th2 150x150 Talkeetna in December: Join us!Once again the Talkeetna Bachelors Auction and Wilderness Woman Competition is approaching — and once again, Linda B. and I have rented the entire top floor of the Latitude 62 hotel and restaurant.

We’re lining up some other wild wimmen to accompany us, but there’s always room for a few more. Why not make this the year that you throw caution (and possibly good sense) to the winds and join us?

The actual event is Saturday, Dec. 6, but we always go up on Friday afternoon. This year the bachelors of Talkeetna have an actual theme for the party, along the lines of the Roaring ’20s/Great Gatsby/Talkeetna Speakeasy. “We haven’t settled on a title, but you get the idea,” said my e-mailed invitation.

“Dress the part if you’d like, or come as you are. We will take your donation no matter what you’re wearing.”


read more

The boiling bag.

th3 The boiling bag.We had a marvelous soup the other night, based on a friend’s recipe for sausage-potato-kale soup. Ours utilized some of the kale we dehydrated last year (boy, has that stuff hung on), some potatoes freshly dug from our garden and some sausage bought months ago at a deep discount. (I love my freezer.)

It was supposed to have been kielbasa but spicy Cajun links were what we had. I sliced two links into coins and sauteed them until slightly crisp in a cast-iron skillet in which onions had already caramelized. Decided that a finely diced carrot wouldn’t hurt a bit, either.

The base was the real star, however — a rich homemade stock the likes of which we will never taste again. No two of our stocks ever taste exactly the same. That’s because the contents of the boiling bag vary every time.

The boiling bag is a bag in the freezer that receives vegetable scraps, bones and sometimes even bits of fruit. This batch had several apple cores and there was a slight sweetness under the richness of the other ingredients — which this time included beet and turnip greens and stems, onion skins, carrot tops, and both pork and chicken bones. Put it all in the slow cooker overnight and you wake up to a lovely, intriguing aroma.


read more

th1 150x150 Two signs of fall: One financial, one unearthly.Autumn had been surprisingly warm but temperatures have dropped into the 20s and 30s, which is were we expect them to be at this time of year. The high-pressure systems have made for some gloriously sunny days and postcard-perfect views of the Chugach Range.

Clear days tend to mean clear nights, which provide the best viewing for the aurora borealis. On Wednesday night I got my first glimpse of the year. Unearthly, compelling, fascinating stuff even here in town, where light pollution tends to blunt the impact.

Then again, it was the middle of the night and I had no interest in driving to a darker area for a better view. Standing on the back deck in just a bathrobe was a bit chilly but I still got a good look and as always, seeing the northern lights felt like a privilege.

If they’re not visible where you live, check out these two links:


read more

th2 300x300 On the road to nowhere in particular. Last week DF and I took a four-day driving trip around rural Alaska, aka “1,200 miles’ worth of postcard views.”

Now that summer is pretty much gone, we decided to treat ourselves to the sights of our too-brief autumn. While we don’t have the scarlets and oranges of New England, the changing colors were still pretty heart-stopping.

Brilliant yellow birch and rich gold willows glimpsed against backdrops of spruce so dark they looked black. Here and there some in-between leaves that gleamed chartreuse in the nearly nonstop sun.

Splashes of red fireweed and redder berry bushes alongside the highway and also carpeting the hillsides. Mountains festooned with blindingly white new snow as well as the more somber ivory of alpine glaciers.

September is a well-kept secret in southcentral Alaska. Most of the tourists have gone home, although we did see some at Denali National Park. Buttoned up to their necks, they were, and seeming disappointed that they didn’t get to see all of Mt. McKinley (which we call “Denali” or just “The Mountain”) due to partly cloudy skies.

At least they got to see the first 10,000 feet of it. Denali is like a stripper who generally doesn’t show you all the good stuff at the same time.


read more

The frugal state fair.

th7 The frugal state fair.The county or state fair is one of the biggest money pits in the world. These places exist to part you from your cash, whether it’s for food or rides (or both).

A partial solution: Be a judge at the chili cook-off. I promise you won’t want to eat another bite for the rest of the day, or possibly until the next afternoon.

It’s not that the chili and salsas were bad. Quite the opposite: All were good and most were excellent. But after you’ve had 70 or 80 spoons’ worth, with bites of tortillas and sips of water in between, you simply can’t face any other comestibles.

You might also be averse to any carnival rides that move faster than the average baby can crawl. At the end of the day I did manage one ride, the “1,000 Nights” – a large platform that rotates clockwise, very high and very fast. By the time the first full rotation had ended, I was second-guessing that decision out loud.


read more