Monday, March 30, 2015

Old Friends and Spring Days

Weekends are always looking at their watches and making excuses for leaving early. This weekend was no exception. Monday is more like the house guest who doesn't take the hint that the party is over. The pointed yawns and pajamas don't seem to make an impact at all.

Willow went to a pair of birthday parties and a softball game this weekend. One party boasted a nice view of the valley, and the other one featured a hot tub. She had fun. Her team lost the softball game, but only just.

The highlight of my weekend was reconnecting with an old friend, somebody who I hadn't seen in nearly 15 years. I had lived with her and her mom before I met Willow's mom. The last time I saw her, she had just graduated high school. Now, she's 33 years old, with an adorable little boy. I guess she was sort of like my stepdaughter, although her mom and I weren't married, and for most of our cohabitation, not even romantically involved. It was great seeing her all grown up, and nice (although not surprising) to discover that she is one of the good adults. So many adults are anything but. Willow, who came along for the ride, liked her too. The icing on this particular cake was that it was a perfect Spring day. The hills above the park where dusted with yellow flowers and, despite the drought, a bit of green. I'm sure the green will vanish like yesterday's memories though, but for now, it looks nice.

Today, while I slept, Jeanine bought and planted some tomatoes, peas, and greens in the garden (now fenced off so the chickens can't help themselves). I joined her later, pulling weeds and tidying. We've been eating a lot of steamed arugula, chard, and other leafy greens lately, and I can't wait until we can pick our own again.

Jeanine found a couple of cool grubs in the compost too. I'm not sure what this will turn into, but it was as big around as my finger, which is pretty hefty for a grub.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Behaving Like Middle Schoolers

This week, the campers probably broke the record for the largest number of individuals who had to fill out behavior contracts (the breaking of which results in missing something fun or getting sent home). The record for lowest night patrol score (quiet cabins with lights out in time get high scores) was definitely broken, by a cabin who received a negative six. That aside, I liked the kids who I interacted with. The girl I mentioned in the previous post ended up going home for a night, but returned with a smile the following day.

Wednesday night, I got a couple of bad photos of a Gray fox, caught in the act of investigating a trio of deceased bullfrogs left out as camera bait. The camera doesn't have any sort of viewfinder, so it was aimed a little high. Better than nothing though.

Willow is at a birthday party right now. Tomorrow, she has a softball game and another party. In between, I plan to do some walking somewhere. The hills are calling me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Loss and Comfort

We've got a middle school at camp this week, which usually means more behavior problems and fewer issues with things like missing home and nocturnal incontinence. So far this week, the behavior problems seem confined to the male half of the species. There was also a boy who was having asthma problems but whose parents hadn't thought it necessary to send him to camp with his inhaler. When his parents were called and finally made it up to camp with his medicine, he got all weepy and wanted to go home with them. Later, his teacher told me that he'd recently lost his sister.

While the boy was waiting for his parents, a crying girl walked up to me outside the hub. It turned out that she'd recently lost her dad ("suddenly", her teacher later told me). We talked for a bit, and she told me that she had chosen the name "Willow" as her camp name for the week, which is, of course, my daughter's real name. I asked her why she had picked it, and she replied that she didn't really know. I told her what the name means to me, about how Willow trees are flexible and able to weather storms better than "stronger" trees like Oak. I think it helped. I also gave her a hug, which is something I don't usually do with campers, mostly because of our current reactionary social climate where any physical contact with kids, especially between adult males and little girls, is viewed with suspicion. It's a shame when people who need comfort don't get it because of the existence of people who prey on children. That's one of the hidden costs of the crime of pedophilia. Well-meaning adults are less likely to hug children without vague fears of being thought creepy for doing so. This girl really needed a hug though, but even so, I first asked her if it was okay for me to give her one. What a weird world we live in.

We got a tiny bit of rain late Sunday night and into Monday morning. Sometime after the rain had stopped, there was a small earthquake (2.9 on the Richter scale), which woke me up. Jeanine didn't even feel it. The clouds have been coming and going like a teasing promise, but the forecast continues to grimly call for a warming trend and obscene amounts of sun.

