Archive for the ‘Rural’ Category

A Wednesday Moment

September 10, 2014

mama chicken and babes 004

A Wednesday ritual*. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

*inspired by a great flower site –floret

Spring and Off We Go…..

March 11, 2014
The morning steaming event.

The morning steaming event.

Our mostly mild winter here in Alaska has been trying to push us into spring. First we are warmer and cloudy, then sunny and cold but the warm and at least partially sunny is coming right around the corner.

The warmer winter this year  has allowed us to harvest things like Kale and Leeks all winter long. However it has many of us worried about the effect on the growing number of commercial peony fields and native berry crops. The lack of snow cover with  freezing and thawing cycles will extract a toll. It is just a matter of seeing how much once our warmer weather gets here.

A Wasilla peony farmer says he’s worried that recent warm Alaska weather will damage his crop.
Harry Davidson of North Star Peony says that the thaw-freeze cycle could kill the roots of his plants.
He planted about 7,500 roots of the perennials when he started his farm and estimates he’s lost half over the last two winters.
The plants lose thermal protection and when it gets cold again, it kills the roots.
Alaska peony growers last year harvested and sold more than 100,000 stems. Most were shipped out of state.

Recent weather!

Recent weather!

Our last short spell of cold, down into the single digits, seems to have left this portion of Alaska. The river is flowing, but still ice choked at times. At the same time the ground is slowly thawing, especially in the open areas.

For farmers, seeds and supplies are being ordered. Grow lights and greenhouses are being dusted off. CSA memberships are being offered and Farmers’ Markets organized.

Spring is coming forth, at least in the seed department

Spring is coming forth, at least in the seed department

Fishermen follow much the same cycle. Ordering nets and supplies. Outboards and boat engines are overhauled. Upgrades are being finished up. Processors are completing contracts and projected start dates for their plants.

Although many think of Alaska as ‘going quiet’ in the winter months, they are actually filled with a furious set of activities prepping to burst forward in a few short months.

Wednesday’s Moment

February 5, 2014

sunset feb_4_2014 003

A Wednesday ritual*. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.

*inspired by a great flower site –floret

Spring? It Should Be!!

March 20, 2012

Frozen rivers still abound!

On this first official day of spring it is still a little hard to feel it will be here in a few short weeks no matter what it might look and feel like now. 
While much of the lower 48 has had a much warmer than ‘normal’ winter and probably that trend will go into the spring, Alaska has not. Many places have shattered records for snowfall and cold temperatures and we have not been released from the grips of winter just yet, despite the calendar.  

Somewhere under all that snow is a wood deck, 25' high bank, and river!

Those of us who garden, and farm, have been telling each other ‘it will be OK’, spring will come and thus we keep up with our plans and activities. Seed catalogs that have pored over for at least weeks, if not months, now are yielding orders for the chosen seeds. Seed mats and flats are out and being put to work. If there is a grow lamp it is being hung up again and plugged in.
There is much discussion about how deep the frost level might be, given the mild fall, snowfall and THEN deep freeze with still more snowfall. Many old timers are thinking the ground is not frozen very deep and once the thaw starts it will move fast. Flooding might also be a concern for some areas.
Garden plans are coming closer to finalization and those with high tunnels and greenhouses are making sure they are cleaned up and ready to accept the seeds and starts once they warm up more.  
The bug to support those producing local food and/or to grow more of your own seems to have hit Alaska full force in the past few years. Whereas much of the lower 48 has been experiencing this movement for somewhat longer, it is something that has still not reached its full power here in Alaska.  
For many it seems impossible that such a cold, many times inhospitable place when it comes to growing conditions, could also be able to give us variety and great locally great food. It is not just the cold, but in many places the wind and soil that is less than perfect that has kept many from feeling anything of much value could be produced.  
The Interior region of Alaska has had a reputation for years due to its jumbo cabbages and other extra-large produce but the variety has always been questioned. Other areas of Alaska have never developed a reputation for growing much of anything but that is changing. 
Tim Meyers of Bethel,  whom we first wrote about in 2009 after attending the Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference, has helped bring attention to that area of the state. Dillingham has now run an ever growing gardening set of workshops to the growing movement there. Sitka is ahead of most villages and cities for its holistic view to growing local. It is making it a city-wide effort that hopefully more cities will follow.  
In our backyard here on the Alaska Peninsula we are moving forward with plans to build on the last few yeas of lessons learned. We will putting more land into production, expanding the varieties we grow and hopefully increasing the volume of food we can actually produce.
Hopefully this year we will actually have time, the space and means to raise some turkeys. Some plans for the a future orchard will be explored. We hopefully can add some additional types of fruit to the mix and mostly show still more people what all we in Alaska can accomplish.

