Thursday, December 04, 2008

Going Green - Choose and Cut Farms, Part of the New "Green" Movement

A Green Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that during this rough economic time you are finding peace and joy in the season. Today I realized that my family has always been "Green" without even knowing it. Unbeknown to my father he began a "Green" movement 30 years ago by starting a Choose and Cut Christmas Tree Farm. January of 1978, when I was just 2 years old my Mom and Dad planted their first 10 rows of Christmas Trees. What were they thinking? Probably the child, that they left in the van which was running to keep her warm, needs a college education! My Father has always been a planner. As my parents braved the Carolina wet cold to get their daughters education in the ground, that same child was turning on windshield wipers, blaring the horn, turning on and off the lights, and blasting the speakers. Lucky for all of us the emergency brake was set. The following year, they bundled me up and made me help, and every year after that, until I was smart enough to move away from home... just kidding Dad. I look back at those years with the fondest of memories. We planted Virginia Pines and Eastern Red Cedar, which grow on my parents farm still. They dabbled in a few other types of "northern Christmas trees" like white pines, blue spruce and firs, but when they only grew 3 feet in 10 years my parents realized they just needed less heat than the South sweltered in every summer. It takes 6 years for the pine and cedar to reach 6+ feet, so when I was 8 we opened the farm to the public. The Friday after Thanksgiving every year since folks have brought their families to Levy South Carolina - just across the Talmage Bridge from Savannah, to enjoy the tradition of choosing and chopping their very own Christmas Tree. As many remarked every year on how much I had grown, my parents watched young pregnant couples grow into families of 2 or 3. Each year the same families returning with video cameras in hand to mark this special outing. Some people tag trees and come back closer to Christmas to pick them up. Some know that these trees are so fresh, unlike trees on a lot which are already a week off the trunk without water, coming down from NC or Va, that they take them right away. If you put one of my Dad's trees in water, and never let it dry out, it will last past the new year without dropping a needle. And the amazing smell in your home can't be matched by scented candles or fragrant pine sprays that you artificial tree lovers use, and you know who you are! Today I see on MSN that Christmas Tree Farms are in the new "green" movement. Who knew? I mean we know that we help the environment by planting carbon dioxide loving young trees every year. We also see wildlife taking advantage of the unique ecological niche created by a field full of trees. Bluebirds, rabbits, deer, bats, snakes and too many other insects and birds to mention can all be found daily on our farm, in and amongst the trees. The number of bees and wasps that feed on the fragrant sap number in the thousands as they get quite intoxicated, which is pretty darn funny to watch. The browse that grows for the deer between the trees is young and tender and yummy. Birds nest in the trees in spring and we often find bats hanging in them in the early morning as the sun creeps in and warms their bellies. This is how I grew up. An only child with a Pit-bulldog named Boo for a sibling, participating in a "green" movement. We don't truck our trees anywhere, also a reason these choose and cut farms are labeled "green". This year, the day after Thanksgiving, my husband and I helped my parents on opening day. Our usual yearly ritual began again and I was so happy to show off how much I had grown. Children that we saw when they were 2 now are starting families of their own. With much smaller video cameras in hand they laugh and run through the field for hours saying, "this one, no this one" and "timber"! Small children marvel at the drunk bees and laugh as their dads pretend to be lumber jacks. Good quality family time for the cost of 60.00 and a tree tied to the top of their car, well I would say that is just priceless.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some New Articles to Catch You Up

Here are a few sites of interest that I have found, or have been in our news lately.
The first is a fun video about a groups close encounter with the Native alligators. The next two are the P&C article about budget cuts and animal losses at the Gardens. Be sure to read the Comments at the bottom of the most recent news article. I am afraid, to quote one commenter, that stupid is contagious. I believe some comments were made by the same people who came to the alligator feedings and meet the keeper talks hoping my arm would get eaten off during the program! ENJOY!

So Very Sad

As we all feared, the "county" went through with its plans to begin the ultimate demise of Cypress Gardens. It was a divide and conquer plan that created animosity among the staff and many good people to be removed from their jobs and most sadly the loss of our beautiful Pedro. As most of you know, I bailed out!. I know that some of you die-hard Curators will call me a sell-out, but when you see something you love being destroyed you know in your heart you would want to do the same thing. I no longer work at Cypress, which gave me the opportunity to do something no other employee could do.. I confronted the man who essentially made this decision.

Dan Davis. Our petition did pretty well with 78 signatures and many wonderful comments from people all over the tri-county and even a few from out of the country.. Thanks! Armed with that, my mouth, and a pair of 2inch heals which made me approximately 4 feet taller than Dan, I waltzed into his office sat in his cushy chair and began to tell him everything that had been building up in my head for months. The politician pretended to listen as they are so good at and then told me his buisiness sense side of things. He never really understood that Cypress Gardens is not a buisiness. It has so much more merit than the amount of money it brings in. He also never really listened to my argument that it brought more business to the "county" than he thought. If people were driving to Cypress we were also sending them to Mepkin Abbey, to eat lunch in Moncks Corner, out to Santee Canal Park and other places of interest (hey if he was going to talk money I was too). He believed, ya'll hold on to your hats, that people didn't need animals at Cypress Gardens at all. You folks who want animals can go to the zoo. So I said " You are right Mr. Davis, there are animals at the zoo, in Columbia, almost 100 miles away and at 4.oo a gallon we are going to go every weekend and our schools can drive their busses there too" I think this was lost on him because he drives a "county" vehicle and has his gas paid for by the "county" even though most other "county" employees were forced to stop driving their "county" vehicles.

I also spoke to him about the RATS at Cypress Gardens. By rats I am talking about the 2 people at the Gardens who were secretly (although the whole staff knows who they are) trying to destroy it from the inside. The other rats are the ones that take up residence in the walls of the animal buildings.. the ones that Dan wants to turn into rental facilities after he gets rid of all the animal displays. Do you hear that DHEC... rat feces in the air and the smell of rat urine at your wedding, Brides. So all in all Dan pretended to listen, promised nothing much would change, really and that no one would lose their jobs. Oh yeah and he lied to my face saying only 2 1/2 positions were being lost (what is a half-boy paw?) when I know for certain 7 people were being moved from the Gardens to other jobs. Is that the same politcal math that made us look like we owed the "county" and its taxpayers so much money? I was unmatched and unprepared. I wanted to cry and slap him and scream. I got in some really nice jabs though and when we stood to part ways, and I handed him our petition, he looked like a shrimp or an oompa loompa or maybe just a really round weasle ( I know the name calling is uncalled for, but it's all I got). So then I decided I should go to Cypress Gardens and confess to my former Boss, what I had done. I guess he was thankful. I know the rest of the staff was. I had told Dan that if the rest of the staff (minus the two rats) were not afraid for their jobs they would have been right there with me. So all in all it was done, and now Cypress Gardens is becoming less of a good thing, after so many years of increased visitation by tourists, increased interest of it in the news and by amazing animal well fare groups like The Crocodile Specialist group, and the AZA. Cypress will slide back into obscurity and become just another road-side attraction that gets less and less visitors. Dan pretty much told me that this didn't matter to him. If he was getting rid of all the things out there that cost the "county" money, it didn't actually have to make a dime.