Archive for July, 2014

Happy Independence Day from England!

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

You might assume, inaccurately, that being in England on July 4th might prevent me from celebrating our nation’s independence.

Yet in fact, I was very much the Patriot!

A group of six of us traveled about three miles out of town (because walking is very good for you) and attended a picnic at the American Museum. It turned out to be a Barbeque, with the English-equivalents of hot dogs, burgers and pork, which were much higher quality than what was likely to be found across the pond today.

This picnic was on the side of a hill with a break-taking view. Children were running around carrying long American-flags behind them. The day was cloudy but a gorgeous 73-degrees with a distinct breeze. We took this opportunity to make a photo-op of our patriotism.

13850_10154243982170012_229212126366858672_n 10155723_10154243982375012_1706619672910304209_n 10410612_10152966435591978_6904164176995371535_n 10443651_10154243982675012_7843410224888327059_n 10464293_10154243983575012_578639876285076077_n 10526145_10154243984265012_8152766255722293545_n 10527531_10204245107908864_4153002393003371132_n

In addition to the picnic, they had a live 50s cover-band playing music in one of the buildings! My friend Lisa and I danced for hours to the Twist, Jailhouse Rock and all those goodies! It was a blast! :D

No fireworks, sadly, but that’s not something you would expect in England. I hope everyone else enjoyed their Fourth of July!

Why yes, I did go to Oxford!…

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

…. Although, I was only there for one day.

Today was our class trip to Oxford! I am EXHAUSTED. The bus ride was three hours. We left at a beautiful 7:30AM. Upon arrival, we were allowed to travel wherever we desired. Four of us took a tour of a gorgeous library and the Radcliffe camera. Afterward, we wandered about town, visited the Alice in Wonderland shop, and grabbed a bite to eat at a bakery owned by a very kind Pakistani woman.

10487245_10154235970620012_4505468665972947404_n 10489859_10154235976580012_7014652129667157297_n 10489981_10154235972245012_1115956461545373336_n 10491186_10154235970935012_6413011513593792153_n 10500556_10154235972545012_6183866800873228528_n 10505427_10203209422329550_2345609421420688416_n 10478681_10154235974015012_6642574975410298613_n 10450343_10154235969015012_4010885983095430510_n 10447648_10154235969330012_4581257652320407309_n 10441974_10154235971875012_5724665499774427417_n 10441331_10154235974705012_1798194975482238471_n 10416629_10154235970130012_5682716540442827638_n 10404411_10154235972860012_5811628656221657121_n 10385555_10154235969185012_3160838671172790705_n 10359401_10154235969440012_4042058765128407134_n 10299540_10154235971415012_7176338473753870470_n 10155835_10154235972785012_6645612680127420088_n 1937461_10154235970490012_4365216475535622471_n 1924334_10154235975565012_8919024897493142486_n 10441331_10154235974705012_1798194975482238471_n 10416629_10154235970130012_5682716540442827638_n

After our walkabout, we got to take part in a very interesting English tradition: punting.

Punting is the process of standing on the edge of a long-boat and pushing the boat through a canal with an eight-foot long metal pole. It is not an easy process, but I eventually got into the hang of it.

punting (1)


And thankfully, nobody fell in!

Needless to say, I am ready for bed now that our bus trip is over. I loved Oxford and really want to come back in the future!

Week 4- Scholastics and Settling

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

I am home, where the internet is alive and unhindered. I have a few posts left for you to complete my journey.

Hello readers-

This week, we are reading the final selection from Jane Austen, called Persuasion. My teacher seems more than slightly irked by the fact that, as a whole, my class did not take to Emma and its titular “heroine.” Compared to the strong, however flawed, lead of Pride and Prejudice, and the naive, however progressing Catherine Moreland from Northanger Abbey, I don’t know how we were to view Emma as on the same level. She believes herself above others, meddles and doesn’t actually contribute to the “plot” of the book at all.

But I digress. I am looking forward to studying Persuasion, in hopes of ending the course on a good note. Others in my class who have already read this book say it is their favorite, so I am optimistic.

And in Utopia/Dystopia, we have been studying a novel which needs no introduction: Brave New World. I read this book in high school, and enjoyed re-reading it for the course, and remembering the parts I immensely enjoyed and those I found disturbing. This might be one of the most depressing books I’ve read, only because in the beginning, I have hope for the character of John. I forgot how whiny Bernard was until about a third of the way through.

