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...

Friday, February 22, 2008

I'm sore!

Hey everyone. Well, I just finished my first week back at work. I sure picked a heck of a week to start back up! It was a short one, but a work out!

My first day back should have been Monday, but surprisingly, we took President’s Day off. Well most of us did… Tuesday was spent doing my FAVORITE job! Shoveling of course! No, we thankfully didn’t get more snow yet but we had to dig out the pipes for ponding. Unfortunately, they are parked right where they like to plow snow. Actually we were fairly lucky because we didn’t have to dig the whole length of the pipe out. Just one end of them… which was buried under A LOT of fairly heavy, “becoming ice” snow. These pipes are a few hundred feet long each… made of like 4 inch black plastic… and always seem to get twisted together no matter how hard you try to keep them separated when you put them away. After digging for a bit to find them ends, we reached them but had to figure out which would be the pipe on TOP to pull out first. Once we decided the winning first pipe, we tied it to the forks of the loader and tried to pull that beast out. At first, the rope snapped about three times. Then we learned we would have to dig the snow out a bit more.

Anyhow, the story goes like that for about 4 or 5 more pipes. We needed enough pipe to go from the outside of incubation to the ponding raceways… that meant two lengths of pipe. Then we also needed 3 or 4 more lengths of pipe to go from the other end of the ponding raceway, back behind the duplex, down the hill, and all the way out to the chum pens via the water of course. These pipes float… That’s a lot of pipe! Once we finally got all that done, I was starting to feel fairly sore for many reasons… 1) first day back to work… 2) slipping and sliding on the ice that is coating the roads where we were working… 3) sliding and falling down the snow hills we were digging out… Then we had to dig out the “flexhose.” These are flexible pipes that we can easily (not really THAT easily actually) move around for when we need to connect and disconnect lines for ponding. These pipes vary in length from 50 to 100 to 200 feet in length… under about 3 feet of that same snow. Thankfully they were sorta uncovered on one side but most of them took quite a bit of digging to get out… the whole length this time. I don’t even know how many of those we needed but it was a bunch.

Finally it was lunchtime… then we were back at that for a bit. Then that was the end of the shoveling! We went into incubation to hook up the water for the ponding machine and set up other random stuff we needed to start the next day. Once we were done, Scott sat us down and went through the ponding procedure. I knew it from last year but it was a good refresher… and Andy, Anna, and Steve are new at it (new to the HF doings atleast.) Then we did a few more things, and Scott asked me into his office. He let me know he thought I did a great job last year and that he never had any complaints… all good stuff really. He let me know he gave me a very nice raise… I won’t post it on here but I’ll let you guys know via email or something. Asked if I had any question, concerns, comments… then I was done for the day.

So I woke up feeling BEAT! Second day back and I was already dead! And it was a ponding day! OH BOY! Those two days weren’t too bad though but today I’m more sore. The first day I was the hose person in the morning, then the cleaner in the afternoon. A refresher of the ponding process…

We move an incubator stack to the ponding machine. Then with a crane, we pick up the top box and move it to sit on a square metal piece. Then the box lifter person pushes down on a pole which pushes the metal piece up with the box so that eventually it is tipped on it’s side and all the fish and substrate spill out into a pool of water. Off the pool of water is a sort of slide which allows the substrate to slide down and into a bag, but allows the fish to fall through the spaces and into another pool of water. They are then piped out to the ponding raceway. We pond 3 incubators (3 million fish) into each raceway, and there are two raceways. Each raceway equals one pen worth of fish. I hope that makes sense!?

So hose person in the morning, cleaner of incubator boxes in the afternoon. The next day, we pushed those fish in the raceways out to their saltwater homes! Angie and Anna did it while Andy and I just helped out a bit and waited. Once one raceway was clear, Scott got Andy and I to start ponding into that cleared raceway. However, Scott asked me if I wanted to try to lift the boxes. *Flashback from last year attempting to lift the boxes… I recall struggling INCREDIBLY through this for 7 boxes and ending up with a very bruised top of the shoulder. At the end of the day, I went straight to my room, laid on the ground and cried a bit because I thought I should have been able to do it but was upset I struggled so hard!* “Umm yeah sure…” I replied with much hesitation in my voice. You can’t say no to the boss! So Scott walked me through the process again and I DID IT! WHAT!? I guess I learned a lesson today… Just because you couldn’t do it before doesn’t mean you still can’t. I decided I didn’t get any stronger or anything, I just must have been doing it wrong last year! I didn’t have a sore bruised shoulder this time… Yeah sure the box was still heavy but it seems so much easier. I still struggled a bit though… when you are rinsing the box out, the box lifter has to lift the box up and on it’s corner (empty though). I had a hard time with this sorta but Andy helped me out. Needless to say, I did not lie down on the floor and cry at the end of that day… I was pretty proud of myself actually!

