Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Big Day

Check out the Super Reader above. Vivi's brain has decided it is time to read. YIPPY! And thanks to Miss Happy, Zoey's sponsor teacher, for recommending the Bob Books.

I picked up the first set of the Bob Books, brought them home and read one to Vivi. Then it was time to run to the very cold range opening. Vivi rode in the car with her box of books in her lap. When we got to Kincaid Park, Zoey popped out to warm up and zero her rifle. Vivi and I took our time getting all our cold gear on. Vivi wanted me to read her a book. Instead, she read it to me! These are wonderful tools. Within ten minutes of laying her hands on these books, she was reading the first one by herself. Amazing!

Not to be overshadowed, Zoey cleaned all her targets in the prone position without a stand! She earned a sushi dinner for that one. Good job, Zoey.

While driving to I Luv Sushi, Vivi was talking about her brand new accomplishment. I asked her how it feels to be a full blown reader. She replied "Great, I am glad I don't have a reading problem anymore."

Zoey filmed her this morning before she had had her hair combed, I know she looks a little rough. That was the first thing she wanted to do this morning, read her book all by herself!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

January Light

I began my day in the driveway, checking on the bird feeders, listening to the ravens leave their roost, watching the redpolls wake and send out scouts. I love when I can do this. Many days it is too windy, sometimes too cold for this. I even scouted under the power pole for owl pellets. I would really like to find one for Vivi to take apart. She would really enjoy this. Zoey and I did it about this age. She was amazed at how close we came to putting a whole vole together. I found none this morning, darn! I enjoyed the slow progress of the waning half moon while I was out.

The day then turned to piano homework, math lessons, and leaving the mountain for town. Zoey had writing class and both girls had piano. I was reluctant to leave. The town was shrouded in a layer of clouds and fog that started at about 1500 feet and went nearly to the ground. I knew it would be grey and dark in town.

I am sure to most January light is too lean, too watery with too few hours. For me, here in Alaska it is hope. When it is out it is pink, pink, pink. And it is reflected everywhere. In January, you begin to feel the light extending. Every day you gain three or four minutes. It adds up and you truly notice it.

The interplay between the crystalline structure of super cold snow and hoar frost crystals is something I never tire of. These photos are all un-enhanced, not filtered. They are the real deal. The light is just saturated with color.

Soon, too soon, the sunsets.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cold Snap

Finch on the shovel
Redpoll awaiting her turn
Cold January

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Enjoy, Liza!

It seems the ravens' flight path home has shifted. We seem to be right on the path. Today we even had a thermal right over the house. It was so cool!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The night before last we had a bit of wind. Do you see the drifting under the feeder? The wind and snow eddies right in front of our door. When Tom opened the door yesterday morning, the drift at his feet was up to his thigh.

The wind embedded the snow in every empty space in this feeder. I had to clean it out and load it back up.

The wind also scattered seed from the more exposed feeder. The Redpolls seemed to really like the ground feeding instead of waiting in line.

The wind seemend to make the birds more frenetic and active. I think it even doubled their numbers!

The seed even scattered to the end of the driveway, and the Redpolls found it.

Coming home from piano lessons we got to see about forty ravens playing in a thermal on their way to the night roost. This is just a look at them flying away.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Big Race

Sunday was the big day. It was very cold, a legal race by about a few degrees. It was about +1F at the new biathlon range at Kincaid Park. Zoey was the youngest and smallest competitor at the Arctic Winter Games qualifier. There she is in bib #76, waiting for her turn to go ski 1k, shoot, ski 1k about four times.

She was so nervous and cold before her start. She nearly cried. My heart was in my throat. If I could have willed that child to race her hardest, shoot well and qualify, I would have. She went out as hard as she could on the super slow snow. Nothing like really cold snow to have very grabby crystals.

The organization of the race was "folksy" by Tom's standards. He is trying not to pipe up too much about it, as that could lead to more responsibility at the time of year when he needs it least. He is helping with the timing. Thank heavens he has loads of experience doing it.

Biathlon is a truly demanding sport. The saying goes that it requires you to go from a rabbit to a rock in about five seconds. A competitor has to pace themselves so that they ski hard in the right part of the course, try to rest a bit on the way into the range so they can get a handle on their heart rate. Organize their poles, clips, and gun to shoot. Breathe in just the right way so their shooting is as accurate as possible. Then put your poles back on and ski another loop.

I am not sure I could pull it off. I am amazed that my daughter wanted to try it, has stuck with it, and LOVED it.

She raced well for being the smallest one out there. She outshot one girl and qualified for Team Alaska for Arctic Winter Games by one second. Yes, one second. What a nail-biting squeaker. Whoooo....I am not sure I can handle her competing in this sport. When I look at that beaming face above, I think I can.

