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Category Archives: Outdoors

False morels, some type from the genus Gyromitra.
Had some waste cut-offs from the last job. Decided to repurpose them...

Last Friday we stayed home from work due to Dean being under the weather. So the kids and I used the opportunity to start on the garden plot, do a little barnyard clean up & to get some fresh air. The garden plot was quite the mess.

We enjoyed watching the goats and ducks being released from their winter quarters and go a little wacky on the barely there green grass blades

First thing we did was assess the old derelict greenhouse frame. It needs to be disassembled, repaired and re-sheeted with siding and greenhouse plastic. Lil Bit and I took stock of our materials so we could plan the new structure. As it is currently, about 15 feet long and 8 ish feet wide. We’d like to maintain that size, just move it over to the left about 2-3 feet.

Then we found a couple old pallets that we hauled up to the garden plot to add to our existing compost bin. The original bin was filled up over the winter with kitchen scraps and barn litter. We’ll let that side sit and work this summer to add to our beds next year.

Then we got started on the clean up part. Thing 2, AB and Lil Bit all pitched in. We cut down all the wild raspberry canes, some Willow shrubs and tall grasses down. We raked up dead grass and leaves to fill our new compost bin about half way. The kids hauled barn litter over and dumped into the old bin. I gave some of the raked up dried grass to the goats, they loved it.

I cleared out the strawberry patch of last year’s dead leaves & weeds, cut the runners loose and mulched with fresh straw. We topped off the two beds and all the tire stacks with more soil. And we stretched an old tarp (that we repurposed for ground cover & saved from going to the landfill) out over the area we just cleared to keep regrowth down to a minimum. We will eventually top this with sawdust and wood chips for pathway maintenance after we build the new beds.

This tarped area is where we plan to construct two more raised beds and put additional tire stacks around the fence perimeter.

Lil Bit’s 4H project is gardening so she has been busy tending her starts in the mini greenhouse in our bathroom. And getting more excited by the day to start her outdoors garden & greenhouse.

Lil Bit’s starter garden. She’s got bell peppers tomatoes, squash, cucumber and a big pumpkin on the right.

While raking and checking for signs of new growth we discovered the lilac Thing 1 planted last year has some buds on it!! It’s always a happy day to see your plants made it through the winter!!

Rhubarb patch coming to life!

Besides the greenhouse renewal & new raised beds to build, we have some fencing repairs to make. I’d also like to test our soil this year so we can make amendments based on need. We’ll see how that goes. 🤪So our work isn’t done but we feel good about getting it started.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has declared May 7-13 as “Wildland Fire Prevention and Preparedness Week” in Alaska to help raise awareness for the longer wildfire seasons and increased fire activity of recent years. The governor joins fire managers from the Alaska Division of Forestry & Fire Protection, Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service, and the […]

May 7 – 13 is AK Wildland Fire Prevention and Preparedness Week

It was a short week, 6 days ago, that I tapped our Birch tree. I probably could have tapped it a few days earlier if not for just being too busy. But better some sap than none!

With the speed of the melting snow the Birch sap has slowed it’s flow.

Checking my Sap Bucket.

Our first gallon I poured into individual collapsible water bottles for drinking later. I found these new at the thrift store, a great find! They came with mini carabineers to clip onto your pack or belt while hiking this summer. Into the freezers they went.

Hiking refreshers.

Next, I used 3.5 gallons to try our version of Birch Beer, similar to root beer, and made about 3/4 of a gallon of flavored concentrate. I slow-simmered the sap in my turkey roaster until about half with a few Birch twigs. Once done I turned off the heat, added a vanilla bean and cinnamon stick and 1/2 cup xylitol to sweeten it a bit more. To serve, pour concentrate into a glass, half full, add a squeeze of fresh lime, a little more sweetener (to individual taste) and top off with seltzer. It’s got an earthy taste, faintly reminiscent of a root beer but not as herbal. I like mine less sweet, the kids like it more sweet. But they like it, that’s good.

It’s nice to have a natural soda alternative that’s not 44 grams of sugar per serving or full of who knows what.

I also put about half a gallon into some reusable popsicles for a cold summer treat. I made 20 of these, Alaskan style Otter Pops, all natural, no artificial dyes, flavors or sweeteners.

Birch pops.

