A Fur Rendezvous Birthday

The Hub’s birthday was this past Saturday and although we hadn’t planned to celebrate since we bought concert tickets for later in the year as our joint birthday/Christmas/anniversary gifts I had a last minute work obligation come up that required I help with an event at the annual Fur Rendezvous the same day so we made a mini celebration of it.  Locally known as Fur Rondy, this 2-week long festival centers around everything winter and Alaskan with dogsled races, snow sculptures and other unique activities.  The ceremonial start of the world famous Iditarod is also held during this time and we were able to catch several of the mushers starting the course as we arrived and made our way to lunch before my work event.

Although I’ve here for 4 years now, this is the first time I’ve been able to attend the ceremonial start so it was a fun experience for me to watch the teams go by and cheer them on.  The first musher we saw was #61, Michael Baker. Each musher has an Iditarider on their sled during this portion of the race.  These passengers bid in an auction to win these unique perspectives which come with traditions of their own.

The ceremonial course is 11 miles on Anchorage streets and park trails – and most of it is lined with crowds.  It’s a very different scene than the rest of the race.  The second musher we saw was #62, Nathan Schroeder.  As you can see the trail on the city streets is well prepared and maintained during the event with trail workers along the entire route ready to remove debris and other hazards.

We walked down along the course and eventually had to cross over to the other side of the street.  Here’s how the trail looks to those going down it.

Jason Mackey, #64 was the next musher to come down the trail after we crossed over to this side.  He was a good example of how the musher also has to be athletic and use his body to control the sled.

2011 Champion John Baker, #65 came by next.  Although I had a good vantage point from the sidewalk I was sure jealous of the guy crouched down along the snow berm with his camera.  He was part of the official Iditarod crew which is why he was allowed to be so close to the action.  I’m going to have to research how I might join that crew!

The last musher we saw was Anna Berrington – one of a handful of female mushers in the male dominated field.

We couldn’t stick around to watch the remaining seven mushers because we had a lunch reservation at Club Paris around the corner.  This was another first for me, although the Hubs has been here many times during his Alaskan tours.  I chose the Alaskan Cordon Blue sandwich which was a Cordon Blue made with halibut instead of chicken.  It was prepared just right, keeping the halibut moist and flaky.  The Hubs had teriyaki Tri-Tips, which I sampled and deemed to be even better than my choice.  We ended the meal with creme brulee for desert.  I added strawberry puree to mine while the Hubs enjoyed his plain.

After lunch I headed over to my work event while the Hubs went to the fur auction.  I don’t have any photos from the fur auction, but you can probably imagine how the scene looked – auctioneers, bidders yelling and furs being shown off.  Although not the same kind of fur, I spotted this beautiful bear statue with amazing painted on northern light colored fur as I made my way to my event.

The event I was assisting with was called Running with the Critters.  It’s a new event this year and gives children a chance to experience something similar to the Running of the Reindeer.  Mascots from all over Alaska came out to play the ‘critters’ and while some ran with the crowd, most lined up down the street to cheer on the runners and give them high-fives as they ran past.  There were several really cute critters, including an otter and our own Peri Winkle the purple moose!

After the run Peri met part of the Fur Rondy Royalty just out side of the new Hard Rock Cafe.  He was a big hit with tourists and locals and had to pause numerous times to oblige the photo requests.

Once Peri was done with his event I stuck around to watch the Running of the Reindeer.  Similar to Spain’s running with the bulls – but with an Alaskan twist – the event raises money for Toys for Tots.  The reindeer were led from their holding pen at the end of the track up to the starting line.

Several stayed behind in the pen, both to encourage the other reindeer to come back to the herd and to wait their turn for the second heat.

Several of the reindeer sported sponsors coats.  I think a few of the reindeer got their sizes mixed up because a few were more snug than the others. 🙂

This reindeer had apparently already been pretty rowdy and was missing one of it’s antlers, which gave it a lopsided appearance.

And some just wanted to show off for the crowd even while waiting in the pen.  Isn’t he just beautiful?!

As you can see there was quite a large crowd, so I wasn’t able to get up close to the barricade when the race started but I did spot the runners as they made their way down the street.

