In which the existence of beavers is doubted

art by falldowntree

Yesterday I brought my Burmese ESL student on a field trip to Fort Snelling State Park to learn about the niceties of hunting licenses, poison sumac and why we probably don’t want to eat snapping turtles. Our guide talked about all of these things while walking us through the park, pausing to point out things of interest.About half an hour into our walk, we happened upon a tree that had been gnawed down by a beaver. In rather complex and fast English, he explained the tree-felling/dam-building process. I turned to my students and attempted to “translate.”

Me: “One animal bites this tree and then makes a house with the tree.”

Skeptical Student: “A big animal, teacher? Elephant like tree.”

Me: “Oh no. This animal is a brother to rabbit, squirrel. Like this:” I make the universal sign for rodent, hands tucked under my chin and making clicking noises, exposing my front teeth

Student: “Ummm, no, teacher. A rabbit cannot eat a tree and make a house.”

Me: “It’s like a rabbit. It lives in the water. It takes the tree in the water and then makes a house.”

Student: “Ummm, teacher. No. A rabbit cannot swim.”

Me: “It is like a rabbit. It has a big tail (universal sign for beaver tail here) and it swims and then makes a house from the tree it bites.”

Student. “Sooooo, it is a fish rabbit that can bite a tree and make a house?” (totally incredulous)

Me: “Yes. Yes. It is a fish rabbit. It is a fish rabbit that bites trees.”

Student: “Oh yes. Okay. I know.”

He nods as if this now makes perfect sense and heads off to impart this knowledge to his classmates.

God help them if kangaroos ever come up.

The Parenting Tactics of Mom Von

photo by hownowdesign

My dear wee mom is exactly what you imagine when you imagine a Midwestern grade school teacher. Are you imagining red elastic-waisted pants? And appliqued sweaters? And holiday-themed jewelry? Now imagine all that plus a steely will, a dark sense of humor and a button nose. This is the recipe for Mom Von.Growing up with two teachers as parents means that you can pull approximately nothing over on them because a) they have spies everywhere b) they have heard it all before. One of my mother’s favored response to any Kid Von whining was “Oh, you’re fine. I think you’ll live.” Oh really, Mom?! I’m fairly sure my life will actually end if my nightly phone call allotment isn’t extended to 3 hours!!!

Her other top five:

5) “Well, whose fault is that?”
Seriously, Mom. This is gold. I fight the urge to say this every blessed day to people in my life. The Lean-Cuisine stealing co-worker for one.4) “We’ll see, depending on your behavior.”
Ahhhh! You slay me! The perfect catch 22! A ‘yes’ is not certain and I have to be good until you decide! That’s a long time to be good.

3) “You think so, huh?”
Usually said in response to any bossy or slightly inflammatory remarks uttered by wound-up Kid Vons. For example “I’m going to stay over at Kristin’s on Sunday, I don’t care what you say!” “You think so, huh?” or “I’m going to move in with that questionable boyfriend and spend the summer waitressing at Rick’s Cabaret!” “You think so, huh?”

2) “It’s not necessary”
Ooooh, Mom! Always with the airtight argument! Sure, it’s not strictly necessary that you drive me to Duluth so I can buy over-priced incense at the Electric Fetus. But bathing isn’t necessary either.

1) “We don’t (verb) in this house.”
We don’t hit in this house. We don’t talk like that in this house. We don’t eat cheesy poofs in our underwear for the entirity of Summer vacation in this house. Jeez, Mom, you’re no fun.

And, yes. I now use nearly all of the above phrases in my daily life. What were your parents’ favorite lines when you were a kid?

For the love of Argyle

“Hmmm, where shall I scoot to today? Perhaps a golf course or a British pub where my Argyle will be truly appreciated? Yes, I think I could go for a cuppa and some biscuits, followed quickly by several pints of cider. Indeed.”As previously noted, I’m going to refrain from regaling y’all with the fact that nearly everything I own is from Target. Because that’s just embarrassing.

However! The jeans you see here? All dark and slim and slightly hipster-y? You will not believe what brand they are:

Girbauds!

Did you, like I, secretly covet this brand in 8th grade? While I was relegated to Lees, all the cool kids were rocking their Girbauds, complete with that weird button loop. So finding these for $15 at TJ Maxx was something of a teen dream come true.

Now, if I can just get my hands on a 26 Red t-shirt my life will have come full circle.

Character Sketches: The passengers of Bus 94B

photo by publicenergy

For the entirety of September, I was sans car and spent an hour every day bussing it to St. Paul and back. And despite my sulking, it was been an excellent opportunity to engage in minor anthropological studies. A look at my favorite bus characters …
  • The Tiny Italian. His bus-riding paraphernalia includes: a tiny water bottle, a walker, and a hugely overloaded backpack. His preternaturally black hair in complimented by a rosary tattooed around his right wrist and a bowling shirt with gold embroidery, boasting the name “Tony.”
  • The Petite Sophisticate. She possesses The World’s Greatest Bob and somehow manages to look pulled together standing at the bus stop everyday at 6:45 a.m. Despite being at least 55, her knowledge of Ipod navigation far exceeds mine.
  • The Whisper Singer. The Whisper Singer totes around a Discman and a leather cd-case that houses at least 25 cds at any given time. Judging by the songs he’s whispered in my vicinity, I’d judge his musical taste falls under the heading of ‘hair metal.’ There is something to be said for having ‘November Rain’ being whispered in your ear after a long day at the office.
  • The Sass. The Sass apparently reserves all of her phone conversations for the bus. I personally enjoy this, as eavesdropping is probably my third favorite pastime. Thus far I’ve discovered that 1) her parenting M.O. is “as much work as I have to do and no more, mmm’kay?” 2) Her romantic partner is both “fiiine” and “good at what he do” 3) Her job is making her “lose her damn mind.”
  • The Kenyan Lawyer. I’m not sure that he is actually either Kenyan or a lawyer, but he look delicious enough to be both. Yummmm.

