Archive for the ‘Alaska’ Category

Apiary Adventures

Mel Pulling

Wayne Pushing

Settled In

No honey for this beekeeper this year!  Many Alaskans simply harvest their honey by basically robbing the bees of their supplies, leaving the little ladies to eventually die with the onset of winter and no food.  Definitely not the path I wanted to pursue.  I decided to give it a shot at over-wintering and if successful, the bees will be a lot more productive next year compared to purchasing new ones.  I went into fall with two hives, the “old” one which is the original hive and the “new” one housing the group that swarmed.  The old hive had about 70 lbs of honey going into winter but the new one had very little so it’ll be quite a struggle for them in the coming months but I’m keeping optimistic.

The main steps for preparing for winter are explained in more detail below but include:

1) Feeding winter sugar syrup

2) Placing entrance reducers on the hive

3) Insulate the hive while ensuring adequate ventilation

4) Relocating to secure sight (out of wind!)

Once the weather started cooling I began feeding them winter sugar-water which differs from their spring feeding in that the ratio of sugar to water is a lot greater.  The more food they can store going into winter the better they will hopefully fare.  In the end they went through a total of about 35lbs of sugar or so!

The little ladies were quite sassy this fall during what is known as “robbing” season.  Their guards were up and ready to attack the various hornets, wasps, etc. trying to steal their food stores as well as me, trying to get a good look inside the hive to make sure things are functioning normally.  I had a few stings this fall, one lunged into my hair (though I somehow managed to escape sting free from that incident), and Wayne experienced his first sting ever.  He was quite whiny about it but recovered just fine.  I usually get very swollen and itchy but luckily, given my previous stings of the season quickly learned several coping strategies and walked away with only a slightly red mark.  (Thank heavens for the local herbalist and her osha root tincture!)

The hives also received entrance reducers which did just that, reduce the size of the entrance to only big enough to allow a bee or two to go in and out.  This helps with robbers trying to find their way in as well as helping regulate air flow as the temperature drops.  As you can imagine, the winters are mighty cold and long here so while it is important to insulate to keep the hive warm it is also very important to ensure air flow is happening in the hive and condensation isn’t forming on the top lid, thereby dripping down onto the “cluster” and making them freeze.  (Cluster refers to just what the bees do in winter, form a tight cluster in the center of the hive and vibrate their flight muscles to generate heat and keep warm.  They can regulate the temperature somewhere around 100 degrees.)

So, in order to insulate the hive, I simply placed  some rigid insulation (blue-board) on only the top of the hives and wrap the sides in tar paper with the idea that they would help minimize air flow (wind) though the sides and also act as a thermal mass when and if the winter sun comes out.  I also made sure to create a vent in the top back of the hive for moisture to escape and prevent condensation.

The next step was to relocate the hives from the field next to the house to ensure protection from our infamous 55mph wind gusts.  This basically required  a few straps, taping up the hive’s entrances, loading on a sled and schlepping across the lawn.  Definitely a two person job!  Once in place near the house, where they will be protected from the wind and hopefully get a little warmth from the house, I put a slight tilt to the hives, angling the front down a bit in the case condensation occurs it will run down the inside front of the hive and out the door.

So the little ladies are all tucked in and if the weather does ever get into the high 30’s they will venture out for some fresh air and a restroom break.  I’m crossing my fingers the winter isn’t too long and too cold! And next year I look forward to harvesting some honey!


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Suki's Birthday Morning

Blueberry Picking
Well I think winter is here to stay in the northland.  We finally had some snowfall Halloween weekend and it promptly blew away after two straight days of wind with 55mph gusts (did I mention how miserable that kind of wind is!?)  Anyway, we had a beautiful fall, full of sunshine and color, albeit too short for my liking. There have been so many things to squeeze in and prepare for winter’s coming so it has been quite busy around here.

I’ll recap some of the highlights:

We celebrated Suki’s 2nd birthday on September 6th and her first year in our home shortly thereafter. We woke her up from her morning slumber with too many presents; I think she was a bit overwhelmed.  It was a day of gifts including treats, bones, toys and her favorite squeaky balls.

We enjoyed a visit from Wayne’s mom Kathy and her friend Soni for two weeks in September.  They came to help celebrate the wedding of my brother in-law Randy to his new wife and with this the Jenski family promptly grew in number with the addition of five new nieces and nephews into the Jenski family.

I tucked my bees in for winter which involved a series of steps including regular feedings of sugar water, insulating their homes and relocating adjacent the house.  I’ll post some photos and details later.

We enjoyed lots of foraging and learned to identify quite a few plants and fungus this fall.  A trip to Girdwood for Fungus Fair 2011 gave us a proper introduction to the world of fungus and we even sauteed up our first loot of mushrooms, a variety called “angel wings”.  I learned to dye material with fungus while Wayne learned to propagate oyster mushrooms; he took home a spore filled bag and I took home two hand dyed scarves and a new-found hobby of natural dyeing.  We picked high bush cranberries, wild blueberries and raspberries from our backyard and made up some yummy jams while I proceeded to collect other goodies for various tinctures and dye projects. I also learned about and made some yummy fermented foods which are so very very good for you. More on these adventures to come!

We also celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary with a trip south to Valdez.  Lots of hiking, sightseeing, glaciers, wildlife and time together.  I’ll post pictures of that trip soon too.

