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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Final Penguk Pics

This is it - the last pictures I'll post from Penguk - I promise. Deer season starts tomorrow and the Community Archaeology dig starts on Monday, and so the continuing events of summer put the mosquitos of Penguk into the past. It already seems like it was all a really long time ago. But before we put it to rest I thought I'd post these last few photos of our life in camp.

The top photo is of Ryan wearing his grass skirt about to swim across the King Salmon River. Note the pepper spray on his hip if you dare look that close. While at Penguk we tried to escape camp a few times and go for hikes. These hikes became known as 'Escape from Penguk' and were numbered in order with roman numerals like bad horror movies serials. The third photo is a group shot escaping across the tundra from 'Escape from Penguk II'. By the time Ryan came to camp we had sort of given up on the hikes. With flat tundra all around there really was no place to go - no destinations. So we sent the raft home on the resupply plane that brought Ryan to camp. If there was no place to hike to, then we did not need the raft to cross the river.

But after we had backfilled the site and had a day in hand until the plane came to pick us up, Ryan and I decided to give a good hike one more try. Our goal was a low hill about three miles downriver that had another Norton Village on top. It is on the other side of the river. No problem, we thought, we will swim across! The river is actually pretty wide and we ended up crossing it in segments - swimming from island to island. The hike ended up as a slog with the wind at our back and a cloud of mosquitos in our faces. Stripping down to swim the river was painful because of the mosquitos. And the water was very cold. Our dry bag backpacks acted like life jackets and kept us afloat. Escape from 'Penguk IV' lived up to its billing.

About the best thing about our camp was our teepee cook tent with wood stove (see second photo). Nothing like a woodstove to keep up camp moral. In the evening we would all sit around it and heat up water on top and drink tea, talk and read. It was our communal experience.

We also had a banya for bathing (see fourth photo). My brother designed it and had it custom sewed up for him by sailmaker he knows. It ended up working extremely well, and we could get it almost as hot as the banya here at home. Getting good and clean every few days was also good for camp moral.

Finally, we did have good fishing at Penguk. There is a reason the river we stayed on is called the King Salmon. But I must admit I was amazed at the size of the king salmon we caught - they were tiny for kings. But just about the perfect size to feed a crew of six with one vegetarian. Patrick

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Penguk Wildlife

I thought about adding a picture here of Ryan in his 'grass skirt' about to swim across the mighty King Salmon River, but decided that I'll stick to the non-human wildlife at Penguk. And Ryan technically is human. I'll leave the Ryan 'in his grass skirt' photo for my next (and last) post about Penguk - the camplife post. I promise it'll be my last Penguk post.

Anyway - what post about Penguk wildlife would be complete without something on the mosquitos. So check out the video I posted to YouTube at the bottom. Originally it was about 2 minutes long of a mosquito engorging herself on my blood (and yes, it is female and NOT male mosquitos that suck blood), but I sped it up and all the people talking sound like gerbils. It's worth watching if you don't like mosquitos.

Penguk did have great wildlife. Amazing flowers (top photo is of Lupin), and astounding amounts of waterfowl. Every lake had a few swans nesting on it, sandhill cranes were literally everywhere, and we had both red throated and common loons flying over camp. Red throated (we called them 'red necked') loons make the most amazing honking noise as they flew up and down the river. Early on it was all godwits - HUGE flocks of the squawkers flying overhead and walking about the exposed tidal flats in the river. Later on during the project they disappeared and I wondered if they migrated on to somewhere or just finished nesting.

We also had visits from moose, wolves, caribou, foxes and bears. We never saw the wolves but did find their tracks (fourth photo) and heard them howling at night. Early on we found the tracks of just about every species of animal mentioned above in the mud by the river below camp every morning. But by the end of our stay all the animals were avoiding our camp. I only know this because on the second to last day I did cross the river and I was amazed by the amount of tracks on the other side. I suddenly realized that all the animals had been swimming the river on their way up or downstream to avoid us!

