A meandering blog with no clear topic. You will find me talking about knitting, building, kids, social and economic issues, Alaska, and lots of other stuff.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


That's what a barrel of light, sweet crude oil closed at today on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That is the highest it has closed so far, ever. Higher than what it was right after Katrina, when all those oil rigs in the gulf were shut down. Not a good sign. And it's just one of several right now. I'm not feeling particularly eloquent tonight, but I am worried.

Monday, July 30, 2007

swinging from the rafters

Well, we put rafters on the house this weekend. I have to say, the part at the top of the roof in the vaulted portion was pretty scary. I was on a ladder, holding my end of the rafter, while James climbed 20 feet up his ladder with his end of the rafter on his shoulder. Then we had to nail it in place using joist hangers and hurricane ties. The scariest part of the whole thing was watching James's ladder shake as he climbed that high. He didn't seem to mind. It was easier for me to not watch. And I figured out that I don't really mind climbing ladders so much, but I really don't like climbing down them.

There is another couple that are building down the street from us, and they have a daughter that is Becky's age. Becky got invited to spend the night with her this weekend, and came back the next morning singing Avril Lavigne songs. I am about tired of hearing Avril now, LOL.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

5 and 1/2 years

Check out this article...


So, production is declining faster than expected at our oil fields. This is not good news for Alaska. 89% of the money that runs the state government comes from oil. The oil companies pay taxes to the state for every barrel they produce, and we depend on this money. Now, I know a lot of people don't like the government, think it should be smaller. Alaska doesn't have just Republicans and Democrats, we have the Alaska Independence Party too, and there are plenty of people in that party. And while I could do without the DMV, and the cops that write parking tickets downtown, and some of the other government agencies, there are plenty that we truly do need. How much better are our lives because our kids can go to school, and the firetrucks and police come when we call 911, and someone looks after abused kids? Now, I may be biased, since I work for the state government, but I think some government services are pretty essential. And without the oil money, Alaska will have just 11% of the money that is currently inadequate, and have to make do with that.

OK, so lets do some math. According to the article in the Alaska Journal of Commerce, production is down 12%. Some of that is due to the pipeline being shut down for a short time, but not most of it. So, say 9%. We produced 738,000 barrels in the 2007 fiscal year, which ended July 1. If it goes down 9% each year, that means it will be 671,580 in fiscal year 2008, and somewhere around 371,000 6 years from now, assuming it declines 9% year over year steadily. This is a huge problem. James was talking today to a retired oil person of some sort. He said that when production goes below 400,000 barrels a day there just won't be enough oil in the pipeline to make it flow all the way from the North Slope to Valdez, a distance of 800 miles. So it won't simply gradually decline. This means that about 5 and 1/2 years from now, the oil money will be gone. GONE. ZERO, ZIP, NADA. GONE. 5 and 1/2 years isn't very long. Now we see why Sarah Palin, Governor, has been pushing so hard to get the gas pipeline built. The oil pipeline can't carry natural gas... we have to start all over. And it would take more than 5 and 1/2 years to build, even if we had the plan finalized.

And, what will happen to the population of Alaska when the oil money is gone? Economists estimate that oil is responsible for at least 1/3 of the state's economy. Does that mean that 1/3 of the jobs will vanish? If 1/3 of the jobs are gone, what kind of ripple effect will that have? 1/3 of the people in the state will be unable to pay their rent or mortgage. Will 1/3 of property owners get foreclosed on? Will 1/3 of cars be repossessed? Or will 1/3 of our population just pack up and head back down the Alcan? Where does that leave the rest? In cities that are only 2/3 inhabited? Seems to me that could lead to a sort of melt-down where anyone not relatively self-sufficient would go back Outside (means leaving Alaska, for those of you unfamiliar with the local dialect). Alaska could be a much different place in the not-too-distant future.

