Category: Moose


I have nothing at all against cabbage. In fact, I like it—in moderation. I don’t grow it for two reasons. First, even a supermarket-sized head of cabbage would go bad long before I finished eating it. It is not a vegetable sized for a single person living alone.

Giant Cabbage

Junior (left) and All-age giant cabbage Champions.

Second, moose adore cabbage—or anything else in the cabbage (cole) family. They will go down a row of cabbages, taking a bite out of each head. I’ve grown broccoli in pots, behind a six-foot chain-link fence, but for me, cabbage just isn’t worth the trouble.

Still, cabbage and cole crops in general really love Alaskan summers. Lots of people grow them here. They boast of their size. So it is no real surprise that the vegetable heart of state fairs here in Alaska tends to be the giant cabbage weigh-in.

There are other prize ribbons for the heaviest vegetable: zucchini, pumpkin, round squash, long squash, cucumber, turnip, rutabaga, beet, radish, kohlrabi, and tomato all get ribbons for the largest. (Notice that all but the tomato are either cole crops or cucurbits?) But they get ribbons like any other class. The giant cabbage winner gets a cash prize of a dollar a pound, and the competition is cutthroat, though more for the honor than the money. Potential entrants are guarded from moose, fed and watered as carefully as any of the animals shown, and anxiously watched over by their growers. Finally, the first Saturday of the fair, comes the great event: the giant cabbage weigh-in, announced by itself in the fair entry book.

This year’s winner in the adult division was 62.99 pounds, the weight proudly displayed, along with the championship ribbon, on the winning cabbage. Even the junior winner was a respectable 43.34 pounds.

What one does with a cabbage of this size is a matter of speculation. Invite the whole neighborhood in for a celebration, and sacrifice the winner to make cole slaw? Make a very large batch of sauerkraut? Perhaps a Great Pye large enough for four and twenty ravens? (No, that’s not totally crazy; I have a cookbook of English traditional recipes, and the one for a Great Pye is based on cabbage.  And we certainly have enough ravens in Alaska.)

Whatever the ultimate fate of the winner, it reigns in glory for the week of the fair.

The sun will rise today at 8:33 and set at 5:37, for 8 hours 47 minutes of daylight. We’re gaining 6 minutes 49 seconds a day now, and the run rises over 14° above the horizon. On clear days like yesterday the sun is blindingly bright on the snow, and tracks are easy to see. Temperatures are actually a little warm for this time of year – lows around 5 to 10 below, highs in the teens and 20’s. Actually much better than a thaw that won’t last.

The hole in the snow festoon is unchanged. I have a feeling that most of the gradual movement of the snow occurs when the temperature is relatively warm. That’s certainly true of glacier ice, and it seems reasonable to expect it of the ice bridges holding the flakes together.

Yesterday morning I saw some quite unexpected tracks. A moose had wandered into the yard and perambulated around it. The end of one raised bed was pretty well cleared off – do moose like lavender and rosemary? I didn’t actually pull either last fall.

It’s not weather, but I’ll be adding to the weather reports for the next month. I’ve signed up for WriteMotivation for March. The Challenges are:

1. Make a list of realistic goals for the month – and achieve them.

2. Make a Blog Post every week (preferably Monday, but if you don’t post on Mondays just add it to the next day you would normally post ). This is to help us keep tabs on our own progress, and for others to cheer us on if it’s a difficult week. Please link to the post in the #writemotivation hashtag

3. Visit your #writemotivation team mates blogs, and participate in the #writemotivation hashtag to cheer people on

My goals?

1. Learn to use at least one legal method of getting images other than photos I’ve taken on my blog. (I’d love to have some shots of Africa on Jarn’s Journal, for instance.)

2. Continue to blog at least 5 days a week. (I’m doing 7 now, but I’ve signed up for a number of adult classes in March.)

3. Edit Chs 2 and 9 of my WIP to give more showing, less telling. (Ch 2 has been on Six Sentence Sunday; Ch 9 is the next section from Tod’s POV.)

4. Participate in at least one Platform-building challenge — I hesitate to commit for more without knowing what they are. The first one’s out today. Wish me luck!

With 550 posts as of today, I’ve started to have problems remembering what I’ve already put on here. This is particularly a problem with posting existing content such as poems, short pieces from the Summer Arts Festival, or science explanations originally written for the Alaska Science Forum. I can’t remember which books or DVDs I’ve posted reviews on. It also is starting to be a problem when I want to link to a previous post and can’t remember when it was put up or what the title was. And there are posts on this blog that have permanent information, like the series on planet building and the one on horse color genetics, or the book and DVD reviews. I want to make it easier for my readers as well as myself to find things.

