Notes from the Island
May 1994


The Workfest was a great success. Over forty people came, labored hard and then enjoyed a wonderful pot-luck spread of salads, pasta dishes and desserts as well as chicken grilled by George and Marcia Loeb.

In the previous weeks John Matthews had arranged for lumber to be delivered to the Island and Dave Holdridge replaced the plywood decking on the canoe floats, while Phil Jones and John Heidemann replaced a section of the walkway. Also, Eric Simpson had purchased one hundred small sycamore, bald cypress, green ash and black walnut trees, and he and his brother came down and planted half of them on the day before the Workfest. Renee Dunham, who couldn't be here that Sunday, collected plastic trash from the upper end of the Island.

On the actual day of the Workfest, members started arriving early. A log had fallen on the electric line that leads to the lights on the path going up the hill and Charles Bookman and Blair Bower sawed the log and tightened up the wire. The intrepid Brad Coolidge led Tom and Betty Gibbon in a ferocious assault on the nettles which continue to plague the Island. Susan, Miriam and Madeleine Elfstrom raked up debris deposited by the flood, while Manfred sanded and painted the wooden table up on the deck.

We had more than enough volunteers to launch our three floats under the supervision of Captain John Matthews. Coy Lay, Gail Douglas, George Loeb, Esther Delaplaine and Stan Cohen planted bald cypresses and wrapped chicken wire around trees at the upper end of the Island. Holly Syrrakos, Jean Coolidge, Margaret Herring, Betty Burchell, Diana and Tom Levy and others weeded the various daylily beds. Carpentry supervisor Dave Holdridge repaired picnic tables with his crew, which included Tove Elfstrom, David Winer, Peter Winkler, Blair Bower and others. Peter Geiger and Wayne Limberg put up the volleyball net, painted tables and burned scrap wood in a big bonfire.

It was a beautiful day, so I'd like to give a special thanks to those who worked indoors. Johnna Robinson worked in the kitchen and Peggy Thomson washed windows. Warren Brown not only cleaned up the men's locker room, but he returned with brand-new life vests a few days later. And many thanks to all those who worked hard and whose names I haven't mentioned.

This Spring has been gorgeous. The lawn was carpeted with bluebells and violets, interrupted by clumps of star of bethlehem. The Dutchman's britches, squirrel corn and toothwort grew in abundance. We discovered a yellow lesser celandine hiding in the wildflower patch by the swimfloat, surrounded by toadshade and spring beauties. The early spring flowers have passed now, but the wild blue phlox, golden ragwort, solomon's seal, greater celandine and golden alexander are still blooming. If you look closely, you can spot some wisteria flowering in the trees at the upper end of the lawn.

The weather is warming up. Turtles sun on logs and blacksnakes slide through the grass. Occasionally we see deer in the kudzu patch below the Island on the other side of the canal. A woodchuck, which usually stays close to the berm, has surprised us by exploring a larger territory. We spotted it down near the river and a few days later it came right up to the house.

A Canada goose has been nesting on one of the small islands between us and Rupperts. This morning I saw my first goslings of the season. We also see wood ducks, but no ducklings so far.

Some house finches are nesting in the canoe shed, so you might want to be careful when you flip your canoe or kayak over. The orioles and scarlet tanagers should be here any minute. And I've already seen a hummingbird at our feeder.

Hilly Thomson and her children Angus and Mattie were the first voluntary swimmers in the river this year. Al Brown (the first involuntary swimmer) repaired and replaced the swim float ladders, so I suppose the season has already started.

Holly and I have already made vacation plans. We'll be going to California at the end of June and the beginning of July. If you know anyone who would like to be the substitute caretaker, please have them call Warren Brown.

We still have some work to do on the picnic tables, the daylily beds and the inside of the house, so please bring your lunch and join us for our third Sunday work session on May 15 from 10-2. It will be a good excuse to come down and enjoy Spring on the Island.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker