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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Anchorage! (and back, for some....)

On Sunday the kids and I flew over to Anchorage for the week.

Stuey was sent home on a plane Monday afternoon by himself. His first unaccompanied Minor trip. Stuey made several bad choices, the last of which was running away from my mom in Fred Meyer. The store called a "Code Adam" (missing child) on him. "Boy in striped shirt and blue shorts missing." Shortly after I heard the intercom, I saw Stuey race around the corner with a gleam in his eye. He had run away from my mom and I knew right then that he had to return to Kodiak.

Within 10 minutes of us returning to the car, I had his return reservation made. I had to step outside the car to be able to hear the agent...Stuey was inside the car sobbing and crying, begging for me to change my mind.

When I brought him to the airport yesterday, he did ask a few times, "What can I do to earn my trip to Anchorage back?" I said, "Stuey, its too late. You made bad choices by not listening to people and now you have to go home." He wasn't as sad as I thought he would be. As I handed him off to the gate agent,  he didn't cry and he smiled big and waved as he approached the plane. Several times. There wasn't any separation anxiety there.

Then last night when I called him, he sobbed and said, "I miss you mommy. I can't stop thinking about you, mommy". It was heart breaking on some levels, but then on several other levels, very good for him to realize that this is the consequence for his bad behavior.

It was a week of bad listening that led to his send-home back to Kodiak-not just the Fred Meyers incident. Fred Meyers was the icing on the cake. (And seems like I always have bad incidents with the kids in Fred Meyers. Bummer cause I love the one-stop nature of that store.)

He'll spend the rest of the week in Kodiak with Patrick and Nora and I will finish the week out here in warm Anchorage. I'm having a blast relaxing, shopping and catching up with friends and family.

Stuey getting a quick trim before heading back to Kodiak! 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Farewell to Friends

End of July....

Visiting biologist friends, Spencer and Nicole are wrapping down their summer field work in Kodiak. (They study intertidal zone and the food web that makes up the gulf of Alaska)

We first met them last summer and they were so fun and kind. I took an immediate liking to them.  Spencer made a great homemade salad dressing, Nicole and I went on walks and shared laughs over dinner and wine.  And both were so patient and fun with Nora and Stuey. And there was always so much  laughter when they are around.  There are some people when they come into our home, a lightness of spirit comes, and they are like that. 

This summer completes Spencer and Nicoles' field work and they return to Seattle (Spencer) and Fairbanks (Nicole). Spencers wife, Sara, came to town today to visit and we had a grown up meal out at the Powerhouse. Followed by after dinner walk on near island. No wind to speak of, high bright clouds and we saw puffins nesting on the cliffs. 

Spencer, Nicole, Patrick, myself and Sara

Near Island Beach

Friday, July 26, 2013

Community Archaeology Week Wrap Up

Small multiroom house - 300 year old seasonal fish camp

The first week of community archaeology is history and we have already excavated a house.  Generally  we dig and dig and finally uncover the feature of the dig near the end of the project.  But not this year. - this year we had a house waiting for us directly beneath the Katmai ash.  We finished with the house the day before yesterday and have spent the last 2 days tearing down the walls and figuring out the site's stratigraphy (how all the different layers are related to each other).

Today we found a grooved splitting adze in the house wall.  Such adzes are only found in late prehistoric sites and were used to split logs for making planks.  The find confirms that the small multiroom house is indeed from the late prehistoric period.  Dani also found a small chipped point in the house wall, but this point stylistically is clearly older than a 1000 years.  It looks like the inhabitants dug up the dirt from around the house and built up the walls, and in doing so they dug up older material.  It looks like an older 'Kachemak' era component has been mixed in with the late prehistoric component.

