Wednesday, January 26, 2011

One Month Anniversary of New Camera

We have had our new camera for about one month. I wanted to celebrate the fact that our pictures have gotten so much better, by posting a bunch of pictures that I have not had an opportunity to put up.

Zucchini Tacos

Butternut Squash Soup (Max sleeping in background)

Julie Making Cookies


Cured Pork Belly (Bacon)

Marzipan (those are trees, mushrooms, marbles, and a dinosaur head)

I just noticed all of these pictures are of food. Hmmm... Does that mean I really like to eat or I just get an urge to take pictures when I am cooking. Maybe I have nothing better to photograph?

This is something to think about. Contemplate.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Newberry, South Carolina

Last week I went to Newberry, South Carolina. I had never heard of this town until I got the project information. That is one reason I love my job, I get to go crazy different places. I would never visit Newberry ordinarily.

It really makes me appreciate what I have in Chapel Hill, 19 year-old sorority girls, crazy hippies and all. We have lots of restaurants. Restaurants that are open for lunch. Newberry was a little bit depressing downtown.

It snowed the week before my trip, everyone in South Carolina went crazy. It does not snow often down here.

One of Newberry's many attractions is its Japanese garden. That is right, it has an orange garden. This is rather unexceptional, except there is a sign by the door mentioning that the garden is an example of vernacular landscape (they used the term vernacular, he he). It also had to be closed during WWII due to vandalism. Shame Newberry, shame..

Apparently, the designer of the garden was a wealthy local guy and he modeled the garden after his visit to the San Francisco Japanese gardens. Not after Japan, but San Francisco.

They have bamboo too. Bamboo grows in South Carolina and Japan.

What, you ask, was I doing in Newberry? I was digging holes in people's front yards. This is an extremely awkward task. I feel like the neighbors are all sitting by their windows with guns ready to shoot. I think, in some parts of the country, ruining a lawn is a capital offense.

Typically, when I do excavations I am in an area where new development is planned and, therefore, not in a town. I like working in urban environments (except the gun thing).

Five Reasons it is Awesome to Work in Towns:
  • There is always somewhere to pee indoors
  • No brambles to scratch hands and legs
  • Sidewalks and mowed lawns
  • Lunch out at a restaurant (if your town has restaurant open)
  • Easy to mark the project area boundaries
Five Reasons it Sort of Sucks to Work in Towns:
  • People constantly asking what you are doing
  • Buried utilities
  • Guns
  • Dogs
  • Crazy people...
That is what I have been up to lately.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I Love Bread

Derek and I make all of our own bread. It started when we lived in Denver and I could walk to an excellent french bakery (if you live in Denver go to the Trompeau Bakery immediately). On a regular basis (read every other day), I would ride my bike or walk to this bakery and get a baguette. The bakery smelled like Paris, the bread was usually warm, and it was super cheap.

I grew accustomed to fresh bread.

Then I moved out to live with Derek in Chapel Hill, NC. I had to say goodbye to my neighborhood French bakery. Carrboro, my new hometown, does not have a french bakery. The local coop has pretty good bread, but not really that great. Then we received a book from my brother-in-law and his wife gave us Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François. We totally embraced this, it is and was delicious.

These bagels were made with a recipe from the Artisan book.

We have tried a couple of different recipes from that book, then for Christmas we received another bread book, My Bread by Jim Lahey (incidentally, it was from the same people). It is even more amazing. I am not going to post the whole recipe, because the New York Times has the basic recipe online.

I just wanted to talk about easy homemade bread. Make it. Today.

The book also has pizza, which is pretty much the best pizza we have ever had.

Mushroom Pizza

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On the Road, Again and "Big" Archaeology

Right now, I am about to embark on a journey down to South Carolina, the much mocked neighbor of my home state. I will write more about what I am doing in South Carolina in a later post (I promise). The short story is that it not very "sexy" archaeology.

An example of not "sexy" archaeology.

In this post, I would like to talk about what I do and common perception (misperceptions?) about archaeology and archaeologists. This talk was inspired by the guy at Enterprise who rented a car to me yesterday morning.

As I was telling him that the car rental was going to be on a corporate account, he asked me what my company (and I) did. Now I will reenact the conversation. Picture me as a slightly rushed person with wet hair (blow drying takes so long....) who is really just trying to get away so she can go grocery shopping with her husband.

Rental Car Guy (RCG): What does your company do?
Me: We are a cultural resource management company.
RCG: Uh... I don't know what that is.
Me: We are a group of archaeologists and historians who do work on historic sites in the southeast. I am an archaeologist.
RCG: Oh, like at national parks?
Me: Yes, only we are contractors. So we work at a variety of places some of which are National Parks.
RCG: What are you doing in South Carolina? He had just asked me where I was going, a standard line for the rental process.
Me: I am doing a highway survey, which is [insert shortest possible explanation for shovel testing here]. Remember, I was in a hurry. RCG was not in a hurry, he had visions of Indiana Jones dancing through his head.
RCG: So, have you ever worked on any big sites?

An excavation outside of Tiwanaku in Bolivia. An example of a "big" site.

This is the point where I could have told him about the two world heritage sites I have worked on or my international archaeology work. But, I personally hate that people do not think about cool cultural heritage that they have in their own backyards when they are thinking about archaeology. So, I gave him some brief descriptions of sites I have worked on in Tennessee and South Carolina, which I thought were really cool.

Historic African American cemetery in Beaufort, South Carolina.

