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.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Peak Chocolate: The End Of The World As We Know It


This article, and several others like it, are saying that due to poor agricultural practices and drought, likely caused by global warming, are leading to a significant decline in chocolate production. This will make chocolate increasingly scarce and expensive.
When I first read about this, I thought, yeah right. This has got to be a prank. But it has been a news item on several credible websites, including msnbc and discovery.
As bad as not being able to buy chocolate seems, we can live without it. But the same thing has been happening with many other things we need. In general, food production is in danger due to the same issues facing chocolate.
This is a problem that will only get worse unless we learn to interact with the world around us in a whole different way.

- Posted from my iPhone

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Uh Oh

So, there are several current event type blogs and websites I look at on pretty much a daily basis. Some environmental ones, such as grist, some natural resources ones, such as energy bulletin and the oil drum, some economic, such as the automatic earth.
Well, I was reading the automatic earth today, and today's post really alarmed me, so I feel a need to pass the word.
Please, please read today's (Tuesday's) post over at www.theautomaticearth.blogspot.com.
The first part is just them attracting notice to their speaking tours and cd. The second part includes several graphs that seem to indicate the direction this "recovery" is taking. Short answer- it's not up, and it's not good. But it is sort of what I've been suspecting. I am very afraid that things are going to get very bad, economically speaking.
I've also noticed that the stock markets are getting increasingly volatile recently, which I think means even Wall Street is getting jittery.

Here is a link to that specific post:

- Posted from my iPhone

Saturday, October 2, 2010

North Slope oil declines

Back in July 2007, I looked at the production declines in North Slope oil. At that time, it appeared that production was declining at about 9% per year. Oil production for fiscal year 2007, which ended on June 30, 2007, averaged about 738,000 barrels per day. If oil continued to decline at about 9%, then in fiscal year 2010, which ended on June 30, 2010, oil production would be about 556,000 barrels per day. The most recent figure available on the state website today was for the month of May. In May, there was 19.2 million barrels produced, which is about 619,000 barrels per day. That isn't an average for the fiscal year, so it isn't an exact comparison, but I think it works for an estimate. So it may be that oil production is only declining at a hair over 6% per year, which gives us about 3 or 4 extra years to figure out what to do when there isn't enough pressure to keep the pipeline going.
The good news is that local politicians are starting to talk about it. I am pretty fed up with politicians of all stripes, but they are the only ones that can make the necessary plans on a statewide level. I don't know if an extra 3 or 4 years is enough time, but we will see. This is crucially important, since 89% of the state's revenue comes from oil royalties.
The bad news is that it doesn't seem to be on very many people's radar yet. How can people prepare for changes if they don't know the changes are coming?

Monday, September 20, 2010

New crop

This is part of our potato crop this year, that we harvested this weekend. I don't think we got quite as much as last year, because it's been a very wet, cloudy, cool summer. But it's a respectable harvest, nonetheless.

Last year, we harvested enough potatoes that we saved 10 pounds for seed for this year, and still had enough potatoes that we didn't buy any potatoes between last August and this June. Almost a year's worth. We also had good strawberry and raspberry harvests, and I made strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, and strawberry raspberry jam this summer, all with fruit from our garden.

This is important to us, as we are working towards greater self sufficiency. There are several reasons for this, but the most important one is because we feel we have to. As I have said before on this blog, we are at the very end of a very long supply line, way up here in the far north. If that supply line were to be disrupted for any reason, us Alaskans would run out of food very quickly. And I don't think that possibility is so very farfetched as people would like to believe.
It could happen because of an earthquake, or tsunami. It could happen because the economy tanks, or the price of fuel gets so high that it costs too much to send all the barges up here that we are accustomed to. It could happen when the pipeline shuts down and 89% of the state's revenue disappears.

Better safe than sorry, right? So we grow a garden, and plan for more... More square footage in the garden, more types of vegetables planted, fruit trees, chickens, rabbits, eventually. Maybe a cow, or a goat, later on. Pigs, for sure. Potatoes are a good start.

Monday, August 2, 2010


So, James and Ryan went dipnetting yesterday. They brought home 48 salmon. A few we filleted, but most of them get canned:

That is the first couple batches, 34 pint jars of fish. There are another 24 jars in the canners as I type. Plus, about 15 more fish are temporarily stored in the freezer at a friend's house.

The job of gutting and cutting the heads off the fish was done by the boys. Then I took over. The fish got chopped into jar-sized lengths, soaked in brine for an hour, put in jars, then put in the canners. The canners take time to build up the necessary 10 lbs of pressure, then that pressure has to be maintained for an hour and 40 minutes. Then the stove gets turned off, and everything just sits until the pressure drops back down. Then the canners can be opened, the jars removed, and the next batch goes in.

Sounds simple, and it isn't terribly complicated, but it's a lot of work. Each batch takes about 5 hours, start to finish. While the canners are going, they have to be closely monitored to keep the pressure even. It's a lot of standing, a lot of slimy, nasty work. And the whole house smells like fish for days afterwards. A lot of propane to run the stove for hours at a time.

