Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Celebrate the Season

Hope you get to celebrate the season with the warmest of friends and family.

We wil hunker down and consider the great gifts that surround us - family and friends, our warm home, good health, ample food on our table, the wild beauty of another Alaskan winter. 

Warmest wishes to you all for a joyful season and a peaceful New Year!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Solstice Sunshine

Winter Solstice is the best reason to celebrate the sunshine - it's really trying to come back into our world!  I bundled up my camera to show you how high noon looks at latitude 62* at -25*F. The sun can't quite rise above Sydney's Cabin, we have to go down to the tracks to feel its rays.

The sun almost climbs above Sydney's Cabin
Far from being a black and white winter wonderland - the low aspect of the sun makes for a 3 hour sunrise-sunset glow, all is golden pink and the cold temperature makes the snow sparkle. By 4:00 pm the show is over and we're snuggled up by the fire.

Downtown Sunshine!
 There's an Inuit tradition of taking off mittens to greet the first sun rays after winter solstice - we usually keep ours on and just do a little dance of joy, knowing the dark days will be getting longer before we know it.

Winter solstice stories seem to all tell of light, no matter whether flame light or star light, the inward light or the sacredness of light itself. In the telling, we are unburdened and feel lighter.

Tom & Airon bundled up for a Solstice stroll

Friday, July 5, 2013

Busy Summer

What have we been up to all this time?!  Summer crashed in on us keeping us running all day, time for laundry, not blogging!  I logged 8 kilometers on my pedometer in one day of busy inn-keeping!

The Birch sap was running well this year so I tapped a tree near the house.  Fresh, cold Birch juice put a spring in my step.

Tapping Birch trees in May

Birch juice elixir

 Breakfast has been a non-stop feast with Tom cranking out waffles and muffins at all hours of the morning.  Climbers wake up for 6am breakfast before their expedition, after they come off the mountain they could sleep 'til noon!
Muffins for breakfast
Tom slaving over the waffle iron

It takes a ton of gear to head out into the Alaska Range.  Denali climbers carry a 60 pound back-pack and pull a heavy sled. Most of them want to look at it one more time before they head out so it all gets spread out in their room.  

Iris room with plenty of room for expedition gear

The gardens are in and growing well.  We had a heat wave in June which kept a watering can in each hand, and produced some ripe tomatoes! Now we're back to our normal cool rain so I'm on the look-out for slugs in the cabbages - so far only the caterpillars have found the gardens.  The mosquitoes have been keeping the swallows well-fed and our head-nets close by.

New guests are arriving every day; on their way north to Denali National Park or south to the Kenai peninsular.  We enjoy hearing their stories of wildlife sightings and unusual places in the wilds of Alaska.  For now we're busy living the good life right here, with cookies in the oven, home-grown lettuce and rhubarb on our plates, smiles in our hearts.  (oh yes, and one more pile of laundry to do).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Travel More with Less

We’re getting more inquiries from people planning their summer trip to Alaska.  I’m often asked for ideas on what to do, see, and where to go.  So I thought I'd share an adaptation of a post from zenhabits, some great ideas for meaningful journeys.   

Travel is about getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing things you’ve never tried before.

Start Local. First try changing your mindset. The purpose of travel is to see new things and experience new cultures. Many people think that in order to see things they’ve never seen before they need to travel far afield but that’s not true. Find out more about your local area. Anywhere within a two or three hour drive should be fair game for a weekend trip. If you’ve got longer you can extend your range further.
First head to your local library or get on the Internet for ideas of things to see and do close to home. There are probably some walks, caves, rivers, lakes, forests or waterfalls or a B&B that you’ve never visited before but have always wanted to. Pick one and make sure you check it out as soon as possible.

