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!

Meandering along Hauser Creek

Ephemeral pool

Hello, December!

I took an early morning walk down by Hauser Creek this week. Newly restored this past summer, the creek looks vastly different than it used to.  When I inherited the land, beef cattle had lived continuously on the pastureland for two decades. By nature, cows typically wallow in rivers and streams. Hauser Creek was severely eroded and needed attention. The first change we made was to remove the cattle from the land, which created a certain buzz considering I grew up surrounded by dairy cows. The livestock grower who leased the land simply relocated the cattle to a different property.

We also began a lengthy process of application for restoration through the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program (NCEEP). Hauser Creek was eventually approved, and five (!) years later the work commenced in May. As a result of the restoration, on either side of the creek are ephemeral pools or ponds. Also known as vernal pools, these areas were intentionally created in the old creek bed. The word "ephemeral" means transient, so the pools are not permanent. They dry up periodically and usually reach their peak depth in the spring. Even though ephemeral pools are dry for part of the year, they can be swarming with life when filled with water. Frogs, toads, and salamanders are the most notable occupants, and I have also seen a blue heron and white egret.

NCEEP, the new caretaker of Hauser Creek, will install a variety of plant life, all native species, into the rich bottom land and creek banks this winter. The resulting shade from the trees and shrubs will not only help keep the water flowing clean but also provide valuable cover and protection for wildlife.

This week, winding my way back up to the barn, I spotted 3 white-tailed deer. Wildlife have embraced the new creek, and so have we.

Merry Christmas!