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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Comings and Goings

The past two days have been filled with comings and goings...our next door neighbor, Len S. left the island today. He built the house next to us in the '90s and has been such a great neighbor, with his wife Paula. It was very bittersweet to say good bye to him yesterday...the passing of an era. Into his house moved our friends Rachel and Matt and their adorable puppy, Ramsey. They came over for dinner tonight and they settled into their place with their puppy.

Also coming is my sister and Patricks brother, Ella and Dicky. They came back to Kodiak yesterday after a 5000 mile trek from Maine. They are getting settled into their place as well! This morning Leo and Zeke came over and played with Nora and Stuey which was quite fun. Nora and Leo seem to really hit it off. Its funny because several years ago they could barely stand eachother. Now they seem to be on the same wavelength. Good times!


Len and Patrick in 2005 on a deer hunt here in Kodiak.
Ella, Dicky, Patrick and myself in May of 2002...Ella and Dicky had met during this weekend and started dating shortly after....

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dud Suds

During Bob's visit last weekend we went through all my old pictures and reminisced about the old days when used to come up to Kodiak every summer to do archaeology. Those were the pre kid and even pre Zoya days. Things were a little different.

I had totally forgotten about how we used to shoot rockets out over Mill Bay. Today I'd be totally PO'd if a neighbor did this, and on some nights the fireworks at nearby Mill Bay beach do drive us nuts (I've joked about taking a crying, sleep-deprived kid down to one of the parties at the beach and telling everybody that since we can't sleep we'd thought we'd hang out until the party ended). In the old days I was the jerk lighting off the fireworks! And note how short the spruce trees on the cliff edge used to be - today they are over 20 feet high.

During the summer of 1999 when Bob visited we were excavating at the Outlet site up on Buskin Lake and it rained every day. Every evening we'd get back to the 'Ponderosa' (our name for the house back then), light a fire the fireplace and drink bad beer. Another archaeologist, Ross, who was trying to fly out to Aniakshak on the Peninsula to do archaeology was weathered in town for a week. He came to stay with us at the Ponderosa and excavated with us in the rain every day at the Outlet site (until the weather cleared and he left). We decided to have a cheap beer contest (see top photo). So every night we bought a different 12 pack of cheap beer and then rated it. The commercial cheap beer varieties, and light beers were excluded.

We narrowed the cheap beers down to a final four and then had blind taste tests out of small glasses for the final event. Two female archaeologists, Kris and Jennie) on their way to excavate out on Sitkalidak Island joined us for this while Ross had already flown off to the Peninsula and left us. What is surprising is that the results were pretty consistent. Everybody liked Old Milwaukee and Olympia the best. However, the Olympia we were drinking came in small bottles ('dumpies') which we felt gave it a taste advantage over the canned Old Swill. So Old Milwaukee was declared the winner.

What's funny is that today Bob and Ross work together at an archaeology firm down near Seattle. But they first met at my house - drinking bad beer by night and digging in the rain by day. Patrick

Monday, June 27, 2011

Visitors & Goings On

The past two weeks has been filled with fun, food and friends! Bob, our long time friend and archaeologist from Seattle paid a business visit to Kodiak last weekend. He has come to Kodiak for digs since 1997. This time he stayed on a few nights here and we enjoyed a dinner at the Powerhouse with him! Since his trips in the 90s' lots has changed...Patrick and I are now married, hes married, we have two kids, he has two kids but the fun conversations and laughter hasn't changed a bit!
The other visitor was my friend Elke, and her two girls from Anchorage. She is a midwife from Anchorage and was here over a week. She has come to Kodiak several times in the past couple months and this time she brought her kids! Nora and Stuey had a ball...playing with her girls. We went to the beach and parks lots as well as cooking yummy dinners together in the evenings. Tonight they leave on the ferry.

My office manager at A Balanced Approach is back at work after her two week trip to is SO wonderful having her back. WIth her gone, I hardly had a free moment between answering phone calls, calling clinics back, scheduling clients, etc... Winona really is the glue that holds the clinic workings together--shes the best and its so great to have her back.


Myself, Elke and Bob
Patrick and Bob in 2003--community Archaeology
Stuey riding his bike--he has recently learned how to ride a pedal bike all by himself.
Nora and P. shuttling firewood to the fire pit!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I'm still skiing, and the other day when I hiked up to go skiing I got 'attacked' by 2 surfbirds. Lots of screeching calls and they came up to within 5 feet of me to do it. Obviously they were getting ready to build a nest.

It is a little weird to see a surfbird up on the tundra and in the snow because they are a bird you typically associate with the coast and the beach. However, surfbirds like rock sandpipers, and murrelets are birds that make their living by the sea but nest in the alpine tundra. Since they do not nest where they make their living like most birds do, it took years for biologists to figure out where they nest. The breeding habits of all these species was a mystery until relatively recently. Harlequin ducks are another coastal species whose breeding habits were long a mystery because they breed on inland streams.

