Mooses in the mist

I drove up the Elliot Highway this evening at sunset to Whitefish Campground (about mile 6 or 7) just to get out for a while. As I started back, I saw this small lake or slough with mist rising off it, so thick and white that it looked like it was smoking. Very beautiful and weird!

I parked on the shoulder of the highway and walked down to the shoreline to take some pictures, and was cheerfully doing this when I looked up and situational awareness kicked in and I realized there was a moose watching me from really not all that far away.

Quietly I walked backwards up to the car and continued to watch her for a while, and eventually spotted what I guess was her calf deeper in the swamp. No pictures of that one; it was too mist-cloaked to see very well, but I could definitely tell that it was another moose, especially when she turned and sloshed toward it, making those little grunting noises they sometimes do.

It was completely magical, one of those joyous moments that reminds me why I love living here.

July in Alaska

It’s high summer! The garden is growing …

This is actually from about a week ago. The peas are halfway up their trellises (white frames) by now!

Corn, squash, and tomatoes all cheerfully growing in the greenhouse. We’ve eaten our first tomatoes and squash already!

It’s been extremely hazy lately with wildfire smoke, but I’m still trying to get out and enjoy the flowers. June and July are peak wildflower season – the wild roses of June are over, but the fireweed of July is just kicking off.

Behind the greenhouse, with smoke haze in the background.

More flowers around the yard …

The irises are still my favorites.
Sitka rose still going strong, eighteen years after we moved in!
The house is a bit of a construction zone this summer, with an insulation project in progress.

I haven’t obtained pictures of any of them, but we’ve had beavers, moose, and a variety of birds around to enjoy. I think a pair of robins are nesting near here – we haven’t seen any babies or the nest, but they’ve been around a lot, and we found a broken robin eggshell on the road. A hawk is most likely nesting nearby as well; we’ve seen it in the yard several times. There is a beaver dam within walking distance that we enjoy visiting to watch it grow.

It’s not all idyllic wilderness fun, as the gravel pit on the property between us and the highway is now actively being worked again, so there’s a lot of noise and dust, and the new work has wiped out most of the trees that had grown up over the old gravel bed. (It was being actively worked when we moved here in 2004, then went dormant around 2006 or so, so we’ve had a lot of time to get used to just being able to walk around out there.) But we knew it would happen sooner or later, and the new owners – actually neighbors of ours – have been great to deal with and very considerate about keeping the noise and dust down as much as possible. And they’ve also fixed the road, which is not state-maintained and had been falling into disrepair.

Plus we get to look at cool stuff like this gravel sorting machine.

We also did some exploring back in June of old mining roads around our area. Here’s a no outlet sign on a road we just drove through from the other end …

No outlet is a state of mind!

We also got some nice views from the top of the hills, on a rare not-very-smoky day.

State of the Studio: April

Winter: still wintening for all it’s worth. It’s actually snowing today. I was just out putting more seed in the chickadee feeder. Gray jay (a.k.a. camprobber) on the suet block this morning. One of my plans for this summer, now that we no longer have an outside cat and I’m getting into feeding the birds as a hobby, is to redo my backyard for more pretty little bird nooks and feeders and flowers. That’s probably going to be my main garden push this summer … at least if summer ever gets here, which seems unlikely at the rate we’re going. We still have three feet of snow.

Moose: still moosing.

Cow and calf on the hillside behind the house.

They spent a few days hanging around in the general yard/driveway area, including bedding down for a while next to the plow truck.

She’s as tall as the truck! Hi, lady.
Guess this is an okay place to nap after all.

Yesterday they browsed slowly down the creek and we spent some time watching the lady moose try to break off a willow that was at least 15 feet tall to eat the pussy willows at its top. Eventually they drifted on and seem to be gone today.

I worked on Keeley #5 edits all this past week and will be finishing revisions this upcoming week (I hope). Kismet, the webcomic, remains on hold for now, as there have been various additional delays with family emergencies and travel and such, but I’m posting some extras to the Patreon to help make up for it, and plan to get back to regular updates in May – after I get back from the first traveling-for-fun vacation I will have taken since 2019. (Planes! Hotels! What even!)

Looking forward to spring, and all the good things that go with it …

Solstice

The closest approach of the sun on the shortest day.

The lovely pink light above is the sunshine on the hill opposite our house. You can see the shadow of the opposite hill where the color transitions to white. This is as close as the sun gets to us right now … but now the shadow will begin creeping down the hill as the sun rises a little earlier and gets a little higher each day, until we’ll start getting sunlight on our house around Feb. 7-8 or so.

The world ushered in the Solstice with a snowstorm over the weekend. I wandered out yesterday and took some pictures of the snow-covered world.

We also got wind, scattering leaves across the fresh snow.

They’re forecasting another storm system to move in soon and dump more snow, so Orion plowed last night.

Plow that snow!

I walked up to the highway to get the mail today and found moose tracks all over the freshly plowed driveway. There’s been a moose hanging around for the last couple of weeks—we haven’t actually seen it, but it browses around the driveway most nights, based on the tracks—but I think these may have been two different sets. There were the usual single-adult-moose tracks near the house, but the tracks of an adult and a calf up near the road.

At least it’s a bit warmer that it was. It was -30F a week ago, but the last few days have been much milder. There are still a lot of long cold days ahead of us, but we hung on until the darkest night, so now the sun will start coming back.

