Monticello Rotary Raffle Adventure

Tom Harmon guiding Paddle on WacissaMy friend Tom Harmon invited me to be his guest at a Rotary meeting. Well–knowing the food would be prepared by Mary Frances Dawdry, I said yes immediately because EVERYTHING she prepares is delicious. Besides that, the company at a Rotary meeting is always excellent and they invariably offer interesting speakers.

Another tradition at the Monticello Rotary meetings is a drawing. As their guest, I was asked to draw out a number. I scrambled the tickets around a little and grabbed one.  I didn’t have on my glasses (vanity) so I asked Tom to read out the numbers. He did and then checked my ticket for me and the numbers matched!

I won the prize! It was a canoe trip with Tom and Jeff Wilcox from the headwaters of the Wacissa to Goose Pasture.

The Wacissa is full of birds

This beautiful trip filled in a section of the Jefferson County Rivers I had never seen. I enjoyed the paddle to Blue Spring several times. Ed Green took me through the Slave Canal connecting to the Aucilla. David Ward treated me to a paddle on the north end of the Aucilla when it was in flood, entering at Snead’s Smokehouse landing.

With a larger group, David paddled so I could photograph a segment of the Aucilla from Lamont south to the site of a lost town called Cash Money. Back in 2010, Charlie Ward and Jack Carswell gave me a wonderful photographic tour of the lower Aucilla, Apalachee Bay and the Pinhook, entering the River at Mandalay in Taylor County. Someday I hope to photograph the section of the Aucilla referred to as the “Races.”

Another time I hiked the underground part of the Aucilla called the Aucilla Sinks. What are called “Sinks” are small and large windows into the underground river forming beautiful small ponds and lakes.  I look forward to seeing the “Races” and completing my photographic tour of the rivers.

Finding our way through the braided channels

TRAVELING BUTTERFLY IN MONTICELLO

 

After eating breakfast (vegetarian Quiche, of course) at Tupelo’s, talking to my friends for about an hour, I drove to the post office to pick up the Main Street mail. When I came back to my truck to drive home I found a butterfly resting against my windshield. Happy I had my camera with me, I shot several pictures of the apparently comfortable butterfly, put my camera away and started the engine.

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Traveling Butterfly

Fully expecting Mr. Butterfly to take off as soon as the engine started I was astonished and delighted to see he seemed to be content to stay where he was. I drove slowly across Jefferson and down Pearl to the corner beside Rancho Grande and eased along one block north on Cherry to turn right on High Street. The butterfly fluttered a little. I drove a slower yet, hardly moving. My pick-up barely rolling, I made it down High Street and turned into my driveway. Apparently Mr. Butterfly liked the quiet greenness of my yard and the overhanging branches of my orange trees.

He began to move around on the windshield as though checking out his new location, and with a couple of flaps of his wings flew off to disappear somewhere into the branches of my tall grapefruit tree leaving  me to hope he had found his home right there in my yard.

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Patriotic Butterflies

I haven’t seen Mr. Butterfly again, but a Monarch visited me although I don’t have any particular plants the books say that butterfly needs to thrive. I snapped several pictures and when I had one enlarged, he has hair (sort of red) and a scruffy little beard which I thought astonishing.

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Monarch

My sister, who lives in Virginia plants shrubs and flowers known to attract butterflies and it is possible to photograph several at once. I even shot a photo of two I call “Patriotic” butterflies. In all, I took more than 1,500 photos of butterflies that day.

Some of the best butterfly photographs and the easiest to obtain were the ones I shot during a trip to the “Butterfly House” at Calloway Gardens in Georgia. I was surprised to learn that some of them are not native to the United States. My favorite photograph is a native of the Great Britain.

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Monarch

9th Annual Farm Tour

Farm Tour 2016

Farm Tour 2016

Billed as a great family weekend, the Ninth Annual Farm Tour includes visits to more than twenty farms. Happening next weekend, October 22 and 23, 2016, visitors will learn about local farms, resource organizations, small gardeners and related vendors. There are farms near you in Leon County, Gadsden County, Jefferson County, Madison or Taylor County and farther west.

Jefferson County has a surprising lot of farms on this tour. Those farms will be open and welcoming you. I know of a farm where they specialize in Tennessee Fainting Goats, (be sure to see the great dogs who protect them). You will find farms that raise large varieties of vegetables, others that specialize in just a few or even in different kinds of fruit. There’s another near Monticello that raises bees and sells honey. You will find 20 farms in all, probably more than you can visit in a weekend.

Some of these most interesting places have mazes and other entertainment for your children and grandchildren, special entertainment besides the expected animals, chicken, turkeys and equipment they will be interested in seeing. Oh – there’s even a farm near Monticello where they grind Sugar Cane another that makes Mayhaw jelly.

 

Booklets with a map and complete information are available in many places in Monticello, Tallahassee, Greenville, Havana and other towns—even Bonifay and Eridu.

Remember, this is a self-guided tour. Each farm on the map gives you its own contact information. Don’t bring your pets, farm animals just don’t appreciate them as much as you do. Enjoy your weekend.

Lists of Farms to Visit

Monticello’s Ecological Park

Monticello Ecological Park Committee meeting on the bridge

Monticello Ecological Park Committee meeting on the bridge

 

Located on south Water Street, at the top of the hill beyond the old school buildings, our city council purchased 26+ acres of old growth forest to give Monticello our own “urban forest.” Volunteers removed truck-loads of trash from the acreage, scoured it for invasive species and removed many—helped design trails and picnic grounds. The city found grant funding for building walks and bridges to provide access to the entire park and protect its wetlands.

Young Hawk

Young Hawk

If you haven’t visited yet, take your children or grandchildren with you, bring your Home School group. The Ecological park a great experience. You will hear or see more than 30 species of birds including turkeys, warblers, and owls. Bird watchers have certified sightings of every ordinary bird you can imagine and a few surprise visitors. Main Street and the Chamber are working to help the City get the park on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Birding groups from Tallahassee and the surrounding area are already visiting.

This child found butterflies and other interesting thing on the park trail

This child found butterflies on the park trail

A Monticello Ecological Park visit is a learning experience even for many adults but it is especially so for children. You will find signs naming trees and shrubs and signs explaining why we were so careful to protect the wetlands that actually help provide the clean, sweet water we drink right here in Monticello. I was fascinated to learn that the contractor who built the walks and bridges pushed the construction ahead of his tractor, never running a wheel into the wetlands.

There is fun in the park, not just education and exercise. You could host a luncheon on the bridge—turn left as you enter the park to find it. I attended a “brown bag” lunch hosted by Katrina and the Chamber. She placed folding tables and chairs on the bridge and we ate and discussed Monticello’s needs and our future for more than an hour.

The Park’s picnic area is used by the Boy Scouts on a regular basis, but it is open to you and any citizen. This area is to your left as you enter the park. The cleared picnic area boasts tables with benches and other things for your enjoyment. Extra parking is provided by our friends at the American Legion Post.

Go straight at the entrance and look to the left for the picnic area.

Go straight at the Park entrance and look to the left for the picnic area.

Jefferson County, Heart of the Red Hills of Florida

Water bird flying up as we passed the Cypress stand.

Water bird flying up as we pass

 

Jefferson is the only county in the state that reaches from Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico. We are Florida’s keystone. We are separated from Madison and Taylor Counties on the east by the Aucilla River – as beautiful and varied a stream any kayaker or canoeist could find.

The river wanders from cypress forests in the north through miles of live oaks and brush to a tropical paradise in Apalachee Bay. This mysterious stream slips underground for several miles near Goose Pasture to reach the surface in tiny ponds and lakes through openings in the Karst to create Aucilla Sinks.

 

On the west Jefferson County’s red hills and flatwoods border Leon County. Along Route 90 west, the Old Spanish Trail, you see miles of crepe myrtle’s offering an unmatchable show when they blossom during June and July.