So for those of you that think James and I are crazy for wanting chickens, (and sheep, rabbits, potatoes, etc), get over it. We plan to stay in Alaska, and we think that to do that successfully long term, we need to be fairly self-sufficient. We need to be able to heat our house with firewood, and grow our own food, and darn it, I just want wool to knit, no matter what. So, I need sheep.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


So, for the last several days, it has been cloudy, rainy, and relatively cool. Makes sense... August is almost here. August in Alaska is typically cool and rainy, and it is a reminder that the weather will quickly become much more tempermental. September is a nice reprieve, being generally sunny and mild, with weather in the high 50's to mid 60's during the day, and then October hits with a vengeance. There is snow on the ground by Halloween without fail, and it lasts til April.

So, in the midst of this cloudy, rainy weather, I suddenly felt this overwhelming urge to knit something warm for my children. I had been working on a gift for someone, as well as my bamboo & wool beaded socks, and a shopping bag, but none of those were sufficient to satisfy my need for warm and comforting. What exactly is it that makes me all of a sudden start thinking about winter's chill, and not being able to relax and enjoy my knitting until I had started something that would help protect one of my children from it? Is it motherhood that brings out this protectiveness? It's not like it will be fifteen below tomorrow, and it's not like they will freeze if I don't knit for them. After all, there are plenty of warm clothes in the stores.

I didn't want to buy more yarn, since we are trying to get the cabin done, so that left me two options. I could knit a pair of felted slippers for my 4 year old, who has outgrown last winters, or I could start this sweater for Ryan, my 12 year old. The needles for the slippers were currently holding a partially finished shopping bag, so I decided to start the sweater rather than slip all those stitches (and yarn overs) onto something else until I was done making slippers.

This yarn is clearance yarn, from Wal-mart, of all places, that I bought ages ago. $2 a skein, so the entire sweater will cost $6. Can't beat that. It is Lion Brand Homespun, and since it is bulky weight, it is knitting up very fast. I started it Sunday evening, and I already have 9 inches done. I used a pattern from the Lion Brand website that calls for the Homespun yarn, and I would post the link, but you have to register to see it. Ryan loves camoflauge and the plain beige will look great with his cammo pants. The knobby texture makes it fun to knit with too, although it knits somewhat odd... the stitches look much less neat and orderly, but it works for a 12 year old boy just right. And it is soft and thick, and will keep him warm.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's not our problem.... or is it?

Check out:

http://environment.guardian.co.uk/waste/story/0,,2128827,00.html and http://www.energybulletin.net/32202.html

Both of these stories are talking about an ecological disaster happening right now. In China, 300 million people drink contaminated water every day. According to the article at the first link, "One third of the length of all China's rivers are now "highly polluted" as are 75% of its major lakes and 25% of all its coastal waters." Nearly 30,000 children DIE each year due to illnesses caused by drinking contaminated water. Further, "more than 17,000 towns have no sewage works at all and the human waste from nearly one billion people is barely collected or treated. Nearly 70% of the rural population has no access to safe sanitation." And it's not just a water issue. China is also suffering from huge air pollution problems, with some of the poorest air quality in the world in many of its cities. Almost 1/3 of China's land is becoming unsuitable for agriculture.

Now, there are lots of people here that think, "Oh, China is thousands of miles away. They are on a whole different continent. Why should I worry about it? It's not my problem. But maybe it is. I was reading an article the other day that was talking about what the demand for cheap cashmere sweaters is doing to China's high plateaus, where the goats whose fur yields the cashmere live. In short, it is turning those high, grassy plateaus into deserts due to overgrazing by these goats whose fur becomes cashmere sweaters available at Costco for $49.99.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love good quality clothes at cheap prices just as much as the next person. And I spend a whole lot of money at Costco. But there is a good argument to be made that maybe we are as much at fault for China's problems as China is.

You see, not much is made here anymore. Seems like everytime I look at where something comes from, it says, "Made in China". Even the Alaskan touristy knicknacks that they sell everywhere, the vast majority of them aren't made in Alaska. They are made in China. Now, that means that China has the ability to produce things cheap enough to make it worthwhile to ship it all over here for us to buy. But they can do it cheaply in part by destroying their environment in the process. But if we didn't have such an insatiable demand for this crap, and insist on having it cheap, maybe China wouldn't be in the situation they are in. So, it's not that easy to shrug it all off and say, "It's not my problem".

