Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

WISE-TIES in Saginaw Forest for science camp

Last Wednesday morning (before all the storms), there was a WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) and TIES (Teaching and Inspiring Environmental Stewardship) outing at Saginaw Forest for highschool students to become familiarized with environmental sciences in the setting of the forest. The activities were led by Prof. Ines Ibanez and her lab:




Unfortunately, thunderstorms cut their visit to the forest short, and (thanks to Weather Underground's animated weather maps) everyone was able to get out of the forest minutes before the downpours started. Still, I really do hope that things like this are done in the future, since I think that it is important to ensure that future scientists and engineers do learn something about the "natural environment" and stewardship of it as well as ensuring that the future population of scientists and engineers contain a greater diversity of viewpoints, thanks to an increased number of women in the ranks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

One needs an offical reason to be on the property after hours

People like coming to Saginaw Forest. There is more here than just a collection of trees over 50-odd acres. There is a whole "environment"; and ambiance of something that makes the place special.

It is peaceful, it is primal, it is "nature."

It is also artificial, it is impacted, it is "managed."

It is open to the public, but it is managed for research first. It is the work of over a hundred years of forest growth, with little thinning. Its pathways cross the property, allowing for peaceful strolls through a sylvan setting that is not so easy to find in Ann Arbor (save for perhaps at Dolph Park, just one block away).

The management rules for the forest are in place to protect not just the condition of the forest that people have come to know and appreciate; it is also there to help with researching the forest dynamics that have suddenly become all the more important for our understandings of ecosystem function for conservation and for predicting the impacts of global climate change.

The forest -- while a place that can be enjoyed by many people in the community -- is not a public park, and it is not managed as if it were a public park. This means that access is allowed only during the public-access hours, which are from 6AM to 6PM (as opposed to dawn to dusk in Ann Arbor parks). The public has 12 hours during which they can access the 80 acres that is Saginaw Forest. True, these 12 hours do coincide with the 8 hours of a normal working day, but that still means that one has 4 hours outside work during which one can potentially access the forest. If one wishes to use the forest outside of these hours, you must have an official reason for being in the forest, such as conducting officially sanctioned research, or attending an officially sanctioned event. Without an official reason for being in the forest, one will be asked to leave immediately; failure to do so will result in a report to the University's DPS. This isn't reactionary, but is merely following procedure, and is similar to what would happen if one were discovered in any other University of Michigan facility after-hours and without a reason for being there.

Balancing the various uses of the forest -- for the public and for research -- will always take place. However, confrontation against the posted rules to the caretaker, especially when one is caught breaking the rules, will not change the nature of the rules. Insults and threats to the caretaker, especially when those rules are being enforced, will also not change the rules or their enforcement. If one does not like the rules, then one is always welcome to address the proper chain of command to get them changed (and arguing with the caretaker's enforcement of the rules is not the proper way of addressing the chain of command). It is the job of the caretaker to enforce the rules, and while the caretaker does have input to possible changes to the management of the forest, it is not the caretaker's job to change the rules to meet the requirements for each user.

Lightning storms cut the power to the cabin... and the phone

The major storms that came through Washtenaw County on Wednesday night brought rain, lightning, and two confirmed tornadoes. While no tornadoes hit Saginaw Forest (this is an assumption, due to the lack of additional downed trees after the storm), an unlucky lightning strike shut off the power to the cabin at about 10:30PM.

None of the breakers tripped, and none of the powerstrips flipped off. However, my computer was one of the electronics that shut off. Maybe it was my imagination, but when I sniffed the outlet fan, there was a fain whiff of burnt electronics. Hopefully it was my imagination (especially since I have not been having problems with the computer at the current time).

On Thursday morning, I walked the length of the wires, to see if there was any obvious sign of the power outage (i.e., if a power line had been taken out by a fallen tree). However, I didn't see anything that spoke to me of a problem. However, the neighbors all had power, so it had to be something about the lines going in to Saginaw Forest (or the transformer on the property). I called it in, and was told that I should be taken care of by 11:45PM that night. (Now, I know that the property is probably not too high on people's lists, and that there were several outages throughout Washtenaw, but I was still surprised that it might not be fixed for more than 24 hours after the outage.)

At 3:40PM, just as I was about to give a call to DTE, my phone rang. It was U-M DPS calling me to say that their parking enforcement unit at the front gate was reporting that there was a DTE van wanting to get onto the property. Wow! I went up to meet the van, and the man also walked the lines and checked the power condition at the electrical box. He didn't spot anything on the property, and confirmed that the power was still off, but (because he wasn't a line-man), couldn't do more than that, but did forward the ticket for the line-men to take care of, but he, too, couldn't give an estimated time.

Night-time readingI took off for a meeting in town, and then returned at some point around 7PM. Then, I sat out on the porch, reading books by the diminishing light of the sun. Around 9:15PM, I heard some people walking down the road, and looked up to see four men with white hard-hats. The DTE line-men. I walked them out, along the lines, and they, too, confirmed that it wasn't anything on the property, but then continued to walk along the line onto the adjoining property. There, they noted that there was one fuse cut-out that had busted open on the line. It was something that I did see in the morning, but didn't know to make a note of it. Now that I know one more thing to look for, I will note it in future line walks post-power outages.

However, although the power was soon returned, I soon realized that the DSL and phone was not working. After calling AT&T (and working through the automated systems), I got to an operator, who submitted a ticket. Since it was already 11:30PM, however, I decided to just go to sleep, since it was unlikely that anyone would come out at that time of night.

In the morning, I called AT&T again, and was told that (for some reason), the ticket wouldn't have any work until Sunday! Then the operator noted that it was a University of Michigan account that she was dealing with, and bumped me up to today. While in town, I got a call from the technician who told me that there was a signal, at least to the outside of the cabin. Perhaps there is a problem with the DSL/telephone splitter/filter. Perhaps there was a problem with the wire going into the cabin. Perhaps, too, there was a problem with the DSL modem. However, if they were going to do any work inside the cabin (including replacing the cable coming into the cabin), it would cost $71 for a call-out, $25 per quarter-hour, and probably an additional $5-$10 for parts, and recommended against having him cross the threshold, unless it was absolutely necessary. Given those prices, I had to agree with him.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday work

Removed a tree. It took about two hours to do, but that was mainly because the tree wasn't just a simple case of resting across the path. It was hung up on some other branches of trees across the path, as well as being supported by a bunch of buckthorn. I strapped the tree to a near-by cedar to ensure that it wouldn't roll on top of me, and then went to work with the hand saw, taking off the smaller branches.

Then the chainsaw took care of a lot of the larger boles. I dragged off the major pieces (and they were quite larger than I originally thought them to be). After severing the tree from its trunk, I pulled off the straps and let the tree roll to the ground. It was a simple measure at that point to then move the tree to the side of the path. Perhaps it will make some good firewood. I'll have to revisit it later.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rain, wind, and lightning

A massive front is moving through, and it dumped a lot of rain, pushed a lot of wind, and kicked up a lot of lightning.

Looking over to the outdoor light, you can see just how much wind was kicking through here. It's quite likely that I'll have to cut out a tree tomorrow -- one that has fallen across the path due to this wind.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Black raspberries in the forest

Ripening blackberries

Black raspberry bushes in the forest are starting to come into ripened fruiting bodies. I think they will make a nice addition to my breakfast tomorrow. Of course, these are kind of a mixed blessing, since there is little doubt that the bushes are making their presence known throughout the forest, being dispersed by birds. Every year, the brambles continue to find their way into other nooks and crannies of the forest, waiting for an opening in the canopy.

Still, they sure are tasty! :)

Blackberries for breakfast

COMMENT: Originally, I thought that these were blackberries. I have been told that these are black raspberries -- native to the region.