By Robin Mayo
This little piece of wisdom, scrawled on a sticky note and stuck on a wall near my desk, has inspired me to start carrying buckets and a shovel in my car. Every day on my way home from work I stop and toss 3 shovelfulls of gravel into each bucket. Then I stop at one of the many potholes on my subdivision road, pour in the gravel, kick it around a little to level it, load the buckets back in the car, and drive on home. The entire escapade takes less than 10 minutes, and the results are slow but tangible.
The whole project started this spring, when the snow melted and we had to face the reality of our ravaged road. As I do every spring, I contemplated inviting all the neighbors over for coffee and taking up a collection for gravel. But I just couldn’t quite get up the gumption to call the meeting.
There is a history of cooperative road work in our neighborhood, so it isn’t too outlandish a notion. I’m fairly sure that some of the neighbors would contribute. I also suspect some would not. Most of all, I loathe the idea of being responsible for calling a contractor and translating the good intentions into real improvements. I really don’t want to be the one the neighbors call when they think the road needs work, or complain to if the work does not meet their expectations. Our neighborhood isn’t much to look at but we get along pretty well, and my strategy for keeping it that way is to mind my own business. I also drive the lowest clearance vehicle in the neighborhood, so may feel the problem most acutely.
Thus the buckets. I started by filling several deep, wide, hard to miss trenches where I regularly scraped the bottom of my little car. It took a couple of weeks of daily deposits, but felt great when it was done. My approach since then has been random, non-strategic, but very satisfying. Some days I choose small potholes, and can level off several with one load of gravel. The buckets are heavy at 1/3 full, so the 6 I’ve been carrying add up to 10 gallons of gravel total. Other days I stop by one of the large, gaping maws, and pour in all 6 buckets. The level comes up an inch, and I experience a nice little surge of accomplishment.
At this rate, it will be several summers before the road is truly smooth. But I’m no longer bottoming out regularly, and it’s been enjoyable to just do this little self-assigned task without talking about it (until now.)
It’s also been enlightening to look at life through this lens of “one bucket at a time,” and see where else I might make a small but real difference. The last couple of days at WISE we’ve been at schools doing the Changing Seasons program with second and third graders. As we walked through the woods learning to use binoculars and identify birds, I wondered what the future consequences of this day might be. Perhaps one of these students will become an ornithologist, inspire their whole family to take up birdwatching, or help a species avoid extinction.
What “bucket at a time” project could you take on to help make our little corner of the world a better place for all? I’d love to hear some of the grassroots efforts happening around the Copper River Basin, and will share them in a future column. Robin@wise-edu.org
By Robin Mayo
This December, WISE is taking on a new project, and we’d like to invite everyone to participate. Ruth McHenry, who has been organizing Kenny Lake’s Christmas Bird Count since time immemorial, has passed the binoculars to WISE. We will be handling the pre-count coordination, count day festivities, and compiling the numbers and submitting them to Audubon, who organizes this international event now in its 117th year.
The Christmas Bird Count started as an alternative activity to a tradition known as a “Side Hunt,” when teams of hunters would go afield for a day, with the side slaying the biggest pile of feathered and furred quarry declared the winter. In December 1900, Frank Chapman, an officer in the newly organized Audubon Society, organized a day of birding to help take census of winter birds. 25 different counts were held, in locations from Ontario to California, and the tradition was born.
Today, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count is one of the largest Citizen Science events in the world. In 2016, over 2500 local counts were held, with a total of 76,000 observers. In each local count, observers work within a 15 mile diameter circle, and follow protocols to make the data collected relevant and useful to scientists. The Kenny Lake count circle has its center at the intersection of the Old and New Edgerton Highways. Other local Christmas Bird Counts are also held in Copper Center and Gakona.
The Christmas Bird Count data is used in a myriad of ways by scientists. The over a century worth of data is especially important in establishing baselines, and looking for change trends in populations. It is also a chance for birders to get out in a season that is often overlooked, and earn some bragging rights for numbers of species, and unusual observations. In last year’s count, Dave Wellman saw a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, a frequent summer sighting but very unusual in winter. When unusual birds are sighted, documenting with photographs becomes important.
The Kenny Lake count includes data from field observers who travel by foot, car, ski, and snowshoes throughout the area. It also gathers data from feeder watchers, and sightings made soon before or after the actual count day, during the “count week.”
Under WISE management Christmas Bird Count will look much the same, but we are hoping to inspire new participants, including classes of school children. We hope to hold one of our Science Lectures in conjunction with count week, to learn more about the science of Christmas Bird Count. If you’d like to sign up as a field observer or feeder watcher, please give us a call at 822-3575, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copper River Record September 2017
By Robin Mayo
The weekend brought me an abundance of berries and garden produce, and the urge to try some new ways of preserving the bounty.
Browsing through the “Copper Country Collection,” Kenny Lake PTO’s excellent cookbook, brought many smiles and good memories. The names accompanying the recipes are a wonderful list of past and present “Who’s Who in the Copper Valley.” Some of these cooks are still here, some have moved away, and some have passed away, but their memories live on through these great recipes.
The tiny section near the back titled “Kids’ Corner” caught my interest. Although the recipes did not help me out with the abundance of cabbage, turnips, and blueberries currently overflowing my fridge, they are some of my favorites in the book.
How to Preserve Children by Jan Carlson, Mother of 7
1 lg. grassy field
2 or 3 dogs
½ dozen children
A pinch of brook
Mix children and dogs together well; pour them in the field, stirring constantly. Pour the brook over the pebbles, sprinkle fields with flowers. Spread over all a deep blue sky and bake in hot sun. When thoroughly warmed, remove and set to cool in a bath tub. Hug and kiss a lot.
Bubble Recipe by Jan Carlson
2 c. Joy dishwashing detergent
6 c. water
¾ c. white Karo corn syrup
Combine and shake. Let settle 4 hours. Store, covered, in refrigerator to extend suds shelf life. Allow to warm before using.
Homemade Play Dough by Jan Carlson
Mix in medium saucepan:
1 c. flour
¼ c. salt
2T Cream of Tartar
Combine and add to saucepan:
1 c. water
2 tsp vegetable food coloring
1 T vegetable oil
Cook over medium heat and stir (about 3 to 5 minutes.) It will look like a globby mess and you will be sure it is not turning out…but it will. When it forms a ball in the center of the pot, turn out and knead on a lightly floured surface. Store in airtight container. Note: Recipe may be doubled
Play Clay by Felicia Riedel
2 c. baking soda
1 c. cornstartch
1 ¼ c. cold water
Food coloring (Optional)
For colored clay, add food coloring to water so it totals 1 ¼ cups. Use a few drops to 2 teaspoons. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it feels like moist mashed potatoes, turn onto a plate and cover with a damp towel. When cool enough to handle, start shaping. Can be used for paper weights, fridge magnets, “fossils,” or with cookie cutters and molds.
The Copper Country collection was first printed in 2000, and is still available from Kenny Lake School PTO. What an incredible gift to the community!
A young hike participant at Copper Center School Trail. WISE photo
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.