Monday, July 8, 2013


Monday evening last week, we received my new roommate WWOOF'er from France.  Her name was Marguerite - a 24 year old primary school teacher from near the Italian border.  She had been in Alaska for about the same amount of time as I, only she worked for a couple of weeks in Palmer before taking off on a road trip around the state with her boyfriend.  He had to fly home just before she arrived with us, and she plans to spend 2 weeks with Allison, Malcolm and company.  

We spent the early part of Tuesday doing some work around the garden - I did my best to fill her in on the continuing projects that I worked on so she could take over once I left.  The family had a birthday party to go to on Tuesday evening, so we were given the thumbs up to go to town (and pick up more rocks for the garden at the beach).  I introduced her to the addiction that is Two Sisters, and we ran around and did some other things as well.

Wednesday, Malcolm had to go to Seward for a job and we were invited to go with to investigate a different town!  After getting Allison's blessing (I didn't want to bail on her), we went along.  We had to get up at 5:30am to be ready to go at 6... which was a little rough after getting used to being up between 8:30-9:00am each morning.  We managed.  

Seward was a lot like Homer... not as pretty, but the weather was rainy/cloudy/gloomy.  We couldn't see much of the mountains or the bay as we'd hoped.  Being that it was July 3rd, the town had a lot of things going on to celebrate.  A little street market in the downtown area with food/craft vendors, and prepping for their annual race up Mt. Marathon.  It's a footrace up the mountain - something like 3500 or 3600 ft elevation.  I was told that last year, someone never made it back and was never found!  A little scary.  But they were making the last-minute preparations anyway - the shown must go on.  So we wandered the shops, stopped for coffee/drinks, hiked along Resurrection Bay, and stopped in the Sea Life Center.  We stayed in town till about 4:00pm when Malcolm picked us up to head back to Homer.  

The trail up the center of Mt. Marathon
Resurrection Bay

Puffin - a local resident
Resurrection Bay
Thursday was Independence Day.  We worked a lot in the high tunnel that day.  I think Allison wanted to take advantage of 2 helpers while she could - more work to be done in less amount of time.  So we finished the huge tree transplanting project that I'd started about 1-1/2 weeks prior.  That took most of the morning and the early part of the afternoon.  Once finished, we reconvened in the kitchen to start working on fixings for the dinner party that was to happen later that evening.  We were expecting Malcolm's parents, and some other friends of Allison's... plus Marguerite and I.  I think 10 people total.  We had most everything started or finished, so Marguerite and I went to watch the parade in town before all of the guests arrived.  She had never witnessed a July 4th parade before, so she was very excited - and even more excited to collect some of the candy that was tossed!

The dinner party went well!  The food was fabulous, and the company was too.  I, however, was kind of on pins and needles waiting for Aaron to arrive... I'd been in contact with him throughout most of the day, and he was expected to arrive that evening.  Anxious doesn't even begin to describe...

He arrived about 9:30pm!  I was really, really, really happy!  He came inside the house, and I introduced him to everyone... and he got some of the leftovers from the dinner we had earlier before we headed out to the van to talk and go to sleep.  

To be continued...  :D

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Anchor Point

My host family left on their weekend outing on Friday afternoon, leaving me at the house on my own... with Tutka.  :)  Without plans (still), I ended up just winging it.

Friday evening I went into Homer, had some dinner, took in a movie... and then took a drive out East End Road - the only road that runs east towards the mouth of Kachemak Bay.  I was interested to find out how close I could get.  The road travels 25 miles parallel to the bay, with great views, fun winding road, and ends in a cool little Russian village by the name of Voznesenka.  I wanted to take the road as far as I could, but it appeared that I would end up in someone's driveway, so I stopped short and turned back for Homer.  I did find out later that if I would have continued on, the road ends at the beach... as I'd hoped.  Missing out, I'm thinking that might be a fun trip to revisit when Aaron arrives.

Views on the way back into town were a lot like this:

Saturday, I went back into town for groceries and such.  I came back to the house for the better portion of the day, worked in the peony field for a bit, and read for awhile.  Later that evening after a shower and starting my weekly load of laundry, I went back into Homer for (yet another) movie... and then I chose to venture out to Anchor Point.

Anchor Point is the westernmost point in the North American highway system.  Up until this point, I'd been shooting sunsets across Kachemak Bay for a few weeks, and decided I needed to switch it up a little.  Homer is on the Kachemak Bay side, whereas Anchor Point lies on the Cook Inlet side of the Kenai Peninsula... and it's also the side where the sun sets.  I knew there were volcano views from there... weather-pending.  So it was worth it to me to drive the 15 miles or so to get there and check it out.

What I saw was pretty awesome...

Not only did I witness a pretty excellent sunset with volcanoes and clouds coming into play... I also found upwards of 15-20 Bald Eagles congregating with the seagulls all over the beach!  I really do want to come back and camp here before Aaron and I leave the area... weather-pending, of course.  Amazing stuff!

Mt. Redoubt volcano

Mt. Iliamna volcano
Oil Exploration Rig
One of many...
Mt. Redoubt
Mt. Redoubt
As of this evening, Aaron is making really good time.  He's currently camped out somewhere in the Battlefords of Saskatchewan.  He seems to think he'll be to Homer earlier than expected since he's covering a lot of time now... however, I've been informed (and have informed him) that the further north and west he travels on Canadian "highways," the more time he'll lose.  For now, I'm happy knowing he should safely be here by Saturday.  And will be thrilled to see him any sooner.

Rain is expected here most of this week, so I'm not sure how much we'll get done around the garden... this week might just be a (pun intended) wash.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Negative Tide

Wednesday morning, I went to another core (pilates-esque) class with Allison.  My back has been feeling better, but I've been really paying attention to the warning signs.  This is not exactly a good time or place to have a recurring injury.  I'm doing well so far.

After class, we drove over to Two Sisters before I started my 'free day in town.'  Homer has touristy trolley line called The Homer Trolley that runs in the summer months, making a circuit around town.  This was my activity on Wednesday.  Granted, it took me to all the places I've been before... but it's quicker, and the driver gives you tidbits of local history and geological information about the Homer area specifically.  Oh, and I could get on and off the trolley as many times as I wanted to throughout the course of the day for one price.

My first stop was out on the Spit - I really like wandering around that area.  There's so much going on.  And on Wednesday, they were experiencing one of their monthly-ish negative tides.  It was 5 feet below normal low tide levels - so I could really walk out away from the buildings on the spit.

Technically, I'm standing on the ocean floor here... looking back at the inlet-side boardwalk buildings on the Spit.

An interesting sight I had not seen before... the cool water hitting the sun-warmed sand creating steam as the tides were coming back in.

The ramps to the boat dock are at crazy-steep angles... particularly at negative tides.

I saw a handful of seastars waiting for their water to return.

Load 'em up!

I stopped in town once during the trolley trip to investigate a couple of gift shops.  Then I chose to get back on and ride one entire circuit without exiting, for the full experience.  Round trip was just under 1 hour.  

Today I spent my time digging the last hole for the tree in the high-tunnel - which makes 6 total that I've done.  I'm so happy that project is finished!  Other than that, it's just been maintenance projects for the rest of the day... and probably tomorrow too.

A quick look at the high-tunnel - it's grown quite a lot in the nearly 4 weeks I've been here.  :o)

Tomorrow, the family leaves for a couple nights with friends across the bay.  This frees up some time for me to go out my own (I have car privileges again).  Also, Aaron leaves for his trip up here after work tomorrow... I'm really excited to see him again!  Just a little over a week to go!  :D

Monday, June 24, 2013


I haven't done much out-and-about exploring this past week.  We have been busy around the garden, and doing other odd projects.


