Friday, July 20, 2012

More Alaska Grown

I had a blast at Trinity Nursery in Soldotna. I'd gone there to see the quilt on display for the quilt walk but when I was greeted by the giant hanging pot of flowers I had to go back for my camera. Turns out there were a lot of gorgeous things inside that were just begging to be photographed. And once I started, I couldn't stop snapping! Everything was so beautiful. So big and so beautiful!

Fuschia was everywhere, bigger than I've ever seen it and in so many varieties.

I loved this one! I took so many pictures of it.

I really like this photo from underneath.

And then there was this one! This must be the official flower of the ladies' Red Hat Society!

 I like seeing the various stages of bloom on this plant.

There was a climbing rose bush trailing up an arbor about 8 feet high. The blooms were so big!

 Outside there was another gorgeous fucshia. Love all the spikey things.
(A gardener I'm not. Otherwise I'd know the name of those spikey things.)

This is the largest geranium I've ever seen.

The blooms were huge.

It must have won an award and it looks like it's called Kenai Carmen.

A final stroll around the outside for two photos and then I'll take you back inside for my favorite photo.

This one below is my favorite. Though all the wide open ruffles of some of those exquisite fuschias I showed you earlier take my breath away, for some reason I am in love with this one.  I love how it's tighter, making it look...drippier. Ooooh, I just love it.

Here it is bigger.

I had a wonderful time at Trinity Nursery. I am definitely going back to see more of the
big, beautiful flowers that are Alaska Grown!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Alaska Grown

Much like handcrafts and arts have taken to the Made in Alaska symbol, I believe the Alaska Grown symbol started with the local farming industry wanting to denote their products as Alaska grown.

But now the Alaska Grown thing is all over the place on t-shirts, hoodies (aka, sweatshirts), and on baby's onsies.

And nearly always in neon bright colors.
They come in black, in "highlighter" yellow and in various blues, too.

Though they're for sale in all the tourist sections of stores, I feel it's only honest for locals and natives to wear them. After all, they're the only ones who can say they've grown up here. But then again, what about other kinds of growth? I suppose there are some who can legitimately say Alaska has grown them. OK. I've just changed my mind. There may be people other than natives and "sourdoughs" who have the right to claim they've been grown by or in Alaska.

But, that's not the reason for this post. I wanted to talk about plants.

How does the Land of the Midnight Sun grow things? Well, when you own a greenhouse nursery, it goes like this.

In January, you plant four seeds in little starter sets.

In February, you transplant the seedlings into a four-pack - one of those little plastic trays with four cups for four individual plants.

In March, you transplant them into a small pot.

In April, you transplant them again into the pot they'll live out their days in.

And in June, you get this:

and this:

Get out!  My mouth fell open when I walked into the nursery and was greeted by that first plant.
Then it curled up into a smile.

I took the next one from underneath, looking up into the hole
created by about three or four feet of hanging flowers.

More ALASKA GROWN flowers tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Alaska. Where.....

Alaska. Where the impossible happens.

The Fisherman cut this log last October. Now, how in the world does a cut log, a mere segment of a previously living tree, sprout leaves 8 months later?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Alaska. Where.....

Alaska. Where THIS.....

is a grocery store.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Alaska. Where.....


Enough said.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Alaska. Where.....

Whatever works.

Got to have SOME way to grill salmon in this river city!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Grace and Fish Scales

I met a native Alaskan last week. Her name is Grace and she is Yupik. Her family was vacationing on the Kenai Peninsula from McGrath, an interior town and one of the check points for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. They were headed to Seward and the family wanted to stop by and see the chain saw carvings, the carousel, and take a look at our gold panning outfit. Grace, a shy woman, came into the shop and inquired if we'd be interested in purchasing some of her handmade birchbark baskets.

Truthfully, I didn't think we could do it but I asked to see them anyway. I wanted to see them and I wanted to encourage her. Something drew me to this woman. Probably because I've been reading about Alaska natives of old and their old ways, their handmade ways of living and creating.

She showed me her beautiful work. White birch bark had been cut, coaxed and molded into ovals forming hardy bowls. She rimmed each basket by setting a narrow strip of bark, about 1.5" wide white side in alongside the basket rim and lashing them together with birch bark root she stripped into cording. She sells them to the Native Heritage shop in Anchorage among other places. They're beautiful!

Next she pulled out a paper plate from a plastic grocery bag. Hooked onto the plate were a dozen pair of earrings she'd made. Now she really had me. We have a ton of jewelry in our shop and couldn't take any more but I bought a couple pair for myself.  Here's one of them.