Monday, July 16, 2007

The good and the bad....

OK, so the good news... we got the kitchen wall framed, and the sheeting on the floor for the upstairs. The 16 foot wide section in the middle where the house is tallest will be our bedroom. The window framed in the wall is our bedroom window. Also, we got 3 sheets of OSB on one of the exterior walls... the other gable end from what you can see. So, we are making good progress.

The bad news... James was at The Home Depot today, and OSB is now $5 a sheet more than when we last priced it, a few weeks ago. That's more than a 50% increase in less than a month. What's up with that???? It means that our house just increased in price by about $350. Nice.

OSB isn't the only thing getting more expensive. Check out this article.... http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/orl-foodprice1407jul14,0,7778150.story

and this one:


Food is getting more expensive too. Thank you, George W. for pushing the ethanol thing. Why anyone thinks it is a good idea to burn our food in our gas tanks is beyond me. With grain storage levels at an almost 30 year low, is now really the time to be using corn as a poor substitute for gasoline?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

On the needles

Well, I didn't intend for my blog to be all about my house, but that is what it has been so far. So, to add some variety, I thought I would share what I am knitting. There are two or three projects on the needles that aren't on here because they didn't photograph well, and a pair of socks I am knitting for Ryan isn't here, because they are in the truck, and the truck is not here at the moment. And one is a gift for someone, and I don't want to give the secret away.

So, this first picture is a beautiful beaded sock. Obviously, at some point, there will be a second. But I suffer from second sock syndrome big time, so we will cross that bridge when we come to it. The yarn is an interesting mix of wool and bamboo. It is extremely soft, with a very nice hand. Makes me wonder if I could grow bamboo if I had a greenhouse. I have to tell you, I LOVE this yarn. This pair of socks will be for me. I think the socks I make are much more comfortable than store-bought (no annoying seam across the top of your toes, for example).

This is also a pair for me. It is made from Koigu yarn. It has an intricate lace pattern that winds up looking like leaves layering over each other that is just beautiful, but hard to photograph with the digital camera on my cell phone. Long story about the camera.

This is an excellent example of second sock syndrome. See sock #1? Fully complete. See sock #2? Barely begun. Has been sitting barely begun for at least a couple months. Sigh. The first one was a joy to knit, so hopefully I can reimmerse myself in it again soon.

This is a sweater I have been knitting for my 7 year old. No, I have to be honest and say this is a sweater I haven't been knitting for my 7 year old. She turned 7 in November. She was 6 when I started it. I started this on metal needles, because I conveniently had a pair the right size. I HATE metal needles. I HATE metal needles when knitting cotton especially. What does cotton do on metal needles? It slides. It slips and it slides all over the place. I have the front done, and this is the back. I don't dare switch to wooden needles because I know it will change the guage. Plus it is on long, straight needles, and it is heavy. I know a circular needle would hold the weight so much more comfortably. So, it sits in my drawer ignored.

And this is a shopping bag. A reusable shopping bag that can be crumpled up and shoved in my purse, and pulled out when needed. I think the world can use a little fewer plastic bags in the landfills. I think the next one will perhaps be made out of something a little thinner. This is dishcloth cotton. On wooden needles, where it slips much less.

So, now you see the majority of my projects. My husband seems to think it frustrating to find half-finished knitting projects on needles wherever he looks, but he is getting used to it :)

Monday, July 9, 2007

Making good progress...