Allison and I took time out last Wednesday and went to the single-screen theater in town to check out the new Star Trek movie.

Friday afternoon, we all went to watch Maggie Mae's concert that concluded the Bluegrass Camp that she went to all last week.  She played violin (fiddle) and mandolin - quite well for a 7 year old!

Saturday the family went camping with some friends out on the beach at Anchor Point, which left me that afternoon and half of Sunday to myself.  Allison gave me use of the car if I wanted to go into town or up the ridge for photos.  So Saturday afternoon, I grabbed lunch in town, trekked back out to the Spit for awhile, went to the store for some supplies, and then took myself back over to the theater to watch the new Fast & Furious movie.  Later on that evening I went out for some photos, but the weather wasn't entirely cooperative.  There were no good sunset images.  But there was this...

Part of my job while they were away camping was to feed the dog (Tutka).  I did this.  But at midnight that night, dear Tutka was at the door of the yurt wanting to come in.  He wasn't exceptionally dirty like he can be sometimes... and I felt for him a little... he'd have to stay outside all night because his family wasn't home... so I let him stay with me for the evening.  He was super-good though.  He laid on the blanket where I told him to, and stayed there the entire night!  Good boy!

Yesterday and today I've been projecting... digging holes for trees in the high-tunnel.  Allison is starting a small orchard with apple, peach, and pear trees... but she's only in the beginning stages and trees are still going in the ground.  We have 2 more to put in.

Game plan for this week (away from the homestead) is to take the Homer Trolley around town on Wednesday.  Then, on Friday, the family is off again... this time they are going across the bay to a friend's cabin to go clamming/oyster 'hunting.'  I, again, will be hanging back to take care of the dog and attend to maintenance projects (weeding/watering).  They will be gone until Sunday evening.  I'll have access to the car.  Because it's for a longer period of time that they'll be away, I'm trying to search online for something different to do.  We'll see what I can find out.

And the weekend after that... The Boy arrives!!!  <3 nbsp="">

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday: Day of Rest

It seems that I always do my stroll around Homer on Tuesday.  Allison drops the baby off at daycare at 9am, and returns for him at 1pm.  Four hours.  I hop in her car for the ride into town, and then again for a ride back up the hill in the afternoon.  It makes a nice little trip to break up part of the week, breaks up the scenery, and gives me some time to explore on my own.

Today's trip took me past the grocery store for supplies, and then over to the Pratt Museum.  A few people have recommended it, and have advised leaving a couple of hours to peruse the exhibits.  It was a cool little museum.  I caught the whale exhibit, spent extra time reading up on the area bear population, and walked through the exhibit and watched the 45 minute video documenting the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill incident.  I remember hearing all about it and seeing the images of the cleanup efforts, and the effects on the animals and shorelines (when I was 12), but I don't think I took as much interest then as I have recently.  While the area has bounced back, there is still evidence of the disaster... even after 24+ years.  I have no doubt that it will always be this way.  

My immersion in Alaska's spill history today has caused me to go back and revisit the Deepwater Horizion spill in the Gulf of Mexico from 2010, a far more severe spill.  I can't imagine the time it will take the Gulf Coast area to recover, even in the way that the Gulf of Alaska has "recovered."  

When I got back from town this afternoon, we decided it was too warm out to be overly productive.  Regardless of what the weather websites show for Homer temperatures, it's always 10-15 degrees warmer on the hill where the house sits.  While that's still a lot cooler than the Chicago area, I'm learning that the sun is a whole lot more intense and seems to overheat the body at lower temperatures.  It's an interesting phenomenon.  So, instead of working outside in the gardens today, I watched young master Declan for awhile so Allison could get some computer work done.  We hung out on the elevated deck and watched one of the male yearling moose in the yard.  At first he was lying in the shade, but then he decided to investigate the area around the yurt that I stay in... and eventually charged Tutka, the family's 10-year old Golden Retriever.  Fortunately, Tutka is pretty smart and knows how to stay out of the way of moose.  He circled the house and joined us on the deck.

