The crisp fall weather with low humidity and temps in the low 70s make this an ideal time to be outside in Piedmont NC where I live. I’m also lucky enough to have a job that sometimes requires me to do just that.
Here are a few photos I’ve taken over the past week (October 7 – 13th) for a variety of work related activities.
Wednesday – October 7
Though not technically required for work, I was on my way back to the office from a meeting and I passed a hiking area I’ve been wanting to see for over a year. The time was right so I grabbed about 45 minutes on the trail and these pictures. I’d never seen an eastern cauliflower mushroom. When I spotted it just off the trail, it was as if the late afternoon sun was shining a spotlight on it. I read later that they are edible and quite tasty but very hard to clean.
Saturday – October 10
For the past few years Piedmont Land Conservancy has held a second Saturday outing – aimed at connecting families to nature. Saturday’s outing was designed as a fun fall festival at a farm in Alamance County that has been in the same family since the late 1700s. The current owner, Jane Iseley, saw the need to diversify the tobacco crop and now grows and sells strawberries in spring, row crops in summer and pumpkins and mums in the fall. She also grows organic tobacco, which has always seemed to be an oxymoron, but she feels strongly that as long as growing tobacco is legal, she’ll do it as a way to honor the heritage of the farm. The “Vegetable Barn” is open from April to October to sell what is grown on Iseley Farm and oher farms in the area. Unfortunately it was a drizzly day and we didn’t have a lot of visitors – but this little fella enjoyed “Dippin’ for Ducks.”
Sunday – October 11
Marie Poteat is another landowner who has protected her property with a conservation easement. On Sunday she hosted tours for the Second Sunday Nature Walk of the T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Society, one of ten chapters in North Carolina and the NC Native Plant society. Marie has been working hard over the past several years to restore the native habitat of the land she grew up on. This means converting fields of fescue to native warm season grasses and using management techniques such as prescribed burns to recreate the landscape that existed in some parts of the Piedmont before Europeans arrived.
I enjoy solitary time in nature but the benefit of a group hike with knowledgeable people is that I learn something new every time. If you look closely at this picture you’ll see a praying mantis laying her egg sac on the stem of this grass. She’s well-camouflaged but the puffy white egg sac is at the top center of the picture and she is brown and upside down.
Monday and Tuesday – October 12 & 13
On Monday and Tuesday, PLC hosted a field trip for 260 eighth grade students from Western Rockingham County middle school. The event took an incredible amount of logistical planning and recruiting volunteers to run three different stations that the students rotated through in groups of 10 – 15 for one hour sessions each. Palmer McIntyre is the logistical genius on our staff and she did an amazing job at coordinating all aspects of the event.
I will admit, that 260 – 13 and 14 year olds was not my first choice for our inaugural field trip at the Knight Brown Nature Preserve but it couldn’t have been any better. The weather was perfect – no rain – low humidity – temps in the 60s in the morning warming to the low-70s by noon when the sessions ended.
I led a session on ecosystems and nature reflection which meant that I hiked in to the location with my first group who were with me for about an hour, the second group was brought to me at the end of their hike and my third and final group came an hour later and hiked out with me. It was fascinating to see the different dynamics and levels of interest within each group. They also had very different levels of energy (by the third group both days, the kids were getting hungry and perhaps tired) but they were smart, engaged, polite and eager to share their discoveries. Someone was taking pictures so I hope to add a few more later but here are just a few.
Our efforts to save the planet and protect a few treasured natural places in the areas we live, will depend on raising new generations who have a conservation ethic. With so many of our children cut off from the opportunities to experience nature there’s a risk that we’ll have fewer and fewer people willing to do that which is very sad.
I’m paraphrasing something originally stated more eloquently by someone else, but you only save what you love, you only love what you know so it is imperative that people of my generation who value and love nature help bridge the gap for children of this generation who are growing up without nature as part of their daily lives.
So what do I do when I finally get home after four days outdoors? I spend a little time in my own backyard, start a campfire to burn some of the many limbs that have fallen in recent storms and with the help of my own nature-loving son, cook hot dogs for dinner over the open fire.
Tired but happy – I guess I’ll have to head in to the office today.