Saturday, July 20, 2013

So Much For Posting At Least Once A Week...

I used to post almost every day (or night, actually), but as the years passed and my routines changed, blogging was gradually squeezed out like toothpaste from a tube. That's not to say that it completely vanished down the drain of time. It didn't. I just haven't been able to work it back into my daily routine. Sometimes I'm procrastinating on writing a review for my music blog, and I don't feel justified blogging here until I've finished my self-imposed obligations there. Sometimes I just don't feel like writing.

Right now I should be doing other things, but I felt like taking a moment to write here. Weeks 4 and 5 of Summer Camp are done with, although during week 5 I worked for our new program, Trailblazers, which is sort of like our day camp, but more focused on natural science and natural history. Basically, it's a nature camp for 3rd and 4th graders and also serves as a training ground for the Leaders In Training program. Leaders In Training, or L.I.T. for short, trains 13 year old ex-day campers to be counselors.

Week 4 of Day Camp was fun. I worked with mostly 10 and 11 year olds again. There were a couple of high maintenance kids in my group - one boy was super sensitive (for example, he cried when he discovered he wasn't in my group, so I let him join, even though I had by far the largest group - 27 at final count) and one girl was diagnosed with both ADHD and OCD. Her description of herself was "motor-mouth". She had been to science camp during the school year, and also had one of my ex co-workers as a classroom teacher, so she was pretty familiar with the program. She was also really into nature, which helped endear her to me. When we went to the reservoir, the kids saw a Garter snake which escaped into the water. I elected not to go after it because I didn't feel like damaging my only pair of shoes. Looking down at the girl, I noticed that she'd already managed to cover herself in mud. She saw me looking at her and out at the snake, and she said, "sometimes you've just gotta live..." as she stepped into the water. She had never caught a snake before, so I talked her through the process, and soon enough, she was back on shore with a squirming Garter snake in her hands. Everybody cheered. Later, she took it upon herself to make a compress out of Madrone bark and water, like the Ohlone Indians used to do. Cool kid.

Week 5, the Trailblazers week, made me feel like a new employee again. The previous week was the first time the program had ever been implemented, so it was pretty much new to all of us, although my two co-conspirators for the week were both veterans of the first week, and one of them had been largely responsible for directing the program, so he is basically acting as the camp director for the three weeks we're offering the program this year. In addition to the usual Summer Camp activities of swimming, challenge course, archery, and the like, the program features making animal track replicas out of plaster, inko dye (sun sensitive dye) bandanas, an adventure hike during which campers look for clues that lead them to the next hidden clue and ultimately, to a reward (we use beads as rewards for completing certain themes and for individual campers who have distinguished themselves in some way, so by the end of the week, each camper has a bead necklace). The L.I.T.s learned how to be counselors by being counselors for the three Trailblazers groups, and at the end of the week, "graduated" into full counselor-dom. It was great to be part of the process and to mix it up a bit this week.

The snakes have been lying low, with only Garter snakes and Rattlesnakes being spotted. Unfortunately, the Rattlesnakes have all been spotted on the lower field, only around 30 feet from where the Day Campers sleep during their one overnight stay. There is a hole off to the side of the field which has proven to be a cornucopia of Rattlesnakes. The week before the one I just completed, the Rattlesnake I'd moved a mile out of camp earlier in the season was back, which means that walking the snakes a mile away (and past a flowing creek) isn't far enough. I caught it again (actually, for the third time) and after some thought, decided to drive it about 15 miles away, up into the Sierra Azul open space preserve near Mt. Umunhum (that's "resting place of the hummingbird"). If it makes it back to camp from there, I'm writing a book about it. Then, this week, there were two more Rattlesnakes there, one I'd seen (but not caught) before and a brand new one. I caught one on Wednesday and one on Thursday (the easiest of the three - I placed a pond net in the entrance to the den and tapped the snake with a branch - it immediately tried to go down the hole but of course ended up in the net instead)and brought them home with me on Friday. Instead of leaving them in the kitchen by the refrigerator like I did with the one last week (it rattled when the refrigerator was opened) I put the two new snakes in the garage. When I got up this morning, Jeanine was in the garage doing laundry, and the more nervous of the two Rattlesnakes was rattling away like a maraca player having a fit, so it sounded like a duet between a rattlesnake and a laundry machine. Since then, I've freed the two snakes in the hills. I don't like moving animals from one location to another, even if it is still inside their native range, because it just doesn't seem right to me. It's like they're being punished for being dangerous. None of the snakes tried to strike at me (although I must add that I don't catch them with my hands, and I never let myself get within striking range).

I'm hoping that's the end of that particular nest of snakes, but I have a feeling that it won't be.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Best Stuff In the Yard

The chickens now look like chickens, although they still walk around saying "peep, peep, peep." We're pretty sure that Willow's chicken, Doodle, is actually a rooster. Time will tell, I suppose.

They love eating random things they find in the yard, from spiders to grass and seeds, but their absolute favorite food item seems to be the miniscule bits of Styrofoam left over from the packaging their coop came in. Every time I think I've picked it all up, one of them finds a piece I missed and hurriedly swallows it, as if they know that I'll try to take it away.


Sunday, July 07, 2013

Summer Camp, Week 3

Every Thursday at summer camp we invite the parents to dinner and then entertain them with songs and silliness. Staff members participate in skits, kids perform Amazing Camper Tricks, and various counselors add their two cents as well. It all ends in a raffle during which our camp director gives away humorous things he has found at flea markets and garage sales (and occasionally the side of the road somewhere). There's nothing quite like watching elementary school kids winning bad velvet paintings, cans of beans, and singing fish wall ornaments from the seventies. It's all in good fun, of course. Lots of the kids look positively nonplussed, but despite the relative lack of usability of the prizes, everybody wants to win.

Since July 4th fell on a Thursday this year, we didn't do that this week. Instead, we all went home at 4:00, although after gathering up Jeanine and Eva, I went back because there was a BBQ for staff and families. We stuffed our faces with lots of homemade goodness and enjoyed the relative cool of the evening.

The days this week were HOT, with the temperature readout on my dashboard reading 107 degrees at one point (it wasn't quite that hot out, but somewhere in my car, it was). Getting into the pond felt better than ever. It's always cold in there because the all-encompassing layer of duckweed blocks out the sunlight.

I finally caught and relocated the other rattlesnake I'd seen lurking by the edge of our lower field, but not until Friday, when the temperature finally dropped around 15 degrees. It was too warm for the snakes to be out until then.

I had a younger group of kids this week too, including a kid with a severely stunted arm. He wowed everybody at the archery range though, getting a bull's eye with his first shot. It's so inspiring to see people overcome physical limitations like that. He wasn't there the day I took my group to the climbing wall though. I would have loved to see him succeed at that too. I know he would have.

The cicadas are popping up everywhere. We saw a couple that had recently finished emerging from the restrictive confines of their larval-stage exoskeletons. The kids in my group gathered as many of the empty exoskeletons as they could. One boy decorated his hat with them.

Friday, I went up to catch the inaugural Free Salamander Exhibit gig in Oakland while Jeanine took the girls to see Weird Al at the county fair in Pleasanton. On Saturday, I took the girls to Great America while Jeanine worked. It was so crowded that we spent most of our time waiting in line. Not surprising at all. Today, we're hanging out at home, occasionally venturing into the yard to rake and mow. Tomorrow, I'm back to working with older kids again.

Ah, Summer.