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Invasive species? Tamarac NWR, MN

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Had to make a choice today

My time working the visitors center this past weekend wasn’t very exciting.  I’m scheduled to have Sunday through Tuesday off, and I took advantage of Sunday and Monday to take care of chores and errands.  Pretty boring, except my visit to Mr. Smith for some more homegrown tomatoes.  It’s always interesting to go to his place.  He was looking a little more disheveled than usual, although I noted that this was the first time I had ever seen him wearing something on the upper half of his torso.  With temps only rising into the 50’s, he actually had a fleece jacket draped over his shoulders.  I was astounded. 

He did ask me if I thought he needed a haircut.  Well, I’ve always thought he looked like the Wild Man from Borneo, but he was a little more wild looking than usual, so I said, “That wouldn’t be a bad idea.”  Wish I had gotten a picture of him.  I did wonder though if he puts on a regular pair of pants and a shirt when he goes to town.  Guess I’ll never know.

Today was another scheduled day off, but then I heard Gina, the bio-tech brown shirt, needed help with water testing of several lakes.  What a choice… a day off or another adventure.  I’m sure you know what I chose.

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Bridget and I got outfitted in life vests and hip waders, and we were off!  How about that fashion statement?It was a chilly morning, and I later wished I had at least worn my wind breaker over my sweatshirt.  I’m not as tough of a Minnesotan as I used to be.

Waubuse Lake

First up for testing was Waboose Lake.  Gina backed the boat into the lake, and Bridget held onto the rope so the boat wouldn’t float away.  As oldest on this three woman team, I felt it was best if I documented our adventure and supervised the unloading and loading of the boat.  Winking smile

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          Things went well until Bridget slipped and fell down.  By golly, she didn’t let go of that rope though!

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Once she regained her decorum, we successfully made it out onto the lake to do our testing.  Bridget did the recording.

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Gina did the driving of the boat, while I manned the anchor and helped with the water samples.  That’s a GPS in her hand to find the exact location of the deepest spot in each of the five lakes we surveyed today.  It was a surprise to me to find out that the deepest of the lakes was only 16 feet deep, and one of the lakes only had a depth of 7 feet at its deepest point.

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After tying the anchor off, Gina would insert a two meter long PVC tube into the water to get a water sample.  When the tube filled up, she would cap the top, pull it up almost to the surface, then cap the bottom with one of those rubber sink stoppers.  I would hold a brown glass jar to receive the water and catch it in the rocking boat.  That first sample is used to swish around in the jar and dump out.  Then another sample is put into the brown jar.

IMG_0799The second sample is then put into two different small bottles.  Bottle one receives a dose of cyanide (I think) to kill any bacteria, and the second one is just capped untreated.  Then a third sample is taken to just fill the brown glass jar.  All of these samples are put into an iced cooler to take to the lab for analysis.

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Then a Sonde monitoring device (costing $10,000) is immersed into the water at several different depths to measure water temperature, ph, and turbidity among other things.  Bridget recorded all of those readings.

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Lastly, Gina lowers a Secchi which is essentially a white metal circle with a measuring tape attached to it.  As she lowers the disk, she watches to see how far down into the water she can see it for water clarity, and then sends it to the bottom to record the depth of the lake.  With global warming, acid rain, and everything else, I’m sure these readings help analyze the health of our northern lakes and effect management policies.  All of these procedures were done at each of the five lakes we visited today. 

Upper Egg Lake

This was our departure point to get onto Upper Egg Lake, and I was especially excited to travel through the bed of wild rice to finally see this plant up close.  All that green surrounding the lily pads is wild rice.

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As we made our way through it, I bent over some stalks to try to get a picture.  It’s not the best as my little point and shoot focused on the oars instead of the rice stalks, but I hope you’ll get the idea.  The Ashinabe, Chippewa, Ojibwa, will soon be coming to the refuge to harvest some of this rice in their traditional manner.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to witness this traditional custom.  As Gina paddled through the rice, I had a feeling of great reverence for the importance of this food source for wildlife and our native peoples.

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What a glorious time I had finally getting out on Waboose, Upper Egg, Lost, South Tamarac, and Pine Lakes today.  In between taking samples, the three of us had quite a discussion about involving volunteers in more than just mundane tasks.  Gina gets it.  She enjoys having volunteers help her with this task.  We may be older and a bit slower, but we have experience and a good work ethic.  Can you imagine doing all the unloading and loading of the boat, sample taking, recording, etc.. by yourself?  I’m sure we were a help today.

