Thursday, October 16, 2014

Juneau & High Adventure

From Ketchikan we spent a leisurely day at sea enjoying whale watching and looking out for wild life on the shoreline cruising the inside passage up to Juneau.
Marsha, Bill, Carol & Chris
We found a spot in the bow of the ship and put our binoculars to good use. It is windy up there so all that protective gear came in handy. Down vests and silk long underwear turned out to be really good investments for the next leg of our trip as well.
Arriving in Juneau in the early hours of the morning we could hardly wait to get off the boat, we had BIG plans for our day!
Side note* Just look at the difference in size between our ship and the Princess liner docked next to us! I thought our ship was plenty big but that thing was enormous!
Can you guess from this photo what adventure we had planned? I had been waiting for this for months. Ever since we first talked about taking this trip all I wanted to do was walk on a glacier and the day had arrived! Not only were we going to walk on a glacier we were going to helicopter there. Good Golly Miss Molly! I've never been in a helicopter before and don't plan on being in one again, what an experience.
Taking off!
I sat up front next to our pilot, I could see absolutely everything!
This is where we're headed, the Mendenhal Glacier. We're taking the scenic route.
Those colors don't look real I know, but the pictures don't actually do this justice. I can't convey just how breathtaking a sight this really is.
It was an overcast day or we probably would have been too dazzled by the sun on ice.
Crevasses, seen from above. Don't fall in! The black is from a combination of crushed granite ground up by the glacier as it moves and air pollution trapped on the ice surface. The darkness attracts heats and contributes to melt. 
Coming in for a landing.
I'm standing on the surface of a glacier looking up!!! Yes, I'm excited!

Glacial river
I couldn't resist, I had to taste it. Yes, it was cold, very, very, cold!
We spent about a half hour walking around on the surface of the glacier while a naturalist explained all the features to us and answered our questions. I took so many pictures it's ridiculous.
 The most amazing color I've ever seen.
This truly was a once in a lifetime experience. The helicopter trip turned out to be not a big deal, I wasn't scared at all. 

We actually had time for more sight seeing in Juneau once we got back I'll show you next time.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Adventures On The Last Frontier

You knew it was coming and now it's finally here - time for the Dowell Alaskan Travelogue! I'll try not to bore you with too much detail but I do want to hit the highlights if only to fix this amazing trip to memory for myself. Chris and I sailed on the Holland America ship Statendam out of Vancouver. Now, we have never been on a cruise before and so had no notion of what that experience might be like. I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable we were, I could certainly get used to being pampered 24 hours a day I can tell ya.

Chris, Carol & Jay on deck, day 1
Happily, we were joined on our adventure by good friends Jay & Carol and Bill & Marsha. I can highly recommend a group of like minded travel companions to make for a good time. As you can tell Vancouver graced us with perfect weather to start our trip and really the weather cooperated the entire trip - how lucky can we be?

Sailing away from Vancouver.
We got started right away planning our activities for those days in port. As you can see Marsha came armed with guide books and notes as did we all. We had plans, BIG plans.

First stop -

My quilting buddy Kathy spent most of her life in Ketchikan before moving back to Sacramento and so I had the inside scoop on where to go and what to see here. What a pretty town this is and we lost no time exploring on foot. Most everything is within walking distance from the port.
This beautiful sculpture on the outskirts of town commemorates the salmon run and we got to see salmon spawning in the streams which run through town a truly awesome sight. It was the end of the run so I'm glad we didn't miss it.
Ketchikan is famous for displays of totem art so of course we headed to the Native American Totem Museum just outside of town where we could see their collection of totems saved from the destruction of weather and encroaching population. Ketchikan Alaska has the largest collection of totems found anywhere in the world –over 80 poles scattered throughout the city.

Totem poles were not worshiped by the natives or considered religious in any way. They were built to tell stories, myths & legends and to commemorate events including births, marriages, anniversaries, death, or a shameful act.
Totem Poles were never fully painted, only details that helped bring a figure to life were painted - ears, eyebrows, lips, & feet. The reason was that the paint was a very labor intensive process! The female tribal members would chew on salmon eggs and spit them into a bowl. The salmon eggs were the base to an oil-based paint, the saliva was the binding agent, and then powders were mixed to create the four main colors found on a Totem Pole:
  • Black came from charcoal or lignite

  • Red came from iron ore

  • Turquoise was copper oxide

  • White was from clam shells
Beautiful and inspiring with a very spare and modern sensibility. Lots of quilt inspiration here I wished I'd brought my sketch book thank goodness for my camera. Be sure and check out the website to learn more. 
The once infamous red light district has been turned into a shopping district with lots of little galleries and small eateries.
 Since there were three couples traveling together with diverse interests we spent some port days on our own meeting up for dinner to sharing our day's discoveries.
Time to get back to the ship and set sail for another port.

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Behind the Scenes

Bulletin board at the fair grounds
There's a lot that goes on in the background when any major disaster happens. Most of the public will never see everything that goes into fighting a fire as huge as the King fire thank goodness, so I thought you might like a glimpse into some of the behind the scenes stuff.
Mobile command posts are brought in
My husband Chris is a volunteer with El Dorado County Search and Rescue and is often called out on searches for lost or injured hikers, Search & Rescue is also activated at times like natural disasters. He spent a couple of days at the County Fair Grounds helping out and took a few pictures when he could spare a moment.
It takes a lot to keep personnel in good shape.
The fairgrounds acted as the evacuation point for farm animals from the fire zone. This little guy had been separated from his mama and Search and Rescue volunteers are acting as surrogates to get him to eat.
All kinds of animals waiting out the fire at the fairgrounds. My husband was on manure detail keeping things clean for the critters. I wonder how I could get some of that stuff up here to Dogwood Lane now that the danger has passed?? I hear alpaca manure is great for the roses.
Fire trucks filled the super market parking lot across the road.
Hoses being straightened out, inspected and dried before being deployed again.
While Chris was at the fairgrounds I stayed here at home ready for what ever might come our way. Glad we can breathe a sigh relief and get on with things. So grateful to the amazing firefighters from all over the country who came to our defense!
If you're on Facebook check out the King Fire Firefighters Appreciation Page from the Community for wonderful expressions of gratitude and KING FIRE.

