Sunday, July 28, 2013

Botany Bay

     Botany Bay is a place I have wanted to go for over a year.  We had planned to go as a family, and take a few friends, but Brian woke up sick, and then T-Rex and Blondie opted out because we had been in the car all day on Friday to see Cameron.  So, I packed up Cheesie, Big Al, her friend "M", my mom Cathy, my friend Karen, and we headed out.
     Botany Bay is a nature preserve here in SC that is located on Edisto Island.  It doesn't have bathrooms or lifeguards and you can't collect shells or remove anything from the beach, but it DOES have a natural beach with few people, and a huge opportunity to explore different habitats and a bone yard beach. Be WARNED:  There are a lot of pictures coming up - but I only included a small percentage of what I actually took.

When you finally get to the entrance, you sign in, and drive about 2-3 miles down a gorgeous oak alley with a packed dirt road.  After passing by fields of corn and sunflowers, as well as many AMAZING oaks, you finally end up at a little parking lot.   There was a volunteer there that warned us about a possible alligator on the beach (we never saw him) and then you gather everything you need for the 1/2 mile hike across the marsh.

Which is where we were exceedingly glad to have a handy teenage boy with us to carry the cooler of food, and since he has wonderful manners he never complained.

Once on the oyster shell path you walk through the marsh.  The egrets and terns were out and happy.

 The fiddler crabs were fun to watch, and show Cheesie how they scurry around. I pointed out plants and grass names to her as well, but I don't think she was as interested.

Once you emerge from the trees on the hammock you find yourself right in the middle of  a bone yard beach.  A bone yard beach happens on our coast when the saltwater encroaches into the root system of trees and the trees begin to use the saltwater.  Eventually the tree begins to die and turn gray, the root system upends, and the tree is left on the beach.  This, in my opinion, is so beautiful to see because the natural bleached colors, and the lines of the trees are just extraordinary.

Since you can't remove any of the shells or natural materials from the beach there are lots of whelks to find, although you really need to check for the whelk to still be inside the shell (we found a couple).  Many people take the empty shells and decorate the trees with them. Big Al found a gorgeous tiger striped one, and Cheesie kept checking out all of the impromptu shell scultpture.

 Walking around you had to be careful.  The oyster shells were encased in the pluff mud that was in places all over the beach.  As the tide went out I saw that they were easily in areas where people would swim, so I highly recommend wearing water shoes.

We saw patterns left by sticks and plants

As well as remnants of trees.  I'm not sure if the grouping on the right is natural, or if someone found the pieces and "planted" them there.  The ability to find natural art everywhere was really inspiring.

Cheesie and I went for a walk and she scampered up the trees, and found all kinds of bugs and crabs on them.  Below are more examples of the beauty on this island.

Rather hard to see in the above picture, but those stakes have cages buried in the sand near them.  They are documented turtle nests.  The stakes were all numbered with the highest we saw being 261.  I think that is a lot of nests for one summer, but I haven't looked it up to see if that is the case. 

I saw rain clouds moving in (we're still in the summer of endless rain) and I got a little nervous, so I had Cheesie go get Big Al and her friend so I could catch some pics of them as well.  

As Big Al and M walked over, they noticed the pluff mud.  If you haven't experienced pluff mud it has a particular smell that everyone here identifies with the lowcountry, and it stains everything.  If you walk across it you either slip, or sink into it. 

Of course if you're teenagers you pick it up and throw it at someone, or smear it on someone. 

When they finally made it over to where I was standing the goofiness began..... not that these two were being serious before.

 And then the second pluff mud fight began....

Stylish whelk hats. Eventually they went back to swimming, and I sat on the beach enjoying the evening. 

 A shrimp boat with TONS of gulls and terns harassing the poor fishermen.

I love this beach, and think we'll be bringing more folks out to it soon.  I am DEFINITELY making sure my other kids get out there within the next couple of weeks. And..... since we never saw the alligator we were warned about we'll have to try to find him next time.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Does your family do this?

    Yesterday we were on the way to meet Cameron, but had scheduled a side trip to a big fabric store for me.  We don't have a DVD player in the car because it is a great time to just hang out...... which leads to a LOT of moments like this:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Meeting Cameron - July 26, 2013

     As a mom to Blondie, I keep in contact with the Hemisperectomy Foundation, and the RE Children's project to keep us with new families who, unfortunately, are facing what we endured 8.5 years ago. Cameron is finally in inpatient rehab about an hour from us, so we drove up to meet his family.
The girls made him a blanket (on his lap) and Big Al and Cheesie made a giant cookie for him.  We were glad to see him eat a little bit of it - his feeding tube was recently removed so its time to get those muscles moving. 

We sat in the dining room and chatted. We got to meet his Aunt and Cousin, as well as their Pastor and his wife.  It was nice to see Cameron smile and try to talk to the Pastor. You really can see that he is trying to come out of the difficulty of surgery and get back to his old self. 

Of course the worst part of rehab is all of the work people make you do so you can walk.  We went with him and his mom to the therapy gym and Blondie helped him working on standing and kicking a soccer ball. 

He was quite tired after all of the exercise so we let him head back to his room to take a rest.  Hopefully we'll get back up there before school starts so we can see him again.  I know that this is a tough road, but each and everyday will find him getting stronger and more like his old self.  I can't wait to see him walking on his own, and chasing his cousins around. 

