I'm working as a Fish Culturist at Hidden Falls Salmon Hatchery in a remote spot near Sitka, Alaska! AM I CRAZY!? I'm starting to think so...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

2007 Season... THE END!

WOW, can you believe that in two days it will be December already!? That seems so crazy. Yesterday was my last day of work… that seems crazy too. It seems like just yesterday when I was all worried about coming up here… wondering if it was a good idea… wondering if I would even be able to do it. Now I’ve completed my whole season of hatchery work and have signed on for another year of it! I guess it is proof of how much things can change within a year. Just another crazy, amazing thing I can add to my list of big things I have done with my life that I wouldn’t change for anything!

I had intended to write this blog on Monday… I even had a title for it and everything. So I will title this little section of my blog…


Of all the jobs I have done here, the worst job was saved until the end. I was pretty convinced I had found my own version of Hell! Where did the concept of a “hot, firey hell” originally come from? Personally, my version of Hell would be somewhere cold and icy and you have to sit in little icy cold pools of water or something! Heaven to me would be warm and sunny (definitely not hot and firey though). Like I said, I was pretty convinced I had woken up in Hell on Monday. When we seeded the stacks of incubators a while back, I said that we put the eggs on a screen. Then when the fish hatch, they fit through the screen and only the bad, unhatched eggs are left on top. Eventually, you have to go through and pull all these screens out. That means you keep your hands in the freezing cold water for basically the whole time you are doing this job. The water right now is ohhh…. 40 degrees maybe? I’m not completely sure but it’s REALLLLLY cold! I could be sitting in the warmest place in the house and my hands will still be cold! So me having to stick my already really cold hands into such cold water is not pleasant. Now imagine having to do this for a full 8 hour day… BAD! Well, really it was only like 4 hours and then we came up with a better way (for me) to do it. But for those torturous 4 hours, I was pretty convinced I might lose my hands! HA HA

What you have to do is… There is a person on each side of the stack. I was on the back side and Adam was on the front. We each have a water diverter that we hook onto the stack because we want any nasty eggs or “bunk,” as we call it, to just fall on the ground. Otherwise, they will fall into the trough, which will then go into the incubator underneath it. Then we have to take off the fry gate. This is just a screen that lets the water pass through it at a certain level but keeps the fish from getting out. These gates are connected by two wing nuts, which end up causing problems later on. So you unscrew these wing nuts and you tip the screen down slowly so the water spills out but doesn’t RUSH out and pull fish or eggs out with it. You are now ready to pull the screen out. Each person has a little tool that looks a bit like a screwdriver but comes to a point on the end and is bent so it acts as a hook. You just hook it through the screen and pull it up. Then, as you are holding the screen up, Adam would slide a pole underneath it to hold it up and he would slide the whole screen out on his side. Those eggs are weighed and recorded. Then comes the hard part… you have to put the fry gate back on but remember those tiny little wing nuts!? When you have frozen numb hands, the hardest thing to do is try to twist on these dumb things. I can’t even screw on a wing nut with my left hand when they are completely fine and now I have to try to screw one on with a frozen, numb hand. HA!

Anyhow, to make a long story short, we had 36 stacks to do… each stack had 5 screens. Do the math… 180 screens. And your hands are basically useless after 2 stacks! Well, like I said before, we ended up figuring out an easier faster way to do this. I was really slow at taking off and putting on the dumb fry gate so Adam took one for the team and only did his screen and managed to get the screen out without me having to pull my side up. That way, I got to wear gloves to keep my hands dry. Sadly, after a while in incubation, even with gloves, my dumb hands would still get cold! STORY OF MY LIFE! Does poor circulation run in our family? Because Adam and I are always talking about how my hands and feet are constantly cold.

Finally we finished that crappy job up, but then we had to get the net out of the lagoon. I won’t even go into that because it’s boring but it did mean we had to be over on the OTHER side of the lagoon… aka BEAR TERRITORY. Which will lead me into another topic of this blog, which will be titled…


They are EVERYWHERE! They are really starting to get desperate now for food. The other morning I saw a bear up on the stairs to our big walk-in cooler near the spawning shed. That’s where people keep their deer when they shoot one and there was one in there. The bear didn’t get in or anything, but he sure wanted to. Then when we were working on the lagoon net (and I was fearing for my life on the BEAR side), we saw a bear walking around on-site during the daylight. Just walking around… almost in front of the shop door. We were like “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? IT’S DAYLIGHT!” A little bit later, still on the bear side, we saw a bear walk up right in front of Adam’s house. We were thinking “Hopefully it doesn’t get spooked because it would probably run right over the weir and right into US!” Thankfully no bears decided to visit us. If they are on-site that much during daylight, you can only imagine how much they are on-site after dark (which is like 3:45 these days! SAD!) So I dread walking over to Adam’s house after dark. The other day, we were walking over and he was just saying how I always walk on the inside (on the round pond side of him instead of the lagoon side). I said back that it was because it was scary in that one certain dark spot and it made me feel safer when we hear a bear running away from us ON MY SIDE between the round ponds. GAH scares the crap out of me! I’ll be real happy when they are gone for the winter but I have a feeling I’ll be gone before them.


