Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More January Candids

I left an unsolved mystery in the previous post.  The "fifth" character is Kitty Cat, of course.  He's a beloved part of our family, and Claire and Brianna inquire about him frequently when he's not around.

Claire: "Grandma, will you tell Mommy to get me a Kitty Cat and a king-size bed?"

Brianna: "Grandma, I thought Hunter was the one who was supposed to be getting sleepy."

Evan:  "Hey, man.  Give me five!  Uh. . . five what?  I don't know."

Claire: "I know I'm too big to suck my fingers.  But nobody said I couldn't suck my dolly's fingers.  YUM."

Claire:  "I'm sure a real queen would know how to manage two crowns."

Claire:  "And then Cinderella said, 'Well I'll be. . . the doggone thang fits."

Here's the other bargain we got at the daycare's going-out-of-business sale: a Playhouse.  Whoopee!

Claire:  "I know it's only January.  But I want to be ready when they announce the Egg Hunt."

Brianna:  "Listen, you.  When the sign says 'No Soliciting,' that's exactly what it means."

Brianna:  "Don't be silly.  How should I know what an ironing board is."

Brianna:  "Sure, I'm sure they're 3-D glasses.  My Mommy had 'em back in the olden days."

Brianna:  "Grandma, did you mean it when you said we couldn't have snack till Hunter turns over?  I'll be glad to help him.

Claire: "I dare you to post this picture, Grandpa.  Everybody will know it's Evan's paci, not mine."

Grandpa: "Evan, some pictures just don't need a caption.  You are a handsome dude."

Claire:  "Grandpa, please hurry and take the picture.  This swing has to be at least 32 degrees."

Evan: "Dear God, thank you for Mommy and Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa and all my family.  And please let me grow up big and tall like my big sister Claire someday."

As you can see, I may never run out of material.  Just time!

Candidly Speaking: They're at it again-- all FIVE of 'em!

It's been days since my last blog post, but I've been busy, believe me.  Now I have all the January pictures I'm eager to share.  Here's a start.

Brianna: "Grandma, why does everything taste better when I sit in your lap?"
(Or is it those Veggie Tale plates Grandma bought?)

Great Granny: "Hunter, let me give you some hints about surviving in a world surrounded by girls."

Hunter: "That's all right.  I LIKE being surrounded by girls!"

Here Hunter is sporting a really cool hat made by his own Mommy.  Amanda has learned how to make them and is even making them available at a local consignment shop!

Grandpa:  "I'm very patient, Hunter.  Just start reading whenever you're ready."

Grandma, Evan, Claire, Kitty Cat's white paws, and Grandpa

Claire: "Well, this is one way to make sure Grandpa doesn't step on my feet when we dance."

This Li'l Tykes slide was our lucky find at the neighboring daycare which will not be reopening.
Brianna got something similar for Christmas, and after seeing video of her on it, I thought this slightly used one was a godsend.  As so many of our "things" are.

From his lofty perch, Kitty Cat supervises both work and play.  And when he chooses, he descends and takes part.  But ONLY when HE chooses.

But this benevolent ruler has to keep in shape.  And that involves a lot of stretching.  And proper diet and rest, of course.

Another blog should follow soon with more January highlights.  Of which there were many.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SFL Nature Trail: Extreme Makeover

When I began my teaching career at Sandhills Farm Life Elementary School in 1975, I was thrilled that the school was adjacent to rich woodlands that were suitable for nature study, an important part of our science curriculum.  With my background as nature instructor at Camp Cherokee for Boys, I envisioned these woods as an outdoor classroom where students would learn life science first hand.

From the beginning, I took classes on nature walks.  There were no trails at first, but we followed the paths of least resistance.  We always had to seek out a viable place to cross the small stream, usually a not-too-soggy sandbar, from which we could leap to the opposite shore.  Nobody ever fell in.

In 1985, the Public Education Foundation of Moore County awarded me its first grant, $250 to create a bridge, signs, and guide books for our trail.   Almost all of  the labor was done by my class of 1985-86.  However, for years before we received funding, students had helped me with clipping, clearing, and keeping the trail litter-free.  Indeed, in the dedication page of our guidebook I thanked "3rd Graders of years past for keeping the dream of the Nature Trail alive."

