Thursday, August 19, 2010

Work is not a four letter word

I often forget I'm working when I'm at work. I have the privilege of living and working in the most beautiful place on earth. to wit: my paid adventure in the wilds of Kruzof Island. I had to finish the field work for mapping the soils of South Kruzof, a young volcanic terrain with the iconic Mt. Edgecumbe. I am lucky lucky lucky.

Four intrepid souls packed into a remote shelter via the Mt. Edgecumbe trail. It was rainy, sunny, foggy, and wonderful. We packed out more than 80 pounds of soil to send off for sampling.

This is part of the trail as you move away from the volcanic plains near saltwater and onto the plateaus at the flanks of the cinder cone. The trail is a narrow, gravel path with cedar logs as both steps and drains. It blends very nicely with the surroundings.

At the top of Mt. Edgecumbe, we had our first sample site. Here we all are in the alpine meadow. I'm taking a point with my semi-awesome Trimble Nomad. (It is incredibly crotchety, a neat tool but so very temperamental. I want to throw it against a tree at least once per day.) We had to dig a soil pit, describe it and pull samples out to send off to a soil lab.

Make no mistake, I love dirt. I love my job that lets me study dirt. I love the touch, taste, and smell of dirt. Here I am, placing the measuring tape for the official photo. I am super happy. That is not a fake smile, I really like what I'm doing that much.

The shelter has 3 sides and a wood stove with a few bunks in the back. Basic, and perfect. Up here, you pretty much only need a roof. I believe this was burrito night, we ate really well.

After Edgecumbe, we hiked up crater mountain. She sits just to the north of Edgecumbe (in the background of the above pic) and is not really a cinder cone. I felt like I should be wearing a dirndl and herding some sort of sheep. The place was otherworldly.

The vegetation is tundra, the same as caribou feed on and is found in the main part of Alaska. It's dominantly small grasses, heathers, and forbs. I just wanted to sit quietly in this landscape.

I wanted to camp there instead of the shelter. We were lucky enough to have a clear day to hike up here as the day before was foggy and wet. This is an andesite dome that is the main part of Crater mountain. The little waves in the foreground are formed by frost heaving from freeze-thaw cycles in permafrost. They are perfectly contoured to fit the human body and are immensely comfortable.

They aren't the organic soils I was expecting and they even had spodic development. Weird.

I love my job. Do you love yours?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meet Rodgers and Hammerstein

In the feverish existence of commercial fishing, I named my biceps. I believe some people refer to these as "guns." I have never had much muscle definition in my arms before and while white-knuckling the trip home through 20 kt winds I decided it was high time to name my newly defined arms.

Lefty is Rodgers and Righty is Hammerstein. I am right-handed, and use that one to wield the gaff/bludgeon and kill fish. It deserves to be called Hammerstein. (Was thinking about Gilbert and Sullivan but I love Oklahoma! more than a GenX/Y/Millenial really should.) I am a big-budget musical girl always and forever.

I have never named my body parts before, so this is my first step into some ill-conceived adventure in whimsy. This also speaks to the complete lack of filter I get when working near 22 hours straight. Yesterday began at 4 am and ended 2 am this morning.

Continuous work! That's what fishing is! At least every day began with a hot cup of high octane coffee and something hot off the propane grill. It was needed too because we caught at least 39 kings yesterday. "At Least" because I'm pretty sure I lost count here and there. The day ended after off loading 1500 pounds of fish flesh at the cannery.

Tired doesn't even begin to describe how I feel.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Deer Killin' Machine

I done married one. He loves a good Deer Killing any time of the day, any day of the week, any elevation in the greater Sitka Area. (He especially loves packing 50 # of meat out through the absolute worst terrain created by opportunistic logging and cliffs.) While I was luxuriating in Denver last week, he shot another one.

We still had a ton of venison in the freezer in the garage. I "haven't cooked deer in forever and have been neglecting my wifely duties." Ahem. It could be the piles of sh*t that are not mine in and around the freezer preventing me from getting at said 2009 deer meat. But, let's not fight. Let's talk about Demi Glace and 15# of sausage!

Oh yeah, I made a lot of sausage. Both bulk, and stuffed into casing with my handy Kitchen Aid meat squirter (sausage attachment). It took 2 days but I think it was worth it. We made spicy italian sausage, but I made it a bit more mild so it would be versatile. TDF even took pictures, but they all look kind of gross (not cleaning the house for, like, weeks ftw). Also, you have all seen ground meat and sausage so picture it in your minds eye and bask in my awesome sausageness.

My real triumph was the Demi Glace, or meat jelly. I got to use the Wyoming Saw I bought tDF for his birthday and cut up the leg bones of the deer. I felt like the most awesome french person with a Saveur subscription. It's a James Peterson recipe where you roast the bones with veggies and aromatics before simmering them for hours. I used the crock pot for simmering because I take shortcuts like that. The final broth was reduced to a scant cup on the stove over a couple of hours. I froze it into little glass jars to break out for special food occasions! I love how full and round the flavor is. I could eat it with a spoon.

The bones were cooked again to make a broth that's pretty nice. It should become chili or stew very shortly. Not much cooking right now, though. We have another king opener on Sunday then I have to work in the field again. Summer fun just never ends at the Harpy-Fisherman household!

Also? All this deer death talk reminds me to share with you, Internet, that we saw Deliverance last night. It was disturbing. Not the "Squeal Like a Pig" Hillbilly rape shenanigans, but the sinking the bodies in the river with rocks. And how Normal Dudes could just kill people like that. Not the uplifting, heartwarming tale I was expecting.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Snowflake Kittens

This is the product of the Venn Diagram of Romance novel readers and cat people. This may not be so much of a Venn Diagram as concentric circles. I found this on the free shelf at the library a few weeks ago, but didn't pick it up. Later, talking to my brother about Brokeback Mountain (I finally saw it) we talked about this book, Snowflake Kittens. He made me promise to go to the library and pick it up.

Luckily, it was still there. I read this thing in its entirety in about 2 days. The book is 3 regency-era novellas involving kittens and spinsters. So that Venn diagram above also should have Women-of-a-certain age..

I, as you may guess, only retained the important plot points. Character names, not so much. Here you go! Snowflake kittens:

Story 1: An injured war hero from the Napoleonic wars returns home to take over the estate after his brother and wife die. Soldier inherits their two spawn and, yup, a kitten. While riding home (stoically) he sees the new tenant covered in unladylike mud. She knows she offended him by doing her own gardening. What a strumpet. She has a puppy, a yellow lab.

Through a series of dumb regency maneuvering he realizes the tenant is a well-regarded governess who inherited enough $$ to retire. How perfect! Someone to govern those two precocious kids, one with a moppet-law mandated lisp. He's not sure he can be around her, though, because he desires her oh, so much. (This is a chaste book, so the language is quite mild. As you would expect a kitten-themed romance novel to be)

After the kitten is lost in a snowstorm and tennant-lady's dog retrieves/saves it do the two starcrossed 40-somethings get together. It is a very happy ending for all.

Story 2.

Confirmed bachelor rides into the moors to visit his self-exiled brother. Bachelor invited the lady who broke off the engagement with his brother. But Bachelor really likes the lady. Oh, and brother is super-into treasure hunting for Roman relics on his estate. AND, a mangy, pregnant cat befriends bachelor and brings him gifts of jewels from a neighboring estate.

Got it?

This is fairly straight forward, but bachelor is constantly creating work for his Valet by getting dirty and petting the filthy cat. (I can imagine Jeeves not really tolerating this behavior from Wooster.) Well, the cat was trained by a band of rogues who steal from estates through the moorlands. They manage to steal the cat back and Bachelor has to ride out in a snowstorm to save her. The only person who cares is the lady (brother's former fiancee and currently the squeeze of bachelor) and she is suitably impressed by a guy who would brave the weather to save a cat.

She is proposed to over a batch of kittens.

Story 3.

There is some sort of convoluted custody arrangement that doesn't really matter Dude is engaged to a shrew. Lady is engaged to a fop. They both want custody of some kid that are their mutual relations. The two kids put on plays and make all the adults watch. These are elaborate plays where the 4 or 5 kittens, all with names like "Hope" or "Prudence."

Fop and Shrew hate kittens and one kitten "attacks" them and they shriek from the settee. Dude and Lady can't keep their hands off each other. Stealing kisses while playing billiards. There is also an admiral who hates the French. All the plays are morality tales that tell the stories of our four lovers.

Fop and Shrew elope which leaves Dude and Lady to marry and adopt the adorable moppets and their 5 kittens.

There are more books: Mistletoe Kittens, Valentine Kittens, Spring Kittens, Wedding Day Kittens. You should totes check them out.