The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

Palmer, AK – Friday Fling and Big, Hairy Beasts

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On my to-do list in Anchorage was a visit to Palmer, a town about an hour away.

The brilliant FDR’s New Deal chose the Matanuska Valley for an agricultural-based relocation project.

Only true farmers from Michigan, Wisconsin or Minnesota were considered. The couples must’ve been between 25-40 years of age with Scandinavian backgrounds.  They were given a $3,000, 30-year loan in exchange for a 40 acre tract of land with a house, a barn, a well and an outbuilding.  203 families were chosen.  Leaving in 1935, they traveled via train to San Francisco where they switched to boat, ending in Seward, AK. Imagine how the dramatic sights must’ve affected them.

It took some time for the houses to be built, with five floor plans available and one barn plan.  Labor was brought up from CA for construction.

Although the failure rate was high, many descendents of original colonists still inhabit the “Valley,” as locals call it.

A compliation of photos in the visitor center that made me smile.  It tells a lot and reminds me much of my midwestern roots (I’m from MN originally with family still there.)

Visiting Palmer, it looks like most small MN towns I’ve been to, laid out in orderly fashion with a main street/city-center, a depot and tidy parks.   The colonists sure put their Midwestern stamp on things.

Mountains ring the city. It’s a beautiful setting.  Was HOT that day.

Attended the Friday Fling, a market/fair with live music, food, and artisans displaying their crafts and products and just a couple produce stands.


Goods for sale:





A lovely exhibition garden adjoins the Visitors Center across the street. There, a Plein Aire painters group painted.  This volunteer trims salad greens from a bed:



Main St. images:




Left downtown Palmer and headed up the Glenn Hwy to visit the Palmer Musk Ox Farm.  Had a tour and enjoyed learning about these shaggy beasts. They are raised for the Qiviut, a luxuriously warm, lightweight, sinfully soft fiber I’ve not yet had the pleasure to knit with.

Once endangered, this Ice Age relic came across the Bering Land Bridge during the Pleistocene age. Fossil records show it lived as far south as Ohio.  Now, wild herds can be found in northern Canada, Greenland, AK, and Siberia. Amazing they still exist, given their roots.

The Farm has a herd of 60. They are raised for their fiber only, as it takes many years for them to mature and not good meat candidates. (Lucky for them!)  The calves were adorable!


Not a bad place to hang out, eh?




They trim their horns off:



This fella gets a snack from a young tour member:



A drive around the “Bodenburg Loop Rd.” revealed a couple relics of the homesteads.  This home is in a sad state, unfortunately:


This original barn (with mods?) fares better:



The main thought coursing through my mind was how the colonists must have felt here.  Such a long journey for back then in a time when a trip to the big city of Minneapolis would have been a novelty for these MN farmers.  Thankfully, they had people around them with similar values and culture.  Yet, so far from family back home. Such a pretty location, though. Must have been a shocker for them to see mountains like this.  (I can also relate to that, thinking of the first time I saw mountains.)

If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend a trip to Palmer.  (Skip Wasilla, it hold nothing of interest.)  Stop in the little visitor center. They are very helpful there.





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