Friday, May 31, 2013

Adventure on the Nature Trail for First Graders

For the second year (therefore, a tradition),
I joined the 1st graders of Farm Life School
for their end-of-year day of adventure.

It began in the cafetorium with a neat rock
 and mineral presentation by Jims and Gems.

Immediately afterward, we took to the 
nature trail.  Each of the four classes got
their own private tour.

Underneath Old Man Poplar.  Still standing!

Smiling faces tell it all.
 Hard to beat an outdoor classroom.

Sharp-eyed Mrs. Cameron finally spotted what she
had been looking for.  Everyone else had been looking
for snakes on the ground.  She was watching the trees.
Can you spot our arboreal friend? 

How about now?
Isn't it a beauty?

Its sleek, glossy appearance is a clue
that it had recently shed its skin.

Here, the students gather for a view of Big Rock,
on the far side of the stream.

We're at the halfway point of our hike.  We've seen
Old Man Poplar, the Slingshot Tree, Jack-Will-and-Tom,
the stream,Big Rock, and The Wishing Well.
Let's go check on that snake again.
He had descended a little further down the tree, but
still was too high up for me to attempt a capture.
Which was just as well, for we lacked the time for
a full-fledged snake show.
Smile for the camera!
After I pointed out the danger of invasive
kudzu, which can grow a foot a day and
threatens to overwhelm some of our native
plants, I enlisted the help of the students
to try to "straighten" Old Man Poplar.
They put a lot of muscle into the task, but the
results were inconclusive.  Some day, Old Man Poplar
will call 911: "I've fallen and I can't get up!"
Well, guys, you've been attentive and respectful.
You've learned a lot about your nature trail.  I think
you deserve a sourwood snack.

That's right!  Sourwood leaves, when chewed, relieve
your thirst with their sour but tasty juice.  Just like
Daniel Boone and other pioneers.

These students are the future of the nature trail.
Their enthusiasm ensures it will be much visited in
the years ahead.  The trail already spans multiple
generations-- one of our first grade moms is a
former student of mine and walked the trail in 1983.
That was two years before I wrote my first grant for
improving the trail, receiving $250 from Moore County's
Public Education Foundation.  It was their first grant, and
was often cited by their officers as a model for future awards.
Recent improvements have made the trail more
welcoming and user-friendly than ever.

Have YOU visited your trail lately?
It's ready and waiting-- snakes and all!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Grandpa Babysits Solo

Last week I had a wonderful afternoon
with Bri and Hunter all by myself.  They 
took good care of me.  Nobody got hurt!

Bri proudly displays a "train" of animal puzzles she put
 together.  She has assembled her "friends" for the photo.

The age-old favorite of cardboard boxes were a
favorite this afternoon.

In this video Hunter is a Jack-in-the-Box.
Bri is hiding.  But she'll come out.

This video has already appeared on Facebook.
Bri and Hunter are robots.  I asked them if
they'd like to walk around with boxes over them.
They readily agreed.  I soon realized that they
were just as safe lumbering around the house
"blind" as they would have been racing with
wild abandon on wheels or feet.  The boxes
offer some protection in the inevitable collisions.

Because it was Memorial Day weekend, my
monkey Chipper was dressed up in his military
garb.  The kids wanted in on that action, and
they seem to know the part.

We're rough, tough, and all that stuff.


Break time! Our boys and girls in uniform are still
entitled to the pursuit of happiness.  Bare feet and
watermelon are part of that promise.
The next day I landed this airplane transformer
at our local Bargain Box thrift store.  It would 
become one of Hunter's favorite toys this past week.

I'm thankful to say it did NOT have the rockets.  And
Hunter didn't need them anyway.  He wiped out all our
toy dinosaurs with outstanding sound effects.
Even as we played on the porch, we were
sensitive to the nearby wren's nest.

We expect four baby wrens within a week or so.

 I'll close with three shots from the yard.
This is the healthiest specimen of Fire Pink
ever seen on our property.  I think ashes from
the adjacent chiminea had a positive effect.
Fire Pink will be blooming all over our yard
during the month of June.  It's a little thing
God worked out for me and Judy.

Another wonderful plant abundant on our
property is wild sweet peas.  They come in
an assortment of white, pink, and varying
shades of purple (genetic experiment, anyone?).
For a couple of years our sweet peas were
hindered by aphids.  I chose to battle them
organically.  I read that simply knocking the
aphids off with a strong spray of water might
discourage them.  That kept the population down,
and this year a couple of torrential rains may have
helped.  Anyway, they're in full bloom, and no 
sign of aphids!

Again I say, the best things in life are free!

Day Trip to Cheraw State Park, SC

Our most recent day trip was to a quiet
destination exactly one hour from home.
Cheraw State Park, just south of Cheraw, S.C.
Join me for a brief tour.

Here's a view of the boardwalk that skirts
one shore of the lake.

Taken from the boardwalk.

Long enough for a little exercise, but not
overly exerting.

Especially for Liz. (Private joke).

The noise of the spillway creates the illusion
of a mountain waterfall.

Can you spy the skink lurking on the old iron bridge?

The lake is pod-shaped.  This view is from one
end to the other.

Unlike most parks, this one actually invites you to leave
the trail and proceed downstream below the dam.
With caution!

A brochure explained that the apparent "soap suds"
were a natural product of certain decaying leaves,
not a result of pollution.

A nice view below the dam.

The massive roots of a bald cypress tree.
They were plentiful downstream.

And the natural suds billowed to epic size!

This reminded me of a canoe trip on the Lumber
River years ago.

In this watery environment, trees send out roots in
all directions seeking to drink up every drop they can.

Liz, I repeat: This means you!

It's always fun to spot a turtle or other wildlife.

Or two.

A beautiful variety of wild iris grew right in the water.

While hiking a loop trail in a longleaf pine forest
we spotted this Reconyx Rapidfire game tracking camera.
Very cool.  It can take a picture per second of wildlife in
motion.  Including me and Judy, I suppose.

Needless to say, we were already familiar with the
longleaf forest habitat.  We prefer the varied trails
at our own Weymouth Woods.

Isn't it nice when trail directions are so specific?

This simple boardwalk through a sometimes
wet area gave me a great idea for a similar
problem on the Farm Life Nature Trail.
The county has promised assistance.

We picnicked near this nice little playground.
On departure we drove through the park's campground,
then wound our way homeward, with a few timely
stops in Cheraw and Hamlet, NC.  Including cheap gas!