CARETAKER'S LOG


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From now on I will only be posting my daily log on the new website, sycamoreisland.clubexpress.com.

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Tuesday -- August 4, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.9     Water Temperature:89


It looks like we dodged a bullet with that recent hurricane. It moved through here so fast that it didn't seem to cause much flooding. The river is muddy brown but the river is still low enough to run the ferry, so we're open.

Wednesday -- July 29, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature:89


The zip line is back up! Reinstalling the zip line was going to be a fun project for our new members to do at the Spring workfest but since that never happened I decided that I'd better get it back into operation. There has been a bit of clamoring from our younger members about when the zip line might be back in action.

Of all the many projects that I tackled this month, putting up the zip line has to have been the most gratifying. It is so fun to hear the kids shouting "ZIP LINE!" as they race across the Island. I remember the first zip line that I put up back in 2004. I bought it at the toy store for my kids and it ran from my front door down the hill to a platform by the river. It was a lot of fun but not like the industrial-sized one that we have now.

We now have three working paddle boards! I ordered a fin for the red Oxbow sup, so now we have two of those as well as the wide blue one. They are very popular, we could probably use two more.

I had to do some work on the Club canoe too. The thwarts keep breaking and rotting out. Gerry Baron and I replaced many of the broken thwarts a couple of year ago but folks keep sitting on them and snapping them. This time I wasn't messing around. Instead of the expensive store-bought thwarts that seem to rot out rather quickly, I used stout 2"x 4"s of treated lumber. I hope I get a bit more life out of these boards, and they will not break if you sit on them. But please, don't sit on the thwarts.

Some other jobs that got done this month; I finished patching and painting the knots on the new plywood docks. I had to pad the post at the ferry landing to keep it from getting bashed up. I reinforced the captains float to make it more sturdy. I built a makeshift ramp out of an extension ladder and some lumber for the small captain's dock. I installed new exit signs in the Clubhouse. I remounted the swimming safety sign that was damaged last year and I rehung it by the swim float. I did another shift of clearing debris and trash from the fallen sycamore in the river, (watch out for the poison ivy!) And I organized and cleaned the inside of the tool shed. All while I was running the ferry as well.

Tuesday -- July 28, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature:89


Last week I had the pleasure of ferrying long-time members Bill Banta and his wife Rochelle across the river. They've been members since 1982 and I gues that it's getting harder for them to make it down the hill to the Island. It's been years since I've seen them here. What a treat.

Speaking of long-time members, It was great to see Abigail Weibenson down here with her family. She's been a member since 1975 and still going strong!

The Club seems to have adopted a family of mallards, or should I say the mallards have adopted us. I first met these ducks one evening while standing by the river gazing at the view and the wildlife, like I often do. When these four female mallards came walking right up to me, just as tame as can be. I didn't understand what was going on with these "wild " ducks until a day or two later I saw some members feeding them.

Now, for better of worse, you can find these ducks here any given day walking from one picnic table to the next, looking for handouts. One of our regular members even gave them a name, "the girlfriends", though I'm pretty certain that its a mother and her recent offspring. Sadly, one of the young ducks injured it's foot and can be seen limping behind its siblings trying to keep up.

Speaking of injured birds, I rescued a baby humming bird from the river yesterday! It was buzzing around on the surface of the water next to my dock. I scooped it up with my gloved hand and took it up to the house. It didn't try to fly away and it seemed very happy to have a drink of my CountryTime lemonade that I fed it with a dropper. It was so amazing to hold that tiny creature and hear it cheep for more lemonade. After it dried off it tried to fly again but it only seemed to go in circles. It looks like its right wing is damaged, so there is not much hope for that little guy.

Monday -- July 27, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.2     Water Temperature:87


I finished painting the tool shed roof! What a job! And in the killer heat as well. I'm so glad that it's done and I'm very pleased with the results, a long-lasting paint job and the perfect color too! I really liked using that Direct-To-Metal paint. One unexpected benefit was that when I cleaned the roof, i also cleaned the "sky lights", so now there is much more light in the tool shed!

I guess that the other big news is that we finally got the last of the docks launched last Sunday. Having the docks out is a big improvement toward normalcy, and everyone has been enjoying having them out in the river.

It took a while but once we decided to use volunteer help instead of using our contractors, I quickly organized a work crew of club volunteers. It was a hot day but we all met at 10 and we were all done by 11:30, so we were able to out race the hottest part of the day.

I was really impressed with how the new members and old all worked together and made the group decisions. What helped us tremendously in getting the job done quickly was my idea to use extension ladders as tracks to drag the heavy docks across the mud and into the river. We will definitely be deploying the ladder trick in the future.

Once we got the easier, canoe dock, into the river we moved across the Island to tackle the captains float, (named after long-time club captain John Matthews). This year, to promote distancing, I decided to break that giant dock into two parts. Instead of one giant dock with two tables, we have one small dock with a small table and one bigger dock with a big table. Then we had to bolt the sections together, install the access panels and tie the cables to the tree on the shore.

On a sad note. When we moved the ramp for the canoe dock, we found a dead adult osprey stuck under the ramp. I hope it wasn't one of the pair that has been nesting up by lock 8.

Sunday -- July 26, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature:87


The river temperature went up to 92 last week but mercifully, the temperature dropped back down into the eighties. The river has been nice a low though, just the way we like it.

This Club has some of the nicest people! I can't believe how kind and considerate everyone is. Not only is everyone pitching in to help keep the ferry running smoothly but people are actually bringing me gifts! It was such a nice gesture when two separate members brought me bottles of wine. Another member baked me some awesome chocolate chip brownies. Another, new member has brought me girl scout cookies, twice! And the icing on the cake was when a long-time member sent me a generous donation toward replacing my bike that was stolen from the Island while I was in the hospital back in March! I am so impressed how everyone has pulled together like family, Thanks y'all!

Sunday -- July 12, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.1     Water Temperature:85


It's been another busy week down here. I'm getting lots of help with the ferry so I've been freed up to take on some bigger projects. This week it's been the tool shed roof. I painted it once before, about 15 years ago. I have a picture of myself on that roof that my daughter took back when she was still living here.

Before painting the roof I had to clean it, of course, and our new power washes was the perfect tool for the job. It wasn't easy rigging up the ladders and getting myself, and the spray gun, up on the roof, but once in place the power washer was very efficient. I'll be spreading the paint next week, weather and time permitting.

With Mary's help I was able to find a new and hopefully, improved, lock for the ferry. This new lock has bigger numbers and a button to push to open it. It wasn't easy to find the right lock that still had four numbers for the combination. I hope it works out and makes it easier to unlock. Now if we could only figure out a way to keep it from falling into the river.

I made some improvements to the ramp at the canoe dock. I used that ramp last week and noticed that it was steep and sliding into the river. I was going to brag about how the simple ramp is better than the canoe dock but with the low water, the situation has changed.

First, I had to move the canoe dock out of the way to make it easier to reach the ramp and the river. I used the come-a-long, and brute strength, to inch the dock over just enough to be able to pass by to the ramp. Then I used the come-a-long to pull the heavy metal ramp back up the slope to where I wanted it.

Then came the tricky part. I wanted to put one of our flotation blocks under the ramp to give it some buoyancy and make it easier to use. So, with some members standing on one side, I was able to slip the floatation under the ramp and secure it with ropes. It seems to be a big improvement and it makes it much easier to launch your water craft.

I'm not sure yet what the plan is but hopefully we will either hire someone or organize a work day to get the last two docks out in the river.

I fixed two of the plastic chairs. They seem to break pretty easily, but, as long as they don't lose a leg, I can fix them and get some more life out of them. I spent half a day organizing the tool shed. Last night I restrung the bell rope across the river reinstalled the bell. I might take some time to get used to hearing the bell again. It's been over three months since it rang.

Sunday -- July 5, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature:80


It was a pretty quiet Fourth of July this year. Not a lot of picnicing or large crowds. I didn't see any fireworks but at around 9:20, we could hear them exploding all around the Island.

Everyone seems to be enjoying our new system of ferrying people over and signing up for slots. I've been busy doing a lot of upkeep. I used the pressure washer to clean the walks around my quarters but I had to clean the dock ramps by hand. I stained the ramp to the captains float, I finished painting the casement windows that I've been working on and I repainted the wood-cut logo that's on the clubhouse.

I also trenched around the new steps landing, fixed the hinge on a screen door, patched the new railing and touched up the stain, painted the old stanchions on the ferry, met with the tree expert again, this time about the insurance work. And I built a new auxiliary dock that sits just upstream of the ferry. This dock will give me easy access to the river and will enable me to more easily retrieve the ferry if it ends up on th wrong side of the river. My plan is to use the canoe to help me to stay distant from all the members riding on the ferry.

And I cut all of the grass one more time, takes about eight hours to do the whole field and trails.

Sunday -- June 28, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.8     Water Temperature:80


That was quite a storm that we got on Thursday night! I heard that there were power outages and even some hail. The storm kept some of the members away, but not all. After the worst of the storm had passed, one family braved the clouds and went for a long paddle. On their way back they noticed the huge amount of trash and debris pouring out into the river from the flooded waters of Cabin John Creek. Cabin John Creek drains all of Rockville, and judging by the amount of trash, there must have been at least a couple of inches of rain up there.

