Monday, August 29, 2016

Statewide VMN Conference at WE Skelton 4H Center a Success!

The BRFAL Chapter was selected to host the annual Virginia Master Naturalist state conference earlier this year.  Do you think we were scared to take on this huge responsibility?  You bet we were!  

Fortunately for us we have the WE Skelton 4H Center at our disposal.  Not only does it have a sufficiently large campus to host the potential number of attendees, it is in a bucolic setting suitable for Master Naturalists.

We also felt good in the knowledge that we would get experience and expert help from VMN State Coordinator Michelle Prysby and her right hand helpers Tiffany Brown and Terri Keffert.  But otherwise we were really scared.

But then our BRFAL President, Kathy Scott stepped up to the plate and formed a team of about 7 BRFAL conference coordinators to help get this thing going.  As the start date of August 26th approached, our knees were aknockin’.  Then they told us that there would be about 250 attendees, a new record high!  Yikes!

Well we sucked it up, put out heads down and did what we had to do.  With the help of numerous volunteers from visiting chapters as well as BRFAL volunteers the whole thing seemed to fly by with nary a hitch.  We received many compliments about how well it went.  We are glad we did it.  We are glad it’s over.  We’re glad another chapter will be doing it next year!

Here are a few pix for you to enjoy.

Dem Donnelly's

Old men, not at work
Happy surprise birthday party Michelle!

Charlotte checkin' 'em in

Connie straightening things up

The throngs

Kathy showing off the butterfly bottles

Beth & Paul cheesin'

Hey what's that guy doing with my wife?

Leslie Santapaul instructing buffer gardens

BRFAL Conference Coordinators with State VMN Top Brass
All the BRFALers we could collect in one spot
Photo contest judges struggling to pick the best pix
100 years of BRFALers - Guy is 86 and Neil is 14

Monday, August 22, 2016

First aid tips for the trail

On the evening of August 18 the BRFAL members were treated to a very informative and fun presentation about first aid when you are out in the boonies.  The presentation was given by Carolyn Wallace who is a professional first aid trainer.  Being prepared for accidents on the trail isn't always foremost on our minds when we are excitedly heading out for our next adventure but perhaps is should be.  A twisted ankle or deep cut can really put the damper on your day but without being prepared it could be life threatening.

Carolyn gave us numerous tips of things to bring along and how to use them.  None of these things were bulky or heavy and there is little excuse not to pack them.  One of the handiest items is the inimitable duct tape.  It can be used for bracing up a twisted ankle, making a splint, protecting a blister or refastening a sole of your shoe.  I'm sure you can think of many other things it could be used for as well.

Other handy items include a Sam splint(very lightweight, stiff but moldable material) for making a splint, zinc oxide for rubbing areas, a space blanket for to keep body heat in for unexpected overnight stays, a pocket saw (Coghlands), flashlight in case darkness sets in before you return, wound seal powder, rubber gloves and of course a variety of band aids.  A little training and preparation can go a long way.

Here is a picture of Warren Clark, Carolyn Wallace and Cathy Scott at the end of Carolyn's presentation.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

An Unexpected Guest at the 4-H Buffer Garden

An Unexpected Guest
Recently there was an unexpected and certainly unwanted surprise at the 4-H Buffer Garden located at the W.E.Skelton Educational Conference Center(Wirtz), site of this year’s VMN Annual Conference. A local resident beaver had decided that a Redbud would be a tasty treat and so decided to take a nibble or two. Beavers typically use trees and shrubs within 150 feet of the water’s edge,  as a source for both food and building material for their shelters. Large chips were left at the base of the tree and strips of bark were still hanging from the trunk. A few days later, even more was chewed away, girdling the entire tree. It was too late to save this Redbud, but others nearby were wrapped in wire fencing as a preventative measure. 
Submitted by Kathy Scott

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Hike to Bald Knob Area Preserve in Rocky Mount

Piedmont Fameflower (not blooming) with a few Prickly Pear

Overlooking Grassy Hill and Rocky Mount
from the summit of Bald Knob Natural Area Preserve

Recently 15 hardy souls hiked up to the summit of Bald Knob Natural Area Preserve in Rocky Mount. The high temperatures, high humidity and highly likelihood of storms moving in, could not lessen our high hopes of seeing the bloom of the rare Piedmont Fameflower (Phemeranthus piedmontanus). This species is found in only a handful of locations worldwide, and the landscape on which it grows is unique itself. Classified as ‘Piedmont mafic barren’, the exposed rocks are little affected by weather, and the scant soils that result from the weathering process have unique chemical compositions.

Our group, comprised of BRFAL Master Naturalists, Natural Heritage Stewards of DCR, an Ecology and Earth Science teacher as well as other local trail stewards. We enjoyed a view overlooking Rocky Mount and Grassy Hill in the distance, while waiting for the Fameflower to bloom. Although there were vast numbers of plants, they did not seem to get the memo that they were supposed to bloom at midday, so we were lucky to see only a few actually blooming.

Other species that we spotted were the Day Flower, Coral Berry, Prickly Pear, Primrose, Boneset and Black Moss (Grimmia sp) to name but a few.

Because this site has been recently been purchased by DCR (with funding from Land & Water Conservation Fund and  Virginia Land Conservation Foundation) and is now under protection of development, plans in the works to maintain, manage and preserve the existing barrens, woods, grasslands and water resources. We (BRFAL) hope to provide some assistance in these endeavors.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Everyone is welcome at a picnic

Yet another great article by Charlotte Hubbard:

Over the 4th of July weekend, we were joined by an elegantly slender, bright green reptile who quietly watched us from the rafters of the picnic shelter. The rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus) made an appropriately dainty appearance, though she stretched almost 30 inches in length. We would not have noticed her had my husband not looked up as the rain began to tap against the shelter’s tin roof.

I call our little visitor she as females tend to be larger, and June through July is egg laying time for this species. Maybe she was looking for a cozy location for her dozen or so eggs. The rough green snake moves slowly and deliberately through the vines and bushes stalking its invertebrate and small amphibian prey, often mimicking the movement of branches swaying in the breeze. This behavior helps the rough green snake become totally one with its surroundings and enables it to be a stealthier predator.

She danced her slow and elegant dance for us as we stood quietly looking up at this vibrant visitor. I was filled with curiosity, wanting to find out all about this beautiful creature. There is plenty to know: great climber, shy and easily stressed, social enough to share nests with other females, one of the few snakes to feast on insects with only an occasional tree frog ( But also there is lots of information out there about how to buy these beautiful reptiles in the pet trade. Unfortunately, this gentle creature is often collected for sale and suffers much stress and mortality in the process.

This encounter with our picnic guest left me wondering how I can promote curiosity about and commitment to our unexpected visitors. How can we as humans move away from an attitude of ownership toward one of stewardship?