On the Cusp of the First Frost

October 31st, and I’m afraid many a child will be disappointed by today’s weather for trick-or-treating. It likely won’t even hit 50 degrees, rain is a real possibility, and the winds are supposed to pick up in the late afternoon. The brilliant autumn colors are falling down, down, down as the continued drought conditions push the trees into letting go of their leaves. While Sourwood Forest is mostly about woods and wildlife, I also share part of this place with four goats: Cocoa, Bertie, Iris, and Captain Fantastic (in order of seniority). And the book I’ve been working on for the past seven years–about the woods and goats–is finally in print. So this post is pointing at that, to remind readers that this place is also an inspiring place to create. Several amazing artists contributed images to make the book visually beautiful. A few of them have websites: James Cicatko , Cathy Leather , Ted Moore, Rhea Nowak. I encourage you to check them out. If you’re interested in knowing more about the book, Contact me. I only printed a limited number, and they are not available online. Tonight the first real frost is likely to happen here at Sourwood Forest, which marks the start of my search for artists and writers who would like to be next summer’s residents, spending some time here between May and October 2024. Contact me if you’d like more information about possibilities. I chose the title after surveying over forty friends and colleagues to make a choice from five possibilities. Two of the titles got 75% of the votes, and What Holds Us Here won by a nose. I like it because the book’s content speaks to just about every way to interpret each of those words, making the title both a statement and a question. Continue reading

Little Irish Creek–celebrating freedom from diversion!

On March 5, 2023, a perfect Sunday afternoon, 14 people gathered along the banks of Little Irish Creek to celebrate! In November of 2022, the City of Lynchburg had removed the diversion pipe and its apparatus (mortar, bracings, etc.), which had been cemented into the bottom of the stream and syphoning flow from Little Irish into Lynchburg’s reservoir since the early 1960s. The permit that had allowed for the water diversion was scheduled to expire on December 31, 2022. In July of 2022, the City made the decision not to renew that permit. The people sipping sparkling cider by the banks of Little Irish Creek on March 5 had something to do with this fortunate change in Little Irish Creek’s circumstances. I first saw the absence of pipe and presence of free-flowing current in Little Irish Creek on February 24, when Scott and I drove up here to scope out a good place for people to meet on March 5. My heart leapt to see the whitewater creek roaring through waterfalls and swirling in pools, a stream doing what is was meant to do, being the lifeblood of a thriving community of plants and animals. We shared tasty snacks brought by group members, and people who had only met virtually before stood chatting happily together in the same place. I was cheered by the friendly energy in the group: people from very different walks of life getting to know each other. And I was touched by the bond between us:  our love for the Pedlar River and concern for its health and future. Most in the group live on land bordering the Pedlar and its feeder streams; most have been residents of the Pedlar River watershed for decades. All of us were warmed by the early spring sunshine and by our attachment to the common ground we were standing on: the Pedlar River watershed; the place we call home. See Shannon Brennan’s column in the News&Advance here. + In 2002, the renewal of the 20-year-permit had slipped by, unnoticed and unpublicized, only a month or two before I learned about it. I vowed to myself then that if I were still around in 2022, I would make sure this pipe was noticed and contested. As the winter of 2020 turned to 2021, I was already having discussions with fisheries biologists I knew from working with them on field trips for… Continue reading

When the River Runs Muddy

This winter brought much needed rain to the Pedlar River watershed. With rain comes runoff, and with runoff comes sediment. Sediment is the fancy word for the loose sand, clay, silt and other soil particles that are dislodged from the land by rainwater and transported by stormwater runoff towards bodies of water. While runoff and erosion are natural processes, human activities on the land can drastically increase the rate at which sediment enters our waterways, making sediment pollution the #1 type of water pollution in our region of the James River watershed. (State of the James Report Card 2021, James River Association). Our local waterways have been looking cloudy after the big rains this winter. Sediment is what makes that cloud in the water.  The color of that cloud varies depending on what kind rock, soil, and clay runs off the land or makes up the stream bottom and sides. In the Pedlar River, the sedimentation cloud often looks orange, like our clay soils. Activities that expose soil are the main causes of sediment pollution in the Pedlar River watershed–such as logging, removing trees and shrubs from steep slopes and near streams, farming practices such as tilling, use of pesticides and fertilizers near streams, unprotected streambanks in fields and livestock pastures, and construction practices that do not follow Best Management Practice guidelines. Here’s the quick dirt on why we need soil to stay on the ground and out of the water, plus info about how you can make sure your property keeps its sediment to itself. Please, read on and do your part to protect our streams and rivers. Sediment is considered a pollutant because it degrades the quality of water for drinking, wildlife and the land surrounding streams in the following ways: It clouds the water, preventing animals from seeing food and harming aquatic vegetation. In streams, sediment disrupts the natural food chain by destroying the habitat where the smallest stream organisms live–organisms that are food for fish. And sediment can clog fish gills, reducing resistance to disease, lowering growth rates, and affecting fish egg and larvae development. Sediment increases the cost of treating drinking water and can result in odor and taste problems. It fills up storm drains and catch basins to carry water away from roads and homes, which increases the potential for flooding. Nutrients transported by sediment can activate blue-green algae that release toxins and can… Continue reading

Little Irish Creek Diversion Pipe will be Removed!

As of July 22, 2022, the City of Lynchburg has decided not to renew the permit that has historically allowed it to divert water from Little Irish Creek into the City’s reservoir. Thanks to all those who spoke out in defense of Little Irish Creek and the Pedlar River. Please leave a reply on the My Pedlar Story post and let’s begin to bring together the story of the Pedlar River watershed as seen and lived by those of us who live near it and understand its value to the world. For many decades, the City of Lynchburg has had a permit from the USDA, via the USFS, to divert water from Little Irish Creek into the Pedlar Reservoir, which is the main source of drinking water for the City. Last renewed in 2002, this 20-year permit came up for renewal in 2022. The 12″ diameter pipe is fixed in a pool of Little Irish Creek not far upstream from its confluence with the Pedlar River. Little Irish Creek is a pristine trout stream and the first stream to feed the Pedlar River below the reservoir dam. The way the pipe is situated, its opening captures the main flow of the creek at all water levels. The pipe takes the water through a hillside and across National Forest Land to the reservoir, which is located on acreage owned by the City of Lynchburg. Since the pipe has no apparatus on it to regulate how much water enters it, it diverts water all year long, regardless of season or rainfall. Since the future of Little Irish Creek affects the future of the Pedlar River, the fact that the City of Lynchburg has decided not to attempt to renew the permit is good news! Removal of the pipe will be a positive change for Little Irish Creek, the Pedlar River, people who have land adjacent to the Pedlar River, people who make use of the public lands in the watershed associated with Little Irish Creek and the Pedlar River, and everyone who lives in the lower Pedlar River watershed. DO YOU CARE ABOUT THE PEDLAR RIVER? If yes, add a reply to MY PEDLAR STORY: This is a community in the making, and the future of the lower Pedlar River depends on it! Since Little Irish Creek is within the George Washington National Forest, the USFS and its parent organization, the USDA,… Continue reading