Monday, November 19, 2012

Book sale!

The John Trigg Ester Library, along with many other participating literary nonprofits in the Tanana Valley, will be selling books to the public at bargain prices this coming Saturday. Come on by and help out your favorite local library raise funds and public awareness. We'll have videos and books! Poetry! Adventure! History! Art! Fiction! Fantasy! Politics! Philosophy!--and More!

  • Saturday, 10 am to 3:30 pm
  • Noel Wien Library Auditorium
  • 1215 Cowles Street

If you have extra books or movies you would like to donate to the cause, please bring them by the JTEL no later than Friday afternoon.

Questions? Please call Deirdre at 479-3368 (home) or 474-6923 (work).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Election results and Jamie Smith lecture tonight!

Jamie Smith, cartoonist, will be speaking on his adventures with pencil and camera as a park ranger in Maine over the last year.  7 pm tonight, October 24th, at Hartung Hall in downtown Ester! Don't miss it—Jamie's always a great speaker and his talks and illustrations are worth coming to see. This will be the second time Jamie has given a talk for the John Trigg Ester Library; we're delighted to have him back.

The Ester Library Lecture Series is free and open to the public, but donations are always welcome—and greatly appreciated. Lectures are generally held on the third Wednesday of the month at 7 pm. For more information, please contact Trey Simmons, series coordinator.


The election results and terms of the board at the annual membership meeting are as follows. New members are highlighted with an asterisk, board members re-elected with a double asterisk.

Monique Musick, 2011-2013 (president)
Deirdre Helfferich, 2012-2014 (vice president)**
Nancy Burnham, 2011-2013 (treasurer)
Jan Ohmstede, 2011-2013 (secretary)
Rena Flint, 2012-2014*
Molly Rettig, 2011-2013
Kayt Sunwood, 2012-2014*
Carla Helfferich, 2012-2014 (alternate)*
Trey Simmons, 2012-2014 (alternate)**

Friday, October 19, 2012

Annual membership meeting this weekend!

This weekend is the 2012 John Trigg Ester Library membership meeting, the 4th annual library membership meeting since the library incorporated. The meeting should be brief (less than an hour), but it is vital that the members turn out: your presence is needed. (Besides, there's going to be some good appetizers to snack on as the meeting starts.)

Here's the invitation from the board president:

Good afternoon,

I invite you to the John Trigg Ester Library annual meeting this Sunday afternoon October 21. Come join the board of directors and fellow library members at the Hartung Hall in beautiful downtown Ester. We will begin with refreshments at 4:00 and the opportunity to renew your membership, review and discuss the library designs, chat with friends and review the annual report. The meeting will begin at 5:00 and is expected to take less than an hour. (All memberships run from annual meeting to annual meeting, so everyone needs to renew this October for the 2012-2013 year.)

The main business of the day is the election of new board members. Myself, Nancy Burnham, Molly Rettig and Jan Olhmsted will be continuing our terms on the board for another year, but we will be electing three (3) new board members and two (2) alternates. (Board member positions are for 2-years, alternates for 1-year.) We are looking for interested volunteers with a variety of skills. Experience in business, project management, membership management, collections development, fundraising, grant writing, communications, graphic design and willingness to volunteer are just some of the skills we are looking for in the new board. Everyone has a talent to share! If you have any questions about serving on the board please contact me.

I will be sharing updates on our progress this Sunday. I hope to see you there!

Monique Musick
JTEL President

Monday, August 20, 2012

First bid on pie judgeship!

HomeGrown Market proprietor Jeff Johnson has put in the first bid for the pie judgeship seat auction, event though the auction hasn't officially opened, with an offer of $50. "I'm GOING to get that seat," he exclaimed to the volunteers putting up posters for the LiBerry Music Festival and Berry Pie Throwdown.

We'll see, but he seemed pretty determined. (Pre-auction bids may be sent to events, and then we'll know where to open the auction at! Remember, you have to actually be there to bid--and taste the pies!) Check out our event page on Facebook to RSVP to find out more about the music festival; see below for pie contest rules.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Berry list!

Berry season, folks, and it's time for pie and some great local music!

