Search This Blog

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bye Bye Sun?

I took this picture at sunset a few weeks ago near the start of our recent run of incredible weather. Today it is raining and it appears that our run may be at an end. It has been an impressive run - over 3 weeks of temperatures in the upper 20's, sun and quick snow storms. But today we are in the midst of a pineapple express - a big jet of warm air from the south.

Now we have to wait and see what sort of weather pattern gets re-established in its wake. Will we enter a period of rain, fog and warm weather like we had last year all January or will get weekly snowstorms followed by sun? Will I be cross country skiing down at sea level or will I be trecking up to Pyramid every day to go downhill skiing? Time will tell. I have my fingers crossed. Patrick

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The case for Un-groomed Ski trails

A few days ago while cross country skiing up the Buskin River a friend of mine stated, 'I'd much rather be here than at Kincaid'. The week before he had been skiing on the groomed trails at Kincaid in Anchorage. And he brings up an important point. Skiing on un-groomed cross country ski trails is more often than not a better cross country ski experience.

And what's funny is that un-groomed trails are not only more fun, but they make you a far better skier. When I skiied and raced on groomed trails in Wisconsin before I moved to Kodiak the best I could do in a 50K skate ski race was 2:42. I raced every other weekend, and took it very seriously. After I moved to Kodiak I could no longer train on groomed trails and I started to break 2:30 routinely. I improved my times almost 15 minutes after I stopped training on groomed trails!

I personally think this is also why Scandinavians are so much better XC skiiers than Americans (it's a sore point in the nordic ski community that they always win more medals than us in international events). In America to improve our youth at skiing and to hopefully win more metals at the Winter Olympics we create more youth programs and put the kids out on skiis on groomed trails with a coach every afternoon after school. In Scandinavia the kids XC ski to school, and go out and rip around in the woods and neighborhood afterwards. Americans love structured programs while Scandinavians just love to ski.

I've noticed when I go to Anchorage that the groomed trails are pretty much always perfect. On perfect trails a cross country skiier does not have to have great technique to move along at a good clip. Consequently, groomed trail skiiers never really have to perfect their technique. The other day I had to break in a skate ski track in 6 inches of snow with a wind crust on top - there was no groomed trail option. It was brutal but it taught me to use good technique, and I glided along slowly and after about 4 2K laps I had my own 'groomed' track. Without good technique I would have bogged down completely.

I'll admit it is easier to learn how to skate ski on a groomed track, but I think it is more difficult to get really good on groomed trails. Learning on un-groomed trails has a steeper learning curve but it forces a skiier to deal with adversity and have better balance etc. Sometimes when I peruse the Anchorage Nordic Ski forum I get the feeling that if skiiers up there see a footprint or stick on the groomed trail they fall down.

All that said, on occasion I love to go to Anchorage and rip around on the groomed trails. It's like ice skating on a highway with topography and tunnels thrown in. But eventually I get bored and run out of new trails to try. I'd far rather go exploring somewhere where the conditions are not perfect. I'll also add that I've noticed that some of Anchorage's best nordic skiiers seem to share my opinion about un-groomed trails - check out 'AK crust cruising' link on the sidebar of this blog. Anchorage does have the best of both worlds with great back country skiing and an incredible groomed trails system.

The groomed trail subject is a bit of a sore point with me because I hear over and over again how since Kodiak lacks groomed trails it has terrible cross country skiing. And since Anchorage does have groomed trails it is seen as a better place for nordic skiiers to live. Every time I enter a ski race in Anchorage people are amazed that I am from Kodiak. They always ask how I train without groomed trails. Anchorage does have better nordic skiing, but I think most of the skiiers in Anchorage under value the un-groomed nordic experience. Too bad for them because I think training without groomed trails available puts me at a competitive advantage when i go up there to race.

Photos: All are from the last few days in the Buskin River area.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Gifts

Last Saturday was one of the more memorable, special Christmas' we've had in a while. There were gifts of joy in many various forms...presents, time together, skiing and a birth!

