CARETAKER'S LOG


Wednesday -- February 15, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.35     Water Temperature: 40


The river shot up over night. I guess there was a bit of snow melting up stream somewhere. I can tell you first hand that there was a lot of snow melting at the Savage River State Forest last week.

I spent the last hours of daylight yesterday picking up all of the fallen branches and sticks that fell during that windy day on Monday. There were so many branches strewn across the Island in fact, that I was surprised that there were any branches left on the trees above.

As I was raking up the leaves and sticks I noticed that the first of the bluebells are starting to pock their heads up out of the ground, just two months until they bloom!

I also noticed the bluebells arch rival, the evil invasive lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria). The celandine can potentially out-compete our bluebells so they are on my kill list. The good news is that there were not that many lesser celandines emerging. It looks like my one-man five-year crusade to eliminate these invasive plants is actually making a difference!

I scrubbed the floors in the Cluhouse, and then applied the protective linseed oil. I say it every year but I sure wish we would sand and finish those floors properly, with some polyurethane. It sure would be easier to maintain them and keep them in good shape.

Tuesday -- February 14, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 42


There is nothing quite like a large body of water when it comes to dramatizing the immense power of a gail-force wind. The wind was blowing hard yesterday morning, and the two foot waves and whitecaps were rolling by the Island like a giant conveyor belt headed downstream. Every time a wave happened upon a log or a rock, the wind would send the water exploding into the air only to be wisked away as if gravity had momentarily lost it's pull.

You can't actually see the wind, of course, but looking out my window at the river yesterday, I knew that the wind was blowing, and hard. I suppose that during the summer months the leaf-filled trees would be my first clue about the wind. But now, with the trees bare, like masts without sails, it was the churning, white-capped waters that stirred my excitement and caught my attention.

Last year at this time we noticed that our resident geese were beginning their mating rituals, but so far today, no signs of any Canada goose romance on the Island. Happy Valentine's day!

Monday -- January 30, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.7     Water Temperature: 42


The ferry is open again. It took a while for the river to go back down but we are finally open again, too bad that the weekend is over.

We had a little bit of snow last night so I had to go out early this morning to look for animal tracks again. This time I did see some beaver tracks, or trails rather. With the way they drag their tail, they leave a big swath through the shallow snow. Interestingly, there were two obvious trails that originated from opposite sides of the Island yet both trails led to the same spice bush near the deck. Weird. The snow was pretty wet and we found the muddy imprint of the beaver's tail, scales and all, preserved in the snow.

I can't tell if the eagles have started to sit on any eggs yet but I have been seeing the eagles more frequently lately.

Friday -- January 27, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 5.79     Water Temperature: 45


The river crested last night. The gauge at Little Falls reached 6.94 feet. Translation, the water would have been over your knees if you were standing at the ferry landing on the Island.

The river level is falling now but the ferry will not be running again until Sunday. I already emailed tomorrow's relief caretaker about the saturation situation.

I just learned that this has been D.C.'s longest run of days above freezing in the month of January, ever. Maybe not ever, but at least since they started to keep records, back in the 1870's.

I counted 16 mourning doves below the bird feeders today.

Wednesday -- January 25, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 6.53     Water Temperature: 43


It's been a long time since I had to say this but the FERRY IS CLOSED.

The river is above five feet and that means that we have to close the ferry. the good news is that we haven't had to shut her down for about seven months. It was back in May and then very briefly in June the last time that the river was this high.

The rising river should crest overnight tonight, but the ferry may not be running again for a while, maybe not until Sunday or Monday. We'll have to wait and see.

I did all of the flood preparation last night. I secured the ferry and raised up all of the ropes and cables. It's been a while but I still remembered how to get ready for a flood. It was nice that all of the docks are already on shore so I didn't have to fuss with them.

There is a new and very important film about our beloved Potomac and it features the work of our friends at Potomac Riverkeeper. It aired on MPT last night and it will be shown again on Saturday at 4:30! Watch the trailer: http://keepingthepotomacfilm.com

Monday -- January 16, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.68     Water Temperature: 32


Today is the day that we honor that brave American, Martin Luther King Jr. May he rest in peace.

The schools, banks and post offices are closed but Sycamore Island is open and ready for visitors. Sadly, no one has been down all day. Maybe they all left town for the long holiday.

