Saturday, July 30, 2011

Just another day of fishing in Kodiak

Laura, Cecil, and Dad heading out in the skiff

Bringing in a fish


Easy fishing!

Judy filleting cod

Dad and I went out with Judy, Cecil, Justine, and Laura in their skiff to fish for halibut. We found a good spot off of Chiniak and let our lines out. After a few minutes of nada, Laura got a bite. All of a sudden Judy and Justine were reeling in a catch at the same time! They all caught cod and Judy actually had two on her line. After that we started pulling them in left and right. Seriously. Every line we put a line down came up just a few seconds later with cod. I caught two. We couldn't even get our hooks down deep enough to have any chance of catching halibut. In just a few minutes we caught 11 cod. There were so many that we had to leave!

Unofortunately we didn't really have any luck with halibut, even in a new (cod-free) spot. Laura caught a tiny one which she threw back and almost had a good one in the boat when it got away. We did see several sea otters and a harbor porpoise though. And we had fresh fish for dinner. Just another day in Kodiak.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Community Archaeology Continues

Christy holding a ground slate point

Nora and Stuey digging with their dad for the first time

Jill and her brand new, squeaky clean screen

A photo of me taken by Patrick

Patrick describing stratigraphy from the 2005 test pit to the field school students and interns
The first week of community archaeology is almost done and we have had nearly perfect weather. It has been sprinkling off and on, but it hasn't rained for long and the temperature has been perfect for digging. The bugs have also mellowed out. Or maybe we're just using more Deet.

We're still figuring out what people did at this site in the past, but we have already learned a few important things. We've uncovered a house that was built after 3800 years ago - we know that because it was built on top of a volcanic ash that fell around that date. However, it probably wasn't much later than 3800 years ago because the sea level was dropping at that time and thus the ocean was moving away from the Amak Site and closer to where it is today. In other parts of the site, we are digging in a layer that is from the Ocean Bay II time period (between 5500 and 3800 years ago). One of the coolest artifacts found today was a ground slate point (top photo). These tools are known from other sites to have been used during Ocean Bay II.

In general, we have found few artifacts so far. Most of them are chipped stone and a surprising large portion of them are finished tools. This leads us to believe that people were making their chipped stone tools elsewhere and bringing them to the Amak Site already completed. If they had been flaking them at the site, we would be finding many more chipped stone flakes.

We have also uncovered a bunch of large rocks that were definitely moved to the site by people - you can see a couple of them in the last photo. We don't know yet if they are part of a structure or something else. We'll have to move a lot more dirt to find out!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Community Archaeology 2011: The Amak Site

View of Kashevaroff Mountain from the site
The Amak Site before our excavation

Christy digging on day 1

The excavation: day 2
Community archaeology started yesterday at the Amak Site (near the Salonie Creek Rifle Range) with some beautiful weather (albeit a little warm and buggy for our tastes, but one can't complain too much when it's not raining in Kodiak). The Amak Site is an Ocean Bay site (between 4000 and 7500 years old) located about a mile from the ocean. This location seems odd today given that most archaeological sites are either right on the coast or along salmon rivers. However, if you know that the coastline of Kodiak was quite different 7000 years ago, it's not quite so strange. We believe that the ocean reached farther inland that it does today and the base of the Amak Site was actually right on the beach. Some of our test pits might tell us if we're correct or not.

Yesterday we took off the sods, shoveled off the 1912 Katmai ash, and began excavating Level 1. Level 1 has a few artifacts, mostly chipped stone but we are excited to get through it and onto the next component. We have some idea what to expect from a test pit dug at the site in 2005. You can see Patrick taking a photo of the test pit in the last picture (he re-excavated it so that we could see the stratigraphy). Based on what we see in that hole, we think we may have a house pit - or at least part of one. We will find out if we are right or not in the next couple of weeks.