A Mississippian era habitation site in Tennessee.

This brings me to my rant. Please do not misunderstand me, I love that people think my job is cool. I think my job is cool. I love explaining archaeology to people and telling them about history and preservation. I think it is great that I get to introduce people to this career that they did not previously know existed. It just drives me crazy when people think my job is all sexy National Geographic-style excavations in Egypt or, you know, "somewhere else".

Archaeology is everywhere! People have been living in North America for a really long time (from 50,000 to 15,000 years, a very debated timeline). Plus, in the recent past, we have a rich history as a country, territory, colonized entity, etc. Your house and town are just one in a long series of houses and towns in your geographic region.

Pueblo Bonito, in Chaco Canyon, NM. A truly amazing UNESCO world heritage site.
This is a prehistoric pit house archaeological site near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Think of places like Chaco Canyon and Cahokia. Those places are pretty amazing, rivaling anything Egyptian or European in complexity and political organization. If you think of those "big" sites as cities (not that they actually functioned as cities), imagine the "suburbs" a big site like that would have around. Imagine what way those everyday people lived can tell us about our shared human past. That is the archaeology I do! North American archaeology is important and the everyday, small excavations I do serve a purpose in helping us to understand the prehistory of this continent. I am a very small cog in a large group of archaeologists working on sites across the country and world. Very few of these archaeologists are working on something that could be considered a "big" site.

Now I just wish there were some way I could tell this to people who ask me if I have worked in Egypt or what "big" stuff I have worked on without sounding bitter or jaded. Rental Car Guy, remember archaeology is everywhere.

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton House in Seneca Falls, New York.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cane Creek Farm

Derek and I recently decided to attend a sale our local meat farmer was hosting. We invited some very good friends and all piled into the car to drive almost an hour to Cane Creek. I had a flashback to kindergarten when we went to a dairy farm and got to milk a cow. We were going to see where our meat was being grown! I love farms and as an archaeologist I have spent a good deal of time on them. Once, in Tennessee, I destroyed 3.5 acres of mass produced soybeans with my GPR antenna.

Cane Creek is not really mass produced type farming. All of the animals are pasture raised and rotationally grazed, like the farm in Omnivore's Dilemma.

The day started sunny and beautiful.

Shortly after we arrived at the farm it started snowing.

After we bought the meat in the store we decided to go on a walking tour of the farm. In the snow.

So far in my life, I have noticed that all farms have a pack of happy dogs that follow any sort of human around. One time at a farm in Utah, I had a golden retriever sleep outside my tent for my entire stay. Cane Creek Farm had a happy pack of black labs that came with us on our short walk.

We visited the pigs. They lived in big fields, in these little huts. In this picture most of the pigs were in the huts (it was cold outside). There were these giant sows with little piglets following them around, moving from hut to hut.

Some of the pigs did come and visit us, they were very pretty speckled pigs. This farm specializes in heirloom varieties. They all have their tails (factory pigs get their tails cut off).

We met some chickens too. The chickens at this farm live in mobile coops, so they roam the farm. Pretty rooster.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Breakfast Philosophy

Every weekend Derek and I make breakfast, usually this involves eggs, toast, and bacon. When we are feeling really special we make breakfast burritos with tater tots and green chiles.

I believe that there is such a thing as the ideal breakfast, this may sound really glib. But every Saturday we try to achieve perfection. It all starts with bacon, homemade, salty pork belly.

The bacon has to cook on low heat for about 5 to 8 minutes. You can't rush good bacon. While the bacon is cooking we brew the coffee. I could talk a long time about coffee, but I here I will just say it should be strong, freshly roasted, and tasty. While the coffee is brewing and the bacon is going we slice the bread and toast it. We are super nerds and pretty much only eat homemade bread. Bread must be covered with real butter.

After the bacon is done we start the eggs. Derek and I prefer our eggs fried in some of the remaining bacon fat, with the white cooked and the yolks still runny. Then the runny yolks make a kind of sauce. Each slice of toast has an egg on top of it, with the bacon on the side. This should be served with hot sauce to top.

After this we sit down, drink our coffee. We read the paper and decide how we are going to spend the day. It is sort of meditative, relaxing. I enjoy our routine. I enjoy our food nerdy homemade breakfast. Sometime soon, I am going to talk about bread. How's that for a teaser?

Christmas Vacation

This is my last day of Christmas vacation. This year, Derek and I went to Colorado Springs to visit Derek's family. It was pretty fun to see the family. It was also a very nostalgic trip.

Approximately a year and a half ago, I packed all of my earthly possessions into a moving truck in Denver, Colorado. We drove this vehicle across the country to North Carolina. I can say without reservations, that this was one of the best things I have ever done. I have no regrets. Still, Denver and Colorado were home for six years. I grew up in Denver. My first apartment was in Denver and the first time I lived alone was in Denver. Derek and I met and were engaged in Denver. My first fall down drunk moments were in Denver. I fell in love with food in Denver.

When we landed in the Denver I had a little pang. For a second, I felt like I was about to drive home. Home to an apartment that I loved, on Josephine Street just south of downtown. Then I remembered home is actually here, North Carolina.

Our Christmas present to ourselves was a new camera. This means, hopefully, the pictures will start getting better on this blog. It is super fancy, see the pretty pictures...

Is is just me or do colors look brighter with a fancy digital slr camera?

He looks good with more pixels.

Rosemary Blue Cheese Potato Tart