Archive for the ‘fairbanks alaska’ Tag

A Land of Characters – A Blog Hop Article   2 comments

10499395_10202912675492953_3236575078886050148_oDo you like to read? Wouldn’t you like to know more about your favorite authors? Well you came to the right place! Join the MMB Open Book Blog Hop each Wednesday and they will tell all. Every week we’ll answer questions and after you’ve enjoyed the blog on this site we’ll direct you to another. So come back often for a thrilling ride! Tell your friends and feel free to ask us questions in the comment box.’

Hi, welcome to the blog.

This week’s topic:  What is special, unique and fun about where you live?

Okay, I live in Alaska. I probably don’t have to say much more than that. Pretty much everyone who does not live in Alaska thinks there is something exciting about the very idea. Imagine, however, if you grew up here and it was just home?

We’re the largest state with the fewest highways and almost the smallest population. 80% of our communities are not accessible by highway. We have the largest number of private pilots among the states. We have the largest percentage of gun owners. It is a felony offense to attempt to pet a polar bear in Alaska. We lead the nation in per capita ice cream consumption. The Territory of Alaska banned racial discrimination 10 years before Congress got around to it.

Interior Alaska, which is the part of Alaska I call home, is a place of extremes. Most winters it reaches minus 45 – 50 degrees for a couple of days with an average of 50 inches of snow. Some winters are warmer with 12 – 14 feet of snow. Others are colder with just a couple of inches of snow. It’s hard to predict which sort of winter it might be. Summers are hot and dry. This summer has had plenty of 80-95 degree days and the forest fires that come with it. You see, Fairbanks (my town) is surrounded by millions of acres of taiga — a stunted forest of black spruce and black spruce are just oil lanterns awaiting a spark to burst into flame. They need fire to create more black spruce, in fact. Hot summers mean lightning storms and that’s the spark black spruce is waiting for. Then again, last summer, it rained 80 days out the 90 days of summer. The sun shone so little that our gardens (yes, we garden) didn’t produce anything but yellow leaves. Again, you just never can predict other than that it will snow sometime in October and that snow will probably still be here six months later.

The extremes of weather isn’t what attracts most people to Alaska and it certainly isn’t why we stay. What is unique and different about Alaska is our culture. Non-Alaska Natives come from … well, everywhere. We rank in the top five states for diversity of races, but also 71% of adult residents moved to Alaska from another state, while only 28% of adults born in Alaska still live here when they’re 30.

That diversity has led to a unique culture in Alaska because we bring our culture with us from wherever we come from. In most cases, migrants adapt their culture to the culture they join because they are outnumbered. In Alaska the is always in flux as residents don’t just come from nearby states, but from all states and many foreign countries. During the construction of the TransAlaska Pipeline, our home-grown always-slightly-in flux culture was nearly overwhelmed by Texans and Oklahomans who were very proud of where they were from and not shy to assert their superiority. The Alaskan culture asserted itself by boldly confronting this tsunami of immigration and from that confrontation, we defined Alaska culture for future generations. The overriding characteristic of long-time Alaskans is a live-and-let-live attitude that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it’s okay to say when people are full of baloney … which tends to be frowned on by Southerners … except for those who found the honesty refreshing and decided to stay and thereby become Alaskans. Generally, Alaskans say what we mean and mean what we say and we don’t care if others don’t like it, but we are perfectly willing for those who don’t like what we have to say to state their own opinion. We’ll feel free to not like it and argue against it … or to mull it over for a while and change our minds … maybe, if you make a good argument.

Because you don’t have to be born here (or even grow up here) to call yourself an Alaskan, we don’t have a state accent. Sarah Palin’s accent is her parents’ Idahoan accent. I have kept people guessing on my accent for hours because my parents were from different regions. My neighbor sounds like a Texan, but she’s been an Alaskan for longer than I’ve been alive. A friend of mine is an Alaskan, though he clearly grew up speaking Korean before he learned English.

We are a very outdoorsy kind of state and our state sport is dog mushing. Yes, that’s a sport and not just for the dogs. An Iditarod or Quest musher runs a good bit of those 1000-mile races. It’s one of the few professional racing sports where women win about in proportion to the percentage of their participation. The meme here is “Alaska — Where Men are Men and Women Win the Iditarod.” Men are men, by the way, but we have a strong streak of hardy practicality that sees women changing their own tires and chopping their own wood as perfectly normal.

