Hauser Creek, Seven Years Later

A view of Hauser Creek from atop the Back Forty, March 27, 2018

A view of Hauser Creek from atop the Back Forty, March 27, 2018

I have not written about Hauser Creek in a long time but this blog has been percolating in my mind since the first of the year and especially the last few days. Some of you might remember back in 2011 Hauser Creek underwent restoration by the State of North Carolina as part of the Clean Water Act. For the most part we have been pleased with how the project turned out because it didn't take long to notice a glut of wildlife drawn to the bottom land. 

Before 2011, I cannot remember a time when beavers were an issue on the farm. That changed in 2013. We started noticing small dams on the creek. No big deal, but it did bring to mind what can happen when one intervenes with Mother Nature. I wasn't too concerned at the time because the State was regularly monitoring the project and they were aware of beaver activity. However, with each passing year the presence of beavers and their destruction has gotten increasingly significant as shown in the photos taken today and yesterday. The photos aren't pretty, sorry!

So I've been reading up on beavers and here's what I learned. They are known as "nature's architects." Beavers are one of the few animals that actually modify the environment to suit their own purposes. In the process, they create a new environment - a wetland. Beavers are attracted to slow-moving streams that have muddy bottoms and plenty of trees or shrubs. Bark and leaves make great beaver food. At one time, beavers were nearly extinct, but they have made a huge comeback. Yes, right!  

You cannot stop a beaver from cutting trees and building dams. A beaver family will cut down as many as 300 trees a year and can gnaw through a good-sized one in 15 minutes. At the farm, this is a real problem because hundreds of native trees were planted in the conservation easement. They all taste good to the beavers! Beavers want their home flooded, and that is exactly what they have done to Hauser Creek which has currently spilled out of its banks and flooded the creek bottoms downstream. I wish the State would have intervened more aggressively when the beavers first showed up. Trapping is sometimes used but not in this case, for reasons I don't know why. No chance the beavers will just up and leave because I've read they are territorial and once established they form tight family groups that are hard to get rid of.

So, I'm not too excited about the creek these days. Having the bottom land flooded makes it near impossible to navigate part of the farm and keep it maintained. Yes, I have asked myself if this project was a good idea after all, and I'm not so sure.... Of course, the State has been notified. Maybe someone will see this post.


Meandering Along Hauser Creek: One Year Later

Hello December! We so appreciate the farm's open spaces and wooded hillside for hiking, and with everyone home recently for Thanksgiving my family and I took a walk through the woods and by the creek. Last December I posted an entry about the newly restored Hauser Creek that dissects the property. From a distance, it might look now as though things are pretty much the same along the Creek but a closer inspection reveals some subtle changes in the past year. Back in January, an extensive array of native plant life was installed within the conservation easement along both sides of the creek. Most of these plants were live stakes, dormant woody cuttings with branches removed. Originally no more than about 12 inches long, the stakes have grown a good 4 inches. Native species like ninebark, silky dogwood, elderberry, buttonbush, and black willow dot the streambanks. Recently, folks from N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program (NCEEP) came out to evaluate the plant life, and the good news is most of it appears to be thriving despite a large deer population. In time, all this plant life will form a canopy over the water, making Hauser Creek barely visible to us humans. The result will be cleaner water, a cleaner environment, and a safe haven for songbirds and wildlife.

One distinct difference between this year and last - the ephemeral pools located near the creek are dried up right now whereas last December they were water-logged. The accompanying photograph shows scenes at various times of the year: a dry, grassy ephemeral pool in November (left), native cardinal flower growing streamside in July (middle), and a happy heron enjoying the water in October (right). Our family outing in the woods the other day was the perfect ending for the year. The outdoor pipes have been drained, the buildings winterized, and the lavenders tucked in for the coming cold months. We wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas!