Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Daily Coyote

I was in Borders with Obo the other day, and saw the most beautiful (well, they're all beautiful, but then I'm biased) coyote staring out at me from the cover of a book. Turns out it's a book called "The Daily Coyote", and of course I picked it up immediately and started reading... it's the story of an author and photographer (Shreve Stockton) in Wyoming who adopted a coyote pup to keep it from dying without it's parents (who were shot, incidentally, by her friend - who then gave her the pup; I find that slightly disturbing, but I haven't read the whole book yet and will try to withhold judgement for now). The book documents the author's life from pre-coyote (his name is Charlie) through their first year (I believe) together. It started out as a blog - http://www.dailycoyote.net/ - which is still up and running where she posts the most amazing photos of Charlie, and gives information and updates on their lives.

I am dead jealous. I can't imagine the challenges faced by trying to live with a wild animal - even one that you've raised yourself. I have enough knowledge and respect for wildlife that I can't say I would ever deliberately undertake such an effort (raising my four-year-old is enough of a challenge!). But I'm jealous nonetheless. I adore coyotes, and am moved by the photos and experiences Shreve Stockton shares in her book and on her blog.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 11 With No Power...

We're on day 11 following the ice storm, and still have no power. We spent our first two nights at a co-workers house in Framingham, and the third night up in Nashua with my in-laws. I found a friend of mine who had an available generator on Monday, and Obo trekked to Lowell to fetch it and hook it up to the house to get the furnace running.

So that's the way we've been living... heat and hot water thanks to the generator, and a few lights, but that's about it. Cooking needs to take place outside on our camp stove (a real pain in a snow storm, as Obo will tell you following Friday night), and our fridge still has the odor of spoiled food (despite a thorough cleaning - we're going to take bleach and baking soda to it this week) so we're not willing to use it yet, even if the power does come on.

With the twin snow storms this past weekend, we gave up and went back to Nashua on Saturday. We waited last night for the majority of the snow to abate, but that meant that we didn't get home until 8:30 PM. and had a 40 degree house to try and heat. Man, was it cold going to bed last night!! I've slept outside in 40 and even 30 degree weather, but don't exactly relish the feeling of camping in my own bedroom.

So we missed Yule last night due to the storm, but plan on doing a small celebration at home tonight. This is the most un-holiday-ish holiday season I can remember. We haven't done any x-mas shopping (cards are out of the question), and missed holiday events we had planned on attending with the Society of Elder Faiths last weekend. Blah. I'm looking forward to traveling to see my family over New Year's. Hopefully that will help us feel more like celebrating...

In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out what I haven't learned from our experiences so far (there has to be a silver lining there somewhere). Certainly one lesson I have learned is not to take anything for granted. As Obo said to me last week, these things always happen to 'somebody else'. Well, not this time. And a line from an article that I read in Pan Gaia magazine recently has stuck with me... something to the effect of whatever can happen, can happen to you (relative to planning for lean times). I certainly feel like we're there right now.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Surprising Damage from Ice Storm

Central MA (along with many other parts of New England) was hit with a massive ice storm yesterday afternoon, which lasted into this morning. Weather and local officials said it was the worst storm in at least 10, and some said even 30 years. As a transplanted New Yorker, it's definitely the worst storm I've ever seen. And the damage surrounding our house is phenomenal.

I was up all night last night listening to the gun-shot and thunder-rumbling sounds of tree limbs crashing to earth all around us. It was the most terrifying night I can remember. I was half-convinced that the pine next to our driveway was going to crash into the house. It didn't, thankfully (actually the house and both cars have escaped unscathed so far - there's still more limbs and power lines coming down, and hopefully that will continue). Poor Pandora was a nervous wreck, panting and pacing all around our bedroom. We finally gave up (she was keeping us awake, along with all the racket outside) and gated her downstairs, and she spent the remainder of the night sitting in front of the gate, knocking into it with her paws, and panting loudly. Needless to say, I didn't sleep at all last night.

We're without power, as is most (if not all) of our town, and driving down to work today was a hazard, with no traffic lights at major intersections, and trees limbs and power lines all over the place. We're trying to decide if we're going to try and stay at home tonight, or head elsewhere for a warmer night....

Monday, December 8, 2008

Wolves and the Ranching Way of Life

I just heard an interesting story on NPR regarding wolves and ranching. I’m a wolf advocate, so these stories particularly garner my interest. It started out by reminding us that the Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves are being de-listed (from the endangered species list) at the end of this year; a relief to ranchers who will be allowed to hunt them on (and off) their property. While I’m not in favor of de-listing these wolves yet (and although the science for doing so with this population is sound [this time], I vote with the argument for not de-listing until the species is appropriately recovered throughout it’s entire former range*) they didn’t focus on this statement. Rather they used it to segue way into the struggles that ranchers now have in order to make a living every year; a perspective I found refreshing.

