Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First Day Of Law Enforcement At Anti

As our ProRanger Internship starts to wind down and we embark on our final weeks with the Law Enforcement Division at Antietam National Battlefield. Today we go on patrol with LE Ranger Linc Beers. On today's agenda, Travis and I help put up security cameras at various spots around the park. Due to an ongoing investigation we can not divulge any information regarding these cameras.

Here we have Travis programming the camera.

It took a while to program but we are just happy to finally figure it out.

Travis installing the camera.

Deer sighting on our way back to the Ranger House. Antietam has a huge deer population.

Even though it was only our first taste of NPS Law Enforcement action, I know we are going to learn so much during our tenure.

Till Next Time!

Back To The Woods: Natural Resources Round 2 (Anti)

Driving around the tour road, off in the distance one can see trees crashing with a tumultuous explosion. The sounds of chain saws echoing through the battlefield. Whats going on? Its the Natural Resources Division at it again! Travis and I are out in the backwoods behind the Otto Farm House helping fell trees in order to restore the landscape to what it would of looked like back in 1862.

Here we have Ranger Chris Tawney sharpening his tool of choice, a Husqvarna Chainsaw. With chaps and face guard properly worn and secure, he is ready to fell some trees.

The video above shows Ranger Connor Malloy felling a tree. Notice his methodical style when he makes his notches, also known as cuts, in order to make the tree fall in a certain direction. It takes years of practice and expertise in order to fell a tree the way Ranger Malloy does it. His technique is unsurpassed. In addition to being able to run a saw, he is an authority when it comes to the natural landscape at Antietam. Any question regarding flora or fauna, he has an answer to it.

Above we have Ranger Malloy, Bucking a fallen tree. He is basically cutting it up into smaller pieces so the other rangers can put them into piles to be burned later on during the winter months.

Now that trees have been felled and bucked, I can start transporting them to the wood piles.

We came across a skull amidst all the brush. According to Ranger Andrew Landsman, it is identified as a deer skull.

Its hard work but hey who said preserving and protecting was easy.

Till Next Time!


Friday, July 16, 2010

With an assortment of programs and an abundance of history it's easy to see why people come to Antietam National Battlefield. So far working at the park has been a great experience. Alex and I have been moving through the departments and are very excited to begin our work with the LE's.
This past Saturday, as was promised by Steve Clark, Alex and I were vacuuming, dusting, and yes cleaning toilets. Even though it may not be the most glorious of jobs it is an important one. While cleaning the Visitors Center (until it was spotless) I realized that the place I was in was the face of the park. This is where the visitors begin their journey through history and the experience could be diminished had the bathrooms and floors looked dirty and unkempt. Even though each department works separately and sometimes has to do what they may not enjoy, every department works to create a better environment for the people who visit the park. The people who do these less then reputable jobs do it proudly and with a smile making the jobs not seem so bad after all.
Be proud of what you do because others are proud of us. Park Rangers should be proud because we are doing a great service to the country. One example of this was presented to me on the 3rd of July at the Solute to Independence, which is a big concert held every year attracting nearly 20,000 people to Antietam. I was stationed near a busy road next to the park and instructed to keep traffic moving. A young man dressed in street clothes approached me and said that he was in the Army. The next thing he said came as a shock. "Thank you for your service" he said to me explaining next that he feels that Rangers don't get enough appreciation for the great jobs that they do in parks across America. He shook my hand patted my shoulder and went on his way. I stood for a second shocked that a person in the Army was thanking me for my service. Needless to say I was proud that he shared his opinion with me. See you all next week. Stay proud and keep up the good work.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ProRanger Philadelphia 2010 Cohort

Members of the 2010 Cohort - Rosalia Fiorello, Alex Buligon, Travis Gerhardt, Keith DeFabio, Giancarlo Graziani, Owen McDaniel, Aaron Lyle, Michael Hanna, Timothy Oh, Kathryn Snyder, Layla Schade, Melissa Burch, and Lytia Solomon - pose at the Fairmount Water Works on June 29, 2010 during a field trip.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hemlock Wooly Adelgid - GETT

While in Resource Management, I was also able to spend a couple days with Forestry Tech Randy Krickton. He explained to me the park's cultural landscape rehabilitation plan, along with demonstrating his almost magical ability to name whatever plant I pointed to off the top of his head. During our first day together, he took me to a group of hemlocks the crew was currently spraying for hemlock woolly adelgid.

Cottony egg sacks of HWA

Hemlock woolly adelgid is a severe problem here in our park. Many of our cemetary's hemlocks, as well as some of the trees near the old cyclorama building are currently infested with the sap-sucking insects. These cottony masses on the underside of the branches are full of eggs, which will one day mature into what Forestry Tech Randy described to me as "little crawlers" that will suck the sap from the tree's needles. This causes defoliation of the tree, and if left untreated, will inevitably cause the tree to die.

An infected tree

Trees with HWA have an almost silvery characteristic in their boughs, and all around look sick due to the attack on their needles. The Resource Management team has been working very hard to save our park's hemlocks.

Applying a root soak to the hemlocks

Currently, we're working from the ground up - by root soaking the hemlocks with an insecticide that is toxic to the HWA, but does not harm the tree. As the tree absorbs the insecticide in its root system, it becomes incorporated into the sap. This means that when the HWA crawlers try to suck the sap from the hemlock needles, they get a belly full of poison and drop dead - which is exactly what needs to happen to save the tree. Usually, rain helps in the application process, because it drives the insecticide down towards the roots so that it can be absorbed - but when it's dry (as it has been), manual watering is required.

I didn't get to work with the poisons, as I'm completely unqualified - but I did get to watch and ask questions, which is almost as good. It was interesting for me to get to learn first-hand exactly what goes into managing a landscape. Here at Gettysburg, we try to maintain the historic fields and orchards as they were the day of the battle - and yet, fields will naturally always attempt to return to forest.

Without farmers cutting woodlots for fuel and building materials, and without nearly the amount of farmers working the fields for crops - we have to take a more active, deliberate approach. Part of resource management's job, then, is to approximate the effects of 1860's tree cutting and farming through scheduled forestry activities such as health cuts and invasive species management. It is a job that literally never ends - because while we work 40 hours a week, mother nature never sleeps, and there's always going to be that field-to-forest process to contend with - along with the issue of managing unnatural, man-made issues such as the introduction of exotics and invasive.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The George Spangler Farm - GETT

The George Spangler Farmstead

On my second day in the resource management division, I was allowed to work with park historian Winona Peterson. She introduced me to some of the incredible complexities of protecting, maintaining, and preserving the park's irreplaceable historic resources.

While it is extremely difficult for me to write about what Winona explained to me regarding the intricacies of simultaneously protecting and promoting a resource (and still remain brief) - I did want to show some of the sites that I saw that day.

Barn at George Spangler

The first site we visited was the George Spangler Farm. This is a property located within our park boundary, but under ownership of our partner organization, The Gettysburg Foundation. Winona explained to me that this property is currently in the beginning stages of preservation - report writing! Basically, that means that it in the process of being evaluated so that the best course of action (in regards to use, preservation, etc) can be discerned.

The main interpretive interest in this property is that it was used as a Union field hospital during the battle of Gettysburg. Furthermore, it is known that Lewis Armistead died here on July 5th, 1893.

Summer kitchen at George Spangler, presumed to be the location where Armistead died. The plaque indicates this location as the place of Armistead's death.

Inside the Summer kitchen

The attic of the summer kitchen

Part of the preservation process involves what basically amounts to taking inventory of the resource itself. This means inspecting and taking note of the unique, important features to be preserved and, in this instance - finding out what is non-historic and needs to be removed. Personally, I'm used to seeing houses in developments, so I find the little "odd" things about these historic structures very interesting.

The smokehouse

I thought that the most intriguing structures at the George Spangler property was the smokehouse. A chiefly utilitarian shack, it's incredible to think of just how long this little building used for hanging meats has been standing. Winona indicated to me that one of the more uncommon features of this particular building was the wooden slats covering the outside.

