Thursday, August 11, 2011


Last week, Ionia began a community-wide game of Assassin. The objective of the game is to kill as many people as possible, with no witnesses, without getting killed yourself- everyone has a victim and a murderer (when the game is designed properly. When it's not, there tents to be dead-ends when two people are end up having each other). The first day, 33 people on the property were involved and none of them would walk alone. There was a lot of paranoia going around. Rose killed two people within the first half hour of the game and at the time of this post is STILL ALIVE. Melanie was killed by the betrayal of a friend the second day. As of now, there are five people playing but nobody is really trying anymore, EVEN THOUGH the prize is a wild-berry pie! 

While the game was on, a bunch of us visited the home-in-progress of Ionia's neighbors, Willow and Kelly. They are building an Earth Ship, a house built using mostly recycled and recovered materials and utilizing natural light and heat. Willow and Kelly are building their home using old tires packed with dirt to retain heat, and south-facing walls made of windows and glass bottles in mortar to allow in light. They plan to supplement the natural heat with a wood stove in the middle of their living space, allowing their entire home to be warm enough to grow tropical fruit trees inside. We helped remove the tops of glass bottles for the wall and crushed found Styrofoam to mix with concrete for the mortar. Also, they had a Great Dane named Merlin who was actually the height of an average 8-year-old child. We loved him. 

Glass bottle wall
South America?

The gang on what will become the second story

The view from the Earth Ship

Friday we volunteered in the morning at a music festival in Ninilchik called Salmonstock, in order to get a free ticket for the day. The objective of the festival was to raise awareness about the environmental issues connected with the salmon population. One such prospective problem is the Pebble Mine, which is a proposed copper and gold mine in the Bristol Bay watershed area, one of the largest annual salmon runs in the world. If this area does open for mining, the effluent from the mining processes might enter the water and severely damage the salmon populations, on which a large portion of the local economy relies. The volunteer work they had us do was so much fun- Melanie got a chance to use power tools and Rose decorated for an extraordinarily picky minor celebrity. For example, he had a page-long list of thing he required in his dressing and relaxation area. It included a private space separate from his band where he could meditate, twelve cans of Dr. Pepper and a box of Cheese-Its, among many others. Too bad no one has ever heard of him. Once we were free from the chains of responsibility we went to enjoy the great weather, check out the vendors, where Melanie found a sweet pair of earrings, and listen to the music. One of the most interesting acts was a group of Alaskan natives who performed a traditional hunting song and dance, and then taught it to the audience. We can both now do the Dance of the Squirrel Hunt. After some fish and chips and more really fun, but less structured, dancing, we got a ride out of there. We stopped on the way back to watch an amazing sunset over the mountains. Unfortunately Rose's camera was on the fritz so the magnificence could not be captured.
The main stage
Dave the awesome chef who gave Rose and Irene cookies
Doing the Squirrel Hunt Dance

Later that night we went over to Dean's fish camp to hang out with the awesome people there who had brought us fishing. They had a huge bonfire going and we brought snacks (kindly provided by Mama Santo). Then we went in their sauna for a while and then we JUMPED INTO THE OCEAN. Surprisingly, (or maybe not if you consider how long we were in the sauna) the water really didn't feel that cold. The only bad part was half-crawling up the super rocky beach on the way back. For some reason it didn't hurt our feet on the way down, maybe because we were so relaxed from the heat. 

On Sunday Ionia got a visit from the circus- and it was awesome. There was a band, acrobats, sword swallowers, knot-tiers, and lots of jugglers. There were so many jugglers present that they actually had enough to form a game of juggling volleyball. Each player had two juggling pins in their hands, and one extra was thrown over the net, to be caught and integrated into the juggling of the catcher. It was a sight to see. After their performance the members of the circus spread out across the lawn and gave workshops on their special skills. Unfortunately Rose had to sneak away for an interview, but she at least got to learn a cool knot trick and have a few goes on a slack line. 

James, an awesome guy who's been visiting Ionia for much of the time that we've been here, gave a salsa dancing workshop, which was so fun. We learned the basic step and a few fancy moves. It was really fun to partner up and be led around, even though some of the leaders might not have showered in a few days. It really wasn't so bad if you didn't breathe. Today we also learned how to make tofu in small batches, which is really easy and manageable, and we can't wait to do at home. What with all the cool people here, the days have been packed with cool workshops and lessons. We now know how to make tofu, tempeh and seitan, dance salsa, and give shiatsu massages. Melanie has been getting a little instruction from James on how to play the upright bass (and dazzling everyone with her natural talent) and Rose has been learning a few new poi (weight spinning, often set on fire! but not when practicing in our log cabin) tricks from him too. There have been rumors of a square dance coming up, so that might also have to be added to our list of new skills. 