The reindeer tend to run in small groups so the runners have to be on the lookout for them to make sure they stay out of the way of their antlers, which are sharp and pointed this time of year.

It was a bit of a scramble when they did get back to the pen as the handlers had to get their lead ropes back on and most of the reindeer were not much interested in that.

It’s become tradition to create funny costumes for the event and some get a bit outlandish.  I’m pretty sure the reindeer don’t much care about what the runners wear and are more interested in getting back to their herd mates.  This year someone ran as T-Rex, which was pretty hysterical to watch because apparently he’s not used to that much action and had to take a breather at the end of the course!

Another runner decided the finish line was a good spot for a snow angel.  Mario and the nearby clown didn’t seem much impressed.

About that time one of the reindeer went rogue and decided to make a break for freedom.  He seemed more interested in searching for something to nibble on, which is good for him because one of the runners turned back to catch a close up of the reindeer in a fur-speedo.  Thank goodness there were additional layers along with that choice of attire!

The rebel reindeer eluded capture for several minutes as the handlers tried to herd him back to the pen, so finally one decided to follow the old adage of grabbing him by the horns and wrestling him down until they could get him back on a lead.  The reindeer wasn’t hurt, just a bit disgruntled at no longer being free to roam the street.

It had been a long day and we still had a long drive home so we called it quits and headed for the truck.  On the way we saw the carnival area which was in full swing on this clear and chilly day.

It was a fun day with lots of fun things to see.  The Hubs enjoyed celebrating his birthday with a bit of Alaskan flair, so we might just have to consider doing something similar again next year!

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Talkeetna in the Winter

7My photography MeetUp group recently got together to explore Talkeetna, AK.  Although I’d been past the turn off for this little town many times on our trips to Denali, I hadn’t yet stopped in to check it out so this was the perfect opportunity to do just that.  We met up at the Roadhouse for breakfast and socializing first.  It was in the negative temps outside so the warm interior with yummy handmade specialties was a great way to start the visit.  There was a small bakery selection in the display cases and a variety of specialty syrups and sauces above.

abfThe staff pulled out several of the trays so I could get a better look at the massive options from specialty cinnamon rolls, to meat pies and unique Alaskan items such as “Rudy in a Parka” – which was an oversized version of a pig in a blanket but with reindeer sausage.  That’s what I chose to try and was very satisfied with it.

cdeAs we sat and ate one of the group members who comes to Talkeetna a lot told us about the history of the area and how the Roadhouse becomes a gateway for visitors from around the globe who have come to summit Denali.  During the summer months she said it’s not uncommon to have a variety of nationalities in this small room swapping tales, creating music and interacting.  Around the room there are flags for teams who have successfully summited the mountain and photos of some as well.

1234In one corner monies from around the world have been posted, sandwiched between terrain maps, team flags and more photos of successful climbers.
5And on the far wall was this interesting cuckoo clock.  I wasn’t able to get the history on the piece but imagine it arrived as a gift from a foreign visitor many years ago.
6With a full belly for warmth I bundled up and headed out in to the frigid temps to capture a few more of Talkeetna’s quirks.  I loved the textures of the old building and signs next to the smooth icicles hanging from the roof line.

89Across the street was a pizza place with eclectic artwork.  I can easily envision this place in the summer with dread headed servers taking patrons orders on the patio. A few more steps down the street was the beer garden of Denali Brewing which I’m sure is also another hot spot during the summer tourist season.

1011In the center of town – which was literally right next door to the brewing building on the main street – was the Fairview Inn.  It seems to be the major hotel in town.  I didn’t venture inside but the rules sign out front did make me smile because it’s definitely not something you’d see many other places.

1213Across from the Fairview Inn was Nagley’s Store, which looked like it had been pulled right out of a scene from Northern Exposure.  This is the towns general store for all your basic goods.  While the sign on the front of the building seemed relatively new, the two on the side of the building quickly reminded you that this place has been around for a long, long time.

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Next door to the general store was this little stand.  I’m assuming it’s a vendor booth during the tourist season but during the winter it’s a collection of local wildlife bones and antlers.14There were several signs around town describing early pioneer life and how Talkeetna was settled as a trading post.

