Daily Archives: October 24, 2012

Homegrown revolution — Gardeners expand to tackle Alaska’s food insecurity

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Farmers markets are sprouting up all over Alaska these days, yet another sign of a growing agricultural culture.

Redoubt Reporter

Here’s something to chew on with your breakfast: The eggs for that omelet you’re eating — or the milk in your cereal, the meat in your sausage, the honey in your tea, the jam on your toast — probably wasn’t produced in Alaska. But half a century ago, it probably was.

The factors contributing to this fact are many, and about as complicated as making a soufflé in an Easy-Bake Oven with no electricity at the 17,200-foot camp on Denali’s west buttress.

Convenience, cost, and consumer demand related to those, are big parts of the equation. It’s also a product of changes in globalization, infrastructure, transportation, supply chains, the increase in corporations and conglomerations vs. privately owned businesses, marketing strategies, subsidies, technologies and growing conditions. It doesn’t break down into an easy recipe, with one part of this to two parts of that, or three tablespoons of this whisked into four cups of that.

The result, however, is quantifiable: In 1955, 55 percent of the food consumed in Alaska was produced in Alaska. Today, a mere 5 percent of the food Alaskans eat is produced in Alaska.

And that, say experts concerned with the health, stability and economy of Alaska, is as bitter a problem as mistaking salt for sugar.

“In 1955 we were pretty self-sufficient, but from 1955 to 2010, we have gone from being self-reliant and independent to completely vulnerable, completely dependent on the next plane,” said Danny Consenstein, director of the Alaska Farm Service Agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Consenstein points to three justifications for needing a better local foods system in Alaska:

1. Economics.

“Alaskans spend $2 billion a year on food. Ninety-five percent of that is leaving the state. Imagine if just 10 percent more stayed here — if we went from 5 to 15 percent. That 10 percent is like $200 million dollars that would be bouncing around local communities,” he said. “So the economic potential, I think, is big for Alaska. Why are we sending all of our dollars to Mexico or California when we could be keeping it right here?”

2. Health.

“We clearly have health problems in Alaska — obesity, diabetes, especially in the Bush. It’s got to be connected to the food that we’re eating. If we can provide healthier, fresh, nutritious, local food, it’s got to be good for Alaska,” he said.

3. Security and the ability to be more self-reliant in an emergency. Advances in transportation are part of the reason why Alaska moved more to importing food than producing its own, because it became faster and cheaper to bridge the gap between Alaska and beyond. But that gap still exists, both between the state and the main food-producing regions of the world, as well as within Alaska, with rural communities separated from main distribution hubs. An earthquake, fire, flood, avalanche, volcanic eruption or a number of other uncontrollable events could disrupt supply chains, with grocery stores only stocking enough to feed residents for a few days to, maybe, a week.

“How can Alaska be more prepared for an emergency? It’s a lot more than just stockpiling. It’s strategies like helping farmers grow more food. And maybe that’s a longer-term strategy. It won’t help us tomorrow, but in 10 years from now if we can get from 5 to 15 percent, we will be more secure, more protected against supply disruptions,” Consenstein said.

Getting there will take a homegrown revolution, the seeds of which have already been planted and the budding shoots of which can have taken root on the Kenai Peninsula.

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Juvenile otter rescued on road — Pup was likely looking for separated mother

By Naomi Klouda

Photo courtesy of Alaska Sea-Life Center. A baby sea otter is recovering at the Alaska SeaLife Center after being rescued from a road in Homer last week.

Homer Tribune

A baby female sea otter was rescued from Kachemak Drive on Oct. 17 after it crawled out of Mud Bay on a high tide and motorists found it on the road.

The otter, about 18 inches in length, had apparently become separated from its mother, said Debbie Boege-Tobin, an assistant professor of biology with Kenai Peninsula College’s Kachemak Bay Campus and a marine mammal stranding volunteer.

“Since otters are typically born in spring-summer, I assumed this would likely be a 4-plus-month-old, and therefore recruited Martin Renner, KBC ornithology adjunct instructor, to assist,” Boege-Tobin said. “When Martin and I arrived on the scene, Lisa Zatz was on site making sure the otter remained safe until someone arrived to assess its condition. I noticed it was quite small/young, likely 2 months old or so, didn’t appear to have any obvious injuries, but was very lethargic.”

