God’s handiwork at sunset at Roaring Creek Farm
August is a difficult month at Roaring Creek Farm, this year especially so.
The temperature soars into the triple digits daily. The heat saps your strength.
There is no cooling breeze, and in the stillness, the gnats swarm and buzz around your face. A drenching of insect repellant is only a momentary distraction for them.
Is it possible to be driven over the edge by armies of tiny bugs?
But there is still joy here, even in August.
The setting sun can paint the sky in glorious colors.
Last evening screech owls serenaded a waxing moon that was already high above the horizon with their strange warbling calls.
An occasional firefly flashed by in the growing darkness.
Before sunrise is the time to be up and about.
While not cool, the air is not yet stifling.
Frogs by the lake, barred owls in the woods and birds awakening to a new day provide a heavenly chorus.
During the mornings, butterflies, with the Swallowtails perhaps the most spectacular, add even more beauty to the flowers they momentarily visit before flitting to the next.
God has blessed us with great beauty. We are not being good stewards of this magnificent creation.
Not that long ago, hundreds of fireflies would delight with their now you see me, now you don’t dance that lit up August nights.
Now there are only a few.
God forgive us for what we are doing to this land.
We know better.
On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael’s 145 mph winds ripped through Roaring Creek Farm.
In the deep ravines, the wind toppled towering white oaks, magnolias and other decades-old hardwoods.
In the planted longleaf pines, trees snapped midway or hit the ground entirely. Others leaned at awkward angles, pushed by the wind.
Among the twisted wreckage, other trees stood tall and straight with no explanation of survival discernible to the human eye.
Not long after the historic storm cut its devastating path through Florida and Georgia, a young forester observed the damage at Roaring Creek Farm.
“Nature will heal herself,” he said.
Nature, chainsaw work and patience.
Ten months later, August brought searing temperatures, heat advisories and further evidence, just as Michael was, of climate change and the future.
On a 105-degree Saturday, in the tangled mess of broken pines, a plant with delicate white, bell-shaped flowers stood out.
How a single Easter lily took root and prospered there is a mystery.
A sign of hope? Of resurrection?
Nature will heal herself, but we must reverse our destructive ways for nature to have a chance.
Hallowes Cove on the east bank of the St. Johns River near Switzerland is magical.
It’s a place where eagles soar and ospreys dive, where wildflowers blossom in the spring and where massive oaks draped in Spanish moss tower over the land.
The cove’s water is tannic and clear and shallow.
The cove is also in danger.
The RiverTown development is once again eyeing Hallowes Cove for a 250-slip dry stack marina and related facilities.
This same battle was fought in 2016, and the developers agreed to abandon the plan.
But Florida’s natural treasures are never safe when there is money to be made.
The developers are reneging on the master plan they agreed to and now are seeking changes from the St. Johns County Commission to allow for the marina.
With the marina would come pollution and dredging to make the cove navigable for boats. What is now a beautiful park would be interrupted by commercial activity.
The St. Johns River itself would be damaged. And a special place that appears much like it did when William Bartram walked there in the 1700s would be lost forever.
A sign at the park reads: “RiverTown believes in celebrating the beauty of our Natural Environment and protecting our Natural Resources.”
Then stick to what was agreed to in 2016.
There’s a Facebook page — Protect Hallowes Cover — where opposition is mounting.
Never give up the fight.
During a televised debate on May 12, 2015, Lenny Curry pounded Alvin Brown, blaming him for the city’s soaring murder rate.
“Mayor Brown, you have had four years to fix the problem,” Curry said.
Turnabout is fair play.
Mayor Curry you have had four years to fix the problem, and the city’s murder rate during your watch has stayed the same.
During his inaugural speech, Curry continued the theme that “our city has faced over the last few years a spike in violent crime and murders.”
“Many of the problems that are before us were not of our making,” he said. “But they are absolutely ours to own.”
