A golden-laced Wyandotte chick.

A golden-laced Wyandotte chick.


For those interesting in starting — or enlarging — a backyard flock of hens, it’s time to get chicks and get started. Renfrow Hardware in Matthews, North Carolina, is just one location for buying baby chicks, though at that store, they go quickly, with chicken-buyers lining up outside the door on the morning the chicks are first in.

Chicks need warmth from a heat lamp, an easy-to-eat kind of feed called starter crumbles, clean water and safety. You can provide all of that in a Rubbermaid-style bin or metal washtub in a garage or other spot safe from cats, dogs and other predators. The heat lamp clamps to the side and keeps the young birds warm and dry. Chicks purchased now will begin laying in early autumn. Handling them carefully allows them to somewhat imprint on you so that they are easier to handle when they’re adults. Remember that chicks can pass along salmonella, so young children or those with compromised immune systems should avoid handling or should carefully wash their hands afterward. 005

For a good primer on raising your first flock, check out “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens,” by Gail Damerow, or, for a more photo-heavy book, try “Chick Days: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens from Hatching to Laying,” by Jenna Woginrich.  —Amber Veverka

McAlpine Creek Greenway fern fronds


By Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844-1889

Nothing is so beautiful as spring —

When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush

Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;

The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush

The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush

With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.


What is all this juice and all this joy?

A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning

In Eden garden. — Have, get, before it cloy,

Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,

Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,

Most, O Maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

By Amber Veverka

Jim Matthews walks through the damp woods, and as he does, he pays no attention to the branches dripping with last night’s rain, the mucky path or the scolding of jays overhead. Those things don’t matter to Matthews. Not when he’s trying to explain the sex life of ferns.

“This is the sterile leaf and this is the fertile leaf,” he tells a visitor. “This is about to release its spores and they’re going all over the place. They’ll form gametophytes. The sperm swim in the water that’s in the soil to reach the eggs. They mature at different times so the plant doesn’t self-fertilize.”

Matthews’ impromptu biology lecture may be lost on his fellow hiker, but there’s no missing Matthews’ intense focus, his dedication to discovery. Matthews, a retired UNC Charlotte biology professor, is a botanist whose mission is to collect and catalog the plants of the 15-county region of the North Carolina Piedmont—preserving a record of what we have, before it’s lost.

The work is taking on new importance—and urgency—as the region explodes in growth. If current trends continue, by 2030, 97 percent of Mecklenburg County’s land will be developed, up from 71 percent today, according to research by the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department and the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute.

And so, at age 80, Matthews keeps climbing ridges and descending ravines, gathering plants in places that are on their way to becoming parking lots. Read the rest of the story here.Jim Matthews, botanist, treks the woods at Reedy Creek Nature Preserve with herbarium curator Catherine Luckenbaugh.

DSC01520Folks who live along Irwin Creek and its tributaries used to swim, fish, even hold baptisms in the waters. The city once used it for drinking water. But runoff from streets, pollution from aging sewer pipes and heavy metals from an industrial past today make the creek one of the city’s most troubled. Yet, hope remains for a better future.

By Amber Veverka

One of its first tendrils begins in Ernest and Misty Eich’s backyard in northeast Mecklenburg County, a trickle you can jump across.

There, the creek curls like a question mark through a ravine’s mossy banks, beneath towering tulip poplars.

Ernest, 39, and Misty, 37, often follow the stream with their dogs, Magnum and Abigail, as the waterway leaves the shelter of their six acres to join other tributaries in Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve.1  There, the Eichs watch the stream, whose headwaters they steward, officially become Irwin Creek.

From Ribbonwalk, Irwin gathers strength and pours itself alongside Interstate 77 south, concealed from commuters’ view by curtains of kudzu, secret within steep banks. The stream reaches the heart of Charlotte and embraces its west side, moving south until it finally links with Sugar Creek near Billy Graham Parkway.

Misty and Ernest Eich, who live at Irwin Creek's small headwaters. Photo: Amber Veverka
Misty and Ernest Eich, who live at Irwin Creek’s small headwaters. Photo: Amber Veverka

Irwin’s waters once slaked the thirst of a growing city. Its springs nourished an African-American neighborhood as it took root. Its pools cradled fish, coached swimmers, baptized believers.

But nurturing a city came at a cost.

As it flows from a nature preserve to an interstate, embracing uptown and the west side, Irwin carries in its current a city’s missteps – pollution from aging sewage pipes, heavy metals from an industrial past, runoff from acres of asphalt.

Despite all this, those who know the stream well say Irwin still holds beauty and promise. It embodies all the ills of an urban waterway, say its advocates. But Irwin Creek is no lost cause.

Read the rest of Irwin Creek’s story and watch videos, read oral histories and find out about the creeks in your Charlotte backyard at Keeping Watch on Water.

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