June 2017 Update from the Apricity Homestead
June in Alaska. The sun barely sets, the landscape slips into intense shades of green, and the length of days lends itself to a satisfying flurry of activity.
Two days ago, June 21st, we celebrated the Summer Solstice. The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. For those of us at 62 degrees north, that means 21 hours of intense, nourishing sunlight. Post Summer solstice, we begin the decline of the summer’s sun while preparing for the slower months of icy cold of winter. Our lives at the homestead are regulated by nature; it’s yearly cycles and the daily whims of weather. Because of this, we recognize the Summer solstice as an ideal time for reflection on the success of the summer thus far, and as a benchmark for work still to be done.
The horses returned from grazing in the foothills for their weekly salt block visit, auspiciously, for the 21st of June. We took advantage of this visit for a late evening Summer Solstice ride up to the boulders. The ride took us along the cool waters of Stonehenge Creek and through Spruce forests bursting with native wildflowers in bloom (Shooting Stars, Labrador Tea, Chiming Bells, and Dwarf Dogwood). Along the creek we spied an American Dipper, a family of young Spruce Grouse, a hawk’s nest, and two Northern Hawk Owls. As we made our way closer to tree line, we were followed by boreal chickadees amongst the sparsely forested woods thick with blueberry plants in flower and the beating of horse hooves. Above treeline, the horses trotted along an open ridge line to reach our boulder field, Stonehenge. There we dismounted to explore and take in sweeping mountain views. To cap off the holiday, we enjoyed a rare treat of S’mores under the brilliance of the midnight sun. It was a solstice to be remembered, and serves as a fantastic example of the adventures and experiences we love to share with guests.
The homestead experienced a swirl of activity in early June. Both Margaret’s mother and Morgan’s parents made the trek out to the homestead to see all of the work we have done the past two plus years. It is such a joy to share Apricity with folks, and an even greater treat to share with those who have been our biggest cheerleaders throughout our adventures and homestead growth.
In early June, garden planting was completed. We placed the last of the doted-upon plant starts into the ground, dropped potato eyes into planting ditches, broadcasted grass and grain seed, and direct seeded fodder and eating beets, turnips, carrots, and radishes. With 4000 square feet of garden this year, we hope to provide much of our own food for the winter months. With our new under-cabin root cellar, we have the ability to store more of our home grown foods. This growing season, we doubled our area planted in potatoes hoping for a harvest of around 400 pounds, greatly increased our storage turnip production, doubled our fodder beet field for an increased amount of horse feed grown on site, and installed a lean to (or “green-to”) for the hot weather crops such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Other crops planted included a test plot of three varieties of onions, ground cherries, tomatillos, chamomile, kohl rabbi, 5 types of cabbage, 4 varieties of pea, mustard greens, lettuce, nasturtium, and kale. In addition, we also dedicated a swath of garden to summer squash, Siberian melons, cucumbers, and a (finger’s crossed!) short season watermelon.
In other garden improvements, we imported a variety of plants for new experiments in perennial beds and permaculture gardening. To add to our orchard, we planted two more apple tree whips and a few Nanking Cherry bushes. As an experiment, we created an edible perennial windbreak on the north side of the cabin. In this bed, we planted Siberian pea shrub, Rugosa rose, Elderberry seedlings, American Groundnut, and Northern Wild Raisin. These plants were purchased by the always reliable and professional Fedco seeds in Maine. As an added bonus, we also planted Forsythia shrubs and Lilac bushes. These plants will help attract pollinators and provide some flowers to the landscaping. While it may take a while for these plants to bear fruit, we consider “putting roots in the ground” as a sound investment in our future self-sufficiency, health, and productivity.
With the garden planted, we built an enclosure for our teenage chickens so that they do not devastate all of our hard gardening work. Our chicken flock, made up of one old mutt rooster named “Mike” and teenage Icelandic and Swedish Flower hens were moved into the barn, enclosed now for the growing season. Once a day they are let outside for free range, monitored foraging under watchful eyes. While they are not laying for us yet, their colorful antics are entertaining. They are slated to begin egg production at the beginning of August.
With plants in the ground, we shifted gears to continued improvement of our airstrip and completing an outdoor, screened in kitchen. To date, the airstrip has reached a length of around 900 bumpy feet. It has been a long few years hacking at the taiga by hand to build this strip, and we are pleased that it has reached a useable length!
The outdoor kitchen, another of Morgan’s creative designs, is built off of the red workshop. It’s simple design is made beautiful due to its screened in walls providing mountain and orchard views. It is a great place to eat, read, and enjoy morning coffee or an evening drink all the while taking in the mountains. We think guests will appreciate this new addition with their homestead stay. We are working on an outdoor picnic table for added utility.
As for the horses, They have been up in their “Happy Horse-y Valleys” grazing to their hearts content. We watch them from the deck of the cabin through binoculars and spotting scope and hike up to visit them weekly. They come home of their own accord once a week to visit the salt block We take advantage of their weekly homecoming for rides and their labor. Rufous is very pleased when the horses come home. He runs out to play with them, and begins grazing on the grass in the yard and licking the salt block as if he, too, is equine in nature.
June also marks the beginning of WWOOFer season for us. We are currently hosting a fellow whose work and entertaining stories have benefitted all at the homestead. From thinning beet seedlings to hauling fill for furthered airstrip improvement, we appreciate all of David’s contributions. We look forward to hosting three more WWOOFers during the rest of the summer.
At this point midsummer, we are pleased with our progress and look forward to the rest of the summer and its projects: a cabin extension, garden harvests, harvesting from the wild, and hosting guests while sharing our love of Alaska and our homestead!
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Cheers and Happy Summer from Apricity
Morgan and Margaret