Saturday, March 30, 2013

SFL Nature Trail Makeover: Day 1

Easter week of 2013 marks a huge
milestone in the history of our beloved
Sandhills Farm Life Nature Trail.  The 
photos and captions in the next two blog
posts will seek to give you a sense of the
excitement of the upgrade in our trail's quality.
Whether you are a former student at SFL, a
teacher, parent, or community member, the
trail will now be a greater resource for you than
ever before.  As dogwood season is almost upon
us, I invite you and your family and friends to
come "home" to the nature trail sometime in the 
coming weeks.  I think you will be thrilled with
what you experience there.  Now, for a sampler,
let's dive right in.

The entrance to our trail is at the bottom of the
concrete stairs to the ball field.  Enter to the
right of the fence.

The stream is as full of free-flowing water as I've
ever seen it.  Big Rock awaits your visit.

This rotten log is the remnant of a massive tree which
fell across our stream more than 25 years ago.  The rest
of its trunk has returned to the soil.

To the side of the trail is one of the few remaining
posts which numerically identified specimens on the
trail back in 1985.  We hope to add new signage with
words and images next year.

This is the same bridge built by students
in 1985.  Not only is it rather rickety, but
on the other side is "no man's land." All of
our trail now lies on school property, on the
near side of the stream.  Students should not
cross the bridge without adult supervision, and
even then, at your own risk.

This photo highlights the type of deep erosion evident
on the trail after years of no protection from rainfall.
This week's corrective measures should help dramatically.

With low spots filled with gravel, then covered with
hardwood chips, roots will no longer be a hazard.  Of
course, you should always watch your step!

Old Man Poplar looks on with approval at
the major improvements taking place.  

Here are some of the tools of the trade that a hard-
working crew from ASIS will use to perform their magic.

You can see the imprint of their Caterpillar's
treads as they give the trail a run-through
prior to beginning work.

The Cat will be valuable for delivering materials to the
 trail, but it will take manpower to accomplish the task.

Two years ago, this same Cat, with a different front-
end attachment, mulching our trail to a width of five
feet.  Today marks the latest upgrade.

Areas that have been chronically muddy in past wet
seasons are filled with stone before the new trail is put down.

Two widths of geo-tech are put down over the entire
trail to inhibit plant growth in the walking path.  If
you see sprouts ON the trail (from fallen nuts, seeds,
or berries) feel free to uproot them and toss them aside.

Beginning at the bridge, the workers will work
"backwards," working their way gradually to the
start of the trail.

These devices place giant staples every few inches to
hold the geo-tech in place, hopefully for years.

The Cat will deliver countless loads to the workers
over a two day period.

The first load of hardwood chips has arrived.

The first load of chips is headed to the bridge.

It's a muddy business, but all signs of mud will vanish
by the time this project is completed on Good Friday.

Highly efficient teamwork.

This is the almost completed spur of the trail
from the bridge to the "Y." (I'll explain the "Y" soon).

Here at the viewing area / teaching station at Big Rock,
a wider area will be covered in chips so that groups can
spread out a little for easier viewing.

I'm sure I could have rounded up plenty of volunteers
to haul these chips down there in wheelbarrow,
but then again . . . .

Thanks to this gravel "fix," muddy shoes will no longer
be a fear of teachers taking groups on the trail.  And we
won't have to seek out "detours" that might lead through
briars or poison ivy unintentionally.

Here's another of our original sign posts, this one still
standing.  It's no longer beside the trail, but you might
spot it if you have sharp eyes.  I think I'll leave it.

This pictorial narrative continues in the next blog post
which follows below.

SFL Nature Trail Makeover: Day 2

As our story of the Nature Trail "makeover"
continues, expect to be amazed at the changes
that are taking place.

Our entrance is now a six-foot wide path
of level, cushioned hardwood chips.

One of the areas of the worst erosion is now being
filled, smoothed, and covered.  This will add to your
safety and comfort while touring the trail, either with
your family, by yourself, or perhaps with a class.

This portion was completed on Day 1 and is where
today's work will begin.

You can see the Cat's tread marks everywhere,
but all evidence of its presence will be erased later.

While the crew carry on with their task, I have my own
project for today.  When the electric company cleared
vines and brush under their power line, much of it was
unfortunately tossed into our stream.  If beavers had built
a dam, I might have been more understanding.  But I
felt no obligation to leave this man-made dam, and set to
work clearing out the blockade that was restricting the flow.

This is a handy little connector or shortcut, which could
be useful if you wanted to shorten your hike, or get to
a specific location on the trail with fewer steps.

This tangle of cat-brier (greenbriar or smilax), grapevines,
and privet (hedgebush) are the enemies I'll be wrestling
out of the stream to liberate its waters.