Date & Time: Saturday, August 25, 2 to 10 pm
Location: Golden Eagle Saloon, 3630 Main Street, Ester, Alaska
Cost: $15 donation requested at the door, $5 donation requested per slice of delicious, homemade pie! 
Pie contest entry fee: $2 per pie (savory and sweet categories, no limit on number of entries, but all must be homemade and include berries)
Pie registration: noon to 1:30 (don't be late!)
Pie judgeship seat auction: 
Reason: good fun, good music, good pie—and raising funds to build a library! 

Here's the scoop:

  • PIE THROWDOWN: Bring your homemade pie with berries in it to the Golden Eagle Saloon between noon and 1:30 pm, pay your $2 entry fee and register your pie (and bring your recipe for publication in the Throwdown Cookbook!). Winning pie makers receive FABULOUS prizes, and the top pies are auctioned off to the audience. Awards are presented between 3:30 and 4:30 pm (we hope the judges can finish that fast!) and then the other pies are sold by the slice ($5 donation requested per slice). And if you'd rather just eat pie, one of the judge's seats is up for auction, too, so get there early to have a chance at tasting every pie entered! 
  • BERRIES: Most people know what berries are: blueberries, cranberries, etc. But did you know that things like strawberries or raspberries aren't actually berries, botanically speaking? And that avocadoes, watermelons, tomatoes, bananas, and lemons are? Pies submitted for the contest must have berries in them, but the berries may be either by the botanical definition or those fruits commonly thought of as berries. The pie judges will be the final arbiters of what constitutes a berry for purposes of the contest, so be prepared to sweet talk them if necessary (large donations to the library sometimes help in this matter).
  • MUSIC FESTIVAL: music starts at 2 pm and goes until 10 pm, with some really incredibly good local bands and performers, including Ptarmagin, Zingaro Roots, Tim Robb, Almost A Minyan, and many, many more. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

LiBerry Music Festival & Berry Pie Throwdown!

The annual music festival and berry pie contest fundraiser for the library is being emceed by none other than Bob Miller this year! Held as usual at the Golden Eagle Saloon, we have a marvelous lineup in store for you, with some popular faces returning and some new surprises. The festival starts at 2 and ends at 10 on Saturday August 25; more details coming soon!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ester Fourth of July Parade Video

The Ester Fourth of July parade features local culture, politics, produce, music and art, and all with an irreverent Ester twist. This year brought the Synchronized Dumpster Divers, a giant vegetable man puppet, the Scottish bagpipe band, and many more!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

An outdoor book nook: a community garden from the library

The John Trigg Ester Library called for volunteers on Planting Day, and boy, howdy, did it get them. Almost twenty people showed up to help beautify their community. Here's some photos of the resulting garden, taken by JTEL board member Molly Rettig a week or two later.

Rhubarb bed in honor of Pat Garner.

Wild rose on the roadside with the gazebo in the background and delphiniums between. Ansgar Clausen was famed for his delphiniums.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Roadside construction!

Folks coming to pick up their mail at the Ester Post Office have noticed the flurry of recent construction and gardening activity across the street at the Ida Lane gazebo this last month. Many have come ambling across the street to enquire about the bustle or compliment the volunteers on the flowers and garden, and sometimes even to join in. The volunteers sweating away in the sun and rain appreciate it—it makes a difference to know that what we are doing is making a difference and is noticed. If you can help out, so much the better.

Next week we will be working to complete the outhouse near the gazebo in time for the Fourth of July; no guarantees, but we're doing what we can. One item we will need before the outhouse can be used is about 12 full bags of sawdust, or a large pickup bed full.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Your library needs you! or, Compost Happens

Poster for the upcoming trio of work parties to build composting outhouses on the library properties.  See the post below, "A walk in the sun," for more information on the library's plans this summer. Karen Jensen, librarian and Collection Development Officer at UAF's Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, did a little research and found a couple of scholarly works of reputable provenance that may be of use to those wishing to look into this in more depth:
"Guidelines for the safe use of excreta and wastewater in agriculture and aquaculture: Measures for public health protection," (PDF) by Duncan Mara and Sandy Cairncross; and "Health Aspects of Dry Sanitation with Waste Reuse," (PDF) by Anne Peasey. Both of these reports are available at the John Trigg Ester Library, along with The Humanure Handbook. The library will use the compost that results from the outhouses for landscaping.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sun and rain at the Ida Lane Clausen gazebo

Wow! Starting on Friday, June 1, and stretching out through Sunday, June 3, close to twenty volunteers helped transform the area around the gazebo to a little flower-filled park. College Peat delivered garden soil during the middle of the day on Friday, and Hans Moelders and a crew of teenagers (Oliver & Stanley Rogers, Chantz Turner, and Taylor) moved it from the edge of the road back behind the ridge of old clay and out of the ditch. It was HOT. Clutch Lounsbury delivered a load of well-composted horse manure, too, so everything was ready for Saturday.

Planting Day, June 2, started out cloudy, with a big noisy downpour during the night giving way to sun and blue sky by the time the work party got started. Joe Grill did some serious shoveling, and Mike Musick, Jimmy, and Hans entertained the rest of the volunteers with lots of grunts and sound effects from lifting Old Mining Stuff and big rocks and hauling them via the wheelbarrow to the new rhubarb/flower beds being created. Board members Greta Burkart, Nancy Burnham, Jan Omstede, Molly Rettig (and her beau Josh), and Trey Simmons fitted rocks, planted rhubarb, chives, delphiniums, raspberries, strawberries, daisies, nasturtiums, portulaca, and lobelia. Jennifer Jolis, Barbara Stone, Greta & Trey, Nancy, Jan, and Hans and I donated plants. Hanging baskets were planted, too, and several pieces of old mining stuff incorporated into the walls of the garden beds.

The grounds got a good stump-clearing and raking, too. Rebekah Gormish, Shannan Turner and her children Callista and Skyler, and myself worked on leaf-raking, wall-building, manure-shoveling, planting, watering, and brush-clearing. It was a good solid work party, and we got a lot done. THANK YOU to everyone who donated food and drink, plants, supplies, and especially those who came and helped!

On Sunday (today), June 3, Hans and Jimmy had decided to meet and start work on the concrete forms for the first outhouse. I decided to come along, and did a little tidying while they found a spot for the outhouse and built the form for the floor. Later, Margaret, Oliver, and Stanley Rogers and I went to Anne's Greenhouse and got some johnny-jump-ups and pansies, which I added to the garden beds.

The gazebo grounds are looking wonderful. Jimmy will continue working on them; wave as you go by, or feel free to stop and help!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Delphiniums and compost

In just a few days, it will be Planting Day in Ester, and time for the gardening work party at the Ida Lane Gazebo! Plants are starting to show up in buckets and pots and trays, placed under the drip line to take advantage of any water available there right now: rhubarb, delphiniums (some wild, from the library property up the road, and some from Ester residents' gardens), columbines, strawberries, chives, and daisies. Lorna Lounsbury will be donating some composted horse manure to the cause, and a walk through the woods on Monday identified some prime rocks nearby that can be used.

The flower beds to be constructed include: a rhubarb bed in honor of Pat Garner, infamous for his rhubarb wine and a friend to local kids; another rhubarb bed for Rollie Hartung, local miner and after whom the community hall is named; and a delphinium bed for Ansgar Clausen, miner, engineer, and husband of Ida Lane. Pat and Ansgar, who were both gardeners of note, also took many photographs of Ester during the forties and fifties, preserving for future generations the character of the village and the huge machinery that moved and shaped its geography.

The Planting Day work party is the first work party in the Growing Ester's Biodiversity summer roll-your-sleeves-up series of events at the Ida Lane Clausen Gazebo. More to come!

Friday, May 25, 2012

A walk in the sun

On Saturday afternoon, May 19, a few members of the Construction Committee and the board president went for a stroll on the library property to check out possible sites for the library caretaker's cabin and outhouse, and for an outhouse near the Ida Lane Clausen Gazebo. With stakes and flagging tape, the crew located the property lines and appropriate spots for various library outbuildings.

Several small projects are planned for this summer in preparation for next year's major construction:
  • Cabin siting and design: the library will have a part-time caretaker/librarian to look after it in exchange for reduced rent on a cozy cabin in a prime location in the heart of the village of Ester. The site has been chosen, but will need to be prepared and the design determined. Local materials will be an important component of the cabin and its outhouse.
  • Composting outhouses: the composting toilet was a concept popularized and defended by Joseph Jenkins, author of The Humanure Handbook. He was definitely not the originator of the idea, however (Henry Moule of England, for example, patented the dry earth closet in 1873). Variations on the theme have existed for millennia. The advantage of a composting outhouse is that it actually breaks down the nitrogen/phosphorus component (feces and urine) and the carbon component (sawdust, toilet paper, forest duff, leaf litter, or other source) into true compost (NOT night soil) which may then be used for landscaping purposes and gardening. As Jenkins goes to great lengths to explain, the composted material from these outhouses will be perfectly sanitary after three years of alternately composting and freezing, depending on the season. And they will save the library money on topsoil, and pumping and hauling waste. Here's an example of an ADA accessible outhouse, but a search online will reveal many more. Books on the topic include:
    • The Composting Toilet System Book: A Practical Guide to Choosing, Planning and Maintaining Composting Toilet Systems, an Alternative to Sewer and Septic Systems, revised edition, by David del Porto and Carol Steinfeld
    • Holy Sh*t: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, by Gene Logsdon (JTEL collection)
    • The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, 3rd edition, by Joseph Jenkins (JTEL collection)
  • Gazebo repairs and finish work: the Ida Lane gazebo, while mostly complete, still needs gutters and a downspout with water collection, an ADA accessible ramp, window repair and shields (plus the last two stained glass windows put in place), the Ida's Clip Joint sign put up, and the dedication plaque (already designed) created and installed. The gazebo is across from the Ester Post Office, at 501 Village Road (see Google map). Some of this work will happen on Planting Day, June 2.
  • Planting Day gardening & work party: this work party is scheduled for Saturday, June 2, from 11 am to 4 pm (library members will be arriving probably starting around 10 am, so if earlier is better for you, please don't hesitate to come a little early!). This landscaping event will happen in conjunction with gazebo repairs. (Parking is available at the Golden Eagle Saloon up the street.) See also our Facebook event invitation. We are creating a large rhubarb bed in honor of Pat Garner, famed in the village for his rhubarb wine, and a delphinium bed in honor of Ansgar Clausen. Other flower beds and pots will be planted in memory of Ester's denizens and, of course, to beautify the village. If you would like to help with this gardening party, we can use:
    • food and drink for the volunteers
    • flowers and other bedding plants (strawberries, rhubarb, columbine, etc.)
    • horse manure or compost
    • bedding soil
    • gardening tools (don't forget to put your name on them!)
  • Signage and lighting installation: the library and gazebo need lighting and signs so it's clear to library members where the library is! Thomas Hart of Iron Amenities will be creating a roadsign for the library; motion detection lights will be installed in the library and on the porch. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May lecture: cultivating biodiversity

Ester Library Lecture: Cultivating Biodiversity in a Farm Ecosystem 

Susan Willsrud, co-founder of Calypso Farm & Ecology Center, is the next speaker featured in the 2012 John Trigg Ester Library Lecture Series, on Wednesday evening, May 16, 7 pm at Hartung Hall.

Xmas lima beans
Christmas lima beans, Phaeseolus lunatus, Wikimedia file, CC Share Alike. Beans are among the many examples of agricultural biodiversity.
She will talk about biodiversity from the soil up, how Calypso and like-minded farmers work on cultivating agrobiodiversity, and how it informs her farming practices.

The lectures are held monthly. Upcoming speakers this year include plant ecologist Trish Wurtz (June); sociologist Sine Anahita (July); organic farmer Mike Emers (August); seed librarian Deirdre Helfferich (September); and glaciologist Matt Nolan (October). For more information on the library, its lecture series, volunteering or donations, or events, please e-mail or see the website at

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seedy Saturday II!

Growing Ester's Biodiversity is hosting its second seed exchange and gardening hobnob on Saturday, March 24, from 3 to 5 pm at Hartung Community Hall in Ester.

Come share your seeds, meet fellow gardeners, find out about seed-saving and local agriculture, and help keep heirloom and Alaska-adapted vegetables, herbs, and flowers growing strong! Gardeners are encouraged to bring heirloom, organic, or other sustainable varieties, and seeds you have saved yourself from plants you know to grow well in the Interior and that will breed true.

No seeds? no problem! Come anyway and get some seeds. There will be plenty to choose from, and even some local seed company catalogs! We ask that if you take seeds away, let some of your plants mature and save their seed to bring to next year's Seedy Saturdays!

Set up at 3, trading begins at 3:30. Some seed packets and small containers will be provided, but bring envelopes and as much information about your seeds as possible to share with other gardeners. Information on seed-saving and other topics will be provided. Farmers, greenhouses, garden clubs, and CSAs are invited to share information and literature on their offerings for the public to take away. Parking & beverages are available at the Golden Eagle Saloon down the street. Guidelines for the seed swap and seed-saving guides are posted at the GEB Facebook page and at

GEB is a community seed-sharing program of the the John Trigg Ester Library (JTEL); it hosts seed swaps, gardening work parties, lectures, and more on food security and sustainable agriculture issues. The JTEL is a home-grown community library that provides a welcoming and intellectually stimulating environment where community members can meet and share ideas and information. The Library strives to instill a love of reading and learning, to showcase Ester-area history and culture, and to provide resources that will enrich the whole community. The Library is raising funds to construct a new library building in downtown Ester. When completed, it will be the first public building in Alaska constructed to meet strict Passiv Haus, nearly net-zero, energy efficiency standards.

During the summer and fall, the GEB program and the library lecture series intersect: lecturers will be focusing on topics relating to agriculture and biodiversity.

  • April 18: marine ecologist Peter McRoy
  • May 16: Tom Zimmer & Susan Willsrud of Calypso Farm & Ecology Center
  • June 20: ecologist Trish Wurtz on invasive weeds
  • August 15: Mike Emers of Rosie Creek Farm
  • September 19: Deirdre Helfferich on seed libraries & seedsheds

Visit the library website at or the library's or GEB's Facebook page for more information.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Long View of Alaska history: Ross Coen

Ross Coen is the next featured speaker for the 2012 John Trigg Ester Library Lecture Series. Coen is the author of The Long View: Dispatches on Alaska History, published by the Ester Republic Press, and Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil: The Epic Voyage of the SS Manahattan Through the Northwest Passage, to be released this spring by the University of Alaska Press. Coen will discuss his book and talk about the snapshots of Alaska history and events it provides. "The Long View" was a monthly column that ran in The Ester Republic for four years, covering topics ranging from Joe Vogler's letters to the editor to Sputnik to riding snowmachines in Denali National Park.
Examples of his writing are available online, including "Alaska or Bust," reprinted in The Arctic Sounder.

Coen is employed at UAF's Center for Energy and Power as a rural energy specialist, a joint position with the Tanana Chiefs Conference, where he coordinates the development of small-scale alternative and renewable energy systems for Interior villages.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

local seed swap

This Saturday, local gardeners can come on out to Ester and trade locally-grown seeds. Growing Ester's Biodiversity, the John Trigg Ester Library's seed-sharing program, is hosting its first-ever seed swap between 3 and 5 pm at Hartung Hall. If you would like to participate, please come to the hall by 3 pm to set up; seed trading begins at 3:30 pm. (See guidelines for more information.)

No seeds? No problem! Come on by anyway! This is all about sharing information, seeds, and a good time! There will plenty of extras, so if you don't have any seeds yet, you will after this event!

Seed swaps are a time-honored way for gardeners and farmers to share the natural bounty of their local garden plants. The last Saturday in January is National Seed Swap Day (this year it was January 28), but Alaskans generally have to wait a little longer than the rest of the country to start thinking about planting! has a nice seed viability chart along with some useful links on seed storage. I've personally had very good luck with keeping my seed viable, although the germination rate does slowly go down over the years. Our cold, dry winters help to keep seed dormant and to stay fresh—although too cold and too dry can be a problem, too!

Seed Savers Exchange is offering a webinar series on seed saving and planning your garden for seed saving. These will be released each month:
  • January: Introduction to Seed Savers Exchange (available now on YouTube)
  • February: Using the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook (now registering!)
  • March: Planning Your Garden for Seed Saving
  • April: Apple Grafting
  • May: Heirlooms, OPs [Open-Pollinated Plants] and F1s
  • June: Basic Seed Saving for Beginners
  • July: Corn Hand-Pollination
  • August: Squash Hand-Pollination
  • September: Tomato Seed Saving
  • October: Dry Seed Processing
  • November: Listing Seeds in the Yearbook
  • December: Seed Storage
The Organic Seed Alliance has several publications that you can download, including a handy seed saving guide.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Animal navigation

Above: Interpolated geolocation tracks of 11 Arctic terns tracked from breeding colonies in Greenland (10 birds) and Iceland (1 bird). Green = autumn (postbreeding) migration (August–November), red = winter range (December–March), and yellow = spring (return) migration (April–May). Dotted lines link locations during the equinoxes. Map from the Arctic Tern Migration Project of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.

The February installment of the 2012 Ester Library Lecture Series features UAF geophysicist David Stone, who will discuss the secrets of animal navigation. Stone, an emeritus professor at UAF and longtime resident of Ester, has devoted years of work towards understanding how animals navigate over long distances. He will be sharing that knowledge with us Wednesday evening, February 15, at 7 p.m. in Hartung Hall in Ester. Dr. Stone’s presentation, “Long Distance Navigators: How Do Insects, Birds and Fish Do It?” will delve into the mysteries of how birds, fish, and even insects are able to find their way to breeding and overwintering areas across thousands of miles. If you’ve ever wondered how salmon find their way back to spawn, or how arctic terns are able to travel from Alaska to Antarctica and back without getting lost, you won’t want to miss this.

The Ester Library Lecture Series focuses on writers, artists, adventurers, scholars, entrepreneurs, musicians, craftspeople, and other colorful characters from, visiting, or of interest to Ester. Admission is free, although donations are encouraged—and very much appreciated. Lectures are held in Hartung Hall, Main Street & Ester Loop, Ester, at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month. Parking and beverages are available at the nearby Golden Eagle Saloon. Upcoming speakers include marine ecologist Peter McRoy, Alaska historian Ross Coen, Tom Zimmer and Susan Willsrud from Calypso Farm, ecologist and invasive plant expert Trish Wurtz, and glaciologist Matt Nolan.

The John Trigg Ester Library is a home-grown community library that provides a welcoming and intellectually stimulating environment where community members can meet and share ideas and information. The Library strives to instill a love of reading and learning, to showcase Ester-area history and culture, and to provide resources that will enrich the whole community. The Library is raising funds to construct a new library building in downtown Ester. When completed, it will be the first public building in Alaska constructed to meet strict Passiv Haus, nearly net-zero, energy efficiency standards.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

GEB meetings & Sandy Jamieson!

This next week is going to be busy for the library!

First, this weekend is the launch of Growing Ester's Diversity, a new program at the library! The program will start off with a food security issues book & movie discussion group on Saturday, January 14, 4:30 pm at the JTEL office, studio #8 at the Annex, 2922 Parks Highway. Come prepared to discuss books you have read or are reading on agriculture, food, nutrition, biodiversity, food systems, and the like! We also have books and movies available for checkout. See our discussion group page for more information.

If you are interested in helping with the long-term planning and fundraising to maintain this program at the library, please come to our planning session the next day, Sunday, same place, same time.

Next, the 2012 lecture series begins on Wednesday, January 18, 7 pm at Hartung Hall with Sandy Jamieson as the first speaker.
A local artist, guide, pilot, and log builder, Jamieson is well known for his wry and often pointed satirical paintings depicting Alaska life and political issues. Jamieson's presentation, "'Predator Control' And Other Alaska Political Commentary" will cover a range of topics from Alaska politics to big game guiding, flying, commercial art, and Arctic Man. His work is often thought provoking, frequently humorous, and always Alaskan.

Hartung Hall is at the corner of Main Street, Ester Loop, and Wellhouse Road in downtown Ester. Parking (and beverages) are available at the nearby Golden Eagle Saloon.