This post describes life, dressing and more in Interior Alaska in August where many things are quite different than in midlatitudes. Not only the lack of dog days.
- No Dog Days in Alaska
- Weather in Interior Alaska in August
- When the Midnight Sun Shines 84 Days …
- … You Barely Switch on the Lights
- Nights, Aurora and Street Lights Have a Comeback
- August Means Fall and Harvest
- Finishing Summer Projects
- Back to School, But Not for All Students
- The State Fair Typically Has Fair Weather
- Fall Rains Bring the Mushroom Season
- Types of Mushrooms Growing in Interior Alaska
- Social Distance Is the Norm Most of the Year
- Life in Alaska in August in a Nutshell
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Important note: Terms indicated with * are explained in the High Latitude Style Glossary.
No Dog Days in Alaska
August brings the hot heat of summer in mid-latitudes and the challenge of dressing for the dog days. There is this running jokeAlaska has four seasons, June July, August and winter. #Alaska #lifestyle Click To Tweet
In Interior Alaska, August is the rain season. This means flip flops and rain gear at the beginning of the month. The heat low over the Interior, Yukon Territory, and Northwest Territory weakens in August and low pressure systems make their way into the mainland. Between low pressure systems, the moisture and still long insolation yields thunderstorm formation. While the rain extinguishes some wildfire, lightening strikes may still cause new ones. Wildfires are a natural landscape evolution mechanism of the Taiga.
Weather in Interior Alaska in August
The high cloudiness, humidity and notably shorter days as time progresses mean that temperature goes down as well. When it rains, it is cool. Sometimes flip flops go and you wear your rain boots. At the end of August, temperature drops to uncomfortable values as now darkness at night lasts several hours. Then, even the first night frost may occur. Thus, Alaskan women have not to worry about how to look professional at a work meeting during the dog days.It unbelievable that in the land where there are more dogs than humans there are no dog days. #Alaska #curiosa Click To Tweet
Obviously, in the Interior dressing in August is quite different from what people wear in mid-latitudes. At the beginning of the month, a sun-protective jumpsuit like the LOTD is appropriate. A light knit jacket is needed by the middle of the month (see green-brown outfit later in this post). Coats or jackets and pantyhose are a Must by the end of the month (see black look later in this post). See my Alaska August lookbook for more looks.
Never worry again what to wear when. Just look it up in my style book How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Buy the book now.
When the Midnight Sun Shines 84 Days …
Imagine to live in a land with about 84 white nights with daylight followed by cutting about five to ten minutes every day after that until winter solstice. During those 84 days, you won’t need light, right? May be once in a while during a thunderstorm, but otherwise you walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night, not switching on the lights. Even the light in the fridge or oven is unneeded.
… You Barely Switch on the Lights
Of course during that time, the few times you actually switch on the lights, by accident or because a thunderstorm rolls thru town, bulbs die and you would not even notice. With a sudden in August, you need to switch on the lights when heading to the bathroom at night. OMG, no light! Or may be just one bulb left. Even worse when it happens in your walk-in closet! 😉 It’s like dressing in the dark during an outage.
I am talking about real light bulbs, the one forbidden now in Germany, formerly sold as heat bulbs. The ones that have not toxic stuff in them. This year, we replaced 17 bulbs! We first had to make a stop at the store. 😉
Alaskans call exchanging broken bulbs “celebrating the day of lights.”
Nights, Aurora and Street Lights Have a Comeback
In mid August, enough daylight is lost that there are dark nights again and the aurora can again be seen in clear sky nights. It was there all summer, but during daylight you can’t see it. You only notice that the aurora is there because it disturbs your cell phone. More on the aurora formation and its impacts.
Also the street lights turn on again even when there is no dark thunderstorm. You bring your car to the shop to have the tires exchanged and to replace broken bulbs. While it’s the law to drive with head lights on, in town many don’t. However, comes the dark season, head lights are needed. Otherwise you only need them for safety when traveling unpaved roads, and to not get into trouble with the police.
August Means Fall and Harvest
In mid August, the first leave start turning yellow and the vegetation season winds down The fireweed that blossomed in pink in July and turned the last year’s burned areas into a pink sea of flowers starts to build the seeds. Once they pop the seeds will fly in cotton-like packages. There is a saying that when that
When the fireweed seeds fly, the first flurries are just 6 weeks away.
August is the season for berry picking and collecting mushrooms. The berries have to be prepared for the freezer or be turned into jam.
Those Alaskans, who have a vegetable garden have to harvest and conserve their vegetables and fruits. When weather allows, they procrastinate as long as they can. Not because so much else is to do in August, but to take full advantage of the growing season. When frost is in the forecast, gardeners inform each other via social media, phone calls or texting. They cut the flowers and put them in vases and harvest the potatoes, carrots or whatever is still in the soil. At the end of the day, there are green tomatoes all over the kitchen counter. Read more on what Alaskans grow in their yards.