Sadly, this class never evolved out of a lecture, so my classmates and I share our opinions outside of the classroom. I seem to enjoy this novel more than most, although I can’t quite place my finger on why yet. Perhaps because it seems ingenious without catering to a heavily science-fiction based structure. I am not a fan of science fiction. Mostly, because I feel that character development is sacrificed for world-building. My psychology major insists that I empathize with characters.

Outside of class, I have really settled down here. After class, I often stop by Sainsbury’s, the local market, to grab dinner. I may spend part of the evening doing homework before heading out with one of numerous people to grab a drink, walk around the canal, or visit other houses. I feel so at home here. It is very easy to. The rustic beauty is addicting. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to leave.

Days 11 & 12 (Pratt/Salty Dog/Spider Mites)

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

My schedule has gotten a little busier lately so it seems like blog posts every other day will probably be a new normal.

I’ve been to the Pratt Museum, down the spit to see baby sandhill cranes and birds nesting, to Finn’s for pizza, to the Salty Dog, harvesting, fighting off spider mites, learning how to teach about bird feet and beaks, and giving a few of the campers a mini lesson on the greenhouse and sustainability. I’m pretty exhausted by the end of each day (but especially today) so the majority of this post will be in pictures!


Pratt Museum : a map of traditional homelands in Alaska. The Dena’ina Homeland includes Homer and a good portion of surrounding Alaska. An elder from the Dena’ina Homeland comes to camp every year to say daily prayers at breakfast and dinner and to talk to the campers.


Pratt Museum: this was a really cool exhibit – it was basically a video of a traditional Dena’ina dinner shown on a screen at about the level a dinner table would be.


Pratt Museum : traditional rain gear


Pratt Museum : exhibit about native birds and the environmental hazards they face. The plastic in the middle of the photo was found inside the stomach of dead albatross.


Pratt Museum : exhibit about the 1989 Exxon Oil Spill.

Pratt Museum : exhibit about the 1989 Exxon Oil Spill.


Pratt Museum : a size comparison for the size of the 1989 Exxon oil spill. The spill area covers Virginia.


Pratt Museum : I was in love with the quilts in the museum. They were all really intricate.


Pratt Museum: wood carving


Pratt Museum: another quilt


Pratt Museum: there was a really interesting art exhibit through the first room at the museum. I thought it all looked a little crazy – but almost in a good way?


Pratt Museum: art piece from the first room


Pratt Museum: bear exhibit. There was a lifesize bear model to the left of this picture that stood about 10 feet high. We were walking through with some of the campers when one told us that he’d seen one about 5 ft. taller with his dad.


Pratt Museum: traditional dress


Pratt Museum: we made it through the museum a little faster than the campers (they had a worksheet to fill out) so we stopped by All Hopped- Up Espresso down the block. I got some incredible chai tea!


Pratt Museum: after the chai tea, we took a walk around the garden out front of the Pratt Museum. The garden is separated into different climate regions found in Alaska and the native plants that grow there.

I have been shadowing one of the instructors for the past two days so that I will be able to fill in for her for a few days while she’s gone and yesterday she took her group down the spit to see some birds!


We stopped to check out two sandhill cranes and their newborn colt (baby crane). They’re the specs in the middle of the photo – we had binoculars. So far I’ve learned that sandhill cranes mate for life and do a whole series of “dances” for different occassions – such as mating, showing their colt how to fly, agression, and to impress each other even after they’ve mated for life! I will be teaching about birds in the next few days so I’m sure I’ll learn a whole lot more before then!


We went to the end of the Spit where the campers observed the birds in and around the area (there are a ton in the water and under the structure to the left that are just hard to see from the picture). They figured out that the birds come 1). to nest and 2). because the local fishery releases nutrients back into the ecosystem that just happen to bubble up in the area, meaning more fish to eat!

At the end of the day the campers were cooking out and the other WWOOFers and I decided to go to Finn’s  down the Spit for pizza. We bring them arugula and basil for their pizzas and we get free pizza credits in return! After Finn’s we decided to check out the Salty Dog because the majority of us had never been!


Salty Dog: the entire inside is filled with signed dollar bills and the tables are all wooden and covered in carvings.


Salty Dog: I carved my initials in the tabletop


Salty Dog: before we left we all decorated a dollar and pinned it on the wall

The rest of the time we’ve been harvesting and trying to kill off an infestation of spider mites making their way through the greenhouse.


We harvested a bunch of edamame soy beans – which are super good both raw and cooked!


