by Mary and Todd Logan
Anchorage in general is in a sulk. Three or nine inches of snow fell yesterday and today, depending on where you live in the Anchorage bowl. This snowfall gives Anchorage a new record for the longest snow season on record, 232 days long. Bike to Work Day on Friday was rainy and then snowy. The Nenana Ice Classic, Alaska’s biggest guessing game on when the ice goes out in the spring on the Tanana, was the latest breakup in recorded history. Gardeners are frustrated, and even the skiers are tired of winter. We seem to be experiencing a cooling trend for Alaska due to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and changes in the winter ice patterns–more in the Bering Sea and less in the Arctic. Alex DeMarban at Alaska Dispatch summarizes the study:
“The state’s overall temperature dipped 2.4 degrees during the first decade of the new century, a notable shift from the previous 100 years, which had generally trended warmer, according to a study published last summer by the Alaska Climate Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The authors suggested that growing winter ice in the Bering Sea — the result of cooler surface temperatures — led to lower temperatures across nearly all of Alaska. Meanwhile, thinning ice in the Arctic Ocean led to warming in one slice of the state: the North Slope atop Alaska. Those trends are continuing, according to follow-up papers released by Wendler, Blake Moore and Kevin Galloway” (DeMarban, 2013).
An earlier post on community storytelling described Arctic Entries, a storytelling organization which is not only still going strong, but is now dealing with capacity issues. Arctic Entries has expanded this month yet again to Anchorage’s Performing Arts Center, and it still sold out in less than two hours with new online ticket sales. Todd even told a story this month, about an outing that “seemed like a good idea at the time.” Here are some recent 7-minute audio files from Arctic Entries, beginning with Saskia Esslinger’s permaculture talk on Eating Local in Alaska.
And here is Bree Kessler, who is pursuing a degree in environmental psychology, talking about going really local, in Bettles, Alaska, in I’m an Urbanist.
Here is Kyle Stevens on the adventures of just doing your job in Living the Dream is Chasing the Dream.
And Angela Gonzales on Growing Up in Fish Camp.
And SJ Klein on Building a House is a Neighborhood Affair.
And here is Todd’s story from May.
We had a lot of trees fall in several sequential storms last fall. Here’s Todd storing wood for future winters.
Our chickens suffered through the long winter we’ve just had, henpecking each others’ feathers in a neurotic attempt to deal with their frustrations. Here’s Todd, or should I say Chicken Van Gogh, painting their rumps so that they’ll stop.
Our vegetable garden and greenhouse are evolving. This is year number two for our greenhouse. Lesson learned from year one–don’t over-plant! We warmed up the greenhouse to 50F mid-March, put in lettuce starts, and began enjoying nightly fresh salads on April 25. In mid-April we set the thermostat to 60 degrees and added tomato plants, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and egg-plant. All are doing well. This year we are especially grateful for the greenhouse, and I’ve noticed many hits on the website from Alaskans and Canadians curious about how to build one.
While we haven’t planted the garden yet, we have gotten it ready. This began by shoveling and snow-blowing 18″ of snow off of the raised beds and big garden (1200 sq. ft) on April 22 so that the sun could start thawing the soil. The anti-moose electric fence had to be restrung. Last fall a young bull moose apparently discovered that he could break the wires with his antlers and not get shocked. He and a friend browsed garden residue repeatedly late fall.
Anchorage summers, at least at times, can be sunny and warm. Gardens do need some watering. In years past we’ve put our garden sprinklers on a timer. This works great when it’s sunny and warm, but you over water if you are not around and cool, cloudy rainy weather settles in. Over watering has many downsides: it leaches away nutrients, it encourages one of our few garden pests – slugs, it wastes energy, and it slows growth by chilling both plants and soil (our well water is 42F). So as a pre-gardening season project, Todd assembled a more sophisticated timer system that includes a wireless moisture sensor. With this new set-up, we’ll set the timer for warm-sunny conditions. A moisture sensor, with probes in the garden soil, measures moisture and cancels scheduled watering when moisture is good. We expect this will be a better watering system. Time will tell.