Walkin' With the Wild Woman

Come go for walk with the Wild Woman and see what you will find .....

Friday, March 28, 2014

Brain Fog Friday

Sheesh..it's certainly been foggy around here the last few days, and I don't mean the kind that hangs low across a frosty field.

Brain FOG - one of the darnedest, most frustrating symptoms of living with Multiple Sclerosis. What is brain fog you ask? It's a bit hard to explain the weirdo feeling, suffice it to say I feel like my brain has turned to scrambled eggs and I have devil of a time making sense of things. In my case it usually comes along with it's pal horrible fatigue, and you can bet your last dollar that it will happen if I get too tired or have some kind of sensory assault.

Web MD defines it this way: 

4 Brain Fog Basics

Brain fog is a catchall term for all sorts of brain changes that can come with MS. Here are four things to know.
  1. It's common. About half the people with MS have these issues at some point, says Rosalind Kalb, PhD, a clinical psychologist and vice president of clinical care at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. For most, the cloudy thinking is mild and manageable. Only 5% to 10% of people with MS have issues with their thinking that seriously affect their day-to-day life or career.
  2. It can affect your short-term memory, attention, and concentration. It can muck up your ability to retain new information and plan.But it doesn't usually affect your intelligence, reading comprehension, or long-term memory.
  3. It may get worse over time, but it may not. Once you have episodes of brain fog, they usually don't go away completely. They are more likely to progress slowly.
  4. It can have many causes. Sometimes the fog is triggered by actual changes in the brain caused by MS. But it can also be brought on by other issues -- like depression, fatigue, and side effects from medication.

I define it as a pain in the ass. Especially when I have article deadlines due, customers waiting on photos, outdoor adventures to have.

Over the years I've figured out a few ways to work around it, some with good success, some only moderate. One thing I do rely on heavily is my smartphone with it's variety of calenders, reminders, bells, whistles, hey yous, maps etc. Now if some whiz kid could just develop an app  that would let me tap here, tap there, and have things suddenly make sense; well we'd be in business!

What I won't do is stay locked inside when the brain fog hits. I've said many times what I do best is wander, and hey brain fog can be really useful when wandering. I just sort of aimlessly traverse the fields, the forests, and see what turns up. That's the only way I can process things on a foggy day.

In our case, sometimes it's the human that's following dog instead of vice versa

Thankfully, Willie the Wonder Dog has a working brain, and does a great job of keeping me from getting into any real fixes. I have him mark the car, the parking area etc before we leave, just in case and thankfully when I tell him go to the car he usually leads me right back to where we started. (With of course the occasional side trip to chase a rabbit or a squirrel).

So today, instead of some thoughtful, insightful, well written post, you'll just have to be happy with some images from the recent wandering days. My foggy brain has reached it's limit for constructing intelligible sentences.  Enjoy the scenes from a recent "foggy" wander!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Are We Ensuring the Health of the Illinois Whitetail Herd?

I feel it would be disingenuous if I didn’t preface this post with the disclaimer that I really know very little about deer herd management. I am merely an “Average Jane Deer Hunter”. I’m just a plain person who enjoys hunting, photographing, and watching the whitetail deer in Illinois.  Thanks to friends such as Heartland Outdoors blogger  and founding member of Illinois Whitetail Alliance, Kevin Chapman along with others (including ~ gasp~  some highly respected outfitters)  I am learning more about herd management each day. 

It’s absolutely no secret at this point that harvest numbers in Illinois are on a downward spiral. It’s absolutely no secret that deer sightings are also on a downward spiral in a great many areas of Illinois. Lastly, it’s no secret – despite the data released by Illinois DNR, that EHD and CWD have taken a heavy toll. 

As I learn more about appropriate management, I have more and more questions about how the state of Illinois currently chooses to address the issue of sound herd management. I also have to wonder how we will ever bring all of the stakeholders into any kind of cohesive effort to make what I feel are necessary changes to the management plan in Illinois.

The fact is this: More than just deer hunters, more than just bow hunters, more than gun hunters, more than outfitters do indeed have a voice and stake in the game. Are we reaching out to them and opening avenues of discussion? Has anyone invited a small rural chamber of commerce representative to the table? It’s impossible to ignore the fact that deer = dollars to Illinois in more ways than just permit sale receipts. More so are the non-hunting stakeholders willing to even enter the discussion? All I can say is I hope so. 

