Thursday, July 30, 2009

2009 is a Berry Good Year

10 gallons and counting.

Plus one gallon of raspberries. Its been blueberry crisp, followed by raspberry muffins, then blueberry cobbler, and blueberry pancakes, raspberry buckle, blueberry muffins - you get the picture.

Eight hours of picking (spread over about four days) has resulted in a freezer full of gallon bags of berries. This is a bumper crop of blueberries the likes of which have not been seen in the Fairbanks area for several years now.

The berries are so thick - 4 to 6 plump berries per cluster - that I turn my nose up at bushes which in past years I would have raved about as being sure signs I had died and gone to berry-pickers heaven. Yup, its fat city.

A few days ago I sent out a gallon to the SO's mom in the vil. You'd think that would be like bringing coals to Newcastle, but no. Because while the berries are fat, juicy and plentiful here, they are not so luxe elsewhere in the Interior - or at least not around that particular village.

I got kudos from mom for that bag of berries, so today another two gallons went over with someone traveling back to the vil. Mom has been around for many, many years and she knows good berries when she gets them. As an elder with specific tastes and high standards - getting props from her was well worth the air freight.

I am all about earning brownie points and looking out for mom. She is the glue that holds the family together - the force that keeps the men in the family in line, on track and from doing crazy men things. That makes my life easier and more pleasant with my SO. Additionally, without her all of us in that extended family are much reduced, and to no small degree without direction. When mom is around, family members' roles are clear, structure settles in, and there is harmony, purpose and peace - like a hive that is queen-right.

A queen-right hive produces lots of honey and is populated by calm bees unlikely to attack and sting; bees that are all working to the purposes to which they were born. A hive that is not queen-right is chaotic, agitated and full of angry bees that will attack at the slightest provocation. A queenless hive has no future for without a queen, the worker bees begin reproducing. Worker bees can only produce drones, and thus the hive starves and dies.

Like a worker bee making honey and taking care of the queen, I got a few more gallons stashed away for mom. A small price to pay for a queen-right family.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

There's a New Rooster on the Block

And no, I don't mean Parnell.

Lil Roo- a reasonably handsome red and white aracuna rooster - arrived this morning. He replaces Mr. Roo, who died from too much of the good life back in early June.

After living rooster-less for nearly two months, I discovered that a) hens are boring and b) I really missed the sound of a rooster - especially greeting me when I staggered home from a pub crawl somewhere south of midnight. No idea if my neighbors missed the 3 AM rooster calls, but since at least two of them have chickens, including several roosters, I didn't bother to poll the neighborhood on whether or not I should get a replacement.

So today Lil Roo arrived in a pet carrier - donated by an acquaintance who discovered that 50% of her sexed layers are roosters, not hens. For those new to chix tech-speak, "sexed" birds means those that supposedly had their gender determined prior to sale as layers, not, as one might suppose, birds with high sex drives.

Despite the prospect of being the only rooster in a yard of seven hens, Lil Roo had to be shaken out of his pet carrier. He is a young rooster and sized up next to the more robust older hens, quite small. He quickly realized this. Trotting around on the very tips of his toes, he began stretching his neck up and out as far as he could in a vain attempt to enlarge and enhance his size (a trait that male chickens share with their human counterparts).

Ah, but to no avail. Lil Roo failed to impress. The red hens moved in to make sure it was their pecking order that got established. After the dust from the chicken scrum settled, Lil Roo's feathers were decidedly ruffled, and quite a few of them pulled.

Attila the Hen moves in for the kill

Now, several hours later, the chicken cacophony has died down. A few minutes ago I went out to make sure it wasn't because Lil Roo was battered, bleeding and about to be dispatched by his harem. I found him quietly pecking in the small corner of the coop allowed him by the ladies, who were contentedly back to scratching for bugs and dust bathing. But Lil Roo is still on the short leash - every time he gets an amorous glint in his eye and makes overtures to one of the hens, he is severely trounced and forced back into his corner. What's a horny roo to do?

Bird Kvetch

As for more important things than you know what, I give you my latest obsession. Or rather Quixotian enterprise: my personal war on Bird Vetch, aka Vicia cracca L, aka that invasive crap you see everywhere by the roads.

It is also known by its street name, "Alaska Kudzu."

I have a one acre plot on which my crazy old Fairbanks house sits, and a goodly portion of that lot has been overrun by the stuff. I dwelt in happy ignorance until the S.O. pointed the stuff out. And then I realized, it IS everywhere.

At right: One lone strand of fireweed, stranded in a sea of bird vetch.