Finishing Summer Projects
Since the first flurries can fly already in mid September, people also get very busy between frontal passages to finish their outside house maintenance projects. Moreover, windows, doors, and pipes have to be made winter-proof.
Back to School, But not for All Students
Most students go back to school in mid-August except of students from boarding schools. Boarding school students return to school after the hunting season (September) so they can help their parents with hunting, butchering and smoking. Thus, their school year is a bit off. This means they graduate about 2-3 weeks later than most students, right in time for the onset of the fishing season.
The State Fair typically Has Fair Weather
On top of all the busy work to get Alaska grown food into storage, and finishing up projects, many fairs take place at various places in Alaska. The fairs provide Alaskans not only with entertainment like ferry wheels, carousels, music, concerts, dance shows, animal shows, and various competitions, but also with food to-go, clothes, machinery, art work, jewelry and Alaska harvest products.
Of course, everyone wants to spend at least a day at the fair. Tickets are sold for entrance. When you use some of the entertainment equipment like the ferry wheel, you have to pay for the rides. Some people go to the fair on several days, i.e. buy several tickets, because they want to see certain shows or attend different competitions, for instance, Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars. Some shows, concerts and other events, and of course competitions are done just on one day of the fair.
For many rural Alaskans the fair is a great opportunity to sell their homemade products like art and bead work, buttons made from caribou antlers, beaded mukluks, wool or fur mittens, qiviut sweaters, scarves, and hats, home-made kuspuks*, and hunting trophies like antlers, stuffed dale sheep, moose, or caribou heads, fur, or whalebone. You can also buy smoked salmon and other delicious products made of salmon. Miners offer raw gems or when they collaborate with jewelers or work both professions jewelry made of their finds.
Of course, once in town, they stock up on non-perishable food and other products that are much more expensive – when available at all – at their local general store.
Fall Rains Bring the Mushroom Season
August is the end of summer in Interior Alaska and the onset of the rain season. It seems to rain 24/7 with small interruption. These August rains bring flood (watching) and beautiful green lawns. Mushrooms of all kind pop out all over the yards and in the boreal forest which replaces the smell of the summer smoke by a moldy smell. The air is full of spores that sometimes it stinks like everything is moldering.
Last year’s fire scars provide a favorable environment for morels. Many Alaskans drive out to these areas to collect morels, which only grow on these areas. However, it is hard to predict which fire scar will have them. Of course, people keep their secrets. They sell the morels at the farmers market at high price. Many Alaskans also gather bolete and dry them to eat them later.
Types of Mushrooms Growing in Interior Alaska
A couple of years ago, we had a king bolete in our yard. This mushroom is also known as porcino in Italy and cep in France. In our yard, there are currently 7 different kinds of mushrooms (see the collage for some of them). In some years, we even have some fly agarics. The squirrels seem to like them, and obviously, can eat them more than one time. 😉 I have seen them several times picking them. They also pick the brown ones in the collage below.
We always have many of these gemmed puffballs, which I don’t like. When they are done, they are just like a dark chocolate skin with a whole at the top when looked at from the outside. However, when you touch them with your shoes or the lawn mover, they push out a black cloud of spores. This powder cloud is very concentrated and reaches about 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) high. When you wear Converse, Keds or Vans or this stuff hits your pants they are ready to go into the laundry!
Social Distance Is the Norm Most of the Year
You probably wonder why Alaskans don’t skip going to the fair when their calendar is so full of very important and time sensitive work to be done? The fair is about meeting old friends. It attracts people from all over Alaska – people you only may see once or twice a year. It’s a meeting place. The fiddlers and those Alaskans who like to dance to fiddle music, for instance, won’t miss the day of the fair when the fiddlers play. They make friends there of whom they know they will not see them again before another big event that draws a lot of fiddlers to come into town. The ballroom dancers won’t miss the competition of Dancing with The Fairbanks Stars.
Life in Alaska in August in a Nutshell
At the Last Frontier, August weather, life and dressing are quite different from what you know from mid-latitudes like Germany, France, the Netherlands, or the Lower 48s. No wonder that Alaskan women only worry about what to pack for a summer business trip when they go out of state.
The busy schedule of finishing outdoor home projects, harvesting, preparing the house for winter, changing tires in preparation for the first snow and a full entertainment schedule plus preparing for the hunting season in September stresses people out.
Would you enjoy August in Alaska? Let me know, I am curious.
P.S. Still wonder about the funny featured photo? I wanted to sit down on the rock and hadn’t seen that it has a slope to the other side. And my husband hadn’t seen it coming. 🙂
When you liked this post you may like to read about Alaska weeds you can eat.
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Photos of me: G. Kramm
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