Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cooking Eggs On the Cement

I didn't actually cook eggs on the cement, but today, it might have worked if I'd tried. It's supposed to be in the mid to high nineties for the rest of the week, which means I'll probably be low energy. I dislike warm weather.

Last week, my friend and co-worker Weasel shadowed me for most of the field classes I taught. She has been involved with Walden West for a long time, but she hasn't had much opportunity to be a field instructor, so she wanted to check out an entire week of lessons so she could learn new things. We had middle school kids who actually still had an abundance of childlike enthusiasm. That said, one boy in another field class managed to not only get kicked out on Monday, but get handcuffed by the sheriff. He was being driven home by a coworker and a teacher when he unbuckled his seat belt, and when my coworker pulled the van over, he got out and walked down the road. The police were called, and he was eventually put in handcuffs, but only after throwing rocks at the police car.

As usual, we saw lots of rattlesnakes.

The night hike was about 20 degrees cooler than the one I led the previous week, which meant that, instead of seeing 30 scorpions, we only saw 2. Scorpions like it warm.

On Saturday, it was "take your husband to work" night for Jeanine. I wanted to spend her birthday with her, but she had to work, so I went with her to a wedding in San Francisco and watched her make balloons and paint faces for a bunch of enthusiastic kids. Most of them used their new balloons as weapons. There is nothing cuter than watching a pair of small boys pummel each other with balloon dogs.

Sunday, we saw the newest Central Works play, which is based on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or more correctly, on Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny, and their disagreements about the story. If it was cooler I'd dig a little deeper here, but it's not, so I won't. As usual, Greg's sound design was excellent.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Cats are supposed to be graceful and mysterious.

Brian is decidedly not.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Working For Fun

After a week during which temperatures spiked in the low nineties, it's nice to look out the window and see that the sky is once again varied shades of gray. Liquid, aided and abetted by gravity, is forecast for later.

One of the standout moments of my work week was the fact that there were at least 15 campers who spent every recess pulling weeds in the garden. I've never seen so many young people gleefully working in ninety degree weather. Last week, when I offered this option at recess, I had around 3 solid workers and a bunch of boys who just wanted to look for lizards. This week, without even looking for it, one of the weeders spotted a small rattlesnake which was actually coiled around the base of a weed, making pulling that particular plant a hazardous proposition indeed. I coaxed the snake into a container and relocated it. The weeding continued...

In field class, the most unusual moment of the week was the number of scorpions encountered on the night hike. We found 30 of them!

Here are some photos from the week.

The one that saw us before we saw it:

After acting tough, it silently slithered away:

The butterflies were everywhere. A few of them even cooperated for photos, namely this West Coast Lady and a Checkerspot or two.

Once again, the rattlesnakes at the reservoir played hard to get, preferring to stay tucked away in their crevices. Thursday at the reservoir came with a welcome drop in temperature, from the nineties to the seventies.

The reservoir itself was very photogenic, as always.

The Thursday hike to the reservoir is the day that involves the greatest amount of walking. This Thursday, my Fitbit informs me that I walked 21,645 steps, which totaled 10.12 miles. Our elevation change was 840 feet, and my active minutes ended up being 190. The round trip hike itself is closer to 6 miles, which shows that I do a lot of back and forth walking at camp before and after the hike. Most of the campers make the journey with a minimum of complaining, although I noticed this week that a couple of them were hobbling as we got back to camp. For many of these kids, this is the farthest they've ever walked in their lives. I'm glad that I can help people push their envelopes. Despite this long walk, a couple of the campers in my group immediately joined me in the garden to pull weeds. This kind of thing energizes me.

Friday, May 13, 2016


The more noteworthy events that happen, the less time I have to write about them. It is well and truly Spring now, meaning that precipitation is percolating away into the soil and leaving only the memory of moisture behind.

Willow had three small roles in her school's production of Beauty & the Beast, and last weekend her hours of rehearsal paid off. The production was quite impressive for a middle school play, with elaborate sets, choreography, and props. A lot of the actors could really sing too. Here's a photo of Willow after her final performance.

The last two weeks of camp have been good ones. Last week, our all-day hike on Thursday was under clouds and drizzle. At the reservoir, carp were shimmering in the shallows, and the kids all thought they were fighting. We watched them while the kids chanted, "fish fight! Fish fight!"

We ate lunch up the initial stretch of the new section of the John Nicholas trail. Everything was wet and glistening, while underfoot, newts placidly made their way through the duff on newt business.