Finally, Pikas have been found to have some interesting dining habits when nobody is looking. So says the internet, at least (although, to be fair, the article is sourced from National Geographic).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Of Vomit and Missing Limbs

I arrived at work on Monday evening to find the hub reeking of vomit, and traces of it still on the floor. So, my first act of the work week was to mop up the remains of a camper's dinner. Yes, the floor had already been mopped, but the kid had done such a stellar job of splattering that spots were missed. Earlier, the same kid had thrown up on this week's hub host, spattering her legs and covering her backpack. Thankfully, by the time I got there, the kid had already gone home, so I was safe from his gastric expulsions. I wasn't safe from the influx of weeping kids who missed their mommies though. I managed to get them cheered up (more or less) and into bed before too much time had passed. Later, I had to wake up four different kids so they wouldn't wet their beds. I'll wake them all up again tonight. It's shaping up to be a busy week.

Tonight, a kid who'd eaten too much used his dinner to paint the floor of the bathroom in his cabin, so for the second time this week, I got out the mop. I also caught a trio of frogs who were singing their little amphibian hearts out down by the pool, and released them somewhere more conducive to long-term amphibian happiness.

Oh yeah, and I found a skink with a missing leg. It didn't seem to be much of a hindrance.

Friday, March 13, 2015

More Amphibians, and A Really Nice Sunrise

Friday the 13th dawned in a blaze of orange as the campers packed their belongings. A sky of fire, to be sure.

Long before this happened, amphibians went about their nightly business. An Arboreal salamander poked his head out of a hole, keeping a beady eye out for nearby invertebrates. What he saw was me, so he quickly vanished into his lair.

I relocated a pair of frogs and a newt too.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Uncommon Visitor

Last night, as I was doing my usual walk around camp, I noticed what I thought was a California Newt lurking in the darkness by the ping pong tables. I touched its tail to speed it on its way, and it moved faster than a newt would (newts usually disdainfully curl their tails away from the point of contact and amble slowly away because they're too toxic for most animals to eat - this gives them a bit of a superiority complex). This animal gave a quick dash. I shined my light on it, and sure enough, it was a small Pacific Giant Salamander. Seeing an adult out on the trails is uncommon enough, but this was the very first time I'd seen one in the middle of camp. I continued walking, and before too long, got to point it out to four girls who were up to use the bathroom. They were interested, and possibly happy to be the only kids to get to see it. The hallowed exclusivity of nocturnal amphibian viewing is nothing to be sneezed at.

Later, after I'd finished my walk, I was inside the hub, watching a bad rip-off of Invasion of the Body Snatchers when I glanced down at the bottom window. I saw this:

It sat there for around an hour and a half, staring at me. Eventually, it got down from the little sill, and wandered off toward the lost & found shelf. By morning, it was nowhere to be seen.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pondering the Pool

After the campers were all in bed, I did a circuit of the pool in an attempt to grab some frogs (Pacific Chorus frogs, sometimes still known as Pacific Tree frogs). They like hanging out inside the pool filter alcoves, which act like a resounding chamber, magnifying their ribbity little voices. This makes them somewhat easy to catch, because all I have to do is lift the filter cover and grab. After a couple of failed attempts to grab frogs who weren't in the filters, I pulled up the last filter cover and managed to grab one.

I walked back toward the hub, only to find a camper there with his cabin leader. He complained that his throat hurt a bit, and explained that he'd inhaled deeply during the night hike and felt something go down his throat. I'm guessing he probably ingested a small moth. I told him it sounded like he had a frog in his throat, and even went so far as to explain what the saying meant (I've learned to expect kids to be unaware of the cliches of the older generations, especially given the rich cultural mix locally). Then, I pretended to clear my throat and cough into my hands. Of course, when I opened my hands, there was an actual frog there, since I'd had it with me all along. Correction: frogs. I'd grabbed a mating pair, and in the dark, hadn't realized it. I'm not sure who was more surprised. I think it made the kid forget about his sore throat though.

Here they are, attempting to check their website. Afterward, I released them at the edge of camp, on the pond side. I think the sound of five million frogs already singing in the pond should give them a clue about which direction they should hop.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Bag of Bones, A Field of Kids, and A Roomful of Actors

As I type, the sky is grey and birds are kicking up a fuss in the foliage. Jeanine says that one of the doves attracted to the chicken feed met its end in the claws of a large bird of prey that she didn't recognize. Not a Cooper's Hawk, and not one of the larger local hawks. It was pale, and flew off with the dove, raining feathers over the rooftops.

Eva spent most of the weekend with a friend and her family at a cabin near Yosemite. She returned with this. Of course she did.

And Willow had her first softball game of the season. I believe her description of the game was, "we slaughtered them."

