Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Final Semester

Today I started my last semester of college. Pretty crazy looking back over this blog and realizing how long it's actually been since I started writing. I'm going to have to really push myself to power through this semester then I'll be officially done with school. I'm also in the process of big-kid job hunting, so that's a whole other new element to life right there. I'm only going to bore you with a post about my classes today, as I do at the beginning of every new semester.

My class load is relatively light this semester, due mostly to the fact that I don't need many more classes or credits to graduate. Technically I've had enough credits to graduate for a while now, but have not completed several of the required classes for my major or minor. 

The only class I've had so far is my Aquaponics course. This course is designed to be an experiential learning course and it's the first time the University has ever offered it. Hopefully one outcome of this course will be a publication, most likely in ebook form, that has results of group experiments that will be conducted during the course of the semester. We'll be trying several different types of aquaponics set-ups so hopefully I'll have a blog post or two about those in the future.

The second regular class I have is Plant Genetics. This one, frankly, scares me a little. It's one of the more difficult of the Hort courses at this school and, on top of everything, I really don't think I'll be using the things I learn in it once I'm done with the class. Since I'm more interested in the human aspect of horticulture and am in no way intending on breeding plants, this isn't really something I'm looking forward to. But we'll see how it goes. I'm trying not to be terribly negative about it since I haven't even gone to the class yet.

My third class, Intro to Sustainable Agriculture, is an online course I'm taking solo. It's the final course needed for my Sustainable Agriculture minor and, thankfully, the professors made an exception for me to complete it online because I wasn't able to take it during the semester it was offered (it conflicted with a course required for my Horticulture major). My guess is that it will be a lot of reading and writing reflections, which I can handle no problem. 

The last class is my one-credit cooking lab I'm taking through the Food Science department. It's called Cooking on a College Budget and, even though I'll be leaving college in May, knowing how to cook on a budget will be handy for years after. This is really my "fun class" since it's not required that I take it for any reason. I'm simply doing it for my own enjoyment. 

And that's a brief rundown. I'll probably have plenty of posts about classes later. I'll also be posting lots of pictures and short observations to Instagram and Twitter so be sure to check those out!

Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

A Northern Cardinal in the yard. One of my favorite backyard birds.

Now that I've returned to the land of snow and cold, I've had a bit of time to think on New Year's Resolutions. I've never been good at these. Most years, I don't even make any, or they're very generic. A few of the ones I came up with this year are pretty generic or easily attainable as well, but I like them all the same.

1. Taking time out of the day to do something calming that helps get my mind off stressful things. Writing, reading, listening to music, or anything that could help me care for myself mentally. With my last semester coming up, I'm sure I'll have my share of freak-out or anxiety-ridden moments and having some way to combat that will be necessary.

2. I hope to write on this blog at least once per week or, during really busy times, at least once every two weeks. There will be parts of the semester where updating will be difficult or I'll have simply too much schoolwork for updating, so I wanted to keep this realistic.

3. Break 150 species on my birding Life List. I'm currently at 84 species so I hope this goal will be somewhat easily surpassable. I don't really care too much about numbers with birding, but I set it mostly because I want to keep myself motivated in this hobby.

4. Graduate from college. This one is sorta a no-brainer to have on the list.

5. Keep myself healthy, whatever that entails. Exercise, eating better, etc. I'd like to have several meals a week that I prepare from scratch and try to cut out more processed foods from my diet. Being a college student, it's often very difficult not to eat processed food simply because a boxed meal is faster and less work to prepare during times where schoolwork and other things make me busy. But I'll have less things going on in the evenings this coming semester so setting aside more time to cook will be great. I'm also taking a cooking class through the university so hopefully that will teach me more techniques to use that will make cooking easier. The university rec center also has fitness classes it offers that I've utilized before and greatly enjoyed. Hopefully some fit into my schedule this year.

6. Keep in touch with people from my hometown more. I'm dismal at doing this and I always feel bad about it once I come home and see everyone once again.

7. Try to integrate more environmentally friendly practices into my daily life. I found an excellent list here.  And this definitely includes growing more of my own food this summer.

And that's that! Hopefully I'll be able to stick to it. And posting this somewhere public will hopefully keep me more accountable. I'd love to hear about any New Year's Resolutions that any of you have. I always find sharing not only makes me follow through with a goal more, but makes me more excited about it as well!

Birdwatching on the top of Mount Marquette.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Florida Trip

On December 29th, I flew out of Minneapolis-St. Paul airport with 300 other crazy band kids and headed to the warm, muggy land of Orlando, Florida. When we landed, all you could hear were the shouts of joy as people who had gotten used to below-freezing temperatures felt 70 degrees against their skin again. As the Minnesota Golden Gophers were playing in the Citrus Bowl on the first of the new year, we were all there to cheer them on and provide the general pepping up any college sporting event needs.

Over the course of our three days there, we marched two parades, played at several pep rallies, spent an evening at Downtown Disney or Universal CityWalk, spend New Year's Eve at Seaworld, rehearsed several times, and, of course, marched at the football game. The end of the trip brought new meaning to the phrase we use a during our pregame show: "And down. Stop. Breathe." While we got drizzled on a few times, it didn't all-out rain much and the weather stayed pleasantly mild, albeit a bit muggy.

Shamu stadium at SeaWorld

We also did a lot of sitting on a buses as we shuttled from place to place. I enjoyed looking out the window and taking in the greenery and wildlife that was persistently abundant, despite all the development and human mayhem going on around it. There was a ditch with a small pond just outside the hotel and I saw five species while simply sitting on a bus, waiting to leave for a parade. Pretty cool stuff. We also ended up parking by a lake near the Citrus Bowl stadium and I saw six species there just walking around it to the stadium. The plant life was also incredibly diverse. There was such diversity in every garden I saw and, while many things were going through their dormancy period, there were still some things flowering. I can't imagine what it's like in spring and summer. The air must be full of the smell of tropical flowers. Not sure I could handle the summer temperatures though. I'm too much of a northerner that it might do me in. 

White Ibises

We also got to spend New Years in Florida and spending it with a group of people I've come to cherish so much made me incredibly thankful for the opportunities being a member of the marching band has given me. This trip was the last time I performed with that group and it was incredibly bittersweet. But what a great way to end it. Only thing that could've made it better would have been if our football team had won the game. Ah well. 

Citrus Bowl Stadium

All the amazing Gopher fans who came out to cheer on the team.

But now it's back to reality and, thankfully, I still have until the 20th off of school, meaning I'm back home in the Upper Peninsula for a while to enjoy my last winter break ever. It may be cold here, but spending time at home is worth it regardless of weather.