Sunday, May 23, 2021

2021 venture vermont: Climb a tree or boulder

 so it's the most wonderful time of the year again.

sometimes things are hard for me, but i do love a checklist. the venture vermont challenge is a handy list of fun things to do that give me some ideas for what to do and some days just flat out it's easier for me to get out and do a thing if it's on the list.

anyway, climb a tree or boulder is on the list.

i was out for a walk with my friend barb in the mount mansfield state forest and here we are. she took a picture of me on this boulder and i took a picture of her and we traded.


Saturday, May 08, 2021

it was aliens

 uh, hey, so.

great party. you are NOT gonna believe what happened to me on the way here. i was crossing the big flat space, right? and these THINGS. i tell you, they were huge. they were so tall you could barely see their heads. and get this. they WALKED UPRIGHT.

and the lights. it was weird and creepy and very wrong. it wasn't as bright as sunlight, like a whole bunch of little moons. and right up close. AND THEY COULD CONTROL THEM.


AND THEN THEY LIFTED ME UP.  right into the air, like i didn't weigh anything. and i thought they were going to eat me but all they did was look at my genitals. seriously. THEY PROBED ME.

and then all of a sudden they put me down. on the ground. only closer to here.

it was crazy.

yeah, great party.

want to dance?

Saturday, May 01, 2021

ramp harvest: an instruction manual

 ok, so conservation is kind of my gig.

and i am seeing a LOT of posts these days about ramps and the harvesting of ramps, and why not? ramps are not just trendy; they are delicious. i harvest them to use and to share. they are one of the best things about spring.

but this is important: when you harvest them, please treat them like a precious and fragile resource. they are renewable, but they're very slow. their deliciousness and their slowness to reproduce mean that they are on the decline across the entirety of their range.

they can be cultivated, but the slowness of their growth and the terrain on which they like to grow make them a bad match for most gardeners.

but flask,  i hear you say, how slow can they be??

ramps can divide and form new bulbs, but they require at least seven years of root growth before they can do it. mostly they grow from seed, and it takes about seven years for a plant grown from seed to come to maturity and start reproducing.

so imagine you've just come across a hillside and there are a couple thousand plants, so you pull up a hundred.

and then someone comes along next week and pulls up another hundred. unless you're way out in the nowheres, it's very likely that five to ten people will come by and each will take some. so it's not unreasonable to think that a quarter of them will be taken. last year i watched, unable to do anything, as a young man took fully a third of a hillside. 

i'm sure he thought he was harvesting responsibly. he spread out his harvest and only took a third of the patch.

but he wasn't the only one to harvest that patch last season.

now add the losses up over three or four seasons. if a seventh of a patch gets taken each season, total, by all the harvesters, that patch is maybe breaking even. it's probably in decline. add it up over multiple seasons and what you have is the extinction of that patch. add it up over the whole of the appalachians northward into ontario and what you have is a native species circling the drain.


there's good news: a ramp plant that is healthy and mature and has three leaves can give up one leaf every season and still live to go about its rampy business. the leaves are the best part anyway. they wilt a little faster if they're not on the bulb, but that's a small price to pay for sustainability.

and here's another advantage to cutting just leaves: it serves as a signal to other harvesters that this patch has already been harvested. if i'm in the woods and i see cut leaves in a patch, i know to leave it alone and go somewhere else. nobody needs to have been monitoring that patch to know if it's declining or not.

and that's important, because if you're not coming through like a bulldozer, other people coming after you may not know that you've already tapped this patch out for the year.

so i'm gonna ask you: please don't take any bulbs if you don't really need them. you'll still be able to make pesto and ramps 'n' taters and nearly every other delicious thing.

if you need to take some bulbs, cut down above the roots so they have a chance of growing back.

be mindful if you are gathering on public land that probably other people will gather here too.

if we all take just leaves from mature plants, our patches will grow.

that would be FANTASTIC.

Sunday, April 25, 2021


my usual study location is still closed to me, so i have found a new study location that sits right on the border between state forest and town land. since i'm now an appointed conservation commissioner in my town, i feel this raises my observations up from the level of frittering away my time looking at cool things right into actual work. you know research and monitoring.

but still i'm just mostly frittering away my time looking at cool things.

anyway, there's a pair of canada geese at my study location.

this is a picture of the male.

why yes,  there are beaver involved, thanks for asking. anyway.

i was pretty near this spot one day when the female on the nest suddenly appeared. i mean, she'd been sitting on the nest for at least twenty minutes completely motionless and it took me that long to spot her when she decided that i was not a threat and stopped being invisible.

they don't have a magic cloak or anything; it's just that one of the things geese do really well is blend in with the environment. 

but on april 6th i was sitting for a while watching her on the nest when she moved around some, and THERE WAS AN EGG and i watched her cover it in feathers, so i'm guessing she had just laid it. i don't know if that was the first egg or the last one, but they lay one a day until the whole clutch is there so now we're twenty days out which means sometime next week there are going to be goslings.

a couple few days after that i was out there with my friend barb  and we were sitting there listening to the frogs and watching the female on the nest when all of a sudden we saw the male's head pop up out over the pond, which indicated a level of alarm.

he started coming closer and eventually we heard it- the honking of another pair of geese coming in for a landing which JUST WILL NOT DO so he came charging out at full speed all snappy and honky and the interlopers did not seem dissuaded but the female stood up on the nest and also snapped and honked at them and the pair decided not to land on this pond after all.

now, when he got all aggressive and started going after the other pair like I WILL KILL YOU she could have said "honey? it's the petersons. do you remember the petersons? they were next to us in the V during migration?"

but no. she did not say that. instead what she said was something along the lines of YESSSSS.  THAT IS SO HHOTTTTT. I WILL HELP YOU KILL THE PETERSONS.

and then he continued to be very aggressive for several minutes while she postured and displayed herself to him and then they did a thing that ornithologists call "the triumph ceremony".

it was very impressive.

Friday, October 23, 2020

flask's advice for bugging out

i have a friend who lives in colorado, near a significant and growing wildfire. i offered today to make an evacuation list and she said that would be helpful, so i made one.

i hope you never need to use it, but here it is:

  • gather your documents (passports, birth certificates, licenses, insurance documents, etc.), keys, extra glasses, medications, pet registrations, records, and tags and have a small bag handy to put them in so the important stuff is all in one place.
  • have your credit cards, checkbook and SOME CASH ready to go.
  • make sure your vehicles have full gas tanks.

  • have your computer and hard drives in a state where you can pack them in five or ten minutes. get your battery packs charged now, and keep them ready to go.

  • do some triage about sentimental items and mentally prepare to take as many as you have space for if you actually evacuate.
  • take unnecessary stuff out of your vehicle(s) NOW.

  • have each family member who is able pack a bag of changes of clothes: at least one pair of pants, two shirts, three changes of socks and underwear, extra shoes, a hat, glove, and a jacket. pack for if you're going camping.
  • include a comfort item, whatever book you're reading, and maybe some small games. you may be stuck somewhere waiting.
  • if you're going to have room in your vehicle(s), pack a big bag of extra clothing.

  • pack a picnic bag: enough food and snacks to get you through a day or two. bonus if you have unbreakable cups, plates, and utensils. include pet food and dishes.
  • pack a bag of toiletries. it saves space if you all have one big bag instead of everybody bringing their own.
  • bring at least a gallon of water for each person.
  • have a first aid kit.
  • if you have an emergency tarp, some space blankets, hand warmers, and cordage, put that in a bag to go.
  • pack a sleeping bag or blankets for each person. maybe even a tent. if you can't get a hotel, you're going to be camping.
  • bring pet carriers, litterboxes, and bedding for your animals.

  • put all these things in your vehicle(s). see how much room you have.
  • if you have more than one vehicle, put all the critical items in one car in case you have to leave one car behind.
  • in case you have to travel on foot, put your critical items in backpacks if you have them.

  • after you've put all the stuff in your car, evaluate how much space you have and fill that space with sentimental or expensive items. make sure you know where those items are and maybe already have them packed to go. 
  •  once you've packed and practiced, wait. hope you don't have to go. 
  •  if you DO go, remember to shut off the utilities and take out the trash. 
  •  if you think you're going to need to evacuate, go sooner rather than later. you will be competing with other evacuees for hotel rooms or campgrounds. also, death defying escapes make compelling TV, but should be avoided.


Monday, October 12, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: wrapping it up

 there are still a couple of things in the can, but the deadline is here, and i have enough points, so i'm just going to report what i have.

it was a successful season, COVID and all- more difficult to get out when i could be away from people, but the activities are always fun and i get to learn and practice skills and have a pretty medallion at the end.

i wish the challenge started earlier in the year, because i do outdoor things in january and february but i guess seven months is still a good long time to do all the necessary activities, even if i do wish the challenge ran ALL YEAR. because i love this thing. it give shape to my year and brings joy to my heart, and those are things i NEEDED this year.

i've made my documentations in blog posts, which i will link here and group by category on the scoresheet.

get moving:

 Go for a walk around your home or community while staying at least six feet away from anyone else. What neat things did you see? 

 Find a tree with leaves you can reach. Give the tree a high five! 

Roll down a grassy hill 

Do a handstand underwater in a lake or pond

Catch a butterfly or dragonfly with a net 

Take a human powered boat on a lake or pond

 Go to and find a hike you’ve never done before. Go hike it!

 Play a game outside 


 Start a nature journal. Keep track of all the seasonal changes you observe 

Write Haiku or other nature poetry based on things you observe in nature around you

 Sit in a quiet area and observe nature. Write down or draw a picture of what you see

 Photograph and identify five species of wild growing native Vermont plants 

Build an animal habitat for your favorite animal in your home or backyard

Identify a constellation that is new to you. Draw a picture of it and send it to us

Photograph two kinds of mammals in the wild. Identify the full species name and describe its behavior 

make a difference:

Collect rainwater and use it to water your garden - i used this free water all summer for my tomatoes.

Hang your laundry outdoors to dry instead of using a drying machine - since doing this for the challenge i have only used my dryer once!

Cut your own energy use 

outdoor skills:

 Learn to set up a tarp or hammock

Learn to tie 3 new knots besides the ones in this entry, i also learned a marlinspike hitch and a double footrope knot.

Build a fire only using one match

Make a map of your favorite natural area 

Go on an overnight backpacking trip with everything you need in your backpack 

 Learn a new technique to purify water 


Weave a basket using natural materials

Create art out of rocks 

Create a meal cooked on a campfire 

Use recycled materials to create a game 

just for fun:

 Learn a tongue twister and say it as fast as you can. 

Build a solar cooker or oven

Create a scavenger hunt for you and your friends and find everything

Tell your best campfire story! 

explore our parks:

Go to a VT state park you’ve never been to

Camp in a tent or lean-to at a VT state park

Have a picnic in a VT state park

Find a historical fact or story about a Vermont StatePark 

so that wraps it up for me. i also wrote a song about sedges, but i have no recording of it that i can embed, so i'm not claiming points for it. sometime if you ask me, i'll teach it to you.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

2020 Venture Vermont: Start a nature journal. Keep track of all the seasonal changes you observe

it is not possible at this point for me to start a nature journal, because i keep one now as a matter of course. but i do track seasons, take notes, make sketches.

for this item on the challenge i decided this year to take photographs to document the changing seasons, so here's a video i made from them, with all the photos appearing in chronological order.


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