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Water, water everywhere

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

So we had some rain today.

January is starting out with a bang-it didn’t get above 0 degrees for several days last week, and this morning was 50 degrees and raining. Rain of biblical proportions, with the rain gauge at the track saying .88″ of rain, most of it falling between 7:30-10:30, up to a half inch an hour at times. I’m not going to answer the Middbeat question of “What’s the deal with the weather”, except to say we’ve got some lower atlantic moisture sliding up the coast on the side of the polar vortex in the middle of the country. When low pressure systems like that get squeezed on the sides by intense high pressure, all sorts of funky things happen, like lots of quick rain, or high winds. We had both.

And with the deep freeze last week, storm drains were plugged, iced over, or covered in snowbanks. Rain can’t soak into frozen ground, taxing storm drains even when they are available and working. The landscape department went into overdrive, breaking up ice dams and opening storm drains. The most worrisome spot was solved quickly, that of Voter basement. You know, (or maybe you don’t), that place with all the computer servers. That would be a heck of an excuse for a banner web crash, wouldn’t it?

The northwest door of McCullough, the one that heads either straight towards Munroe and Mead Chapel, or head up the stairs towards Stewart, sits at the bottom of that whole slope below Mead. That entire side slope seems to drain right towards that door. There are several storm drains near there, including what turns out to be a critical one to the right of the door way. This is Jaime and Buzz, wearing hip waders, looking for the storm drain with ice picks and an iron bar. (As always, click on the picture to enlarge)

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And this is the doorway in question, where water was flowing a foot deep through the doors and down the stairs. We actually got the backhoe in there and broke up the iced over snow banks around the entry, and got the water moving down. The plastic and snow was acting like a temporary dam blocking some of the water.

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The Gamut room, in the Gifford pit, started flooding too. That’s Buzz and Jaime again, looking for the tiny little drain somewhere at their feet.

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Yes, I’m the one taking all these pictures. Only barn boots, no hip waders, and I don’t know how to swim.

The drain for this pit is simply down the hill below Mead Chapel. Bet you’ve been sledding over the top of it. Broke the ice around this drain and the pit was cleared in about 15 minutes.

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The last spot we’re still worrying about is on the north west alcove of Battell. This drain is frozen solid, barely flowing at all. We use bags of calcium chloride, and dump them on top of the drain. It acts like a non toxic drain cleaner, flowing down the drain and melting the ice. I’m hopeful this drain will be fixed by tomorrow. I’m not the most patient person you know.

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The true heroes for the day, though, I don’t have any pictures of. There is an entire custodial team known as ‘floor crew’. I don’t even know how many of them there are, but the ones I know on it are all pretty cool. They ran around all day with wet vacs, carpet extractors, blowers, mops, and various other implements of mass destruction. Wherever water was pouring into basements or doorways, they were there, fixing the mess, saving the floors and buildings (and maybe your room!) from the water mess.

 

Seeking Fresh Voices, Ideas, and Task Masters

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Hello, everyone. My guest bloggers this week are SGA President Rachel Liddell ’14, Assistant Director of Student Activities Jennifer Herrera, and Student Activities Programs and Events Manager Dave Kloepfer, writing about the social scene on campus. We look forward to hearing your comments and ideas!
—Shirley M. Collado

Welcome back! This last week, the new academic year kicked off in a major way with events like the First Chance dance party in the Bunker, Pub Night in Crossroads with WRMC, the DMC and WOC welcome-back BBQ, and McCullough Fest. Plus, Crossroads presented our palates with some pleasant surprises, such as creative, tasty smoothies and milkshakes and fresh-made sushi. When the Student Activities Fair was rained out last Thursday, McCullough became a hot spot for hanging out and reconnecting. For the first time in a while, it looked and felt alive with students—as it should be. Every seat, table, and booth was filled.

McCullough is the student center, your hub for anything, from checking your mail, to munching on a delicious snack like a “Dr. Feelgood” or a tempura shrimp roll, to studying, and even dancing the night away at Café con Leche Latin dance party. These are some of the amazing events at McCullough. Plus, they represent a fraction of McCullough’s potential. The possibilities are endless. And this is where you come in; it just takes your ideas and initiative to realize them.

We want students who are willing to “roll up their sleeves” to make things happen to come forward with ideas. We’re eager to hear what you have to say and want to do.