Before placing the otter into a kennel, Boege-Tobin assessed her external condition for possible injuries, but didn’t find any apparent problem. She also didn’t get too much of a response. But by the end of the transition, the pup woke up fully and began calling loudly and repeatedly.

“We placed the kennel next to the water’s edge in Mud Bay for a while in hopes it would call in the mother.  Unfortunately, once again we did not observe or hear any sea otters whatsoever in the area,” Boege-Tobin said.

“It’s tough out there for an otter to survive without its mother. Otter mothers do a lot of intense training to prepare them for life at sea.” Since the mother couldn’t be located, it means the otter will have to grow up in aquariums.

Two stranding network volunteers, Mark Tanski, KBC student, and Jennifer Rasche, KBC registration specialist, drove the screaming pup to Soldotna where they met a rescue team from the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.

“Other than being in a cold (you have to keep it cold for the otter) SUV with an otter pup who screamed the entire time, Mark and Jenny made it safely back to Homer and the otter pup made it to the ASLC,” Boege-Tobin said.

At the Alaska Sealife Center, the otter was placed in a new unit called the I.Sea.U, a play on Intensive Care Unit. The center reports the otter pup is doing well, “eating 35 percent of her body weight daily from a bottle, and interacting with enrichment items.”

The otter is between 6 and 8 weeks old and weighs a mere 8 pounds.

The I.Sea.U was designed for sea otters; however, its first residents were two walrus calves recently transported to their new homes at the New York Aquarium and the Indianapolis Zoo on Oct. 10. After a quick reconfiguration, the new animal care space was transformed into a sea otter nursery that can be viewed by visitors to the center through one-way windows. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will determine placement for the otter. Its stay at the center is expected to be short. Alaskans wishing to see the otter are encouraged to visit before the end of October, according to a report from the I.Sea.U.

“This truly was a community effort,” Boege-Tobin wrote in an e-mail.  Several came out to block or redirect traffic when the otter was in the road, many students, faculty and staff came out while we were at KBC to check on the pup and even airport safety came by on several occasions to ask if they needed help.

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Airing out the Attic — Thrift store gets new look, management

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. LeeAnn Barenz, a sales associate at Bishop’s Attic in Soldotna, stocks clothing in the recently reorganized store.

Redoubt Reporter

Mickey and Sue Bowen, of Nikiski, had come to find a chainsaw, which they did for a bargain price of $15, but Sue Bowen became even more excited with the unexpected discovery she unearthed from a big bag of clothes at the back of the Bishop’s Attic thrift store in Soldotna recently.

Tucked away with the other garments Bowen pulled out a nearly knee-high pair of mukluks made from a combination of caribou fur and seal hide. They looked a bit old and well-worn, but Bowen wasn’t purchasing them to wear.

“We have an Alaska room and I thought they’d look good in there with the baleen and other Alaskan things we have,” she said.

The price was right — a mere $25, a fraction of what either of the furs would cost without being sewn into a traditional form of Native Alaskan footwear. Had Bowen not bought them, someone else eyeing them from nearby was ready to take them home.

“It’s a good thing you saw them before me,” said Sheila Reser, who was there shopping with her two teenage daughters.

“That’s why I like coming — you never know what you’ll find. Something someone else doesn’t need anymore could be the exact thing you’ve been looking all over for,” Bowen said.

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Set sights on summit — Kilimanjaro climb a slow, steady trek to the top

By JP Bennett, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photos courtesy of JP Bennett. Though shrinking, there is still ice and snow on Kilamanjaro. Seen here is the southern icefield.

The six-day climb up Kilimanjaro began by ascending a slope similar in angle to Cooper Landing’s Slaughter Gulch. We passed through a forest lush with blue-flowering jacaranda and imported eucalyptus trees that provided a canopy of protection from the equatorial sun and flavored the air with subtle sweetness. Impatiens kilimanjari found only on these slopes were easy to spot with their orangey-red flowers. Pinkish-white and purplish clovers added color to the verdant underbrush.

Carrying only daypacks with rain gear, snacks, water, camera and personal items, I hiked along with Judith, the only other client in our entourage, and with guides, Adonis and William. We had set out well before the porters, but an hour or so into the hike, the crew, each laden with around 40 pounds, shot past us. This pattern repeated every day. By the time we reached a campground, the porters had tents set up and water drawn.

The first site we came to would shock anyone who might be expecting a wilderness experience.

The Big Tree campsite on the Lemosho Route. This trail was chosen in part because it is the least crowded.

In a space the size of a basketball court, I counted more than 40 tents, all pitched haphazardly and compactly. Our crew set up our accommodations on the edge of the congestion, a practice they would try to repeat each night. The effort reduced, ever so slightly, the unwinding evening din of all the porters as they settled in for the night.

Each morning’s routine began with coffee delivered to the tent and savored as I rolled up my sleeping bag and pad and sorted out what to carry in my daypack. Breakfast was then served in the dining tent, which also doubled as the sleeping tent for three of our men. The cook tent served as the sleeping quarters for the other four.

Leaving the porters behind to break camp, Judith and I set out with the two guides. After a

Impatiens kilimanjari.

couple of hours of steady climbing, we left the forest and entered the moorlands. The plan was to hike about four to six hours to the Shira 1 campsite. Despite what seemed a slowish pace, we arrived in the campground well ahead of schedule. The guides suggested that if we weren’t tired, it might be good to make this day a bit harder and gain more elevation sooner. Each successive day’s hiking would then be shorter but include more acclimatizing rest. It made sense.

So we soldiered on through the Shira Plateau, the collapsed dome of an eruption that had

Senecio contorii can grow up to 18 feet tall and are found on the upland moors of Kibo.

formed part of the mountain. The scant vegetation consisted of giant heathers scattered amid volcanic rocks in a desertlike landscape. Clouds swept in with a building breeze and it began to rain. The temperature dropped and the precipitation turned into hail just as we began the climb to the Shira 2 site on the lower crater’s rim. Breathing began to become labored as we approached the camp, which was just under 12,000 feet, almost a mile higher than the trailhead.

By the time we arrived, I was totally whipped and had a slight headache, one of the first signs of acute mountain sickness. Rest, dinner and copious amounts of fluids restored most of my energy level. By sunset, the clouds had dissipated and we now had our first view of Kibo’s entirety. That clarity created a buzz throughout the camp. From that day

Giant lobelias can grow up to 9 feet tall and also are found on the upper moorland slopes.

on, the prize remained almost constantly in view.

As promised, we only had about three or four hours of hiking each of the next three days. The first of those found us approaching the base of Kibo’s massif in the high moorlands. We took our lunch break by the aptly named Lava Tower and had to take shelter from the headwind that had been building through the morning. Vegetation became sparser and weirder. Several varieties of the cactuslike Senecio, including the giant cotori, is ubiquitous in these high moorlands. Hugh columns of lobelia also are endemic to the area.

Shortly after we trudged into the Barranco Valley camp, I had to put on a couple of layers to ward off the increasing chill. Leonard, our camp’s steward, served an afternoon tea with cookies and all we had to do the rest of the day was to relax.

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Almanac: Dislodged — Early backcountry ski facility at Manitoba destroyed in fire

By Clark Fair

Photo by Theresa Zimmerman, courtesy of Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project. The Glacier Ski Lodge at Manitoba in 1946 with the Kenai Mountains to the west of the Seward Highway in the background.

Redoubt Reporter

Oliver Amend was working in Seward in the spring of 1960 when he heard that his ski lodge on Mount Manitoba was on fire. As soon as he could, he fired up his single-engine airplane and flew over the mountains to check things out.

By the time he arrived, the Glacier Ski Lodge was gone.

Amend had been given the lodge five years earlier by its original builder, Gentry Schuster, when Schuster decided that he was too busy with his Bush-flying business, Safeway Airways, to bother any longer with an alpine skiing business.

Photo by Bruce McClellan, courtesy of Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project. The view is from the top of the ski run on Manitoba in 1942.

“He just turned it over to Oliver Amend to operate — no sale — just a ‘you take it,’” said Schuster’s ex-wife, Virginia, in a 2006 letter published on the Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project website.

Mount Manitoba is located along the Seward Highway near the confluence of Mills and Canyon creeks, about three miles north of Summit Lake Lodge. When Schuster built the Glacier Ski Lodge in 1941, no Seward Highway existed, so the road designation was Mile 50 of the Seward-Hope Highway.

