Out There

Pics from Down Under

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on March 27, 2014

Wanted to include some pics of the engine and suspension and other stuff underneath.  I have a couple of guys helping me out with advice and I can help them help me by providing pics.  So here we go.  With a bonus shot of my lovely secure 1-car garage!  (which, I’ve heard through the grapevine, may have gotten hooked up to AVEC power today!  Don’t know for sure because I’m writing this from Tununak.  Power would allow me to actually plug in the oil pan heater, battery blanket, etc although lately its been so warm they haven’t been super necessary.  Still.  Power is nice to have.  Lights!  : – )  Note the outlets on either side of the truck and the overhead light receptacle.

conex garage 1

The ultimate triumph of function over form – the CONEX!!  What is not to love?  I hope to have this and the one to the left of it insulated by end of summer.  Might even take down the common wall and make one big garage.

 

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImagerImageImage

tn_DSC_0090

 

 

My Ridiculous Ride

Posted in suzuki samurai by Pete on March 26, 2014

tn_DSC_0071  tn_DSC_0072 tn_DSC_0075 tn_DSC_0074tn_DSC_0073

Finally uploading some pics of our little Suzuki Samurai that I barged up last summer from Seattle.  Many more stories to follow, hopefully.

Big Alcohol Spread in Alaska Dispatch

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on October 4, 2013

Big Alcohol Spread in Alaska Dispatch

Alcohol has really been in the news as both the Anchorage Daily News and the Alaska Dispatch have launched extensive efforts to cover the issue as it pertains to Alaska with a lot of scrutiny.  The ADN in particular is going above and beyond by launching a year-long effort with funding from a few different sources.  They view it as a follow-up to their pulitzer prize-winning series from the 1980s called “A People in Peril” that also dealt with Alcohol in bush Alaska.

Here are the 3 recent articles from Alaska Dispatch.  I can’t say I agree with all of the author’s thinly-veiled opinions, but it is a dialogue that we desperately need to have.  

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130903/perils-prohibition-alaskas-failed-war-booze

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130904/perils-prohibition-drowning-past-rural-alaska

http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130905/perils-prohibition-history-repeats-alaskas-failed-attempt-stamp-out-booze

I’ve written extensively on my views on alcohol in our part of the bush in the past and you can easily search the blog to find those posts.  I don’t take much time out to blog these days and don’t have much time now, but the one thing I’d add is that prohibition here IS different from prohibition in Chicago in the 20s and 30s because it was impossible to keep the illicit alcohol out at that time.  But there are no roads to the dry villages.  If Bethel was dry like all the villages around it, the only booze would be homebrew and stuff smuggled in luggage and by mail.  And the price would go way up, which we know prices some key segments of the population out of the drinking pool.  Like the 12 year olds.  This issue is especially relevant right now as yesterday we all got our PFDs from the state of Alaska, $900 for every man, woman, and child, and that $$ is burning a hole in a lot of pockets right now.  The next few days are notorious in Bethel for all kinds of rowdiness and worse that goes down every year.

Tagged with: , , ,

bush groceries

Posted in teaching by Pete on February 8, 2012

I help answer questions over at the ATP Forum, which is a place for prospective teachers in Alaska to ask questions.  A common question people have is about budgeting for food, as they try and get a better idea of what a move to Alaska would mean for them financially.  I’ve put a lot of thought and work into grocery shopping in the past and thought I’d put up some of that on here and tag it as ‘advice’ so it might be helpful to someone doing this kind of research.

If you choose to shop in a major hub like Bethel, Kotzebue, Dillingham, Nome, Barrow, etc you will probably have a couple of stores to choose from, and they may not look very different from a smallish lower-48 grocery store except for the prices.  Here is a youtube video someone made of a recent trip to the AC store in Bethel.  And here is a link to the weekly specials for Swanson’s grocery store that appear in the Delta Discovery newspaper. These give you a small idea of pricing.  Of course if you live in an outlying village as we do then you need to pay another fee to have the boxed groceries delivered to an air carrier and sent to your village (our village is only a 15 minute flight and the fee is about $.50 per pound), or have a friend pick up the box for you.  Both AC and Swansons will shop your list for you and box it for no extra fee if you fax or call them with what you want, and pay by credit card over the phone.  They are both based out of state.  I believe Swanson’s is owned by Omni Enterprises out of WA state, and AC (Alaska Commercial company, which has quite a colorful history in the state dating back to the Russian days when they had a monopoly on the Pribolof seal harvest – try google) is now based in Canada.

Of course you can also shop in your village itself, which helps the local economy.  Village stores vary widely in quality and selection, based on factors like distance and number of flights from Anchorage, and management.  I’ve seen villages with three stores, while others have none.  Most common is one or two stores.  Some village stores have surprisingly good quality of dairy and produce, while others have only a few half-rotten choices.  But usually there is not a lot of variety, and things run out of stock on a regular basis, as in “there are no eggs today.”  It can be difficult or impossible to get a lot of dairy items like milk, cream, whipping cream, cheeses, ice cream, etc.  Some village stores (esp in larger villages) have these things, but most do not.  Same goes for veggies.  Our store in Kasigluk most often has root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, or onions, but also tomatoes and cabbage  and apples are fairly common, though the quality might be understandably below what you’re used to “outside.”

Our local store pricing is actually not very different from the prices in Bethel.  This is because the cost to mail goods from Anchorage to Bethel is the same as mailing from Anchorage to Kasigluk.  The main difference is in the variety and availability of what you might be looking for.  As for cost, it is expensive, no doubt about it, although if you have a line of credit with the store and pay it off in full every month you enjoy a 10% discount on everything.  But the price is still high, particularly for items that cannot be mailed such as bleach.

