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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Our Memorial Day Weekend

Playing in the stream at low tide on the beach in front of Old Afognak Village

Friday evening our Memorial Day weekend did not look good.  We were flying out to our place on Afognak and the weather report was not promising - rain and wind.  And then on arrival I was alone with 3 kids and in a hurry trying to set up camp before the storm.  Remote camping with kids - what was I thinking?  It was spitting rain and starting to blow and the kids were fighting.  Then Stuey's friend got homesick and started to cry.  I was like what do I do?  Give me a bear encounter - not a homesick child!

But the next morning the weather held good and a float plane was close by for a seat fare for the homesick child, and things just sort of went up from there.  It ended up being a GREAT weekend.

A HUGE change from years past is that the kids no longer seem to wake up at 'first sparrow fart' before the birds even start to sing.  This year the norm was a respectable 7 to 7:30 AM, and then it was quiet time reading in the cook tent by the woodstove until everybody had had their breakfast.

Another big deal this year was the low tide beach hikes.  The tides were super low and occurred at mid day.  We walked along the coastline at the low tide line for miles.  The tide pooling was super cool and will be the topic of a future blog post.  More to come. .. ..


Pre-warming the S'more chocolate - kid campfire heaven

Nora's street address in our 'sand city' game

Ebb tide at Lipsett Point

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hawkweed Be Gone!

The PAST - a bad hawkweed infestation. This is what much of my lawn used to look like, and I intend to take care of this area this summer!

I've been battling hawkweed in my lawn for years, and had sort of given up. I am not one to use fertilizer or herbicides either.  I had stopped trying to weed it out of the lawn and was at the point of trying just not to let it bloom and go to seed.  But then a couple of summers ago I tried something different.  I mulched a particularly egregious area of hawkweed with lawn mower grass clippings.

I use lawn clippings to mulch my garden and trees but by late summer I am generally out of things to mulch.  So I decided to try mulching hawkweed - and it worked.  The next summer the hawkweed was gone and the nitrogen from the lawn clippings had made the grass grow back really green.

In the past I have noticed that hawkweed generally only grows where the lawn is doing badly nutrient-wise.  And I did have some success encouraging clover to out-compete hawkweed.  Clover and it's ability to add nitrogen to the soil did revitalize some areas of the lawn, but it would not grow where the hawkweed is really bad.

Anyway, mulching  hawkweed worked.  The next year almost all the hawkweed was gone and the few remaining plants pulled up easily out of the decayed grass clippings.  And best of all it did not re colonize the mulched areas!  I had actually rid areas of my lawn of hawkweed!

Last summer I continued mulching areas.  It is sort of impossible to mulch it all at once (and is admittedly ugly).  So I have been just mulching the worst patches of lawn. And it continues to work!  I don't think I'll ever totally rid my lawn of hawkweed - there is too much of it around the neighborhood and it even grows on the cliff along the ocean.  But at least I will rid my lawn of the 'practically pure' patches of hawkweed.  The areas where the hawkweed had crowded everything else out.  Patrick

The PRESENT.  An area that I mulched with lawn clippings last summer and this year there is no hawkweed.  I did the same to the area in the top of the picture by the raspberries the year before and still no hawkweed.

Another area that I mulched at the end of last summer

The FUTURE. This area of the lawn used to be pure hawkweed.  I mulched it the summer before last and now look!  I hope to return all my lawn to this condition.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Clean Slate

For the last couple of weeks my desktop computer had been freezing up.  Suddenly yellow dots would appear on the screen and nothing would work.  I joked that it had a case of the measles. That said, I also backed up all my photos and desktop files.

Then a week ago last Thursday when I got back from an archaeological survey the old computer breathed her last gasp.  The entire screen went yellow and white with hieroglyphic like squiggles all over.  Time for a new computer.

Funnily enough I did not feel the angst and anger one usually associates with a total computer crash.  I was sort of expecting it and I had mostly backed everything up.  I also realized that the computer was over 12 years old!  I had purchased it in early 2005 before Nora was born.  Eerily the computer's life span had matched my marriage and the crash coincided with the day if legally ended. Weirder yet when I did get back into to my GCI email account all the emails were gone EXCEPT the ones from before 2003.  It was like 2003 -2017 never existed!

I did discover that I had not backed everything up.  My email address book was gone, all the emails, all the music, the best pictures stored in iphoto, bookmarks etc.  But also gone too were all the email addresses that no longer worked, a morass of photos, the bugs, the bad songs.  Even in 2005 when I bought the computer the older computer had downloaded its thoughts onto the hard drive.  The crashed computer had still had an OS9 application file!  So I thought, 'You know it is time for a clean slate'. 

