Saturday, March 2, 2013

Excellent skiing conditions, quiet with the crowd gone to Iditarod

How about this gorgeous blue bird day in Girdwood! With crisp temperatures and perfectly groomed trails, skiers had a delightful day and night skiing at Alyeska. Glacier Valley hovered just around 34° today under clear skies. The skies are clear tonight so the temperature should drop into the low 20’s. All the surface snow will firm up and form frost crystals tonight. 

Our weather benefactor has been the edge of a high pressure zone over western Prince William Sound. Clouds will ease in overnight and a bit of snow should fall over Girdwood late night or early morning. For those wanting some quiet skiing, tomorrow should be sweet as lots of regulars will be at the re-start of the Iditarod. Saturday was fairly quiet on the slopes as well during the ceremonial start in Anchorage. 

Birds were quite active around the valley today; magpies, redpolls, stellar jays; kind of the usual with lots of high energy. 

Get  ready to start your garden and flower seeds!
Its time to start thinking about getting your seed flats ready to get starts going inside. This type of sunny day makes a great light to feed your flats. There are still a few days to gather supplies, here is what you want to start collecting: small 4” pots or flats you saved from when you purchased annuals last year; or bio-degradable pots and trays to keep them on; select your seeds- remember we want plants adapted to our cooler climate; and starting soil. 

Seed starting mix, or soil, should be fresh and sterile. Most products you purchase ready mixed are sterile. Many products will be labeled as starting mix which makes it easy for us because the soil will be light enough for tender roots to form. If you purchase your starting mix already made, it is important that you buy fresh soil mix. In other words, do not purchase mix that has sat around in a store for over a year. 

It is possible to mix your own seed starting solution from raw materials. Starting soil needs to be very light weight. It is usually made with a high percentage or 100% vermiculite. As I mentioned above, seed starting mixes need to be light and airy so it is easy for new roots to move and grow. Contrary to what you might think, starting mixes for seeds do not need to be heavy in nutrients and fertilizers. In regards to sterility, this indicated the soil should be free of weed seeds, insects, molds, or any other disease mechanism. Another ingredient to avoid is your own garden soil, which of course you cannot dig up right now anyway. Soil straight from the outdoors may contain insects or diseases and it will be too heavy for young tender roots to grow through. 

Here is a sample mixture: 1/3 vermiculite or perlite, 1/3 sand, 1/3 sphagnum moss. The one case where you could use your own soil is if you cook it first to sterilize it. You want to spread the soil out on a cookie sheet and cook it around 200° for about an hour. Then mix it this way: 1/3 sterilized soil, 1/3 sand, 1/3 vermiculite. I would err on the side of more vermiculite or perlite than any other ingredient. 

Fill your vessel of choice: flats, 4 inch pots, pie pans with holes in the bottom, whatever you want it should be about 2 - 3 inches deep. Then you need to have a tray the soil containers can sit in. The reason for this is watering the seeds. Seeds and seedlings are so tender you will not water them directly on the soil. You will fill the tray the soil vessels are resting in with water so the plants absorb the water from the bottom. 

OK, get your plan together and start selecting seeds! 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Up to the 4th spring in Girdwood for the 2012-2013 Season

Yesterday brought the return of spring to Glacier Valley as temperatures crept up into the mid 30's. Today at noon it is 35° in Girdwood at the T. Last night there was a light snowfall at the T and I was so hoping the weather would cool off for the snow to stay put. However, this morning there are streams of water running down the roads.

The ski mountain did receive some fresh powder last night. I am sure the skiing and riding will be nice at the high elevations. Cross country skiing should be nice as the surface will be crisp and glazed.

Sun is shining intermittently in Girdwood today.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I'm asking nicely, with reasons, to pick up your dog poo

Partly cloudy skies greeted Girdwood this morning. By late morning, we had this nice view toward Raggedtop Mountain beneath mostly blue skies. As this photo may imply, it is a little warm outside for February, 40° to be exact. It seems a fourth spring is upon Glacier Valley for this 2012 - 2013 winter season. Walking outside is quite pleasant, as I imagine skiing is as well due to a low wind chill factor gliding down the mountain. 

