Thursday, October 29, 2009

Volunteer wonders

I heard a term earlier this week. It was "Radical Generosity". Volunteers often give radically and expect nothing in return. Their efforts very often result in amazing feats. Those who volunteer often don't get enough praise or recognition for what they do. Today I want to tell you about the "House that Apples Built". Apparently the manse at the St. Johns United Church on Needle Street, in Sussex Corner, NB was refurbished using money raised selling apple pies. Volunteers gather annually to bake apple pies in the Church's hall kitchen. The first time they did this they sold approximately 200 pies. Now they prepare over 1200 pies.

This is not a large church but the congregation is dedicated. They maintain a manse, the church, and a large center. So for this group I tip my hat. If they can do this imagine what a whole village could do. If everyone volunteered one hour a week I bet the place you lived would be much happier.

If you want a great apple pie stop by the church hall on Needle Street and place your order.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A different view.

I often get asked to present outdoor recreation and environmental topics to people and I always like seeing other stories on it. here is one that I feel is really cool. There are places in most areas where teachers and volunteers can take youth to learn similar types of relations. Check out this cloumn in today's Gleaner

Enjoy and get out there and wander.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting rid of unwanted material

This is probably a bit late in coming but as the saying goes "Better late than never." This Saturday in the Kings County Region of New Brunswick there will be a "Household Waste Free Day." The Kings County Region Solid Waste Commission is hosting this Free Day as a way to reduce illegal dump sites. If you have larger garbage items that you can't put to the curb then this day is for you. You can take a half ton full of garbage to the transfer station on McLeod Drive in Sussex and dump it for free. You have to be from Kings County and ID will be required. This is a great initiative to reduce illegal dumping which the KCRSWC started back a couple years ago with huge success.

Of course I like this project because it also helps keep river banks and shorelines clean as well.

The event runs Saturday, October 24, 2009 from 8:00am - 12:00noon. It must be residential waste, commercial vehicles will be charged their regular rate. I know I'll be taking advantage of this.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trail Maitenance Day

Hiking and backpacking trails often depend on volunteers for various things. Promotion, marking, mapping, and maitenance often depend on volunteers in order to be completed. The various trails near the Fundy Coast in New Brunswick is fortunate enough to have a modest supply of dedicated volunteers. This weekend the Fundy Hiking Trails Assoc. Inc. will be hosting a training session for those interested in learning what trail maitenance is all about. The group, which is based in Moncton, will meet at the Dobson Trail Parking lot on Pine Glen Road in Riverview at 8:00am on October 24th. From here the group will drive to Sussex Corner and then past Poley Mountain before stopping at Adair's Wilderness Lodge around 9:30am. Here everyone will meet and begin the introduction to the events of the day. Work will be done on the Catamount Trail which connects Adair's Lodge to the Fundy Footpath. The Catamount is a developing trail that someday will connect Sussex Corner to the coastal wilderness.

If you want to learn about these trails or help out meet the volunteers at one of the meeting points and join in. The day will be spent marking, pruning, and flagging the trail so wear appropriate clothing and footwear. You should also pack a lunch to eat along the trail. Rain gear might be beneficial too as lately this region has been wet.

If you can't make it out make sure you thank the many volunteers. The pic I posted with this is near the Catamount Trail, it is actually just a small pond. I thought it looked kinda spooky so in honor of Halloween I posted it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Losing "That" Feeling

The air was cold and crisp as I woke up this morning. For the first time this fall the mud puddles were frozen and I had to work at scrapping the frost off my truck window. The orange-red tinged leaves on the maple tree in my front yard were glistening as the rising sun cast its light over them. It was an incredible fall morning and I couldn’t help but smile as I drove into work.

Even my stop at Tim Hortons seemed special this morning, even though nothing exciting happened. The sausage and egg sandwich tasted good and the tea was awakening as usual. I read the paper and was glad to see nothing bad had really happened in Kings County over night. It is actually comforting to know that this is quite often the case. I acknowledge and say “Hello” to a number of people who come in to get their morning fix as well. I head over to the office looking forward to doing stream surveys.

I sit down at my desk, prop open my lap top and turn it on. It has 17 updates to run. Crap! Now I have to wait for close to an hour before I can check my emails, send out an important one, and then head to the field. Ahhhhh. Eventually though my colleague and I are heading to a small stream with a deep valley and I am once again smiling as I park the truck along the road side. As I hop out, I notice the temperature on the truck mirror reads -1◦ C. This causes me to shiver as I put on my chest waders and don my orange vest. The weather man was stating there was a slight chance of flurries in the afternoon and at that point I thought he might hit the mark.

I walk off the road following an ATV trail down the stream valley to a point where we had previously left off. Suddenly it hit me. The smell of the woods crashed through my nostrils and I stopped for a second to rein it in. The odor of the musty, decaying leaves, the moist heavy mosses, and wet, rotting wood were all racing franticly in the cold air simply looking for a place to get warm. I was glad to be back to this stream as I had really enjoyed our previous survey of the upper half. It was a relatively intact ecosystem with a well maintained forest. ATV trails, some historic logging, and recent select cuts were really the only noticeable human impacts. We had completed most of the steeper portion of the stream and were now heading to a flatter stretch to work towards a beaver dam where we would end our assessment for this stream. I stop to photograph a small run-off stream that was running due to the recent rains we had had. It is a small channel of water that appeared as if it was actually flowing over and through the leaves. Even this small little run-off was impressive and I wondered how many people would appreciate the contribution it made to this steep hillside ecosystem.

