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This evening we hiked up our hill in a direction we’d never been before to investigate a large and suspiciously square clearing that Orion found on Google Earth (we’ve lived here 11 years and we’re still finding new things!). We did eventually find it, though it’s so overgrown that it was very difficult to determine its age or, most of all, WHY someone cleared a bunch of trees in a large square block in the middle of nowhere, with no apparent roads going to it. Thwarted homesteader perhaps? Lost pioneers? We found some stumps that we were pretty sure were cut with an axe; if so, this area was cleared a century ago! Fairbanks’s dry climate and slow-growing trees are excellent at preserving old wood. There is, however, no sign of occupation: collapsing cabins, old vehicles, etc.

We decided, eventually, that this was probably a woodcutting area for the early-1900s gold-mining operation in the valley. In an area that’s mostly scraggly swamp spruce, this particular small ridge seems to support large birch trees, many of which are now growing in clusters as if growing up from old birch stumps. Our theory is that the turn-of-the-century miners would climb the hill to cut wood (with hand tools!) and then skid the logs down the hill to the valley where they used them for firewood or construction.


Most of the walk up to the clearing is through black spruce forest with a dense carpet of moss underneath. We came upon this fungus-encrusted fallen spruce log and I thought it was neat enough to take a picture of it.


As we wandered around the clearing, we found ourselves conducting tree-stump CSI. This looks like old axe marks to us.

More photos under the cut.

Read the rest of this entry )

Crossposted from Wordpress.  

layla: grass at sunset (Default)

We went for a walk in the sunshine today, and the cat tagged along.





Well, at least he seems to be enjoying himself.


Crossposted from Wordpress.  
layla: grass at sunset (Default)

The last couple of months, I’ve been posting photos to Twitter because, well … I’m lazy and it’s easy. But, for those who don’t follow me there, or if you just missed a few, here’s a “best of” winter photo roundup.




More photos under cut )

Crossposted from Wordpress.  

layla: grass at sunset (Default)

For some the solstice is an important holiday (and may yours be lovely, if it is part of your faith!) but it tends to pass unremarked in the nonpagan world — unless you’re in the Arctic, where severe annual daylight changes make it impossible not to pay attention to the time of year when daylight hits its nadir and everything starts to get warm again.

Alaska is interesting in that regard because we belong to a larger culture that doesn’t have a tradition of noticing the solstices at all. The solstice, summer or winter, is not a thing in mainstream American culture. But this close to the Arctic Circle, it is definitely an important turning point in the year. Fairbanks has a summer solstice street fair and other events, and the winter one is marked by fireworks, which we went to last night.

My camera doesn’t take great night pictures, so I hedged my bets by resting it on my knee in lieu of a tripod and taking a lot of pictures (with the advantage that I could just enjoy the fireworks without worrying about framing shots). This of course resulted in a lot of fireworks that were mostly out of frame, but some of my pictures came out pretty neat!

Crossposted from Wordpress.  
layla: grass at sunset (Default)

A week before the solstice, this is what sunrise looks like in Fairbanks … at 12:30 p.m.

And this is also as close as the sun will get to our house today. That’s actually the shadow of the hill behind our house, being cast on the hill across the valley.

The trees on top of our hill. This is a little misleading as it’s not actually the sun — it’s diffuse sunlight behind clouds. (Those are also shadowed clouds above the hill in the top picture, not a blue sky.)

Our house, which is really turning into more of a compound now that we have the shop too, all hunkered down beneath the weird wild winter sky.

Crossposted from Wordpress.  
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Things look a bit different than the last time I posted pictures.

Winter is definitely here. These pictures were taken early this afternoon.

The plow is on the plow truck ... and the most sunlight we see these days is the sun in the trees at the edge of the yard. Soon we won't even have that. (We're behind a hill, so we get no direct sunlight from November to mid-February.)
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Frost-covered dead leaves on rocks.

We have been having still, cold weather for the last few days, which allowed frost to build up on everything until it almost looked like it had snowed. These pictures don't really do it justice; this wasn't morning frost, but an all-day-long frost that got deeper every morning. Anyway, I took this pictures a few days ago, and then last night it warmed up to 50 degrees, and rained all the frost off. Now there are puddles everywhere, and it's back to being brown and dreary again.

We usually would have had snow for a couple of weeks by now. What an odd year it's been.
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A few pictures from a walk in the woods behind our property this weekend.

Yellow birch leaves look like gold coins scattered on the ground.

Still quite a lot of blueberries clinging to the bushes! They're much too withered to eat (although the dog seemed to enjoy them) but I hope they'll be good for the birds this winter.

Dog eating blueberries in the swamp on the backside of our property. Silly dog.
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Most of Wednesday's snow melted off. But it snowed again yesterday, and the effect is much the same -- the trees are more yellow now and less green, but it's still very striking with the golden backdrop under the snow. It's starting to look less likely that we're going to make it back to autumn before winter comes down on us full force! Here are a couple pictures I took yesterday evening on a walk out to the beaver pond near the house:

Today, it's still cold enough that nothing has really melted, but the sun is very striking on the snow and yellow leaves! This first picture was taken from the deck. The one below it is looking down at the creek that runs through our property (the stairs in the foreground are an old set of wooden stairs off the deck that now lead to the creek bank).

layla: grass at sunset (Default)
We're already into early fall here in the land of the Midnight Sun. It frosted a week ago, to my shock and dismay, and the utter ruin of my tomatoes and peppers -- woe!

I went out with my camera today in search of some fall colors. There isn't much to be seen yet.

Colors starting to show up along the driveway.

A couple more )
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It's blueberry season here in Alaska, and we went berry-picking on Sunday.

