Seedy Saturdays highlight critical seed biodiversity and sustainable gardening techniques for interior Alaska

The public is invited to join the John Trigg Ester Library for Seedy Saturdays – public seed exchanges and garden lectures – on February 25 and March 4, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Hartung Hall in Ester. Lectures will begin at 3 p.m. each Saturday.

Now in its fifth year, the Seedy Saturday programs have been expanded to include guest speakers and an added artistic touch. On Feb. 24, family farm operators Brad and Christine St. Pierre will discuss Goosefoot Farm, a local vegetable farm that uses ecologically sustainable methods of soil cultivation and organic farming. On March 4, Dr. Carol E. Lewis, Dean & Director Emerita of the UAF School of Natural Resources and Extension and the Alaska Agricultural & Forestry Experiment Station will be giving a presentation on the history of the Experiment Station in Alaska. In addition, photographer Monique Musick is hanging a show representing the plant families that comprise the seed collection of the John Trigg Ester Library.

“We wanted to grow from the success of past seed exchanges and incorporate more educational opportunities through guest speakers and additional teaching materials,” said Musick. “We recently received a Community Seed Resource Program packet from the Seed Savers Exchange and are excited to share these new resources with other interested members of the public.”

The Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds. In 2015, the exchange featured over 23,000 heirloom seed listings. The mission is critical. In the last century or so, the world has lost 75 percent of its edible plant varieties. Since a network of growers is so important to conservation, they work to get seeds into the hands of as many gardeners as possible. The Ester Library’s Growing Ester’s Biodiversity program has recently begun a collaboration with the network – including a gift of seeds and seed saving supplies.

A seed library, or community seed bank, is a way that the public can promote agricultural biodiversity specific to their local region, preserving heirloom garden varieties and learning about seed saving and starting. Members “check out” seeds from the library to grow in their gardens, and at the end of the growing season, or at seed exchanges the following spring, seed suppliers “return” seeds to the library for use the next year. For this public event, all seed savers are welcome to bring varieties to trade and interested gardeners can “check out” seeds to try. We encourage heirloom varieties and any seeds that have been saved locally and are known to grow well in the area.

No seeds – no problem, everyone is welcome to come learn about seed saving and enjoy the free public lectures and photo show. The idea is to grow more seed savers in the area. In addition to the seeds there will be a variety of publications on gardening, seed saving, the Growing Ester’s Biodiversity program and the community gardens and grounds that are part of the John Trigg Ester Library campus.

Growing Ester’s Biodiversity is a community seed-sharing and educational program dedicated to improving the agricultural self-reliance of the Ester area through seeds and educational materials and events on food security and sustainability issues.

More information on seed swaps HERE.

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Community Seed Resources


As part of our Seedy Saturdays this year, we are making use of a great program from Seed Savers Exchange and Seed Matters, who have created a Community Seed Resource Program (CSRP) designed to help communities create or strengthen their seed libraries, and in so doing, improve food security across the country. The JTEL’s GEB program is participating in the CSRP, and recently received a box with seeds, a packet of useful information on seed saving and hosting seed exchanges, a book title that’s been on our wish list for a while (The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving, by Micaela Colley and Jared Zystro), and a welcome brochure.

The CSRP includes a Citizen Science Corps, providing you an opportunity to grow, evaluate, or regenerate varieties in the Seed Savers Exchange collection. There are far more varieties in storage than can be grown on Heritage Farm, and some don’t grow very well in that area, so assistance from individuals across the country is invaluable. The Corps includes three programs:

  • ADAPT: test how varieties grow in different regions. Great for the novice gardener.
  • SHARE: evaluate and describe varieties in the Seed Savers Exchange collection. More in-depth than the ADAPT program.
  • RENEW: increase the amount of seed of rare varieties, recreate a pure strain, or increase the availability of those that do not grow well at Heritage Farm. For people with an understanding of seed saving.