Velvet, Snickers, and John Baker-Congratulations! Iditarod 39 *UPDATED*

March 16, 2011

Snickers & Velvet

March 16, 2011

We couldn’t be happier that John Baker, leaders Velvet & Snickers, and team dogs made it first to Nome yesterday.  I was riveted once John Baker took the lead, and now I can get some sleep, too.  Please click on the pictures for more articles about this dream team from the Alaskan Bush.

Inupiaq ‘finally’ earn Iditarod glory

By Jill Burke, Alaska Dispatch

“The Inupiaq musher has become the first Native in decades to claim victory, and it is a victory Baker knows he shares with more than just his family and fans, said his younger brother, Andy, who has followed Baker throughout much of the race.

Beyond proving the naysayers wrong, a Baker win also serves as a beacon to Alaskans in small, remote communities that by setting and sticking to their goals, they can overcome the obstacles they may face.”

Team Baker, Kotzebue Alaska

Velvet Baker, John Baker & Snickers Baker

Black Dogs Rule!

We fans who can’t be in Nome for the party decided to celebrate this momentous event and fantastic  accomplishment at home – dog style!

Party Time!


Menu and Balloon


Straw & Snowflakes


I Gave Them Cheese!



A Rogue Grizzly, What It Cost Us!

March 4, 2011

March 4, 2011

(Editor’s note – This is the second post in a series that deals with some of the impact of the state’s game ‘management’ practices. The first post “Buckled Ice…..” spoke of some of the obstacles in attempting to be involved in the discussion)


First – let’s correct the misuse of the word Grizzly.

Alaska calls the same bear a “Brown Bear”, not a Grizzly.

We are dealing with the issue of predators, how they impact those of us who LIVE in the areas affected by some of the state’s  management practices and what it costs, at least for some of us!!!

The Alaska Peninsula is that skinny part of Alaska that leads down to the Aleutian Islands and has Bristol Bay on the west side of it. The State Board of Game rotates on a 3 year schedule through the various areas of the state. Our area runs the 4th through the 10 this month. This is also the area where the young teacher was attacked and killed by the wolf pack last year despite years of us being told wolves do not attack people. (Unfortunately these meeting are  not held in the areas affected so residents can speak to the issues, but  in Anchorage or, like this year, a suburb of Anchorage! This effectively greatly limits our rural voices being heard in person.)

We, a group of villages, in this ‘game area’ will be trying to get the attention of the Game Board these few days to present our side of the past years’ ‘management’ of predators and how we have paid for that ‘management’.

That isn't blood from the bear!

All of this came right to our yard in a different, but just as brutal and upsetting way on Christmas Eve, just a few months ago.

My family and our two dogs returned on Christmas Eve from our local airport and collecting our mail. It was a cold day, in the negatives, and with a good snow cover. There was a gentle wind from the north. The weather had been this way for a good month or so and we were in winter mode of watching for wolves in the wee hours. We were not worried about Brown bear as they had been denned up for probably close to two months.

We got out of the car in our driveway and one of us started packing mail and packages into the house while the other walked the opposite direction to check our generator, about 150 yards away. The dogs were in the yard between us just generally sniffing around. The yard is cleared and no brush is around for some distance. Generally this is an area that wild animals avoid as they are totally exposed and near humans. The village we live in, as a whole, is pretty active year around.

On my second trip into the entry to drop mail our one dog that is the ‘warning or alarm’  animal started barking loudly with her ‘serious danger’ bark. I raced out near her and called for our second dog, who had been there just minutes ago. I heard a kind of weird/odd snarl sound but nothing else. No second dog and the other one racing to the side of the yard near a gentle slope.

I yelled and my spouse ran toward the area I thought I heard the sound come from. Then came the scream to get back, a bear had just killed our dog!! My heart took a twist and my stomach dropped. This doesn’t happen in a village and definitely not this time of year!!

The one that shed all the blood in the above picture!

I can’t tell you the shock in his voice or his frantic run to the house for a gun. Our other dog was now trying to charge that area and yet keep me safe, just yards away.

Upon getting the gun we ran toward where the bear and dog were. From just  a few feet away he   dispatched  the bear immediately.

This bear  showed NO FEAR. I can’t stress this enough…bears do not like humans and REALLY do not like guns. They always turn and run when they hear the click of a gun. We have heard of hunters who stumbled upon a bear in the middle of feeding and been ‘barked’ at but they usually will show sign of wanting to get away when they hear a gun ‘click’.

The dog was dead except for the last futile convulsion her body was going through. She had died in seconds as he jumped her from behind, broke her back and then crushed her skull. She did not have time to yip or even whine.

The dog that HATES bears never got a chance to bark a warning. She most likely saw him or smelled him once he got close to her, as the wind was blowing towards him and away from our dogs.

This bear not only killed our dog but stalked and raced to kill her. We were able to trace his prints back in the fresh snow and see where he planted his paws and started the race to kill her.

Our surprise, as well as all others who have lived here all their lives, came on two fronts. First that we had a Brown bear , called a Grizzly in the lower 48, out this time of year when the weather had been so cold and we had so much snow cover. No one we have talked to since this happened can recall this happening during their life time.

The second surprise was that he stalked her and came into a definitely human area to kill. He was not surprised, there was no food to protect, there were no cubs to protect, we did not have food to entice him in, it was just plain bizarre on many fronts.

After the first round of shock we realized we were equally as close to the original spot the bear started from and within obvious sight of him, or at least smell, as the dog he killed. Had he chosen to go straight instead of veering to the left it would have been me; going to the right, he would have had gotten my spouse.

We KNOW that this bear would not have mauled us but killed us just like the dog, and the ability for one of us to help the other would have been futile …

When that realization sets in  you change how you walk out your front door in this part of the country, even in the relatively ‘safe’ winter.

(The next post will look into why things might have gotten to this point)

A Hit!! Flying Wild Alaska and Suicide, More Reality!

January 24, 2011

Jan 24, 2011

If you haven’t watched or heard about the new Discovery Channel reality,  show Flying Wild Alaska, look it up!! I know you are thinking …’another Alaska reality show???’ but hold on for a few more sentences at least, THIS ONE is worth it!

It is on Fridays and it is about REAL Alaskans, the Tweto family, with REAL jobs and issues. It is serious but has some cute/funny parts. It shows a family, strong working women, and respectful teenagers. OK the daughter, Ariel,  is probably somewhat older than a ‘teenager’ and is a little ‘mouthy’, BUT only by my grandma’s standards! She is also cute and seems to actually work at a job in the family business without a lot of crap being flung about.

It is based in Unalakleet, which is north of Bethel and deals with the largest regional airline, Era Airlines,  that serves many parts of ‘bush’ Alaska.

The show just aired its second episode this past Friday night. The weather and circumstances are real, little to nothing seems made up or ‘staged’ about those things, as many Alaskans can tell you.

On this second episode toward the end they get a phone call about getting a casket delivered in a timely manner to a village north of their base. It is due to a young person’s death, by suicide.

This  IS a real part of the life in the ‘bush’ and there is no need for it. They talk about the cost in airfare, lost lives and what made an impression in this household…Ariel says ‘she almost got use to it”, meaning the large number of suicide deaths.  To imagine ‘getting used to’ something like suicide!

In Alaska we have TWICE the national average!! We have heard about the teens that are killing themselves at an alarming rate but now we are hearing that ELDERS are a part of this. As reported in the Juneau Empire :

The report by the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council for fiscal year 2010 says Alaska’s overall suicide rate is twice the national average, and that Alaska Natives continue to account for an even more disproportionate number.

