Thursday, June 1, 2017

Look who I found...........

......strolling across the garage floor!  He (I'm guessing he) was strutting along like he owned the place, red legs and all.  He is a red-legged purseweb spider (sphodros rufipes).  According to Wikipedia these are native to the Southeast US but have been spotted much further North.  They make a tunnel shaped web and rarely leave it except to mate.  No wonder he looked so preoccupied. Also, notice his pet ant walking along.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Private Lands Wildlife Biologist Addresses Master Naturalists

On the evening of April 20, 2017 the Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists was lucky enough to have Ms. Lorien Koontz, the Private Lands Wildlife Biologist of the US Department of Agriculture address our group on the topic of Habitat Creation & Gardening.  She described a wildlife habitat as a place where animals (mammals, birds, insects, etc.) can find food & water, shelter and space to live.  Humans are often guilty of removing animal habitat.  Fescue lawns are one major cause of habitat removal by homeowners.

Instead of a fescue lawn which supports very little animal life, a homeowner is encouraged to plant a habitat friendly environment.  A habitat is often created in layers: mulch layer, herbaceous layer, shrub layer and tree layer.  Each layer can support different types of wildlife.

Lorien described the “Habitat How To” as:

·         Set goals

·         Decide where to start

·         Set budget

·         Access what you currently have

·         Remove invasive species

·         Select plants (Preferably Virginia native species)

·         Habitat should connect with each other if possible

·         Clear cuts can provide new habitat

For more information, Lorien suggested you visit  Also, you may contact Lorien at

Master Naturalists Recognized for Service

Please see below for the article placed in the April 12th edition of the Laker Weekly by Kathy Scott.  Kudos to us. (note that Jim Zinck was inadvertently listed as Jim Pilversack.  No worries, they're both nice guys.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Bald Knob Natural Area Preserve Clean-up Day by Master Naturalists

Master Naturalists from the Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes chapter joined with three members from the Southwest Piedmont Chapter for a service project on 2/18, a beautiful February Saturday. Ryan Klopf and Wes Paulos, Mountain Region Stewards for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), led the group of 21 on a stream cleanup work day.
Muck, briars and steep terrain did not prevent the group from collecting and removing dozens of tires, junked appliances and car parts, wire, many yards of black plastic and over 20 bags of debris.
The stream begins as a spring on the Bald Knob Natural Area Preserve (BKNAP) in Rocky Mount and eventually flows under US 220 and into the Pigg River. BNAP is the largest and best known occurrence of a "Piedmont mafic barren" where exposed rocks resist weathering and have unusual chemical properties, making them and their derived soils different from typical Piedmont sites. These unique soils produce some of the rarest plants in the world. BKNAP does not yet have developed public access, DCR has begun developing a long-term management plan inclusive of plans for both resource protection and public access. 
Although Saturday’s mission was to remove trash and debris from the Bald Knob stream, this small step helps decrease items leaching into the waters that feed the Pigg River. Any improvements to water quality in the Pigg, such as the recent removal of the old Power Dam east of Rocky Mount, help support the recovery of species like the Roanoke log perch, listed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as endangered.

Good work by all! 

Blog post by Charlotte Hubbard

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Reflection on Booker T.

It was a blue sky sunshine January 18th kinda day with temperatures hovering in the low 60’s.  Yes, in mid-January!  My wife, Meg, went to Rocky Mount in the morning for a new hairdo and then off to a Master Gardener meeting in the afternoon, also in Rocky Mount.  I went to the gym in the morning for my workout such as it is, then a quick stop at Kroger for a few items and to home for a quick bite to eat.

So what to do in the afternoon on such a beautiful day?  Yes! Hiking boots, walking stick, fanny pack quickly thrown into the Miata.  Throw the top back on the Miata and off to Booker T. Washington National Monument for a short hike.  During the hike a snapped a few pix with my trusty cell phone which you can see below.
Hardly anyone else there to share the park with.  Ah, solitude.  The kind of solitude that lets the mind wander.  I was thinking about my first visit to BTWNM with Meg about 8 or 9 years ago.  We were just in anticipation of the day we could retire and move in to our new house on beautiful Smith Mountain Lake.  We enjoyed walking through BTWNM and learning about Booker T.

After reflecting on that first visit, my mind continued to wander.  I thought about the life that Booker T. had at his homeplace as a slave.  He had to have worked incredibly hard, but he didn’t let that stop him from learning about the wonder of nature and learning about life. He didn’t let that stop him from achieving greatness under the worst of conditions.

My reflections continued.  How incredibly lucky I am.  I have been retired for 7 years now without having to worry about our next meal or health insurance.  I live in a beautiful house on a beautiful lake with my beautiful wife.  Lucky indeed.

Before I left Booker T., I stopped in the visitor center and my friend and fellow Virginia Master Naturalist Don Kelso was behind the desk doing his volunteer duty as Greeter.  After exchanging pleasantries, and we discussed some books we were reading.  Don is a special fellow himself.  I’m sure Booker T. would have liked him very much.  Although Don has some health issues, I don’t know anyone who works harder than him.  And besides that, he is a very smart guy and very personable.  I am very lucky to know him. Yes, very lucky indeed.

Thank you Booker T. for allowing me to share your homeplace and causing me to reflect.  I hope others will come to visit you too and reflect on their lives as well.

Very lucky, indeed.

Rich Brager

You can learn more about Booker T Washington here in Hardy, Virginia. There is no admission charge and open year-round.

From Slave Cabin to the Hall of Fame
On April 5, 1856, Booker T. Washington was born a slave on the 207-acre farm of James Burroughs. After the Civil War, Washington became the first principal of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School. Later as an adviser, author and orator, his past would influence his philosophies as the most influential African American of his era. Come explore his birthplace.