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There were also some interesting art displays including this one that was above a house with several salmon inspired designs.  I got the sense that there’s a strong artist community here, which makes sense because the surrounding scenery is quite inspiring.  21

There were also a handful of historic cabins and homes that were preserved with signage describing how they were significant to the history of the town.1920Due to the extreme cold I didn’t stick around to read all the signs or investigate any of the sights in depth.  Instead I wandered the side street just off the main road taking in the sights and identifying spots I’d like to come back to check out in the warmer months.  But the snow and ice did have a special beauty to it as it clung to the buildings.

1718At the end of the main road I spotted this establishment, which I assumed was another brewery type vendor.  I just loved the Alaskan signage and door handle.  Next door was another historic cabin in need of a bit of restoration.

2224I stopped back into the Roadhouse to warm up since I could no longer feel my fingers and learned that the group planned to head over to the park at the end of the main road to see where the rivers met and the landscape opened up to views of the mountains.  This was obviously the main snow machine trail in town and access to nearby hunting areas.

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As we reached the riverbed I heard the train whistle nearby so I hurried down the trail and caught the train just as it made it’s way across one of the trestle bridges.25As I returned to the group who had set up to photograph the mountains I saw that one of the members had ventured out into the snow drifts where her shoe had gotten stuck and frozen in place!  Like most photographers, her primary concern was handing over her camera for safekeeping, then the group leader helped dig her out.
2627Once she was safely in the vehicle warming back up I got a few shots of the mountains, including Denali, which graced us with a fairly clear vantage.  The clear day made the panoramic view amazing.

2829panoI had to get back to town for an appointment that afternoon so I bid farewell to the group and headed back toward the highway.  Along the way I remembered to stop at a viewpoint I’d spotted on my way into town which gave another great view of the range and The Great One.

3132I’m pretty sure the Hubs and I will be back this spring or summer to explore a bit more when everything is open and I’d like to try the zipline through the trees at the edge of town.  I’ll be sure to share that adventure here when I do! 🙂Save

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Snow Day!

stoliToday is Tequila’s birthday, which coincidentally coincides with National Love Your Pet Day (AKA – everyday in the DBDT household)!  Although we didn’t do anything special to celebrate, I did take a break from photography work to play in the snow with the herd.

tequilaHere in Alaska we don’t get many “snow days” off from work or school because life continues on no matter how much snow there is in this region.  Luckily, President’s Day provided a perfect opportunity to pretend that it was a snow day and stay home – only venturing out as far as the yard for some fun.

Each of the fur babies has a favorite toy to play with outside.  Tequila loves her frisbee, Stoli has a stuffed soccer ball with handles and Brinley is ALL ABOUT HER TENNIS BALL!  It’s a good thing we have a long driveway where I can use the ball chucker to throw it down the drive way for her.

run3Today Stoli decided it was more fun to try to steal her ball than play with his own.  But try as he might, he just couldn’t seem to beat her to the ball, or get her to drop it by bouncing around her.  Eventually he gave up and was content to just run back and forth.

run6run2runrun7Sometimes I’m not sure he knew where he was running to, but he was having plenty of fun regardless.  And all that running keeps him warm despite that short haired coat of his.

stolirunEach time I’d angle the chucker back for a throw this is the face I’d see.  Complete and total concentration.

readyUnfortunately that didn’t always translate into finding where the ball went when my aim was a bit off and it landed in a snow bank.  bsnowShe did attempt several methods to find those errant balls.  It was quite hysterical to watch her dig and plow her way through the snow in her quest, especially since the snow was as deep as she is tall in most spots!

snorkelrearsnorkel2snorkelsnorkelupThen she’d look up in frustration to see if I had guidance to give.  I’d point her in one director or another until she realized this was a lost cause.

bA few times big sister attempted to help, snorkeling through the snow and retracing the paths that Brinley had made, carving them a bit wider as she went.

snorkelhelptstrailtequilatrailShe didn’t have any luck finding the missing balls either and decided to go back to her frisbee.

tplay2tplaytplay3And while all this was going on Miss Luna decided to come out to the porch and supervise.

lunaThat’s as far as she made it since she doesn’t like to get her paws in that cold white stuff and it’s definitely deeper than she’s interested in.

