Tuesday, May 17th
Everyone was up and ready to roll by 7:00 this morning and after struggling to obtain multiple cups of coffee for 16 people at breakfast, we all broke off to tackle separate tasks. Rather than everyone going to the field at once and waiting for Mahalet to get permission to enter the forest, most of us would stay and homogenize soils at the hotel while Amare and Mahlet headed to the forest first. It wasn’t easy getting up so early just to go back to our hotel room but we have learned from experience that homogenizing as we go is much better than trying to do all 50 soils in one day of lab work. I offered to sacrifice my room to the mess and we lined up three little bedside tables so that four of us could homogenize at once. We got some music going and discovered that cleaning sieves was much easier with a toothbrush (extra ones from the hotel, not our own!), we worked our way through all 15 of the soils from the previous day’s forests relatively quickly. Mahalet and Amare were dealing with the local government and didn’t get back till noon. They found all of us either asleep or reading in our bed, just waiting for the call to action.
Once we were given the all clear we quickly broke in to two bare-bones teams so we could resurvey two forests at once. They were right across the road from each other, probably 3 km apart. Peter S took me, Robyn, Kate and Mahalet to the slightly closer forest, while Cat, Max, Amare and Misgano took off for the forest that was supposed to be super steep and very difficult. We were walking up opposite sides of the valley and it was fun to watch the other group wind their way through the fields across the valley. We had no problem getting into the forest and the small crew was very efficient at dbh, seedlings and soils. Pete would go locate the next plot while we worked so we were able to move quickly. It was one of those rare forest where no kids or students were following us around and it was so pleasant to not be distracted.
We knew we would finish before the other group so we hung out on the far side of the forest looking over the valley next to us. It’s really incredible to be able to hear the animals and people so clearly from all the way across the valley. It was the perfect spot to hang for a minute and enjoy the weather but Pete wanted to move so we could watch for the other group hiking out of their forest. The benefit of the new location was a couple of big rocks to stretch out on, (“Happiness is my butt on a rock, a dbh in one hand and a roll of bread in the other”-Robyn) and a nice tree for Mahalet to climb. It took her not 5 minutes to be 20 feet in the air! It was a bit more of a struggle getting her down when we saw team 2 heading for the car but with some help from a local we managed and arrived back at the car at the same time.
It was already 4pm because we had such a slow start but Cat was determined to get one more forest done before calling it quits. This one was right in town and we had a strategy to get all three plots surveyed between our two teams before sun down. The walk up was absolutely stunning, with the the early evening sun lighting up with high mountains in the distance. We gathered quite a gaggle of kids since we started walking from town and my group ended up acquiring two little helpers. A young boy carried all of Robyn’s things and a very young, adorable girl followed Kate around, holding tree branches out of her way and helping move the seedling plot. Our group was able to do two plots, finishing the last one just as the sun went down. Misgano was taking the eucalyptus soil cores as we left the forest and by the time we got back to the van it was dark and the moon was out over the valley.
Back at the hotel we had another late, big group dinner and planned for the next day. Cat would be leaving the day after next and had a million things to take care of before then. All we could do to help was to go back to my room after dinner and continue homogenizing. Carrie joined us and it was several very entertaining hours of music, stories and laughter. By the time everyone left for bed my room was a muddy mess but I felt much better about where we were than I had in the morning. We had a plan and if we stuck to it, everything could get done!