There's a good reason for that; one, our internet connection is a bit patchy...it fails in bad weather, and the only place I can get a connection in my cabin is in the bathroom (sometimes); and two, we haven't had a day off since we got here (still haven't). That's due in part to the fact that we've been managing the station ourselves for the last week (the managers left for a cougar workshop in Sun Valley), and the time before that was spent in orientation and helping them prepare for their various projects this month, including the workshop this week and a wilderness symposium next week. They'll be flying back in today as soon as the weather clears a bit.
So, with all the learning and doing of running a 65-acre research station, I haven't had the time to really sit and compose yet. Here are some topics that may be of interest.
I am on MSN messenger any time my computer is on, which is a lot of the time, since I'm mostly doing office work. I would LOVE to talk to any of you. Any time betwen 0800 and 0500, you are about 75% likely to find me. If not, message me anyway and I'll get it as soon as I return to my computer.
Phone here is unreliable as always. Mail is sent to (my name), Taylor Wilderness Research Station, HC 83 Box 8070, Cascade, ID 83611.
I love watching planes come in to the station. They arrive in one of two ways. Ninety-percent of the time, it's from the west. They'll fly over the station in a wide circle (to let us know they're here, and to lose altitude, then fly back the way they came. They'll make another 180 in a basin further down the drainage, (we can't see any of this, as it's down inside the canyons), then they'll sweep in from around a corner and land on the airstrip (which is curved), taxiing toward us.
The other way is to come in from the east (10%). They'll fly in from the west (as usual), pass over the station, then make a 180 turn farther down the drainage and fly very low over the station and pasture. It's like the flyby in Top Gun, only with a Cessna. They'll land on the airstrip going west, then taxi back to us.
Then we all help chock the wheels and unload the plane, chitchat and sit around, and eventually the plane leaves. I don't know why I like it so much, but I do.
When I was here before, there were marmot burrows across the river, but I never saw a marmot. This time, the station is OVERRUN with them. They're yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris), huge, with red-brown fur and creamy underbellies. They graze in the pasture. They live in a burrow under the corral shed. They live the attic above the lab. They cross our footbridge. They eat our hay. They chirp at us in warning. They are not afraid of us in the least.
They also have some sort of communication (territory display? mating ritual?) involving their tails, where they swish their rumps around to swing their long tails in loopy circles. It's weird and sorta funny. I hear "Baby Got Back" in my head whenever I see it.
Our cabin is probably the smallest and lowliest on the station. Since it's usually occupied by a maintenance person or caretaker, no students, administrators, or wealthy donors ever stay there, so we kinda get the leftovers from the rest of the cabins. I spent yesterday doing kitchen inventory in the new DeVlieg cabin yesterday. They have a full set of nonstick cookware, tons of utensils, matching dishes...even a French coffee press. I don't even have dry measuring cups except for two mismatched ones, both 1/3. We have no counter space and I wind up balancing most things on the edge of the sink. We have no table, so when we eat, one person sits at the desk and the other sits on the bed (this cabin was never intended for two people).
We had to spend a few days taking everything out of the cabinets and drawers and scrubbing everything clean of mouse droppings (the cabin still smells a little mousy). We can hear mice above the kitchen ceiling, pattering around. Tyler put a few traps in the attic and we've killed one so far. I think we have at least one wood rat too.
Still, the saving grace is that it is all ours. We don't have to share our fridge with anyone, we don't have to wait for 6 other people to take their showers before we do, we don't have to put up with late-night parties or fights about who left their dishes in the sink. It is our own private space, and that is a luxury. We also have a toasty wood stove, which I love to death. There's nothing like building a roaring fire on a chilly night in the wilderness.
I think we also have the largest bathroom on the property. Weird.
My Stupid Knee
My knee flared up at me again this week. We walked down the trail last Saturday night to round up the stock and put them in the corral, so my knee was a bit sore from the exertion. The next day, I was taking a leisurely stroll down the airstrip when I felt my knee heat up with boiling lava. Sure enough, my kneecap was stoplight-red, and the skin up and down my leg was the same way for 5 inches in every direction. It started to swell up in a matter of minutes. I put ice on it right away, and have continued all week (ibuprofen too), but I don't know what will happen. I can ice it all night and it still flares up in the morning when I go to brush my teeth. Icing and ibuprofen didn't help the swelling last time, and I don't have much faith in it now.
