Reflections on 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, I’m sitting on the sofa reflecting on the year. I had two goals – lose at least ten pounds and get published (paid). As far as the weight loss goes, I’m happy to report that I only have 15 more pounds to go! I did get a popular article published in the Cactus and Succulent Journal (unpaid). Therefore, I didn’t achieve my goals, but I did accomplish many things this year.

I have three main areas of interest at this moment of my life, beyond home and family activities. They are competitive figure skating, writing, and botanical studies, mainly cactus.

Competitive Figure Skating

Bronze medal, Fort Collins Classic 2017.
Bronze medal, Fort Collins Classic, April 2017.

Things could have gone better. I have a jump, the flip jump, that has gone AWOL this year. It was consistent enough last year that I advanced to the silver adult level in December 2016. Since then – frustration. It’s not a particularly hard jump, even for someone, say, over 60. It was my favorite as a teenager. I relearned this jump a couple years ago and had a fantastic day where I landed ten in a row. The next day, I heard, “don’t be surprised if it comes and goes,” and it has come and gone ever since. This year – mostly gone, especially in competition. I competed in only two competitions this year and did not cleanly land this jump in either.

It is hard for me to comprehend how far this “might come and go” mentality has wormed itself into my brain. However, the jump is almost back and when it is, I’m keeping it!

The rest of my skating is much improved. I have a decent scratch spin, a better back spin, a lower sit spin, and faster camel spin. My other jumps are stronger and more consistent. I’ve learned the Dutch Waltz and am learning the Canasta Tango, the first two ice dances. I started practicing the elements for the first of two adult gold-level tests.

Most of this was to take my brain off from obsessing about the flip jump. Didn’t work. Therefore, my goal for 2018 is a consistent flip jump. I informed my coach that I am not entering another competition until it is consistent 90% of the time. Currently, it is 0.001%, well maybe 0.01%. I probably land one out of a 100.

Writing

My goal for 2017 was to have something published and be paid for it. I had a popular article, Cacti Conundrums, published in the Cactus and Succulent Journal. They don’t pay to publish, but unlike many scientific journals, they don’t charge to publish. Publication, paid or not, is a success for me.

In addition, I was a finalist in the WriterUnboxed.com, Flog-A-WU writing contest http://writerunboxed.com/2017/07/20/flog-a-wu-judgment-day/, finishing second out of 119 entries. I was a finalist for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators first Golden Pen award. Also, I earned an honorable mention in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie writing contest.. https://susannahill.com/2017/11/17/the-2017-halloweensie-contest-winners/

Poppy Okapi catching raindrops on her tongue.

Other notable accomplishments: I created a website nancyrileynovelist.com, created a Facebook page, and recently, Twitter and Instagram accounts. I drafted five picture books and began sketching illustrations for two of them. I wrote six stories for potential publication in children’s magazines. I sent query letters to agents for my memoir and received one full manuscript request. All in all a good start on my writing career.

My writing goals for 2018 are to continue my publication efforts for my memoir, edit and illustrate my picture books for submission to literary agents, and to write more nonfiction essays for children and adults. I want to grow my online platform and utilize social media tools better. Since I’m a novice to Twitter and Instagram, I have an immense opportunity for improvement.

Botanical Studies

Two years ago, when we moved to our current house, I discovered three small, cylindrical cactus species growing on our land. This was the basis for my Cacti Conundrums article. Since I’m retired, and because we own 35 acres of foothill-shrub and grassland habitat, I have started two different studies – one to study methods of stimulate mountain mahogany growth, and the second to study rabbit herbivory (browsing) on the cacti species.

Mountain mahogany is an important food shrub for mule deer. In my area, it is not producing much annual growth, which is the part that deer eat. So, the deer nibble all the new bits and the shrubs struggle to flourish. I’m experimenting with cutting shrubs at certain heights to stimulate more annual growth. Stay tuned for progress reports!

Nylon hedgehog cactus in bloom.

There was scant precipitation in 2016, resulting in rabbits (we have many) eating anything with any moisture, including my little, cylindrical cacti – grr. I’m attached to them, not any rabbit. So, now I’ve marked 100 nylon hedgehog cactus plants to track the percentage consumed by rabbits during the 2017-2018 winter. Fortunately, there are plenty of nylon hedgehog cacti!

Final Thoughts on 2017

Scout – January 1, 2018.

It is now 2018 and 2017 is in the books. Last year was full of opportunities and accomplishments. This new year presents opportunities for many more accomplishments. I’ve already made my bed, brushed my teeth, and taken my dog, Scout, on a long walk. I’ve almost finished this post and the day is still young. I think I’m off to a great start!

Rabbits eating cactus – continued …

Nylon hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus vridiflorus).

Last summer I marked the locations of over 250 nylon hedgehog cactus plants (Echinocereus viridiflorus). I planned to start a study of some kind on these plants. As time passed, I removed many of these flags and replaced them with roof nails with bright orange plastic collars. I could push these into the soil and the plastic collar was flush with the ground. Easy to mow around, when necessary for weed control, and would not hurt if one of our horses stepped on it.

Bare spot with white root stump of a nylon hedgehog cactus eaten by rabbits.

As noted in my previous post  http://nancyrileynovelist.com/?p=116, rabbits have taken a toll on these marked plants. In several spots, I found a depression where the plant had been – just the marker left to show a cactus had been there. Just a random observation of 12 markers showed only two plants remaining.

When I was surveying for the Colorado hookless cactus (Sclerocactus glaucus), botantists from the Bureau of Land Management told me that around 2008-2009 many individual cactus disappeared, probably eaten by rabbits. Most of the plants they were finding in current surveys were no more than approximately five years old. This is important information when working with a federally listed (Endangered Species Act) species. The goal with every listed species is to recover it to the point that it can be removed from the list. If rabbits are decimating a local cactus population, it would be beneficial to know methods to protect plants, deter rabbits, and propagate more cactus.

Later this spring, when the cacti are most visible, I will conduct a survey of my marked plants and estimate the amount of rabbit herbivory or predation. This will give me a starting point for studies on my property.

I have not been able to get close enough to video rabbits eating these cactus. The largest nylon hedgehog cactus on my property are about 1.5 inches in diameter and around 2 inches tall. Below is a video I found on YouTube video of a rabbit happily munching a much larger cactus to illustrate my point of how much damage one rabbit can inflict.