Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I forgot!

I told you that I had videos and then I forgot to post them! This past Saturday Oksana performed with the Matanuska-Susitna orchestra. She'd been practicing on Tuesday evenings for more than a month and then a few Saturdays as well in preparation for this week which is part of why I've been so tired. I could see my cousin's daughter Nicole from where we sat but Oksana and the gal next to her were too far back to see. The orchestra is normally about 30 adults but a number of the normal players were not able to play with the kids (including Oksana's teacher who was sick). The teacher later said she would have liked her to sit closer to where she could be seen but again, she wasn't really up to managing that at the time. The newspaper article below gives more details:

I got some video of the concert, but foolishly forgot to bring another card for the camera so I pretty quickly filled it up. I did bring a digital recorder and got most of the concert on that. I forgot to turn on the mic though so I missed a number of songs at the beginning! Yeah, I'm a goof! They started with easy songs and progressively got more difficult with less students playing as they went along. Oksana played all but one song in the final set. She had played it a number of times in rehearsal, but just didn't feel comfortable enough with it to play it during the concert. I took the audio files and put some of her pictures to them to make videos because I had no idea how to post audio files only. I can supposedly upload them to Blogger, but I've already got them on Youtube so I'll just post the links.


Boy have I been slacking in the writing department! I've had some busy weeks so I hope ya'll will forgive me. I know what I'll do. I'll post some pictures AND video. THAT will make them all happy! ;)

Spring is coming with a vengeance and we're fast melting off! I know they said it would happen fast, but even I didn't realize HOW fast that would be! I know some of you southerners won't believe me, but we've had some WARM weather! It was 50 degrees yesterday, 40 today. That might not seem warm to ya'll but the Basset doesn't lie! When it is 50 here, it is WARM!!! That's her high-nee-ness sunbabing below.

I'm going to miss my ice road! Locals tell us we can probably drive on the ice for a couple more weeks but I'm not a local. There's almost a foot of water OVER the ice from run-off and the ice is clear under that water. It's freaky! Then there are patches where the ice is GONE where springs run down the hills, like right near our generator shed:

And here is a picture of the water, I mean, ice road tonight. Eider was sooooo worried about his mummy! He kept coming back to see if I was ok. It gets deeper a bit further out from here - well over a foot, but some woos wouldn't go that far to see it. That would be me if there was any question. ;)

Speaking of our generator shed... The new inverter is IN!!! And it works GREAT! It wasn't so great the way it had to go in (someone left a hair straightener on which sucked the batteries down so low that the old inverter switched completely off and would NOT come back on - discovered after we came home late in the evening of course which meant battling with it late at night and then spending an entire "day off" working on it) but it works soooooo much better than the old one! Our voltage is sooooooo rock steady now! The only problem is that we can't tell when we have to charge so readily now! We've been on the phone with Alaska Battery again though and think we'll probably add some solar panels soon (yes, solar - our greatest need is Feb, March, April and we have TONS of sun now!) and also add a gauge in the house that will tell us how the batteries are doing.

We recently were able to get on the "Road Kill" list where the State Police will call you if they have a road killed moose that needs to be removed. Our team (between the size of a moose and the fact that they will call day or night you really do want a team) got a yearling that had gotten caught in a fence right near Victory. We're pretty certain that it is the one that hung around the horses eating hay with its mom since that one seems to be missing now. At any rate, between the age and good food, it is pretty yummy, tender eating! Rodney, Nate, and Crystal and Jared Thiessen went and retrieved it and then gutted and quartered it. A few days later Crystal, Maggie Regier and I got together to cut it up. We kept a few steaks but ground most of it into burger. The work went quickly with three of us cutting. Jared ran the grinder so really, we had four people working. It makes the job more fun to do it with friends! Below is our local moose (not the one in our freezer) who visits fairly regularly.

And lastly, just some scenic pictures of "our" mountain. Really, it is there! You may need to double click on the picture to go to the larger version to see it, but it is there in the clouds! I LOVE how many different "looks" our mountain has! It is different every time we see it. Sometimes it is bright, luminous and inviting. Other times it is obscure, inexplicable, and unfathomable. Then again, it can be dynamic, commanding and steadfast! That is how the mountains appear when I wake up and see them in the middle of the night or at twilight (my favorite) when they follow me home from town. They seem to stand out emphatically! against the darkening sky, encouraging me onward, familiar, faithful, ageless guardians! :) Yeah, I love "my" mountains!

This morning - pink in the sleepy sun

Sunday, March 21, 2010

All the BOW details, with pictures of course!

I can't believe it has been so long again! It has been busy since our BOW weekend. I had so much fun it ought to be illegal! :) The first class I took was on how to fillet fish. That might not sound all that exciting to some, but I LOVE to eat fish. This is a great way for me to be a part of bringing home the fish for dinner without having to do the fishing part! It was a lot easier than I expected! Now I can't wait for fishing season so that I can have some more yummy salmon! Sorry, no pictures of the salmon, but they were GORGEOUS Copper River Reds - the sweetest salmon you can possibly get! Oh my! My mouth is watering again just thinking about it!

My next class was dog mushing. There were two instructors, Kim Trickett from Yellow Snow Adventures and Anjanette Steer, wife of Zach Steer who lives not far from camp. Zach ran both the Yukon Quest in February, placing fourth, and then the Iditarod in March, placing 14th I was so impressed with these ladies and especially with the dogs! I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I certainly didn't expect the dogs to be sooooooo sweet and affectionate! It made sense the more Anjanette explained. One of the main things they breed for is that desire to please. It really shows through in the dogs! They LOVE to run, but they also LOVE to be petted and loved! Since they are handled by so many people preparing for the races, they must be thoroughly socialized from the time they are born. It takes a lot of hands to get harnesses on, booties on and then hooked up to the sleds. Then you need to hang on because those guys just LOVE to GO!!! What fun! Those dogs are world class athletes! They are absolutely amazing! Some of them race as long as 8 yrs which is practically ancient in some breeds. I could have driven a small team, but there were so many women who had signed up for the class and since I had not signed up (I was just listening in), I didn't drive them. Anjanette did invite me up to visit and see the dogs at their home (which is not far from us) and go for a ride then. I plan to take her up on that offer! Anyway, I know ya'll want pictures, so here they are. This is two of the four teams they had going that day. Kim was running 5 dogs (mostly young dogs that were just learning - helped keep her team from going too fast for newbies) and the others were running four.

Kim coming back into the staging area after one run.

Some of Kim's purebred Siberian Huskies, not the norm for sled dogs. Most of the competitive dogs are the Alaskan mix. Here are three of the purebreds and two mixes.

My two little sled dog wannabes ;) Maybe Rodney will get his dream of an all-Basset sled dog team yet! But I seriously hope not! Ellie is sweet, but one Basset is enough for a lifetime for me!

After mushing I was ready to get myself a dog sled and a couple of Alaskan mix Iditarod retirees but that was before I went snow machining in the afternoon! Oh my! What fun!!! I got to ride one of those sleds on the trailers and we went waaaaaay out in the boonies for a gorgeous afternoon ride! :) March in Alaska is the most beautiful month yet and we had a picture perfect day to be out there. Here's a picture someone took of me when we stopped for a break.

Here's a picture of our instructor demonstrating the elegant way to roll your machine. ;) She was watching to see if we were ok and the powder grabbed the left front ski. The snow was waist deep off the trail. A few winches properly applied and it came right out of there without a scratch.
I tried hard to talk her out of her personal machine (because she'd been talking of upgrading) but she didn't seem interested so Rodney got on Craigslist looking for something to fit me. The next day we were on our way to check out this new toy:
It was an almost new machine for a reasonable price. I'm even more sore now than I was after that weekend! :)

I know there is something else I wanted to write about, but I can't remember what it is! The weather has been beautiful lately, sun shining, up in the 30s every day, my Christmas cactus has decided that it can also be an early Easter cactus and even my violets are appreciating the longer days. Yes, we get solstice along with the rest of the world. ;) I know I said it before, but I do believe this is my favorite month yet up here! There's snow on the ground so you can really play, the days are long enough to get out there and do stuff, the temperatures are lovely and that sun just shines like crazy! :) Yeah, loving March in Alaska!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mostly BOW pics, plus a few others

This is from the night the teens were here for dessert for the progressive supper. L to R are Natalie, Jesse Lee, Trayton Cohen, Christopher Martin, Sergei and Robert VanDaam. At one point Alaura Sherrer and Andrei were also on the couch, but that picture didn't turn out too well.
The redpolls are eating us out of house and home. I fill the feeders and they can empty them in a day. Other pictures had more birds, but this one had the most actually flying. Those things are crazy!
This is the end of our driveway today. The snow pile is getting pretty high. We used to have a two lane driveway, but there has been so much snow and with the one truck not working, they haven't gotten out here to plow it out wider yet. They'll need the BIG tractor to do that.

The snow machines are in for BOW! Rodney is drooling.

And another trailer load:

The BIG snow removal tractor with Doug Theissen at the wheel:

Skis set up for the weekend:

Rodney's ice sculpture. I love the blue of the water! That is how it looks when it comes off the glacier.
There's so much snow that it pushes down the ice on the lake, making the water from the springs flow over the ice. Sergei got quite stuck in the overflow. Jesse came to help him dig out. Pull, Sergei!

