Kaitlynn Cook

March 31, 2023

This was our intern group’s final field day at Southern 8ths Farm, and I’d have to say it was a great way to end our 2023 internship. We got a warning before we arrived that there was an equestrian event being held on the property, so when we came in to see the horse stalls full and the parking spaces by the Learning Center full of horse trailers it was no surprise but it was a wonderful addition to our day. We started off in the Learning Center recapping that we would not be meeting next week due to Wingate being on Easter break. We then went over what Neotropical Migratory birds are and their importance since they are now starting to come in from their homes in South and Central America. We then went over the weather from the week followed by our thoughts on the week’s reading assignment. We finished off in the Learning Center by learning a little bit about Marjory Stoneman Douglas, aka the Mother of the Everglades. We then went on our traditional trip down to Thompson Creek to see the water condition and we found evidence of River Otters in the area. We found Otter Latrines, which are piles of Otter scat by the river that they leave to mark their territory. This week we broke tradition and we went to our Upland Hardwood Forest transect, The Pointe, first instead of our Prairie transect, Fireworks West, like we have every other week. The six of us packed into the Gator with Holima riding in the bed, and took the short trip to The Pointe with our first goal being to find turtles on the small pond by the transect. Noah and Holima found two, believed to be Yellow-bellied Sliders, while Brianna, Ellie, and I looked at ferns on the side of the trail. Once we were in our transect, Noah found a young Box Turtle buried in the leaves and we inspected it for a few minutes as it looked at us curiously before we put him back on the ground and covered it back up with leaves. We then surveyed our Nature’s Notebook plants for the last time before piling into the Gator again, Noah and Holima in the bed of the Gator this time. We made a quick pit stop at some storage sheds in the woods before reaching Firework West to see if we could find the Barn Owls that live there, but they must have sensed us coming because they weren’t there for us to see. We did observe their pellets and “whitewash” droppings. We did our usual routine in our prairie transect, and this week we found some Milkweed growing right beside our transect, which was very exciting for us. Brad joined us in our transect to catch up with us for the last time before our true final day for our presentations. He also gave us the idea to go to The Bluff instead of visiting lower Talton Branch since it’s similar to Muddy Branch which we’d already visited and we hadn’t had the chance to see The Bluff. There were beautiful views of the property on The Bluff since it leads to a sheer drop. It really highlighted the different areas of the property, and was a truly beautiful area. While we were there we saw different species that are unique to the acidic soil found on The Bluff that are not found on the rest of the property. There were Virginia Pine trees, Azalea, and Carolina Silver Bell that we observed along with various other trees that are not found anywhere else on the property. We also found a skull that we believe belonged to a rather large deer which Brianna claimed as hers, and Noah held onto it when we drove back to the Learning Center in the bed of the Gator. In the Learning Center, we went over the subjects we have chosen for our presentations two weeks from now on April 14th, and wished each other well before we left.

My time at Southern 8ths Farm was an excellent learning experience for me, and I am so glad I jumped on the opportunity to be an intern. I hope to return to Southern 8ths Farm next year and continue my learning journey there. I have a newfound love and respect for plants that I truly hadn’t had before. I have learned to identify so many different types of plants, and I can confidently say that I have grown as a person and an inspiring scientist during my time at Southern 8ths Farm.

Week 8 Journal
Friday, March 24, 2023

This week, Holima and David were not able to join our intern group at Southern 8ths Farm, so it was just us three interns and Brianna. We started off in the Learning Center as always, and went over plants in flower, animals spotted with the game cameras, the weather from the week, and we discussed our presentations that will happen on April 14th. Once we were done with that and briefly went over our thoughts on the reading, we took our traditional visit down to Thompson Creek, where we remarked on how clear the water has been getting. We then got into Brianna’s new Gator which we all fit in due to our lack of people this week and drove out to Fireworks West. Once we finished recording all our data in Nature’s Notebook, we started back out to the Gator while Brianna looked for a plant she wanted to show us, but she wasn’t able to find any. Brianna took us on a scenic route to get to The Pointe. Once we finished collecting data from our transect, we took a quick drive through Halfmoon to see the prairies that had been burned recently. Due to all the young, green plants, most of the tall grasses survived and the areas with the pines were the only areas that truly burned. We then drove out to the abandoned white house and drove into the woods behind it to reach Turtle Pond and Chimney Pond. We walked along the shallow stream that ran out of Turtle Pond and found two turtles, one was a Box Turtle hidden in some leaves and the other turtle we couldn’t really see because it was in a concrete culvert pipe. After finding the turtles, we followed the stream back to Turtle Pond and then walked over to Chimney Pond. At Chimney Pond, we found a mud pit the Wild Hogs use, two American Toads, and one Red-bellied Water Snake. When we left the two ponds, we looked for the dead Boar that had been spotted, and after looking at him we returned back towards the Learning Center. Brianna decided to show us the Love Shack which is an old camper left from the previous owner that is filled with snakes, spiders, and bugs as well as possible small animals. She also took us to an area of Thompson Creek that was behind the Love Shack that they use to put kayaks into the river. Down there, Brianna spotted a Kingfisher bird, and the group found a Luna Moth. We then finally returned to the Learning Center after being momentarily lost and went over any last questions before we left for the day.

