Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Snapshots of Our Alaskan Life

Our summer has been rainier than I prefer.  We've spent a lot more time under gloomy skies than any Alaskan like this time of year.  The rain is always good, but we've hit the "too much of a good thing" phase.  

We took advantage of the break in the rain over the past weekend and went on a day trip to a few of the local lakes, enjoyed a short hike and had a picnic lunch.  It was so good to get out into the sun and enjoy it.  More on our adventure soon!

This is our view when we head to town.  No, I wasn't driving.  I stopped on the road, the joy of living where there isn't much traffic.  The sky was just beautiful the morning I took this and I had to capture the clouds. 

My morning routine during the week is to get hubby off to work and then take my coffee and head to the greenhouse and check plants.  I water every few days, if the sun is shining I open the windows up and let the fresh air in, I hand pollinate the squash and cucumber blossoms, and I pinch off any suckers that have popped up on the tomato plants.

We've been eating a lot of meals with fresh veggies and fruit.  This happens to be dinner the evening after our day trip.  Homemade bread with goat cheese, tomatoes, radish sprouts, and some nectarine.  We've gotten very into sprouts and they are such a simple way to add fresh ingredients to your routine.

Can we just talk about this bread?  I mean seriously, I may never go back to making other loaf styles again.  I'm totally addicted to this no-knead bread from Glenn & Friends Cooking.  We counted up loaves the other night and this is something like the seventh or eighth loaf I've made.  If you want more about my obsession you should check out my review of the recipe here and my obsession here.    

Monday, June 29, 2020

Garden Update

If you saw my IG tv video a couple weeks ago, I happy to report the weeding situation really hasn't changed all that much.  Weeding isn't a high priority for us.  We're more gorilla gardeners than we are neat and tidy with a picket fence gardeners.  

The raspberries are coming in amazing, while it's hard to see in this photo. they are filling in their fence line quite nicely this year.

The greenhouse is full and flourishing.  We're trying hard with a few things that maybe aren't suited for the greenhouse space, but as I told you when I started sharing this story, everything is always an experiment.

Celery and zucchini plants are really doing quite nicely.  Some things are slow to go, but it's not the plants, a few things were planted a little later than they should have been.

The wall of tomatoes is going and fruiting and I can't wait to pull some red beauties off the vine.  We may have to top a few of them on the end closest in the photo, as they are reaching the six-foot ceiling quickly.  I took this just before I trimmed a bunch of the lettuce in the ladder on the far wall.

Beats and rutabagas are flourishing.  I'm still a little sad that there will be no carrots this year.  Next year's seed purchases will be done a little differently.  Can't wait to try homegrown beats!

This is one of four potato towers.  We honestly weren't sure some of our spuds were gonna come up, but all the towers are now full and flourishing.  We're growing mounding with straw this year to see how that works.

The two pumpkins we planed outside are doing well, but something stole the one pumpkin I had grown out there.  The joys of gardening with critters in the wild.  

Here's a better shot of the raspberries and how well they are filling in.  This year the bushes are loaded with flowers, which the bees have been loving.  We're hoping for a nice harvest.  

The corn is growing, this photo doesn't do it justice.  I would wager a guess that some of the stalks are about 12-inches high.  Will we get corn?  We have no idea, but it's fun to experiment and see what happens. 

I've been harvesting lots of lettuce and herbs so far this season.  I'm really looking forward to tomatoes and hope some of them start into the ripening phase soon!

Friday, June 26, 2020

On the Rain

I'm starting to wonder if our entire summer is going to be a wet one.  Since we've lived here we've learned there are two types of Alaskan Summers - wet and rainy or hot and smokey.  So far this year is leaning to the wet and rainy side of things.  We had a long wet winter with a copious amount of snow, and I think most of us in the interior were hoping for some nice sun and warmer weather for a few months, but so far it hasn't played out that way.

May seems to have been a tease of beautiful weather, only to be replaced by the June drizzle.  It's been raining for days, with little to no end in sight.  I've had more rainy summers living in the state of Alaska than I have in any other state. 

Mother Nature likes to play cruel jokes on those that are crazy enough to live in this state.  I think she laughs as she continues to dump snow on us in the darkness of winter and then gets even with us for complaining about how wet winter was by giving us a soggy summer.

We have a bit of a pond in the front yard, our rivers have had flood watches and warnings posted in the last week.  I've traded my flipflops for a rain jacket.  It's just getting ridiculous.  We need some sun.  The summer solstice has come and gone, we know that the time in the sun is just downhill from here.  If Mother Nature doesn't knock it off, soon we won't get our batteries recharged before we go back into a state of frozen darkness.  

Life in Alaska, even in the modern-day isn't for the faint of heart.  You have to be willing to tolerate a lot of weather challenges, the dark, and the light.  Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who leave not because of the dark, but because of the 24 hours of light, we get in the summer.  It messes with your circadian rhythms even when you think you've adjusted to living here, blackout blinds an all.  In spite of all of that, I crave the summer sun and this rain just isn't cutting it!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Garden Update

The excitement this past week was getting our new compost thermometer in the mail from Amazon.  You wouldn't believe what a struggle composting is for us in Alaska.  We're fighting the good fight, but this is nowhere as easy as it was when we living in Missouri.