So it is kind of neat to think that if I'd have observed and reported on the surfbirds 50 years ago I'd have been making a biological discovery of great import. And it has been interesting to observe the progression of their nesting behavior. The first time I saw them they were running around and calling over a large area and were particularly aggressive towards me. The last time I saw them only the male was running in front of me and the female stayed quiet and stuck to a particular area. I bet the male was trying to draw me away the nest. And the female remained quiet because she did not want me to find the nest.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Uncle Roger's Birthday

This summer solstice we had the pleasure of celebrating my Uncle Roger's birthday with him. Every year when summer solstice comes around, I think--its Uncle Roger's birthday--what a cool day for a birthday! (I have a soft spot for summer solstice...)
This year, we finally were able to celebrate another lap around the sun with him! Uncle Roger and Aunt Kathy are here for 6 weeks as the camp hosts for Ft. Abercrombie state park. They live in Florida and come to Alaska every summer. They just arrived and we had them over for a birthday meal with deer roast, cucumber tomato salad and rice--complete with birthday cake after. Happy Birthday, Uncle Roger!!! Looking forward to a summer full of adventures!! Zoya

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Green Up

I took these pictures Sunday morning during my daily ski on Pyramid. The snow is disappearing rapidly and the green is moving up the mountains at an alarming rate. Kodiak is sometimes known as the 'Emerald Isle', and in a month it should be living up to its moniker. But who ever came up with that nickname obviously did not spend much time on Kodiak because it is only an emerald isle for 2 months of the year - if that. Come late August the fireweed will be blossoming, the pushki dying back and the hillsides will start to turn brown again.

This year is a little weird because spring is a bit delayed. And yet we have a lot less snow up in the mountains than we normally do at this date. Normally I ski down the mountain on a tongue of snow that sticks down into a green, green land where all the golden crowned sparrows are singing and the sun is shining. This spring the sun has barely shone (I don't think it has reached 60 ydegrees in Kodiak yet!), and it remains brown at the end of my tongues of snow.

But it is finally starting to get green and super quick too! Patrick

The second photo is of the sun poking over the top of Pyramid in the fog. And the bottom photo is of the 350 vertical feet of snow that I am still trying to enjoy every day.

Postscript: I checked the weather stats for Kodiak and it has hit 60 3 times so far this year. On May 13th, 30th and June 2cnd, and never higher than 62 degrees. That's pretty cool!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Good Cop, Bad Cop---Crackdown time at the Saltonstalls!

Lately at the Saltonstall House we've had a stage of good kid/"bad" kid and good cop/bad cop.

Our kids tend to take turns being "good" and "bad"....One day its Stuey, the next its Nora. For some reason, the past month or so, its been particularly bad. Its exhausting--some mornings I think, (and sometimes say) "Can both of you please be in a good mood?". It really can be draining.

Patrick and I have been having "good cop/bad cop" challenges with parenting lately. He thinks kids should be locked in their bedroom when they're bad, I think they should lose stickers off their sticker chart and get toys taken to the thrift store.

Today we had an episode of Nora getting VERY upset after losing her small easter hello kitty to the thrift store--Stuey has lost lots of toys to the thrift store, but when it comes time for Nora to lose a toy, Patrick often comes to her rescue. He says, "Oh, Now Zoya, thats so mean..." and ends up coming to Nora's rescue and not letting me take the toy to the thrift store.

Today, I knew we had to follow through....I gave Nora several warnings and she had pinched Stuey. She needed to know that consequences really happen to her--she is 5 years old (close to 6) and I could see she was totally stunned to watch her hello kitty leave for the thrift store pile. She kept running over to Patrick trying to talk him into giving it back to her. I think he knew that we had to stand on the same ground (as hard as it was for him to watch). Ahhh....parenting. It is such a balancing act. From what I hear from friends, there often is a little "good cop, bad cop" syndrome in households with parents. We're still trying to figure out the balance in our house...I think for now we agreed that I shouldn't take any toys that are SUPER sentimental. I agree with that. He said it is the equivalent of taking away a puppy. Good analogy, Patrick! :)

The good news is that the rest of today went significnatly smoother and Nora seemed to be on better behavior--especially when I mentioned another toy possibly leaving...


Photos are from our trip to Ft. Abercrombie beach today. It was soooo picturesque. Flat calm. Sunny. Kids played in the sand and waded in the ocean (and Patrick even went swimming! Brrr!!!!)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Costa Rica 2006 with kid

Five years after our first trip we returned to Costa Rica married and with a kid. It was a totally different experience. It was also our first time 'traveling with kids' - something that actually got a LOT more difficult before it only recently started getting better. Back then the kids mostly slept on the plane and Zoya could supply their every need (daddy was not very important in this regard at all). Later in time the kids were mobile little terrors that could kick the backs of the seats in front of them. DVD players replaced Zoya in taming kids in flight and daddy became far more important. But in 2006 we only had Nora and it was pretty simple.

