Saturday, September 13, 2014

Gone Coopin'

One random May morning the thought came to me: wouldn't backyard poultry husbandry be just the thing to do? Fresh eggs, happy hens, cute coop and children raised raising animals...yes, most definitely let's try this.

That very afternoon, our first batch of chicken came from a local farmer, who sold us 6 Cochin chickens, each 7 weeks old. He was pretty sure they were all hens, but not 100% (more on this later). Soon after we added to the flock 2 Black Sex Links, 3 Rhode Island Reds at 3 weeks old, and 2 Buff Orpingtons and 2 Red Chanteclers at 1 week of age. These girls came from a local feed store.

And then we realized chicken keeping can be an addiction. And oh boy, we're up to 15 pullets. And no coop yet, much less an insulated one suitable to winter over these birds in the Alaska temps. Long story short:

  • We built a fancy chicken coop and run from entirely recycled materials
  • We integrated the three flocks who up to this point had been raised separately
  • Discovered that 2 Cochin and 1 Rhode Island Red chickens were indeed cockerels (farmer guy had a 33% error rate in sexing his Cochins)
  • Re-homed the Rhode Island Red because it was singled-out by the other two roos
  • Depending on level of crowing we may have to re-home the other two as well (by re-home I mean re-home to the stock pot) but roos are so regal and decorative, and fun to watch that we hope to keep them with the girls
  • The oldest flock should start laying any day now
  • So far we named 9 chickens: Disco Pants, Disco Pants Jr., Lemon, Peep, Dot, Beyonce, Cher, Celine Dion and Brittney Spears.

For the record, summer 2014 has been incredibly rainy. So rainy in fact, that sink holes began to pop up around town, including several small ones in our yard. Fairbanks broke a 100 year-old precipitation record, and all I could think was how spot-on my post was years ago about the summer plagues of the Interior.  But the biggest news this summer at This Alaskan Backyard was Big Fish's departure for a year to study in Europe. Yes, our beloved Big Fish has fled the coop. Perhaps there is something Freudian in my sudden interest in collecting chicks -given the fact that one has slipped from under my wings.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Small Moose, Big Spirit

Small Moose and J recently returned from our usual annual(ish) trip to visit Dr. Hanel in Seattle.  Here he is in the doctor's office with Dr. Hanel:
This visit is a regular followup for his hand surgery he had when he was just 11months old.  Small Moose came into this world missing his right thumb (completely absent, just missed the bus) and with a right arm that does not straighten at the elbow (he can bend it toward himself, but otherwise always positioned at a 90 degree angle).  The surgery performed by Dr. Hanel gave Small Moose a thumb via pollicization of his right index finger.  In other words, his index finger migrated to become his thumb.  He loves his thumb, it feels and acts just like one, and you would not believe the grip this kid has with his little hand.

Small Moose started hockey last year and fell in love with the game.  He gets upset if he ever has to miss a practice, even when he is sick.  He has become quite good at it in a very short amount of time.  I want to pay tribute to my Small Moose and his favorite sport with this montage recorded at yesterday's game.  Nine fingers or not, he has a steady hold on that stick and is rockin' this game!  He is blue #19, red shorts.  Way to go, kiddo!  And hats off to Dr. Hanel!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When my signifiant other stands on the porch, vacuuming mosquitos with a hose attachment

...then I know this mosquito season is truly horrible.  J has gone mad.  He started his quest in a sitting position, spending a good 30 minutes on our front porch fiercely wielding a tube sucking up bugs.  Once satisfied, he stood up and held his position -vacuum off, tube laid across his chest- intermittently turning on the machine to slay any lingering specimen.  It is at once amusing and so King of the Hill-esque.  I'm trying to figure out whether J is channelling Hank or Dale.  Or Don Quijote perhaps?
That's Alaska and its mosquitos for you.

But hey, we made it through another winter.

winter solstice

Recently I even got a little Europe-fix with a one week trip to Sweden.  It was for work, but it was oh so good.  I enjoyed that Scandinavian feel that oozed from everything around me.  I got a kick out of the weights by my bed in the hotel for example with the workout DVD.  

Tourist by the Vindeln river

And ladies and gentleman, J is done battling the bugs..for now.  And I'm afraid the bugs won.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Postcard from Alaska

Dear Blog, 

Alaskan Autumn Sunset
I haven't seen you for so long!   Come to think of it, it has been way to long.  To put the lapse in time into perspective:


  •  This Swiss Story has come to an end
  • We returned to Alaska once again to continue our adventures and our blog from This Alaskan Backyard
  • the 2012 Olympic Games came and went, 
  • Lance Armstrong has been stripped from all his Tour de France titles
  • the 2012 presidential campaign wrapped up 
  • and the election concluded 

Small Fish in Autumn

Hey blog, I have thought of you often.  We have so much to share once more.  We spent the whole summer in Anchorage, slowly adjusting to life up North.  We are back in Fairbanks now.  Big Moose and Small Moose are loving hockey.  Small Fish is crazy about sheep (random fact).  And Big Fish has become a thespian.

Switzerland was wonderful to us.  We are still buzzing from the millions of flashbacks from our travels.  Then again it is wonderful to be back home as well.  

As the year comes to an end. we are beginning to reflect on all these transitions.

Small Moose above the Tanana Valley, Alaska
Thank you Switzerland for all the good times.  

Thank you to our families for all the help and encouragement given.  

Thank you Alaska for accepting us back into your loving arms.  

We are grateful, and ready for 2013.  

Dear Blog, consider yourself resuscitated.

Big Moose and Small Moose in Arles, France

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Small Fish at the Louvre
Two weeks ago we drove to Paris, a mere 5 hour-drive to spend a few days with relatives in Versailles.  This being the first time for J and the young ones, we made all the touristy stops we possibly could in three days.  This included climbing the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles and taking a scenic boat tour on the Seine. We also spent 1.5 hurried days in Disneyland-Paris (a first for our children).   No matter how many times I visit Paris, it is always like the first time.  The presence of the tower amazes me each time I catch a glimpse of it on the city horizon, and I feel so small when I stand beneath it.  I love coming to the Louvre, and walking along the Seine.  The only exception to this love affair would be Paris driving.  It is a state of mind I can't seem to get into.

At the Palace of Versailles
Since pictures speak a thousand words, and because expat life can be utterly exhausting, I will leave you with plenty of images but few words.  By the way there are machine-gun-clad patrols not only at the Eiffel Tower, but outside Disneyland also.  This was a strange sight.  The other curiosity for me was the car elevator that provides access to the underground garage of my cousin's loft apartment in Versailles.  Either this is a genuinely clever, space-saving invention or I am too easily impressed.  It was so much fun indeed that I posted a video of the car elevator here.  For another, more typical flavor of Paris, you can view a street artist playing the cello at the courtyard of the Louvre.  And finally, to hear a beautiful hymn from the mass at Notre Dame we happened upon, click here.

I hope you enjoy these Parisian postcards from us.

Versailles morning

A noble statue, Versailles

Inside the Hall of Mirrors

Big Moose with a lunch of foie gras, Palace of Versailles

Royal hot chocolate 

Notre Dame
Our hosts

Big Fish shopping on the Seine 


The star of the Louvre

XVI. century Italian art on a grand scale

Small Moose and the City of Lights

Montmartre cafe


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