You probably heard somewhere along the way that last year was the Centennial celebration of the National Park Service. There was a lot of press coverage, which is great!
Our parks are beautiful, they tell amazing stories, and are a gateway to truly understanding what it means to be an American. The whirlwind of 2016 left me asking myself what we need for the next century of the Park Service, for our country.
First of all, we need more women.
It was covered significantly less than the centennial, but this year the harsh reality of the Park Service was brought to light when numerous women stepped forward to talk about their sexual harassment cases that took place when they were employed as rangers, and how poorly they were handled (if at all).
Tradition reigns among Park Rangers. A typical face welcoming you to your favorite national park or historic site is middle aged or older, white, and male.
There is a decent chance the majority of his career has been spent with the Park Service. But why is that? Let me break it down for you
This has had some super consequences, including a low number of female employees, an environment that is unwelcoming to female employees, and a workplace that is built on tradition (meaning that any sort of equal rights is apparently out of the question).
It doesn’t help that, even this year, the Park Service is more than willing to partner with the Boy Scouts of America, but haven’t gone anywhere near the Girl Scouts for similar career readiness and learning opportunities.
To all of the women who do work in the public sector, I applaud you.
You are strong, you are intelligent, and you are the future of this nation. I don’t know if I have the courage to do what you do.
You are role models for our girls, showing them that being smart doesn’t make you less attractive, what it means to be strong and to stand up for what you believe in, and that just because it always has been a boys club doesn’t mean it always will be.
Second, we need funding. Our National Parks are beautiful and generate billions of dollars in tourism each year for our economy.
So why, you may ask, does the Park Service have a 12 billion dollar maintenance backlog of projects that need to be done, but can’t, because the government is more interested in building a new fighter plane?
Additionally, if they aren’t willing to give parks the funds they need to operate, why can’t they advocate for themselves? For every major park in the country you can find a charitable partner who raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for them every year to do even the most simple of projects like trail maintenance and updating educational materials. If we want to tell our story, we must commit to doing it well.
Third, we need someone other than Donald Trump running our country. His interest in corporations and oil, and denial of climate change have left Park Service employees across the country questioning what the next four years of their life will look like, and what they will look like for America’s natural areas.
His pick for secretary of the Interior isn’t much better. They’re like ping pong balls, bouncing from one side of issues to the other.
What we need for our parks is a strong advocate. Someone who won’t give up. Someone who understands the foundation we come from, but also where we need to go.
As someone who has found solace in these wild places, has found herself there, battled mental illness and had small victories there, grown closer to her family, and ignited her curiosity there, we need our parks.
The election has left me pessimistic about the future of America’s land, but I truly hope that the people speak up. While we might never agree on who should’ve won on that Tuesday in November, we can unite on our love for our parks, our playground, our history, and we should. We must.
The holidays get me down. It’s not the fact that I’m perpetually single, or that I have to catch all of my estranged family members up on what I’m doing, but that in this season of joy and love there is so much that is done mindlessly.
Restaurants are packed. Same with department stores. Everyone needs to be entertained at all times or else they’ll realize how mediocre their family really is and want to stuff their faces with cookies (we’ll do the latter either way).
Anyways, I think we all deserve to actually enjoy our time off and do so in a way that isn’t going to contribute to the desecration of the planet. So I’ve compiled a list of some things you can do that might not be great for the earth and humans, but are definitely better than what you’re planning on doing right now.
We all have family traditions, but who says you can’t change them? The Audubon Society has been conducting some pretty awesome citizen science research for the past 117 years and they really want you to join in. It’s called the Christmas Bird Count. It’s outdoors, its free, its for science, and you don’t have to shave your legs. Huzzah!
Yep, I said it. They’re quaint. They’re another thing to do with the family you may or may not hate. They smell fantastic. They won’t make baby birds choke to death on their needles. Maybe even consider getting a potted tree that you can keep around for years as long as you take care of it properly. You can also get permits from the U.S. Forest Service to cut down trees on your own Christmas Vacation style. Just don’t forget the saw.
Let me paint a picture. You spend money on something that will immediately be thrown away. And then keep buying it, even though its literal marketed garbage. Sounds silly, right? Right. Use newspaper, old calendars, maps, posters, etc. Or don’t wrap it. I don’t care. A surprise is a surprise. It’s a waste of natural resources, energy, and money. And yet here we are.
The key is responsibility. This can be done in a myriad of ways.
Okay. I’m of the philosophy that these are ultimately obsolete because internet. But your grandma still wants to see a pic of your family forcing smiles in front of some weird thing while wearing clothes that kind of match. Fine. So only send physical copies to the Baby Boomers, and do so on recycled paper and with soy-based ink. Share your masterpiece with the rest of your friends and family via Facebook, e-cards, a website, YouTube video, whatever. IMO everyone who matters is probably up to date on your life because you over share on every social media outlet anyways, so who cares, but sometimes a quick summary can be nice. I wouldn’t know.
Bring your own bag. And yeah, stop shopping online if you can. Shipping is such a bummer to mama earth. I know its kind of necessary sometimes though. But even when you do go to real-live stores and talk to real-live people in you real-life pants, you can still cut down on waste. You should also say nah to all the fluff (i.e. ribbon, stickers, tissue paper) because I said so.
We all like cookies. Our butts, not so much. Take the money you usually spend on baking supplies and use it to purchase nonperishable items for your local food shelf instead. Items they are usually desperate for include feminine products, baby food, pet food, toiletries, and cash/grocery store gift cards (they use it to purchase fresh produce). Here’s to a healthier community all around.