Who are your favorite public transportation characters?

Notes on Show-going

photo by jere-me

Dear Minneapolis Hipsters,
Did you know that when are you at a concert, it is considered acceptable, nay encouraged, to occasionally engage in dancing? An intermittent knee-bob, a head-nod and even a shoulder wiggle are all baby steps in the right direction! It breaks my heart when I see you standing quietly in your skinny jeans, staring at the stage. I will be the girl in the back, booty dancing to indie folk pop.
Also.
Dear Liam Finn and The Veils,
Please don’t be disuaded by the crowd’s lack of dancing. We’re Minnesotan, we can’t help it. And Liam? You are my second-favorite small, bearded, joyful man. Consider yourself warned.

Adventures in Non-Traditional Adulthood: Planting Trees in Canada

Planting trees in Canadaphoto by margebarge

(This is part of our series on Non-Traditional Adulthood and the adventures to be had)

Finance Your Adventures: Planting Trees in Canada

My friend Tyler Eddy is awesome for many reasons. A list, you say? 1) He seems to have two first names 2) He is earning his PhD in something awesome and ocean-related (I think he’s a dolphin whisperer) 3) He has traveled the world, financed by his summers spent planting trees in Canada. Amazing right?! Tyler was gracious enough to answer a few questions o’mine about how to get into the tree planing game.

How did you hear about tree planting as a way to finance your adventures?

My first year of uni. 18 years old. The girl from the room above me and i became close (she would beckon me with kicks to her floor, my ceiling) and told me about this job tree planting where you could make good money while working outside and sleeping in a tent. she wanted me to spend the summer in her tent with her while doing it. i had other plans about our immediate future so joined another company and have known no other serious income (except for the employment insurance benefits that come with the terminus of a season) ever since.

How did you find a job planting trees in Canada? How did you feel about said your planting job?

Word of mouth. I had some friends that were working for a company and gave them a call. after a quick coffee meeting on campus with one of their representatives i was in. except they wanted a $100 deposit to make sure i was coming. I wasn’t sure what to expect but knew i wanted to get out of my parent’s house for the summer after newly tasted freedom at university. hated it. then loved it. then hated it again. then loved it. then hated it and sat on a stump crying and of course my foreman came to check on my trees at that moment. but by the end of it had made $200 in a day and was hooked. went home for a month in july and came back in august to plant some more.

How did you find housing for your tree planting job? How did you feel about said housing?

I had the mountain equipment co-op catalog (Canadian purveyor of all things outdoors) and ordered the tarn 3 tent and -5 sleeping bag (synthetic fill, much too cold, i froze during those early may nights dipping well below the freezing point). I was happy to be living outside and perched my tent on the edge of a small cliff overlooking the lake. It felt like a sanctuary from the long horrific days of my rookie season.

How much money did you make planting trees in Canada?

The first season I was a bit slow to progress (I was a late bloomer) but by the end of it I got better and made $200 in a day, which is a good goal for a rookie season. By season 9 I averaged $500 US/day. If I don’t make $400/day these days, I’m pissed.

What kind of people did you meet while planting trees in Canada?

all sorts. ski bums. college students. travelers. drop-outs. surf bums. musicians. old crusty lifers who never smile, Africans with smooth french, Quebecois with indiscernible french, girls that are tougher then most men i know.

What was the most challenging thing about your Canadian tree-planting job?

bugs. planting in the rain. bugs. planting in the snow. bugs. planting in the hail. bugs. waking up at 6am when it’s 10 below freezing. bugs. tendinitis. bugs. being told you have to replant. bugs. just planting another tree and not stopping. having every square millimeter of you chewed by bugs as well as the corner of your eyes and trying to hide yourself on your trip to town.

What was the most rewarding thing about planting trees in Canada?

meeting the best friends of my life. sharing the highest and lowest point of my life with them. traveling around every nook and cranny of Canada. planting up a mountain, stopping at the top to turn around, admire the view with eyes squinting in early light and take a deep breath. Hitching from Calgary to Vancouver with my best friend to see the west coast for the first time after reading ‘on the road’ by Kerouac while in a helicopter-access isolation camp in the Yukon where the sun never sets for a month. receiving a paycheck for five figures, excluding cents. getting dropped off in the morning, bagging up trees for the first run, smoking a doobie while looking at the land, choosing the soundtrack on the i pod and knowing that if you work hard and plant all 4000 trees as you plan you will make $600 that day. a warm beer after a hard day of work. having a five-star restaurant cook prepare the most amazing food for you everyday. night-off campfires with guitars and music blasting from trucks and people shotgunning beers and letting loose after working hard. being physically challenged everyday. living outside for three months straight. meeting the girl of my dreams and knowing she can handle pretty much anything that life throws at her.

Would you ever keep planting trees in Canada long term?

I am halfway through my Ph.d and show no signs of stopping. After finishing my degree I hope to plant in order to buy land in Nova Scotia. When it comes time for a family, I would like to be more permanently based.

What suggestions would you have for anyone else who wants to finance adventures by planting trees?

Make sure you know what you’re in for. Buy a good sleeping bag and a good pair of boots (shoddy tents can always be covered with a blue tarp). Find someone good to work for. The best planters will make no money with a poor company as this is piece-rate work.