I breathed new life into the old dishwasher here in my quarters. It wasn't cleaning the dishes very well and I thought that, since it's about twenty years old, maybe it was time for a new one. I decided to take a closer look and ended up taking apart the insides and cleaning off all of the built up grease and dirt that was clogging some of the parts. I also ran the dishwasher with some vinegar and a degreaser to clean it out and I'm going to replace the screen for the water filter. The machine works much better now and the Club's budget didn't have to take an unexpected hit for a new dishwasher.

Tuesday -- January 10, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.4     Water Temperature: 32


There has been a little bit of ice on the river yesterday and also today, but thankfully it isn't very thick.

I ventured out yesterday morning and braved the stinging wind to check for animal tracks in the new snow. I found only the tiny tracks of a white-footed mouse and the Woodstock-like birdie tracks around the bird feeders. I guess the cold kept the night prowlers safely snuggled in their burrows. Even the perpetually busy beaver decided that it was too cold to go out.

Likewise, I did most of my bird watching from my living room, which is not as bad as it may sound. The feeders were busy with the usual suspects but we also had a brown creeper at the feeder and I also saw a red-necked grebe, a hooded merganser and the common merganser.

The steady wind has helped me to find the drafty spots in my quarters and I deployed the foam insulation and caulk. I also performed the annual duty of replacing the ultra-violet lamp in the water filtration system. It's a bit of a tricky job.

Wednesday -- January 4, 2017
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature: 43


The river is still going up but it isn't as muddy as it was yesterday right after the rain. It's funny, the muddy water seemed to come only from the Maryland shore, just one hundred feet off of Sycamore Island the river was totally clear making for a two-toned river.

Mary and I watched the eagles do their courtship acrobatics while we were standing in the upper parking lot yesterday. I guess it's time to start keeping an eye on the nest.

I was away on leave for a week at Christmas and as far as I know there was no one serving as caretaker while I was gone. I hope everything worked out OK and that no one was cursing my name because I wasn't here. There doesn't seem to be a good way to let the members know when I'm on leave. I really didn't want to announce it here on the world wide web.

Saturday -- December 17, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.0     Water Temperature: 33


Yesterday morning, as you can probably imagine, I had to break up some ice that had formed around the ferry and across the river, but this morning we had a completely new winter problem. This morning, for the first time that I can remember, the ferry bell was so covered with ice that it would not ring.

When Eric, the Saturday caretaker, arrived I did not hear him ring the bell and I did not realize that he was here until I stepped out and saw him standing on the landing. I immediately went to pick him up on the ferry but that's when I ran into another little problem. There was so much ice on the cables that the pulleys would not budge and the ferry would not move. I tried to get the pulleys free but it was hopeless. I guess I could have disconnected the safety chains and made it across but it certainly didn't seem like it was worth the risk.

Since I could not make it across the river on the ferry and since the weather was so poor, we decided that it would be best if Eric just volunteered to run the ferry on another day.

By 2:00 the ice had melted enough and I was able to pull the ferry across no problem.

Wednesday -- December 14, 2016
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature: 41


They say that it is supposed to get a lot colder tomorrow so I'm getting everything on the Island ready for the cold snap. I installed the temporary insulating walls in the men's bathroom. I turned off the water to the Club house and to the ladies bathroom. I drained all of the pipes and added the special anti-freeze to all of the toilets and drains. There is still a working toilet and running water in the men's room so if you need water you can get it there.

I locked up all of the Club canoes and kayaks so that no one will be tempted to go out on the river when the water is so dangerously cold.

I did some more caulking and I'm installing the wall insulation under my living room.

I also took down the hammock, with this cold weather coming I didn't think that it would be missed. Plus, it was taking a beating flapping in the wind all day. If the Island was a ship, that hammock would have sailed us all the way to Georgetown by now.

We received a letter from our long-time printer, Morris Cobern. I cut and pasted his letter below. It seems that he has decided to retire after being the printer of the Sycamore Islander for over twenty years. We are so deeply grateful to Morris for all of his years of service to the Club and we wish him all the best as he struggles with his illness.

"I'm reluctantly going to take Carol's retirement to do the same. There are only 4 subscribers to the paper version and I am living on borrowed time. At the beginning of this year I had no expectation of still being around now and had made arrangements to continue printing the Islander. If you want to continue with a paper version I will help with the transition to the new printer."

"I appreciate the opportunity to have printed the Islander for about 20 years and consider it as more than simply a commercial relationship. If you can, please add me to your email list to receive the Islander for the next few months."

Morris Cobern

We'll be sure to include you on the list Morris, Thanks!!