Number 23 is done. Between January and August, I took 12 credits. The is enough for me to move over a column on the pay scale. I turned in my transcripts today. Which means, I'm getting a raise...oh yeah!
For as many years as I've lived here, we have always had our first snow sometime around the first week of October. This year it has come early and in full force. Usually the first snow just consists of a few flurries that dont really stick around for very long. Usually the flurries go on for several weeks before we actually get any accumulation, but not this year!!! First snow of the year is already sticking. The ground is about 50% covered this morning and it is still snowing. And there is snow in the forecast for the rest of the week. The wind is coming straight out of the north at 23 mph. The forecast right now is blowing snow and it sure is blowing. It wont be long now until people are getting out their snow machines. It makes me wonder if there will be more snowmachine fatalities early this year because there is already snow, but the ground/river/slough/lakes/tundra is not frozen yet. The snow may just do a good job of covering up some unsafe conditions. I hope everyone stays safe and I hope the ground does freeze up soon and we can go riding soon, because last year there was barely any snow and we hardly got to ride at all. Come on mother nature, bring on winter!!!
I spent Friday and Saturday attending an art retreat and it was so much fun. I have really been enjoying doing art ever since I went to the art institute in Juneau. I have even been considering joining the Bethel Art Guild. We learned more about incorporating art into our classrooms and I immediately went back to school and taught my homeroom kids how to do ZenTangles (AKA ZenDoodles).The ZenDoodles seen on the cards above were the ones we did in the art class on Friday and they turned out so good. I've been addicted to them ever since. One of the kids in my homeroom class called it Doodle Therapy. Exactly.
We also used oil pastels which I've been dying to do ever since I started in with the art stuff this summer. We made watercolor abstracts to learn about the art elements. Loved them, but would love them even more if we had used good watercolors and good watercolor paper.
Here is all of the art that I made over the course of the two day institute. I am thinking between my homemade paper that I've gotten into and the ZenDoodle cards, I wont be buying anymore store bought cards...I'll just start making my own!!!
I am seriously considering joining the Bethel Art Guild, but I just dont know if my schedule can handle anything else. It just seems like I already have so much to do and not even time to do it all. But I would really like to explore the artistic possibilities.
I finally put my homemade paper to good use. I've been wanted to mount this old west style photo that Avery and I had done, but I wanted to put it together in a frame and mount that would look authentic. I found this stained wood frame at Fred Meyer on sale this summer in Juneau. Then I made a few pieces of homemade paper with bits of tundra grass in it. The blue paper turned out really pale and pretty, very rustic looking. I mounted out picture on it, then framed it and it turned out just like I had envisioned it. Perfect!
The recent full moon was absolutely amazing here in Bethel. The moon is up all the time lately and is so big that it is hard not to gaze at it in awe. This picture was taken on the way to school at about 8am a few days ago. The position of the moon is quirky right now. The moon rises at around 8pm in the northeast, stays up all night, then sets at around 2pm the next day in the northwest. So in the morning the moon is high in the west and in the evening the moon is high in the east. It's strange, interesting, and awesome.
Last weekend I went cranberry picking for the very first time ever. I've done alot of blueberry picking here in Alaska, but never cranberries. The cranberries are ready much later that the blueberries and usually by the time the cranberries are ready, I'm all berried out. But this year, their were not that many blueberries and I didnt do much blueberry picking, so I finally got around to picking cranberries.
I went with my friends, Chris and Erin, and Erin's little puppy, North. We enjoyed a nice sunny day out on the tundra. I thought picking cranberries was much easier than picking blueberries. It just seemed as if they came off so much more easily.
North was so cute running along the tundra and getting lost in the bushes. Right before we left, she took a few nibbles from my berry bucket. On the way home, she was so sleepy that she had a hard time walking. She's so cute!!!!Then next day we used some of our berries to bake cranberry nut bread from a sourdough starter. It was delicious.
The tundra is already changing into some fall colors...October is right around the corner!
I woke up around 9am Saturday morning with plans to do Saturday morning yoga with a friend. When I looked outside I was enthralled by the glorious calm and quiet of the dense morning fog. So, I called my friend and suggested that we go for a foggy morning walk before our Saturday morning yoga. She agreed, I brewed some coffee, we grabbed our cameras, and we were off for a stroll through Bethel.Not far from home, we noticed what we came to call a fogbow...a rainbow made of fog that has no color. It was very cool. I wonder if such a phenomena actually has a name. It stuck around for the majority of our walk.
As we got closer to the river, the fog got thicker. It looked as though the hill down to the river wall was just a sheer drop off.
We enjoyed the absolute quiet of this amazingly calm and foggy morning. The air was quiet and still. There were no people out, no kids running around, no dogs barking. It was as if God had sent a message that this was meant to be a quiet morning.
We walked down the river wall and along the beach enjoying the quiet foggy view. The sun was large as it continued to rise above the town of Bethel.
The fog was beautiful and the quiet was oh-so-peaceful. This duck is enjoying a foggy little float down the Kuskokwim river.
Shortly after that, our peaceful serenity was interrupted by a huge aggressive dog that charged across the street and attacked Suka (Sadie's dog) as we were walking. Sadie threw her hot coffee on the dog and yelled at it to get it to back off. Then she went to talk to the owner.
From there our walk was no longer quiet and peaceful, but it was just as foggy and beautiful. Bethel is filled with unleashed dogs that terrorize all parts of town.
We did a loop around the Bethel boat harbor. There were many people getting ready to go out on the river. Even though there was a heavy fog, it was clear that this day was going to be gorgeous. The sun was huge and shining, the sky was blue, and there wasnt a hint of wind to ripple the water.
Even as the town came alive around us, the calm fog continued to give everything a bit of a surreal feeling. Almost like walking through a dream.
On our way home nearly 45 minutes later, the fog was just as thick, if not even a bit thicker. The mean attack dog was tied up now, but still capable of ruining the peace with its bark. We enjoyed the way the tug boat looked tied up to the river wall in the fog.
People finally tired of waiting for the fog to lift, were getting out on the river in an attempt to make the most of this day that was clearly intended to provide amazing weather.
And just then as we turned the corner away from the river and back toward our apartments...
as picture perfect as the thick fog had been, there was Mission Lake, crystal clear and calm like glass. It was amazingly clear. It was perfect.
As we stepped out of a foggy little dream world, we stepped into a perfectly clear one that was equally amazing. We stood in awe for minutes in front of this little lake and enjoyed the perfect mirror images of the houses reflected in the stillness of the water's surface.
It was an amazing start to an amazing weekend. More on that later...
The fireweed has bloomed to the end. This is the sign of the end of summer and on one of the nicest days we've had all year. Today was amazing! It was 70 and sunny. It was calm and beautiful. Welcome sun, so long summer!
New York's got nothing on this apple! This is the biggest apple I've ever seen in my entire life! It came in my Full Circle Farm veggie box today, along with 5 others. It was the size of a small melon. Of course, this picture does it absolutely no justice what-so-ever. It's like the goliath of apples. The five others were nearly as big, but this one took the prize.
I had my first experience with Alaskan birds this weekend. My friend, Danielle, invited me over to teach me how to pluck ducks and geese. We started with plucking the ducks. We plucked 4 ducks. You start by plucking the belly of the bird and pull the feathers up against their direction of growth.The ducks were difficult to pluck because the feathers dont come off very easily. The ones we plucked were blue bill ducks. After plucking them, we also gutted them and cut them into pieces. I traded Danielle some of my halibut for the birds. Our bird cleaning station consisted of a piece of card board to pluck on and a trash bag or bucket to put all of the feathers in. I did keep some of the really small, fine feathers from the goose head to use when I'm making homemade paper.
After we had finished with the ducks, we plucked 4 geese. Two of the geese were black foot geese and 2 of them were orange foot geese. Clearly this is not their scientific name, but this is what Danielle called them. Most likely they are Canadian geese. Danielle said that she likes the orange foot geese the best. It has the best flavor. The geese were much easier to pluck. The feathers came off much easier, although for this goose, the skin cam off as well.We also had a couple of swan to prepare, but these get skinned rather than plucked because they are so big, have so many more feathers, and much thicker skin. I was amazed by how large the swans were. It probably weighed 30 pounds.