Surely, the liberal application of a weed whacker could remedy this, no? Uh, no. Because the stuff has not remained unto itself, but as its alias implies, it spreads over everything, choking other plants out. And it has taken my gorgeous stands of fireweed hostage. Which means I have to clear the stuff manually, otherwise known as 'by hand.'

Over a week later, I have eight large piles of vegetation in the yard already. It's no exaggeration to state that it will be a pickup truck load by the time I'm done. (And I'm about halfway there, area-wise.)

Luckily, it appears to not be indestructible, just very good at growing. Hopefully, a few seasons of this type of removal and we can be vetch-free. Fingers-crossed.
From the site Weedwar.Org: "Bird vetch is a perennial that reproduces from copious amounts of seed. This species does not have the ability to resprout after cutting. Seeds are viable for number of years and large seed banks are common."

Sunday, July 26, 2009


And I'm not witty enough to have come up with that myself, so, props to you, oh witty person somewhere out there. You know who you are.

Thoughts had been entertained about attending the soon-to-be-ex Gov's picnic today, but really, I have more important things to do -- continuing my own personal war on bird vetch, for one thing. The bad date is finally over. Perhaps we will choose more wisely next time?

But will the statewide and national fixation on an empty power suit finally wane? Can I again read some of my fave Outside sites, i.e. Salon, the Times, etc. and NOT encounter a Palin headline? Open a random entertainment magazine at the doctors office and not find a story there? Will the media finally stop feeding this idiocy by turning away unless it is a story worth covering? Will progressive bloggers finally stop patting themselves on the back and writing about progressive blogs?

These are questions I can not answer. But today's Squarebanks' event marks the end of her brief tenure as Gov. Which brings to mind my alternative header, which was "Don't Let the Door Hit You in the Ass..."

Many things about the Palinista Era chap my ass:
  • The first woman elected governor of the state of Alaska not only quit, she did a pretty crappy job. Why couldn't Fran Ulmer have made it there first?
  • The much publicized hiring freeze that wasn't. Talk to any of your state employee friends about this one.
  • Her profound disinterest in doing the job she was elected to do once elected. Legislators in Juneau wearing "Where's Sarah" buttons being the most obvious sign.
  • At times, I found myself wanting to defend her, because once again, the ways in which female politicians are criticized are different than the way male politicians are. Can we finally retire the S&M, dominatrix cartoons?
  • As much as I think she did a crap job, I am annoyed by the ways in which class-based stereotypes were used by others who were critical of her administration. And I am ashamed to have used them myself.
  • The whole freaking world now pays attention to Alaskan politics and our podunkery is laid out for all the world to see. Ignored, of course, is the fact that we are not all Wasillans and our podunkery is in many cases only skin deep. There are a lot of liberal, libertarianish, tree-hugging (and even bunny-hugging) peeps out here. Many of us are edumacated.
  • I can't go anywhere Outside without someone asking me about Her. Such questions have replaced igloo and polar bear questions for sheer annoyance.
  • She has paid more attention to Rural Alaska since announcing her resignation than she did when she was still governor. I'm sure all her photo ops in the Bush will be recycled one day for campaign (and possibly evangelical missionary propaganda) materials. It doesn't mean she has gained a freaking clue.
  • This year-plus freak show has obscured all the real issues in the state: the costs of generating electricity in rural areas, the cost of fuel oil to heat homes, the truly dismal king salmon season in places, progress on the freaking gas line -- which contrary to a Camille Paglia bizarro piece in Salon -- is not an accomplishment yet so much as a work in progress, the continuing failure to diversify our economy, the rejection of federal stimulus funds, our leadership (in a bad way) in the areas of alcoholism and sexual assault, etc.
Can we please talk about something else now?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Yet Another Use for 100 Feet of Internet Cable

Alternative role for the moose-cutting, goose singeing spot:
a place to hang the laundry out of dog reach.

Yesterday, I volunteered to do the family washing. Armed with a book and enough change in a sock to do an inner-city mugging, old school style, I perched on the back of the four-wheeler surrounded by several trash bags stuffed full of laundry. Not even the loss of water pressure three-quarters of the way through the cycles slowed me down*. But, because the day was hot and sunny and the washeteria driers, like Laundromat driers the world over, have barely enough heat to dry tulle, I opted for the numerous clotheslines I had noticed strung among the trees at home.

Directly after hanging the second pair of jeans, I experienced a laundry malfunction. First one line broke, then the next, followed by a third and a fourth, dumping all the clothes on the ground. An inspection of the clothesline revealed it to be some kind of friable white plastic cord that had totally deteriorated in the sunlight and winter weather.

A forage of this house and the SO’s house-under-construction next door turned up no rope or rope substitute whatsoever. No wire, no phone cord, no extension cords, nothing.

