You brush it off.
In the week since I’ve taken the above photo, the fireweed has nearly bloomed itself out. If you grew up here, you measure summer by the fireweed blossoms. In spring, the fireweed sprouts and begins to bud, shooting up several feet into the sky. By early summer, the lowest buds on the plant have bloomed pinkish-purple and you begin to notice them in the fields and on roadsides. By midsummer, the fireweed has overtaken fallow fields and roadsides. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that the tips of the fireweed still haven’t bloomed yet.
As summer fades, the fireweed fades as well. By the end of July, the tips of the fireweed begin to bloom, and the earliest flowers on the plant go to seed, splitting open and releasing feathery white puffs. That’s how you know that summer is ending.
We’re in that stage now. Summer is coming to a close. The past week has been rainy and full of unusual thunderstorms (Fairbanks doesn’t get a lot of thunderstorms, but we’ve had plenty lately). The roadsides are starting to fade, the bright pink/purple hue of fireweed diminishing into green and thin purple seed pods that will begin to release their white feathers soon.
It’s always been a bittersweet time of year for me. A lot of Alaskans endure the winter to enjoy the summer, and I’ve always been one of those. I think I’ve mentioned on this blog before, but I’m a summer-sport kind of girl, not being one to go snowmachining or skiing or anything like that. With the exception of running out of doors in the winter, my ideal winter day is spent curled up next to the fireplace with a good book.
That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the beauty of winter–it is beautiful, but it’s also cold in more than just the literal sense. It’s isolating and frigid, it’s exhausting and terrifying. But that’s a post for another time of year.
Now, I want to enjoy the last dregs of summer, gearing up for that winter chill which will inevitably steal fall from Fairbanks and descend before anyone is truly ready.
Last week Hubby and I celebrated a whole nine years of marriage.
To celebrate, we did something that we’ve only done once before during our marriage: went camping.
That’s right. My hubby, who used to be a Denali trail guide before I met him, and I have only camped once before last weekend. And you want to know the real insult? It wasn’t even Alaskan camping–it was in Washington state!
I’m hiding my head here, because it’s really so pathetic. I think we just got so caught up in life and everything that we didn’t make time to get away.
Last weekend though, we dropped the kid at Grandma and Grandpa’s, and drove a few hours into Denali National Park. In recent years, they’ve opened up the park road to 29 mile, Teklanika camp ground. So instead of taking a bus in, we were able to drive our car out to the campground.
Now, let me preface this by saying that this is light-weight camping. There were outhouses–nice ones–and potable water at this campground. But it was still “camping.” We didn’t have cell reception, so we were unplugged all weekend. And it really felt nice.
I was able to finish a short story while I was out there, and read some of Geraldine Brook’s The People of the Book, which I am starting to enjoy more, although it’s different from her other books and I don’t like it as much.
But I also managed to take a few pictures, and just had to share.
It’s finally here. After months of waiting, staring longingly out the windows, summer has arrived.
Long summer nights, bonfires, swimming, hiking, running, playing…these are a few of the summertime activities I look forward to.
My chokecherry is budding…
And rhubarb bursting out of the ground with force and life.
Summertime in Alaska is truly a short blip in the calendar year, one which everyone looks forward to at some point and enjoys as long as possible.
Oh, that’s right. You read that right–I don’t follow the book. I can in the spring.
Well, not in this at least. Let’s just say “canning season” didn’t fall at a good time for me last year. I managed to do a little bit, but on most days with my infant son, it felt completely overwhelming and beyond my ability to deal with.
So when Hubby gave me an afternoon off parenting duties the past week, I took an hour or so to can some of the lingonberries that I picked with my son last fall.
I’ve never canned lingonberries before–well, let me rephrase that, as I haven’t done much canning ever. I’ve never had an interest in canning lingonberries before. Usually I use lingonberries in my mother’s cranberry cream cheese bread recipe, but I haven’t made that this year, and it’s relatively unhealthy, and usually we use lingonberry sauce for lefsa over the holidays. (So, really, I should have canned these in the fall when I bought them and then we would have had homemade lingonberry sauce for the lefsa. Oh well.)
Regardless, I finally got my act together and did some canning the past week. The lingonberries were surprisingly simple to can, as I just made a simple jam type sauce with them. Basically a lot of sugar plus a bit of water and a lot of lingonberries cooked for awhile on the stovetop, then water bath canned.
For 8 cups of berries I got about 4.25 pints of sauce. The extra I canned anyway and put in the fridge to taste-test. I like it. It’s a lot denser than any of the store bought lingonberry jam/sauce that I’ve had, but it actually tastes all right on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (That’s probably an unusual taste testing method, but…we were out of other jelly.)
So now this Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ll have lingonberry sauce for our lefsa! I’m actually rather excited about that… might be worth making some lefsa before then…
Well, it’s officially breakup season here. The snow has been melting like mad, the roads constantly freeze at night and then thaw during the day (really the best way for all the snow to melt and keep clean and drivable roads).
For the first time since the snow hit, we can begin to see the brush in our backyard. Late this summer and fall, that backyard will turn into berries that I can go out and pick and share with my berry-loving son. We have blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, and two types of cranberries out there. Last year we moved in too late to reap anything but the cranberries.
I’m looking forward to this summer, being able to go outside with my son, who has now started walking, and share the Alaskan summers.
The sunlight has already become obnoxious–with daylight savings shifting the days later and later. By June 21st, the sun won’t be truly setting around here at all. (There’s an official sunset still in the Fairbanks area, but it stays bright all night.)
Spring makes it easier to get out and do things, despite the large puddles where I could easily lose my one-year-old and never know it. Piles of the dirtiest snow you’ve ever seen lay heaped on sides of road under months of road gravel. These piles will remain long past all other snow patches, even if they lie in full sun. The top coating of gravel protects the snow from the heat of the sun, and slow piles of trash emerge as the snow melts. Every once in awhile you see people out there with metal detectors, looking for lost winter treasures. I hear stories of people finding great things too, like lost iPhones or wedding rings. Heck, maybe I should start metal detecting as a hobby!
And since I’ve been MIA for so many
days weeks, here are a few photos that I’ve taken as an apology. 😉
It’s been beautiful and warm here in Fairbanks lately. We’ve had both fresh snow and melting snow, evidence of cloven hooves visitors (moose), and icy roads that have canceled school and closed businesses (a rare occurrence here in Fairbanks, I assure you).
So finding time to blog should have been easy right? Well, not so much.
The kid, who is quickly approaching his first birthday, decided that ear infections are all the rage, as well as never, ever sleeping through the night. It’s been great fun, both literally and sarcastically. The son enjoys playtime in the snow and all new experiences, but sleepless nights and fussy days are challenging.
Still, we’ve been having great fun in the warmer and longer days!