I went out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights this weekend, the first two nights accompanied by Jeanine. Friday and Sunday were musical events, which will be duly reported over at my other blog. Saturday, we went to see the latest Central Works play, Enemies: Foreign and Domestic, which, as always, features sound design by my brother. If you're local, and read this before the end of March, go see it. It's fantastic.

The kids at camp this week are chatterboxes and prone to vomiting. One homesick girl threw up in her cabin, so I coated the mess with Super Sorb (a handy janitorial product used for absorbing liquid messes). Later, she threw up on the Super Sorb, so I Super Sorbed it again, making a vomit sandwich of sorts. On the plus side, Daylight Savings Time means that the kids are once again able to stay asleep until the official wake-up time.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Singing In the Pool

Spring must be near, because the frogs are back in the pool again. For the moment, make that singular, because, to tell the truth, I only kicked one frog out this morning. This one:

There were also three dead Ceanothus Silk Moths in there with the frog, plus a bunch of smaller, less spectacular members of the order. I guess they don't know how to swim.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Parental Follies

This week, for some reason, a number of parents have shown up at camp for one reason or another, mostly to pick up their kids. The problem is, they've come to the wrong camp. Their kids are attending camp at our other site. Normally, this kind of thing happens once or twice a year. This week, it has happened at least three or four times. At one point, right around bedtime, somebody rang the bell outside the hub (a bell used to summon campers to the amphitheater - essentially a school bell), and it turned out to be one of the aforementioned wayward parents, who apparently thought it was some sort of doorbell. In fact, this particular parent had a whole family in tow - 5 or 6 people. None of them seemed to get the concept of following verbal directions. I called our other site, and listened to Papa Bear (who is my counterpart there) give directions to one of the parents, while the parent listened and didn't write anything down. The minute the phone call was over, the parent turned around and asked me for directions again. I replied that he had just gotten them, to which he responded, "but I still don't know how to get there." Perhaps these people were going through GPS withdrawal (GPS doesn't work too well up in the hills).

It amazes me that these parents sent their kids off for a week without knowing where their kids were going.

The other parental fail of the week was brought to light tonight. Apparently, a girl (a 5th grader) got her first period during the night hike and she immediately became afraid that she was dying from Ebola. Her parents apparently never thought to explain certain important facts to her. Of course, our sensationalist news media is to blame for the girl jumping to conclusions about Ebola, but that wouldn't have happened in the first place if one of her parents had thought to clue her in on what to expect from her growing body. Poor girl. She must have been terrified.

On the bright side, I saw a fluffy little coyote on the way home this morning. It crossed the road in front of me and glared disdainfully from the undergrowth as I passed.

Talking Turkey

Suddenly, it's turkey mating season. I took these photos yesterday morning. There was frost on the grass and on the roofs.

I set up the trailcam again last night, baited with a dead frog I got from my friend Jellyfish, but some ninja animal managed to snatch the frog without triggering the camera. Hmmmm.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Inadvertently Busted

Henrietta has finally joined in on the egg-laying fun. Hers is the green one.

The first night of camp this week was pretty easy. Over the weekend, I bought a trailcam stake from Bill the Fox Guy, so now I can set up my trailcam independently of nearby trees and posts. It makes a difference. Last night, the camera got pictures of deer, and a pair of cabin leaders who sneaked out and took themselves on a hike. The time stamp indicates that they were gone for nearly an hour and a half. Busted! This morning, nobody would fess up (it's hard to tell who the people in the photo are), but afterward, one of the more responsible cabin leaders took me aside and told me who it had been. They turned out to be cabin leaders who are scheduled to spend the rest of the week at our other site, so I passed the information on to our cabin leader coordinator. We won't be asking these two back.

The cabin leader photos, if one steps back from the fact it's a couple of teenagers being idiots, have a pleasing, ghostly aesthetic.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Eggs Of All Sizes

Penelope is old for a chicken, and a bit past her egg-laying years. Last year, she laid only a couple of eggs, both looking like they could have come out of a quail. This year, she tried again. Guess which one is hers.

The bigger one was donated by Mrs. Charles.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Eating Brains

Jeanine made Eva a really cool cake for her birthday. Check it out:

And here's a couple of pictures of the new fence. It's sunny today, with puffy white clouds to the east. Yesterday, it was cloudy and rainy, and hail was reported in several locations. Indecisive weather we're having.