Sabbatical – Part The Second

Conchs – Zippers – Mayhaw.  “Remind me to stop here on the way back.” This was now our third visit to Georgia, the second along this route. The first trip was mostly using high-speed interstate highways. No more of that. Taking the road less traveled is a good news/bad news situation. The good news is – well – it’s less traveled. The bad news is there simply isn’t enough time to do it properly. “Oh! That looks like an interesting road!” becomes a phrase so common that after a hundred miles Gini doesn’t even utter it anymore. Just gives me “the look”. We both sigh, vowing to explore further but knowing the chances are very remote we ever will.

If you are from the American Southeast (or have ever spent time here), you are probably very familiar with the seasonal signs which pop up at markets, produce stands, highway intersections and private yards advertising “conchs, zippers and mayhaw jelly”. Freshly picked peas (conchs and zippers) and the juice extracted from the fruit of the swamp- loving Mayhaw tree are considered delicacies by this household. Conchs, zippers, creamers, purple hull – all local varieties of the generic “southern field pea”. All delicious when Gini works her magic on them. Mayhaw trees (Crataegus sp.) are indigenous to the southeastern United States and each spring produce red berries similar in size to small crabapples. The berries are very tart and are typically made into jellies and preserves or used in desserts. The clear, pale crimson substance placed inside a piping hot buttermilk biscuit – breakfast is transformed into something special.

We pulled onto Gini’s brother’s property in mid-afternoon and what a change had taken place! It had only been two weeks since our last visit, but spring has arrived in full force! Adjacent to the young grove of longleaf pine trees was a vast swath of red clover. Stunning! The previously bare pecan trees all had lush new growth, flowers were blooming just about everywhere, insects were buzzing and birds went about the business of nest building, mating and feeding young. Unpack. Rocking chairs have been added to the newly constructed back porch. Relax. Catch up on family news. Supper. Dark. From the comfort of a rocking chair on the open porch, listen. Crickets, cicadas. No man-made sound at all. Sleep.

A walk around the property at dawn almost feels familiar now. I anticipate where the quail will be chattering, where to look for deer and coyote tracks in the soft red clay and when I will be challenged as I pass near the towhee’s territory. The scent of fresh pine fills my nostrils and I breathe it in deeply. I still haven’t learned to pay attention to the path ahead as I scan all around for birds and walk through a spider web spun during the night by a Golden Silk Spider, of the orb weaver family. Occupational hazard. Male birds are singing everywhere as the mating season begins in earnest. A House Wren burbles from a fence post as I near the house and from a stump near the barn his larger cousin, the Carolina Wren, shows off his rambunctious repertoire.

The aroma of brewing coffee beckons and I am soon hugging my girlfriend (despite her protestations:  “Eww, you’re soaking wet!”). A hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, grits and yes, hot biscuits which I eagerly stuff with Mayhaw jelly – and a new day begins.

A few images may help to visualize why we return to this slice of heaven. Alas, poor quality photographs are no substitute for the real thing but try to imagine – no car noise, no television, no sirens – just, Nature.

 

A healthy patch of red clover provides forage for deer, rabbits, dove, quail and a whole universe of insects. Not to mention, it’s rather nice to look at.

Early County

Early County

 

Eastern Bluebirds have already mated, built nests and are busy flying non-stop bug deliveries to the nursery.

Early County

 

Longleaf Pines once blanketed the southeastern United States. Lumbering took its toll over the years. Property owners are encouraged to plant these wonderful conifers and Gini’s brother has about 35 acres he planted eight years ago. In the spring, new shoots from the tops create a sea of light yellow which shimmers in the early morning sun.

 

In addition to beautiful sights, Nature produces wonderful aromas. Huge tangles of Honeysuckle vines send forth delicate blossoms which create a perfume that’s almost overwhelmingly sweet.

Early County

 

Sights, smells, sounds – we can even find delicious treats in the wild. The understory provides brambles to shelter small animals and birds and in another few weeks these Blackberry bushes will yield delicious fruit – if you can get to them before those animals and birds!

Early County

 

Eastern Towhee males are showing off their vocal range hoping to attract the right mate. The first image has pale yellow eyes, not uncommon in this area, and the second is the more widespread red-eyed species.

Early County

Early County

 

The Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) is commonly seen in brown or green and may even change coloration a bit to better blend with its surroundings. This species is being supplanted in some areas (especially Florida) by the invasive Cuban Brown Anole.

Early County

 

Something made a path through the clover last night. Perhaps an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit?

Early County

 

Even a spiny Thistle has a special beauty in the spring.

Early County

 

Bumble Bees (Bomba sp.) love clover and gladly keep the plants pollinated.

Early County

 

So many colors in nature! A bright purple Verbena stands out among all the red clover blossoms.

Early County

 

One of the Skipper species of butterfly flits from bloom to bloom. It’s like it can’t decide which flower to sip from first because they all look so good.

Early County

 

Just two weeks ago, these Pecan trees were bare and looked like tree skeletons. In a few more weeks, within the lush green foliage, fruit will begin to form and produce the sweetest pecans in the world!

Early County

 

These male Brown-headed Cowbirds are having a serious discussion about personal space and females – typical guys.

Early County

 

A Common Buckeye soaks up a little morning sun to dry her wings.

Early County

 

Another Georgia specialty. When ripe, pluck one of these from the tree, take a bite — the juice runs over your lips, onto your hand, down your arm, drips off your elbow — but you don’t care. The sensation of that fresh peach reaching your taste buds is unforgettable. Now you know why they place an image of this fruit on their car license plate!

Early County

 

Similar to the Bumble Bee (genus Bombus) in appearance, the Carpenter Bee (genus Xylocopa) can be a very destructive pest. They bore into wood, make tunnels and lay eggs. Untreated wood can be extensively damaged as the larvae chew their way out.

Early County

Early County

 

A pair of Common Ground Dove serenaded us with their monotonic song as we loaded the car to head home.

Early County

 

Another wonderful trip to paradise as part of our segmented Springtime Sabbatical. If you’re fortunate enough to find a spot devoid of human-made noise, savor it. I know we do.

Yes, we did remember to stop on the way back and loaded up on fresh conchs, zippers and mayhaw jelly! The little market also had fresh cane syrup, smoked country sausage and just-picked garden tomatoes.

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Sabbatical – Part The Second

  1. Up to scratch and more Wally. Enjoyed all of your photos and of course your laid-back narrative. Were you ever a jazz musician?

    Just calling by to wish you good luck in all that is happening in your part of the world. It is really frightening to watch, never mind to be actually there. Stay safe Gini and you and come back soon.

    • Thank you very much, Phil! We’re just fine. Have battened down and are snuggling on the couch waiting for wind and rain. Laid in a good supply of tinned sardines in case of power outage. Will pop back up in a few days to let you know how we fare.

      Jazz trumpeter. Okay, “wanted to be jazz trumpeter”. Wanted to be the next Miles Davis but couldn’t do the drugs. Sigh. Coulda been great …..

  2. A piece of Paradise indeed! Thanks for sharing it…. i can almost taste that peach just off the tree and I want to try mayhew jelly…. and I really want to explore those Georgia side roads…. we hit the usual tourist stops in the State, but have often said that it was one of the States we wished we’d spent more time in…. as with you, I’m kind of thinking it’s not likely to happen now (since we don’t have the luck of family with their own piece of paradise for us to visit at the end of the trip.)

    We’re on hurricane Irma watch from way over on the other side of the country today — i hope you two are safe where you are.

    • Thank you, Sallie! Hope you do have a chance to explore some of the side roads. Old Irma looks mean! We’re stocked and as ready as we can be. Property is high and no water nearby. Hope she goes somewhere else!

  3. noushka31

    Lovely post, Wally!
    I enjoyed each photo: the flowers, the birds and the hymenoptera!
    I wonder if a rabbit would leave such important tracks in the clover, I’d bet on something quite larger!
    The Eastern Towhee and the Cowbird are superb shots.
    Keep well and enjoy the coming week!

    • Thank you, Noushka! The clover track could definitely be from deer, coyote or other mammal. We appreciate you kind remarks!

  4. So many beautiful shots! I do miss the smell of that Georgia honeysuckle. I’ve never seen it here in the Tampa Bay area.

  5. Richard Pegler

    Hi Wally! Your description of this place, and its delights, is so mouth-watering that I find myself wondering why this was only your third visit ;-}. I love the variety of subject-matter of your images, too.

    I hope that you are both well. Take good care. With my very best wishes – – – Richard

    • No worries, Richard! Our Georgia “sabbatical” is an ongoing project! Thank you, as always, for your very kind remarks.

  6. That trip sounds wonderful…and now I’m hungry…

  7. Wally, reading your post is like reading your favourite book with excelent photos along the way. I could feel the dew, smell the honeysuckle and hear the high piched sound of the wren.
    Take care, safe journeys, Gordon.

    • Gordon, you remarks really made my day! How kind and thoughtful of you. We hope all is well on your side of the pond and have a great weekend!

  8. Heart balm at its best.
    I saw red clover (a very small patch) over here last year. And loved it.
    Thank you for these serene and beautiful images.

  9. Adele Jennings

    I love the simplicity of your get-away! I used to spends summers in Vermont on a farm when growing up. I loved the simple tines back then….walking into the immense pasture to get the cows at milking time….riding on the back of the tractor when harvesting hay…gathering the eggs…swimming in the COLD Vermont swimming hole…ending the day up in the pastures in the mountains cooking hot dogs on an open fire for supper with salad from my aunt’s garden.
    Thank you for reminding me how important it is to get away every once in awhile to do the simple things that refresh my soul.

    • “Refresh my soul.” That’s what’s important. Thank you so very much, Adele, for sharing you memories with us. We hope you’ll come back for a visit soon.

  10. Great read, Wally. Thanks!

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