I thought briefly of the brand-spanking new 100 feet of computer cable I just got in – but more than the fact that I needed the cable to hook up computers, I was just too lazy to walk back down to the office to get that or anything else that might work as clothesline.

So, I festooned the yard with duds. Since the family dog has a penchant for snitching (and chewing) shoes, towels and anything else that catches its fancy, I made sure that the sock racks (a.k.a. the saw horses) were up high off the ground. It worked. The dog only succeeded in making off with one towel that it was able to snag from one of the poles.

And while I managed just fine and made do with what I had and made lemonade out of lemons and did all those things that those annoying inspirational posters urge one to do, I made darn sure that clothesline is down on the list for the next box from town.

*Although the subsequent 24+ hour village-wide power outage a few hours later on one of the hottest days yet definitely would have. Suffice to say that tangled nests of wires festooning the village power poles are, like the Internet hook up, ghetto.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Not Quite the Information Super Highway

It's more like a trail

Dateline: In the vil

Pictured at right is the internet connection that I am currently working on. One might call it a little bit ghetto – but the .22 rifle tucked in the corner makes it indisputably vil.

As noted a number of blogs ago, quite a bit of my absence from FBH these past months has been because of writer’s block, but a lot of it is due to having found a second home somewhere north of the ‘Banks in the vil.

There is always plenty to do – swimming in the river, cutting meat, baking up treats with kids, keeping enough food on the table for an extended family – especially those who are working on building a home nearby – and generally just keeping on top of all the tasks that are part of daily life. Not much different than life as a cabin dweller – houses are small, most heat with wood, and there is no indoor plumbing in any private home. For a shower and the luxury of a flush toilet, a hike to the washeteria is required (except when the hot water boiler fails – which has been a reoccurring event of late).

One significant difference, though, is that when you realize (as I did last night) that you forgot to include a power strip, internet and printer cables with the new computer just ordered, well, there is no jumping in the truck and driving over to Computer Cache to pick up the missing parts. Nope, what one does instead is to call a buddy in town – in this case my blog mate – and ask for these things to be put on the plane. Of course, this requires friends willing to run around town doing errands and taking purchases out to East Ramp. ‘Dweller not only was willing to do the errands, she went to no less than three places to complete the shopping list – an effort that earns her at least two peartinis.

Alas – although she made freight before the mid-afternoon cut off for the afternoon flight – an excess of bypass, freight and passengers meant my little box of computer necessaries got bumped. They might make the morning flight, or they might not*. That too is the way of things out here. In the meantime, instead of spending the evening setting up a new computer at Tribal, I guess I’ll go swimming or take the kids for a bike ride. Bummer.

*After nearly a year of shipping groceries and freight out to friends in the vil, I have discovered that marking all boxes “CHILL” gets them out on the very next flight, because the bush taxi companies have limited refrigerated storage. I neglected to pass on this tip to ‘Dweller.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

How Hot Is It In the Interior Right Now?

It's XtraTuf beer cozy hot.

Current weather here at 6:54 p.m., according to the Weather Underground: 88 degrees with smoke. The dog does not rejoice to go outside anymore, she just climbs into the dog box and sulks. (Having fur must suck right now.)

Thanks to a week of temps in the 80s with no rain, there is wildfire all over the place. Here's a shout out to all my friends out working wildfires: Be safe! Mojitos will be ready upon your return.

And here is hoping for some rain, soon.

Edited at 8:02 a.m., July 9:
Woke up to the sweet sounds of a strong downpour last night! Yay! Here's hoping the areas where the folks in yellow are working away got some of the stuff, too.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Must. Not. React. Must. Not. Touch. Keyboard.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh. I couldn't hold out. But really?
"You would be amazed at how much time and resource my staff and I, the Department of Law especially, spend on this every day," she said. "It is a waste. We are spending these millions of dollars not on teachers and troopers and roads or fish research and other things that are needed in Alaska." -- soon to be ex-Gov. Sarah Palin, speaking in Kotzebue.
Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit!

I call bullshit.

Yeah, the reason why we inadequately fund education and troopers and roads in Alaska is because of a bunch of ethics investigations of your administration that began, what?, a little more than a year ago? Can anyone, even the most fervent Palin admirer actually buy that argument?

By that line of reasoning, if no ethics investigations had occurred, suddenly, a torrent of money (appropriated by our oh so rural-friendly Legislature) would have poured forth, attempting to actually meet the infrastructure and programmatic needs of our state. The same state where any number of geniuses think that the EMS needs of a large city like Fairbanks could be met by an all volunteer department? Where everyone wants services and no one wants to pay taxes?

Does anyone find it ironic that she has now made her second (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) trip as governor to rural Alaska?

