Sunday, September 27, 2009


Joe and "Lassie"

"Adopt me!"

Puppy Madness

Simon's got his hands full!

Yeah, here comes the food!!!

Smokey's puppies have tentative names such as: Brownie, Blackie, Buddha, Jasper, Lassie, and Polar. Smokey herself wasn't around during the feeding frenzy. I think she's weaning them and she probably needed a break!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Random Loveliness

Smokey, Joe, and (the Weber) Smokey Joe. Ha! How random is THAT!

Joe looked out the window after it had gotten quite dark and said: Oh, look at that sunset!

Smokey and Joe goofing around. Smokey is our landlord's Husky and she would make a good sled dog. She's extremely smart, energetic, and fun! And she has nine puppies!! They could be the next Yukon Quest Dream Team, so watch out!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

D’OUGH! or: TEN Things We Learned This Week

1. Don’t try to make biscuits with bad bread dough unless you want to call them dog Biscuits

2. You can’t get home by taking a right off Goldstream Road where the bike trail ends by the tracks. You end up at a swamp. Followed by more railroad tracks (See #3)

3. Kaneesha’s battery is dead

4. You can take a crate and a bucket and a toilet seat and make a potty chair (LAUGH IF YOU WANT, WHEN IT’S 40 BELOW THIS WINTER I'M PEEING IN A POTTY CHAIR!)

5. We have an outhouse (See #4)

6. The cost of living in Fairbanks is roughly equal to that of London*
* includes outhouses

7. Never say yes to a job until you know it comes with health insurance

8. If you are Joe or Dee’s Dad, you should definitely NOT read #7!



Sunday, September 13, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

O Cabin, My Cabin!

We are in the middle of our very own wood-neck as Joe likes to say.

Yesterday evening we rode our bikes home from dinner at my boss' place, our first rainy night in Fairbanks. About a mile from home, chugging up that last bit of hill in the near pitch dark to our "street" we heard an enormous rattling of bushes to our right. We'd surprised a moose on his or her evening forage, and heard him dash away into the forest. Whew!

But where'd the Jeep come from? That is on loan as of today from my boss, a second car that she's thinking of selling. We're giving her a test drive to see if we like her. The car has been nicknamed Kaneesha. We have a week to decide if we like her. More on Kaneesha later...

Hope the pictures convey something of the warmth and beauty of our new place. And check out that swell outhouse! As far as outhouses go, this is a good one. Don't be intimidated by that burlap flap of a door, either: what I've learned is that an outhouse with a wooden door will warm up inside and create condensation on the walls, floor, and seat, which turn to ice in the dead of winter. So rather than have an ice-coated floor and toilet seat, by keeping the door open, or gently screened, the inside stays dry. Alaskans buy lots of thick blue insulating foam at the local Home Depot that they cut into toilet seats, because this stuff stays warm at any temperature. Also great for blocking up extra windows. Aren't you glad you don't have to worry about that?

Monday, September 7, 2009

I've got a Haunch...


We have been poking around our cabin. There's all sorts of questionably sound structures near this otherwise beautiful stout and pretty 2-story log and cedar Alaskan dream house.

From the second floor bedroom you can see the shed. Its made of logs and a tin roof, and it's leaning like a guy at a party that needs a wall to prop himself up on in order to continue his drunken obnoxious monologue to anyone who'll listen.

But enough about my childhood.

One of the things we can see is this white metal box, a freezer like chest thing. It has a birch log on the top. Yesterday I came back from my morning trek to the outhouse and decided to open the thing up. It was heavy like a sarcophagus (I've never seen a sarcophagus let alone can spell it, but I imagined it was similar). Joe had commented at breakfast that it looked like "the caribou meat locker." Sure enough, at the bottom, amidst leaves and some plastic, was a hairy bone with a hoof. Moose? Caribou? Undoubtedly some rugged person bagged an animal one winter and some tenant before us got a haunch. Or two. Funny thing was it smelled mouldy rather than like the breath of the Death Angel. So, pretty ancient, pretty harmless.

I got used to seeing dead animal parts at Toolik this past summer when I went out in the field collecting plant specimens. You'd think I'd be used to this by now.

Except, this is our home. And there's some kind of dead hoofed thing in the meat locker.

