Wood Duck Boxes – (for next-generation ducklings)
Wood ducks (Aix sponsa) are cavity nesters, meaning that they require old, decaying trees that have holes in them to nest and raise a clutch of ducklings. However, since these types of trees are in shorter supply (they are usually excavated) wildlife biologists have been making duck boxes to encourage the development of future generations of wood ducks.
My Wildlife Management class built and established wood duck boxes last week for lab. The wood pieces were pre-cut for us, but we did the rest of the assembly, using power drills. The boxes front panel is scoured to make it easier for the ducklings to climb out when it is time to “fly the coup” – they will be only 24 hours old when they jump out and hence will not have the ability to fly up and out of the hole yet.
We took them out to the school farm area, where the Kings River runs, to find a tree close to the river to bolt our box to. They prefer trees that are 2-60′ tall and with a DBH of 1-2′, within a mile of water.
Before I put my box up, I put nesting material inside (leaf litter, grasses) and then climbed a ladder to bolt it up on an oak about 50-100 yards from the river. We used a cordless power tool to bolt it to our selected tree… and I nearly knocked my glasses off when tightening the bolt, but I didn’t quite make a fool of myself. Made just a little bit of a fool, but not entirely blush-worthy.
Seedling Transplanting – (for next-generation pines)
Our school forestry program received some grant money not too long ago to raise and plant ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) trees in our school forest near Sequoia Lake. So, we have been growing seedlings at a state nursery, and some were recently brought to our school greenhouse to be transplanted into larger propagation trays.
My Introduction to Forestry class spent one lab hour transplanting seedlings into these larger propagation trays so that they can continue to grow and then will eventually be taken up to the school forest to be planted into the ground.
The work is repetitive, but I personally would never call it tedious. It was therapeutic to up-root and re-root, get my hands in soil, and feel I was helping to encourage growth, to foster life…in a some, small way. More than that, as I held the seedling in my hand, I was in awe of how something so small and delicate to become something so large and strong, and become something that would long outlive me.
Animal Packing – (sustaining skills of a past generation?)
I am not saying that animal packing is a dying skill per se, but it seems to be something that most my age don’t know how to do. And I will admit : when I first started backpacking, I thought packers were a nuisance, were in the way…not understanding then their importance nor what they do.
Once I learned a little of this, I felt it important (since I hope to spend one summer some year being a ranger) to learn more about animal packing to add it as a skill to my wilderness-worthy tool belt (if you will).
This week was the first week of my Animal Packing class. After one class, I have already learned so much, and already had many lessons in reality.
Lesson 1 – horses are not puppy dogs, but they are also not bears. So, I felt ridiculous being intimidated by the horses (and especially the mule) when they came out of the trailer. Not afraid but not completely at ease either. Now, I know that horses aren’t bears, they don’t have claws and are not carnivores, but they are also not puppy dogs…they can be stubborn and are 1200lbs-strong. All that is to say, they warrant respect when handling them.
Lesson 2 – saddles are heavier than they look. All the western movies are misleading. When saddling a horse they just toss it on up on the horse’s back, making it seem as light as a feather. They are not light as a feather and they are also awkwardly shaped which makes wielding them up above your shoulder level a bit of a challenge. I struggled quite a lot at the beginning, while some animal science students (who can most certainly saddle a horse in their sleep, with just the use of their weaker pinky finger) watched on (not unkindly, they were trying to give advice, but this still left me flustered and embarrassed). My instructor came to my rescue before I was completely flushed out of shame, and showed me how to hoist it higher on my body so I could use most of my body weight to finish the saddling job, and I finally got it up there. I’ll be better next time.
Lesson 3 – my previous horse riding experience was a delusion. I have ridden horses several times before. But, when we got on the horses to ride a bit, I realized that my previous “experience” was a delusion. Every horse I had ridden previously was a horse that daily dealt with people riding on them that didn’t know what they were doing, but they knew they were supposed to just follow a certain route in a certain way regardless of what their rider was doing wrong in “directing” them. So, when trying to get a horse to do this or that in class, I realized he knew what he was doing, but I did not and was giving him mixed signals. So, I have much to do there in learning how to properly use the reins and use my legs to tell the horse which way I want him to go and how fast to go there.
Intermountain Nursery (native plant regeneration)
My Dendrology class took a field trip to an oak woodland biome to collect plan specimens and also stopped at Intermountain Nursery. They specialize in California native and drought-tolerant plans and have been in business 35 years.
We got a tour of the facilities where the owner pointed out native species and cultivars of native species (i.e. a variety in a native species that does not occur naturally, which have greater ornamental appeal). My favorite stop was the green house in which they delve in vegetative regeneration (i.e. growing of plants from small cuttings instead of growing from seeds).
I wish we could have stayed longer. The owner had so much wisdom to dispense, I feel I could have stayed for the whole day and just speak to him about his life and how much he has learned doing this job for as long as he has. The visit also gave me thoughts of perhaps giving a go at getting a nursery job someday. It seems so peaceful to work all day with plants: hands in the dirt and all day outside. And it seems there could be few more satisfying things to do in employment then then seeing how your work results in new growth.