The kids woke up at 6 very excited about presents. Santa gave Stuey some of his old toys back...ones that he had lost to the thrift store when he made bad choices. (In our house, toys go to short or extended time outs for bad behavior. It breaks the kids hearts to have this happen!) I kept the time out toys in a special spot for many months with the thought it would be fun for Stuey to get them back from Santa! Stuey was thrilled with the fact that Santa shops at St. Mary's Thrift store!

Stuey had a little line up of cars that he got from grand parents and the big gift for Nora was a little cloth mouse in matchbox-complete with a little pillow and blanet. The matchbox was a bit larger than an ordinary matchbox, but it was small none-the-less. Nora loved it. She played with "mousey" for 2 hours on end, as Stuey played with his new matchbox cars. It was very pleasing to not have piles of plastic toys--they each had their one new item (in Stuey's case, it was several cars in a row) to play with and their hearts were content. Santa brought them dyed play silks and the kids used them as capes and we wrapped them on their heads.

The weather hovered in the low 20's and Patrick and I took turns going for a ski on the Lake at Abercrombie. No one else was on the lake when I went and it took a good 10 minutes for my hands to warm up. The cold wind was biting on my fingertips.

I kept my cell phone close to me all day, as a birth client was in possible prelabor. Page, the midwife, could call any minute and we would need to depart.

As Patrick and I readied the house for dinner in the early afternoon, he predicted, "I bet the mom you're waiting on goes into labor at 3:35." I laughed and said, "Well its possible." Dinner was planned for guests arriving at 3 and dinner at 4. It was good to be frank about the reality that I may have to leave during dinner. This was something we discussed the night before and how it is important work to do.

At 3:15 PM guests started arriving--the midwife I'm assisting with and her husband were also in attendance at the party. They brought a lovely spread of goat cheese, smoked copper river salmon, crackers and jam. Other friends arrived and food was making its way in. At 3:42 the phone rang. Page and I had to leave-the mom we were waiting on was in labor. I changed clothes incredibly quickly and we flew out the door.

At 6:30 PM we were back at the holiday party after a Christmas day birth! The kids were all running around playing and Page and I made plates of food and relaxed.

It was a really a lovely Christmas day! Complete with family time, skiing, dinner and a birth!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Snowy Holiday

This week we've been blessed by snow during the holiday!

Here on Kodiak there has been great cross country skiing for some time now, and today we finally took the kids down the road to Ft. Abercrombie. (Last year the snow was so crummy, that I believe we only took them once in our slush filled driveway. And the year before Stuey was 2, Nora was 3, so it was very slow going.) Nora really enjoyed herself today. She had a smile on her face and went some distance (and down a little hill) on the skis.

Stuey went a good distance and then turned back-- Stuey went without his poles, as did I which worked well - less to think about. Since my cross country ski lesson in Anchorage, I"ve been doing lots of pole-less skiing, which has really helped with balance and weight shifting. As I ski, I have the instructors words running through my head..."kick, kick....weight off back leg.....arms against sides....". Instructor Lili is right there with me every step of the way!! :)

WIth the holidays, the kids have been excited...and asking questions about Santa, etc. Yesterday Nora asked, "So who gives Santa gifts?" And I explained that families leave him cookies and milk as a gift. She replied, "Mom, he must get fat from eating cookies all day!". She and Stuey really think about all the different aspects of Santa's life--how does he know where to start? Or where to go? I know that these years will pass fast and I'm enjoying the "belief in santa" aspect of the holiday. This evening Nora wrote Santa a letter (rather-she dictated it to me and I wrote it), then proceeded to pour a glass of eggnog for Santa, and leave a pile of Baby carrots for the reindeer. It made me happy to see that she was taking the reindeers appetite into consideration as well!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010


During the past year around Kodiak bottom trawlers caught over 40,000 chinook salmon as bycatch. Since they were bycatch the salmon were dumped over the side and most of them probably died. What's scary about this is that Chinook or King Salmon are in trouble. King salmon numbers are way down. Some rivers like the Karluk River on Kodiak have even been closed to fishing for the last couple of years. So what's with the trawlers catching a couple million dollars worth of these same fish and dumping them over the side to die?

