Little Toccoa Creek Farm


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Winter

What have I been doing on the farm? I feel like I don’t have a good answer because I should be able to list what is growing, but winter is a time to do none the less important tasks. From taking business classes to researching marketing to building a chicken tractor.

I’m at peace with taking time to hurtle large learning curves, ask for advice and most importantly to enjoy, hike and observe. My roof repairs still leak, but I’m learning. Ideas for a home evolove. A bear walks across the pasture, wild pigs dig the fields, the train whistle is clear in the distance and the Blue Ridge Nature center has local snake, frogs and turtles to teach about the environment. The stars are bright at night and I follow the weather and phases of the moon.

I’m feeling very grateful! 

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Bermuda Grass

The pastures at Little Toccoa Creek Farm are beautiful, but are they resilient? Does turf grass encourage lots of different species of plants and animals in a cycle of regeneration? Phil Delestrez, Northern Region Manager of the Georgia State Parks, says no, turf grasses reduce biodiversity. Little Toccoa Creek Farm pastures are primarily Bermuda with some fescue. This is not good news for quail, rabbits, and other small animals that cannot move through these thick grasses and need native bunch grasses with open spaces. Nor is it good news for native plants that also get out competed by turf grass. Still my pastures have not been maintained and several species of hearty forbs grew up despite the turf grass. The pods of the forbs are now exploding with seeds and the birds are plentiful taking advantage of this food source.

Establishing a vegetable garden where there is Bermuda grass is problematic. Many people use chemicals, but I’m not willing to. So I’m going to try tilling and raising 30” by 100’ beds, then adding compost and mulch. Bermuda isn’t easy to get rid of; we’ll see.

Meadow Visitor, Little Toccoa Creek Farm, Stephens County, 10-12-16, SCaster

Cows graze on the land next door and the owners work hard to keep the Bermuda grass healthy. Cow number 4 came under the fence through the creek to my unmaintained Bermuda meadow. I guess the grass always looks greener…

Little Toccoa Creek Farm, Stephens County, SCaster, 10/31/16


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Meeting Neighbors

Home at Little Toccoa Creek Farm is a pop up trailer. Friends delivered it and set up by modifying the pole barn and positioning the trailer so it is sheltered. I so appreciate their determination to make it work.

Across the creek we have worked several  days on the planned 4 acre pollinator garden. We’re cutting privet, maple, sweet gum, etc. to reopen old pasture and creating piles to encourage critters like pine snakes. About 1.5 acres are open meadow and a neighbor kindly mowed it.

 

 

I attempted to walked thru the woods to the neighbors house, but after over an hour walking he came to get me on his ATV. Always living up to my trail name of Rewind! I absolutely love that I can get lost in the woods looking for my next-door neighbor.

 

Later I visited another neighbor where a group of friends played guitars and sang before a delicious meal. After initially meeting only men I finally met 6 women today. I have such fantastic neighbors!

The mail woman told me how to get an address and put up a mail box. She gave me her name and number in case I needed any help. I love this town.

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Camp Mikell Rd. Toccoa, GA

Planted a small patch of Burgundy garlic that Lynn gave me; it’s so nice to get something on the ground.


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Where are the Beavers?

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Little Toccoa Creek North of the Farm

In Little Toccoa Creek I have observed fish and salamanders. Along the stream bed gentian are now blooming. Just north of my property Cedar Creek joins the Little Toccoa. Cedar Creek comes from the Toccoa Reservoir which supplies the City of Toccoa with water. It forms a nice waterfall on the camp property next door.

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Cedar Creek Waterfall

Charlie Branch drains into the Little Toccoa north of Cedar Creek. These creeks are in the southwest corner of the Tugaloo Watershed.

On Little Toccoa Creek Farm there are places where the bank of the Little Toccoa is a steep drop down 10 feet or more to the water. I wondered if this was natural. I know that fast moving water tends to result in straight creek beds and cut into the banks while slow movement results in a more meandering creek with shallows spreading out on the land. What is happening here? Neighbors tell me Little Toccoa Creek moves really fast and floods when it rains. There are no beavers today slowing down the creek flow, but surely at one time they were here. When Europeans arrived in the U.S. there were some 100 to 200 million beavers, but trappers almost hunted them to extinction. Today with massive conservation efforts, beavers have rebounded to maybe 10 to 20 million.