Danielle's mom came over to show us how to skin the swans. She started by removing the ends of the winds from the last joint. Then she cut the skin up the belly and began peeling it away from the meat a little at a time using the ulu knife.Here's what it looked like after it was completely skinned. It was a big bird with alot of meat. Almost all of the parts of the birds were saved to be cooked, even the feet, neck, hearts, gizzards, tongue, and brains. Danielle told me that different members of her family like different parts of the birds, including the butt.Last night, I cooked a couple of the ducks for dinner. I was expecting them to taste very gamey because Danielle had warned me that they were and also told me that she liked the flavor of the ducks the least. Avery and I both ate them last night and thought they were delicious. I took some over and shared with my neighbor who also thought they turned out very good. It is a little bit different because the meat is soooooo dark, but the flavor was really very good.
We even ate the hearts!!!You should have seen the look on Avery's face when I told him that he had just eaten a duck heart! Priceless! The other ducks, geese, and swan parts were put into freezer bags to be frozen and cooked up later this winter.
I feel so fortunate that Danielle was nice enough to invite me in to her home, teach me how to pluck, and give me so much meat. Hopefully, I will be able to cook up the rest of the birds as successfully as I did the first couple. Traditionally the birds were used in soups with root vegetables. I told Danielle's mom that I would invite her over when I make my first bird soup so she can try it and tell me if I made it right!
I've been putting my green thumb to work through the use of some old plastic containers and my windowsill. I've got some fairly thriving parsley going and I've been trying to use it as much as possible before it gets too cold and it starts to die off. I've got some more parsley along with rosemary and basil going on my kitchen window too. It sure it nice to have fresh herbs to use while cooking. I'm hoping that they will keep growing into the winter, but with our lack of sunlight and intense cold, I am doubtful about that possibility. I've also been growing a few small tomato plants. They have not produced one single piece of fruit all summer. Then it occurred to me the other day that the problem might be that the flowers are not getting pollenated since they are not outside with the breeze and the bees. So about a week ago, I tried shaking the plants to simulate a breeze in hopes that the plants would pollinate each other and create fruit. And guess what? It worked! Today I looked at my tomato plants and found several small little tomatoes in progress. Exciting!!!
I had a jam session last weekend. I got together with a few other friends who were interested in making jam and together we made 6 batches of jam. We made rhubarb, blueberry, peach, blueberry rhubarb, peach rhubarb, and plum. It was alot of fun. We ended up with about 30 jars of jam in total. They all turned out really yummy, but the ones with the rhubarb were the best. I've been on a rhubarb kick lately after I picked up a huge batch of it from the store. I bought out the entire stock! Since then I've made rhubarb crisp, jam, and rhubarb sourdough coffee cake. They've all turned out great.
Quote of the evening... "Wine and jam making; I think this is going to be a lifelong partnership!"
According to NaBloPoMo, this months blogging them is art. So, what better inspiration to share this awesome art project that we did in my homeroom class to kick off the year. You might remember that I attended the Basic Art Institute in Juneau this summer, where we learned how to incorporate the arts into our classroom. I came home with many ideas and a ton of inspiration. Most of my ideas revolved around my homeroom class. Our homeroom class is a time for working with kids on positive actions and behavior. It is a time for those students to have one adult that they can connect with on a daily basis. This seemed to me to be the most fitting place to incorporate some art into the school day.
The very first art activity that I brought in was Tolerance Banners. We did a lesson revolving around the UN's 1995 Year of Tolerance. We discussed the ideas of tolerance and looked at the 6 pieces of artwork that were commissioned by the UN in 1995. Then, we learned about the Notan Japanese papercutting method. We used this method to create our own tolerance banners. They turned out great!!! The yellow one is the one I made and the others are the students. I really liked this project because it was easy enough for everyone to be successful, but looked really cool when it was finished.
I'm a high school science teacher currently living my dream of teaching out in bush Alaska. I'm always up for new adventures and like to travel anywhere and everywhere. This blog is a way to keep in touch with friends and family, journal about life, and share my experiences with the world.