Monday, September 28, 2009


I haven't quite disappeared, though sometimes I feel like I would melt in the rain (since I'm made of sugar and other melty things). Considering the amount of time I spent in the subterranean world under our house I should have been absorbed into the gravel. But, I digress. What I really wanted to talk about is Sushi. We made some!

Granted, it's not the prettiest sushi at the prom, and the sashimi is admittedly chunky. But we made it with Local Wild Alaskan Salmon. The rolls are made with Sockeye and the sashimi is Coho. They both were very nice and clean tasting. I hope we don't end up with worms as a result. (Everything has been frozen for at least 3 weeks prior to this adventure so don't worry, Mom!) This, however, will be our only foray into salmon sushi this year. It remains "fresh" in the freezer for only about a month and skunky sushi is not something I want to try.

I think there is some skill to making nice rolls, skills I don't really have yet. The flavors were correct but the presentation needs work. I do declare a special workshop for me and my sushi needs. It will have to be with pickled veggies and cooked fish. Maybe some miso-broiled rock fish?

Further successes were found in my miso soup with home made Dashi and a sesame-miso dressing for our salad. The terikayi chicken was meh, but I learned that the broiler on my new oven is the suck. The evening was rounded out with a viewing of Big Man Japan--a movie about a Japanese superhero/monster battler. It wasn't that good.

Friday, September 25, 2009

End of field season

It's not raining. It's raining. (All southeast people nod in agreement). We passed the equinox. Things be dying (or turning colors for those of you with color-turning vegetation). I went on my last field trip of the season. It was on Prince of Wales. Oh, holy heck did it rain.

This trip was not only a field trip but a "field trip" where all of the bureaucratic importants (I am not one of them) stand around and talk in torrential downpours. These are not for the faint of heart. Picture 3 days of corralling 25 people in 6 vehicles, changing in and out of waders, standing on slipper logs, talking about holistic synergy (not a joke or something I made up), and getting back in the trucks and going somewhere else. All punctuated by evening of heavy, expensive drinking at the bar. So days 2 and 3 begin hungover. Fun!

Actually, they are nerdily interesting but it's very important to dress warmly--for all the standing around and to bring lots of snacks. You could call these forays junkets just like all of us bureaucrats.

What does fall mean to all of you? I've got a winter of database management fun.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


When we got a few truckloads of soil from a local pack rat, they came with some hidden treasures: Potatoes! I haven't ever grown the little buggers but what the hey. They require virtually no work once planted and I like starch.

There they are! Obviously, the fingerling/yellow ones did much better than the red or purple varieties.

So far these have become: Mashed, fried in Bacon, and roasted with seasonings. Soon will be: curry.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Laborious weekend

Labor day weekend. A time where we celebrate working by scorching meat and drinking heavily. In the Harpy-Fisherman household we celebrated by plumbing. And yelling. Oh, and logged some serious hours in the crawl space. It was an all around win.

Saturday: Installed the two sets of manifolds for the plumbing. Ran 3/4 inch pex between the manifolds, the mains, and the water heaters. I swept and tried to find the tools that my dear husband poo-flung around the garage. (He's working. He doesn't have time to clean up after himself.)

Sunday: Turned off all the water to hook up the main to the house system. The hose finally got connected (We have a hose!). Insulated all the pipe under the house, in the crawlspace. That was my job. I managed to rip some hair out of my scalp. There are many sharp, points, hair-ripping thingys under the house. Pressurized the system to check for leaks.

Monday: Finished insulating the pipe in the crawlspace. TDF plumbed the downstairs bathroom. We realized we didn't have enough little elbows or whatever to complete the bathroom. After finding that everything was closed, we decided to go fishing. But first we had to fix the flat tire on our boat trailer.

These tires were free, on the side of the road. The rims were super rusty so the tire can't seal around them. After dumping the green slime fix-a-flat in it, jacking the trailer up so we could spin the wheel, scraping the rim, and filling the tire over and over it finally held air and we could go fishing! I scrounged around the yard for our longline gear (rusty and covered with leafy mulch), dug the bait out of the freezer, found my slicks, packed snacks, and got in the car.

Off to Starrigavan boat launch. The rickety-cricket Ford made it down the hill and road just fine. Our happy little bayrunner tugging playfully on the 1-ton Custom Ford Heep, Bowie ch-ch-ch-changing on the slick, stock tape deck. We pulled around to the prep slot, the left rear tire smoking. (Our differential leaks right into the drum of the brakes so we can get them a smoking real good if we drive, oh, 7 miles and use the brakes.)

"Hurry up and lets launch this so we can get the tire in the salt water to cool it off." He says.

"Our car's not going to catch fire, is it?" I ask.

"Not if we get it in the water now." He replies.

Back up. Back up. Backing up and getting the boat in the water is always amusing to everyone around us. We are the Keystone Kops of boat launching. I waded onto the ramp to unhook the bow from the trailer. My foot felt cold, but I didn't top my boot. My XtraTuff sprung a leak. They are not really XtraTuff, they are more like SumWutTuff.

And we're off! There was maybe a one foot swell and a little bit of wind chop. We whizz by the Trident Seafood processor barge as fast as a 1975 Evinrude 35hp motor will allow. TDF watches the depth finder, looking for a trench or a hump. Something that halibut like to hang out on. We are an hour before high tide, we need to get the line in the water. I begin to unsnarl the 5 or so shots of longline cf'd in the bow of our skiff.

"It's easy if you do it right," He declares.

"Maybe if you actually took care of anything, it might not be such an unmitigated disaster whenever we want to use it." I retort.

"You deal with the line. I'll bait hooks. This is how we work as a team." He opines.

I grumble and slowly clean up each shot of line so it will uncoil as we let it out. First the buoy, with about 200 feet of line attached to some old double-hung window weights for anchors, then the stretch of baited line, then another anchor. I'm supposed to drive the boat "straight" so we can drop into the trench we found through the narrow passage. Not really sure where straight is, I aim the boat toward a small island, battling the drift pushing us off our set. I haven't ever driven this boat before so of course I'm doing it wrong.

Much yelling, adjustment, and boat manipulation later, the line is set. We can go troll for Coho now. I don't want to bore you with trolling, but we didn't' catch anything. Instead we drifted for halibut behind a narrow passage. It was a slow drift since it was close to slack tide. We had a couple of good hits. Nothing made it into the boat, though. You don't always have to catch something to enjoy fishing. Decent weather, nice scenery, and a gentle drift is all you really need. It's way better than the crawlspace.

Working hard. Drifting.

A narrow passage near Nakwasina, tDF is a drifting (on a boat!)

We let the longline soak until about 5:30 pm (3.5 hours is a short soak but it gets dark at 7:30 now and I didn't want to deal with boat stuff in the dark). We found the buoy and started pulling. A sticky slime coated the line that he was pulling up. It was jellyfish shards. I don't know what's grosser than snotty goo that burns your flesh. I coiled line into buckets while he pulled the line in. (Line ready for next set!)

There was something wrong. It was coming in too easy and it wasn't bouncing with the grumpy action of a halibut. Skunked. But, then he noticed the orange of a really huge Yellow Eye. Then another. Then another! Our last 3 hooks (out of 15) caught 3 monster Yellow Eye. Cod and other non-pelagic fish have huge swim bladders that inflate as you haul them to the surface. This expansion of gasses helps them float up, and they helped float up the anchor of our longline so it was easy pulling. The swim bladders also expand right out of the fish's mouths so it's like their throwing up their guts.
The Haul

Why they're called Yellow Eye. I love how orange they are.

A perfectly good fishing trip can be ruined by actually catching fish. It means more work. We (he) filleted the fish on the back bench of our boat. Puncturing the swim bladder and their eyes so the carcasses would sink rather than float. These three fish yielded about 10 pounds of premium fillets. They are happily nested in our freezer waiting to become dinner.
I win

Friday, September 4, 2009

I am affirmed

The Onion has a feature called "American Voices." It's an amusing mix of quotes under the same pictures with different occupations. This week, the woman was a soil scientist. Look, it's now a valid career since I saw it in the Onion. Right up there with Systems Analyst and Pedigree Tracer.


Plus it's about federal employees. Win all around.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Frankly, I haven't really been inspired by anything lately. (Is it a faux pas to blog about not knowing what to blog? Emily Post?) Let's blame September, the bitterest month in a Southeast Alaskan year. Days are getting shorter at a rate of 5 minutes a day. You're still high from the summer wonderful, but knowing the curmudgeony hell that is to come. Also, if you work for Uncle Sam, September 30 is the end of the fiscal year. When all your reports are due.

My current report count by September 30: 4. Bleah.

We have added some arbitrary house deadlines to the mix. We need to get the house insulated by the time it starts freezing. This could be December or October depending on the year. I can feel my skin crawl with insulation as I think about it. Let's not think about it.

Because I'm an avoider, I spent the last 3 days working on trail construction projects in the alpine. The weather has been perfect. No rain. No bugs (because bugs are as much a part of the weather here as cloud cover). Sunny. Bittersweet. My summer is ending, field season is drawing to a close. The alpine is turning.

We don't get fall colors in our trees here, we get them in our muskegs and alpine areas. Yesterday was fall on the Harbor-Gavan trail.
I'm at the shelter, near the highest point of the trail. This looks over into Indian River, Mt. Verstovia, and Billy Basin. There's still snow on the highest peaks even after this intensely sunny, warm summer.
The tundra through years of frost-heaving have intensely patterned ground. The uplifted areas support shrubby heathers while the low lying areas support the yellow and red deer cabbage. Rocks are moved to the surface from years of freeze-thaw. My dumb camera can't even begin to capture this place. From here, I could see series of alpine ridges, hanging valleys, rock scarps and steep forest terrain bent, twisted, eroded by water. Glaciers, rivers, rain, avalanches formed this complex topography.

I also saw my first ptarmigan. Alaska story alert! Chicken, Alaska got it's name because nobody could spell ptarmigan. Yep.

They are sitting on the trail. I thought they were grouse at first. I think they're in their summer plumage (browns) but when they fly away, their wingtips are white. They change colors to suit the seasons as a survival mechanism (Guessing here. I'm a physical scientist so I don't know much about the critters. Correct me if I'm wrong.)
See how perfectly they blend into their surroundings? I wish I could just disappear like that sometimes. I saw them on Harbor Mountain but wasn't quick enough with my camera. There was a whole covey of them, wandering among the yellow cedar. Is a group of ptarmigan a covey, like quail? Or are they a murder, like crows.

I'm trying my best to stay above the funk that I know descends this time of year. My own personal cranky cloud. Gah.