Here's the reason ... no, not the gopher above. I can step out into my yard and see an entire gopher colony.
The picture below is the reason.
(Photo by Phoebe)
If you don't read Julie Zickefoose's blog, or haven't read her book, " Letters From Eden ", you are forgiven, but only this once.
Let's get on that, okay?
Julie is one of those folks who must have got in line about 3 or 4 times when they were handing out talent. She's a writer, poet, painter, sings in a band, and ... I'm going to stop now, because I'm feeling somewhat akin to a stump.
Of course, talent is one thing, but I believe she works really hard to make things happen.
It always bugs me when someone attributes a person's accomplishments all to talent, ignoring the hard work that makes success possible.
Saturday, I hit the road early and drove across the state to Titusville, home of the Space Coast Bird and Wildlife Festival. This is an amazing festival with a seemingly endless list of classes, speakers. field trips, and displays.
A gopher tortoise walk with Julie was scheduled for 1400 hours at a county park called The Enchanted Forest. In an email several weeks earlier Julie had shared that she would be speaking at the festival and it would be a good chance to meet if it wasn't too far away.
I marked my calendar that day and informed the family that I would be in Titusville on the 29Th of January, so no family emergencies were allowed on that Saturday.
The young guy who was our guide on the gopher walk did a fine job. The event started with a bang up PowerPoint presentation in a classroom setting ... I covet his PowerPoint for my classroom.
As I looked around that classroom, surrounded by gopher lovers, it occurred to me that I was probably the only one in the room who had eaten gopher stew. The older folks were probably retirees from nongopher northern climes. One exception may have been "Crackerboy", a fellow Florida blogger. I didn't ask such an incriminating question.
Of course, the younger ones had grown up in a time where the gopher is a protected species and the idea of eating one now is a little akin to making roast Osprey for Thanksgiving.
(I have NOT done that.)
The gopher tortoise's protected status wasn't always the case. They were a legal game animal when I was a kid. It was very common for a church fundraiser or political rally to advertise "Fried mullet and gopher stew" during my childhood.
I clearly remember watching the man next door butcher live gophers ... not a pretty sight and probably not one that any of the people with me in that room could picture.
I kept that bit of gophertrophic information to myself since the legal disclaimer above might not have been enough to keep the crowd from staking me to the nearest fire ant mound, had they known.
After the classroom session, the group moved out of the park visitor center and we walked out along a trail that took us through both hammock forest and open scrubby gopher habitat. Gopher tortoises are not forest dwellers, they need open, sunny, fire maintained habitat. (Longtime readers know I have a colony of about 10 gopher tortoises who share PFHQ with me and that I manage the land around their burrows for optimum gopher-zenness.)
Personally, I think the park staff needs to burn their scrub again. The scrub oaks and palmetto are short at the Enchanted Forest, but way thicker than the open grass and forb growth that gopher tortoises need. (Miz S, this forb's for you)
When someone asked about brown trails of sawdust on sabal palm fronds, it was the girl from Ohio who dug around and found the culprit.
Julie and a friend investigate a palm frond.
She carefully teased apart the sawdust structure on the frond and found a tiny pupa case.
The culprit was apparently some type of moth. In the photo above, she's sharing that discovery. I thought this moment with the palm frond was a serendipitous example of what she does.
Julie looks a little closer, sees what we miss, or... take for granted, and then shares it in her writing and her art.
It was pretty cool to see her in action ... also tres cool to meet her two children, Phoebe and Liam.
Reading her blog, I always think, "These two kids are growing up in about the most wonderful environment possible."
If you read it, you know what I mean.
They both stole the show briefly that evening in a question and answer session after Julie's presentation.
I'm sure she's used to this.
Julie gives a dynamite presentation that will take you through a range of emotions as she describes life on her much loved home in Ohio.
If you get a chance to go listen to her speak, do so.