Apparently all that fun wore everyone out because a few minutes after we came inside everyone was out cold.

sleepsleep2Including Luna!  It’s hard work supervising all that chaos. 🙂

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Denali Road Lottery

9So apparently tomorrow turned into a week – but that’s how life happens around here.  Soon the projects that are pulling my attention in 200 directions will be complete and I can refocus on celebrating the holidays.

Ironically, I was feeling about the same way when we took our quick trip to Denali several weeks back.  Too much going on and not enough hours to get it done, but in desperate need of a break to recharge.  Fortunately winning the Denali Road Lottery gave us just that opportunity.  If you haven’t heard about the lottery here’s a quick recap – the general public pay to enter the lottery for a chance to purchase a day-long permit on one of four selected dates.  You can get the full details on the program here.  Both the Hubs and I entered this year and I won for a date in late September.  In that area of Alaska, September could still be fall but often, it’s the beginning of winter weather so we knew we could experience either.

The scenery was definitely fallish on the way to Denali from the Mat-Su valley.  The views reminded me of Colorado, but on a much grander scale.

12We went up the day before our permit so we could make the most of the trip.  We stayed at the McKinley Chalet just outside of Denali.  As we entered the lobby to check in I spotted this statue of Balto the famous sled dog from the Iditarod.

baltoOnce we were checked in and had dropped our stuff off at the room, we made our way over to the welcome center at the park to purchase our permit pass for the next day.  While standing in line I heard someone call my name and turned around to see a lady who had retired from the company I work for in line behind me.  We’ve run into each other on adventures like this a few times since she’s retired, so we had a good chuckle over it.

I had been to the welcome center once before but hadn’t had time to wander and explore, so I enjoyed checking out the many displays they had, including this large exhibit that had lots of information about the wildlife and local ecosystem.

wildlifecenterOf course we had to take a selfie with the giant moose, since you can’t do that in real life!  Other interesting animals were the adult and baby mountain goats, marmot and pika, which I’d never heard of before.

wildlifeselfiegoatgoatkidmarmotpikaThis display of the different types of volcanic rock in the park reminded me of similar exhibits we saw in Hawaii.

rocksIt was nice to see the local plants on display since most of them were now gone for the season outside.

flora2floraOther displays explained how researchers track the movements of predatory birds in the region and monitor the fault lines that formed the landscapes surrounding the park.

birdradiosfaultlineWe headed back to the hotel to get dinner and enjoyed the view from the dining room as we leisurely ate and chatted about the sights.3After our bellies were full we wandered out to the lookout on hotel property where a vintage tour vehicle was on display.  It was nice to see the time and effort the preservation groups had put into rescuing a piece of the park’s history so future generations could appreciate it.

86457Next, we hit the tourist shops where we tried out several crazy items like this mountain man hat that hid half the Hubs face when he tried to photo bomb me!

hatphotobombThere were also plenty of Alaskan puns on everything from T-Shirts to wall decor.  Here were a few of our favorites.

shirtakambearshirtakbearlyawakeshirtakchocmooseshirtakdeereshirtakhighlifeshirtakmealsshirtakmoosewmeshirtakpolarbearshirtakredbearshirtakredmooseAfter we had our fill of shopping we went back to the hotel where we decided to spend the rest of the evening at the new Denali square.  We browsed the artist gallery and the small shops around the amphitheater before snagging a spot at one of the many fire pit tables with a view of the mountains.

commonsWe sat enjoying the crisp air and the view as sunset faded.  Eventually we ordered a few drinks and some very yummy beignts with caramel sauce as dessert to our earlier dinner.  In fact they were so good, we had to order a second round!

firesideviewfiresidedessertWe stayed well after dark to chat with a group of tourists from the east coast of the US who joined our table.  We had lots of laughs as we shared the difference between real life in Alaska and what they see on TV.

The next morning we met up with friends we’d invited to join us on the road lottery and had breakfast together at the hotel before heading into the park.  Not far past the welcome center we spotted this big guy in the brush.