It also notes that an alarming suicide rate among the state’s elderly residents warrants further scrutiny.

When Flying Wild Alaska shows this part, the reaction of Ariel, a local radio man, and others it important in our eyes.

To show how it affects people, to open up the discussion and make it more talked about it just one of the things that needs to happen. It is part of the ‘solution’ that needs to happen to help work out ways to reduce this.

In February there is to be meeting in Juneau by the 15-member council, established by lawmakers in 2001, to launch the councils goal for a multiyear prevention plan. We as a state, and nation need to come to better understand and work on ways to prevent this.

Please let this ‘plan’ bring some tangible, measurable goals.  Please keep the conversation going until it does. There are no immediate answers here but we hope to  keep the focus on the issue.  With continued discussion hopefully it will bring things to a sooner decrease of the ‘statistics’.

Flying Wild Alaska, the Discovery Channel, Era Airlines and the Tweto family did a big thing this past Friday…it brought the subject up on a national show!! Thank you!!!

Rural vs. RURAL!

February 2, 2010

Feb 2, 2010

Vic is  attending an Economic Development workshop which has emphasis in Rural Development.   She was live blogging the day.

From Vic:

We had as one of the main speakers today a lady who has an extensive resume that also includes living in what she is calling a rural area.  This lady is from an area that both Vic and I are quite familiar with in Washington.  Where it can be hours to drive to a city over 10,000, get a decent outfit for a special event or even get certain specialty items in the grocery store.

A picture of where this lady calls rural.

This lady believes her rural area is pretty similar to much of Alaska because they do not want to drive an hour and half for a business class. They are getting an influx of people from bigger cities who want high speed Internet.  Vic is trying hard not to burst out laughing.

This lady doesn’t really know rural, does she?

Nunam Iqua from a plane. The arrow is where my house is.

This shows how little understanding people have about what life is like in bush Alaska.

Nunam Iqua taken from the Yukon River last winter.

Let’s look at what it takes to get groceries and supplies to Ugashik.  You can’t jump on a snow machine since the closest decent store is 80 miles away in King Salmon.  It would not be safe to travel that distance via snow machine this winter.  Most winters here in Ugashik  do not allow the various lakes, rivers or creeks to freeze well enough to ensure safe travel of any great distance.  It is  local knowledge only to identify creeks which don’t freeze well,  critical for people to know when traveling overland. This is an active volcano area and the heat has to go somewhere if not out a mountain top.

One of many active volcanoes in the area with steam rising from its top.

That limits travel via snow machine during the winter.  You could easily travel 20 miles and then drop into a creek that wasn’t as frozen over as you thought and then you are stuck.

Planes?  Call the Alaska Commercial Company in King Salmon and ask them send out some groceries,  then pay the airlines 87 cents a pound to get them here.  Friends who have planes are usually happy to bring stuff with them if they are in the area, especially  if you bribe them with the promise of coffee and fresh made fry bread.

Fresh Fry Bread

Realistically ordering from King Salmon is expensive and the selection is limited, so what next?  The Internet provides many online grocery sites to  order from.

Today I shopped at Span Alaska Sales where they offer grocery items in bulk.  I can’t order a single box of Pilot Bread, instead I have to order a case.  That’s 12 boxes of pilot bread/crackers for $81.99.  I wanted tea which  I had to order by the case so I now have 6 boxes of tea for $17.98.  My order totaled 22 cases of food for around $900.  Span Alaska prices have the postage included.  My entire order will come via mail so it could take as little as a week to get here or, as long as a month. We only receive mail here in Ugashik twice a week.

It doesn’t take long to spend a lot of money.  Thankfully, Rollie and Vic have a warm room in their warehouse which makes it possible to make large orders like this.  If I were still in Nunam Iqua I could never place this type of order because I simply would not have anywhere to put everything.

In the late spring, summer and early fall some grocery shopping can be done via boat, or when we are flying fish out then we can have huge bulk orders flown in.  Refer to our Feeding the Crew post.

Those are just a few of our measures of  how we differ from others while considering rural vs really rural.