I ventured out to Moose Meadows for a ski around the loop. At this time, around 5 pm, fog started to rumble into the valley. Although the air temperature was warm today, the surface of the nordic track was nice and crisp. The snow seemed to glaze over rather than turn mushy and sticky. Aside from all the dog poo mushed into the tracks, the skiing was fast and fun. Please dog owners, if you walk your pet in Moose Meadows, please pick up after the dog. There are mitts provided at the entrance to the meadows and all along the path in Girdwood. 

Why is it preferable for dog owners to pick up and dispose of their pet’s waste instead of letting it decompose in the park? Besides it being unpleasant to ski or walk around and getting stuck in the groomer, it is un-neighborly. Because of the pathogens it will release in the environment when the snow melts. And if you do not like your neighbors asking you to properly dispose of dog waste, hear it from the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA long ago declared pet waste a non-point source pollution problem. Read more on this EPA publication, a .pdf file

Abundance in parks is what makes dog waste especially noxious to the environment. When lots of people with dogs walk their pets in the same location over and over, the high concentration of dog poo in one area creates a water contamination problem. Residents of Girdwood should be sensitive to this issue as many homes here have wells as their source of water. Many of these wells are very shallow, 20 to 40 feet deep. This means the wells are recharged with surface water run-off frequently. When I first moved to Girdwood, I lived in a cabin with water supplied by its own well. This well did not even have a filter on it. I am sure there are many residences in Glacier Valley supplied by well water that is unfiltered. As a result, wouldn’t you like to know the water flowing into your well was clean and free of bacteria dissolved out of dog poo?! 

Moose, bears, porcupines and squirrels poo in the forest, why can’t my dog? Because wild animals are spread over a larger range than our domestic pets. Just look at the ski loop in Moose Meadows or the walking path along the Alyeska Highway in Girdwood. How many moose droppings do you see? How many dog poos do you see? A heck of a lot more dog poo. Leaving your dog’s poo in walking areas is just irresponsible, rude, and trashy. Take pride in your neighborhood, keep it clean, please! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Common Redpoll enjoying alder seeds

What started as a day with a little blue sky, turned into wet snow day. Weather does not matter to wildlife, and the little flock of redpolls were in my yard again today. I have never professed to be a good bird photographer. Except in cases of shore birds that are large and not fast moving. This is a skill I will continually work on. 

The redpolls are so sweet, they usually travel in pairs within the flock. The groups I have seen work in male - female pairs one watching out for the other. Here they are feasting on alder seeds. This displays the importance of leaving seeds on plants throughout the year as different animals use the food source at different times of the year. 

I have seen these common redpolls picking up bits of gravel on the road in front of the Girdwood airport. This is the second time I have attempted to photograph them picking out the seeds from the alder cones. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Girdwood, snowiest place in the country!

Snow continues to fall lightly and perfectly making the ski experience in Girdwood phenomenal this week. The temperature today has ranged from 30 to 35° and snow was falling off and on. Despite the above freezing temperature, the snow has not been wet. Above is a photo of two Mini Mite children’s ski groups on the 4-trax heading over to chair 3. Does that look like fun or what?! The children that participate in Mini Mites love it, the children just adore their instructors! 16 Sundays of all day skiing for $400, that is $25 per day, come on parents, its an awesome deal! Sign up for the next season in November. 

At points in the day the clouds thinned out and made a gauzy haze over the sun. Not quite bright enough to light up the snow so skiing was probably a little flat. That did not deter the fit skiers that hiked the Traverse for the tall ski down Alyeska. 

NOAA’s forecast for Glacier Valley and Turnagain Arm is for more snow throughout the week. It does not look very heavy but steady, that is good enough for us!

Due to the back and forth temperatures over the past few weeks, houses are growing vast crops of icicles. This view is out one of my windows and the frame is 36 inches tall! Our houses really endure some tough wear over the winter in Girdwood. Last winter, even some metal roofs fell victim to the weight of the snow becoming compressed into ice. The ice being denser weighed more on the roof and as it migrated, much like a glacier, the ice tended to crumple joints in the metal. Only the lowest angle roofs this winter may suffer in Glacier Valley. Roofs with any angle steeper than 25 to 30° have routinely sloughed snow in the cycles of high temperature.