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Working For Free – Oyster Reef Volunteer

Having been out of work for some time now, the cabin fever was setting in pretty hard.  Between having no income yet still spending gas to get to job interviews, there was no gas to just get away for pleasure, a break from the monotony and certainly no funds for entertainment.  I needed to feel useful again, productive.  That is when I came across a request in the local paper for volunteers to help that coming weekend on a project to build an artificial reef in the area.  I’m a nature lover and have always been interested in (and often active in) conservation efforts – how cool was that?

After e-mailing the listed contact for details, I was excited to get to work – even if it was for free.  I let a friend of mine know about the project and he was on board as well.  That Saturday, he picked me up early and we went out to Harbour Pointe on the inlet where several tons of oyster shells were ready in large barrels and on sheets of plywood in huge piles.

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About 20 other volunteers showed up and we were given a brief primer on the task at hand.    We organized ourselves into each area – shoveling, bagging and tying off.  I shoveled shells into smaller buckets while my friend bagged and tied them.  They were then loaded onto a truck to be moved to their final resting place in Wildcat Cove.  

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During a break in which bottled water and other drinks were provided, the leader of the operation and a colleague commended us all on our efforts which far exceeded their expectations.  In just about 2 hours, we’d already assembled about 400 20-pound oyster bags for deployment.  My friend and I stayed for a 20-minute informational lecture about oyster reefs, their local benefits, lots of statistics and zoological info as well.  We broke for lunch then and would meet up at low tide a few miles up the coast at Wildcat Cove.

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Upon arrival at Wildcat Cove, we found the oyster bags in a neat pile in front of the canoe launch.  Another 100 bags had been assembled and brought up in two deliveries.  It took a little brainstorming as to how we were going to get the bags to the reef area, but one adventurous girl with her own kayak said she could pull floating tubs of about 30 bags per load out to the location.  There was some interesting trial-and-error in getting the system going, including one thankfully good-humored man getting impossibly stuck in the thick muck at the bottom of the river.  It took more than ten minutes to get the river to release his legs and he lost a shoe, but we got him back safely!  Note to self: Don’t go into the water without a boat here!

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Once we got the production line going, the rest was – pardon the pun – smooth sailing.  Bags were floated out to a mangrove area where a 4-foot high oyster “wall” was built staggered around the mangroves.  Once settled and cemented, these artificial reefs will provide settling places for new oyster spawns, as well as providing habitat for young fish and feeding grounds for birds such as herons, ibis, loons, cormorants, anhingas and more.

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I remain in contact with the organizer of this effort who works for the county in coastal restoration and he is helping me network with other people in the field so that I may actually find work in conservation or a related field.  Even if it is a desk job, it would be a great opportunity (and has been) to do something productive in a field I really enjoy.  Another reef build is coming up in two days.  This time my daughter will also be involved, getting her hands dirty and having a positive impact on our local, unique and delicate ecosystem.

Enough Nature!

As if the black widow in my flower pot the other weekend wasn’t bad enough… (hairspray and a lighter fixed that one…)

Alright so… Sunday, Alyn and I are out swimming in the Intracoastal. It’s coming up on dusk, lots of schools of fish are out feeding (and being fed upon)… i’m about waist-deep in the water but sunk down to my shoulders just relaxing… along comes a SWARM (not a school, a swarm!) of fish (the surface of the water was rolling) and they start nipping at me so I jump up only to feel something having a hissyfit in my bathing suit top! Yanked my top down (lucky Alyn) – a frikken fish propels itself out and takes off to go find his buddies. I said, “Ok! That’s enough nature for me!” and [quickly] made my way to shore squashing I don’t know how many crabs and sea slugs and God only knows what else under my feet on my way in because at that point I just didn’t care about looking where I was going.

Then!

Today after a very busy day at work and a NASTY virus hit that caused me to have to stay a couple hours late, by the time I got home all I wanted to do was put my feet up and RE-LAX. The sunset was getting pretty after a storm began to dissipate, so I took my book of crosswords outside and went to settle into my favourite porch chair. No sooner did I sit than I was swarmed by freakin’ wasps. I – BOLTED down my driveway, goosebumps head to toe, and waited for them to disburse. They didn’t. I managed to get a look at what they were concentrating on and there was a damned wasp nest attached to the underside back of my chair!!!

So I’m out in my driveway, completely befuddled and freaked out, BAREFOOT, my phone inside, very angry wasps swarming my front porch (and of course the front door was the only one unlocked) – and my only weapon was a crossword puzzle book. Yeh – time to die.

I tried for about 20 minutes to time a mad dash for the front door but they just kept circling and getting angrier. Finally, I walked over to Tracy’s apartment and after hiding my head in shame asked if they might have any wasp spray. NOPE. Todd thought it would be a good idea to go spray them down with the hose, so he did. The result? A hive of WET, pissed off wasps. After while, a flyswatter was acquired and Tracy covered me, managing to maim a couple of them while I dashed inside for my keys and whatnot. I ran back out spraying a cloud of Raid and ducked into my car and went straight to the store for a can of wasp killer. I’m inside now… 2 hours later… and luckily none got inside! Oh, and she was nice and gave me dinner again 🙂

Summary: I DON’T LIKE NATURE ANY MORE!!!!!