Travel Light.  Even in Alaska where the climate can be chilly in the summer, don’t pack more than you can carry in one trip from the car.  We’re casual to the extreme here, jeans with no holes will be smart enough for any venue.  Layers of light-weight clothing and a good raincoat, two pairs of shoes if you must, and really, nobody cares if you wear that shirt two days in a row.  
Yes, we have internet in Alaska now, but try leaving technology behind this time. You don’t have to update your facebook page while you’re on vacation.  Try to make the memories last until you return home.  Jot a few notes in a journal or on a map, send yourself a postcard reminding yourself of a special sight or moment.
See and feel your travel experiences through your natural senses, not always through your camera lens. 

Sight-Seeing. There’s a lot of store set by seeing the big sights, like going on a flightseeing trip around the Alaska Range, or chartering a fishing boat, or touring the Native Heritage Museum. But these things tend to be expensive. They’re big-ticket items so limit yourself to one at the most per trip.
Some of the best things have no entry charge and there are plenty of lesser known attractions which may be free or low cost like hanging out on the bench outside Nagley’s, watching the Arctic Terns down by the river, hiking the X-Y Lakes trails, or reading through the historical books at Fireweed Station. All fun, interesting, and easy on the budget too. You get the idea, don’t feel you have to spend big on the main tourist attractions. That’s all they are, you can learn more by hanging out with the locals.                                                                                           
When it comes to meals watch where the locals eat, don’t head straight to the touristy restaurants or the ones you saw on TV. Street food can be excellent and extremely cheap too, pick stalls that are poplar with the locals, watch what they order and get the same. 

Relax. This is the top tip. Too often a vacation or travel becomes a check-list of things to do. Promise yourself that you’ll stop trying to tick things off just for the sake of it.
For example, if you make it to Paris then visiting the tourist attractions needn’t be your top priority. You won’t see many French people paying to climb the Eiffel Tower. They’re all sitting in the cafes having a short black coffee (the cheapest option) and people watching. Or you can join them wandering free of charge around the parks, visiting the local markets and walking along and over the bridges of the River Seine.

Just travel to get to your destination and then be. Stop rushing. Relax, enjoy and see what happens. Travel is all about getting rid of your agenda and going with the flow, allowing a little spontaneity into your life.

Inviting you to do nothing at Fireweed Station.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rose's Makeover

Our spring exercise regimen usually involves moving furniture.
It was time for Rose's Corner room to get a makeover.  This room has always been a favorite, but it is a little cozy.  Tom made a nightstand/desk from a special slab of local birch that fits perfectly over the radiator.  Now the room feels much bigger and we have two comfy chairs for relaxing and reading.
I think Rose has the best bathroom too; there's a lovely claw-foot tub with overhead shower, the two mirrors are made from our old window casings and there's a window for natural light.

This was the original master bedroom from the old days of "Kirsch's Place" hunting & fishing lodge, so we named it after the lady of the house, Rose Kirsch.  I'm sure she would have been thrilled to have an en-suite bathroom instead of having to use the outhouse!

Rose Kirsch circa 1950

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fiddle Train!

The Old Time Fiddle Train pulled into Sunshine for a long weekend of merriment!  The flagstop train runs all winter, with an extra trip the first Thursday of the month.  These folks played train songs all the way to Hurricane and back to Sunshine Thursday, then caught the return trip to Anchorage on Sunday.  A great high-energy weekend filled with music, cross-country skiing, fine food and even a Birthday celebration squeezed in!

 Everyone managed to play outside, we had perfect sledding snow and great trail conditions for skiing.  At least three different kinds of footwear are needed for winter fun in Alaska.
Old Time String band with special guest conductor

Sending up sky lanterns with Birthday wishes.

