Sunday, August 28, 2011

SCUBA Down Under

After having too much fun and excitement in Alaska I am now back home in good ole Chicago.  I've been back for a few weeks now and it's been very nice to decompress for a while, play a little disc golf and catch up on some movies.  I have also been interviewing for a host of new jobs.  A few days ago I got word back from one informing me that I have a new position to fill with Florida International University. 

Now for the exciting part... I will be going to Shark Bay, Australia and working on The Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project.  Shark Bay is around 500 miles north of Perth on the west coast of Australia. Thats the side without the great barrier reef... bummer, but it is also home to one of the most complete undisturbed seagrass ecosystems and the world's largest Dugong population.  They have been working on a comprehensive study of this ecosystem for the last 12 years and now I get to throw my two cents in with it.

My position as a field assistant will entail catching sea turtles for measurements, building underwater exclosures to experiment on the grazing effects of dugongs, and anything else they need done.  As far as I can tell this may be anything from catching sharks to performing SCUBA based observations.

Australia will be amazing, I have no doubt.  The two top places on earth that I have always wanted to go to are New Zealand and Australia.  Now someone has hired me to actually go and work with them in Australia. Even the work will be something I have dreamed of doing for years.  It doesn't get better than that.  They will also be paying for my American Academy of Underwater Sciences diver certification.  This is a class designed for biological research that requires SCUBA. It is no joke, unlike some other scuba certification classes, and I will be spending three weeks in Miami working on it before I head down under.

Right now I am still working out all the details, signing all the papers and getting my stuff together but soon enough I will be moving west, moving south and living in an eternal summer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Great Gardens

All of the other woofers and occupants of the farm have moved on now to other endeavors while I am left to run the it solo for about a week until the owners return.  It's good work and does not require excessive upkeep besides keeping the plants and animals fed and watered.  As long as the sheep don't escape, the birds aren't attacked by animals and the plants don't wither I am doing a good job.

I've also found that I have quite a bit of free time each day in between caring for the animals.  I am always looking to fill this time with something fun or productive.  One day I made it out across the bay to Halibut Cove, the most incredible town I have ever seen within the boundaries of the United States... of course it was so spur of the moment that in my haste I forgot my camera and now that experience is recorded solely within my mind.  The last few days I have been lucky enough to be working as a landscaper for a friends mom, and making some traveling money along the way.

She has a beautiful self-designed house located on a level mid-slope terrace overlooking the town of Homer.  The view from her house is gorgeous and the garden is pristine.  I feel fortunate to have been acquainted with her and even more-so to have been able to put a little of my own work into her garden.  Every day I worked there we had frequent visits from Bald Eagles and Moose.  Best of all, I got to learn some great gardening techniques and practices from one of the best. 

Looking right down the Homer spit.  What a view!

Working hard outside for great people and with a view like this... It will be very difficult to leave Homer.  In the short time I have already spent here I have come to feel quite comfortable... quite at home.  The place itself and the environment surrounding it fills me constantly with its picturesque beauty.  I love to talk with the "Homerians" who seem to possess this concrete bond with their home.  They understand how special their home is and those I have met don't take it for granted.  These people truly have their feet rooted firmly on the ground and the fruit of such a healthy connection with their land is made evident in the way they live.  Homer will always be a destination for my return and is already on the short-list of places I feel at home... of places I could live.  

Just one of the everyday Bald Eagle sightings

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gettin Baked

For breakfast Lunch and Dinner I have had a lot of time to experiment with different recipes both easy and complicated.  I do not have too much experience as a chef and to be honest cooking is just not my forte.  However I do love to bake.  I tend to make cookies and the occasional cake but have finally had the chance to really indulge my curiosity.  Thats easy when you have access to a full kitchen and ingredients supplied by someone else.

I started with some basic bread, a loaf of whole wheat bread.  It was rather dense and tough.  Next I tried to experiment more by using the same basic recipe and adding a few things to end up with a chocolate and orange zest loaf of bread.  That one turned out delicious but still not quite as fluffy I would have liked so i decided to change it up.  I made some pizza dough and baked a delicious mustard and veggie pizza (Thanks to my brother Noah for the mustard idea).  It was perfect and i received lot of compliments on that one.  Due to the success I tried another pizza, this time in the Italian style with a few eggs on top. It was good but lacked the spicy kick and added moistness of the previous mustard based one.


This is when I decided to really go nuts.  I started making dough before I knew what I wanted to do with it.  I started cranking out loaves, garlic bread and an apple pie, my new favorite.  The entire time I was making the pie i didn't think it was going to work.  The dough looked to sticky, the apples didn't seem cooked, the filling looked too liquidy but in the end it turned out just right.  I was so excited at my successful and first attempt at a pie that I had to show it off.

What should I bake next?  Any ideas?


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Homer Homesteader

After meeting some of the local Homerians, Matt, Andrew and I were taken on a beautiful hike down the homestead trail to see a couple long since abandoned cabins.  One was quite old, though I'm not sure how old, and the other had been abandoned sometime in the 70's or 80's.  Even the hike itself was great with Andrew and Matt rocking on the banjo and mandolin as we walked a long.  We spent a good amount of time checking out the old places, stumbling across things like old National Geographic Magazines, poetry written by the former occupant, albums, ancient cars and a host of all other items in and around the houses.

Andrew, Me and Matt

The Really Old House

The Not-Quite-So-Old House

Wish I could fix up this old thing and take it home.

Monday, August 1, 2011

It's No Small Wonder

Here are some more pictures of the Small Wonder Farm and a few projects we are working on.


Featherlegs perched in a warm spot. Poor rooster

As Matt, another woofer at the farm, was clearing weeds away from a nearby trail he happened upon a small and adorable little rabbit.  It had hopped out from its hiding place and sat motionless on the edge of the path.  Matt scooped it up and brought it back in hopes we might give it a safe home.  It was fun to see and to hold but we all decided that it would be best to send the little guy on his way.  Rabbits are not an endangered species and do not need help in keeping their numbers up.  This little rabbit might have the most adapted genes of his population and deserves the chance to move them along.

A new set of front steps to greet the very, very-few people that stop by.  The completed set will be flanked with rocks and pebbles on both sides

A photo of the irrigation system I worked out for our garden.  The tarp suspended on wood poles catches rainwater and directs it into the garbage can.  From there the water flows into a hose and down to a forked unit that controls the flow and diverts the water through other hoses to the various raised beds.