Several pictures under cut )
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
I posted a brief write-up of my Summer Arts Festival class on my website: I've just finished ANOTHER redesign -- basically just skinning it with a different, more graphical Wordpress theme, and deleting the chattier, more bloglike posts from the website (they're all mirrored here anyway). For awhile I intended the website to be my main blog, but all that ended up happening was that I used it as ANOTHER blog mirror, and blogging the same posts in three places is just silly. Especially when most people seem to read them on LJ/DW anyway.

So this will continue to be my main blog, while I'll do an occasional "article-style" post for the website (graphical! detailed!) when something of artistic/authorial importance happens. But I'll link to it from here, so you won't miss anything.

Or, shorter: LJ/DW is for socializing, website is for professional stuff. Easy enough. :D
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Things have FINALLY started to melt, and the snow is going fast! There's a wee bit of driveway flooding, though.

And my garden is not quite there yet, although you can finally see some of it.

But it's finally starting to look like spring around here!

layla: grass at sunset (Default)
On Monday, we walked up the creek to check out a beaver dam about a mile and a half from the house.


This is the beaver lake -- it's still completely frozen over, as you can see. That's the beaver house in the upper left quadrant of the picture, a little hump with tracks leading to and from it. I could see fresh beaver chew-marks on some of the trees, so they'd been out and about recently. Orion decided to try walking on the lake, but about three more steps after I took this picture, the 20 feet or so of snow in front of him abruptly settled 6 inches ... and we decided discretion was the better part of valor.

Here's a kinda neat picture of the sun setting over the creek ice as we were walking home (this is about 10 p.m. or thereabouts) - with obligatory dog, of course.

The entire walk was about two and a half hours, partly because we tried taking a "shortcut" on the (old abandoned) road behind the house, which is more direct than walking back on the meandering creek. Completely untraveled by anything other than moose, it was all knee-deep, heavy, wet snow. It was miserable to wade through; even the dog was tired. (Probably more tired than we were; his legs are shorter, so knee-deep snow on us is belly-deep on him.) And then we came around a bend, and there about 50 yards in front of us was a moose in the middle of the road. Moose can be nasty at any time of year, but spring is especially bad, when they're worn out from the long winter, hungry, and often pregnant. We very quietly backtracked around the bend, and, having little choice, struck out cross-country for the creek again.

We were very glad to get home. And even more glad, I guess, that it's staying light so late; doing the last part of the hike as a race against oncoming darkness would have been doubly miserable. It's not really getting dark anymore (dim, but not dark) and I've had to block the bedroom window with cardboard because the sun is waking me up at 5 a.m.
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This is my garden this morning.

Do you see a garden? ME NEITHER.

... Yes, I know I'm being very whiny about this spring. At least it's not all in my head. April's average high temperatures in Fairbanks were 15 degrees (!!!) below the normal averages. Looking at pictures I took on April 1st, I really don't think there is much less snow now than there was then.

I have been joking with Orion that we had "second March" this year. But, honestly, aren't we about due for some spring weather by now?

In other news, we hung the show at the Alaska Center for Natural Medicine last night, and it is going to be GREAT! The venue is a really neat place, with lots of twisty winding corridors and lounge areas and nifty little alcoves, and they are super supportive of us. On Friday evening, we will have a regular little comics convention there, with a half-dozen Fairbanks and Alaskan artists including me, [personal profile] ellenmillion, and Jamie Smith. There will be cheese and crackers and wine!
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This week it's a link to ... well, I don't know what you'd call it -- an article, a nonfiction novella? Anyway, it's online and it's free.

Out in the Great Alone by Brian Phillips: the author (city born and bred) becomes fascinated with the Iditarod so he decides to travel to Alaska and watch the entire race, all 1000 miles of it, from a small plane. This is his account of his adventures, an outsider's-eye view of Alaska that is, I have to admit, disturbingly accurate -- from the unique blue color of the long winter twilight, to the way that rural people are so unused to strangers that they don't quite know how to cope with having another human being in their space. It's not a deep memoir full of philosophical insights, but rather a lightweight, amusing and fun travelogue.

Here, for example, his bush pilot/guide is teaching him how to land on a frozen lake in the event of an emergency. (Nugget is the name of the airplane.)

Excerpt under cut )

... which gives you a pretty good idea what the whole thing is like. It's also full of interesting details, historical and otherwise, about the race and the little towns along the way; I learned a few things I didn't know.
layla: grass at sunset (Default)

Still waiting for progress to occur on the “melting” front. Walking the dog last night, I noticed the setting sun glinting rather beautifully off the snowbanks along the driveway, although by the time I ran and got my camera it had mostly set:


(This was about 10 p.m. — we have a lot of light, at least.)

And here’s a picture I took today of water pooling on the creek ice:


It’s 40 degrees today and feels wonderful. Hopefully we’ll lose this snow quickly now that it’s getting warmer.

Crossposted from Wordpress.  
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Spring, what did we do to offend you so. ;_;

layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Today's cheery glimpse of spring:

The picture doesn't really give you the full effect because it didn't capture the falling snow, which was coming down pretty hard when I took it. Still, you can tell by comparing it to the one taken from the same angle a week ago that spring is not exactly proceeding forward here.

On a more genuinely cheerful note, I discovered this Croatian illustrator's gorgeous art -- definitely worth taking a look if you like lavishly detailed pen-and-ink art. The precision and shading is really incredible.
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Yay, it's Monday again! Let's see how spring is coming alo--

... oh. Oh dear.

Yeah, if anything there's more snow than there was last week, because it's been below freezing all week and now it's snowing again.

Here's a different but no less depressing part of the driveway:

And under the cut, a few nostalgic comparative looks back at Aprils when we actually had some semblance of a spring by the second Monday in the month.

*sob* )


layla: grass at sunset (Default)

December 2016

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