Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sore Feet and Late-Night Posting

Second day of work. Twelve hours that started at 6:30 a.m. and ended at 6:15 p.m. All in all a fairly short day. But very packed.

We got in 50,000 lbs of salmon which is just a little drop in the bucket but a great way to work out kinks in all the steps of receiving, processing, packaging, and sending out of salmon. Since I'm in shipping, I'm at the tail end of all this. My kinks today?

--training one new tally girl--she's the one at the end of the case-up line (boxing up of frozen fish into 1000 lb. boxes) who is responsible for creating the bar code labels that represent finished product;

--two export containers (40 foot freezers) when I needed one export and one domestic; one of the export containers stopped working, had to have the refrigeration guys, then the reefer techs from City Dock look at it, got it working again but still one export two many;

--tried to get the boss to let me swap out one export for a domestic but it's early in the season and he's not interested in spending the swap-out fee (note: I didn't order the two containers, just saying);

--driver who runs the truck company that picks up and delivers containers decided to give me a freebie and did the swap-out anyway; this is good for me because then I could put finished boxes of fish in the right container, but it also means I owe him (this is a world of scratching other people's backs to get your own scratched down the line);

--the domestic container from above proved to be faulty (i.e. not cooling down at all), which was discovered after loading 8 finished boxes into it (a big no-no, always important to test out the containers before putting in product--another learning curve at the beginning of the season for the forklift drivers); reefer techs back again from City Dock determine it's a bad container, needs to be swapped (this time free of charge) because it's raining and they are all heading out to Dillingham (a short airplane ride away); I don't care what the reasons, just happy to get in a good container;

--I unload the above container while my second-in-command-in-training Mike and my one veteren forklift driver Alex watch countless prospective shipping people "show off" their forklifting skills--we get three out of four positions filled and I get a new container delivered;

--it rains all day, hard--I work outside mostly;

--oh, and because I started my day at 6:30, and breakfast is from 7-8, I missed the meal and had to wait until 12:50 to cram in lunch before the galley closed at 1:00; ate left-over pizza, the first of many horrid meals to come;

--looked all over camp trying to find a second chair for my office, the one left over from last year being the one nobody wants since it is missing a wheel; finally found one buried in a "secret" office that in the past 7 years of working here I never even knew existed; now two people can sit in the office at once, what a concept since there are two shipping supervisors.

Now it is about midnight here. I managed to stay awake until 8:45 after having showered, eaten Mexican food (Monday is "Mexican" night--an interesting concept since all the cooks are indeed Mexican but the food is "El Paso" canned beans and fajita-type meat, frozen bean burritos, lightly colored reddish rice), knitted a little on my sock, read a little of my book (East of Eden), and slowly drank one beer while nibbling on Marionberry-flavored Australian licorice (yes, weird, it's what is though). Woke up to the sounds of my bathroom-mate showering at 11:30. Discovered my feet ache from running around on cement for 12 hours straight. Can't get back to sleep, so I'm writing this.

I don't know how many posts I'll get written on this before we move to 24-hour processing and I'll be too damned tired to do much more than shower and fall into bed for a whopping 4-5 hours of sleep. It's fun to try, though. The contrast between this life here and life at home is so great, it helps to write about it a little. The funny thing is that I have slipped into life here again so easily, having known many of the supervisors for 7 or more years. Our time is concentrated every summer into 5-6 weeks of salmon processing and over that time we get to really know each other. Even though we only see each other for this short period of time, we are close. It's like a second family. This helps when we all become sleep-deprived, sick, and permanently cold, because we are still responsible for processing and shipping out millions of pounds of salmon while running crews of disgruntled, equally cold, sick and tired employees.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Righting the Ship

The usual tumult that occurs at this time of year has lived up to expectations. I am half-way through the birthday parties. When the kids were little, having their birthdays on the same day was convenient--grandparents could come from afar, combined friends, parents, kids, we all had a big barbeque and celebrated my two sweet kids. Now they are 10 and 12. They have their own friends and mostly definitely do not want old fogey parents crashing their parties.