Cold and clear, the Wacissa is spring fed

Cold and clear, the Wacissa is spring fed

 

A paradise for the hunter, fisherman or photographer, lower Jefferson County boasts the clear cold, spring-fed Wacissa River. Full of birds and wildlife, this pristine river includes magnificent Blue Spring and a canal dug by slaves in the 1850s.  Down in the flatwoods is the wild, hidden Pinhook River. You’ll need a guide to find it.

Before and during the Civil War there was a Salt Works along this river bank

Before and during the Civil War there was a Salt Works along this river bank

AUCILLA SINKS TRAIL

The Aucilla Sinks Trail is part of the Florida Trail – accessible from Monticello, Florida via Route 19 south and Route 27 to Lamont, Florida in Jefferson County

The Aucilla River emerges from swamps a few miles below Thomasville, Georgia and flows southwestwardly, passing over the Aucilla Rapids (referred to as “races” by locals) and then disappears underground a half mile north of Goose Pasture Road. This underground portion of the river is known as the Aucilla Sinks Trail and designated by USA Today as one of the ten best hiking trails in the United States.

These "sinks" are small ponds and lakes formed by windows in the limestone where you can see the underground river.

These “sinks” are small ponds and lakes formed by windows in the limestone where you can see the underground river.

Windows in the limestone to see the underground river

Windows in the limestone to see the underground river

For approximately eight miles the river appears and disappears in a series of small ponds or lakes called “rises” or “sinks.” The river continues this pattern until the great rise at Nutall 0.5 miles north of the US 98 bridge. The Aucilla is joined by the Wacissa near Nutall Rise and flows well straight south, around Ward Island and out into Apalachee Bay and the Gulf.

On Goose Pasture Rd., look for the Florida Trail kiosk on the south side of the road, just before the cattle grate; the Aucilla Sinks Trail follows along that portion of the river that rises through limestone windows and enters the woods to the south, just west of the kiosk.  There are many sinks to follow along this trail. The trail along the River portion enters the woods on the north side of the road, a bit further west of the kiosk; the “races” are about 4 miles north of this kiosk, along the River trail.

Birds in Jefferson County Florida

 

BIRDS IN JEFFERSON COUNTY

by Anne H Holt

Wood Storks on the Aucilla

On boat trip down the Aucilla to Apalachee Bay and up the Pinhook River I saw a gathering of Wood Storks. There were at least nine birds, resting on the limbs of a dead tree. One particular stork turned his back to us and spread his wings. He appeared to pose as I snapped shot after shot. It’s hard to imagine from a picture how big Wood Storks really are—they sometimes show a wing span of eight feet.

Wood Storks on the Aucilla River

Wood Storks on the Aucilla River

 

Jail Swift

Jail Swift

A Swift in the old jail

Sleek, black and timid, I first thought this creature was a large bat, but closer it definitely is a bird. It appears to be attempting to hide in the shadows in the basement staircase of the old jail on Dogwood Street. One or two windows in the building are broken so she found a fine home.

 

A Watch Hawk on High Street

Songbirds usually greet the day with joyous song in our huge oaks. One screams cheap, cheap, cheap until you want to spend the day shopping. One morning I woke to an almost eerie silence. No bird sang. This hawk is the reason. He perched high in a tree among the Spanish moss and seemed to regard me as an unwelcome intruder. Even the squirrels stop chattering and stay hidden until he moves on. He nests in the park across the street.

Could this be a young Carpenter Hawk

Could this be a young Carpenter Hawk?

An Owl in the Monticello Ecological Park

This bird apparently does not like humans in his park. He lies in wait for a certain runner who regularly visits the park in the early morning –bursts from under the boardwalk—beating the air with his wings to make a startling noise—certainly hoping to frighten the human intruder away

Turkeys in the Monticello Ecological Park.

A flock of wild turkeys, I don’t know how many, hide in the old growth forest—enjoying the freedom and safety of acres of dense, untamed wilderness with plenty of water. These birds occasionally forget to be circumspect and gobble their joy at the abundance of food nature places before them.

Mississippi Swallowtail Kite in the Monticello Ecological Park

This bird was just visiting—skimming along — twitching his tail. Darting away into the tall trees.