I wish more brown shirts understood that experiences like today are what volunteers remember from their stays at the various refuges.  Today, along with brown pelican banding at Pea Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, or helping to trap and band cranes at Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge, or doing salinity testing in an air boat on Anahuac Refuge are the things that are etched into my memory bank.  I could name several more.  We willingly give of our time, but cherish those once in a lifetime experiences.  There is really no one experience working in a VC or doing office work or mowing that stands out in my memory.  Enough said…

Well, I certainly have babbled on this evening in what surely must be my wordiest post.  Sorry about that, but I have one more thing to remember from today.  Pine Lake was the last lake we did testing on today, and as we headed out from the launch I saw the green rope that is used to hold onto the boat on launch slide into the water.  I shouted to stop the engine so it wouldn’t get caught in the prop.  (I had forgotten that it was securely tied to the front of the boat.)  Bridget flopped down to grab it, and for the second time today I got to see her:

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                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tamarac’s annual volunteer picnic

Every August the staff at Tamarac Nat’l Wildlife Refuge put on a picnic to recognize and say thanks to all of the volunteers that willingly give of their time to support the refuge.  Each year, it has a different theme to it, and this year’s theme was ‘Safari’.

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Small awards for hours served are given out, and the dinner is catered.  It’s a nice gathering and social time.  The hours worked by volunteers here this past year amounted to five full time positions.  That’s nothing to sneeze about.

I certainly enjoyed it, but find one aspect of it disappointing to me.  For the past two years the menu has been Bar-B-Q’ed ribs and chicken with beans and coleslaw.  So, what’s the matter with that?  I’ll tell you.  If this were happening down south, in say, Texas, I’d expect BBQ ribs and chicken or brisket.  However, this is Minnesota!  When I think of Minnesota cuisine, my mind doesn’t summon up visions of ribs and chicken covered with BBQ sauce.  How about some walleye and hot dishes?  Of course I’m not a big fan of BBQ anyway.  I guess I should just be happy it isn’t Lutefisk!  Smile with tongue out 

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                                   Turk’s-cap Lily   Native Americans once gathered its bulb for food.

Other than some mowing, I’ve spent the last two days restocking the kiosks and looking for more purple loosestrife.

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Purple loosestrife is an invasive that is just starting to get a foot hold in this area, so that’s why we’re out looking for it.  I did find one plant today so it will be removed.

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                                                         Purple coneflower

For those of you that have been asking about the fate of the bison on the refuge, I can tell you the following.  24 animals in all came on the refuge.  Of those, some left willingly and some did not.  Two of those that did not leave came to an end in a collision with a van one night on county road 143.  Several more were killed by the owner and transported to a locker plant to be processed for food.  There may be one individual bison left on the refuge, but we haven’t had a sighting by anyone since Monday.

Tomorrow and Saturday, I work the VC.  I hope something interesting happens.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, August 18, 2014

This and that

I’ve had the last two days off, and the weather hasn’t been the best.  We needed the rain, but I’d much rather it happened on the days I have to work the VC.  Anyway, after my last post it dawned upon me that I hadn’t said anything about some nice visitors I had last week. 

Janice and Dave Evans

Janice and Dave Evans of Ready to go Full Time RVing came to take my Thursday tour of the refuge.  It turned out that nobody else showed up, so we went a couple of places that I normally don’t take people to.  After the tour, Janice and Dave headed back to their campground to get a late lunch/early dinner ready.  You see, they had invited me and Bridget and John to a fajita feast to thank us all for being volunteers. 

That’s the first time that’s happened!  We all had a great afternoon chit chatting about this fulltime RV life.  Janice has also kept me informed about the campgrounds they’ve stayed at since they left here as it is the same route that Nurse Ratchet and I will be taking next month.  Thanks for everything, Janice and Dave.

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Also over the last couple of days, John has been working on my entertainment center to try to get the surround sound going.  In addition to that, he has fixed one of my day/night shades that kind of went asunder when the grandgirls were here, and also fixed my shower head.  I’m thinking I’ve had that shower head hanging on that zip tie for about two years.  It was a real pain since I couldn’t stand under it.  Some time ago, a reader suggested a fix using a metal clothes hanger, but I just couldn’t get that to work either.  John found a better holder for the spray head and installed it for me.  It sure is nice having a Mr. Fix It next door!

As for the surround sound, after about two hours on the phone between John and my son Daniel, it’s working!  I won’t go into all the details, but suffice it to say I’m ‘cruisin’ now!  Full surround sound for TV and DVD viewing.  All that’s left is to find a way to secure the new flat screen so it won’t fly out of the shelf when I’m driving down the road.  Sweet.

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This morning I headed to Detroit Lakes to get a haircut and some milk.  The haircut is always an adventure.  Along the way I noticed that most of the wheat fields had been combined.  I’m guessing those big round bales are considered straw rather than hay, but I don’t know for sure.  See all those black dots in the field, and on the bales and in the sky?  Those are crows harvesting the left over wheat grains.

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Several Canada geese were also taking advantage, and I noticed a sandhill crane out there on my trip back.  I usually go to a Wal Mart for my hair cuts because they’re cheap, and that’s why it’s usually an adventure.  I didn’t get scalped this time, but I’d describe it more like a Mohawk cut.  High and tight on the sides and back, and a shock of hair standing at attention through the top middle of my head.  Oh well, it will grow out a bit in a week or two. I don't know smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Turtles, frogs, and a bandit

I worked the VC yesterday and today so didn’t expect to post much of anything.  Today was kind of interesting though. 

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What the heck was this man doing outside the VC, down on his knees, and carefully digging in the hard dried out earth with a spoon?  It’s been my experience that fishermen usually dig for earthworms with a shovel, and not in a hard as cement sunny area.  I just had to find out.

It turned out to be Tim Mitchel from Iowa State University who came to continue his research on painted turtles on the refuge today.  He was digging up a painted turtle nest to gather some of the eggs.

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Earlier this spring he had found 19 painted turtle nests on the refuge, and covered each of them with hardware cloth held down with tent pegs so the raccoons couldn’t dig them up.  I had noticed these mesh squares in several places on the refuge, but didn’t know what they were for.  Now I do.

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Tim is here to collect the eggs to determine the sex ratio of each nest.  You see, just like alligators, the sex of the hatching turtles is determined by the incubation temperature in the nest.  Warm temps produce ‘hot chicks’, and colder temps produce ‘cool dudes’.  Winking smile  When he found the nests earlier this spring, he also counted the eggs and inserted a device to record the temperature inside the nest on an hourly basis.

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Tim was as meticulous as an archeologist in removing the eggs.  The incubation length for painted turtles is about 60-90 days, and the sex is determined about 1/3 of the way through the incubation time.  Unlike snapping turtles and sea turtles, the young don’t ‘boil’ out of the nest upon hatching.  The newborns will hibernate in the nest until next spring.

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Not all of the eggs in a nest are viable, and when Tim finds what he thinks is a good egg, he puts a dot on it with a Sharpie.  He puts the dot on the top of the egg as he removes it from the nest.  If he turned it over and put the dot on the bottom, the embryo would drown.  He is doing this study in seven different states including Idaho, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oregon.  I sure did learn a lot about painted turtles today.  Cool beans!

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                   As I returned inside the VC, I found this ‘cammo’ tree frog clinging to the door jamb.

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This little dude was only about as big as your thumb nail.  Guess he was just hanging out waiting for a bug to fly by.

Last week, a mama raccoon brought her young ones for a free lunch at the bird feeders outside the VC.

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Today, she returned alone.  I guess it was time to send the kids out on their own.  Though not visible in these pics, it was obvious that this raccoon was a female.  She sure did enjoy the sunflower seeds and corn in the lower feeder that the squirrels like.  All things considered, today’s seven hours in the VC was one of the most interesting I’ve had.

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                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ta-Tonka!

Today was a day of invasive species.  Bridget and I headed out early to search the trails for purple loosestrife.  We didn’t find any loosestrife on Ogemash Trail, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t see anything.

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We saw a lot of deer flies up close and personal, and this broad-winged hawk skulking through the forest.  Most birds are going through an annual molt at this time of the year to renew all of their worn feathers.  This one’s head looked like it had a bad haircut. 

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After getting off of the trail and heading east on county road 143, we found the culprit we were looking for… purple loosestrife.  It’s not too prevalent on the refuge yet, so we documented its exact location so it could be eliminated.

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Then it was time to check out Egg Lake Trail.  Again, we found no loosestrife.  That’s a good thing.  We did find one of my favorite wildflowers though.  Jewel Weed has a gorgeous orange and yellow blossom that just makes you think that hummingbirds would love it.  What I like best about it is its seed pods.  Once the blooms are done, a seed pod emerges that looks like a miniature pea pod.  If you touch one of those pods, the pod explodes and blasts its seeds into the air.  Very cool!  It’s a little too early for pods, but I’ll be watching for them.

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Last week as we were coming off of the Chippewa Trail, a man came up to the truck and asked me if I’d seen any buffalo.  I thought he was joking or a little nuts, but it turned out he owns land bordering the refuge and raises bison.  He told me a couple of them got loose, and he thought they may have gone onto the refuge.  They’ve been wandering around for a week now, and there are more than just a couple of them.

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As we made out way down the River Road Trail, we were stopped by a bison jam.  It made me think maybe I was in Yellowstone or Theodore Roosevelt Nat’l Park, but certainly not in Minnesota.  All I could think of was the movie “Dances with Wolves”.  Ta-Tonka  Ta-Tonka!!  The owner and the Federal Wildlife Officer were there trying to get them to cross a bridge over the Otter Tail River.  As you can see, the bison thought better of that idea, and made a hasty retreat.  They aren’t exactly docile cows that you can lead to where you want them to go.

The attempt to get them off of the refuge was unsuccessful today, and they’ll try again tomorrow.  Bison certainly weren’t on our list of ‘exotic species’ that we thought we’d see today.  You just never know.  I hope the bison go where they’re supposed to tomorrow.  Otherwise, the outcome may not be very pleasant.

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                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, August 11, 2014

The ginger thin taste test: Anna’s vs. Trader Joe’s

This morning it was time for me to make my monthly trip to Fargo, ND, for some necessary items.  You see, Carol Widman’s Candy Co. had called me to say that the humidity had dropped enough for them to make some dark chocolate covered sponge candy once again.  If it’s too humid out, the candy just flops.  I’ve been waiting three months for them to call and tell me my order was ready.

So off I went on my 140 mile round trip drive.  I generally take the same route each time and am able to enjoy the seasonal changes in the farm fields along the way.  Today was no exception.

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The wheat fields, though planted late because of the rains, are turning golden once again.  As I zipped past this field, something different caught my attention.

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I made a U turn and went back to see what had caught my eye.  Sure enough, there was a sandhill crane out in the middle of the field all by his lonesome.  Cool beans!

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Then along US 10, I drove through a mile of gorgeous sunflowers.  It was like a sea of shining yellow faces pointed my way.  Lest you think I would drive 140 miles just for some candy, I’ll tell you that I also stopped at the Breadsmith store to stock up on their crusty breads.  Today I chose regular French, Rustic Italian, and a loaf of Sour Dough.  I also splurged on one of their tasty and sinful bars to have for breakfast tomorrow.  I will miss both of these specialty stores when I leave next month.

I also stopped at a vegetable stand on the way home to get some supplies for a cookout we were having tonight, but I’ll talk about that in a later post.  I couldn’t go past Mr. Smith’s house either without stopping to get some more tomatoes, and have another memorable chat with this character.  (Same outfit as usual. I wonder if he takes those sweats off when he goes to bed?)

Yesterday, I invited John and Bridget over for dinner after they had gotten off of working the VC.  We enjoyed a nice meal outside, and then they taught me how to play the game of Ten Penny.

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I had never played this card game before.  It involves seven different hands, three decks of cards, and chips to buy needed cards with.  I needed the cheat sheet to keep track of the requirements of each hand, but believe it or not I smoked them!  Beginner’s luck, I guess.  It’s always fun when you win.  Winking smile

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Then it was time for a little desert.  What better time to have the taste test of Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Cookie Thins against Anna’s Swedish Ginger Thins?

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Trader Joe’s on the left and Anna’s on the right.  I get the Anna’s (A) at the grocery store in Detroit Lakes, and I was sent the Trader Joe’s (TJ) by the Odd Essay  to compare.  Here are the results of the test.  Two out of three preferred A over TJ.  Both were thin and crisp, but TJ was crispier and had a much stronger ginger flavor.  A was voted not quite as crisp, but more comforting to eat.  I’ll let you guess who the crispy critter voter was.

But wait!  There’s more!

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Anna’s also claim to be a Swedish wish cookie.  You put one in your palm, make a wish, and tap it with your index finger.  If it breaks into three pieces, your wish is granted.

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                                               We all tried it, and no one got their wish.  Crying face

Trader Joe’s, on the other hand, claims to be a natural aphrodisiac.  Hmm…  I guess the jury’s still out on that as I didn’t have the ‘crispness’ to ask John and Bridget how their evening was…Surprised smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy