Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Day in the Life of Andalusia

In the late afternoon on a recent Wednesday I went walking in the woods at Andalusia. I was with Bob Lazenby looking for some property markers. Bob is a forestry consultant who has put in valuable volunteer time to help out in numerous ways at this small non-profit. Wednesdays the farm is closed to the public. That is the day on which we undertake projects and do all the kinds of things we can’t do when the place is teaming with visitors. Caring for Andalusia (500+ acreage and its numerous historic structures) is the charge of The Flannery O’Connor - Andalusia Foundation. Stewardship is in large part a backstory, one of behind-the-scenes grunt work, fundraising, housekeeping, administration, mowing, exploration, and of course excitement at discoveries as we unfold the many stories the farm tells us. Of course the primary story is about Flannery O’Connor, her time at Andalusia and the ways in which it inspired her. There is also an important conservation story. It involves the living collection at the farm: domestic birds, heirloom perennials, heritage shrubs, specimen trees, pastures, woodland and wild game. The preservation story is about structures, lifeways, atmosphere, and adaptive use for program needs.

Earlier that same Wednesday, I spent about three hours with Garry Kornegay and Bobby Huillemeier climbing around, through and up into our several of our historic farm buildings: the Horse Barn, the Calf Barn, and the Hay Loft (in the now mostly rehabilitated Cow Barn). Disrepair of these and other structures, including the Main House, makes up a $2.6 million preservation backlog at the farm. Andalusia staff and board are committed to addressing this because, after all, once historic fabric is gone it can never, ever be put back. Garry is a structural engineer who, when he saw what we were trying to do, cut his fee by saying “I see you need help and don’t have the money.” Thank you Garry! I call Bobby the ‘rebuild artisan’ since he has been helping out with the rebuild of our Equipment Shed. A tree fell on this 3200 square foot structure last year. With a crew of volunteers (generous local folks with equipment, know-how and connections) we cleared out the materials in the shed, managed to harvest trees on the property, and get them down to a sawmill in Cochran, Georgia. Again, our need was apparent to sawmill owner Jerry Peacock who gave us 2/3 discount on the job. Thank you Jerry! With funding from the Watson-Brown Fund Junior Board and a generous donor we are rebuilding the shed and expect it to be open next month.

Well, on this particular Wednesday we also had a group of journalists out. A team was flying drones with cameras to capture aerial shots of the property, in part to see the edges of our land and how commercial development is on a forward march, pressing against our borders. Another team was busy shadowing me and my colleague April Moon. They are interested in the real work of a small organization like ours and this particular day was a good example of the variety of activities that occupy staff at a historic site like Andalusia.

Still earlier on that Wednesday, I also walked our mile loop trail through the woods along the Tobler Creek. The result? A need to call a couple of GCSU English professors whom I call “The Chainsaw Twins” to saw through fallen logs that block the trail and in one case fell on and smashed to bits one of the benches. John Sirmans and Allen Gee have put in good service at the farm, including helping to clear briars and brambles around the Equipment Shed, and have led crews of students on service days here. Thanks John and Allen!

On this Wednesday morning as I was coming from the pond up the hill, back to the house, I saw a gentleman in business clothes standing in the entry drive. I gave him a questioning look. He threw up his hands and announced, “I’m trespassing.” I acknowledged that yes, he was and reinforced that we are closed and he is welcome to come back when we are open to the public (Thursdays through Sundays 10-5). He explained that he is from Baltimore and was driving by having some work and family business in the area. He said he is a huge fan of Flannery O’Connor and just couldn’t help himself, he was compelled to climb over our (barbed wire) fence and enter the property just to take a quick look. He thanked me for understanding the urge and said he would, as I suggested, visit our website, subscribe to our newsletter, and click on the donation button. There is, and will continue to be, something to see at Andalusia because people click on that donation button, mail in funding appeal response cards, and buy tickets to our fundraising events. The Board of Directors is hosting a March 29th celebration of what would be Flannery’s 90th birthday. Click to join us at the Piedmont Driving Club in Atlanta, in person or in spirit on March 29th. Click to support the work we are doing.

Our volunteer "Chainsaw Twins," John Sirmans and Allen Gee

-Elizabeth Wylie, Executive Director
The Flannery O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Student's Day at the Farm

As a student at Georgia College, I'm taking several classes that call for us to be outdoors. Dr. Bob Chandler's Field Ornithology course requires travel to various nearby locations to scan the shrubs and treetops for local birds, and he coaches us on anatomy and important field note-taking techniques that are vital for every young scientist to master. My other class, Freshwater Biology with Dr. Christopher Skelton, focuses on aquatic insects, as well as crayfish. We alternate between having classes outside catching bugs at local sites, and using microscopes in the lab at GC to identify the bugs we have caught.

This Thursday, May 5th, Andalusia Farm was the location for both my ornithology class, and for insect collecting for my freshwater biology class. My ornithology class and I arrived at the farm at 8:00 a.m. to start the bird walk early in the day, when birds are most active. I’ve heard from my friends and various other birders that Andalusia is a wonderful place to go looking for birds. Multiple unique species have been found on the property and we were hoping to see some that day! I brought Dr. Chandler an owl that I had found in the road the night before, and he talked about the various important and interesting aspects of the bird before our trek. During our walk on the property we spotted a few very beautiful bird species.

We came across four wood ducks in a small pond on the edge of a field. At the end of the field we walked a trail in the woods and spotted many sparrows including field sparrows, white-throated sparrows, chipping sparrows, and song sparrows. The trees were filled with the joyful chatter of the birds and the knocking on trees by woodpeckers far off in the distance. At the end of the trail we crossed some more fields to the left of the driveway coming into the property and had the pleasure to come across a few wild turkeys. We laughed seeing them awkwardly run across the field in alarm as our large group came upon them!

At the end of the walk I donned by chest waders and strolled down to the pond nearby the house with my net to search for insects. I was very successful and found many water striders, water scorpions (harmless except to other small water bugs!), and many aquatic beetles. After gathering a few of the specimens I made my way down to a stream we had crossed earlier that morning and began turning over several of the rocks in the middle of the running water. I discovered hundreds of caddisfly larva all clinging to the rock for dear life! I quickly plucked a few off to add to my collection as well as some stonefly nymphs (young adults) and other unidentifiable (for now) aquatic insects.

It was quite pleasing to find so many insects in one location!

Overall, Andalusia is a wonderful site to go utilize for education, or simply to just enjoy the wildlife! The staff and employees were extremely nice and offered for Georgia College students to come by whenever they need to - I can’t wait to go back!

Kathyrn discovered hundreds of caddisfly larva in Tobler Creek.

-- Kathryn Codie Mosher is a senior undergraduate student studying Biology at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. She has a passion for the outdoors and animals and always finds a way to incorporate them into her career. Once she graduates, she plans to work at the Veterinary Medical Center in Roswell and obtain certification as a veterinary technician.