Later this evening, Allison and I took a trip back into Homer for a movie and the town's single-screen theater.  We saw Star Trek: Into Darkness.  Cool movie!  :)   On the way back up the hill, I'd noticed a rather large ship out in the bay, and inquired as to what it was.  She told me that it was an oil vessel.  Sometimes if the winds are too rough out on the open water, or the ships destination harbor doesn't have space, the ships will temporarily come to Kachemak Bay.  After my oil spill immersion lesson earlier today, the view left me uneasy.

Tomorrow, it's supposed to be a little cooler outside... so it'll be back to work!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Seldovia, locals & such

Last Wednesday, I hopped the Rainbow Connection to Seldovia for the day.  The boat took us across Kachemak Bay, and around the Gull Island bird rookery where we saw a wide variety of Alaskan sea birds - from gulls, to murres, to puffins... and everything in between.  The weather was gorgeous - except that I insisted on staying at the front of the ship (with the best view, of course) for the entire trip... and it was exceptionally cold.  Once we arrived, my face and hands were numb from the cold and the wind.  SO worth it though.  :D

Headed out of Homer Spit Harbor...

And out into Kachemak Bay.

Gull Island:

In Seldovia, I stopped off at Perry's Cafe at the Sea Parrot Inn for a quick lunch.  Afterwards I wandered the downtown business area.  I visited another site that I was interested in volunteering for this year - Thyme on the Boardwalk.  While also a very pretty location, I'm satisfied with where I am in Homer this year.  Before we exited the boat, we were given information about a hiking trail at the other end of town.  The trail is called the Otterbahn Trail, and it extends from downtown Seldovia out to the outer beach - a 1.5 mile hike each way.  My timing wasn't so great, so for fear of missing my boat back, I only hiked about a mile in before returning to town.  Instead I went to visit the inner beach in search of tide pools and photos.

We were allowed 3 hours to explore Seldovia before returning back to Homer.  The return trip was much warmer.  It took approx. 1-1/2 hours to get back (without the detours that we made on the way out).

It was a really relaxing and peaceful trip - a nice break from the gardening to see the sights.  I've been trying to do mini-trips in/around Homer once or twice a week as the workload allows.  Mostly it's exploring town, which is fun in itself.

Later that evening when I was turning in for the evening, I spied a couple of yearling moose out the front door of the yurt.  They kind of startled me... it's not something you simply look up and see at home.  So once I got over the little bit of shock, I went for the camera and followed them through the yard (at a safe distance, mind you).
Also in the past few days...

I learned that Malcolm & Allison's next door neighbor is Captain Wes from NatGeoTV's Alaska Fish Wars.  I've not watched it, but am curious to see what it's about now.  From what we were told, the network will be filming his crew again towards the beginning of July.  The bonus to meeting him was that he brought over a freshly caught salmon with him... and it's what was for dinner later that evening.  So good!

We've tackled and overcome the irrigation problems that they were having around the garden.  Also, we've weeded a huge number of peonies and the berry patches - strawberry, raspberry, and some other odds and ends.  A huge undertaking, trust me.

Before I left to come here, had found that I was accepted into a landscape photography mentorship program - a super-cool honor.  Outside of the work around the garden, the weekly assignments for this mentorship has been keeping me busy as well.  It's helped me break through some of my creative road blocks... and I'm only 3 weeks into it (it's a 12 week program).  Last week's assignment was the study of light... more specifically the quality of light.  We were asked to take a series of 7 photos - all of the same scene - but at different times of the day in effort to observe natural light.  It was a fun project, and I'm rather happy with the outcome... and thought I'd share.  

Oh... and these are all done from Malcolm & Allison's deck.  :)

30 minutes before sunset:
30 minutes after sunset:
30 minutes before sunrise:
30 minutes after sunrise:
Midday (framing is slightly off on this one):

More later!