February 11, 2009

Medicinal Salves, Geology, and Tracking in Wildlife Science

Last week kicked off our second semester of the Alderleaf Wilderness Certification Program. Karen Sherwood came out on Tuesday and taught us how to make medicinal salves, which are similar to lotions. The first salve we made was a cottonwood salve (commonly called Balm of Gilead), which is made by simply heating beeswax and cottonwood bud-infused olive oil to about 130 degrees farenheit. You pour the hot mixture into holding containers and let cool for about 20 minutes. That's all there is to it! The cottonwood salve could also be made by using animal fat in a survival situation. It serves as an anti-microbial and also speeds up healing of blisters, cuts, burns, and bruises. We made other salves as well as some creams with Karen, who always brings great lessons and fun activities to Alderleaf.

Day two was spent learning about geology, the study of the earth. Geology covers everything from the earth's core to weathering and atmospheric conditions. We focused on the earth's crust. This is what we live on and what provides our waters and soils nutrients to grow the wonderful plants that constantly provide us with edible and medicinal goodies. The Earth's crust (in nerd words lithosphere), we learned, is about 40 miles thick, and is made of mostly bedrock. This bedrock breaks down over time due to factors like wind, water, salts, microscopic organisms, freezing, oxidation, and heat. As they break down they combine with organic material to form soil, which houses our beloved plants. Geology has numerous areas of study, and one could easily spend their whole life studying soil and its fertility!

On Friday we learned about how tracking is applied to wildlife science. In the second half of the day we were presented with a challenge. We had to set up a motion sensing camera in a place where we thought a bobcat might pass through. There were three spots in mind. The first spot we checked had a lot of upsides. There were old bobcat scats, a lot of trees to set the camera on, and douglas squirrel caches. Douglas squrrels are an important source of food in the bobcat winter diet. The next place we looked at was named Aplodontia Metropolis. A huge debris pile from logging done back in the 80's is housing numerous aplodontias just off Alderleaf's property. We saw chomped up piles of swordfern just outside their burrow entrances. Aplodontias are often hunted by bobcat as well, but this place had less trees on which to place a camera. It was also farther away and had possibilities of being seen and stolen. We placed the camera in spot 1 before looking at spot 3, the south trail. Walking the trail back to the classroom, we noticed at least three bobcat footprints that were made a few days before... The collective decision was to leave the camera for two weeks, and if there are no bobcat photos, we will move it to spot 3. I hope we catch one on camera!

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