I'm still reaping the bounty of herbs I've planted this year.  The bounty in the pic below went into a yogurt sauce for Gyros we had for dinner one night last week.  I get a lot of pleasure in popping out to the greenhouse to harvest a little bit of this and a little bit of that for dinner.  

We have TOMATOES!!!  They're green and tiny, but we have tomatoes.  I can't wait for them to grow and ripen. Our Moskvich tomatoes were the first to bloom and fruit, but we have flowers on nearly every plant now and several of them are developing fruit.  

We have a pumpkin, and I'm hopeful that it was pollinated.  If it wasn't then it won't grow and will eventually just fall off the vine.  These are pie pumpkins and will be great for roasting and baking with come fall.

The corn is up and it is growing, slowly.  We've had a bit of a wet week last week, so here's hoping we get some warmer, dryer weather in the coming weeks.  We need this corn to grow a little faster.

The raspberries patch has begun blooming and the bees are busy in the raspberry row.  We finished weeding and mulching them this past weekend as well.  This year will be our first year with a nice bit of fruit to harvest if all goes well.

I have beets and rutabaga flourishing in their little squares.  My carrots and parsnips were duds.  I guess two out of four on the root crop planting aren't bad odds.

Potatoes are finally starting to come in and fill in their towers.  All of our varieties have come up, we should have some good taters in the fall when we harvest.  Trying just mounding them with straw to see how that works this year.

I finally have the celery planted in a container in the greenhouse.  If you know me in real life you're probably scratching your head wondering why I'm growing celery.  I honestly hate raw celery.  I've tried, but I just can't do the stringy texture.  I do however dehydrate it for soups, stews, and the like.  

The huckleberries are blooming like crazy so our plan to transplant them to the yard has been put on hold.  We don't want to transplant them and lose the potential for berry harvest this year so we'll transplant them after the berries.  

We also had a small casualty in the greenhouse this past weekend.  We've got a bit of a vole problem and our Hedy dog was in the greenhouse with me and saw one.  The chase was on and the sunflower fell victim.  I'm going to dry it and see if the seeds in the head will grow new flowers next year.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Fairy Garden

This round bed sits in front of our house and for the first few years we lived here was a struggle to grow anything in.  There are two huge "Poplar" Aspen trees in the middle of it and there were some very neglected wild strawberries.  We moved into the house in June of 2013 and I worked on a lot of other projects before I got to this baren bed.

2015, the bed looked very much as it had when we moved in.  I'd raked out all the dead leaves, each year, but not much else was done to this bed until 2015.

May of 2015

2016, I decided to tear out all the strawberries out, dig up the bed, and add some mulch and fertilizer to the soil.  I added a little "water feature" to it and played with the idea of putting potted flowers in the bed.  

June 2016

2017, I reverted back to the strawberry plan and started trying to transplant native plants from our yard into the bed.  Unfortunately, the Queen Anne's Lace in this photo didn't come back the following year.  

June 2017

Then in July, I started seeing fairy gardens all over the place.  I was fascinated by the idea of taking a small bed and turning it into yard art.  I added more clay saucers for more water and laid out some rock "paths" through the bed.  

July 2017

I had visions of the strawberries taking over and being all lush and lovely.  I can't say that happened the way I saw it in my head, but keep reading.

July 2017

By August, I thought I was making great progress with this bed.  We'd transplanted a couple of wild roses and there was some wild chamomile flowers that volunteered to pop up.

August 2017

I added glass rocks, mermaid tears if you prefer, to the clay saucers.  I also had a little success with a sunflower growing from seed in the bed. 

August 2017

2018, brought more rock "paths and I added more wild strawberries.  This is the point where I officially started calling it a fairy garden.

May 2018

July things were looking pretty good compared to where I'd stated in 2015.  I even had a few berries on the strawberry plants.  The Yarrow I planted took hold as well.

July 2018

2019, was a year of nothing.  We were busy with a lot of other projects, so I just left the bed and let it do its own thing.  I didn't even take a single photo of the bed.  The only thing we did was add some fertilizer to the bed in the fall.

2020, the year of social distancing and staying home.  I raked the dead leaves out of the bed in April, once the snow had melted.  

April 2020

The clay saucers got an update with some bright colored spray paint and the glass rocks all got a much-needed spring bath.  

April 2020

Fast forward a little to June, and here's the little fairy garden now.  Full of lush green native plants.  Yes, native.  I haven't planted anything that doesn't already grow on our property.

June 2020

The little water features are still in there, hidden in beautiful green strawberries, with tufts of tall grass, prickly rose, wild iris, northern yarrow, arctic cinquefoil, and hawksbeard.

June 2020

Last week I added a little fairy swing.  Made this little piece with some limbs I recently trimmed from trees in our yard and some twine from my supply stash.