Finally, what post about wildlife in Alaska is complete without the requisite bear photo (second from top)? We did have our bears, and this little guy did hang out near the latrine for a few days. You can tell in the photo that he's 'a bad boy'. We never did drive him away, and the girls had some exciting moments on the way to the latrine. Eventually he just faded away and we never saw him again. But the girls DID continue to go 'hey bear, hey bear' everytime they went to the bathroom. Patrick

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quesadillas on a woodstove

Today Stuey, Nora and myself got a small taste of what camp life is in the field...without having to endure killer mosquitos on the Alaska Peninsula! Patrick set up the tee-pee cooktent and he made dinner for us on the little stove inside. Outside, the temperatures hovered in the mid 50's. Inside, the tent was warm and filled with the scents of freshly cooking bean and pepper quesadillas.
I said to Patrick, "Now I see how you survived out in the field for so long. This is quite nice and warm!". Patrick talked about how the woodstove and fire really provided a mood boost for the crew in the evenings and that it was better than everyone going to their own tent right after dinner. If the winds were strong or if it was raining, they were able to find solace in the tee-pee. This tee-pee is a much smaller version of the one they use in the field, however.

Nora is looking forward to camping on the lawn in the next few days, so Patrick will set up the sleeping tent for her and Stuey to camp in. He said he'd sleep with the kids, which I was thrilled with--as much as I love camping, I don't sleep as well as when I'm in my own bed.


Going, Going. ... .. .

The snow is disappearing quickly up on Pyramid, but I'm surprised at how long it has lasted. I thought my ski season was done for the year back in early June when we left for Maine. I knew then that It would be another 6 weeks before I returned from my archaeological excavation on the Alaska Peninsula and could go skiing again. I sort of assumed that there would be no snow on Pyramid when I returned. And I was wrong!

I've been skiing after work every day, and it is almost August. And not a bad run either - about 350 feet vertical. Last week there was just a short patch of grass to cross and you could ski another 400 vertical or so. But as you can see it is almost gone (those are hikers sliding down on top for scale). The left (skiier's right) part of the run melted out yesterday and the other side has only a few days left. But with Community Archaeology and the beginning of hunting season starting next week, the ski season would be ending for me anyway. I know that if I really wanted to I could go a bit further into the backcountry and ski all year round. This year there is lots of snow back there. Patrick

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Full Moon Goddess Party

Yesterday was July's full moon, which signifies the monthly goddess gathering. On the full moon, women get together, share in food and drinks and they get their "goddess card", which they keep for the full month. The goddess card comes from a pack of cards, and each woman draws one card randomly and the person next to them reads about the meaning of the card from a book.
There are cards relating to various goddesses and the various meaning of the cards include topics such as taking risks, nurturing, prosperity, education, etc...
The party brings a fun, diverse group of ladies together every month and the goddess party on the full moon day, even if it is in the middle of the work week. The location rotates every month and last night was the first time I have hosted it. The banya was lit and 4 of us took a banya at the end of the party (it was quite hot...150 deg! Wow!!) I joked that it was a "full moon" goddess party...he, he.

This tradition was brought here by Genevieve C. who moved here from Dutch Harbor over a year ago. During the party we talked about how it was neat to think of ladies together in Dutch Harbor having their goddess gathering at the same time as ours.

The Goddess cards and full-moon timing of the gathering give it a different feel than other well as the fact that it is a ladies only event. People hold onto their cards between parties and put them on their fridge, or in their car. "Abundantia" is my goddess card this month and it hangs on my fridge until the next full moon on August 24th. At that goddess gathering, I'll add it back to the stack to be shuffled in for the next draw of a goddess card.


Monday, July 26, 2010

What we found at Penguk

At Penguk, the most important discovery was the enormous variety in structure types that we uncovered. We excavated parts of at least 10 structures and almost all of them were built differently or contained different types of features from each other. Seven of the structures are about the same age and from the late Norton era (around AD 500). Another 2 might be early Norton and we also tested a late prehistoric multiroom house (Kodiak style house). The variety of contemporary structure types indicates that the Late Norton people were doing a lot at the site. They were building HUGE houses, banyas (saunas), different types of processing structures (perhaps for smoking fish and processing caribou?), and even little special use structures. Judging by the number, size and variety of structures I would guess that at around AD 500 up to 300 people lived at the site for all of fall, winter and spring. This was not a seasonal camp, but a full on village.

Previous excavations at Norton Tradition sites have tended to be small in scale and have consisted of trenches through structures. They focused on 1 or perhaps 2 of the structures found at a particular site. I am proud to say that our excavation was HUGE. We opened up 97 square meters and probably moved around 100 cubic meters of dirt. That's a lot of digging for 6 people! And yet I'd still say we did not dig enough. I like to excavate enough structures at a particular site so that I can start to recognize house and structure types. What's a typical house at a particular site look like? We found at least 7 different types of structures and only excavated 2 types that seem to duplicate each other. Basically we learned there is a HUGE variety of structure types in the late Norton, but we did not dig enough to learn all about them. We will, however, learn more when we analyze what types of artifacts we found in each structure. We will learn what they did in each structure.