I could have kept going with those boxes but Scott had me switch with Anna. Then after lunchtime, we FLEW through the rest of ponding. Deena and I were cleanin FOOLS! I don’t even know how we went so fast but we did. We ended up getting out of work early… so I decided to head straight to the dock to check Adam’s boat and make sure it wasn’t underwater or something crazy. To my great shock, there was a TON of water in it. Unfortunately the battery of his boat is dead, meaning the bilge pump isn’t working, meaning you pump any water out by hand! I’ve checked it every day and pumped it out the day before but it must have rained BUCKETS the night before! I grabbed a bucket and bailed it out… then used the hand pump. I couldn’t believe how much was in it!

So today is Friday… the end of the seemingly long, but literally short week. My neck is pretty sore today and shoulders… probably from the ponding. We pushed the two raceways of fish out to saltwater. Then Anna and I went into incubation and cleaned the pressure plates (metal plates that sit on top with holes in it) which took a while. Then cleaned fry gates (screen on the No-Pad incubators), and finished up the day feeding the Coho. That’s all we had so we got out of work at about 3:30! YAY!

Now it’s the weekend… I have a few movies to watch albeit alone. Adam got back to Sitka today from being in Washington for a fish conference. Now he sits in town until Wednesday… boo for him AND me! Perhaps I’ll bake something new. Last weekend I made bagels from scratch! It was pretty fun and they turned out good, though their shape needed a bit of work. :-)

I’m not sure what we’ll do next week… we ponded the “late large” Hidden Falls chum, but the normal Hidden Falls chum won’t be ready to be ponded for another 7-10 days. Possibly we’ll get some things done in the new Takatz house. They were trying to collect water to see if the plumbing works… the power is all good now… and they built a really nice new railing made of wood to replace the fallen metal one it originally came with.

Anyhow, that’s all for now. This turned out way longer than I intended. Let me know if you guys need more details on stuff or not. I wasn’t sure if you remembered how we ponded the fish so I went through it again, but was it necessary? Give me some input. Have a great weekend!

SHOUT OUT OF THE DAY – To Valerie… just because I think you need a shout out today! <3

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Here we go again...

Welcome back to the 2008 version of this crazy Alaskan blog!

Well it’s been an interesting/stressfully past few days. I’m sure most of you have heard, vague details atleast… but I’ll do a recap.

The fog thankfully lifted enough for Dad to drive me down to South Bend. However, upon check-in, I found out that my 9am flight to O Hare had been cancelled… it was only 7:30! Who knows what the reason was really… the fog couldn’t be to blame because it surely would have lifted completely in time. Well, alright, so my flight is cancelled… now what!? The airport folks tell me that they didn’t put me on another flight and I had to use the little “United airlines” phone to call and reschedule myself. “Isn’t that what they get paid for!?” Valerie and I said to each other! So as I’m on the phone rescheduling, the airline people keep informing people that come up behind me that the flight has been cancelled. While I’m waiting for the lady on the phone to figure things out, I turn around to check out the newest person being told they have no flight and I’m surprised by who I see! “That’s Fred Upton!” I mouth to Dad and Valerie. Not a huge crazy thing but in the South Bend airport, just not the person you’d expect to see when you turned around! Anyhow, so I get a new flight to O Hare and also to Seattle. I had a 3 hour layover in Seattle so that gave me a bit of leeway to catch that Alaska flight.