On a less wintry note, I leave you with another of last night’s pictures—of the tiny horse herd that lives on my studio windowsill.

Summer’s abundance

I’ve also had a very fruitful summer for book releases, under three different pen names!

This summer’s releases:

Moose Madness by Mar Delaney – Lesbian paranormal (shifter) romance.

Keeley & Associates Collection #1 – Collecting the first three books.

Dick & Demon – Keeley & Associates #4.

Wild Island Horses by Liz Harman – Contemporary beach romance. (Update: this book is not currently available for sale. Please stay tuned for a future re-release.)

Meanwhile, it’s the height of summer in Alaska, with brilliant sunshine, 85F heat, and a glorious abundance of plant and animal life.

One of my pumpkins is starting to ripen!
Raspberry season!
Beavers working on their dam.

Watching the beavers at the nearby creek build their dam has been one of our most enjoyable activities this summer. We learned that beavers make noises to each other, and got to watch some juvenile beavers grow up! We do have some worries that at least some of them may have fallen victim to predators or trapping, especially since we hadn’t seen any around for a couple of weeks, but there were two out working on the dam today, so maybe they’ve just been working on dam-building upstream or something.

Other summer animal-life highlights include what I can only describe as woodpecker pecking school – with a flock of newly fledged woodpeckers practicing their pecking on the log walls of our house, including pecking so hard they kept falling off – and various other wildlife including porcupines and the first gopher I’ve ever seen here.

You’re very cute, now please leave my garden alone.

We’ve also enjoyed the summer’s lush wildflowers. We’re almost out of the height of wildflower season now; it’s mostly just fireweed at this point, but it’s one of my favorites.

This photo is from a little earlier in the year – it’s more bloomed out now – but continues to be lush and brilliant all around the house.

We’re starting to get into the winding down of summer now. In a month it’ll be autumn already.

Spring things

Yesterday I got the greenhouse cleaned up and ready for planting!

View through the door into the greenhouse interior.

There are already some corn plants that I got at the farmer’s market yesterday. We’re supposed to have rainy weather this weekend, so it’ll be good for transplanting and I think I’m going to try to get some more plants in.

Green leaves behind the outside garden beds.

Normally Memorial Day/the end of May is the approximate “safely past the frost” date for planting outside, but I think we’re good for this year and I’d at least like to get some salad stuff in this weekend.

I also tried taking some pictures of the beavers a couple of evenings ago, when they were out and about in the creek, but my camera kept focusing on the brush so all I got was some blurry vaguely Bigfoot-like beaver cryptid images. This is probably the one that came out most recognizable.

Spring in Alaska

For certain values of spring. We had a massive snowstorm the first week of April, on top of the snow we already had, and now it’s 60 degrees and we still have this massive snowpack. The results are interesting to say the least.

This is what it looked like a week ago.

So basically … snow. We have it.

I think one of these should be my new author photo.

Images of the season

I think we can all agree 2020 has been a dumpster fire we’ll all be glad to see the end of, but December has brought brightness as well. We had a very pleasant, quiet Christmas, and here on the north side of the world, we’re on the brighter side of the solstice now, with more light coming back into the world every day.

Weird little swamp spruce Christmas tree. It has more ornaments than branches.

We are having an incredibly bright full moon with brilliant clear skies, and the moon on the snow is like a wan sort of daylight, casting clear shadows at midnight.

You couldn’t quite read a book out there, but it’s close.

I’ll have a post up in a day or two with a full rundown of my books from the past year (including some freebies and sales!). In the meantime, I hope you’re not having too rough a time with these last days of 2020. Realistically, the arbitrary switchover of the calendar doesn’t make that much difference, but there’s something in us that likes milestones and fresh starts. Here’s to a better 2021.

The winter gave us beauty

… and the country gave us Election Day 2020. I voted for the first time when I turned 18; I still remember how excited I was about it. I haven’t missed an election since. I’m older now, a lot more jaded (especially lately) but I still believe that voting is the way you wish the future into being.

voting sticker on my hand

It’s -25F and the world is still beautiful.

Beaver Mudflats

Today we hiked over to check out where the beaver lake used to be until about a week ago. We found many fascinating things, such as: fallen trees! Mud! Holes!

… maybe you had to be there.

The sheer SIZE of some of these downed trees is really impressive. (Also shown: my foot for scale.)

Whole lotta trees, whole lotta mud.

There were also some obvious channels dug by the beavers in the bottom of the former lake. I can’t really think of a natural process that could have made these.

Here’s basically the same view as above, but from a week ago:

Meanwhile, the creek is just back to being a creek, now running between 4-foot banks of mud that were deposited on the lake bottom.

And so many gnawed trees. So many. Beavers … why are you like this.

With this one tree along the (former) lake shore, they also ate its roots and dug around it, making it look weirdly like a cutaway view of a tree.

And I found a chokecherry tree growing wild, with some fruit on it:

And I got a (slightly) better picture of this cottonwood tree that’s gnawed through to the point where walking around it is kind of … uneasy.

It was a nice walk, but I miss the lake and really hope the beavers are okay. We’ve been leaving the area around the beaver house alone and trying to be quiet when we’re out looking around, hoping not to spook them off. They might’ve left for greener, damper pastures, though.