Saturday, June 5, 2010

Super Saturday

I am off this weekend and loving it!  I was ready for some peace and quiet.  I had a day at home, alone, doing a whole lot of nothing!  I did get out to take some photos though.  I actually dreamed about taking photos last night.  In my dream, I came across a small body of water that had turned red from a setting sun.  I was trying to photograph some young, awkward birds who were perched together on a branch above the water.  The white birds were pink from the setting sun also.  I was just about to get my shot when a ringing phone woke me from my wonderful dream.  I did have some fun this evening taking pictures, but it was between rainstorms and there was no beautiful, red sunset.
 I wasn't two steps out the door when I saw a Dragon Fly right away.  They are becoming the blog mascot lately.  Their reflective eyes and giant mouths always make them look full of personality.

My next stop was at the still unidentified plant that I photographed on Thursday.  There were even more blooms today.  There have been ants all over the buds and blooms on this plant every time I have seen it.  There must be something about it that the ants like.

I also revisited the Beauty Berry Bush that had started to bloom.  It was COVERED in blooms today.  They are such lovely and delicate little flowers, I decided to get even closer today with the macro lens.

The Aloe right next to it had dropped all of its flowers.  The remaining stalk was kind of cool looking.  I think I like the bare stalk better than the way the flowers looked the last time that I saw them.

My last discoveries were of the fungal variety.  There have been a lot of mushrooms springing up around my yard thanks to all of the rain that we have had in recent days.  Mushrooms are so much fun to observe because of all the variety.  They come in different shapes and sizes and colors that are always amazing.  I especially love how quickly they spring up and disturb the sand and ground cover.  The first mushroom is wearing a top hat of sand that must have been on top of the mushroom when it started to grow.

Thought of the Day #19
I enjoy watching the same plants several times a week.  Its neat to observe all of the changes that they go through.  Its funny to me how some plants will be covered in flowers and then completely bare, like the Aloe.  Other plants like the Coral Honeysuckle in my yard will just bloom and bloom and bloom.  The flowers last for quite a while and there are so many individual blossoms all over the plant that continue to spring up.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Fun

Well, I have been wishing for more time in the field and I got my wish.  I will need to learn to be more careful about my wishes.  I didn't have much office work to do today and the fast approaching beginning of summer camp in the youth camp was weighing on me.  My coworker was in a distant area of the park giving an ATV training program for state park staff.  I decided to work with the Rangers today to help make progress on the cabin cleaning.  We started with the Rec Hall in the youth camp first today because a meeting was going to be held there in the evening.  We touched up some last minute details in and around the building and I picked up sticks to prepare for mowing.  I spotted a couple of Tolype Distincta moths mating on a tree nearby.  I was impressed by their furry appearance and the bright white color was a striking contrast to the dark Pine Tree bark.

Once the outside mowing was a the last thing to do at the Rec Hall, an afternoon rain started.  The very dedicated Ranger on the mower stayed on board and finished the job.  I was glad to have that whole area out of the way before lunchtime but I felt bad for the soggy Ranger.  I know how that feels.  After lunch, we had a big group of people working on the cabins.  We finished one half of the youth camp and started on the other half.  It is really a big job to clean those cabins.  The majority of them have four bunk beds and two single beds.  All of the mattresses had to be removed from the building and cleaned.  While that was going on, someone dusted all of the walls and the ceiling and cleaned the ceiling fans.  The beds had to be moved, the floor swept, and the windows cleaned.  There are also a few cabins that are a little larger.  Some have restrooms and separate bedrooms so they are an even bigger chore.  Everyone worked together to make a lot of progress.  It was another hot and sticky day out and we were dodging thunderstorms throughout the day.  We were all hot and tired and wet with sweat and or rain by the end of the day.  I was glad to have a change of pace though.  I miss stumbling across flowers and moths in the field.  We all enjoyed this little Butterfly Pea that was at the bottom of the steps to one of the cabins.

Thought of the Day #20
I couldn't find a common name for the Moths that I saw today.  I was able to locate their Latin name, but I don't have a memory for Latin names and visitors aren't usually interested in that information either.  People are able to retain information if it means something to them.  I have heard it described as a velcro spot on your brain.  I have a velcro spot for natural information but not for dates in history.  Plants and bugs are important to me and information about them stick to my brain, but who-shot-who-and-started-a-war is not important to me and it slides right off.  Common names for plants or insects are more likely to be remembered because they are usually something that a person can relate to.  A Black Racer is a fast, black snake.  A Scarlet Milkweed is a plant with a red flower that produces a milky substance.  Sometimes when I can't find a name for something or in this case, when there is only a Latin name, I might make up my own name.  It will help me remember information about the thing named and create a velcro spot on my brain.  What would you call this moth?  Maybe a Rabbit's Foot Moth or a Black and Grey Fuzzy Foot.  Whatever I call it, I will be able to remember that it feeds on Pine Tree foliage and it will stay with me on my velcro spot.  Try it the next time you have something that you can't identify.  If you give it a descriptive name it may help you to identify it later or at least allow the information you have gained to stay with you.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thursday Storm

Today was a busy day.  I had been off Monday and Tuesday and away from the park Wednesday.  I was the only Assistant Manager on duty today and I really had no idea of what had been done in the park and what was needing to be done.  There were a few people that had specific projects to work on, but the majority of the park staff worked on getting the Youth Camp ready for the summer camp that will begin at the end of next week.  Last Friday was the last business day that I spent in the office, so there was a lot to do.  I had thirty-eight e-mails to read!  Some of them needed action or other responses, so I flagged them until I got through reading them all.  I had some messages on my voice mail so I listened to them next.  Once I had a handle on all of the new things that had come in, I began knocking things off of the list.  I answered the e-mails and returned the phone calls.  I approved time sheets and completed my own.  I followed up on some things that I had been waiting on last week, and I answered calls from the field while I worked.
In the afternoon, the Park Manager and I walked the Youth Camp area.  It was really coming together and the Rangers were doing a terrific job.  They were working together in the Florida humidity to detail clean and prepare the cabins.  It is no small task and it will continue tomorrow and into next week.  There were a few small cosmetic fixes that had to be done to some of the cabins.  We made lists of the more involved fixes.  A Ranger with a hammer was all that was needed for others and they were fixed right away.  The cabins have been there for a while, and many of the groups that stay in them are hard on them.  The park staff put a lot of effort into making these cabins as good as they possibly can be and it really shows.
Towards the end of the day, the sky began to get darker.  Another storm was moving in.  At 4:00, all of the morning shift people were gathered and ready to head home before the rain started.  It was as if the wind blew them away, they were gone in an instant.  I made it home after the rain had started and I was so grateful for the dry, covered path between the carport and the front door.  I love my new home, especially when its raining.

Thought of the Day #21
Throughout my day, I never had the chance to take any photos.  I also didn't see anything spectacular.  I headed outside after the rain stopped to photograph a new bloom in the yard this evening.  I have several of these plants and have been waiting for a bloom so that it would be easier to identify.  No such luck, this one evaded my Wildflower Field Guide as well.  Perhaps a reader will help me out again.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ravine Gardens

Today was a little out of the ordinary.  It started early and ended late, but it was a good day.  I met my fellow Assistant Park Manager and our Park Manager at 7am.  We drove about two hours away to Palatka, FL for a Volunteer Management Training.  It was held at a beautiful park that I had not been to before, Ravine Gardens State Park.  The training was in a very nice conference room in a spectacular building.  It was not the usual state park meeting hall.  At lunchtime, we were able to break to a beautiful courtyard and enjoy our lunches under a large gazebo.  I walked around the courtyard a little bit after I ate and enjoyed the views and the flowers.  There was a fountain in the center of the courtyard.  I was able to hear the water in the fountain from where we ate.

Around the fountain were thoughtfully placed flowers of a few varieties.  The most impressive in my opinion were the Blueberries.  They were just starting to ripen, but they were the biggest Blueberries that I have seen!

With the Blueberries were some large Pink Hydrangeas.  They were also just beginning to bloom, but there were quite a few full blooms available for our enjoyment.

It seems like this park would be a lot of fun to explore on a day when I have more time.  There were quite a few paths and trails that disappeared into the giant ravine.

I caught one more quick flower photo before heading back to resume training after lunch.  I don't know what this one is, but it was very close to a Gardenia.  I was able to smell it before I saw it, and by then, it was time to go.

The training was beneficial.  I went to a similar training a few years ago, but as my responsibilities have changed, it was nice to have a refresher.  I was able to look at everything from another angle.  I think that it reminded me of several things that I can do to assist our volunteer program, but some items definitely apply to managing anyone.  It was also nice to see some of the friendly faces that I know from throughout the Park Service.  These training have become so infrequent, I don't get to see my coworkers from other parks nearly as often as I did a few years ago.  It was nice to catch up and also meet some new people.
On the way out after the training, we drove the loop around the top of the ravine.  It was a cool experience, it was almost like driving through the mountains, on a much smaller scale.  The ravine was formed by water flowing to the St. Johns River.  In the 1930's, Ravine Gardens was established as an attraction and developed during Roosevelt's New Deal era by the Civil Works Administration.  The gardens that were planted, as well as the ravine itsself have been drawing visitors since then.  The park has a very interesting modern history.  I will let you take a look at their webpage to read more about what drew attention to the park during the Chicago World's Fair and how the Miss Azalea Pageant began. 

Thought of the Day #22
It seems a little strange to have so many exotic plants and so much manicured landscaping around a State Park, but not all of Florida's State Parks are managed to preserve Pre-European impact landscapes.  Some of the parks preserve our cultural heritage as well.  In 1999, this park was recognized as a National Landmark for Outstanding Landscape Architecture.  Ravine Gardens is one of several parks that preserve some of the impact that we have made on our landscape in the past.  I had a hard time photographing some of the flowers around the park because of my experience with exotic removal at other parks.  It was hard to embrace things like Impatients and Coleus growing in planters around the building and the courtyard.  While they were flowers that I enjoyed planting in our household gardens when I was younger, they don't align with state park foliage in my head.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Weekend Continues

Today was my second day off.  The day was full of errand running and grocery shopping.  It was pretty quiet and uneventful, following the tone for the weekend.  Tomorrow, I will be traveling with some of my coworkers to another park to attend a Volunteer Management Training.  It will be still another day away from the office.  I will have a lot to catch up on, Thursday.  Its nice to have a little variety though.
I didn't take any photos today, so here is a collage of the Scarlet Milkweed.  You have seen its progression very slowly throughout the blog, but here it is, all together.

Thought of the Day #23
Summer is pretty much here.  The official first day of summer is not for another 20 days, but it feels like summer to me.  The temperatures have been high, the afternoon rains frequent.  Hurricane preparedness commercials are frequent as well, and the park has been busy.  The arrival of summer is bringing me back to where I started this blog a year ago.  As the year is nearing completion, I am amazed at the year that its been.  I am looking forward to looking it all over again soon but I am also looking forward to a break.  The blog has been fun, but a lot of extra work.  My camera is beginning to show some signs of exhaustion as well.  I am really looking forward to being able to send it away to Canon for some cleaning and R & R.  The blog will continue in some capacity, but after a little time off.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

Today was a nice, restful day off.  Its nice to have a co-worker and a holiday off.  I got my haircut in the morning and found that my hair will be used to help with clean-up efforts in the Gulf oil spill.  Soak up lots of oil, little hair clippings, work hard!  The rest of my day was a leisurely day at home.  It was a nice day.  I did not get out to take any photos today though.  It was cloudy all morning but waited until late afternoon/early evening to actually rain.
In honor of the Gopher Tortoise naming poll coming to a close, here are some previously taken photos.  Introducing the Tortoise formerly known as Neighbor with her new elected name, Bonita Tortuga.  Some have also requested permission to tack on an additional last name of Turkleton.  Making her a very official sounding, Bonita T. Turkleton.  Ella es una tortuga muy bonita!

Thought of the Day #24
My dog, Dozer goes crazy when Bonita is out and about in the yard.  He is very interested by her burrow, but we don't let him get close to it.  When he sees her walking around in the yard, Dozer cries at the back door.  I think that the Tortoise looks a lot like Dozer's toy basketball which also lives in the yard, only this one moves on its own.  He wants to pounce poor Bonita so badly.  She was out picnicking today, but everytime I went out on the porch to try to get a photo, the dog would get excited to go out and Bonita made a quick get away to her burrow.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Day 2

Today went just as smoothly as it did yesterday.  It was a little unnerving.  The day started out very slowly.  I had time to enjoy the morning sun a little bit.

I had time to drive through the park and reattach the volleyball net that was laying on the ground.  When I made it back to the ranger station, I was expecting a line of people.  There wasn't one.  We also didn't have many campers checking in today.  The phone didn't ring nearly as much as it usually does.  I folded some brochures while I manned the phone and we just waited for the crowds.  The park filled up so slowly, but we did finally close shortly after 11:30am.  Once we closed, I turned away about six cars without any questions or problems, and then the park drive was empty.  It was possibly the quietest Sunday that I have seen since we started getting busy on the weekends.  It was just strange.  There were a few busy periods where we were turning away more cars, but people left without any hassle.  By 2:30, it started to rain and overcrowding was no longer an issue.
With the park visitors steadily leaving, I headed over to the office to make some copies so that the ranger station would be stocked for tomorrow.  When I returned to the ranger station, I stuck around to answer the phones for a while and help out as I could.  Later we had a phone call that the Wi-Fi was down in the campground so I went out to work on rebooting it.  The burn zone from the 14th was looking beautiful.  All of the recent rain was causing the Wiregrass to grow up in a hurry.  A burn zone looks so nice when it starts to get green and fuzzy.

After working on getting the Wi-Fi up and running, I ran one last errand before heading home for the day.  The rest of the night was pretty uneventful aside from one group who wanted to fish late into the night and had to be convinced to go because the park had closed.  I felt bad for the ranger who stayed late to deal with them.  Shortly after 9:30pm though, I got a call at home telling me that there was no toilet paper in the restroom at the campground.  It must have been overlooked because the other three restrooms in the campground area were well stocked.  Late night visits to the campground aren't fun, but I would rather fill toilet paper than have the problems that usually arise from a busy holiday weekend.  It really wasn't bad, and now I have two days off ahead of me.

Thought of the Day #25
What did you do/are you doing for the Memorial Day Weekend?  Did you picnic or enjoy some outside time?