Thursday, June 30, 2011

Full moon

The full moon marks a monthly celebration with a special, festive meal. This month the party was postponed a bit to coincide with the completion of the barn roof and the homecoming of several traveling community members. I had the honor of helping to prepare a truly scrumptious macrobiotic lasagne.

What appears to be a tomato sauce is in fact carrot and beet based. The diet here tends away from nightshades, so tomatoes are a rarity. I was a bit skeptical but this actually turned out to be very, very tasty.

What would normally be a ricotta type layer was tofu and cabbage with corn, and the meat sauce type layer was the carrot beet sauce with mushrooms and seitan (wheat gluten). Once again, might sound crazy, but this is deep in the running for one of the better lasagnes of my life. Rich in flavor and very satisfying.

Dressing to impress

The tables were set with candles and bouquets of lupin. Really a beautiful occasion. Dinner was followed by dancing in the field and some pick up football.

And, of course, dessert.

For those who doubt the veracity of my porcupine encounter

Here is the photographic evidence

In other news...
One in ten Alaskans has a pilot's license

Eggs be hatchin

Compost fortresses

First leaves (few weeks back)



Moose? Rabbit?

Everyone's favorite minstrel

Friday, June 24, 2011


On a solar note, Wednesday night was our shortest night of the year, with exactly 5 hours between sunset and sunrise (11:37 - 4:37). Doesn't leave time for things to get too dark.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Several of us traveled to Valdez to attend the Last Frontier Theatre Conference at Prince William Sound Community College. John had the hook up because a play of his had previously been featured in the program. In exchange for a bit of volunteer work we enjoyed all of the festivities and amenities of the gathering.

Church of The Apocalypse

John gets some stage time

Though dormitories were available to us, we opted to tent on the lawn outside of them. Cozy, fun, slumber party-reminiscent accommodations, though not terribly good for a solid night's sleep. Running on fumes after a few nights in one of these with five other people. No regrets.

One dimension of the community that I find so attractive (and which constitutes one of its chief delights for a visitor) is a highly developed culture of food. This deserve much more attention elsewhere, but for the moment suffice to say that travel will be no excuse for food preparation to be anything but creative, joyous, and gorgeous on the taste buds. When in the company of people raised here there is no shortage of accomplished cooks, who on the Valdez trip prepared full-blown, glorious gypsy grub meals, tailgate style, with fresh ingredients including greens from the garden and home made tofu, tempeh and seitan.

Ann and Gregory at the helm

This improvisation turned about to be something of a Thai spicy peanut butter seitan. Some were skeptical of the genius who conceived of the peanut butter plan, but none could deny the deliciousness of the results. The bread pictured is also smeared with an absurdly tasty dressing of Emily's creation (she has proven to be a dressing master with many tricks up her sleeve), originally intended for salad but capable of improving any food it touches.

There were bunnies galore

Waterfalls aplenty

And wild roses

We also got to take a little evening cruise on the sound. Emma peers out on otters and floating glacial ice, and someone mentioned dolphins, though they seemed to be hiding from our sight.

It would be difficult to visit Valdez without being reminded of the event that took place here on Prince William Sound back in the spring of '89 (when I was still a wee lad), one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in human history (which, now that I think of it, probably puts it pretty high in the running for greatest environmental catastrophes in the earth's history), and one case for the possible wisdom of pursuing sources of energy other than petroleum, while striving to make our use of it more efficient.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy birthday, Ellen!

The birthday girl with Saori, Queen of Cakes

S-s-s... strawberries!!

Sam cleans up

Friday, June 17, 2011


This tower in the grain field was erected to measure
wind speed and gauge the feasibility of wind power.

A rocket stove in the making. This has become an increasingly popular tool for making the most of wood as a cooking and heating fuel, particularly useful in areas where deforestation has made wood scarce. The rocket stove was developed by Dr. Larry Winiarski, technical director of a community and sustainability education center in Oregon called Aprovecho. The stove pictured will replace the propane ranges in the longhouse kitchen, and there is talk of another being built to heat part of the barn / agricultural education center.

The garn houses a large furnace that also uses wood fuel (a pattern emerging), this time to heat water which flows through pipes under the basement of the longhouse, heating the area where most of the community sleeps.

Solar panels on the other side of the garn roof, for solar hot water (this time for bathing).

One of two masonry heaters in the long house, another technology for maximizing the energy released by burning wood. The masonry heater uses thermal mass (i.e. all of the stone surrounding the hearth) and a long, meandering flue (which runs through the soapstone) to capture more heat and release it slowly into the room. As a result of this process it also releases a much cleaner smoke.

Flying my flags. The ole hang dry is a zero electricity technique.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tipi Village

After years of wandering the continent the community settled here about 25 years ago. The first structures erected were tipis, which provided the only shelter for the first winter. It is still common for a portion of the community to vacate the longhouse and live in tipis for part of the summer.

One tipi site has a (kind of creepy looking) basement

Nearby tree house ruins