Written By: Carolyn Boyd
WANTED: Person(s) willing to begin the day at 5:30 am and work till about 5:30pm, plant and identify endless buckets and trays of carex and scirpus species, operate a brush cutter, willingness to target and eradicate invasive intruders and upland species which have invaded the wetland domain with a 3.5 gallon tank of plant deadly blue power aid on their back and some near Hazmat gear. Your own waders required to go traipsing about in hip deep muck, work in adverse heat and rain, little to no breeze at times and gale force winds at others, willingness to wring out excess sweat from clothing, and reapply sunscreen at regular intervals a must, ninja skills in poison plant avoidance always a plus, and you might need some skills in PowerPoint as well. Little pay, but awesome muscles, farmer's tans and plant identification skills gained along the way.........
Luckily, we already have a crew and another crew member on the way, willing to take on these tasks and many more to come in the following months. A new member of our team will shortly be joining our 4 person team to make us a quintet for the months of July and August. As the first Corps team to host international interns, we will be experiencing many new challenges in the next weeks to overcome. This week has been such a whirlwind of tasks completed. Not only were the tasks drastically switched from day to day, but our sites and weather as well. Just a few challenges to get us geared up for the difficulties ahead.
Our days start bright and early from now until the fall at the coffee-required-to-function hour of 5:30 am when we leave our apartment to complete the vehicle inspection and head out to the National Park
Service Office to start at 6:00am. The grounds are eerily quiet at this hour, as most others won't start to arrive for another hour or so. We have the greenhouse and tools to ourselves now. Not only will we be avoiding the rush of the various other teams using the work spaces at the office, but we also hope to beat some of the heat of the coming day. Today is our last full day of planting in Unit 31 of the Great Marsh, so we bucket up trays of Carex stricta, Carex aquatilus, Scirpus pungens, and our ever so wonderful Scirpus validus (the plant we all love to hate, being as its a very fragile plant and likes to tear out of its tray and is planted in small groups and very spread out in the marsh, not like the large group population loving carexes.) Monday turned into a scorcher, but a pretty productive day none the least.
Today we separated the team into an herbicide team and a trail team. Kristina and I tackled spraying the stragglers from last week’s herbicide efforts and hiking into the mud to treat the ever resilient Typha x. glauca (aka hybrid cattail). Strapped into our tanks of blue dyed herbicide we set out to treat the remaining pockets in Unit 31 and then moving into the new Unit 23. Unit 23 was sprayed by a contractor in 2011 and the dead cattails flattened and planted into by various groups. Kristina sprayed the already 6 to 8 foot tall stands of cattails in the north part of the section, and I made a grid pattern of spraying the stragglers left from the previous seasons spraying and plantings. The baby cattails springing up from the rhizomes of their dead forebears continued to be a issue later in the week to fight because they are so small and numerous, but we'll just keep spot treating as needed and hopefully get the native species we plant to crowd them out. Meanwhile, while we were spraying, Jason and Patrick were cutting a trail along the old Constance roadbed from the old housing development. This will ease out travels carrying back trays and buckets of plants in the coming weeks. This patch was not quite at laden with trees and vines as the last trail we made on the Wells road, but littered with much more poison ivy and poison sumac. We'll try out best to avoid these native, but nasty, floras.
Today we employed more of our brain skills and took an office day taking over the library to start our guide book on native, invasive, and poisonous plants. This day was mainly geared toward our Japanese intern who will be joining our team on July 1st. The guide will also be useful to future teams including the plants scientific names, NPS codes, common name(s), planting instructions, moisture thresholds, and species to confuse it with. It also contains identification of invasive and poisonous plants and how to eradicate or avoid them. Part of this day was also making a presentation for the new intern's training sessions in early July, as well as trying out our new data entry spreadsheets. Definitely a switch from the heat and humidity of the marsh to the air conditioned quietness inside the Chesterton Public Library.
After our air conditioned lull of office work we're back in the field and ready to do some more planting. As we leave unit 31 and move into 23, new challenges and rewards abound. The ground is easier to traverse, and easier to plant populations without all the stomping down of rice cut grass, but previous erratic planting and baby cattail plants are everywhere. We flagged out the area in the far south section and, as two and four man teams, start to plant. The morning was sunny and cooler than the heat of the rest of the week, but by lunch we had planted all the buckets of Carex stricta, and most of the Carex pellita and Scirpus lineatus we carried out down our newly constructed trail. We headed back to the office to get more plants and the rain started. But we all got to test out the rain-proofing of our new rain gear as we bucketed another 20 trays of Carex stricta in a down pour. And back to the field to plant in the rain and when it died off another few hours of relativity cool planting. In total we planted 56 trays of plants. Another record broken (38 plants a tray X 56 trays = 2128 plants). A record surely to be broken as we learn the best methods and everyone’s planting rhythms.
In all a week full of heat, cold, mud, power tools, and computer skills, this week turned out to be a nice work week and lots of goals accomplished. We are looking forward to the next week of planting and more preparation for the arrival of our new teammate.