We also harvested some of the kohlrabi that had gotten too big and started splitting


The spider mites (see web in picture) started out on the himalayan huckleberry plant (also in picture) and has now started to spread to nearby grape vines, romaine lettuce plants, and tomato plants. We’ve been spraying a solution of Dr. Bromer’s soap and water to try and shield the leaves but we’re also getting a different type of mite and ladybugs that will eat the spider mites and hopefully take care of the problem. Apparently they like dusty environments so we’re also having to wet down any loose soil each day as a preventative.

During the afternoon today I was also able to shadow an instructor again to learn about a different bird lesson concerning different types of bird feet and beaks. I’m excited (and a little nervous) to have to repeat the lesson as well as she did in a few days! Afterwards another WWOOFer and I did a little greenhouse lesson with one group of campers talking about the importance of knowing where your food comes from and the ability to grow your own food (an idea they will hopefully take with them and implement when they go home). We let them explore, identify plants, taste a few, and try out some basil harvesting. We also got a chance to show them some of the tools that we use in the greenhouse.


Here’s out dirt bucket for making seed starts. This is where we get the soil to use with the tool in the photo below


You can basically just stick this in the soil (above photo) and it’ll pop out four square packed together soil squares with little indentations ready for seeds.


This tool is probably my favorite. You stick the metal probe in the soil by the roots of each plant and it’ll tell you the level of moisture below the surface. You can then use that reading to water the right amount for each bed. (I still have no idea how it works, but I kind of want one)

The first group got back from their 2-day trip across the bay around dinner time and the second group left. I’m not sure what the plan is for tomorrow but I know I’m going to need to fit in some studying on native Alaskan birds!


The sprouts are starting to show signs of sprouting – pictures to come when they grow a bit!

My yurt is warm – the heater was turned on and now it shouldn’t get lower than 59 at night! It kind of freaked me out last night because I didn’t realize it had been turned on or that it was automatic so when the flames in the heater stove started crackling I thought maybe something was malfunctioning (fire paranoia).

The weather is also warm – no rain today and highs in the high 60s! I’m hoping it stays this way.

I also learned how to make some herbal tea today using lemon balm and wild yarrow 

AND I’m finally doing some laundry tonight!! Woo!

Also, I’m wondering if the links in my posts are as obvious when reading the blog as they are when I insert the link so, just in case, anything that’s underlined can be clicked through to a link! 



So much to do and so little time!

Monday, July 14th, 2014

( I did actually write this on the 9th, but couldn’t post until now because my laptop had been refusing to connect to the wifi here)

July 9, 2014

Kia Ora, or hello! So it’s been a few days since my last entry (mainly because of wifi issues, but I’ll get to that later) and some of you may be wondering what the heck I’ve been up to…so here we go! I asked my wonderful faculty sponsor for this blog some things that she would be interested in hearing about, and boy do I have some great answers for you Sarah!

Week one *cue dramatic music*:
I think this is the first time since arriving that I have had a chance to stop, relax, and really think about everything that I have been up to these past 7 days, and man no wonder I’ve been so tired! Since UMW doesn’t have any exchange or direct enroll programs set up with schools in NZ, I had to find a third party provider to go through, which turned out to be Arcadia. If it wasn’t for Arcadia I’d have been absolutely clueless! Once we arrived in Auckland that first day a group of 21 strangers came together to become each others travel buddies, support groups, and best mates as we set out to begin the greatest adventure of any of our lives.
That first day was a bit rough. Jane, our lovely program director, told us from the get go that the only real mission was to keep us awake and moving until 8 pm. Now, hyped up on excitement about being in New Zealand we all thought that was a piece of cake…and then noon struck. We found ourselves poking, kicking, tapping, and slapping each other trying to stay awake! It was without a doubt the longest day I think I have ever experienced in my entire life! Most of that first day was spent with out programs directors walking through the city and learning cool little tid bits about New Zealand, but it wasn’t until after dinner that night when they let us free to roam that it really sunk in that we were here! I spent my first night at the top of the sky tower overlooking the city of Auckland with some of my newly discovered best mates.

Some of the best people I could have hoped to meet!

Some of the best people I could have hoped to meet!

P7030050 P7020004

Orientation lasted for a few days and we didn’t spend them all in Auckland. So, the next morning we got on our bus and drove off to Matamata, or more commonly known as Hobbiton and Rotorua (Sarah you’ve going to love this part!). Rotorua is a small town on the North Island of NZ and is known for its geothermal landscape. This is mostly due to the fact that it is one big caldera (for those of you who don’t know, that a pretty freaking big volcano!). After the eruptions all those years ago, the magma cooled and formed a very bumpy looking landscape that I was absolutely mesmerized by! For those of you who know me you are probably thinking that big volcano + cool landscape= Alex’s favorite place everrrr, and normally you would be correct. Except for the small fact that because of all of the hydrogen sulfide it had a lovely pungent smell of rotten eggs. Yum!

Yeah, I'm in a hobbit hole :)

Yeah, I’m in a hobbit hole :)



Finally made it to middle earth!

Finally made it to middle earth!

Despite the smell though, Rotorua was amazing! On our third and final day of
Arcadia orientation we visited Wiaotapu, a geothermal park! In that hour and a half walk around the park I saw some of the most beautiful sights! From highly acidic pools that were lime green, geysers, and steaming pools of water lined with gold, this place was unbelievable!


P7040103 P7040099 P7040112 P7040131 P7040130 P7040114
Once we left the park the highlights of the trip, up until this point, happened: zorbing and a visit to a Maori village!
*fun fact!: Zorbing is basically going into a giant hamster ball with two friends and being pushed down a hill.

Three best mates that anyone could have

Three best mates that anyone could have

Inside the Zorb ball

Inside the Zorb ball

*fun fact!: The Maori and the natives who first came to New Zealand. They have a very deep-rooted sense of identity, and still today hold seats in the NZ Parliament so that they may have a say in how politics affect their people.

While at the village we were able to get a better understanding of the Maori beliefs, past way of life, language, and customs. I really enjoy learning about other cultures and ways of life, so this was an experience that I really treasured and am thankful to have had.

P7050136 P7050139 P7050144 P7050163 P7050174

Sadly, our close group of mates had to disband and go our separate ways for classes. Thanks to Arcadia though we will be seeing and doing things with each other throughout or semester. Most of us have planned trips to the other schools, hikes together for long weekends, and other plans to meet up and experience NZ together. In fact, in two weeks a whole group of Arcadians from the North Island are coming to stay with those of us here in Christchurch.
While orientation was fun, it never really felt like we were on our own because we were each set to a schedule of events and activities. It wasn’t until the driver dropped me and only me off at Lincoln University did it hit me: I’m on my own. My four flatmates and I share a one-story house, or should I say ice box, right off campus. So far we have moved all of our things in, gone grocery shopping, met a few other international students, and gone to explore Christchurch once. In another few days I’ll have more to say about the flat and Lincoln, but right now we are still in the initial stages of moving in.

Now that I’ve given you guys a watered down version of my past few days (even though that seems like a pretty long description), time to reflect on some other aspects of being abroad. Before leaving UMW I had heard a lot about culture shock and the brick wall that a lot of students hit at some point in their first week or so. I’m not sure if it was because Arcadia eased me into everything pretty well or because NZ is an English speaking country, but I really haven’t experienced much of anything along those lines. In fact, I think the only two big things that come to mind is my struggle to attain wifi and the fact that I need to look right THEN left when crossing the street to avoid being run over. Other than that nothing else in glaringly different. Or at least, different enough to classify as “shock”.
A big area to cover when talking about an experience abroad is food! I will never again complain about the prices of groceries in the US. Ever! The first day that my mate and I were walking through the store I couldn’t believe the prices that we were seeing for things! Everything is more expensive here than back home. At UMW I could probably get all of my groceries for around $40, give or take, but here I was spending close to $80! The same can be said at restaurants as well. When you account for the fact that you don’t tip in NZ when going out to eat the prices even out, but to just glance over them and see the cost of a meal 3-4 dollars more expensive than the states can catch anyone off guard. A big thing in NZ for students my age are these nifty things called Takeaways. Rather than sitting down for a meal, most young people will go to a takeaway shop, grab a sandwich or pie (which here mean meat pies), and be on their way with it. I kind of like that though just because of my personality. The food here is quite similar to what can be found in the US, but with a few more sushi and Thai shops.
My classes here at Lincoln don’t start until next Monday, so to pass the time some mates and I have planned trips all around the Christchurch area so that we can get familiar with local spots to hang out and things to do. We just pile into my friends car and drive until we find something that looks interesting to one of us. I really enjoy exploring a city like this because then you really get to know not only the area but the people you are with as well.
While I am on the topic of classes though, boy am I nervous for mine! I just don’t understand Kiwi’s and their way of going about school! Everyone here is so laid back about classes and whether or not you actually attend them, meanwhile one exam is worth around 60% of the final grade!!!! How can people be chill about that?! The thought of that much riding on one exam or project freaks me out!!! Other than those aspects though I think classes are similar. I won’t really know until starting them Monday though, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…and wish me luck!
The one interesting thing that I’ve found though is that none of the “American stereotypes” have been applied when in a conversation with a local Kiwi or other international student here at Lincoln. That may be because I have been around mostly Americans the past few days and have only just started becoming more familiar with the other students here on campus, but I was expecting some type of comment about Americans at some point in the past week or so. Not so much from a Kiwi, but more from the other internationals. Most of the Kiwi people I’ve meet have been very laid back and relaxed and haven’t really cared about where I am from or anything, just what I think and what I do.

There is honestly so much that I wish I could share with you all, and after writing this post I’ve realized that I need to post more regularly than I have been just because I have so much to tell. This trip has been a dream of mine for years and to finally see it all unfold into reality is so surreal. The landscape is breathtaking! Up on the North Island there are mountains in the most random places and fields everywhere else. While more commercial and populated than the South Island, there is so much to stop and look at no matter where you are. I’ve only spent 3 days on the North so far, but will be spending two weeks there in a month and a half. But then there is the South Island. There are times when we are riding the bus into the city and I look out my window and in the distance can’t tell where mountain stops and cloud starts. The plaines stretch for miles until they run straight into the mountains that dominate the skyline. I have never in my life seen a more beautiful place, and I have only been to two sections of the country so far.


fountain in Auckland

fountain in Auckland

Auckland from the bus

Auckland from the bus

First beach we visited

First beach we visited

View from our first tramp

View from our first tramp

Auckland from the top of the tramp

Auckland from the top of the tramp

Another cool view of Auckland

Another cool view of Auckland

More Auckland

More Auckland

These two goobers playing Titanic with Auckland in the background

These two goobers playing Titanic with Auckland in the background

I could go on and on and on about the beautiful landscape, the friendly people, and the amazing time I’ve had this first week, but it is around 2 am here and I am about to crash at any moment. Now that I am all moved in and sorted expect blog posts a big more frequently. There is way too much going on to not post more frequently! I would just like to say thank you to all of you who are reading these, and especially to Sarah for your help with some of the questions to cover! I really hope that you are all enjoying the stories and pictures!



Raw Meat

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Last night, I ate literal raw meat.  It wasn’t cooked a second, and it was slathered about a piece of bread as though it was jelly or peanut butter.  But, and here’s the kicker: IT WAS DELICIOUS.

So I recently started cooking food on my own about a year and a half ago.  Like, not Mac ‘N Cheese or Ramen, but pork, or spagehtti, or cheeseburgers.  I’m AWFUL at it, but one of the things I can say I can cook well, is a good hamburger.  Well, my mom’s a pharmacist.  As such, ever since I started learning how to cook, she’s always been insane about the potential risk of E. Coli and infection that you can get from undercooked meat.  I prefer my steaks and burgers on the rarer side, so her reticence is understandable.

But last night, I ate raw meat.  RAW MEAT.  What?  I’m confused, how did that even become a thing?  I was talking to Sabine, and evidently it’s a VERY popular German meal, and I definitely get why.  They add onions, and have a specific sort of spice relegated to the art of eating raw meat.  And it’s delicious!  It really is!  Maybe some people add more condiments to this delicious death wish.  I dunno, I’d heard about it before yesterday, but I was more amazed at the fact that the fear of death wasn’t enough to stop them from eating raw meat, than notice what sort of condiments that they add to this delicatessen of death.

The World Cup final is in like, 45 minutes.  It’s raining.  I always like it when it’s raining.  Germans seem almost entirely adverse to air conditioning, so the rain always welcomes clouds and winds, which make it a lot colder.  That’s always welcome, especially since it’s summer.  I probably won’t watch it.  I need a night off.  I’ve been really busy lately, believe it or not.

Remember the whole 7-1 Germany vs. Brazil victory?  Yeah.  So do I.  I was there.  Even *I* was going crazy, and I’m not even from this country.  Additionally, it was my mentor’s birthday on Monday, so I had to make a guest appearance for a while.  On Thursday, one of our Korean friends was leaving for Korea early.  Don’t know how that’s going to work out in terms of the whole “finishing the semester” thing, but it was fun.

