Berry College

On Sunday Leah and I drove out to Berry College for some sightseeing. I also wanted to use my new camera.

Berry College has about 27,000 acres, most of which is a wildlife reserve. It stretches from the Rome city limit on the south to beyond Lavender Mountain on the north. The college campus is almost entirely within the original 30 acres at the southern edge of the current campus. About three miles north there is another set of buildings called the Mountain Campus.

When I was growing up my family lived on Redmond Road., at the southern edge of the school. When summer came, we roamed the neighborhood on our bikes and occasionally followed a path through the woods onto the Berry College campus. Once there we roamed the campus like we owned it. We rode past the faculty and staff houses, through the classroom building areas, around Victory Lake and down what I believe was called the Three-Mile Road to the Mountain Campus. At the Mountain Campus, we biked past the swan pond, sometimes detoured out to see Frost Chapel, sometimes up the steep hill to the dairy buildings, and then out the gravel road to the Old Mill.

Much of this is the same, but much has changed. Campus access is controlled at a gate where you have to show your driver license. Of course the “guard” is a coed who is not very scary.

When we were kids, Victory Lake looked a lot like this.

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This was an image on a sign at the lake. On the far edge of the lake there is a line of cypress trees. I remember Jimmy Carter talking about the northernmost cypress trees, which were considerably further south than these. Maybe he was talking about naturally-occurring cypress trees. I assume these were planted when the lake was formed by the dam that the cypress trees line.

The lake was originally made in the 1930’s. Unfortunately, sink holes formed in about 1986 and drained the lake. The college gave up on refilling the lake after trying for five years, so the lake now looks like this.

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The Ford complex is visible from near the lake. That’s where we attended the school’s jazz concert.

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Out at the Mountain Campus, the old dairy buildings have been taken over by the WinShape Retreats, an organization founded by S. Truett Cathy, the ostentatiously Christian founder of Chick-fil-A.

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There is another set of buildings behind where I stood to take this picture. From this vantage, looking behind me, you can see Mount Alto, which appears in my sunrise photos.

The Old Mill is still like I remember it.

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The overshot waterwheel wasn’t working, of course. It’s fed by a pipe from the Berry reservoir up on the mountain. I have seen it running on rare occasions, but the mill is no longer used for its original purpose of grinding corn for use at the campus.

You might have seen the Old Mill if you were one of the very few people who watched the one-season NBC television series “Constantine”. When the main character went to his secret hideout, he was shown approaching the locked door to the mill. Once he was inside, he descended into a large underground lair. I am pretty sure such a facility does not exist beneath the mill. I only watched the series a few times because I had heard it was filmed in Georgia. Once I saw a few recognizable landmarks, the show itself was not enough to keep me watching.

But back to school. When we left the Old Mill I noticed some bottlebrush-stage longleaf pines.

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There was a thicket of young longleaf pines just beyond that. I think they are part of the Berry longleaf pine project.

Here is the Frost Chapel.

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It would have been prettier in spring or early summer with green grass.

This is a small pond near the swan pond. There was one swan and a good number of Canada geese, who, according to some students I spoke to, are permanent residents.

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We drove back to the main campus where I was confused about what was where. There are so many new buildings since I last saw it that I had some trouble orienting myself. Of course I had not seen some parts of the campus in more than 50 years.

Berry opens large parts of the campus to the public. There are about 80 miles of public-access trails for walking, biking or horseback riding. Maybe Leah and I will take our bikes out there someday.

The Berry College Wikipiedia page gives a reasonably-complete account of the school. There is also a class project called the Marthapedia, named for the school’s founder, Martha Berry. There is also the Berry College Website, of course.

How dry I am

The weather here on the mountain has been very pleasant for the last couple of weeks. It has been sunny, warm during the day, cool at night, and dry. Mostly dry. This part of northwest Georgia is in “exceptional drought” according to the US drought monitor. Here’s the map, followed by the scale.

