KTNA Studio – Dave Totten, artist

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by Dora Miller

KTNA Studio

KTNA On Air Studio, Jan 2013

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by James Trump

Fish Lake morning

Fish Lake morning

photo: Robin Song

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2014 PFD will be $1,884

Parnell PFD

On Wednesday morning, Governor Sean Parnell announced the amount of this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend.  Around 2,000 people watched the internet stream of the announcement.  Anticipation was for a significant increase in the amount of the dividend, since this year excludes 2008 from the five-year rolling average. After a few minutes of good-natured teasing with the media gathered for the announcement, Governor Parnell said that this year’s dividend will be $1,884.

After the cheers died down, Department of Revenue Commissioner Angela Rodell said that she believes the amount represents the third highest payout from the Permanent Fund, which is now valued at over $50 billion dollars.

Payment of this year’s PFD will begin on October 2nd.

Classics for Kids–The Adventures of Tom Sawyer #16

KTNA volunteer Cari Sayre finishes The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain.

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Senator Begich Discusses Tight Race

Complete Interview:

The race for one of Alaska’s Senate seats is one of the most closely watched in the country.  The Republican Party believes that it can take control of the senate by defeating Democratic incumbents in traditionally red states.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning recently spoke with the race’s incumbent, Senator Mark Begich, and has this report:

The race to be an Alaskan Senator for the next six years is tight.  Most forecasts call it a toss-up, with some giving a slight edge to Senator Mark Begich’s Republican opponent, former Alaska Attorney General and DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan. Read More »

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Writer’s Voice–A Time to Get Angry, by Ellen Thea

97H13_thea#1

In this poem, Talkeetna performance poet Ellen Thea

writes about making change in one’s life.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

It’s time to get angry

But the right usage of anger

The realization that the jailer
is the jailed

When the deadends
in the labryinth
run back
to the same source

When the river demands
the edge of the cliff

Read More »

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Upper Valley Agriculture: Yaks at Sunny Hill Ranch

Yaks

There is growing emphasis in Alaska on locally produced food, including meat.  While cattle can be, and are, raised in the Upper Susitna Valley, many species of cow are not adapted to the severe cold of an Alaska winter.  There is another animal that is perfectly suited for the conditions, though, yaks.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning visited Sunny Hill Ranch earlier this week to see yak ranching in action.

Bull

Yak bulls, while perhaps not as large as their bovine cousins, are still impressive.

YAKLDY

Proof that Anita Hill is the “yak lady.”

Anita Hill is the “Yak Lady.”  It says so right on her custom license plate.  She and her husband Steve Hill have operated Sunny Hill Ranch for about four years.  After I arrived, they took me to a large pen, where I could already discern dark, furry shapes moving around.

For those who have never seen a domestic yak in person, they resemble something of a cross between a bison and a cow, but considerably lighter, and with much shorter legs.  Steve Hill says a large yak bull might get up to 1500 pounds.  Compare that to a brahma bull, which can weigh upward of a ton.  As the more tame members of the herd approached the fence to greet me, the Hills explained why people raise yaks.

STEVE: “Meat and Fiber.”
ANITA: “Some People ask me about milking.  I only milk them when I have to.”

The fiber gets brushed off of the animals and washed so it can be spun into yarn.  As for the meat, Anita and Steve Hill say that the market is growing.

“There’s a good market for it, because it’s very lean.  There’s no fat on it; it’s not marbled like beef.”

Anita Hill says the meat can largely be used as a substitute for beef in recipes, although it does cook somewhat differently.  Right now, the Hills sell their meat primarily at farmers markets, but that may change in the future.  Steve says that one day they would like to:

“…get some restaurants in Talkeetna serving yak burgers…If you’re going to get them doing that, you have to have the supply to meet the demand.  You can’t say, ‘Here’s one, and I’ll have the next one six months from now.’”

Steve says that it would take a herd of about fifty animals in order to consider selling on that scale, which he estimates will take another two or three years.  That plan almost got yanked out from under the Hills with a recent, sudden change from the USDA, however.

“About two weeks ago, the USDA, all of a sudden…out of the blue, said ‘Yak’s not an amenable species.  We’re not going to inspect it any more,’ which would have taken this herd…and all of a sudden now it’s worthless.  I can’t sell it to the public.”

