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.

Friday, July 24, 2009

fireweed jelly

The other day, I made fireweed jelly. Fireweed runs rampant around southcentral Alaska, and we have lots of it on our property. Since last summer, I have wanted to make jelly with it, and I finally got around to it. Ryan and I picked two shopping bags full of fireweed blossom ends, which left no noticeable dent in our fireweed population. Then we picked all the blossoms off the stems:

Then rinsed them, put them in a pot with some water, and heated them until the blossoms lost their color, which only took a few minutes. Then strained the water, which then was actually fireweed juice. The fireweed juice was an ugly light yellowish brown, not at all what I expected.

To the fireweed juice, I added sugar and a little lemon juice. As soon as I added the lemon juice, the mixture turned a beautiful pinkish-purplish color, the color of the blossoms. Very interesting chemical reaction, I thought.

I then brought the mixture to a boil, added pectin, boiled for another minute, and poured into jars. Sealed the jars, and voila! fireweed jelly, 28 1/2 pint jars. This isn't the greatest picture, but the jelly is a beautiful rich clear pink color. And delicious!

I really enjoyed this experiment, because I was able to harvest something that grows wild and abundantly on my property, and turn it into something delicious for my family.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

canoeing trip

This is a little behind the times, but last weekend we and another family we do a lot of stuff with went camping. We went to Tangle Lakes, which is about a 4 or 5 hour drive from our house, depending on how fast you go, and how bad traffic is. On Fourth of July weekend, with perfect weather, traffic was pretty bad, especially traffic of the rv variety. Motor homes go very slow on windy semi-mountainous roads, and you can only pass so many of them, since there are few truck lanes and the roads are, well, windy and semi-mountainous.

Traffic aside, the trip was wonderful. The campground was full, which we didn't mind, since we don't especially like the campground-that-looks-like-a-refugee-camp scene. We found a nice little lake on very rocky ground, so we could drive on it like driving on a gravel road, something we do every day anyway. No one else was camped on this lake, so we had it all to ourselves, the dogs could run around as much as they wanted(there were 5 of them, 2 of ours, and 3 of theirs), and so could the kids (6 of them, 3 of ours, and 3 of theirs).

James, Ryan, and Steven went fishing one day, and brought back 4 grayling, which were yummy cooked over the campfire. They say they caught and released many more, but no one in the other family likes fish, so they didn't want any to go to waste. (Our malamute ate all the fish parts that we didn't, and seemed to enjoy it tremendously.) We took the canoe out several times, and it was great. The lake we camped on fed into a larger lake. At the far end of the large lake, there was a beaver dam that we portaged across to a small stream that we followed until it got too shallow and rocky for the canoe. It was very pretty, and we found a beautiful spot that we could camp on if we wanted to load everything into the canoe the next time we go there.
We discovered that neither of our dogs particularly likes to swim, although one of the other dogs with us did and almost drowned because he followed behind the canoe for so long.

All in all, it was a great weekend, and very relaxing. This is the first time in a long time we have camped for enjoyment. Two summers ago, we camped on our property every weekend so that we could work on our house, and last summer we were tired of camping. It was great to be reminding that camping can be relaxing and enjoyable. We wore out the dogs and the kids:

Friday, July 10, 2009

first fruits

Had my first strawberries of the season last night, after the sun had been on them all day, warming them and making them juicy. Yummm.......

Thursday, July 9, 2009

alaska's in the top 10! Whoohoo!

Except it's not something to be excited about:

Budget Nightmare: 10 Most Broke States

Basically, the Alaska state government gets close to 90% of its revenue from oil royalties and taxes. Not only is production decreasing steadily, but now the price of oil is much lower than it was last year.

Problem was, budget people forgot that even if the longterm trend in price of a commodity is up, it can always have dips, and if you make a budget without taking that into account, it will hurt.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

mary, mary, quite contrary...

Well, my name isn't Mary, but I will show you how my garden grows. Everything is growing SO much better than last year. Our beds are quite rudimentary, hacked out of what was forest until sometime this spring. Hacked out by hand, I should point out, with nothing more than a couple of pulaski's, a couple of shovels, and some elbow grease. Mix it with some all natural fertilizer bought at the mill and feed (my compost isn't ready yet), and some wood ashes, give it some sun and some water, and here we are:

This is everything except the potatoes, strawberries, scallions, mint, and grapes. This does include two rows of raspberries, storage onions, lettuce, broccoli, swiss chard, peas and rhubarb. I know you can't see a lot of detail, but you can see how it had been part of the forest. It's kind of neat walking through the woods, past our campfire ring, and down a little path and suddenly instead of wildness, there are these neat little rows of edible things growing.

Here's the raspberries:

I got a late start on the peas, just planted them a week or so ago:

The storage onions:

Then, over in last year's beds, there are the potatoes and strawberries. The potato plants are much bigger than they ever got last year, and I am hoping the potatoes are as well. Last year we got lots of little potato marbles. We planted those marbles this year, and got:

And, last but not least, the strawberries, my favorite berry. The strawberries are out of control. Lots of nice, big, ripening berries, gazillions of runners everywhere:

I have to admit, although I love the strawberries the best, the thing I am most excited about, most hopeful over, and most anxiously awaiting harvest on, is the potatoes. Potatoes are a staple crop, and are nutritionally and calorie dense. If all else fails, potatoes will keep us alive. And with proper storage, will easily stay good until close to the next harvest. So I am hoping they produce this year. It is only my second year growing them, so I am certainly not counting my chickens before they hatch, but I am hoping I can get them mastered.

But, yeah, I really, really love strawberries.