Wildflowers in the meadow:
*All photos taken by Wayne Smaridge (or his trail cam), at Gypsy Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary.*
Natural wildlife habitat is disappearing all over the country, as more and more farms and fields and forests are developed into neighborhoods or commercial sites. (Just down the road from us, a 56 acre horse farm has been sold off and is being developed into over 50 homesites on the first half.) While I don’t begrudge people a place to live or work, I am concerned about the loss of habitat for wildlife. I would be forever, deeply grateful for your help in my efforts to preserve and protect the beautiful creatures and plants that call this land home.
From the smallest chipmunk or butterfly or honey bee to the biggest racoons and foxes and deer, our wildlife need protection and support. Without them, we’d all be in a lot of trouble.
I love being out in nature. I love to wander in the woods, walk around a garden, sit and ponder by a running stream, and all of that. That's what inspires me to be the best possible steward for this land. And to be the best possible supporter for the wildlife, both flora and fauna, that I can be.
Whitetail Deer Fawns:
I have been blessed to move onto a little 10 acre piece of beautiful North Carolina countryside. I am 56 years old, and it is my intention to spend the rest of my life on this property, taking care of the wildlife.
When we first moved here, there were lots of trees knocked down in the woods, damage done by a hurricane that passed through a few years earlier. While the resulting mess has created some habitat, it has taken more away by blocking paths for deer and other larger animals, blocking the growth of food producing shrubs and trees, and removing trees from food production. There were bare spots in the grassy areas where erosion had been caused by poor land management. And the little running stream still has man-made debris polluting a few areas.
White Breasted Nuthatch:
So I have pledged to make my family’s new home a sanctuary for all manner of wildlife. I have certified the property with the National Wildlife Federation, as a Wildlife Habitat. And in the year since we moved here, I have already started to restore and enhance the property. My plan is to use the resources at hand as much as possible to create abundant natural habitat.
I secured wood chips from a local tree company to help manage the eroding sloped areas. In other areas I have let the grass and wildflowers grow without mowing all summer. Letting it go to seed provides food for many small birds and mammals. It’s been a pleasure to watch the American Goldfinches swaying at the tops of the spindly grasses picking seeds.
The hard way: Loading by hand, pulling by hand!
I have started to cut up and clear some of the fallen trees. There are quite a few, and the work is backbreaking. Even more so as I refuse to burn the brush. I have been using the cut logs and smaller branches to make habitats for the smaller animals as well as all manner of insects. I stack the cut logs (those that I can move or lift) in a square (like an old log cabin) and fill it in with all the brush, to make wildlife habitats. You can see what these look like in the pictures.
First habitat construction: Filling with various sized brush
Habitat like this can support lots of beneficial insects, including pollinators and moths and butterflies, toads and frogs and lizards and chipmunks and squirrels, even birds and rabbits and more. It makes a fine compromise between barren forest floors and those covered in storm debris. This approach leaves clear trailways for deer and other larger mammals, while still providing lots of cover for smaller wildlife, as well as reducing forest fire access to fuel.
Covered with more small logs when ready:
What I am running into is an equipment deficit issue. Put simply, I need a tractor. And they are not cheap. I have purchased a used riding mower and nursed it back to working order. I am not sure going with used was the best idea, considering repairs investment versus resulting performance. But as with tractors, new mowers are not cheap. The riding mower works, in its limited capacity. I can mow the grass areas and I can tow a small cart.
The used and resurrected riding mower, and cart:
A tractor will enable me to do lots more. ‘More’ in the sense of getting more done in less time, like moving the wood chips (tons of wood chips) from their storage location to the various places that need them. I have a cart that I can fill up and tow, but filling it is a shovel and sweat operation right now, and it takes time and energy, so I get less done than I’d like. The tractor will fill the cart faster, and tow bigger loads.
Also, ‘more’ in the sense that there are things I just cannot do with the equipment I have now. The tractor will allow me to move the larger logs that help to make the animal habitats, and lots more. I will be able to build larger and more complex habitats that will shelter more wildlife. It will allow me to move piles of soil and rocks, and dig small ponds. It will make it possible for me to transplant some of the young trees that might otherwise have to be cut down. There are so many heavy things that need to be moved, further and higher than I could ever do by hand, that I find myself coming to you for help, to buy a tractor.
Every job or chore or task I would use the tractor for supports the enhancement of this sanctuary of land, so that it will support as much nature as possible. The availability of various implements and attachments to rent means even more work that can be accomplished.
A world of wonder, even in the smallest corners:
Gypsy Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary is comprised of approximately 10 acres of land, together with our home. There are about 1.6 acres in meadow or grassland. About 1 acre is lawn and our home. The remaining roughly 7.4 acres are forested in a mix of hardwoods and pine. There is a creek running through the property, providing an excellent source of water. We are bordered by two other forested properties and one farmed property.
A beautiful flower, the Showy Evening Primrose!
To give you an idea of the wildlife present, here is a partial list of what we have seen and identified so far. Whitetail Deer, Gray Fox, Raccoon, Opossum, Rabbit, Skunk, Squirrel, Field Mouse, Box Turtle, Snapping Turtle, Frogs and Toads, Eastern Fence Lizard, Blue Skink Lizard, Snakes, Cecropia Moth, Luna Moth, Long Nosed Moth, Hummingbird Moth, Honey Bee, Carpenter Bee, Bumble Bee, Bald Faced Hornet, Wasps, Deer Fly, Horse Fly, Dragon Fly, Crane Fly, Writing Spider, Black Widow Spider, Wolf Spider, Lady Bug, Praying Mantis, Hawks, Owls, Buzzards, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, Mourning Dove, White Breasted Nuthatch, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Carolina Chickadee, American Goldfinch, Various Finches, Various Sparrows, Oak Trees, Beech Trees, Pine Trees, Elm Trees, and much more.
Such a friendly little snake:
The Nuts & Bolts
The target goal is to procure a Kioti Tractor model CS2510 , with a front end loader. The cost at this time is $12,550 plus tax. The CS2510 is one of the smallest tractors Kioti makes, and is comparable to a small Kubota or John Deere. Kioti tractors are available at my local dealer and have a good reputation. While a slightly larger tractor might be better, the cost becomes greater and greater.
My hope is to purchase the tractor in about 3 months, so as to get a jump on spring preparations. Otherwise, I will be targeting a 6 month purchase, to get the most work done this summer, in preparations for next winter.
If we are blessed with donations beyond our goal, all excess funds will go to either additional tractor attachments or implements if there is enough. Otherwise, excess funds will go towards other needed tools, and or feed and supplies used for wildlife support.
If we should get close to our goal, but not quite make it, I will try to make up the difference and proceed with the tractor purchase. If that is not possible, I may look for a used tractor. But in our area, tractors are worth their weight in gold, so used ones go fast, when they are available, and the prices run close to retail. And if a used tractor doesn't work out, all donations received will still go toward purchases in support of our local wildlife, whether that be other tools and equipment to maintain our wildlife sanctuary, or supplies and feed and so on.
NO matter what... all donations, of any size, will be used toward the development and maintenance of Gypsy Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary.
Please note: Gypsy Ridge is the name our family uses for our home here. This is a private property. My mission to make it a wildlife sanctuary is not part of a non-profit organization. Gypsy Ridge Wildlife Sanctuary is not a legal entity.
I welcome your questions or comments. All feedback is welcome.
Many, many thanks,