Monday, December 26, 2011

Dark winters and beautiful summers

It's a gorgeous day in the 70's here in . . . . Not!  But it is typical for December in Fairbanks, AK.  About -15F in town, but a balmy 0F here at the Farm.  The sky is gray and threatening to add snow to our 18 inch base.  The sun could be up in the sky for almost four hours, if the clouds would let it.  The sun doesn't rise up very high as the picture above suggests.  I took it about an hour after "solar noon" and for reference, since my lot slopes down toward the south, the tree tops are not much above the horizon in the picture.
  But us Fairbanksans are very happy!  Daylight is coming back.  Soon our day length will be growing by almost seven minutes a day, 50 minutes each week, and over 3 hours each month.  How else could we get everything done outside in the summer (during our 22 hour long days) that was put on hold for the winter.
  All is quiet outside, save for the occasional visit from mama moose and her calf.  I'm trying to keep them out of some potted plants that are buried in the snow.  We'll see if they will stay out.
  I am getting ready for seed propagation that starts in February.  I'm going to fill about 40 trays of 6-packs (enough for about 3,000 seedlings) with potting soil in preparation for the long process of planting seeds.  I will start the first seeds (leeks) around late February and plant other varieties of vegetables and flowers over the following 9 weeks.  In there will be tomatoes and peppers, marigolds and Livingstone daisies (my new favorite flower!).  I'll follow up with my 4th annual Goldstream Valley plant sale in late May and early June.  And then it is on to planting the vegetable garden.
  For 2011, Solitude Springs Farm & Vineyard contributed to the outdoor aesthetics of the Boys and Girls Home of Alaska by donating flowers and to the soon-to-open Fairbanks Co-op Market by donating time to their events and tender Nantes carrots to their "Fun for Food Celebration" in November.
  Although Murphy always seems to get his hands into everything I plan (I do live at the base of Murphy Dome), I still hope to get the vineyard well-established this summer, with the assistance of a bulldozer.  I have another 30 grapevines coming in May to add to my collection.  With assistance from cold climate grape growers in the Lower 48, particularly Great River Vineyard, I am more confident than ever that I will get edible grapes yet off of vines grown in Alaska's great interior.  And not just a few, but enough to sell for table use or as a beverage.  Still, there are some issues that most Lower 48 growers don't have to contend with, that I will need to experiment on.  These include cold soils, very short and cool growing seasons, rapidly changing day lengths, and the ever present "Alaskan" moose (yep, they are bigger than their Lower 48 cousins).  I saw a bumper sticker today that sums it all up.  It read "Alaskan Gardening Club: Feeding Alaskan Moose since 1959".  However, while these ruminants love all members of the cabbage family, they don't appear to have developed a liking for grape leaves - and I hope to keep it that way.
  I'm going to leave you with a beauty of a dahlia that was grown from seed this spring.  It bloomed about a week or so before our first hard frost and I savored it every day I was home.  Enjoy!