The Job (Again)

I promised yesterday to discuss a few things in future posts. Unlike my usual procedure, Iʼll follow-up on at least one of those “predictions.” Todayʼs topic, like far too many of recent weeks, is work.

Click for a link to an informative site from another state. The traps really do look like this about now, as the bugs and beetles emerge.

I said yesterday that the timing of my job had changed. It has. First, I am for the month of June on my own, sometimes. My former (and future) partner is busy trapping for gypsy moths, an activity at which she was well experienced before the emerald ash borer appeared on our horizons. (Jackson County has, by the way, experienced an outbreak of gypsy moths, predicating a USDA pheromonal intervention soon — meaning that a plane will fly over the county dropping on the woodsy areas minuscule pheromone flakes that confuse the male gypsy moths and leave them unable to find a mate.) Her “other job” leaves me on my own to begin checking all the traps we put up: making sure the traps are still in the trees and pulling them down to investigate what bugs are stuck on the gluey exterior of each of the three purple panels, searching for (but hoping I do not find) emerald ash borers.

However, before that began, I got ordered to the north, Winnesheik County, to help finish setting the traps in that region. And I did. The trip was supposed to take all week, which in my case means four ten-hour days, but we accomplished the task in just two days (good news to me, as I got to come home to my Lovely One). So I spent about two further days, minus driving-home time, restoring traps to their proper places and beginning my survey of what we had done here in Jackson-Clinton-Dubuque counties.

Early the following week my immediate superior, John, rode with me for a day to teach me the basics of examining the traps for bugs (and sadly, helping me relocate half a dozen traps to actual ash trees — apparently my partner isnʼt all that much better than I at recognizing an ash when we see one). Then I began my work on my own, but so far thatʼs only been a couple of days because in June, as I have belatedly discovered, part of the job involves “outreach.”

Outreach and enforcement.*

On Fridays and Saturdays, beginning over the Memorial Day weekend, although I was not able to change our plans and participate then, full-time and seasonal USDA APHIS PPQ employees go out to meet the public in campgrounds around the state (in my case the eastern portion thereof) to spread the word of the emerald scourge and check on firewood. The firewood is important because in reality the only way the borer has spread is through human activity, particularly the transport from infected (and therefore quarantined) areas of firewood (obviously in particular ash wood), nursery stock, and pieces of infected trees (although why anyone would want to transport a stump beats me). Without our movement of borer-infested wood, the little beetle doesnʼt get more than perhaps a mile from the (dying) tree of its birth.

So we tour campgrounds, studying license plates for Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowaʼs Allamakee County (folks from other infested states or regions are less likely as visitors to eastern Iowaʼs campgrounds). And if we notice any such plates, we must look closely to see if we notice any firewood. And if we see firewood at sites with suspect plates, we have to go and ask those (usually out-of-state) campers where the wood came from. And if the wood came from quarantined areas, such as three counties in Wisconsin and all of Illinois and Allamakee County, it must be burned immediately, and my poor boss has to write up a lengthy bit of paperwork on the “incident.”

My first experience with this process was this past Friday and Saturday (perhaps explaining why I didnʼt post my usual weekend addition to the blog — well, “usual” in recent weeks anyway), when John and I rode around Scott, Clinton, Jackson and Clayton counties visiting perhaps a dozen campgrounds.

More such weekends lie ahead.

However, working on Friday and Saturday means I have to change my usual Monday through Thursday of ten-hour days. For a while now, essentially until my partner returns to EAB duties, Iʼm working Wednesday through Saturday. Not what I knew when I signed on, but I have to admit visiting campgrounds is a whole lot easier physically than placing and replacing traps in trees. On the other hand, this change also means I only have two days each week to try to revisit all the traps that my partner and I set over a monthʼs time.

And checking traps is what I will be doing for part of this (so itʼs predicted) near-100° day. I hope I remember my water bottle.

* My least favorite aspect of teaching was having to “play cop” and enforce (sometimes ridiculous) rules. I hope that I do better this summer with rules that seem to make some sense…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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