I need to say right now – I do support the recently formed Illinois Whitetail Alliance, and I applaud their efforts to bring change to try and open the doors for discussion across the board with all stake holders. I appreciate than rather than just writing opinion pieces, complaining across social media, and in general, preaching to the choir, the Illinois Whitetail Alliance is taking action and calling for a review of the current deer management practices in Illinois. 

Will any deer management plan ever completely please everyone involved? Of course not. Can Illinois develop a plan that is acceptable to all stakeholders? That remains to be seen. 

One of the problems faced by those who feel that the Illinois deer herd is in peril is that initially the cries of alarm were only being raised by hunters. Many of which were public land hunters. Drivers were still smashing deer on a regular basis, farmers were still suffering crop damage. It’s difficult to convince the lady in the body shop for the third time in a year that there aren’t enough deer. It’s even more difficult to convince a farmer looking across rows of beans that have been completely laid to waste. 

It’s just as difficult to convince a resident of some of the hardest hit areas where deer sightings are few to none that the herd is not in peril. 

Many resident hunters would like to cast blame on the nonresident hunters and outfitters. While I agree that there some horrendous examples of unethical behavior by both groups, that can also be said about resident hunters. It behooves us to remember that deer hunting, deer watching, deer processing, eco-tourism, etc. are large part of the economy in many rural areas.  If we completely remove the outfitters and nonresident hunters how do we replace that gaping hole in already struggling rural economies? 

Do we need to form yet one more committee and one more task force comprised by representatives form all stakeholder areas?  In a perfect world, yes I do believe that, and I do believe that everyone should have a voice at the table. In reality – I know that truly is not going to be feasible. 

What I do believe is that the way Illinois approaches deer management is not working. Harvest numbers continue to decline, permit sales continue to rise, and frankly I have had one hell of a time getting any type of accurate data on real herd numbers. 

What many fail to realize is that the only true deciding factor currently used in Illinois is the Deer Vehicle Accident percentages. Yes, Illinois DNR does take a cursory look at harvest numbers by county and will occasionally adjust late season permit availability by county based on those numbers, but the bottom line is this – its DVA numbers that control the whole stinking works, and only DVA numbers! 

Thankfully Kevin Chapman has provided Heartland Outdoors readers with some very detailed posts regarding the DVA numbers and the travesty that they are. I commend him for digging, filing the FOIA requests and breaking down the information for the rest of us. You can view his work here.

What would I suggest? As an Average Jane? 

I would certainly push for additional indicators – both economic and biological; data that is collected and analyzed in timely fashion. Currently the DVA numbers must be gathered by Illinois Department of Transportation, then provided to Illinois DNR, then reviewed, and guess what by the time that takes place – the next season permit numbers and seasons have already been set. That leads me to believe we are always behind the eight ball so to speak by at least a year, if not two. 

Illinois is large state, with highly variable and vastly different  habitat, economies, and culture from north to south. What is an acceptable plan to the voter and resident base in Chicagoland has no bearing on the reality of the residents living in the “Southern 16” counties.  Nor can central Illinois highly agricultural areas be dumped in the same box as the “Golden Triangle” where deer hunting is a huge part of the economy.  I feel that a regionalized approach would serve the overall herd much better than a huge statewide approach. 

I also believe that more boots on the ground biologists, surveyors, data collectors would be beneficial. Sadly given the state of the Illinois budget as a whole and that of Illinois DNR that is not likely to be feasible at this point. 

I believe that the points in the Illinois Whitetail Alliances Plan are excellent starting areas for restoring the health of Illinois whitetail herd. 

And what I believe most of all, is that all Illinois residents and stakeholders  – need to look at what is happening, ask questions, learn as much as we can and most importantly talk not only to each other, but also to IL DNR and our legislators. 

The future of the Illinois deer herd is in our hands. Let’s not muck this up any further.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Enough is Enough – Time For A New Direction!

As many of you can tell, it’s been a day or two (heck a month or two ) since I last posted. I guess you could say I fell off the blog bus.