Unfortunately, today the WWOOFer Girl Army lost one of its ranks. To Rachel, if you read this: We miss you and we hope you have an awesome time eating your mom's pizza and learning how to be an RA. We will see each other soon.  Hope your finger is healing well!

Also, in the next few days we are going to get together a trip to Denali- it should be amazing!

Monday, August 1, 2011


Today we went fishing with Dean, a neighbor of Ionia's who won the Iditarod dog mushing race in the 80s. Dean is quite the character- he has a gruff voice and a young Vietnamese bride, and is SUPER nice. We each went out on a boat with two of his fishermen- Melanie and Hilary from DC pulled in about 100 salmon from different nets, and Rose and Sarah from DC pulled buoys and also picked a few fish. We learned such seafaring sports as Flounder Skipping (it's easier than skipping stones!) and Hit the Buoy with the Sole. So many lost soles. Heh heh heh. Atlantic flounder and sole is apparently pretty different from the fish here, and there is no market to sell them, so we keep the salmon and throw the others back. We also learned how to cut and gut the fish "Western Style," which involves removing the innards and heads of the salmon, cutting it so that it can be opened from the stomach to expose the meat.

AFTERWARD THERE WERE PUPPIES. Dean raises dogs for sled races, and he's got almost 50 dogs on his property. Each one is chained to a post in its own 8 ft diameter crater, caused by its incessant running in circles. They are all pretty friendly, and if one starts barking, they ALL start barking. And if they bark loud enough, the dog musher's pack a mile down the road ALSO starts barking, and then it's really a party. We got to meet the husky mutt puppies! There were four and they were all so energetic and adorable. Only photos can even BEGIN to show how cute they were- don't worry, we'll post them soon.

Aaron gives a dog his love
Look at those eyes!
All the dogs

Other than that, we've been hanging around Ionia a lot lately, working more on the barn and hanging out with the people here. One morning last week, we installed the trusses (which we had previously built) as the barn wall. Later, they'll be filled with straw clay as a natural insulation against Alaskan winters. Rose also learned to use the sawmill (not the parkway), which was fun although the controls were confusing. Melanie worked with another Ionian to plant lilac trees on the property in stead of the apple trees which were destroyed by bunnies earlier this year.

Another WWOOFer, Irene, is a shiatsu practitioner in Belgium, and agreed to lead a shiatsu workshop for anyone who wished to learn. Hopefully this skill will help us make lots of friends in the future. Melanie got to be Irene's partner--definitely best spot in the house.

We've really hit it off with Rachel, Hillary, and Sarah, the WWOOFers from DC, and the five of us have been dubbed by the Ionians the WWOOFer Girl Army. We have taken this title to heart, and started doing calisthenics early in the morning and marching everywhere. Just kidding, but actually we hang out a lot together in our house, and we watch movies together at night. Which leads us to our next point:

Playing by Heart is a stupid movie and no one should watch it. We were SO excited- a cast including Sean Connery, Jon Stewart, Angelina Jolie, and Ryan Phillipe, and it was labelled a romantic comedy. There is nothing comical about crying a lot and having AIDS and cheating on spouses. It was a "dismal, uninspiring, humbo jumbo mess of love stories..." (Hillary just started ranting about its suckiness.)

We have a lot in store for the coming weeks and we're really excited for the second half of our stay here. Tomorrow morning we will have been here exactly three weeks, but it seems like much more.

Also, we invented a game called Vegeteball during our latest trip to the Soldotna Farmer's Market. It is played with giant zucchinis as bats and any round vegetable as a ball. The great thing about Vegetaball is that there are always snacks available.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


A couple of days ago, one Ionian offered to take us out to dinner to a "cute cafe" in Soldotna. We thought there would be muffins. Actually, Suzie's Cafe sells homestyle provisions like "Chicken Fried Chicken." What the hell is chicken fried chicken? We went with the fish and chips.

We returned to Soldotna on Saturday to assist Eliza and Gregory with the Farmer's Market. The turnips they grow here are DELICIOUS- the kids walk around eating them like apples. But turnips have a bad rep, so we put out tiny samples and those babies sold themselves. Later, we walked around the area with the DC WWOOFers, amused by the Ferret Waste Deodorizer in the thrift shop and positively enchanted by the delicious sandwiches at the Fine Thyme Cafe. Whoever thought of adding honey mustard to a grilled cheese? We also bought a hilarious spoof magazine- SLC readers, keep your eyes toward the mail.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, all the WWOOFers moved to our own cabin; moving from the communal space is interesting- now that we are in tune with the rhythms of the community, it's nice to be a little bit more on our own time. Also, it's like a sleepover every night. The Ionians decided to move as well: we now cook in a GIANT tipi instead of the longhouse kitchen, and many of them have begun sleeping in the tipis as well.

