Thursday, October 30, 2008

Almost Raccoon Ridge

The bf and I started on a long outing to Raccoon Ridge and then onto the Lakota Wolf Walk in Warrentucky this past weekend. I was more excited to see the wolves (aka "woofs" per a comical guy from an Alaska reality show). I had been to Raccoon Ridge the year before. The walk is long (2.5 miles one way) along the Appalachian Trail, but I enjoy seeing the striped maples and the different colorful scenary. I am also always hoping to see bears. Plus I get a workout that's far more visually interesting then any dvd of mine. We made it to a nice vista which was about 2/3 the way to Racoon Ridge. Actually the last time I was there I saw more interesting birds at a closer distance at this vista then the actual Racoon Ridge. Raccoon Ridge itself is a great 360 degree vista of NJ and PA, but being in such a great spot means it's totally freezing with wicked winds. I think we had spent like 15 windswept minutes up there last time before retreating the warmth of the woods. Plus the hawks were so far it was difficult to determine if it even was a bird. So after deciding not to go all the way to Raccoon Ridge, we spotted an immature bald eagle at a close distance at this vista. It even came around a couple times (did we look that bad off????) so we could correctly identify it.

Here's the striped maple. I managed to harvest some seeds. Hopefully I can some to sprout this year.

Here's typical woods with a nice red lowbush blueberry understory.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Nor'easter in October

When I woke up late this morning, I knew it was going to be rainy. I check the weather frequently and had one last check while chowing down on breakfast. I knew I was in for a day of rain and that it would probably snow in the Catskills and Poconos. I can't recall a time it snowed in October except for an occasional flurry. It was raining cats and dogs until about 11 am. Then it switched over to snow. Cool beans I thought. Then it started sticking and it kept snowing and snowing. Sidewalks and roads turned to a slushy mess of signficance. Then the plow and salt trucks go by. I venture out to lunch. Ice scraper is in the car of course. I decide to pass on the scraping and use my wipers to push most of the snow away. Just walking to my car my feet are completely soaked. The umbrella is basically useless since it's horizontally blowing wet snow. My scarf blows off and a huge chunk of snow falls into my purse. I have a slushy ride to lunch and my tires are working gangbusters. On my way back into the office I decide to grab my ice scraper. It's in the trunk and since my trunk opens like a regular building door, a huge wad of slushy snow falls onto my privacy shield in the trunk. It basically covers it with about 3 inches. I attempt to brush most of it off while more snow falls or blows in. Sigh! I scramble back in and try to dry out the inside of my purse and my feet. I then hear through the grapevine that Interstate Route 80 is closed for 15 miles in both directions. More stories of various road closures ensue. What in tarnation is going on. Then my coworker gets a photo of the situation about 20 miles west of us. The picture looks like a blizzard had hit complete with plowed snow banks. I decide to leave early before the slush turns to ice. It took extra time even the roads were fine. But I am sure not ready for winter after today.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hazards of Autumn

It's that time of year where all the sticky and spiny seeds are out. I'm not as vigilent as I should be and often leave the field covered in seeds. As you can tell from my glove, my site visit to PA ended in a bumper crop. My glove wasn't the only victim. All elastic bands of my jacket and sleeves were covered as well. While sitting in traffic on the way back, I passed the time by removing the seeds from my jacket. These seeds were covered in minute spines which I didn't pay too much mind to until I got home. There I discovered numerous spines in my fingers. Most of them are still there since I wasn't able to remove. They were so small and hard. I just hope they will work themselves out over time.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Deserted Village of Feltville

The bf and I once again set out to explore the wilds of NJ. This time is was to the Watchung Reservation, which I never really been too. I had an ex-bf who used to live in it and we'd always get stopped by the cops when I was dropping him back at his house. Union County was having some sort of weekend festival at various historic sites and had a larger event going on at the Deserted Village of Feltville. It wasn't as dramatic as I hoped. There was a small graveyard with a few gravestones from the Revolutionary War. This one was the one appealing. The rest of the Village was a smattering of run down homes and homes that people still live in. I can't even imagine having various hitchhikers and tourists wandering around my yard, which I'm sure happens all the time. The big highlight of the trip was getting freshly pressed apple cider and it was free. It tasted amazing and I would have drank all the samples if no one was looking. But I restrained myself. The question I was asking myself was whether a juicer would have the same results. Probably not since the ancient press is more natural.
Here's a house that's probably in my price range. It's a bit of a fixer upper, but who doesn't have a house where there's weeds growing in the porch. Pots are so overrated.
The dark-eyed juncos and white-throated sparrows are back. I was overly excited to see them. Fall is officially here!
Here's a house somebody lives in. Hope they don't mind us snooping around their yard.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Junkyard minus the dog

