About PeanutButter

A good ol' Ohio boy out in Cali

This is it

Well…My internship comes to an end in two weeks. I served my five months, then a two month extension at a neighboring BLM office and now in two weeks, I am released of my service. This summer has been an exciting and rewarding experience full of accomplishments and lessons. It seems like so long ago when I first came out here. There was snow on the ground and the morning temperatures were in the teens, then when summer hit the temperature pushed 100 degrees for days at a time and the dryness of the air seemed to suck the moisture right out of my body. Now as fall begins to set in, I have mornings in the low 40s and afternoons in the mid 80s.

It has become very hard to stay focused. My fiancee and I got a new house in Oregon where she will be starting her PhD. I want very much to go join her and start this new stage of life, but I have obligations to finish the work here. I dont mean to sound ungrateful, I think most people would feel similar in this situation. The important thing is that I come into work early, get my work done, and stay positive about what I to do.

I feel like a different person than when I got here. At the beginning of this internship, I left my home and family knowing that before my work was done, I would have a new home in Oregon. In addition to the experiences and character development I have attained in my internship, I have also said goodbye to my life in Ohio. Many of my friends…will I ever see them again? Some I am sure, but others who can say. I feel like while out here, I stepped out of a world of safety and security and into a world of responsibility. While I am ready for it, I have to wait a little longer while I finish this work.

Keep smiling and laughing, stay positive, and remember, you cant go back, once a time passes it is gone so enjoy it and give whatever you are doing your all because afterwards you can only look back at what you did.

Surprise Valley Time

Since my internship has been extended, I have transferred from the Alturas office to the Surprise Valley office. So far, I like it here. Since Alturas and Surprise are about 30 minutes from each other, I have worked within the Surprise boundary earlier in the season. I have some knowledge of this area, but since it is towards the end of the season, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do in terms of where things are out in the wilderness.

At the Alturas office, the word on the block was that the interns last year and my mentor did not get along so well. I feel as though I was really able to leave that office with a good reputation and the respect of my former coworkers. This gives me a since of pride in knowing that I did good work, or at least worked to the best of my abilities. In my experience, people notice your mindset and attitude more so than the work you actually do. Not to say be happy everyday and you dont have to work, but if you are learning something new, whether skills, information, or just how to navigate a new area, you are bound to make mistakes and therein lies the importance of coming into work everyday ready to try again and not be negative about your task or abilities.

I do feel like I am living in a whirlwind right now. Many things are happening back home in Ohio with my family while my friends are getting married. Here I am, living in a 14 foot trailer driving around the wilderness where people can’t get a hold of me half the time. During this summer, I also began a move across the country to Oregon and all the planning and communicating that goes into an endeavor like that has become rather distracting. My new home is about 2,500 miles from my old home and also about 315 miles from where I currently work, yet my only internet connection is in the office, so I have to use my time wisely.

All in all, I would say that we have it easy. Back in the day, there would be no emails, no phone calls, and no long weekend drives to check on things. I would be here, family, fiance, friends, would be somewhere else, and it would take a long time to send letters back and forth. I would be down here working and saving my money so I could move my fiance here where we would probably live in my 14 foot trailer and scrape through a cold desert winter. Puts it in perspective a little bit.

Only the Good Things

My internship would have been over at the end of this week.  I would have to leave my trusty white truck, Floyd, my awesome computer space way in the back by the window, and all the new people I have befriended.  My little prison cell sized trailer would have to be returned to the man who lent it to me and the Chinese restaurant downtown would lose all the income I provide for them.  The Warner Mountains would become memories and their rocky peaks would erode with time leaving only the sand of what I had once known.


have worked hard during my time here at the Alturas BLM and I have made friends.  I have shown respect for my superiors and never passed up an opportunity to get new experiences.  As my time here dwindled, I had to make a decision on whether or not to work at getting extended or moving on to the next experience.  Though I hesitated at first, I did ask for an extension, and wouldn’t you know it…I got one!

Networking has always been both a priority and a way of life for me.  My mentor did not have the funds to keep me on any longer, but I have spent time with the supervisors of the nearby BLM offices.  The wildlife biologist atI the Surprise Valley BLM office and I have worked together multiple times and had once asked me if I was going to stick around.  I told him I wanted to and his reply was “I will keep that in mind.”  When my own supervisor could not keep me, I asked if she could talk to Surprise Valley.  Within 15 minutes I had an answer…the answer I wanted to hear.

