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Tools of the Trade

February 23, 2013

Las Tangaras managers wear many hats, and therefore use many tools. There is, of course, the machete:


without which trail maintenance would be pretty tough.


But we have more than just machetes, because we do more than just trail maintenance.


Implements of destruction, and so on

We build things, too, and bamboo can be our friend in this task – but we first have to harvest it. Of the several saws on the reserve, the smallest is the best for this job.


Of course, sometimes our simple hand tools are either less than adequate, or less than exciting. When we needed to replace the cable holding the bridge up, Reserve friend Artemio got very excited that he could borrow a friend’s come-along, a machine used for tensioning cable. Of course, pulleys and muscle could have done the job, but there was a come-along available! And it’s neat! I guess men and their tools are the same in all cultures.


Not all tools are big, heavy things. Some are smelly, like the varnish that we use for signs and the cabin.


One of the varnish types here is made with nitrocellulose, also known as smokeless gunpowder. That’s certainly not available in the US!

But I always say, don’t underestimate the power of the really, really non-powered tool: the stick. Sticks are unbelievably useful, not least to keep me on my feet in the mud.


We’ve put sticks to work keeping our trails together, too. Our access trail for the water system is notorious for erosion problems. Jeff, the ecological engineer, asked Artemio, the helpful local guy, which trees would sprout from cuttings, and Artemio pointed one out. Jeff took a few cuttings and put them on the eroded sections of the trail. A few months later, ta-da! Sprouts! We have live stakes becoming trees! Keep your fingers crossed for these little guys:


Not all of our jobs are heavy manual labor, of course. Some of our most important tools are binoculars and paper.


We not only research the Andean Cock of the Rock here, we also keep track of the hummingbirds that come by the feeders, and of any birds we happen to see on the Reserve. This means that we have had to learn to bird for real – which has involved heavy use of this gigantic book:


We’re a little more used to studying things like stars, rocks, and plants, which don’t move as much as birds do – so this can also be an important tool:


Of course, there are more relaxed jobs around here, like sewing, which involve a whole new set of tools – fortunately, these tools are typically a lot smaller and easier to pack in.


Of course, there’s always this tool:



which requires electricity, for which we have a gasoline generator. We don’t run it often, but when we do, it’s serious charging time:


We actually didn’t have that many things to charge this day, only three.

Even with the generator, much of our equipment is unpowered:


Lighting and ambiance, all in one!



It’s a pretty good life, all around.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. michael salmon permalink
    February 25, 2013 11:22 pm

    Hiya, Jeff and Kate, Geez, our New Years stay at Las Tangaras was not just the high point of our vacation but one of the nicest travel experiences ever…and we travel a lot. Tangaras was perfect for us, good birding, good food, easy people. Glad I could help a bit on the bridge project, helps me connect with these photos and I learned a thing or two about steel cable. Kim and I hope very much that our paths cross again. Mike

    Date: Sat, 23 Feb 2013 19:45:34 +0000 To:


  2. February 25, 2013 11:49 pm

    Fabulous blog!  Thanks guys!

      Dr. Dusti Becker LIFE NET NATURE

    International Conservation Projects Coordinator 6423 S. Bascom Trail Willcox, AZ 85643 520-384-3886

    “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” – Aldo Leopold



  3. February 27, 2013 12:53 am

    I am constantly impressed, yet I don’t know why this surprises me, by your fantastic talent of telling your story with illustrative photos and a few well-chosen words. Time to write a book! I’m one of your biggest fans!!! And I love you, too.


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