Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Redbird Creek Trail

Seven miles southeast of the house is Fort McAllister State Park - I've discovered the Redbird Creek Trail there - it's a 3 mile loop trail that takes you out into the salt barrens & marshes (yes, there is a difference I've learned). The trail mainly stays in the piney flatwoods which are only a few feet higher in elevation, and will occasionally take you over the marsh by boardwalk. It is incredibly peaceful here - I've gone each weekday since purchasing our new jogging stroller - I'm falling in love with this ecosystem - it's my dose of zen for the day - only the sound of rustling palmettos.
It is especially lovely this time of year = no biting insects. I jog a little and walk a little. I'm sure in a couple of months I will be jogging the entire length, or otherwise be eaten alive!

My favorite boardwalk overlook into the salt barren - marsh mix.
Salt barrens: When extremely high tides flood the flat, sandy area which exists between the shoreline and the flatwoods, some of the salt water remains in shallow pools at the center of the plain. This water evaporates in the direct sun, leaving very high concentrations of salt on the soil surface, which keeps these areas free of vegetation.

An elevated observation tower gives you a good look over Redbird Creek winding its way thru the marsh land.
Salt marshes are found along low energy coastlines. Green or gold at different times of the year, these marshes are blanketed with grasses like black rush and cordgrass. Tides affect the water levels of the salt marsh and also act to flush out the system. Many fish and shellfish species spend at least part of their life cycle in this very productive habitat.

Saw palmetto is the dominant ground cover.

Sabal palm (or cabbage palm). These palms can tolerate more salt water than other upland trees. They often persist long after oaks, cedar, and pine have died from tidal flooding.

Levi modeling our 'new' jogging stroller - a great Craig's list find - with an extra seat for friends to tag along.

Back at Fort McAllister proper (where we park) - a windy look over the Ogeechee River.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Catchin' Up!

I'm a wee bit behind on posts! We celebrated Levi's birthday last week & took him to the Jacksonville Zoo on Saturday to celebrate with the Burnam clan. There was rain in the forecast & we did have a few sprinkles, but really it just turned out to be a nice cool day for walking outdoors. Here's us all at the front entrance:

A closer look!


B. and Big Daddy

Opening his gift from us - we got him a wooden train set (eBay!) that's he's not stop playing with yet. There are 20 something track pieces & two bridges - we've assembled them in a zillion different ways - we'll play for a while and then there's an 'earthquake' and we have to start over again.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A birthday package

reading the letter...

what's inside...

share one with Daddy...

cool car!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Levi

Levi turns 2 today! Both his bottom 2-year molars came in this week (with no noticeable side effects) - perfect timing. He's spent the entire day playing outside & we'll have his favorite spaghetti & mushroom supper tonight. Saturday we're headed to the Jacksonville Zoo & Bot Gardens for a celebratory day with the Burnam's.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Longleaf Pine - Wiregrass Ecosystem

I've been out exploring and scouting some areas at Ft. Stewart for the upcoming turkey season. I "found" a large longleaf stand that is in great shape....and has some really cool plants (and lots of turkeys to boot, what have I done to deserve this?). Molly wanted to see it, so we all went for a picnic and an afternoon in the woods.

What struck me when we first got out of the truck was the sound of the wind through a million longleaf needles and the total absence of any other noise. All-consuming but at the same time, strangely muted...

I've always loved the longleaf woods. Just something about 'em....it's our native forest, and has greatly influenced our history and culture. From a once proud 93 million acres to now less than 3 million scattered acres, we need to take care of what little we have left. What is so unique about the longleaf ecosystem (besides the tree itself, which is a whole other discussion), is the understory. The understory contains the diversity....more plant species can be found in a square meter of longleaf woods than in the same area in the tropical rainforest. The whole system is built on frequent fire, which eliminates encroaching hardwoods and loblolly pine, keeping the woods open and sunlit. It harbors a host of wildlife species...from bobwhite quail to red-cockaded woodpeckers...flatwoods salamanders to Bachman's sparrow, eastern indigo snakes to gopher tortoises.

Me and Levi in the woods...

The entrance to a gopher tortoise burrow. While becoming less common due to loss of habitat, they are not threatened in Georgia (but they are in Alabama and Mississippi). Not only do these burrows harbor gopher tortoises, they also serve as a thermal and protective refugia for the federally-listed eastern indigo snake, eastern diamondbacks, assorted small mammals, and a host of insects. Trivia: They're evidently pretty tasty...were called "Hoover Chicken" during the depression....don't try it now, though. A bite of tortoise ain't hardly worth jail time.

Ought to be an old bird dog somewhere in this picture.

The grasshoppers were everywhere....flushing under our feet (There's one on the side of the tree).

They wanted our crackers, too. And with all that grass.....dern hungry varmints.

A small creek that feeds in to Taylor's Creek....we ate our lunch here. Levi had to explore...got soaked and covered in mud wading and digging around.

Little hands growing up fast.

Toothache grass (Ctenium aromaticum). So named because of agents that help numb the mouth when chewed (it's never worked for me, however). This species is endemic to moist pine savannas and bogs....which means it occurs in the same neighborhood with.....

Hooded pitcher plants (Sarracenia minor). Listed as threatened in Florida, but "unusual" in Georgia. These perennial forbs are carnivorous and are found in bogs and wet woods. Like so many other things associated with the longleaf ecosystem, changing land-use patterns and fire suppression has done a number on pitcher plant abundance. Luckily, because of regular fire and good ecological management, Ft. Stewart contains a good many pitcher plant bogs.

Molly took this one shot, and it's better than the 15 I took.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tax Time Tip

I've electronically filed for the last several years with TurboTax and certainly have been happy with the results/service - Our return this year was a little more complicated than in previous years so, rather than do the usual free federal return program (which of course is not truly free when you add on a state filing) I really wanted one of the more 'deluxe' packages that helps you out more...
For TurboTax that would equate to: a $30 federal filing fee + $35 for state = $65 yikes!...
Okay, so I go check out H&R Block: $40 federal + $30 state = $70! even worse (I am a true cheapskate! no way am I paying that!)
A few google searches later and I find a raving review for TaxACT.com - supposedly as good as the afore mentioned companies at a price I can't resist = $16.95 for the 'Ultimate' fed+state package. So, after 4+ hours of the hell that is tax time, it is over & I am done. And I have to say, after using TurboTax for years, this was just as good & even better considering the price. Check it out.

Monday, February 2, 2009


What's up with us? Joe spent all of last week in south Alabama taking a course given by the Longleaf Alliance - they are an organization that: promotes regenerating, restoring and managing longleaf pine. He came back with a wealth of information.
Levi & I held down the homeplace: we did some major mud pie making, tidied up the house, soaked in some sunshine & raindrops, bagged pinestraw, planted a bed of lettuce & onions, had some splashy bathtime together, and read Goose & Duck 100+ times!