We had some bear excitement near the site today too. One of the volunteers saw a sow and three cubs near the site on Sunday, so we knew bears were around. After lunch today, my mom was driving up to the site when she saw the sow and cubs come out onto the road and then run down the road in front her. The eventually took off into the woods not far from our site. We didn't see them again and I'm sure they'll keep their distance from us while probably staying in the area. But now we know they're there and they know we're there.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Just another day in Kodiak

Thumbs Up
Dad filleting fish

Red salmon

A bald eagles munches on a salmon carcass while a bunch of seagulls and a young bald eagle wait for scraps

A curious fox
On Sunday, before I got into town, my dad had put the subsistence net out in Pasagshak but only caught two reds. It turned out not to be such a bad day though as a friend gave us 20 fish. After I got home and we at dinner, we went down to Thumbs Up where Dad filleted all 20 fish. While I was hanging out watching a flock of seagulls having a feast on salmon carcasses, four bald eagles showed up (one of the one is the fourth photo is immature and doesn't have it's while head yet). They took turns swooping down, scaring off the seagulls, and attempting to grab a salmon carcass with their talons. Eventually one just landed down the beach and hoped over to the nearest fish and munched away. The young eagle then landed nearby and eyed that carcass for quite a while before being scared off by another eagle. After they all took off with their respective salmon carcasses, a curious little fox showed up. It wondered around the beach and eventually decided on one fish in particular. It trotted off down the middle of the road with the carcass in its mouth and we went home with 40 fillets in a cooler. Just another day in Kodiak.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Low/No Sugar Jam

Apricot Jam

Testing the Apricot Jam
Low Sugar/No Sugar Pectins
Our Apple Tree

Our Italian Plum Tree
I managed to fit in not one, but two batches of jam today as well as several hours of yard work, laundry, and packing. I could get used to spending an entire day at home! The first batch I made was apricot jam and the second was freezer jam made with a mix of whatever I had around the kitchen that needed to be used up (apricots, peaches, and strawberries). Freezer jam is a relatively new discovery of mine and it is SO easy, but it's a story for another post.

I've been wanting to spread the word about pectins that require little or no sugar. My mom usually made low sugar jam when I was growing up so it's what I am used to and what I prefer. Some regular pectin recipes call for as much or even more sugar than fruit. So, if you prefer low or no sugar jam, there are options! You can also use artificial sweeteners with these pectins. I usually use somewhere between 1/2 and 1 cup of sugar per batch of jam depending on the sweetness of the fruit. For the apricot jam I actually used 1 3/4 cups because the fruit wasn't ripe and it was VERY tart.

Both of the canning cook books I own suggest using Pomona's Universal Pectin which is also a low sugar option. I've never tried it though because it's not available in most grocery stores. I've always used (up until today) the Sure Jell because it can be bought anywhere. Today I noticed the Ball brand low sugar pectin at Fred Meyer for the first time. That little jar is about the same price as a pack of Sure Jell, but it makes at least three times as much jam. That's what I used for the apricot jam and I think it worked perfectly. The jam set up very well and it tastes like apricot candy (see photo of spoon in jar). Yum!

Our apple and plum trees both have fruit this year. The first year we lived here we only had plums (tons of them). We didn't even know the other tree was an apple tree! Last year we had gallons of apples but not a single plum. This year we have both. I know nothing about fruit trees, being from Kodiak and all, so I have absolutely no idea why some years we have fruit and others we don't. Nor have I (or Ryan) done anything to these trees (like trimming, or....I have no idea what else you're supposed to do to fruit trees!) Our raspberries are also producing fruit like crazy. Makes me sad to leave. Then again, I have SALMONBERRIES to look forward to in Kodiak!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer and fresh produce

Home made raspberry lemonade

Our raspberry patch
Raspberry syrup on vanilla ice cream with nectarines

Pickled asparagus
Tomorrow is my last day in Seattle! On Saturday morning I fly to Alaska for the next six weeks. I thought I would be sad to be leaving the warm summer weather, but as it turns out, Seattle isn't having any of that and Kodiak is getting it all. So I'm good to go!

