Tag Archives: knitting

Alaskan Idealism: Project Progress

Now that we’ve been in Alaska for almost 6 weeks, the regular, annoying, logistical issues involved in relocating are starting to iron themselves out.  Settling into our new residence, finding our way around, and getting started working are mostly concerns of the past.  It’s been a busy time, so really exploring what Alaska has to offer in our immediate area hasn’t been as much of a priority as I’d hoped, especially considering that summer here is almost over, and it sounds like “autumn” as I’ve known it may not exactly exist.

The necessities of day-to-day living have most certainly intruded on my vision of Alaskan living.  We’ve run into two separate couples (one pair including the fabulous Vanessa Runs) who, each knowing their time in Alaska was limited, were really able to live it up, visiting Denali National Park, Fairbanks, Seward, and Homer among other destinations.  If we make it to all of those places in the next year, I’ll consider myself fulfilled.

Fishing

Despite the reality check, John and I have made some positive progress.  Two weekends in a row took us down to the Kenai Peninsula for fishing during the Sockeye salmon run.  The first weekend was my first legitimate attempt at fishing of any kind, and did not end up successfully.  John, however, came home with 9 salmon.  Our freezer and bellies are very happy and full.

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The next weekend was a small haul by seasoned Alaskan standards, but I couldn’t have been more excited.  John caught a Sockeye and a trout, and I came home with two Sockeyes.  Standing out in the Kenai River in my waders, I felt that first real tug on my line, started backing up to the shore, and immediately tripped and fell over into the river, mostly defeating the purpose of my waders.  I hung on to my pole though, and after satisfyingly long struggle, with the assistance of John and our net, got my first catch up to the shore.

ImageSince then, we’ve had grilled salmon, baked salmon, pan-fried salmon, smoked salmon, salmon roe, and salmon-head soup.  Lunch today was Chipotle Salmon Wraps with Bacon.  Are we salmoned-out?  Nope.  But I’m certainly not disappointed about John’s charter fishing trip coming up tomorrow that could yield halibut, rock fish, yellow-eye, and…more salmon.  But Coho this time.

Car Repairs

A new and unexpected project that was recently created for us is the issue of vehicle maintenance.

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More appropriate mugs would say, “I Drove the Alaska Hiway…and lived!  My car…not so much.”

So far our tally is as follows:

John’s truck:

New clutch – $$$

Replaced fan clutch – $$

My SUV:

Rear brake pads and resurfaced rotors – $$

Four spark plugs and coils – $$

Squeaking front brakes – TBD

Boat trailer:

Lost brake/turn light cover and wires – TBD

Broken winch in need of welding – TBD

Moral of the story: the cost of driving to Alaska includes more than gas.

Knitting

My Central Park Hoodie was not finished before crossing the border into Alaska.  But it’s done now!

ImageSince finishing, I’ve done a really cute baby hat, and am 2/3 of the way through a sweater for Si.  Turns out knitting projects do not need to take multiple years each.

Settling

Since moving to Alaska, we’ve already moved. We readjusted to our new surroundings over the first month with relatives in Anchorage (thanks Scott and Jaime!), but have since set out on our own.  We headed out of town to Wasilla, because, after all, we didn’t move to Alaska to live in the city.  The commute is significant, but on my way to work I have views of glaciers and mountain ranges, cross two big rivers (the Knik and the Matanuska), and have to keep my eye out for moose (6 have been hit since July 1st).  It’s not unpleasant.  And after living in San Diego County, there is zero traffic by comparison.

Overall, Alaskan life is moving along nicely.  Next up: first day of school with students, preparing for winter, the DMV, and getting ready for baby #2.

ImageWaiting for our table at Moose’s Tooth in Anchorage, which never has no wait. Not never.

 

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Alaskan Idealism

I love a good project. I love to learn what tools, skills, and materials I need to start and finish the project, be it making, building, or learning something new.  I love to marvel at how my life will be improved upon completion of the project.  

 “I’ll never have to buy eggs again after I build a chicken coop!”

 “My feet will always be warm after I knit this sock pattern!”

 “My life will be complete when I learn to churn my own butter!”