Our second trip to Costa Rica was with Nora. We went with my roommate from college from college and his family - 3 kids and a wife. I remember being horrified with the behavior of their 3 year old son. Little did I know I was seeing the future. Costa Rica 2006 was a blast--going from beach to beach, pool to pool with the kids. The weather was very hot so it felt so great to cool off in the water. Good food and lots of beer. The roads were still terrible but we noticed a lot new golf courses and McDonalds type restaurants that had not been around in 2001.

My roommate's wife is a doctor and she was concerned about the amount of meat I ate. I love the grass fed beef of Costa Rica and I ate steak for lunch and dinner every day - even breakfast. She made me promise to get my cholesterol checked when i got back to Kodiak. I got back to Kodiak and did check my cholesterol - I had more 'good' cholesterol coursing through my veins than the 'bad'. Just goes to show that Costa Rican grass fed beef is good for you! Right? Patrick

Costa Rica 2001 - without kids

Recently I was going back through and 'labelling' our old blog posts and when I got to doing the 'travel' label I realized that Zoya and I never posted on our trip to Costa Rica in 2001. 2001 WOW - that was 10 years ago! When I first looked through the pictures from the trip I was a little bummed we looked so young and was thinking about how much the kids must have aged us. And then I realized that this trip was almost 5 years before we even had kids - so long ago that aging a bit since then is not so bad.. .. . .

This was Zoya and I's first vacation together, and I am impressed that we did such a big trip less than 2 years (and a short break up) after meeting each other. But I guess 2 years at that age must have seemed like an eternity. Anyway, off we went to Costa Rica in November and stayed with my college roommate Tomas and his wife Anna. Tomas grew up in Costa Rica and runs a tuna canning company, and he is still living there with Anna and his kids to this day.

In 2001 Zoya and I had a great time. Highlights included a rafting trip on the Atlantic coast, birding in an alpine rain forest, driving on insanely potholed roads at high speed, and a fishing trip on the Pacific Coast. On the rafting trip we hung out with the other young couples who were vacationing without kids because none of us had had kids yet. I remember that one of the other couples was from Nashville while the other was from Argentina (I think). Zoya could not get the guide's name, Jorge, right. She kept on calling him 'hoare - hee' not 'hoare hay'. It was pretty funny.

On the fishing trip we caught sailfish and tuna, but the highlight of the fishing trip was when Zoya caught the rooster fish. I think the fishing guides were amazed that we let Zoya catch the fish all by herself. Patrick

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Dregs of Winter

This is a 'is the glass half full or half empty' type post. When thinking about what to write I came up with a couple of different titles - 'end of days', 'winter hangs on', 'summer snow', 'snow alive and kickin'' - I realized that they were all either sad about the imminent end of snow for skiing on Pyramid or happy just because the snow is still around to ski on. I'm happy that there is still snow close to town, but sad it will not be around for very much longer.

It must be said that on Kodiak one can ALWAYS find snow to ski on - I once skiied every month of the year for almost 10 years straight. But sometimes I did have to hike a LONG way to get to the snow. What's sad about losing the snow on Pyramid is that it means I can no longer go skiing after work. Today I left work, climbed Pyramid and went skiing, and returned to work less than 2 hours later. That's a pretty darn convenient exercise break.

Anyway, up on Pyramid we are down to a 350 foot vertical run with another 500 feet or so vertical more below that if you are willing to cross patches of snow free alpine tundra. And I think we only got a week or so left before it really isn't worth carrying your skiis up the mountain anymore. The sad thing is that this is pretty early for hanging 'em up. Last year we did not reach this point until late July, and I can remember skiing on Pyramid in August.

But hey, on the bright side, I am still on snow and hunting season is fast approaching! Patrick

Photo is of Dale ripping the north bowl of Pyramid on his snowboard yesterday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Garden Pretty Pathetic

Inspired from reading blog posts about other people's gardens (see Jowers Inc and Isiik's blog on our 'blogs of interest' sidebar) I decided to do a post about our garden, and on my way to the car this morning I took a few photos. Looking at them, and deciding which photos to post has gotten me a bit depressed. Everything looks weedy and VERY, VERY small. But I also know from past years that mid June is usually the tipping point. Get some sun in late June and everything in the garden takes off. By mid July my garden and Kodiak in general is a GREEN jungle. But in early to mid June a little of the winter brown still persists. Year in and year out the garden always looks small in mid June. (check 'garden' under the Labels section on the sidebar to see views of the garden at different times in years past).