The top photo is a collage of drawings from my notes. The top 2 parts of it show how I interpret the 'banya' that we found (third photo) and 'Mary's house' (second photo). Mary is sitting on the bench at about the same place where I put a stick person in my schematic view of how I interpret her structure. The fourth picture is of a HUGE bermed house (walls of stacked sod over 6 feet high and 10 feet wide) with benches all around and a tunnel entrance in the corner (where jill is squatting for scale). And finally the bottom photo is of Molly with a bell-shaped, clay-lined pit that she found in the corner of a structure we believe dates to the early Norton. The clay pit was 70 centimeters deep, 120 centimeters wide at the bottom and only 40 wide at the top! We also found a thatched roof processing structure where the Norton people had used gravel as part of the processing process, another structure that had a flat roof capped with dirt and grass that burned down and I believe was for smoke processing, and finally another that had a 'peaked' sod roof.

Wow! Now I guess we got to dig a bunch more at a Norton Tradition site to begin to understand this huge variety. But I'll leave that to the archaeologists who usually work on the Alaska Peninsula. I think that in the future I'll stick with mosquito-free Alutiiq Tradition sites on the Kodiak Archipelago! Patrick

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beauty on the other side of the peninsula

After describing my month at Penguk as a sojourn on an island in a mosquito infested swamp I feel compelled to add that when the sun came out it was often very beautiful. Snow capped volcanos loomed over us, wildlife was all around and the clouds often seemed too too close. We could hear the constant croaking of sandhill cranes, the honks of red-throated loons, wolves passed by the site, and we were visited by the occasional bear. All the while the green green plains stretched far out into the distance, and the river flowed to the sea.

Photos: Top photo is of some weird clouds and the volcanos that lay between us and home on Kodiak. Second photo is of Catherine contemplating a sunset over the King Salmon river. Third photo is of Ryan in a grove of cottonwoods at the end of a 'destination hike' - we had hiked 3 miles across the swamp to visit another hill that had trees on top. Fourth photo is of Molly, Mary and Catherine at 6 AM on their way to the top of Penguk to watch for wolves before breakfast (they did not see any). Bottom photo is of camp with the teepee woodstove running - ready for a warm breakfast.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Buskin Staycation

Last night we went camping at the Buskin Beach. Nora and Stuey have been wanting to go all summer and we figured it was best to go before hunting starts and Patrick disappears to the mountains to chase deer!
I loved the addition of the blow-up mattress. THe only bummer was that the little blow up motor thing that came with it required batteries (which we didn't have) so we had to blow it up over the course of 1/2 hour. Bless Patricks heart...I think he almost hyperventilated. The sacrifices he makes for his wife... :) I slept so much better than on camping trips last year. I woke up only moderately tired as opposed to extremely tired.

After setting up the tent and eating dinner, we went to Buskin Beach and Nora did some fishing. Didn't catch anything, but Nora loved the whole scene of casting and reeling in. I love seeing the smile on her face and enthusiasm about fishing with Patrick. Stuey wants his own fishing rod now....may have to get him a little kid one this fall sometime.

We did "plug-in parenting" after the beach walk and dinner. The kids got to watch a movie on the little DVD player in the tent. They were EXTREMELY excited at the prospect of this, as they don't use the mini dvd player unless they are traveling. THis gave Patrick and I a couple of hours around the warm camp fire enjoying the evening and talking. It was a nice few shared moments together after a very busy past month.


Quick Trip to Ivor Cove

Today I woke up with Zoya and the kiddos in a tent at the Buskin River campground, ate breakfast at King's Diner and then was at the floatplane dock by 9:30 AM for a floatplane trip to the south end of Kodiak. Molly, Ryan and Catherine accompanied me on a quick archaeological survey of a BIA alotment at Ivor Cove. The weather was a tad ugly, but what a place. Beautiful white sand beaches and granite bedrock outcrops. So beautiful that you would have thought that there just had to be archaeological sites everywhere. But funnily enough we found nothing. It just goes to show that natural beauty is not necessarily a predictor for archaeological sites. Not like places where you can find lots of stuff to eat, or good places to land a kayak - those ARE places where you find archaeological sites. Patrick