Everything you do is important to your character.  All you can do is strengthen your weaknesses and invest in your strengths.  I am not the most knowledgeable intern, but I know how to communicate and I know how to listen.  I am not the most assertive, but I know how to work and I know how to compromise.  The more in-touch you become with your own characteristics, the more clearly you can see how you fit in, how you can become an asset to yourself and those around you.

My experience here at the BLM has been a very individual experience.  I am responsible for much of my day to day planning and often there is not a crew out there telling me on the bad days that we just need to finish this much or pointing out the good aspects of the day.  In many ways it is more an exercise in responsibility and maturity.  Though my plant ID for this area of the country has progressed much slower than I would have liked, my confidence in making judgement calls and trusting my instincts has grown considerably.  In getting extended, I feel as though my hard work payed off in more than a good word or reference letter.  The merit of my actions compelled a separate office to take me on and that makes me feel good.

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Alturas, CA

My third month in Alturas, California is coming to a close and it seems like so long ago when the mornings were 19° and snow covered the roads.  Rising at 3 in the morning, dressing in three to four layers, meeting my partner at the office and heading out to the field by 4 was a way of life.  Early this month things changed pretty abruptly.  The Sage Grouse season ended sooner than we expected, we had already planned out our survey schedule for the next week when we were told to wrap it up.

My partner for the first couple months is a botany tech funded through the Great Basin Institute, and has since been tasked with other projects while my work has become increasingly independent.  I have begun learning about raptors in preparation to monitor nesting sites and search for new nests in and around both known Sage Grouse leks/brooding habitat and areas that will be experiencing disturbance.  I have compiled a list of proposed and accept projects within our field office such as juniper removal and other construction related activities.

As far as botany, I have worked on an ID team for the Eagle Lake field office.  The ID team is a small group that surveys large pasture areas to determine the overall health of the site in order to determine if it can handle more, less, or the same amount of cattle or sheep and what, if any, rehabilitation needs to be done.  The group includes a wildlife biologist, a soil scientist, and a range con working together to complete transects and other monitoring practices.

I have also surveyed for rare and special interest plants.  We have found Eriogonum prociduum, prostate buckwheat, several species of Penstemon, beardtongues, and some lupines.  Recently, we found a new population of lupine within an area scheduled for juniper removal.  We had to mark and flag this area to restrict the timber cutters from driving in and around the site.

I am having a great time here in Northern California.  Alturas is a tiny town, not for people that like a city vibe or the night life, but it has a certain charm and I enjoy waving at other drivers as we pass one another.  I feel comfortable with my work and the area and look forward to getting up in the morning (not that is something new, but we have all had a job or two where we did not want to get up).

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Over the hills and far away

Well, one drastic change that I have noticed is that I can no longer sleep past 5am.  I get up for Sage Grouse monitoring at 3am all week, and now even on weekends I am up before the sun making breakfast.  It is very quiet in the early morning, while drinking my tea I often watch the sun creep over the hills and sagebrush, across West Valley, and up and over Likely Mountain.  Although the early morning sunrises are pretty wonderful, my favorite time of everyday is the early evening.  As the sun retreats, the sky becomes ablaze with oranges, yellows, and pinks.  The Warner Mountain range to the east catches the last rays and turns pink and blue, the snowy tops shining against the deep blue of night’s approach.

I have seen many grouse at different distances.  Sometimes I use a spotting scope to look across a dry lake bed, other times I use binoculars and look out the truck windows, and every now and again, I have to hike right up to the proximity limit and count them without any visual aid.  One important lesson has been to trust my instincts.  Often the GPS points are off or the lek has shifted and/or the map is wrong.  Looking through a scope or binoculars, it is easy to misread the terrain as well.  It seems very flat and the map does not indicate much topography, the birds are supposed to be right there, but where are they?  I hike over and begin to hear them.  I keep going and as it turns out, there is a depression that you can only see up close and they are all within.

Many plants are finally beginning to come up and bloom.  Many more, however, have yet to show themselves.  The drought is taking its toll on many plants.  Even some of our invasive grasses like cheatgrass and  medusa head have not come up in some locations.  The flowers that have come up I have very much enjoyed, they have transformed some pretty bland areas by bringing color into a green and drown landscape.  I often wonder how I am going to be able to remember all the plants from Ohio after this, so much Latin so little time.

