Saturday, January 9, 2010

Just Me And The Cold

Well, I don't think that anyone has come to the park this week.  Our paperwork is full of zeros.  I really can't say that I am surprised though.  The spring is still brown and flooded and its cold and windy out.  I checked the weather forecast today and actually saw a little snowflake icon where I usually see a sun or a cloud.  We are expecting a low of 14 degrees tonight.  Again, I was hoping to be able to try out my new lenses today.  When I did venture outside, it was absolutely painful to stand in the the cold wind to switch lenses and try things out.  To add insult to injury, it was cloudy as well, which makes taking photos even more difficult.  I got through it though, I do have some things to show you today.
I had to post a shot of the usual cabin porch view.  You may be able to see that the water has receded a bit.  I am so glad to see that it is dropping at about the same rate that it came up.  Hopefully that means that it will be just under a month before the spring is clear again.  Let's aim for my birthday!  Everyone keep your fingers crossed and hope that the spring will clear by February 3rd.  That would be a great present!

On my way down to the river, I saw two Cardinals.  They are much better at dealing with the cold than I am.  In fact, I think they were the only animals that were stirring this morning.  You probably know that the bright red one on the left is male and his mate is to the right.

I tried to play with my new lenses a bit at the river, but everything was against me.  The wind was just biting every bit of exposed skin, it was also making the plants shake all over the place.  I have a bunch of blurred photos from the river area and that's about it.  I went down to the spring walkway next and found some relief.  The high walls of the walkway blocked the wind and it felt so much warmer.  You can really see a difference in the water here.  Look carefully at the sidewalk and you will see some dark lines of dirt.  That is the where the water was each day.  I also got a good view of how much silt is sitting on the dock.  I usually take my shoes off and scrub the deck while the water is still on it.  I don't know if I am brave enough to stand in the water in this weather.  I might have to get some cheap rubber boots to scrub the deck this time.

While I was sheltered from the wind, I was able to try out my lenses a bit.  I got three new lenses, a 2X telephoto, a wide-angle, and a 10X macro.  They also came with some extras that I really appreciate.  I got a tiny, table-top tri-pod with bendable legs that is already coming in very handy when I need a little extra stabilization, an adapter to fit the lenses to my camera, and a lens cleaning kit.  The lenses really only make small adjustments to what my camera already does.  I have a point and shoot camera, not a large SLR with real interchangeable lenses.  Someday, if I ever start selling my photos, I will graduate to a big SLR.  These lenses just enhance the lens that is already on my camera.  I am still undecided about the telephoto and the wide-angle.  I don't see a huge difference with them, but I really need a nice, sunny day to put them through their paces.  The macro lens is going to be a lot of fun.  I do have some examples to show you with that lens.  I already have a macro setting on my camera that allows me to get close to my subject.  Most of my bug and flower photos are macro shots.  The 10X macro lens is like using a magnifying glass.  Its great!
Take a look at the next image.  This is the head of a flower which has gone to seed with my regular macro setting.  The photo right after it is the same thing, but with the additional macro lens.  I can't wait to try this out on live flowers this spring!

I usually notice small things as I walk along because my brain is always thinking about photos.  Now I know that I will be noticing even smaller details as I think about my new macro lens.  I noticed that these tiny, dried out, brown shells of a flower had beautiful colors when you looked closely.  I should have also taken a photo without the lens to show their size.  They are no more than 1/2 inch across.

I took one last look at the spring before I headed back to the office.  A mullet was jumping and it caught my eye.  I knew that I wouldn't be able to get a photo of the mullet in mid air, but I did see this nice view.

Back in the office, I warmed up and checked my e-mail one more time.  My paperwork was done and no one was calling or coming in to the park.  I left a note for the evening closer and took the rest of the day off to attend a co-workers wedding at another park.  It was a cold day, but a beautiful wedding.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Not-So-Ugly

Good: Today was a day off. Bad: It was cold.  Good: I had three brand new lenses for my camera to play with.  They arrived yesterday, ordered with Christmas money.  Bad: It got colder as the day progressed.  Good: There was a GORGEOUS sunrise this morning.  Bad: It went away as I headed to Paynes Prairie to get some photos and it started to rain.  Good:  The rain held up once I got to Paynes Prairie.  Bad:  It was too dark to photograph any of the very distant wildlife.  Good:  I did get some decent photos.  Bad:  I really didn't get to try out my new lenses to the fullest extent.  Good:  I did get a couple of decent shots.  Bad:  There are only three.  Good:  I did have one more frosty photo from last week that I wanted to share as well.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Disc Golf

We had a bit of a break from the icy cold today.  My boyfriend and I were both off, so we went just a little further south to Gainesville and played some disc golf.  It is a miserable game to play when the weather is scorching hot, so the timing was perfect.  Everyone else thought so too.  The course was pretty busy.  I had hoped to get more photos, but we had to keep moving so that the players behind us didn't get upset.  We used to play often when we lived in Delaware about 4 1/2 years ago.  There were disc golf courses in every state park there.  They are not as common here, unfortunately.  We have really fallen out of practice.  It was fun to try it again though.
If you aren't familiar with disc golf, its much like regular golf with a ball.  There are just a few minor differences.  You tee off from a concrete pad, throwing discs that are smaller than a Frisbee.  There are even different discs like there are different clubs in golf, long-range drivers, mid-range drivers, putters, etc.

There are hazards just like ball golf as well.  Sand traps don't matter much, but water is NO fun, and trees really make the course challenging.  My discs seemed to have tree-magnetism today, I hit quite a few.  In Indiana, when I was in college, the only course nearby was one with very few trees.  I find that the trees make the game much more interesting.  My boyfriend found out what happens when you throw the disc really hard and hit a tree.

We have never had that happen before though... maybe our discs are getting too old.  Another challenge to disc golf is finding your disc when it goes off into the woods or bushes.  One course that we frequented in Delaware had dense brier patches around almost every hole.  Quite often, we spent more time in the bushes trying to find our discs than we did actually playing.  Sometimes we would go into the bushes to find our discs and never find them, but we would find someone else's.  If it doesn't have a phone number on it, its fair game.  Take a penny, leave a penny kind of a thing.  At this course, our only chances to loose a disc were in murky water or in dense areas of Saw Palmetto bushes.  Fortunately, we didn't have any trouble today.

The "hole" that you aim for in disc golf is a basket.  The chains help to catch the disc when it comes close.  The 'clink' sound of the chains is a very gratifying noise.  It also helps you know when the players ahead of you are done with the hole.

I did get one quick pretty picture of leaves as we rushed through the course.  We saw a woodpecker too, but I wasn't able to get a clear photo of it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Today was the day!  The three giant pines at Adams Tract finally came down.  My day started out in the usual fashion, I made my drive around the park and stopped by the barn to check on our ice sculptures faucets to make sure that they didn't freeze.  Everything was covered in frost, once again.

When I got to the office, I breezed through the paperwork and then headed out for a walk.  I am starting to see signs that the river really is going down aside from the gauge that tells us such things.  The roots are reappearing on the cool tree across the river and you can see the line on the sidewalk by the spring where the water had been.

On the way back up the walkway, I had to stop to photograph the frost on some of the plants.  It wasn't just the tiny little frosted edges that I have been seeing, these ice crystals were really standing out far from the leaves.

When my walk was over, I went into town to fill up my gas tank and then stopped by my house to pick up the chili that I made yesterday and all the supplies needed for lunch.  When I got back to the park, I loaded up two chainsaws, two gas cans, a gallon of bar oil, and three co-workers and we headed over to Adams Tract to get to work.  While we waited for the tree guys to come, I set up our big coffee pot to make some hot water for tea/cider/hot chocolate and plugged in the crock pot to warm the chili.  We also got a small fire going in one of the fire rings and enjoyed hot coffee and a heated RV that our Adams Tract volunteers supplied.  I also was glad that I remembered to get a picture of our three giant trees while they were still standing.