Vivi was a trooper with a great attitude. She even made a friend. He pushed her and puppy around the bunker while we waited for results. The family scene in the biathlon community is really great.

The day was absolutely gorgeous. I got to realize that once I was not so focused on the out come of the race.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Getting Familiar with the Locals

During this past week we have received over a foot of the fluffiest, lightest, driest snow I have even seen. It has also been cold, cold, cold. Not Fairbanks cold, but still pretty chilly. Maybe because of the weather the Redpolls have really flocked together and hit the feeders hard. The thistle bag has regularly had twenty and twenty-one birds on it, with several other vying for a spot or waiting their turn.

Zoey was the first to try to become a bit more familiar with the Redpolls.

It did not take long for these birds to trust her. She was so still.

Vivi wanted to try too. I love these shots of her. She is being more still and patient than any other five year old I know.

I think she kind of looks like Julia Stiles in these shots.

Finally, the payoff. She was so excited.

I think this will be an experience she will never forget. The only downside, is now she wants to do this all the time.

I even managed to get five eating out of my hand at once. It was truly amazing to have two birds wrangling over position right in front of my face. To be among them, and hear them, and have them pretty much ignore me was amazing. I dreamed about it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Why Kong?

Remember Cojo and her Kong?

Remember how it got hung up in the power lines across the street this summer?

We were mobbed by over 200 Redpolls this morning. They were everywhere. I do wonder why the kong became such a prized perch?

Isn't that strange? Any ideas?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


For Epiphany we took down the tree. Aurora had done a fantastic job making our little world bright. She was a piece of the natural world integrated into our home. She reminded us of the green of spring. She smelled great. Henry loved her for a while.

She is now residing near the bird feeders. The Redpolls think she is fantastic.

We are settling into the routine of the new year nicely. I have a week off. I have a few plans for some homey chores. Mostly, I want to start the schooling off on the right foot. We have a few weeks before Zoey's science and writing classes start back up. Today we are back to piano lessons.

Vivi is an artist in every medium she comes across.

Yesterday it was hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes and a tortilla.

We made a new batch of suet dough. It was missing about two ounces of lard, thanks to Finn. What a sneak. Is nothing safe in this house?

Yesterday had the most diffuse and lovely sunset through a snow squall.

It feels good to be moving forward again.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


The best Christmas gift I got this year was the return of the Redpolls. Zoey and I had been waiting for them since early November. We were sure they would be there any day. We loaded up feeders for them. We hung suet. And we waited. And we waited. And we waited. We would be teased by two, three and four of these lovely little birds, but not the numbers of last winter. I began to wonder whether I was just exaggerating my memories of last winter.

Finally, I think right before Christmas it got cold enough in the interior of Alaska for the Redpolls to want to leave. It was mighty chilly in Fort Yukon, Galena, Minchumina and McGrath.

While getting water in the kettle for coffee Christmas morning, I watched three Redpolls land, then three more, then six more until there were at least forty. YIPPY! They arrived in time with their beautiful red berets on, looking wonderfully festive. Oh, I was ecstatic.

This video is for Bill of the Birds. He is looking for Redpolls at his feeder in Whipple, Ohio. I hope he finds some.

Also, just arrived today is a leucistic redpoll. I have not seen this one before. We will all be keeping an eye out for her (I'm calling it a her). Hopefully, I'll get a picture that is more suitable for posting. I realize this one looks perfect for Monster Quest, what with the blurry, image. I just wanted to leave you all guessing!

The Tall Tale of a Pole

The power poles in my neighborhood are reaching the end of their usable life, of so Chugach Electric tells us. They make noise that they are going to bury them. I have always thought that would be a great idea.

I know the power lines muck up my view, I know they detract from the ambiance of the place. I know I curse them when I am trying to get a clear shot of Sleeping Lady, or north out the sliding glass door. When I look out my bedroom window I see that blasted pole. It gets between me and Mt. Susitna and Mt. Spurr. However,
I am beginning to re-think this assessment.

I know that were the poles to go my property value would increase. My view would be un-muddied. All these things I know.

I also know that for ten different early, early mornings this month I have been woken up by a Great Horned Owl sitting atop that power pole. I have found numerous owl pellets underneath that pole. I have also been serenaded by a lovely raven more days than I can count, just hanging up there, surveying the scene.

When Chugach Electric decides what to do with the power poles, I will adapt. Heck, they may just opt for new ones. I have decided that I won't curse the power poles anymore and be grateful for the other views I get from the top of the pole.