Updates & Stories

Where Are They Now? Mary Hammes

Mary Hammes’ path to her current job with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency traversed three Corps programs: she served on a seasonal Superior National Forest… Read More

The journey

As the end of this journey nears I am filled with trepidation, but also hope. The uncertainty of the future is what keeps the mind sharp in the present. We must march on towards the goals we set only to form new ones when the previous is reached, such is the engine of progress. In the final weeks of my term here I look back fondly on the people I have met and worked with, the places I have seen and the changes I have made on a landscape I have grown to love. Read More

The after shot

Last time I left you all with the story of my pre-installation excitement. Now I can finally say that our mission is accomplished! Installation day has come and gone and the work went more smoothly than I had hoped. Ben and Roger from RREAL made the trek down to Anamosa, Iowa and showed some weatherization crew members and me what it means to be solar installation rock stars. You know that feeling you get when you hear your favorite guitar player lay down some tasty licks? That is what was going on inside my head as I stood in a dusty basement watching the whole thing go down. Read More

If this truck could talk

At first glance, this truck simply looks like any other work truck with a few dents and scratches for added character, but it really is the sixth and probably the most important member of the Three Rivers II crew. I decided immediately that I would call it Bench Seat (it’s not really a creative name since the front seat is an undivided bench seat), and was even the namesake of our crew during introductions at orientation. Sadly, the truck is an inanimate object. However, if this truck could talk, it would have plenty to tell from its time in the Conservation Corps. From this past term, there are plenty of stories to tell. Read More

Trash through the years

We worked for a week at a site in Baudette, Minn. on a household property whose owner in the 1960s dumped trash into their yard, which sloped gradually downward into a lake. Random objects buried in shards of broken glass and rusty scraps of tin told of its age: blue and green mason jars, soft plastic doll limbs, simple fishing reels, shattered bakelite kitchenware. Where the land curved down into the lake, the trash was more deeply layered. Each shovel full of broken glass and metal revealed another layer underneath. I joked with a co-worker about discovering a new kind of geological stratum. We found more recent trash scattered about the property as well: bits of foam board insulation, plastic wrapping, beer and pop cans. Read More

It’s the little things

It’s the little things that you remember about a job most clearly. I think years from now I might not remember what project I was working on or where, but I will remember the seemingly small, yet hilarious events that got me through the days. I’ll remember the savory bite from a freshly made hamburger followed by a slip and then a Dwyane Wade style slam dunk into the fire pit. I’ll remember a lottery bear tag accidentally expiring and the subsequent wrath of a Paul Bunyan mode crew leader when the realization set in that the bear rug would have to wait another year. You may find, that in your work, you won’t recall the rock you had to detach from the mantle of the Earth or the tree that got hung up so bad that it’s probably still out there... but instead the quirks of the people you interact with on a daily basis and the laughs you’ve had in between. Read More

Cleaning up the mess

While common and glossy buckthorn both are significant sources of our troubles in wooded areas, they are not the only players out there. Exotic honeysuckle species, Oriental bittersweet, autumn olive, and even some tree species are out there wreaking havoc on our wooded areas by out-competing native tree and shrub species. Years ago when experts realized what was happening and put a stop to transporting and selling buckthorn, for example, one of their first questions was probably “where do we begin?” The next question was probably “how?” Even though today’s eradication methods have come a long way from where they were, they’re still not perfect.  At least we know what we can do, learn how we can improve, or just find out what doesn’t work. Read More

“What are you guys doing out here?”

I’ve fielded this question a time or two while out in the field. It typically comes from an innocently curious passerby, but occasionally it’ll show up decorated with less-than-appropriate verbiage. In either case, it’s certainly an inquiry within reason and I’ve become fond of the opportunities that follow. Read More

October reflections

October already! For the Ottertail crew, this means hot chocolate, long johns, and an end to the camping season. One thing I really enjoy about staying in cabins and roadside motels is the chance for after-work bonding with the two other women on my crew, Emily Stursma and Emily “Ninja” Braker. (That’s right, Ninja! I mean, we can’t have two Emilies on the crew.) If nights with the whole crew are all serious strategizing at Dungeons and Dragons and hitting the sack early in our separate tents, then nights with just us ladies are all giggling over the day’s foibles and staying up later than necessary noshing on popcorn and chocolate. Read More

Working with water trails

Earlier this year in mid-June, half of the North Woods crew—myself, Will, and Nate—helped the Water Trails crew for a week in clearing a portion of the Mississippi River near Bemidji of fallen trees. South of Lake Irving, a stretch of river about three miles long running through the woods was unnavigable.After unloading a jon boat from a trailer at an access point on the north side of Lake Irving, we packed in our gear: chainsaws, gasoline, bar and chain oil—a biodegradable type for use in water—hand saws, loppers, helmets, chaps, a saw box with tools for maintenance and repair, and our lunches. We followed the Water Trails crew across the lake into a marshy area where the river began. The forest around us soon became thick, and soon we spotted the first tree lying across the river. We agreed with the Water Trails crew to observe them working on a tree to learn, then we would go down the river and work ahead of them, after they would leap-frog ahead of us. Read More