Last Saturday after lunch at the pastry shop in Lanesboro, I walked down to Zoobooks at the north end of the street. "Zoobooks" sounds as if it might be a library or a quaint little bookstore. It ain't. It's a shipping warehouse for an internet business. As I stepped through the open door into the shadows of the large room, the first thing that hit me on the hot day was the strong odor of snake. More specifically, snake shit. No matter how clean, if you put enough snakes in cages in a warm room, they stink. In the center of the chaotic jumble of bookshelves, jammed with technical herpetology books and papers organized by the Eric Decimal System, sitting at a wrap-around desk lit by computers, was Eric himself. I greeted him, then went into the next room to greet the mysterious Mr.G. Actually G is not mysterious at all, but as he chooses to live at the dead end of a twisting lane on the very edge of the grid, I'm not going to out him to the cyber world. Even an off grid guy sometimes needs a computer to conduct a business these days and he regularly stops into the shop to use a computer. We talked for a while, getting up to speed on friends in common, then we liberated Eric and three cans of cold Bud Lite to the front steps.
Naturalists? Amateur naturalists? Scientists? (god forbid) Both of them would probably deny the descriptions, but maybe. Today Eric and his son Evan are winging a freebie flight to Baltimore to talk about snakes at some snakey convention, and G gets paid for helping people interact positively with the environment. To me though, they are beer boys.
Anyway, we were sitting on the steps, drinking beer, spitting and complaining about the heat. As the Root River was within earshot, the talk turned to trout and the stress the heat and drought were putting them under. Eric asked how warm the water was and G said 73 degrees, which is very warm for a trout stream. He said it was a double hit for them, both the actual temperature of the water and it's ability to contain oxygen. Then there was some talk on the temperature ranges for the different species of trout, how many sunfish there were, what species of sunfish, and so on. Neither of these guys are passionate fishermen or are employed in a fish related job. They just look at their environment.
The steps are surrounded by "weeds", mostly swamp milkweed, a few white alba versions of swamp milkweed, and some common milkweed. Eric said, "'Look at the Monarch laying eggs. She'll lay three of four, then feed. Watch drop her tail and plant one." We watched for a while, observing that the Monarchs ignored the Common Milkweed, and more strangely, the alba version of the Swamp Milkweed. We then observed that the various bees and wasps also seemed to prefer the pink swamp milkweeds. G went to his car and brought back a magnifying glass. How many people carry a magnifying glass, just in case? He lit his homemade pipe, claiming the load was legal these days. Then he squatted down, and studied the various milkweeds for quite awhile. He stood up and relight, observing that the white milkweeds were covered with aphids, but none of the others. Why do the aphids prefer the albas? Do the Monarchs really prefer the pinks or are they avoiding the aphids. Etc. Shit, I don't know.
What did I learn? Probably nothing. In fact I may know less than when I started, but it's fun drinking beer on a hot day with guys that are on the same wave length. And Eric sent me back home up on Church Hill with a bag of fresh turkey eggs. Not a bad day at that.