I made a start some time ago by adding an index page, which can be accessed from the menu at the top of any page. Right now, the only links are to index pages on my author site. This takes you out of the site and sometimes back in, which is rather clumsy. The index list is also incomplete.

I’m going to start posting an occasional entry which is strictly an index of past posts on a particular topic. These posts will be linked from the index page, and will link forward to the individual blog posts. As it takes a while to find all the posts that belong together, this will be a slow process—probably extending over the next few months. The first in this series, on DVD reviews, is already queued for January 3. Others will follow, most on Thursdays.

I probably won’t be indexing every post. Some, like those early posts which were simply glossary entries for my books, are on the author site and really belong there. Others, like the regular Monday updates on North Pole weather starting in November 2010, can be found easily enough just by using the calendar on the site. But I hope that by the time I have finished this, older posts of interest will be easier to find.

Moose Tale

Here in Interior Alaska, moose are a fact of life. You drive with one eye out for moose—they are big enough and leggy enough that if you hit one, there is a very good chance it will come through the windshield and kill you. Not that the moose—or the car—will be in much better shape.

They love anything in the cabbage family—cabbage, broccoli, turnips, cauliflower—and they aren’t content with eating the occasional plant top. They will go down a row and take one bite out of every head of cabbage, for instance. Small decorative trees have to be protected in the winter, when moose are living on twigs and dormant buds. Fences are merely a nuisance—they used to step right over the 5’ woven wire fence around my property, especially in winter.

They can be dangerous—moose have trampled people to death. I’ve never actually been attacked, but my dogs have scared me silly a time or two. The Shelties used to be quite certain they could run off a moose, and Dot, my Border Collie, was totally confident she could herd one. Unfortunately moose don’t agree. As far as they are concerned, dogs are wolves, and they’ve had to fight wolves to survive for generations. They’re very good at it—much better than the dogs are at dodging moose hooves.

They do disappear during hunting season.

On the whole, I enjoy having moose around. I will grab the camera and take pictures if they come into the yard or are browsing just outside the fence, and I pause to watch them—warily—if I happen to see one near the highway, though I don’t try to take pictures when I’m driving. I do worry a bit about them when I’m riding my tricycle, even though the bike path I use is right beside a road. But my biggest moose scare involved one of the dogs, specifically, Dot.

Dot was already trained to herd when I got her. She taught me a lot about the sport, and I showed her at ranch dog level at both the Tanana Valley and Anchorage Fairs. We also attended the Aussie Fling in Anchorage a few times, and she got her Advanced Trial Dog title on ducks and her Open titles on sheep and cattle. (As to how she got the title on sheep, you’re welcome to pop over to http://bowlingsite.mcf.com/Border/Dot.html.) Suffice it to say that she did not always obey my “that’ll do,” which means “Stop herding and come back to me.” She was, however, reliable enough that I had no problem walking the tenth of a mile to get the mail with her loose at my side.

We were returning from the mailbox, almost to my driveway, when Dot suddenly alerted and went into her Border Collie crouch. I glanced idly across my front yard, and froze. Dot was already starting her outrun, but it wasn’t a sheep in the yard. It was a moose. A large moose, with a very small calf at its side. Moose are dangerous to wolves—and dogs—at the best of times. A mother moose protecting her calf…

Dot’s intentions were clear. She was bred to bring sheep to her handler, and she obviously had every intention of bringing this moose to me. The moose, just as clearly, considered Dot a wolf that was after her calf. The huge ears went down, the hair on the neck stood up, and I knew she wasn’t going to be content with just killing my dog.

“Dot,” I screamed as I speeded up my walk down the driveway toward the house door, “that’ll do.”

I don’t know whether Dot was in an exceptionally cooperative mood or whether she’d noticed that this was larger than any sheep of her experience, but she obeyed more promptly than at any trial we’d ever attended. I grabbed her collar and we both retreated indoors–fast. The moose didn’t hang around long—no doubt she was looking for a place without wolves.

I’ve seen plenty of moose since. I grow my broccoli in pots in the old dog runs, behind 6’ chain link. I don’t think it would stop a really determined moose, but there are plenty of other things to eat during gardening season. Besides, moose are fun to watch—as long as you don’t get in their way!

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