Thursday, October 26, 2017

Speech #I1, Carr Cabin, Local Gold

Umatilla, FL

[This is project #1 from Toastmasters, Speaking to Inform book.  The goals are: 1) Select new and useful information, 2) Organize for easy understanding, 3) Present it in a way to motivate the audience to learn.]


There's gold.  GOLD I tell you, in them thar hills.  No, not in the hills, but rather in your back yard.  But hold back the gold rush. I don't mean monetary gold.   I mean cultural gold and natural gold.  

Fellow toastmasters and honored guests:

Archie Carr was a zoologist, a conservationist and a writer.  Wikipedia said that Carr was a legend at the U of F and that students used to fight to get in on his classes.  He is honored by the Archie Carr National Wildlife refuge , and an Archie Carr sea shore in Costa Rica where he was famous for saving sea turtles.

As a writer, Carr was sort of the Henry David Thorueau of his day. He wrote about his family cabin in the scrub by Lake Nicotooon near Ocala National Forest.  So by analogy, Lake Nicotoon was the Walden Pond of Florida.

I learned this on a tour sponsored by the Florida Wildlife Festival in Umatilla last Saturday.  Let me show you the basic geography.   Ocala sits here.  Nearby Silver Springs lies on the western border of Ocala National Forest.  To the east is the Saint John's River.  To the north is Palatka.  To the south are Altoona and Umatilla.  Umatilla is my winter home, and Umatilla was Archie Carr's home.  The Carr cabin is on the southern border of the forest.

Carr's family donated the site to the forest service.  The citizens of Umatilla viewed the Carr family as their claim to fame.  Archie was the local boy who made good.  There was Archie himself. One of his sons is a naturalist.  Another is currently one of NASA's most famous scientists working on space probes like Cassini, Juno, and Galileo.  So the Umatillans banded together to accurately reconstruct and restore the Carr Family Cabin.  Today, it is open to the public.

 A forest ranger guided our tour and she was a fountain of knowledge.  I especially appreciated what she taught us about the ecology.

Florida scrub is a very unique endangered ecology endemic to Florida.  The plant life is dominated by scrub pine and scrub oak trees, not much taller than eye level. They are interspersed: pine oak pine oak. The ranger explained that this ecology depends on crowing wildfires occurring once every 30-60 years.  A crowning fire is one that reaches the tops of the tall trees and kills them. The reason those scrub trees are all the same height is that they are same age to within a week.

Then came the part that really blew me away.  Scrub pines burn readily, but scrub oaks are very fire resistant.  So, when the time comes the pines begin exude resin.  It gets on everything nearby. Those fire resistant oak trees, get completely coated with resin and that makes them explosively flammable.   In other words, the pine trees deliberately set up the right conditions for a crowning fire, then just wait for a spark.

But there's more.  After the fire, new shoots appear immediately.  But the new oaks are not grown from acorns.  Most of the oak tree lives under the sand, and after the fire it sends shoots upward.   So if you look at a stand of scrub hundreds of yards across, those are not individual oak trees, they are all shoots of a single living organism.

The ranger said that when the shoots are three years old, they produce more acorns than at any other time in their lives, and that the bounty of acorns is a favorite food for black bears and scrub Jays.  I saw bear prints in the sand.  The scrub jay is a rare bird.  Their call is heard almost every day in the scrub, but they are very difficult to see.

If you drive through the national forest, you may see ugly areas that have been clear cut.  If you are like me, you curse at the logging companies who rape the environment.  But the ranger said it is the forest service that does the clear cutting.  Clear cutting simulates the effects of a crowing fire.  They do that to provide habitat for those elusive scrub Jays.

So  If you are inclined to see this local history and local nature for yourself, I recommend contacting the local National Forest Service.  They can tell you how to get there, and if you're lucky they may even send a knowledgeable ranger to be your guide.

Thank you.
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1 comment:

  1. Nice write up, Dick. Now you're in my neck of the woods. I'm in Fort McCoy, north of Ocala. We should get together and do lunch someday. Compare notes. Both from cruising backgrounds. You're making speeches, I'm writing books.

    ReplyDelete

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