News of the Day

Field season 2006 has stepped from alleged reality into marginalized memory.

Five federal land offices were involved: Chequamegon National Forest, Superior National Forest, Sheyenne National Grasslands, Grand River National Grasslands, and Little Missouri National Grasslands. All were rare plant surveys. The season extended into October this year, a welcome bonus of field work. Normally, at these latitudes, October brings stiff winds from Alberta that sweeps you from the field, and the obsession with rare forbs quickly becomes an obsession with rare trees, particularly dead and dry oak trees, difficult to find where so many heat with wood. Maybe they should put the dead oaks on the protected list, then put exclosures around them to prevent overconsumption by firewood cutters, which might allow the dead oaks to bounce back, get a good population base, and maybe we could see some reproduction and their numbers would just take off.

A new client knocked on our door gave us a 3400 acre survey in tallgrass prairie in eastern North Dakota, on the Sheyenne National Grasslands. This was a first. Plus, it was for a federally listed species, Platanthera praeclara, or Western Prairie Fringed Orchid. Big plant, up to the knee, with a spiral arrangement of lacerated white flowers. Everybody was in bloom when we arrived and we took it to be a cheery welcome. I guess we will be working there next year too. The only drawback of that area is the wave of biting insects. Some old-timers say the sun would be darkened at midday by the clouds of black flies overhead. They say you would just point your shotgun into the air at random and thousands would fall from the sky. Children would make a game of who could collect the most. The winning child would be presented with a gift by the mayor and his parents would have the honor of feeding the community at the town hall that night. A great Black Fly Feed would put all in a gleeful mood, the fiddles would come out, the corn mash would pour, and a revelry would carry on until daybreak. Chores would be deferred, school would be cancelled, and the day would be declared one of rest. Black fly season would last for three months in this region, and so too the revelries. This custom is widely recognized as one of the primary causes of the widespread crop failures, bankruptcies, and mass exodus from the Great Plains during the 1930's.

Web Changes

It is about time I redid this site. It was three years old. People thought I retired, expired, became bemazed, mobbed, or absconded. Not so. I tried to simplify the site design. Minimize the hyperlinks and tables. Expunge some pages. Throw in some gizmos. And there it is.

Other than that, this is where we'll announce anything else of relevance or of imminent development. Well, maybe not. Is it so critical? This site is so small, why, the front door doubles as the back door. But the chance may be worth taking. If you've visited us before and want to know what's changed, take a look here first.

Recent Media Coverage

Citizenry masses outside of the storefront. The windows bulge from the swelling throng. Traffic is backed up for miles. The phone lines are blazing. World leaders muscle through the crowds. So we wish.

  • Snow Burying Your Outlook?, Lakeland Times, January 31, 1997, Pages 3, 4, 24
  • Title, Publication, Date...still waiting...
  • Title, Publication, Date...and waiting.
  • Look, Nobody Knows, About me...I thought I had a big chance in the fall of 2001 when I got an email from of all things, Self Magazine. A big New York health and fitness magazine. They requested an interview with me. You have got to be kidding. No way, I thought, but it was true. But then, it was about proper snow shoveling technique. They found out I shovel roofs in the winter, from my old internet site. It seems that I was the only professional snow shoveler on the internet. Imagining the free national advertising it would present for my business, I gave the interview, passing along largely unverifiable boasts and useless blather, indulging in tales of heroic rooftop struggles, outlines of a gritty but fanciful regimen of strength and flexibility conditioning, trailing off into endless trifles and offhand remarks. Despite all of this they thanked me and told me to keep an eye peeled for the December 2001 issue of the magazine where the article would appear. Now the irony of this is simply outstanding. I spend five and one half years of my life in a stuffy university to acquire some fashionable degree, grope about in the job market for a decade enduring humiliation after humiliation before I find my niche, build my reputation and skills over the next ten years to the point that I am able to maintain my own environmental workshop, and for what do I get national recognition? Science? Writing? Taxonomy? Field Skills? Design? No, I get hailed before the jet-setting masses to demonstrate my snow shoveling trade. A dainty song and dance, some cheerful banter, and a bow. Polite applause on white-gloved hands. Snow shoveling. I mean, what does it take to do that? You need the IQ of a laundry basket and the strength of a small horse but that's about it. You don't even need to know how to read and write. Just ask my competition! All you need to know is where the roof ends and the air begins. What is this?
  • So, I waited for the day the December issue of the magazine appeared. Time dragged on like it does in a dentist's office where the clock ticks backward and like sap running from an apricot tree. At last, in late November it blew into this wind-bedeviled Montana town. I snapped up the first one I saw. For the next two hours I scoured the pages for some reference to snow removal but instead found articles on great tasting desserts, hair styles, perfume, workout routines, decorating, finances, you name it, but not one thing about snow removal. Outdone by the likes of chocolate cream soda cakes, carbon fiber eyeliner, his and hers toilet seat covers, and sweet bob and tail wispy hair gel bar and iron curling sets. I tossed the magazine on the floor and sulked. I looked out the window for hours. Birds flew by. Clouds raced up the mountainside. Water dripped on the porch. Nothing had changed. But then this: I saw my wife reading the magazine a little while ago. She was looking at the combination treadmill / bread making machine with deep interest. Wait a second. How did I end up spending four dollars for this magazine? And how much more will I spend after she gets done with it? Suddenly, I am calling my broker telling him to buy five hundred shares of Self Magazine.
  • So, this is where I end up. Right back where I started. Nobody knows a thing about me. I am invisible. I will spend the rest of my days sweating beneath torrid fogs in some bog that extends all the way into Canada, standing on a trembling platform of Sphagnum moss that threatens to split open, sucking me into the black tomb that has embalmed countless explorers before me. I could scream, but the sound would evaporate into the blue sky. All that sees me are the insects, a plague of them, boiling about my head, thumping my hat, sending out calls to others to join in the feast. And they come, thick as dust, winding their way through the Black spruce, advancing in military formation. Flailing my arms to deflect the hail of biting insects serves no useful purpose. In fact, the perspiration generated by the vigorous motion attracts still more biting insects and the arm flapping sends out subsonic waves that attract still larger biting insects. By that point all is lost. It does not matter that freak solar flares have melted my compass needle, or that the insect repellant has induced apocalyptic visions, or that I have contracted distemper from the small mammals that have gnawed into my lunch-pail. No matter. It doesn't matter at all. I remain as always, relatively obscure.
  • But wait. I get a call in December 2002 and it looks like it will show up in the January 2003 issue. Will this be my big break? Will this be my Waterloo? What is up? Does it really matter? After all, winter's gone up and moved to Canada. 
  • I have had it! My fifteen minutes of fame and wouldn't you know it, a storm knocks out the power. They actually printed the article in the February 2003 issue and have a gal posing with a snowshovel with a paragraph of advice on how to grab it and shake it silly. And not even so much as a footnote acknowledging the vast contributions this snowblind lout has made to the burgeoning business, the swelling science of anthropormophic deflection of mass crystalline water from sloped planar surfaces at near-absolute zero while under the influence of chocolate-chip cookies. Why, I outta protest. I should make some noise. Raise a fuss. I have half a mind to write a thesis on this. I just can't get up from this cha   i    r ..  .