Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dippin' ... And Just A Little Plant Rescue ...Or Rustling

I spent countless hours with dipnet in hand and kneedeep in ditches when I was a little knucklehead. Unlike basketball, baseball, and football, ... dippin' just never got boring to me.
I'm not bashing those pursuits, they just didn't capture my interest the way catching stuff was able to do.

Even today I'm a dipper. Let's go.

Fish Dipper/Rat Smuggler/Pup Smuggler/Plant Rescuer/Rustler

Goal number one was to capture Gambusia for mosquito control down at the pond. Goal number two was to capture some of our beautiful native fishes to bring back for photo sessions in the photography aquarium ... more on that device tomorrow.

This is the perfect spot. Down here under US-19, a small creek is flowing through thick aquatic vegetation. A good strong D-frame dip net is needed here so you can work it vigorously through the veggies. That's where the freshwater shrimp, dace, mollies, flagfish, and who knows what else are waiting.

A little closer to Gulf Hammock is this beauty of a spring fed creek. The water here is crystal clear, but it has to flow through a large growth of hydrilla, a noxious exotic weed. Cleaning this out would be a fun community service project.
Just watch for gators.

This is the kind of place with clear running water that the freshwater flounder known as "Hog Chokers" love. To catch one, you need to drag that dipnet across the gravelly bottom.
Did I catch one?
Maybe I did ...I'll show you tomorrow. The grey skies were not good for fishy fotos today, but the bucket was loaded with fascinating fishlings to photograph manana.
Patience grasshopper ...

At the Gulf Hammock Mall ( a Circle K next to the tiny post office) there's a road that takes us through low, swampy woods and over a bunch of creeks. It was down this road that I switched gears from fish dippin' to plant rescue/rustling.

I'm pretty sure that the cane growing wild in the Gulf Hammock area is the native Arundinaria gigantea. Mostly, it always seems to be growing behind the posted fence lines, but today I found two shoots that had escaped the bounds of private property and crept out into the road shoulder. Since they were guaranteed to be mowed by the road department, I took it upon myself to rescue them and bring them home.

I dug up about two feet of healthy runner on each cane and planted them in one of my native plant nursery beds out in the "garden". My garden has become a coontie nursery and now it will be nurturing some native bamboo until I can begin establishing it around PFHQ. I love bamboo, native and non-native, and I have wanted some of this stuff for a long time.

I generally don't dig up roadside plants, but if they're doomed anyway, I do step in sometimes. I have a thriving clump of atamasco lily and some blue flag iris that I collected ahead of one of those ditch scraping machines last year. It's painful to watch one of those very efficient machines scraping up pickerel weed, iris, and duck potato, knowing it's all just being dumped somewhere.

Driving back from Gulf Hammock with my bamboo booty and bucket o'beautiful fish, I detoured off of US-19 and took a back road through the tiny community of Otter Creek. The "OC" used to be a thriving sawmill town, but now it's just a quiet little close knit community. I try to drive through and shoot it once in awhile, because I'm always afraid one day it will change or vanish.

The tiny vacant church above is slowly being reclaimed. I don't know if there are plans to rescue it or not.

This OC residence is well on it's way to ruin.
Don't you wonder about it's past and the folks who lived here?
I do.


Anonymous said...

Oh man, it's killing me to read this. I grew up in Tallahassee 50 years ago, and dragging nets through ponds and rivers was what turned me into a biologist. I think the Wakulla and Wacissa Rivers flow straight to heaven. My recent trips to Florida have been much new crap everywhere. I thought the Florida I loved was gone. It is such a treat to see your photos of the creeks and those old buildings. How lucky you are to have found a way to enjoy the unique gifts that Florida has to give.

Hurricane Teen said...

Growing out that winter beard, huh? I'm growing out my winter peach fuzz, too.
I've been known as a plant rustler, too. Just in the past couple weeks I've picked up some Blackeyed Susans and Beautyberry from the roads in and around Flagler Estates. That area is the best wildflower spot I have ever run into. Mama loves the blackeyed susans, and the birds love the beautyberry. Everybody wins, right? ha ha.

