27 May 2009


It's been a busy time. Tiredness lags at the eyes in the early morning and though the sun is bright there is a deep calm in the chest as if the body would easily fall into slumber if it came to rest for a few seconds. But it isn't the season for rest.

I'm trying hard this field season to schedule for weekends at home. Home to tend my garden, the Disreputables, to catch up with bills, to remember the feel of my own bed, to spend time with my new boyfriend. However, sometimes other things happen. Last Friday 4 Germans showed up at headquarters asking after me. Turns out they are my mother's cousins and were here for the weekend. We had a lot of fun visiting but entertaining is not exactly restful. The weekend before we hosted a going away party for two colleagues with more then 75 people showing up - a fabulous potluck with lots of kids running around and funny stories and with more people showing up then I even know in the community.

Seasonal allergies have hit hard these last two weeks. Birch and aspen then the willows and now the spruces are blooming - all wind pollinated. It exacerbates the feeling of tiredness. I'm in Los Anchorage with one of my crews - we've got gear to get and some training to cover while here. I had forgotten that Los Anchorage can actually be a pleasant place in spring. I have my bicycle and in the evenings I explore corners of town I wasn't aware existed as well as long time favorite places. There are more fishermen standing on the banks then I would expect for this time of year but the bike ride refreshes me and I recover from anti-social feelings. It's hard this time of year to find time for the self - too many crews of people all clamouring for attention as they adjust to life here at the park and figure out how to do things. It makes me feel vaguely parental even though many of them are older then I am. Patience is important as is good humor.

I want to share pictures but I am on a different computer and the connection doesn't work and so I will have to wait.

12 May 2009


The Disreputable Dog is amazing. The surgeon told me that this leg might take longer to heal up. If anything, it's healing faster. On Friday he was a miserable lump of a dog. We got him out of the vehicle and whenever I wasn't visible or was more then 5 feet away he would whine. His eyes were cloudy and drugged and he fought the drug induced sleep all he could until he would just keel nose first into the rug. He refused to eat all weekend and had to have pills thrust down his throat and he was completely and totally uninterested in his hedgehog (a stuffed toy that he carries around like it's his baby and that he has to show every visitor). I think the drugs must have made him nauseous. And his leg was this nasty purplish swollen thing. Frozen peas helped but he didn't tolerate them for very long.
I pedaled home yesterday wondering how he'd be and out came this bounding dog with his hedgehog in the mouth full of energy and a sparkle in his eye. He ate - of course he did, he got hare that my boss gave me - and he even lifted the other leg to pee - putting all of his weight on the newly operated on leg. His joy in all things has been revived. He tussled his cat instead of the other way around. He threw his hedgehog in the air a few times. Still, he set up howling when I left this morning and twice I had to bike back to pacify him. If that were me post surgery I think I'd still be whining on the couch.

05 May 2009

First Pasque Flowers!

I just found this pasque flower (Anemone patens) today on my walk to my phenology plot. I call it a northern crocus because it is the first flower to bloom in the tundra and it's of similar size (we can't grow crocuses sadly). I was so excited to see 4 or 5 of these little guys today!

I'll be gone for the next few days as I have to head back to Los Anchorage tonight for the Disreputable Dog's second operation (right rear leg). He goes in at 7:30 in the morning and won't be out until the next day. I've been so encouraged at his progress from the first operation (left rear leg) but I am not looking forward to him going back to pathetically in pain again for a few weeks.

04 May 2009

Sharp-shinned Love Affair

This weekend was a busy one. I dismantled an old dog run, I dismantled an old compost pile (with yummy albeit frozen composted soil in it), I built 4 planting beds + 2 half planting beds (i.e. they aren't finished and yes, that yummy compost is going in them), I went to a seed swap where everyone complained about voles (so I lined the bottoms of my new planting beds with fine wire salvaged from the dog runs - I'll post pix when the last two are finished), I dismantled and moved two beds and reassembled, and I watched, mostly listened, to a lovesick pair of sharp-shinned hawks.

It started Friday night while we were having a hurried dinner out on the picnic tables before rushing off to see the premiere of a local high school history film (which was fabulously well done I might add). We kept hearing these, at the time, unseen hawks just going off. We speculated but we had to get on the road. The next day though they were in full form. They seem to have claimed the land we have lived on as part of their territory as they kept swapping places on one particular aspen tree. Maybe we'll be lucky and have a nest! Or not so lucky as far as seeing any other birds this summer - I noticed that it had gone deadly quite where the other birds were concerned. However this weekend I did see my first spring robin and this morning on my bike ride in I heard my first varied thrush. While at the seed swap we had tundra swans and a bald eagle flying overhead. That and a week of really warm weather and it must be summer, even if the ground is still frozen half an inch down!

01 May 2009

One Dead Bear & A Blueberry Pie

It's okay, you can look, it's a paper bear. A very dead paper bear but a paper bear nonetheless. Doesn't s/he look ferocious? Yesterday was my annual bear safety/ shotgun training. At least mostly annual. I've given the bear training myself more times then I can count and I try not to fall asleep when someone else gives it but the afternoon shotgun session is always worth being outside for a sunny spring day. That despite my exceedingly bruised shoulder from the shotgun (but see that shot right through the heart - that's mine). Plus I got blueberry pie out of it.

Let me just say, for the record, that despite my many years in bear country and my many encounters only 1 of them ever involved a charge and I emptied a can of Bear Spray in that grizzly's face and it stopped. Granted, it stopped about 1 foot in front of me and my quivering fieldworker who I was holding down with my other hand (he thought he should run! Never, ever run from a bear!), but he stopped. For the most part I won't be taking a shotgun with me but relying on good old pepper spray (I have an old post on it here, if you want more details). There are two occasions I prefer to have a gun though: 1)when I'm working on a salmon stream - let's face it, this is pretty much a grizzly bear buffet and they may think that this little naked (relative to a bear) bear needs a lesson in who gets the best fishing holes and 2) when I'm working in an area where I know the bears are not only well adapted to humans but to their food (this is a particular problem in bear-baiting areas - don't get me started).

Here's some fun bear-human facts to entertain you:

-more people get killed by pet dogs then bears
-in Alaska, more people get killed by moose then bears
-bears have never attacked a group of 4 or more if those people stand as a group (cowering behind your partner doesn't count - you've got to stand shoulder to shoulder)
-bears are a lot like dogs in their body language
-bear bells mean absolutely nothing to bears since they never evolved with a sound similar. However, pick up a stick & snap it up in little pieces and they will hear it and take good heed.
-I'm way more scared of humans then bears (but this fact may be more about me then bears)

This picture is not mine - I don't know who to credit. I've been told it's of a local bear but there are a few tree species in the photo that make me suspicious of that. As you can tell though, bears will go to great length for food!

Do me a favor, if you live in bear country, take down your bird seed already! And don't put it up again until it looks like winter!