In the beginning of the week, we started class at the ASU Polytechnic Campus where we learned how to capture reptiles through pit traps. This was a field day for our biology class. We found an Arizona pocket mouse in one trap and released it shortly after. We examined four species of lizards: zebratail, whiptail, side blotch, and desert spiny. They had fallen into the pit traps, and the research gives us information about the population of reptiles in this desert area.
On Tuesday, we began our Wildland Firefighting classes: S-190, S-130, I-100, and L-180. We are now all certified as Wildland Firefighters. Our instructors Ken, Dan, Rob, and Dean spent four days teaching us about wildland firefighting. Dean made us do 50 push-ups to wake us up. He definitely made us pay more attention. We spent three full days at the BLM in classes, learning everything we could.
On our field day on Friday, we learned how to create a fireline. We learned about the tools used by the firefighters and how they customize their own tools. We also got a tour of the fire truck and Matt, Stephan, and Rocky got to ride on it. We then had a chance to practice how to properly deploy our fire shelter. It was an extremely hot and uncomfortable situation. We hope to never have to use one in a real fire emergency.
Nine strangers. One house. Many water bottles. And so many hugs. It could easily be summarized as this for our first week of training in Nashville, TN for SCA’s Army Corps of Engineer’s Visitor Use Survey Program. We started off with a bang, hosting the three teams (Nashville, TN, Cumming, GA and Waco, TX) in a modest little home tucked in the funky neighborhood in East Nashville. Although the house was synonymous to Home Alone’s opening scene of Christmas Day scramble, we had a method to our madness and everyone was just happy to be there, getting to know our fellow SCAers in close quarters, playing board games with furious passion, and talking late into the night about our previous experiences in conservation.
The first week of orientation was held at James Percy Priest Visitor’s Center, where Alex, Josiah and Liz taught us the ins and outs of SCA. It was an incredibly informative week, where we did everything from re-thinking our conservation ethics, to role-playing conflict resolution scenarios, to embracing diversity and mastering the ultimate feeling of confusion when it comes to paylocity. For me personally, having no prior experience with SCA, I felt incredibly welcomed and reassured that I would get everything with time. Everyone was incredibly supportive and would lend a helping hand. The group seemed to really bond during this week of orientation, our fearless Project Leaders Sophie (Nashville), Leah (Cumming), and Josh (Waco), all mentoring the members with their invaluable leadership experiences, which came in handy once Friday rolled around; the house transforming into a haven for us as we put our heads down and completed our Work Portfolios for the Spring.
The Work Portfolios are conservation projects that each member of each team designs to fulfill the “core competencies.” The “core competencies” that we are focusing on fall under the four pillars of SCA’s mission statement: Conservation (ecological literacy, conservation history, conservation ethic), Leadership (risk management, leadership development, work readiness), Service (technical skills, project management, reflection), and Stewardship (diversity and inclusion, civic engagement, ecosystem engagement). Using these pillars as guidance to give our ideas direction, we completed at least four project proposals each to work on for the duration of the spring program. As the survey periods will be conducted during the week, we are given one day a week to work on our projects and to fulfill SCA’s mission “to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.”
The week finished with a day off on Saturday, where the 9 strangers had by then become friends, and everyone took the opportunity to soak in the sights of Music City. Some of us went on bike rides while others checked out the downtown area. Fun was had all around, and it was great to relax and enjoy our time together before everyone had to leave for their respective SCA homes in a couple of days.
Sunday and Monday were the days when the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) came into the picture. We started the day meeting Meredith, Dina and Matt, whom we (the Nashville Team) will be working with during the Visitor Use Survey Program. We went over the surveys, familiarizing ourselves with the questions and getting comfortable with different scenarios. Some of the rangers that sat in on the meetings even role-played for us, acting our different characters that we might run across at our different sites- that was one of the most entertaining parts of the day. We also had a chance to travel to two of the sites, setting up the cones and signs so we would know how to do it when Day 1 officially rolled around. We ended that day with a furious relay on the playground, where we got to run around a bit after a productive day in the field.
That night we had our farewell dinner, Sophie finishing off her marathon-week of cooking us all dinner with her Guatemalan breakfast- if you haven’t had this it is amazing, and we were all unbuttoning our pants by the end of the meal. Tuesday morning came too soon, and each team bid us farewell in their own ways: Waco piling into their car with relaxed waves of goodbye, Cumming rambunctiously picking people up in the air. Sophie, Mike and I stood for second, contemplating the emptiness of the house, what we would do with all that empty space. Although we were sad to see our short-lived family go, there was a feeling of excitement in the air: we would soon be starting surveys and our conservation projects, and not a moment was to be wasted. Hello Nashville, here we come!
Written by Eva
As our training in Nashville came to an end, our crew headed back to Georgia eager and ready to begin the program!
The first thing we have to report from the field to you is Clayton and Michaels first Conservation project that they have already begun! Today these two gentleman headed out to Gwinnett Environmental Health Center where they attended "The Real Food Fair" from 1-5pm. Here they learned about how to take commercial gardening to a home level. This fair focused on growing local food, that was all-organic with absolutely no herbicides used! We were all very excited to say the least. We already have had a compost bucket going in our house to give us a kickstart. It takes about 90 days for our composted food to be usable in a garden, so we are hoping that when the new crew comes mid-may- it will be all set for them to use!
Today, Michael and Clayton returned from the fair very excited to get going on their project. The first thing they did was build a rain catch, since this house we are staying in does not have gutters. They figured this would be a good way to catch natural water and reuse it for the garden. A lot of people think going green is all about recycling, but we are here to tell you this is not true! Reduce, reuse, and recycle!!! This is the way to go, and these two guys are roaring and ready to practice this "green" method here in our own home!
Their plan for our home garden is to have two different types of grow. Since our acreage has a lot of shaded areas, and minimal sunny spots, they opted to do a half shaded garden, and a half mobile garden. The shaded garden will be immobile and they will be growing vegetables that do not need sun such as, red potatoes, red and white onions, red cardinal spinach, and yugoslavian lettuce. Then, in containers that can be moved with the sunlight they will grow vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers. Michael and Clayton opted for this method because they do not want to kill the vegetation that is already on our property- even if it isn't creating the optimal garden areas- they are willing and ready to work with it!
When these vegetables are grown and ready to eat, they have big plans! The first thing they want to do is donate a good bit of what they grow to a local food bank. Then, they plan on trying to trade our neighbors for other vegetables. The neighbors to the left of us are a lovely elderly couple- whose wife claims her husband knows NOTHING about gardening. (Don't you just love those couples that have clearly been together for YEARS. So cute.) They already told us they could use their help with their garden, and we plan on doing vegetable trades with them. We also have been looking around at farms that raise chickens to see if we can trade some vegetables for eggs. The rest of the vegetables we plan on eating ourselves!
That is all for now, and we will talk to you in two weeks with another exciting update as we enter our first week of visitor use surveys!!
- Leah, Clayton and Michael
We returned to the Kiavah Wilderness for Hitch 8 for another exciting and challenging hitch! With Charlie as Hitch Leader, we headed to the desert.
Kiavah Crew began this particular desert stint finishing up several restoration projects and eventually finishing all of our work in Horse Canyon. Earlier in the season, we started a project to build a hard barrier arc and make another campsite along the road. However, the soil was too rocky and at a rate of about 6 inches an hour, we decided the manual digging was not worth our time. Luckily, the Friends of Jawbone came out to help. The Friends of Jawbone are a group of responsible OHVers that partner with the BLM and are generally nice folks, but most importantly- they have an auger!! With the auger and the chainsaw, we got the campsite finished in a single day! Thanks Friends of Jawbone!
Mid-hitch our dusty trusty diesel truck had some issues with the security system. While it got towed to be fixed, we got a flashy rental truck with XM radio- what a treat!
As usual, there were many beautiful sunsets, sunrises, and amazing cloud formations above the Eastern Sierras. Yet, the most beautiful moment of all came on our last day of fieldwork. Waking up in the morning to fog, the weather quickly turned. Soon, the largest snowflakes we have ever seen (Even Molly from Wisconsin thought so!) began to drop from the sky by the bucket load. Taking advantage of the moisture, we broadcast seeded some desert seeds on the hill we restored two hitches before. With intermittent snowball fights and general rejoicing, we finished out Hitch 8 cold, wet, but in good spirits. Never have I seen the El Paso and Southern Sierra mountain ranges so picturesque! We returned to our green monster for tea, toast, and to wrap up a successful hitch.
Welcome to the desert.
This is your new home.
Let me drink you in,
I want to swallow you whole.
Your dust chokes me instead,
Tell me your fears,
Listen to my story.
I will tell you of the seasons,
I will show you the ocean.
Your jokes kill me,
Tell it again.
Don’t touch that,
What did I just step on?
Does anyone have tweezers?
Drip, drip, drip.
Canvas proves stronger than any rain.
Sadly, holes unleash frustration.
It is 4 a.m.
It is dark.
Good morning Mojave.
My back is breaking,
I’m mining for rocks, it seems.
This pick-mattock weighs at least a ton.
It’s laughing at me,
It’s taunting me.
Who threw that dirt clod?
The thermometer must be broken,
It’s twenty-what degrees outside?
My toes will surely fall off,
Call an ambulance,
Call my mother,
She’ll want to hear about this.
It’s happened: I have transformed.
I have scales.
Must. Seek. Moisture.
Where am I?
A picture from home,
A song sparking nostalgia.
I miss you too…
Wish you were here…
How many days left?
Don’t tell me what I don’t know,
Show me what I dream of.
Balls of fire shoot through the sky,
There is beautiful clarity.
Here I sit,
Why didn’t you warn me?
Where were the signs telling me to “Turn Back Now”?
I must not have been paying attention.
Eruptions of laughter resurrect my soul,
Smiles welcome me into consciousness.
“Good morning, the eggs are ready. The coffee is hot. How did you sleep?”
A grumble of appreciation,
But soon I am alive and I have joined in.
So I had this crazy dream last night…
What is the price we pay for knowledge?
How much do words of wisdom cost?
Not $10.99 at Barnes and Noble,
Or $20,000 a year for a nap during a lecture, no.
Anger, frustration, joy, excitement, sweat, tears, blisters, aches.
For some, it’s unbearable.
For all, it’s tiring.
Why are we battling a place we have come to love?
Our efforts futile,
We give in.
Enjoy the silent beauty.
We stand as one,
No man left behind.
We adapt to the unfamiliar,
Do not fold under difficulty.
We are desert rats,
Hear us roar.