To participate in ADAPT or SHARE, contact Philip Kauth, or (563) 387-5608. For RENEW, contact Steffen Mirsky, or (563) 382-3990 extension 165.

The seeds include some varieties that are already in our collections, but most are new. The JTEL is delighted to encourage people to come to our Seedy Saturdays on Feb. 25 and March 4 to check them out and sign up as a library member! This wonderful donation includes:

  • Beans: Black Valentine, Calypso, Dragon’s Tongue, Fin de Bagnol
  • Beet: Cylindra
  • Carrots: Dragon, Oxheart, Paris Market, St. Valery
  • Cucumbers: A&C Pickling, Armenian
  • Eggplants: Pingtung Long, Round Mauve, Thai Green
  • Flowers: Amado Coneflower, Amish Cockscomb, Bells of Ireland, Cup and Saucer Vine, Cupplant (Prairie), Hollyhock (Black), Love-Lies-Bleeding, Moonflower, Titan Sunflower, Zinnia (Persian Carpets)
  • Herbs: Basil – Globe, Lime, Mrs. Burn’s Lemon; Borage, Golden Marguerite (“Kelways”), Rue, Stevia, St. John’s Wort, Summer Savory
  • Lettuce: Bronze Arrowhead, Ella Kropf, Forellenschluss, Green Oakleaf, Gulley’s Favorite, Pablo, Red Salad Bowl, Red Velvet, Rossa di Trento, Rouge d’Hiver
  • Melon: Pride of Wisconsin
  • Onion: Yellow of Parma
  • Peas: Green Arrow, Sutton’s Harbinger
  • Peppers: Bull Nose Bell, Chocolate Beauty, Feher Ozon Paprika, Garden Sunshine, Georgia Flame, Golden Treasure, Hot Portugal, Joe’s Long Cayenne, Joe’s Round, King of the North, Peach Habanero
  • Radishes: Early Scarlet Globe, French Breakfast, Watermelon
  • Rutabaga: Macomber
  • Salisfy: Mammoth Sandwich Island
  • Squash: Golden Hubbard, Kikuza, Silver Edged, Summer Crookneck
  • Tomatoes: Black Krim, Black Plum, Blondköpfchen
  • Watermelons: Chelsea, Chris Cross, Sweet Siberian

Many thanks to these two nonprofits for their support, and for helping to increase biodiversity and encourage citizen science!

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Double Your Dividend Sweepstakes

How would you like to win 2 PFDs instead of just 1?

File your PFD application by March 31st, choose JTEL as a recipient for a Pick, Click, Give donation and you’ll be entered to win an extra PFD.

Five lucky Alaskans who share part of their PFD through Pick.Click.Give. will be given an extra dividend in addition to an extra dividend going to JTEL!

If you’ve already filed, it’s easy to log on again and choose JTEL – even a modest amount goes a long way.


Readers PCG

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Looking for a desk/table

Do you have a used, but working small desk that you no longer want? We are looking for a small desk/table for our new office. It should be about 3 feet long by about 2 feet wide (deep), preferably with a small drawer for incidentals.  Please contact us at 907-374-8080 if you do. We’ll pick it up if you don’t want to deliver!

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Clausen Cabin Update


The Clausen Cabin renovation has come a long way in just over a year of effort.

Work on the Clausen Cabin is moving forward to a point where JTEL is starting to plan for moving in shelving units and filling them with books. New vinyl plank flooring is down in the main area, new interior doors are installed, and trim work is now in process. The heavy wood cook stove was moved with the use of a pallet jack and now sits in the northwest corner. Portions of the original kitchen have been reinstalled and there is a “dry cabin” arrangement with a water jug and 5 gallon bucket under the sink.

Bear Electric completed their last remaining work items on February 15th. The cabin has been rewired to code, new track lights are installed over the stacks area, motion lights are located over both exterior doors, exit signs and emergency lighting have been installed, and there are now exterior outlets where there were none before.


New flooring is installed throughout the main area and trim work is now in progress. Conduits are being masked and primed for painting.