The main point of the story being that wolf predation of cattle is the least of a rancher’s worries, even though the loss of just a few head of cattle can be thousands of dollars to an individual rancher. It was mentioned that wolves don’t even account for the majority of cattle takes in a given year – coyote and grizzly bear do. Unfortunately for wolves however, (and anyone familiar with reintroduction efforts of the species can tell you this) they become the scapegoat because so many people have a visceral reaction to them. They are seen by many who work the land as the ultimate predator that men (often the grandfathers and great-grandfathers of today’s ranchers) worked to eliminate from their lands completely. Sadly though, an ecological perspective – the importance of top-level predators in an ecosystem – is lost in the daily struggle to make a living. Not a perspective that I can’t understand, but I find it sad nonetheless. Isn’t the struggle to make a living and expand our way of life the argument which justified the deaths of so many Native Americans during the colonization and western expansion of our country?

The story went on to talk about the diminishing returns ranchers are seeing every year - making it harder for them to stay in business. And some ranchers are taking big money from developers to sell off their land, creating what could become a drastic change in the western landscape. The question was raised whether traditional ranching, or multi-million dollar tourist "ranches" and increasing development would become the future of the west. They wrapped up the story succinctly by stating that among all the woes facing ranchers, wolves are the one issue that they can “put in their crosshairs and pull the trigger on.”

*More on the argument for delaying wolf de-listing... Waiting until wolves are recovered throughout their former range (see this link from the US Fish and Wildlife service for a map) before de-listing has a sound scientific argument: a population potentially under threat (and yes, despite their strong numbers now, humans still can prove a threat to wolf populations - we've already shown this to be true by eradicating this once wide-spread species in the first place) wouldn't be an isolated one, and could [potentially] renew itself if necessary with individuals - and genes - from a more stable one. Additionally, some argue that recovering wolves in their entire former range, instead of saying that they're stable just "here", is truer to the spirit of the endangered species act.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Random Bits from an Outdoor Ed Director's Office

Things found in my office, following crazy-busy summer and fall seasons...

  • Rubber chicken
  • Various short (and some not-so-short) bits of 'dead' climbing rope
  • The skin (and fur) of an eastern coyote
  • Slinky
  • Defective steel carabiners (still waiting to be sent to manufacturer)
  • Lots of warm clothing
  • Slightly smashed wasp in identifying jar (left over from summer - "do you know what this is??")
  • 29" auger drill bit
  • Large box of galvanized nails
  • Recurve bow (belonging to co-worker)
  • Hand-made shark fin for shark costume (consisting solely of corrugated cardboard and duct tape)
  • "Herbal Armor" bug repellent (still sitting on desk, despite current 30 degree weather)

I won't get into the loads of paper and books scattered all over, but at least I have time to clean up now...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Help!! I've just become a Minivan-driving Soccer Mom!!

I think that if I checked in with myself 15 years ago, I would have sworn this would never happen to me (of course, I was convinced I wasn't going to have kids until I met Obo)... but it's true: I signed R. up for soccer (he starts in April), and we just bought a minivan. I swear I was like, 18, just a year or two ago!

I keep looking at that phrase - "minivan-driving soccer mom" and am still so convinced that it doesn't apply to me. I know who that woman is - or should be in my mind - and I don't look or feel anything like her! (perhaps all women go though this denial phase when they join the ranks?) I remember feeling something like this after R. was born; I'd see myself putting our little baby in his car seat and loading him into the car and think, "this can't be me, I'm WAY too young to have a kid!". And then I'd remember that I'm in my early 30's (then) and yes, this was in fact me, loading a baby into a car. And now the baby is a pre-schooler (signed up for soccer!) and we're trying to have another and wanted a newer family-sized car... Oh, I know! I can blame this all on the dog - if we didn't have a dog we could use the extra space for gear and.... no, that doesn't work. Never mind. I'm sure I'll get used to my new ride eventually.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bear Tracking

My Grandmother passed away this Thursday - the day before Samhain, appropriately enough. It was a good opportunity to introduce R. to why we celebrate Samhain and what it means... even if it made for a more melancholy holiday weekend (and birthday, if you're born on Samhain).

As a result we've been traveling the past few days to spend time with my side of the family, and went to go see Dad who was up in the Catskills. They had gotten over a foot of snow last week, and a fair amount of it was (is) still around. This morning, Thelma mentioned to me that there were tracks on the side yard which she and Dad thought were bear - so of course I had to go look... even though they had been pretty fresh the day before, there is so much melting going on that there were hardly any details left to the tracks. But given the overall gist, combined with the general size and stride of the prints, there was no doubt that they were bear tracks. I took some pictures which Thelma will hopefully email along soon (didn't bring our camera with us) so I can post them - these are the first bear track photos I've gotten... we did some backtracking, but the prints disappeared (along with the snow) under some hemlocks at the front edge of the property and we could only follow them so far (and I was SO not dressed for tracking... we had only gone for the night, and left today for the Berkshires to see Aunt L. and Uncle W. today - which is where I'm writing this).

This reminds me that I was supposed to attend a tracking conference on Saturday, which I obviously missed due to family concerns. Bummer - I hope they'll have one next year... I'll have to be sure to attend a Walnut Hill program this winter; with any luck there will be one before my own tracking class down at the Y in February...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

NY Photos Online

I put a small album together of photos from our most recent trip to theCatskills here on Facebook. I do believe you have to be a member of Facebook (and a 'friend' of mine) to view the photos (sorry, I'm not too keen on just posting pictures of the family randomly on the web for anyone to view...). It's easy to join, if you're interested. If you not, email me and I'll send you copies.

You can see from the photo why we love being up there so much... this is the view from the front of the cabin to the mountains and our barn down below. We went for Columbus Day weekend, and the weather was amazing!! Didn't do a whole lot (Obo went shooting with Dad and hauled some logs to be cut into firewood; Grandma, R. and I went to an Octoberfest fair outside of Margretville, and R. helped Grandma plant some groundcover), we were just happy to get away for a few days. The past few weeks have been super crazy with work and other obligations; can't wait for November when my schedule settles down a bit. On top of managing the course and my 25 or so staff during our busiest season right now, I have to submit a new $100k budget and marketing plan for next fiscal year. Yippee...


Friday, October 17, 2008

Wolf Double Talk

One of my colleges brought to my attention a newspaper clipping about guy who brought a live wolf to the library in the town next to us for a children’s program the other day. There was a photo and blurb in the local paper, and the photo showed a guy with a wolf on a leash sitting between his feet.

I will put aside the fact that the wolf in the photo looked more like a skinny husky than a wild wolf for the moment, to say this… after going to the website for his organization to find more info out about them (and I won't name the individual or his organizaion until I have spoken with them directly), I am quite upset about the message they are sending. I'm not out to bash his organization, because I'm sure that they have great information intheir programs and I'm all for wolf education - we need more of it, not less! And I do plan to either attend one of their programs, or talk with them by phone to pose my questions.

But what are you REALLY saying when you bring a ‘wild’ animal into a public setting that has been “raised by us at home”… ? Even if they say to their audiences that wolves shouldn’t be kept as pets, they are giving a double message (do as I say, not as I do). Right on their website is information about pups they are raising and socializing with opportunities for the public to (by paying) go camping and ‘play with the pups’. There’s a fine line when working with wildlife for educational purposes, and I think these folks have crossed it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"My Mommy Plays Music With Her Friends"

I mentioned the other day that R. has taken to listening to the Contra Banditos CD at night (all night, every night...). Well, we were driving in the car the other day listing to Old Crow Medicine Show, and I guess it must have reminded him of the Banditos (we cover two of their songs) and he said that his favorite song on the Banditos CD was the one 'where all the girls sing together'; this is 'To Be Good', which he has heard us perform live on several occasions. He then asked me what the name of the Banditos CD was; I explained that it didn't have an official name yet, since we weren't done with the recordings. He said, 'well I think you should call it: “My Mommy Plays Music With her Friends”' (on the evenings when I head out to practice with the Banditos, R. invariably asks where I'm going, and my response is always - “I'm going to play music with my friends!”). I told him that I would bring his suggestion for a CD title back to the rest of the band the next time I'm at a rehearsal (which I haven't done yet...). R.'s response was: “I think they'll think it's funny!”. Laughing, I told him I was sure they would enjoy his suggestion, especially since quite a few Banditos are also mommies, playing music with their friends.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Goodnight Routine

I have to record this or it will get forgotten (like too many other sweet moments)... R.'s newest nighttime ritual is to have music playing (a CD on repeat) when he goes to sleep. For the past few weeks it's been one of several classical CDs (designed for kids); but I made a CD of the current recordings from the Contra Banditos to give to family members and Obo played his for R. He loves it so much that he now listens to the Banditos CD all night on repeat (which means we do as well...). I guess we've done a good job so far with the recordings... His other new addition to the evening is to say (and I have no idea why) "Bubbles!", which we must say in return.


No more pink!

Whew - had to get rid of that pink template; it was giving me a headache. More later...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

42nd NEEEA Conference

I spent this past weekend at the 42nd annual NEEEA (New England Environmental Education Alliance) Conference at Sargent Center in Hancock, NH. The last time I was able to spend the weekend at a full NEEEA conference was 6 years ago - the last time the conference was in NH, actually. One of the reasons I love being at NEEEA (yes, in addition the renewed contacts, professional development and other 'official' goodies) is that it essentially is a weekend of camp for educators. For anyone who knows me even slightly, you know I love camp - so this is just a blast, as far as I'm concerned. There wasn't much chance of my not attending this year; I'm on the board for both NEEEA as well as MEES (the Massachsuettes Environmental Education Society). For those outside of our little ee world, the six New England states each have an environmental education organization which is what makes up the population of NEEEA. Just to be confusing, you aren't automatically on the NEEEA board, if you're on the board of a New England state org. I'm the MA state rep for NEEEA, so happen to serve on both, but there are plenty of people on other state org boards that aren't part of the NEEEA board.

Hmm... this post was supposed to be more about my weekend at the conference, rather than a run-down of ee orgs in New England, and now it's late and I need to go to bed. I'll continue my weekend post tomorrow.

Monday, January 28, 2008