Early Sunday morning, we set out on our trip to Seward Park to climb the Harding Ice Field trail next to Exit Glacier. It made Rose miss her geology professor, Jack Ridge. Great name, eh? The climb was pretty strenuous- every mile was another 1,000 ft elevation- but it was more beautiful than the photos can portray. The fog kept rolling in and out, periodically revealing the glorious vista of the glacier and Chugach mountains. We saw giant mountain goats and whistling marmots, and the difference between the top and bottom of the hike was a huge contrast- at the bottom, rainforest-like vegetation, and at the top, snow caps and glacial rivers. Now Rose's legs are sore (she played soccer in addition to the hike) and Melanie's feet are covered in blisters, but it was worth it.

Getting ready to go

Our new friends


Als, we learned how to operate the bobcat.

The bobcat

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Homer, Harry Potter, Full Moon, and Freshly Caught Alaskan Salmon

On our third day, we all piled into a van heading for Homer to meet Lasa, a friend of Ionia. He showed us around his timber frame house, which he built himself with no steel or nails, and insulated with a mixture of straw bales and straw clay. Right now, he is building his daughter's room, which includes special footholds for her to climb onto the roof. He is something of a local celebrity for his expertise in brewing beer and his property, which overlooks the Katchemak mountains.

The mountains are breathtaking, and photos don't do them justice. The view from Lasa's house was amazing, and was even better when we drove out onto the spit and saw the mountains and glaciers up close. The spit is a touristy area that hawks handmade Alaskan goods- there was one shop called the Better Sweater, which upon closer inspection Rose dubbed as Slightly Worse. We went to a gourmet pizza shop where they served us a bleu cheese and pear pie; we were SUPER excited to eat cheese and of course, both got stomachaches because of it. One of the Ionians, Connor, decided right then and there to go swimming in the freezing ocean- tourists from all parts of the boardwalk came outside to take photos of him skinny-dipping. Welcome to Alaska.

(Later that night, we decided to sleep outside and were soon rewarded with a prime moose spotting. The community's dog, Huxley, and the moose chased each other back and forth for a good twenty minutes.)

Harry Potter
We love Harry Potter, obviously. So it was a serious concern of ours that we see the newest movie whether or not we were currently residing in the boondocks. Luckily, many Ionians are also fans, and we took all the kids to the movie theatre to see HP in 3D. Rose wasn't so happy with the rewritten battle scene, but Melanie was too busy crying to care. Overall, we agree that it was pretty great.

 Full Moon
The full moon here is a big deal. On the full moon, everyone eats a special meal together and then folk dances. This month, it was sandwiches- for some reason, Ionians have a huge obsession with sandwiches. They included tempeh that we helped make, onion rings, lettuce, pickles, avocado, and vegenaise, the vegan choice of mayonnaise. According to our friend Connor, steaming bread slices make them more digestible, so all the sandwiches were steamed. It was odd. Folk dancing was super fun but also pretty difficult, and the people here have been doing it their entire lives.

Last night, we headed to the beach to join some friends of Ionia in cooking up salmon they had caught earlier that day. IT WAS AMAZING. Especially the salad salmon, which is exactly what it sounds like- one of the Ionians put salad on top of the salmon and we ate it. The beach overlooks a ring of fire of volcanoes and it is sooo beautiful. We are excited to go back to the beach and see the volcanoes without the cloud cover.  

Today we made seitan. It was pretty easy and REALLY delicious- we're both planning to make it at school at some point next year.

And we rode a tandem bike.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We're Here!

12 hours of travel, two lost items, and one super tiny plane ride later, we have arrived at Ionia! It's been interesting so far- everyone is very welcoming, and there are three WWOOFers from DC who are staying in the same place and for the same amount of time that we are. There is a cat named General and dog named Huxley and a woodhopper named Felix. So far, we've gotten a tour and informal info session about macrobiotics, spent time weeding cabbage beds and pulling daikon, and used a power saw in the barn to build trusses.

The food is really important to the people who live here. They live by the tenets of macrobiotics, which include a balanced diet involving mostly grains, root vegetables, greens, and few fruits. Here, they also choose to eat vegan, despite traditional macrobiotics including fish in the diet.

After dinner, everyone hung out and played volleyball except Melanie because she is embarrassed about her athletic ability. When we went to bed around 10:30, exhausted after arriving at the Kenai airport at 4:50 AM, the sun was still out. Wooooo!

We are trying to organize some trips into the towns of Soldotna and Homer, and to Seward Park for a day hike to see Exit Glacier. Also, everyone here is planning to see Harry Potter.

We are tired but happy, and if you're our moms we will call you soon.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Getting Ready to Go

Hello everyone!

We are sitting at Rose's dining room table, getting ready for our trip to Ionia farm in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. This blog is to update all of our friends and family- especially for those of you who think we are destined to be victims of a bear attack. No worries, guys.

We will have intermittent internet access on the farm, so we'll update as much as we can. And it's gonna be totally awesome!***

***(c) A Very Potter Musical