In the picture above I am holding one of the 3 kings I caught last summer. By law I am only allowed to catch 5 kings a year when fishing on inland rivers, and really that is enough fish to feed my family. But you can bet your last dollar that if I caught 6 kings the troopers would be on me like white on rice. So why aren't the trawlers penalized for catching 40,000 extra kings? I have heard that this fall the trawlers continued to fish in an area of Shelikof Strait where they were catching lots of kings as bycatch. They made multiple trips to this spot even when they knew they would also catch a lot of kings. But why not?- no one is penalizing them for catching too many kings.

Trawlers are required to dump their bycatch over the side so that they cannot make a profit on it. But it is still a wasted resource. 40,000 kings is well over a 1/2 MILLION pounds of fish - more than a couple million dollars worth. That's a lot of wasted fish. I think trawlers should be required to process and bring all that fish back to Kodiak. All the fish should be sold and then ALL the money should be used as a sort of fish tax to pay for observers, salmon research, harbor improvements etc (anything fisheries related except lobbying). Cleaning, processing and filling their holds with all that extra fish would be a penalty of sorts for the trawlers and I bet they'd go out of their way to catch less bycatch. And none of the resource would be wasted either. They should also have to stop fishing when they catch a certain number too, say 20,000 kings.

Anyway, I've been trying to learn about the issue and while cruising the internet I have found a few fisheries related blogs that are worth visiting (all linked on the side of our blog here). I highly recommend checking out the video posted on the Tholepin blog.

Until you watch the video bycatch is just a word. But in the video you get to see a couple hundred dead and dying halibut unceremoniously dumped over the side as bycatch. Skip the first 3 minutes of the video and watch the end where you get to see the dead halibut floating away.

Other good blogs are:

Journalist Wesley Loy's blog 'Deckboss' is a pretty even tempered view of fisheries related issues.

A couple of other blogs are more biased against trawlers but seem to be pretty factual.

What's funny is that I could not find any good factual blogs presenting data in favor of the trawlers. Could someone please tell me their side of the story? Why are they allowed to continue to catch and throw away so much fish? Patrick

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Sky ate the Moon

Last night I watched the lunar eclipse for almost 2 hours - until it got to the point where I just had to go to bed. It really was like the sky was eating the moon. I took a time lapse video and it shows the moon just disappearing. But then I noticed that when the eclipse was pretty complete that the moon reappeared all red and very dim. This was REALLY, REALLY cool. Obviously it had been there all red all along and I could only finally see it because the bright rim was no longer washing it out.

I tried to capture it with this picture. This was one of those times I wished I had a zoom lens. But I did not have a zoom lens so I had to use my 'digital zoom' back on the computer (I cropped it). But I want to add that I only cropped it. I did not play with the colors, light levels, saturation, or anything. It's amazing what these new digital cameras can do, and I sure am glad they now have enough megapixels that I can crop them and still get the quality that I did get.

Maybe in another post I'll show the sequence, bite by bite, as the sky ate the moon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Icy driveway

This afternoon I went cross country skiing with Patrick, Gregg and Lisa against my will-sort of. I had to get snow time--especially with training for the Tour of Anchorage Ski race in March. It was really cold and blustery and the thought of exposing my body to the elements for fitness was less than appealing. But we drove to the buskin area and once at the trailhead met up with Gregg and Lisa. At that point, I couldn't back out. I had to go. So I mustered a smile and we headed down the trail. RIght away, I had a great time. Yes-it was cold, but we were moving quickly through the brush and trees and eventually to the frozen river we skiied down.
This was my second time skiing since my lesson in Anchorage, and skiing feels so much easier and faster now. Patrick remarked, "Zoya-you're skiing way better than you used to". It was good to know that the techniques I learned in the lessons are really paying off. Cross country skiing is much more fun than its ever been.

