i had some ramen for lunch then repotted my pitcher plant with a mixture of peat moss mixed with some perlite, soaked with water that's been left out a day to let the chlorine dissipate. the soundtrack for today's work schedule was bluegrass, made me want to travel to kentucky for some local music and moonshine.
my mother came by around 5pm. i needed to borrow the car, so she stayed over at my place while i drove down to drumlin farm in lincoln for the salamander hunt. i got lost a little bit driving out, and getting stuck in some rush hour traffic didn't help either, but by shear luck i still managed to find my way. i wasn't optimistic we'd see anything, with the weather being so cold and no substantial rainfall for almost 2 weeks (salamanders like warm and wet). the $18 event was billed as a family outing so i was the only one who came without children. it was like sitting in daycare, as our guide patiently gave us a slide show explaining vernal pools. children were talking throughout, or walking around the darken room, or switching on their flashlight, or stomping their shoes. it's amazing to see how some parents don't seem to care when their child acts up in public. one mother, while introducing herself and her kid, had her toddler son turning around and screaming, "shut up!" if i didn't love salamanders so much and didn't want to jeopardize the hunt, i would've been tempted to beat some manners into these brats. after the presentation, we all headed out into the woods to look for salamanders. we visited 2 sites, one a year-round pool (one that doesn't dry up), the other a genuine vernal pool (normally fenced off, to prevent people from damaging the area). there was just nothing to see, other than a few hardy water boatmen beetles swimming around. we'd squat around the perimeter of the water with our flashlight, shining into the pool, looking for signs of life. the kids were especially curious everytime i looked at something, and would scramble around pointing with their flashlight - i didn't have the heart to tell them i was looking at nothing. occasionally we'd be instructed to turn a log to see if there's anything hiding underneath. it's hard enough walking around in the woods at night, but it's a whole different challenge when there are kids acting as moving obstacles. occasionally i'd walk to the front of the line and ask our guide some questions: have people already seen salamanders this season? (yes.) can vernal pools be artificially created? (yes.) how big can spotted salamanders grow to? (9 inches.) can we find salamanders during the daytime? (it depends.) figuring everything would be frozen, i didn't bother to wear my new rubber boots. perched on the edge of the vernal pool, i noticed i was on a sheet of ice. leaning forward, i crashed through, pulling myself outside and telling everyone i was okay. freezing cold and now with my shoes and gloves wet, it wasn't a pleasant evening. we headed back out, and as a consolation prize, our instructor brought us into the barn, where just recently a pair of lambs had been born. i got to pet some sheeps, whom were surprisingly docile and affectionate (almost like friendly dogs).
i came back to my place a little bit after 9pm, returning the car to my mother, who promptly drove back home.
i don't doubt that one day i will see a spotted salamander. i just don't think it's this year.