Bugs And I: A Relationship Fostered in Auburn, California

Y’know, here’s the thing. I used to hate bugs, and I think I’m pretty justified in that hatred. Having travelled a good bit of the world (okay, a pretty small bit of the world), I’ve come to realize in my life an important truth: every bug located in southern Louisiana desires nothing but to kill human beings. Every bug located everywhere else is just trying to live its damn life.

For the past five weeks, the second half of our third round project, Green 3 has been living in a place called Lincoln, California (and working in Auburn, nearby), about 30 minutes northeast of Sacramento. And… we’re sleeping in tents. Camping, some would say.

Now, camping is a lot of things. It’s kind of fun. It’s real noisy. It’s a bit peaceful, and it’s weirdly inconvenient. It’s… pretty buggy.

I waited until the end of our camping experience to write this post so that I would know I wasn’t speaking too soon, but now that I’m back home for a short vacation (well, a wedding, not a vacation: there’s a difference), I feel that I can truly reflect on Green 3’s camping experience with a clear head.

Here are 5 things I learned about living and working mostly outside.

Thing Number 1

Camping outside of a fire station right next to an airport and a busy highway isn’t really camping.

I imagine that people go camping in the first place to experience a reprieve from the everyday noise of their lives, but as it turns out, sleeping in a tent exposes you to even more of those noises than sleeping inside of a building would. Not to mention that (close your eyes and try to imagine this) in the moments of near-quiet, a chorus of frogs would erupt to go along with the mosquito and bird symphony that was already happening on low volume. Now, I imagine the animal noises are far more characteristic of real camping than anything else we heard at night. It’s not really camping if an airplane takes off or lands every hour or so at the airport a mile away, and all the same if cars with bright headlights are constantly booking it down the highway next to your tent.

Thing Number 2

Camping outside of a fire station whose facilities you can use (one restroom, a kitchen, a relatively comfortable indoor space for hanging out) is also not really camping.

Now, this one is important because I know for a fact there are other teams who have not had this luxury during their camping experience. Therefore, Green 3 was not camping. Oh no, no. Camping does not involve getting up in the middle of the night, discovering you need to pee, and then promptly being able to sneak your way inside of the nearby fire station to use an actual toilet. Even if there’s only one. Camping also doesn’t involve taking a shower every day after work. Even if there’s only one of those too. And finally, camping does not involve being able to move all of your things inside the fire station if it starts storming outside, and then moving everything back out once California decides to act like California again.

I guess the moral of these first two lessons is that camping is not quite what Green 3 was up to these past few weeks, but we did spend a majority of our time outside. In fact, the only time we were really inside was in the evening for dinner or during any free time we had (which was not a lot).

So what were we really up to? We spent most of our time working on a few of the beautiful nature preserves owned and kept up by Placer Land Trust, our project sponsor.

Thing Number 3

Although I deeply believe everything in Louisiana has evolved to kill human beings, California has its fair share of threats, including but not limited to: ticks, mosquitos, spiders, snakes, mountain lions, bears, and most of all… cows.

I know you’re thinking that cows are not a threat, so let me explain to you how you’re deeply, deeply wrong. This time of year is calving season (at least where we are). Cows don’t really like other animals being around their babies. Y’know kind of like how humans don’t much like other animals being around their babies. So the biggest threat we faced working on nature preserves in northern California, was, you guessed it, vicious angry parent cows. However, I would argue that said cows were fairly patient towards our awkward flailing around with tools, running away from bees, and weird random dance parties. Was every other threatening animal as patient with us invading their space? No, not quite. But we don’t need to go into that.

Thing Number 4

Water is both the best and worst thing in the world, and Green 3’s relationship with it is complicated.

Water. We were told that it doesn’t make much of an appearance in California, but oh, were we mistaken. From serving our first project in the area of flood relief, to losing our electricity due to a flood in SoCal, to being kicked out of our housing because the water got unexpectedly shut off, to experiencing one of the worst rain storms in several years in San Bernardino and then promptly losing access to water due to a pump system error, to then experiencing record-breaking rainfall in Northern California while simultaneously not having access to clean water in our housing due to another pump system malfunction… Green 3 has quite a complicated relationship with water. Water hath been giveth to us and water hath been taketh from, or something.

At the same time, working out in the wilderness all day means having to depend on a lot of water to keep you going. You need to drink a ton of water to keep from getting dehydrated, but the more water you drink, the more you have to… get rid of the water. And when you’re working in nature, all you’ve got for a restroom are what we called “facili-trees”. So, yes, water is the best. It’s also the worst. But it’s always going to be around.

Thing Number 5

Finally, the bugs. The bugs, the bugs. Bugs and I, I’d say, are going steady now. I’m cool with the fact that they keep our pretty little ecosystems quite stable in really weird ways. They’re cool with biting me all day and buzzing around my hair like it’s some kind of nest.

I wouldn’t say we’re ready to go public with our relationship, but if a bee wanted to come and hang out in my house with me, I wouldn’t be mad. I might even share some sugar water with it while leading it kindly to a breezy window. Spiders? We’ve always been pretty tight. Black Widows are actually maybe my new best friend. Ladybugs? Check. Caterpillars? Yeah. Creepy giant centipedes? We’re cool. Worms? We’re best friends.

You can’t work in beautiful places without exposing yourself to all the weird gross things that keep them beautiful.

So, without further stalling, here are some pictures of the beautiful places I had to say goodbye to this past week, and also a spoiler picture that I got from google mixed in showing where my team is headed to next.

It rhymes with Poseberg Moregon.

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Until next time!

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