I love the holidays. I really do. But I’m a big fat Grinch when it comes to mindless consumption and superfluous nonsense no one actually enjoys. I hope you follow me - maybe your heart will even grow a size or two.
I’ve never been a huge shopper, for a lot of reasons. But a big one is that I have a hard time with crowds. Needless to say, I don’t rush to the mall on Black Friday.
There’s a pretty good chance that I’ve blown the whole thing out of proportion and that my anxiety has made every crowd I’ve ever been in feel a thousand times bigger than it is, but I also know myself, and regardless of how BIG the crowds are, there’s still a crowd. So yeah, don’t try to convince me otherwise.
But there’s one place I will rush. Open spaces.
I’m sure you’ve heard of REI’s campaign to #OptOutside on Black Friday, where instead of having a giant blow out sale they actually CLOSE the store and give their employee’s a PAID holiday and encourage them to go OUTSIDE instead of stand in lines and CONSUME more stuff.
This was only their second year with the program, and it has been estimated that over SIX MILLION people followed them to wild spaces across the country.
I love this. I love nature. I love paid holidays. I love bonding with friends and family over a day of adventure. I love clearing my mind. I love NOT shopping. Finally someone is doing it right.
What were you doing at 6am on Friday morning? Getting ready to go to your retail job? Winding down from a night of crazy deals? Fighting in the parking lot about who rear-ended who?
I was lacing up my hiking boots and watching the sunrise. Bob Seger was playing on the radio and my dog was sitting in the passenger seat filled with excitement of where the day would take us. The air was crisp, I could see my breath, and there was a light dusting of snow on the ground. I was tired, yeah. I’m awake at 6am for god’s sake.
But I was at peace. I hadn’t even gotten out of my car yet, but serenity, calming winds, and birdcalls were begging me to join them.
While you stood in line and fought for the best deal on the newest television Best Buy has to offer I hiked nine miles with my best friend and didn’t spend a dime. When you got home and needed coffee or a nap to continue with your day, I easily transitioned into my next task- putting up the Christmas tree.
Why do we value so highly the activities that bring out the worst in us? No couple comes out of IKEA having not endured a spat, no mother and child leave a Wal-Mart without arguing about the necessity of owning the latest, greatest toy.
I want to disassemble the belief that shopping is a bonding experience. I want the next generation to lace up their boots, paddle a canoe, and learn to swim before they’re set in front of a game console for the majority of their formative years.
Being outside matters. Natural experiences mean more than a good bargain. The outdoors matter more than capitalism.
Maybe it’s extreme. Maybe REI will be out of business in five years because of their interest in employee morale and lowering consumption. But at least they made a stand. And so did six million other Americans. As did I.
I stumbled upon the Tri-County Greenhouse in Mansfield Depot CT while wandering around, and had to stop. The greenhouse is open year round, offering loads of great plants, plus season specific offerings. In the spring, there are annuals, vegetables, perennials, herbs, Easter plants, Memorial planters, and summer bulbs. In the summer, annuals, vegetables, perennials, herbs, garden bouquets, mixed planters, and hanging baskets. Fall offers Chrysanthemums, perennials, Spring bulbs, and fresh bouquets. Finally, in the winter, there are Poinsettias, holiday wreaths and planters, houseplants, fresh cut Freesia, and floral bouquets.
The Greenhouse is a division of Tri-County ARC, a nonprofit agency serving the intellectually disabled community, our goal is to provide individuals with paid training and work experience in a retail horticultural setting. This support and training extends to planting and caring for potted annuals, vegetables, and perennials, transplanting seedlings, watering and maintaining plants, gardening and grounds keeping, customer service, community interaction, and clerical skills.
Overall the Tri-County Greenhouse impressed me. The grounds are humble, but well maintained, with plenty of plants at reasonable prices. One of the major assets to the greenhouse, is that, according to Chris, the manager, most everything is grown on site.
My plant interests primarily reside in the succulent family, and a good portion of their cacti are grown from seed, not cutting, like I’m used to. That was super interesting to me.
One of the biggest plusses was the two tiny kittens. Let me clarify, there were two tiny, 7 week old kittens, Elizabeth and Pinnochio.
Overall, the greenhouse was incredibly welcoming, for a great cause, and had tiny kittens. What’s not to love?
Woodbury CT is such a hot spot for garden centers, and one of my favorites is The Garden, one of the iterations of Dietrich Gardens. My mother noticed there was an event going on and suggested I take a look into what was happening.
Well, she wasn't wrong. The Garden held Customer Appreciation Day today, and they sure made an event of it. According to their website:
We have come a long way since 1986 and we have all of you to thank for our success. To show our appreciation, please join us for our second annual Customer Appreciation Day on Saturday, August 6th. The whole entire store will be 25% off and we will have The Big Green Pizza Truck as well as Hardcore Sweet Cupcakes here to fill your bellies. If free food and/or discounts isn’t enough, we have another treat for you … and it’s BIG!
Plants galore, and 25% off and I was there, but with the addition of free cupcakes from our favorite cupcake destination, pizza, and informational talks, I thought this was the perfect event to launch Bruised Knuckles' Plants section, and potentially hint to my lovely loyal readers about potential upcoming content working with The Garden.
Check out The Garden's Facebook for more upcoming events, and check some of the photos I snapped at Customer Appreciation Day.