It seems like I"ve been on-call for birth work for almost 2 years non stop. Yes-there have been periods of time when I don't have a client, but this is a rareity nowadays. My new "norm" is to be on call. And I really don't mind it! Its funny, cause at any moment, I think "I could be called right now". The reality is that the majority of the phone calls come at night....:)

I've begun doing midwife assistant work with the midwife, Page Herring, who moved to town this fall. As her assistant, I help with set up, clean up tasks associated with, etc. Since Page moved here, there has been lots of women opting for home birth and I am shifting towards becoming a midwife in the next few years. This isn't a big surprise to close friends--as they see how passionate I am about birth and its a natural transition from the childbirth educator, doula, physical therapist, breastfeeding support roles I have in supporting women during the childbearing years.
It will take about 3 years to become a certified professional midwife, which will include attending 75 births, sitting for the national midwifery exam, completing a self study program (which I've already started) as well as taking neonatal rescuitation and submitting a file to the state for certification. Yes, its a long process, but not really daunting. I figure I"ll take it one chapter and one birth at a time and I'll be there before I know it! Helping moms and catching babies!


Oh, and our driveway is icy. Very icy. Like the rest of Kodiak! The other day Patrick somehow convinced me to take the dogs for a walk and I fell 3 times! No injuries, fortunately. Just a chance to practice laughing at myself.

Water Ouzel

On Saturday I participated in the Audubon Christmas bird count. This is an annual event where all the local birders spend a day counting and identifying all the local bird species that they can find. And every year it is my job to climb a mountain and find a ptarmigan. So this year at dawn on Saturday I was halfway up the North Sister looking for ptarmigan. It was a beautiful sunrise, but very windy and I did not stop and take a picture. After stumbling around in the snow for quite a while and seeing ptarmigan tracks everywhere I finally found 2 ptarmigan, counted them, and then headed on down the mountain to rejoin my team.

Later in the day I hiked down Pilar Creek looking for birds and found the pictured water ouzel. For the first few years that I did the Christmas Bird count John Mahoney always did it with me, and I think this was his favorite bird. To this day, whenever I see a water ouzel (A.K.A an American Dipper) I always think of John Mahoney. I know it as a 'john Mahoney bird'. And it is kind of a cool bird. It walks underwater along the bottom of creeks and looks for food. Right after I took this picture the ouzel flitted down into the creek and walked under the ice. Patrick

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Kodiak Sunset

I took this picture at just about 4PM Friday evening. The days are just about as short as they are going to get. We are down to 6 1/2 hours of daylight. But the light does linger for quite a while after the sun goes down. Today I went for a hike in Abercrombie after sunset and it was still pretty light out at 5:15. And this morning when I climbed a mountain before dawn (I was on the Audubon Christmas bird count ptarmigan SWAT team - more on this in another post) it was light out for a good two hours before I finally saw the sun.

My point is that while we may only get 6 1/2 hours of true daylight - we really get about 9 hours of 'civil daylight'. Not a bad deal considering it seems like we get 24 hours of daylight in the summer. As I see it, we come out ahead on the whole sunlight deal.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oh Holidays

Now that the Nutcracker is over, its time to get serious about the holidays...getting boxes off to long distance family, finishing up Christmas cards, and making cookies for neighbors. I"m taking 4 days off both Christmas and New Years weekend, which I"m looking forward to. On Thanksgiving, I had a 4 day weekend and it was so rejuvenating...
This time of year is always incredibly busy. Its easy to feel slightly overwhelmed inside, but I try to push it aside and remember that the thing that matters the most during the holidays is to be thankful for friends, family, health and the other details (boxes, gifts, etc) is all trivial. Sometimes during these two weeks of the year, it feels like time and holiday pressures are a snowball, going down hill, picking up speed and size...