My company got hired by a town to review an environmental report prepared by an engineer. It's an engineer we work occassionally with so we can't totally slam them in our review. But I will say that environmental reports should not be written by engineers who know nothing about wetlands, plants, wildlife, etc. It's a fine line that I will have to walk in my review. It's also a shame that the applicant (a major company that we all know) is not getting the best advice. It'll be a great project if the engineer can get it together. Really anything is an improvement from the auto junkyard it is now. It's surrounded by development and forested wetlands along a major river.

We had our site walk with the property owner, the engineer, and the township and we got there early. We went from nasty junkyard to forested wetlands in a few feet. It was surprisingly quiet and nice in the wetlands. The only downside was the auto parts strewn all across the landscape. We saw in the far distance this big hulking rusted structure. What was it? A giant tank, a trailer, a bus? I was right. It was an ancient bus.

So the big question is what will they do with these auto parts and vehicles in the wetlands and floodplain? To remove them will require heavy machinery and the removal of trees. It's painstaking to dismantle by hand and remove in small parts. There is massive amounts of parts out there. It could fill another junkyard!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wildcat Ridge - The Bat Cave

The second half of our Wildcat Ridge outing was spent at the bat cave. There's bars in front of the cave to keep people out. That's a good thing on multiple levels. Why do humans think they have a right to go everywhere? Some things should be left just for the animals.
The most striking thing about the cave was the cold draft just walking up to it. There was a nice rift adjacent to the cave. You could see a cold breeze coming from their too.

We decided to bum around the area until dusk to see if we could see the bats come out of the cave. September is supposed to be the prime month and we felt that we were close enough to September to give it a shot. Nevermind the unseasonable warmth. We weren't the only ones with that idea. The observation deck was full and we decided to climb the hill to get another vantage point above the cave entrance. We waited and waited and nothing. Then it got dark so we scrambled back down to the deck. We waited some more and then about 10 people complete with flashlights start approaching us. They were from a nature group and their leader was one of those annoying know it all types. Now if they had gotten their earlier (during daylight) they would have read the very informative sign that says you should stay away from the cave entrance to avoid disturbing the bats that are trying to fly out. Nope. This massive group heads right to the cave and decides to hang out. Everyone back at the deck starts grumbling about this and finally someone decides to put a stop to this. The group heads back and we decide to back off and reassess the situation. It's now almost an hour past sunset. We take off disheartened having seen more planes than bats in the sky.

I did some research and it looks the bats should already be hibernating in the cave. They will be back out in April and so will we.

The bars and surrounding rocks were covered in bat guano. This pic doesn't do justice at all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wildcat Ridge - Saint Patrick's Cemetery

The bf and I had an outing this weekend to Wildcat Ridge. There were two things to check out. First, the abandoned Saint Patrick's cemetery and second the bat cave. The trails are not really marked and after a few wrong trails we managed to find our way there. It's about a mile from either two parking areas. We chose the parking area that limited the amount of hill climbing. It sure is strange to find a cemetery in the middle of the woods. The whole area was used for mining and the path we took was an old mining road. It's clear that someone in the past few years has brought up the painted wooden crosses to help mark the forgotten graves.
A lot of the graves were from Eastern European families.

Here is some sort of interesting marker.

The majority of cemetery is really getting wild with lowbush blueberry and other shrubs starting to take over. It hides most of the gravestones. As you can see below, only one gravestone with a cross is visible.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

So not naitch

My latest research project is finding new car tires. Like every major purchase in my life, I heavily research it in order to avoid immediate buyer's remorse. I have flashbacks to a certain tire I previously owned which was total crap even when brand new. I've exhausted all the tire review websites, consumer reports, and various car blogs. I've visited countless tire stores where I was repeatedly reminded that I was just a girl. The guys immediately assumed that I did not know my tire size and all other important facts. I usually let them work on the computer trying to find my tire size, except my car comes with two sizes. I have the bigger tire option. So then they would try to run out to my car and I'd stop them in their tracks. Originally I wanted more off-road tires and when I told the guys that, eyebrows and questions were raised. Do you REALLY off-road? I am an environmental consultant. That usually shut them up. In the beginning, I'd play stupid (No. I really haven't looked online or have any tires in mind) and ask them to show me a tire that would be good. Yesterday, I eliminated my second choice when I got to put my hands on it. It was a real off-road tire that still does crappy in snow and ice. It didn't feel right. About 50% of my decision is based on real facts/reviews and the other 50% is based on my feeling. On my VW Golf, I had snow tires that I kept on year round. I was very happy with them and was 100 times more confident driving the Golf in snow than the RAV4 where the ABS brakes would engage even when it hit the smallest slush spot.