While I haven't exactly gotten to enjoy much heat during my first (half) summer in Seattle, I have gotten to enjoy the bounty of fresh produce. I've been buying as much of it as I can get my hands on and eating grilled veggies pretty much every night we are home. I stopped to think the other day about why I was so enthusiastic about the produce this summer, and not in other years. I realized that I usually spend my summer on some god forsaken remote island in the North Pacific or North Atlantic eating dried beans and pilot bread. I usually don't get the chance to shop for produce when most of it is in season. Even when I have been in "town" in Kodiak or even Fairbanks, the produce just doesn't quite look as good by the time it makes it all the way to Alaska. Nor is it as cheap.

I'm hoping I have time for one more canning venture tomorrow before I leave. Maybe apricot jam?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rock Climbing in Eastern Washington and Mountain Biking the Iron Horse Trail

West side of the Snoqualmie Pass Tunnel

Jay and I getting rained on near the end of the ride

I made the most out of this weekend by planning two separate adventures. Friday evening Richard and I drove to Leavenworth where we had time to climb a couple of single pitch climbs very close to the road before it got dark. The quality of the rock in Leavenworth is great and I am looking forward to going back. That evening we shared a camp spot with one of Richards’s classmates and his family. It was nice to have someone to meet up with as the camp area was totally full. We had a great fire and it was fun to meet some more Alaskan's who have been displaced to Washington for school.

Saturday morning brought rain. We packed up camp and went for plan B, which was to drive to Vantage. Vantage has an extremely dry climate and was only an hour and half drive away. The drive was scenic and I enjoyed looking at all the fruit treas and other crops along the Columbia River valley. In Vantage we ran into some people I know from Seattle Mountain Rescue, this was great as neither Richard or I had climbed at Vantage previously. My SMR friends showed us how to access the best of the climbing areas. Richard and I enjoyed the rest of the hot aftersoon sun climbing tall exposed columns of basalt.

Sunday Molly and I headed back to the mountains for some mountain biking with our friends Jay and Adam. We left a car about 15 miles east of Snoqualmie Pass and then started the ride at the pass itself. The trail is an old railroad grade that has been converted to a biking and hiking trail. The trail starts with a two mile long tunnel through the mountain. The tunnel was built over the course of two years from 1912 to 1914. We all had bike lights and headlamps but it was still very dark and cold in the tunnel. It was also a bit disorienting to ride through as it was difficult to tell how fast you are going and how far it is to the end.

I really enjoy historic trails like this one. I am amused by the engineering and nature at the same time.  This is certainly a trail I will ride again someday.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Raspberry Syrup and Megan in Seattle

Our friend Megan was up here this weekend from southern California where she goes to law school now. It was fun to have her "home." For the last couple of years Megan (and her boyfriend, Grant) were some of my only non-grad school friends. I miss them, but I know they are enjoying being back in school (as much as anyone can enjoy grad school) and living in sunny southern California. Megan wanted to do some of her favorite Seattle things - go to Pike Place Market where she used to shop all the time when she lived downtown and eat at Bonefish Grill.

We also made raspberry syrup while she was here with berries we bought at the market. This was my first attempt at making syrup and using cheesecloth. The syrup turned out amazing but the cheesecloth was a bit of learning experience. Let's just say it's a good thing Ryan wasn't home when this happened and it's a good thing I managed to clean up all the raspberry juice before it stained our white counter tops. Besides the straining incident, the process was rather straightforward. I boiled almost one flat of raspberries (quite a few were lost to my mouth) and about 3/4 cup sugar for about 20 minutes. Then I strained out the seeds and pulp. I ended up with just over a pint of juice. I poured half of it into a bottle and put it in the fridge. I canned the other half (boiling it for 10 minutes to get it to seal).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bike Basket

Ryan recently found a great used mountain bike for me on Craigslist. The main reason I wanted a mountain bike is for riding to the grocery store. I needed something sturdy that I could put a basket and heavy groceries on. This bike is perfect. We only live 3/4 mi away from three grocery stores so I really should ride or walk all the time (even though I don't). I suppose I probably don't really save much on gas by not driving, and it's not like biking 1.5 mi on flat pavement is much exercise, but I do look pretty cool with this basket on my bike.

Friday, July 15, 2011

First full birthday in Seattle

Hangin' out around the new fire pit

Brandy and Jay playing cornhole with the home made set by Ryan (yes, this game is actually called CORNHOLE)

Stephanie and Lisbeth bringing out the cake

What an awesome cake!

It took me a while to stop laughing! That is some serious creativity!
This was my first complete birthday I've ever spent in Seattle and it was a good one! In 2008 I was here for the first 13 hours of my birthday, but then I proceeded to get on a plane to Seoul, South Korea en route to Russia. I crossed the international date line where I was cheated out of the other 11 hours. I was also studying for comps at the time and had to say goodbye to Ryan for three months. Needless to say, this one was a little better!

After we got home from camping in Vantage, we started the party at the El Norte Lounge (a new-ish bar in our neighborhood that I'd been wanting to check out), came home and had a fire in the brand new fire pit (made by Ryan 10 minutes before the party), played cornhole (what backyard party is complete without cornhole?), ate s'mores (I can't sit around a fire without eating marshmallows and chocolate), and cake.

Lisbeth told me weeks ago that she wanted to make a cake for my birthday. In the days leading up to my birthday she kept telling me that she thought I was REALLY going to like my cake. I thought "of course I'm going to like it, it's cake!" Plus, I already knew that Lisbeth is a good baker. I thought she must have had something up her sleeve. When they brought it out, I was totally blown away! If you know what my dissertation is about, then you know I study shells. Pretty dang clever! Apparently Stephanie and Lisbeth felt under a lot of pressure to come up with something good for my cake since I like to decorate cakes for other people's parties. They went into a bakery and ordered a marzipan figure based on the Birth of Venus painting by Botticelli. Apparently it's difficult to make a marzipan figure stand up, so this is as close as they could get. It thought it was amazing. And I was quite touched that they went out and ordered such a special cake decoration just for me! Lisbeth did bake the cake herself and it was delicious.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Paisley Cave Site

Pointing to the Paisley Caves

Denis Jenkins introducing us to Cave 5

A field school student screening in the shade

Stephanie helping pick bones out of the screen

A field school student collecting a human coprolite (fossilized poop)

The view from Paisley Caves
On Monday and Tuesday I drove to Oregon on a Burke Museum field trip to visit a well-known archaeological site called Paisley Caves. It was a long drive just for one night - 8 1/2 hours each way plus several gas/food/coffee/bathroom breaks! The trip was well-worth it though; Eastern Oregon is beautiful and the site was very cool.

The Paisley Caves Site is one of the oldest sites in the Americas. The oldest dates are 14,300 (calibrated) years before present. It has been excavated by Denis Jenkins from the University of Oregon and his field school students over the last 9 years. They have found stone tools, bones of extinct animals such as camels and horses, and human coprolites (fossilized poop) at this site. Ancient DNA analysis has shown that the coprolites are indeed human and that they are Native American. Digging up ancient poop might not be something most people think about, but archaeologists do encounter it sometimes. I never have, but I was hoping I would get to see some at Paisley so I would know what it looks like! One of the field school students did find a small coprolite while we were there. We got to watch him get into the full tyvek suit and gloves to collect it. Because they are doing ancient DNA analysis they try to avoid contaminating the samples with modern DNA by wearing a suit and gloves. It was exciting to watch even if we weren't close enough to get a very good look at the coprolite (I'm sure that sounds weird, but for an archaeologist, it's really not!)

I have a whole new appreciation for how difficult it is to excavate in caves or rock shelters now. This team of archaeologists not only has to deal with boulders and rockfall, they had to figure out where previous teams of archaeologists dug in the 1930's and 40's and where looters have dug over the years. Cool stuff! I can't wait to see more publications on this site.