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: Continue reading →
No, that’s not the cry of a spoiled child. It’s food, calling to you!
Anyone can grow, gather, or make a lot of their own food. We do it on four fronts – we garden, we catch a lot of fish, we raise chickens, and we make some of our favorite foods from scratch. What have we learned along the way? Continue reading →
Folks in the Anchorage bowl woke Wednesday morning to widespread power outages, trees down, traffic lights out, and closed schools and businesses. An early September winter storm created hurricane force winds. The power at the house was out for about eight hours, and we have a tree down in the yard. Much of Anchorage is in the same boat. Score one for Mother Nature in man’s apparent battle for control over nature. Fortunately this power outage came in early September and not the dead of winter, serving as a good consciousness-raising event and needs assessment for future power outages. So this post is both pragmatic and fanciful, covering personal, pragmatic issues related to sudden loss of complexity events and some “what if” questions about the future of digitization. I’m typing this during brownouts and occasional triggers of the generator, which got its first real test last night. We are near a trunk line, with underground power, so our power came back quickly. But close neighbors are not so lucky. Today is woodcutting day, for us and our friends, whether we need the wood or not. So this post may ramble a bit, like my thoughts, between the impacts of events at the larger scale like windstorms and regional blackouts, and personal preparation at the local scale. Continue reading →
Summer is rapidly coming to an end. Long summer nights are waning, and I notice that I need to turn on lights in the morning now. Berries are ripe for the picking, and there is a slight chill in the air. The Alaska State Fair is coming. It is time to take stock, examining our progress in making ourselves more self-sufficient. Continue reading →
Do you want to live more efficiently and reap the benefits of a closer community? Cooperative living is a great strategy for getting and staying out of debt while building community, resilience and security in a tenuous economy. But it requires a change in attitudes, and a return to more communal ways of living. You don’t necessarily need to relocate into a brand new cohousing situation; there are a range of options. While we live in a close-but-separate multi-family dwelling, by design and by chance, we’ve achieved some important cohousing benefits – shared space and sense of community. So here’s our cooperative living story, as told from the perspective of both top floor and bottom floor residents–I’m going to refer to the people who live with us as our nearest neighbors, as we don’t really think of them as tenants, but as friends. Living together with extended family is nothing new, but here in Anchorage, we are often far from family, and friends are the family we choose for ourselves (Edna Buchanan). Continue reading →
Alaska has a long and interesting history of agriculture, including a government-sponsored relocation of 200 Midwest farm families in 1935 to establish the Matanuska Valley Colony near present-day Palmer. Today a modest number of commercial agricultural operations are successfully operating around the state. Nonetheless, commercial agriculture, even when combined with subsistence hunting, fishing, and gathering, supplies less than 5 percent of the food consumed by the 720,000 residents of the state.
In recent years home vegetable gardening has seen rapid growth in popularity nationwide. The local foods movement and a growing interest in sustainable and self-sufficient living have at least in part fueled this interest. In the Anchorage area, ornamental and vegetable gardening is popular. Our long summer days are a big plus. Our short growing season and naturally cool air and soil temperatures are our biggest challenges. Anchorage gardeners typically reserve Memorial Day weekend to plant most vegetables outdoors. We enjoy harvests from mid-summer until the hard frosts and first snows of mid-October bring the outdoor gardening season to a close.
At our Anchorage home we have had a successful vegetable garden for several years. Leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and Swiss chard do well here. Root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and turnips also thrive in our long days and cool soils at 61°North. However, if you lust for a good tomato, cucumber, or pepper, regardless of season, you must create more conducive growing conditions or accept the imported fare that spends weeks traveling from farm to market.