Thursday, October 1, 2009

Renewable, Sustainable Summer

It's been months!

And here's what I've been up to.

Built a chicken coop disguised as a cute garden shed...

Here's what it looks like now that it's 90% done ... still have some interior design going on.

You can also see the fence and posts behind the coop .... that is an ongoing project nearing completion. We used logs for posts, and dug 25 post holes (thank you chicken coop forman, Mr. Eric, who will be getting free eggs for the rest of his natural life.).

Also been doing the vegetable gardening as you can see a few rows in the above photo. Beets, brocolli, Brussell sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery (oo, can I do it alphabetical?!), fennel, Swiss chard, tomatoes, dill (oops, out of order), basil (ah!), kholrabi, yellow squash, cucumbers, and zucchini. Oh, yes, and one leek. (Huh. I should pull that and see how it did!)

Then a few weeks ago, drove the 6 hours to Chena Hot Springs to soak in the mineral waters. The hills surrounding Fairbanks and the Chena Valley are known as Golden Valley. They literally roll with gold. Fitting, since this was one of the major gold rush sites. I got to Chena just at the tail-end of fall...

In the above picture, you can see steam coming out of the rocked-off area known as the "lake," where resort-goers can soak in the steamy mineral waters. It felt so good!

Chena Hot Springs hosts a generator that creates electricity from the geothermal activity at the springs. With the help of a refrigerant-type liquid that boils at something like 150 degrees F (the temp of the hot springs is 165 degrees F), this generator is capable of supplying the electricity to the community of Chena Hot Springs. They also heat the buildings with in-floor hot water from the hot springs, and it's absolutely lovely!
There are 60-some people who live and work at Chena year-round, and though I don't know the number of buildings, it is no small project. The progressive renewable, sustainable technology they use has finally been getting recognition at a national level in the past 5 years.
Also, being the avid gardener I am, and also intrigued by growing my own veggies and poultry, I was in love with their year-round hot-spring heated green house that produces the most flavorful and delicious tomatoes I have ever had from a restaurant.
This little prow-faced log cabin, below, is the "aurorium," a hot-springs-warmed viewing place that sits on a hill overlooking the valley. Realize that aurora show up best in very cold weather, and that at Chena, the temperatures easily dip to -20 degrees F in winter, and at least once per year, will go as low as -60 degrees F. Chena draws a huge clientel in winter specifically there to see the northern lights. The resort even has an "aurora watch" list that guests can get on to receive a call in the middle of the night to alert you to aurora activity.
OK, well my essay on "What I did this summer" turned into a brochure on Chena Hot Springs, but truthfully, it's a very cool place and definitely worth checking out if you ever get to my neck of the woods!