So the winner is..... Nokian WR G2. They are marketed as all weather plus, which means they are fine year round. Plus they have the special mountain symbol, which is reserved for better snow tires. It's a new standard I suppose. The thing that sealed the deal is below.

"Nokian Tyres is the world’s first tire manufacturer to introduce a production method using earth friendly oils. The WR G2 is manufactured using only low aromatic, purified oils. These purified oils keep Nokian tires from polluting the environment as the tire gradually wears down. The WR G2 also features a new rubber compound made from cool silica and canola oil, reducing rolling resistance and thus improving your car’s fuel efficiency."

I dunno if this is just another bogus wanna be green marketing ploy. But it's the icing on the cake for me. I've put my order in and talked the guy down $20 per tire. They have to be special ordered. The same company at a different location was selling them for cheaper. The tires are pricey but for me it'll be worth it. I'll let you know how they work out....right now about anything is better than the 3 bald tires and one giant brand new spare.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I'd win the multi-tasking award, if there was one.

The wetland rules as I know them change on monday. So this week was spent manically trying to get as many wetland applications to the state before monday....that means everything has to be there friday. I got an epic 8 projects submitted this week. It was multi-tasking to the max. The most troublesome project was a very high profile project where everyone (client, engineer, lawyers, etc.) seemed apathetic to the deadline. I guess they thought we could snap our fingers and we didn't have any actual work to do nevermind copies to make. I sent more emails with the red exclamation point than ever.

I thought everything was done or completely under control until at 6:30 pm tonight I got a call from the head secretary. A hand delivery of application materials was supposed to be dropped off by 5:30 tonight. I had left at 5 pm and the package was not there yet. I left a message for my boss venting my frustration about broken promises. Then while cooking dinner (again the multi-tasking) I sent a mass email out basically saying "what the hell?". Thankfully, I got a response that they will be dropped off tomorrow morning. I'll believe it when it actually happens and I'm so done with broken promises.

In the midst of the late morning insanity, I knocked over a very full hole puncher. It burst open and deposited a zillion holes on the carpet. I said something like "I can't deal with that and besides we have cleaning people." The other secretaries agreed and couldn't be bothered since they were in my same boat of insanity. A few hours later I spotted my boss/senior vice president in front of the human resources person/president's secretary. She goes to me "you know there IS a vacuum in the ladies room." I go "Frankly I don't have time to vacuum." and my boss and I scurried away to discuss the latest crisis. He agreed that I should not waste time vacuuming and that the cleaning people would take care of it that night. I was going to direct any future vacuuming inquires to him since he's one of the big bosses. Later on, I saw one of the secretaries vacuuming and I felt bad and offered to take over. Together we sucked up the holes.

To top it off, I got a call from the Township Fire Department asking when I was getting my chimney swept. I told them in a couple weeks and they said that I should let the condo association know....i.e I've missed some sort of deadline. I'm guessing the condo association goofed on our deadline, which is December 31st. It was dryer vents which had to be cleaned by June 30th, which I did. The condo association certainly knows how to rile me up with their jerk behavior. I'm sure they are chomping at the bit to issues fines all around. Since I have the day off, I'll be sure to swing by and throw the couple of pieces of paper that shows that they are wrong. I'd hate to have people like me get unwarranted fines from the condo board. On top of that the Fire Company can issue hefty fines as well. Again, unwarranted since we have until December 31st to comply. I sort of knew this was coming from their horrible monthly newsletter that stated that the condo board was reporting any person who didn't comply with the fireplace/dryer vent to the Fire Department. I thought perhaps they meant people who didn't comply in 2006, which was the last chimney sweep.

You are probably wondering why I used the same photo so many times. That's because lovely blogger wouldn't provide any breaks between the paragraphs no matter how many lines I left in the compose window. Thanks blogger! Way to top off my week.