Category Archives: Mammals

Gypsy the circus elephant, Lowndes County, GA 1902

My father told me about the circus elephant that escaped in Valdosta and ran as far north as Cat Creek, a few miles from where we live, going on 111 years ago. My great-aunt Evalyn told us more; she was 17 when it happened and about 97 when she told us where she was then living in Texas. It seems she got it mostly right, although it’s not clear exactly what the right story is.

Lowndes County Historical Society and Museum, undated, Gypsy the Elephant,

The story of Gypsy the elephant is one of Valdosta’s most bizarre and notable stories. In 1902 Gypsy, a large Asian elephant who belonged to the Harris-Nickle-Plate circus, killed her trainer, broke free, and went on a rampage in Valdosta before eventually being brought down north of town by the chief or police. At the time, the incident was so peculiar that people in surrounding towns accused the citizens of Valdosta of fabricating the entire story for publicity.

Our old family neighbor Albert Pendleton (from when we all lived on Varnedoe Street in Valdosta; way before my time), added: Continue reading

Native plants in your yard for native wildlife

Nature is not something out there, apart from people. It never was, and nowadays people have built and farmed and clearcut so much that wildlife species from insects to birds are in trouble. In south Georgia people may think that our trees make a lot of wildlife habitat. Actually, most of those trees are planted pine plantations with very limited undergrowth, and in town many yards are deserts of grass plus exotic species that don’t support native birds. Douglas Tallamy offers one solution: turn yards into wildlife habitat by growing native species. Since we are as always remodeling nature, we might as well do it so as to feed the rest of nature and ourselves, and by the way get flood prevention and possibly cleaner water as well, oh, and fewer pesticides to poison ourselves.

Douglas Tallamy makes a clear and compelling case in Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants

…it is not yet too late to save most of the plants and animals that sustain the ecosystems on which we ourselves depend. Second, restoring native plants to most human-dominated landscapes is relatively easy to do.

Some of you may wonder why native species are so important? Don’t we have more deer than we can shoot? Maybe so, but we have far fewer birds of almost every species than we did decades and only a few years ago.

Some may wonder: aren’t exotic species just as good as native ones, if deer and birds can eat them? Actually, no, because many exotic species are poisonous Japanese climbing fern on native Smilax to native wildlife, and because invasive exotics crowd out natives and reduce species diversity. From kudzu to Japanese climbing fern, exotic invasives are bad for wildlife and may also promote erosion and flooding by strangling native vegetation.

All plants are not created equal, particularly in their ability to support wildlife. Most of our native plant-eaters are not able to eat alien plants, and we are replacing native plants with alien species at an alarming rate, especially in the suburban gardens on which our wildlife increasingly depends. My central message is that unless we restore native plants to our suburban ecosystems, the future of biodiversity in the United States is dim.

Tallamy had an epiphany when he and his wife moved to 10 acres in Pennsylvania in 2000:

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Baby pumpkin @ Okra Paradise Farms 26 June 2012

Yellow Dog with a pumpkin:

Yellow Dog with a pumpkin

Yellow Dog with a pumpkin
John S. Quarterman, Gretchen Quarterman, Brown Dog, Yellow Dog,
Pictures by John S. Quarterman for Okra Paradise Farms, Lowndes County, Georgia, 26 June 2012.

Yellow Dog guarding a pumpkin:

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Geese and Cattle Egrets in a cow pasture

A rather odd little grouping of things. A large flock of geese in a cow pasture.

Here's the video:

Geese and Cattle Egrets in a cow pasture

Video by Gretchen Quarterman, Lowndes County, Georgia, 2 June 2012, for Okra Paradise Farms.


Dirt igloo door (sweet potato curing mound)

The slideshow of the building of the dirt igloo for the sweet potatoes ended before the adding of the door. So here’s the door, in place, with reference yellow dog:

Pictures of sweet potato curing teepee
by John S. Quarterman, 8 September 2011,
Okra Paradise Farms, Lowndes County, Georgia.
Yellow Dog was busy tracking something, so didn’t stay to pose.

The door is on the north side. It’s six pieces of 2×6″ pine, each 18″ long, three vertical and three horizontal, screwed together, and set inside the doorposts. Here’s a closeup: Continue reading