Sunday, September 25, 2016

Weather Trumps Everything in Rural Living (Alaska): Enjoy it!

One of the things I like best about living in a climate with rapid seasonal variations is the constant “use it or lose it” lessons in appreciation.  Everything changes so fast here that I can only “see these beauties” or “do those activities” at specific times of year, some as brief as a week.  Miss it?  Wait a year!  So, we have no “mañana, mañana” attitude.    This fact contributes a celebratory immediacy to waking up every single day.   Below are seasonal notes for our home, at Latitude 61, in Southcentral Alaska.

View across the lake in winter

Temperatures:  Normal:  -20 F - +20 F, November - March

Transportation:  Ski plane and snowmachines, snowshoes, cross country skis, bunny boots

Beauty: A silent, black and white world

Favorite images:  heavy snow coating tree branches and buildings; lacy ice halos on birch canopies; the aurora borealis, our log cabin puffing birch smoke from the chimney.

Animals:  Audible/ visible owls, eagles, and ravens, and coyotes.  We see tracks of quieter animals in the woods, like martins, hares, foxes.  Once a lynx (I think).

Favorite activities:
Outdoors: Snowshod and booted walks, cross country skiing, snowmachine treks through the pretty woods and across frozen lakes and bogs,  tracking animals, seeing dog mushers and moose, ice fishing picnics, grooming trails, beautiful regional flights.
Indoors:  no urgency to leave during three day snowstorms or deep cold and dark; starting seeds on every window ledge as I plan the gardens, on-line classes and book immersion.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Unpredictability of Raising Food

Raising one's own food - whether it is a pot of herbs on a window sill or a farm - is a satisfying endeavor.  But the results can be unpredictable.  Usually the variances are due to my own errors, but Mother Nature throws curve balls each year, too. For people who live in a town, a failure of a crop just means a trip to the supermarket.  But for people living remotely, as we do, learning to grow, harvest, and store food is a high priority.  We made many naive mistakes, and sometimes took several years to draw logical conclusions and make appropriate changes.  Now, though, we raise and forage for about 65 foods, including meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and sweets.

For readers who think, "One of these days, I'll throw some seeds in the ground," may the following highs and lows of our experience help you start off better and advance faster than we did.  Notes are organized for perennial and annual plants, eggs, meat, honey bees, and harvesting/storing food.

Perennial plants, both native and domesticated, are NO BRAINERS.  They can produce for decades, require very little care, and the wild ones offer excellent information about the types of plants well suited to your locale.