Wednesday, April 1, 2020

An Earthstar is Born

It hasn’t rained in Southwest Florida in a month but I let the kids play in the hose a few nights ago. The result was the emergence of Hygroscopic Earthstars. They are not technically true Earthstars but who cares. They’re just as cool. The hose water gave the fungus just enough moisture to grow fruiting bodies which you see here. 

They have a symbiotic relationship with the Live Oak trees that are growing a few feet away. The fungus helps the tree extract phosphorus from the soil and the tree produces carbs for the fungus. 

The fruiting body emerges from moist soil and the outer layer peels back, forming “rays” that give it a star like appearance. The rays fold under the puffball and lift it up out of the ground enough to help elevate it. When the mushroom is ripe, the rusty colored spores billow or "puff" from a hole like a volcano belching plumes of smoke into the wind. The spores scatter and start the process all over again. I love these things.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

You want to own your own company? Start digging.

As of 9/1/2016 I will no longer work for the Everglades Day Safari. This may come as a shock, a pleasant surprise or be met with raging indifference. I will officially be the owner of Everglades Day Safari and here's how it happened.

The first job I ever had lasted one day. I was 13 and was a babysitter for three kids. I don't remember their names but I remember kicking a ball around inside the house with them and the image of the ball rising into the air and striking a magnificent native American sculpture and sending it plummeting to and shattering on the ground is burned into my brain like a picture on a TV that's been paused too long.

My next job didn't last much longer. My mom, in an effort to get me out of our summer camp in NY back in 1984, suggested I call a number in a classified ad asking for "help with yard work, no digging". I spent 10 days with a spade digging compacted dirt out of a creepy old man's carport. I collected my $320 for 80 hours of work and was grateful I didn't end up buried in the carport. I learned to ask at every other job after that if there would be digging.

My first official job was working at McDonalds. Everyone should work at McDonalds for minimum wage. It's inspiring. The perks included a free meal. The longer your shift, the more grade D beef you were allowed to consume.

I paid my way through college in part by working at Pizza Hut. Everyone should be a server at some point in their life. It teaches you to respect servers. I was a waiter and my first customer barked at me "Hey boy. Get over her" and plopped a gooey, half masticated piece of pizza in the palm of my hand. A bolt from the oven had fallen into his pizza and ended up in his mouth and subsequently my hand. No tip. Because clearly it was my fault. The manager was a moron. His mantra was "the customer is always right and the employee is always wrong". I lasted longer than he did.

After graduating from the University of Vermont in 1994 with a degree in Wildlife Biology, CaptainJoe Del Regno hooked me up with a job at Pillsbury because that makes sense. It was ideal. I'd roam the New York country side in search of grocery stores, shuffle around products and remove out of date cookie dough and eat it. Additionally I got to dress up as the Pillsbury Dough Boy or Sprout, the Jolly Green Giant's sidekick. These were $4000 air-conditioned costumes which you could easily hoard cookie dough inside and eat it while walking around at grocery story grand openings. I got fat in 1994.

I quit Pillsbury in 1998 and moved back home to Florida. I worked at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa for a few months. Got to dress up as Larry the Manatee. In June of that year my mother discovered a classified ad online, printed it out and sent it to me from the home she shared with my step-dad Bill Schreiber out in Montana. It was weird because I wasn't living with them so there was no need to get me out of the house. The ad was for a guide with the Everglades Day Safari in Fort Myers. It required, driving, pointing at wildlife and talking to people. I took a public speaking class in college and sucked at it, terrified to speak in front of people. I still recall staring out at..............what what happened?

So I applied for the job. When the owner called, I was living with my dad while I looked for my own place. I wasn't home at the time of the call but my dad Michael Corradino recalls the owner asking "what's wrong with your son? Doesn't he want a job?" I did but I had to pass a natural history test. Not a problem. Bird. Snake. Some kinda conifer. The owner Bob Cowlishaw had just bought the business the year before and needed a second guide. I guided from 1998-2000 but moved back to Vermont when business slowed. I worked as a Naturalist (not naturist dad) and Park Ranger for the Vermont State Parks (where I dressed up as Woodsy Owl and Smoky Bear - thanks Dennis Rosa and Linda Betts Rosa and Nate McKeen! until 2007 and worked for the Vermont Institute of Natural Science from 2002-2007 (thanks Susan Morgan Hindinger). I loved those jobs and the people I worked with and taught. Some of whom might be reading this if you haven't given up on this to watch a cat video. In 2006 Bob Cowlishaw called me and asked me if I would be interested in the Director of Operations position. I said no at first, struggling with the death of my mother and not wanting to leave the state for sentimental reasons. In 2007 when he called again I said ok.

It has been an interesting 9+ years. The business has grown tremendously. The funny questions are ceaseless. I've worked with many great people. Bob will officially retire on 9/1/16 and I will be the owner. I'm ready. I'm excited. I'll be working with a great team including Randi Rush Morse, Anne Murray Falcone, Em-Jill Holohan, Erin Dahl, Marc Weiss, Jason Calleri, Edward Olesky, Sharon Turrubiaters, Fred Robbins Robbins, Don Blalock and many more in the industry that are just now finding out I like to dress up in costumes. Being an owner already has it's challenges but MariaElena and Junglito are already stepping up to the plate to help.

Wow. Here we go. At least there shouldn't be any digging. Thanks for the classified ads mom.