Wide-slatted siding on the smokehouse

It may not be immediately evident from the picture, but these boards are extremely wide - and the exceptional dimensions of the slats are a prime indicator that they are part of the original fabric of the building. As Winona explained to me, it would be nearly impossible to get boards cut to these specifications.

Because they cannot be replaced (much like any original object), special care has to be taken in their restoration. As was the case with the Groft barn which I worked in earlier, when these boards are disassembled, they will be carefully numbered so that they can be put back into place exactly as they were.

I also had the opportunity to visit the site of the Klingel house, another historic structure. This particular building, however, is already in the process of being preserved. It too, has a number of interesting indications of originality.

Interior door, Klingel house

This interior door opens into one of the upstairs bedrooms, and shows two areas of damage from bullets sustained during the battle.

Horse hair fibers clearly visible sticking from a crack in original plaster

The original plaster used to construct the walls of the house is still in place and for the most part, in-tact. During this era, horsehair was added to the plaster in order to give it strength.

A small, warm, cupboard
The Klingel house has a chimney that runs centrally through its two floors. Curiously, in the rooms the chimney passes through we found these small cupboards. With their back walls oriented towards the flume, they were used for keeping items warm - but what, exactly, was kept warm inside of them is beyond me.

Chinking, laid in the same order it was removed from the walls

Composed of the wedged "waste" ends of cut lumber (or whatever sticks and such were handy, in some instances) chinking (along with daubing, which is the plaster or mud) is used to fill the gaps between boards in a wall. The chinking laid out here at Klingel has been carefully arranged in the order in which it was taken out, so that it can be replaced exactly as it was. The crews out here also recently found a spent minie ball (a kind of bullet) within the daubing, and since this is the first time the chinking in this building has been disturbed - expects that there may yet be more artifacts inside as well. Keeping the context of possible artifacts that get uncovered by restoration work is another reason why the restoration must be a careful, deliberate process.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Reflecting On The Experience So Far (Antietam National Battlefield)

I have a rare moment of down time ( I am currently working with the Maintenance Division and I finished all my Facilities Management Software Systems [FMSS] work early) before lunch time begins so I will use this time to reflect on my time here at Antietam as a ProRanger.

1- The National Park Service is a really great place to work. Everybody loves doing what their doing and everyone is extremely friendly. The Park Service culture, especially at Antietam, is in full affect. They are always willing to teach and to learn something new themselves. Progress to become better and to improve the resources the park has to offer to the American people is a main initiative and everyone believes in the shared vision regardless of division.

2-The Park Rangers that work at National Parks are extremely knowledgable and are experts in field. Whether it is Natural or Cultural resource work, Maintenance, Interpretation, Protection, or Administration these rangers hold specialized knowledge that few possess. At Antietam, there is no shortage of Masters Degrees or Phd's. Even if a degree is not held, the rangers here hold artisan skills such as masonry, historical carpentry technique, engine specialists, preservation, etc. I feel every Ranger I have met here is a specialist or Master of some skill that very few people can do. I was really blown away by the historical and artisan technique possesed by the cultural resource division, the pure historical brainpower and ability and aptitude to teach the general public possessed by interp division, the scientific genious yet physicality of the natural resource division, the drive and work ethic the Maitenance division uses to run the park, and the vital support Administration plays that all blend togther to make a truely wonderful park experience for the visitors that come. Even the protection rangers are cross trained in a variety of discilpines besides law enforcement, protection rangers are hybrids that can assist in a variety of park disciplines.

3-A National Park Service Ranger is a highly coveted federal government position that everyone wants but the opportunity is rarely afforded. I am extremely fortunate to be in the position that I presently find myself.

4-The National Park Service is an extremely stable job. I have talked with individuals who have worked at park the for long periods of time and they love their job. People have been at Antietam 10, 20, and 30 years plus and they would not trade it for any place in the world.

5-The jobs are so diverse, even within the division and crew level, that everyday is different and there is always a different task at hand. This creates a fresh and exciting feel to NPS work. One day I maybe on a trail performing maintenance, another day I maybe removing invasive species, and yet another day we maybe teaching visitors. It always changes, no day is ever the same. To put it in plain language, NPS work is really cool work!