Live Science describes impacts beavers have on an ecosystem. “Dams prevent erosion and raise the water table, which helps purify the water as silt builds up and breaks down toxins… As sediment and debris build up, carbon increases and nitrogen decreases. The chemical changes alter the type of invertebrates, and the new water source attracts new species of birds, fish and amphibians.” It is fun to imagine the biodiversity a beaver dam would encourage. I will not build a dam to slow the erosion by the creek. Still my challenge is to find ways to enjoy and benefit from the creek while at the same time, like beavers, enhance its positive impacts in the ecosystem. 


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New Farm on Little Toccoa Creek

This is my new home. My blog will shift from the life of a wanderer to that of a farmer conserving the land, developing an organic farm and homesteading. For now my residence is Roswell and I’m working at Cane Creek Farm, but as much as I enjoy Cane Creek I am anxious to be in Toccoa full time.

My first experience on the land was to camp for four days, just happy to be there. Woodpeckers on a tree adjacent to my tent drummed louder than imaginable for their small size. The sunrise filled the sky with orange streaks through the trees. The fields covered in iron weed, ragweed and southern crown beard are full of pollinators. I hiked across the creek, seeing a two lined salamander, then walked up the steep incline. Crawling under rhododendron thickets I emerged to enjoy huge exposed boulders, mature oaks and fruit laden sparkle berries.

A large doe was browsing in the woods. A small black pig with a white band like a Belted Galloway cow flopped in the creek and wallowed. That can not be good for salamanders so setting a pig trap is at the top of my to do list.

A full moon lit the night sky. My kind neighbor across the street installed a flood light facing my gate so I could see my car at night. Community, nature, land to grow healthy food and the challenge of building a sustainable home are the adventure ahead.


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Tahoe Rim Trail: Brockway Summit to Mt. Rose Trailhead

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We camped about 2 miles past Brockway Summit. After dinner I went up the “Vista” trail to see the sun set and the moon rise. It’s a nice view of Tahoe Lake, the rocks have eroded into various shapes and yellow flowers were in bloom.

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Beccy and I enjoyed climbing all morning. It’s a great trail with gradual inclines, excellent switchbacks and side hill trail with great views.
We both looked across the lake at the mountains and marveled that we had just walked the entire mountain range.

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Relay Peak was windy and had striking views in every direction. We stopped to talk to other hikers as we decended. Then found a hidden spot (as another thru hiker, Larry, had described) to camp in near the waterfall. Signs say to stay on the trail, but a steady stream of hikers climbed the rocks by the falls and several dogs found our tents so I put my hiking shoes inside the tent.
We completed our Tahoe Rim Trail thru hike covering the 2.5 miles back to the car as the sun rose.
Thanks Beccy for the adventure! You are a great hiking buddy.

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Tahoe Rim Trail: Tahoe City to Brockway Summit

In Tahoe City we had breakfast burritos at The Dam Cafe. People were very friendly and the food was good. It’s day 9 and the first time we have been off the trail. It just happened to be Thursday morning Farmers Market and I  walked down to the lake to browse the booths. It was delightful. I bought Spinach Paratha (Indian stuffed bread), Midnight Moon goat cheese, raspberries and kale. What a treat to eat locally grown organic food while backpacking.

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We camped 6 miles north of Tahoe City with a view down Squaw Valley. A moterycle drove down the trail so I called the Tahoe Rim Trail Association to report it, but it was after 5 pm so I could only leave a message.
After dry camping we were anxious to reach Watson Lake to get water. However, there were several groups car camping and they had their dogs swimming in the lake. We filtered some to drink, but I was wanting a nice cold mountain springs instead. However…

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Steve, a mountain biker we met on the trail, said he would leave water for us at Brockway Summit which is 7 miles into a 24 mile dry stretch that gains 3000 + feet. And sure enough there were two bottles of water at the Brickway Summit trail head with Beccy’s name on them! Other trail angels (perhaps day hikers, Larry and/or Peter, who we met on the trail) had also left water for TRT hikers. I must say though, it was cool to have our own cashe of fresh water. Thanks Steve for helping us out!

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