From 1980 to 2000, land management at Susina was slowly withdrawn to the immediate yard surrounding the big house. Twenty years of free reign by semitropical sunlight, rain and chlorophyll had an amazing affect! After the Rheas acquired Susina in 2000, heavy equipment was used for about 9 months to clean the grounds, pastures, timber and ponds. Then in November 2001, Jack Schultz assumed management. He is responsible for the timber, ponds, roads, vineyard and orchards, plantings, the swimming pool, plumbing, water supplies, fences, equipment, and yard finishing. This page includes pictures around Susina Plantation. The beauty of Susina today is largely the work of Jack, with assistance for garden work by Rebecca.
The following image diagrams the primary land, road and landscaping features. Clicking on the image opens a large layout of Susina. It is 20 Megapixels in size, so it may take a few minutes to open.
Above are pictures of the heavy equipment used in 2001 to clean the grounds, the pond before work began, the cut in the dam to drain the pond, and the restored pond. The drain pipe was leaking, and notice from the dog how shallow the pond was before reconstruction.
These are pictures of the stable and backyard before and after the initial grounds work.
And now for some scenes from around the grounds at Susina Plantation. The south screened porch provides a wonderful view of the flower-girl garden. The porch is a great place for morning coffee or afternoon tea, and to listen to the sounds of the evening.
Plum blossoms signal spring at Susina. Susina is Italian for plum, and flatwoods and Chickasaw plum are native. Growing near the old laundry and shown on the left is Daniel's plum. It has been propagated by gardeners in the area for years. Daniel Glen was the chef at Susina for the Masons. His plum is aging, and an active program to propagate it is underway. It is probably a flatwoods plum. They naturally have twisted trunks as they mature. The fruit is small and tart, but it makes great jelly. The middle photo shows two of the Guthrie plum trees planted at the Susina entrance gate around 2004. These yellow to orange plums are only about 1 inch in diameter, but they are abundant and very tasty.
Variously referred to as Spider, Hurricane, or Surprise lilies, each late summer about hurricane time, with no foliage to signal their coming, they suddenly appear on a single stalk. Later, the foliage appears and is green through the winter but it dies back in the heat of summer. They volunteer all around the Red Hills area of SW Georgia. Years ago, these shown here were planted around the pathway of an old rose garden. The rose garden is long gone, but the lilies return each year, no longer surprising us there, but surprising us as they pop up in new locations around the big house. Another splash of Autumn red is offered by dogwood berries.
This little bird has unusually bright plumage for a pine sisken, and the spider is an interesting variety somewhat between a garden spider and a banana spider. Banana spiders are common here and its fun to watch them grow through the summer months, but their huge size would make anyone mildly arachnophobic shiver. The especially cold winters of 2009 and 2010 reduced the banana spider population. This fox squirrel is helping himself to some Susina pecans. Fox squirrels are beautiful and much larger than their grey and red cousins, but they are much more timid. The endangered gofer tortoise is the state reptile of Georgia. Their dens serve as shelter for three dozen other creatures, including rattle snakes. Loss of habitat and rattle snake hunting have been hard on the gofer tortoise. They love upland pine forests and the plantations around Thomasville are one of their better hopes for survival.
Here is the pond on a clear winter day. During hurricane season, remnants of hurricanes and tropical storms may pass over Susina. As tropical storm Fay moved through the area in August of 2008, Susina received 26 inches of rain in 18 hours. The drain pipes were overwhelmed, the dock was under water and water gushed over the emergency overflow. The overflow held, and Hey's pond was undamaged. The dam of Beaver pond held, but was damaged and had to be repaired. It was one of the rare times that Dry pond was full. These storms can be devastating to life and property, but the moisture from the Gulf replenishes the aquifer, and water for communities and agriculture is abundant in the area.
Normally, we're pretty easy on wildlife at Susina. But we swim in Hey's pond, so once this gator grew to 7 feet, it was time for him to go. Gators over 5 foot in length can be declared a nuisance in private ponds, and state licensed gator getters handle the job. Also, we don't like it when ants go after the Bluebird nests. Here, Jack exams the damage before exterminating the ants. A few years ago, beavers had taken over Beaver pond, damaging the dam, and their holes and bamboo stakes made walking about hazardous. Here is an image of the Beaver pond. We don't swim in Beaver pond, and a gator living there now keeps the Beavers at bay.
Each spring, the azaleas bring out the beauty of the big house. On these days, the vision of the Balckshears and John Wind sitting on the hill, surrounded by Southern Magnolia, Live Oak and Azalea gardens, is awe inspiring.
In the Fall of 2002 and the following Winter, Jack constructed the post and wire trellis, and hand planted 519 muscadine vines. Shown on the left is the young vineyard. David Francisco has managed each harvest since 2004. Here he is munching away (its a part of the very scientific testing process!). The vineyard produces about 24,000 pounds of black and bronze muscadine table grapes each year. The usual challenge is finding a market. On the right is a image of the Ison variety almost ready to pick.
Each year on the first Saturday in November, the population of nearby Calvary, Georgia, grows from 200 to 50,000, as the Calvary Lions Club hosts Mule Day. This country fair is home to arts & crafts exhibitors, concessions, cane grinding and syrup making, historical exhibits and family entertainment in the "mule arena". A mule train with participants from several states begins in Tifton and wanders 100 miles to Calvary over a three day period, coming right down Meridian road past Susina. It is a sight to behold (and hear!). On the right is an image of Mason Lane, just south of Susina. In 1980, when Hey Mason left behind a 90 year family legacy of taking care of Susina, he built a home place across from Susina on Mason Lane. Mason Lane is a short but beautiful example of a SW Georgia road through the pines.
On the right, a raffle of turkeys scratch under a live oak out the back door, and Coal grazes while Wind Dancer takes a rest from grazing at sunset on a clear December day. To avoid poison and other critter unfriendly management at the stable, the latest technology in rodent control is used at Susina. Here is the control team resting after a hard nights work. Big Daddy, lounging on the bricks, is from the Thomas County Humane Society. He got his name from a reputation in the City of Thomasville. These days, Big Daddy is permanently retired from that assignment. Grace was rescued from an unwanted situation. She's a little small to be safe in the country, but she's as quick (and about as jumpy) as lightning. Each management process has its drawbacks, and unfortunately, a few birds and squirrels make the ultimate sacrifice. Anyone know how to train cats?