I spent the first few days in the depths of despair, lamenting my poor lot and wondering why this had to happen now, of all times, and here, of all places. If I had a desk job in a corporation somewhere, I wouldn't care so much. If this had happened several months earlier when I had more time to correct the problem, I wouldn't care so much. But I do physical work out here and I need my knee, and now my doctors are two plane flights away.
I emailed them to let them know what was going on, and asked my orthopedist to send my MRI results to my surgeon so I could get his take on it. So far, I have heard nothing from either of them. The despair has passed and now I'm mostly angry about the whole thing.
What We Do
Tyler's mostly been doing outdoor maintenance stuff. He spent most of yesterday hip-deep in one of our waterboxes, siphoning sand and rocks out of the bottom. He's helped the carpenters haul wood, he's checked our hydro power and run the generator when necessary. He opened up irrigation last week and now all the little streams and rivulets that I LOVE here are chuckling their ways all through the grass and trails. Most are tiny streams no wider than my arm. Others are wider and will have a little plank footbridge whenever a trail crosses them. I don't know what it is about crossing water that makes me so deeply happy. But I'm glad it's here.
I've been doing organizational stuff, mostly. I've been sorting out the plant collection into sheets that are complete, sheets that need work, and sheets that are garbage. I've been sending email updates and questions to Jim and Holly. I've been communicating with professors and students to get our research notebook up to date, and rewriting/sending text and pictures to our webmaster so the website can be updated. I've been starting to draft a user's manual for each cabin. I've been recording data for researchers in absentia. And so on.
A snake a snake
I've also been helping one of the grad students here with his rattlesnake research. He's doing a study on rattlensnake movement, including telemetry. All snakes he catches (about 20 so far this year) get measured, weighed, sexed, marked (a little paint on the rattle) and PIT-tagged. The larger ones get radio transmitters, which involved surgery. The snake gets tubed with a little anesthetic gas, then we insert the wire and battery under the skin and suture them back up. It's been really facinating.
The only unusual thing, which has never happened in the three years of this study, is that we've had two Code Blues during surgery. Last week, one snake refused to start breathing after the surgery (they usually don't breathe when they're under, which is normal for a reptile). We ended up giving him assisted breathing for two hours until he finally took a breath and came out of it. The second snake, just two days ago, had his heart stop during surgery. I gently palpated his heart until it started again, and we gave him assisted breathing for five hours, but he never came out of it and eventually died. It was troubling.
I've taken up archery again since returning to the station. I went stump shooting once last week and quickly realized there was no way I could shoot without my glove and my armguard (which I couldn't find when we were packing). I ordered new ones, and the internet connection failed right after I pressed "place my order." I never got an email confirmation, so I placed my order again the next day (and got a confirmation this time), but sure enough, next week I got my order...twice. I can't send anything back from here, so I'll just see if I can sell the extra gear to someone else. But I'm glad to have the new gear. Without an armguard, I get snapped by the bowstring every time, and the inside of my left arm was black and blue last week.
So far, my shooting has been a festival of suck. My arrows always leap up about a foot higher than I'm aiming for, and often bear a bit to the right. I can compensate for this, but I don't want to...I want to shoot straight. I think part of that is that my arm muscles are weak, so my draw is a bit shaky. I'll build it back up again. I want to be in top form by the time the interns get here.
So, I suck so far, but I'm happy I'm getting a chance to shoot again. I haven't done it in six years, so I guess I shouldn't expect to be great at it after all this time. My next mystery is why my fletching keeps catching my knuckle when the arrow goes by. It hurts, it changes the trajectory, and I'm getting blood all over my arrows (I fletched them myself and I'm kinda proud of them). Practice, practice.
Okay, that's all for now. More to come when I can spare a moment.