Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Free time

I had yesterday and today away from garden work (my weekend?) to relax and do some personal chores.  Yesterday was the day of laundry.  The dryer at the house isn't currently working, so while my clothes washed, I busied myself hanging twine lines inside my cabin to hang dry everything.  I could have dried it on the lines outside, but it's been raining off and on since the beginning of last weekend, and I'm on my last pair of jeans.  I didn't want to risk multi-day dry time.  

Once laundry was taken care of, I hiked the trail below the house.  I went about a mile and ended up at Parks Highway:

Cell phone photo
I walked Parks Highway to the Ester Fire Department and then turned around and hiked back to the house.  It was nice to get out and away from the farm for a little while.   I've also had a fair amount of downtime to read - I've blasted through all but one of the books that I brought with me.

Today I spent a fair amount of time online, trying to arrange my passage to Homer in a couple of weeks.  I managed to schedule a bus from Fairbanks to Anchorage on June 12th.  I'll stay in Anchorage the night of the 12-13th, and then hop another bus to Homer on the 14th.  I should be on my seaside oasis that evening.  Everything has been confirmed so far except the ride to Homer.  A phone call needs to be made tomorrow to get that squared away.  I'm trying to make my reservations as soon as possible as it's tourist season here and everything gets filled fast - rooms and transportation.

This afternoon, Cheryl was nice enough to drop me off just west of University of Alaska - Fairbanks (UAF) at the Equinox Trail.  I hiked that trail towards the university.  I discovered that you can see the mountains at Denali NP from that trail - granted, way, way in the distance - but it was still cool.  I hope to post some of those photos later. And now, I'm back at the coffeehouse that I spent last Friday in.  Trying to get caught up and make some connections.

I stopped at a park bench on my hike to soak in the scenery when I had this thought:  I wonder how one would be active in nature/animal/land conservation while also being active in land use issues (keeping trails and such open for responsible off-road use)... as well as incorporating photography and writing into the mix.  That's where my head and my interests have been during the last 1-1/2 years.  I find that it's more difficult still to incorporate this sort of thing into my lifestyle while living in the Midwest.  I truly feel a need to protect the outdoors, but also allow for responsible recreation.  I'm torn.  Normally people find themselves in one camp or the other... not often both. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Welcome to Dogwood Gardens!

Internet and photo editing time has been minimal lately.  Fortunately, with time in town near reliable wi-fi yesterday helped me get caught up (almost).  So without further ado... pictures!! 

Welcome to Dogwood Gardens near lovely Ester, Alaska!  Although it's considered a small homestead garden, there is a ton of work to be done.  Everyone gets involved here - even the youngest child at 5 years old.

There are 2 major gardens onsite.  The upper garden:  
 And the lower garden:
In addition to the gardens, there are two greenhouses which are ready for transplanting:
Lettuce, anyone?  :)
Some transplants will go into 5-gallon buckets instead of the gardens.  
Gray Jay - keeper of the tomatoes.  Actually, I've found that these are pretty fearless birds.  They've been hanging around everywhere I work, and are chatty.  
My current living quarters - 2-level cabin approximately 8' x 12':
Inside, on the first level is where I keep most of my luggage and misc. other things:
And the upstairs loft is for sleeping.  I also tend to sit by the window upstairs and read sometimes too.
The cabin has electricity (by way of an extension cord that runs from the main house) but no running water, and no bathroom facilities.  I have free reign of the main house for these things. 

So far I have prepared and put down compost, dug holes for new plants, seeded, and transplanted plants from the greenhouse out to the gardens.  When not working, there is a circuit of hiking trails in the valley just below the homestead.  I've only gotten out to use them a couple of times, but will certainly head out more before I leave... approximately June 11th-ish.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fairbanks Day

Work at Dogwood Gardens is getting easier.  The first couple of days were rough - not used to physical work these days, and it sure showed.  But I'm finding that each day gets a little easier and a little less difficult.  If the trend continues, I should be doing just fine by the first part of next week.

Homesickness is at more of a minimum.  I do still miss everyone at home, but I came here this time in a much different, yet better, frame of mind this time.  I still talk to Aaron one the phone every day which helps, and sometimes chat online or via text (when it's available).  I just talked to my parents this afternoon too.  All those things makes all of this easier.

I still find that I'm biding my time until my trip to Homer.  I do love the family here in Fairbanks, but the kayaking gig in Homer was the first opportunity that I signed on for back in January... and I'm very excited to get there.  The only reasons I can think is because kayaking will be a much different atmosphere and the operation isn't anything like I've been involved in before.  I'm finding myself counting down already.

This afternoon/evening I'm in town (Fairbanks) with The Wood Family.  Their eldest son is one of the guests of honor at an Eagle Scout banquet tonight.  So we came into town just after noon.  While they help and prepare for the banquet, I have the chance to wander around some.  Unfortunately, the weather isn't entirely cooperating.  I'm enjoying the 50-ish degree temps here vs. the 80+ degree weather at home, but the rainy weather kind of puts a damper on my afternoon of walking around University of Fairbanks area. Currently, I reside at a local coffee shop, and I'm working on editing/uploading photos and watching the rain.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Alaska: Round Two

I'm back in the Fairbanks area, once again.  My flight between Chicago and Seattle was nerve-wracking.  More turbulence than I've ever experienced on a flight to anywhere before - for nearly the entire 4 hour duration of the flight.  I was never more happy to get on the ground in Seattle!  Nerves were fried.  Fortunately for me, the flight from Seattle to Fairbanks was a breeze!  I had a window seat, and it was smooth sailing all the way.  Talk about contrast!

