Monday, September 19, 2011
On Isa's hand-made calendar by my fridge, I stopped short. Sept. 23 - the autumnal equinox. How can that be, really? Did we not just plant the seeds and put up the hoop houses and run, run, run to beat the ticking clock that is the Alaska summer. It is perhaps the strangest thing about this Alaska quasi-subsistence life - it is like being on a continuous place of barely keeping up. First there are seeds sewn when it seems impossible that they will ever survive outside, when drifts of snow still fill your door, and the glow of the grow lights is almost too much for your winter-adjusted eyes. Then there are hoop houses to erect, seedlings to plant, constant tending and babying, baby chickens, then the outside ground needs to be tilled, and the many summer projects get underway and then there is grass to mow and plants to thin and weeding to be done and people to see and camping trips and so much sunshine it's hard to imagine. And then the salmon - weeks of fish scales under your fingers, and bags in the freezer and a pervasive scent. And then the harvesting starts - slowly at first, and you wonder, can it ever get to be too much, and before you know it, your freezer is overflowing with zucchini bread made by a wonderful baking enthusiast Wwoofer, and your kids are playing in the yard, and then they are playing with fireweed fluff, and you stop and realize the number of sunny days on the deck are numbered. And there is so much food, tomatoes rot before you eat them all, and squash is coming out your ears and kids come back with handfulls of unsolicited carrots and you don't even care because there is just soooo much. And then one night the moon is big and the night is crisp and you think - hmmm, it just might... and you run outside and cover all those plants with cloth, and in the morning, yes, indeed, there is frost on the ground. And all the chickens are butchered finally, and you got the new freezer in, and the kids start school and the darkness closes in one day you stand at your calendar and shake your head and say, "Wow, how did that happen? Did I dream it?"
There are a lot of new things here on the farm these days. The biggest of the big, of course, is that I have a new job. I'm now the editor (and writer and graphic person and and and) of the Arctic Sounder, which covers Kotzebue, Barrow and a dozen or so small communities in the north. I have sooo much to learn. Right now, I'm just trying to stay a couple of steps ahead of disaster - only just barely. But it's so exciting to be back in the news business. I have missed it dearly. It's a little intimidating. I had a moment last week while putting out the first edition where I wasn't sure if I could remember everything I needed to know to do it. But quickly, I remembered where the levels settings were in Photoshop and off I went, clicking and tapping my way into an area I've never even visited. I am, however, very excited to know this place. I have lived in Alaska for most of my adult life, but my experience is quite limited to Southcentral Alaska. So expanding beyond that is very exciting. But it is a lot of work. I'm hanging onto several other freelance jobs at the same time, and to say that life is crazy in a way I haven't experienced in years is a vast understatement. But, I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and it all works out. So far, anyway.
The other big thing that is happening is I have ordered my high tunnel. It should arrive just in time to get it up before the ground freezes. I had Jeff Middleton come and look at my land today to figure out what I needed to do to level it. He wants to get working on it pretty soon, so that means a lot of harvesting and cleaning and dismantling is going to happen in the next week or two.
I'm also trying to get the siding up on the house before winter. We're not even half way done, but it's coming along. We might just get there if we keep pushing. Depends on the weather, I suppose.
Thea has started Raspberry Lane, and loves it so much. She lights up when she's there. Miss Red has a magic way with my children, and this year is no exception. I'm so grateful. Liam has been chonking away at school, working on playing the piano (we just inherited a real piano (Thea calls it a "peeaniyoo" from Mike which needs tuning but otherwise is lovely in the living room. What a gift!
It's hard to imagine a more full life right now. Friends and family and projects and progress and work that makes my mind sing, and my beautiful children growing beside me. Last night I attended the burning basket ceremony with Olive and saw so many people I knew and had so many great conversations. I put slips of paper with my hopes and dreams and closest-held thoughts into the basket and sent them up into the atmosphere. Later that night, I saw a shooting star while dancing to drums on the beach. I feel the fall, and it's energy, the moving season, and I'm ready. Let the growth begin.