They're not what I would normally wear but I was fascinated by a couple of things. One is that they were handmade by a native Alaskan Indian. Another is that those flakey things strung together with small beads in between scales. Cool! How native is that?  And then, it gets even better. She used Low Bush Cranberries to dye the scales that orangy salmon color. Now that's just plain cool.

I also bought a blue pair.

I almost bought a purple pair instead of the blue, but I really liked the short design of the blue and thought the purple wouldn't show up well against my brown hair. (It's still brown behind my dangling earrings, even though most of the rest of it is white!)

The purple earrings she dyes with blueberries. Blueberries are wild in Alaska, as are many other berries. I love that she uses natural dyes. Some of her colors she admittedly used Rit for, including my steely blue ones. But I didn't care. I love the natural, Alaska-y, native-y, fishy, earthiness of the whole thing.

And I loved my brief talk with Grace.  I was fascinated by the things she told me in our brief encounter. She speaks the Yupik language and learned English in school. She said they would get hit for speaking their native language in school. Ugh! I recently learned of this horrible time in Alaska's history when well intentioned educators designed programs that took children away from their families and villages to attend school. They were not allowed to visit home, not allowed to receive visitors, not allowed to speak their own language. Such harshnesss is unthinkable. (Hannah Breece, the old Alaska schoolteacher I just finished reading about, was not a teacher like this.)  Grace said she was shy in school. Her shyness and the teachers' cruelty caused her to not raise her hand very often.

Grace said it was difficult to translate Yupik to English for her because in Yupik sentences are spoken backwards to the way they're said in English. Sometimes she'll start to say something to her children and then pause. She laughed and said they say, "Finish your sentence, Mom!"

She also explained some particularly dark purple fish scale earrings she had. She grinned and revealed that she had forgotten them in the blueberry dye for a whole year.

She told me that some people get upset that she uses birch bark to make baskets, thinking she's hurting trees while robbing them of their bark. She said that she uses the bark from trees that are falling down over the river and are going to soon die anyway.  She also uses bark from logs her husband cuts for firewood. She tells him, "Don't hurt the bark!"

I had a lovely talk with this sweet and gentle woman from native Alaska. I felt so privileged to have met her. And who knows, if I ever get to do one of those Iditarod trips where they fly you in and out of various checkpoints along the 1000 mile race, maybe I'll run into her in McGrath!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Our Piece of Alaska

Our little piece of Alaska, some 20 acres, has a gorgeous view. We're amazed and blessed to have such a view. Us! With a million dollar view! Or at least several $100,000 worth, though we paid a fraction of that for the land. Our realtor attests he thinks it's the best view in all the area. We don't think the previous owners knew anything about it. But when he looked at the land, The Fisherman wanted to look at every inch of it. He and our realtor walked the entire acreage, only 10 acres at the time, from top to bottom and side to side. They discovered a rare view for our parts.

Most of the surrounding area is flat. About the only view people have is of tree trunks.

We helped our view a bit by cutting down some dead and dying trees
in order to open things up a bit more.

We love our view.

We are blessed indeed.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fireweed #2

I took more photos ot the Fireweed around our camp today. They've grown a little.

I confess, I have no idea if these are the same two flowers I snapped photos of last Thursday or not! I think the first one is, but I'm not sure about the second one. So much for following two specific flowers.

But I did find one that I can surely keep track of.

I'm not sure what a tire is doing in front of one of the classrooms of the school's annex building, but it makes it easy for me to track this particular flower's blooming.

It's rather spindly right now, don't you think?

I had quite a surprise when looking around the school and our campsite.
I turned around and found one fireweed already in bloom!

I've not seen a single other one in bloom yet. Everything else is still in buds. But they're coming out fast with these long days. Long days, but lately there's not been so much sunshine. Cloudy and rainy all week. Add to that some wind, and it's been rather chilly. In the 50's. Alaska is a wild land and just like everywhere else, you have to take the bad with the good. My family is suffering in Phoenix with 115 degree blazing hot days right now, but Spring is amazing there! Alaska has gorgeous scenes and lush landscapes, but it rains a ton. And the winters are harsh. And there's bears. And... And... And it gets in under your skin and takes hold of your heart as unforgettable.