10As did several other park visitors.  He was apparently quite used to this chaos and wandered across the road right between the groups of cars before heading on out into the next field.

1211A little further up the road we spotted a flock of ptarmigan who were already switching to their winter camouflage, which made them stand out against the colorful vegetation.

13Soon the snow that had been forecasted made it’s appearance with a dusting over the low brush.  While not the look we were hoping to see, it was pretty in it’s own right.

14Now that there was snow on the ground we spotted these tracks on a hillside and all pondered what animal might have made them.

15We soon discovered the answer and watched as this ptarmigan darted up the hillside.

16It paused at the ridge to look back and before we knew it one had become many!

171819The weather made wildlife sighting quite difficult so we continued on to the Eielson Visitor center where there were several antler displays around the building.  The first was a caribou set that would have overlooked the view of Denali if it had been a clear day.  The most impressive was the two bull moose antlers that were locked together after their rutting battle led to them getting tangled.  Unable to pull free of each other, the encounter eventually led to both o their deaths.

202122The weather was cold and wet so we turned around to head back toward the park entrance.  Along the way we spotted a group of moose we’d seen on the way in and decided to sit for a bit to see if they’d come any closer.  All we could see of the bull was the very tips of his paddles above the brush, just visible through the misty snow.

23The cow on the other side of the same knoll was easier to spot.  She was very aware of the bull’s proximity and was keeping a close eye on her two yearling calves nearby.

24Eventually the bull decided to come out of hiding and show off his enormous rack.  The distance made his size a bit deceiving, but as the men in our vehicle noted very vocally you could sit a full grown man in his paddles and still have room to stretch!

2526We left the moose to woo his cow and headed down the road were we spotted a bear crossing the road in front of several cars on the hillside above us.  By the time we got to the same spot he was more interested in foraging in the brush, so all we could see was the top of his back.

27We came back through the lottery check point and were amazed at the difference in climate from one area to the other as we looked back across the landscape at this pull off.

28There were several more wildlife sightings before we left the park including this strutting male grouse who caused another slowdown in traffic and a small herd of caribou, including a few who had radio transmitters like the ones described in the exhibit at the welcome center.

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30A bit further, we encountered a massive traffic jam which meant there had to be something big nearby that was causing everyone to stop on the road.  I hopped out to investigate while the Hubs navigated the congestion.  A few steps from the truck I spotted antlers in the brush.  At first I thought they were a shed from a bull last season, but then I saw them move and realized they were still very much attached.

31I rounded the bend to see this cow standing nearby and a few more steps brought the bull into full view.

3233He was absolutely stunning there in the colorful grasses.  He didn’t seem to interested in his crowd of admirers and neither did his female companion.  So when the Hubs had finished making his way through the congestion I bid them farewell and hopped back into the truck.

34We headed back to the hotel so our friends could pick up their vehicle and head home for a final exam the next day.  While we were in the parking lot with them we noticed just how dirty the truck had gotten on the back-country roads.

dirtytruckThe mud was so caked on that you couldn’t even read the magnet sign for my photography business on the tailgate!  I took the rare opportunity to leave a message for other highway travelers as we headed home, much to the Hub’s dismay.

dirtytruckmsgAlthough our friends had to head out, we decided to enjoy one more meal with the view.  Since the Hubs was driving, I ordered my new favorite liquid libation.  Made with an Alaskan wine, this drink is a very simple sangria mixture which is probably why I like it so much.  In fact we bought a bottle of the wine used so I can have them at home occasionally and will know what to buy when this one runs out!

drinkIt was the perfect ending to our little get away.  And thanks to the very nice ranger at the welcome center who pointed out that we could buy an annual pass for the same price we expected to pay for the per head pass this time we can come back to enjoy the park again through next September!  Although we won’t be able to access the entire road system, it would be nice to see the park in the other seasons and compare the differences.  There just might be a few more weekend getaways coming up next year to this destination! 😉

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The Palmer Garden & Art Faire

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Today I’m sharing a little recap of the Palmer Midsummer Garden & Art Faire.  Although this was the 6th annual faire, this was the first time I’d attended the event and I had an amazing time!  We had perfect weather, a wonderful variety of vendors and a plethora of workshops, as well as entertainment. The photo above only shows one small section of all that was going on!

