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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Off to Dig Afognak

This afternoon I'm off to Dig Afognak up on Afognak Island. Zoya and the kiddos are off to visit the grandparents in Homer. The doggies and a house sitter will defend the homeland in our absence.

Dig Afognak is always sort of a homecoming for me. I ran my first archaeological project there as part of the program between 1994 and 1997. I spent my first summer there 15 years ago! I always take the time to visit the site while I am there. It's been so long since we finished the excavation that it now looks exactly like we found it prior to excavation.

This is what it looked like in 1996. The grey area in the middle is the main room of a 700 year-old multiroom house - basically the common room. The two excavators are in one of the house's siderooms which was attached to the main room by semi-subterranean tunnel. Multiple related families would have shared this house, and each nuclear family would have had its own sideroom for sleeping. The big pits and slate boxes in the main room are for cooking and food storage. During excavation some of them were still full of salmon bones - the remains of stored fish. The wood posts mark where we found old posts holes where the wood had rotted away and left a hole. I marked them with modern posts to show where the prehistoric posts that held up the roof had been. Patrick

Friday, June 26, 2009

Park after dinner

Last night while I taught my childbirth class, Patrick took the kids on a walk to Ft. Abercrombie. Lately we have been trying to do after dinner walk with them-to tire them out before bed. It has been working only somewhat successfully. :(

We leave tomorrow night for Homer on the ferry. It just dawned on me that we are leaving tomorrow night-for some reason I was thinking it is the following night. SO tomorrow will be full of preparations and packing. Patrick leaves for dig afognak in the afternoon. I'm way bummed he won't be with us on the trip. Nora's excitement about the journey is so FUN!! She has been talking about how we're taking the car on the ferry, and I think that is very abstract to it is that we bring a car on a boat. Tomorrow night she'll discover how the loading deck on a ferry works... good times.


Skiing after the Solstice

Mike and I went skiing up on Pyramid Mountain the day after the Solstice. We both agreed that there is cause to celebrate the day after - to celebrate shorter days and the coming of winter. Whoooo hooooo. Winter will come! Next year we'll have a 'day after' party for those among us who celebrate winter. I will also note that winter and the return of darkness at night also means it's much easier to get the kids to bed at night and that everyone sleeps better. Patrick

If you want to see a higher quality version of the video go here:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What a difference a week makes in June

Garden is still on the puny side, but hey look at how much it has grown in exactly one week. I am now happy to say that the radishes are ready and that I can begin harvesting salad greens. Summer salad season is here! It looks like the kale and brocoli need some more time. ... .. In my other beds I have carrots, beets and swiss chard, and another huge area devoted to potatoes with some herbs in the planters.

Kodiak does have long springs, and it takes a while before our gardens start to produce. But the same maritime climate that blesses us with a long spring (also means we keep our snow longer!) also extends our fall. While Anchorage and Fairbanks and the northern tier of the lower 48 enter the big deep freeze in early October the relatively warm waters of the Gulf of Alaska keep the temperatures on Kodiak moderate. We are often still harvesting brocoli, kale, swiss chard and brussles sprouts from our garden well into November and even, on occasion, into December.

This year to make up for the 'spring gap' of no garden veggies we ate more wild greens. The wild greens are ready by early May. This year we made meals of nettles, fireweed shoots, and fiddleheads. Zoya and the kids really like the nettles and there is a ready supply of them at an undisclosed location close by. I think we will be eating nettles for another month. I just wish there was a close by source of lambsquarter. Nettles and lambsquarter are actually better than anything you can buy at Safeway, and I sometimes ponder if I should grow them in my garden. Patrick

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

iphone photos and ferry trip to Homer

Patrick is asleep on the couch this evening, kids are asleep and laundry purrs away in the washing machine. A few minutes to myself on the computer.

This weekend, Nora Stuey and myself depart on the ferry to Homer to see my parents for 3 days. Nora has been looking forward to the trip for literally MONTHS. Her 'bags' have been packed-(bags consisting of safeway veggie bags filled with clothing, pajamas, toothbrush, etc.) Several months ago she heard that we were going to Homer in the future and decided to do the packing for the trip. She raced over the the drawer of plastic bags she had immediate access to and started packing away.
Her enthusiasm for the trip is quite contagious.
(On prior trips off island, I wouldn't particularly look forward to the 'journey' part of things...I was focused more on the destination. Anyone who has traveled with babies or toddlers knows what I mean--or if you've been on an airplane with a baby or toddler you know what I mean. As my mom put it once, traveling with ones that small could be equated to traveling with a ticking time bomb. You never know when its going to go off...)

But this time, Nora understands the concept of the ferry and we are able to see the ferry go across Spruce Cape point here at the house several days a week and she asks, "Is that our ferry for Homer, Mom?". We will board the ferry at 2AM, which may be a bit rough, but I think Nora and Stuey's excitement about it all will hopefully pull us through a couple of days. Hmm...maybe thats too optimistic. Perhaps a couple of hours?!
Patrick has to stay here to help with Dig Afognak camp, so it'll just be me and the kids making the crossing to Homer.


Photos were taken recently at the park. Fun times in the tube slide!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Walks about the block

Last night Patrick and I took the kids for a 45 minute walk down the road and back. Nora wanted a chance to walk the dogs-holding the leashes was a first for her! She LOVED it! They did pull her down once or twice, at which point she handed the leashes back to us.
Stuey took his cabbage patch doll along for the walk...very endearing.

Abercrombie Green

Not so long ago there was snow under these trees, and the trail was hardened with glare ice. Now it is green, green, green as far as you can see under the trees. Once the devils club and salmonberry get really tall and leafy then you will be able to see less and less far. Later in the summer it gets so thick that you have to stick to the trails. Then comes fall, and all the devils club leaves turn yellow and soon the understory is clear again. I wonder if the dogs notice? They seem to love walks no matter what the season. Patrick

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stuey has puddle rhythm

Last week I took Stuey, Nora and their friend Kody for a walk up to Mill Bay Coffee. It took 1/2 hour to get there, and 1/2 hour to return. A nice leisurely pace-plenty of time for blowing on dandelion puffs and splashing in puddles. In this short clip, Stuey does the puddle dance...(he is in the striped shirt)


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sleep Challenges & Goodbye to Hannah


The most challenging part about parenting has lately been getting Nora to sleep. Patrick and I have always cherished the evening time after kids are in bed to read, relax, catch up. The past week or so Nora has really struggled with going to sleep. We're not sure why this is. Today I only worked part of a day, so I thought I would take her on a long walk so she was extra tired. We walked up to Mill Bay Coffee and back, which is around a mile roundtrip. It took us an hour and I thought she'd be tired tonight, but once again she cries, wanting us in there for hours with her.
Patrick was in with her for close to an hour, reading to her. Stuey was sound asleep. I went in and read for about 1/2 an hour. Still no luck. Finally, after much crying, screaming and protesting on Nora's behalf, she is asleep in her room, with Patrick beside her. Patrick and I work to find the balance between trying to meet our kids needs and not spoiling them. Its a tough one to balance at times. Part of us think, "Oh, shes such a small person who needs us--lets spend all the time in the world with her" but then another part of us thinks, "She is almost 4 and has the capacity to control her behaviors-we can't let her get away with this." The older Nora gets, the more we lean towards being a bit more strict.

Who knows if we're doing the right thing. I just want to know what it is about bed time that Nora has such a hard time with. The room is dark, Stuey is asleep in there with her. She knows we're right here. We let her leave the door a crack open so she can see into the kitchen. Its a safe place to her. But there is something we can't grasp, understand about sleep and why she doesn't like going to sleep. Hopefully we'll figure it out someday soon.

Our mommy helper, Hannah, leaves this weekend for Germany. She just finished her senior year of high school and is heading to Germany for language school and them film school.
She has been with our family for 2 years--she would come over after school a couple of days per week when I was teaching spinning classes and help with the kids in the early evening hours. What a blessing she has been to our family. She isn't intimidated by much...trips to the beach in winter, Patrick's sometimes-odd-jokes.... :) She seemed so appreciative of the opportunities to get to know Stuey and Nora over the past 2 years and when she sees them, I see that she is genuinely excited.
In two years time, we have grown quite attached to Hannah and Nora would often say, "Only Hannah, Mamma" if she heard the word babysitter uttered from our mouths.
Today as we took the kids to North Star together, I thought about how Hannah is going to change so much in the next few years in Germany. How her world here in Kodiak and her after school job will seem like such a distant exsistence. As we walked up to the park and she was laughing and playing with the kids, I thought about how she gives so much and I know she will meet such amazing people who will inspire her in Germany. She has a whole world ahead of her.
In some ways, I was brought back to that time when I was heading off to college-such a big adventure. I remember I took the train out east from Seattle to Albany NY. I didn't realize what significant challenges and joys college would bring--I went into it somewhat oblivious. I can't quite recall if I was more scared versus nervous. I think I was excited to meet my roommate, Natalie, whom I had talked to on the phone, and very excited for the pre-school orientation activities.

As Hannah and I gave each other good-bye hugs in the kitchen today, tears rolled down my face as did they hers. She is so genuine, hard working and patient with the kids. The tears were more about sadness of passing of an era for our family with her. THis time will never come again. The beauty of it all is the change. Hannah is off to greater adventures now-train rides, German adventures, learning a new language, meeting people with the same art passions as herself....the big world awaits her.


Monday, June 15, 2009

An afternoon ski in June

No posts about skiing in over a month. I bet you just might have thought I was done with skiing for the year. But not if you know me well! The skiing is still great on Pyramid. It's not like last year where we had such good snow that I skiied on Pyramid into August, but it is not as bad as it's been some other years.

Today I went up with Mike Mannelin and we skiied the North Bowl. We found a 1600 foot vertical run into the far left ravine. It's a hard ravine to find and this is the first year I've skiied it. Pretty darn steep too. Booting out of it was brutal. I love it when you get to the bottom and the golden crowned sparrows are singing 'oh dear me' and it's all bright green about with the narrow strip of snow through it all. Summer snow.

Photos: Top - Mike dropping down the top of the North Bowl. Self portrait of me posing on a rock. Booting out of the bottom part of the ravine. Panoramic of the bottom 1000 feet of the run (the ravine) - the top 600 and entire north bowl part of the run is out of view. Mike boots it up in his really heavy boots. I also made a youtube video of our day.

Happy Trails to the Van Curen's-party last Saturday

On Saturday night was the Van Curen's Happy Trails Party here at our house. Preston, Wendy and their family are moving to New York to be closer to family.
(It was a surprise party that remained a surprise until the night before when they got a hint that something was up...and phone calls to their friends revealed that everyone had a commitment that evening, but none of them could express exactly where they were going to be....Heather, Mike and Betsy and I were scheming weeks in advance)
There were about 20 people in attendance including lots of kids. This was fun, as they all played outside, running around, playing tag and on the plastic fake cabin we have in the back yard. Betsy L. took some AMAZING kid photos with our camera, but I'm hesitant to post them without permission from parents, so I'll just leave them off. Judging from the photos you'd think Nora was the only kid there, but there were actually about 12 kids in attendance!
In case you were wondering about the cake, it was a "We think its poopy that you're Leaving" cake-Betsy L. organized it. Note the toilet paper and flies on the frosting. :)
The frosting was wonderful, moussey consistency. All the kids had "ring-around-the-mouth" chocolate marks. Pretty funny.
Happy Trails to The Van Curens as they head to their new adventure in New York!


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fear of Camping

I've noticed that many folks have unfounded fears about camping in Kodiak's backcountry. When I talk to them about our remote camps their biggest fears seem to be bears, bad drinking water, and the lavatory. As I see it, all of these fears are really minor annoyances at best. Today I plan on telling you what you should really fear in the backcountry.

But first a bit about bears, toilets and drinking water. It's highly unlikely that any of those three will kill you. I see bears as an annoyance that can get into your food or chew up gear - not as a serious threat to life and limb. Only 2 people have ever been killed by a bear on Kodiak, and both people shot the bear first. More people have been murdered by their camping partners than killed by bears. That's right - you have more to fear from the amiable camping companion sitting next to you than from the irascible bear lurking in the bushes outside camp. Realistically, if you are bear aware and give bears their space you will have no problems with bears.

As regards clean drinking water, giardia is way over-hyped. I gather 1 in 8 people have it in their bodies at all times, and that the biggest vector is day care facilities and not drinking water. Clean hands does more for the prevention of giardia than any amount of water filtering. In fact most water in the backcountry is potable without filtering. That said, we do treat our water in camp with bleach and vitamin C (we add the Vitamin C 12 hours after the bleach to remove the chlorine taste). In our last camp in the swamps on the other side of the Alaska Peninsula even I would not drink the river water and we had to work to get good drinking water to camp (see bottom photo of Mark carrying water from a lake about 1/2 mile away from camp).

Now about the toilet .. ... - actually I'll leave that one alone. Just be scared, be very afraid. All your fears are justified on this one. But let it be said that toilet paper is a very recent invention. I'll bet Ben Franklin stocked his outhouse with moss. The biggest toilet related fear I have is that people do not wash their hands afterwards. That's when you catch giarda or some other nasty e coli related bug.

Having dispensed with the annoyances I'll list what should be real fears when camping in the backcountry. As I see it, the greatest threats when afield are: 1) falls, 2) really bad cuts (from the camp machete etc), 3) drowning, 4) allergic reactions and poisons, 5) extremely poor weather and hypothermia, 6) medical emergencies (ie heart attacks, strokes, seizures), 7) plane crashes, and lastly, 8) if you have firearms in camp, gunshot wounds. Now those are all serious threats that everyone should be aware of and respect. Patrick

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Helicopter Ride

On Monday, the day after we got back from the other side of the Alaska Peninsula, I was lucky enough to get to go on a work-related helicopter ride. We flew down to Sitkalidak Island, checked out the Refuge Rock, Ocean Beach and Natalia Bay before going to Old Harbor where we had perfectly cooked, fresh king salmon for lunch. We went home via the high mountains of Kodiak's interior.

A helicopter ride is a totally different experience than flying in a float plane. The most obvious difference is that helicopters fly much lower to the ground. But there is also the 'carnival ride' like feeling of floating around the landscape. Helicopters do not have to go in a straight line. They dart this way and that, up and down and hover in place - it's like riding on the back of a huge dragonfly.

Photos: A stream near the head of Natalia Bay. The Refuge Rock near Sitkalidak Island. Old Harbor's Russian Orthodox church. USFWS personnel wearing helmets inside the helicopter. Patrick

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2 1/2 Hours in a Floatplane

It was about a 2 1/2 hour flight each way in the float plane to the old village site that we mapped and tested. And I loved every minute of each trip. The trips gave me an appreciation of how close the Bristol Bay area is to Kodiak. It's only a low mountain pass away. I am so glad we flew direct from Kodiak to the other side of the Alaska Peninsula rather than flying commercial through Anchorage to King Salmon to Pilot Point etc. If we'd gone through Anchorage we would not have appreciated how Kodiak and Bristol Bay are connected.

Our pilot Rolan tells us that he rarely gets to fly so far. And it is worth noting that we've only seen him fill his wing tanks once before - when we flew to Chirikof Island. Usually when we take off he tells the Kodiak tower 'fuel for three hours'; this time he told them 'fuel for seven hours'. On the way there it was very windy (see clouds on bottom photo) and he told us how he tries to fly at different elevations to find the best tailwind. We found the most favorable tailwind was pretty much on the deck across the Shelikof. He told us that on the way home he had to climb up to 7000 feet to avoid a bad headwind.

On arrival near our final destination a local plane buzzed us and asked, rather aggressively, on the radio what we doing 'cruising around on such a windy day'. Over there no one recognizes Rolan's blue and white beaver. On Kodiak everyone knows who flies such and such plane, and that is probably true over there as well. We were suddenly the strangers from the Alutiiq world. Patrick

Over on the Far Side

I spent last week with Jill L and Mark R mapping and testing an archaeological site on the far side of the Alaska Peninsula. It's a totally different place than Kodiak over there. We left Kodiak in a float plane, flew across Shelikof Strait, and went through a low pass to the other side of the Alaska Peninsula at the head of Puale Bay. Suddenly we'd left the cozy Gulf of Alaska and had entered a totally different world. Huge lakes that look like the ocean, moose, caribou, big volcanos, and a flat, flat plain with Bristol Bay in the far distance. Hello Bristol Bay and the Far side of the Alaska Peninsula.

And it really is a totally different place. We noticed that on the flat plain there are very few places high and dry enough to build villages. Every high spot seemed to have had an old village on it. At our camp we immediately noticed the HUGE single room housepits. Totally different from prehistoric Alutiiq houses. No salmonberries or devil's club either. Even the birds were different. It took a while to get used to the prhistoric sounds of the sandhill cranes croaking away and walking about like turkeys on the flats. No more golden crowned sparrows singing 'oh dear me' - we had definetly left Kodiak!

Photos: Mark and Jill at sunset with Mount Chiginagak in the distance. Our camp. Mark standing in the middle of a really big housepit. Jill checking out the flats from the float plane - looking for old village sites and caribou! Patrick

Monday, June 08, 2009

Nora and Stuey Playland?

I am an archaeologists wife, and at times I forget about one of the perks of being married to an archaeologist. Being able to go along on a dig, live in camp, and do the things you would imagine on an archaeology trip. Since having kids, this vision has included little Nora and Stuey running around camp, playing in the out-take (back dirt) dirt pile, helping cook meals, playing pretend games, going on hikes, etc. Up until now, the kids have been too small to seriously consider taking them. When Patrick called from his most recent trip near Pilot Point on the Bristol Bay side of the Alaska peninsula, he said, "Maybe you could bring the kids out here next summer when we come back to do the more extensive survey". I liked the sound of this. Visions of campfires and camp life sprung into my head.

When Mark and Patrick returned, I asked Mark more about what the site was like, as Patrick was talking on the phone,

"So, is there beaches there that the kids could play on?" I asked Mark.

"Hmmmm. No not really. The deep banks of the hills go into a deep River." He replied.

"Oh. Well that doesn't sound all that great for kids. How about hiking? Is there good hiking?" I questioned.

"Well, lots of grass but there is lots of poshkie too," he informed me.

"Oh, great. You're really selling me on this as a good place to take the kids," I joked.

For about a day I was quite decided that it wouldn't be a good place for me to go with the kids for a week or so while Patrick is there for 4 weeks with a medium sized crew doing a full house excavation.

But then after watching Patrick download his photos, my mind was changed. Sure, there isn't an incredible beach for the kids to play on. Sure, there may be killer mosquitos. Sure, there may not be great hiking. But it is remote, absolutely stunningly beautiful and it would be the experience of a lifetime.
It just might be a perfect Nora, Stuey and Mommy playland!!


Photos: Scenics from Patrick's most recent trip.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Binky is Extinct!

The moment I've been waiting for has arrived...

Nora's Binky is gone permanently.

It all began with Wendy V. dropping off a double baby stroller for Nora. Nora was IN LOVE with it and immediately drove it around the house and put her dolls in/out. When Stuey set eyes on it, he wanted it as well. I insisted that Nora share the stroller and if she didn't share it was going away in my car. Nora disagreed with this idea, so the stroller went into my car--BYE BYE for the night.

The next morning, Nora asked "Mamma, Can I have the stroller" several times. I said, "yes you can have the stroller and you don't have to share it with Stuey if you give up your binky."
She didn't hesitate and said, "yeah, Mamma. I'm a big kid. I don't need my binky no more."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I asked her, "You understand then, that you won't have your binky at bed time tonight?" and she replied, "Yeah, Mamma. I"m a biiiiiiig kid.". I was in disbelief. Could it really be that easy?