Though we live completely off the grid in Arizona, in Alaska we bit the bullet and bought electricity. (And boy did it cost!) It's taken us a few years to get the job done. First the utility company had to dig about 1500 feet and install a meter box at the closest corner of our property. That happened, if memory serves me right, in the fall of 2010. In 2011 The Fisherman and our friend The Bear rented a mini-excavator and dug from the corner of the property to a point almost to the house.
This year, The Fisherman and I finished the last 40 feet to the meter by hand.
The Fisherman, who hates loose clothing, dug the trench.....

while I, who hate snug clothing, scooped out the results of his digging.

And we're done!

The utility co-op connected us up about a week ago. A couple days before that we had the satellite company and hook us up with TV. We watched the news by generator - just like in the "old days" when we were building our Arizona home.

The next project is building a shed. Our little cabin has been a construction site for about five years. With a nice large storage shed, we'll be able to clear it of all the power tools, hand tools, and a couple of 10 foot long kayaks we've been storing there. It will be so nice.
We purchased two little couches last year, along with a small rocking chair. We put a caribou hide up on the wall and have had some of The Fisherman's great photos hung up for a year or two.
It's starting to feel like a home! Once we get it emptied of all the shed stuff, it's going to be so nice. We'll get the little kitchen stove figured out for converting to liquid propane. We'll get a table, another bed, and some other things to make life more liveable for us.  Can't wait.

It's such a beautiful place, our piece of Alaska. When The Fisherman and our realtor walked the prospective land in 2005, they discovered a spendid view. The realtor was surprised to see it. He didn't know it was there. He's the premier property realtor in these parts and he's trapsed around nearly every piece of property around. But the view from our little rise of earth surprised him. He said it's very probably the best view in all of our rural area.

I've' posted it before. But I can't resist showing you again. Next post.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More Art - The Wilderness Way

Every day I drive by a beautiful piece of art. It's a mural on a local sports outfitting shop, Wilderness Way.

THIS is Alaska. In fact, this scene looks like Cooper Landing and the Kenai River. 

I love the colors of the water in this mural. It's just like the Kenai, turquoise in the sun and blue in the shade.

This is a stunning land I'm living in this summer.
I am grateful.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Quilting On The Kenai

After enjoying the quilt walk to see the various quilts on display in shops all over town, the weekend came when I could attend the final hour or so of the quilt show. The 18th Annual Quilting on the Kenai show that Pat from Robin Place Fabrics puts on.

Oh my. Again.

There were so many nice quilts. But one in particular grabbed my heart. I couldn't quit looking at it. Kept coming back to it. Kept glancing over at it during the prize ceremony - the one where I mistakenly did not win the $800 sewing machine.

This quilt won 2nd Place for Applique.

The diamond pattern is stunning. The mountain, sky, lake, hills, trees, and fireweed are so beautiful. 
The Alaska Fireweed is all appliqued.

Appliqued all throughout the quilt are Alaska animals. Eagles, grizzlies, moose, wolves.

I love the mountain and the sky. The fabric choices are so beautiful.
A mix of grey, pale blue, white, and a touch of pink. Just like an Alaska sky.
The way the artist arranged the diamonds to vary the sky's affect is so cool.
And the lake!
I just don't have the feel for mixing up colors and patterns that way to represent something real.

The diamond pattern and the way she interspersed the colors for the lake, and the foreground (underneath the fireweed) is just stunning to me. I love this quilt!

Here's another one that caught my eye. It's a traditional Log Cabin pattern but done in an untraditional way. I love the solid background and how each "log" is different. Usually Log Cabin quilts have a distinct pattern with similar colors grouped together to form triangular blocks of color. I really like this one's randomness.

And then there was this "Hobo Bag". I saw it at the quilt shop the week before and fell in love with it. Not only the rich texture of the bag but also the color choices. I love turquoise and rust together. I bought the pattern for these two bags before I left the shop. I was glad to see the bags on display at the show so I could "visit" them again.

I'm learning that this area, the Kenai Peninsula, is quite a creative area. I've always known that the town of Homer was creative. It's full of artists and galleries. It's known for it's art community. (That and it's world famous halibut fishing. Oh yeh, I forgot about the fishing thing.) There were proably a hundred people at the quilt show. One of the quilts on the walk was done by a man. It was made from neck ties in a sunburst pattern. It was quite nice. But since the quilt show I've also met a few potters and learned of a community potter center with eight wheels that conducts classes. I've been exposed to the art community here. I hadn't realized it was as large at it is here in Soldotna. That excites me. Maybe The Fisherman will get me to move up here ...someday... after all!