Fishing with Chopper - July 20, 2013

Many evenings, Brian heads to the backyard to fish. Of course he can't go alone, the dogs follow him and hang out too.

Tonight he managed to catch this little guy.  He never keeps them, always throwing them back for another evening of fishing, but he and Chopper have developed a bit of a ritual.....;. 

First Chopper sniffs the poor thing to make sure he's safe.....

and then he gives him a goodbye kiss.  This totally grosses me out, and the fish doesn't look too pleased either. 

And it Still Continues to Rain - July 14

     With all of the rain we've been having we're pretty well saturated around here.  One of Brian's favorite places to go is Congaree National Park.  They have an upper and lower boardwalk and when it rains a LOT the lower boardwalk is covered.

     Brian ran out there for the day to see what was going on, and it didn't seem too bad. The upper boardwalk (above) is usually right up to the walking level and all of the support beams are underwater - clearly not the case today.
      He did manage a bunch of nice pictures though.

If you're in SC and have never hiked through Congaree you should really consider it. BRING the bug spray though, the mosquitoes can be vicious.

The Summer of Rain

     We are used to a scattered afternoon storm here in the South in the summer.  We are NOT, however, used to the daily deluge we've been getting.  We have so many mushrooms in our yard we figure it will rival the grass soon.  We also have a permanent mud puddle in the backyard near the pond.
     Brian decided to take Cheesie outside and take advantage of the giant mushroom in the front yard (as well as his photoshop skills) and managed to capture this:

Making Candles - June 28, 2013

    If you're married to, or related to, a teacher..... you may know that we have a terrible problem with hoarding every copy of everything we might use in the classroom.  We also are known to hold on to old "stuff" in case we change back to that grade level.  HOWEVER, with everything on the internet (and easily found on pinterest), emptying those unused bins of junk is a priority this summer.  

    While emptying one of my bins, I found an old coffee can and crockpot that I used when I taught 4th grade (a LONG while ago) as well as a huge block of wax.  I hauled it all out, and asked the girls if they wanted to make candles (why yes, they did).  So we added water to the crockpot, inserted the coffee can of old wax, and while that melted we whacked the huge chunk of wax into pieces.
     The girls started out by dipping, but after doing a bunch of wonky looking ones they decided to use the little votive forms, as well as old glass jars that used to hold candles and poured the wax in.  So I now have a whole bunch of candles in case of an emergency.   BUT, I still have a lot of wax left so I wasn't able to empty that bin, but I did manage to get about 9 bins down to 3 so I'm calling that progress. 

Angel Oak

Summer time


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Kiawah Turtle Release - June 18, 2013

     Everyone should have a friend like my friend Karen.  Monday night she calls and tells me that there would be a turtle release on Kiawah the next morning.  I was able to rearrange a meeting with my new teaching partner, and I loaded the kids (and my mom) in the car and headed out for the 2.5 hour drive.
   We got there as soon as the park opened up.  I was THRILLED to go to this beach.  It was absolutely gorgeous, and with lifeguards (necessary for my family because of rip currents). Our Charleston area islands have a tradition of the "turtle ladies."  These women (I'm sure there are men too) walk the beaches on the coast everyday to look for new turtle nests, mark them, and supervise their hatchings.  They remind beach front owners to keep porch lights off in the summer (it confuses the new hatchlings) and their overall goal is conservation and education.  If I lived down there I would thoroughly join their group every summer.  Their goal is to make sure everyone leaves the big girls alone as they lay their eggs, and not bother nests, so that populations of these turtles will increase.

      While the ladies set up, we staked out our spot on the line with our chairs and then went to explore a little.  This release had been well publicized so a lot of people were expected. We were excited to find a starfish....

 which we all took a turn holding until we tried to toss him back into the ocean.

We also found a critter in his shell - which not everyone wanted to touch.

     We walked around and found out they were releasing one loggerhead turtle and seven Kemps Ridley turtles.  The Charleston Aquarium has a wonderful sea turtle hospital, and all of these turtles had been rehabilitated and were ready to go back to being wild.

More info on the Turtle Hospital

Close to the release, folks really started lining up.  The ladies had created barrier lines and the crowd lined that runway for a good look. 

Even though the tide was coming in, some stood in the surf for a good look, while respectfully keep their distance. 

     First up was the loggerhead.  As soon as they put him down he knew exactly where he anted to be.  They did stop him for a minute for pictures....
but then let him go.  He was not visible for long. 

With the Kemp's they had turtle ladies bring them down two at a time. One lady would walk one side of the line, and the other would cover the folks on the far side.  Kids were brought in from the crowd to carry signs with the turtle's name on it.  These 7 were caught up north when the water was too cold, so they were brought down here to get back in shape. 

 The ladies were great about answering questions and really letting people see the turtles without it being too invasive to the animal.  They also stood by and followed the turtle out a bit so that it wouldn't accidentally swim into the folks standing in the water.  People down here are well versed in how to behave.  It was such a great opportunity for my girls  to see two different kinds of turtles from the green turtles we saw in Hawaii last summer, and learn a bit about conservation.  At some point I'm going to have to bring the kids back to this beach this summer and get in some more ocean time.