Last year, if you recall, we kind of skipped most of summer. Instead we had rain, rain, rain and more rain. There was fungus growing on mushrooms. It was bad. I was worried that all that precipitation would mean we'd have another winter that was skanty on snow, but luckily I was wrong and we had a very nice three or four or five feet of snow altogether. The skinny trees either side of my driveway were bent down so far with snow that the water truck couldn't make it in to fill my water tank. So they got whacked down and stacked to the side of the driveway. There they remained, covered in snow and pushed back by the snow plows. We will return to this, anon.
Right now it's summer. Spring doesn't really exist in Alaska. Have you heard Johnny Horton's song, Springtime in Alaska? The songwriter, who was clearly clueless, claimes that "In Springtime in Alaska it's forty below." It is if you consider February Spring. Otherwise, when Breakup comes, and the snow melts, that's when it's Springtime in Alaska and it's certainly not forty below!
So Springtime in Alaska looks like Last Fall Revisited. There are no leaves, all the brown grass and fireweed is still sitting there, crumpled and mushed. Some of the Fall colors are still around in the tundra, reds and yellows. That's Spring. Not much of anything, really.
After the snow melts we all wait extremely impatiently for the trees to leaf out. This generally happens about the second week on May. This year it was late and some of us were thinking, "Uh oh. Maybe they aren't going to leaf out! Aaaack!" I kept scanning the hills, looking for the tell-tale reddish color that is the harbinger of new buds that produce leaves. Day after day they were brown. Dull, ugly brown.
Then finally, on May 18th it happened. Leaves were visible at my house, albeit teeny-weeny! It took them a long time, more than a week, to fill out and grow to full size. Once the leaves are in, it's SUMMER!
Instead of a bunch of nasty rain, we had gorgeous blue skies and puffy lamb clouds. Gentle breezes wafted my flags and chimes.
There were no mosquitoes at my house for almost two weeks! It was wonderful!
Before the mosquitoes were out, the fires started. That's the price we pay for dry weather here in the boreal forest. At one point a forest fire was two miles from my house and my truck was loaded and I was ready for evacuation. But the wind was with us and blew the fire away from my neighborhood. That fire, the Moose Mountain fire, is now contained. It was a close and scary call. Since then we have had days of smoke, but haven't been in danger. This is all a part of summer.
The sounds of summer are birds, oodles and oodles of birds. Ravens, whiskey jacks, chickadees, so many warblers that I just call them the Teeny Green Birds. Magpies, who have moved up from South Alaska what with global warming. Moose start appearing with calves in tow. The sounds of Spring include screeching brakes as people attempt to avoid hitting a 2000 lb. moose, or god forbid, her calf.
Sometimes it sounds like the world is taken over by dinosaurs, as heavy equipment roars to life again. I hear big thumps and booms as the lumber mill goes into action, the rumble of diesel engines, and the thunder of big tires on dirt roads. Large trucks towing giant yellow iron, some with buckets, some with blades, block roads and make kids go, "Wow!" All this activity happens when the ground unfreezes enough to build something!
Summertime you can't get there from here. In a place where the temperature can swing 70 degrees in one day, the roads go through hell. As the sun gains ascension, the warmth thaws the ground and roads sink. Work that has needed to be done on city streets is once more do-able. Orange cones rule the day and Fairbanks can become a Disneyland of Detours.
I've memorized all the lumps, bumps and sunken spots on my road home. Alaska can eat up a vehicle pretty quickly if you aren't proactive about things like that. It's not just the cold that's hard on your transport!
One the thaw is over, I've got a lot of work to do, even around my small place. For one thing, there is an entire winter's worth of dog poop to scrape out of the dog yard. There is no way to clean it until it thaws. If you've ever tried to pick up dog poop that's frozen to the ground or to the snow, well, it's impossible. I'm not going to stand outside in -40° to chip poop out! Luckily I always have a music student who is young, strong and who wants to make some money by cleaning out the whole yard for me and the dogs. This is a good thing!
When the trees got whacked down because of the heavy snow, (I bet you were wondering if I'd ever get back to that, right?), there were some birch trees that I had my eye on. Bucky needs new perches, and birch is ideal for that purpose. So once the branches were free of snow, I dragged them back to the front yard. I plan to borrow my neighbor's loppers and cut Bucky some nice, clean perches.
I went out to do this the other day, and what do I see?
They just couldn't be left out of the greening up! No matter they were just sticks lying on the driveway!
Let me remind you, those trees were cut mid-winter and frozen at sub-zero temperatures!
There is one thing for sure: Alaska always surprises me!