But, oh, it is so worth it! For lunch today, we opened a jar and made salmon sandwiches, with onions from my garden, and relish I made last summer. It beats tuna fish without even trying.

And even though I know we had to buy the jars and lids, and the propane to run the stove, and the gas to get to the river, it makes me feel a little bit more self-sufficient to do this.

We could have got even more fish. The limit for a family of 6 is 75 fish, and we only caught 48, just because James felt like that was plenty for now. Now that we have a system down, we may get our limit next year. We may try smoking them next year too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dying Yarn

So, the other day I took a class in which I learned how to hand paint yarn. I made two skiens of sock yarn:

I think they both turned out pretty. It was easy, and took about 2 hours. What did I use for dye? Wilton cake decorating coloring. The yarn was mordanted in a mixture of vinegar and water. So, unlike most dyes, there were no toxic chemicals. Definitely a plus.

This was a fun, easy experiment, and now that I know how, I could do it anytime on my own. And I'm sure I will.

- Posted from my iPhone

Friday, May 28, 2010

My garden

We moved our garden this year, over to the northwest corner of our property. This area gets a lot of sun, so it is almost ideal. The only problem is that it slopes down to the north, but it is a gradual enough slope that it doesn't appear to be a problem.

The biggest problem is the challenge of creating garden space from what was forest until last fall. The big stumps have mostly been pulled out, but the ground is compacted and full of tree roots. Our pulaski's have been getting lots of use this spring.

So far this year, we have lots of raspberries, 75 strawberry plants, 1 rhubarb, some onions and garlic, and lots of potatoes. We still need to create beds for carrots, peas, and whatever else takes our fancy. Beans, maybe. Or maybe we will try broccoli again.

We don't yet have a fence to keep the moose out, which is a potential problem. I lost all my broccoli to a moose last year.
Hopefully, we will get good yields this year, now that it can get plenty of water. I'm feeling hopeful.

- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wishing well

We have lived in our cabin for over two years. For all that time, we have had water issues. We did not have a well, and we certainly weren't hooked up to any city water. We have a 150 gallon water tank on the second floor of our cabin, and we have been getting water into it in two ways. For a while, we had been having a water truck come fill it up once a month. But mostly we have been filling up 7 gallon containers at the laundromat and hauling them. This is actually not an unusual thing in Alaska, but it is certainly a nuisance.

So, I was quite pleased to come home from work last night to see this:

This is a well truck, drilling a well on our property. They had to go down 120 feet, at a cost of about $5000, not counting the pump and the generator to run the pump, but we have good water. Our water is maybe a little hard, but not too bad, and it tastes good. Today, James has been working on installing the pump and everything else, so hopefully by tomorrow we will be able fill our tank without hauling water. Plus we will be able to water our garden without worrying about running out of water for the house. This is a really good thing.
This is the well:

and this is the pump:

The pump will go about 100 feet down the well. When we need to fill the tank, we will hook up a hose to the well, start the generator, and let it do it's job.

The pile of gravel you can see behind the well is what came out of the hole, which is a bonus. We will spread it on our driveway.

Pretty exciting stuff.

- Posted from my iPhone

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I shouldn't have said anything...

About spring.

4" last night. And my little plants are already getting root bound in their little starting pots. Guess they will have longer to wait.

- Posted from my iPhone

Monday, April 5, 2010


I haven't written in quite a while, mostly because my life in the last several months has been almost exclusively work and sleep. This time of year in Alaska, it seems that people lose their minds. We have had a huge increase in reports of child abuse. Also, over the winter, I really didn't have much to write about. The garden was quiet, and covered in snow, and not much got done on the house itself. So the blog has been quiet.
But now the snow is melting, and the sun is shining. It got up to a sunny 45 degrees the other day, so I put on capri's and sandals. We have lots of tiny onions, leeks, and garlic growing in our south facing dining room window. James planted a few carrot tops, and they are getting leafy, and we are hoping that they will go to seed for next year.
We have lots of plans for this summer. We have about 5000 square feet of garden to get ready for planting as soon as the ground thaws. We want to put a fence around the garden, and an addition with bedrooms for the kids on the house. James is considering digging a well. And we need to build a chicken coop and rabbit hutch. It is probably too late to build it for chickens for this summer, but we can build it this summer for chicks next spring.
So it looks to be a busy summer. I'll keep you posted.

- Posted from my iPhone

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rare Gems

My favorite sock yarn comes from Blue Moon Fiber Arts (www.bluemoonfiberarts.com). At the end of last year, they sold for a short time what they call Rare Gems. It seems that it is leftover yarn that they overdye to make one of a kind skiens of yarn. They had them grouped into rough categories of earth, air, fire, and water. I ordered one of everything but earth, sight unseen. They are just beautiful. The picture is the skien of fire. It is quickly becoming a pair of socks, and I am totally loving it. You just can't go wrong with Blue Moon, even when you can't see what you are ordering.

- Posted from my iPhone