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It was storming this morning….

 Today, that’s right, today, I woke to a Florida summer thunderstorm rolling around in my head – and outside my window. Normally, this is the part where I turn over and go back to sleep. Part of the benefits of being an on-call employee and working partially for yourself is the freedom to say, “Oh, it’s raining. I wouldn’t want to get wet so I shall go back to sleep.”

Today I did the opposite. I jumped forth quickly, donned my usual khaki (and unsexy look as Allen so pleasantly calls it) and squished out the door. I was headed to one of my favorite creeks.

No, it’s not a crystal clear pristine natural stream. It’s a created stream. I have been working in this stream for over 5 years now. I have seen it as a small shy controlled thing. I have helped it grow into a wild, sinuous, sandy bed thing that is home to many amazing creatures.

But this is not about the stream….not directly. It’s about how the love of what we do is a natural thing. It’s how I worked with a construction crew today. Most of the crew doesn’t speak good English. It didn’t stop the natural and easy communication once we began to work in the stream.

We were making improvements to some areas that have gone a little too wild. As I began working – I explained with gestures what I was trying to create. The crew nodded. One man – young man – in particular, smiled hugely. He began grabbing materials from the forest and putting the right where I would….and looked at me for approval. I laughed and nodded. He GOT IT!!!

I then asked if he spoke English. “Yes,” he replied. I quickly took the opportunity to share some science behind what we were doing and how it was a natural gift – to be able to see what the stream needed. I had taken a seat on a big log in the middle of the stream – soaking, muddy, and thrilled. He told me that he could see that I loved this place. He said he could see the love of this stream when I worked. He asked if I made it.

I told him that we were all making it. That is was like raising a child. You make it – you teach it – you train it – you keep checking on it – you feel sad when something goes wrong – you feel happy when it goes right. I told him that streams were a lot like naughy children and if left alone too long without supervision – they go wild and do naughty things. That’s why we were there. To supervise and retrain it to behave. To make it act like a beautiful stream and not like a wild ugly thing that man made.

He was amazed. He and I were both quiet for a long time. We were looking at the stream. We were seeing it with the same eyes. I said to him that I could see that he loved this place. I said I could see that he, too, now loved this stream. I told him that what he felt was special. The way he looked at the stream and how it behaved was special. 

As we finished working, the stream was looking much more like a beautiful stream and less like a wild toddler. It will take a while, but it will remember its lessons and behave for a while longer. It will grow. It will change. I will go back and supervise. I might retrain it someday again.

What I sincerely hope is that the young man also goes back to see how his love and vision created something beautiful.

The Clearing

 

Crouching low I hid neath the brambles. Scratched and torn skin red with rage.

I watched as they ripped it asunder. No respect. No fear.

Each screaming heart gasping air. Roots barren and drying.

Shattered crowns, withered leaves, twisted souls.

The breeze blew where it shouldn’t.

Smell of earth where is wasn’t.

They looked happy as tears stained my dirty face.

Proud, they stood in the clearing. As if they had done something great.

Tree Image Gallery

puss

Flannel Moth Caterpillar – dangerous!!

That’s right – I know you are thinking, “But Jacque, why on earth would we wear ear muffs in the woods in Florida in the summer?” Well, I’m gonna tell you why – that’s right – you know what’s coming….a story.

Once upon a time there was a nerdy Chick with Ticks named Jacque.  Jacque was working diligently on some urban wetlands with her partner Kristen. Well, Jacque had to pee. Of course, when we are working in the woods and we have to pee – we pee in the woods. Never much of a big deal (except that time with the scorpion…).

So, Jacque went in search of a nice place to go. It was quite wet in this wetland (duh) and Jacque wanted to find a place where her booty wasn’t dragging in the mud. She ducked under some vine-covered vegetation….and BAM! Something was in her right ear it was horrid and hurt.

Now, this pain wasn’t just an ouchy….it was intense. It radiated into her neck and head and she was much hurting. Kristen rushed her to the local emergency room as she was getting worse and nauseous. Jacque was feeling pain so sever she couldn’t talk through the hysterical crying.

The nice nurse took Jacque into a room. The nice nurse helped take her disgusting muddy boots off. THe nice nurse proceeded to question the girls on what happened….then the doctor came in – took a flashlight and said, “Considering the redness and pain – it was probably a toxic caterpillar.” Jacque agreed as she had wiped something out of her ear that resembled the puss caterpillar.

Just a minor sting….

The nice nurse gave Jacque some percoset – and informed her that there isn’t much treatment for such an attack but that she needed to give Jacque a steroid shot now. The tiny needle didn’t scare Jacque because she was in so much pain she could care less what anyone did. Oh, how wrong Jacque was.

That steroid shot hurt just about as bad as the caterpillar toxin. Then the percoset took effect and Jacque could stop crying. They sent Jacque out the door with more steroid prescriptions, pain meds, and Benadryl.

Today, Jacque was hopped up on steroids digging holes for gopher tortoise trapping….and those darned steroids made her feel like superman! BUT, we want you to know something….there are some very dangerous caterpillars in Florida – and they can cause some very serious health issues.

http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/nature/news-ten-creepy-and-colorful-caterpillar-hazardous-human-health

Spines….these deliver the toxin

So, click the link above and learn more about them. They can even kill some people who are sensitive. Please keep tape around as you can use it to remove some of the hairs before you seek treatment. Kristen and Jacque have both had severe reactions to small puss (flannel moth) caterpillars that were tiny! Each time you get attacked – it gets worse and the toxin can affect you more. So, if you must pee in the woods – please watch out for caterpillars.

Something in the air.

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That’s right! I started noticing it last November. There’s something in the air. Nothing is behaving the way it should.

I usually keep this to myself. Some people don’t appreciate the old “Must be gonna rain my knee aches”. Others hang on your every word until you just feel plain creeped out to say anything. But, I can’t keep it in any longer….so here it goes!

You can call me crazy (and you probably wouldn’t be far off base), but I notice how things in nature behave from year to year. It’s part of the extra sense I have from being in the wild so often. You start noticing the little things.

Birds aren’t going to the same places. Trees aren’t budding at the right time. Bugs are swarming in the wrong week. The air smells wrong and the weather just doesn’t make sense. There’s something in the air that says this will be a strange year.

The animals didn’t move around at the right time. The thistle came up too hard this year. It’s gonna be a bad one. Storms more than likely. I don’t claim to know everything – just that something isn’t right.

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Being wild has its disadvantages. You know too much. Nothing is simple anymore. It’s a

ll connected – all of it. You see patterns if you look just right at the way things move, live, eat, sleep, and breed. From one year to the next, the poison ivy thrives and throws out more oils. The fox squirrels mate early. The frogs come out late.

So, mark my words folks, it’s going to be a wild ride this year….just you wait and see! Trust us wild Chicks.

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Suwannee Week…..!

the view is amazing

the view is amazing

That’s right folks, the Chicks with Ticks spent a whole work week (plus Sunday) in North Florida on the Suwannee River. We were surveying 80+ miles of cross sections of the Middle Suwannee. One thing is certain, we are bad ass!

The first day out was a doozie – boats broke down, I forgot there was a kill switch that prevents the choke from working unless you plug it in, the surveying went slowly and we just plain needed to get our groove on. Well, Stella – your groove is nothing compared to what Kristen and I had.

Working with some colleagues from our Seattle office (who will only remain anonymous because I did not ask if I could use their names), we completed what is – to date – our largest river survey. Yes, it’s true, we got poison ivy, bruises all over, scratches, and a new appreciation for massage therapists, but we also got a new appreciation for ourselves.

cheesy - but it's hard not to smile on the river!

cheesy – but it’s hard not to smile on the river!

Kristen climbed shear banks for five long days – in this heat – without complaining (for the most part). I shot clean for five days under fairly strange conditions – rock ledges, shifting sand banks, cramped spots – and we also managed to dodge the damn sturgeon.

That thing about the sturgeon killing and hurting people as the fish jumped seemed to be a random and fairly rare event that only happened to other people. Well, I am here to tell ya folks that there are FAR TOO MANY JUMPING STURGEON ALL ALONG THE MIDDLE SUWANNEE RIVER FOR MY TASTE. Yes – daily I watched as multiple sturgeons some 3-4 feet in length – cleared the water weighing in at about 100 pounds. every trip on the boat was a nervous ride.

I can’t explain the feeling – but those things are HUGE and it’s no joke – get some extra life insurance before you go hauling down the river.

The fact that I setup survey gear on rock outcroppings that probably stood as lookouts or fishing spots for native Americans hundreds of years ago gave the trip a sense of depth…an other worldly feel. There must be stories locked in that riverbank limestone. Hundreds of years of hunting, fishing and living on the life filled river.

Ahhh – the Suwannee….can’t wait to head that way again!

Kristen at the desk our coworkers built

Kristen at the desk our coworkers built

My husband and I recently travelled to Italy for a little “spring break” get-away. When you think of Italy, you probably think of delicious cuisine, wine, museums, and cathedrals rather than outdoors adventures. Well, we were lucky enough to find all of the above! We visited Cinque Terre, a coastal region comprised of five (cinque = five in Italian) small villages situated on cliffs overlooking the ocean.  The villages are connected by centuries old hiking trails that worm their way through the mountains, offering some of the most spectacular views. People from all over Europe (and the world), flock here just to hike the trails to the towns. And based on the cool outdoor gear and hiking sticks people were sporting (not us, we aren’t that cool), we knew we had come to the right place for some adventure!

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The first day we arrived, we dropped our bags off at our bed and breakfast and immediately set out for a hike. We had a small map, but it proved to be meaningless so we just sort of wandered up a little trail hoping to reach our final destination. We came to a sign that had one arrow pointing to “Il Medio” and one pointing to “Il Sirioso” (or something like that), which of course we interpreted as “medium” or “severe” trail. We chose the medium one since it was first day and we didn’t want to kill ourselves. Eventually we came to a locked gate with an “Il Medio” sign on it. Crap! So a woman comes up behind us and just walks through an open spot in the fence. We call after her and ask if this is the trail into town. It turns out she is German and hardly speaks any English or Italian, but luckily Eric took German in highschool and we are able to piece together that she is the owner of “Il Medio”, which is a farm, not a medium difficulty trail! Rather than making us turn around and go all the way back, she tells us we can cross her property, ford a stream, and then follow the river back into town. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, she realized we would more than likely get lost, so she had her 6-year old son (who definitely doesn’t speak any English) lead us across the “stream”. And it’s a good thing we had a little helper, because the stream was a waterfall and we had to criss-cross rocks and planks! It was awesome! How cool would it be to grow up there as a kid?!

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We hiked about 10 miles each day we were there, making it to each of the five towns. Some of the hikes were quite challenging, both physically and mentally. One particular trail (Trail 7) was nearly vertical. We thought having some wine before we headed up the trail might help build up our courage and help us lose our fear of heights, but it only ended up making us more nervous, and there were moments we thought we might fall right off the edge of the cliff! But it was all worth it when we reached the top, and we were so proud of ourselves. So, naturally, we finished our bottle of wine to celebrate :) It was an amazing adventure, and I feel so lucky to have been able to make it out there (and to have survived the crazy trails)!

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That’s right….our family swimming pool turned green. Greener than a snake! And, as is the way of nature, when you build it – they will come. It quickly became a tadpole pond.

Cute Kids Win over Tadpoles

Cute Kids Win over Tadpoles

They were teeming….it was primordial! One problem – what kind were they? Another problem – how do we rid the pool of them kindly if they are “good” frogs so that the kids aren’t afraid of swallowing tadpoles? If they are “bad” frogs, how do you kill them without going to hell?

Well, I tell you what, there’s just no good way to accomplish either one! There are simply too many in the pool. We can’t wait for them to develop into frogs either so don’t even go there. It’s 90 degrees in Florida already folks.

My genius is limited – so i got a bucket and a net – scooped thousands up and dumped them into my fish ponds – sink or swim that was their chance at life. Then we began adding treatment….TO KILL THEM!!

Go ahead and hate me…I understand. But what you don’t understand is that the kids are MUCH CUTER than the tadpoles. On top of that, I confirmed that they were, in fact, Cuban Tree Frog offspring….the nemesis of all Florida native frogs. I secretly rejoiced when I made this discovery.

