Monday, June 22, 2020

Working From Home Lessons

1) Unplug the landline phone before important meetings. Every time the landline phone rings, it makes the router hiccup and the internet freeze for a few seconds.

2) Take care of ergonomics. The dining table and chair are not as "healthy" as your office desk and chair. Maintain good posture, and take more frequent stretch breaks.

3) Even if you're just doing something quickly, get out your mouse! The trackpad is terrible for hand health and will give you arthritis.

4) Maintain a proper schedule. Get up at the normal time. Take breaks at normal times. Quit at the end of the day.

5) Your dogs' daytime farts are horrible.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Happy Solstice

Well, here we are!

These are future nagoonberries:

A few years ago, this was a tiny little patch, but they are proliferating, which is great!

I don't know what this is, but it's pretty:


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Notes from here and there

Wild roses are the third common flower to appear each summer (right behind bluebells and dandelions). They are sweetly fragrant, but have pretty bad thorns.

Look! a ladybug on the bluebells!

My first columbine finally bloomed. Purple and white is my favorite combo!

I had been watching the buds:

And yesterday, the first one opened!

Do you think they are comfy? I sure hope they are comfy.

"I love you Thistle. Squeeeeeeeze."

This is the worst mosquito year of most people's memories.

Look at this! Apparently it's a Giant Ichneumon Wasp. Apparently they use that long appendage to lay their eggs deep in a safe spot in dead wood, where they hope there will be plenty of termites. The larvae come out and eat termites. As adults, these things do not eat at all! (I would be a very unhappy Giant Ichneumon Wasp because I like to eat.)

Since I don't want to go to the farmer's market this year, I subscribed to a CSA. The last time I subscribed to a CSA, it was from Rosie Creek Farm, which was wonderful, but alas, they are now into pot farming instead of veggies, now that pot is legal in Alaska. I don't blame them at all; I'm sure the money is much better, and they have two wonderful kids who would like college funds. But I feel sad at all of the veggies they aren't growing. They have a lot of institutional knowledge about arctic farming, too. I sure hope it is well-preserved in their many interns that have worked there over the years! Well, I did my CSA this year from Calypso Farm. I have taken several classes on farming and animal husbandry at Calypso, but never gotten their CSA. The first arrival was yesterday and was pretty good! I'm a bit baffled by the lovage, but delighted with the Asian veggies!

Pre-morning run snuggle! (DL took this photo.)

Look! Perfectly seared salmon!

Shrimp chow mein with Alaskan spot shrimp from my seafood order from Catch 49.

Aren't they gorgeous?

As per usual, several fires are burning close to town. Burn permits (which people normally get to burn brush piles after tidying up their land) are not being issued this summer, in attempt to limit firefighter deployment and coronavirus exposure for work crews, who work in close conditions. The closest one to Fairbanks was quickly put out, with the aid of rain. Bear dogs are helping to keep firefighters safe!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Message from Santa Claus

Santa Claus (and that is his legal name, that is a real beard, and he lives in North Pole, and in fact sits on the North Pole City Council) has a comforting message for children. Thanks, Santa!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020


Thistle selfie!

Cricket needed a hug after I killed several mosquitoes in a row:

After she forgives me, she inverts for a bellyrub:

Here is a blueberry-rhubarb cornmeal cake I made for JB's birthday. It uses two cups of wonderful fruit!

I washed my hands, did not breathe on it, and set it on the porch. Then backed away to the top of the driveway and shouted, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I BROUGHT YOU A CAKE!" This is a celebration in the age of the 'rona!

And here is rockfish cooked with collards in black bean sauce.

You guys. I was startled to realize just recently that black bean sauce, famously used in many Chinese dishes such as za jia mian, long beans with black bean sauce, etc, is not in fact made with black beans. I had vaguely wondered where that intense flavor came from, since I'd eaten many a bowl of black beans with cheese, and black beans had never tasted... like.. that? Also, the texture? Was off? Well, my friends, the "black beans" of black bean sauce are actually fermented soybeans. Which also explains the size and texture of those "black beans".

