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...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A small serving of Frosty Flakes...

Well it’s official… winter has begun. The weather for the past few weeks has been horrible, but it got worse this week. And today…. It snowed. But mostly it’s been RAIN RAIN RAIN! That’s the word of the month. I’m not even sure if we’ve had a day WITHOUT rain actually. Last week, Scott said that it was time to start building the Ark!! This week, though, we had gale warnings and it’s been pretty nasty. Tuesday is when it really began. Adam and I had to go out to the Chinook pens to feed them and the water was pretty choppy and it was pretty windy. Not a real fabulous day to be on the water. That was at the end of the day so we went home after that. Well that must have caused us to miss the MEMO from our boss that we wouldn’t be coming in to work the next day… so we came on it! We sat there for a little while at the “morning meeting” wondering why the heck no one was coming in. Finally around 8:20am, the boss came in to change the water around for some fish eggs and told us. He figured it was going to be too nasty out to feed fish. It actually wasn’t that bad out for a while, but it did get worse. The next day, Thursday, started out to be WAY WORSE than the day we took off for “bad weather.” OH BOY! Thankfully Adam and I worked on stuff in Incubation, but I did feel bad for Angie, Lexie, and Deena who had to be outside splitting some fish. I’ll get into that in a bit. Scott did ask us to feed the Chinook again, which was looking horrible, until the weather oddly cleared up after lunch.

THEN TODAY… snow was in the forecast for the afternoon. At lunchtime, Adam noticed a few snowflakes among the raindrops that were falling. NOOOO! Then we went out to feed the Chinook again… still a few flakes. We took a break on feeding the fish to check on the chum pens and to bail out a boat. Suddenly the weather went from a few flakes to a BLOWING BLIZZARD within a matter of a few minutes! It was pretty crazy. It was just some odd blast of snow that subsided but it stayed pretty windy… it’s still snowing a bit though.

So, work-related business… Last week, we “split the coho.” The Chinook were in three rows of freshwater round ponds up until a week or two ago, but then they got moved out to saltwater. That left a bunch of empty ponds. The Coho are in all the rest of the round ponds, however they are basically outgrowing their ponds so they needed to be spread out. Depending on which pond the fish needed to be moved to, we had to either 1) pour fish into buckets and walk them over or 2) pour buckets of fish into a hopper, connected to a pump, which pumped them through large hoses to the pond. These fish are still fairly small, just a few inches long, so try not to imagine large adult fish here. However, it’s still a lot of fish per pond! We’re talking about moving around 55 – 20lb buckets of fish… one bucket at a time. It’s time consuming. Of course it was pouring the whole time! This is where I learned something about my internal body thermometer… IT’S BROKEN! One minute, I could be sitting there, writing down bucket weights and FREEZING MY WHOLE BODY OFF! But the next minute, I could be moving buckets to ponds and SWEATING MY WHOLE BODY OFF!! It’s pretty ridiculous! Lesson learned… keep moving and you can stay warm… even in Alaska! And I don’t mean just jumping up and down trying to stay warm… that doesn’t work!

This week we started to spawn the coho. It’s a short thing compared to the length of chum spawning…We only have one day left until we are done, which will make a total of three spawning days. The first day, we finished the eggs for Deer Lake. The next day we started on the eggs for us. It would have been a faster process if we could have shocked the fish. Unfortunately, since we only have a certain about of fish set aside, and some of those fish aren’t quite ready to be spawned, we don’t want to kill the green fish yet. So we used clove oil to basically knock out the fish, like when we sort the coho earlier on. Each fish needs to be checked for ripeness and the green fish get thrown back in the raceway. Next week we are going to go back through and spawn those fish, hoping they are ripe enough. We only need about 1.5 million eggs.

This brings us back to when the REALLY crappy weather started… That’s basically the whole theme of this blog I guess. Crappy weather… I guess one of the days this weekend (Sunday?) it was decent. Adam and Scott went out deer hunting and came back with one deer (Scott’s though). I’ve been, admittedly, pretty lazy! I attempted to make something new last weekend, Pomegranate Truffles, but that was a bust. I had the wrong chocolate, unsweetened instead of Bittersweet, and they were horrible! But we finally got our plane today, only two days late, and I’ll try again this week! I did get out last weekend for a little bit though. Adam wanted to go pick berries to make some muffins so we hiked up to the lake and managed to pick about 4 cups of blueberries and the red and blue kinds of huckleberries. The muffins turned out great tasting!

Besides all that, there isn’t much going on. We make it a point to creep over to the bunkhouse in the dark (they took down the lights for the round ponds… I’m not happy about it!) on Thursday nights to watch Adam’s hometown guy, Bob, on Survivor. He’s made it past week 6 so far, and we have a kick watching him! I’m really ready for my vacation now… I’m growing tired of the rain, as is everyone else, and I’m not looking forward to the snow to stick, which it probably won’t for a while. OK, according to Adam, who just came in, “It’s still snowing…….. and it’s sticking in the grass.” That was last night when I wrote this... the snow definately stuck but not much. It's barely in the trees, but it's on the grass. It'll be gone if it starts to rain, but right now it's pretty calm and doing nothing. I can actually see some blue in the sky amid the clouds.

I’ve already begun planning what I’ll do at home… I sent out a few emails but I’m trying to plan a little get-together probably on the 20th of December. It’ll be sort of a Melissa’s birthday/ Christmas/ Adam’s send-off Party. Nothing is set in stone yet but I’d like to know if that’s a bad time for anyone? I hope for the whole family to be there! I think I've gotten emails back from everyone I've sent them too, except Uncle Richard. I don't even know if I have the right email address for him so someone see if they can get ahold of him for me? THANKS!

