Total Pageviews

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Two Hikes, Some Bees and a Service Opportunity

Sounds like a good movie title, doesn't it?!

There are times when our 4H adventures seem to duplicate themselves.  If you were to go back over the last eight years and look at my calendar, you would see the same thing week after week...month after month.  However, I was thinking back to these experiences and know that each was different in its own way.  Maybe you feel that way yourself in the activities that you do...whether it is in 4H or just day-to-day life.  I think that is why I have enjoyed blogging over the last few months...I write what happens and it brings to mind past events.  Each year brought different opportunities as we learned and competed in the different projects.  It makes me wish that I had blogged from the beginning to show how we have changed over the years.

Yesterday, the boys and I woke up and rushed over to the VA clinic to serve sandwiches to the Veterans who came in for blood work.  We have done this in the past.  In fact we are scheduled to do this each month at this time.  We had not done this for several months.  I hate that we fell out of the practice, so when we got a phone call asking us to help once again, we were glad to help.  Unfortunately, that would mean taking the supplies to make the sandwiches.  So, here we were the night before scrambling around our pantry looking for sandwich supplies because we would not have time to go to the store ahead of time.  We found enough supplies to make 40 tuna sandwiches.  

This is when I begin thinking about how this once regular part of our 4H experience was different each time.  We meet different Veterans...we take different food...different 4Hers help...Yes the same event month after month but a new experience as well.  Yesterday that meant staying the course and doing the best with what we had...and trying to be positive with the Veterans we met.  I also realized how much we rely on others to make things go smoothly.  In the past we have always had Myra (our club manager) provide the basics.  Even when she did not come herself, she made sure we had what we needed.  We might bring some of the sandwich ingredients but she brought the staple items.  Yesterday as we made our way to the clinic, we realized we did not have everything we would need.  We arrived begging for supplies from the staff.  How was I to know that we needed baggies to put the sandwiches in?  We have just always had them!  We learned to appreciate the small things and the BIG help we would miss.  A big thanks to Myra for her hard work to keep us on track!  And also another proud moment as I watched the boys take over the serving.  We only stayed a little while but we were glad to help the Veterans.

Then came the first hike!  We met at a large park and hiking trail for our Wildlife practice.  We thought we would be able to find enough plant specimens along the outside of the woods (or maybe that was wishful thinking on my part!).  Unfortunately, we found very little so the 4Hers were anxious to go into the woods.  I was a little leery because it was still quite wet from our recent rain over the last weeks.  

We looked at the trail map and found a short trail that was attached to a longer trail.  Silly me...I thought we would find what we were looking for on the short trail and head back to study other things.  I was wrong and we choice to head down the longer trail...Oh my!  I would not have minded the trail so much if we had been successful.  However, we walked through the muddy trail with only a few specimens to identify.  It wore me out... and Brendan also, obviously, because he was carried most of the long trail!  I took a few pictures of our adventure.  We decided we would just need to find a better place next time.  It was good experience nonetheless as we definitely got our exercise.  

After a good night's sleep (exhaustion does that to you!), we headed out early for a second day in a row.  This time we began our day with a workshop in beekeeping.  We had been to these classes last year.  We had no clue of what we were doing and were too new to have questions.  Now after a year into this hobby, we listened with eager ears and ready to ask questions along the way.  

Mr. Cecil Hunt started the group out with a few basics to understanding the bee.  We learned about the parts of the bee, bee hierarchy, how bees communicate, and the basic set up of a hive.  I was really impressed with his ability to bring all the information together and hold the attention of all the 4Hers (age 3-adult, as parents who came were just as interested as the 4Hers).  We had nine 4Hers attend the class with seven adults (counting the three instructors).  The slide show was very helpful in showing the bee and its life cycle.  

Mr. Bob Ham showed the basic equipment needed for a beginner beekeeper.  I thought there would not be much new information, but stayed to listen.  I was not surprised to learn new skills and techniques.  He mentioned how to light a smoker and told about beginners not lighting the smoker correctly...yep that's me!  So, now I know to light a small amount of pine straw in the bottom before adding more straw to the smoker.  

In between sessions, I also learned about splitting our current hive.  I hope to work on this in the next couple of weeks.  This will be a great opportunity for us to advance in our beekeeping hobby.  Mr. Robert Jones said he would be willing to help us accomplish this goal.  He was also the next to teach us about the basics of beekeeping.  This included the history and the basic set up for beginner beekeeping.  Although we have been keeping bees for a year, I learned a lot about the importance of bee keeping and supporting the hive without being too intrusive.

A big thanks to these advanced beekeepers for taking time out of their busy weekend to teach us about bees this morning.  It was very motivating for us to get back to taking care of our hive and progressing to the next level.

We finished this class just in time to regroup and head out on our second hike.  This time we would go into the Angelina National Forest along with Wildlife Biologist, Dick Pike.  His wife would also join us and share her knowledge.  We began the hike through a recent prescribed burn site.  This burn took place about two months ago and the plants are already starting to emerge.  We learned that some of these plants had just gone dormant during the burn (sweet gum), while others were just able to resist the heat and flames (pine).  Some of the plants would only be present during these early stages of regrowth (spagma moss, not sure on spelling).

We walked the path looking at the plants that were on our contest list, as well.  We found several specimens at different stages of growth.  We then drove to a red-cockaded woodpecker cluster.  We learned that one of the main purposes for the prescribed burn in this wooded area was to protect the habitat for these birds.  They are the only woodpeckers that like to drill holes in live pine trees.  They also like a clear under story for easy flight through the trees.  I asked why these particular birds were so important to protect and Mr. Pike explained that this species of woodpecker was considered a keystone species.  If we lost this bird other species would also dwindle.  It kind of reminded me of The Lorax.  It was interesting to see the different methods used to provide the woodpecker with the needed access to the trees and nesting spots.  There were special metal plates above the holes so other woodpecker species would not drill a larger hole for nesting.  The biologists even went so far as to build cedar boxes that would be placed in cutouts from the living pines!  

Then off we went to a new location that had not had a recent burn.  This was also the location of an old sawmill town (Old Alderidge Mill).  We followed the trail around and found many of the plants from our local contest.  This will be very helpful for next fall...maybe we can make another trip out this way then.  When the 4Hers arrived at the mill, they were told there were bats (endangered bats, of course!) on the premises.  They could not resist the urge to find them and were successful!  I took this time to rest before our hike back.  Brendan had had enough as well and began to fall asleep on my shoulder as we walked back.

So, when Mr. Pike offered to take one more trail to the Angelina River, I chose to send my camera with the group and head back to the cars.  Right after leaving the group at the fork in the trail, Brendan perked back up and asked to be put down so he could catch a frog (the little turkey!).  He had seen Mr. Merrel try for a frog on the way up the trail and he decided he wanted to try it also.  I finally convinced him to leave the frogs to their home and walked the rest of the way to the cars.  I thought I would have a little rest before the others got back.  But, Brendan decided to find a muddle puddle instead.  He was covered in MUD!!!!!  LOL!  So much for a nap! The others returned soon after...they got lost trying to find the river so came back after finding a slough instead.  

Just as we were saying our good-byes, Mr Pike told us about an area of the park that had a field of Pitcher Plants (carnivorous plant species) growing on the side of a road.  He suggested we try to go but we will just have to plan for another day.  It is always nice to have a reason to return to a fun place.  He also told us about a flower species he discovered while walking through the forest.  He named it Pike's Freebird Orchid.  We did not see this flower and I could not find a picture on line.  I guess I will need to ask for more details when we meet again.  He was a very interesting person to guide us...very knowledgeable.  
A big thank you to Mr. & Mrs. Pike and also to Mr. Merrel (our County 4H agent) for setting up this experience.  We look forward to more opportunities to get moving!  All in all, I think we hiked about five miles in the last two days.  So, I guess the 'get moving' theme was successful.  I, personally, am worn out and I think the boys are too.  They sure fell asleep quickly tonight.

Now, if you had just looked at the quick reminder about each of the events on a calendar you would think how boring!  But we really had a great time and learned so much.  We are just 'making the best better' one unique experience at a time!

No comments:

Post a Comment