Having been out of work for some time now, the cabin fever was setting in pretty hard. Between having no income yet still spending gas to get to job interviews, there was no gas to just get away for pleasure, a break from the monotony and certainly no funds for entertainment. I needed to feel useful again, productive. That is when I came across a request in the local paper for volunteers to help that coming weekend on a project to build an artificial reef in the area. I’m a nature lover and have always been interested in (and often active in) conservation efforts – how cool was that?
After e-mailing the listed contact for details, I was excited to get to work – even if it was for free. I let a friend of mine know about the project and he was on board as well. That Saturday, he picked me up early and we went out to Harbour Pointe on the inlet where several tons of oyster shells were ready in large barrels and on sheets of plywood in huge piles.
About 20 other volunteers showed up and we were given a brief primer on the task at hand. We organized ourselves into each area – shoveling, bagging and tying off. I shoveled shells into smaller buckets while my friend bagged and tied them. They were then loaded onto a truck to be moved to their final resting place in Wildcat Cove.
During a break in which bottled water and other drinks were provided, the leader of the operation and a colleague commended us all on our efforts which far exceeded their expectations. In just about 2 hours, we’d already assembled about 400 20-pound oyster bags for deployment. My friend and I stayed for a 20-minute informational lecture about oyster reefs, their local benefits, lots of statistics and zoological info as well. We broke for lunch then and would meet up at low tide a few miles up the coast at Wildcat Cove.
Upon arrival at Wildcat Cove, we found the oyster bags in a neat pile in front of the canoe launch. Another 100 bags had been assembled and brought up in two deliveries. It took a little brainstorming as to how we were going to get the bags to the reef area, but one adventurous girl with her own kayak said she could pull floating tubs of about 30 bags per load out to the location. There was some interesting trial-and-error in getting the system going, including one thankfully good-humored man getting impossibly stuck in the thick muck at the bottom of the river. It took more than ten minutes to get the river to release his legs and he lost a shoe, but we got him back safely! Note to self: Don’t go into the water without a boat here!
Once we got the production line going, the rest was – pardon the pun – smooth sailing. Bags were floated out to a mangrove area where a 4-foot high oyster “wall” was built staggered around the mangroves. Once settled and cemented, these artificial reefs will provide settling places for new oyster spawns, as well as providing habitat for young fish and feeding grounds for birds such as herons, ibis, loons, cormorants, anhingas and more.
I remain in contact with the organizer of this effort who works for the county in coastal restoration and he is helping me network with other people in the field so that I may actually find work in conservation or a related field. Even if it is a desk job, it would be a great opportunity (and has been) to do something productive in a field I really enjoy. Another reef build is coming up in two days. This time my daughter will also be involved, getting her hands dirty and having a positive impact on our local, unique and delicate ecosystem.
This is a collection of photographs I took at the Savannas Wildlife Preserve in St. Lucie County, FL All were shot on a Canon EOS Rebel G using Fuji 35mm film. Yep, that’s right: I’m old-school.
A little history of this photo set… These were taken in 2005, shortly after my husband had filed for divorce and put me and my then 3-year old daughter on the street. This is where I ended up living for some time, in my little tent while still holding a full time job. This collection is truly a statement to finding the positive and the beauty in any situation we are given to handle. I hope they inspire you as well to look around you, no matter what you’re going through, and try to find something beautiful to hold onto. Even the smallest thing can be enough to keep you going when you’ve lost everything else.
Fun weekend 🙂
Had a pretty full weekend here for a change, it was nice 🙂 Friday, Joe had to run over to Tampa for a family thing, but practically rushed back late Friday night to be able to come over (and woke me up when he did lol, although he *did* demand I take a nap before he got here). We were up til 5:30, it was great. At one point, we were standing out front for a smoke and I in my skirt and tank top was literally shivering but didn’t want to battle the kitten and dog trying to run out just to go in and get my jacket. Joe actually took off his shirt and offered it to me. Well, I didn’t know what to think of that, so I just said, “no really, I’m fine!” A little more shivering and he kinda playfully glared at me, went into his truck and pulled out my favourite hoodie (his big grey one) and made me put it on. Oh man, I was in heaven – it’s too big for me and smells like him. Then he wrapped his arms around me and I was warm and cozy and held tight – I haven’t felt that good in so long. We did go back inside eventually to watch a movie, but that got interrupted by other things… finally went to sleep just before sun-up.
Two hours later, Littlebit comes ambling out of the bedroom to find us deeply passed out on the futon. She managed to wake me up long enough to tell her yes, she could get breakfast and go on the computer. (She loves making her own breakfast, it makes her feel self-sufficient. Many times, she offers to make mine too and she does great!) I made it out of bed around 10 and let Joe sleep in a little longer. I loved watching him sleep, he was so tired 🙂 Had to force myself not to crawl back into bed with him though, it would have been too warm and cozy, I would have fallen back asleep and we had things to do!
Alyn had invited us out to a Civil War Reenactment that he was doing Saturday, so we all got ourselves together and headed cross-county to the Boys and Girl’s Club where they had the event. It was small, not a big turnout, but then it was put together in a short time and wasn’t very well advertised. Also, the cannon crew didn’t show up, so that was a disappointment. We had fun though, and there were quite a few older Veterans there happy to share their own war stories, passed down through generations in their own families. Nelson Winbush (center, below) held Joe captive in conversation for a good half hour as they discussed the history of African Americans as soldiers in the Civil War. You can view the Wikipedia article on his Grandfather HERE. Joe was right at home in the topic, as he wants to work to become a History professor. Ashamedly, I don’t know much about history. My interest was always in the Sciences, so I found myself mulling over the medical table for quite some time, mentally conjuring up the uses for the varied powders still in their original vials. I did have to keep my eyes away from the double-edged skin/bone saw however… the thought of amputation in the field just gave me chills.
After the event wound down, we three headed out to the island for a late lunch and I was thrilled to see the Hurricane was back open after several months being closed for renovations. We miraculously landed a parking spot over by the jetty side and walked over for a good meal, then took a walk down the beach and out the jetty. The seas were exceptionally rough on the north side of the inlet, and the kite sailors were taking advantage of the strong winds. It was beautiful out, but Joe’s back was starting to hurt pretty bad (he’s had a couple major surgeries on it in the past 4 years), so we headed back to the apartment after a full day running around outside.
Back at home, Joe was in a lot of pain so he needed to head home and take something for his back and get some rest. Alyn had stopped over briefly to bring us a loaf of homemade banana nut bread (yummy!) but he wasn’t able to stay as he had a sun headache and had to give his sister a ride to work, so we called it a night.
Today is looking to be our typically lazy Sunday (and much-needed). Laundry calls, as well as a good scrub down of the dog. Maybe if Alyn is feeling better this afternoon, we can have a little fire out back and I’ll make some Chicken Alfredo for dinner.