Archive for the ‘outdoors’ Category

I met a new friend near Benson. I named him snuggles.

I met a new friend near Benson. I named him snuggles.

It had been raining most of May, and thankfully I had scheduled a trip to Arizona to visit Homer just in time. More pictures of my trip by Homer on the link.

In fact it’s still raining, my garden is a withered, rotten mess and even the toilet paper inside the house is turning to mush. If this keeps up I may have to buy a dehumidifier. Basements are damp on a good day.

Anyhow, pure sunshine was just what the doctor ordered, and I got a lot of birding done and caught up with many friends down there, and made a few new ones too. This time I stayed at the lovely Adobe Guest House which was lovely and I highly recommend it.

Homer had mentioned going to see the bats under the bridge on previous visits, but those visits were in spring and the bats weren’t there yet. But on a May visit they were out in force and really cool to watch – fyi it’s my first video posted on this here blog! You can see them in the summer in Tucson at the Rillito River Bridge at Campbell Avenue.
Bridge Bats
I had also visited previously during spring bird migration, where you could see certain birds that were flying through Arizona but many of the summer residents had not arrived yet. So this time I was able to see a rare elegant trogon, and several other new species:
Elegant Trogon
Other new species included rock wrens, painted redstarts, yellow-eyed juncos, gray-breasted jays, and black-headed grosbeaks. Most of them are more commonly seen in Mexico. I saw them at Madera Canyon in the Coronado National Forest, almost to Mexico. Thankfully a wall won’t keep the birds from visiting the US. I only covered a single trail since I was so focused on seeing new birds, but I hope to get there again to do the other trails. The non-bird views were amazing:
Elephant Head
Next weekend I’m going to the Bingham Cup in Nashville. I think it’ll be my last big gay rugby tournament. I’ve been to all of them except for the ones in London and Sydney, and they’ve all been a blast. But rugby takes a lot of time during the season, and my beaten body just doesn’t heal as fast as it used to. At 45, rugby is hard on the body, but I really like the fitness it gives me. Bowling or darts just aren’t the same. Still thinking about what to do next that’s both social and active, but easier on the body.

seeds of springDandelions are in bloom, there’s a mosquito in the house, and the purple grackles have returned. In the DC area, robins aren’t the best indicators of spring’s arrival since many stay here over the winter.

I started gardening today, planting elephant ears out back and red okra, castor beans, dwarf red sorghum and sunflowers there and also in our neighborhood tree boxes. We’ll see if they remain over the summer out in the tree boxes or if they get removed by city crews or do-gooders. It should be an explosion of reddish hues come fall if they are allowed to grow. They’re all drought-resistant species so they shouldn’t need much watering.

Entering the second month of my job and it’s going all right. There’s been a steep learning curve with new apps and processes but I’m starting to get the hang of it. Lots of writing and editing all over the place.

Also passing through The Week of Pain with rugby. It’s that week after your first real match where your body is adjusting to the new workout and tackling on a dirt field, fitness-wise and with muscle-building. It’s a big time commitment though, which is my biggest complaint about it. I like how it gets me in shape though. We have a big gay rugby tournament in Nashville over Memorial Day weekend. We’ll see how it goes and decide to continue rugby after that. But what would I do? Bowling?

During this time of turmoil we have so many other things on our plate to worry about: what brand of Greek yogurt to buy, choosing our next dictator, or where to park your car. But I want to share with you a little-known crisis that affects almost all of us: our potting soil is in danger!

Here’s why: the potting soil you buy at most garden centers or hardware depots is merely ground up wood product. It contains no mineral content. It’s great for the potting soil industry because that lousy fluff is light and cheaper to ship. But for you, it sucks. I don’t know exactly when real soil stopped being sold, but it happened right under our noses. I hope the following information will help you nurture your plants in pots.

soil pyramid

What is your soil type? Sandy clay or silt loam?

Real soil (esteemed soil scientists don’t call it “dirt”) is comprised of mineral content – a mixture of sand, silt or clay, and organic content like dead plants and stuff. And don’t forget water and air. These two are vital, especially when you consider the importance of the space between mineral particles and neighboring organic matter.

A pot that contains only ground bark product will dry out faster but harbor a wet core. This is because there isn’t a lot of air circulation to the middle of the soil mass since it’s so compact, so basically the soil doesn’t breathe. And a wet core means root rot. Add to it you have to water bark product more frequently, it’s just too much to ask a backyard gardener.

So here’s what you do: get some sand, and some clayey soil and mix it in with the shitty bark product to condition it. I’ll often haul a bucket of beach sand from Rehoboth or Assateauge, or from the creek bed of Rock Creek Park. If it’s from an oceanside beach rinse it out with fresh water first. If you come across a construction site, grab a bucket of our lovely old Appalachian clay-heavy soil. Mix that sand and clayey soil in with your bark fluff and you have a nice environment for healthy roots and happy plants.

That’s all I got for a blog post today. Clearly I’m running out of things to write about.

It has been a lovely fall in DC. Autumn is the best season in this city: summer is too damn hot, winter is grey and bleak, and spring is filled with pollen. Temperatures this week have been in the 70s, great biking weather:
Bridge Steps
I managed to get out on several hikes this fall, but did not go backpacking in West Virginia like I usually do. I did make it to Sugarloaf Mountain and Old Rag again with friends. Old Rag seems to be getting more and more challenging every time I hike it…

JBackpackSpeaking of hiking, I recently retired my old Jansport backpack and Ridgerest inflatable camping pad. Both were about 25 years old, and had been with me for two summers in Alaska, through my college years, Peace Corps in Kazakstan, Oregon, and the Mid-Atlantic Appalacians. It was sad to see them go, but the pad was full of leaks, and the pack was heavy, outdated and took up too much space. I was mainly using it to store things in, but never brought it out. I put them to rest to disappear out on the magical curb of disappearance.

I think another reason I was saving the old pack was…just in case someone else would need it. I think when I came out, and came to DC, I had this vision of having a rugged hiking boyfriend that never panned out. Either the boyfriend did not hike, or most of the time there was no boyfriend. Acquired wisdom later taught me that a hiking bf is not a requirement, but a nice plus. You have to take what you can get, if you can get it at all. I have a newer pack now, and assume if there is a guy who wants to go camping with me, he will have his own equipment.

There was a woofy beardy guy who went with me this year to Old Rag. But he had just broke up from a long relationship and was clearly a mess, and/or simply not interested in me. Numerous attempts at interest were rebuffed with the usual DC excuse, “I’m busy.” Which was too bad because the sex was really good [the first time] but then the second time was awkward. And like my great uncle Orlow might have said as he was raising coonhounds: “If the old dog barks up a tree and a squirrel doesn’t fall out, she moves on.”

Halloween was meh. My brain was occupied by financial issues over the holiday when I discovered the temp job I’ve been working at isn’t enough to pay my bills. It’s likely to go permanent by January, but until then I need to find a way to earn extra dough. That’s going to be the reality of the modern workforce as salaries continue to drop and costs of living go up I’m afraid. It’s how I saw most people get by in Portland, and unless you are a CEO or Director of a nonprofit or agency in DC, multiple jobs will be the reality in larger cities like DC, NYC and SF. You will have to work all the time just to get by.

But I like my temp job. It’s a nice place to work and they keep me busy doing content management and even some writing and research. It’s nowhere near what I could be doing, nor is it in the natural sciences. But after three years of this job instability shit I am ready to settle down and take what I can get. That and I recognize a good workplace when I see it. It’s the places you _don’t_ see jobs advertised on Idealist and the other job sites that are the good places to work. The ones you see posting frequently are the ones you should avoid. In DC it’s EPA, Nature Conservancy, Discovery, AARP, and Pew Charitable Trusts. Always see job postings with them, never hear good things about them. Anyway, I have to make it through the holidays and I should be good by January if things go well. Until then I need to find an evening or weekend gig to keep me afloat.

