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Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Boneyard

Doggy and Elk Bone Taphonomy in action

As an archaeologist I love watching what our dogs do to the bones in our yard.  Archaeology is all about learning about people's past behavior by studying what they left behind.  And a big part of that is studying food bones in trash heaps.  By studying the bones archaeologists can learn what people were hunting, and even a lot about how they were doing it.  For instance, were they bringing the whole animal back to camp?  Did they focus on hunting a particular age class of animal?  Did certain people in a village eat higher quality food than others etc?

However, archaeologists also have to be aware of what happened to the bones they study after they were thrown away but before they were dug up in an archaeological excavation.  What processes might be skewing the patterns archaeologists see when they analyze the bones? Taphonomy is originally a term used by paleontologists to describe the process an organism goes through before its bones ended up in the fossil record.  Archaeologists have borrowed this term to describe the processes occurring to animal bones before they are discovered in an excavation.

So to get back to my yard - what would an archaeologist 200 years in the future make of the trash in my yard?  Just judging by what is shown in the picture above the archaeologist would think the inhabitants drank soda, beer, and soup purchased from a store (the cans blew out of the recycle bin), and ate a lot of elk and a little deer (I see 4 large elk and 3 possible deer and or goat/reindeer bones).  If they were really good they would also notice that there are no axial skeleton bones in my yard.  This would indicate that the animals were butchered in the field and only the 'bone in meat' was carried back to the house.  But I wonder if they would be able to account for what the dogs do to the bones in my yard?

Each year I butcher quite a few deer, and their bones along with a few from various other animals such as reindeer, mountain goat and elk make it into my yard.  And I'll add that fish bones go straight back into the ocean!  What's amazing is that year after year all that remains in my yard by spring is the elk bones.  The bones from the smaller animals all get totally crunched and eaten up by the dogs. But not the elk bones - it seems they are too big and robust for my doggie's teeth and jaw muscles.

So if you were to excavate my yard and did not consider the doggy taphonomic processes going on you would get a skewed picture of the animal bones that originally ended up in my yard.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Snow and Ice

I swear there is a patch of blue sky above

The 2 last days here on Kodiak have been gorgeous - brilliant sunshine and very little wind.  A brilliant day to be be out and about in the mild weather.  And yet on the mountain the skiing is terrible - Pyramid is mantled with a big sheet of ice.  Clear skies mean freezing temperatures at night.

Prior to the recent sunshine, I've been battling the elements during my daily climb up the mountain for my afternoon ski.  Rain, snow and screaming winds have been the norm.  And yet the skiing has often been great - as long as you could see where you were going.  Nasty weather generally means warm temperatures and soft snow.

Now if we could just get one of those days where there is BOTH soft powder and sunny skies . .. ... 

Looking pretty clear

Oh well, at least it's snow and not rain

Soft snow and low vis

Kodiak Boilerplate - but excellent visibility and even blue skies!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One that almost got away - Gregg's Birthday

In early January we had an impromptu 60th birthday party for Gregg.  Lisa made Halibut enchiladas and a brownie cake and Gregg wore the traditional Saltonstall birthday hat.  A simple and relaxing birthday party.  Patrick

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Another ski & hike day

 Sunday was another stormy day.  At first light I climbed up the mountain and batted around in a whiteout.  The snow was pretty good, but every once in a while you'd hit an unexpected drift.  I took a few photos of Philip enjoying that 'free falling' feeling you get skiing in a whiteout.  At times it was snowing pretty hard up there.

Then back at the house the family went for a hike in the woods in the rain.  The woods were very green and foggy.  A totally different experience.

At Nora's suggestion we explored Russian Ridge a trail we'd never hiked before.  Amazing to find such a wild place so close to town.  Patrick

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Etiquette Dinner with Troop #118

Sue and Coral serving the fruit kabob appetizers

group photo
 This evening my girl scout troop enjoyed an "Etiquette dinner" where we learned the ins and outs of table manners.

The idea came to me after visiting my in-laws last November where I realized I hadn't ever formally taught Nora and Stuey formal table manners. In reflection, i remember learning many of my table manner basics at sleep over summer camp. On one of the final nights of camp the leader showed us how to set a formal table and use the utensils correctly.

The dinner was complete with fruit/cheese/veggie kabob appetizers, martinilis sparkling cider, salad, rice, chicken parm and jello parfait cups. The parfait cups were such a delight for the scouts.

The girls shared their family etiquette traditions and together we ate with most of our elbows off the table, took bite size portions, put our fork and knive across our table when we were done with our meals....and most importantly~they tried a bite of everything and didn't comment if they didn't like something.

It will be fun to have this dinner as an annual troop tradition-something a little formal and fun!


say "fruit salad!"

setting the table together

Dessert! Woo-hoo!

Stormy Weather

Today in the 'jibber' bowl on Pyramid - snowing like crazy

 The weather really is stuck in a rut.  There is this big jet that's been hitting southeast Alaska and then bending over backwards towards us.  One storm after another has been coming in on the jet.  Pretty much rain and 39 degrees all the time.

Funnily enough for a while there the rain guage at the Kodiak weather station was broken so it did not look like it was raining all that much.  One morning after moderate rain all night, and yet only .03 inches of reported precipitation  I gave them a call and they admitted that it was broken.  Maybe that's why until a few days ago we were still below normal precip for the month of January.

But I have not minded the storms because it has been snowing pretty good on Pyramid.  In the last few days we got 2 to 3 feet of new snow on the mountain.  We now have more snow on the mountain than we had ALL LAST YEAR (albeit not all that high of a bar).

So dismal in town but snow on the mountain - It looks like the 'cup is half full'  Patrick

Spruce Cape today in the rain

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

40 and raining, and writing

Its perpetually 40 and raining here in Kodiak but I'm making the most of it by writing a lot, work and park walks with the dogs. And playing basketball on the muddy court out front with Stuey.

Patrick wants me to write on the blog more~ i can tell. He says, so kindly, with sparkly blue eyes, "Zoya, I put photos for you to write about on the blog". I tell him that yes, I"ll write about them soon, but I don't.

This past summer, fall and now winter, I've been a blog disappointment. Its not that I haven't been writing, it just hasn't been on the blog.

I'm on week 2 of 5 of a Creative Non-Fiction writing boot camp class. I write 3, 300 word passages a week as well as one passage closer to 1000 words. And read/respond to classmates work.

It'd be an understatement to say I'm captivated-I love it. The classmates come from all walks of life-are mostly female (1 poor male soul in the group), from all over the country but all share a love for writing. At first our teacher struck me as someone who might be too modern or edgy for my liking, but from the feedback she has given thus far-she gets us as writers.

The bootcamp gives different writing prompts and stories unfold which I didn't even know were inside of me.  Moments in my childhood, life which I want to capture and explore.  When I get home from work I excitedly log into the computer to see what my classmates have written.

I'm trying to resist the urge to take another class this spring. I'll hold off and just focus on the blog and newspaper articles. Its been over a month since I've written for the paper as well.

And this picture was taken by a new friend, Emmy, who is renting our house next door. SHe likes dogs and we had fun in Ft. Abercrombie!


Friday, January 15, 2016

Another Rafting Video

I forgot to post this video that Philip made of last Sunday's paddle on Virginia Creek.  It is a much smaller creek than the one we did the day before.  Based on the warm, wet weather it looks like we might be doing some more rafting this weekend too.

Virginia Creek at Flood Stage from Philip Tschersich on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Year outing with troop #118

First gathering of the new year with my scout troop~a hike out Spruce Cape Point! 

The high winds which have dominated Kodiak's weather made for a spectacular show of crashing waves off the point. Trail mix and hot cocoa warmed our tummies as we tucked ourselves under the shelter of trees and talked about our winter plans as a troop. 



Yesterday was another dreary, windy, rainy day.  Truly BLAH.  I'd rather we got snow, but at least it rained hard enough to make the rafting worthwhile.  Also I suspect that it is snowing up high on the mountain - so all is not lost.

And truth be said, the whitewater kayaking was a lot of fun.  Philip made a video that shows how much fun we had playing in the wet H2O (rather than on top of the dry stuff).  And thank you Philip for not showing how much I went swimming!


Sargent Creek Rainy Day Boating from Philip Tschersich on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 09, 2016


Winter has been a little warm and wet lately - Grey and totally blah.  Zoya commented that it's sad we haven't had a decent winter in a few years and how it is unfair to the kids.  She's right.  Maybe it's time to go white water rafting.


There but for the grace of a bad call.... ..

As a family we generally don't do blogposts about sports, but as a sometime fan of NFL football I feel compelled to report on something I noticed that the national sports media seems to have overlooked. 

The sports media is all super excited by last year's Superbowl runner up the Seattle Seahawks who have finished their season on a strong note after a slow start.  Yet I'd like to point out that but for the grace of a few bad calls they would not even be in the playoffs.  The team no one is talking about - the Detroit Lions - and not the Seahawks should be in the playoffs.   And to set the record straight as a Washington 'Pigskin' fan (rather not use the official name) I could really could care less about whether Detroit or Seattle made the playoffs - I am unbiased between the two.

My insight and the reason for this post is how capricious is the difference between the 'team of the moment' and the 'team that went home'.

Seattle ended the season with 10 wins and 6 defeats.  Detroit ended up with 7 wins and 9 defeats.  And yet but for a bad call Detroit should have beaten Seattle (click here for story).  Detroit also later lost a game due to a Hail Mary (click here for story), and possible bad call to the Green Bay Packers.  With those victories Detroit would be 9-7 and Seattle (on the other side of the bad call) would be 9-7 too (as would Green Bay too).  And in that scenario Detroit with the head-to-head wins over both would own the tie breakers and be in the playoffs.

Just food for thought - and go Pigskins!


Thursday, January 07, 2016

Total Drama

It's been pretty icy for skiing lately, but still nice to get up in the mountains.  A few days ago I tried something different and used the 'dramatic' setting on my point and shoot camera.  It certainly pumped up the pictures.  The ones I took on the normal settings looked totally blah.  I guess sometimes you just need some drama!  Patrick

Friday, January 01, 2016

New Years 2016

This morning in the dark rain and high winds (blowing 50 sustained with gusts to 60) we trekked a bit  up Monashka Mountain to a spot to cook camp breakfast. Patrick set up a tee pee and we nestled inside and cooked breakfast, hot cocoa and apple cider.

Part of the excitement for me was trying out my christmas gift from Patrick-an MSR reactor to boil large quantities of water in. As I told my girl fiend on the hike back to the car about the gift-I feel like I have 'arrived'. 

"What do you mean?" My friend asked.

"Patrick never would've given me that as a gift 10 years ago. I'm much more into the outdoors than I used to be-especially with girl scouts"

The reactor worked wonderfully to boil up cups of water in just a couple of minutes! And together we cooked up polenta, thai curry, chicken and dumplings & shepards pie...all yummy freeze dried meals. 

Bellies were full, hearts were warm and it felt good to start 2016 outside with friends and family! 

I'm thankful for friends who are up for a hike, no matter what the weather!


Last day of 2015

Yesterday I went for a skate ski up in the mountains.  It was pretty icy, but the scenics were worth it.  When I first started out it was still sunny.  Then it got more and more grey as a big storm moved in.  The last day of the year and the day before the storm.  Right now it is blowing 40 sustained and raining hard.  2016 begins with a storm.  Patrick