Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Local turkeys fly the coop

Triple D - Alaska's only commercial poultry farm - is out of business. Where's a Palmerite to get a local turkey? If you know, please share!

The Post shook a few trees but just hasn't heard of any local poultry providers who could help put a bird on the table for Thanksgiving. Triple D Farm & Hatchery, of course, was the place former Gov. Sarah Palin made famous during a Thanksgiving turkey pardon when she showed up on TV with a little bird-slaughtering as backdrop. But the farm was a Thanksgiving tradition for folks who liked their birds humanely raised and chemical-free. It closed this year. Owner Anthony Schmidt said debt and burdensome federal regulations forced him under.

There is one local retailer doing a brisk business in fresh turkeys they describe as free-range and all-natural: Mat Valley Meats on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway. The turkeys come from Washington state; Mat Valley couldn't find any local suppliers. Neither can their customers, apparently. While bigger birds are still available, all the turkeys under 20 pounds sold out within five days, before they actually arrived at the store. 

"We've been crazy crazy crazy, busy," said Colsie Burris, staffing the counter this week. "It's been insane."

-- Zaz Hollander  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Alaska Bible College comes to Palmer

Alaska Bible College in the former Matanuska Christian School
Photo by Melodie Wright
Glennallen-based Alaska Bible College has purchased the Matanuska Christian School building in downtown Palmer. The accredited college has been in Alaska for 45 years and plans to move its administrative offices and main campus to Palmer in the next few years.

Nick Ringger is the current president. He's a former student of the school and moved through the ranks from professor to assistant dean before assuming his current post four years ago. He says the Glennallen campus's library - the largest theological library in the state with 45,000 volumes - and wilderness setting is perfect for the school's more rugged training programs.

Nick Ringger

But, "we're looking for something a little more central to the state," Ringger said. "We like Palmer. It has a good blend of metropolitan and rural."

Although ABC wants to headquarter its four-year program in town, it will make the change gradually. The organization hopes to add on a library to the existing school and gradually transfer its books south. Right now, the Palmer site hosts just one class with eight students. Five are high-schoolers, Ringger said, and the other three are adults looking to further their education.

No matter their age, the college requires students to perform some kind of community service. Ringger said that students look forward to the number of volunteer opportunities available in the core Mat-Su area. In Glennallen, fulfilling that mandate can be a bit trickier.

"We're excited about what that opportunity brings to organizations in the Valley," Ringger said. "It brings a whole group of quality young people to help in so many venues."

Check out Alaska Bible College here and click on the video for more information.

-- Melodie Wright

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wanted: reindeer wranglers. Elves preferred.

Holly the reindeer peers through a fence at the Williams Reindeer Farm.
Photo courtesy of the Williams family
The holiday season is officially upon us.

The Williams Reindeer Farm is hiring.

Just check the jobs listing on craigslist for today. You'll find an ad seeking "Reindeer Trainer - (Butte) customer service"

"We are looking for adults that enjoy working with animals. We will be training and refresher training some reindeer in preparation for the upcoming Holiday season. We are looking for help one day a week for 1 hour. We will teach you, you just need to come with a good patient attitude and willingness to learn. Please do not call..our phone already rings off the hook. You can respond via email if you are interested. (job-ghgsf-2693500236@craigslist.org) We will pay $10 per 1 hour session. I'm looking for approx 4 -5 people over age 21."

The Post did call the farm, only because we had some questions. And we know the Williams are nice people. Denise Hardy, Tom and Gene Williams' oldest daughter, now runs the day-to-day operations on the farm, located in the Butte on Bodenburg Loop. Hardy's duties include tours and the gift shop. They also include the reindeer training. 

Hardy posted the ad because she's looking for some new folks to handle the animals after relying on volunteers. Time is of the essence -- it's getting late to prep for the holiday season but the farm was busy with fall events like the Hay Maze.

Successful job candidates will get to train the farm's youngest animals - "babies" born this summer - to wear a halter and eventually a harness. They'll give the more experienced animals a refresher course on getting in a trailer and wearing a harness, jingle bells and all. 

Reindeer trainers with the right qualities might also end up trotting out with the animals at holiday public events coming up next month. The reindeer pull Santa's sleigh in Anchorage and at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, take part in Colony Christmas and, yes, scramble around with strange humans at the Fur Rondy Festival event known as "Running of the Reindeer." 

To that end, Hardy said, she's hoping to find some animal-savvy trainers who are good with people too. The Anchorage Tree Lighting Ceremony in Town Square draws thousands of people looking to pet some friendly reindeer. So it would be great, she said, if the reindeer trainers are friendly and approachable, "smiling and kinda elflike. We really don't need any grumps."

The farm doesn't expect candidates to have lots of experience training reindeer. But people responding to that ad do need to love animals and be able to read them. A little courage would be good. Reindeer do have antlers, after all. 

 Hardy is looking for reliable workers. She knows $10 an hour isn't a lot. 

"It's not a position they're going to get rich on but it's certainly something they'll get rich rewards from watching the animals grow and change," she said. 

-- Zaz Hollander

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

History lurks underground in Palmer

Photo by Rindi White
Tour participants got a glimpse of the famed Palmer tunnels. 

In keeping with this spooky season, Palmer Arts Council recently held its second annual "Palmer Underground" tour.

The tours are kind of a behind-the-scenes glimpse of early Palmer. On a gorgeous sunny Saturday, more than 40 people criss-crossed downtown to ramble around in basements, old buildings and historic homes to learn more about Palmer's roots. The Post was allowed to attend for free as a member of the media. Everybody else paid $25 a person.

Topping the list of sites to see were the fourth and fifth (!!) floors of the Colony Inn, both underground. Inn owner Janet Kincaid told tour participants about her first, frightening visit to the Inn's first and second basements before she purchased and renovated the building. She also shared a few interesting facts about the giant boiler in her lower basement (it heated the town at night!). Check out the video for clips of Kincaid's tour of the Inn.

At another stop on the tour, participants learned about the former scientists, since passed on, who knock around in the old Kremlin building. That's the circa-1949 University of Alaska Fairbanks office building on Fireweed Avenue. No longer open to the public, the building houses more than 100 years of agricultural research and plant studies.

Photo by Rindi White
Pipes in the tunnels below Palmer leave little room for mischief.
One of the most popular stops on the tour was to the former Colony generator building, a nondescript concrete block that housed generators and the large boilers that provided heat to homes and businesses in the city. The city water supply was also treated there and the building provided a spot for farmers to stop for a hot shower.

The generator building also houses one of the only remaining access points to the underground tunnels that carried heat and hot water to buildings throughout town. Long rumored as a hide-out and playing spot for teens, the access tunnel proved to be crowded with pipes that left little room for mischief.

The tour stopped at two private homes, inspected the lower level of Rusty's at Dahlia Street and learned of the building's varied past as a shooting range, potato sorting area, staging spot for U.S. Marshals and ballet practice space. They also were treated to a piano recital on the first concert grand piano brought to Palmer and toured the former city jail, in the basement of Palmer City Hall.

Palmer Arts Council plans to hold another underground tour about this time next year. Tickets for the three-hour tour generally sell out quickly. The arts council is considering offering other tours, such as the spiritual geography of Palmer (touring local churches) and an earth, wind, and fire tour that would stop at the Tsunami Warning Center and visit Sherrod Elementary's wind turbine, among other spots. People who are interested in these or other tours should contact Palmer Arts Council at 745-7735.

-- Rindi White