I promised to explain the "Y." Now Y do you think
I call it the "Y"?

How does the "Y" look from this angle?

Or this angle?  Those three pictures were taken from
the three points on different parts of the "Y."  And
now I hope you know Y I call it the "Y."  My students
have always enjoyed creating our own names for trees
and special locations on the trail.  So, make plans now
to visit the "Y."  Maybe I'll see you there.

From the bridge, you can see the now-completed
spur of the trail that leads to it.

A frisky neighborhood pup was glad to have some
human companionship, probably because there had
been no students around all week.

The hardwood chips are now down from the trail
entrance to this fork.  Go left to go to the stream,
go right to go under Old Man Poplar and take
"the High Road."

The men are repairing the heavy erosion just beneath
our famed Jack, Will, and Tom, the three poplar trees
emerging from one trunk.

Things are connecting up nicely, and no glitches.
By late afternoon on Good Friday, the Makeover of
the Nature Trail was complete.

I invite you to visit the trail soon and enjoy the
wonders of springtime as they unfold.

The lowly Cranefly Orchid awaits you.

You'll know it by its single leaf, green on top,
purple underneath.

Keep your eyes open and you'll spy the dainty
wildflower known as Green and Gold.

Shortly, I'll share a Virtual Video Tour  of the
reborn nature trail.  And soon, the dogwoods, wild
ginger, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and other wonders of
springtime will greet you as well.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

From the Vernal Video Vault

Here are six videos featuring the grandchildren.
Don't feel guilty if you're one of my very busy
friends who don't have time for these (gainfully
employed or some such impediment).  The family
viewers will more than make up for it.

(25 sec.) Hunter vigorously propels his
trike -- no pedaling, thank you.

(15 sec.) Bri creates her own excitement
and Hunter is thrilled to join in.

(26 sec.) Bri demonstrates Tar Heel Duck
take the waterfall plunge.  Then her other
rubber duckie shows how to do flips.

(27 sec.) I intended to follow Bri around the house 
as she biked.  To be honest, I couldn't quite keep
up.  She's always one room ahead of me.  Plus,
somewhere along the way is Hunter on his horse.

( 1 min. 15 sec.) Claire and Evan have fun 
floating boats and ducks at the stream.

(26 sec.) Evan sends his video greetings to Hunter:
"Riding horsie, Hunter."

(2 min.) Evan shows how a gourmet chef operates.

What's this about March Madness?

We have our own brand of March Madness
around the Loyd place.  Here are some pictorial
portrayals of the variety of fun currently happening.

"Is this cute enough, Grandma?"

"By the Power of Grayskull!"
(for Mommy)

It's a known fact that word games require "brain food."

Grandma's indoor Easter egg hunt is a big hit.

The trick is to think like an Easter Bunny.

Grandma has a full lap at the computer.
Yes . . . Grandma.

All the kids still adore the Jacquie Lawson Alpine
Village Advent Calendar-- and it's 3 months since
Christmas.  A thoughtful gift from a dear friend!

Ev-man learned everything he knows about making
muffins from Grandma.

Hunter is trying to find out what makes
this pop-up egg tick.  Or chirp.

Bri likes to add a difficulty factor to her puzzles.

"Grandpa, is this the 'Bridge to Nowhere'?"

Nope, it was the bridge to adventure.
And this is the bridge that rubber duckies float under.

This little stream is flowing at just the right pace for us.

When ducks or boats plunge over the last waterfall
we retrieve them and do it all over again.

"Grandma, I'm taking the water's temperature."

With two swingers like these, the swing set becomes
a rollicking, reeling adventure playground.

This trike is too tough to pedal on this terrain, but
Hunter persistently propels it down to the field.

It stands to reason that Amanda's children would
invent a game like "Shopping Cart Sweepstakes."

Bri and Hunter also enjoy the stream.  Including
sinking ships and prodding marooned ducks with
sticks to get them going again.

"Can you still see me, Grandpa?"

This yard-sale horsie swing is becoming
more popular.  It needs to be relocated soon,
because its massive limb is dead.  Recipe
for disaster!

Boy on horse, girl on bike.  Who has the right-of-way?
This will be a question for their insurance adjuster.

"Grandpa, you can get this buggy rolling
anytime now, okay?"

"Grandma, you're horsie got littler."

"Well Mommy, I'm in traffic right now and can't
talk.  Let me pull over."

Hunter creates his own Christmas train.
He's the master of the mouse.
"Grandma, I think you need me to clean up
your hard drive.  This thing is slow."

Nothing slow about these
kids.  And my next post will
offer video proof!