We shall see if the winter cold and the lack of a car, or lack of wanting to leave the old cabin and the opportunity of receiving a share of one of our recent acquaintance's bounty this hunting season makes us a bit less weirded out by the presence of furry meat on the hoof just outside our living room.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Our Very Own Outhouse (with Cabin). All we need is a Pee Pot now...

So we disappeared from family and friends radar while in Northwestern Canada (which must be quite common).

Neither Joe nor me could get a signal on our phones, mile after mile. But, phenomenally, Joe got us to Fairbanks in just 5.5 days of driving. Besides mad road skills, the good weather probably helped. We saw the corn and wheatfields of late summer give way to autumn tinged forests as logging trucks plied the highways, and finally we crossed hours and hours of black spruce and numerous rivers spanned by bridges of all sizes. If you've the time and inclination, a trip up the Alaska Highway is well worth it. Plus you can stay in a beautiful cabin when you get here!

Just by chance on our first morning in Fairbanks I ran into a friendly New Zealander with a pickup truck who just happened to have a cabin for rent a few miles from our hosts' place. We got lost on the way to give it a look, and I ended up calling him on my cell when the road dead ended at a swamp and a mean, burned out shack. "Uh, Simon, we're basically at a dead end road with a burned out shack. Is this the place?"

It turned out we'd gone far past it, and once we arrived, we got to walk in to the unoccupied two story log and cedar cabin. Joe and I immediately fell in love with it. As far as cabins go, it is deluxe. Most cabins are "dry" meaning no running water, and an outhouse. We do have an outhouse, but after looking at several I think it's a good one, and the house itself is solid, beautiful, and snug. It's a dream come true for both of us. Joe had wanted a wood burning stove; I'd wanted free wireless, somehow they came together plus we have hot and cold running water. Our commute is about 8 miles from the University, which is doable in the now beautiful fall weather, but come the first snow things will change. We realize we'll need a vehicle, but as with the cabin, serendipity seems to smile on us. The only thing I regret is that I can't show you this beautiful little House on the Boreal Forest; my camera died and until I can figure out the situation you will have to take my word for it. Or come visit. This is a beautiful little place. We feel very lucky to have found it. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day 4: God, Do I Need a Pedicure!!!!

But that is miniscule by comparison to some other developments throughout the day.

We left the wheat and hayfields behind and picked up the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek. By afternoon we could see the Rockies in the distance, and by late evening were winding through rugged mountains covered in tall spruce and golden-green birch just beginning to turn color. The dividing line on the highway pretty much disappeared, and we had to watch out for large, dim-witted mammals on the road (two sheep, three elk, two photographers).

Joe was having trouble with his debit card today. Apparently his bank in Chicago thought his card had been stolen because he'd made so many transactions within the last several days, many of them in Canada, and bank personnel, ever vigilant for signs of card theft, apparently blocked the use of his card while we were trying to gas up the truck.

We called his bank this morning from Grande Prairie, Alberta, and the problem seemed resolved, that is until later this afternoon in British Columbia when yet another gas purchase was refused. I called them back when we were back on the Al-Can and just then happened to be stopped at a construction roadblock. I had to talk to the flagger on the road simultaneously with the bank person on the phone, pass the phone to Joe AND periodically interrupt him to tell him what the construction person was telling me while he was explaining his situation to the bank.

But we made it to Toad River Lodge, a beautiful small bed and breakfast off the Al-Can which also had a diner where we had a couple of cheeseburgers for dinner. Joe drove 490 miles single-handed today, and we opened a bottle of French Pinot Noir when we got to our little cabin overlooking a large, shallow lake. We are 1100 miles away from Fairbanks.

Just a few minutes ago I went outside to see if I could see the stars. A three quarter moon is shining over the lake, recalling for me a summer evening at Kankakee State Park when thousands of fireflies sparkled over the water and bullfrogs' voices filled the night air. Here it is silent, but the moon reflected in the dark water ringed by dark shapes of mountains seems so primeval.

I looked up and saw some stars, a familiar shape, especially to Alaskans: the Big Dipper, in the Northern sky. Earlier this summer I told Alaska that I'd fallen in love with her after spending two and a half months on her North Slope. Seeing the Big Dipper tonight makes my foolish heart wonder---does she feel the same?