So, this weekend, we went back out to our land, and got more work done. We framed in the upstairs window, and then started on the interior. We framed the bathroom walls and the walls for the arctic entry. We then put the beam across the ceiling between the dining area and the living area, and hung the floor joists for the loft. I am feeling like we are making pretty good progress.
Ryan is a little spider still, climbing on the tops of the walls with no fear of heights or apparent awkwardness. Reminds me of the time we went for a drive down to Southern Utah when I was pregnant with Steven. I wasn't feeling up for a hike at 8 months pregnant, but James and the kids went wandering around, and they came to a spot where the rock made a narrow chimney. James says he had about decided they wouldn't make it up it, and looked around and Ryan, about 9, had splayed his arms and legs out sideways and scooted right up it. He has always been an excellent climber.
It rained on us Saturday, again. But Sunday, it cleared up, and we had a beautiful, sunny day. It got up to 64 degrees, perfect T-shirt weather. By the way, it was 99 degrees yesterday in Salt Lake City. NO THANK YOU!
I read Sharon Astyk's blog on a regular basis. She is an interesting woman. She has four children, and owns a farm in New York. She is also in the process of writing a book, and still has time to write lengthy, thought-provoking blog entries several times a week. Sharon had an interesting post on her blog today... you can see it at: http://casaubonsbook.blogspot.com/2007/07/pick-up-your-hat.html
Is it time for us to pick up our hats? There is more than one reason we are building a little cabin to live in while we build our house. At this point, it does not make sense to us to be paying rent and a land payment. Also, I definitely think it is past time that we should be growing our own fruits and vegetables, canning the fish we catch, owning a few chickens (meat and eggs), sheep (wool... duh), and rabbits (meat and fur), and starting to do more for ourselves. And besides, the wool and rabbit fur part should be fun.... angora socks, anyone?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

We did it!

The walls are up! We stood up the last of the exterior walls today. I also planted 3 daisies, 4 poppies, and 6 raspberry bushes my husband was given the other day. The plan for the daisies is for them to take over. There is a stretch of ground along the road that has not much growing on it currently. As daisies appear to naturalize quite efficiently here, I am hoping they will naturalize into that whole area.
Of course it rained... it's July in Alaska. It actually only rained for the first half of the day, then cleared up. So, unlike the last two weekends, I did not get totally soaked working. It's late, I'm tired, but it's done!
We didn't go see fireworks, as is traditional in most other places on the 4th of July. In Alaska, we have our fireworks for New Year's Eve, or the Fur Rondezvous in late February (when you can actually see them). Right now, in Alaska, we have light 24 hours a day, and although the sun does set for a few hours, it never gets dark enough to be able to see fireworks well. As a matter of fact, I am sitting here right now at 11:00 at night, and the sun is just now setting, and there are still kids playing outside (although not ours. We, unlike many Alaskan parents, do not let our kids play outside all night just because it's not dark.)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Everything that has a beginning...

has an end, Neo.

Seriously, this is my first post, and I am not sure what the etiquette is for starting a blog. I guess I wanted to start a blog because I think some of the things going on in my life are interesting, at least to me, and I want to talk about it. And since my coworkers and friends sometimes seem to think I am a little wacky when I start talking about the stuff I am really interested in, concerned about, or doing, the internet seems like the best place to express myself, since I am pretty convinced I am not the craziest person on the web.

OK, so...

We are building a house. We bought the land at auction from the State of Alaska last summer. Couldn't homestead, since homesteading ended a few years back. In 1986, to be precise. But we are doing the next best thing. We have a relatively small payment for our land, and we are building a house.

Now, when most people say they are building a house, they mean they are paying someone to build their house for them. Not so in this case. No contractors, no subcontractors. WE are building it. My husband, myself, my 12 year old son, and 7 year old daughter. My 4 year old son likes to think he is helping too. Mostly he drives his Tonka frontloader and dumptruck up and down our new driveway. He helpfully digs holes in it too :)

We actually at present are building our "first house". We are building a small (24' x 28') cabin with a loft to live in while we build our house. I am determined that we will be living in it by the time school starts. My husband is convinced that it will take a little longer than that to get it done. I, however, will not concede defeat until Monday, August 20, the first day of school, if we are not living there. Until then, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. My husband says I should mention that he is a carpenter (and I am not), so therefore he is right. According to him. :)

So, what we have done so far, is put concrete posts in the ground, run beams between them, and floor joists between the beams. Then we put OSB down for the floor. This was finished last weekend. This weekend that just went by, we stood up 2-1/2 of the 4 exterior walls. We plan to finish this job on Wednesday, since it is the 4th, and we are both off work. I will try to remember to post pics.