Iditarod 2018 Willow Restart

Despite living just a half hour away for the past several years, I had never been to the Willow restart of the Iditarod.  But after attending the ceremonial start the day before to work a tent for my full-time employer I was excited to see the action in a more natural setting.  The Hubs and I arrived super early to set up before the crowds arrived and were greeted with single digit temps and freezing fog.  Luckily, the fog burned off and the sun came out to create a wonderful Alaskan winter day!

The restart takes place on a frozen lake, so the area is wide open.  I took a break from working our tent – which you can see off to the right of the start line in the picture above to enjoy the festivities and get some photos.  As you can see it was there was a BIG crowd.  It’s basically an Alaskan tailgate party in the middle of winter.

The view from the hill where the lake’s shoreline is, allowed us to see the mushers as they headed down the beginning of the trail lined with supporters.  The crowds continued across the massive lake and into the trees beyond.  Many also have cabins on the surrounding lakes, which the trail crosses and would go out to cheer on the mushers as they go by in those areas too.  This vantage point also gave us a good look at the musher’s lot where the teams were preparing for their turn at the start line.

I headed down to the corner of the mushers’ lot to watch the behind the scenes action and had the perfect view to see the teams up close as they approached the staging lane for the start line.  One by one, the teams lined up as the event staff directed them through the process.

Then the next stop was the start line, where the teams would leave every two minutes.  This time they no longer had an Iditarider or drag sled like they did at the ceremonial start so the sleds are lighter  and it takes all of the handlers to keep the teams from heading straight out onto the trail as they approach the starting line.

I was able to get several great shots of the mushers too.  Their smiles show just how much they love this sport and their teams.  Some led their teams in and others managed the sled while their handlers directed the dogs, but they were all excited.

Once they were in the shoot it was time to focus on the final preparations, check their dogs and enjoy last moments with family before they begin the 1,049 mile trek to Nome over the next several days.

The dogs were just as excited to head out as they had been the day before.  We all swore they knew how to count as they bolted off the line each time the countdown ended for the next team heading out.

Although the crowd on the other side of the starting line was wall-to-wall I was able to squeeze in toward the end to get a few shots of the final mushers as they headed out.

Several stopped to give their dogs a final motivation for the race ahead and thank them for their part on the team.

Many had final hugs and handshakes from family and supporters, while others gave quick interviews or posed for a photo with fans before the final countdown began.

And of course there were several high fives with their handlers as they headed out on this epic journey.

Then it was down to the last musher, who wore a ‘cat in the hat’ hat in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  He paused to honor his team getting down on their level and bowing to them.

Then he was off on the “Last Great Race” with a big thumbs up and snow already gathering around his feet.

It will take the teams approximately 8-9 days to complete the entire route.  You can check out each musher’s current standings and location on the Iditarod’s website.  I wish them all a safe and successful race!

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Garden Touring

Today I’m sharing a recap of the fantastic garden tour I did last weekend.  Grab something to drink and get comfy because there are going to a LOT of pictures in this post!  The tour started off at the Willow library where the Willow Garden Club maintains this lovely display garden.  I wandered through and enjoyed the flowers while waiting for the maps for the tour to be handed out.  There were several varieties of columbines that were doing quite well.

There was also a Monkshead plant tucked between the columbines.  I was surprised to see how clumped it’s foliage was as when I spot these growing in the woods on our property it’s usually a single stem with just a few ‘hoods’ on it.  I’m going to have to research them a bit more to see if this is a different variety or if it’s just that it is in full sun, versus the shade ours have under the trees.  I’m aware that they can be poisonous so  I won’t be adding them to the flower beds, but I’d still like to know.

The tour organizers gave a brief welcome and introduction to the event, then handed out the maps to the four gardens and lunch location with a short write up about each, which I’ll include in my descriptions below.  Most of the gardens were open for the entire time of the tours so you could visit them in any order.

I decided to visit the two gardens closest to the lunch spot to get started.  The first garden I visited was Janet & Lee Thibert’s Garden on Nancy Lake.  They’ve done a lot of work to the property since purchasing it as a cabin property in 1989.  They tore down the cabin and built a lovely home with a verity of landscaping, including peonies, forsythia, dogwood, bleeding heart, roses and many ground cover plants.  Part of their property has gorgeous rock work that creates a very manicured feeling.  Around their home are many cherry, birch, larch, maple and spruce trees.