It was simple when I finally sat down at looked at what was happening in my life – I was too busy doing things for everyone else to attend to my own blogs, websites etc. 

While I’ve been shuffling around exhausted and crabby trying to be all things to all people, the things that I really love have seemingly fallen by the way side, and I can assure you it’s readily apparent in my photographs.

It’s been readily apparent in my writing work for others as well.

Just about the time I was finishing up my plan/outline/goal for some spring cleaning and revamping of my so called career as an outdoor communicator , a post from my friend and colleague Carrie Zylka popped into my mail box. 

Carrie’s post was the punch in the face I needed. Time to put me first, time to do what I love, and let the cards fall where they may. 

I didn’t set out to be an “outdoor communicator” and certainly not one with a following, and for heaven’s sake – FANS. All I really wanted to do was take pretty pictures, show folks what they were missing by staying inside, and pen the occasional educational piece or inflammatory opinion piece.
I’ve now found myself at that “go big or go home” stage of things. I’m not going home, but I’m not really going big either.  I am perfectly happy being the “big fsh in a small pond” Heck, I am happy being the carp in the birdbath.

After plenty of consulting with (okay wailing and gnashing of teeth) some outdoor industry colleagues whom I value and respect, I’ve developed a plan of action and some changes that will be starting in April.  I’m not going away – just working smarter rather than harder and most importantly, putting my work, my business, my time ahead of others. 

For instance – I love sharing my photos of the outdoors, but why was I basically just throwing them up on Facebook and Twitter rather than posting them here? Why was I driving traffic to facebook vs my own site? Beats me. Maybe because it’s fast and easy. Maybe because I get more feedback from a facebook post? Honestly I’m not sure. What I am sure about is that beginning April 1 – photos will be put on my blog (s) and then sent to facebook. Twitter and other social media arenas. 

Beginning April first – I’ll be saying no more often, and a few places will have to understand that the phrase “We’d love to use your work, but we can’t pay you.” means you won’t be using my work. I tried that line with Ameren, but they just didn’t feel so flattered about me choosing them as an electric provider that they would give me electricity for free. 

Lest you think I’ve become entirely too mercenary – that’s  not the case. I’ve just found holes in my business model and my life plan that were sinking the proverbial ship. Essentially I have just given myself permission to do what works for me rather than spinning my wheels and worrying about how I might not be as prolific, as widely published, and highly sought after as other women in the outdoor communicator world.  I am me, and I am enough! 

So I have a new plan, new goals, and I’m feeling better physically and emotionally after coming to these decisions.

If you haven’t subscribed to this blog, you might consider it so you don’t miss out on any of the photos and articles that lie ahead. Personally I have a good feeling that the best is out there on the horizon  and my work will only be even better now that I’ve freed myself up to do what I do best – wander.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bald Eagle Numbers Soaring in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, IL – A record-setting number of American bald eagles was reported during the annual Illinois Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey coordinated by the Illinois Audubon Society.  Volunteers tallied 5,975 birds between the dates of January 1 and January 15, 2014.

Extremely cold temperatures in northern parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin caused a surge in the numbers of over-wintering birds along the Illinois waterways. Survey routes are located on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers with additional routes on the Ohio and Wabash Rivers, Crab Orchard Lake, Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area and Carlyle Lake.

According to Tom Clay, the Society’s Executive Director, “our 2014 survey surpassed 2013 (2,325 total) and topped the highest recorded count (since 1992) of 4,292 reported in 2008.”  The largest populations of the eagles spotted were counted along the Mississippi River (93.6% of the overall total), followed by 4.4% observed on the Illinois River and 2% sighted on the remaining routes.  The number of adults versus immature eagles reported on these surveys, an important indicator of recovery and survival, remains at 60% and 40%, respectively.

Nationally, this effort is administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The goal of the survey is to maintain the long-term, national coordination of the surveys collected, analysis of that data, and reporting of the results.  Locally, survey data collected provides information on eagle trends, distribution and habitat and helps create public interest in bald eagles and their conservation.

Information regarding the 2014 survey and previous years’ data can be obtained by calling the Illinois Audubon Society at 217.544.2473.