  • What ideas do you have for making McCullough a more attractive, cool, and fun (less institutional) space?
  • What kind of events and live music do you want to see here in Crossroads?
  • Do you want to be involved with enhancing the social scene? Tell us how.
  • Let us know what ideas you may have for improving outreach and communications about the rich activities already available, and those to come.

Feel free to contact Rachel at sga@middlebury.edu, Jennifer and Dave at student_activities@middlebury.edu, or leave comments here on this blog. We welcome ideas for new programs or events or anything else related to social-life programming that you’re burning to tell someone about.

 

The Juice Bar at Crossroads Cafe

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

I make no excuses for not blogging.

I’m not one of those super-organized, or super-marketeer landscapers who spends the slow winter writing blog posts to store them for slow release all summer. No, we spent the snowless winter busily pruning more trees in one winter than the previous 3, and my dream list of blog posts keeps growing almost, but not quite, as fast as the weeds in the garden.

So what’s my first blog post of the dog days? Guess what, it’s not even about plants, but food.

Some of you probably know my wonderfully patient wife, Nancy, and if not go introduce yourself. She summers as the supervisor of the Juice Bar, which, lacking students, is run by the Grille staff, where she slums in the winter. They’re calling it Crossroads, probably because of the large sign above the back, but the menu is all Nancy. Last year was the year of the Panini, which they’ve kept (try the Sierra Smoked Turkey one), but this year crepes are the thing.

We had crepe weekend here at home a month or two ago, where she and the children practiced all weekend. (Oh, the sacrifices I make for the Middlebury community; I didn’t eat until Tuesday)  She’s got it down now, and has taught Sydney and Kate (Kate from Wilson Cafe, similarly slumming in McCullough for the summer). And you owe it to yourself to go get one.

Like the Goliath, with flank steak, goat cheese, carmelized onions, and roasted red pepper. Or the Fernicky, (don’t get the name? Ask Miguel), with sausage, ricotta, and apple. But, believe it or not, even this landscaper thinks the best one may be the vegetarian option, with a coconut tumeric lime sauce. I run and hide from Indian food (an unfortunate experience at a local restaurant after a Sunday brunch), but this crepe may be the greatest thing since skinny pancakes came along.

So go for the crepes, but stay for the Chocolate Soup. Really. We practiced that recipe at home too, but I was training for the Middlebury Half Marathon, so it was’t a sacrifice, but needed fuel.

Or so I said.

A Wednesday Thunderstorm

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Last wednesday we had a rip-banger. Thunderstorms developed in the hot summer air over Northern New York, and built as they tracked across the lake. The line continued to build once across the lake, and erupted on top of Middlebury.

I was sitting at home, (I was at work early), watching lightening strike all around us, many up on the ridge of Snake Mountain, some in the fields below. The wind was howling, and sheets of rain poured down. The Middlebury weather station recorded a 20 degree temperature drop in less than a half of an hour, and more than a half an inch of rain in the same amount of time. Peak wind gust came in at 40 mph.

The college weathered the storm ok, but 3 trees took it quite hard. A Green Ash behind Emma Willard (Admissions) took a lightening strike-that was interesting, as it was the shortest tree around, but it was all by itself in the center of the back yard.

Another tree we lost, not surprising, but still sad, was a large Weeping Willow on the northwest side of Battell Beach (the upper Quidditch Pitch). We almost always see Adirondack chairs underneath this tree. The center two stems of this tree had a fast moving fungus that caused a rot in the sapwood of the two center trunks. The sapwood is what carries water upwards to the branches, as well as nutrients throughout the tree, so having this vital structure rot away was a irrecoverable death in waiting. High winds torqued one of the trunks, and broke it away to lean against one of the remaining ones. We removed the tree the next day, before it broke further on someone sitting in a chair.

The final tree may or may not be a casualty, time will tell. One of the large Norway spruces we left in the Main Quad Tree Removal, the most southern one, was hit by lightening. Friends at work in the service building told me it was the most impressive lightening strike they’d heard in a long time. The tree shows a classic spiral scar from the top of the tree all the way down to the bottom root flare. Bark like shrapnel was scattered all over the quad in long 3′ strips, and filled the back of one of our gators. The prognosis of the tree is unknown. The roots seem to be intact-while there is bark peeling on the root flare, it does not seem too bad. Certainly I’ve seen trees recover from worse. We’ll know in a couple of weeks-if the tree is going to die quickly we’ll know soon.