And guess what, Cathy? According to the AP's Dan Joling, you live in a "remote Arctic village. "

Friday, July 03, 2009

Quitting? There's No Quitting In Baseball!

Transcript of the conversation I had a few moments ago when the nice, older lady at the green house dropped the bomb on me:

NLAG: So, what do you think of Palin?
ME: What? What now? Is it the health lady thing?
NLAG: She quit.
ME: What? What? You can't quit being governor. There's no quitting...
NLAG: I know. I've never heard of such a thing.

I mean, wow. I never would have called this one. I'm sure more details will come to light as it is fed through the Media Bass-o-Matic. And there will probably be a lot of whooping it up on the part of some of her most strident critics. Me, I'll hoist a celebratory mojito (it's damned hot in Squarebanks right now) tonight and save the deep analysis for later. But thinking back over her term so far, I'm equal parts glad to see her go and pretty disappointed about how poor a governor she turned out to be.

Remember back in the beginning, in the days of 80 percent approval, when even folks like me liked her a little? Somehow, along the way, it's turned into a bad date. Bear with me here.

And this is an analogy. (The Gov likes analogies.) Sometimes, you land a date with a really hot person. And that first date rocks. And on the third of fourth date, you are still all twitterpated -- until the really hot person starts talking and you get a much clearer (and perhaps not beer goggle enhanced) idea of who that person is. And it ain't pretty. And they aren't that smart. But you hang in there a bit longer. As time goes by, you begin to wince every time that person gets ready to say something. Eventually, the hot person doesn't even seem hot anymore.

A good friend from Shish and I just watched the footage of her resignation. It's hard to to understand why she resigned, based on her the text of her announcement. She says she has reasons, but it is all pretty vague. But a couple of quick thoughts before I go hoist a glass or three:
  • on her basketball analogy and the 'full court press', as my basketball playing friend noted, "You don't put your head down and drive through -- you pass it."
  • on the lame duck thing: What? You're not going to run again so you turn the reins over to your lieutenant governor now?
  • as my basketball playing friend noted: "Parnell is not a three-point shooter."
  • is there something pretty scandalous out there? is she quitting ahead of it?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Faith-Based Governance or Hasty Covering of Butt?

First, show me the data.

Seriously, if someone is foolish enough to Twitter that 50 percent of Emmonak residents are meeting their subsistence needs (presumably for salmon, though technically, I think it is reckoned normally by species, not by general category, so they ought to state whether needs are being met for kings or chum), then I would like that someone to post the data set. And the methods used to come up with that assertion. At minimum:
  • How many households (the typical way of counting things) did you talk to? Or did you just randomly talk to people on the street?
  • What questions did you ask them? How you word something matters a great deal, as it will skew your results if you are not careful.
  • Based on the the number of households asked the questions, or the number of individuals on the street, or from how deep you plucked your data from your butt, how (numerically, demonstrable by the equations used) did you calculate that 50 percent of Emmonak is meeting its subsistence needs?
Oh wait, perhaps this is faith-based science?

I've not been under a rock, but away from the System of Tubes for over a week. But when I returned and started reading accounts of the latest stupidity emanating from The Gov's administration, I went to her website and watched the following video titled "Subsistence in Emmonak."

Does anyone else find it ironic to call an an elder getting fish donated (presumably) from the ADF&G test nets 'subsistence'? Perhaps a more accurate title might be "The Future of Subsistence"?

Apparently, a member of her administration provided video of an Emmonak elder getting fish from ADF&G (who he terms the 'game wardens') from what I presume is the ADF&G test net. (ADF&G test nets that monitor salmon returns typically will make fish caught in test nets available to locals.)

Second, is it just me or is this '50 percent needs met' a covering of ass should this ever get to a lawsuit? Lawsuits seem to be the final avenue of these sorts of issues.

Third, I fear that this could turn into a divide and conquer scenario. The issues facing Emmonak, a Lower Yukon village that used to have a commercial king fishery, are different than those facing the middle and upper Yukon, at least on the surface. If the Yukon villages start feuding amongst themselves over who is getting more kings and when, it is a distraction from the larger, long-term issues.

The real problem is the absolutely disastrous return of king salmon on the Yukon River this year. And whether it ought to merit a disaster declaration. And what the hell exactly is going on out there in the ocean, which really is a great big black box that we don't know that much about. And the truly fucked up nature of industrial fishing, whether it be in Alaska, or Canada, or the Mediterranean Freaking Ocean, because it is probably not sustainable in the long term. And the fact that fish management is driven by the big guys, not the little guys fishing engaging in a small, local commercial fishery or just fishing for food for the winter.