We arrive at the first reach that we intend to assess and pull out our gear. As we start working our way down the stream channel it doesn’t even feel like work. The sun shining through the remaining leaves of the maples and birches warmed us not physically but spiritually. The health of the stream ecosystem was almost natural as we continue down the valley.

Eventually we reached a tributary coming in on the right bank. We took some measurements and notes then glanced upstream. We were very surprised to find a great, tranquil, moss covered, waterfall. It was so idyllic that it felt very surreal. We took time to explore the falls and the small stream that created them. It was at this point that we noticed a large clear cut nearby. It actually encroached well within the 30m buffer strip that logging operations are supposed to maintain.

From this point forward my mood began to change and with it so too did the mood of the stream. An old gravel pit had created a berm on the left bank and the clear cut was still very evident on the right bank. The stream was now shallow and the substrate was loose, unnatural gravel. It started me thinking about how my mood is often times impacted by the environment around me. I wondered if maybe the mood and feeling of natural environments are similarly impacted. Does the environment have feelings? Can a river change its mood to suit its environment? On days like this I would believe it if someone were to tell me “Yes they can.”

We finished our assessment that day near a beaver dam and my colleague and I both felt a bit disheartened but more determined than ever to continue our efforts to improve the aquatic and riparian habitats within the Kennebecasis River.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My latest column

Check out my latest wandering column in the Kings County Record.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Don't Let the Rain Get You Down

It's been raining incessantly lately and Environment Canada is calling for still more rain. It has put, literally, a damper on many things. The woods are soaking wet and the rivers running full. This keeps me from doing my field studies and monitoring but luckily I have lots of writing to do and book work.
All the rain got me thinking though. What are the funnest activities to do when the rain has you down? I had to think about this for sometime and in order to come up with sufficient material to write about I had to go back to being a kid. Let's face it, it isn't kids that don't like the rain, it is often their parents.

So here is my list of outdoor rainy day activities. I warn you though that you may have to let yourself feel young again. I have always enjoyed #3 the most.

1. Seriously play in big mud puddles. See who can make the biggest splash while running through the mud puddle. If your puddle has a soft bottom why not do a belly flop in it. I dare you. When you're done you may want to go back inside and have a nice warm shower followed by enjoying a hot cup of tea.

2. Have a contest to see who can collect the most rain water in an ice cream bucket. Dipping your bucket into a puddle is cheating so too is putting your bucket on the ground and leaving it. You have to hold your bucket in your hands but creativity is encouraged :)

3. Carve a small boat into a stick or find another floating material and race different items down a nearby ditch or stream. Better yet, see if you can divert the water in your puddle into a nearby ditch and have it float to the ditch.

4. If its a warm rain go for a swim. Heck you're already wet so why not. Swimming in the rain is actually reviving. I strongly suggest you do this in mid-summer rains only. It might not be suitable for this time of year.

5. Simply go for a walk in the woods. Be sure to wear good rain gear and to take your time. Smell the rain, the moisture in the leaves and forest floor, permeates your sense of smell and it is very memorable.

There is nothing keeping you inside on a rainy day so get out there and enjoy it. The picture by the way was taken by KWRC staff near the mouth of the Musquash Brook, a tributary to the Kennebecasis. Typically, I would be able to stand there in sneakers and not get wet.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Looking for roots.

Last weekend I spent some time in Fredericton, NB for a conference. I was able to stay in a fancy hotel, the Delta, and enjoy some fine dining. This goes against my typical, daily routine, and against my biological makeup. My mind and body are not use to finer things. This became really apparent to me when I took a walk on Fredericton's great river front nature trail. This trail follows along the banks of the Saint John River where kayakers and anglers often enjoy the best mother nature has to offer while the rest of the city races from one mundane task to another.

As I walked one evening from my hotel room, along the trail to where the conference was, I had a strong realization. I was dressed up, or at least dressed up for me. I had nice shoes, pressed shirt, and pleated pants...yet here I was hiking along the trail as though I wasn't out of place. It was kind of a funny, yet enjoyable feeling. My life has become more professionally focused you might say as of late. This walk however, demonstrated to myself, that I still haven't forgotten my roots.

I hope next time your out for a walk that you can find your roots.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

AES Leads the Way!!

Here a week or so ago I wrote about the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup hosted by the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee. I hinted at my disappointment with how some people carelessly dispose of trash in our rivers. This is especially disappointing considering how easy it is to get rid or your trash in our region. If you need tips on how to handle your waste maybe you should ask the kids at the Apohaqui Elementary School. These kids seem to have it down pat.

The teachers there are aiding children from kindergarten to grade 5 in many environmental projects. They are composting food waste using vermi-composters, recycling batteries by the box full, and now they are incorporating a wet/dry recycling program into their day to day school activities. I recently spoke to these children and introduced them to how the wet/dry, or blue/green, waste diversion program worked. It was incredible seeing how enthusiastic the kids and teachers were, to not only try this program out, but to protect the environment as well.

I am hoping that you can follow the example of these young kids and make that extra effort to fully follow the waste diversion programs being offered in your area. Before long you will be so accustomed to making that extra effort that it will be no effort at all and you will be making large strides in protecting the environment.