We have also dug through a 4000 year old weathered volcanic ash layer and found another older occupation at the site.  Ian was the first to dig down to this layer and was rewarded with a battered bayonet. Bayonets are usually used to spear marine mammals, but it looks like this one was used to spear fish in the creek and got battered on the rocks.  He also found a saw and snapped bayonet blank.  Both are artifacts characteristic of the 'Ocean Bay II' era on Kodiak.  So we certainly got something to look forward to when we get below our 'layer 2' (the weathered 4000 BP ash).

Earlier in the summer we excavated another late prehistoric multiroom house at Old Harbor (click here),  and it is striking how different that house is from the one we excavated this week at the Kashevaroff Site.  This week's house is tiny in comparison and lacks internal features.  It really does look like the site was a seasonal fish camp while what we excavated at Old Harbor was something more.


Lunch down by the river

Incised battered bayonet over 4000 years old - probably used to spear fish

Small chipped point - probably on the order of 2 to 3 thousand years old

Grooved splitting adze found in the wall of the late prehistoric house

Another multiroom house from Old Harbor - same general age but MUCH larger

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Late Prehistoric Multi-room House

End of day 3 and late prehistoric house
When I last posted 24 hours ago I was unsure of the age of the house we have been excavating.  It lacked roof sods and and had sharply cut walls just like a late prehistoric house, but we were finding artifacts in it that were clearly older than a thousand years.  Then yesterday morning I noticed that there is a sideroom depression on the surface back behind the house in the area we did not excavate (where the girl in red is standing in the photo below).  So the house is a multiroom house afterall, and that means it is probably on the order of 300 years and is not over a thousand years old.

It now looks like we are excavating a late prehistoric 'fish camp' that was built on top of an older 2 to 3 thousand year old camp.  The artifacts from the 2 occupations are mixed up on the floor of the house and on the surface of the ground just outside.  Neither occupation was particularly intense and that is why the layer of debris that they left behind is relatively thin and also why the site vegetation was not intense (well fertilized).  If we had not found the house foundation I do not think we would have recognized the late prehistoric occupation.  I probably would have lumped the two together and guessed its age as a couple of thousand years old.

Yesterday inside the house we found ulus and unfinished ulus on one side of the hearth and rocks and charcoal all around the hearth.  It looks like sods were thrown on the hearth to create smoke and damp the fire so that it would burn longer and better dry fish that were probably hanging from the ceiling.  The structure has low walls of stacked sods that were dug out of the house depression when they built the house.

Today we will wrap up the house excavation and clear off the layer of 4000 year old weathered ash that cap a far older occupation at the site.  We know this because that is where we found charcoal deeply buried beneath the distinctive ash layer in the test pit we dug last fall.  The late prehistoric occupation on the top was completely unexpected!


Jesse with a BIG ulu found on the floor next to the hearth

Crew and house depression after excavation

The inhabitants dumped firecracked rock from the hearth just outside the doorway

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Trekkin' right along

I've hit a second wind with Nora's program this past week. Here is a string of e-mails between her teacher and myself from earlier in the week. I save these here only because our blog is printed out and it will be fun to have her e-mails for me to look at years from now.

July 21st

Hi Becka,
I've been chuckling to myself this week thinking about this week's program and what to title this e-mail to you. "Confessions of my program" came to mind.... "Crazy warm weather in Kodiak"....etc, etc...
So here it is, a run down of the program ups and downs this past week.

-The weather has been warm. Extremely warm. Statstically 1000X warmer than last summer. Yes, that warm! So a few days last week I did PACE on our lawn with Nora which worked great. One afternoon I only did PACE and no CORE. 

-Another day Nora was WAY tired from late night BBQ the night before. I did her program and expected it to be awful-and it wasn't! She passed several levels which she had been working on for 6+ weeks. I couldn't believe it! A total surprise. I couldn't believe how things clicked even though she was tired! 

-I didn't do rocker last week. I'm going to watch the video tomorrow and do it starting tomorrows program. I wasn't able to get a feel for what it was like from the narrative and hadn't had a chance to watch the video. The lizard is going well.  