Currently, we’re in food harvest mode as my husband Brad just returned from Chitina on the Copper River with 45 sockeye salmon. Chitina means standing on the shores of a powerful glacial river holding a landing net on a 12-16′ pole in the current and hopping 10-15 pound fish will swim into it. Sometimes this takes hours, sometimes it takes days … and sometimes you don’t get much. Most years I would have gone with him and caught some of them, but I had to work for money this week. . Sometimes he takes the kids (who are now 22 and 16, so can pull their own weight … are at least a salmon’s weight). This year, he went alone. There is no fresher salmon in the world than Copper River reds. After driving 350 miles, he caught 45 fish in about 10 years, put them on ice and drove another 350 miles to come home. We filet these beauties, wrap them in freezer paper and store them in the freezer. We’ll eat salmon at least once a week until spring. We keep the heads because there’s some delicious cheek meat in them and we even retain the spines (what’s left after filet) because the “waste” meat makes salmon burgers.

Blueberry season will start in a couple of weeks. Alaskan blueberries are very tart compared to Lower 48 blueberries, but if blueberries are a superfood, Alaskan blueberries are a megafood with three times the antioxidants of standard blueberries. We freeze ours on aluminum trays and then store them in jars to eat all winter, mixed with honey on toast (creating a very healthy jam) or sprinkled on our cereal and in baked goods. We also pick cranberries closer to fall and freeze-dry them to make craisans.

About 12% of the homes in our community use woodstoves as their primary heat source. We’re no different. We have a diesel furnace as backup, but we use wood most of the time. It’s affordable and a great exercise program, as well as a more even heat. And you can cook on top of the woodstove if the power goes out. When we finish processing the fish, Brad and Kyle will be returning to my brother’s place where the electric utility cut down a small forest of birch trees along the right of way last year. Some years fire wood is more work, but this year, we get to harvest wood while catching up with my brother.

Of course all this outdoor activity in the summer is made possible by the midnight sun — which in Fairbanks is really the 22-hour sun. Although the sun does dip below the horizon, it never really gets dark from April through August. It’s not unusual to see people out at 11 pm, playing Ultimate Frisbee in the park, walking their dogs or sitting on the deck reading by the lingering sunlight. Boats run up and down the Chena River at all hours and there’s an irrepressible hot-air ballooning community. We even have a city-wide festival that goes until midnight and a baseball game played without the benefit of artificial lights, both on the summer solstice. Our family hikes at all hours and get to see some lovely vistas because Brad’s nickname is “Ridgewalker”.  There is something special about “sun dip” at 4,000 feet.

There are many more unique aspects to Alaska than I could possibly fit into one blog post. Some of my regular readers are familiar with some of those unique aspects from prior posts. You can check out the category “Alaska” for more articles.

Now that you’ve heard about the thoroughly wild place I live, you might want to hear about my colleagues’ cool hometowns. Just follow the link below and it will connect you to other blogs where this topic is being discussed.

Author Alexis Donkin tells the true account of one woman’s suffering which she transformed into opportunities for empowerment. Check it out.

****Follow the link to join the blog hop.

http://www.amazon.com/Thrive-How-I-Became-Superhero/dp/1512211486/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr&qid

To join our Open Book Blog Hop :

JOIN OPEN BOOK BLOG HOP -WHERE WE SHARE ALL SORTS OF THINGS ABOUT “LIFE”.

RULES:

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  2. NOTIFY YOUR FOLLOWING THAT YOU ARE PARTICIPATING IN THIS BLOG HOP.

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Posted July 22, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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A happy medium for city size   Leave a comment

A happy medium for city size: When it comes to populations of Alaska cities, less can be more – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Editorials.

I don’t know who wrote this, but it’s definitely a different writer than the usual editor. Maybe it’s the new publisher.

And, I agree with her. Fairbanks should fight to maintain its more frontier Alaska zeitgeist and a lower population makes that easier to do — except ….

Fairbanks already is at a gross disadvantage in the Legislature against Anchorage. The entire state is balanced against that behemoth and that’s not a good thing for the state or our community. What the editorial doesn’t mention is that we are also losing population to the Mat-Su, which is very much aligned with Anchorage.

The resources of this state are controlled by the Legislature. Anchorage gets it all even though the resources constitutionally belong to everyone in the state. Fairbanks needs the natural gas pipeline, we need it to come from the North Slope because if it comes from Cook Inlet, Anchorage will control the supply. We need roads. We need to maintain the main University campus here, and trust me, Anchorage would like to dismantle it and move it to Anchorage.

