Monday, May 13, 2013

The Lady Slippers at Cochran Mill Nature Center

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 and traveled to Cochran Mill Nature Center near Palmetto. The day and its program and tour were arranged by host Gail Coffee.

The nature center, located on 50 acres in Chattahoochee Hills, is an education center built by volunteers. Coffee introduced her friend Jane Mitchell who helped to start the center that opened in 1994. Adjacent to Cochran Mill State Park, the nature area offers outreach programs, homeschool days, camps, and hosts special events. School students do volunteer projects like adopt an animal, and help with the rehab of wildlife which is a large part of its program. Very popular in the summer are the programs for kindergarteners through 9th graders. During the school year the center gives many tours to school classes.

The garden club thoroughly enjoyed touring and viewing birds of prey, bats and the large reptile collection. The morning meeting saw the animals at their liveliest with a very active American alligator, Green Tree Python, mouse eating bull frog, bats, and venomous snakes.

The main facility, a log structure, blended perfectly into the woodsy surroundings. To keep the 501C3 nonprofit going strong volunteers are always thinking of creative fundraisers like Adopt a Log which built the facility, Adopt a Stream to maintain the creeks, Adopt an Animal for their many expenses, or Wild Trail Trot 5K run and the Fishing Derby. The bulk of the money supporting the center comes from donations and sponsors though.

The garden club enjoyed viewing the log office, gift shop, and animals contained indoors before following the scenic wooden pier and bridge circling the lake. The horticulture there features forest plants, lake and water plants, plus a bog garden. Coffee timed the meeting to see the very interesting wildflower that is in the orchid family-the lady slipper-that grows wild at Cochran Mill. The pink delicate flower was growing in the wetter areas along the walking trail and was stunning to view.

The highlight of the day was gathering in the pavilion where Bill and Gail Coffee had arranged quilts on the picnic tables, had piped in bird calls on the sound system, and provided drinks for the ladies who had brought picnic lunches.  The pavilion by the lake made a lovely picnic site and friends chatted and had a good time and were unconscious of the time passing.

Hostess Gail Coffee told several amusing stories and recited a poem, The Watcher, in tribute for the upcoming Mother’s Day.  In club news, the group was told it was awarded a Standard of Excellence for its yearlong achievements, plus a certificate from the District Director for increasing our membership. The garden club will be participating in the May 18th Together in Meriwether Festival and the ladies will have plants for sale from Tidwell Nurseries, Thunderwood Farms, and Hamner Tree Farm as we are showcasing those fine businesses in our county.

The next garden club meeting will be in June and hosted by Dee Garrett and the program will be on Pond and Lake Water Management. The ladies hated ending the congenial day of activities at Cochran Mill, but enjoyed feeding the leftover crumbs from lunch to the large carp and catfish in the lake as they made their way back around the lake to their cars.