Funnily enough, I was scanning recipes for za jia mian, and I found this one blogger who went on an on about how the "secret" to the taste in the sauce was "a paste made of fermented soybeans", and I thought to myself, psh! I ain't going to the store to look for no fermented soybeans. I've always had these noodles with black bean paste, and that is what I am dang well using! (Silly me!)

Oh, my other exciting recent recipe try was a 7-Up cake! Samantha Irby made a passing reference to it, and I searched through my brain and recalled that 7-Up cake is a thing that exists, although I don't think I'd ever had one. So I went to google and found that the top several hits, including one from the 7-Up corporation itself, were all remarkably similar! It looked like I had a true classic on my hands, so of course I had to try it. It requires three! Cups! Of sugar! Now, I usually reduce sugar in recipes, but thought that for a classic, I'd do it "properly" the first time. It came out beautifully. It's basically a pound cake flavored with lemon and 7-Up:

The 3 cups of sugar was a mistake though. Irma S. Rombauer says that cakes (and may other baked goods) are not just about flavor but about chemistry, and so you cannot alter recipes willy-nilly. However, I have reduced sugar in many a cake recipe, to no detriment, so if I ever make a 7-Up cake again, I will reduce the sugar. This one tasted like diabetes:

I made it ten days ago, and about a third of it is still in the fridge. But it lasts forever, as pound cakes are wont to do, and the texture is nice--dense and buttery. And the 7-Up flavor did come through, although the addition of fresh lemon juice and zest made it even better:

Here is a tomato-beef chow mein:

Thistle has only begun shedding and takes a while to cool down from our morning run:

She has a classic Wise Old Leader look:

Look! A fuzzy bumblebee! They came out about two weeks ago, and this week dragonflies appeared! Time to die, mosquitoes! (Sorry, Cricket!)

Monday, June 1, 2020

Cricket hugs

Cricket still gets very offended when we kill mosquitoes. Good thing she is still mollified by my bullshit apologies. I tell her that, "I'm sorry that what I did hurt your feelings" rather than actually apologize for killing mosquitoes. Because I'm not sorry for killing mosquitoes!

I do give her very real hugs along with my fake apologies. She is the Best Hugger.

Maybe she is Jainist. Please don't anyone tell her that her food is not vegan! Dogs cannot live healthfully as vegans, so we must lie to her and cannot fully honor her beliefs of ahimsa and Respecting All Beings. I cannot respect mosquitoes, and she needs to eat her chicken and salmon!

Saturday, May 30, 2020


Porcupines are very common in Alaska, but I only rarely see them. In fact, in my 13 years here, I think I've only seen maybe 3 as roadkill, and a single one alive! Well, okay, now two!

But last night while I was brushing my teeth, Thistle demanded to be let out Immediately. I thought she had to poop really badly, so opened the door and followed her out (with Cricket, too). Turns out there was a porcupine in the yard! The Very Good Dogs came back when I shouted at them to Leave That Thing Alone and Get Your Fuzzy Butts Back Here. They Left That Thing Alone and Got Their Fuzzy Butts Back Here.

I put them inside and grabbed my camera, and followed him as he waddled off through the forest (as I continued to brush my teeth with my other hand. Multitasking!)

Those spines must be very serious indeed, because he was fearless and 100% ignored us. He also made no effort whatsoever to be stealthy. As he waddled through the woods, he rustled every single plant in his path, as graceful as a labrador retriever puppy in slow-mo.

Apparently, Romeo, the famous wolf of Juneau was an expert at catching, killing, and eating porcupines. No-one ever saw him do it, but they would find husks of porcupines around his territory, and never a quill on him. He must have been a clever fellow.

Ah, googling him makes me feel sad, because he had a sad end, and also I was often told that Roo looked like him. Sigh. I'm going to transplant some rhubarb now.