My garden is usually at its peak in late July and then starts to tumble into overgrown lushness in August. I can't keep up with everything and the weeds start to take over and stuff starts to bolt etc. But the good thing about Kodiak is that we also have late falls and we usually continue to eat out of the garden until late October and even into November. Still right now it is early June and my garden looks pitiful.

In my defense about the weediness - I do keep the gardens covered with a light mesh to keep the birds (they love to scratch for worms), cats (use my garden for a litter box), and kids out. And the mesh makes it difficult to weed. Once everything gets established I take the mesh off and start to weed in ernest.

It also looks a bit weedy because i don't like to plant things in neat rows. But broadcast seeds over the whole raised bed to maximize use of space. In the top photo the entire left side of the bed is carrot seedlings and beats with some radishes at the far end and a few leeks on the right. The leeks were too small to harvest last fall and miraculously survived the winter so i replanted them in a row - let's see if they get big or bolt and go to seed.

In the second photo it is all mixed salad greens and mustard on the right and pod peas on the left. For lettuce I just continually thin my bed and harvest the largest lettuces. It keeps on filling in the holes and I am usually still harvesting lettuce into late October. It's so cool here in kodiak that I don't have to worry about it bolting. The third photo is of a few of my potatoes coming up. I use lawn clippings for mulch and will soon mound the potatoes and in so doing eradicate weeds. A lot of the space in my garden is allocated to potatoes and we usually end up with a few coolers full of tubers in the Fall.

Finally the bottom photo is of Stuey and Nora's plants in halibut totes. Radishes, lettuce and thyme and we also have parsley in another halibut tote. Once they eat the radishes I might plant a broccoli or two in a tote. This year is a little different in that I did not plant kale, broccoli or swiss chard like I usually do. But it seems every year we join one of those organic vegetable co ops and always end up awash in kale and swiss chard. So this year I am not planting any swiss chard or kale. Patrick

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kid Quotes

Kid Quotes

"If I grow tall, I can be a mom" -Stuey

"How can we get those rain sticks?"-Stuey upon pointing to the roof. I was very confused for a while, then realized he was talking about icicles! He wanted to lick an icicle! This was in April, however...

"Heres your pony nails"-Stuey upon handing me pony tail holders

"Wow mom! That was a great ride!" -Nora upon getting out of the shower with me. Simple pleasures, evidently!

"Water hurts my breath"-Stuey, after drinking water much too fast.

"Mom, how do you write, 'Welcome to the world, little sweetie pie'?"-Nora, after I was at 2 births, she wanted to make little cards for the new babies. She gave them the cards with carrot sticks in bags.

I asked Stuey to name the teacher he wanted to write a card for. He couldn't think of her name. I asked him to describe her. His face lit up and he said, "yeah mom. I can describe her. She has a neck, and legs and arms." He was very serious.

Karluk River Scenics and Inland Wood

The scenery and light for our trip down the Karluk River was often spectacular. Even though it did rain a lot, even on the worst days, the sun usually made a brief visit. Those brief visits were all the more spectacular both due to their unexpected nature and to the spotlight effect with the dark clouds all around.

I took the top photo because you often hear people asking what the Alutiiq used to build their houses up on the Karluk, Ayakulik, Olga Lakes and at other inland villages on Kodiak. No one ever believes me when I tell them there are plenty of trees in those areas suitable for house construction. So I took a picture of some cottonwoods with the river behind them to prove it.

Back in 1985 when I first worked on the Karluk River other archaeologists told me that they probably had to float driftwood logs up the river to build their houses because - 'there are no trees up there'. Well they were wrong, and having just floated the river I also know that floating enough logs to build a house 25 miles up the Karluk would've been darn near impossible - certainly extremely impractical.

On our surveys we use a woodstove in our teepee, and so we are always on the lookout for wood. We've found that willow, cottonwood, and alder are our favorite fuels. We do not like black birch which is supposedly the best of the lot - it is too finicky and takes forever to get burning. Willow is plentiful, dries VERY quickly and is ready to use in the stove after an amazingly short time. Cottonwood makes GREAT coals and often burns all night. Alder burns hot and also makes great coals, and green alder can be dried in a day - if split - when it is sunny.

Prehistorically I think the Alutiiq had plenty of wood available for house construction, smoking fish, and to keep their houses warm. They certainly did not have to go to the coast to get driftwood! But we can check to see exactly what they did use. On this survey we saved some charred charcoal from a roof beam in a house that burned down. We could identify the species of wood and know exactly what was used in the construction of that particular house. We could also identify the charcoal from the hearth fires and determine what wood they used to heat their houses. I bet they used willow and alder in the hearth and cottonwood, alder or black birch for house construction. I doubt we'd find the remains of any fir trees (driftwood), anywhere up there. Now to check my hypothesis! Patrick