September and October had us scrambling to button up a laundry list of projects before the inevitable snowfall.
We find fall to be the busiest time of year; all the major summer projects are finished, but there's a thousand little things outside that need to be finished before the temperatures plunge and the snow piles up. We were able to get many, many things accomplished in the last two months since the snow, thankfully, held off (is that you, el Nino?). All the rain we had been receiving during the second half of summer died off in mid September when the temperatures began dropping below freezing consistently. It sure was a wet summer so it has been great enjoying some clear days and sunshine as the daylight hours begin to dwindle. The anticipation of an early snow fall has had us scurrying around with extra zip in our step. Fortunately, with the exception of one morning in early October, the snow has held off and we've been "making hay while the sun shines", literally and figuratively. Most areas to the north and east of us have already had blizzards with heavy snowfall, so winter is coming very soon.
Cleaning out the gardens was a big task over the past two months. With our eyes on the weather forecast, we picked the little green pumpkins out of our pumpkin patch and most of our other vegetables before the hard freeze set in. Unfortunately, because of the cool wet summer the pumpkins and squash didn't grow very big. We brought a handful of them inside in September and by Halloween, they were orange! Next year we plan to start a lot of our full-season plants, such as the pumpkins, indoors around the middle or end of April so they can get a jump start and hopefully grow bigger.
Two items that we hadn't grown in Alaska before this summer were celery and broccoli and we were very happy with how they turned out. The celery grew a little slow, but was very flavorful! We only grew a few plants as a trial, but the flavor was so good that we decided to juice most of it, blended with fresh limes and ginger it was SO delicious! The broccoli also thrived in the high tunnel. This was our first broccoli grow and it also flourished beautifully! We enjoyed fresh broccoli this fall in a few meals then packed and froze the rest. The fresh broccoli is unbeatable! Speaking of delicious veggies from the garden, we also harvested (with the help of visiting family) 50 pounds of carrots. The carrots came from the outdoor garden bed and a separate section under the high tunnel. The carrots in the high tunnel grew much bigger compared to the outdoor ones. Many of the outdoor carrots were too small to be worth the effort of washing and packing. With the carrots, we brought a few pounds inside which keep fresh for a couple months in the refrigerator, we juiced some of them, canned some, and gave some away. All of the leftover greens from the gardens were given to the pigs, chickens, and rabbit. I've also been sharing some of the harvest with my coworkers and neighbors. Freshly grown food in Alaska tastes so much sweeter!
With the extended fall weather, Pete was able to beef up the high tunnel by reinforcing the roof and adding walls on the ends, enclosing the whole space. He also moved our 500 gallon water storage tank into the tunnel which he will use to experiment with a hydroponic growing system next summer. This buttoned up the greenhouse will allow us to start growing earlier next spring and well into fall with not much extra work. Hopefully it handles the snow! A neighbor gave us a large blower fan we can install next summer if it gets too warm inside, since it is now completely enclosed. The weather this summer showed us that having enclosed spaces for extending the growing season in Alaska is key! However, after losing lots of harvested vegetables we were storing in a greenhouse due to a hard freeze one week, we're also discovering that a climate controlled place for storing the produce is also pretty important; both for keeping things cool when the sun is shining and also keeping it from freezing when temperatures drop. It is a big investment, but if we're going to be growing lots of food, that may have to be a project on our list in the next year or two.
The chickens continue to do well in their new coop. With our large chicken orders, the company gives us a free "wildcard" chick. It is a random breed and all of them have grown up to be roosters, except for our latest one which appears to be a hen! We believe she is a Silkie breed with her feathers growing all the way down around her feet. Hopefully next year she'll start laying eggs! Pete also added a light on a timer in their new coop which was a change for them. We're hoping having a regular 12 hours of light through the winter will keep their laying schedule a little more regular. Usually our hens quit laying once the daylight and temperatures are reduced. So far, in October, we are still getting an occasional egg, but not as many as we get every day in the summer. We also spruced up their new coop with a mirror and some artwork. I'm not sure if they know what to make of it, but I think it's nice and homey!
Pete has continued working on the bathroom inside the shop. He's installed the flooring, closet shelves, toilet, vanity and door. The bathroom is slowly coming together! Next, we'll focus on finishing the office. Having a clean floor with a rug and some permanent shelving/storage will allow us to organize the space and give us a clean, cozy place to work and do the occasional epoxy pour.
This fall I've been staying busy with Wild North Design finishing out custom orders and having fun making inventory for my Thanksgiving and Christmas shows. A corrupted hard drive on the computer which runs our CNC machine has thrown a wrench into our production plans, but a replacement should be here in a couple days and we'll hopefully be up and running again soon. The warm new workshop has been such a great environment to work in on these cold evenings. I've even been creating some personal items like potato storage crates, laundry shelf, and some Halloween decor! See all my creations on Facebook and Instagram or on these monthly blog posts. Christmas orders are filling up fast, so please place your order soon to have it arrive by Christmas. I will be announcing the official Christmas order cutoff in November on social media.
We hope your autumn was enjoyable as we wind down into winter. Snow is expected any day here. The animals are either sleeping in our freezer or buttoned up in their cozy digs. The garden is cleaned out, water hoses have been drained, and everything organized so the snow plow doesn't run into any surprises. The moose are starting to come back out, so just as the Midwesterners bid goodbye by saying "watch for deer", in Alaska we say "watch for moose!". Thank you for reading, Happy Halloween and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Hello, I am Melissa, owner of Wild North Design. Recently, my husband and I decided to pick up and move to Alaska. This dream has been a couple years in the making and we are enjoying the journey so far. We love to learn and make all kinds of things. From wood craft, to painting, to vehicles, landscaping, building, exploring...we love it all! We are finding out that Alaska is a great fit for our restless minds and bodies! Excited for what the future holds for our expanding family!
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