August 31, 2016

For Seasoning

The freezer isn't the only thing filling these days.  Our parsley plants grew so well in the greenhouse this summer.  Plenty is cut to put into the pesto with basil but a good portion is picked for the dehydrator.
A jar of fresh dried parsley compared to store bought dried parsley appears very differently.  We love the little addition of our own parsley all year long in many meals.  Freezing, canning and drying.  The garden provides so much.  This, the last day of August, sings of the end of summer here in Alaska.  Leaves are falling, the sun is setting at 10 pm and a frost is in the near future.  We are so thankful for each "summery" day we can squeeze out of this time of year.

August 30, 2016

What Comes Next

The other day when I was cooking dinner Abigail came in and just wanted to be near.  I suggested she get some paper and color a little bit in the kitchen with me.
Next thing I knew she was drawing lines, asking how to spell this or that and writing out her very first stories.
If you need help reading her writing, the story is:  "The ship found land.  Scott and Sue spotted a sparkle."  The kids are kind of big into pirates and books these days.  What a fun result.

August 29, 2016

Day of Beauty

This summer has been on the rainy side.  So when the sun shined the other day I declared it was a day of beauty.
Abigail was super excited to have her hair washed in the sink ( just like a fancy beauty shop) and head outside for her yearly haircut.
And even though I am no a beautician I can cut a straight line, for the most part.  Even though her hair need up about two inches shorter then planned she LOVES her new haircut.  
Ethan wasn't left out at all either.  I love the deck and sunny days for haircuts.  A broom to the deck floor and the mess is gone.  A fresh look for all, that feels good.

August 26, 2016

The Garden Obstacle Course

I am the main gardener these days but the other night Josh offered to run out and get me a head of cauliflower.  It was fun for me to get to observe him do what I have to work through each day.
The garden obstacle course is always changing.  It is easier now that the romanesco is all harvested and pulled up (that gap in the second row) but now the zucchini and pumpkins are about twice as big as they are in this picture.  
And after each little garden walk my counter looks like a version of this picture.  A bowl of chopped cauliflower, a basket of broccoli, zucchini, basil, cabbage, cucumber, green beans and wild blueberries.  What a blessed time of year.

August 25, 2016

Reading

We have always been a reading family.  But this summer I have taken that to the next level.  Books have become so much to the kids through this.  Opened their worlds more and more, stretched their imaginations and brought us together over and over again in the pages of books.
Watching Naomi play with her baby the other day made me smile as she was sure Laura had a good dose of story time after her many outfit changes.

August 24, 2016

Pesto

Harvesting from the garden takes many shapes and forms, as you will see this week.  
One of last week's harvest and preserving projects was to pack as much basil into my small food processor and let it go.  Pesto in the making.  Oh the chicken, bread, pasta and rice that will be seasoned this winter due to my homemade pesto.  It always makes the cold days of winter seem warmer when our food has such great green tastes!

August 23, 2016

Progress

Last week Josh was home a little more then he has been in the past month.  Time at home has meant time to work on the fort.  Yeah.  This picture shows you the climbing wall and slide in place.  The ladder was the object being built this day.
A progress report and final pictures to come soon.  

August 22, 2016

A Trade

One fun this has come out of the garden this year.  Living where so many of my friends also garden we often do the great garden compare.  How is this grown, how about that.  My zucchini are large but your cauliflower came a week earlier then mine.  Thus I feel this summer has been one of trades.  The kids and I picked raspberries one week.  I made them into a pie and we traded them for a friend's peas.  Her plants were overwhelming while mine were just struggling along.  Another friend had chicken and eggs so I traded romanesco for that and we both went home happy.  
Having a garden and giving produce away is fun.  No trading is necessary between friends.  But when you can give for something that is given.  I find that fun.  For both of us a need has been filled.  Yet the peas still have to be shelled...thus the preserving work of this season goes on.

August 19, 2016

33 Years

33 years ago another little blonde haired two year old wore this outfit.  Three years ago her sister also took a turn wearing this matching set.
I love when my kids can wear things from my childhood.  Just feels right.