Friday, July 23, 2010

Penguk Artifacts

Not all was bad at Penguk. The archaeology was fantastic! Huge houses and many different types of structures (more to come on this in a later post). But what I particularly liked to find was all the chipped stone tools. On Kodiak we don't usually find much in the way of chipped stone tools - it's usually all ground slate and cobble tools. So it was pretty cool to find chipped stone lances, knives and sideblades on a fairly routine basis. A great many of the chipped points were tiny (see top photo with wild geranium blossom for scale) - some were the size of my finger nail. I think these points might have tipped arrow shafts. We also found large lances, and the sideblades that would have been inset into the shafts of spears. Another common find was pottery (that's what Molly's holding up in the 4rth photo down).

For the most part we found the standard artifacts one would expect to find in a 1500 year old Norton culture village. The artifacts are typical Norton. However, we did not find any ground slate. Why no slate? Late Norton sites usually have some ground slate. Also the houses we excavated our much larger than the typical houses associated with Norton - more on this in the next post! Patrick

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Escape from Penguk

I'm back from Penguk! I escaped so to speak. For the last month I have been running on Archaeological excavation at Penguk ('little hill' in Yupik and Alutiiq) on Bristol Bay on the other side of the Alaska Peninsula. The mosquitos were awful, and basically we were situated on an island in the middle of a HUGE swamp. Surprisingly enough camp moral was pretty high the entire time, and I only realized how bad it had been when we were flying home. We left the drab, flat and boring, windswept Bristol Bay side of the Peninsula and came home to Kodiak. When I saw the green hills and indented coastline of Kodiak I suddenly realized what I had been missing all summer - why on earth would anyone ever want to leave Kodiak? Kodiak is heaven on earth compared to the other side of the Alaska Peninsula.

Anyway, the mosquitos were so bad that I learned all about head nets. All the women on the project looked like they were wearing burkas, and we even learned a bit about 'head net chic' (see Mary posing with her headnet set at a rakish angle in the bottom photo). I learned that mosquitos are attracted to black colors, and I got a HUGE kick stoking the stove in our cook tent to extreme heat and watching the mossies drop like flies dead. At the end of the project I scooped up a full cup of dead mosquitos out of the bottom of the Coleman stove. It was bad. And worse yet there was no where to go - we were surrounded by swamp.

Good thing the archaeology was FANTASTIC! More to come in another post. Patrick

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stitches for Nora

Today Nora got her first stitches. It was one of those slow motion moments with Nora on her bike trying to make a tight corner in our driveway. When I took a look at her chin, my stomach sank, as it was quite a gouge and I figured that stitches were probably in order. She saw Dr. Kristen Frank at the community health clinic who was great with Nora and did a fabulous job with the stitches. 3 stitches later, her cut was very well approximated and I appreciated Kristen's thoroughness with the job---especially considering the "boo-boo" was on Nora's face.

Before the doctors visit, I warned Nora that the doctor might have to do a little, "pokey, Pokey" with a needle to help her face heal. Nora did not like knowing this--in hindsight I wish I hadn't tried to prep her. Nora would occasionally cry saying, "no pokey, pokey, mom" I re-assured her that if there was a gel or spray that could be used to help her numb her chin, it would be used.

In the photo, you see Nora with a cotton ball soaked in lidocaine to her chin. It seemed to help take some of the edge off but the doctor did end up needed to do shots of lidocaine. During the stitches when Nora was not thrilled and wanting to move, I told her make-believe stories. Nora was Captivated and looked up at me as I made up stories on the spot.

Its one thing to tell make-believe stories to kids in the privacy of your home-and completely another with two strangers right there. I kept thinking, "this must sound really silly"...but hey-whatever works! It kept Nora a bit happier for those few minutes. I told stories about an imaginary family going camping at busin beach and about a lady named Lucy who lived on top of a mountain by herself.

About 24 hours ago, I finished out at a 30+ hour doula client shift with a mom and her husband. Sometimes after long labors, I am wiped out, but I don't feel that way today. I ate well yesterday and took several short breaks out of the hospital which really helped the 30+ hours. A friend of mine asked, "When you know you're heading into a birth, what do you do? How do you prepare youself?". I knew a day or two in advance that this client was being induced, and often inductions take a while, so I ate healthy foods, drank more tea than normal and filled up on water. I think it all helps me keep my energy up for the long days (and nights). Jenni F., who watches the kids this summer, was with the kids for a 24 hour period and she is so fabulous with them. She took them to the beach, park, ice cream cones, etc during the sunny day I was at the hospital. The kids hug her whenever she leaves and they enjoy her.

