Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Notes from Central Georgia

On Day Eleven of the Blogathon, I’m exchanging posts with writer, naturalist, and science educator Ann Bennett, who lives in Ft. Valley, Georgia. She has two blogs: So Much to Choose From, which is a general interest/writing oriented blog; and ScienceLadybug, aimed primarily at science teachers. Ann’s environment is so very different from mine, but her love of nature is just as strong.

Walking along the fencerow, my childhood of playing outside all summer swooshes by me in the breeze. Hot, humid, a thunderstorm brews most evenings. The clouds are deep and layered with a purple hue against white. Grass is green and shadowed. Maroon brown stalks of false foxglove remain. A sea of pink next fall will be the result of the seed dropped from the stalks.

view from pecan branches

Masses of wild blackberries grow in the front pasture. Normally with all this rain, blackberries should be hanging like deep purple jewels. This year, the birds, coyotes, foxes and other creatures are eating them crimson. The cool spring we had is called “blackberry spring”. Wild cherry will have a poor crop for the birds.

blackberry bloomsBlackberry blooms

blackberryBlackberry fruit

When the wild cherry produce, so many blackberries go to waste. I pick gallons and it does not make a dent. This year my jelly making will use wild plums. Blackberries are for my wild friends. I have heard of wild cherries used in jelly but I cannot imagine their acrid taste being good. They were bad when I ate them as a child.

Dogs playing in puddle formed from rainDogs playing in rain puddles

Since I usually walk with dogs, the animals are limited to complaining mockingbirds, dive-bombing bluebirds, the occasional wild complaint of a hawk. I have seen an armadillo flattened to the Earth while picking up pecans. I had to throw pecans at a pet cat to get her to leave it alone. There was no way I was putting my hand near the armadillo.

more spider webs in grassSpider webs in the grass

Wildflowers and grasses are my favorite. I love the starkness of the first two weeks of January. Winter happens quickly in central Georgia. There are about six weeks of cold spread between December and March. The first plant to flower in the winter is Carolina Jessamine, which grows wildly and abundantly.

Carolina JessamineCarolina Jessamine

Cascades of yellow bugles fall from bare trees and brush. Their alkaloid nectar is poisonous to the honeybee but causes no problem to the native bees. You forget the honeybee is a foreign import. People make the mistake of assuming it is not poisonous because of its similarity to honeysuckle.

Pokeweed is another early plant. In the Georgia Mountains, which is colder than central Georgia is, people ate poke salad to prevent illness. More likely, the vitamin C prevented scurvy. There are fewer stories of eating pokeweed in central Georgia, which is probably due to the longer growing season.

Pokeweed contains poisonous alkaloids. Only experienced pickers know what part of the plant is acceptable to eat. Even that part has to be boiled and the pot liquor poured off several times before it is safe to eat. My mother lives with me and we eat a batch of the wild tasting weed each year. The poisonous nature of the plant stops me from sharing how to pick and cook. There are cases of pokeweed poisoning occasionally found in Southern Appalachia.

small brookSmall brook

Rainfall is plentiful this year, which will combat the years of drought we have had over the past several years. The effect of global warming is beginning in addition to water use problems in Georgia. Education is important for the general population.

flint river

The Flint River is unusual in that it is a relatively clean river. Its major problem is water flow. Downstream, an underground aquifer fuels a portion of the stream’s flow. Excessive water use by farmers is a problem. An even greater problem is the city of Atlanta’s voracious appetite for water. Easy answers are to withdraw water from the Flint water basin and discharge water into other water basins such as the Chattahoochee or Ocmulgee.

redwing blackbirds winteringRed-winged blackbirds

Environmentally, easy answers, ignorance and apathy are incredible problems for many ecosystems in the United States. Small groups such as the Flint Riverkeeper lobby legislators to make good choices. Individuals educated to the needs of a healthy river ecosystem cross political ideologies. Gordon Rogers, the Flint Riverkeeper, avoids politics with the river’s health being his agenda.

Unfortunately, there is so much education needed.

I taught high school level Environmental Science. A student interrupted me one day to tell me he did not agree with my opinion. I was teaching standard high school biology facts at the time. I could have stood there and argued with him thus ensuring he would have to stand his ground. Pragmatically, I told him the facts would be on the test.

spider webs in tall grass

Why would an otherwise normal, socially adept student make such a statement? Very ignorant people propose to be experts about environmental concerns that advance an agenda from people who are more interested in money, political advancement or entertainment than the truth. In addition, there is avoidance of any problem that is difficult. This is why the public accepts an easy answer so readily.

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