granted

Granted – studying soil will get your hands in the dirt…but it also lets you get your hands in the dirt.

Our watershed ecology had a lab on soil infiltration rates this week, which, previous to my forestry quest, I would have found (perhaps) a rather less than alluring topic.  However, today I can stay with utmost sincerity that studying soil (i.e. dirt) is … well … fascinating? (Scratch the hesitant tone about it actually, I do resolutely find it fascinating.)

Soil is fascinating for how it ties so many different elements of the ecosystem together and for how large a role it plays in what types of trees grow in what kinds of terrain.  Soil is also interesting for how it interplays with streams and lakes, and how streams and lakes interplay with it.

I’m feeling myself getting carried away, so before I bombard you all with a slurry of soil-related ecological terms, I’ll move on.

In lab this week, our instructor provided us with make-shift infiltrometers (the real deal is rather out of the school’s budget for a single lab assignment) he had constructed.  Essentially, they were plastic buckets from a hardware store that he had sliced the bottom off of and then calibrated the inside up to 30 centimeters.

IMG_0808The purpose of the lab was to see how quickly water infiltrates (i.e. gets absorbed into) different areas of soil on campus.  So, we burrowed our buckets into the soil, poured water into the bucket and took measurements every 2 minutes for an hour to see how quickly the water infiltrated into our soil area.

Call me strange, but it was not only interesting to learn about soil science, it was also fun to just get your hands in the dirt to make what we study in text come to life in our hands, in a very tangible way.  And now I can’t think of soil the same way ever again, or see all soils as the same.

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Granted – it is a sign of the water crisis, but there is beauty found in every tragedy.

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My forest recreation class had a field trip to Millerton Lake to hear from a State Park Peace Officer (essentially a ranger with law enforcement jurisdiction) about his career path and what his day-to-day is like on the job.  It was an informative interview and the day was deliciously grey out so I was in seventh heaven in terms of drinking in the terrain for the day.

Millerton Lake is actually a reservoir : a man-made lake created by a dam.  The drought and general water crisis is illustrated well at Millerton…you could see where the high water line used to be and how far back it is today.  However, something about the topography of the lake was beautiful all the same…erosion lines and all.

Day ended with a not-too-shabby sunset as well.

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Granted – it is on campus, but it also undeniably gives one a sense of spending the day in a forest.

I spent Friday helping a few friends with the aforementioned eucalyptus grove management project.  We continued to stack and remove logs from the grove…however this time we used the ASV to help in the endeavor.  Where we had carried individual logs to a trailer bed last week, this week we cashed piles of logs in rows of the grove and then one of us would drive the ASV in and out of the grove, carrying stacked piles of logs to a truck bed.

A grand highlight of the day (maybe my year?) was that I was given the opportunity to learn how to operate the ASV.  One of my friends was a kind, and patient instructor…she having become a quick study of the ASV operation a few weeks back. (She’s pretty great by the way – great as in incredibly skilled at most everything she tries but also great as in a kind & considerate person).

I won’t lie: initially I was less than confident of my abilities to learn how to operate such a thing and terrified I’d fail at it or just shame myself by significantly slowing the progress of the project down by my learning curve.

However, as someone once told me, “if you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always be what you always were.”

Confession Corner: a lot of this forestry path for me has been pretending that I am confident I can learn anything thrown my way.  You see, traditionally speaking, I am not a very confident person.  So everyday in this program, I am battling against my nature.  Feigning confidence to myself helps me to say “yes” to most things without meditating too much about all the possible ways I might not succeed.  I want to be dauntless in this, I want to not look back at any opportunity here and think “I wonder would have happened if I had just given it a shot.”  I hope by sharing this, those of you out there who think you “can’t” will too learn that you “can” do a lot more than you might suspect.

In any case, although I am certainly no master, it wasn’t as hard to learn as I thought.  And, to be upfront, I was rather thrilled to learn and even proud (who knew I could feel such a thing) to be able to gain such a skill.  You feel as if you are in a Gamer Throne with all the levers you use maneuver the machine itself backwards, forwards, left and right.  And then the additional levers to raise/lower/tilt the bucket and one final one to open and close the grapple (I’m probably not applying the correct terms here…like I said not yet an expert 😉 )

Two videos to share:

1. How the ASV piles logs onto the truck bed

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2. A Macgyver tactic in off loading the pile of logs to the chipping area

IMG_0868*note: I’m not driving in any of these but I did something similar to #1 

The team made good progress on clearing out logs…nearly ready for the masticator.


Granted – it is easy to call tasks associated with school “obligations” or “work”, but I don’t see it that way.  So, a lot of this blog is my attempt not to take the opportunities I get, these gifts I get, each week for granted.

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