Summer mania begins

The last remains of winter ice along the Deshka River.

Dear resuming reader,

I have been remiss in writing to you this past week. But I have an excuse — we have officially entered the manic summer season in Alaska when we try to squeeze as much work/fun/family into every daylight hour.

I say “summer season” but really this is only applicable in terms of the increasing length of each day: currently sunrise is at 5 a.m. and sunset at nearly 11 p.m. In terms of summer weather, not so much. A hail storm yesterday afternoon turned into a snow squall. But we have not let the chill deter us.

We spent the first weekend of May in our riverboat. This is the earliest we’ve been out on the rivers; the ice broke up nearly a week before it usually does.

An arctic tern skims above the river in search of salmon smolt.

Beaver and muskrats swam along the shore; Arctic terns dipped and dove in aerobatics over the water as they fished for salmon smolt in the early morning; sandhill cranes, scaup ducks, mergansers, mallards, and buffleheads flew along the river and landed in the back sloughs; frogs uttered their first croaks of the season. At night, we sat beside a campfire and ate s’mores.

Also in true Alaska summer tradition, visitors have begun to arrive. My grandparents from Buffalo, NY, came for about a week, and then my uncle.

A sandhill crane flies overhead.

Soon, my husband’s family arrives, just in time to go fishing for king salmon. One of the downsides of living in Alaska is having extended family so far away. But these weeks have been the perfect antidote.

I have also been pursuing my new career as a published author. During the past weeks, I’ve visited libraries, schools, and book clubs to talk about The Snow Child, and a few days ago I had a signing event at the Flying Squirrel, a bakery cafe in Talkeetna, Alaska, where I ate the most scrumptious cauliflower macaroni & cheese and had a delightful conversation about books with the group of readers who attended.

And then, as if we haven’t tried to cram enough into our days, we have also been tackling lots of projects around our house. This weekend Sam and I built a small greenhouse so we can grow tomatoes, cucumbers and basil this summer. We hauled, split and stacked wood to try to replenish our wood shed. And I’m in the middle extending our garden and putting up new fencing around it. Hopefully by the end of the month, the snow squalls will have halted entirely, and we’ll be able to plant our garden with carrots, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and lettuce.

So if another week goes by without a letter from me, know that I am only knee-deep in summer. But I am thinking of you.

What are your plans for the coming season?



Spruce forest is reflected in a back slough of the Deshka River a week ago.


Signs of spring

Pussy willows in bloom in the neighborhood.

Dear hopeful reader,

The past two weeks have been sunny and warm, at least by our standards — in the mid-50s during the heat of the day. The snow has nearly disappeared. The pussy willows are blooming. The rhubarb is poking its way out of the wet ground. And the wild swans have returned to Fish Lake.

It seems spring truly has arrived in Alaska.

Our spring chickens.

My youngest daughter and I have planted our garden starts — squash and kale, broccoli and sweet peas — and now our living room windows are full of tiny, tender, green plants.

Squash and kale seedlings in our front window.

In another sign of spring, our friend and neighbor Donna gave us baby chicks. Chickens produce the most eggs during the first year or two, so each spring we add some new hens to the flock to keep up our egg production. Although, as you can see from our refrigerator, we are not suffering from a shortage of eggs. Luckily we have friends and relatives to share them with.

In another week or two the cottonwood and birch leaves will fully emerge, and in about a month we can plant our garden.

Of course yesterday afternoon as I was driving home, the sky began to spit snow at my windshield. But none of it stuck to the ground, so I’m just going to pretend that didn’t happen.

Are the seasons changing for you as well?



We are getting about 6 eggs a day from our flock, now that the days have grown longer and warmer.