The trash kept piling up all night and by Friday morning, thanks to that fallen tree next to the ferry, and by morning, the ferry was completely encased in driftwood and crud. I then spent the entire morning trying to clear out the crud and trying to free the ferry.

Thanks to all of the members that were here to help me to launch the swim float on Friday. It was fun to work together and get the float out in the river. It's also a relief and a joy to get the float out again, since there was no workfest this year, we had to get creative.

Finally, starting next week, I will begin to help with running the ferry on a limited basis. My hope is, even though I am here to facilitate, that the members will continue to work together to coordinate getting each other back and forth on the ferry. I'm here to keep things going smoothly but I also want to try to avoid too many unnecessary ferry trips.

Sunday -- June 21, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.5     Water Temperature:80


Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there!! It looks like its going to be a nice day.

It has been an exciting week down here with lots of new improvements to brag about. The weather cooperated too, giving us just enough time for the contractors to come down and make improvements.

First we removed all of the old plywood from the docks and installed all new 3/4 inch plywood to the swim dock, swim float and the Captain John Matthews memorial dock.

We also removed the old railing from the ferry and installed a fancy new railing designed by Stan Fowler. Dave Winer was instrumental in getting the new railings stained and helping me to get the new stanchions painted, then the contractors did the rest.

Another fancy new development is the addition of stairs leading down the bank at the swim float and a new dock ramp there too. The contractors even helped me to launch the swim dock when it was all done. It is going to be a big improvement over last year when we had to slip and slide down the bank to get to the river.

There is never a dull moment while the workers are here. I was always busy getting things ready for them or doing the detail work like installing ladder to the swim dock, adding the hinges for the ramp, and assembling Stan's one-of-a-kind railing. I also had to repaint all of the stanchions and help Dave with staining the boards.

It was also my job to waterproof the frames of the docks while the decks were off. Plus, I painted two casement windows. I did not get much grass cut this week.

Saturday -- June 13, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 3.7     Water Temperature:80


The temperature of the river is now up to 80 degrees. It just might be warm enough for me to take a dip. And the weather today is perfect too!

As predicted, the tree that fell downstream of the ferry is starting to trap a lot of driftwood, litter and foamy slim. I had to paddle out there yesterday and spend a couple of hours trying to clear some of that stuff out. It's amazing just how tightly packed all of that debris becomes. I felt like I was trying to break up a beaver dam. It wasn't an easy job, and it was a very messy job as well but I was able to free a lot of the crap and send it down river. The warm water made it a little less miserable.

Exciting news, we're hoping to get all of the docks resurfaced this week and soon we hope to be able to push them out into the river. I know everyone is looking forward to that. The even more exciting development is that we are also getting steps installed at the swim float area. It has long been a problem getting down that muddy back to the swim float and I've been trying to come up with solutions. Then one day it hit me. I'd like to say that it was my idea but in truth it was something I saw in an old photo of the Island. Apparently, back in the forties maybe, there was something known as the "swim steps". From the old picture I saw it looked like the steps were removable and were probably taken in every winter. It seems like the perfect solution, let's hope they work out.

Saturday -- June 6, 2020
Water Level at Little Falls: 4.3     Water Temperature:76


We've had some strong downpours recently but the river is not expected to go up too much. Four and half feet is predicted for the rest of the week, not so high that we have to close but not a fun level for using the ferry.

Our resident red-shouldered hawk has left the nest. I think I heard it calling for it's parents down by the bottom of the Island, but I'll probably never see it again.

Good news about the eagles nest. I spied not one, but two young eagles in the nest this week. I even heard one call out with it's high pitched screech!

I never did mention the howling, banshee sounds that I heard last month. I guessed that it was a group of coyotes across the river at Turkey Run Park. From the sound of it I would say that there were at least three, probably four animals yelping. And the moon was full too!

I ordered the patching material that I'm going to need to patch up one of the Club canoes and one Club kayak. Both craft are suffering with holes in the hull. It's nice to have a supplier, Sweet Composite, tight here in the neighborhood and within our Club as well!

I also ordered a pressure washer for the Club. We've never had a pressure washer here before but I think it is going to be a welcome addition. Unlike all the other pressure washers that I've used, this one is electric for easy use and convenience, yet still powerful, 2050 PSI! The Club captain, Alec, encouraged me to buy it so that we can keep the decks, and walkways looking clean and mildew-free, and also to make them less slippery.

Another purchase that I made recently was a new set of block and tackle for the ferry rope. It's vital to have the mechanical advantage of the pulley system to tighten the rope across the river, and the old gear that we have now is broken, rusty and unreliable.

I used up all of the $400 that the Club gave me for petty cash with these purchases, but it was nice to have the money on hand when I needed it to buy sanitizer and wipes for the Club.