The first part of the garden that tour visitors saw is an adjoining property they purchased a few years ago where they created an idyllic terraced grass and flower beds.  The first two beds as you descend the walkway were full of strawberries, which Janet said she uses as ground cover more than a harvest crop, although she did say she will sometimes pick a few to enjoy.  The third bed had a mix of bell flowers and other perennials.  The bottom beds were still under construction but had recently been planted with peonies and poppies that should fill in the space as they grow.

Off to the side there was a small trail through the trees that led to their home on the property next door.

It was a lovely wood style home surrounded by a lush green lawn.  Off to the side they had created a rock retaining wall and raised deck for their hot tub.  The top of the wall was adorned with pretty annuals and several cool rock sculpture ants.

Following the lawn down the opposite hillside led to a beautiful open area with more rock work that reached well above my head before the trail narrowed and led to a dock on the lake.

The front of the house was just as stunning, with more grass pathways and and rock work.  There was a water feature in the top section of the year and a few raised beds off to the side in an area that looked like it was still being developed.

The next garden was “The Birches” on Long Lake.  When I arrived I followed others down this amazing tree lined driveway which opened to an amazing country style garden packed with a variety of ferns, iris, currants, rhododendrons, a massive mock orange and other perennials planted many years ago.  The design of the garden encourages walking through the groupings of plants on several paths.

I followed a main path around the house to find this lovely view of the lake accented with more beds of wildflowers along the shore.

Off to the side was a pathway that ran along the shore.  On the other side of the lakeside lawn was a smaller path that curved around the other edge of the shore.  This area had several areas still in development including a fun boat and trellis planter in the making!

It was time for the lunch stop so I headed a few streets over to the Nuss home on Little Lost Lake.  They had a great open lawn area next to the lake where you could see their boat dock and arbor.  They had set out a large tent which was decorated with fun paper lanterns.

They even had a cute little spread of treats on the deck where they did raffle drawings for plants from several of the host gardens, including several unique and rare varieties.

While enjoying my lunch under the tent I spotted this amazing bird house.  I’m now on the hunt for something similar to add to my yard.  And I got a chuckle out of this guy’s shirt.  I need to find one for the Hubs!

After lunch I spotted this fun little fairy garden out near the driveway as I made my way back to the truck to head to the next garden – the world famous Coyote Garden.!  It was the one I was really excited to see and I knew our neighbor friend would be there helping out!

On the way to the next garden I spotted Denali in the distance and just had to pull over to get a shot.  It’s still amazing that we can see “the great one” hundreds of miles away.

This is Coyote Garden’s 25th year of garden tours!  Created by Les Brake and his partner Jerry Conrad, the garden has been featured in numerous magazines over the years.  It continues to receive kudos from well-respected garden publications all over the U.S. and was featured in last year’s fall issue of Garden Design with an article written by Dan Hinkley.  This year the garden will be profiled in the summer issue of a new magazine for the northwest – Northwest Travel and Life.

Our neighbor, Debra took a break from her duties greeting guests to walk through the garden with me and show me around.  She also introduced me to both Les and Jerry who are good friends of hers.  We started the tour on the deck of the house, which featured several pieces of Jerry’s amazing willow furniture.

The deck leads to a stone walkway along the side of the house where a variety of perennials were blooming.

This is the view from the deck, down the stone walkway.  That’s Les chatting with some ladies from the Anchorage Botanical Garden about – of course – garden stuff.  I enjoyed listening in for a bit until they started talking above my head. 🙂

Near where Les was standing was this amazing poppy.  I’ve never seen one with this coloring or pattern and it was the only one I saw there.

Looking from the pathway toward the house there is a small area of grass which leads to a narrow trail back around to the front of the house.  I’ll share more on that side in a moment.

At the end of the stone walkway you go through this curved structure that Jerry built, which leads out to an open lawn area.  This is the center of the garden as there is more beyond the grassy area that I’ll show shortly.

to the left of the grassy area is a small pathway to the lake.

Across from the curved structure is this newer back section of the garden.  It holds quite a few surprises.

As you enter this area a small gazebo structure is down another stone walkway off to the left.  It was created by Jerry using the same methods he makes the willow furniture from.  It just begs for you to sit and enjoy the garden.

Across from the gazebo is this stunning moss meadow!  I just wanted to lay down on it and pretend I was in a fairy tale movie.  It would be an unbelievable photo session location!

And here’s the view looking back from the moss meadow toward the house to give you a sense of the depth of the gardens.

We made our way back up to the original stone path off the deck and wandered behind the house on the narrow trail I mentioned before that leads around the other side of the house.  Debra told me that this large structure is new.  It replaced an older willow structure that was deteriorating after decades in the garden.

Les was also having a plant sale during the tour and thanks to Debra I already had a pink peony on reserve when I arrived.  I opted to add another to my pile since they were well priced and something I’ve been planning to add to our garden for a while now anyway.  I’ll share where they end up before the end of the season. 🙂

The last garden was Dream a Dream Dog Farm.  Veterinarian Susan Whiton, and Iditarod musher Vern Halter have combined businesses, pleasure and beauty when they decided to create this lovely bed & breakfast with a garden area to complement a bustling dog kennel.  Dream a Dream hosts many visitors every year who wish to savor the true Alaskan experience.  I was quite impressed with the spread as I walked up the driveway from the sign at the road.

Just past the house and kennel building are the main dogs’ quarters.  They were actually very quiet, napping in the sun until one saw my camera and sounded the alarm.  Luckily Vern was nearby and told them to pipe down so they all went back to napping.

Behind the house is this lovely little garden, which was well laid out to contain a lot of crops, yet still feel wide open.

The green house was cram packed and getting good use.

They had a gutter running along the side of the green house that drained into a barrel for rain water collection.  We’re setting up a similar option along our shed which will stock the water tank for the raspberries.

There were several raised beds, some with edible crops and others with flowers.  This one was cram packed with a variety of poppies mixed with a few other perennial wildflowers.

Here’s the view from the far corner at the front of the garden.  It’s amazing how much they’ve fit into this small area.

Down the hill from the garden were more raised beds and this monster rhubarb plant.  I hope the one I just adopted from a co-worker is this healthy after acclimating to our yard!

Beyond the gardens was a small enclosure for some of the older puppies.  They were so stinkin cute and super friendly.

Next to their enclosure was this Iditarod sign, which I’m sure is authentic!

This area of the property opened up to a mushing trail, which is perfect placement for training the dogs.

After exploring the gardens I visited the kennel’s building which was set up to entertain tourists and showcase Vern’s mushing career accomplishments.  The mural on the wall was a great depiction of him and it was pretty cool to stand under the bibs he’s worn on the trail.  The inside of the large bay doors also had a mural of Alaskan scenery and wildflowers.

It was a perfect day for touring gardens and it was so much fun to see the different styles and methods used by each host.  I’ll be putting a few of the ideas I got during the tours in reserve for our property and look forward to attending again next year and seeing some new gardens!

 

Garden Art From the Faire

Pig2

Today I’m sharing the fun new pieces of garden art I picked up at the Palmer Midsummer Garden & Art Faire I told you about yesterday.  One of my favorites is this little rusty flying pig stake.  At $10 he wasn’t a bargain, but I couldn’t say no to his cuteness.  He’s a perfect fit for our farmhouse style, but his wings give him just the right amount of whimsy for the garden.  I put him in the watering can planter which provides the perfect launching point for him over the pink lobelia.

Pig

If you were paying close attention last week when I shared our septic pipe disguise project you probably already saw the willow and birch dragon fly I added to the wheelbarrow planter.  I’ve got a few other dragon flies around the garden – including some very large live ones! – so he fits right in.  The vendor making them had larger versions available for $15, but I spotted this guy as part of an arrangement and knew he’d be better sized for where I wanted him.  Luckily, I was able to get the vendor to agree to break up the arrangement and sell him separately for just $5, which I thought was a fantastic price!

DragonFly

This glass crow is probably my favorite find from the faire and was also the first I bought that day.  I absolutely love the iridescent colors on his wing and tail that catch the sunlight.  He was only $20, which I thought was an amazing price, knowing the skill and time glass work take. The vendor also had other designs as yard stakes and wall hangings.  I told him if he makes puffins and salmon as yard stakes in the future I want to add them to my garden.  I may eventually paint Mr. Crow’s stake a dark color so it blends in a bit more, but for now I love how he’s perched over top of the dianthus.  Even the Hubs commented on how he looks good there!

Crow2

Crow

And lastly was this sweet metal wheelbarrow planter I scored for just $16.  It turned out to be a perfect fit for the crock I already had on the deck.  Now that I know it gives the crock good height, I’ll pick something that trails down the sides for this planter next season!

Wheelbarrow

Notice that little rusty bee in the crock?  That’s a bit of garden art I DIY’d.  I did a few others as well which I’ll be sharing soon, so watch for that.  Until then, I’d love to hear what you think of my garden art haul from the faire, so leave a comment below.

Peony Picking

Field

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.

Row2

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.

Rows

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.

Matt

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. 🙂

MattCut

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.

Pink

Bud

White

Buds

Varigated

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.

Row

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!