So Grace had her sleep-over yesterday with 3 other girls, preceded by a park/pool party with an additional two girls. They giggled and acted crazy and were sweet and incomprehensible. Grace chose Russian tea cakes for her "birthday cake," probably not a big winner with the guests who would understandably expect real cake, but it's what she has wanted since Christmas. She chose baked potatoes and spinach salad for dinner. Dave tried to balance it out with ice cream bars and popcorn after dinner. I think it was a successful night.

Samuel's party is tomorrow. I have to admit to feeling a little apprehensive about this one. I mean, one gigantic, size 10 shoe, almost-as-tall-as-me, and just as surly as if he was a teenager, 12-year old boy is already a lot to deal with. Tomorrow I will have six of them. All of them sweet kids in twos and threes. And all good friends, so I know they will get along just fine. I am more worried about me, my sanity as the house reverberates with their rambunctious, not-so-small shenanigans. I think, though, that their desire to stay away from parents will be as strong as my desire to not participate in their party, so all should be good. Really, I shouldn't be worrying.
Samuel has requested the 28" pepperoni pizza from a local pizzeria and an ice cream cake--most emphatically not homemade, because homemade is now not very popular with him. Potato chips and pop. Grace had her chips and pop, too. It's a nod to their birthdays, a chance to eat and drink all those things mom thinks are horrible. And of course, the kids expect that kind of food. It's a redux of the Richard Scarry book I read the kids ad nauseum when they were little: "This is party food Huckle! I asked for oranges, not orange soda!"

The birthdays are one part of the equation, of course. Another is the end of the quarter. My final is written and printed up, looking so lovely with its blanks and perfectly smooth pages. After tomorrow morning, these finals will be marked up with the agonized, half-recalled rememberings of my poor tired students. But at least I'll be in the home stretch. Just need to grade them, plug in the final scores and give them their quarter grades. Before Sunday...

The final part of my tumultuous June is of course my annual trip up to Alaska. I've already written about this a lot, no point in flogging a dead horse, but regardless of that, departure is imminent and preparations are being made, at least in my head. All the lists are clogging up my poor head, actually, making it very hard to attend to the birthdays and the French class with my full and undivided attention. Among all the stuff banging around in my noggin':

--Which books to bring? I already picked up a lot of mystery novels at the used book store, although I've also already read two of them. Hmmm, so I am culling books from shelves that I haven't visited in a long time. Among the books I've settled on: "East of Eden" by Steinbeck (just reading the opening chapter makes me want to crawl into the book) and "L'Assomoir" by Zola. With those two big books and my remaining mysteries, I think I'll be set.

--What to knit? I haven't knit anything more interesting than dishcloths in months. I've been in a sort of knitting desert, actually. Today I went to the yarn store and found some really lovely sock yarn that makes crazy striping (therefore not boring). Socks are the perfect thing to knit on the plane. The needles aren't so big as to excite the TSA agents and the bag of yarn is small enough to stash in my carry-on and to sit on my lap. I started my first sock this afternoon. Having to focus on remembering how to start a sock (it's been a while) and then watching the color change as I made round after round reminded me of why it is a good thing to knit. I relaxed, my mind wandered, I finally fell asleep and had a much needed nap.

--What to bring? To bring the computer or not. I haven't decided on that one. I like the idea of being in email contact, but then again, the internet connection up there is horribly weak at its best. And somehow, being sleep-deprived makes me very uninterested in what's happening in the "outside" world. I bought a real, lined, paper journal yesterday, the beginnings of a novel banging around my head and making me think this might be the time to start plunking down ideas. The same sleep-deprivation that keeps me from being interested in the outside world makes for some very interesting revelations or observations about life there. It's a kernel of a possibility, probably nothing, but maybe I'll go old-fashioned and leave the computer at home. I have a phone in my office anyway, right?

--How many vegetables can I cram into my stomach before I head up north? I'm trying my best tonight, this night between baked potatoes and gigantic pizza. We're having a kale salad and a ravioli dish with cilantro pesto. And some sweet peas a friend so generously brought over, and heck, maybe even a spinach/lettuce salad to really celebrate the beginning of vegetable season and the end of my time with it for 6 weeks.

Maybe another post or two between now and Sunday, and then this blog will take a little vacation until I come home.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Something New in My Vegetable World

Garlic scapes--long, curly, green with a bulbous head. Sauteed in olive oil, seasoned with a little salt and pepper. My new obsession.

Too bad they only stick around the markets for the month of June.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rainy Day... Again

I have been steadily plowing my way through writing the final exam for my French class. Steadily, but slowly. Today is easier than it was earlier in the week, as it is yet again raining and cool. Nothing like the sharp contrast between warm, sunny days, when all you want to do is be outside, letting the sun and the warmth soak into your skin, and rainy, cool days, when I come home from class, put on wool socks and a sweatshirt and brew up a strong cup of coffee for a day of indoor work. Even chores like cleaning the coop (which has been postponed due to rain) or weeding or hanging up laundry (the latter of which is actually one of my most favorite things to do, not really a chore) are enjoyable if the weather cooperates. Writing a final exam? Not exactly enjoyable, whatever the weather, but certainly easier to stomach when it's gloomy outside. The inside is just that much more cozy; the blanket on my lap accompanies me from desk to recliner to kitchen table; another cup of coffee brews.

However, the weather aside, I am still resisting getting the dang exam written in one fell swoop (as they say of knocking off dragons or giants). In fact, I hate to admit it but I am already raiding my summer Alaska reading pile, which means I will have to make another trip to the used bookstore soon.

In my ridiculously long career as a student, I developed a pavlovian response to the end of the quarter or semester that persists even now that I am the teacher. I run for the mystery section and thoroughly inhale as many novels as I can. But they have to be of a certain kind. I can't stand the gore, the twisted psychological stuff, the violence, the clinical breaking down of how the bullet entered x, y, or z. Rather, I am a fan of Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, historical mysteries set in the Middle Ages, and generally anything that provides twists and turns and clever dialogue without making me think too hard about the fact that I'm reading about someone being killed. It's the search, the puzzle, the atmosphere that I like.

To that end, over my lunch break of left-over-yet-again enchiladas, I started another book off my Alaska pile: "The Veiled One" by Ruth Rendell. This is exciting for me because I haven't actually read that much Rendell. So far, though, it looks promising. Which means that I can go back to the bookstore and clean off the shelf where many of her books currently reside.

Here is the first paragraph of the book. I don't normally want to share the silly reading I'm doing, but you have to think about the comforting lunch, the rain falling outside, the exam about one quarter finished, classical music on the radio, kids at school. All come together to make a most wonderful experience.

The woman was lying dead on the floor when he came in. She was already dead and covered up from head to toe but Wexford only knew that afterwards, not at the time. He looked back and realized the chances he had missed but it was useless doing that--he hadn't known and that was all. He had been preoccupied, thinking of an assortment of things: his wife's birthday present that was in the bag he carried, modern architecture, yesterday's gale which had blown down his garden fence, this car park that he was entering from the descending lift.

And thus begins the tug of war this afternoon: write a little of the exam, read a little of the book. Maybe get to the store so I can feed the kids this afternoon. Maybe get that laundry into the dryer (since it is raining, right?). Maybe make some cookies because what goes better with writing an exam, reading a mystery novel, and a rainy afternoon?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Farmer's Market

There is much more market behind me and to the sides--I'm shy with the camera and didn't want to freak anyone out with my picture-taking.

A gigantic panic attack broadsided me this morning when, in a phone conversation with a friend, I realized that I am leaving for Alaska two weeks from this coming Sunday.

The remedy for a panic attack? Hop on the bike and head out to the 2011 Opening Day of our Farmer's Market. Came home with potted chives and mint (the chickens decimated my mint this year), fresh garlic, mustard greens, itty bitty salad onions, cilantro (to make cilantro pesto!), and sugar snap peas. Asparagus and strawberries abounded, but as I have both at home right now, and Dave is gone and the kids don't like asparagus that much... I had to pass.

Now I've got to work on breathing to take the edge off of the omnipresent panic, saute up some mustard greens and asparagus, and start tackling the gigantic "to-do" list.