Hubbard Fellowship Post – Brandon asks, “What’s Up With Work Pants?”

This post was written by Brandon Cobb, one of our current Hubbard Fellows. Brandon came to us wanting as much land stewardship work (and other experiences) as possible to supplement what he learned during his academic career at Yale. As you’ll see in this post, he’s gotten plenty of land management experience and has the pants to prove it. – CH

Growing up, I loved playing in dirt. I remember my dad would get truckloads of dirt delivered to our house in Oklahoma and I would be the first one out of the door to play in it. Back then, what I wore didn’t matter. If I wore out a pair of pants or got them dirty, my mom would always be there to either give them a good cleaning or take me to the store to get another pair.

Those times have changed. I’m fresh out of college, and pinching pennies is my middle name. Whatever pair of pants I decide to use for working in the prairie, they’d better be able to last me at least a season. Well, let me tell you, that has been anything but the case. In one season alone, I have torn my way through three sets of work pants and am currently on my fourth. Upon hearing this statistic, Chris introduced me to another fellow Alex’s work pant themed blog post. Somehow, Alex had made it an entire season in just one pair of Dickies work pants. At the end of the blog post he says “The science is still ongoing, but if you’d like to contribute to my (very scientific) research, I’d be curious if you have any good stories about your trusty workpants!” Well Alex, I don’t know if I’d call my work pants “trusty” but I do have some ongoing (very scientific) research to add.

Work Pant 1: The ‘Ol “Reliable”

To be fair to these old Levi jeans, they had already been through hell and back when they came into my possession. They were previously owned and worn by my best friend and college roommate, Andrew. Drew is a Montana farm boy and these jeans got used plenty while working on his dad’s farm. Here’s a picture of Drew picking rocks on the farm while wearing these jeans (notice how much they’ve faded since that picture):

They were passed down to me in college, and they were the first pair of jeans I used when I got to the fellowship. They lasted me a good 3 or 4 months, but unfortunately, they met a fate that you’ll notice seems to be a reoccurring theme with these workpants, the seam rip.

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Work Pant 2: The New Guy

After wearing out Drew’s old Levis, I thought it’d be best to go get myself a real pair of work pants. Our preserve manager, Cody, wears nothing but these Wrangler work pants, so I drove up to Menard’s and got myself a pair.

There are a few stains on these, but you can see they’re noticeably less worn than Drew’s old pair. That’s because within the first month or so, tragedy struck once again. Now to be fair, I’m a pretty large lad. I enjoy powerlifting outside of work, and it can be hard for me to find pants that fit both in the waist and in the thighs. That being said though, I’d expect any pair of new work pants to at least last me a season. Thanks for nothing Wrangler.

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Work Pant 3: Time to get serious?

At this point, I’m reeling. Will I ever find a work pant that fits? How much money am I going to have to spend before I finally find the one? It was time to get serious, so I busted out my wallet and called up the good folks at Carhartt to send me out a pair of their finest dungarees.

Again, a few stains here and there, but you can tell that these pants haven’t seen a lot of work. Can you guess why?

That’s right, within the first couple of months, we were right back at square one.

Now I’ve only heard good things about Carhartt and I’ve worn plenty of their clothing before so I thought this was an oddity. I called them back up and they quickly gave me a refund and said “those weren’t really work pants they’re more of a “day-to-day” pant, try out our real work pants and you’ll see”. Well with a challenge like that there was no way I was going to back down. A week later it was back to testing.

Work Pant 4: The “Real” Work Pant

So here we are, the end of the line. There’s not another pair after this so these must be the ones, right? Well, sort of.

 Coming in Carhartt’s “Hamilton Brown” color, triple stitch seams all around, and with a much sturdier canvas material, these pants have lasted me a good 4 plus months now. They’ve seen me through fencing projects, oil changes, and even a bison roundup.

And just look at that, not a single sign of wear to be found. Good job Carhartt, you had me worried there for a second. Now, just because these Carhartt’s have stood the test of time so far doesn’t mean they’re perfect. The canvas material they use can be quite stiff and they still don’t quite fit my waist to thigh ratio.

So, Alex, based on my extensive research and analysis, here is my call to action. There needs to be a work pant that is just a durable as my current pair of Carhartt’s but with the added flexibility and stretchiness of an athletic fit jean. I’m sure this is a challenge from a materials and durability standpoint, but should someone figure it out, I’ll be the first in line; that’s a guaranteed $50 right there. Should anyone happen to know of that work pant floating around, please send it my way, I will be eternally grateful. But until then, I will keep testing work pants until I find the pair that truly can do it all.

The 2022 FORBY Awards – Part 1

It’s time for the FORBY awards!

The FORBYs (Featured Organisms Rated Best of the Year) are an opportunity to celebrate prairie species photographed during the past 12 months. Some of the individual awards have already been decided upon by our editors. Others will be left up to you.

Every species that lives in the prairie is outstanding, of course, but each year, some step forward in ways that deserve special recognition. (Editor’s note: it also makes for some really easy blog posts to write.) Either way, please take a few moments to help us celebrate our 2022 FORBY award winners!

The first FORBY category for today is ‘Best Hair’. For this category, the term ‘hair’ can be loosely defined, since lots of animals and plants have structures that look similar to hair but might technically be called something else by experts who specialize in those organisms. Doesn’t matter! If it looks like hair, we’re calling it hair.

This year’s FORBY winner for ‘Best Hair’ was spotted on a wet sandbar along the Niobrara River this summer. It paused long enough from feeding on wetland plants to pose for a photo and ended up getting the award! It’s a Henry’s Marsh Caterpillar!

Henry’s Marsh Caterpillar (Simyra insularis) The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve. June 29, 2022.

Next, we move to the ‘Best Antennae’ category. This category is often dominated by moths, beetles, and katydids, since each can have spectacular – though very different from each other – appendages sprouting from their heads. As a result, this year’s winner isn’t a huge surprise, though definitely worth of celebration!

After much consideration, the sheer length of the antennae held up by this tiny katydid nymph on a prairie wild rose won it the prize. How does it walk around with those things?? Give it up for the FORBY winner for ‘Best Antennae’!

Early instar katydid nymph on prairie rose. Prairie Plains Resource Institute’s Gjerloff Prairie. June 9, 2022

We couldn’t walk away from this category, however, without recognizing three other candidates for ‘Best Antennae’. Below, you’ll find the three runners-up for 2022. The moth smartly utilized dew drops to accentuate its fuzzy feelers and that was almost enough to win it the prize. A gorgeous clay-colored beetle showed off its distinctive triangularly-segmented antennae to great effect but fell just short. And the striped antennae of a fuzzy olive-green grasshopper were enough to get it on the podium, if not to the top spot.

Runners-up for ‘Best Antennae’ include A) a moth, B) Clay-colored leaf beetle, C) Fuzzy olive-green grasshopper. Click on the image to see them more clearly.

This next category has been criticized as “too specific”, “silly”, and “too scary”. We reject that last one, but are willing to consider the first two. Ok, we considered them. Now, let’s highlight this year’s FORBY winner of ‘Best Wasp Pattern and Coloration’!!

What a category! So many gorgeous wasps showed up this year – making the final call extraordinarily difficult. In the end, there were two that seemed to stand out from the rest. The FORBY award winner for ‘Best Wasp Pattern and Coloration’ is – a golden paper wasp! (That’s probably the right species, though the coloration of these wasps is variable and makes it difficult to tell species apart from each other.)

Golden paper wasp – probably – (Polistes aurifer) on butterfly milkweed. Lincoln Creek Prairie. July 3, 2022.

Also worth of recognition, however, is this slightly smaller wasp, which is in the potter and mason wasp group family (Eumenidae). We don’t know the particular species, but that didn’t prevent us from loving its bold colors and gorgeous patterns. Congratulations to the runner-up!

Eumenid wasp – runner-up for ‘Best Wasp Pattern and Coloration’. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. September 14, 2022

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We now come to the first category decided by audience vote. It’s the always-popular ‘Best Face – Insect Division’ category and this year is packed with candidates. Each of them has their own distinctive charm. It’s up to you to pick which one is the BEST. Be sure to click on the image below to get an extra clear version of the image to examine. Then vote in the poll below the photo and select the winner! Once you click on a choice, you’ll get to see which candidate is winning.

Best Face – Insect Division. A) Grasshopper, B) Skipper, C) Spittlebug, D) Chinese Mantis #1, E) Bush Katydid, F) Chinese Mantis #2

Our final category for today is the ‘Best Backlit Animal’ category. This one will also decided by audience vote, so you’re up! Click on the image below and then decide which backlit animal is best. Wow, tough choice, right?

Candidates for ‘Best Backlit Animal’. A) Cricket, B) Dragonfly, C) Bison, D) Praying mantis

Thank you for your voting and your support of the 2022 FORBY awards! We’ll be back soon with more award winners, so stay tuned for that! In the meantime, be well, have fun, and may all your prairies be FORBY!

(I don’t think I’ve ever put so many exclamation points in one post before. It’s exhausting. I hope it wasn’t exhausting to read. Thanks for putting up with all this silliness.)