Week Six: Hello Wapello! (long and photo heavy)

(I am up before or during sunrise on most days.)

Last week, I lost my glasses in a fire.

They were positioned in my right front pocket, and replaced on my face by plastic safety glasses to protect my eyes from smoke during our first prescribed burning (which was supposed to be solely monitoring and handling spot fires). On my back, I had a bladder bag on top of my backpack, which certainly takes some getting used to, but I was in high spirits. Here’s a BEFORE photograph for when my glasses were still in my possession. (You can actually see them in my front pocket in the photo.)

It was day two of hands-on training for doing prescribed burns, which was a huge pleasure because we have been practically cooped up all week doing fire safety online training prior to this day. Prescribed burnings require a lot of control, and weather is the number one factor in a burning going well. However, weather is a factor that is simply not possible to control and the wind was not on our side on this particular Friday evening.  We lost control of the fire and within seconds it spread over a field and onto someone else’s property. This was our first burn ever, and I don’t think anyone predicted it was going to be anything but a mundane event where we stood around with our bladder bags and tools and observed the professionals doin' their thang. Instead, we frantically ran around, trying our hardest to take back control of the fire and take direction from anyone in charge. I would say it was one of the craziest days in my life, partially because I had no idea how to handle what was happening.

When it was finally under control, we continued on with the burn and finished it off. It was beautiful to watch, and by then I was quite delirious and in awe. Overall, it was a good day. Here are some photos of  the controlled prescribed burn and a glimpse of what I looked like by the end of the work day:

I came home from the burn knowing I had two more  days left in Vinton, IA before my team and I relocated to Wapello, IA for our first project. I am now four days in and seriously in love with everything that I have been doing. For starters, in just four days I have done so many things. The first day we did a prescribed burn which was very controlled and went well. Here's a photo of the end result:

On day two, we had chainsaw training, which was challenging, and I can’t wait to get used to using a chainsaw and having it feel comfortable in my arms.

Other than that, the next few days were spent preparing for the “Save Our Soils” program for 5th graders. My teammate Colleen and I prepped for it for a day and a half before taking it to the schools and talkin’ dirt. I absolutely loved the program, which consisted of hands-on soil experiments to teach kids about erosion, decomposition, and different soil types. We will run the program again in a couple of weeks, as well as prepare to run a field trip where we will help kids identify macro invertebrates in the water as well as a geology scavenger hunt. Of course, there are photos:

A student looking for bugs and other clues to determine the soil type.

Thanks for the photo, Colleen! Showing kids how to do one of the experiments.

We love soil!

Here’s photographs of some of the dishes that I’ve made for my group when it was my turn (AmeriMeals). In addition, bonus MISC photos (woo!):

Homemade Granola bars!

Round two of making carrot ginger soup, this time with lots of parsley and nutmeg!

Rosemary potato carrots and lentil chickpeas veggie burgers.

A bull frog we snuck up on during our search for a decomposing log for the class!

The dead tree used for chainsaw observation and practice...

Wapello is a place where the Iowa River (pictured above) and...

...the Mississippi meet!  Got to enjoy them both today on a tour.

This snake may have been pecked to death by a robin.

(Credit to Michael, my teammate) We all crossed the Swinging Bridge!

Beaver bones!

Besides all of the crazy work going on, I have been desperately trying to garden. I have a lot to say about all of what’s in the works, so I will save this exciting news for the next post…stay tuned!

This has been an insane, exhausting experience so far but I am loving every moment! I miss you all!