Every week that I go to Southern 8ths Farm I experience something new. Some people think that we go out to the farm and do the same thing every week, and while we do a lot of the same things we always see something new. This week we went to a lot of places on the property that we had never been to before. I love that with the familiarity of the internship as we follow the same schedule every week, we always add something new and different to experience and learn about.

Week 7 Journal Entry
Friday, March 17, 2023

This week, Ellie was not able to join our intern group at Southern 8ths Farm, so it was just us three interns and David and Brianna. We started off in the Learning Center as always, and Brad was there to give us some useful real world knowledge in the form of a story. Brianna then went over the history behind shamrocks and what they are and how they play into St. Patrick’s Day in honor of it being St. Patrick’s Day. David then took over to talk about the weather from the week, before he tried to show us pictures from his trip to California to help a family with their farm where he got to see Redwood Trees. There was a period of technical difficulties which somehow resolved themselves in a way unknown to us just long enough for David to show us his pictures before it stopped working again. We then had to watch a short video just on the computer screen which was an interview with J. Drew Lanham who is an ornithologist who wrote the book that we had read an expert from for the week’s reading. Once we were done with that and briefly went over our thoughts on the reading, we took our traditional visit down to Thompson Creek which we almost forgot about had Holima not reminded us. On our way down to the creek, I managed to spot a Great Blue Heron that had been in the creek and managed to fly away when we startled it. We were all surprised, and a little perplexed, to see it fly in such a cramped area given its large wingspan. We then crammed into Brianna’s new Gator which fits more people and drove out to Fireworks West which, as they informed us on the way there, had been mowed early that day and the day before.

Our flags were still there thanks to the care the driver of the mower took, so our transect was very easy to spot. Luckily, all of the plants we were observing were still young, so they were not affected by the mower since they are still so low to the ground. A high schooler named Dylan, who is going to be going to Southern 8ths Farm over the summer for an internship, joined us at Fireworks West to shadow us and get a feel for the land and what he was going to do over the summer. Once we finished recording all our data in Nature’s Notebook, we got back onto the Gator, less cramped this time with David riding with Dylan in his car, and made our way out to our wooded transect, The Pointe. Here, we initiated Dylan into the group by having him try a Common Violet which we had all had during our last visit two weeks ago, and Brianna found some Catch Weed and stuck it to his shirt which finished off the initiation ritual. We also found what remained of the deer leg we had been observing, and found barely anything left. We assumed something took off with whatever remained of the deer leg while we were gone. We went through our transact quickly, but thoroughly, so we would have time to go to Muddy Branch. When we finished, we drove out to the Blue Building again like we had two weeks prior, but this time we headed behind the house instead of across the road to begin our trek to our destination. While we walked through the woods, we saw three White Tailed Deer, and one Turkey which we ran into multiple times. Noah pulled down two different branches which had broken off from the tree but were still suspended in the air by vines and other branches. We also followed a wildlife path to walk alongside the river and stopped when we reached a rather deep part where there was a lot of erosion that had created an almost cliff-like wall along the river. Noah and Holima climbed down to explore, and after a few minutes of hesitation I followed them so I could see the really smooth, and unnatural, looking rock in the river. It was a lot of fun getting to sit on the rock for a few minutes and enjoy the sounds of the river around me. After that, we headed back to the Learning Center, where we ran into Brad again and his dogs. He told us a few more stories while we enjoyed some time with his dogs before we all left for the day.

One the drive back to Wingate, Holima and I talked about how we had both been tired that day and hadn’t really wanted to go to our internship, but went because we have an obligation to do so, but once we got there we weren’t so tired anymore and as always we had a lot of fun. Personally, this happens to me a lot, and my time at Southern 8ths Farm is always able to make my day better and is a truly wonderful way to end my school week. Getting to be with my fellow interns as well as David, Brianna, and Brad make my day so much better and I truly love going to Southern 8ths Farm. It is so calm and peaceful there that I genuinely enjoy working there even if I was tired that day and didn’t want to go. This internship has cemented the idea that what I’m doing in college is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Week 3 Journal Entry
Friday, February 10, 2023

With the threat of an incoming storm, plans were made to try and avoid it. Our intern group spent a short amount of time in the Learning Center going over our week. We also went over the weather data collected by the farm’s weather station from the beginning of February and we went over the weekly reading, which was an excerpt from Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. We then took Noah’s car and Holima’s car out to Steele Prairie, which had recently gone through a prescribed fire. You could still smell the smoke in the air and the smell of all the burnt plants, though it was far lighter than it would have been earlier in the week when the fire actually happened. The shorter grasses and the taller plants Dogfennel and Bushy Bluestem grass had been burned away and left charred on the ground. The young Loblolly Pine saplings and the adult trees in the field survived, and were the only things visible to the treeline of the forest. The only other obvious survivors of the fire were the mounds of the   hills that were now easier to see with the lack of tall plants and grasses. We talked for a short time about the benefits of prescribed fires and how they are done before we got back in our cars and drove back to the Learning Center. We grabbed some blue and pink indicator flags as well as two of the field measuring tapes and went down to Thompson Creek to see how it was doing this week. The water level was lower, and it looked a lot cleaner than it had the week before. The smaller stream that fed into Thompson Creek while still being clean, almost looked dirtier  . It still had the dirtier water that Thompson Creek had a week prior due to it getting trapped and not being able to clear out. Once done there, we began our long journey out to our new square transect location which was in a wooded area by a small man-made pond that once provided water to the cattle that used to be on the land. After we found an ideal location with a decent amount of plant and tree variety, we began to lay out our 20 meter by 20 meter square transect. It came out to about 65 feet by 65 feet, and we put pink flags down every 15 feet with blue flags in the four corners and logged their GPS points to be mapped. We identified a few   trees, some  trees, and some   trees in the area and recorded information in Nature’s Notebook. We also heard some Spring Peepers while we recorded our plant data, and we reflected a bit more on our week 3 reading. Sometime while we were out, or perhaps before we left the Learning Center, we realized the incoming storm would be hitting us later than we expected and it wouldn’t hit until after we left Southern 8ths Farm and headed back to Wingate University, so we didn’t have to worry about being caught out in the rain. We continued on down the trail away from the Learning Center and towards the bridge that goes over Thompson Creek which we had visited during our internship’s first week. We stopped at a few spots along the way, including an open prairie and a small area overlooking Thompson Creek by an overturned tree stump. When we finally got the bridge, we all took a few minutes to bask in the peaceful and, mostly, quiet area. We heard a woodpecker in the distance and, based on the speed of the tapping sound and how quiet it was, David figured it was a smaller woodpecker and probably a  . We ran into Brad on the way back and he asked us a few questions and told us a few stories before we continued on back to the Learning Center to hear from his life partner ,   who had just become a   after completing a ~30 hour course with multiple day hikes. She talked to us about how best to be prepared for a hike and good things to bring with us.

I really enjoyed my time at Southern 8ths Farm this week. It was a lot of walking, but I think it gave me a better feel of the land, and I liked that I could take in the surroundings instead of having the surroundings   when we are in the gators or the cars. We also got to enjoy the quiet of the land even if some of the other interns took the time while we were walking to chat about school or other things. I personally lagged behind a little bit to take pictures and to really take in the beauty of the forests and prairies we passed by. I think going to Southern 8ths Farm at the end of the week for my internship is a really good way to reign in the week after all my classes at Wingate. It is a really relaxing place and I get to be with people who share some of the same  as me.