The first thing I did was join a workshop on Alpine hypertufa container gardens.  Our instructor was Jamie, a local alpine plant expert who owns the Alpine Nursery in town.  He reviewed his recipe for making hypertufa containers (1 part Portland cement, 1 part perlite, 1 part pete moss and water mixed with latex additive and a tablespoon of fiberglass fibers for strength) and explained the process for forming the container using various common garden or household items as molds.  He showed us how to plug the hole at the bottom of the container with embroidery mesh before he started filling it with dirt to plant.

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He added his own special blend of soil, which includes native top soil, pea gravel and sand.  This provides a consistency similar to what alpine plants are used to growing in in their natural environments.  He added two interesting rocks to create various pockets for the different plants, including a rare specimen he acquired from a fellow nursery owner.

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Once he had everything planted how he wanted, he added crushed hypertufa from a mold that cracked while curing on top to replicate the gravel topsoil of the native habitat of these plants.  Here’s how it looked when it was all done.

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As the class was wrapping up I noticed these ladies at the instructor’s booth.  They were definitely channeling their garden spirit with their outfits!  I’m pretty sure they were part of one the many performances during the faire, but it was fun to see them milling about in the crowd.

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I also browsed Jaime’s plants before heading out to see the other vendors and spotted the impatients my neighbor had gifted me last summer!

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Next door to Jaime’s booth was a very talented bonsai gardener.  I admired the creativity and patience it took to create these beautiful container gardens.  Here are two of my favorites, which I was surprised included one crafted from a birch tree!

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A little way down the vendor trail I found this fun photo op booth from one of my favorite local thrift shops, Thrifter’s Rock.  Their booth was just as fun with unique display racks and quirky wares.

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Another nearby vendor had this bright and happy chair planter.  I’ve got an old chair frame that I’ve been holding on to so I can create something similar!

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I was madly in love with these gorgeous hand made bird houses!  The copper roof was a fantastic compliment to the cedar carved steeples and the rustic branch on the front made it just perfect.  Unfortunately they were out of my budget for now, but I did note the vendor’s business name so I can contact him to get one when I do have some extra funds for garden décor.

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Speaking of garden décor, you might have noticed this cutie in my last post!  This vendor had several tall willow dragonflies available but I liked this little one.  Although they had planned to sell this as part of the arrangement it was displayed in they agreed to separate them and I got the perfect addition to my wheelbarrow planter for just $5!  They assured me that this little guy will weather the winter fine, but I’ll probably put him up in the shed just to extend his overall lifespan.

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There was lots to see and do at the faire, including this selfie photo op for the Visitor Center.  These tall mushrooms and hanging blooms were so cute I just had to take a picture, even though it’s not a selfie!

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The Hubs joined me at the event and we decided to get some lunch from one of the food trailers.  The salmon egg roll we ordered was definitely unique but the caprese sandwich I selected was AWESOME!  And the strawberry rhubarb lemonade I had to go with it was just as wonderful.  It was the perfect lunch on a warm summer day.

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While we were enjoying lunch I noticed this unique bike contraption nearby and soon discovered it was part of a demonstration some pretty ingenious youth were doing on how to use human power to make smoothies!

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After I’d seen all there was to see I headed back to the truck enjoying the fun little displays in front of the downtown Palmer shops.  I really liked this garden box which used fishing gear as part of the display!

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Before heading home I stopped to check out a possible photo location which turned out to a great spot, although it didn’t have many options beyond this vantage point.

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The neighbors were sure adorable too!  Look at those big floppy ears and spots!  I wonder if I could sweet talk the property owner in to letting me borrow one or two for a shoot! 🙂

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It was the perfect end to a fun day.  I’ll definitely be attending the faire again next year and already have the tentative date flagged on my calendar.  Check back tomorrow to see all the fun garden art I found at the faire!