Tonight I am going on an age-appropriate date! He is 48 – I am 44. I like Daddies but lately I have been dating guys much younger than me, because these days all the kids like Daddies. I find that hilarious. When I was in my 20s nobody would give me the time of day, and lately I’ve been getting a lot more attention than when I was in my 20s. But I want to check out those around my age too, as we may have more to relate to. He has a beard and is woofy too, of course.

Last weekend we went to the Water Lily & Lotus Cultural Festival at the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens. It’s a neat hidden gem in the city, and if you go at the right time, you’ll see the lilies and lotus in full bloom:
lotus
The aquatic gardens are also my “territory” in the annual winter bird counts in December. It’s actually easier to see birds there in the winter, since there’s no leaves concealing them.
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
The taller, more dramatic lotus plants were almost done with their blossoms, but a few stragglers aimed to please:
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
And yesterday on my bike ride I got to see a polo match. There is a polo field just south of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. I had never seen horses on it until yesterday! They say they play every Thursday.
Polo Field
It was a busy week otherwise. Had a phone interview with a major wildlife federation that I’d really like to work for. Another in-person interview next week with an oceans-related organization that also sounds like a good fit. Cross yer fingers!

I’ve set up a GoFundMe account if you’d like to support over 15 years of jimbo.info without ads or pop-ups. I could use the support in this time of job instability, and here’s your opportunity to say thanks! There are some job opportunities coming up but the first interview isn’t until the 21st, so August might be tough.

Knowing the week of the Fourth of July would be slow on the job front, I scheduled a trip to Portland to visit the friends I made there, and my brother. I planned it during a hot week, thinking there would be respite in the Pacific Northwest. Not so – they’ve been experiencing record temperatures and drought, and it’s really dry there:
Dry Oregon
Brittle lawns would crunch under your footsteps, and the locals were cranky. It was hot, but at least it wasn’t humid. They could use some rain badly though.

I got to go on a nice hike that ended in a dip in a pond, and it was good to be back hiking on the mountain trails:
Hike
The views were fantastic of course:
Mt. Hood
I left Portland about a year and a half ago, and my mind has been kept busy just getting by in DC. I don’t think I thought back on my time in Oregon – I haven’t had the time to think about it. As the plane landed a lot of feelings flooded in that I had been ignoring. It was a lot like visiting an ex that you liked a lot, but it didn’t work out. That said, my friends there say the job market has been improving. It seems I picked the absolute worst time to pack up and move in 2012.

On the fourth I went to the local beach, and made some furry friends:
Furry Friends
Didn’t do much with fireworks. There was a ban on them as it was so dry.

At the end of my trip I visited my brother, who lives up the Columbia Gorge in a small town. We took a hike in Oneota Gorge, which is more of a stream than a trail. It was good to be in the cool stream that hot week:
Oneota Gorge
It was a great trip, and I’m still keeping my eye on the Pacific Northwest.

No, I haven’t been despondent, I’ve just been adjusting to the new job. I’m 2 1/2 months into it and I’m in that phase of a new job where all the new info is frying my brain and when I get home all I wanna do is stare at the wall and drool. But hey, at least I’m busy, gettin’ paid, and have responsibility at work.

Winter was forever this year. It started freezing much earlier in November, and didn’t quit until this week. Even the birds are late. When I heard woodcock could be spotted at Kenilworth Park in DC I didn’t believe it. I thought the bird was more of a northern species. But yesterday when I was walking to work this guy just landed right in front of me:
Woodcock
I think he was just taking a break. They’re not used to being seen, as their camouflage is so good in their usual environment. And they are generally of the wrong shape to be flying such long distances. It’s hard out there for a woodcock. Anyway, it’s funny because me and Dana had planned on going to Kenilworth to hear their peent and watch their sky dance that evening. Our timing was perfect. We heard at least 6 birds doing their unique spring mating call after sunset.
Anacostia Front
Rugby had started weeks ago when it was still snowing. I wasn’t up for it and now I’m a bit behind. Plus I never know when I’m going to get out of work, and am simply mentally not up for it after a mentally trying day. I’m getting my exercise in, but I think I’m out for the spring. I need some me time at this point with my new job.