I will be returning to regular life soon I promise.

Until next time,

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Bit Overwhelmed

So much has happened since I last posted here that I am more than a bit overwhelmed - I think it would would be safe to say that I've been a lot overwhelmed the last few weeks! Mostly I just go along pretending that things are hunky dory and the messy stuff passes, that strategy worked this time too but it did take a tole on my sleep and my blogging and a lot of other things that I like to do. Basically, I've been in 'keep my head down' mode. Here's the story.

Remember when I told you we were planning a BIG trip? Well, that happened and it was wonderful and fantastic and any other superlative you can think of. We went here. Can you guess where this amazing photo was taken? I promise you that this is real and was taken by my friend and travel companion Marsha.
Mt. McKinley - Denali National Park
Did you guess correctly? Chris and I had an awe inspiring two week adventure vacation in Alaska which included cruising and touring and hiking, helicopters!! and glaciers and fabulous food. We shared all this with two other couples and had so much fun. As I was retuning home I was composing my blog posts to share my photos and tell you all about this grand escapade, truly a trip of a lifetime but, literally as we rounded the bend in the canyon to reach our home this happened:
King Fire photo
We were greeted with a huge smoke plume reaching hundreds of feet into the air and a chaotic scene in our tiny town. Chris dropped me off at the school where we could tell some kind of meeting was going on, he proceeding up the hill to check on the house. I discovered that we were five miles short of a mandatory evacuation line and that line could very well be moved to include us at any minute. I saw my DIL at the meeting and she and I began making evacuation plans as we drove home. No time to unpack or unwind from vacation, time to think of what needs to be done in case of evacuation!
 The King Fire made the national news I know and on a personal level I can tell you that it has been terrible. Our small mountain community has been spared because of the heroic efforts of firefighters from all over the nation and we are truly, deeply grateful.
These amazing pictures are from the King Fire Facebook page set up to keep residents informed about the progress of the fire

This picture is particularly heartbreaking - Stumpy Meadows being overrun by fire. This is only 12 miles from our home and where we go almost daily in the summer to swim, kayak and just cool off. Stumpy is also the main water supply for the Georgetown area. A beautiful and serene spot.
It makes me so sad to think that this fire was intentionally set by one person for some unfathomable reason.

After more than a week we received the all clear, we would not have to be evacuated. A blessed rain had fallen and aided the firefighters in their task. Because of the incredible work of the firefighting teams we were never in real danger.

I've started to put the papers and keepsakes away but you can bet that I have a real plan now for what I'll do the next time the words "possible evacuation" are mentioned. You can see why all thoughts of the fun vacation had flown out the window and why I might have been feeling just a little overwhelmed.

And now a message from me: Time for you to have a fire safety plan. 
1. Check you smoke alarms and make sure they're in working order.
2. Have a family meet up place and a family contact person.
3. Take pictures of everything in your home and put those on a flash drive. Put the flash drive in a safe deposit box or give it to a relative for safe keeping. This will help with insurance claims later.
4. Make a plan for what you would take if you had half an hour to leave; remember the four P's - People, Pets, Papers, Pictures.

More about that Alaska trip next time,

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Deep Litter Clean-Up

 It has to happen eventually. We practice the deep litter method of chicken keeping which means that we don't fuss with hen house maintenance. But, once a year we do have to clean out the hen house and provide new bedding to start the deep litter process anew. I talked about this at length in this post and I was featured in an article in the November/December 2012 issue of Chickens Magazine discussion of the "Once-a-Year Coop-Cleaning Solution".

The day starts early because this is hot, dirty work and it's best to do it on a hot day so that the coop has a chance to really dry out before the birds go to bed for the night.
 My faithful will-work-for-food farm hand/husband/ aka Chris starts shoveling out the old litter that's been building up over the last year. It's very dry and dusty and not a good thing to breathe so he has a dust filter under that scarf.
Starting a new compost pile with this worth it's weight in gold chicken manure. Yard waste and clippings will be added to this over the course of the next six to eight months, we like to let it age further over the winter and by spring it's more than ready to spread in the garden. 
Next comes the hose out and scrubbing with a mild bleach solution followed by another rinse. Everything gets scrubbed - floors, walls, perches and nest boxes.
This is the food storage area all scrubbed down and almost dry. When dry I dust everything and I do mean everything with diatomaceous earth to ward off bugs including the ground around the outside of the coop and run. 
Once the inside of the coop is dry diatomaceous earth is spread all around on perches and in nest boxes too. A deep layer of peat moss goes down and new coop curtains go up. The hens really like their privacy when laying jumbo eggs! Those same curtains used to be in my kitchen 20 years ago, I tell ya I never throw anything away!
Cinnamon loves her new cushy peat moss flooring.
The hen yard gets a dusting of diatomaceous earth for good measure too. In the 15 years that I've kept chickens I've never had a worm or bug problem and never used any kind of chemical on my birds (knock on wood). I truly believe that this routine and attention to cleanliness has kept them healthy and happy. Plenty of clean water, proper food and healthy natural snacks including fresh herbs from my garden and scraps from our table are provided daily. They have room to peck and jump and lounge around and rarely squabble.

If you're a chicken keeper what method do you use to keep your hens healthy and happy? Would you consider trying deep litter keeping?

Until next time,