Diario del proyecto Casual Woodland Garden

Archivos de diario de enero 2023

03 de enero de 2023


Many people make trips to far flung places. I am one of these people. I like going to these places to find the things. Sometimes it’s things that I remember from childhood. Things I found there when I was little. I go back to see if I can find the things again. Strange things. Things that don’t exist where I live but only exist in far flung places.

But does all this attention and travel help the things? The things have no choice. They’re just sitting there. Being things. I am choosing to visit the things, they aren’t choosing to visit me. But why am I choosing to visit the things?

I perceive that the things where I live are different from the things I visit. The things where I live exist in an unorganized state. Many things from far flung places have been added in with the things where I live. There have been so many things from far flung places added in with my things that some people here search for the original things. The original things that existed here before all the things added in. Sometimes, when they find one of these original things, they take a picture for all to see. They show people the picture and say… “Look at this thing! I have found a thing! We must protect the area around this thing.”. Passers by pause for a moment to consider the thing. And then someone exclaims “I remember that thing! There used to be many of those things. I have traveled to a far flung place that still has many of those things. This thing you have found is common in this far flung place. If you really love this thing, you should travel there as I have done. You will see many of those things. Perhaps you could even move there and live among the things.”

Such is the problem of the individual thing. As long as it is common somewhere, people will travel to it to reassure themselves that it still exists in abundance. Although they may want to preserve more space for the thing where they live, it’s too easy for others to reassure them that the thing is doing fine somewhere else. When they pick up and move to be with the thing, they reduce the ecologically pure areas where the thing is abundant.

Posted on 03 de enero de 2023 by stockslager stockslager | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

29 de enero de 2023

Sophisticated Measurements

When my kids were younger we were visiting my parents when we realized an opossum had been hit by a car in front of their house. The opossum had been laying in the ditch for a few days before they noticed it. They had a nice sized yard and still lived in my childhood home, but the yard only got used when the grandkids were there. And that was less often than I would have liked because their house was a couple counties away.

I took a bucket and a pair of pliers out to clean up the opossum. My daughter insisted on going with me. I used the pliers to grab the opossum by the tail and slowly lifted it up. As I lifted it, the body rotated around and we realized that it was a mother with babies still in the pouch. My daughter was incredulous. We looked carefully at the babies. Most of them were already dead. She demanded that we try to save those that weren’t. I told her to carefully pick out the two that were still alive and also looked the strongest. Some of those that weren’t yet dead looked so gaunt that I doubted our ability to save them. She picked the two strongest ones and named them “Surge” and “Sarge”. This is how I came to transporting opossums across county lines.

I have no idea on the legality of transporting opossums across county lines. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure on the legality of transporting opossums with-IN county lines. What I am aware of is how intimate first hand experiences in the outdoors can shape your entire life. I learned this fundamental truth by being raised in a family of men who loved the outdoors. My two grandfathers, my Uncles, my Dad, and all the neighborhood Dads all seemed to be interested in hunting and fishing.

When I was young and wanted to save some animal I had dragged home, some of these men helped deliberate over whether or not it was doing right by the animal to try to keep it. And help it. This generally involved a sophisticated measurement they like to call a Kentucky windage. I never could figure out exactly what the measurement was. Every time they talked about it they licked one finger and stuck it up in the air, staring carefully at the finger. Then looking back at me. And then back at the finger. Then me. Then finger. And so on. I had come to believe this measurement was more about them trying to understand how sincere I was about keeping the animal, than about the sophisticated measurement.

What was crystal clear then and now is how I felt when the answer was “yes”. I’m not sure that every individual animal that I brought home benefited from my care. I am sure that each of these species has benefited from my care for the outdoors that resulted from my imperfect care for the individual animals as a child. I believe the hunters in my life understood that care for a species as a whole was different from care for an individual within that species. They still only allowed me to keep the individuals when they felt it wouldn’t end with sadness. I’ll never know if their concern was over the sadness they knew I’d feel, or the sadness they’d feel in the event that the animal died. But I do believe they were considering all of this while conducting the sophisticated measurement.

And so I had come full circle. We were raising opossums.

Now in my case, as a well educated adult male who had been raised within a culture of hunting and fishing, part of the sophisticated measurement was about the perception of the species. How are opossums perceived by humans? Do we love them like cuddly bunnies? I believe my daughter now does. I bet she’ll think of them differently having had this first hand childhood experience. How might that make her feel as an adult about preserving space for that species as a whole? All the hunters and fishermen from my childhood went on and on about preserving space for bass, turkey, deer, morels, and so on. I understand why. They loved them. And they taught me to.

But how does one love deer as a species while harvesting individual deer for the dinner plate? This happened 196,988 times in Ohio in 2022. Every year the ODNR publishes the number of deer harvested here. Imagine what an extra 196,000 deer would do to the habitat that supports the species if the hunters weren’t filling the void left by the loss of other apex predators. These extra deer wouldn’t eat garlic mustard or lesser celandine but they love trillium. Also, what would the hunters eat?

