Thursday, September 25, 2014

Save seeds from your favorite tomato!

The Growing Ester's Biodiversity program is pleased to present for the second year a free workshop on saving seeds from tomatoes and other pulpy fruits. Many such fruits require a period of fermentation to remove the projective coating that prevents germination, while others, such as tomatillos, do not.

Aurora Siberian tomatoes grown in Ester, 2014. Photo and garden by Deirdre Helfferich, GEB director.

This year, as in our first year of conducting the workshop, we have the good fortune to have local grower and seedsman Kurt Wold of Pingo Farm / Zone 1 Grown in attendance; Wold has been finding tomato and pepper varieties that do well in our climate and offering them in his catalog. He is the only seed grower for vegetable seeds in the state. He is also a certified potato grower. Wold is the organizer of the Great Alaska Turnip Breeding Project, in which local gardeners grow turnips and harvest the seed or report on the results, with an eye to developing a tasty, tender, large, root-maggot-resistant turnip for the Interior. Wold will talk about the project and bring bouquets of lettuce and carrot flowers.

The workshop details:

  • location: John Trigg Ester Library Clausen Cabin, 3629 Main Street
  • time/date: 4 pm, Saturday, September 27, 2014
  • bring: heirloom/open-pollinated tomatoes, cucumbers, or tomatillos, a sharp knife, a jar and lid for each variety you'd like to save, towels, and a cutting board or plate
We'll provide labels, pens, informational handouts, and some extra jars if people run out. We will also have samples from our seed library. Bring extra tomatoes and we'll have a tomato tasting!

Horror at the JTEL and Readers on the Run

It's fall—and you know what that means! Well, yes, harvest and yard cleanup and preparation for the white stuff, of course, but also—Readers on the Run! (Or see our Facebook event page.) This year we are celebrating horror and the zombie phenomenon for Alaska Book Week. Runners will face a pack of hungry zombies somewhere along the route. Prizes will be given for best runner costume, best zombie costume, best poem, and, of course, best times. Download and post the poster!

Horror fiction is a well-represented genre in the John Trigg Ester Library's collections, both in the film and literature collections. Horror has its roots in folklore, myth, and religion, and often reflects, through metaphor, the larger fears of society.

So what can we make of the ever-increasing popularity of zombie-themed fiction? What metaphors does it play on? What does it mean that zombies have been gradually increasing their lurch speed? Hmmm. Come find out—at the library!

Authors of horror fiction represented at the JTEL include:
  • Ian Banks
  • Clive Barker (Weaveworld, Imajica, etc.)
  • Ambrose Bierce
  • Algernon Blackwood
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Ramsey Campbell
  • Roald Dahl
  • Ted Dekker
  • August Derleth
  • Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol, Tale of Two Cities, The Pickwick Papers, etc.)
  • Dennis Etchison
  • William Faulkner
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Nikolai Gogol
  • Laurell K. Hamilton
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Shirley Jackson
  • Henry James
  • Stephen King (Desolation, the Gunslinger series, Christine, etc.)
  • Dean Koonz (Midnight, Fear Nothing, etc.)
  • Tanith Lee
  • Fritz Leiber
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • Brian Lumley
  • George R.R. Martin
  • Chuck Palahniuk
  • James Patterson
  • Edgar Allen Poe (collected works)
  • Anne Rice (Interview with a Vampire, Queen of the Damned, etc.)
  • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Frankenstein)
  • Dan Simmons
  • S.P. Somtow
  • R.L. Stine
  • Bram Stoker
  • Peter Straum
  • Whitley Strieber
  • F. Paul Wilson
  • Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
And more! Aside from gothic horror, modern horror is often cross-genre, and includes science fiction, fantasy, and other genres.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Winners from the 2014 Pie Throwdown

We had a tie this year! The Best Sweet Pie was tied between Barb O'Donnell's All-Berry Pie (featuring raspberries, blackberries, and cherries), and Julia Mickley's Blue Comet (with lime zest and whipped cream!).

The four judges had a very difficult time choosing among the 34 entries. Becky Anderson, who brought tiaras and boas for all the other judges, said that every single one was delicious—except the one that they didn't have the nerve to try, which was Kristen Sullivan's pie crust for canines and humans (human-grade ingredients, including barley and carrots) and featured a stylized pawprint in the center. The judges gave it an award for Best 4-Legged Entry, and it went in the auction for $60. According to Maggie Billington, the winner of the auction, it was VERY popular with the dogs. (Sullivan operates a business, Ruby Snacks, that specializes in doggy treats.)

The Best Savory Pie was Carla Helfferich's Tomato Pie for Grownups (Helfferich had previously submitted a gooey pie called Easy Tomato Pie, made with Bisquick and especially formulated to appeal to youngsters—this one is for the adults in the family).

Most Unusual Pie was made by Sarah Furman, and was a Raspberry Jalapeño Pie decorated with nasturtiums.

