plastic covers to warm the beds before planting and while the seedling are germinating, once they sprout then I will remove the covers.  The cold at the beginning and end of the season will be the problem, but in the summer the temperatures usually get to 80-90 degrees.  The date for the last frost here is June 1st, which gives you an idea of how cold it gets and how short the season is! 

Sun.  Believe it or not the 24 hours a day sunlight will be a problem.  Here the growing season is a very SHORT. And most of that season will include the sun never setting.  This limits the types of plants that I can grow, though I plan to experiment with one: soybean. Soybeans require nighttime, and I have researched several techniques that I am going to try and trick them into thinking it’s night time.  Hopefully if it works I can get a good harvest and start creating a plant that will do well here, I am starting with two types of soybean, one of which is a short season plant.  My husband, like so many Natives, is lactose intolerant so a ‘milk’ source for him would save us a ton of money.  The never setting sun will also make it so that we are watering more than usual. 

Plants.  This was probably the area I spent the most time.  Some of the plants I have chosen are known to do well here.  Some are just experiments. But I seriously think that people should warn you of the incredible urge to BUY.  I seriously think I over bought seed …but it was FUN.  Such an addicting FUN.  I did set myself a basic rule though: buy only heirloom seed, and buy a couple of really good seed saving guide books…so hopefully next year the seed buying spree will not be as …big.  I bought seed from several areas: Denali seed company (specializes in Alaska friendly plants), Etsy (some amazing varieties in there!), and a few here and there from more well know large online companies (if I couldn’t find the variety I was looking for at the first two places).  I  also bought a soil tester kit, a couple of good fertilizers, some seed starting kits and soil, silica gel packets, and some very cheap growing light bulbs (cause I found I can’t afford actual grow lights!).  So what seed did I get?  The list is embarrassingly huge, so I’ll try and be brief. 

Hulless Oats – I love oats and will be buying a ‘roller’ later in the season to make rolled oats to use for food and for my products I sell.  This plant will act as a barrier between plants that might try and cross pollinate.  It will also work to condition the soil, as I will be rotating this crop every year. 

Peas – I have two types: Green arrow and dwarf grey sugar. 

Cabbage – every Alaskan veggie garden has cabbage!  They love sunlight.  I also love kimchi and cabbage soup.

Calendula – works to help keep your garden pest free and I will use the petals in my products.

Onion and chives – evergreen bunching and Alaska loving chives.  Pretty much use onion in every meal. 

Sunflowers – cause OMG you can grow these here!

Spinach – Bloomsdale long standing – got these as a free packet so I will give then a try even though they bolt early in the Alaska sun. Hoping I can get a couple of quiches at least!

Leaf lettuce – grand rapids variety – Probably the plant I will love the most, getting a good salad here is a rare treat and much loved!

Winter squash – gold nugget – I am a bit afraid of squash in general but I thought I would give it a try.  I know I like eating them. 

Radish – oddly enough we love this in some seal oil. 

Herbs – i love cooking.  Love it.  I will be growing Cilantro, Sage, Basil, and Rosemary.  I will have to figure out how much I will actually use in the year and what space they will take to get a feel for this area.

Round carrots – a short cute carrot that I know will go well in seal oil and also the nephews will LOVE.

Peppers – hungarian sweet wax- seems to me that this plant will need to be babied but I want to see how well it will do!

Soybean – Butterbean and edible early hakucho – or experiment one and experiment two as I like to call them

Tomatoes – i fell in love with the idea of tomatoes.  Which is probably why I ended up with so many.  I bought ‘spoon’ tomatoes, which have a shortish season.  One called ‘early wonder’ which is also short season, and I received a free packet of a random variety which the seller told me contains several Russian and Siberian varieties. Who can say no to tomatoes?

Sweet corn – well I said to only buy heirloom but when I ran into this variety my curiosity wrestled me to the ground and put me in a headlock.  This variety is called ‘Trinity hybrid’ (sounds scary I know) and is a short season and short stature corn (it will grow only about 4-5 feet tall).  I am only going to try and plants one small bed with it to see how it does. 

Echinacea – Pretty, and extremely useful. 

Potatoes – cause it’s Alaska.  My husband is going to design a series of boxes that I can stack on top of each other to make a ‘potato’ box, to get the most yield out of them.  

So that’s the list!  I seriously think they should have a Seed Buyers Anonymous, because it took me a while to shake that seed buying fever.  I have every inch of my backyard planned out, and I plan to use some vertical space for my herbs.  So far I have mapped out my lay out, and started the tomato, peppers, and Echinacea.  They are pretty little plants sitting next to me here in my lab/office, under the cool light of a full spectrum light bulb.  The stevia did not germinate and I’m thinking it is because I could not get the soil warm enough.  Next year I will give it another try.  Next week I will be transplanting the seedlings to a larger peat pot as they have almost completely taken over the little peat pellet thingies.  At the end of this month I will be starting the Squash.  I have started keeping a journal for my garden and have kept good notes on what I am doing, because I plan to do this every year and I know it will pretty much be a ‘learning’ year for me.  I told my husband that I expected at least half of our plants to not do very well, he frowned a bit and told me that he will be helping too, which pretty much upped the percentage to at least 80%.  Out of the two of us he has the greenest finger whereas I rely on luck!

Hope this finds all of you warming up in the spring weather! 

 
 
 

How did you find us? A Guest post

January 8, 2010

Jan 8, 2010

We asked a dear friend of ours who goes by GreatGranny2c if she’d consider doing a guest post.  She has been incredibly active in the food drive, adopting families and coordinating for others to do so.  Being humble and magnanimous, she declined our suggestion to talk about these efforts.  Instead she decided  to share  her thoughts on Alaska and how she came to discover Anonymous Bloggers and the vast blogosphere of like minds – one of many rewards she received for her involvement.

*   *   *

My current viewpoint on Alaska

By: GreatGranny2c

There are countless people from all over the world who discovered the sphere of Alaskan bloggers for the sole purpose of wanting to know who the heck is Sarah Palin. As I continued to watch the drama unfold on national television, I was amazed at the misconceptions about Alaska on the part of so-called reporters and commentators, as well as my wanting to know more about this woman who exuded such arrogance (yet sounded a bit uneducated to merit her behavior) and managed to incite crowds to a dangerous fervor. The one thing I can thank Sarah Palin for is my renewed interest in Alaska.

Alaskan was repeatedly referred to as “The Last Frontier” or “The Frozen North” and it seemed like everyone thought it was similar to the wildwest, full of crime and graft, limited educational and cultural opportunities – in another words, a real backwater! I think every reporter should have to go to whatever place they are reporting on, so that they can offer some facts and reality instead of misleading people.

As an Army family, my husband, myself, and our two daughters enjoyed nearly four years of life in the Anchorage area back in the 1970s. I worked for RCA Communications, we had purchased a home in the city, our daughters were in a public school, we involved ourselves in community activities, and many of our friends were *civilians* as opposed to being other Army families. I believe this gave us a greater insight into the political and cultural aspects of the state. (Especially when I got to meet Robert Redford at the AKPIRG debut of “All The President’s Men”!!)

From the beginning of our time in Alaska, we were very aware of the difficulties facing Native Americans in the state. My husband had gone on any number of treks into the wilderness and on river explorations, visiting small villages, experiencing the remoteness and seeing the shortages that caused so much suffering for so many, and sharing his thoughts and photos with me. We were also aware of the problems that were created when subsistence hunting and fishing laws were changed and the ways of life for the First People were forever changed. So many young people would leave their villages for months at a time to attend high school in Anchorage, be exposed to a totally different way of life, moral standards were much looser than they were accustomed to, it was very hard for these young people to return to their villages and families, knowing that they had outgrown their previous lifestyles, and that there likely were no jobs for them. So most stayed in the city………and so many suffered. The *free* money they received from the state turned out not to be free – it enabled way too many to become alcoholics and worse – too high a price for them.

The occasional article in the Anchorage Daily News talks about the bodies of homeless drunks being found on the streets, and I think “Everything changes but nothing changes”. It was a problem in the 1970s and is still a problem that no one seems to have a solution for. When we lived up there, I saw the prejudice against the Natives, just as I’ve seen it in the south against blacks, in the west against Hispanics, and in the midwest against the Indians. No matter how well-meaning some may think they are, throughout history, millions of people have been permanently damaged by the do-gooders who think Christianizing the heathens, forcing them onto reservations or designated lands, taking the children from their homes and putting them into boarding schools that were more like orphanages, and forcing them to think and act like *whites* was the right thing to do. I’m sorry, but I’ve never agreed with the needs of powerful people who want to fit others into a mold that they think is the only acceptible one.

My first contact with the Alaskan bloggers was at The Mudflats and within days, I had become familiar with Ann  and the Anonymous Bloggers, Immoral Minority, and on and on until I was spending half my day going from one site to another. I found out all (and more) than I ever wanted to know about Sarah Palin, but I couldn’t get enough of Alaska itself. We had retained some wonderful memories of our years in Alaska, but as we continued to travel the world over the next 20 odd years, then settled into retirement with grandchildren coming along, Alaska became a far-distant memory. Suddenly, Alaska was at the forefront of my thoughts, and I wanted to know more and more, make contact with locals, and re-engage in any way that I could, now that I was retired with plenty of free time on my hands.

I had not been with the blogs when the flooding took place last spring. People from around the world responded to their needs and I was very heartened to see so many good folks still willing to help others. I’ve made many friends via the Alaskan blogs. I will never meet any in person, but I feel I know them as well as I know my next door neighbor. I’ve helped a little here and there and so enjoyed the shopping trips to see what I could find that would be useful, as well as adding in some goodies that would just brighten someone’s day. I have countless websites bookmarked that are all Alaskan businesses – mostly the small ones. I try to shop them whenever I can to support the cottage industries and help to promote Native craftsmanship.

In just the few short months that I’ve been a part of this on-line community, I’ve seen the sites grow by leaps and bounds, which is no surprise. The caliber of the people who run the sites is A+. They care deeply about Alaska and its people, they research their topics, and strive for truth and fairness. Overall, conversation is civil at the majority of the sites that I visit, everyone is allowed to air their opposing views as long as they do it politely, and that keeps me going back for more. I’m thankful for the people who work so hard to improve the quality of life for their friends and neighbors, and I’m proud to be a very small part of this community. I wish them all much success in being heard and making a positive impact. Their continuing selflessness on behalf of others is fantastic.

*   *   *

We think she is pretty fantastic, too!