Bill and his oldest daughter picked me up from the airport Monday evening.  Because it was so late, I brought all my belongings into my cabin and set up the bare minimums, and went to sleep.

Or tried.

My body clock isn't a fan of the nearly constant daylight that this part of Alaska is experiencing right now.  Were at the part of the year where it's never getting entirely dark.  Even in the middle of the night and the early hours of the morning, there is plenty of light to see by.  It's a surreal phenomenon if you've never experienced it before.  And it made my sleep the first night very, very spotty.  I was awake every 30 minutes to an hour almost the whole night.

Yesterday morning, I was up early enough to hike up to the road where there is cell signal to call Aaron.  Then I came back to the house, got re-acquainted with the family, had breakfast, and then headed out to the garden with Bill to get going.  He's in the super-busy stage of getting seeds in, getting plants transplanted to the garden, composting... there's always something going on.  My tasks were to rake leaves and spread them along the newly-tilled ground that would soon house the potatoes, and then help their 15-year old daughter, Kiana, transplant 30+ tomato plants... each into their own 5-gallon bucket.

Round about 4pm, I took a break and went with Cheryl to town to the grocery store, and to run some other errands.  That was a nice break, for sure.  Once we came back, she made all the fixings for tacos - cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, beans, salsa... and moose!  My first experience with eating moose, and I must say... I like it!  :)

I had also (per Aaron's suggestion) brought our wireless router here so that I could have internet in my cabin.  I got part of it to work - if I can be online out here, then the family can't access the internet in the house... and vice versa.  So, until we figure out the problem,  I've got the okay to change the settings so that I can have access "after hours" and then restore their access during the daytime.  Hopefully with the few connections I have at home, we can figure out what the issues are and make it so that we can both us the internet at the same time.

And that's pretty much where my day came to an end.  I went back to my cabin to veg out and give the family their own personal time and space, with the intentions to go back in a little after they all retired for bed to get a shower.  What ended up happening is that I fell asleep shortly after getting into my cabin, and didn't end up going to get a shower until about 11pm.  But, on the upside, the evening light was definitely NOT an issue last night.  No problems sleeping as I was wiped out from the day.

More later.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Potential Problem

I just realized... the NATO Summit meetings being held in Chicago on Sunday and Monday... may very well impact my flight arrangements on Monday afternoon. In reading news sources, delegates will be flying out Monday.

One article reads: "Monday will be the busiest day by far at O'Hare, because all delegations will be leaving and Mondays are a big day for business travel. Complicating matters, the weather forecast for Monday calls for rain and possible thunderstorms, with the potential for heavy downpours."

Good times... It sounds like it would be in my very best interest to arrive at O'Hare Int'l Airport as early as possible before my 3:35pm flight.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


So it's been awhile, and I feel like I owe an update.

It's official - I am headed back to Alaska on May 21st.  I will resume life on the farm with the host family that I left in haste.  They are more than happy to have me back, and will have plenty for me to do once I arrive... it seems that I'll be there just as plant transplanting time should begin.  I'm grateful to be welcomed back to their home and for the busy-work that will ensue once I'm there.  I trust that this will make the transition a little easier this time around.  Regardless, I'm just going to suck it up and do this thing this time. It will be a wonderful experience once I just learn to go with it.

Which means, I'll be here for the annual dance recital!  I can watch Sierra and my former (current?) class dance, and be there to take a bunch of photos!  In addition to that, I have also been asked to assist backstage this year.  I love working behind the scenes stuff almost as much as I love performing, so this is a great opportunity.  Looking forward to all of it!

I was looking for some temp work when I got back from Alaska, but haven't found anything.  So in my infinite downtime, I decided to re-organize and re-structure my online photography presence and workflow.  What exactly does that mean?

- On my Google+ page, I deleted all images and started fresh - new albums, and only the better images.  I got rid of the less than stellar shots (and I should even go in again and revisit some of the borderline ones). 
- Then I created, published, and reworked my new photography (portfolio) website -  It took quite a bit of motivation and time, but I can say that I'm satisfied with it now.  Is it perfect?  No, but like everything else, it's a work in progress.
- The last big photo project that I have is to rework my Facebook photo page. I have a feeling that this will be most tedious.  I don't want to delete everything and start again like I did with G+ (don't want to lose the comments/critiques), but I'm not certain how/if photos can be easily moved and retain all the comments and information.  I hope to begin that project tomorrow or Thursday.

The photography stuff has taken a fair amount of time in the last week or so, and once the FB project is complete... I'll pretty much be where I'd hoped to before before I leave for Alaska again.  I can then feel free to take all the photos I want with adding to the workload.

Till later...