Friday, March 27, 2009

New Farm Project

Our farm is blessed with a LOT of water. We have water on three sides of the property, and are basically a penisula into a small lake. We have a medium sized stream that runs around the back and curls around one side, a black water pond which spills into the "big water". Perfect habitat for water loving creatures: herons, turtles, otters, egrets (Egrets? - I've had a few!) snakes, and the hero of this blog, at least one beaver.

As my brother and father know who have helped unblock and clean up after him, we have a very busy beaver(s). Unless the temperature dips below 30, or the water is flooding over our spillway, we wake up 5 days out of 7 with Mr. Beaver blocking our spillway overnight. So every day, Joe (or more normally me) goes down and fishes out all the crap he has piled in there the night before. I am utterly amazed at the size of some of the logs (think small telephone poles) that end up blocking our spillway, and the engineering that goes into the construction of his (or her) dam.

Most local animal control and even state wildlife people consider beavers nuisances. In South Carolina, the preferred method of getting rid of a nuisance beaver is to kill it in a drown trap. Obviously, for an animal lovers like me and Joe, that is not an option. The beaver is just doing his job of making his home liveable. I met an orphan baby beaver, a kit, once. He was just as adorable and cute as any puppy or kitten and just as well behaved.

Beavers are pre-programmed to dam running water. They hear it, and they have an instinct to go dam it. And given the propenderence of small trees, large trees, and pond weeds in our blackwater pond, the beaver has about enough material to keep damming for the next 50 years, give or take a year.

So low and behold, I was just cursing the beaver again when I caught a show on Animal Planet called "Leave it to the Real Beavers". It introduced me to the Beaver Deceiver, a way to keep beavers from damming culverts using cedar posts and fencing. (See the Beaver Deceiver here: So now my problem is to adapt the deceiver to a spillway, not a culvert.

So I'm contacting the US Fish and Wildlife division, Partners for Fish and Wildlife and see if they can help me come up with a design to adapt the deceiver for a spillway. I think the initial design will work, with some small adaptation. And then it will be time to round up a crew to build a new beaver deceiver.

I'm hoping that I can interest SC Dep't of Natural Resources to write an article about the implementation of a beaver deceiver so that folks see that there are ways to live with a beaver that don't involve its death.

This ought to be a cool project in a lot of different ways. As it progresses, I'll blog about it. Til then, may you stay as busy as our friend!

Friday, March 20, 2009

bathroom humor...

So, I decided to take a quick break in the action at work and run to the restroom. It's been one of those days that you have to just finally take the time to make bathroom break. I have a (bad) habit of using the handicap stall just because it affords more room to maneuver. If you could see our 1950s bathrooms made for children that now adults must use, you’d understand my preference for what I call the luxury box.

Anyhow, you all know the ludicrous pose we women assume in a public toilet, half squat – half crouch, which puts undue stress on body parts that shouldn’t be stressing at this point in time. And given your pants are shoved somewhere around your knees, you are effectively hobbled.

Well, I am in the pose, do my thing, and reach to yank some toilet paper off the industrial size roll, when shazam, the holder falls open and drops a 20 pound roll of unstarted toilet paper into my hobbled/crouched lap. And I am in the bathroom all alone in the luxury box, with no hope (or real desire) for any help.

“Crap” I thinks and then pause. “Okay, no crap, but what to do?”

Besides the pose and hobbling, I am dealing with a somewhat non-functioning left wrist. It’s probably broken somewhere in those myriad of small bones, but I am refusing to go to a doctor purely out of hatred of my medical insurance. (How, you might ask, did the aforementioned wrist get allegedly broken? Sleep walking – another new bad habit. I ran into the door frame so hard, I woke Joe out of his drugged sleep.) So add bum wrist to the pose and hobbling and now trying to hold onto a 20 pound roll of toilet paper with one good hand.

I sigh. This isn’t going to be pretty, no matter what I attempt to do.

Luckily (my first break during this whole experience) the holder door has stayed ajar. I rip the glue-y part of the toilet paper to get the roll started. It falls dramatically, like a feather drifting in the wind to the right. I maneuver the roll, gritting my teeth as things roll in my left wrist, and hoist the roll that is the size of medium-sized pumpkin back into place. And then the inner Miss Manners versus Project Manager dialog starts:

“So which way should the paper hang – on the left- or right-side?” Inner Miss muses.

Project Manager replies, “Well, what risks are there in hanging it on either side? What do the customers want? Do we need a risk mitigation plan to deal with left-side hanging? Will right-side hanging cause a significant impact to scope or schedule?”

Inner Miss sniffs. “If you do not know to which side the Ritz Carlton hangs its toilet paper, you are uncouth and uncivilized.”

Project Manager gets snotty. “We have a project here we need to complete. Pick a damn side and be done with it!”

God bless the PM for winning.

I shut the door. It falls back open. I shut it again. It falls yet again.

The inner engineer kicks in, “Apply ample percussive maintenance to any object not obeying the rules of plastic injection molding.”

I slam it shut and glare at it. You know, the mad woman stare that stops most men and (smart) dogs in their tracks.

It stays shut.

I complete my project. I finish with the obligatory soapy hand-washing. I go to get paper towels. The paper towels jam.

I run.