And Curry made this pledge:
“I met a 10-year-old kid months ago that after a story he told me about baseball told me he saw his friend get shot in the chest. That should not happen to our kids in this city.
“But this is going to take a new way of thinking. We are going to resurrect the Jacksonville Journey. We are going to invest in programs that work and make sure they are accountable.
“But the new way of thinking is really about these kids knowing that we love them. If they think they are simply a problem the Mayor’s Office and the council or the business community is trying to solve so we can get them out of the way and go about our business, it won’t work.
“Here’s my commitment. I will work for the resources and the accountability in the programs, but I’m going to get in the trenches. I’m going to get with these children and I am going to let them know that we love them and care about them individually and I’m going to challenge every one of you in this room to engage in this effort in the years ahead. These are our children. These are Jacksonville’s children.”
You can be the judge as to whether Curry has fulfilled that pledge during his four years as mayor. The facts are the murders have continued unabated and too many of the victims and the perpetrators have been Jacksonville’s children.
It was in that same speech that Curry chanted, “One City, One Jacksonville.”
Four years later, how’s that working out?
It’s time for a change. Vote for Anna Brosche.
Lenny Curry’s Twitter time has been mostly sugar and spice of late instead of his usual macho tone.
Perhaps he’s trying to erase his reputation for bullying by tweeting daily prayers, praise of exercise routines with his wife and kind remarks instead of talk about crushing opponents.
Sorry, stripes aren’t changed so easily.
Now that he has an opponent for re-election, Anna Lopez Brosche, his tweet at 9:07 Monday morning was more like the real Lenny:
“Fundamentals. Focus. Sicko mode.”
This is not a football game where hyped-up players taunt and strut.
We need a mayor who governs with reason not adrenaline rushes.
Hurricane Michael did a number on the trees at our Gadsden County farm.
When they toppled to the ground, they did not come alone. Intertwined with the broken limbs and the downed trunks were vicious vines that grow well in an area that averages about 70 inches of rain a year.
Wisteria. Poison ivy. Grape. Cat’s claw creeper. Smilax. It’s a long list.
The task ahead is to clean up the debris left by the 150 mph winds. I’ve spent days doing that.
Chainsaw work is challenging enough, but it’s even more difficult with vines wrapped around you legs that are determined to trip you. Then there are the ones with thorns the size of Lucifer’s horns that scratch and leave you bleeding.
Tangled up in vines.
It’s a lot like Jacksonville politics where certain candidates rely on a nasty tangle of innuendoes, distorted claims and outright falsehoods to try to bring down their opponents.
It doesn’t have to be that way. A new day is coming.
Well, well, look who I ran into on New Year’s Day.
Sitting by a big pot of boiling peanuts was none other than Jimmy Ray Bob, and it was abundantly clear that the guru of all things political had come out of retirement.
My first question was the same one many people are asking at the beginning of 2019: Will Lenny Curry face a serious challenger in the spring elections?
“Yes,” Jimmy Ray said without hesitating.
But what about the political commentators who are saying it’s too late to mount a campaign against Curry and his brimming-with-money political machine?
“That’s a myth,” Jimmy Ray said,”especially when a candidate has been doing the necessary ground work for months. I can tell you that’s been happening.
“Think about it,” Jimmy Ray continued. “A three-month campaign doesn’t take as much money as one that drags on for a year. There will be a challenger who has sufficient funding.
“Besides it would have been silly to launch a local campaign when state and federal races were sucking all of the oxygen out of the room. People needed a break from all the nastiness, which will be the hallmark of a Curry campaign once a challenger gets in.”
OK. Who is it going to be?
Jimmy Ray took a big swallow of his RC Cola and smiled.
“Don’t be surprised if you don’t find out until the last day of qualifying on Jan.11,” Jimmy Ray said.”But I can tell you this. I’ve never seen wife Sissy Lu so fired up about city elections. Hold on. It’s going to be a heckuva ride.”