Saturday, April 2, 2022

Bald Knob Work Day

A group of five intrepid Master Naturalists helped DCR stewards, Jimmy and Dave, remove barbed wire and fence posts near Hwy 220 at the Pig River crossing, in the morning. They then helped remove Japanese honeysuckle along East Court Street, in the afternoon.  The last two outings have focused on the “new” field on the south side of East Court Street.  The total area in the Preserve is now 116 acres. 

While much more remains to be done, you can see the progress if you know where to look.  Much of the old fencing has been removed on East Court and some fencing has been refurbished to fence out the neighboring cattle. Franklin County is a “fence out” jurisdiction. 

In the near future, DCR and BRFAL will be removing more invasive plants on both sides of the street and DCR is planning to develop a roadside sight barrier, without fencing, that includes only native plants. That will undoubtedly include a lot of red cedar and, in the very long-run, some hardwoods if we can plant some from seed and keep the deer from eating them. 

The participants in the endeavors included Peter Brinkerhoff, Geoff Orth, Paul Pautler, Bob Rasmussen, and Rick Watson. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Beth and the Buffer Project

I had the pleasure of interviewing BRFAL Member Beth and learning more about her participation in the chapter’s Buffer Project.

What is the Buffer Project? The Project seeks to improve the quality of the lake and land around it by preserving the “the lake shoreline and water quality while providing wildlife habitat and protecting your property investment and enhancing the beauty of the lake.”   The effort is unique in that it is a collaboration between the Smith Mountain Lake Association, the Franklin County Master Gardeners and the Master Naturalists of the Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes (BRFAL).

Buffer Project team members visit lake homeowners, upon request, to provide free advice on developing a landscape that promotes native plants, slows and filters water run-off, and establishes natural habitats to support native wildlife.  Homeowners appreciate the well-researched and customized advice they receive from the team.  Often a homeowner will express a particular challenge, such as finding deer resistant native plants appropriate to their landscape, and the Project team is able to make suggestions that will work for that homeowner’s growing conditions.

BRFAL Member, Beth, has really enjoyed her time serving with the Project and encourages others to consider participating. “I’ve learned so much and the team works great together,” Beth shared when we chatted about the opportunity. It truly is a great opportunity for Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners to collaborate to benefit the lake.

Lake homeowners can take advantage of this free service by sending a request via email to: or call 540-719-0690


Monday, January 31, 2022

Basic Training 2022

Virginia Master Naturalist Training

Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter

The BRFAL Chapter basic training course is open to residents of Bedford, Franklin and Patrick Counties and covers the background knowledge and skills that every naturalist needs to have.  

 The next training will be held primarily by ZOOM and will start SPRING 2022

A Virginia Master Naturalist will know…

All aspects of their role as a Virginia Master Naturalist, the mission and objectives of the program, and the guidelines for participation

What a naturalist is and does and the significance of naturalists and natural history

The biogeography of Virginia, including the physiographic regions and the geological and ecological aspects that make them distinct

Basic concepts of ecology

Basic concepts of geology

Basic resource management principles

Some native flora and fauna in the region

The general process of science

The roles of Virginia state agencies in the management and conservation of natural resources


Please email to express your interest, ask questions, get dates and details. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Dick and the Bluebirds!

 Have you ever been tempted to peek inside a bluebird house? Well, as a member of the Bluebird Monitoring team, you can!  I learned all about nest monitoring recently, when I talked with Dick, the BRFAL chapter project leader. Dick knows a lot about bluebirds! 

When you see an old, rotting tree, and you’re thinking of cutting it down, think again. That rotted tree is the preferred nesting place for bluebirds and may already be the home to this pretty red breasted species and be filled with eggs or babies, March to August.

Spring is the time for next monitoring, when momma birds are laying and hatching their young. Volunteers keep tabs on their activities with weekly visits. Volunteers make notes on what they find and a report is sent to the Virginia Bluebird Society, the agency responsible for keeping up with the birds across the state. 

I asked Dick, “how are our Virginia bluebirds faring?”  The news is good! Last year, the population in our area was up 30%!  Way to go, bluebirds and all who protect them!

Are you interested? Most nests are easily accessed with a short walk from your car, so this is a good project for those who want to get out in nature, but aren’t up for a long hike. The commitment is once a week from March to August, and don’t worry, Dick will train you! Just shoot him an email at to learn more.