Special thanks to a great crew of volunteers who have been working the last two weeks to move to this point,  including: Mindy, Ginny and Parker Gallagher, Deirdre Helfferich, Mike Musick, Eli Sonafrank, and Gary Pohl. More volunteers will be needed when it actually becomes time to move in the shelving and books. Keep your eyes on this site for a call for volunteers and ultimately, an “open house” date.

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Seedy Saturdays Are Coming!

Seedy Saturday Web

Seed Swap Guidelines

No seeds? No problem, come learn more about seed saving, local gardening and more.

3 p.m. Garden lectures:

  • February 25 – Goosefoot farm – a family vegetable farm practicing ecologically sustainable methods
  • March 4 – Alaska’s Agricultural Experiment Station – seeds from the past, into the future

Learn more about the Growing Ester’s Biodiversity Program.


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Collections and inventory – January 2017

This month catalog additions were down, but not because we didn’t have a lot of inventory! Your amateur librarian ran out of card pockets, so the new donations couldn’t be added to the collections. The board ordered 500 new ones (and at a great price), but they were shipped media mail, unfortunately, so they took three weeks to get here. However, it turned out that a lot of the old inventory already had cards and card pockets, but hadn’t yet been entered into the database. (I knew there were a few left on the shelves, but it turns out that there were a lot more than I thought!)

January topics included geography and travel, a few cookbooks, history, carpentry and home repair, art instructional guides, biographies, German, one mystery (Destroyer Angel, by Nevada Barr), a dictionary and calligraphy guide for Japanese (both Kanji and Kana), and a Field Guide to Airplanes of North America. The total number of books entered this month was 47, bringing the number of items in the online catalog to 7,602.

BlackjackOne of the biographies is a new donation (thank you!) and will go in our Alaska nonfiction section. By Jennifer Niven, Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic, draws on never-before published original diaries and other materials. It tells the story of the ill-fated five-person expedition to explore Wrangell Island in 1921. Ada Blackjack, a young Inuit woman, signed on as the group’s seamstress. Of the four men sent by Viljhalmur Stefansson to undertake this expedition, only two had been in the Arctic before. They were provisioned with only six months’ worth of supplies, believing, as did Stefansson, that they could stretch these for a year while living off the land. None of the men survived, but Blackjack did, returning to civilization after two years, and refusing to speak of it—except once.

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Another great weekend at the Clausen!!

Underlayment for the remainder of the north side, laying laminate plank flooring for that same area, and varnishing the windows were this weekend’s accomplishments.  It looks great, and may even allow us to host this year’s Seedy Saturdays (February 25 and March 4) in a dust and construction-free zone!

Special thanks to Wayne Miller of Floorcraft for donating the carpet for the office, and the following board members and volunteers for donating their time and expertise to this weekend’s work: Mindy, Ginny and Parker Gallagher, Gary Pohl and Syrilyn Tong.

New flooring in the kitchen

New flooring in the kitchen

Parker Gallagher starting up the monitor stove on the new floor

Parker Gallagher starting up the monitor stove on the new floor

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Floor prep at the Clausen!

A HUGE amount of work was accomplished this weekend, starting with clearing and cleaning the main floor section, staining and varnishing the 2 interior doors (1 to the bathroom, and 1 to the office), hanging the kitchen cabinets and finally laying the underlayment in the kitchen section.  All of this was preparation for the final flooring to be installed, starting next weekend.

Special thanks to Mindy, Ginny and Parker Gallagher, and board members Gary Pohl, Marina Day, Eli Sonafrank, and Syrilyn Tong for all the labor this past weekend!

The kitchen area with underlayment in place

The kitchen area with cabinets reinstalled and the underlayment in place

clausen south

Looking south, towards the Fire Station. The main stacks area

Clausen north

Looking north, towards the Golden Eagle. The other half of the main stacks area

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The Library at Frank’s Place – Don’t forget to Give!!

Frank's place

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