Forget You Forest!

imagejpeg_2I had planned on writing about my last stint in the forest surveying sections of a massive pipeline, it was kind of terrible – terrible to the point that we were laughing hysterically in the middle of a gravel road because out luck was so consistently bad. I had the worst possible luck, every day. Tires popped off the argo, we got stuck (a lot), our fold-up ramp gave out while driving, I ripped the track off the argo, we almost got dumped in a lake, insanely long access routes….oh, I also discovered that bald eagles are not my spirit animal – every time we saw one we would end up having a most shockingly miserable day but they look so deceptively majestic! Apparently only one gender of bald eagle is good luck, I have yet to figure out which one is the lucky one and how to tell that in the field.DSCN1465

However, I have since forgotten all of those woes and moved on to much more awesome things – winter excavations on the prairies! Sounds bloody cold, doesn’t it?And yes, yes it is. Thankfully we managed to get out here a few days before the snow hit and set up some temporary garages/tents, add a couple of generators and heaters and tada! a cozy little oasis to do our excavating in. Really, the only downside to this plan is the long, chilly walk to the unheated port-o-potty – please let me know if you know of any that have heated seats…

We have 4 different sites to excavate, a total of 160 square meters, with the majority of them being excavated to IMG_5478over a meter deep – we’re going to be at this all winter (I hope!). As the snow set in we also covered areas of the sites we’ll be opening up later with hay bales to keep the ground from freezing, which has worked so far and also gives the tents a somewhat pleasant barn smell, until the hay gets wet that is.

The first site is amazing so far. We have at least two distinct occupation levels and there are tons of artifacts, bones (bison + a variety of other animals), fire cracked rocks, and stone tools and flakes. It is such a nice change to actually be finding things after all the forestry I did this summer where we hardly found anything. Thus far it definitely looks like it was a processing site, some evidence of butchering on the bones we’ve found and lots of tool manufacturing going on, as well as numerous boiling pits and hearths. So far we have a 50% ratio of features to units open which is exceptionally good for any site I suspect – hopefully that continues. More pictures of all the pretty things we’re finding to come, but sleep first! The temperatures have dipped to -23 degrees Celsius tonight – it is going to be a frosty morning on site tomorrow!13-246~92

Space Boots

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The giant egg!

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The giant sausage!

I was out surveying a ‘linear development’ – this is the term applied to pipelines, waterlines, transmission lines, etc. basically anything that covers a long distance. This meant that I had the pleasure of touring several small towns throughout Alberta instead of just one or two. We made the most of it and visited as many over-sized monuments as possible:

Some of the jobs were along the edges of cultivated fields, and we were given a stern lecture about the dangerous evils of ‘club root’ and the transfer of it from field to field by unwary travelers. My mind automatically associated club root with a club foot and from there jumped to Tiny Tim. Thus I had the permanent image of a little plant dressed in Victorian England-style rags dragging a deranged club foot/root behind him… Turns out it is a type of bacteria in the soil that makes the roots all fat, but it is transferred through the soil so if we walked through one field it would stick to our boots and then we would introduce it to the next field we were in, much to the devastation of the crops. The brilliant solution to preventing unwanted contamination? Space boots.   DSCN1057

Ok they didn’t really give us space boots, those would have been far cooler than the thin, over-sized, hospital-operating room style shoe covers we were given. These delightful beauties are designed to fit over your regular boots and tie up. They are miles too long though so they catch on everything, rip instantly and are generally a worse hazard to my health than simply walking. I’m also pretty sure that they trapped the dirt inside of them, ensuring that my boots were fully covered with any sort of bacteria that might have been living within that field.

I still feel that the hideous boots were magical though. They seemed to transport us out of the mundane canola field and into a magical forest filled with overgrown, mossy logs and brightly chirping birds. I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland, it was such a stark contradiction from what we had been walking in for the past hour. As soon as you crossed the trees you could no longer even see the field, the terrain was completely different, even the air felt different. But, alas, it was like all other forests in that it was full of pokey things and tiny bugs trying to stick to my eyeballs – such an abrupt way to shatter a tranquil forest moment.