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Floyd County is roughly in the middle of the region; it’s the county that looks like of like a fist giving a thumbs up. Based on the official airport record, we have had exceptionally little rain on the mountain from July through October 26. This July was the seventh driest on record at 1.45 inches, far below the average of 4.71 inches. September was the driest on record; the airport recorded 0.24 official inches in September, although I don’t believe we had that up here. October at 0.01 inches so far is third behind 1963 and 1938, which had no rain in October; not much real difference there. I’ll come back to August.

Based on the precipitation record, we are on track to have the fourth driest four-month period since 1900. The only reason it’s not the driest period on record is that the airport recorded a huge amount of rain in August (6.42 inches) which we did not have up here on the mountain.

All the houses on the mountain rely on wells for water. So far we have not had any obvious problems with ours. However, when I took the dogs out to the street for a restroom break, some neighbors from up the street stopped on their way down to visit a friend and fill a large water tank on their trailer. They said that they had had a 400-gallon water tank installed in their basement for backup. In fairness, I think some other neighbors told us that  those neighbors had been having well problems earlier, so their current problem may not be entirely due to the drought.

On Tuesday there was a 160-acre wildfire on the other side of town from us. Other fires in the vicinity have been even larger. That might not sound like a large wildfire compared to those in the western US, but they are large for this area.

We have given up on the idea of planting anything in the yard until next spring; we simply cannot risk using well water to keep plants alive and maybe not having enough water for household use.

There is essentially no rain in the near-term forecast. The next few months are expected to be warmer and drier than normal. In addition to exceptionally little rain this summer, we have also had exceptionally hot weather. I expect to see a larger-than-normal number of trees dying in the next year or two as a result of the drought stress from this summer.

Not rolling downhill

I came across this on my Friday morning dog walk down the mountain.

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It’s a dung beetle, deltochilum gibbosum, the humpback dung beetle, if my identification is correct. I might have noticed the beetle by itself, but what caught my attention from a distance was a moving ball of what appears to be dog poop. It’s possible, in fact probable, that I know the source. The ball was probably slightly more than an inch in diameter.

The beetle had made it about a quarter of the way across Fouche Gap Road. I usually help living things cross the road (turtles, crawfish, snakes), but in this case I felt I just had to let the beetle take its chances. I didn’t see any sign of it when we came back up the mountain, so maybe it was lucky.

I had never seen a dung beetle at work before this, although Walter Reeves, a gardening expert in Georgia, says they are probably in back yards here in Georgia. This link leads to a question that someone submitted to Reeves about using dung beetles to clean up dog droppings in his yard.

I handle that problem by trying to make sure the dogs leave their droppings in the weeds in unpopulated areas along the road. That way they join the rest of the droppings left by the mammal population around here. I think it’s reasonably acceptable in the ecological sense, although I suggest that you watch your step if you walk in the weeds along Fouche Gap Road.

Zeke and Sam are good about not messing up their own territory. Lucy, on the other hand, doesn’t give a …

Gardenias

Our two dwarf gardenia plants are starting to bloom. Gardenia was my mother’s favorite scent. I suppose it’s probably pretty old-fashioned these days, but the real thing is nice.

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The amazing thing is how many buds there are. There are hundreds of unopened blooms.

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It looks like there are more buds than leaves.

They won’t all open at the same time, but if they did … that would be a sight.

Roaring falls

We had a little over three inches of rain from Tuesday morning through sometime before dawn on Wednesday, December 2. When I took the dogs for their walk Wednesday morning, runoff was still sheeting across the road at our neighbor’s driveway. As I went further, I could hear the wet-weather stream formed from the ditch on Lavender Trail. A little further and the sound was everywhere. It was so loud as I walked down the mountain that it drowned out the noise of approaching cars. It made me wonder what the Little River Falls over in Alabama looked like. So Wednesday afternoon Leah and I drover the 30 miles over have a look.

Here’s what we saw. Click for a bigger image.

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Here’s what it looked like from the bridge just upstream.

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The sound is necessary to appreciate the falls. Here’s a video I shot with our little Nikon point and shoot.

If you can’t view that one, try this one.

I have posted images of these falls before, once here and another time here. I thought I had seen the river high, but I was mistaken. This was really high. If I’m reading the USGS data correctly, this may be a new recorded instantaneous high flow.