Today is the last day of our surveys- it seems like just yesterday we were braving the Tennessee “snow” two months ago, bundling up from head to toe, flurries kissing our faces to keep warm… and sitting here on this beautiful sun soaked day has almost come too soon.Like every day in the life of an “earth-saver,” the past two weeks for the Nashville Crew have been busy, checking off the end-of-season to-do list and trying to enjoy the time we have left. Mike and I completed our Bird Workshop at Shelby Bottoms Nature Center, where we split a group of home-schooled students (I had the younger kiddos and Mike the older) and taught them about local birds through activities like a Bird walk, a speaker, bird-feeder building, and bird identification. The weather held up long enough for Mike to take his students on a bird walk on the Greenway, a walkway that circles Nashville, so that the kids could identify calls and different kinds of birds. My kiddos were an incredibly smart bunch, with one little girl proclaiming that she was going to grow up to be a “Bird Scientist!” This tiny thing knew almost every bird I threw out, and (with some help from her mom) corrected herself later by saying confidently that she would be “also an ornithologist!” She was only 4, and I’m pretty sure she is going to rule the world one day.Our partnership with the Shelby Bottoms Park has been wonderful, and we owe a ginormous thank you to Denise Weyer, the project manager at Shelby Bottoms. She helped us set up an SCA Booth so that we could relay SCA’s mission and history to those drawn to nature in the first place. Denise’s limitless support and help has given us the opportunity to become more active in Nashville’s community as well as engage and connect with the locals. Thank you Denise, for everything!Our Worm Bins have been improving, if by improving you mean that they haven’t drowned!Although my worm babies are just in the beginning stages of worm bins, I have high hopes for these little guys to break down the compost in 30 days’ worth of time! Fingers crossed!As the weather has been beautiful with a few bouts of rain, the Nashville Crew have taken advantage and took out our bikes to join in on the Music City Bike group, where a group of people get together to put the rubber to the ground, eventually ending up at a restaurant and all hanging out. Mike and Sophie ended up staying with the group and making new friends! And with the theme of trying to make new friends, the other night Mike, Sophie and I went out and biked to “East Nashville Underground” a music festival put on by a couple who love music, art and people! It was super fun, and we cut a rug! Mike and Sophie even contributed to the performing arts aspect of the Festival, wearing robot costumes and speaking in binary code for a portion of the night.And as the thermometer creeps upward the realizations of time past sets in. Some of us will move on other things. Sophie will go on and work for SCA in Mississippi, to continue being a fearless leader in the beautiful land of the South. Mike is taking on the Nashville crew for the summer, morphing into the fearless leader he has trained over the past two months to become so that he can teach young minds the minutiae and overall beauty of surveys. I too will stay in Nashville, living here and hoping to continue on with the amazing people and organizations that we have connected with other the spring program. Our involvement with The Nashville Food Project has left an impact on me, and I hope to volunteer and learn more from them in the future. Shelby Bottoms will continue to be one of my favorite places in Nashville, and I hope that my relationship will grow beyond this program with this wonderful center. My experience with merely being exposed to the beauty of the lakes of Tennessee via the surveys I will forever be thankful for. I have had the opportunity to meet some pretty interesting characters, to talk to the wonderful Park Rangers who work so hard for the Parks, to witness beautiful unassuming wildlife, to swim in deep blue waters, to drive stretches of land that many people will never get to see, because they are back roads, local roads, or just beautiful scenery. My experience this spring has given me the chance to sharpen my leadership skills, and I emerge on the other end more confident than ever. I know that once this program ends, I will forever appreciate my experience and the lessons that I have learned from Alex, Josiah and Liz; from Sophie and Mike; from my fellow SCAer’s; from Kyla, Matt, Dean, Deena and Meredith and others from the Army Corps of Engineers; from the wonderful locals of Nashville, TN and its surrounding area; and from the overall small talk and connections made with anyone and everyone during the course of this spring. Thank you.I’d also like to take a moment to say goodbye to the hissing Goose-couple at Sycamore Creek! You will always (and forever) terrify me. But you entertained me to no end. For that, I thank you Doris and Tina.Written by Eva Donnelly
After doing a vast amount of research on stars for my Environmental Education, I realized that every ending is just the start to a new beginning. Massive blue giants, 20 times more massive than our Sun die and give birth to new stars, to planets and in the rare case of Earth, life. When we humans die, the atoms that compose our corpses become a part of the Earth’s environment. According the first law of thermodynamics, energy is neither created nor destroyed. Nothing can truly be lost, just reformed. This is now a prominent philosophy, among many others, that fuels my mentality. Even though I won’t see many of the friends that I made in the DRC for some time, maybe never again, my experiences and knowledge gained will stay with me for the rest of my life.I will no longer breath the dry desert air, speak to creosotes like a mad man during mulch runs or have the pleasure of pooping while watching the sunrise over a land liberated almost completely of other humans. However, now I have the luxury of breathing the humid air of Tennessee, laying out my life plans to my pets and being able to have access to shower on a daily basis. Perspective seems to hold a lot of weight in this conversation. I could have been angry and dissatisfied with living in a tent, pooping in an ammo container or having no internet access. But instead I saw opportunity. I began to not only play guitar more and exercise regularly, but I also found time to just think. To think about my past, present and future self. To really scrutinize my actions over my entire life. The desert, as dry and dead as it may be, has been an exceptional environment for self-realization.As my crew will often say – “welp it’s about that time”; time to end this phase of our lives and to begin something new. Many members will be distraught following the end of this season. People we have leaned on emotionally for several months will now be ripped from beneath us. But how else will we learn to stand properly if we are not picked up and pushed down every once and a while? Life seems to constantly do that to humans. We are taught to go one way and we trust this way until our eyes are directed to a new path by someone else or out of our own volition. And that is what we want. Humans desire variety and excitement. Sure, there may be a healthy dose of fear that comes along with the unknown but that is part of the excitement. We keep attaching the word “last” onto everything towards the end of the season. I am putting an end to that with the last blog post for our crew. And the final quote of the season from Carl Bard – “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”-David Sellari
The final week of the program found the crew at Agua Fria - Riverbend site. It was timber work skills week for the crew. SCA Alum and work skills instructor, Tanya Henderson, taught the team the finer points of working with timber. Hopes were high as we set out to built a timber retaining wall to stop soil erosion. The juniper provided a tough obstacle as far as getting the wall built. In the end we joined together several logs and made large check steps as an alternative to the retaining wall. We also built a rock retianing wall and resotred the erosional area. It was ice to be back in a familiar place for our final work week. The crew is looking forward to graduation next week.