These are just some points I have been reflecting on during my time as a ProRanger at Antietam National Battlefield. At Anti passion for the park is present and on display for all to see.

Till Next Time


Let them eat cake!

Courtesy of a member of the ProRanger 2010 cohort... Can you guess who the baker in the group is?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What's New?

Thanks to Bill, our grounds/trails keeper, I was able to go 70 feet up in a bucket truck to take a picture of our national cemetery.

I ended my stint with maintenance by working with Vince, our blacksmith and Kim, our clerk. Both were very insightful when it came down to showing me the ins and outs of their duties.

While working for Dave, our painter, I was able to help in the making of signs such as the one shown above.

Of course here I am mowing the lawn. I can't even fathom how long it would take to mow an entire battlefield.

Each of these flashing warning lights costs about upwards of $30.

I spent a day with our electrician, Jeff, who takes on the daunting task of fixing almost anything with wiring. In the picture above Jeff is functioning a tool that will attach warning lights on riding mowers.

A lot has happened since my last update. Although I am not with maintenance anymore, here are some of the things I finished that division with.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Saving Sandy

While trekking along Valley Forge's Chapel Trail, we acquired a phone call from Ranger Bruce Eash about a dog that had been found promenading adjacent to the train tracks in the proximity of Washington's Headquarters. Good samaritan, Geraldine, who had made the phone call to Ranger Bruce, was waiting there for us. As we approached "Sandy" we realized she was a very obedient dog. She hopped into the back of the truck without a problem. It was later that we learned Sandy's owner was frantically searching for her lost dog. Thanks to Ranger Bruce, she was reunited within a short amount of time and is home safe. While reflecting on the situation, Ranger Bruce calmly voiced, "Most dogs who are found throughout the park are reunited with their owners quickly. If they are not reunited we make sure that we provide proper care to the animal and give adequate information to the local animal shelter to ensure a safe return home."
Sandy's Rescuer Geraldine

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Preserving The Past So The Future Will Never Forget

Hello again from the rolling green hills of Washington County, MD here at Antietam National Battlefield, the site of the bloodiest single day battle in American history. It is our duty here to ensure and protect the greatest resources our battlefield has to offer. This week I spent time with our cultural resources division.

The job at hand this week was to help restore the historic Miller Farm, the owner of the infamous bloody cornfield. The cultural resources division here at Antietam is full of preservation specialists who restore historical structures back to all their 1862 splendor. Using only 19th century building techniques and materials, we got to work. We began with checking the wooden beams and joints to make sure they maintained their structural integrity despite the years of wear and tear. We came across a wooden beam that needed to be repaired. Taking out the rotting parts of wood and keeping the wood that is still strong, we started making repairs by filling in the rotted out parts with wood epoxy and then texturing and dying the once damaged wood so one looking at the beam would of never thought it was damaged.

In order to further ensure the structural integrity of the Miller Farm, the preservation specialists must then turn their attention to the joints in between the beams of wood to make sure they are in prime condition. First we must replace all the stone laid to form the base of the joint. Using only a hammer and a craftsman's technique, the division and I started wedging rocks in between the beams

After laying the stone, we must make sure the area is free of debris so the mortar we will spread to keep the joint intact will stick unaffected. I did this by using an air compressor.

Once the area is free of debris, we got to mortar mixing. The mortar used during Civil War Times is nothing more than a water, a binder such as animal hair or grass, and an exact ratio of dirt to ground limestone mixture. In order to make sure we use everything exactly how it would of been back then, the ratio is determined by performing a titration on a sample taken from the Miller Farm House. Titration is a commonly used technique in chemistry in order to figure out specific quantities of what makes up a particular piece of matter. The cultural resources division determined that the mortar mix was made using 6 part mud to 1 part limestone mixture. Now that we know the ingredients, the mortar mixing begins. We only add enough water to make the mix pliable so we can spread it over the joints.

Once made, we spread the mortar thus creating a joint. Here I am spreading mortar under a window sill inside the Miller Farm House.

The mixture then hardens and the joint is complete!

The Miller Farm House is in need of major renovation and preservation but I'm sure with Antietam's preservation specialists, the farm house will be enjoyed for generations to come.

Till Next Time