Last month we had over 75 people in our house as part of the Palmer Art Council’s underground tour in which Wayne’s plants took center stage.  He also completed a series of botanical illustrations of recently discovered carnivorous plants for a book that was just recently published and is working on three more for another upcoming book.  Our local paper, the Frontiersman is schedule to come over for an interview with him tomorrow morning and he continues giving lectures to classrooms.  So as you can see, he is quite busy with his plant hobby.

I’ve religiously attended belly dancing and yoga class for over a month now and am really starting to improve on the dance front which is really exciting.  And for the record I haven’t cut my hair since JUNE! Working towards a few things on my 30×30 list….

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Another MWF seeks BFF

They Stole the Stars from by Night by AussiePatches

Artwork available for purchase here.


So, as many of you know I’ve been a little down in the dumps lately. You’ve seen the facebook posts and I guess I am an open book (What?  FB isn’t for airing your constantly changing emotions!?)  Mostly it’s been about my social life, or lack thereof. It has a little to do with the weather as well but that is a whole other story. 

So, really it is just incredibly hard to meet people here not to mention meet people in the same demographic with similar interests and then to be able to find the time to get together socially when you do meet someone promising.  I never had to “date” much but I guess this would be the closest thing to that.  My acupucturists would say that my pericardium is sure getting a workout and boy are they right.  (The pericardium is a double-walled sac that contains the heart, therefore “protecting” it from harm.  Mine has been deflecting its’ fair share of disappointment and rejection lately.  It doesn’t feel nice.)

I’ve been here for over a year now and while I’ve struggled with this issue before I think it really hit home after my return from Boston last month.  It was so strange to go back there; it felt like I was going “home” in a strange way.  I don’t really have that feeling anywhere else.  Nostalgia maybe for Wyoming, South Dakota, Flagstaff, and Tucson but not feelings of being home.  The city was abuzz with young people everywhere and most importantly I was surrounded by my dear, dear friends again.  It was hard to leave.

I have amazing friends and family. I talk to my mom and best friend Alison most everyday.  I keep in touch with my Boston friends via email and long distance calls.  I have extended family members that email to cheer me up. My sister and I commiserate via skype on what the challenges of living in a different country (might as well be for me!). All of this is so great and I don’t know what state of mind I would be in without it but I don’t think anything can compare to benefits of a physical relationship.  Two people, sitting down, face-to-face to talk and enjoy each other’s company.  I need this.  I think all women in general really need this.  If I could just get an hour of girltime over a cup of coffee every week I think I’d feel a little more sane!

So, feeling especially down the other day I googled, “how to make friends” and lo and behold I found some promising leads and interesting articles.  Not that they had anything particularly enlightening to say but it made me just feel not so alone in the world.  That there were other “normal” girls out there facing the same problems I was facing.  Take writer Rachel, author of the blog (and soon to be published book) MWF seeks BFF who, like me, moved from NY to Chicago, leaving behind close friends and struggling to make new ones in her new town.  She wrote this great article about the increased challenges of finding friends as an adult.  Like I said, all of this info wasn’t necessarily anything new but it was just nice to know I wasn’t alone.  It felt so great to know that someone else was in the same boat that I just had to write her an email and thank her.  I wasn’t expecting a response but she actually wrote me back within two days!  WOW!  This girl could definitely be someone’s best friend!

If anyone has ideas, tips, or tools for meeting people I’m all ears!  I’m sure you’ve all faced these or similar challenges in the past. But for now, that is what is going on.  I’m sure I’ll have some more social gripes soon!

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Suki love green grass (top), WJ the cook (bottom left), grilled asparagus (bottom right)

Spring time is grilling time!  We got our bbq late last year but now we are ready and going at it this spring, making the most of outdoor cooking!  We’ve been enjoying mediterranean grilled chicken, bbq tofu, mushroom and rice burgers, black bean burgers and lots of grilled veggies.  We’ll keep on experimenting with all kinds of things!

Above, Suki is enjoying springtime too, marked by an increase in green grass grazing!

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Mama Musky

Daffodils (top left), Horsetail (top right), Musk Ox Mamas (bottom)

In celebration of Mother’s Day we headed to the Musk Ox farm for their free day celebrating all the new moms and baby musk ox.  There were 11 this year, all named after state capitols…Tallahassee, Madison, Augustus.  They were all huddled up in the corner so we didn’t get a real close look but could tell they were cute.  Enjoyed live music and yummy bbq too!  (Oh, and take note of the mountain in the foreground, that is Lazy which I mentioned in my previous post.  The picnic table must be the first peak on the right.)

Also pictures of the daffodils in our front yard and some horsetail plants sprouting!  Spring is here!

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WJ & Suki (left), Mel with view to Pioneer Peak overlooking valley
Another winter outing, this time to the top of Lazy Mountain.  I still can’t for the life of me figure out why it is called that because it definitely isn’t a lazy climb!  This is to the first point, which everyone knows as the “picnic table”.  You can quite the view from up here.  This quickly became our favorite winter spot- close to town, a good work out  and do able within a decent amount of time.  I’ve never measured but I think it probably takes 1.5 hours to ascend and 5 minutes (yes, FIVE) to get back down.  I throw on my snowpants and slide down the whole way.  Incredibly terrifying and thrilling!  Even more so on a sled  and in the dark with headlamps! We had one run in with a moose up there this winter which was a little scary.   

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Bayli & Mel with doggies (left), Yugo napping (right)

Pictures from one of our outing this past winter at the Crevasse Moraine trailhead.  We met up with our niece Bayli and her husky Yugo for a nice walk through the woods. It was a beautiful and sunny day out and the dogs had a fun time running!  Yugo passed put on the way home….rear in the rear and head on the armrest in front!

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