Anonymous said...

I would love to transplant some of the Garberia Heterophylla that our county road maintenance guys mow over but it's "listed as threatened" by the state because it is endemic to our rapidly disappearing scrub communities and I'm not sure how it would look if I got pulled over with a spade and a bunch of "protected?" shrubs in my truck.

As part of my job I travel all over rural Volusia, Flagler and St Johns counties working on equipment. Those overgrown cracker houses always leave me in a pensive mood. I can't help but think of the people that built and lived in them, the pride they must have taken in their homes, and whatever tragedy must have caused them to be abandoned.

Wow, that was out of character for me. I quess I'll have to double up on the juvenile humor next time.

Anonymous said...

I prefer a "Cat Diesel Power" ball cap to round out my "gator poaching yokel" look.

Floridacracker said...

That line, "I think the Wakulla and Wacissa Rivers flow straight to heaven." says it all. I wish I had written that.
Welcome bro.

I feel more in tune with the cooler months when I put on my winter coat.
My beauty berry is loaded. The migrants will feast this year.

Interesting work. Have you been down the old brick road near Bunnell? Just a fragment of the old Dixie Highway I believe. I used to ride it along time ago.
I think this $4.50 cowboy hat with cowrie shell band rounds out my "gator poaching do you hear dueling banjos music yokel" look just fine.
But fashion is a personal choice.

Cathy S. said...

That little church is just begging to be rescued. Do you have a historical group in your area that could restore and/or move it? What a great little place for a wedding chapel.

Deb said...

just an old house with the roof falling in
Standing at the edge of the field
Watching the crops grow, as it's always done before
Nobody lives here anymore
The sun's going down in the Carolina pines
I'm a long way from home, and I miss that love of mine
Broken windows, empty doors
Nobody lives here anymore
Old memories come whistling like the wind
through the walls and the cracked window panes
And the grass is growing high around the kitchen door
Nobody lives here anymore
Once there were children and a few hired hands
A hard working woman and a bone tired man
Now that old sun steals across a dusty floor
Nobody lives here anymore

-Carolina Pines, song by Kate Wolf

I just had to share this after seeing that photo.

threecollie said...

Ah, what a wonderful post! Funny, I was just talking to my brother this morning about our fresh water spot for plants and critters....sharing the wealth with him so to speak. We are planning a meet next spring to get some snails for our ponds. There are billions there.

Dr. Know said...

As a kid, I was an avid dipnetter. I've hauled many a bag/bucket of lake and sea life back to the burbs of Atlanta. Most of it survived. When I actually moved TO Florida, I was dissapointed to find that many of my favorite spots were either underneath some stinking carpetbagger condo project, or coated with oil and devoid of life. (Clearwater's pier, which used to contain multicolor shrimp, blennies, and such just below the water's surface comes to mind.) I believe there are still a few tidepools in St. Augustine, but it's been a few years...

As an adult(?), however, one has to be careful not to let these city dwellin' yokels see me with net in hand, lest I become branded some kind of crazy, tree hugging nature freak - especially with the wildlife refuge signs, the ponds, aquariums and various animals, and ongoing native plant relocations...

Much of the stuff I moved to Florida to experience is gone. And much of what I left Atlanta to escape has migrated there. Such is life in these modern times...

My only remaining quandry is:
Who is the gator poaching, sour mash hustling yahoo? Oh, wait - never mind... ;-)

Danielle Blogging for Balance said...

I recognize you ;)...Otter Creek represents what I love about Florida.

Jim said...

Cool hat and sunglasses!

BTW, you and HT, among others, inspired me to put a few of my memories and family tales on a blog I started a few days ago. Hope you enjoy just a tad more of Florida's "golden age." :-)

Anonymous said...

FC. I know of that brick road, where it begins and ends, but I wouldn't dare to drive my six ton behemoth on such a beautiful piece of Florida's past. :)

swamp4me said...

The old house may be devoid of human occupants but I bet there are other critters taking advantage of the shelter. Have you ever checked to see if it has any bats roosting in it? Did a study once in Virginia and stuck my head in nearly every abandoned old house east of I-95 looking for a particular species of bat.

SophieMae said...

I've probably snapped those buildings before. I'm a sucker for old structures like that.

Did you bring home a hogchoker? I'm pretty sure I read somewhere... they do better with a little salt in the water?

Love those creeks! I'll have to make time to explore those back roads a bit more next time I go through that area.

Floridacracker said...

Cathy S,
I don't know of any in that area, and I don't know for sure that this church is "abandoned", but I do know it needs some TLC.

Beautiful and very appropo.

Lots of snails yesterday, even a few young apple snails. When grown, they will be about the size of big plum.

I guess it's the you never know what will come up next that hooks us.
Yahoo, guilty as charged.

Yup, same cheap hat and sunglasses.

Good! I'll drop in and check it out.

6 ton?
No, that would not be a good idea. Can't you imagine building that road through wild Florida back in the tincan tourist days?

I was a little leary about trespassing, but the thought did occur to me.

I did, but the grey skies again today ruled out any good fish fotos. I've kept Hogchokers in fresh aquariums before and they've done fine, but maybe they would have done better with a touch of salt. This water is fresh, fresh, but I have also caught them out in the Gulf around the islands.
Cute little fish for sure.

That pretty clear creek is right before the train engine at Gulf Hammock ... north side of the flashing light.
See ya there!

vicki said...

I love going along on your day trips- and this one has particularly good commentary from your fans. I rustled/rescued my entire yard and it's thriving! In addition, I have coontie ready to transplant from their little starter pots.

Snails! Where did they come from? This must be an especially good year for them- this is the first time I've found them here. And I'm glad you triumphed over blogger- I like the little crabs.

Miss Trashahassee said...

Love your header photograph (saluting the flag). My Ol' Man's a soldier and patriotism means a lot.

Great photos here!

Miss T

Floridacracker said...

Glad you came along on the trip. Coinkydinkyly, I was transplanting coontie just yesterday.
You probably have land snails there that we don't up here in the nawth.

Miss T,
Welcome to Pure Florida!
Thank you and thank your husband.
God bless him and keep him safe.

Doug Taron said...

The first picture of the low bridge over the creek on Rt. 19 looks familiar. I think I've been there before. If the creek is Flat Branch, then I blacklighted just downstream of the bridge about a year and a half ago. It was a FINE night- my best blacklighting ever outside of Arizona.

Beard is coming in nicely. I'd put it at the maximum redneck stage right about now.

Zanne said...

What a great backroad trip. The photos of the church and the abandoned house bring back memories. My father's family has lived in the rural panhandle for over 200 years and my childhood summers were spent in that swampy environs as well as other parts of the state. More recent trips to Florida have made my heart sink. I was sure that the "Old Florida" had disappeared for good, or even worse, never really existed. While my husband participated in a golf tournament in Orlando I pushed the little rental car as fast as it could fly and headed to your neck of the woods. Finally felt I could breathe. I cut over to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Cross Creek home an almost collapsed in tears at the sight of the old gate. The young tour guide must have thought me a bit mad as I walked trance like through the house and property. It was like stepping back in time. Very bittersweet that the way of life is considered "museum material" but I'm glad that it's being preserved.

rock said...

its hard to believe none of us were ever bitten by a poisonous snake. Do you feel a little older we are having our 30th reunion saturday night. like the song says "don't blink" it goes too fast

rick said...

oops!!! rock was susposed to be Rick

Sharon said...

Love that little church, I hope it will be preserved somehow. My G-Grandad had tons of bamboo growing. I remember going out there with my Dad when I was small to cut some for bean stakes. :)
Oh...and I don't care what anyone says...I LOVE dueling banjos! ;o)

Floridacracker said...

Good eye Doug!
That is Flat Branch. I think you're right about the redneckiness of that beard.

So funny that you would drop in, as I thought of you when I posted these shots.
You're right, soon it will all be gone or museum displays.

Yes I do. Have fun!
I'm not sure how we avoided poisonous snakes, it surely wasn't due to being careful.

I like bamboo too, the bigger the better. I need to get some of that giant timber kind.
I'll ask around about that church.