So, the population standing of Fairbanks against Juneau and the Mat-Su matters for funding needed projects, not just here but throughout non-Anchorage Alaska, and for not forcing the values of Anchorage — a big city — on the rest of our more rural state. Juneau and Mat-Su are a great deal more cooperative with the Interior when they aren’t in the cats-bird seat, but as Fairbanks slides in population (driven by insane space heating and electrical costs), it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain any sort of coalition of smaller communities against Anchorage.

The solution would be to turn our resources over to the boroughs or to start sending every Alaskan an $18,000 check for our share of the royalty oil and then charging us a state income tax. It would put all communities on an equal level, but that’s not going to happen, so population matters.

Two by Two   Leave a comment

Swans are beautiful and Fairbanks is blessed to be on their flight plan. They start to arrive about mid-April, but these two were in a drainage ditch near my workplace last year.

Posted April 3, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Spring Migration   Leave a comment

Creamers Field, just north of downtown Fairbanks, was frequented by migratory waterfowl when it was a dairy farm. Today, the Alaska Fish & Game grows yummy grain there to entice the birds to land there instead of near the airport.

Low Bush Grizzly   Leave a comment

We are surrounded by wildlife in Alaska. It’s easy to spot the moose and the ravens call attention to themselves, but it’s the small animals that I like to watch. There is nothing quite so entertaining as a “low bush grizzly” defending his nut-stash.

Posted March 28, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Spring Danger   Leave a comment

 We walk on rivers in Interior Alaska all winter long, from Thanksgiving weekend until about a week or two from now, but the photo shows the first signs of danger in the spring. From being a fairly solidly frozen ice “highway” in just a handful of days it might be something entirely different.

Posted March 27, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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My Weekend   Leave a comment

 

 Alaska has some different sports from what might be common in your neck of the woods. Brad and I spent the weekend hanging out at the Open North American Championship Sled Dog Race. The North American is a sprint race that starts and finishes on 2nd Avenue in downtown Fairbanks.

The weather was glorious. It was about 10 above when we got there at 10 am. We attended a fur auction, had a lively conversation with some Swedish skiers who were here for the Arctic Winter Games, and checked out the Co-Op Mall’s newer shops. By mid-day, it had warmed up to above freezing, so we had coffee at chute side.

One of the mushers, Marvin Schandlemeier, is a Yukon Quest racer. The Quest is longer than the Iditarod and a much more complicated and physically grueling race, but it doesn’t get the publicity of the Iditarod. Schandlemeier’s team was a little confused. They’re used to pacing themselves for a 1000-mile trail. By the third day, the lead dog had figured out that he just wanted them to go fast for several miles and then the team could cozy down in the straw for the night, so the dogs started giving him their best. It was fun to watch how the different training of the same breed of dog resulted in a different race, but also to watch these amazing animal athletes adapt to the new challenge.

By the way, sled dogs love what they do and they will run all day long if allowed to do so. Running is what they are bred for. They beg to be the ones harnessed up to go for a run. When they are retired, it’s usually kindest to retire them away from the team, to someone who wants to ski-jor because they are bored and depressed by not being allowed to race anymore.

Brad and I are not dog mushers. It takes a lot of energy and time to maintain a team that can run one of these races. They’re beautiful to watch and it’s fun to do, but it’s a lot of work and when you’re in the race, you don’t get to have coffee at chute side.

Complete Streets: A Good Idea with a Bad Unintended Consequence   3 comments

I found this article on line.

http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/2014/03/03/the-last-frontier-complete-streets-in-alaska/

There’s a bittersweetness to this. I walk and ride my bike a lot. I would like to accomplish those activities without giving my life into the hands of idiot drivers. On the other hand ….

As a driver, I want to get where I need to go. I don’t want to be slowed by any consideration other than safety and my fellow drivers. Once I get in the vicinity of where I am going, I will often walk between stores, but I don’t want to be slowed in getting to the vicinity. 

“This spring, Fairbanks will start reconfiguring downtown streets to improve conditions for people traveling on foot and bicycle. Wider sidewalks, new bike lanes and narrowed arterials will calm traffic and make travel safer for everyone using the road.”

Living in Fairbanks and being aware of the plans that are being touted in this magazine gives me a unique perspective on the “reconfiguring of downtown streets”. Fairbanks has struggled for decades to revitalize its downtown, which was devastated by commercial growth on the outskirts that drew away shoppers. I’m sad about that too. It’s a unique area of town, with funky frontier architecture and I wish we could save it from the bulldozer of modern development … but this is not the way to do it.

