Hello for the final time!
I’m writing this blog post on my last day as a CLM intern here at the Lakeview BLM field office. Lucy and I have been cleaning out the herbarium, finishing off notes for next year’s crew, and figuring out our plans for the next few months. It feels like yesterday when I drove into town and saw the giant cowboy on the edge of town. Time flies, huh?
I have learned a lot about how the BLM runs and I have made meaningful connections while I have been working here. There isn’t nearly as much public land in Ohio, so it was interesting to see how a federal agency runs and how these people apply their degrees outside of the world of academia. I also have learned that we, as young people, have a very tough job market ahead of us. Today the Secretary of the Interior visited our office and discussed some of the challenges we face as federal land management agencies. She mentioned how agencies have less money in their budgets, the challenges of relaying to the public the importance of our work, and the lack of funding that is going towards programs to recruit youth into federal agencies as the Baby-boomers begin to retire in record numbers. This hit home; this is my problem!
Thanks to this internship, I have gained valuable experience that will hopefully make me a more competitive candidate as I apply to more positions in the future and I have made connections that may lead to new, unexpected opportunities. I am very grateful that I was able to participate in this internship and I highly recommend it!
It has been real Oregon, but I am off to new adventures!
It was the most stupendous week for the Carson City Sierra Front intern team. We finished all of our fire monitoring fieldwork. As one of the most recent interns, I am fairly fresh when it comes to experience with fire monitoring. I feel comfortable doing them now, but it was still sad to see them go. The most challenging part of being a new intern is going through the process of learning to recognize all the plants by their full Latin names. While I remember at least the genus, or a 4-letter code for most of the plants we see, if we go to a new area with different diversity, I am fairly challenged when it comes to naming plants. This has made fire monitoring difficult because we have to shout out names of perennials and identify all the plants in our nested square meter area.
Our last fire job was the coolest of all. The standard routine for monitoring a fire is to first find the plot using various maps and a GPS, and then collect and record data. This week, we broke our routine for the first time by setting up two plots in a more recently burned region. When setting up the fire plots, we had to take into account the aspect of the slope, so that the slope was facing east or west, and we had to make sure the area was consistent in slope, as well as a few other variables. We ended up going back and forth between two less than ideal areas looking for the best place to set a center point for the transect that would skew our data the least. It was challenging to find locations that would satisfy the conditions required to create transect lines, however it sure beats having to find a foot high piece of rebar in a field of Sisymbrium altissimum; much along the lines of finding a needle in a haystack.
On our final plot, Mary, the other intern who joined the CLM intern team at the same time, and I collected perennial density, and nested density of the plants along one transect line. This was rewarding in two ways. First, it showed me how much we have progressed in being able to identify plants, as only a few plants stumped us. It was enjoyable for me to feel that I had learned enough to carry my own weight in terms of fire monitoring and plant identification. Second, I felt that it was a larger milestone in terms of having a more equal knowledge of the area as the other interns who had been doing it for longer. It was almost a graduation of sorts into being a full-fledged team member.
Now that the leaves are turning and the days are growing shorter, if you’re tempted to pack away your gardening gloves…don’t!
At the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden, we’re as busy as ever. Our cool-weather crops include brussels sprouts, spinach, and toscano kale. Fall is a great time to grow vegetables—insects die off, weeds wither, and moisture is plentiful. If you don’t have much space, remember that you can grow vegetables in containers, window boxes, and hanging baskets.
Don’t say good-bye to your summer garden yet
- Document the good, the bad, and the ugly. Walk around your garden making notes, drawing pictures, and taking photographs; document challenges and successes, problems, tasks, and ideas for next year. Make a list of the plants that worked and should be planted again.
- Bring in twigs, nuts, berries, and seedheads to dry for fall decorations or winter wreath making. Gather the stems into bunches, and secure them with a rubber band. Hang the bunches for several weeks to dry in a warm spot (but out of direct sun).
- Harvest herbs to dry, freeze, or use fresh.
- Lift tender perennial herb plants like rosemary and lavender to replant in pots. Annual basil lasts for several additional weeks in a sunny kitchen window.
Other prep work
- Remove debris such as leaves, clippings, and bits of fruits and vegetables. Garden sanitation is important to remove the overwintering habitat for many insects. Cucumber beetle and squash bugs overwinter on leaf litter and create problems in the spring.
- Perform bed prep and broad forking—break up densely packed soil now to avoid working heavy soils in the spring (when you do so, you further compact the soil and destroy soil structure). Fall prep ensures that the bed will be ready for early peas around St. Patrick’s Day.
- Add organic matter to feed the soil rather than using fertilizers to feed the plant.
- Add mulch, thumb deep, to help maintain soil temperature and moisture.
- Everbearing raspberry bushes produce their fall crop on the top half of the canes. After harvesting, prune out the top half of the plants. The lower half of the canes will produce fruit early next summer.
- As you harvest, remember to save seeds for next season! Got extra? Join us for our annual Seed Swap.
Plant cool season crops
- Short-season crops and salad plants—radish, spinach, arugula, lettuce, mustard, mizuna, and tatsoi—should be sown 30 to 40 days before the first frost (roughly October 15 in Chicago-area suburbs and a bit later downtown).
- Plant cool-season herbs like parsley (flat or curly), chervil, cilantro, and edible flowers such as calendula and nasturtium.
- Get edible bulbs—such as garlic bulbs, shallot, and onion sets (small onions for planting)—into the ground by Halloween; they’ll be ready for harvest in July.
- Harvest hardy vegetables after the first frost, when they become sweeter—kale, brussels sprouts (remove the tops of the plants in early September), cabbage, broccoli, collard greens, and cauliflower.
- Harvest warm-season vegetables, including winter squash and pumpkins, before the first frost. Don’t let the first frost touch your peppers and tomatoes; if they’re still green, they’ll ripen a bit indoors.
- Think about ways to extend the growing season—with row covers, garden blankets over raised beds, cold frames, etc.
For more ideas or inspiration, drop by the Fruit & Vegetable Garden (in October, come see the giant pumpkins on display). Did I mention that fall is a good time to plant fruit trees for spring blooms and fruit? Plant the trees in cooler weather, under less stress—and they’ll be ready to soar in the spring.
For more seasonal gardening tips, tune into my weekly Saturday morning audio podcast on news radio WBBM. Get past tips online at chicago.cbslocal.com/audio/gardening-tips.
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