I retrieved the stroller from my car and in came her stroller. Stuey fussed for a moment or two over it, but I distracted him with other toys. When Stuey and Nora were in the other room, I threw away every binky I knew of in the house.

Last night Nora cried for about 45 minutes, but I just laid with her until she fell asleep. All in all, its a fabulous move. For her teeth development, for her speech. She is beyond ready to say goodbye to it.

It was perfect timing to do while Patrick is out of town. He has an especially hard time resisting her cries for the binky. I think he'll be quite pleased that its all done with when he returns!

Thank you to Julie for nudging me that direction (and Ella too) and thank you to Bonnie for problem solving on how to get rid of it!!


Childbirth Reunion Class

Last weekend I hosted the first A Balanced Approach Prepared Childbirth reunion class here at the house. In attendance were 6 moms, 6 newborns, 3 dads, 2 toddlers and my little ones. Good times were had- It was amazingly mellow considering we had 6 newborns & 4 toddlers in attendance! There was actually very little crying!
Getting everyone together was even better than I ever could have imagined. I enjoyed hearing bits and pieces of different stories from their childbirth as well as parenting adventures. The moms with the 3-4 month old babies were amazed at how much bigger their babies were than the newborns! There is so much growth that happens in that time!
Nora and Stuey weren't completely thrilled when I would pick up some of the newborns. Stuey would race right over with a concerned look on his face and ask to be held.
I think it helps complete the circle, cycle-from childbirth class to birth to seeing the other moms and dads after and reflecting on it all. For myself AND for the parents. In standard hospital based courses, there often isn't a reunion for people and it leaves others wondering how everyone else did with their labors, birth and parenting.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

What is a doula?

Here is a clip on MSNBC about doula's (women who provide labor support)-
the use of doulas at birth is on the rise. It Nice to see the topic of labor support in the mainstream media!


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Visit with Mike and Alisa

Its 10 PM, the kids have been in bed for a couple of hours, dish washer, washing machine and dryer are all running. Now its time to have a few minutes to myself before heading to bed also.

Patrick and the guys made it to King Salmon area safe and sound Tuesday morning. I was mightily skeptical about the weather, but they made it! Patrick called and told me it was sunny and very windy there-and they saw a caribou herd on their flight in. I think this trip is especially exciting for Patrick, as it is a new region for him to learn about and explore.

I definitely don't blog as much as I used to. Partly because I'm busy, and when I have a moment to myself I like to be either walking the dogs or on the horizontal position on the couch for a while with no demands...(and a cup of tea (or wine) in hand). That said, writing can be very therapeutic as well!!

As of late, I have felt as thought I have nothing "blog worthy" to write about. Kids, work, kids, family, work....same old, same old. No real novel thoughts or reflections on life. Its funny how I started the blog and initially did all the writing and now Patrick seems to do the majority of the writing.
When Patrick posts, he has cool photos of bears, mountains, skiing, etc...with me its more plain. I need to get re-inspired and remember that every blog entry is just that-a blog entry. Not a masterpiece. Not a letter. Not a journal entry. Just a chance to write about things that are happening.

Last night I had a great visit with Alisa, Mike and Elias--who are here visitingfrom Australia. They are friends who lived in Kodiak for many years then sailed their sail boat, Pelagic, from Kodiak to Australia and are living there now. They started their journey 2 years ago. (We have their blog linked on ours)
Heather, Pete and their girls came over as well to catch up and we finished the evening with a quick banya. It was so amazing to see Mike, Alisa and Elias-and feel like how little time has passed. Yet amazing things have happened in that 2 years... they sailed across the world with a 1 year old boy, I opened my physical therapy business, people have gotten married, moved, had babies, etc....Gives me an appreciation for how much actually happens in two years time!

I so admire that they really followed their dream and did the sail trip to Australia. I remember when they were starting to talk about it as an idea to do and what a huge undertaking it seemed to me. Then bit by bit, they did what they needed to do to reach their goal. They seem so confident as a family. There must be something to knowing that you have survived the bare open sea for days on end that really brings depth to your family. I can't even imagine a comparable experience!
I look forward to catching up more tomorrow with Alisa.