The end of hitch 11 has brought us one hitch closer to the end of this program. Both bringing a little sadness and a little excitement. Long gone are our nights of single digits, not seeing another person except our own crew for 12 days straight, and not seeing one insect or little critter poke it's head out during an entire hitch. This hitch we were greeted by all the other crews during our All-Corps event, some desert tortoises, a mini OHV event, a rave, and a pizza pool party. Which is why this blog may be a little late in it's posting, nap time was needed. Also, as a disclaimer, there may be many grammatical errors due to post nap grogginess.As hosts to this year All-Corps event, we had a lot of prep work to do to get ready for 30+ people working on a fence bordering the Grass Valley wilderness area. Which meant lots and lots of materials were needed: t-posts, bales of wires, bollards and more bollards. Luckily Jawbone and Kiavah were up to the challenge of helping us haul a ton of wires and a couple tons of t-posts out. Which meant we all got a lot of Ridgecrest radio time (Ridgecrest radio is the best radio) or sleeping time (you know you've perfected your jelly fish when the bumpy roads begin to lull you to sleep). All the while we got to advance our fence sighting techniques, the task in which we try to site a straight line armed with only a compass and binoculars among many tall creosote bushes. We went from trying to see through the creosotes, to attempting the sit on another's shoulders (that barely lasted a second..it was not in the JHA), to finally bringing out a ladder to see over the creosotes....which by far works the best.With Jawbone and Kiavah's help we were able to spend a day away from our All-Corps organizing to help one of the BLM archaeologists at Portuguese Canyon. We learned about obsidian tools, as well as their creation process. And we got to play archaeologists, finding and marking bifaces and milling features.And then there was All-Corps. As hosts we arrived at our campsite for the event a day early, in order to get ready for the other crews. Driving to our campsite was easy, as all we had to do was follow “Scrappertown Urinal Target” signs, which we later found out lead to an OHV gathering at the next campsite over. When we arrived at the dry lake bed we were camping at, we were greeted by the tail end of a rave. At 11 am there were still speakers piled in a messy pyramid style, blasting some continuous rave beats, which could be heard from the corner of the lake bed we claimed as ours. After trying to find another campsite, to no avail, we settled on calling the other crews to make sure they brought out extra earplugs and glow sticks. Which turned out to be unnecessary, as it was only a one night party and the group slowly dwindled as the day went on.We had our own little party once the other crews came out. Which involved Jurassic Park viewing on a trailer, catchphrase, multiple games of Settler's of Catan, tortoise viewing show at Will's tent, and a firework show put on by our neighbors Burning Ham. Plus over 2 miles of fence being completed in over 90 degree weather. The hitch ended with a pizza pool party at our BLM contact's parents' home. There couldn't have been a better way to end a hot hot hitch and say goodbye to Jawbone and Rands.
Welcome to hitch #11! Our final hitch before the end of the season and Chorefest. We were all very excited to victoriously end our season by meeting both our restoration and effectiveness monitoring quotas. We celebrated with a trip to Sand Canyon to hike around, hunt for, and identify wildflowers. During the hike, we found some obsidian arrowheads and stopped for lunch under a lone pine tree with ample shade. Silly Corinne got pine needles stuck in her pants, which was quite a sight. After our hike, the boys went to the water hole for a swim to cool off. The next day was spent in Portuguese Canyon assisting Ashley, the BLM archaeologist, in recording data about milling sites and obsidian artifacts that were used for tools by Native Americans. The big event, however, of this hitch was the final Allcorps hosted by the grassholes on their turf. With only two hitches left in the season, the grassholes were given a ginormous fencing project, a whopping 3.5 miles! The entire DRC was called upon to come to their rescue, like Rohan to Gondor. The days were long and hot, the sun tested our strength with temperatures in the mid to upper 90’s. Our BLM contact, Dana Jacobs, was kind enough to relieve us with everything from ice to Gatorade to keep us safe and comfortable. She even jumped in to give us some hands-on help with the fencing project. For the Jawbone crew, fencing was an entirely new experience but it was a welcome change to our usual restoration. Although we were new to the fencing game, we still managed to learn quickly and helped out as much as we could. You’re welcome, grassholes.By the end of the four days in the heat, we were sweaty and dusty from the dry lake bed. After getting back home and having a welcome shower, we all gathered at Dana’s house for a pizza and a pool party. She was kind enough to open her home to 30-some desert dirtbags. Thank you, Dana. It was a refreshing end to the work we did at Allcorps.XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO,Suradee Thongkiattikul and Corinne Dagmar Erickson