Photo by Bruce McClellan, courtesy of Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project . Gentry Schuster works to build his Glacier Ski Lodge in 1942, referred to at the time by the Schuster family as simply “the cabin.”

By the time Amend took control in 1955, the Schuster marriage was ending, and neither Gentry nor Virginia continued with the lodge in any capacity. Amend, a resident of Seward who had a regular job during the week, ran the place as “strictly a weekend affair,” according to the ALSAP website.

Whenever he was gone from the mountain, however, problems occurred. While the lodge was vacated during the weekdays, it was left vulnerable to uninvited and often destructive visitors.

These vandals — Amend blamed Army soldiers then stationed at Seward — took residence at the lodge during the week without permission. They often burned through the firewood that Amend had stored there for the weekend, and one time they apparently began incinerating

Photo courtesy of Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project. A special-use permit card for Manitoba ski area in 1942.

wooden skis for warmth when they exhausted the supply of stove wood.

According to ALSAP, Amend suspected that in the spring of 1960 the vandals were more careless than usual and caught the whole place on fire. The Glacier Ski Lodge was never rebuilt, and its special-use permit with the Chugach National Forest was not renewed.

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Electing to laugh — ‘Lame Ducks’ satire show skews politics as unusual

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. From left, Terri Burdick, Joe Rizzo and Jamie Nelson rehearse a scene of “North Road Family Feud” as part of the “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” political satire show.

Redoubt Reporter

Who has the better plan to steady the national economy? Who is more prepared to handle international affairs? Who will create more jobs? Who best represents the needs of everyday Americans?

Who cares?

Triumvirate Theatre invites audiences to focus on what really matters this election season: Who would win a “North Road Family Feud” skeet-shooting competition, Joe Arness or Cathy Giessel? If given the choice between a Dairy Queen Dilly Bar and anything deep-fried from the Pour House, would anyone vote for Herman Cain? Who hasn’t mistaken Rep. Kurt Olson for a teddy bear?

These and other important questions will be considered in Triumvirate Theatre’s biennial “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” political satire show, to be performed this weekend and next at the theater in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.

The show takes a lighter look at all those who might take themselves too seriously when running for office, on the national, state and local level. Satire can be a particularly welcome reprieve from an election season as charged as this has been, for voters to take a break from the serious issues facing the country and break up laughing from some of the serious ridiculousness inherent in the political circus.

“There’s nothing funny in policy, in real positions. It’s the antics of this political system that we have, and the antics of the people that are wrapped into that system and have to use that system to advance their political positions,” said Joe Rizzo, director of “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses.” “It’s not funny to come out and say, ‘Man, Sean Parnell, he sure is a stooge for the oil companies.’ There’s nothing funny about that, even if you think that’s the case. But it is funny having someone playing Sean Parnell singing (to the tune of Willie Nelson’s ‘On the Road Again’), ‘On the right again. I just can’t wait to move to the right again.’ Now that’s funny.”

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Art Seen: Wild for art — Journal entries edited into new works at KPC

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photos courtesy of Zirrus VanDevere. Artist Dymphna De Wild and art department chair Celia Anderson hang De Wild’s work at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College. The show is on display through Nov. 12.

Dymphna De Wild has an exhibit currently up at Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. She was introduced to the college by Freeburg, who has worked with her on the East Coast and was impressed with her artwork.

This particular exhibit comprises unframed original drawings and prints made from journal entries, as well as from a mixed-media piece. The work is all on sturdy, naturally deckled paper and hangs well with T pins rather than framing.

Artwork by Dymphna De Wild is on display at KPC.

De Wild more often has full installations with varying sizes of sculptures in her exhibits, generally filling the entire space with fanciful and exotic shapes, textures and hues. Though I wouldn’t necessarily compare her work to Tim Burton’s, there is something about the way she approaches her art that makes me think of the work I’ve seen from him.

In an exhibit a couple years ago at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, I was able to peruse room after room of Burton’s creations, beginning chronologically with his very first doodles and filmmaking from when he was still in grade school. There was an integrity and coherence to everything he did and even the early work was identifiable as specifically his creation.

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