Friday, May 31, 2013

Goats, bunnies and ADVENTURE!

As I told the clerk at the store tonight, "today was a pretty great day."  I started put the day by getting up early to get Cait off to her field trip to the coast. I used the extra time to make home fries for the older two kids. There was so much happiness. Then, before heading out for the day, I packed up all the Salmon Watch gear that's been living in my garage and shed for far too long.

Shortly after arriving at work I submitted the grant application I've been working on for the last week. We're requesting just under $5,000 for things like a new dry suit, waders/boots, pruners and loppers but the thing I'm most excited about is the possibility of a new waterproof GPS capable digital camera.

After submitting the grant, my co-worker J. and contractor M. loaded up all the tarps and headed out to the work site.  While J. and M. made a few stops on their way, so I took a few moments to meet the demonstration farm's newest residents.

They have about a dozen baby billy goats which will be used to remove invasive vegetation. This little guy was soooo friendly. He was definitely ready for his close-up.

Then I checked in on the bunnies. Poor sad earless bunnies. They were their mamas first little, and she cleaned their ears right off shortly after birth. They kind of look like guinea pigs. No cute pictures of them though, their hutch is too dark. After fun with the farm animals, J. and M. arrived and we got to work.

 J. decided to take the ATV down to the work site, and rode off down the hill. I drove his truck down to the lower stream crossing and found that M. had already driven across and neither he nor the ATV were in sight, so I drove the truck across. I went for a short walk to find the boys and met up with them after 10-15 minutes. I was greeted by J. calling out, "you're braver than I am!" Apparently he had never driven his truck across to the other side of the channel, as I had just done. Whoops!

 We spent the next few hours getting stuff set-up for Monday's "Riparian Restoration Olympics" with all of the middle school teams from Springfield. (more on that soon!) Having the truck on the other side allowed us to empty the tarps right where we needed them without having to haul them piece by piece across the channel.

After we were done, we decided to cross the channel at the upper crossing, where we thought it would be an easier go. He drove through the 6' tall reed canary-grass, and I followed in his truck. He had to stand up on the ATV to be able to see where the "road" went. At one point I drove over a willow, not kidding.

As we approached the upper crossing, J. stopped the ATV and walked back to let me know that there was a bit of a drop into the channel, indicating that it was about 6" or so. I watched as he hit the drop and proceeded through the channel. Then I slowly approached the drop. Unfortunately, one side of the drop was steeper than the other and as I went over it the truck shifted sideways and one of the wheels was up off the ground. Yikes.

So I did what any girl would do, I continued forward, allowing the momentum to carry the truck over the drop, and then let out the clutch a bit to gain momentum to make it up the other side of the channel. At two points, I had three wheels in contact with the ground. It was a bit scary.

When I made it up the other side of the channel, and stopped behind J., he came around to the passenger door and said, "That wasn't too bad." I replied, enthusiastically, "THAT WAS AWESOME." And it was.

We finished up putting away gear, and I apologized again for driving to the other side. It could have ended badly, but lucky for me, it actually worked out well. All in all, a pretty good day.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Walking in the river

I have a pair of waders.

I have had this set of chest waders since October. As part of my job, I work with high school students surveying riparian and in-stream habitat.
These students are AH-MAZ-ING. They have to apply to participate in the program, and only a few new students are added to each team. They learn the protocol, and go out to do this work in ALL weather. It has snowed and rained on us. One time we had to send one student in the lead to break up the ice on the side channel we were surveying before the rest of the team could go through. Ice breaking students?! They had so much fun that day, even though we were all super cold.

We follow the Aquatic Inventories Project: Methods for Stream Habitat Surveys developed by Oregon State and ODFW. In simple terms, it means that we teach the students to assess the quality/quantity of the in-stream and riparian habitat based on an established protocol resulting in usable data for the council.

It also means that I get to walk in the river, climb up, around and over log structures, and really do my best not to fall on my butt in front of kids who are 22+ years younger than me. The first few times I went out with them, I felt like I was a million years old. I was so slow and clumsy. I'm a lot better now. Although, chasing after 15-18 year old students through the woods, streams, backwaters on a regular basis certainly hasn't hurt my physical abilities. I believe that it is more because I trust my own body to do the things I need it to do - stand against fast flowing water, stumble instead of falling, walk along a log covered with slick moss, jumping down onto uneven ground without hurting myself.

The school year is coming to an end, and although I'll have 2-3 more trips out with these kids this summer, I'm already looking forward to the next school year.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Another hard day at "the office" means getting kids into waders, and having them experience nature. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

One Year Past or A Year in Pictures

Yep, that's my guy. He's awesome. 

So much has happened in the last year, and I've obviously been a huge slacker too busy to spend a lot of time posting.  I've been incredibly busy living life.

In my last post, I talked a bit about my internship with the Friends of Buford Park at the Native Plant Nursery. I completed my internship and was asked if I would continue to volunteer, leading the new interns in nursery operations so that the Stewardship Coordinator could go and do other work in the park. So, I continued to volunteer through the first week of August, harvesting and cleaning seed in the nursery.

The garden was so overgrown you couldn't see the beds.
YAY Graduation!! Crystal and I were both so happy to be done.
In June, Stephen and I got married at a historic hazelnut orchard called Dorris Ranch. The arching habit of the hazelnut trees provided a cathedral like setting for our ceremony, and then our reception was outdoors next to the barn. It was a gorgeous day, and we were so happy to be able to share the beautiful day with our friends and family.

Two days later, I graduated from the University of Oregon with my Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree. It was an amazing few days, and it was also absolutely exhausting. But, I'm so glad that we were surrounded by people that love and support us. 

Wading in the McKenzie, chasing after HS students.
 In July, we moved into a new house, further from campus. Great house, with a great garden space that needed a LOT of work. YAY! It was a giant weed pit, but we quickly went to work, clearing beds, removing weeds, adding to and amending the soil.

Another "hard" day at the office.
I continued to work at the UO part-time, and volunteer at the nursery. I was applying for pretty much any job that fit the bill. That bill being that it needed to pay, be located in Eugene and use my degree. I applied, interviewed and accepted an additional part-time position with the McKenzie Watershed Council, as their Salmon Watch and Education Coordinator. If you don't know what a watershed council is, this blog post provides a great overview.At first, I was hesitant to take the job because I had just spent 4 grueling years and thousands of dollars on a degree in landscape architecture. Dang it... I wanted to use my degree. But, I also needed a job. After a bit of soul searching, I decided that this position fit my current requirements. It provided experience in a related field, got me in contact with people in my field, paid real money instead of just volunteer experience, and had the potential to become full-time later on.

A job with views like this is just intolerably hard.
My first trip out with students was students from Thurston High School. We all put on waders, and surveyed a side channel of the McKenzie River, recording usable data in areas that wood placement projects had occurred.  Next, I tackled Salmon Watch, which is a story for another time.

Over time, my job has morphed into restoration design, planning and implementation as well as education.  So, the big fear that I had about not using my degree, well, it ended up being needless worrying on my part. I love the work I do! I get to spend time designing in the office, implementing projects in the field, and teaching kids about the importance of healthy of our watersheds (Hello riparian zone!) while working side-by-side them in the field. I keep finding myself outside, in beautiful landscapes thinking, "Can you believe they PAY me to do this?" I have so much fun with the students, working, teaching, even just talking with them. AND, I get to "scratch" my design itch.

I'm still working part-time at the UO as well as working part-time for the watershed council, but we're busily applying for my grant funding to make my position full-time, with benefits. I'm seriously hoping that works out. I love the work, I love the people I work with and I want this job to be what I do.

The good news of all of this, is that I'll likely be able to update more regularly with more about my current adventure, and probably less about my personal life.