Near camp, we found this pretty character:

This week, there were reptiles everywhere, which made a lot of the kids absolutely ecstatic. There was a group of boys in the garden every day at recess so they could look for lizards. One boy in my group got to catch his first snake this week, and it proved to be a highlight of the week for him. Here's the snake, being handled by enthusiastic sixth graders:

I caught another large Kingsnake on the same hike.

I also found a pair of large Northern Pacific rattlesnakes wedged in between a couple of boulders, but didn't manage to get a good photo because it's hazardous to pick up rattlesnakes and pose them, and there were too many plants and shadows making their location unphotogenic. They were a beautiful pair though.

On the night hike, a girl in my group took a little break from reality, wandered out of our circle, and collapsed against a nearby tree. She complained of being dizzy, and after we got her on her feet, she collapsed again. I called our hub host to come get her back to camp. While waiting, and after getting her into the rescue position and keeping her talking, I got her to reveal that she had gotten enough sleep, eaten well, and had only taken a cough drop. No red flags stood out. By the time back-up arrived, she said that she could walk well enough to make it back to camp without the use of our ATV (formerly known as "jogging stroller"). I later learned that she'd taken a high dose of benadryl for allergies, and when her temperature was taken, it was revealed that she had a 102 degree fever. Her collapse had scared some of the other campers (they wrote about it the next day), but we had a successful conclusion to our hike.

This little fellow was on a nearby tree stump:

We ended the week by making a mandala. I really enjoy doing these with kids. Every one of them is different, and after taking photos, we disarrange them so that no trace of our passing remains.

Monday, May 02, 2016


Brian is getting bigger, but he still acts like a crazed kitten. Yesterday, he became obsessed with a fly on the ceiling of our bedroom, and repeatedly attempted to scramble up the walls to reach it. I finally lifted him up over my head so he could get within swatting distance, but it proved too fast for him. I stopped helping after my arms got tired.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Animals Everywhere

May begins with sun and wind. The trees are being tossed back and forth in a whispering flurry of green, and the ground is drying out. The hills are still moist from the recent rains, and as recently as Thursday, I watched runoff draining into Lake Ranch Reservoir.

The week was rather routine, with kids who occupied the middle ground on the behavioral spectrum, and the lower foothills of the socioeconomic one.

The most unusual find of the week was this dead bird:

I didn't recognize the species, which when one considers the size (somewhere between a dove and a crow) and beauty, is unusual. I quickly figured it out using a phone app (this one), which identified it as a Northern Flicker. It looked like it had been intentionally placed on top of a log, and later that day, one of my co-workers told me that he'd found it by a glass door near the middle of camp, picked it up, and relocated it to the log where I subsequently found it. It most likely flew into the glass and broke its neck. It's a shame.

Also this week, I caught a smallish Gopher snake, let the kids touch and/or hold it for a few moments, and then put it back. It had been resting underneath some unused panels from our solar pool heater, along with a toad, a vole, some Fence lizards, and a Ringneck snake or two.

I checked later to see if it was still there, and discovered that it had eaten the vole. It was sitting in the vole's nest with a huge lump in its belly.

Throughout the week, a lot of the other usual suspects made an appearance.

Yesterday, I did my first reptile party in a long time, for a Día Del Niño celebration at a park in San Jose. Last weekend, inspired by the thought of some reptile money coming in, I ordered three scorpions online. They arrived on Tuesday, and I took two of them to the event on Saturday. I left the Asian Forest scorpion home because it is more aggressive than the other two (not that I let kids touch scorpions, but I have an aversion to being stung as well). The two I did bring, an Emperor Scorpion and a Flat Rock scorpion, impressed the kids, as did the various other animals.

Here's the Emperor scorpion:

And here's the Flat Rock scorpion, chewing on my palm. This is the first time I've ever been bitten by a scorpion, so now I can say that I've been pinched (Emperor and Flat Rock), stung (California Forest scorpion), and bitten! It didn't really hurt, and it was actually kind of amusing. Since Flat Rock scorpions eat snails in the wild (or so I've read), I can only assume that soft human skin is snail-like enough to be worth sampling.

It's May now, and my goal to be more creative during the month of April was mostly a failure. I've once again started to try and teach myself guitar, but that's about it. This month, I think I'll set some sort of exercise goal. The only real exercise I've been getting lately is walking. I walked to the nearest record store today and spent around $50.00, which is one third of my monthly music budget (an arbitrary amount which I might increase slightly this month).