That’s because a USDA stamp is required for commercial sale of meat.  Fortunately for the Hills and other yak ranchers, there was help to be had.  Jim Watson is board president for the International Yak Association, or IYAK.  He spoke to me from his ranch in Montana about the potential impact of the unexpected change.

“It resulted in the almost immediate cessation of interstate commerce in yak meat and yak products, which disrupted the business models of yak ranchers throughout the country, because they had standing orders to go to grocery stores, restaurants, and distributors which were suddenly not valid any more.”

Watson says IYAK rallied its members through email and social media, and encouraged them to write to members of Congress, specifically those on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“…Apparently, that worked very well, because the USDA contacted me a few days later and provided us with the alternative we requested.”

While a final decision is still pending, Watson says it’s looking good for yak ranchers.

Back at the Sunny Hill Ranch, my yak education continues.  One of the reasons that yaks are an attractive species to raise in Alaska is their resilience to cold.  Many types of yak originate in the Himalayas, and Anita Hill says they are a major asset to the people of the area.

“In Tibet, they use them for everything.  They are the family animal.  They use them for packing; they use them for meat.  They use them like oxen.  They’re actually called ‘the grunting ox.’”

Tibet can get pretty cold, so yaks adapted over time to tough out frigid winters with their thick coats of fur.  Anita Hill says yaks as young as a week old can survive

Even baby yaks can handle the cold of an Alaskan winter.

Even baby yaks can handle the cold of an Alaskan winter.

temperatures well below zero because the herd will work to keep them warm.

That strong herd mentality also comes in handy with one of the other hazards to raising livestock in the Last Frontier.

“The yaks will attack a bear.  They’ll attack anything that comes in harm’s way…even the dogs.  Annie [the yak] was up–I had just her and two younger ones–and a coyote came and harassed them.  She bent the fence trying to get to that coyote, so they’ll attack a bear.”

Steve Hill says, between the yaks and the family’s three large dogs, he hasn’t seen a bear on the property in the four years he and Anita have lived in the Susitna Valley.

For Steve and Anita Hill, their yaks are like an extension of their family.  Every one has a name and a personality.  Twice during my tour, yaks would come to the fence and poke their heads through, hoping I would scratch them behind the ears.  While many of them are destined for a dinner plate eventually, it’s clear that they’re happy with the life they live at Sunny Hill Ranch.

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House District 10 Candidates: Roger Purcell

There are three candidates running for State House Seat 10 in the general election on November 4th.  One of them is Roger Purcell, who is not running with either major party, but rather undeclared.  Purcell joined K-T-N-A’s Phillip Manning on Wednesday to talk about his priorities for the state and District 10.

Roger Purcell is a registered Republican, but did not seek the party’s nomination to represent District 10.  He has run against the incumbent, Representative Wes Keller, in the past in an unsuccessful primary bid.  Purcell, who was formerly the mayor of Houston, says that he and some others who are running independently chose to do so in order to be able to dissent with members of the Republican Party when they disagree.

“We can do what’s right one-hundred percent of the time because we didn’t have to go back and respond to what they said.  I was taken aside by a legislator and told how it was going to be when we got to Juneau with the party, and I totally disagreed with what they were saying…” Read More »

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Su Valley Voice 9/10/14: Roger Purcell

Below is the complete recording of Su Valley Voice for September 10th, 2014. Host Phillip Manning spoke with Roger Purcell, candidate for State House Seat 10.

 

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Classics for Kids–The Adventures of Tom Sawyer #15

KTNA volunteer Cari Sayre continues The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain.

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Passengers Identified in Fatal Bus Rollover

The Alaska State Troopers have identified all three people who were on board a Princess tour bus that rolled over near Mile 173 of the Parks Highway on Friday morning.  All three were Princess employees.

The driver was identified as 25 year old Brian Lanning of Trapper Creek. Lanning received non-life-threatening injuries in the accident.  One of the two passengers on board was declared dead at the scene.  She has now been identified as 21 year old Po Chong of Malaysia.  The surviving passenger has been identified as 22 year old Wendy Shen of Taiwan. Shen’s identity was previously withheld because her injuries were initially seen as life-threatening. Julie Benson, spokeswoman for Princess Cruises, says that, as of Monday, Shen was resting comfortably and “doing well.”

The accident was reported around 8:00 am on Friday.  The Alaska State Troopers Commercial Vehicle Enforcement division and Bureau of Highway Patrol are investigating the cause of the crash.

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