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Bye for now Jess….the wilds of Florida will never be the same.

It is with heavy hearts that Kristen and I have to say goodbye to one of our own. Jessica Taft is a true Chick With Ticks….one of the fabulous five who began this journey many years ago. Jess would be pissed off to see us shed these tears and sob these sobs as we cry “It’s not fair”. We will share some amazing stories and adventures with her children – who need to know how strong and beautiful she will always be to us. Caio Jess – see ya later!

bacteriaThat’s right, ewww! The Chicks with Ticks go some really nasty places. It’s hard to believe, I know, but we also don’t always have access to a public restroom with soap! Ewwww…I know! That means…you got it – we have germy, nasty hands sometimes.

Recently, a client notified us that hogs in our area tested positive for leptospirosis (blah blah – NASTY bacterial disease). Shortly after that, the news shared a story of a man who recently dies of a bacterial infection from water. The world instantly seemed….well, DIRTY!

So, in order to make it less scary and more bearable, I thought I should make fun of the germy things we have and will do! So, here goes my top ten list of……


1. Go into hot swamp water without waders on

(this means that swamp water gets….well….you know – EVERYWHERE)

2. Use the restroom outdoors

(I don’t think I need to elaborate on the many reasons this is nasty)

3. Eat wild plants

(Only do this with great knowledge….or bravery as some stuff can kill ya)

4. Touch wild animals/fish

(yeah – we do it – I will be honest)

5. Wade in mud

(We like it!!)

6. Swim in creeks and rivers

(Some think this is risky – boy are they missing out)

7. Get bitten by nasty critters

(Ants, bees, ticks, fleas, chiggers…COOL)

8. Get weird rashes

(YUCK – true but YUCK)

9. Stink

(It’s hard to be us and not stink….like literally stink)

10. Eat with our hands

(What? Don’t judge us!!)

And, because I have to mention this….I am adding a…

11. Wear stinky, swampy, old, socks or clothes

(Some of us more than others (KRISTEN))

germsSo, we are all still here, happy and healthy. We have never suffered serious illness or injury from our work. This is mainly (we think) because we build up an immunity. Partly though, it may just be because we are wild – part of nature now – and maybe – just maybe – if you touch us – you will get some crazy cooties!! ha ha ha – Either way -


Fly like an eagle

Coolest video ever — It’s an eagle flying through the Alps with a camera attached to its back. Enjoy!

*Note: you have to scroll down the page a little bit to find the video.


Bleached by sunlight

Her fractured remains littered the banks of the brown river.

Twisted bones bleached white from long days spent worshipping the sun

now tossed about after the storms of summer.

Sluggish sounds of lapping waves the only reverie.

Her age is unknown. Her birth unwritten.

It was so long ago that no one remembers her absence.

They remember her cool sheltering arms.

They remember her strength.

And they smile as they paddle by.


As a follow-up to our previous post, I think it’s appropriate to give a little lesson on what to do if you find lightningyourself stuck in a lightning storm. Which is exactly where my husband and I, along with another couple, found ourselves a couple of weekends ago.

We were canoeing the Little Manatee River. It was a beautiful day, and everyone seemed to actually be interested in me talking about wetland inundation and pointing out various tree species. But then it started to sprinkle. That was nice because it was HOT. But then it started to pour. And then we saw some flashes with some rumbling in the distance. We started to get a little nervous when all hell broke loose with STRIKES and BOOMS right on top of us! Just our luck, we were in a METAL canoe in the middle of nowhere.

We decided it would be safer to be out of the canoe than in it. We pulled up onto a bank, and I remembered some safety training we had once had regarding what to do if you get stuck in the middle of nowhere during a lightning storm. Basically you bend over with your butt up in the air and grab your ankles from behind. Obviously this sounds and looks ridiculous, but the idea is that if lightning hits you it will travel through your butt and down your legs rather than through your heart. So with that comforting piece of information, the four of us were hunched with our bums in the air! If only I had a picture…

It was probably the scariest outdoor experience I have ever had (up there with almost stepping on an

We survived!

We survived!

alligator). After each strike we would count the seconds to the thunder, and sometimes we didn’t even get to one. It was over us for what seemed like forever, and our legs were getting so sore from hunching over, but it was the only sense of security we had to get us through the horror! Eventually the clashes grew further apart and it was safe enough to get back into the canoe and haul bum to our pick-up point. There were others who also survived the storm, even though they didn’t know about the sticking the butt up in the air thing. That’s what we get for paddling on a summer afternoon in Florida. The canoe rental place sure must think we are all a bunch of idiots, but at least they are making some money off of us!

Cool *dry* shirt we bought from the Outpost

Cool *dry* shirt we bought from the Outpost

We can’t wait to go back since we didn’t get a chance to try out the rope swing. If you’re interested in paddling the Little Manatee, the Canoe Outpost was a great outfitter. You can visit their website here:

peace river

Peace River overbank

I’m sitting here on my couch because my softball game got POURED OUT for the 4th freaking week in a row. Our Suwannee River work got cancelled because the river is too high. Alafia River State Park isn’t renting out canoes because the overbank flows are unsafe (though a friend of mine went anyways and almost tipped his kayak and lost his quite expensive camera in the process). It’s normal to get afternoon thunderstorms in Florida during the summer, but this is too much!

A few months ago, Jacque and I were driving home from assessing some swamps in Arcadia and she said something to the extent of “those thistles look funny, it’s going to be a REALLY wet summer.” I know this girl has intuition, but really? Can you really tell it’s going to be a wet summer because some spiky plants look funny?! So I made a mental note, half hoping there would be a drought so I could make fun of her. She even put her predictions in writing ( so I would have proof if she denied saying it!


Wet marsh

Well, turns out Jacque should have placed a bet – because she would have hit the jackpot! We have just been pummeled with rain. Overall, the Florida peninsula receives about 40 to 50 inches of rain a year, with most of it occurring during the “wet season” (June – October). Living in Florida is more like living in the Tropics than it is like living in the rest of the U.S. where there are four distinct seasons. Here we really just have two distinct seasons: a wet and a dry (November – May). During the dry season, many of our small streams go completely dry (we call these intermittent or ephemeral systems). Only our larger creeks and rivers are wet all year long. Yup, this is one of the many nerdy things we have been studying over the years.


Florida peninsula, just waiting to be pummeled

horse creek

Horse Creek overbank

Florida is just the perfect storm for storms, if you will -– the excessively hot summer temperatures heat up our large expanses of water, causing water to evaporate and form large clouds that then drop rain all over the state as the winds from the Gulf and the Atlantic blow the storms across the state. And obviously Florida is just hanging out in the middle of those two water bodies, just waiting there in the wide open to get hit by a hurricane. Oh joy! So overflowing rivers and creeks are a very natural occurrence in Florida, and Florida streams are often overbank for a good chunk of the year. These flood events help “shape” the river and its floodplain and help cycle nutrients (food). Throughout Florida’s history, many streams and wetlands have been ditched to get water off a property. This takes away an important ecological component, one that Jacque and I are often working to restore. So maybe all this rain isn’t so bad and I should just hush. And pat Jacque on the back for being right. Again. Dangit!

Plunder Branch near Hwy62

Getting wet is fun!

Have a great weekend everyone! Even if it means getting a little wet :)

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


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.

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.

IMGP1449 IMGP0251
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.



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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