Summer is crazy

There is so much to write, so much to catch up with since I last posted. It’s a bit overwhelming really.

Let’s see, since March we’ve:

  • entertained/housed no less than 15 different people, including 3 roommates (2 summer interns for various organizations, 1 more permanent resident), several of their co-workers when needed, my parents and my brother Travis, my brother Justin, and a random friend of a friend of one of the roommates who happened to be hitchhiking through Alaska for the summer
  • taken a 2 week vacation to see our friend Mary get married in Vermont, then visited Tyra in Chicago, then spent a few days in San Francisco just for us
  • grown my IT client base to the point that I’m now hiring an employee
  • mostly recovered from the knee injury that’s kept me off the hiking trails for almost 2 years (YAYAYAYAYAY…ahem)
  • had a house built specifically for us to rent, on property with high-tunnel greenhouses, garden space and chickens/ducks/mini pigs/etc. (it’s not finished yet, sometime this winter)

Sadly, I haven’t had much time or inclination to shoot many photographs, though I do have a few that are worth posting. They’re on my iMac at home, not with me for this post, unfortunately.

I’m currently at the Homer Public Library, enjoying some rare quiet time since only one person showed up for my “Using Email” class, and she graciously asked a few questions and left so I could take the rest of the scheduled 2 hours off. It’s an absolutely gorgeous day, after a week+ of cold, rainy weather. Actually, the wind was so bad on Monday, that Justin’s flight to Anchorage was cancelled, so I drove him 90 miles to Kenai so he could catch the last flight from there before his 12:40am departure. Traveling in Alaska is always exciting!

Tonight I’ll be attending the practice session for the local TEDx event that I’ll be taping all day tomorrow. Sunday I’m planning on helping work on the house project.

Does this post seem scattered to you? Welcome to the current state of my mind!

The Big Apple

In four days, I journey to New York, New York for the first time ever. Some of my photography work was solicited by the Students for a Free Tibet organization, for use in their Art for Tibet fundraiser. Since three of my photos will be hanging in a gallery in Tribeca for almost a week, along with many other works by artists much more notable than myself, my friends and family thought it would be prudent for me to attend the opening. In fact, when I mentioned to my friend Gregg that I hadn’t really thought about going and I was too busy anyway, his exact words were, “Are you #$%&ing stupid?!” right before he clubbed me in the head with his steak-sized palm.

So I bought a ticket to New York.

If you’re in the area and want to see the excitement, the show is at the Union Gallery, on 353 Broadway. The show opens at noon on Tuesday, Sept. 21st. I’ll be there then, and sporadically through the week. Otherwise, I’ll be wandering around the city, taking pictures and trying not to be overwhelmed by the fact that twice as many people live on the 22 square miles of Manhattan than on the 586,412 square miles of Alaska. YeeeeEEE!

If you’re not in the area but would still like to participate, the Art for Tibet website has an artist listing and online auction going for all the available pieces.

Here are the three I submitted:

Our adventure so far

I’m approaching the end of my second year here in Alaska, and I’ve been thinking about all we’ve been through since moving up here. So much, some of it is starting to get fuzzy. I’m going to do a little time-line here, so we can all grasp just how much has happened since 2008.

January, 2008: Skippy accepts a job working for Libby Riddles as a sled dog handler. We start planning our move to Alaska.

March, 2008: Skippy and Ashlee dog fly to Alaska and start working with sled dogs. I stay behind to finish up my degree work and find my replacement at the School of Journalism.

May, 2008: Skippy’s mom visits her in Alaska. The following week, I fly up and see our future home for the first time.

June, 2008: Skippy gets a job in town to supplement her sled dog income so she can eat more than once a day.

July, 2008: Skippy gets fired by one boss (apparently everyone does with this one), unfired by another, and then quits.

Kim, Mary and Jamie visit Skippy.

August, 2008: In three days I: graduate, pick up Skippy at the Indy airport, sell/give away everything we don’t want to take, eat our way around Bloomington and Indianapolis with our friends and family, pack up the car and Macgee dog and drive north. And west. Mostly west at first. 12 days later, we arrive in Alaska. (Move=1)

September, 2008: Skippy burns out on being a handler and gets a job in town. I take over handling duties while founding Bigwoofs Technology.

I attend a meeting of the local Mac User Group.

November, 2008: Liam visits!

We enjoy our first Thanksgiving away from home at Gregg and Sarah’s glorious banquet of smoked turkey and other delicious foods. We form the Foodie Family with Gregg, Sarah, and Jules.

Winter, 2008: Snow, wind, manual labor. Repeat.

February, 2009: I burn out on being a handler, and we make preparations to move.

I start selling photos to the Homer Tribune.

April, 2009: We move into a vacant house owned by a former coworker of Skippy’s while trying to find a more permanent place (Move=2). It seems all the rental houses don’t like pets. We have 2 cats and 2 dogs. Some of the property managers laugh at us when they find out.

I start working at the Homer Tribune, doing layout, web design and computer work.

May, 2009: Faced with a very limited rental market, we opt to buy a house. Also, a wildfire starts a short distance (fire-wise, at least) from the sled dog yard and other friends out that way.

We find and attempt to buy a house, with plans to rent it for one month before closing. 3 days before moving in, the house fails its inspection (rotting foundation) and we lose financing.

I’m elected to an officer position in the Mac User Group.

June, 2009: Somehow we find and rent a pet friendly house in 3 days. (Move=3)

July, 2009: We take our first trip across Kachemak Bay to do a 3-day hike up and down a mountain. It is awesome, but destroys my knee.

August, 2009: I interview Jewel.

September, 2009: Ashlee dog gets a faceful of porcupine quills.

Skippy accepts a job caretaking a dog-sitting business for the winter. It includes housing, so we prepare to move again.

October, 2009: I get hired by the Homer Public Library to teach monthly “Computer Basics” courses, which are offered for free to the public.

November, 2009: We move up to the dog-sitting house on Skyline Drive (Move=4) and restart our life of being outnumbered by dogs.

January, 2010: Bigwoofs Technology takes off big-time, and I reduce my hours at the Tribune to one day a week. It’s so busy, I neglect to make a single post to the blog for several months.

March, 2010: Skippy takes a job at Era Aviation in Homer, facilitating an early exit from the dog-sitting job. We start looking for another place to buy.

I rent office space for Bigwoofs Technology, next to the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.

After planning a much-needed vacation to Puerto Rico, along comes a blizzard the very weekend we’re supposed to leave, stranding us not only in Alaska, but in our house for 3 days. We made to the airport for the last flight out, but it was canceled due to snow and wind.

After finding another house we want to buy, we are denied financing because of my crappy wage while working as a sled dog handler ($250/month plus a place to live) and unimpressive salary while at the Tribune. We scramble to find another rental.

April, 2010: While searching, we move into the temporary staff housing that Coastal Studies maintains above my office space. (Move=5)

I’m appointed to seat on the South Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board

I fully separate from the Tribune, as there is more than enough work with Bigwoofs.

Eventually, we find the only viable rental, a 3 bedroom house in town. (Move=6)

With the extra space, we decide to rent out part of it for the summer. Through Craigslist, we find a couple from St. Louis who have jobs up here for the summer.

May, 2010: We go halibut fishing for the first time. Also, the summer roommates arrive.

I obtain financing for expanding Bigwoofs Technology, and begin creating a technology training facility in my office space.

June, 2010: Tyra visits!

July, 2010: After planning a trip to Indiana for Skippy’s high school reunion and to visit family and friends, all flights out of Anchorage overbook and we’re stranded in Alaska again.

I’m hired to do another monthly technology class at the library. I also complete my training space and open registration for the first set of classes.

August, 2010: We are here.

…Did I call that a “little” time-line?

In the forest

While Tyra was visiting, we took a trip with The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies across Kachemak Bay to tour their field station in Peterson Bay. They have a house, a composting toilet complex and 4 yurts, where schools can bring classes for 3 to 5 day stays. There are a number of trails on the peninsula they occupy, as well as some spectacular tide pools.

Everything here in Homer is based on the tides. Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay have the second highest tides in the world, next to the Bay of Fundy in Canada. Depending on where the moon is, low and high tide can differ by 28′! The best low tides are in the negatives, where the ocean recedes further than it usually does. We get a -4′ or -5′ tide every month or so, and everyone goes clam-digging since so much land is exposed.

All of that just to say: our low tide for this particular excursion sucked. It was, at its lowest, a +3.5′. So we took a hike in the forest with our naturalist guide, Dan. I learned an incredible amount on the hike, like the 4 different types of fern (Fox, Lady, Oak, Wood), elderberry leaves stink a lot and why the spruce beetle killing off huge swaths of trees isn’t a bad thing.

Fiddleheads unravelling to become ferns
I've been hoping to see this carnivorous plant since I learned they grow here, but I've never been able to find it. Dan had us get down on our hands and knees and search the sphagnum moss to find them. They're tiny! Smaller than a dime!
Fungus, ferns and wood
Some sort of seed case that was hanging from a small tree
Some sort of flower (obviously I didn't retain as much as I was hoping)
Some...other sort of flower. I think I need a review, Dan.
A lichen has taken over this dead tree.
All the standing dead spruce had these huge fungi all over them
Tyra was really excited about them
I didn't know fungus could sweat
This lichen, apparently somewhat rare, is called Fairy Barf by some lichen enthusiasts
We learned that a tree's second line of defence, after its bark, is to ooze sap everywhere. This one was putting up a good fight.
This spruce grouse let us follow it down the trail to take pictures

I mean it

This and the next are going to be picture heavy posts, to prove the thesis of my previous post. I had to wait to display more photos from the halibut tagging trip, as some had yet to be published in the newspaper. Three of them were put on the front page.

So, here are more from our day-long fishing excursion:


We were fishing at 160′ with 3 pound weights to sink the hook and bait, so it took a good 5 minutes of reeling to bring in a fish (or usually, the bait with a chunk missing or an empty hook). There were fewer smiles near the end of the day, so this was definitely a morning shot.


This is a tagged halibut. As of Saturday, if you go fishing and buy a derby ticket, and catch a tagged fish, you win a prize!


I think this is a sculpin, or maybe an irish lord fish. Either way, it wasn’t what we were hoping to pull up.


As requested, here is the best picture I could get of the mountain goats. I only took one lens, a 24mm, so unless I had jumped in the water and hiked up the bluff, this is as good as it could get. Can you make them out?


Here they are, Tenzin, cropped in close. They’re still just whitish blurs. Next time I’ll bring along a bigger lens.