Monday, May 28, 2012

You might be an Alaskan if…(summer edition)

Not content to canvas a subject so near to my heart just once, I hereby present for your pleasure the quiz you are all longing to take. Your week will not be complete without the perusal of this list.  And if nothing else, you will find out if you are a true Alaskan.  Just in case you weren’t sure.

aprilmay2012 148

You might be an Alaskan if:

  • summer is your favorite month of the year.
  • your pet fishing hole is a more closely guarded secret than oh, say that time you ran out into the street in your pink bathrobe waving a broken golf club and throwing cheap garden ornaments at a bear.  Whoops, did I really just write that for all to see? Again?
  • the first mosquito bite of the year is a badge of honor.  Not really, but it helps take your mind off the itch.

early summer bergenia 002

  • you just planted your new annuals, perennials, and veggies out this weekend.  Memorial Day weekend is the traditional “safe” time to plant so as to ensure no frost damage. (As for this impatient zone cheater, mine got planted two weeks ago. Don’t tell!)
  • your plant defense arsenal includes a bottle of Plantskydd and in certain (mostly rural) cases, an electric fence.
  • camping weekends have already been blocked out on the calendar. If I survive my four-day camping trip and float of the Gulkana River, I’ll let you all know. To rally my spirits, the husband has shown me YouTube clips of people losing their coolers and dumping their rafts over on that river. I’m feeling really confident about the whole thing, as you can see….
  • you have water-skied on a lake so cold your lips turned blue.
  • you anticipate attack every time you step outside by our official state bird, which long time Alaskans know is the mosquito, or Gigantus bloodsuckerus. Continued exposure to attacks results in chronic twitchiness and occasional, random waving of arms around in short bursts of paranoia.  Your out-of-state family members begin to look at you with concern.

dipnet 051

  • you have gone dip-netting, an Alaskan residents-only fishery.
  • the snow no longer hides your two junk cars, elderly Arctic Cat snowmachine, boat trailer, and badly listing wood pile. On the up side, you found that [thing] you were looking for during the winter that was buried under snow.
  • the motor home has come home.  Or maybe, if you didn’t take it to an offsite storage company for winter, you have at least yanked off the blue tarp cocoon that swaddled it over the winter.
  • the chirping of robins keeps you awake at night.
  • Alternatively, the famous midnight sun keeps you awake at night.  Those needing darkness to slumber invest in curtains, shades, or in a tacky pinch, aluminum foil across the window.

aprilmay2012 128

  • you know what devil’s club is, and want nothing to do with it.  (Gold stars awarded to those that know it is a plant, demerits for those that assume it is a wicked, prince-of-darkness endorsed motorcycle gang/book group.) I threw in a very recent picture (above) of a stem before the leaf unfurls.  The largest spiky stalk I saw was over my (6 foot) head. 

The undersides of the leaves develop spikes as well.  Or is it prickers? Since I can’t find my botany book from college and am too lazy to find the answer on the computer, we may never know. I still have childhood memories of running through the forest and stumbling into patches of this.  Not good in short pants and short sleeves.

If you have experienced 79.85% of these items, you have, or were, or should be, an Alaskan.  Congratulations!  Or is it condolences?


What makes the locals unique where you’re from?


biobabbler said...

Oplopanax horridus =) At least, that's what it is at Mount Rainier. Quite the impressive plant. Learned 2 interesting things via Wiki about it:

1. "Devil's Club generally grows to 1 to 1.5 metres (3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 10 in) tall; however, instances exist of it reaching in excess of 5 metres (16 ft) in rainforest gullies." Can you imagine one 16 feet high?!? I met this plant when I worked at Mount Rainier NP, and was awestruck.

2. "Devil's Club is very sensitive to human impact and does not reproduce quickly. The plants are slow growing and take many years to reach seed bearing maturity, and predominately exist in dense, moist, old growth conifer forests in the Pacific Northwest."

Who knew these fiercely armed creatures were so delicate? Perhaps they are that thickly armed because they ARE so vulnerable. =) Interesting metaphor.

3. Interesting natives where I live? TONS. I live in California, so many of the wonderful species we have are endemic, so can only be seen in the wild here. Spoiled, that way.

garden girl said...

Definitely not an Alaskan, you need guts to live there! I am already depressed because the winter shadows have crept a metre further in to my garden and the temp has dropped to 12°C

Diana of Elephants Eye said...

Walking barefoot. They have shoes, but I often see kids walking home from school barefoot. In our summer, not yours ;~)

Sue@G.L. Allotments said...

Hope the rafting goes well - it would scare me rigid!

Christine B. said...


A gold star for providing the Latin name. And a sigh of relief for never seeing a devil's club quite that tall. Though I suppose at that height, one could stroll under it unscathed....

Send some heat my way. This has been a cold, cloudy start to summer.


Christine B. said...

I've heard it's something in the water or a sickness that keeps people from leaving AK.

We're about at the same temperature right now and this is supposed to be summer. Pfui!


Christine B. said...

I used to walk barefooted as a child over out tarred road. It would drive my mother crazy when I got tar all over the house and my clothes.

Walking barefoot over cool, springy, snakeless turfgrass is one of summer's great sensual pleasures here in Alaska.

That and hearing the ice cream truck coming!


Christine B. said...

I must pretend to be brave for the children's sake. I survived the maiden voyage down part of the Kenai River on Monday, so I'm feeling a bit braver. Cooking out of a Dutch oven for four days, that's truly frightening.


Marguerite said...

I'm no Alaskan but I did live in northern British Columbia once upon a time and I sure miss those long late summer nights when the sun didn't set until 11pm or so. Of course, all night sun might drive one a little bit buggy.

Faith said...

Devils Club any day of the week over red ants, palmetto bugs, fleas, ticks, rattlesnakes, poison oak/ivy/sumac. We have it pretty good up here in Alaska.

Christine B. said...

Ah, yes, the long summer nights. One can almost forget the mandatory entourage of mosquitos during those nights. Running fast or a brisk wind helps. Or taking a few laps in a pool of DEET infused repellant.


Christine B. said...

The bugs are worse than the plants because they have legs. Bugs can follow you home. I can hold quite a grudge when they manage to find their way into my hair or jeans, speaking from personal experience.

No arguments here about Alaska being a good place to garden/live.


croftgarden said...

We only have 18 hours of daylight and 6 hours of twilight and NO biting insects or bears or devils with clubs. So I obviously don't qualify, just a Hebridean with pretensions!


Hi Christine, Great post, as usual! Um, that devil-plant looks scary indeed. I don't suppose you have Himalayan Blackberries in your parts, and by "parts" I mean your Alaskan parts. Not the other. :) Um, anyway, they, the blackberry thorns can be brutal too. Okay, moving on.

I see you have Horsetail in your...location. We have this too and I have a looming curiosity about it. I know it spreads faster than a rumor at church but there is something rather elegant about it. Call me weird.

I do hope you survive the four-day camp out. And by survive I mean, keep your sense of humor in tact.

Unfortunately no "midnight sun" here but we do have very bodacious robins heralding the new day at the ungodly hour of say, 4 AM. I don't mind though. It beats our cat clawing on the screen door to be let in.

I wish I could get my son to move to Alaska and take his "junk cars." Or maybe if western Oregon has an Alaskan winter next go-round, I'll be as happy as you are to NOT see them. Cheers!


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