The new computer will have a hard drive with no memories predating 2017! 

That said, if you reading this, and know me, realize that I may no longer have your email address.  So send me an email.  I will be creating a new email address book, and all the addresses will be current.  Patrick

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

School's Out for Summer

Nora and Stuey with their class and awards

It's funny but I remember when the last day of school was the best day of the year, and the first the worst.  Now the last day of school just means more chaos at home.  But the kids certainly are happy!

Today I went to the awards ceremony and there was a bittersweet moment when their teacher had the 4 students that she has taught for the last 4 years come up and stand with her.  Next year they will all have a new teacher.  They have been in her class for 4 of the 5 years that she has been a teacher.  It was hard not to shed a tear and Nora is very sad to be moving on.

That said there is a lot of squealing and commotion going on about me as I write this.  This afternoon Stuey and Nora had classmates over for a playdate and they made pretzels.  Then hide and seek.  Then keep Stuey and his friend out of the house (locking doors and windows). ... .. They seem to be enjoying Summer just fine.

Nora and her gold achievement award - the only 5th grader to get one!

Stuey's Ode to Dad and Nora's Menu

 Nora and Stuey did these projects at School and I found them lying around the house.  They made me smile.  Nora's menu was a Spanish class assignment - a menu in Spanish - while Stuey's Ode to Dad is a writing assignment about someone they admire.  Nora wrote about me last year for this assignment (click here). 

Both are too good not to share on on the blog.  And I'm happy that 'Overall' I'm the 'Best dad ever.'  Patrick

Monday, May 22, 2017

First Salmonberry Blossom

Nora came home for a paper route with a present for me - the first salmonberry blossom of the year.  She knows that I care about such things and try and keep track from year to year when such events occur.  Well this year the first salmonberry blossom is May 22.  And that is actually pretty late.

Last year the first salmonberry blossom was on the 25th of March! (click here for post)  But that was the earliest I'd ever seen it, and I think the event typically occurs in the second week of May.  So we are about a week late this year.

Although I will add, I've been seeing a lot of dead salmonberry plants.  The plants out in the open got frosted this winter, and these are also often the first to blossom.  The salmonberry bushes in the woods are doing great but they typically bloom a bit later.  So perhaps summer is right on time only the typically early blossoming plants aren't blooming because of the raw winter?

I certainly do know that green up is occurring at a rapid rate this year!  And for those who care - I think this next week is morel mushroom seeking and picking week!  The cottonwoods are leafing out and the pushki is getting to be knee high.  Time to seek out those tasty, crenelated fungi.  Patrick

Sunday on Mill Bay

Yesterday it was supposed to be cloudy with sprinkles.  But the forecast was wrong.  Nothing but sunshine.  The kids and I took the dogs exploring on the beach and later we had friends over for a fire pit dinner.  On the beach Stuey and I played tag on the driftwood.  You had to stay on the logs and could not touch the ground.  It was a surprisingly vigorous workout, and good for the balance!

Later at the barbecue we cooked deer burgers and later Cost Saver cow patties and hot dogs. The sunshine was warm and the grass so green.  Pretty soon I'll be mowing the lawn.  Patrick

Tag on the logs

May Snow

Right now it is just about the best skiing of the year on Pyramid Mountain.  Ego snow.  Soft corn that is easy to turn in and go really fast.  Over the weekend we even got some new snow too.  But the season is quickly winding down.  Everyday I see more grass poking up where once there was snow.  And pretty soon the skiing will be just limited to the upper reaches of the mountain.  In the meantime. . ...

Yesterday morning was particularly spectacular - Dale and Chloe on her graduation ski

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Survey Methods

Out on the Shelikof on an abnormally calm day

On the last survey Gregg and I got a lot of help from the Afognak Native Corporation's patrol boat.  They helped us to survey a lot of the coastline quickly and moved us around to more efficiently cover what we needed to survey.  Without their help the survey would have required at least twice the time.

That said there were a lot of areas that the big boat could not reach or that needed to be hiked.  We did spend a morning hiking up to Selief 'Lake', and hiked most of the little islands off the south end of Raspberry Island.

At the end of each survey I try to mark on a map which areas I surveyed on foot as opposed to by boat.  Hiking coastline is the most time consuming method of survey but it also finds the most sites.  Hard to miss a site when you walk across it.  But if you had to hike everything you would never complete the job - so I had to constantly assess whether coastline was 'worth' hiking.

Surveying entails a lot of getting in and out of boats.  It can get tiring, and there is the often an inclination to just say, 'nah', and stick with the boat.  Needless to say, but I got in and out of the boats a lot and did it ALL day.

On occasion I even hike coastline that doesn't look promising just to make sure my 'worthiness' model is up to snuff.  I don't want my model to determine where I find sites - that would be a self-fulfilling model.  So on every survey I do check random places and climb mountains etc, but I also balance that by not checking on a lot of unlikely areas.  These are the coastlines where we just paddle or motor on past - slowly of course and with the binoculars in hand!  Patrick

Here I am thinking, 'do I need to get out and check this beach for a site?'

Tonalite dike on the beach on the North end of Little Raspberry Island

Something related to the Port Bailey Cannery? That's one BIG engine

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Time in the Teepee

I love camping with a teepee and wood stove.  I like the stove even more when it is cold, rainy and raw and you REALLY appreciate it.  Camping with a wood stove and teepee in the summer or when the weather is clear is sort of blah.  Why bother with the stove?  But when it is raw outside and you are wet   you feel immensely self-sufficient drying out by the wood stove.

Another benefit of the wood stove is that you are not limited to 'quick' freeze dried type meals.  You can cook meals slowly over the wood stove.  One night we even had pasta with an alfredo sauce seasoned with morel mushrooms.  MMMMMmmmm.  Try getting that meal in a 'just add boiling water' packet.

On our last trip we needed the wood stove.  There was a lot of cold and raw weather.  Having the wood stove made the trop enjoyable.  Patrick

Nothing beats waking up with the heat of the stove on your face - makes getting out of the sleeping bag easy

Cooking dinner on the wood stove - browning the onions and hard salami

Friday, May 19, 2017

Raspberry Straits and the Slough

Yesterday evening I returned from a 4 day archaeological survey of the Raspberry Straits area. The survey is a continuation of a larger survey by the Alutiiq Museum to document the archaeological sites on all of the Afognak Native Corporation's land (click here for last survey). The Afognak Native Corporation (ANC) owns a lot of land so there is certainly a lot to document, and more surveys to come.  Sometimes I really love my job!

Anyway Gregg and I worked with the ANC patrol officers to survey over 40 miles of coastline.  They helped us survey the rugged outer coastline from their patrol boat and then we kayaked and surveyed the more protected waters (but shallow and rock strewn) on our own.  We found 17 new archaeological sites and checked on another 4 sites that were already known.  That's a lot of sites!  And now instead of just 4 known sites in the area there are 21.

The kayaking was spectacularly scenic.  I think the highlight for Gregg and I was kayaking through the rafts of squealing sea otters in Selief Bay.  They numbered in the hundreds and were all around us - mothers with their babies on their chest, and heads popping up here and there and everywhere - splashes and squeals.  And then there were the bears and elk out by Malina - we saw a lot of wildlife on this trip.


On the prowl

A fox box

Oystercatcher nest

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Garden's In!


The garden is all in - Finally!  I seemed to get a late start on it this year and with all the warm weather it was causing low grade stress. I was not making hay while the sun shines so-to-speak.

Yesterday I fetched 18 buckets of beach peat (3 trips) from a secret beach (think boats and bars), and planted all the potatoes.  For seed potatoes I used sprouting potatoes from last year's crop.  And I still have about 10 pounds of potatoes leftover - I grew a lot of potatoes last year.  As the kids will tell you we've been eating potatoes way too often for their tastes.  And I hope they have the same complaint next year!

Today Nora and I finished planting the raised beds.  We sowed carrot, beat, salad greens, and snap pea seeds.  I noticed that in my tubs the kale from last year self-seeded.  So it seems I am all done.  All except maybe a parsley plant, some thyme and the nasturtiums.

At the end of the planting session Nora and I stretched a light net over each bed to keep the birds and cats out.  I explained that the net protected the seedlings and that once the plants are big enough to fend for themselves I'll take the nets off.  Nora wondered, 'how will the birds see the nets'.  I had not thought of that - I hope I am not confusing those pesky fox sparrows!

Now we wait for stuff to sprout and the real work begins - weeding and thinning!


Raised beds

Donated strawberries from friends who left town seem to be doing fine!

It's a 'Brewster Tail' of snow thrown up against the sky!


Yesterday I took my good camera to Stuey's soccer game.  His team is RK Leather which he tells me stands for 'Road Kill'.  Cool.  Let 'em have it Stuey. And with a name like that it's no wonder they are undefeated.  How could a team like the 'Minions', 'Mach Nacho', or the 'Dominators' stand a chance against 'Road Kill'?  Although there is one team named the 'Honeybadgers' - better watch out for that team Stuey.

Anyway I am amazed at how much the soccer has improved.  I remember going to games a few years ago where the kids did not know which direction to kick the ball.  Yesterday I watch Stuey deke a kid from the other team.  He spun one way and then the other, keeping control of the ball, and sneaked on past.  Wow!