I hadn’t been home to Wisconsin in the winter for many years. I prefer to visit in the summer when you can do things outside like bike and fish. Although it was mid-November, temperatures were already in the single digits:
ice and houseboats
On the campus where I had my job interview, the students were riding about on their bikes in those temperatures unaffected, wearing neoprene facemasks. Hardcore kids.

The interview went well I think. The interview committee had good poker faces though, so it was hard to tell what they thought. I have TWO job interviews in DC today. The first one is for communications stuff supporting a DHS program (with a lovely short commute from home), the second is to be the spokesperson for a nearby county deer management program which would be challenging and interesting. So something ought to come out of this soon we hope. Two. Fucking. Years. Of un- or under-employment. It’s been ridiculous.

Anyway, mom’s dog Andy was cute, and he loved his squeaky burger and fries:
Andy and his burger and fries
Andy is probably a lot more well-behaved than the spoiled vermin owned by our favorite swamp hag.

Since there wasn’t much to do, I went down to the river’s edge and took artsy photos:
strings of lights
I found a hardware store where you could get the tools needed to make Scandinavian treats like sandbakkelse and krumkake:

I ate cheese curds every day. On the last day of my trip we found the place in LaCrosse with the largest cheese curds ever, possibly of this whole world:

Of course the eating does not end, as Thanksgiving approaches. I plan on eating even more.

Getting back to rugby has been fun, a great way to socialize, and it restores a much-needed sense of normalcy to my life after these past two years of upheaval. However me olde body does not recover like it used to. Even a mere practice has me physically wrecked for days. After this season (yeah I keep saying that every year) I will certainly question my continued participation in the sport. Still, we managed to smile for a moment a few weeks ago during play:

This summer’s weather has been remarkably cool. With the exception of a week or two here and there, it’s been really pleasant. But cooler temps are on the way, as evidenced by that fall smell that we encountered on our hike in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia this past weekend. We didn’t see any bears, but there were plenty of otters on the trail:

It rained Saturday morning but that’s about it. They say it’s gonna be a cold winter this year.

I have a new roommate. The other one was great but he followed his girlfriend to NYC. Strangely, this new one was my roommate when I lived upstairs, so I know we get along. BUT he seems to have gathered a tremendous amount of stuff this time around. Either that or the first time he never intended to stay for long. He’s still unpacking and I don’t know where it’s all going to go. I hope he has a toaster because I left mine in Portland somewhere.

I went to the premiere of “Love Is Strange,” starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. I know a few of the producers and was contacted by the director for consulting regarding a very brief scene in which Cheyenne Jackson is playing Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a good movie and you should go see it.

I’ve been so busy on the job hunt and travelling, I didn’t realize I hadn’t been biking or going to the gym as much as I usually do. On Labor Day I got to the gym and a long bike ride, and it felt real good. I also got caught in a rainstorm, but there was a rainbow afterwards, even though congress does not deserve a rainbow:

I forgot to mention I’ve gotten back to rugby. Of course I first had to get health insurance, as it would be stupid to play rugby without it. I went through the DC health exchange (“Obamacare”) and I must say that process really sucked. It took about 2 1/2 days to process my application, and that was with a specialist trained in holding people’s hands through the process. That and the website sucked. I mean, I just finished a webmaster gig so I know a few things, and found out I had to log-in or log-out on this or that screen, or clear the browser cache before this screen worked. Extremely user unfriendly website. And what if I was a struggling mother working 3 part-time jobs? I wouldn’t have the time to navigate this system that takes almost three days to process.

Anyway, rugby has been good. I’m slower than I used to be, but my body is still intact. Getting back to rugby has given me a sense of normalcy and practices offer two hours where I’m not obsessing over my career recovery. And the guys are nice to look at, of course.