August 18, 2016

Fresh

While the kids and I have been busy with school, garden, playgrounds and swimming Josh has been working.  This is the busy season for him and that is the way it is.  But it is also blueberry season.  Last year we didn't get any just because of Josh's busy schedule.  I have to be honest.  I don't love picking berries.  I don't know why I just don't.  Josh and Abigail, they LOVE it.  So funny.  I am big into preparing and preserving but the picking, sigh.
One Friday night Josh came home and met a wife who was heading out berry picking.  Kids were in bed, the day had been wrapped up but we needed some berries for the winter and this was the week to do it.  Seeing the determination on my face and with the knowledge I was doing something I didn't love, Josh took the buckets and headed out himself.  Lord I do love that man.  Three hours of picking in the rain on Friday night and two hours in the rain again on Saturday.  Josh was happy, and very wet, and I was too as we now have 5 1/2 gallons of berries in the freezer.  What a good team we make.

August 17, 2016

We Have Begun

Trying to blog in chronological order is very hard sometimes.  To make sure those pictures from our trip to southern Alaska were posted while crazy new things were happening here, so hard.  But for future sake of rereading the blog someday I am glad I do it that way.  All that being said, big things are happening here in our little home.  All the local kids in Fairbanks, Alaska are loading up on big school buses today and starting their first days of school
 But we started two weeks ago.  August 1, 2016 my little girl became a big kindergartener.  We have been reading books, writing letters, playing math games and more for a long time but now it has a title and a purpose.  The first day of school was so exciting.  Abigail dressed up in a favorite outfit for the day but then was able walk into our "school room" barefoot.  Love that!
Each morning finds us busy.  Learning the calendar, our math, reading, writing, spanish, art and more.  A few people asked me why I started when I did.  If I could start anytime why not push it to September or even October.  Well, to tell you a truth, while the kids were sort of oblivious of what was about to happen, I was a nervous mess.  I didn't sleep well for days leading up to school and for my nerves we just need to start and see that it did really work, and work well.  I have slept so much better since August 1st that is for sure.  Plus it sure will be nice to be done earlier in the spring next year too.  Don't mind that at all.  School at home, school with our siblings, school with our toes bare. That is us.

The end of the first day Abigail gave me a huge hug and said, "Mama I am just so happy we started school and you are my teacher.  Thank you so much."  Will she always feel this way?  I am sure not but she does now and for that I am thankful.


August 16, 2016

Filling Up

You can judge a year by so many calendars.  The sun, the weather, the dates printed on the wall calendar, the animal migrations and much more.  One way we judge our years is by the pantry.  Fall the jars are full and ready, winter things are thinning out, by spring we are searching the back for the few last items and by summer the pantry is full of empty jars.  
 This is the time of year when I always look and say, why do we have so many jars?  Do we really use this many?
But soon I am singing a different tone and am contemplating where I can get more.  Due to the large amount of work I have been doing I haven't been able to take pictures of everything but I do have numbers.  

With the salmon given to us by my in-laws I canned up 25 pints and added that to the few quarts I had canned this past spring.  

Two days later I started cooking down the chicken bones left over from butcher week.  15 brought in 5 1/2 gallons of canned chicken broth and 16 cups of cooked chicken meat to freeze.  Only 30 more carcasses to go but I will have to wait for more canning jars!

And then with the canner still out on my counter I started into the green beans.  33 quarts of green beans have been cut and processed for our pantry.  

It was with great relief that after having my big pressure canner out for a week and a half it is now put away.  So many of those late canning nights I almost didn't do the blog posts that were put up at the time.  Days of canning are tiring, plain and simple.  The joy of eating food we caught, raised and grew all year long.  Worth each ounce of weariness.  

August 15, 2016

Just In Time

We returned from Soldotna just in time to join in the fun with our local library.  How we love our library.  Each summer they put on a great summer reading program.  At the end there is always a costume parade around our local Pioneer park.  The kids think it is so much fun to get to dress up and join in.
 This year we had a Butterfly herding talent fairy from Neverland, pirate Ethan and a University of Texas cheerleader.  So fun.
We also came back just in time for the garden to start kicking out the wonders of the year.  We have over 20 gallon bags of chopped and blanched broccoli, 7 of romanesco and 4 of cheddar cauliflower in our big chest freezer for the winter ahead.  The broccoli and the cauliflower are still a coming, slower but still going.

  The picture from above is actually part of a friend's harvest.  On the verge of having a baby I asked what I could do for her.  She was managing the garden work fine but by the time she got to the kitchen she was tired out.  So one day I stopped by and picked up a huge tub of her produce, brought it home, cut it up, blanched it and returned it to her freezer.  It is so great when I want to help and I can find that thing that really does help.  Garden harvest time means a whole lot of kitchen work!

August 12, 2016

Recovery And Home

We spent quite a few days in Soldotna with Josh's parents before our trip to Kodiak.  Thus the original plan was to take the ferry back to Homer, drive north to Soldotna, rest up for a day and then head on home.  Needless to say sickness changed all of those plans.  As I wrote in my blog post a month ago, we were sick but lucky to have grandparents and a house to get better in.  Conversations with Josh told us that he was working crazy long hours and wasn't around to help us get better and plus - Fairbanks was rainy (super wet) and Soldotna was a little bit of summer sunshine  heaven.
 So we stayed.  We were quarantined from all other people, mostly kids, and what better place then Grammie and Grandpa's house where we don't expect to play with friends because the grandparents are who these kids want to see.  The yard was sunny, the 4-wheelers were a safe place for a ride and the lake was around the corner for time in the evenings to cool off.  The river had a few salmon running and I got to go soak my blistered feet in the river as Josh's dad and I spent time catching fish. Let me tell you it was really a great way to recover from a sickness I never wish on anyone!
 It was a great time to recover but how thankful we were when we could finally swallow again, our fevers were gone and this mama felt strong enough to take on the 500 miles of road that laid ahead.  Funny thing was that just as we were getting ready to go north a wild land forest fire broke out along the road closing down the one road that takes all travelers on and off of the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska.  This happened Monday, we were contemplating traveling home on Tuesday, Tuesday night the road reopened and with our health and prayers for an open road we headed north Wednesday mid-day.  As we got close to the fire area the kids thought it great fun that we got to see sling loads of water being lifted out of the ocean by helicopters on our left and dropped onto the fire up in the valley on the right.  Forgive a hard to detect picture.  I was driving the truck at the time. 
Two and a half weeks we were gone.  We had had a great trip with grandparents, friends, new adventures and seeing new parts of Alaska.  But at the same time we missed Josh, the garden and friends back north in Alaska, Alaska.  Homeward bound we were.  Healthy and ready to take on the rest of our summer in the land of the midnight sun.

August 11, 2016

Farewell From The Top

Back before kids I used to work for the Department of Natural Resources for the State of Alaska.
 As Abigail was growing I was given the case of leasing land for a wind farm near Healy, Alaska.  The only other time a wind farm of this size had been put on state land was a lease on Kodiak Island. The time I worked on the Healy lease I read and studied a lot about this area of state land on Kodiak.
 Never at that time did I imagine I would ever get to go to Kodiak and see that wind farm in action.  From Heather's house we could see the mountain top with the turbines each day and they always caused me to pause and think about how different things are now then six years ago when I was reading that file.
 I love how this picture shows six of those things all in one shot!  Each day we were together we tried to take a picture of all six of our kids.  As it turned out we didn't get a good one until finally this last morning.  Even though the kids and I were already sick, feverish and set for a long ferry ride ahead a picture was achieved.  
So that last morning on the island we packed our bags and took one more road trip adventure.  To the top of the mountains, to the wind turbines and to take in the view of the island from one more point.  This last morning.  A time before I realized how sick we really were, a last time to hug my dear friend and say good-bye, a last time to look at the cool and amazing place that Kodiak is, and one last time to say, "we will see each other soon, we will make that happen!"

Kodiak, Alaska July 2016 - a big adventure for sure, I am so glad we made it!

August 10, 2016

Touching

I mentioned yesterday that Heather is a marine biologist.  With that comes so much knowledge for my kids that I don't know.
Kodiak has some great resources that she shared with us as well. 
 If we had visited on our own we never would have known about the state research building and the huge fish tank they have in their lobby or the touch tank.
After spending a few days on the beaches of Kodiak seeing things in the wild it was so fun for the kids to then go to the tank itself and touch those wonderful weird and delightful creatures. 
Learning - it is a hands on activity and I love when I can give that to the kids!

August 9, 2016

Berry Picking In History

Our first day of hiking was so full of "lets stop for the berries" that we decided for the second day we would go on a berry picking expedition.  
Armed with buckets this kids took on those salmon berries and had so much fun.
And Aunt Heather also took us to a cool place to do it!  Fort Abercrombie was used during WWII as a defense against the Japanese.  Seeing the tanks, and guns still in place, even though the area is now a National park, was fun for us all.  A little lost on the kids but this mama sure did enjoy the history.  

Heather choice of where she lives is dictated by her husband's job with the coast guard but it fits her so well.  A marine biologist by education and employment makes her the best person to visit the coast with.  These kids learned so much.  




August 8, 2016

The Woods - The Adventure

Today is my dear friend Heather's birthday.  It is fun to think of our visit together as I work through pictures for the blog.  As much as I miss her today it is fun to think that I gave her her birthday gift in person just a few weeks ago.  

Our visit to Kodiak brought me a lot of surprises.  I didn't expect to see a place like it was.  My imagination left it extremely lacking compared to what I was presented with.
The mountains and the oceans were wonderful but its was the in-between that we explored the most and it took my breath away.  
The big discovery for the kids on our first hike was the sweet bounty of the island - salmon berries.  Big like blackberries but a little more tart.
Another friend of Heather's and her kids were on the ferry over the Kodiak the day we were.  So the first two days of our visit we had an expanded crew.  Hiking around Kodiak was 3 mamas, 8 kids and one dog.  We carried bear bells and bear spray but honestly our crew had not trouble with the "make lots of noise to scare the bears away" part of the equation.  
Each day with Heather and the kids were so special to me as a friend.  As a mom I really loved the chance to show my kids a new part of the amazing state they live in.
Kodiak is often a rainy island but we were so blessed by sunshine a lot of our visit and it brought so much outdoor joy.
Kodiak, just a fun place to be.  Friends, adventures, breath taking, wild, and, much to Abigail's joy, full of climbable trees. 










August 3, 2016

Worth The Effort

When you are the mother of kids, one or more, you weigh the options before doing most anything.  The question of run into the store while solo or when you have your children often result in two different answers.

So when I go on vacation with the kids solo there are often a lot of, yeah we better not, answers.  Lucky for me and my kids, my friend Heather is around a lot of kids a lot.  Since she lives on a Coast Guard base she is often not only taking care of her three kids but someone else's also.  Thus adding my three into the mix didn't prevent us from doing what we were going to do but instead just added to the fun.
 Like reminding 4 little people the rules of biking (her girls do this all the time on these streets.  My kids with our gravel road don't get as much experience) around a military base.  My kids had to be instructed in things they have never experienced before.  Such as, if the red lights are flashing in front of this really big "road" it means don't cross because this is actually a runway and a plane is about to take off or land.
 But in the end the bike ride brought us right to a beach full of WWII artifacts and beach glass to collect.
Driving, taking a ferry, visiting a friend with kids, taking 6 kids biking, venturing out.  Is it worth the effort?  Always the question and when I take the time to say yes I "almost" never regret it.  Watching the kids with their special bags of treasures, seeing Abigail achieve biking without training wheels, watching the kids laugh and interact while the mountains and the ocean surrounded us.  Worth the effort - yes, most certainly yes.

August 2, 2016

Breaking The Ice

Sometimes breaking the ice between six kids can be hard when they don't know each other but there mamas think they should.
 But you know as we parent we learn a few tricks.  Such as making fairy houses together is a wonderful thing.
Something all genders and ages can love.  Fairy houses to the rescue.  Kodiak island has been introduced to the new Abigail obsession and from what I observed, it was loved by all.

August 1, 2016

Together

The idea for our big July trip started almost a year ago when my best friend, who lived in North Carolina, called to say they "might" be moving back to Alaska.  Oh, to have a dear friend reachable.  What a wonderful thought.  So once their feet touched down in Alaska in February we have been planning a time when we could get together, with our crazy band of kiddos.  This was it.
Kodiak, Alaska 2016 
5 1/2 days, 6 nights
6 kids with number 7 set to arrive in December
2 mamas
One huge and beautiful island
A large quantity of food to be prepared and served each day
Activities to be enjoyed
Bikes to be ridden
And memories to be made.