So yeah I know, it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted. Last time I did, we had just started picking eggs. So we finished that… then waited a few days, then started seeding the Takatz eggs into the R48s. I can’t even remember how long this took but it felt like it took a while… and we finished last Friday. Really it was only a few days though… But I was frustrated and tired of work at the end of the day Friday. We had to put these plates on top of the last layer and it was just a pain. Some of them didn’t fit… It was a pain and Adam was getting frustrated which was making me frustrated. I was ready to tell Scott that I didn’t want to work this week and that I was done… but I decided to just keep on working. Low and behold, the crappiest job was still ahead of us! Adam and Steve took the hatch screens out of the first 12 stacks that we seeded a few weeks ago and I did help but I was the egg weigher. I knew we would have to do this job but I said to myself that I’d be the egg weigher again and it would be ok. NOT! Anyhow, you know the rest of that one.

We had a potluck Thanksgiving but… something just didn’t feel right to me. I’ve spent Thanksgiving away from home a lot but this felt different. Maybe it was because I sat around all day and then we had dinner later around 7. That was probably it.

Adam shot his first deer a week ago or so. I wasn’t with him but I watched during the skinning and cutting up process. That was interesting I guess. I didn’t help too much but there wasn’t much for me to do really. He’s pretty good at it all. Yesterday we ate some steak from that deer and it was GREAT! Adam said it was one of the best he’s had. Didn’t even taste like deer… I sure hope the bear, who ended up pulling the grill off the porch last night enjoyed the leftover taste of the deer too! It’s just a little grill but the bear (for the 2nd time) took the actual grill part off somewhere… now we are going to have to go hunting for it.

SO… work is over. Now I’m bored… HA HA! I’m trying to figure out Christmas stuff and just making myself crazy really! Adam and I leave the hatchery next Wednesday (Dec. 5th) but we, unfortunately, have to spend about 5 days in Sitka before we leave for Mexico. So for once, we are hoping for a delayed Wednesday flight! Maybe it will come a day later and we will have a day less in Sitka to sit around. Anyhow, so December 10th we leave… December 17th we get back. On the 19th, he heads back to the hatchery… and I head back home to you guys! I’m excited really… for Mexico AND for home! So I’m not sure if I’ll write another blog before I leave. And once I get back, what’s the point of writing really because I’ll be home and can talk to all of you in person. SOOOOO… this blog will be the last until next season probably.

By the way, the weather today is BEAUTIFUL! But I think it's the calm before the storm. It's suppose to get really cold this weekend and we will probably get some snow. Actually I haven't even been outside today... but I have a feeling it's really cold because there is STILL frost on the ground (and it's 3:30!).

SHOUT OUT OF THE DAY – To all my readers, thanks for reading! Tune back in in February! :-)

Monday, November 5, 2007

The 1st of many?

We had snow today... it snowed all day actually but we got probably less than an inch. Now everything looks quite pretty. I wasn't looking forward to the snow but to be honest, it makes it easier to see the bears at night and makes everything brighter so it's alright.

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Anyhow, today we also started to pick chum eggs. It's a long process of sitting in front of the pickers picking out any bad eggs that may come through. All day.... I spent most of the day siphoning eggs from an incubator, running unpicked eggs to the pickers, running picked eggs back and dumping them into another incubator. Besides that, there really isn't much else to it.

This weekend we "shocked" eggs in a bunch of incubators. We lifted one incubator up with this big crane and basically siphoned them down into another incubator. At the end of the siphon is a metal plate that the eggs bounce off. According to Adam, this breaks up the protein in any bad eggs and turns them white.

I guess there isn't much else to say.... last week was Halloween, but that was postponed until Saturday (by the trick or treaters) Josh and Brandy and the two kids did come around on Halloween though. Tytus, their 2 year old, was a skeleton and their little baby was in a pepper costume but he was wrapped up and you couldn't really see it very well. Cute though. Then Saturday came around and we got the rest of the trick or treaters...

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'Nough said!

SHOUT OUT OF THE DAY - Happy Belated 90th Birthday to Grandma Moser!