It worked! Thanks, Jesse! I think the machine is now up at the Lee's shop to thaw.

So there's the start of our busy week! I did get a copy of the schedule so I can give you a quick rundown of the classes. As they appear on the schedule: Firearm safety, big game hunting, wildlife tracking, archery, ice fishing, fly fishing, pond to pan (I really want to go to that one!), Dutch oven gourmet, winter gear, skijoring, dog mushing, snow machining (I told ya'll that's what they call it here!), staying safe in bear country, field dressing, trapping, spin fishing, smoking, pickling and gravlox, winter survival, snowshoeing, intro to shotgun, firearms for bear defense, skinning & hide prep, Alaska seafood, cross country skiing, rifle markswoman, skin sewing, spin fishing, pike palooza (not quite self explanatory - no course description though), pulk sled building AND GPS. So there you have it! Can't wait to try out some of the courses! :) Mark your calendars for next year and come on out and join us!!!

March is in like a lion!

March has certainly come in like a lion in our first winter in Alaska! We'd had close to a month of warm temperatures and beautiful sunshine, but now it is March. We've been hammered with snow the last 3-4 days! We have gotten more than another foot AND the temperatures have been down around zero again! Brrr! We'd gotten spoiled by the above freezing temperatures! I guess we're supposed to be back up around 30 by Sunday or Monday, but meanwhile we've got the fire stoked! A wheel on the plow truck isn't working so they're without that plow until Nate gets home late tonight. I think he'll be busy fixing things as soon as he gets back! Well, after this weekend anyway! Right now Rodney is scheduled to go pick up Nate and Maggie at 10 pm tonight in Anchorage which means they won't get home until about 1 am but Rod may make the run if he's feeling a little better today. So far he has not been in any kind of shape to do that, so we'll see. Fortunately the kids have been home this week (spring break) to help with shoveling and Matt Scherrer has been around for a couple of days to help with plowing. Doug Thiessen has been using the big tractor to move large quantities of snow. They're getting there! We have one of the biggest weekends at camp coming up so there's more than normal to do to prepare, plus now all this snow on top of it all!

This weekend is called the "Becoming an Outdoor Woman" or BOW weekend. They have tons of classes to choose from, like how to kill, field dress and butcher a caribou, how to can food, cross country skiing, dog sled mushing, snow machining (I can call it a snow machine pretty easily now, but I still have a tough time calling it "snow machining"), how to gut and fillet fish, etc. I'll see if I can get a list to fill in more of the weekend classes. At any rate, Rodney needs to make a lot of preparations like places to park trailers (caribou and snow machines), trails for the dog sleds and cross country skiers and of course keep the buildings clear of snow! And in between all that, he needs to pull Sergei out of the snow or water when he runs his snow machine somewhere he shouldn't have been and gets stuck. That's what the whole "wide track" snow machine is all about - it floats on top of fluffy snow where Sergei's sinks if he doesn't go fast enough. Sometimes even if he goes fast he still gets stuck! (snicker)

I guess there must have been enough snow for the Iditarod because that did start on Sunday. Andrei got to go watch the official start on Sunday in Willow (not far from Wasilla) with the VanDaams. There is a team from the community that many are supporting so they stayed and watched until he took off. If you'd like to learn about the Iditarod or the community team, I'll provide a few links. is the Iditarod site (obviously) and is the website for the local team (and their business). Zach Steer ran the Yukon Quest in February (that race is from Fairbanks to Whitehorse) and with only a little time to rest in between is now running the Iditarod. He's currently still in the race and is taking a required 24 hr rest. Remind me to let ya'll know how he does. I think Rodney's dream of having an all Basset team to race the Iditarod is fading. Ellie gets buried in this deep snow! ;)

Andrei has finished the Volleyball season this year. They had their tournament in Palmer last Saturday. They didn't do as well as they'd hoped, but they did a great job considering that this was their first year playing. Andrei was the most consistent server on the team for the last few games. That makes him expensive to sponsor in the upcoming Serve-a-thon! They're trying to raise money for next year for travel expenses for the team. This year the girls had a team, but there won't be enough girls next year to make a team so they would like to have a co-ed team. The problem is that the closest co-ed teams are down in the Aleutian Islands. They are trying to raise enough money to fly down there at least once to play against those teams before the state finals. I think they have to play at least once to go to the finals, but they may be able to play against a boy's team to qualify. I'm not too sure of all those details. I'll have to check with their coach. I'll be back after the weekend to fill you in with some BOW pictures and stories! Oh, and maybe a picture of Sergei rather stuck in the overflow. ;)

Morning commute

Morning commute