As an example, I recently brought in a “hazmat” barge order from Anchorage consisting of paint, bleach, motor oil, fire extinguishers, etc and sold off the bleach and motor oil in order to cover the cost of buying and shipping the paint which we were using to spruce up an old school bunkbed our kids started using as well as some other stuff like painting our conex container.  Anyway the bleach at costco in Anchorage was $6.24 for a 2-pack of clorox jugs each weighing 182 oz.  One of those jugs sells for $47.31 at our store in Kasig (yes, about 15x as much).  With barge fees my total cost ended up being about $8 per jug to Bethel, and then I found a way to get everything to Kasigluk and sold them for $20 each and all 20 of them sold in a week or so.

One avenue for fresh produce that has become very popular in the bush lately is Full Circle Farms and other CSAs.  It ain’t cheap.  We pay something like $60 or $70 per box of fresh produce.  But the quality is outstanding, as is the web-based interface where you select exactly what you want for each delivery.  We get mangoes, kale, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, fresh thyme, oranges, kiwis, zucchini, pie crusts…you get the idea.  It is Expensive with a capital E but in my view worth it when you consider how difficult/impossible it is to get otherwise.  We get a box every other week for our family of 4.

Another recent option that has come along is buying groceries on amazon.  When we first came here in 2003 this was an option, but then they changed the rules so groceries could not ship to AK.  But just a year or two ago they made it available again.  Generally speaking this option is a little more expensive than paying a company in Anchorage to buy and mail it to you.  But it is easier, and sometimes the prices are competitive or even better than if you go through Anchorage.  For example I’ve found that the prices for cereal are quite competitive with what you would pay a middle man to buy it at Costco and mail it to your village.  But on the other hand, laundry soap is far cheaper via Anchorage.  Some of this has to do with shipping.   Shipping from Anchorage costs about $.35 per pound for a heavy box going parcel post, say around $20 for a 50# box.  From the lower 48 the same box costs far, far more to send and takes longer, which is why going through Anchorage is generally cheaper than amazon.  But it’s tough to beat the convenience and selection on amazon if you don’t mind paying a bit more.

This is long enough, so let me just link to our old website (that cannot be updated) for information on shopping in Anchorage.  You can do it yourself, or use a middle-man company to shop and mail it to you, and this website explores these options in some detail.  This information is all 5 years old or something, but still useful.  The company I most highly recommend based on price, JB Bush, still exists but has changed their name to Alaska Bush Shoppers, not to be confused with Alaska Bush Service (same initials but different company) who I compare JB Bush to on the website.  Confused yet??  🙂  Hope this is helpful information.

one economist’s perspective

Posted in grim stuff, politics by Pete on September 30, 2009

“In Galena and the six related villages the annual average suicide rate was 141 per 100,000 over the period 1979-1989. In Nome and the 15 related villages it was 89 per 100,000. In Bethel and the 48 villages of the Yukon-Kuskokwim region it was 56 per 100,000. Galena was awash in booze, with a store in Galena, one in Ruby, in, and one on the Yukon near another village. The Nome villages were dry, on paper. But residents brought booze in from the liquor store in Nome and arrived home drunk from its bars. But the Y-K region had no liquor stores or bars, except for the store in Red Devil, 150 miles up the Kuskokwim from Bethel. The three studies, which included accidental deaths as well as suicides, showed alcohol was involved in over two-thirds of all the deaths they reported.  What else should these suicide rates be compared with, besides each other? The annual average suicide rate in the U.S. has been around 12 per 100,000 since 1900. It fluctuates a little, but not much, through two world wars, the Depression, the entry of many more women into the labor force during and after World War II, increasing drug use, race riots, anti-war protests, a huge influx of immigrants, and other major social changes nationally.”

Here is the link to the full article.

alcohol issue (local option) coverage from ADN

Posted in grim stuff, politics by Pete on September 20, 2009

Hey, the ADN has a big spread on the current movement in Bethel to do away with local option. This would essentially remove the monthly alcohol importation limit (It would not, as I understand it, necessarily mean that alcohol could start being sold legally in Bethel). OOPS!  Quoting from the article:  “If the vote passes, Bethel would be eligible for two bars and two liquor stores based on its population, according to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that awards the licenses.” As I’ve pointed out previously in this space, the monthly “limit” is absurdly high.

Here are the ADN pieces: article, audio slide show, and short video. Good stuff, hopefully Bethel voters see it and do the right thing.

Just had to add this from the article:  “”We want the citizens of Bethel to be able to choose what they want or don’t want on these alcohol issues. We don’t want the state to continue to flog us with these rules,” said Tom Hawkins, 60.”  Yeah Tom, it is BRUTAL being limited to 20 drinks a day (not an exaggeration, that is the current limit if you do the math).  I feel so flogged.  This is the sort of person I was referring to when I wrote:  “If your desire to cling to your “right” to import ludicrous amounts of booze every month is so much stronger than your compassion at the state of your fellow man (even if they have made many crappy choices), then you have a serious problem.”

Or how about this guy:  “Meet 33-year-old Jeremy Westlake, a mechanic and pilot who by his estimate handles at least 70 percent of the legal alcohol that arrives in Bethel through a contract with ACE Air Cargo.  Westlake, one of the petitioners who put the question to a vote, says it’s a smaller-government thing. “I don’t want the state involved in our day-to-day life.””  HMMM, no conflict of interest there.

“If the liquor vote passes, authorities will lose control over how much booze arrives in Bethel, [trooper] Evan said. “I can imagine we’re going to see a lot more problems out in the villages.””

Precisely.