-I'm motivating like crazy with American Girl accessories. I've avoided the serious commercialistic approach to motivating Nora up until this point, but the time has come. We're about 8 weeks away and her motivation was seriously waning...especially with this crazy Kodiak heat wave (really one of the nicest summers in history). The tactic is working. Nora has kicked it up a notch with her enthusiasm and effort and has her eyes seriously on the prize. Woo-hoo! Its been a big help to have her be more positive and energetic about doing the program. 

-Today I went to do IM and discovered the battery on the clapper thing was out and needed to be replaced. I found the sets of spare batteries that Lehman included (yeah!) but didn't see the sheet on how to get the battery out. It wasn't until I had given up and done the rest of the program and was heading out the door that I saw the sheet on the battery replacement. So I hope to start in on IM tomorrow. If the battery gives me trouble with the replacement tomorrow, I'll have you show me on FACETIME how to do it. I don't want to be too aggressive and break the thing all together. I know we were supposed to try to get in 3 times on IM this past week, but it didn't happen. This week we'll be back on it!

Nora seemed excited to do it again, so thats good!

-I was telling my husband how amazing its been to really watch some of the activities click with Nora the past few weeks. Admittedly, I had several moments the past weeks where I wanted to quit all together, mainly because of the incredible weather and how tough it was to pick her up from her morning camp and try to get excited about making her work so hard. Then I talked with my twin sister and she reminded me how far we've come and how much Nora is benefitting from it. After a good pep talk and ideas on how I could help motivate Nora better, we're back on track. Big time. I can start to see the end....and watching the auditory component of the program get easier for NOra is very cool. I can see the power and benefit to it, big time!

So, the take home messages are... I'm glad we're doing this past weeks activities again, so I can REALLY do the rocker. 

I'll start IM and I"m way looking forward to FaceTime this week. Is it the times you mentioned in a prior e-mail that still work for you?

Thanks a ton, Becka!
I'll be in touch...

Best wishes,


 And Becka's reply to me....
July 22nd
Hi Zoya!

 So great to hear from you!  I always love reading your emails, and I’m sure I chuckled to myself reading it just as much as you did thinking about writing it.  I could make a note in every email how fabulous you are doing and how lucky Nora is to have you so invested in this.  One of the things Cindy and I talked about right from the beginning, knowing that it might be hard to keep track of just how things are done so long distance, is that any pieces of these programs, even if done incorrectly, will bring about positive changes in the brain.  Here are the things I’d be totally satisfied with Nora taking away from PACE:

1.   Her brain has the ability to grow, similar to how muscles can get stronger.  The more she uses it, challenges it, and believes in her own brain’s ability to grow, the more it is going to. 
2.       She should eventually feel a difference with how her brain does when she feels tired/discouraged/hungry/frustrated, and how her brain does when she is well-rested, has eaten well, is sitting up straight and speaking calmly and confidently.  Her brain will always perform better when she gives it those supports.  She can think of it like how she would feel if she were going to play a soccer game and you were in the stands yelling and cheering and saying, “way to go!! You can do it!”.  She would play a better game with that support because she would believe in herself and feel good about herself.  Her brain is the same way.  If she acts like a cheerleader for her own brain when it feels discouraged or frustrated and says , “you can do it! Look how great you are doing!  Your best is getting better and better!” her brain is going to perk up and do better.  It is one of my favorite things to watch my students realize.  Because it works! 
3.       There is no way for her to do these activities and her brain not think more efficiently.  In school next year, ask her to see if she can notice that it is easier for her brain to stay on task for something because it doesn’t have to work as hard to do the same amount of work.  She should feel less overwhelmed, listen easier, complete tasks a little quicker, and generally have more time to just enjoy school. Our goal was never to make Nora a perfect learner, just a learner who is improving every day and is an active part of her own learning. 
 I hope that as you guys finish up the rest of your time noticing these things and that Nora can feel really proud of how far her brain has worked and how far it has come!  I am glad that she has another burst of motivation, and I’d rather her keep that motivation and do less, then do more and fight doing it.  You have wonderful judgment of when she might need to go outside and run around in the sunshine and when she is ready to push herself past a level of frustration.  Your sister is right, you have come a long way!  Keep making a HUGE deal of her victories, confidence is key to passing levels when they really seem too hard.   I’m super excited for you both!  Tell her I’m swelling with pride over her and all her hard work!  No worries about skipping IM last week.  The batteries are complicated and I don’t blame you J  You don’t have to be as strict with IM Maintenance, just get it done when you can. 
 Face time will work this week tomorrow from 12:30-1:30, and from 2:30-3:30, Wednesday from 12:30-3:30, Thursday from 12:30-3:30, and Friday 9-12, and 4:00-6:00.  Let me know!  I look forward to talking with you both! Enjoy that sunshine J