Pictures are from the past week...of our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree (we got it off our Cliff in the backyard), Stuey mouse and Nora in her holiday dress that grandma gave her.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter in Kodiak

Buskin Lake is frozen and there is snow in the yard - whooo hooo. And it is supposed to stay cold for the next 5 days at least. Life is good. But it is funny - I checked the weather in Fairbanks and Anchorage, and they are in for some seriously frigid weather. Day time highs of negative 20 degrees type chill. Believe it or not, but that would be too cold for me. It is no fun to go skiing when it is that cold, and I doubt the kids would enjoy sledding much. When these arctic blasts push down from the North I am glad I live on Kodiak surrounded and buffered by the warm waters of the Gulf of Alaska. It is seriously cold on the mainland. Patrick

Sunday, December 12, 2010


We survived the Nutcracker. Sigh of relief.

Last night Patrick and I watched the show from start to finish while Sara F. was with the kids backstage. I was glad to go to the whole thing with Patrick, and both the kids were in the performance. This was Patrick's first time watching Nora and Stuey on the big stage, as during Peter Pan, Patrick was out of town.

Stuey loves the stage. He ate up every moment as a mouse...doing the exact motions the big mouse did and smiling. I think he has a knack for performing.
Nora enjoyed it also, and was more comfortable with her routine at the final performance. I asked her what she liked about being in the Nutcracker and she said, "everything".I think she liked being around friends back stage and getting into her costume the best.

I have some things to learn as a "dancer mom"...such as how to properly fasten Nora's hair back in a meticulous bun--as the other girls had. And on one of her performances, Nora was the only reindeer in pink tights...I forget to get her brown tights out of the closet. It is all those seemingly small details which make a big difference when you get the whole batch of kids together. With time, I'll learn. Nora and Stuey are excited about continuing dance classes next semester, which is good. Seems like the whole Nutcracker experience has only increased their love for dancing.

On a final note, I love community productions as the Nutcracker. It is so fun to see the local talent! What incredible choreographers and teachers there are for dance here. We have a good arts program and auditorium here on Kodiak!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Have Americans Lost the Art of Conversation?

Yesterday I went to an English as a Second Language (ESL) event at Kodiak College. The organizers wanted a few english speakers for the students to talk to and help them become more proficient at speaking English. So they asked me to come - I like to talk.

I went with low expectations anticipating an hour of painful 'my name is . .. .' and "I am from .. .' type conversations. Instead I spent an hour of delightful conversation with people from China, Japan, the Philippines, and even El Salvador. We talked about Imelda Marcos' shoes, dictators in developing nations, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, tuna fishing practices, bicameral vs parliamentary governments, the Ainu of Hokkaido Island, and even why the United States needs more viable political parties. All conversations were even keeled and all participants seemed to realize that nothing is simply 'black or white', but that there are always shades of grey.

I was shocked. Here I was talking to people who are just learning to speak English and I was having conversations at a level I would be hard pressed to equal if I gathered a random group of Americans together. What really amazed me was that the students already knew about each other's countries. I find your average American only knows about America. Try talking about the pros and cons of bicameral vs parliamentary systems of government to a random guy off of the street. He'd probably tell you that we just need less government, and how about how Sarah whacked that caribou. If you tried having a conversation about anything meaningful it would probably get polarized pretty quickly.

It also made me realize that perhaps America needs more and not less immigrants. Maybe they could teach us something.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Mosquitoes and Archaeology

Archaeology on the Alaska Peninsula this past summer....for 3+ weeks. I wasn't there but....
I LOVED LOVED LOVED editing this movie. It looks like it was such a great group of people with good times...despite the killer number of mosquitos and remote location of the dig. This movie was definitely a joint effort of Patrick and I--he did the initial cut of footage down to 9 minutes then I took it from there...including picking the music (my favorite part!!). Music on this one was challenging as the initial song I picked "The Outsiders" was rejected by You Tube. BUMMER!!


Monday, December 06, 2010

Two Hours with Lili

Last weekend I went to Anchorage for a VERY quick trip for a cross country ski lesson and to see friends and family. The trip in to Anchorage had some extreme turbulence--I was thankful the plane safely landed! And I"m not normally a powder puff about flying conditions...