Peony Picking

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I’m back from my unplanned hiatus from posting with a fun little adventure the Hubs and I took over the holiday weekend.  I learned of a local peony farm on Facebook and discovered they were hosting a “U-Pick” event with amazing prices for two days only.  Although I hadn’t planned to leave the house during the long weekend it was an opportunity too unique to pass up and I wanted to see if it might be a possible photo shoot location.  By the time I heard about the event, the first day had already concluded so we made plans to go check things out the next afternoon.

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Although it had rained on and off all day, we hit the road to make the 20 minute trek to Willow where the farm was located.  There was a light drizzle when we arrived, but we only had another half hour to enjoy the event before it ended so we checked in with the owners to get the basics on how to cut and what was off limits, then headed out into the field.  There were several varieties to choose from with colors ranging from white to dark pink.  We made a good team – I had the clippers and the Hubs carried the bucket for cut stems.

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The bushes were full of blooms, causing many of them to topple over from the weight.  We wandered the different rows selecting a variety of colors to create a pretty bouquet.  The rain became heavier after a few minutes and the raindrops that landed on my lens created artistic blurs to some of my images.

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As you can see, he had neglected to wear a jacket and was getting pretty wet, so he wasn’t very pleased with my tendency to get distracted every few steps.  So he pulled out the spare set of clippers and started picking a few stems on his own.  This guy must love me like crazy to be out in the rain, cutting flowers on his holiday weekend. 🙂

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While he picked the second half of the stems for our bouquet I took the opportunity to snap a few more shots of the blooms.  I love how the rain sat on the petals and made all of the colors so vibrant.

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I also snuck in a few shots with a unique perspective while I was at it.  Wouldn’t this just be a fantastic backdrop for portraits of a little girl, high school senior gal or a maternity shoot?!  My mind is already turning with pose ideas!  Luckily I chatted with the owners a bit about doing a trade of photos for their website to use the location for a session next summer, so that just might happen.

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As we were leaving the farm we came across two ladies in need of a bit of help with their vehicle.  The air guard under the front bumper had come unclipped on one side and was dragging so they were trying to get the other side undone but didn’t have the proper tools on hand so the Hubs pulled out some manly gear, got down on the muddy road and made it happen while I chatted with the ladies.  It was a sweet way to end the adventure, even though we were all quite wet by the time it was over.

I’ll share a picture of our finished bouquet over on the Facebook page so be sure to stop by and see it!

The Growing Season

Front2Today I thought I’d share how the front flower bed and rain gardens are looking this season.  The perennials from previous plantings have slowly been coming in and I’ve added a few new items as well to get the front beds going for the season, although like most other things around here, it’s a work in progress. (On that note, pretend you don’t see that crazy hose situation going on in the foreground there.  Our expandable hose bit the dust last season and unfortunately we haven’t figured out a good system for storing the long hoses we replaced it with just yet so they stay coiled in this pile for daily use for now.)

The first thing that showed up was this amazing allium, which sprouted and then produced a long stalk with a odd shaped bud at the top.  At first I thought an alien had taken up residence in my flower bed, but thanks to the local garden group I was able to identify it and enjoy watching it blossom.

FrontAllium2

FrontAllium

We moved the rain barrel out of the small corner next to the garage so it can be used in the backyard with a gutter so the space needed a bit of rearranging.  I filled the void from the rain barrel with white iris from my mother-in-law’s garden that I brought back when we picked up Brinley and added some phlox between that and the hosta that has come back much better than it did last year.  The phlox is doing quite well and has doubled in size since I planted it, so I’m pretty sure it’s happy there.  I’m also loving the metal hearts I added on the wall, which will look even better when the plants grow up and fill some of the empty space below them.

None of the previous plantings on the other side of the walkway came back so I took the opportunity to try something new – an anemone and a sea pink armeria.  The armeria reminds me of a Dr. Seuss plant, but hasn’t rebloomed since I deadheaded spent blooms, so I might need to find a better spot for it.

FrontCorner

The anemone is doing very well, although upon closer inspection last night I noticed aphids so I’ll have to address that.  It’s been a horrible season for pests so I’m checking out every DIY remedy available online.