Week 2 Journal Entry by Kaitlynn Cook
Friday, February 3, 2023

This week’s visit to Southern 8ths Farm started with our intern group in the Learning Center going over information collected by the farm’s weather station. David went over a slide show presentation showcasing the type of information we can get from the weather station. He asked us what we thought the hottest temperature of the first month of the year was, what the coldest temperature was, what the highest humidity percentage was, what the highest wind speed was, and how much rain we thought the Piedmont area got. Once we were done with this we went over the weekly reading, which were excerpts from A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold and “Historic Prairies in the Piedmont of North and South Carolina, USA” by Lawrence S. Barden. When we were finished with that, we took a quick trip down to Thompson Creek behind the Learning Center to look at the raised water level. We also noticed that one of the smaller streams that runs into Thompson Creek was running clear unlike the water in Thompson Creek. The smaller stream ran through wooded areas of the property and had less contamination from the surrounding farmland so it ran cleaner than Thompson Creek. After that, we drove out to the prairie called Fireworks West and set up a square transect 20 meters by 20 meters. While we did this, we were all getting stabbed by Blackberry bushes, and we were having to move around tall plants like Dogfennel and Bushy Bluestem grass. We also had to avoid Fire Ant hills that sometimes came up out of the ground almost a foot. Once we were finished with that, we identified a few species to record and track through Nature’s Notebook while others we just observed because they are not part of the selection of plants Nature’s Notebook has chosen to track. Some of the plants Brianna identified for us included a Geranium species, Lance Leaf Coreopsis, Horse Nettle and its berries, and Hairy Vetch. Once finished there, we walked towards a tributary of Thomson Creek called Talton Branch to look for a place to cross over so we could look at one of the other prairies on the other side of the creek. The creek’s water level was higher than normal, so it was difficult to find a place to cross relatively safely. Once we got across, we walked over to one of the other prairies on the property known as Francis’ Field, and made some observations about the prairie before we made another transect there. We crossed back over the water, which was almost as difficult as it was the first time, and concluded our adventure by Talton Branch to return to the Learning Center. When we got back to the Learning Center we met two female students from Francis Marion University in South Carolina, Nakayla and Kimberly, as well as their professor Dr. Tavis Knowles. They were baiting and trapping small rodents for their research project, and we went out with them and watched them set up their traps before we left for the day.

I had a lot of fun wandering through Fireworks West prairie as we set up our transects. We were all trying our best, and failing, to avoid the thorns of the Blackberry bushes. We were all trying to find the best path through the prairie without running into the tall grasses or the thorny bushes. It was really cool to see Brianna naming the different plants we asked her about and having her explain how she could identify it. David was able to name the birds we heard calling, like the Red-shouldered Hawk and the Eastern Meadowlark, as well as the calls of, possibly, the Chorus Frog and Spring Peepers. I think it is really cool that they have all this knowledge and are able to name plants and birds based on their looks and/or their calls respectively. Noah, one of the other interns, had fun looking along the creek for a place low enough for us to cross with the raised water level. He found two different places to cross after we almost gave up looking. He and Holima, another intern, crossed the creek at the farther point, and tossed a log into the creek to help others across, but it only really helped me since everyone else crossed at the farther point. When we returned, most of us crossed by walking across the log Noah and Holima had tossed into the creek, and Holima helped us before Noah leaped across the river. At the end of my time today, David was able to inform me that the tree I had wondered about last week was an American Beech tree and he told me that they hold onto their leaves until they are ready to bud new ones. I really appreciated that he remembered my question and was able to answer it for me.

January 27, 2023

With this being the first time we had had the pleasure of being at Southern 8ths Farm, we spent our time there touring the land and hearing from the owner of the farm as he told his story. Brianna, the Prairie Keeper, and David, the Program Coordinator, explained what we would be doing before they took us outside and drove us around the property on the Gators. While we toured the property, David and Brianna explained the history of the land and talked about the different sections of the area. While we were stopped, Brianna often found plants to show us and told us their names and how you could tell them apart. She also explained how they managed the prairies and their future plans for them. David was able to point out the different bird songs and tell us the species and what the song meant. I learned through this that a lot of birds are starting to use their mating songs even though it is a bit early for that. While we were driving I noticed that a lot of the trees were growing in straight lines, and figured that the area had once been a tree farm. David later confirmed this at one of our stops, and we talked about the small section of deciduous hardwood trees planted among the pine trees. We also went by Inspiration Rock and we walked on the bridge over Thompson Creek. In both these places, I noticed that the river water was brown and we talked a little about all the runoff that could be making the river that way. When we left these areas and made our way back to the learning center, I noticed one tree, or shrub, that had white leaves on it and thought it was interesting. I think that I would like to learn more about that tree, and maybe take the time to observe it.

Through both Brad’s stories and my time on the Southern 8ths Farm, I learned the importance of stories. Everything on Southern 8ths Farm tells a story. The carved and painted logs tell the story and history of the land. The small graveyard we visited told the story of the family who once lived on the land. The trees planted in a row tell a story, and so do the remaining bits of the cattle farm that was once on some of the property. Everyone may have a different perspective, but everyone, and everything, can tell a story if you look and you think. The quiet and peaceful environment around the property can even tell the story of the hard work Brad and others have put into preserving the land