Water Quality Protection Lands

Red Crew has been working in Buda, Texas for about a month cutting Mesquite and Ashe Juniper to help maximize the amount of water reaching the Edwards Aquifer to help recharge the City of Austin’s water supply.

We have been using herbicide to minimize the growth of the Mesquite to help inhibit growth and prevent future encroachment. The tools used to for this project have been chainsaws so progress can be the quick and fast with minimal impact to the area (unlike heavy machinery).

The project so far has been fun for crew bonding time and has made Red Crew closer. So far this project has been great because Red Crew has the honor to work for the City of Austin Wildland Conservation Division, which Texas Conservation Corps has not worked except for as a training site in years. We’re happy to build and develop a good partnership for future projects.

Grant McKenzie – Conservation & Disaster Crew (Red Crew)

Purple Crew removing Invasives

Purple crew was charged to do some work on Harper’s Branch watershed, off of Kenwood Avenue in our beautiful home city of Austin, TX. We removed invasive Nandina and Ligustrum as well as cleared an area near the road for folks in the neighborhood to enjoy their little slice of nature. Pulling up to our work site, I think that it’s safe to say that we weren’t expecting a whole lot, being in the middle of a block of houses, but what we got in such a small space was something special: a particularly beautiful and diverse strip of sloped, verdant land running parallel to a small stream. We found non-venomous snakes, lizards, various birds including a Coopers hawk that visited daily, pretty Texas Redbuds, Primrose Jasmine, and Lantana.

Spirits were high and the work flowed like we were doing it for fun, not even a relatively heavy shower on one of our days could damper our mood. Of course, no work is without its irritations, in our case it came in the form of a dense patchwork of poison ivy which left half of the crew welted and itching; nonetheless, we worked on. And when we were finished each and every one of us were proud of the work that we had accomplished. I, for one, am proud to be working for TxCC with such amazing, hardworking, caring, friendly people by my side. I wouldn’t change a thing (of course that may be because I’m not one of the members who had a reaction to the poison ivy)! Much love to Elijah, Richard, Crystal, Sofia, Caroline, Kim, Francois, and our amazing crew leaders Alex and Michelle! Purple Crew 4 lyfe.

Jacob Walters – Conservation & Disaster Crew (Purple Crew)

Manifesting Motivation

IMG-20190329-122114732-HDR.jpg

You join a conservation corps with expectations. Expectations like meeting a bunch of interesting people, forming your own little community, discovering things you never knew about yourself when faced with adversity in the face of the seemingly endless expanse of nature. People quit because it’s too much! The proximity of camping with the same people was too intense – thrust into a community; the work too exhausting. the wilderness inconsiderate of the physical comforts and the proximity inconsiderate for the emotional. And when you overcame that you felt like you won something, like you overcame a weakness you didn’t know you had and you walk with your chin up, ready for anything.

Now reverse that. What happens than. Take the boulder from Sisyphus, what does he do the rest of the day? When your crew hears about your tales from hitch, the drama, the intensity. You use that as the carrot to get them excited for the first 2 weeks of cutting Ligustrum – the unforgiving expanse of nature replaced with the hum of passing cars, the intimacy of the group replaced with 9 other people who you complain about money with while doing menial labor. And it works… kind of – every week they ask ‘when will we go on hitch?’, because you’ve built it up so much – this is why people do corps. This is why we come back even though the our backs hurt and our cars are falling apart. Why our bank accounts are bare and we don’t care. Because we do something not everyone can do, and that’s what we want.

Robert Ryan – Conservation & Disaster Crew Leader (Silver Crew)

Trail Work and Ditch Digging at the Water Quality Protection Lands

When we arrived at the site, our usual contact wasn’t there. Instead one of his coworkers greeted and took us through what we would be doing after finishing the other tasks. For some context, there are natural caves in the area that act as places for recharging groundwater. Our new contact took us to one such cave, which appeared like a hole of rock that snaked down into an abyss of unknown depth. Years ago, people would use such holes for disposing of trash, sometimes leading to the hole filling completely and being covered by dirt over time. A depressed patch of dirt (around 15ftx15ft) has been found and is suspected to be a sign of one such cave. It’s our job to dig in the area and look for the cave and/or signs of disposed trash, or rather, it will be our job. There is still work to finish by the creek so we leave the cave site and follow the dirt road deeper into the property. Stretch and safety starts as normal, but afterwards we split up into two main groups, one to finish steps and trail clearing from last week, one to make a separate set at a different point along the creek. I started on the new staircase, but switched to trail clearing after lunch. Monday went by smoothly, with the logs on both staircases being set in and suitable rocks found to complete them. Tuesday started with setting the base rock for a composite staircase (with log steps, steps made from metal pieces found on site, and one stone later decided to be placed at the bottom) that went down to the creek. This ended up being fairly tricky due to weight of the rock and the placement by the creek bed. The dirt turned to mud that slipped at the slightest provocation at a steep incline. It felt like the creek was dragging you in. Even with waders, I was confident that my pants would not survive the day dry. Although the present difficulties made progress slow going, with some effort and a little craftiness we were able to get it in place. The rest of the staircase had also been finished being drilled and rebar-ed and the other staircase completed, so after lunch we all headed back to the dig site. We spent the rest of the day there making pilot holes in the ground. The dirt only goes so far until being interrupted by bed rock, and we were looking for areas that went deeper, or any sign that we could find. Being sick Wednesday, I don’t know many details except that the rain did not make it any easier. Thursday our new contact came by and gave us some pointers on the way we were digging, and we switched from getting single data point holes to digging trenches to get a bigger picture of the rock we were hitting. The day saw much dirt moved from the ground, to buckets, to a wheelbarrow, and finally to a growing pile 10-20 feet from the dig site, but no signs of a cave. Friday was more of the same. Near the end of the day a small plastic looking piece was found, though we’re unsure if it was anything significant. We never did find a cave, but we moved enough dirt to bury a crew and that’s rewarding in its own right!

James Moriarty – Conservation & Disaster Crew Member (Silver)

UT Stengl “Lost Pines” Biological Station

Trekking through the woods
Crisscross applesauce
Oh man, I think we’re lost
That stump’s too high
Ouch! I stubbed my toe
Get it cut and get ’em low
Apply with caution
Sprayer full of herb
That straps done hit a nerve
My back really hurts
And my feet are sore
But it doesn’t really matter
‘Cuz we’re ready for more
-Lucas Lachica – Disaster Response Team Leader (Blue Crew)

Rock Work on the Water Quality Protection Lands

During the first week of March Silver Crew had a fresh mission at a spot
called Onion Creek Ranch. We were excited and primed for some new
adventures. We began the week by separating into teams to tackle the main
obstacles along the trail used mostly for water testing and to educate citizens
on the waters entering Barton Springs.

The first task was several rock steps on adjacent sides of the creek wash.
I had the pleasure of working with Chancey and Katherine on the rock
armoring crossing the bottom of the wash. We made a ton of crush and
arranged a puzzle path of rocks. After that duty was fulfilled Chancey and I
moved onto tread work down the trail. As our McLeods flew fresh trail
appeared hopefully, lasting for years to come.

Toward the end of the week I swamped for Kaitlyn as she cut down Ashe
Juniper to be used in the wood steps leading to the water. I closed out my
week by debarking those logs to be sectioned and utilized in steps. All in all,
an awesome week of new tasks at a new place with the same cracking crew.

Adam Newman – Conservation & Disaster Crew (Silver)