The trail has undergone many transformations over the years, some natural, some because of decisions of the property owners (who were always benevolent in allowing us to walk their land).  I am delighted to announce that 2010-2011 is the year of our beloved nature trail's "extreme makeover."

I was contacted last spring by Terry Myers, Resource, Conservation, and Development Coordinator with Environmental Impact. This is an arm of the Department of Agriculture which seeks to facilitate public/private partnerships for projects with environmental and/or educational components.   During the fall, Terry began the process of helping us plan and fund a major upgrade of our beloved trail.  Without going into detail, I can report that Phase I of a three phase plan has now been completed. 

Phase I is the most significant and noticeable portion of the plan: to blaze a new trail, five feet wide bringing our old trail up to a new standard.  When more funding is found, woodchips will be brought in for the entire trail.  The final stage will include all-new signage and informational kiosks.

Even now, there's no reason to postpone getting acquainted or re-acquainted with this wonderful trail.  It's for the community, not just students.  It can be soggy after rain or snow, but is reasonably dry at most other times.  The following pictures are designed to whet your appetite to visit the trail and tell others about it.  There are pictures of the work that was completed in December, both in progress and when completed.

Terry put us in touch with this crew from ASIS who would walk the proposed new trail before beginning the makeover.

Terry, on the left, John-- crew supervisor, on the right
These men know their stuff.

The machine below is the phenom that mulches and grinds everything in its path, creating a path as it goes.  That isn't as easy as it sounds.  It takes an artist's touch not to make it look like a construction site.

This is one all-new section of trail that was a total tangle previously.

There's a light-colored stump that was ground away (center of photo), marking a fork in the trail. Go left to go to the bridge, right to go to Big Rock and beyond.

Cutting and widening our new trail entrance was delicate work because of the fence.  The machine had no problem.

The path to the stream and the bridge.

Big Cat (for lack of another name) at work.

An all-new section of the trail.

The trail now loops back to Old Man Poplar, the seriously leaning tree.  Here it rejoins the main trail.

Our new entrance.  No more squeezing between the fence and the bushes, getting scratched in the process.

A closer look at Big Cat's mulching blade.  Don't mess with it.  It can send debris 200 feet.  But it's what we needed for this job.

If you look closely through the tangle of vines (cat-brier, grapevine, and others) you can see Big Cat tearing through.

Big Cat leaves a clear, open trail in its wake.

This is Big Cat first entering the trail to begin its task.  Old Man Poplar is in front of it.

Incredibly impressive.  I'm glad I didn't have to do all that by hand.

Big Cat hasn't met its match yet.

I bet you can't wait to walk this trail, can you?  Come ahead.

We were glad Old Man Poplar didn't fall this day.  Any predictions?  It won't be the first tree to fall on this nature trail.

Hide-and-seek, anyone?

Some vanishing act.

A spacious viewing area has now been cleared at Big Rock.

Plenty of room here now for a whole class to view this geological wonder.  It's part of the McLendon Fault which crosses this part of Moore County.  In low-lying areas the ages have uncovered some of the formations, a rarity here in the Sandhills.

Some of you reading this blog helped hammer the nails in this bridge 25 years ago.  It's rather dilapidated, but will still get you across the stream (at your own risk).  However, the school can no longer sanction crossing the stream.  This "spur" ends the trail in this direction.  Unless someone wants to donate more land to the school.

This project is by no means finished, but I plan to visit it again in a day or two.  I just can't stay away.
For readers that have ever walked the trail in the past, I hope you'll come again.  I also hope you'll pass the word to your friends who might be interested.  The vision of this trail now goes beyond the original dream.  It's more user-friendly than ever with the trail improvements.  You don't have to be in great shape to walk it, and there are cut-throughs so you can do any distance that fits your time.  Teachers, when spring comes, you still may see a snake, but hopefully the open space will give you plenty of warning to steer clear.  Every student and teacher in the school should spend time on this trail, both for recreation and for learning. 

I would love to hear from you regarding the trail either on this blog or on Facebook.  In fact, let me know if you think I should start a nature trail Facebook page.   There's a lot to talk about and there are a lot of pictures to share.