Patrick comes home in 4 days and I'm completely thrilled! A few people have asked if the time has gone by fast, and I"d be lying if I said, "yes". It has been a long month...not bad...just long.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Waiting.Exercising in the driveway.

3 weeks down, 1 to go till Patrick gets home. We miss him. The last 10 days we've had houseguests, which has made the time go by much faster. There are other adults around the house--people to eat dinner with in the evenings and talk about the day. It really has made the time go by faster. Patrick calls from the field every few days and he sounds good. Patrick and Mark have been suffering from some back pain, so they are excited to have the help of Andrew and Ryan, who are taking a plane out to join them tomorrow at the site and help excavate.

Andrew is Catherine's husband (catherine is an archaeologist at the site) and is an astro-physicist. He arrived yesterday and is waiting for a good weather window to heat out to the Archaeology site, In that time, he has created the most incredible Thomas the Train Track creations that I have ever seen.

In about an hours time yesterday, he created a track which used tiers of wooden blocks for supports and it created two large hills for the trains. STuey said, "This is so cool" over and over again.
It has been interesting talking to Andrew about his job-he is an astronomer and professor at Boston University. He studies the smallest types of planets and uses physics to solve the question of how old the planets are. He says he is always having to think outside the box and come up with new equations or new ways of looking at his questions about planets and age. I love hearing about other peoples jobs--and especially one which studies stars and uses large amounts of physics. College level physics just about did me in--and almost prevented me from going on to physical therapy school, so I always have a slight grudge against the equations referring to planets spinning around eachother and gravitational forces, etc... I remember having to answer those questions in my physics class and I'd think "when in the world am I ever going to have to answer these questions again..." Taking those exams and studying physics was one of the hardest academic undertakings I"ve ever gone through. I'm glad its done with and I'm now able to be a physical therapist!

This evening the kids were outside going up and down the driveway on their bikes and I was just standing there watching, and occasionally helping Nora. I had to seize the exercise moment to do some squats, plyometrics, and downward dogs in the driveway. I kicked my flip flops off and did a variety of exercises and felt like I got a good workout. Whenever I heard a car comign down the road, I would jump out of whatever I was doing and stand like normal. It actually felt really good to have my bare feet on the earth and made me realize how I should walk around barefoot more often!

This past week I found out my office manager, Christina is moving to Dutch Harbor in 2 or so months. Her husband is a state trooper and he is getting transferred there. She (and I) are quite bummed, as she has really gotten into her job at A Balanced APproach and likes Kodiak. The good news is that I don't have to go through another application process, as I asked someone who was interested prior and they would like to take the job. So thats a relief. It will mean another office manager orientation period, but thats ok.
I can't imagine moving to Dutch Harbor. It is WAY out there and at least an $800 trip from Anchorage (and several hour airplane ride with bad weather). Patrick used to say, "if there was one other place in Alaska I'd want to live, it'd be Dutch Harbor." I went to the Visitor website for Dutch Harbor and the pictures are gorgeous. It is absolutely stunning. I suppose if I had my kids and Patrick, all would be well and I would be fine. Makes me appreciate how neither Patrick or I have jobs where we could suddenly get transferred. We're here for the long haul.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Meghan and Bruce's wedding

Last weekend on July 4th, our friends Meghan and Bruce were wed here in Kodiak! Many folks from Anchorage flew, ferried (and sailed!!!!) in to Kodiak for the festivities. The ceremony was just gorgeous with personalized vows to each other that were complete tear jerkers. The older I get, the more of a sap I become at weddings. The weather was clear for the ceremony, which was such a blessing because the past month has been a string of rainy days. The wedding and reception was held at Fort Abercrombie and an amazing potluck spread of food followed the servied. Grilled black cod, smoked salmon, Cold Thai noodle dish were only some of the incredible dishes there.

After the reception a few folks came back to our place and at around 11:30 we took a banya which was a great way to end such a fun, festive day.

There are 5 of Meghans family at our house which is really fun. There is lots of laughter and everyone cooks together and helps with Stuey and Nora as well.

Stuey has become the local paparazzi with my camera. He walks around asking, "Can I take your picture" and then he shoots away. He had my camera for the bulk of the wedding and reception and got some pretty funny shots of people. I"m amazed by how steady he is able to hold the camera and look into the view finder.