We had a great time with the tree guys.  My three co-workers, the two Adams Tract volunteers, and I  watched while they worked to drop the three trees.  They did a great job and everything landed where it should.  The three buildings nearby, the multitude of surrounding smaller trees, and their truck all made it through the day without a scratch or dent.  It was neat to feel the ground shake when each tree hit the ground.  We were all excited to see so much lighter wood.  If you aren't familiar with it, it is the very best way to start a camp fire.  Old pine trees have shiny areas in their wood where pine resin has hardened.  We found out today from the tree guy that it forms from micro-fissures in the tree.  He explained that we learned about this effect from the Bio-dome experiment.  With the absence of wind, in a sealed environment, trees were very weak.  The wind is necessary to make the trees rock and sway which causes small cracks in the wood.  The cracks are filled in by the sap or resin in the tree which then hardens, causing the lighter wood effect and a much stronger tree.
When the trees were on the ground, we started to get our saws ready and brought the log splitter over to our work area.  The tree guy noticed that our little 17 and 18 inch saws would have a hard time getting all the way through the biggest of the three trees.  He was kind enough to cut the biggest section of it into logs for us.  I was envious of his saw that made quick work of the job.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with two people cutting the trees into logs, one person operating the log splitter, and three people gathering and stacking wood and debris.  Soon after we started working, the hats and scarves and heavy coats started coming off.  The trees could not have been dropped in a better place, we were in full sun.  We were all having so much fun that we didn't even realize how late it was getting.  I finally started to feel hungry and saw that it was 1:00 already!  We took a break and enjoyed warming our tummies with chili.  When we got back to work, we started finding some cool stuff in the tree.  There was a hole that a woodpecker had made in a couple of the logs.  I saw the woodpecker there last year and it made me wait a while before I pursued removing the trees.  The hole had a big opening and the cavity extended through two logs.  It was from a bigger woodpecker, a Pileated Woodpecker.

We also found lots of creepy crawlies inside of the tree that were helping to breakdown the dead trees and definitely provided food for the woodpeckers.

We were able to finish splitting and stacking the wood from the biggest of the three trees.  All of the chainsaw work is done on the other two trees as well, all that is left is to split it all.  By the time the big tree was done, we were all beginning to feel like we had put in a hard day's work.  We were ready to be done, but feeling good about all that we had accomplished.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Less Water, More Cold

Today was a pretty good day aside from a mix-up with the people who were supposed to cut down the trees at Adams Tract today.  I got several small projects knocked off of my list, and it went pretty smoothly.  I also saw the terrific news that the river level is on its way down!!  At 8am, the river was lower than it was two days ago.  Lets just hope the spring clears quickly.  We will have to get rid of 3-5 feet of water first, but hopefully it will go at least as quickly as it came.
On my journey through the park this morning, it seemed warmer.  There wasn't as much frost on the ground, but a frigid 13 degrees is in the forecast for tonight.  I didn't spend a lot of time taking pictures today, because I was expecting a very full day.  I did walk around to turn off faucets and look at the water.  I found a terrific ice sculpture under a faucet near the restrooms.  It was near a big pine tree and the needles had become ice needles.  It would really be neat to see be able to watch the gradual process of ice forming around each needle.

While I was out on my walk, I checked on the well that had chlorinator problems.  The problem was an easy fix, a compression fitting was loose and just needed to be adjusted and re-tightened.  I expected it to take more work than that.  This funny looking box is what pumps small doses of chlorine into the water line that comes from the well to make sure that no bacteria grows in the water system.

On my way back to the office, I passed an area with Japanese Honeysuckle.  It is an exotic plant that has been spreading in one area of the park.  I have been working with our biologist to plan a day to treat it with herbicide to try to get rid of it.  It is a beautiful and sweet-smelling plant when its in bloom, but it is also invasive.  Its vines are growing and coating all of the plants surrounding it.  It will be a tough battle when we do try to fight it, but this cold weather may help.  I noticed that its leaves are droopy and curling under.  Perhaps the cold will weaken it and make it easier to kill this spring.

When I was almost to the office, I noticed that the sun was shining through the Spanish Moss hanging from an Oak tree.  I love the way that the moss filters light.  It was a pretty view that I had to try to capture and share.

It was a relief to settle in to my warm office to take care of paperwork.  I handled the normal, daily paperwork quickly and then moved on to the reports on the purchases that I made yesterday.  When I was done, I called the tree people to find out what time they would be arriving.  They told me that they thought they were supposed to come on Wednesday.  Its a bit of a setback in my master plan for the week, but I think that things will still work out.  Our volunteer and I drove to another nearby park to borrow their log splitter.  We picked it up and got a quick walk through of which switches are broken and the kind words that you need to say to it to get it to work properly, a standard with most park equipment.  We took it over to Adams Tract and took care of a few other odds and ends over there.  I had briefly looked into a water pressure problem that they were having with the restroom sinks last week.  Today, after thinking on it for a day or two, I realized that the solution to the problem was likely a very simple and obvious one.  I wish I had thought of it sooner.  I unscrewed the aerator on the end of the faucet and rinsed out A LOT of sediment.  I replaced the aerator and the flow from the faucet was excellent.  I did the same for the other two sinks and scratched that issue off my list.

Next, I headed over to the well with the jug of chlorine that I picked up yesterday.  I poured it into the barrel and added the correct amount of water to it.  I primed the chlorinator pump and let the system run for a few minutes.  I took a chlorine reading to make sure that the levels were where they should be and they were!  I was beginning to get nervous that something was going to go terribly wrong because every repair was too easy today.  I don't mind though, its a nice change of pace.
When we returned to Troy, I wrapped up loose ends, talked to my co-workers, and then headed home to get ready for tomorrow.  After the tree guys drop the three dead pines at Adams Tract, my co-workers and I will chop the trees and split the wood for firewood at the river camp.  Because it is such a big job and it will be cold, I decided to make some big pots of chili.  I also cleaned up our big coffee pot so that we can have hot water for tea, cider, or hot chocolate.  We might even find some firewood for a campfire as well.

Monday, January 4, 2010

More Ice Monday

You guessed it, another icy morning.  I checked on the barn after my drive through the park.  There were icicles everywhere.  Frost was covering every last blade of grass.  Any leafy plants near the ground are getting very droopy.  Its just sad.  I was impressed by the big icicles that I found in some places.  None of the faucets were frozen, but there were neat formations under all of them.  I especially liked the plant in the third photo.  It is a vine called Smilax.  I have blogged about it before.  It has a very distinct leaf shape and I loved how the ice that surrounded it mimicked its shape.  Smilax is very prickly, I think I like it better wrapped in ice.  The next photo is a Cedar tree that chose an unfortunate place to grow, right next to the barn.  It just can't grow there, but I haven't had the heart to remove it.  The ice still resembles the little droplets of water that tumbled through its branches.  They are just frozen in place.

When I got to the office, I walked around to open the cabin and check out the rest of the park.  I was very well bundled today, hat, scarf, gloves, and layers of clothing.  The water had not risen noticeably, which is a good sign.  When I checked the water level on the computer, it had only come up .04 feet.  Previously, it had been coming up about a foot every three days.  I hope that I have even better news to share tomorrow.  I took the photo from the cabin porch and got another one down by the river because the moon was still visible in the sky and it looked so pretty over the water.

I walked over the restrooms and the spring next.  I was glad to see that the outdoor shower was not frozen today.  I had asked the evening closer last night to let the water run a little more than a drip to keep it flowing.  Once I got back to the office, my day sped right along.  I took care of the weekly paperwork, and headed out to do my Monday errands.  I saw my manager and assistant manager and checked on some details with them.  I didn't stay long though because I had to get back to Troy to meet the well inspector.  I walked with him while he inspected both of our wells.  He had some minor things for me to fix up.  The chlorinator on one well had likely frozen last night and its hose popped off from the pressure.  Our facilities were just not designed for freezing temperatures.  No worries though, I am becoming an expert on well and chlorinator repairs!  I'm sure I will be able to take care of it tomorrow.  After I met with the well inspector, I had to leave again to take care of more errands.  I stopped in Branford to pick up a spark plug for one of our leaf blowers on my way to the "big" city of Live Oak about 30 miles away.  In Live Oak, I picked up a new gas cap for the chainsaw and chlorine for the well at Adams Tract.  Those errands went very quickly, but it was already time to go home when I got back to Troy.  I put away my new purchases, got my receipts ready for paperwork tomorrow, read and sent a few e-mails, and talked to my co-workers for a few minutes before I went home.  I think that tomorrow will be another busy day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Is This Really Florida?

Yet another icy cold morning here.  I was prepared for it today though.  I did not wear my uniform so that I could really pile on the layers.  I dug out every last bit of thermal everything that I have left from my years up north and put it all on.  I wore hand-knit wool socks under my hiking boots, and remembered to put on a hat and gloves.  I even warmed up the truck before I was ready to leave.  I headed over to the park and did my drive around and then went to the office.  I turned on the lights in the office and powered up the computer while I recovered all of my lost heat from the time spent out of the truck.  When I was feeling brave enough, I headed out for a walk around the park.  As soon as I left the office, I realized that I should have found my scarf too.  It was windy again.
I started at the cabin.  I opened it up, turned on the lights, and remembered that I needed to set up a new project for January in the craft room.  I went outside, turned off the dripping faucets, and took a picture from the porch.

When I got to the bottom of the hill, near the river, I saw that there was a lot of frost on the ground.  Every single ordinary leaf was suddenly exotic and beautiful.  I caught myself taking several of almost the same photo as I moved from leaf to leaf.  I was wearing gloves that end at my middle knuckles so that my finger tips are bare and I can use my camera controls.  They also have a mitten flap that can be folded over to warm my fingers when I don't need to use them.  I was taking pictures until my fingers got numb.  Then I would put my camera in its pouch, mitten-up, and move on to the next spot.

This view has really changed a lot in a month.  The buoys are covered in frost, it almost looked like it snowed on them.  I am hoping that I will have good news about our water situation in the coming days.  The levels up-river are beginning to go back down.  Hopefully, in a day or two, we will see the same.

When I headed back up the hill from the river, I thought about going to the office to get warmed up, but I decided to just finish my walk and get it over with.  I spotted a bright red Cardinal moving about near the parking lot.  I used an old trick that I learned long ago to try to get close enough for a photo.  I walked to the side instead of towards the Cardinal until there was a tree between us.  Then, I walked towards the tree, getting closer to the bird without it seeing me.  I had my camera ready and leaned around the tree with enough time for one photo before it flew away.  Its feathers are really puffed up to keep it warm.

I found that the outdoor shower by the restrooms was frozen solid.  It didn't break though, because it was left dripping.  Fortunately, that was the only place we had freeze problems.  While I was standing near the restrooms, I heard Sandhill Cranes calling.  They have a very distinct noise.  If you follow this link, and scroll down near the bottom of the page, you will find some call recordings.  The "Unison Calls" are most like what I hear when they are flying over.  I have never seen them land at Troy, but I hear them flying overhead from time to time.  I don't know if these are the Florida sub-species or if these are migratory ones from up north.  I'm glad I was able to get a photo.  Most of the time when I hear them, they are flying too high to see well.

I headed down to the spring and got a photo of the water on the walkway.  At least it still hasn't turned the first corner. 

With my walk completed, I headed back to the office.  I was so glad to be in a heated room.  I took care of the paperwork and finished up the reports that I didn't finish yesterday.  I sent out a few e-mails and planned out my week.  It is going to be a busy one.  I also cleaned off our big dry-erase board in the office and re-wrote all of our phone numbers that had become a scrambled mess over time.  I also listed out our still unfinished projects so that we have a check-off list.  I love crossing things off of a list!  When I grew tired of being in the office, I bundled up again and headed back to the cabin to set up the project for the month.  While I was there, I also added some folders to the storage filing cabinet in the craft room.  I now have the directions and examples for each project neatly arranged in their own hanging folder.  The project this month is bird masks!  I have blank, bird-like masks, glitter, feathers and markers available to the kids.  There is also a big poster on the wall with Florida birds pictured.  I encourage the kids to try to make their mask look like a real bird.  Sometimes its more fun to invent your own glittery bird though.

After my cabin time was over, I headed back to the office.  I spoke to exactly one park visitor today.  He was there to collect a lost item that he left in the park last month.  When my evening relief arrived, I was glad to head home to my warm, furry animals.