Thursday, December 10, 2009

call of the wild

This is the fourth episode of “I wish I had a buddy”.

I spent a good portion of the fieldwork for my thesis alone. I was working long days, and I didn’t have the resources to pay for someone to come with me all the time. I did wrangle friends to help when I needed an extra hand, but I couldn’t really ask for the entire time commitment that I needed to be there.

So there I was, in the middle of an extremely snowy winter. I had to drop off a bunch of equipment, and I was trying to get as much done as I could with the limited daylight. I did have the good sense to at least get out before dark. I had snow to contend with (more than 2 feet - more than enough when you have short legs), so I had snowshoes and was pulling a sled with all my stuff.

Once again, I wasn’t exactly in trackless wilderness. I was following a dirt road (albeit snowed over), and my field site was a little under a mile from where I’d parked. If a truck went by on the closest real road, I could still hear it.

The sled was heavy, so I was concentrating more on pulling the sled and keeping the snowshoes straight rather than my surroundings. But I flushed out an extremely large doggy-type creature that ran absolutely silently across my path. I knew its size wasn’t the result of my imagination, because it left extremely large doggy-type footprints in the snow.

I was comforted by the fact that it did run away. Sort of.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

weather buddy

Ok, I had a long, difficult day today. So once again I'm cheating a little by referring to another post for a time I wished I had a buddy. But this one is a really old one.

The big storm system today reminded me of the many times that I wished I had someone with me while driving in lousy weather. For example, this time.

It's always preferable to have someone with you when the weather is bad and the road are atrocious. You get another pair of eyes to help watch out for obstacles, another pair of hands to wipe off the windshield, and most importantly, someone else to talk sense into you and make you pull over until it stops blizzarding.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

field creep 2

This is the second episode of “I wish I had a buddy”. Once again, I’m revisiting an old post (I will have entirely new episodes, I promise).

Several months ago, I mentioned being leered at while wearing hip waders. This is usually just annoying.

One time, however, I was working in a stretch of wetland out on the edge of an old industrial area. I wasn’t really that far from anywhere, but I was surrounded by reeds and thickets, so I had minimal visibility. I was by the side of an old gravel access road, several hundred yards from the nearest business (a sketchy old machine shop). I was fussing over an instrument when I was interrupted by some scary dude who was apparently taking his lunchtime constitutional.

“Why look at you with your thigh-high boots! Don’t you look sexy…”the dude leers at me.

He was probably harmless, but it completely freaked me out. I was standing at the tailgate, so I thumped the gear into the back of the truck, slammed the tailgate shut, told the dude to get lost, and roared off in a spray of gravel. I was hoping I seemed more angry than chicken (I hate looking vulnerable in this sort of situation) but I probably just made his day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

buddy system

One of the major safety rules of being outdoors is “always have a buddy”. If you’re by yourself and something happens, you can get into a lot of trouble. And you can’t always depend on a cell phone to bail you out.

I have not always had a buddy when I was out doing fieldwork. As a result, I have enough experiences that I can fill an entire week of blogging “times I really wish I had a buddy”.

So, this week is the week of “oh, shit, I’m by myself out here”. Today I nominate this post from last week.

I didn’t go into a lot of detail in the post because, well, I was in the field and it had been a long day. But after I heard shots less than a mile away, I did stop and think, “what am I doing out here?”.

I was actually on a private gravel road (cold comfort, considering that I found shotgun shells on the road), so I moved the truck so that it was right next to me. I figured that I may be mistaken for a deer, but that a nice shiny vehicle wouldn’t be. Right?

Of course, the way to avoid some of this angst would have been to put on a traffic vest or something else bright/very reflective. But I had just recently cleaned out my backpack and chucked the vest. Silly me…why would I need a traffic vest out in the middle of nowhere?...

Incidentally, if you’re walking around the woods in turkey-hunting season, never, never tuck a red bandanna into the pocket of your pants. Especially if you’re wearing jeans and have a dark top. From a hundred yards or so through the brush, you will be a dead ringer for a turkey.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

long distance

One problem about being an older student is that you tend to accumulate attachments. Those attachments can be problematic when you’re going away to grad school. I’ve already mentioned one attachment in passing: all that stuff I had to put into storage. But I had another attachment… my sweetie.

We had the common academic 2-body problem. My sweetie had other attachments and wasn’t able to follow me to grad school. So we spent grad school 500+ miles apart. How did that work out?

I’ll start by describing how our first day apart went.

We stuffed everything we could (including my sweetie) in my car. Everything else went into storage. And we trundled off to grad school. After moving me in and meeting the roommates, I dropped off my sweetie at the airport. I had sort of a hard time saying goodbye, but I managed ok.

Then I got into my car and had this massive “WTF did I just do” moment. I spent about 15 minutes bawling my eyes out in the airport parking garage. Eventually I pulled myself together, drove out to the highway, and proceeded to cry the entire drive home.

Things did get better after that.

We had schedule issues, so we only talked about twice per week on the phone. Schedule and financial considerations meant we only saw each other in person about every 3 months. But we kept up a daily e-mail correspondence. By the end of grad school, I had compressed, printed out (2 sides/page) and compiled everything into a 2-inch binder. Now we have a permanent record of our time apart.

So, we did survive as a couple. But I’m not going to sugar coat it – it was not easy. I know other academic couples who have lived further apart, seen each other less often, and spent a longer time apart. But 2+ years was pretty much at my limit – I got decidedly clingy and each separation got worse. I’m definitely glad we’re now living less than 50 miles apart.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

monthly meme

Ok, I got this one from drugmonkey. Post the link and first sentence from the first post of each month this year. Here's mine:

January: ‘Tis the season for resolutions.

February: If you do environmental work, at some point you may find yourself in an overgrown, nearly forgotten contaminated site.

March: I never know what to write when a job application or job website suggests listing hobbies.

April: April: So, when you give a presentation, do you have an introductory outline slide?

May: In college, I was under the impression that consulting paid lots of money.

June: I seem to have suffered more than my usual share of migraines recently (this is post-migraine-induced nap).

July: My sweetie is out at the weekly "cheesy 80s movie nite" at the local bar.

August: So, I haven't spent the last couple weeks in an internet-deprived wasteland.

September: ...and I don't want to talk about it.

October: I got a good bunch of comments on my last post.

November: Thanks to continual internet problems (gotta love travelling) I am hopelessly behind on my blog writing as well as my blog reading.

December: On the way to the field yesterday, I noticed a few cars on the side of the highway.

Not bad, although some of these aren't terribly descriptive.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

open season

On the way to the field yesterday, I noticed a few cars on the side of the highway. Then a few more. What the...?

Oh, it's hunting season. Too bad I didn't bring anything orange to wear...

I was in a posted area, so I shoudn't have had any hunters around, right? Except that I kept tripping over shells and the afternoon was punctuated by various shots in the distance. The far distance, luckily.

Sometimes you run into safety issues that the health and safety plan never anticipated.