Edge and Atwater

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Yes, dear readers, I’m still cheating on you on another blog. The Atwater contest is nearing completion, though, and in one of the final posts for Turf Battle I’m again writing about a landscape concept you all might find interesting. I write about Edge, and how it effects the composition of masses and spaces within the landscape.

Plants of a (mis)Spent Youth

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Friends ask me how I got into this line of work. How do can I explain it to a non-plant person? It’s all about the plants, after all, but how? What is it about the flowers, or the mulch, or the dirt? How did I get from playing Led Zeppelin on my eight track, painting my parent’s house white (again) to landscaping?

Lily of the Valleyis my earliest plant memory. lilyvalleyIncongruously, planted on the south side of the house, explaining the brown leaves all summer. My sister and I, 6 and 4 years old, picking little Dixie cups full of the white bells, and running next door on May Day, setting the flowers on the porch, ringing the door bell, and running like hell home. Forever linked in my head: the smell of Lily of the Valley, and the smell of band-aids for skinned knees.

Silver Maple-picking up sticks in the back yard in springtime. Lots of sticks. Lots and lots of sticks. So many sticks, I almost brought my kids to tears once, when I suggested we pick up sticks for their grandparents. My mom offered the kid across the street $50 to do it last year, and he said no. She never offered to pay me.

Sugar Maple. You have not truly lived until you have seen your dad peel all the wallpaper off the kitchen wall showing his son how maple syrup is made.

Bridalwreath Spirea, Spirea x vanhouttei. Did you know if you pick stems of flowers and put them in a vase with food dye, you can get the flowers to turn color? It’s a totally different flower in black.

So much for early childhood memory, short of a forsythia hedge moving 5′ north in our back yard (tips of the branches arching over and rooting in the ground), and some pleasant tree climbing memories (Norway maple, politically incorrect now, but has great branch spacing necessary for climbing). The epiphany came when I had the great fortune of starting work for a plant person.

Plant person? Yeah, I knew I was all in when we were driving to the next lawn to mow, and a tree service was topping some red maples in a yard along the way. Mark, my former boss, rolls down the window, slows down, and yells “Murderers!” at the top of his lungs. Maybe it was the heat,dianthus-alpinus but the house we went to had Cottage Pinks, Dianthus alwoodii, smelling of carnations, a close relative, stretched across 100′ of stone wall in the back yard, full bloom: the only landscaping in the yard, and utterly perfect.

Or Lacebark pine, driving 20 minutes out of our way to a job because I’d had the great misfortune of not having seen one yet? Have you? A pine with bark like a Sycamore. Don’t come and see the one I’ve planted in my backyard, it takes an older and wiser tree to know how to show off, and mine is only growing about 3″ a year for the last 8 years. (For those of you keeping track, yes, it is one of the first trees I planted) Likewise wait a while for the one I planted across from Emma Willard next to the Middlebury College sign.

Or driving through the Imperial Nurserieswholesale yard picking plants for a job. Now, I’d spent some time in garden centers, rest assured. Ever since I was about 12 or so customers would come up and ask me questions, regardless of where Iwas, just assuming I’d worked there. This yard, though, required driving, for it was measured in acres and miles. We needed a map to get to the exbury azaleas. (that’s another olfactive memory) Not so at another nursery, the lovely Summer Hill Nursery. We went there (presumably) just for a couple of plants. Looking back, it was probably more for the Bald Cypress planted there. (Yeah, I’ve got those planted too, right in my ditch. Hoping for the knees they for in native locales, although most springs I’m just happy when they finally break bud after winter-they’re very slow, and I worry.) (Yes, some at Middlebury too. Just planted last fall near the McCullough plaza. Ron was walking by, and asked if they were going to make it. An astute observation-the fall color is a dead rust color. For all intensive purposes in a couple of weeks every fall they look like they’ve kicked the bucket.)

Or my first design job, a small perennial garden (Mark was a dwarf conifer guy, hence letting the young whippersnapper do the perennials). Imagine, if you will, the heartbreak of doing a great job (so Mark said), then going back in 2 months to see the plants staked upright and tied with pantyhose. Just cause it’s in an organic gardening magazine doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea.