 Sad to see them go, I'm sure the train got much livelier once they were on board.  We're already looking forward to next year...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Winter Composting

The best things about composting in the winter are the lack of stink and absence of wasps!  I deliberately keep our back-door compost bucket small so the contents don't get a chance to go slimy, but that means I have to empty it frequently.  My compost piles are inconveniently situated up by the old veggie garden site. Now we don't have any dogs to break the trail, it's up to me to wade through the snow to the piles.  Even though there's not much bacterial action going on I think it's worth adding material to the heap instead of putting the scraps in the garbage. I don't worry too much about the "browns to greens" ratio in the winter as it's hard to come by any brown matter.  The piles start to melt out quickly in the spring especially if I shovel off as much snow as possible.  The active one soon gets going again and I can turn it and add different materials to get the balance right, the heap I finished last fall will be ready for the spring garden while the other will be getting hot.

It may look vile to you, but in my mind it's a magic potion of goodness and I feel like I'm getting something for nothing.  Think of it as baking a cake for your veggies; you gather ingredients, stir them all together and let it cook.  My spuds definitely appreciate the extra nourishment and effort!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Still snowing...

We're enjoying some gorgeous snow these days, the best it's been all winter.
I can always find a reason to get out in it.
For fun we have ski trails right out the front door and the back driveway turns into a great sledding hill.  Tom has restored a 1970's era Alpine snowmachine that we use to pack the trail, and now we have a "groomer log" that makes a surprisingly good surface.  The sledding hill takes a bit of effort to pack but I get great exercise breaking trail up hill and my little neighbor often helps with the ride down.
Sometimes plowing the main driveway can be fun especially right now as we have chains on the truck and don't get stuck.  There's always places I can't get to with the plow so I end up shoveling at the end which is not my favorite job but at least it gets me out the door.
My enthusiasm for the snow probably has something to do with not having a "regular job" to go to.  I'm sure I would have a different opinion if I had to drive in the blizzard everyday.  Most days we don't have to start the car, we have everything we need right here.  At some point we'll have to get gas for the plow truck or go into Talkeetna to collect the mail, but I'm lucky enough to be able to pick my days based on convenience and weather patterns.  We have a root cellar and freezer full of food, books to read and internet at our fingertips.  I strive to live a simple life in the winter.
There's probably only 4 or 5 weeks of winter left - I always feel that this time of year should be put on hold for one more month, the winters are just not long enough!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Welcome to our corner of the forest

A brief introduction may be necessary if you haven’t figured out who or what we are by now:
Our log home was originally built in the 1940’s as a remote hunting and fishing lodge by the Kirsch family. In those days the only access was by the Alaska Railroad.
Before the renovation
Tom & Hobbs (me) spent at least ten years restoring the lodge to (beyond) its former glory, re-using as much of the original materials as possible.

Fireweed Station offers a true Alaskan lodge experience, combining authentic history, fine food, and modern quality.   In fact, at our place, “B&B” stands for much more than just “Bed & Breakfast”.  How about “Breathe & Balance”, “Bath & Bubbles”, “Bagels & Bacon”, “Beasts & Birds”, “Beer & Banter”, "Bocce & Back-Rub"…

Our place has the feel of your favorite Aunt’s place in the country; woodstove, claw-foot tubs, smells of fresh air, bread and coffee.  Always a friendly welcome.  It feels comfortable perched on a stool in the kitchen, jawboning with Tom, sharing a bottle of wine.  For me it’s a fine balance between having all the amenities to make our guests comfy (indoor plumbing, wireless internet) and living with what we have, appreciating what’s right here on our doorstep.  Like the Kirsch family we are mostly content to share our home with guests and friends, often blurring the line between the two.  We hope our visitors will absorb some of the history, catch a glimpse of earlier days’ Frontier living and find a little peace at the end of the dirt road.

Wild Alaskan Fireweed 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

We've moved from tumblr

I finally decided we're probably a little too wordy to fit tumblr's "micro blog" format so here we are in a new space!

There is still some great content in the archives at tumblr so check it out if you're curious:


So bookmark this page to see what we get up to behind the scenes at our lovely historic Inn at the end of the road in rural Alaska.

Of course you can always go to our main website, especially if you'd like to be our next guest!