June 2020

I love having this beautiful space in front of our house.  The birds use the little ponds to bath, and the glass rocks make it easy for pollinators like butterflies and bees to stop by for a drink now and then.  We also get to harvest the strawberries from the space as well.  I hope to add some yellow paintbrush and maybe some artic lupine to the mix this year.  Might even try to move some of the pussytoes I found.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

June Wildflowers in Our Yard

Last week I shared a few of these on Instagram and Facebook.  I love walking around our yard and finding wildflowers.  I took all of these with my iPhone, so not all of them are as sharp as they could have been if I'd used my Nikon.  There are other flowers in our yard not yet in bloom, so let me know if you'd like to see more posts like this.

This is the year for the Prickly Roses.  I know there are people in our area that try to eradicate them from their yards, but I just love them and have even had some success planting them into a couple of beds closer to the house. I grew up with wild yellow roses in Wyoming and while these pink ones are more delicate they are just as beautiful.  

Yellow Paintbrush, I'd never heard of such a thing until we moved here.  Wyoming is loaded with a red version that is called Indian Paintbrush, but the pale yellow is just as beautiful.

Arctic Lupine are always these bright pop of blueish-purple in the middle of nowhere.  The leaves are almost as beautiful as the flowers, and after a summer rain, water droplets collect in the centers of the leaves, and it almost looks like glass globes.

This little pink flower is a new find in our yard this year, it's called Pink Pussytoes.  I'd never seen this before and assumed it was a flower that had yet to fully bloom.  I was wrong, this is full bloom, hence the name Pussytoes.  

Little tiny Low Brush Cranberry blossoms, hidden in the grass.  They look similar to the Kinnikinnick Berry but are paler pink and more bell-shaped than the urn shape of the Kinnikinnick flower.  I'll be harvesting some cranberries this year.  Will be a bit of a free harvest kind of thing, wild fruit is a bonus harvest.  

There are pockets of tall spindly Hawksbeard all over our yard.  They just kind of pop up where they like.  They seem to prefer the more rocky soil pockets in our yard, where there is little to no topsoil.  

This is also an amazing year for Wild Strawberries.  There are blossoms covering entire patches of our yard.  Another free bounty for harvesting when the berries ripen.

Cinquefoil is found in three species around our yard, this one is the Arctic Cinquefoil.  Similar to the Hawksbear, it seems to like rocky areas, mostly found in our driveway.  I've successfully transplanted it to one of my flower beds we'll talk about tomorrow.  

The tiny white flowers of the White Northern Oxytrope remind me of snapdragons.  One more of the rocky soil lovers, bordering our driveway.  

Hairy Arnica grows in a small patch of our front yard, near the driveway entrance.  I mowed around them so that they could continue to bloom.  The butterflies seem to love them.

Bunch Berry, beautiful white flowers with broad green leaves.  When the berries form they will be a vivid bright orange, and while considered edible, they are said to be tasteless and not harvest worthy.

Northern Bedstraw, the flowers are so tenny tiny they're had to capture with a camera.  Might have to try getting a better shot with a macro lens.  I've been told this was once harvested, dried, and put into straw mattresses to make the bed smell more"sweet" and "fresh".  

Northern Yarrow grows all over our yard.  I've also had success transplanting it to the bed we'll talk about later this week.  This is another favorite of the pollinators that visit our yard.  

Small-Flowered Oxytrope seems to be a small pale purple version of the White Northern Oxytrope.  I still see mini snapdragons when I look at them.

High-Brush Cranberry, which is the cranberry I'm told makes great ketchup but smells of old socks while you're cooking it into said ketchup.  More tiny flowers, hard to capture in a photo.  

Grove Sandwort, took me a bit to identify.  I initially thought it could be chickweed, but the flowers weren't the right number of petals.  These are also tenny tiny flowers.  

Hooker's Potentilla Cinquefoil is variety two, of the Cinquesfoils in our yard.  This one loves to grow in the gravel in front of our house.  

Alpine Milk Vetch is a lovely little purple flower, similar to the Oxytrope varieties in our yard.  It's growing in a corner of our yard by one of the downspouts of our rain gutters.

Shrubby Cinquefoil, also known as the Tundra Rose is number three in the Cinquefoil yard trifecta.  I always call it the bank bush because it's very similar to what many of the banks in our home town used for landscaping.  

If you're interested in the books I used to identify the wildflowers in our yard check out  Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers and Wildflowers Along the Alaska Highway both by Verna E. Pratt.  I also have copies of Alaska's Wild Plants: a Guide to Alaska's Edible Harvest by Janice J. Schofield and Alaska's Wild Berries and Berry-Like Fruit by Verna E. Pratt.  All of these are great books if you want to identify the wild plants in Alaska.  I'm considering snagging a copy of Alaska's Wild Plants, Revised Edition: A Guide to Alaska's Edible and Healthful Harvest by Janice J. Schofield to add to my collection.

I truly enjoy wandering around my own yard identifying plants, but I also enjoy doing the same while we're out on a day trip or camping.  I would like to find a mushroom book as well.  I've been giving some thought to buying the glossy National Audobon field guide books for North America, the ones with all the beautiful color pictures, one volume at a time.  I would want the wildflower, mushroom, and bird books for sure.