Or the guilt of being shown a rare variegated shoot on yew, then trimming all the yews around the church and forgetting about the shoot, whomping the next potential great plant into utter oblivion. It was about 100 degrees that day, but that’s really no excuse, right?

I haven’t explained the Led Zepplin, and if you have to ask what an eight track is you are on your own. And my parent’s house is no longer white, but cars once in a while slow down while driving in front, looking at theDSC00024Paperbark maple I planted in the front yard after painting all summer. One of those at Middlebury too, across from the field house. It’s the Class of 1942 tree. Go look at it, worth the walk, even in the cold.

McCullough Plaza Rocks

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

A new category in the Middland blog, and a guest post to boot. I’m sure most of you have seen the new plaza at McCullough, but have you noticed the rocks out there?

I’ll confess the plant world almost lost me to geology in my UVM undergrad career. I’ve always loved it, and have the well worn Golden Guide to Rocks and Mineralsfrom my grade school days to prove it. Plants won, though, but I still work in rock whenever possible. And there is plenty of it at Middlebury, if you know where to look. In fact, I bet you see rocks all the time, and don’t even really think about them. In the landscape department, we call them BFR’s.

We use them all the time as impediments to parking, keeping cars off the paths at ridgeline, and, in the case of the McCullough plaza, as seating. Big F… Rocks are easy, relatively cheap, and easy to move by hydraulics. Not so easy to move by person, although some team rolled one out into Adirondack Road this fall. I don’t totally know which quarry they come from, but they are all well rounded, meaning they come from a quarry probably off of route 116, pulled out of the sand. The round nature comes from being pushed along from glaciers, and they were deposited in the sand before rolling into the Champlain Sea.

When I was meeting with the Master Plan committee out on the site of the plaza this summer, we were discussing the lack of seating around campus (a perennial problem), and John McLeod suggested large rocks. I immediately thought of some of my favorite BFR’s around campus (yes, I have favorite ones), and scheming of a way to get them there.

Once there, I contacted my friend Peter Ryan, and he graciously walked over and identified them for me. Following is his email back to me, with pictures. Hopefully when you run out there to look at them the snow will have blown off them. I’ve learned it’s quite a bit harder to take a good picture of a rock then it is to take one of a plant-go figure…

Breccia Near Entrance

Breccia Near Entrance

“The one closest to the entrance is a carbonate breccia, full of rock clasts with sizes ranging from a few millimeters to dozens of centimeters (perhaps from 1″ to nearly a foot in diameter), in a matrix of carbonate mud. How did it get that way? Breccias often form when rocks are ripped apart in fault zones, but another common way, especially with carbonate rocks, is cave collapse. Other types of erosion can also form breccias, but my guess is that this one is related to cave collapse. When sea level drops, it leaves carbonate rocks exposed to erosion, and the way that they erode chemically is to form caves… this is what has been happening in Florida for the past 2 million years, since sea level dropped and exposed the Florida peninsula. When caves collapse, the form sinkholes full of rock chunks. Ultimately, the source of the brecciation in this particular rock is hard to say for sure not seeing it in context with wherever the glaciers ripped it from.”

Quartzite

Quartzite

“The grey rock is quartzite, a metamorphosed sandstone. Vestiges of sedimentary layers (bedding planes) are visible as wavy black lines– nearly vertical and oriented East-West.”

Mudstone of Questionable Lineage

Mudstone of Questionable Lineage

“The third one, the rusty rock, is intriguing. There must be pyrite (iron sulfide) in the rock that is weathering (oxidizing) to iron oxide, producing the characteristic orange-red staining. It is hard to say exactly what the original rock is, maybe a mudstone…”

Thanks to Peter for filling in on everything I’ve forgotten from Intro to Geology-maybe I’ll sneak back in a geology class here some year. I wonder if one of his colleagues wants to positively identify the mudstone, and (hopefully) give him a hard time. Although, I’ll be the first to admit I run into plants I don’t recognize all the time, and rocks are admittedly quite a bit harder. (sorry about that pun)

 I’ll write about the plants at McCullough in a later post-the microclimate in the area let us use some fun plants.