But I ate raw meat.  And…  I’ve watched more of the World Cup than I ever have of any sports contests, be it the Super Bowl, the World Series, or the NCAA championship bracket.  And I walk everywhere.  And I live in an apartment without air conditioning.  And I’m dating a German.  And I use when I’m too lazy to go out and get food.  And I recycle in an UNNECESSARILY complicated fashion, in which there are four bins designated to the different kinds of recycling.  And I buy 1 Euro Bratwurst at Domplatz Nord when money’s tight, and I’ve been eating far too much Schnitzel from Edeka.

I guess there’s no real point that’s meant to be understood as a conclusion here.  Just that I’ve overcome this initial reluctance to actually try to experience what this country, if not just THIS CITY, has to offer.  And that’s cool.

I may be a bit late, but hey.  Better late than never, right?


Days 9 & 10 (CSI Ageya)

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

I’ve been a little behind on blog writing the past two days. Two other WWOOFers and I have been working full days helping an investigator sift through the rubble of the fire to try and figure out the cause.

We're about half way done in this picture. The orange tape in the backgroudn was used to mark out 10'x10' grids in order to keep the evidence organized.

We’re about half way done in this picture. The orange tape in the background was used to mark out 10′x10′ grids in order to keep the evidence organized.

We were given white coverall suits, giant gloves, and shovel and spent 9am-6pm yesterday and today (with a hour lunch break) shoveling and sifting through the debris one grid square at a time looking for pieces of wire, floorboard burn patterns, and anything else that could give the investigator a clue to where the fire started and what had caused it. We were deemed CSI Ageya and the investigator was able to talk to the campers after lunch to give them an idea of what he does for a living in case they were interested in pursuing a similar career. The investigator had also been in the military, a police officer, and a bomb squad technician previously so he told the campers a little bit about those careers as well.

It was pretty interesting to see how everything was pieced together, but it was also pretty exhausting. I got a little bit of a sunburn (in cloudy 54 degree weather?) and my feet are a litte bit sore. It is one more experience under my belt though so I think in the grand scheme of things it was worth it.

Around 5:30 today the investigator thought he had pieced it together enough to call it done. The rest of the night I’ve been able to eat and shower (finally) and now I’m drinking some tea in the quiet dining hall looking out at the fog over the mountains.

One of the instructors has to go to a wedding later this week and so the director’s wife asked me to fill in for a few days. I think I’ll be teaching natural history – I’ll find out a little bit more about that in the next few days. I’m pretty excited to have a chance to try that out. I’m thinking it’ll be semi-similar to what I had been doing interning for the Friends of the Rappahannock in Fredericksburg this past Spring, but I’ll have to see. Either way, it’s another new experience I get to add to the list.

Half (about 16) of the campers left earlier tonight to go across the bay for two days to go to (from what I understand) is a big learning center where they will be able to observe organisms in tide pools and then take some of those organisms into labs to learn more about them. It sounds like a really cool learning experience. The other half will head there in a few days so the dining hall will only be 1/2 full until they’re all back.


The sprouts are still growing. We’ve been rinsing them twice a day but I think it’ll take a few days to see any real progress.

I also haven’t been in the greenhouse in the last few days :( but we’ve been reading up on permaculture and the “three sisters” method (which is planting squash, corn, and beans together) so we’re probably going to plant some beans in the same plot as the pumpkins and corn we have growing.

I did get another blanket for my yurt a few nights ago so that’s been nice and warm – until I have to get up!




P.S. thank you to everyone who’s been reading my blog! I really appreciate the interest in my adventuring (:

P.P.S I’m sorry for the occasional grammatical errors/typos. I write these at the end of the day when I’m too tired to proofread!


Day 8 (Sprouts, Education, and More Rain)

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

It’s day 8 at Ageya and day 11 in Alaska and I’m finally really experiencing some rain. Everyone keeps saying it was way worse (colder) in June – and I believe it – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still cold here. I spent my first night in Eagle last night and was really optimistic about the temperature at first, but it did get a little nippy around 3am (I’m getting more blankets tonight). It feels like a rainy late February day back home and I’ve been walking around in my rain proof winter coat (which seems to be the norm) but there are some people so used to the weather that they’re comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. I don’t think I’ll ever really get to that level.

I’m also starting to get too used to the food here. I’m going to have a problem when I go back home or back to school and have to actually cook or eat something not restaurant quality (Heaven forbid). Today we had quiche, grapes, bagels, and fresh blueberry muffins for breakfast; chicken tortilla soup and quesadillas for lunch; and brown rice and curry chicken soup for dinner.

I was also able to spend a good chunk of time earlier in the day working on a project I’m really into. Another WWOOFer and I have taken the lead on developing a curriculum for a series of greenhouse/sustainability/permaculture courses to be tried this camp and fully implemented next camp. It’s supposed to span over 5 one hour classes and give the campers a chance to learn about sustainable food sources, developing permaculture and developing a greenhouse and how all of those things are done here at camp. The goal is for them to understand the concepts well enough to be able to go back to their communities (a good portion of the campers are from rural villages in Alaska) with the motivation to grow their own food at least on a small scale (like growing sprouts, creating a small garden for their family, or starting a community growing program). Speaking of sprouts, some of the WWOOFers and I got some started today so that there will be examples to show the campers when they get around to learning about them (which is also covered by one of the instructors in his plant lessons). I wasn’t (and still am not) super familiar with the idea of sprouts for food but from what I’ve gathered they’re basically plant seeds that you rinse twice daily and keep in a dark place until they sprout (pop open) from the seed casings. They can then be eaten and are supposed to be really nutritious – and easy for campers to do on their own back home. Here’s what ours looked like at the beginnning:

We used three tablespoons of seeds, three tablespoons of citric acid (a preservative), placed them in jars, and covered them with a screen (we used pieces of a tshirt).

We used three tablespoons of seeds, three tablespoons of citric acid (a preservative), placed them in jars, and covered them with a screen (we used pieces of a tshirt). I don’t remember what the far left jar is – but the middle is wheat berry and the far right is sunflower seeds. And if you’re thinking “why didn’t we use more of these giant jars?” – I thought that too, but apparently the sprouts will get big enough to fill it up.

The rest of the day I did some work in the greenhouse – re-tying tomato plants so that they don’t sag (we don’t use cages for the tomatoes, we just have a string attaching each plant to planks of wood above them), pulling up romaine lettuce roots, and making another list of tasks with the other WWOOFers to be done tomorrow. I also organized and inventoried camp sweatshirts and water bottles – but that was a very small portion of my day.

We kind of hit a lull before dinner so we sat around in the dining hall drinking tea and talking about bad horror movies and weird alien documentaries on the discovery channel.

I’m going to take a look at the camper schedule either tonight or tomorrow and find some things that I’d like to help out with or participate in and try and get in on some of that stuff. I might also be able to join in on the trip across the Bay at the end of the month (fingers crossed) if I can finagle it.

It just keeps raining, even as I’m sitting here typing. And it’s just cold enough to make my fingers a little chilly sitting next to a window, but it could be much worse – especially up here. I love it up here but I really don’t think I could live here with the winters (or falls, or springs). Summer might just be all I can handle (at least for now).


Day 7 at Ageya (Fire & Rain)

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

I’ve experienced some extremes during my 7th day at Ageya. Late last night/early this morning we had a little bit of an issue with a fire which burned through the two story shop building on the grounds. (And since then it’s been pouring rain) Thankfully, no one was injured and only the building and a nearby car were destroyed. (We’ve been told we’re allowed to say that much about it but not much more 1) because we don’t know much more and 2) because there is still an ongoing investigation about how the fire started.

We were out until about 4am this morning and then we were cleared to go back to bed – but most of us didn’t sleep much if at all. I was able to sleep a few more hours and then got up at 7:30am to check to see what was going on. No one else was up, but I did find all of the other WWOOFers in the greenhouse about 15 minutes later (I guess we were all on the same wavelenght, or just missed out on the same memo). About an hour later we caught up with someone who said the power was back on and breakfast would be at 10am (the shop housed all of the power sources for the camp).

It’s been rainy all day – sometimes pouring – and so the WWOOFers and I got to work on a greenhouse/permaculture curriculum to be tested at the end of this camp and then to be used in the following years of camp. I got to work on developing some activities to teach about plant nutrient cycles, life cycles, and permaculture relationships.

After lunch – sloppy joe’s – I took a four wheeler to move my stuff from the Raven yurt  :( to the Eagle yurt which I will now be sharing with a really nice instructor for the rest of the month. The cook and the camp elder lived above the shop and so they have to shuffle people around to make sure everyone has somewhere to stay. It was pouring the whole time so I came back from relocating pretty soaked. The showers were open though so I was able to warm up and change into some dry clothes.

Our work is pretty much at a lull today because a lot of the projects – like building stands for cucumber plants – requires lumber and tools that were inside the shop. Dinner is normally at 6pm but the change in schedule has pushed it to 7pm, but other than that the other WWOOFers and I don’t have many other plans. We might get into the kitchen to help a little bit but we haven’t been given that schedule yet.

Everyone’s a little bit hazy after last night so everything’s moving a little slow, but hopefully I’ll have some more exciting things to report on the rest of the week!


POST UPDATE – here are some pictures of the aftermath of the fire from the Ageya Facebook Page

The burned shop and car (taken from about where the greenhouse is located)

The burned shop and car (taken from about where the greenhouse is located)

Close-up of the burned shop. There were a few propane tanks outside that exploded - thankfully none of the surrounding area caught on fire.

Close-up of the burned shop. There were a few propane tanks outside that exploded (One roof plank shot a couple hundred feet away and stuck straight up in the ground, and one propane tank shot into the ground and was buried a few feet under)- thankfully none of the surrounding area caught on fire.

Day 6 (Divide & Conquer)

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Today was the first day of organized meals and organized WWOOFing tasks. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will now be made and served at scheduled times every day, which I think is pretty cool because now I don’t have to worry about making food. We had bacon, eggs and croissants for breakfast; chicken enchiladas, fresh arugula salad, chopped up kohlrabi with humus, and watermelon for lunch; and grilled salmon, brown rice and more arugala salad and watermelon for dinner – I’m thinking I’m a little bit spoiled on the food end.

There are 5 WWOOFers now (which everyone says is an abundance compared to how many there usually are) so we were able to divide and conquer and get a lot done today. I was tasked with moving about 40 folding chairs from the large science yurt to the upstairs of the dining hall. There were three staircases and about 500 feet in between but thankfully I was able to use a four wheeler with a trailer and my newly (very newly) developed baby arm muscles to get the job done. I helped another WWOOFer finish watering the potted plants and flower beds outside of the dining hall and then we all met up in the greenhouse to divy up the work.

I picked rotten leaves from the center of romaine lettuce stalks in a few beds, picked the little flower buds from the basil plants (which FYI stains your thumb nails a brown/purple type color after awhile, though it does smell amazing!), picked the “suckers” from the tomato plants (little branches that grow between other branches and suck the energy from the tomatoes), and helped a few of the other WWOOFers reconfigure a section of irrigation hose.

One WWOOFer and I were also pulled aside by the director’s wife to repair some of the camping gear so we patched and sewed a few tents and reattached some reusable mug lids. The trickiest part was replacing a hook at the top of one of the tents that held up all of the poles so we had to find an S shaped metal piece (that looked like this) and bend it until it fit through the loop and held up the poles at the right height. We really didn’t think we’d be able to make it work – mini victory!

Later that afternoon I hitched a ride into town with two of the WWOOFers to deliver a bag of romaine lettuce and a bag of basil to one of the local restaurants in downtown Homer called Maura’s. It was right down the road from a Two Sister’s Bakery which I had heard of before ever coming out here, so I was super stoked when we decided to stop in before heading back to camp. They had brought their dog (a rescue, boxer mix), and she came out with us and sat on the steps with a view of Bay. I got a chocolate ginger cookie and it was delicious.

The entrance to Two Sister's

The entrance to Two Sister’s

Just a few of the baked goods (I want to go back for their cheesecake)

Just a few of the baked goods (I want to go back for their cheesecake)

After we got back I had a few minutes before dinner and then I sat around afterwards drinking chamomile tea and honey, listening to one of the WWOOFers and the director’s wife talk about traditional medicinals and different uses for herbs – which was totally over my head but really interesting. A few of the WWOOFers went across the Bay on their break and they were talking about it and the director’s wife mentioned trying to get my across the Bay sometime this month so I really hope that happens! I’ve heard it’s more like a rainforest over there with a lot of water and bears and ground made up of a foot or more of soft moss.

Two of the campers are here so far getting settled in and there should be some more arriving tonight. A few flights were delayed because of fog so some of the campers won’t be here until tomorrow at some point.


My yurt only dropped to about 52 last night so the temperature is making some improvements. It was about 89 in there a few hours ago so I’m really hoping some of the heat will last through the night!

I also had to kill a giant spider (commonly named “big booty” spiders because they have this huge gray sac-like thing on their backs) that was crawling on top of my sleeping bag earlier. They’re apparently really good for the garden but not to sleep with!

Until Tomorrow