Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chaga Mania

The hype surrounding these medicinal mushrooms is turning into "Chaga Mania" in these north woods. There are 2 chagas in this picture, are they calling your name? One is too small to harvest so leave it to grow for another 3 years. We have some beautiful birch forests around Fireweed Station so looking after the trees is a big concern. The snowshoeing is superb right now, there's a crust so you can go just about anywhere. I love being able to wonder aimlessly, staring at birches in the morning light.

You can carefully harvest Chaga without damaging the tree if you're not greedy. I just pop them off with my trusty hatchet and don't dig further into the tree trunk. More mushroom will grow back and may eventually kill the tree, but I'm happy to let the natural cycle tick along without my help.

There's plenty of reasons to collect Chaga for health benefits. One quick google and you'll think that it's a miracle cure-all and wonder why you're the last one to catch the bandwagon. I'm always looking for wild edibles and free medicine so this is just my cup of tea. It does seem to have powerful antioxidants, immune boosting properties, anti-aging compounds and generally stimulates the body to heal itself.

Here's a great link for facts without the hype:

Hopefully I have enough to last the winter and pass some on to friends who could use a boost. I've found it helps to let it thaw before trying to grate it, some say to use the blender but I'd rather thrash my 50 cent grater than the pricey Vitamix. I'll dry it and then enjoy the "tea" whenever I need a power surge. I'm looking forward to making some with the new spring birch sap in May.

Use the magic snail for extra joy in your cup.

Oh yes, and watch out for hippie chicks carrying hatchets in the woods!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Veggie Dreams

 Oh yes, the seed catalogues have begun to sprout! There are dog-eared glossies all over the house. I love dreaming about the gardens while it's snowing outside, a reminder that this too shall pass.
I've been gardening in Alaska for almost 20 years now so I have a good idea of what varieties work for our climate. Some of my stand-out, no-fail favorites are Belstar Broccoli, Scarlet Nantes Carrot, Snowball Cauli, Sugar Snap Peas, Mei Qing Pac Choi, Pacific Beauty Calendula and of course the amazing Veronica Romanesco.

Romanesco - aka cauliflower on acid!
We used to own a nursery business here so I still have notes from when I used to start millions of seeds for spring garden starts and hanging baskets. Wholesale seed catalogues are full of great growing information and I used to spend hours comparing different seed houses for number of seeds per ounce, color trends, prices, packaging, shipping etc. The catalogues I get now are a breeze, it's a joy to have only 30 different kinds of lettuce to choose from!  It was fun to be able to experiment with new varieties and colors for the customers, on the other hand I am greatly relieved I won't have to spend hours transplanting tiny Lobelia ever again. (75,000 Lobelia seeds to an ounce).

This year I'm on the look-out for beauty as well as function. The Talkeetna Farmers Market germinated last year and I had so much fun selling some of my extra veggies that this year I've got my eye out for what looks like it will sell well at the market. I'll grow more French Breakfast Radishes, Bright Lights Chard, Zephyr Zucchini, purple Kohlrabi, trying to have more types of veggies that you don't see in the store around here.

Last year Tom renovated my greenhouse into a thing of beauty, my tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and herbs did so well! This year I'm feeling confident, so a couple of heirloom tomatoes will make the list and of course the English Cucumbers to vine up the gable end.

All this really comes down to is that I'm missing eating fresh veggies from the garden.  I'm growing some sprouts in the kitchen for a quick green boost but nothing replaces grazing in the rows or biting into a warm tomato while watering the greenhouse. Meals at Fireweed Station are always a good time to share the joy of gardening, whether it's edible flowers and fresh peas in the summertime or rhubarb salsa from the root cellar in winter. It all starts in the pages of the seed catalogues, my garden notebook and a healthy imagination.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Celebrate the Season

Hope you get to celebrate the season with the warmest of friends and family.

We wil hunker down and consider the great gifts that surround us - family and friends, our warm home, good health, ample food on our table, the wild beauty of another Alaskan winter. 

Warmest wishes to you all for a joyful season and a peaceful New Year!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Solstice Sunshine

Winter Solstice is the best reason to celebrate the sunshine - it's really trying to come back into our world!  I bundled up my camera to show you how high noon looks at latitude 62* at -25*F. The sun can't quite rise above Sydney's Cabin, we have to go down to the tracks to feel its rays.

The sun almost climbs above Sydney's Cabin
Far from being a black and white winter wonderland - the low aspect of the sun makes for a 3 hour sunrise-sunset glow, all is golden pink and the cold temperature makes the snow sparkle. By 4:00 pm the show is over and we're snuggled up by the fire.

Downtown Sunshine!
 There's an Inuit tradition of taking off mittens to greet the first sun rays after winter solstice - we usually keep ours on and just do a little dance of joy, knowing the dark days will be getting longer before we know it.