I did learn that we have another native tree here that can also be tapped: Alder. I experimented and tapped a couple larger trunks (they aren’t very big here, 3-5 inches in diameter). I wasn’t set-up properly for collecting the sap so missed a lot. I did get enough to taste it. It’s similar to the Birch water, less flavor tho. Overall good to know in an emergency but not likely to try it annually.

What remains of our harvest is apx 3.5 gallons, which I’ll turn into ice cubes and jugs of sap to freeze and use later. I’m going to try brining my salmon in Birch sap and salt this summer.

Overall we harvested about 9 gallons from a single Birch tree in 6 days, 1.5 gallons a day on average. This is important to know if we want to harvest enough for a larger batch of syrup or beverages. Since Birch water doesn’t keep for more than a couple days without spoiling, it has to be used or frozen quickly. So if we needed 5 gallons to process into wine we would need to tap 4-5 trees for a larger daily quantity.

I pulled the spile early Saturday morning. And another foraging season has come & gone.

Next up for wildcrafting is cottonwood buds, fiddleheads, fireweed shoots, spruce tips and morels. Oh boy, I can’t wait!! So much to do, so little time!

My last kiddo, the artist formerly known as Lil Mister, has a new name. He has repeatedly informed me that he is Alaska Boy. Thus, he needs no coat, or shoes for that matter, to run amuck in the snow on a warm spring day.

But it’s warm out Mom! And the dogs don’t have shoes or shirts on.

So from now on, I’ll be referring to him as Alaska Boy or, AB for short. Or at least until he informs me that he’s reached Alaska Man status. 😂

Snow is melting, spring is here. Come on summer!

Yesterday was our “end of year” field trip. We’ve still got a few weeks left but a little early celebration never hurt anyone.

Before we boarded we spent some time exploring around the docks.

Major Marine Tours out of Seward took us out for a 4 hour tour. (Glad it wasn’t three and the weather wasn’t rough.)

Captain Marcelle navigated the “Kenai Fjords 360” throughout Resurrection Bay like a boss.

First thing we see after leaving port are Dall’s Porpoises swimming with our boat. They look like little baby Orcas. They were quite amusing swimming and jumping out of the water, crisscrossing in front of the bow.

Once we were underway the Capt put this nav map up for us to reference. It helped keep our bearings for sure.

Then we saw a bald eagle perched on an enormous rock. We spotted a sea otter in Thumb Cove.

After traveling past Fox Island we saw some Stellar Sea Lions sunning themselves on Mary’s Rock. Captain Marcelle was terrific for getting us excellent views of the wildlife. We had a beautiful day, sunshine, 41-45° air temp and no sea swell! Simply gorgeous spring day!

We cruised past Barwell Island on the east side of Resurrection Bay, which has some WW II era bunkers. Then the best thing happened, another vessel alerted us to a pod of three Orcas just two hours into our tour! What an awesome inspiring moment!

We also experienced a mirage, called fata morgana, of Montague Island. It made the island look like a plateau instead of the peaked mountain tops it has. Once we changed position and could look back at the Island you could once again see it’s peaks and valleys. So weird!

Besides the abundance of wildlife that we saw and learned a few facts about (did you know there were 10 types of Orcas worldwide and three types that frequent our Alaskan waters?) we also learned about history (WW II, Russian exploration, President Harding and the Good Friday Quake) and geology when we passed some unusual rock formations of pillow basalt. It was quite the learning experience!

Our route was the red one. It would be nice to take the blue one some day!

We peeked into Carol’s Cove to observe 6 Harbour Seals on our way back towards the west side of Resurrection Bay where we had a great view of Bear Glacier. Lil Bit was excited for this one, she really wanted to see the seals. It’s nice to see them elsewhere, than in our nets stealing our fish! Then we spotted two coastal mountain goats on the sheer face of the mountain side! And another Harbor Seal in the water along the Callisto Cliffs.

Nearly 4 pm and our tour is about over, what a wonderful experience! I love seeing the rugged beauty and bounty of Alaska. And seeing landmarks like Cain’s Head which we’ve explored a couple of times on foot. I think Lil Bit counted 8 species in total that we spotted today. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves! Little Mister was most comfortable on the bow feeling the wind rush through his hair. Thing 2 wasn’t in too many pics as he enjoyed the freedom of roaming about the boat at will.

I’m very grateful for the homeschooling resources we have with IDEA and the rich experiences we get to have thanks to their efforts. Trips like these would be out of reach for us without them.

🌨️Snowing some big flakes in mid-April!🌨️❄️