One month and four days since my last post, I write again. The bird work is now a distant memory, and I have just completed my fourth week of vegetation surveys on Chippewa Prairie near Milan, MN. I am working as an assistant to a botanist, which means that I mainly record data and set up transects. By this point I know about 95% of the plants (the exceptions being a few difficult-to-distinguish grasses), so I also help with species identification when I can.
I am living in an old farmhouse that the DNR is renting for the two of us. At first it was completely unfurnished save for a stove and a refrigerator, but now it bears at least some resemblance to a home, with the only difference being a complete absence of decoration, a paucity of furniture, and air mattresses instead of real beds. We do have high-speed internet now, so for the most my life can continue.
Five newsy items:
1. The storm. On the morning of July 31, the winds began to rise…and rise…and rise…until the howling was louder than the thunder and the rain drifted across the ground like snow. Madison recorded 86 mph, and Milan had an informal report of gusts over 100 mph. The house only lost a few shingles, but eight spruce trees were toppled on the property. Perhaps 10% of trees in this area were downed completely, and most lost major branches. Some power poles even snapped at the ground, and we were without electricity for 36 hours. We were lucky, since the property has no large trees near the house. Few houses were damaged by the wind directly, but perhaps a hundred suffered damage from falling trees, and many homeowners are still cleaning up trees and debris a week later.
2. The house. I now have a place to live in Oregon. For those of you with Google Maps, it is at 4715 Nash Ave, Corvallis, OR. It is a nice 3-mile bike ride from campus, just southwest of town on a semi-rural street. I will be sharing the place with three other grad students, including one from my department. The property has fruit trees and a large garden, and it sounds like we will also be raising chickens :-). It may be a bit small, and I’m told the woodstove sometimes fails to keep the place warm in the winter, but I think I found the best fit after two weeks of searching, sending out feelers, and responding to offers.
3. The computer. After I learned that I don’t need a laptop computer for school, I put some of the money I had allocated to it toward building a new desktop machine. It is 3-4 times faster than my old one and situated in a portable cube-shaped case with a handle on top.
4. The weather station. Ever since my first weather station arrived in the valley at Christmas time in 1996, I have somehow felt that recording the weather allows me have a fuller experience of nature, since it allows me to track long term cycles and understand recurring patterns. That station is still in operation in the valley, where it will stay indefinitely. As I am now moving semi-permanently, I figured it was time to get my own station, and I found a great deal on a new Davis VantageProII with wireless sensors for ease of installation (and elimination of potential conflicts with landlords over holes drilled in houses). It arrived one day too late to record our extreme winds, but it is now in operation at my Milan house.
5. Website stuff. I have been experiementing with software to post my weather data online, and I am pretty satisfied with what I came up with. The “current weather” may be up to a day or more behind, since it only updates (every 15 minutes) when my computer is connected to the internet. Check it out at http://www.luterra.com/weather/index.htm. (I also created a link to the weather page from my homepage.) In addition the weather page, I also added some of my favorite funny/cute/inspiring online videos as links to the fun page. (These are streaming videos, so I only recommend them if you have DSL or other high-speed internet.)
Hopefully I will do better at keeping the blog updated in the coming weeks…