Narrow Cushman Street and “calming traffic” means it will take me longer to get where I am going, so guess what happens? Being a busy modern lady with a hundred things on my plate, I will opt for those easy to access stores in the Box Belt rather than have my time wasted in an unnecessary traffic jam. Sorry Downtown, but my time is precious and I don’t want to waste it being frustrated. Most Fairbanksans agree with me so Downtown dries up and blows away. 

“The state ranks highest in the U.S. in the percentage of walking and biking commutes and in per capita funding for non-motorized transportation, and third-lowest in fatality rate among walkers and bicyclists.”

The above is a false statement dressed up in true statistics. Alaska ranks first in non-car motorized transportation because 80% of our communities are not accessible by road. Out in our bush communities, primary forms of transportation of 4-wheeler and snow machine. So, yes, we rank highest in walking commutes, but only became cars and the roads to drive them on are not available.

So, here’s the sad thing. Complete Streets makes a lot of sense. Walking is good for us and we should all do more of it and it makes a whole lot more sense for me to visit five shops in the Downtown area via my feet than to drive my car, thus saving gasoline and reducing emissions. But … BUT … because Complete Streets will slow traffic flow to the Downtown area, most people will opt to go elsewhere, thus facilitating the exact opposite behavior from what Donna Gardino wants.

So, when it fails, the Planners will come back and say we need to do more to revitalize Downtown and they’ll start introducing ways to force us to comply with these ideas.

The sad thing is that the solution is pretty obvious to me. Make it easier to drive into the Downtown area by providing wider streets to avoid traffic jams and business-supported parking so that it doesn’t cost me so much get out of my car. Those of us who like to walk will make use of it if you make it attractive, but by making it highly unattractive, the Planners force us to vote with our tires and shop in the Box Belt.

Ooops!

Slaves Don’t Need to Be Smart   Leave a comment

Fairbanks just had its local elections. We were voting on the City mayor, some School Board seats, some Borough Assembly seats and some bond issues.

I think local elections are far more important than presidential elections because what happens locally affects us way more than what happens in DC. DC can pass all the administrative lunacy it wants and it wouldn’t matter if local officials had backbones and told them to go pound sand.

So, this election had a clear choice of City mayor. The current mayor is a business man who wanted to serve the community for a couple of years and then go back to his business. He’s done that and he’s doing that. Neither candidate, in my opinion, was of the same caliber as Jerry Cleworth, but there was a clear choice. The fiscally conservative small business owner who had a fairly consistent conservative voting record while on the City Council or the labor lawyer who never saw a spending ordinance he didn’t like while he was on the City Council. The conservative said she would follow a policy of not increasing the budget or dipping into the municipal savings account. The labor lawyer said he was planning to give the city employees (already the highest paid workers in town) a raise and that he saw no problem with this because we have a savings account. The newspaper comments showed people pretty much didn’t like John Eberhart’s spending plan, but they thought Vivian Stiver didn’t have enough experience running large businesses to be qualified as mayor. Which was odd because Jerry Cleworth was also a small business owner with no large business experience and he’s been great, according to almost everyone except the labor unions.

School Board and Borough Assembly seats are non-partisan. It was a mixed bag on the people who won. Some will be good. Some will be bad.

The bond issues were the most worrisome. The School District wanted us to bond to replace a school that is only 40 years old because, they said, it was structurally deficient and not earthquake safe. Except that in 2002, Ryan Junior High withstood a 7.9 magnitude quake and suffered ZERO damage. That’s the largest quake Fairbanks has experienced in recorded history. So what’s the problem with Ryan. The bond issue would more than double our indebtedness and come to the highest level of indebtedness that the Borough has ever had, including during the Pipeline days when we built multiple schools very rapidly because of incredible population increases.

Seems like a no-brainer. Vote for the fiscal conservative for City Mayor and vote down the bond issues. If you read the newspaper comments, you’d have thought that would be the outcome.

But …

Only 14% of registered voters showed up for the election. The bond issues passed with 60% margins and John Eberhart will be our new mayor. There goes the City’s savings account. We’re now deeply in debt as a community (or will be by spring, anyway). We’re going to give overpaid workers a raise.

I previously posted that I thought Fairbanks had finally begun to reap the benefits of years of fiscal sanity.

Guess not.

And that, folks, is why the whole system from DC to Podunck is going to come crashing down. It’s pretty to think that a return to federalism will fix things, but I’m starting to think it won’t. We as a people are apparently too stupid to come in out of the rain. Maybe we’ll get smarter after the UN allows China to annex us for the purposes of paying our debt.

Of course, how smart we become then won’t matter. Slaves don’t need to be smart.

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