Pictures from top to bottom

Greater Sage Grouse captured for banding and measurement as Massacre Bench, NV

Sunrise from Cinder Pit, CA at about 5:30am

View from the Top of Tuledad Canyon, CA

Abandoned homestead found in Surprise Valley, NV

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Comfortable in my Surroundings

It is funny how quickly I have adapted.  When I think about my first evening here it seems so long ago.  My third week on the job is coming to a close and I have settled in a healthy routine, learned everything I need to know to work successfully in the field, and made pals with some of my coworkers.  Now I don’t mean to sound cocky, there is so many things to learn here, and I have not even begun to scratch the surface of the plants around here.16MilesofBumps  This area is so vast and the maps are not 100% trustworthy, the value of local knowledge here is great and in no short supply.  It would take years of being in this area and talking to people to be totally comfortable to head off into the hills for the weekend.

On the other hand, I feel comfortable with the three main sagebrush species associated with the sage grouse.  This is fundamental to identifying good habitat and can also tell you much about other factors influencing a site.  I have learned the major invasive species impacting the habitat, Medusa head (Taeniatherum caput-medusae), cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), and north africa grass (Ventenata dubia), and I understand how and why they are impacting sage habitat so strongly.  Some of the major areas of our work I know like the back of my hand and drive them at 4 am in the dark on the way to conduct surveys without slowing down at every turn or side trail to recheck my map and compass, which is huge (and now allows me a little more sleep).  So when I say I know what I need to know to get in the field that is what I mean.

It seems as though most people in this area are preparing to some degree for the summer.  I am expecting some pretty intense wildfires this year and it seems that the whole county has that same expectation.  This is one reason that those grasses listed ViewofSurpriseValleyabove are so bad.  They alone are not so bad, I see them everywhere blending into the communities, sagebrush is fine, forbs are in place, native grasses may be lacking, but they are there.  The problem is how they affect the behavior of the wildfires.  They spread the fire rapidly and increase the intensity of the burn.  These grasses live under and around the sagebrush so it can lead to the destruction of hundreds to thousands of sagebrush at a time.  Sagebrush takes anywhere from 35 to 100 years to return to its mature productive status.  But while it is rejuvenating, the grasses move back into the open spots and out compete and allow western junipers to move in.  The poor sage grouse…they need healthy sagebrush habitats to live and be happy!

I love it here.  I have always wanted to get to an area like this; one that still has a rugged and slightly wild feel.  But I can see how interns coming from a more city life setting or life style may arrive and not know what to do with it.  There isn’t a Walmart for 100 miles (awesome), there is no McDonald’s, everything is like 30 miles away at least, and even then it’s probably something outside involving exercise.  There is no internet connection unless you rent your own house and pay for it.  But I have found the time to pursue my many interests that, during school, I had little time to enjoy.  Thanks again CLM!


2700 Miles to California

I am here…in Alturas, California working for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  I bought myself a much needed new vehicle (ha, new to me!), and road tripped across the country to Cali.  The last 90 miles from Reno, Nevada to Alturas is when it really set in…I am almost 3,000 miles from everything familiar and I am not coming back.  I am moving into the area at the end of the season, so this is my new home and I have to familiarize myself with everything from customs and local culture to all the plants and animals.

I will be monitoring the Greater Sage Grouse.  This is a habitat-specific bird living in the sage steppe habitat that stretches hundreds of thousands of acres across the West.  Their status is pending and due for listing in the Endangered Species Act in 2015.  Despite the 13 year drought here, it has rained almost everyday I have been here, and I have had only one opportunity to go out on a search for these guys.  In addition to the grouse, I will be doing as much work as I can with plants and the botanist here collecting seeds, samples, and surveying for rare plants.

I came into this job with many seasons of field work under my belt, so the work load and intensity is not a shock.  What gets me though…back home I knew many many things in terms of vegetation and wildlife.  I have studied the plants of the Michigan/Ohio region since I was in high school and could do much of it in botanical terms.  Here, I do not know some of the most common plants and animals around and I signed on declaring that I am really good at ID.  The sheer amount of new information to take in is a bit staggering, but I tend to stagnate without a good challenge.

Beyond anything else, I am invigorated.  My philosophy has long been to do things that make you uncomfortable so you become a stronger more diverse person.  Well, I was uncomfortable when I arrived.  My boss showed me my living quarters in a fire station 20 miles from town, told me what not to do while there, and left me for the weekend.  I had to make peace with the fact that I am now in uncharted territory and I have the knowledge that in a few months me and the boys will not be telling stories over a couple beers downtown; this is it.

I graduated kiddy school, and now I begin building my professional name.  No more tests and exams, the only thing that counts is my actions and my word, and that makes me more happy then getting straight As in classes.

Thank you CLM, thank you BLM, and thank you to the many good professors at Kent State.


Today is the first day I have had internet access!

I will upload my own photos in the future when I can go out and take some!