So, now my fish ate all the “rescues” and the environment is free of hundreds of exotic and aggressive destroyers of native wildlife….I feel good. I slept well! Once again…The Chicks With Ticks are ready to make a difference.

IMGP0868That’s right. Last week, I spent the entire work day researching swamps, bogs and seeps. Believe it or not, they are very different.

You are saying to yourself, “but Jacque, they are all muddy wet swampy places.” Sure, on cursory glance. What I have discovered after days in them and loads of research is….

THERE ISN”T ENOUGH INFORMATION OUT THERE ONE THEM….most especially seepage swamps. So, it will be a personal mission for the Chicks with Ticks to begin to uncover the SECRETS OF THE SEEPS….

It seems that these complex depressions in the landscape are home to some interesting combinations of plants and animals. Some of these are endangered here in Florida. 

But – i thought it would be fun to see what Dictionary.com had to say:

 

 

swamp

  [swomp]  Show IPA

noun
1.
a tract of wet, spongy land, often having a growth of certain types of trees and other vegetation,but unfit for cultivation.
verb (used with object)
2.
to flood or drench with water or the like.
3.
Nautical . to sink or fill (a boat) with water.
4.
to plunge or cause to sink in or as if in a swamp.
5.
to overwhelm, especially to overwhelm with an excess of something: He swamped us with work.
6.
to render helpless.
 

bog

 [bog, bawg]  Show IPA noun, verb, bogged, bog·ging.

noun
1.
wet, spongy ground with soil composed mainly of decayed vegetable matter.
2.
an area or stretch of such ground.
verb (used with object), verb (used without object)
3.
to sink in or as if in a bog (often followed by down  ): We were bogged down by overwork.

Verb phrases

4.
bog in, Australian Slang. to eat heartily and ravenously.
 

seep

  [seep]  Show IPA

verb (used without object)
1.
to pass, flow, or ooze gradually through a porous substance: Water seeps through cracks in the wall.
2.
(of ideas, methods, etc.) to enter or be introduced at a slow pace: The new ideas finally seeped down to the lower echelons.
3.
to become diffused; permeate: Fog seeped through the trees, obliterating everything.
verb (used with object)
4.
to cause to seep; filter: The vodka is seeped through charcoal to purify it.
noun
5.
moisture that seeps out; seepage.
6.
a small spring, pool, or other place where liquid from the ground has oozed to the surface of the earth.
 
There ya go! Chew on that vocabulary for a while….so, sounds like the Chicks will need to do more research!!

Storm

Across the field they came.

Slamming into the ground and raising the dust that had settled over thousands of years.

Wetting things cracked and dead. Making black puddles on the land.

Things that had long since given up emerged. Beady eyes shone red in the darkness.

Things cried out. Things older than the earth itself.

Everything awoke to the sound of thunder.

The storm approaches.

“We will miss you.”

That’s right. I won’t say who wrote this to me today. That would be tattle telling. I will say what it meant to me.

It meant the world. It meant that the team that was heading out and leaving me behind at the office would miss me. And I them.

It’s funny how our team functions. It’s almost organic. Like a living organism that has a life all its own. We feed it our personalities, we care for it with our passion for our work, and water it with our symbiotic natures. That, my friends, has made one strong living thing. TEAM

I will hold the fort down in the office. I will answer emails and keep moving some project work forward. I will think of them on the river. I will miss them. I will miss the their input.

They will work on the river. They will think of what I might say about something in the field. They will miss me. They will miss my input. 

It’s not what you plan to do when you go to work. You plan to work, get paid, go home, pay bills, and wake up and do it all again. With us, it’s not that way. We wake up, We go to work, We LOVE our work, We LIVE our work, We get paid, and we can’t believe it!!

After having done many things in my life to make money, I can honestly say that you are a fool to continue feeding your passions and dreams to a time clock. You should stop now. It’s simply not good for the living thing. It’s not good for YOU!

So, think about what you wanted to truly be when you grew up. Think about how you can make yourself happy. Think of how risky it might be and what amazing adventure and excitement might come with that kind of change.  

And then reread this – and think of how amazing it is to be a part of something alive….that makes you feel alive. Even when you can’t be there. So, you just gonna sit there? Read this again!!

Then – go out there and make it happen! GO ANYWHERE!

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