Winter solstice stories seem to all tell of light, no matter whether flame light or star light, the inward light or the sacredness of light itself. In the telling, we are unburdened and feel lighter.

Tom & Airon bundled up for a Solstice stroll

Friday, July 5, 2013

Busy Summer

What have we been up to all this time?!  Summer crashed in on us keeping us running all day, time for laundry, not blogging!  I logged 8 kilometers on my pedometer in one day of busy inn-keeping!

The Birch sap was running well this year so I tapped a tree near the house.  Fresh, cold Birch juice put a spring in my step.

Tapping Birch trees in May

Birch juice elixir

 Breakfast has been a non-stop feast with Tom cranking out waffles and muffins at all hours of the morning.  Climbers wake up for 6am breakfast before their expedition, after they come off the mountain they could sleep 'til noon!
Muffins for breakfast
Tom slaving over the waffle iron

It takes a ton of gear to head out into the Alaska Range.  Denali climbers carry a 60 pound back-pack and pull a heavy sled. Most of them want to look at it one more time before they head out so it all gets spread out in their room.  

Iris room with plenty of room for expedition gear

The gardens are in and growing well.  We had a heat wave in June which kept a watering can in each hand, and produced some ripe tomatoes! Now we're back to our normal cool rain so I'm on the look-out for slugs in the cabbages - so far only the caterpillars have found the gardens.  The mosquitoes have been keeping the swallows well-fed and our head-nets close by.

New guests are arriving every day; on their way north to Denali National Park or south to the Kenai peninsular.  We enjoy hearing their stories of wildlife sightings and unusual places in the wilds of Alaska.  For now we're busy living the good life right here, with cookies in the oven, home-grown lettuce and rhubarb on our plates, smiles in our hearts.  (oh yes, and one more pile of laundry to do).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Travel More with Less

We’re getting more inquiries from people planning their summer trip to Alaska.  I’m often asked for ideas on what to do, see, and where to go.  So I thought I'd share an adaptation of a post from zenhabits, some great ideas for meaningful journeys.   

Travel is about getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing things you’ve never tried before.

Start Local. First try changing your mindset. The purpose of travel is to see new things and experience new cultures. Many people think that in order to see things they’ve never seen before they need to travel far afield but that’s not true. Find out more about your local area. Anywhere within a two or three hour drive should be fair game for a weekend trip. If you’ve got longer you can extend your range further.
First head to your local library or get on the Internet for ideas of things to see and do close to home. There are probably some walks, caves, rivers, lakes, forests or waterfalls or a B&B that you’ve never visited before but have always wanted to. Pick one and make sure you check it out as soon as possible.

Travel Light.  Even in Alaska where the climate can be chilly in the summer, don’t pack more than you can carry in one trip from the car.  We’re casual to the extreme here, jeans with no holes will be smart enough for any venue.  Layers of light-weight clothing and a good raincoat, two pairs of shoes if you must, and really, nobody cares if you wear that shirt two days in a row.  
Yes, we have internet in Alaska now, but try leaving technology behind this time. You don’t have to update your facebook page while you’re on vacation.  Try to make the memories last until you return home.  Jot a few notes in a journal or on a map, send yourself a postcard reminding yourself of a special sight or moment.
See and feel your travel experiences through your natural senses, not always through your camera lens. 

Sight-Seeing. There’s a lot of store set by seeing the big sights, like going on a flightseeing trip around the Alaska Range, or chartering a fishing boat, or touring the Native Heritage Museum. But these things tend to be expensive. They’re big-ticket items so limit yourself to one at the most per trip.
Some of the best things have no entry charge and there are plenty of lesser known attractions which may be free or low cost like hanging out on the bench outside Nagley’s, watching the Arctic Terns down by the river, hiking the X-Y Lakes trails, or reading through the historical books at Fireweed Station. All fun, interesting, and easy on the budget too. You get the idea, don’t feel you have to spend big on the main tourist attractions. That’s all they are, you can learn more by hanging out with the locals.                                                                                           
When it comes to meals watch where the locals eat, don’t head straight to the touristy restaurants or the ones you saw on TV. Street food can be excellent and extremely cheap too, pick stalls that are poplar with the locals, watch what they order and get the same. 

Relax. This is the top tip. Too often a vacation or travel becomes a check-list of things to do. Promise yourself that you’ll stop trying to tick things off just for the sake of it.
For example, if you make it to Paris then visiting the tourist attractions needn’t be your top priority. You won’t see many French people paying to climb the Eiffel Tower. They’re all sitting in the cafes having a short black coffee (the cheapest option) and people watching. Or you can join them wandering free of charge around the parks, visiting the local markets and walking along and over the bridges of the River Seine.

Just travel to get to your destination and then be. Stop rushing. Relax, enjoy and see what happens. Travel is all about getting rid of your agenda and going with the flow, allowing a little spontaneity into your life.

Inviting you to do nothing at Fireweed Station.