RangerSir’s occupation means that he works the all the summer holidays, because on the holidays it is all hands on deck and everyone is out in the field with the increased visitors. Folks always act disheartened when they ask me about holiday plans and I claim none because of he is working. For me it is quite the opposite, it is a long weekend were I have no plans except of my choosing. I usually pick to stay home and do whatever possesses me. Working up to this holiday we had company for over a week followed by a summer cold that had me off of work for several days. I am still hacking a bit with a cough that hangs on so I am hanging around the house. All the chores and housework are done or will wait until after the holiday. Instead I am taking walks, cooking, writing, spending some time in my studio, reading and I am even thinking a summer time nap in the hammock may be in order. Sounds like a perfect summer holiday to me.
Woke up to snow and wind this morning. It made me think back on the sunny days of summer. I went back and looked at some of the photos I took while on the road this summer. On the crest of the hill in the distance you can see a windmill. It was a “real” one that still pumped water into a stock tank for cattle on the range far from home.
There is lots of open range in Montana and most of that can be pretty treeless. I have ate many lunches sitting in the shade cast by my truck. On those days I am thankful for it. I got lucky last week that about lunch time I was traveling down a road that crossed a small creek and it had a few cottonwoods. I backed into a two track lane and ate my lunch in the shade of the cottonwood tree. It was cool with a gentle breeze. Sweet shade for sure.
Generally speaking there are three different ways I could spend my work day. I could:
- Spend the day setting, servicing, and/or collecting what insect traps have collected and bringing them back for inspection by the scientists/professionals.
- Spend the day collection, releasing and/or preparing for transfer biocontrol agents from one location to another location to attack invasive plants.
- Spend the day counting grasshoppers and if the density warrants collecting grasshoppers to bring back to the office for inspection by the scientists/professionals.
Doing traps is one of the fun parts of the job. You take off with a truck with a bunch of gypsy moth traps that were made earlier with a book with a bunch of sites and maps for the locations your traps to be set. It takes some above average orienting and map reading skills to find your locations because you are setting traps out in counties you may have never explored before. Even if you get your home county, I promise some of the location you will never even have knew a road existed there before. You also have a limited number of super moth sites you have to set. For those you pick the site and set up five different kinds of moth traps. You might also have to set out traps for Emerald Ash Borer or at an airport for Japanese beetles. All of these sites are testing for other non-native potential insects that we would want to detect their presence Montana as early as possible because of their potential impact on ecosystems and agriculture.
Each of the traps has lure, generally some kind of pheromones that would draw in the potential pest. Some lures will last the whole season and others will only last about a month. So each month we go out to the traps that need to have an updated lure, and pull the captured sample and bag it up, then put out a new lure and a new collection medium.
This was one of the things I did last week. I went back to the super sites I had worked with landowners to set up and serviced traps. I also spent some time at one of Montana’s airports. It was nice in that I knew where I was going and who I was going to work with. I knew what to expect in roads, timing, motels and food. One of the more interesting prospects for me was that I was going back to sites I had been to about a month before. Since that time we have had very little rain and abnormally high temperatures. We have gone from lush green pastures, fields and rangeland to the land of curing vegetation. I realized as I wrote this I did not take hardly any photos this week to show May and now the first week of July. Something I will try to be more aware of to snap a few more pictures this week.
This week I was reminded that not all deserts are sand and cactus. We often think of deserts as full of sand and cactus, aka Arizona or Africa. The Great Basin of which Montana is part of is also covered in part by a very large desert, a cold one. The vegetation one usually sees is bunch grasses and sage. In some places you will find even find cactus. They are generally clumped together and low to the ground not easy to see or find. But this week I was in the right place and the right time to see the cactus blooming.
These were taken near Glen, Montana.
Today we took our bikes out and rode in the Mt. Haggen Wildlife Management Area in SW Montana. It was a great way to spend a summer day for Mr. RangerSir and I. We climbed too many hills but the vistas were wonderful. They reminded us of some of the many joys that we have without spending lots of dough or really leaving home. The temps were perfect. The Indian Paintbrush was blooming. The sunscreen worked. No mechanical problems. Mr. RangerSir had control of the camera and went crazy capturing the day. We enjoyed the day and each other.
It is here, the season of smoke and forest fires. For awhile we had thought that fire season was going to come early fortunately it was a false alarm. It is now late July and the fires are popping up all over. Humidity levels have dropped to the single digits creating tinder dry conditions. We are starting to be able to smell smoke in our homes though fires are miles in the distance. We worry with each dry thunderstorm about the lightning strikes that smolder for days before becoming a full-fledged fires. It is all being driven by the winds of summer. The sky’s are turning into smoke. The sun this afternoon was hidden behind a screen of smoke, peeking out in time to set. Tonight’s moon came up orange. This season and many of the fires will last until the snow flies.