Here are a few pictures...

WHAT IS THAT? I can hear you guys saying right now. That's a Sea Lion swimming upside down. There have been 2 sea lions swimming around all the time around the wier and one day I tried to get a picture. They are really big... a few thousand pounds. When the swim around, they've got these two side flippers that stick out and look like wings. Alot of time, they swim around on their backs so they can see into the water, looking for food I'm assuming. Make the picture bigger and it might look cooler. I think they look like giant dogs.

This guy is a seal. I think I've determined that we have Harbor Seals here. I thought we had two kinds since you see some lighter ones with alot of spots and some darker ones, but I think they're all the same. This is one of the lighter ones.

Harlequin ducks... two males and a female. How come the males get to look so pretty!? I guess this isn't a great picture but I wanted a picture of these ducks. They have the coolest markings... they are dark navy or black with those white and dark red markings. They are really cool and they are always around. They just happen to want to dive or stick their head in the water when you go to click the picture.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I have a plan...

Hey folks!

Well back for the weekly... bi-weekly!... monthly!?... blog. I guess I don't write as frequently anymore but it's the slow time. Chum eggs are incubating... Chinook eggs are seeded in incubators and about to hatch... and Coho eggs are still tucked in safely with their mothers. We'll spawn them sometime... not even sure when. I previously said that we have our coho broodstock set aside for spawning, and there are SOOOO many more coho. So we've been taking them to the boat to get processed. We did that last Thursday and again on Monday. Scott said we went through 50,000 pounds of coho on Thursday!! Monday wasn't as many. Today Steve started to move his Chinook out to saltwater, and that will take another day or two.

It's really starting to cool down. This morning was probably the coldest morning we've had yet (not counting Jan and Feb and those winter months). The thermometer in the lab said it was 35 degrees... that might not have been completely right but well... now that I think about it, it probably was right. I'm not ready for cold temps like that yet! It didn't really get much warmer... I remember looking at it again and it said 41 degrees but I can't remember what time that was. It rained for some of the afternoon, but then stopped... and when the clouds cleared above the mountain tops around 4pm when we were feeding Coho, I saw the first glimpse of snow. The first light dusting of snow on the mountain... urggg... That doesn't mean it's going to snow on us soon, but that just signifies that it's getting to be that time. And it was just a light dusting...

Anyhow, I suppose the big news, though most of you know the basic plan, is that the vacation time has been set. ADAM AND I... yes, both of us!... will be leaving Sitka on the 5th of December, home on the morning of the 6th... home to Coloma! YAY! I'm excited! We'll be there until the 10th, where we'll fly to Cancun, and stay at a hotel in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico which is in the Riviera Maya (south of Cancun) for 8 nights. Then fly back home, where Adam will stay another few days and leave on the 21st of December back to Sitka. SO... GET EXCITED! :-)

I guess that's about all I have for now, except for some pictures. Some of these were taken a week or two ago... some were taken on Saturday when I was really bored and decided to go walk around and photograph things.

So one morning, there were tons of bears down by the water. I guess they all decided to leave at once because next thing we knew, there was a bear parade in front of the window. Really, there weren't tons but about 7 or 8... Ok that probably sounds like tons to you! It was the sow and 3 cubs, sow and 2 cubs and possibly a single bear. This is the mother of the 3 cubs. I took this from in the window so don't think I'm nutty! She sort of looks mad but really she just looked my way. Looks dramatic though right!?

Oh these guys! These are two of her crazy little teenagers! Playing with a piece of PVC pipe.

These guys again! Oh all the bears, I think the sow and 3 cubs are my favorite to watch. As much as I looooooove those 2 tiny baby cubs, these 3 cubs are hilarious! They are in the "teenager" stage of bearhood, so they play and fight together alot. This would be cooler if that stupid net wasn't in the way.

As teenage bears, their favorite thing to do (that I've observed) is to swim and fight each other in the water. I just love the look on that cub's face... make it bigger and it's better. I don't know if he's going to be the pouncer or the pouncee.

Silly mom! I swear, she isn't posing for the camera! She didn't just find out she was on Candid Camera either! P.S. If the picture is too small and you can't tell what is going on, she's sticking her tongue out.

This cub came jumping out of the water and played with mom a bit. Mouths are opened a bit...

I just thought this was a cool picture. That's the mom again... her cubs are below eating a fish and she was just walking around on the log. This picture just seems a bit National Geographic to me... I think it's neat.

I know I've talked about it before, either on here or to a few people, but we have a hot tub here. During my boredom walk, I decided to take a picture of you because I don't think I have before. Right now the cover is 2 pieces of wood because the bears ATE the other, real hot tub cover. They love foam. But the tub is sitting on a platform which basically sits on a rock that juts out into the water. It's a pretty nice place for a hot tub... cool scenery!

This was growing next to the hot tub and I thought it looked neat. I put my camera on the "foliage" setting and the colors (though it doesn't really look it on here) turned really vibrant.

Well that's about it.

RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK - Though I am not finished yet, I have a good book to recommend. I was getting bored with the books I had sitting around so I decided to check out what Oprah named as the new bookclub book. Well it's called "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" by David Wroblewski. I'm about half way into it and it's pretty good and I'd (so far) highly recommend it. It might just be in hardcover right now, which is what I have, but I can bring it home if anyone would like to read it. It's about a mute boy, Edgar, who lives in Wisconsin and his family breeds and trains dogs to sell. His father's brother enters the story and breaks the peace up in the family. His father ends up dying (Don't worry, I didn't ruin anything, all of this is written on the book cover!) and Edgar tries to prove that his uncle had something to do with it. Apparently the plan backfires and yadda yadda. I haven't even gotten that far yet. Anyhow, it's good.