Saturday, March 13, 2010

Some Ichetucknee Memories

While I am in transit from one house to another and getting internet connections restored, I have scheduled today and tomorrow's blog-posts to post on their own.  I thought it would be nice to see some old photos of some of my favorite places and experiences from the parks that I have worked at before we head into everything new.  Here are some of my favorite photos from Ichetucknee Springs State Park.  I have quite a few photos of the Ichetucknee Headspring.  It is my favorite place in the world to swim.  I have seen so many beautiful moments in and around this spring.
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I love when Cardinal Flower blooms right next to the water around the spring.  The red is so vibrant against the blues and greens around it.
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Red Ludwigia is another bright red plant near the spring, but this one grows underwater.  I really enjoy snorkeling in the Headspring and watching the fish swim in and out of all the underwater plants.

Some of my favorite spots in the park are a little lesser known.  There are many different springs that flow into the Ichetucknee River within the park.  The spring at Mill Pond really appears to boil as the water bubbles to the surface.  I can assure you though, it is just as cold as other Florida Springs.
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The Cedar Head Spring is a very quiet oasis deep in the woods.  I have only seen it twice.  It was just as beautiful both times.
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The Devil's Eye Spring is a stunning place.  An Oak branch stretches out over the water further than it seems possible.  The branch is directly over the mouth of the spring and the bluest part of the spring.  I realized when I was looking through my photos that I have a picture of almost every one of my immediate family members near this tree and not a single photo of just the tree and the spring.  Its funny that the view that I try to share most often is one that I have never photographed.  This is one of my sisters at Devil's Eye.
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There is more than water at Ichetucknee.  I helped to burn hundreds and hundreds of acres at Ichetucknee throughout 4 1/2 years.  Each one was a different experience, it was all exciting.

I am sorry that I won't be here for one more season of wildflowers on the road sides.  The long country roads that I drive down become covered in dense blankets of color in the spring.  Every once in a while, there will be a whole pasture covered as well.  These tiny wildflowers are called Coreopsis and they are the Florida State Wildflower.  They grow plentifully and densely in a sea of yellow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Loading Day

Today is the day.  We picked up the moving truck and began to condense our entire home into a 24 foot rectangle.  Its a pretty big space, but I'm sure we will use quite a bit of it.

Today is the day that the animals began to panic and had to be sent to their rooms.  We were pretty well prepared and most of the house was already boxed up.  The restrooms are completely cleaned and empty of stuff.  The two spare bedrooms are empty.  The kitchen is empty aside from a stack of paper plates and plastic cups and last minute food items.  All of the kitchen cabinets and drawers are empty and clean.  I needed to hurry up and blog so that we can pack the computer and desk.  We are going to get the truck fully packed tonight aside from the bed and fish tanks which we will leave for the morning.  Once the last minute items are packed in the morning, I will clean the floors and we will be on our way.
I will delay the 100 day decision until Monday to give you all a chance to give some input.  So it will be 365+ Days Through The Eyes of A Park Ranger... you don't mind, do you?  I will blog a full 100 days at Wekiwa.  I will add a poll on the front page of the blog until Monday evening.  If you have an idea other than the choices on the poll, just add a comment.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Last Packing Day

I'm entering the final stretch now.  Today is my last day to pack.  I called the moving truck company to confirm my rental for tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be the day to load the truck and my new experience starts Saturday.  Tomorrow is not only my last full day at Troy Springs, but it is the start of the final 100 days of this blog.  I have really enjoyed the blogging experience and I have already been told that I must continue... or else.  I don't think that I will continue to blog daily after the 365 Days are up, but you will probably hear from me still.  So, when we begin the countdown, what do you want to see 100 of?  100 plants at Wekiwa?  100 ways that Wekiwa is different from Troy?  100 ways that being an assistant manager is different from being a ranger?  What's on your mind?  What do you want to know 100 times more about?
While you think of some ideas, I will tell you about my day.  I talked to my new park manager this morning.  He told me that my house was ready for me and I told him when I would be there.  I also saw my current assistant manager and manger.  They came to do a walk-through of the house.  My dog, Dozer gave them the full tour and even performed for a treat.  They also took me out to lunch.  We had a nice time and left fully stuffed.  I will really miss their company but I'm sure that I will see them again.  As they pointed out, I'm not leaving one family and gaining another, I'm just getting a bigger family.  I have really found that to be true of the Florida Park Service.
When I returned home, I got back to work.  I called the electric company and scheduled our disconnection.  I called the cable company and got some freebies for moving with the same cable company.  I also called the internet company to cancel service.  There is another trip to the park office in my immediate future and a bit more packing.  Tomorrow, I will blog as usual and then schedule posts for Saturday and Sunday as I don't think I will have internet service again until Monday.  Enjoy a few more photos from yesterday's burn and be sure to post your ideas for the final 100 days in the comments.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One Last Burn

Today was full of 'lasts,' but it was still a good day.  I started out by opening the park one last time.  It was finally a warm morning and the Wild Plum trees are in bloom everywhere.  I went to the office and took care of some things but I just now realized that I did not actually do the paperwork... oh well, I have a few more details to take care of tomorrow anyhow.  I will have to do the paperwork for the last time tomorrow.  I had known about the possibility of a prescribed burn at Ichetucknee for a couple of days, but I found out at 8am that it was, in fact, happening today.  I wrapped things up in the office and expected to be back in the late afternoon to finish up.  The burn was just over 20 acres and we normally do 100 or  more acres at once.  I didn't think that I would be away that long.  I didn't get back to Troy until well after 5:00.  I would rather be on the fire line than packing or doing paperwork anyway. 
I got to Ichetucknee around 10:00 and changed into my burn gear.  We had our briefing and drove around the zone that we were going to burn.  We did not expect this area to burn very well.  Some of it had nice fuels that would carry fire well, but there were some very dense areas near the edges and some sections that were full of plants that don't allow fire to burn through very well.  Fortunately, the winds were working heavily in out favor.  We were able to get the fire to move through the zone much better than we thought it would.  We made thick areas that looked like this:
nice and clear like this:

It was a beautiful day on the fire line and my manager made sure to let me see the best action on this fire because it was my last burn with them.  It was really cool.  I took a little video to share the experience.

For the most part, the burn went very very well.  We used ignition patterns and the wind to get a good, thorough burn in this zone.  We had some sensitive areas at the beginning that we had to be careful of.  We burned around the Administrative building and didn't have any trouble.  There is also a butterfly garden that we had to be cautious of  as well as a Gopher Tortoise enclosure that is in construction.  We carefully worked the fire around those obstacles without any problems.

When those areas were secure, we moved on to burn the rest of the zone.  It was a small zone so we were able to paint strips of fire all the way through it.  We burned small sections at a time so that it didn't get too hot, but we went all the way through to ensure a good burn.  The strips burned towards each other and pulled the fire through areas that wouldn't have burned well otherwise.  When we completed lighting the zone, we were sitting back to rest a little and let the fire burn.  We kept an eye on the fire, but most of the big flames had gone out and the fire was finishing up.

Just when we thought we were almost done, some embers carried to another zone and started a small fire.  We all jumped into action and were able to contain the spot fire.  Fortunately, we had burned that zone last year.  It is a zone full of very flammable fuels, grasses and pines.  Because the fuel load was reduced and there was not as much debris in the zone thanks to our burn last year, it was much easier to control than it would have been otherwise.  So this was a great example of one of the reasons we burn.  If this fire had been stated by a lightening strike without regular prescribed fire, it would have moved very quickly.  It may have even spread to other properties.  A fire starting in that area now, after prescribed fire, was easily contained.  We made sure to put the spot fire out all the way to make sure that no stray embers reignited that area.  We also made sure that the zone we burned was secure.  It was a longer day than we expected and the park staff that live at Ichetucknee will continue to keep an eye on the zones as it gets later and the temperatures and winds change.  Fortunately, a rainstorm is expected tonight so it will ease their minds sometime after midnight.
It was a great day.  It was hard work and very HOT work, but its enjoyable.  It was a great way to say goodbye.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Last Troy Tuesday

Today was a pretty quiet day.  I kept busy, but it wasn't stressful.  I opened the park and it was a little bit drizzly.  It stayed that way for most of the day.  I did the paperwork and then headed over to the cabin for a little while.  I had to adjust the timer on the fish tank lights.  I also cleaned the glass and rinsed the filters one more time.  While I was there, I put up a new project in the cabin.  It was a little late, but I don't think any visitors noticed... we haven't had many visitors.  I love frogs, so I had to leave on a froggy note with frog puppets! 

When I left the cabin, it wasn't raining so I took a quick walk around to see the sights.  The Japanese Magnolias behind the cabin are really coming into full bloom now.  They are so beautiful.  They didn't bloom last year because of the timing of the freezes, so it is extra special this time.  I even found a few of its fresh new leaves sprouting.

The water is still going down.  Its slow but steady, and there is definite progress.  In just a few more days, the path to the river dock should be passable again.

When I was done with everything at Troy, I headed over to Adams Tract.  I talked to the volunteer and gave him some informational signs that I had made.  He hung them and we collected the garbage from around the camp to load into my truck.  I took the water samples, put them on ice and headed to Lake City.  I dropped the samples off at the Environmental Health Department and then headed back towards Troy.
Back at the park, I went through all of the computer files to make sure that they were organized and there were no extra files that weren't needed.  I then uploaded all of the files to a common server so that my replacement will be able to access them with their computer account.  Tomorrow, I will tackle the photos files.  There are much more of them, so I will copy them to CD which will take much less time than uploading to the server.  I continued to tie up the last of the loose ends and added a little more to the information that I am leaving for my replacement.  Before I knew it, it was 5:00.  I then headed home to really get to work.  We now have at least 50 boxes stacked and organized and ready to go.  The non-essential furniture is also stacked and ready.  I think all that is left to pack is 3/4 of the kitchen, some of our clothing,  our bathroom closet, and the fish tanks.  We are in good shape and staying with our plan.  We'll see what tomorrow will bring.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Last Troy Monday

Today was my last Monday at this park.  Next week at this time, I will be blogging about my first day as an Assistant Park Manager at Wekiwa Springs.  I don't think that it has really all sunk in yet.  I had a pretty normal Monday.  I didn't do the paperwork though.  I saw with my coworker while he did it to make sure that he had all of the details that he needed to do the weekly paperwork until my replacement takes over.  When that was complete, I headed out on my Monday errands.
I said good bye to my favorite bank ladies.  I headed to Ichetucknee to drop off paperwork for the last time.  While I was there, I chatted with my manager and the administrative assistant.  I met with our biologist to discuss my input on our statement for interpretation at Troy.  I also said good bye to a couple of the rangers that I have worked with since I first started at Ichetucknee Springs 4 1/2 years ago.  I am really going to miss this group of people.  They have all been a pleasure to work with.
When I left Ichetucknee, I headed to Live Oak.  I had to pick up chlorine for water treatment and some other supplies for Adams Tract.  The errands went relatively quickly, I spent more time driving from place to place than I did actually shopping.  I had lunch on the road and got to Adams Tract in the mid afternoon.  I added the chlorine to the barrel at the well and added the appropriate amount of water.  I primed the pump and that was that.  I had some supervisors watching my work.  Its nice to see the little Anoles out again.  Its finally warm enough for them.

When I was done with the chlorinator, I gave the supplies that I picked up to the volunteer and chatted with him for a bit.  While we were talking, I noticed that the Pear trees where blooming.  They were beautiful!

I left Adams Tract and finally headed back to Troy.  I talked to my coworkers there and enjoyed some of the beautiful day.  It was nice enough for short sleeves today!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

No Fun

Today included exactly nothing fun.  I did things that I needed to do today rather than things that I wanted to do.  It started with not sleeping in, cleaning the kitchen, and getting dinner started in the crockpot.  While I waited for the sun to do its job outside, I finally got the new thermostat installed.

When that project was done, I packed some more boxes.  We are really doing pretty well.  Two of our three bedrooms are completely boxed up.  That may sound bigger than it is because one room is the dog's room and it didn't really have anything in it.  The other room was the guest room, but it had a lot of books and collectibles in it.  That one took a while.  Our main closet and the guest bathroom are all packed up as well.  We really are making good progress.  There is so much that we can't pack yet because we still need to live here for another five days.

When I had filled what I deemed to be enough boxes for the day, I headed outside to work on the exterior of the house.  It was nice and warm and a great day for pressure washing.  It started out a little frustrating when I tried to remove the handle of the pressure washer from where it was wedged in the base.  It was stuck and I had to pull with all my might.  When it finally gave way, it punched me right in the lower lip.  That's right, I gave myself a fat lip with a pressure washer.  It wasn't my day.  I did make it the whole way around the house and got all of the cement areas as well.  I even got the back porch.  The back porch gets very dusty because our yard is a giant sand pit with a little grass on top.  That is also where the dog yard is located.  When a 130 lbs Great Dane with webbed feet runs as fast as he can back and forth, it kicks up a lot of that sand and it all seems to settle on the porch.  I couldn't believe the view when I cleaned the screens of the porch.  I forgot that it was possible to see through them so well.

With the house shining brightly (aside from a little very stubborn Florida fungus or mold in varying shades of orange, green and black) I began to put away my mess.  It always amazes me how dirty things can get when cleaning.  I pressure washed the pressure washer before turning it off, it was covered in mud.  I loaded everything back in the truck to take with me to work tomorrow and then I headed inside to clean myself up.  I was covered in pressure washer splatter and mud.  When I got inside, I felt like I had just ran a marathon.  I didn't realize how tired I was until I sat down.  I also got myself a nice big glass of ice water that soothed my fat lip.  I am really looking forward to going back to work tomorrow.  My day off was exhausting.