The pie auction raised $310, and the judgeship auction raised $150 (helped along because Nick Gassmann's left hand started bidding against his right hand). Along with the generous donations of pie bakers and eaters, musicians and people donating at the door, we earned $4,600! Thank you, everyone!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pie throwdown 2014

Nancy Burnham is once again the Berry Pie Throwdown organizer. She's gotten three fine local women to participate as judges this year:
  • Becky Anderson, an artist who works in fused glass, has extra crowns for herself and the other judges, and is making a prize for the event. And she has a new kitten.
  • Marlies Guest, who is new to Ester and wants to get involved in the community. Ester's all about the can-do, volunteer spirit, so she'll fit right in, we can tell already!
  • PJ Strawther, who loves pugs! She's a fan of the Dog Park, and, obviously, loves pie too.
There will be room for a fourth judge, but you've got to get to the LiBerry Music Festival no later than 2 pm, because we'll be auctioning that seat off to the highest bidder!

Bring your homemade pies to the Golden Eagle between 12:30 and 2, and stick around for the awards at 3:30 (and the subsequent auction of the top winners!).The rest of the pies will be available for people to eat at requested $5 per slice donation.

Now, suppose you were here last year, or three years ago, and you recall a delicious pie that you'd like to make at home, but you're not sure how it was made? With so many original and unusual recipes, the LiBerry pies might be hard to replicate—that is, unless you had the Throwdown Cookbook!

For only $25, you too can make pies like these:
  • Porknberry Pie (winner 2012, Best Savory Pie)
  • Lenin Meringue Pie (winner 2011, Best Sweet Pie)
  • Miniature Tomato Jam Pies (winner 2009, "Most Sophisticated" Award)
  • Blueberry Chocolate Pie (winner 2009, "Most Surprising Ingredients" Award)
  • Parsnip Custard Pie (winner 2010, "Most Unusual Pie" Award)
  • Zucchini-Lavender Pie (winner 2010, "Most Savory Pie" Award)
and many others, including: Blu-Barb Crisp, Blueberry Rhubarb Pie, Cheesecake Pie with Blueberry Reduction, Chocolate Lingonberry Pie, Dark Chocolate Cloud Pie with Blueberry Topping, Easy Tomato Pie, Fauxberry Pie, Flower Power Pie, Fruit Pizza Pie, The Green Monster, Mixed Berry Pie, Raspberry Poppers, Spicy Blueberry Pie, and more!

Every year, you can add to your collection with individual recipe pages, available for a nominal price. Buy them all in a handy binder, or pick and choose from previous years and buy only the ones you want to create a cookbook to match your tastebuds. Available at the music festival!

Contact Nancy at 479-2507 for more information on the pie contest or to volunteer.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

2014 LiBerry Music Festival handbill

Here it is! Amy Cameron of Bad White Dog has created our poster this year. Pass on the word! August 30, Saturday, at the Golden Eagle Saloon.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Progress at the gazebo

The first work party to clean up and reinstall the windows went very well: it didn't rain! The turnout was good, and we got a lot done.

The old, broken windows were removed:


They looked very sad in the garbage can. Connie Huffman decided to see if she could salvage a couple of them.


Eric Glos and Hans Mölders did the carpentry and removal work.

With all the rain and sun we've had this season, the shrubs and weeds had grown profusely (as have the flowers), so we did quite a bit of weeding, pruning, and stump removing. Carla Helfferich donated a whole wheelbarrow full of flowers to the cause, both perennials and annuals.


Included in the mix are: lobelia (white, lavender, magenta, blue), geraniums (red and pink), a purple trailing petunia, two yellow nasturtiums, a Maltese Cross, a Scarlett, a six-pack of marigolds donated by Anne's Greenhouse, dianthus (red, magenta, white, pink-flecked), two columbines, and a brilliant white Asiatic lily. We also transplanted several columbines and delphiniums from Ansgar's cabin (escapees from the flower beds up there).

Mike Musick created a new access path to the gazebo around the southern end of the large flower bed, closer to the path to the park and more directly opposite the path from the post office. (He referred to it as the "Ester Post Office Loop Trail.") The large rocks from it will become a fire ring at some point in the future.


Ritchie Musick clearing the leaf litter between the gazebo and the outhouse. Weeds and leaf mulch were piled into the compost bins, almost filling one up. All that's needed now is horse manure!

Monday, July 7, 2014

July at the library

Fourth of July was HOT! We gave away loads of t-shirts and membership forms (not to mention pink lemonade) and talked with lots of people about the plans for the new library, the Clausen Cabin, and the gardens.

This month, our work party schedule includes repairing and re-installing the stained glass windows at the Ida Lane Clausen Gazebo on July 19 & 20th, 11 am to 5 pm. You recall these five lovely windows, created by Denise Akert-Mohr:

 The windows were destroyed, shot out by a .22, in winter or spring 2012-13. A sixth window, showing a robin, was left untouched. We promptly covered it with plexiglass to help protect it (at least from flying rocks or BB guns). Denise was crushed, and the community was, justifiably, outraged.

However, we rallied, and the library set aside monies through the Community Revenue Sharing fund program to recreate the broken windows. Denise provided original drawings to Expressions in Glass, where Debbie Matthews matched the glass and designs as closely as possible from the photos we took, doing a beautiful job.

At the annual meeting in 2013, the JTEL announced a fund drive to pay for Lexan to cover the new windows. The drive earned $1,020 by the middle of December.

So now it's time to put our plan in action, come together, and make beautiful construction music at the gazebo!

Come on down on Saturday & Sunday, July 19th & 20th, any time between 11 am and 5 pm. We'll feed the volunteers, fix up the gazebo, tidy up the gardens, and make our public art available to the public again.


And, as a bonus, Denise made another window! (We'll install it at the work party.)

See you there!