FrontAnenome

I moved our little wooden moose statute into the corner to hide a cable that comes out of the garage wall until the plants grow in and do that on their own.  In the opposite corner next to the porch, I paired this metal sphere and piece of driftwood for a fun little garden vignette.

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There are more spheres on the far end of the bed on the other side of the porch.  This space got several new plants including daisies, lupine, yarrow and day lilies transplanted from my mother-in-law’s garden.

FrontEnd

The daisies got a little wild as they started to grow in so I used some of rusty cement stakes to create a little support system for them.  I’m hoping they go to seed at the end of the season and self-sow an even bigger crop next year.

FrontDaisy

Mr. Frog found a nice little resting spot next to a big piece of driftwood in the back of the bed.  He’s sorely in need of a paint job but I think I’ll let him be this season and address that next year since I love his colors in this spot.

FrontFrog

I filled the whiskey barrels on the stoop with dusty miller and purple alyssum, which has been slowly growing in.  Beyond that there is white alyssum in wire and burlap pots on each side on the first step, with purple daisies in rustic metal pails on the top step.  Those extra pots you spot hanging out on the porch are awaiting new homes in the gifted garden along the side of the house.  Before that can happen I need to weed that bed and make a bit of room for them.

Front

The rain garden is coming along quite well, and without much effort on my part, which is my kind of garden.  I moved the tall obelisk we got at the Great Junk Hunt last year to this space for some height at the back of the garden and really like it here.  I plan to transplant a lilac in the gifted garden to that same spot at the end of the season so it has more room to spread out, which will hide a large section of the tire wall. 🙂

RG

The clematis on either side of the garden weren’t growing in to cover the tire wall as I’d hoped so I decided to give them a bit of guidance with temporary tape.  One side is looking fairly lush and seems to have adapted well, but the other side is still a bit sparse.  I may add a third and forth clematis along the back wall next year if I don’t see much growth by then.

RGClematis

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The chives I planted out here at the end of last season when cleaning out the garden box are doing well and have actually bloomed.

RGChives

The mint from our herb planter last year is also coming in quickly.

RGMint

This mystery plant in the front of the garden is growing quite rapidly, but I haven’t been able to confirm what it is just yet.

RGMystery

I was surprised to discover the vinca vine I planted when we first did the rain garden had come back in after it showed little signs of life last summer.  Next to it the spikewell is quite lush although it hasn’t shown any buds yet.

RGVinca

The water iris are slowly growing, but I’m thinking they may not bloom again this year.

RGWaterIris

But the large clumps of iris that came from our friend’s yard in Seward have finally started blooming!  In fact almost every plant has several blooms opening on it!

RGIris

The other two lilacs that were at the back of the garden have been relocated to either side of the garden so they have room to establish and spread out without crowding each other.  I still need to clean up the areas around them but at least they have their own space now.

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RGLilac

The lambs ear from my mother-in-law’s garden survived the winter after transplant and has grown taller, so I’m hopeful it will continue to grow and create more shoots.

RGLambsEar

Here’s the view from the driveway of the whole scene.  The pile of rocks in the foreground are headed for our new rock garden and there are small batches of ground cover along the front that will eventually grow in to cover the slope.

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Between the house and the rain garden lies the raspberry patch, which is coming along nicely.  I pruned back the dead branches to encourage the new branches to produce which worked well since we have lush growth on the stalks and numerous white buds on each plant so we’re on track for a bountiful harvest.

We also added a haskap bush in front of the raspberries.  Haskaps are similar to blue berries, but are better suited for our climate.  Hopefully we’ll harvest those to accompany the raspberries in our summer time desserts.

Raspberries

The hubs also rigged up the big water tank you see in the background to gravity feed the soaker hose in the raspberry patch, which has been super convenient on the occasional hot sunny day.  I’ve decided to let the fireweed that’s encroaching on the raspberry patch be for now since both are fairly dominant and should fight each other out.  Plus it blocks out the ferns and other undergrowth that would like to spread out from the woods just beyond and if something going to spread I’d rather have fireweed than a thorny Nuka Rose!

Hopefully I’ll get the gifted garden in shape soon and can share that as well, along with the finished rock garden around the back deck. Stay tuned for those updates and a few other little projects in between. 🙂