Sunday, June 14, 2009

Urban Alaskan Pioneering

Like that even makes sense, eh? But there is such a thing. I know, because I made it up.
Here's the unofficial definition: Being a renter on base (urban-ish) means that I do not have the liberty of plowing up "my" yard. The base generally frowns on such things. Plus, there are rumors of crazy things being buried here. I don't particularly care for nuclear waste and alien ooze in my veggie garden, ya know?
Additionally, there is the Alaskan element to add to my gardening. The general idea is that it's a "cold climate" (especially when compared to Alabama, where we came from). This means that certain precautions (like never planting tomatoes in the ground) must be taken to be even somewhat successful in gardening around here.
And by "pioneering", I mean all kinds of homesteading activities. And my recent weeks have been full of such activities.

So with the Interior's official gardening season beginning (June 1), I jumped into as much gardening as a handful of containers and my 15 square feet of "yard" would allow. I am a huge risk taker with my tomatoes and peppers, leaving them outside in their pots through our cool nights. I know, I know. I am inviting lectures from Alaskan gardeners all over the place. Yes, I'll probably lose them. But for now, they are growing tall, overfilling their pots, and even getting some little yellow flowers. I'm not trying to be a risk taker, really. It's just that after a day of lugging around two small children, I'm not really motivated to haul in half a dozen potted plants that Beans will likely try to ingest or dump on the carpet before I can return them to the great outdoors each morning.
In addition to my pepper and tomatoes, there is a hanging basket of strawberries, several pots of herbs, a few pots of lettuce, salad greens, and radishes, and a plastic tote that is acting as a "raised bed" for my kohl rabi experiment. Not a bad start for someone with limited gardening space and babies to tend to.

Meanwhile, back at the urban pioneering site...
My wheat mill arrived! And with it, I purchased 45 lbs of soft white wheat to grind. The mill (Nutrimill, for those interested) is AWESOME, and quick. After a few minutes reading the manual, I was able to dump a few cups of grain in the mill and end up with enough fresh milled flour to bake two loaves of bread. I "cheated", and let my Kitchenaid do the hard work of kneading, but a couple hours later, the house was scented with the aroma of fresh coffee and hot bread, and all was well with the world.

Not to sound too hokey, but I curled up in my rocking chair with a slice of hot bread, a fresh cup of percolated coffee, and my knitting project, and was completely content.

Speaking of knitting...
I FINALLY made it to the knitting group at the library! I had so much fun and learned a lot. A whole lot, actually. See, I'm a hooker. RELAX, folks! Not a street girl, but a crocheter. (You crochet with hooks. Hooker, get it? HA HA HA!)
ANYHOO... I've never knit before. My grandmother used to make all of us grand kids (and there were a lot of us) a sweater every year for Christmas or birthdays. I'll shamefully admit that I did not appreciate the gifts as much as I should have as a kid. But now that she is gone, I miss those sweaters, and I hope that I'll soon be able to turn out gifts that my own kids will not appreciate. *grin*
Turns out I REALLY should have appreciated those sweaters. Knitting is enjoyable, but it is also a lot of work! To turn out a sweater (and some years, matching hats and mittens with them) for a dozen or so grand kids is no small task.
The gals at the knitting group were incredibly helpful, and before I left, even with a fussy baby in tow, I had learned to cast on and (roughly) how to knit. With a good instruction book in my hooker bag, I managed to teach myself the rest of the basics, and have a lovely-ish sort of scarf making it's way on the needles.
The knitting gals were a hoot, and I had a lot of fun. It was NOT the group of old lady grandmas I had mentally prepared myself to knit with, but a fun group of ladies of all ages. It was an evening of learning, needle clicking, gabbing, and getting to see another side of folks I had previously known as "just" the town mayor, the librarian, or the ladies I see at the store from time to time. Turns out that I will be back to knit again, and soon. Not only did I have a great time, I was informed that now that I had finally made it, I HAD to come back. And to seal the deal, I agreed to show up at the next meeting with a scarf for an auction at the town fair.
I just hope they don't expect that scarf to be too pretty, ya know. Anyone bidding at the fair, you'll know MY scarf. It will be the one that looks like it was knitted by a new mom (and new knitter!) with lots of help from a toddler who likes to watch stitches unravel.

Part of pioneering is also providing your own food, right? J and I have been trying to fulfill this pioneering obligation with making sure we take advantage of some local lakes. As if fishing isn't hard enough, it's a real challenge with babies in tow, but we've been having fun. I've enjoyed the sun (though it would be nice to see an actual sunset again), and fishing has been fun. Catching would be better, but J seems to have better luck when he heads out on his own. Could it be that a splashing toddler has something to do with it? Hmm.

Our spring has been full of these activities, campfires with friends, late (very late!) dinners and play dates that last into the evening hours. I AM enjoying this spring much more than last year, now that I know what to expect, and have forged some friendships that make the long days much more interesting. The world is beautiful and green again, and the only complaint is the bird-sized mosquitoes which can be found gnawing on any exposed flesh you offer them.

Hard to believe that we are already approaching the summer solstice! The solstice has taken on new meaning for me, and is quickly becoming one of my favorite days, as it means the night time will begin making its way back to our days. I know, I'm crazy. But I LIKE the night, and it's just weird, living without it. Getting used to it doesn't make it any less weird.

For friends and family: the girls are doing great. Little Nugget is growing, and started smiling a couple weeks ago. She's still a good sleeper and a great little baby. Beans is a hoot, and has been having lots of fun making new friends and *sniff* turning into a little girl, instead of my baby. Our days are full of discovering all the things she can do "by myself", and watching her develop the confidence and skills.

Coming up: dinner with friends in Fairbanks (after doctor's appointments), maybe a trip to Pioneer Park, and maybe even getting J to nail down a date for that family camping trip. More play dates, more gardening, and a couple road trips. And soon, meeting a new friend, as an online friend prepares to move to the Last Frontier.

Sorry to be so inconsistent about my blogging, but finding a few spare moments in my week is getting harder as the days get (literally) longer. I promise, more blogging tales as the daylight decreases, but for now, our family is out and about and enjoying local Alaska.
In the meantime,

Happy Moose Trails!

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