On Saturday morning I woke up and met with Lili, a cross country ski coach in Anchorage. I found her name on the Nordic Ski Association Website under the "lessons" category. For the past several years, I have felt STUCK with my classic ski form. Patrick hasn't ever been able to articulate to me what I should do to change my form, so I go the same pace. I must admit--I was a little intimidated meeting Lili, as she used to be on the French National Ski team...but from her first warm smile, I knew things would be A-OK.

3/4 of the lesson was without poles. The whole lesson was in the stadium area at kincaid park--we didn't go on the trails at all. She took cross country skiing right down to the basics of kicking, balancing, arm swing timing, weight shifting, etc...I found that I got the feel of it then once I added the poles back in, my good form got lost.

By the end of the two hours, I was having so much fun cross country skiing! A smile formed across my face. Don't get me wrong..I've always enjoyed skiing, as its outdoors, with Patrick and a good workout. But have I always enjoyed it? Maybe not so much. This weekend helped add some spring to my form and I really started having a good time with it! Every time I fell, Lili would say, "good,good! That means you're really testing your balance and going over your ski enough!"

Can't wait for some snow in Kodiak to try my new skills on!


Friday, December 03, 2010

Snow and then Rain

Yesterday we woke up to 2 inches of glorious powder snow. Best of all it cleared off and got sunny and the powder stayed powder and did not turn to slush. After work I went skate skiing on a local pond (4rth photo down). And then when I got home I took the kiddos sledding. This is one of their favorite activities. We were hoping to do it some more of it today, but. .. ...

And this leads us to the second photo. In typical Kodiak fashion while it was clear and 20 degrees out when I went to bed it was 36 degrees and raining when I woke up. We've been socked with a rapidly developing storm. The wind is supposed to blow 50 mph today! The good thing is that at least we are getting snow on the mountains, but I do fear the sledding and skate skiing is done for the immediate future. Patrick

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

No Roses=Neglectful Parenting???

The Nutcracker is coming up soon. At the Dance Studio, there is a box with flyers next to it to BUY YOUR DANCER A DOZEN ROSES. The drop box for the forms is quite large, and there are huge stacks of forms next to the box. So every time I walk by it, I think to myself, "Am I being a neglectful parent by not buying roses for Nora when she is in the Nutcracker?".

Several people have asked me if I'm going to buy roses and the answer is no.

Roses need to be saved for very, very special star performances. For instance, if Nora is 9 or 10 and has a solo performance, then roses would be appropriate.

Sometimes I think these gifts to kids at such a young age does a disservice. I think the same of having preschool graduations with pomp and circumstance. Something about doing graduation 3 times before high school takes the special-ness out of the high school one. One would think, right? I know high school graduation felt darn special....for myself and my family. Do preschoolers or kindergarteners really appreciate the depth of a dozen roses? And do preschoolers really understand the depth of a graduation ceremony?
I tend to think no. But then, who am I to judge? I just know that Nora wouldn't know what to do with a dozen roses. I think I"ll take her for some ice cream instead-something that I know WILL bring a smile to her face.


Photo is an archive one...taken from an old memory card we just found!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 Family Video

Thanksgiving week was lovely--a four day weekend combined with good weather and friends visiting from Anchorage. I made a short 4 minute video of some highlights set to Stevie Nicks. Enjoy! video by zoya.

(the photo is of Patrick and Charlotte W. with a slice of Yorkshire pudding that Patrick made the day after Thanksgiving. Charlotte and her husband Lance were visiting from Kotzebue.) Zoya

Friday, November 26, 2010

Jewel beach

This holiday weekend our dear friends Bruce and Meghan flew over from Anchorage for a visit. Its been so fun hanging out with them--yesterday we went to the Buskin Beach and collected beach glass. I discovered this is a very favorite activity of we had to peel her off the beach when it was time to go. She got a very cool piece of red weathered beach glass! A very rare find.

The beach is well known for finding glass--much of it is from World War II when lots of old parts and lights were disposed of on that beach. For 60+ years the surf has churned the glass into little soft gum drop looking pieces.