Alaska Musings Episode 4


Alaska Fall 2

September 6, 2008 Sourdough Tales

1. We have been living here 6 months now and just discovered recently that we can see the Knik Glacier from most anywhere around Palmer and Wasilla. I asked the question why that valley always had snow even though it appears to be a lower elevation than Pioneer’s Peak & voila! the glacier appeared right before our eyes. It’s about 25 miles up the Knik River from our house to the glacier. We hope to take a tour up to it next summer.

2. In case you haven’t heard Sarah Palin is the Republican VP Nominee. She is from Wasilla. She used to be a Council Member and Mayor of Wasilla. I work for the City of Wasilla. You can’t imagine the world-wide notoriety this place is getting now. Our website went from having 25k to over 500k hits per day since August 29th.

3. The trees are changing colors rather quick and are quite dramatic. And, it all started this week. Last week there were no golds or yellows anywhere. I’m guessing since we have cottonwood and birch trees that we won’t see many reds. Right now though the bright contrasts between the greens and the yellow hues are fantastic.

4. Football season is almost over. Yep, it is only 8 weeks long due to the fact the kids can’t play on frozen ground or in the snow. So, by the end of September they even complete the championship games with all their playoffs. Basketball up here is big though and, of course, hockey.

5. The days are getting shorter by large leaps of 5 and 6 minutes each day. I can finally leave my master bedroom curtains open all the time and have darkness before 10 p.m. and as late as 6:30 a.m. The shortest day here in the Palmer area is 5 hours 18 minutes sometime around December 20th – from around 10:15 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. But, with the predawn and dusk light we have a little over 7 hours of actual light.

6. Neighbors help each other up here a LOT. Employees don’t feel entitled to their jobs – they come to work on time and put in a full days’ worth of work without someone monitoring them. What novel concepts! It is so refreshing and delightful. I am amazed by both of these aspects of Alaskan life on a weekly basis.

7. More and more windmills are popping up around the valley with the cost of fuel oil and energy going up. We’ve learned that windmills only need 8 mph winds to work but shutdown in 50 mph winds or higher. And, the Chinooks coming down off the glacier during the winter get speeds upwards of and over category 1 hurricanes.

8. Gas has finally dropped down to $4.19 per gallon this week. We had a significant lag behind the rest of the country when prices started to drop. So much so that the State is having an investigation into why. I think we have two refineries in the state but am not up on them to say much more.

9. The State fair was awesome. It wasn’t any bigger than some of the larger county fairs I have been to. But, it did have different activities. There was the midway with all the rides and carnival games. There were the many vendors of food. There were the buildings full of crafts, foods, and animals on display. What was different were the multitude of vendors selling their wares. Everything from windmills to chainsaw carvings. And, the veggies were much, much bigger than anything I’ve ever seen. They had lumberjack demos, concert after concert, fireworks 3 of the 11 days, yarn spinning demos, political booths, and so much more. The Alaska State Troopers wrote over 1,700 traffic tickets around the event. We were lucky that we live just around the corner from the fair. We only had to step outside each night to see the fireworks.

10. The permanent fund dividend or PFD is a whopping $3,269 per Alaskan – man, woman and child. $1,200 of it is a fuel cost payment to help folks pay their bills this winter. And, wouldn’t you know it, we aren’t eligible yet. In fact, we won’t be eligible until calendar year 2010. That’s right we won’t be getting the $6,538 this year. You have to live here for one full year and then you are eligible the next calendar year. So, since we didn’t move up here until the end of February we won’t have been here a year until February of 2009 making 2010 the next calendar year. Bummer.

January 4, 2009

Boy! Am I behind in these (over 2 months now! for shame). Well, blame it on the audit, the state conferences, the holidays and the 20+ degrees below zero that we have been in for a week now. Anyway, I’m back! So, here goes:

1. I know I’ve mentioned before how big the ravens are. But, I didn’t appreciate that fact until I went back to Georgia over the Christmas holidays. I grew up thinking that crows were big birds. Ha! It would take 4 crows (2 side-by-side with another 2 on their shoulders) to equal the size of a raven. It’s a BIG bird. They are everywhere and vocal. They cluck like turkeys and imitate other birds. I’m fascinated by them.

2. At -23° even our 5-star energy rated home has ice around the bottoms of our windows. The snow froze to some extent where the sun shines on it. And, there’s hoar frost on everything. It’s pretty. Emlee still hates to wear her boots but they do keep her feet from freezing.

3. The sun is now low on the horizon each day now. And, it is behind Pioneer’s Peak most of the day when it’s up. So, we don’t get direct sunlight at our house until after noon. But, we are now gaining daylight at a rapid pace just as we lost it this fall. Daylight starts creeping in around 8:30 a.m. though the sun doesn’t come up until just after 10 a.m. And, it is dark by 5 p.m. with the sun setting just before 4 p.m.

4. Gary is learning the adventures of using a snowblower. The first time he ran it the wind was blowing and he got covered from head to toe in snow. Since then he has learned to wear a raincoat over his jacket. And, with the snow over a foot deep Miss Emlee has to have snowtrails made for her in the backyard. She is only 14 inches high.

5. Everyone should get the man in their life (husband, father, brother, whomever) a wireless weather station that uploads data to Weather Underground. If I had only known one would bring so much joy I would have bought my husband one long before now. He is just tickled to death that the temperature outside is off the scale which I think goes down to minus 21 degrees.

6. Most of you know that I wear skirts, dresses or skirt suites to work most days. I have several long skirts with wool that are just fine for these cold days. But, I don’t have enough of them to wear day in and day out. So, I’ve resorted to wearing tights. Pantyhose don’t cut it at -23°. I also have some kicking snow boots that I wear until I get to the office. Those pretty shoes that most women love to wear will kill your ass if you try to walk in the snow and ice here.

7. My staff are trying to save me from myself. So far they have given me gloves, a scarf and warm footie things as well as tons of advice. They call me crazy when I walk in each morning with only a sweater on over my clothes. They don’t seem to notice that I am carrying my heavy coat which I put on when I leave. Why would I put a coat on when going from my kitchen into my heated garage? My Trailblazer is warm and it’s only a 50 ft. walk to the building from where I park. Going home though is a different story.

8. When it’s friggin cold outside like it is now and you sit in your automobile waiting for it to warm up before you head home from work the windows on the inside frost over from the condensation in your breath. I don’t mean fog over, I mean frost over. Ice. I try to go out at lunch to warm my Trailblazer up so that it doesn’t sit for 10 hours in below zero temps.

9. Our vehicles are filthy. It hasn’t warmed up above zero since the last snowfall and mud from sanding of the roads covered our vehicles. The nearest carwash is about 3 miles away but I wouldn’t chance my vehicle freezing up on the drive back home. So, we wait with dirty cars until the temps at least stay above zero for a few days.

10. When there’s lots of snow on the ground and the wind is blowing at near hurricane strength you end up with a ground snow storm blowing sideways. It isn’t snowing – the snow is so dry that the wind is picking it up off the ground. It can get near whiteout conditions as you drive by the lakes.

More Winter Wonderland 007



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