The flights were alright… From South Bend to O Hare, I was on the very LAST seat in our little jet… not the most comfortable seat because it doesn’t recline any and is flat up against a wall. Then from O Hare to Seattle I had a little less than an hour to catch my flight (but I was hungry… and it’s O Hare!). Anyhow, I had a great flight! They put me in a seat that was basically the next step down from First Class. It was an economy premium or economy premier… something like that. Well it had a lot more leg room!! Probably not quite as much as an exit row but I had a good 6 inches to spare. I even had a phone I could use if I wanted to become bankrupt by calling from the air! So I arrive in Seattle feeling fairly relaxed… but I had to make it quick to catch my Alaska flight. So much for leeway time!! I arrive at the gate as they are boarding people (though they just started…) but I still had to get my boarding pass printed off for me. However the lady was dealing with someone else and something wasn’t going right for her so she kept having to call someone. All I could think was “They are going to give my seat away to a standby person cause they don’t think I’m here!!” Needless to say, I made it fine to Alaska.

HOWEVER, my bags did not! *Recalling in my mind the dreaded lost luggage situation when I came home a month ago* GREAAAAAT… The lady at the counter was nice and helped… said an 11pm flight was supposed to come in and usually the bags come in on that. “Did you have any tight connections!?” She says… “Umm ALL of them!?” I said with a laugh. She said to call in the morning (or come back at 11) and check… gave me a little bag with toiletries (sp?) and sent me on my way. We get to the apartment and unfortunately the internet isn’t working… BOO! Anyhow, I wake up early the next day feelin good… my bags are gonna be here… I know it! “Hi my bags were lost last night and I’m calling to see if they came on last night’s flight” “Oh well that 11pm flight didn’t make it in last night…” “Umm…….. is there a flight in this morning!?” “Yeah, it arrives at 11:25am.” This doesn’t sound too bad… ya know… just gotta wait for the bags. However, Deena and I are supposed to fly out to the hatchery this morning at 10am! As bad as we wanted to leave, the weather just wasn’t going to let us. I was kinda thankful though because of the luggage. It ended up coming in! The flight to the hatchery was cancelled though… so we spent another night in town. That gave me a bit of free time to clean up the shampoo explosion that happened in my suitcase. It WAS in a plastic bag but it had a hole… it only affected one corner of my bag. And by the way, my luggage came all in one piece and DIDN’T have anyone else GARMENTS in it this time! ;-D Email me if you didn’t hear that story…

Anyhow, we managed to get out the next day. Arrived back to the hatchery to be greeted by my wonderful boyfriend and a nice icy cold wind! There’s a lot of snow… big shocker right!? Guess it shouldn’t surprise me really! There was probably about 4 to 4-1/2 feet of snow… estimate! :-D Today we are supposed to get 8-12 inches of snow… followed by 10-14 inches tonight… and another 5 inches tomorrow. Nice right!?!? And it’s about 11 degrees out. Unfortunately the only person working in it is Adam!




So snow snow snow… what else!? Adam took me out to see the new Takatz house yesterday! I’m sure I’ve talked about the new house to most of you but you just may not have seen the picture. Well, we’ve been excited about it, but once it finally arrived… not so exciting! It’s a nice house, and quite large, but there have been a bunch of problems with it. It can’t hold as much food as we want because it’ll be too low in the water… the wiring is all screwy for OUR needs… the first real snow, the stovepipe fell off and snow sliding off the roof hit the railing to the deck and caused it to fall and mangle. So I finally get to see it and about froze on the way out and back! Please, I don’t want to hear about how you are worried I’m getting cold already! I just wasn’t dressed right… AND it’s just really cold. Well the house isn’t as big in the living area as I thought it would be but it’s still nice.

This is "pre-mangled deck railing" of course.

Anyhow, it’s nice to see everyone again. You know why I sorta like to be here!? Because it gives me a good reason to do nothing! Cause there’s nothing TO do… except watch tv. Or freeze outside… At home I was doing nothing but… I did have places I could have gone. I was sure nice to be home but also nice to be back.

Well, there isn’t really much else to tell. There’s a lot of snow… ponding should start in a few weeks (for some of the fish I think)… I’m sure there will be a bit of shoveling to do when I get back to work but I’m not even sure what day I’ll start. And best of all, THERE ARE NO BEARS OUT! YAY!

I’ll leave you with a new quote I read…


SHOUT OUT OF THE DAY - TO YOU… Thanks for understanding me and thanks for tuning back in!

P.S. My pictures of the 2008 season will appear in the same Photobucket site but will be under the album name “2008.” I wanted to put all those 2007 pictures into a “2007 album” but it would change all the links from the pictures I’ve posted and make it all weird, so they are in the same place. Sounds confusing but don’t worry about it really… they’ll still be on here.