 The only problem lies in the disconnect between the idea of the project and the actual completion of the project, which is best expressed by this illustration from Dirk’s Big Bunny Blog:

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Most of my projects live out their lives in the realm of my perpetual thought bubble.  Fortunately, I know this situation is not hopeless.  I have many projects that have come to fruition over the years, it’s just that my ratio of planned to completed is not very good.  Alaska, though, seems like the perfect venue for improving that ratio and honing my follow-thru skills.  I expect that exceptionally well developed DIY skills could be quite the boon in Alaska.  Hungry?  Go catch a fish.  Chilly?  Knit up some mittens.  Bored?  Play some guitar, make some soap, or put a new addition on the house.

 In true “me” style, I already have quite the list of Alaska projects living and thriving in my thought bubble.  

 Knitting

Knitting is one area where I’ve, at least, already acquired some essential skills.  At several points, I’ve even sold some of my projects.  Most of my knitting has consisted of small projects, mainly hats and beanies.  I’m particularly proud of an almost-finished sweater.  I followed the Central Park Hoodie pattern, and used the exact yarn from the model photo because I loved it so much.  The only hang-up with this sweater is that I started it back in March…of 2010.  I’m now publicly committing to completing it before crossing the border into Alaska.

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So close. 

It appears that other knitters have been able to finish the same sweater in a few weeks to a month.  I’m hoping the finished product will give me the confidence and drive to start having my knitting turn over as quickly.  I’ve been on Ravelry an unhealthy amount of time lately, and my knitting queue now has 20 different projects, including more sweaters, a few baby things, and couple choices for my holy grail of knitting projects: a man sweater that will actually be worn.  If long Alaskan winter nights are any assistance to my knitting ambitions, churning out one per month seems reasonable, and gives me almost two years of happily busy fingers.  My current rate of 3+ years per item puts me knitting into the grave.  The former option sounds much more pleasant.

 Playing Guitar

I’ve ambitiously owned a guitar, an antique that belonged to my grandmother, for 13 years.  Once I was able to recognizably strum out the first few bars of “Under the Bridge”, but that’s about it.  The aforementioned Alaskan winter nights, ideally, will prompt a quicker ascent on my learning curve, particularly since we’ve decided to not turn on cable.   

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Decorative wallhanging no more.

General Homesteading

Even though we’re, truth be told, probably going to be living in the ‘burbs, I still can’t shake the image of Alaskan frontier living.  Canning, soap making, eating seasonally, tending chickens and pigs, milking my own goat, and ample hunting and fishing to stock the freezer are all fairly essential elements to my Alaskan dream.  My experience in those areas ranges from “Some” to “Zero”, but I’m working on it bit by bit.  Yesterday I whipped up a fabulous batch of mayo, and Sunday I’m planning on butchering a chicken.  I make no prediction on the outcome of the chicken; it might walk away unscathed.  However, I do feel it’s a certain rite of passage in omnivore-hood.  I’m hoping that certain conditions in Alaska will make my homesteading plans morph from whimsy to mandatory.  If tomatoes in January cost $12 a pound, all the better.

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 Dinner.

Running

One of my most pivotal ideas that became victimized by project-block was running a marathon.  I had at least three false starts, where I picked a race, started a training plan, and then completely derailed after a couple weeks.  I can’t pinpoint the cause of those failures, because I was indeed finally successful in running 26.2 miles when I raced in a 50k, which is over 30 miles.  After that, I ran a marathon a few months later “just for fun”.

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I suppose the ideal running conditions that come with living in San Diego at the time had plenty to do with it, as well as being a bit older, somewhat more disciplined, and having actual responsibilities that were a pleasure to get away from for just a little while.  Regardless, running long is in me now, but I know year-round living in Alaska will certainly present some challenges.  I will likely have to invest in both a treadmill (the horror!) and these beauties to keep up with 50k’s, move on to 50 milers, 100k’s, and beyond, in what promises to be the most amazing terrain and trails I can imagine. 

 Last Thoughts on Thought Bubbles

I realize that my particular situation in Alaska will not mandate that I actually complete any of these.  I’m certainly not, in the near future, going to starve without a self-caught and filleted salmon, or freeze without a homemade quilt.  But Alaskan living adds a certain quality to self-sufficiency.  Day to day responsibilities, having a job, taking care of a family, and not a small sprinkling of flat out procrastination have made the back burners of my life much more crowded than the front.  The time is now to address all of those pots, add seasoning, and bring them to a boil.