If these deer weren’t harvested, would the hunters all eat salad? Or would they require an extra 196,000 head of cattle? How many additional acres of sod would be required to support an extra 196,000 head of cattle? And how many deer would the sod displace. I am thankful for the love these hunters showed me and for their love of the outdoors as a whole. Those with sophisticated measurements focus on the whole environment, not a single instance of a species within that environment.

And what of the fishermen? Like the ones harvesting Crappie out of East Fork? Would they all eat salad if they weren’t harvesting Crappie? Or would they eat Chilean Sea Bass shipped in from South America? Commercial fishing is depleting the population of Chilean Sea Bass but Crappie at East Fork are doing just fine. I bet these fishermen, because they love fish, are aware of the former common name of the Chilean Sea Bass. It was the Patagonian Toothfish right up until an enterprising fisherman renamed it and created an international market. These local fishermen aren’t fooled by a name change. They’re harvesting the local Crappie. And because they’re harvesting Crappie, the Patagonian Toothfish is facing a little less pressure than it otherwise would.

Now the thing about raising opossums that I hadn’t considered carefully during my measurement was their need for a mother. It didn’t occur to me that my daughter, having an intimate first hand experience with these animals, would come to think of herself as their mother. But that’s exactly what happened. She began teaching these two exactly what it meant to be a grown up opossum. Like how to climb, or walk in the woods.

The thing she wasn’t satisfied with, as their mother, was their living situation. She didn’t feel that Opossums were meant to live on a screened porch. She felt they should live with her in a tree. Luckily I had learned from the hunters that I should always own a rudimentary set of tools and have some idea how to use them. We already had a treehouse we built together that she could sleep in. We just needed to build a small enclosure for the babies and secure it to the treehouse. Then the opossums could sleep in the tree with their new mother while being protected from owls.

I believe my daughter understands the unbelievable privilege that has been extended to her by me and the hunters. She’ll insist that all future children and all future opossums have the privilege of living together in the trees.

A few weeks passed and it was clear the opossums were going to make it. The problem was, we had a family trip planned and this presented a difficult dilemma. Transport the opossums across state lines and care for them while on our trip? It seemed insincere to express to Marriott a claim of emotional support opossums. I also felt that Sydney had experienced what I had hoped she’d experience during my sophisticated measurement. It was time to find them a more permanent home. One where they could be reintroduced into the wild by credentialed and trained professionals.

I decided it would be best to reintroduce the opossums within their birth county. So I called a couple different places and made arrangements to drive them up when I found a willing recipient. We drove up on a Friday, Sydney and I in the front seats, and the opossums sitting in their opossum transport mechanism balanced between Sydney’s legs on the floor in front of the passenger seat. We went straight to the rescue facility with plans of spending the rest of the weekend at my parents house.

Sydney hoisted the opossum transport mechanism over her head and up onto the opossum desk. The desk was long and rectangular and the height of a cafe’ table. It gave the room and the young man behind the opossum desk the look of an expert technician. “Is that an Utz cheese ball canister?”, the man asked.

“Opossum transport mechanism”. Sydney answered the question with direct and self-assured confidence that reminded me of the hunters. The hunters I remember would have chuckled at the novel way in which we were re-using the canister. It’s one of the things I enjoy looking back on when I re-watch the first video. It’s in a few frames and can be seen below and to the right of where I was sitting while cleaning opossums.

The young man behind the desk asked, “Where are these guys from”? “Cincinnati”! Sydney couldn’t contain herself. Beaming with pride… “Their names are Surge and Sarge”. The young man explained that we should’ve been told on the phone that they only accept rescues from within the county. Our eyes met for an instant. I explained that the opossums were from this county but we had transported them to Cincinnati for a period of time before finding them this home at the shelter in the birth county. His eyebrow arched a bit and he quickly punched some notes into a computer and told us that the opossums were now numbers 512 and 513. We could call back to check upon their status using the numbers rather than the names. But warning us that sometimes there are problems with the reintroduction process. “You won’t have any trouble. They’re much stronger than when we got ‘em.“ Sydney again with confidence and directness of tone.

We said our goodbyes to Surge and Sarge, left the opossum desk, and headed back out to the car. But as we walked across the parking lot, Sydney asked off-hand and while staring into the distance… “what was with that guy”? I told her that he couldn’t possibly be expected to know all the things that we both know. He had never been a father or a mother. Like I had been with Sydney and Sydney had been with the opossums. We couldn’t expect him to know about the sophisticated measurement. And then she asked what I hoped she would… “What sophisticated measurement”?

Conservation and Environmentalism have to be driven by something. A pretty good thing for them to be driven by, is ten thousand years of evolutionary yearning and an unyielding need among men to provide.. That, and sometimes we'll let it be driven by cuddly opossums. Sometimes.

“Howard”, the Duck. circa 1985. Thanks Dad, Doug, Denver, Paul, Gary, Jerry, Joe, Butch, and Bob...

Posted on 29 de enero de 2023 by stockslager stockslager | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario