Little House in the Birch Woods

Yes, the title is a take-off of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s popular book Little House in the Big Woods. Ms. Wilder’s series of books was my favorite as a child, and probably had a lot to do with my desire to live in my own Little House some day.

Fairbanks, Alaska – where I live — is a land of extreme climates, dramatic landscapes and birch woods. The log house I share with my husband Ron was created from standing burned timber from a fire in Tok, Alaska. It sits on the side of the hill in a clearing of birch forest, and though at 2500 square feet it’s not as Little as Ms. Ingalls’ house, it’s a perfect place for our life. I’ve been blessed to live in Alaska for over twenty years, six of which have been spent taming this house and the nearly four acres it sits upon.

I’ve lived in several places in Alaska. My first Alaska home was in Bethel, a Yupik Eskimo village in extreme western Alaska, where I lived for a year. No trees there, and I missed them.  The people made up for it.

I traveled up and down the Kuskokwim River in my job with Cooperative Extension Service, and I was trained as a Master Gardener in Aniak, a beautiful little wooded village upriver from Bethel. Helping people improve their lives by developing practical applications of university research was a rewarding, interesting and continually-changing endeavor.

I love watching things grow – not just plants, but people as well. There’s nothing better than creating an atmosphere that frees people to reach their potential – because you can’t force people to grow, you can only prepare the ‘soil’ and supply the conditions to make it possible. That’s why I also love the teaching portion of my career… I always learn more from my students than they do from me, and it’s rewarding to see them take their newly-learned skills and soar with them.  That first successful grant proposal is an incredible high…

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