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

House with Ulus

Near the end of removing sod and ash on Day 1 

It was just yesterday that we started to dig at the Kashevaroff Site and I was super worried that it might not even be a 'real' site.  We busted the sods and shoveled off the thick layer of white volcanic ash from the 1912 Katmai eruption.  And then right away we started to find stuff.  First we found some cow bones - uh oh. ... Probably dead stray cows from the Bruhn and Frye family ranches that existed in this area prior to the Katmai eruption.  Then some fire-cracked rock - things are looking better.  And then Leslie found a red chert flake - finally an indisputable prehistoric artifact.

But it got better - the 1912 ash was really deep on the West side of our block and after we finally dug it all out we had a house foundation with a slate slab hearth in the middle. The question remained - how old is the house?

Today we cleaned it up and started to dig into the soil just below the Katmai ash.  We found lots of ground slate ulus ('fish knives') and more red chert flakes.  The ulus were probably used to process fish and in one day we have already found more ulus than from all the other sites we have excavated at the head of Womens Bay combined.  It looks like we have a fishing camp where they used ulus to split and process fish.

The house has a single room and lacked a sod covered roof - it probably had a thatch roof. The wall cut is really well defined and the post holes are so clear that I doubt it is more than a few thousand years old.  Yet it lacks multiple rooms and is associated with red chert flakes.  This hints that the house is probably more than a thousand years old.  Right now if I had to guess I'd say it is 1500 years old.

What is amazing is how much we have found and learned in just 2 days.  And also the site seems to be totally different from the other nearby sites we have excavated.


The foundation of a house RIGHT under the 1912 Katmai ash

Jesse shows off a sideblade

Jill and the cleaned up house - complete with dorrway, hearth and post holes

Collecting charcoal from the floor of the house

Monday, July 22, 2013

Hiking with Stuey

Almost home

Yesterday I went on a long hike with Stuey and the dogs.  I think it was Tank's longest hike ever and I know it was Stuey's longest hike ever.  I think Stuey might have hiked 5 or 6 miles while Tank probably got in at least 10 to 12 back and forth and under bushes miles.  Roxy dog, Jake and I hung back and watched the new hikers go at it.

I was really impressed that Stuey did the whole hike and it made me realize that the day when he and Nora are skiing on Pyramid is not far off.   Stuey was super excited about the hike and chattered away for the first couple of miles.  I listened but watched the woods and the sun motes through the trees.  It was pretty idyllic.  Poor Roxy dog has gotten a bit old and she stuck close to Stuey and I while Tank and Jake ran all about through the trees.


Stuey at the start - binoculars at the ready

First hill and 'break'

This is old hat for the big dogs

Cool fort

Walking the cliffs on the way home

For big rocky beaches 100 yards seems like a mile

Sunday, July 21, 2013

New Site Jitters

Stomping down the vegetation and laying out the grid at the Kashevaroff Site

Community Archaeology begins tomorrow and we are excavating at a 'new' site.  I think the Kashevaroff site will be on the order of 5000 years old but it is 'new' because we know barely anything about it.  We only found it last fall and just dug one test pit (click here).  Last friday when laying out the excavation grid (6 by 6 meters) we tried a soil probe and confirmed that there is a deeply buried charcoal rich layer.  Still I am a little worried we will not find anything.  It's always this way when one starts at a new site - particularly at smaller, special-purpose, seasonal sites (old fish and hunting camps).  At old villages with all the artifacts on the surface, middens and housepits it is pretty obvious that you will find something.  But at the smaller sites it always seems possible that one might not find anything cool.

I probably should not worry too much about it.  The nearby Bruhn Point and Amak sites showed far less potential (click here) and then just this spring in Old Harbor we dug at 2 smaller sites yet (click here).  And we learned more at those four sites than I have at many village sites.  The point being - we know a lot already about what happened in the villages.  We know very little about what happened at the small special purpose camps where people hunted, fished and gathered away from the main village.

Still I am keeping my fingers crossed - here we go!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Our Little Russian

Last week Nora took part in a week-long "Russian Culture Camp" sponsored by The Kodiak Arts Council. The camp was 4 hours a day and the kids learned how to play Balilikas, Russian percussion instruments as well as do 6 different Russian dances. 

The week culminated in an evening performance last night at the Baranov Museum, the local Russian History Museum. The kids played music and danced their hearts out to 6 o7 seven choreographed Russian Dances on the lawn. The foot work and partner work was quite extensive and it was fun to watch the girls dance with such ease!

Stuey did the first two days of Russian Culture Camp, but then was bummed because it is all girls ("gills", as he pronounces it!). So he didn't finish the week out, which I completely understand. 

One of the best parts of the week is that Casey Janz led the group. She was my elementary school PE teacher and is so skilled as a folk and Russian Dance teacher. 

When I learned that Casey was teaching the class, I was thrilled. She truly is a one of a kind dance leader. My memories of her are so positive and vivid; learning the virginia wheel from her in dance class during gym. 

Thank you to Casey and the group of people who made the week possible!


Nora and the girls playing the Balilikas. 

group dancing on the lawn!

A scenic of the dancers.

Group photo

Stuey's favorite part; the cookies at the end. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chirikof Mega Fauna

Sunset at the lupin camp
Next week Community Archaeology begins at the Kashevaroff site and so it is time to put Chirikof archaeology to bed.  But first a few final pictures of the Chirikof mega fauna.  The cows (all 900 or so of them), the ground squirrels, the foxes, and, of course, the humans.  Until the 20th century it was just humans, dogs and ground squirrels living on Chirikof Island.  We have found lots of dog and squirrel bones in the prehistoric middens.  In the 20th century there were goats and horses (both now gone).  Today there are just foxes, ground squirrels and cows living there.  And except for the occasional visit the humans and dogs are all gone.  Patrick

An encounter with an inquisitive Bull

Visiting mega fauna - the crew on departure

Ground squirrel a.k.a whistle pig (When I saw one I always thought of the gopher from 'Caddyshack' - "I'm all right and nobody worry 'bout me")

Arctic Fox - introduced species that has decimated the nesting birds

Chirikof Archaeology

A tiny point from a 2000 year old site that looks exactly like the ones we found at a site on the Alaska Peninsula (and you don't find these on Kodiak)

The purpose of our visit out to Chirikof was to collect samples of animal bones from various sites of different ages, and to conduct a bird survey to see what birds are available out there today. Catherine will be identifying all the animals in the samples we collected and it will be interesting to see if different birds and animals lived on or near the island in the past.  I strongly suspect that the cows and foxes have  dramatically changed Chirikof's landscape.  The foxes have decimated the birds that nest on the ground while the cows have trampled everything and grazed the grass short.

Catherine was in charge of the expedition - I was only along as an archaeological resource (I know the sites) and for taking care of field logistics.  Basically I ended up carrying gear from one end of the island to the other and re found all the sites I first found in 2005.  It was really nice not to have the pressure of being in charge.  I got to relax and examine the archaeological sites.

For the most part, the sites are in better condition than they were in 2005.  Fewer cows around and the sites are eroding less.  Also since I last visited Chirikof in 2005 I have excavated a Norton site from the Alaska Peninsula (click here).  I now realize that there is a lot of similar looking material on Chirikof.

Unlike Kodiak, Chirikof has not been continuously occupied.  Periodically it has been abandoned and then new peoples have colonized it.  Early on - maybe until 4000 years or so ago - I think people from Kodiak lived there.  Then around 2000 years ago it looks like the people were more oriented towards the Alaska Peninsula.  Then for the last 700 years or so it was again people from Kodiak out there.

On this trip I have to secretively admit that I wanted to find a REALLY old site.  It appears that the south half of Chirikof was not glaciated and I talked with some geologists who found 12,000 year old tsunami deposits out there. So relative sea level had to have been relatively close to what it is today.  But no luck this time - and finding a really old site was sort of like looking for a needle in a hay stack.  Sites on Chirikof tend to be completely deflated with no charcoal to collect for radiocarbon dating or to be deeply buried by sand and weathered volcanic ash.  To find the really old sites one would need to visit with a team of geologists to pin point the old beaches etc and be prepared to dig a lot of deep test pits.


This could be old - a blade from a totally deflated site

Kodiak style pottery from a late prehistoric site

An ochre grinder - a common find in early Kodiak sites

Catherine screens out the dirt and collects all the bones 

A deflated site on the west side - we still found undisturbed deposits

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The weather- 1000X Better than last summer

Today I read an interesting statistic in our local news...that statistically, the weather this summer in Kodiak is 1000X better than last summer. Seriously-1000X better. I believe it....We've had what feels like an endless summer. Warm summer evenings, warm breezes (or no breezes), people in flip flops and shorts. 

Yesterday I called up my sister in disgust, "Ella, I'm done. With this weather, I'm done with NOra's program. I can't do it anymore...making her be inside when its so nice out."

She worked to talk me off my ledge, "Zoya, how can I help? What can I do? You'll totally regret it if you don't finish it. And you don't want Nora seeing you not finish. I can watch Stuey or anything else. What can I do?" She paused.
"Zoya, its not like you to  just give up. Thats not  you."

Nora and Zoya doing the program outside on the lawn

Her words rung true and struck a chord deep inside. I knew that I couldn't, wouldn't quit but gosh was it tempting....

After a few more minutes on the phone, I had a plan. Part of the difficulty with doing Nora's program was that she was less motivated and excited than she used to be. Who could blame her? She needed more incentive. Ella told me to kick it up a notch with the rewards,

"Zoya, you haven't really given her big're on the home stretch. Its time to pull out the big guns."

I agreed.

So I"m using dolls and doll accessories as her motivation and boy is Nora kicking it up a notch! I'm proud that we made it through 3.5 months of the program with very little materialistic motivation and now I can use the materialism to get us through the last 8 weeks. I'm realizing what a long program it is...but proud that we're still cooking along.

With this continued nice weather, I've given up trying to be happy in my hot stuffy clinic and the past two days have done the part of the program on the lawn. Perfect. Yesterday we were trekking along through her activities and we heard eagles in the trees next to the house talking to each other. Perhaps a mother baby to her baby bird. Nora said, "Mom, lets stop a minute. I want to listen to those eagles."

I liked that she was in tune with the birds. We sat and watched the eagles in the trees, moving from branch to branch and squawking.

 "I said, do you think the mommy eagle wants the baby eagle to do her program and the baby eagle doesn't want to?" She smiled and thought that was pretty funny.


Trying out the slack line at a recent barbecue