Sunday, April 11, 2010

Return to Blackwater

Each year you live in a place, you change your habitat a little. People are like that. Paint a window here; plant a flower there. We’re no different.

If anything, we’re worse.

We can’t seem to leave anything alone, even if it doesn’t need change. Although, to be honest, quite a few things need attention here before we’ll be satisfied.

This year we are finishing making our island back into an island. Aerial photos have shown us that a one time the creek flowed freely around the entire thing. Then, apparently, a tree fell. It was cut into pieces and left in place to rot. Subsequently the area silted up, and it was no longer a true island. Until we started to intervene.

With the catastrophic flood that took out part of our causeway, we moved into action. We started refilling the gap between causeway and land with dirt dug up where the old stream had run. As we came across pieces of the trunk, we stood them on end, creating a sort of palisade on that side of the island, with the trench running alongside. We’ve stopped digging about three feet from breaking through to the water. And that’s how it’s stayed for about a year.

We want to get a bridge from the ‘shore’ to the island up before we break through, and that involves some quik-crete as well as some underwater concrete to finish repairing the dam part of the causeway. Both tasks need to be completed before we break through. However, we think that’s happening this summer.

We have, meanwhile, cleared the mat of vegetation that over-hung the creek and the turtle-log. Now, the turtles love this. The log gets a clear shot of sun most or the day, and we have a daily count of 8-11 turtles, all at once, sunning themselves on that log! I don’t think they’re going to be happy when we take it out, but we have to do something, because it is at water level, and we run the risk of stuff getting caught on it. So, it has to go, at least partly. We’d like to cut it and turn the pieces parallel to the banks, keeping a sun spot for the turtles but clearing the waterflow. Of course, we need a chain saw first. Somehow I can’t seem to convince anyone (myself included) that cutting an 8” log by hand is a good idea!

*update: as of 4/9/10, the decision was made to keep the log as it is. The turtles have won! We’ll just have to clear away debris as the need arises. If the log breaks, we’ll deal with it then. But we still need a chain-saw for clearing other fallen trees around the place.

We’ve seen the heron this spring, heard and seen owls, too. The lizards are venturing out, and as I was transplanting some ornamental grass, a very tiny red snake I accidentally picked up with the shovel decided he was not at all afraid of me and gazed at me with a very perturbed expression. I think it was a red-bellied snake as it was thin and only a foot long and seemed to be making a face at me with its lip, a characteristic of these snakes. There are fish in the creek, and the water is gradually completing its spring self-cleaning.

*update #2: on 4/11/10, Robin saw – and touched – a toad, and Dave saw a Luna moth waiting out the evening on a tree. It was a male who had probably hatched in the mid-day and was setting its wings prior to its first night flight. Apparently they fly after midnight.

We’ve moved most of the plants we want to save out of the garden area, and are setting about digging that up. At the same time we’re (who am I kidding here, this one’s my baby) cleaning the rose terrace of weeds and establishing new plants and setting up an herb rock garden on the sandhill (digging down to and adding loamier soil). Like I said, we can’t seem to leave anything alone, and this is just outside!

Tell us about your plans for modifying your environment—we’d love to hear.

Final update before posting: We went to the Cape Fear Valley Botanical Garden and got all sorts of ideas on things to get to plant. They’re having a plant sale on the 24th, too. But we jumped the gun and picked up a couple things from Lowe’s after we got back from the Gardens.

The photo below -- taken by Dave -- is of turtles on our turtle log. Currently the record count is 14. And, if you look at the creek water, you'll understand why we call our home Blackwater!

photo by dk minnick