Friday, October 7 Landscape Observation Activity 

We will not meet in Butte Hall on Friday, October 7.  Instead, you should use that class time to complete an exercise in observation of the agricultural landscape.  The exercise is due by 2:00 pm, Monday, October 9.  I will not accept any late work.  Students may do the field observation alone or in groups.  However, each student must turn in a completed project that does not duplicate the work of anyone else. 

I will bike this route on Friday afternoon during class time and welcome any cyclists to join me.  However, you must bring your own water, pump, a spare inner tube and/or patch kit and wrenches or pliers. I will meet folks in the parking lot of the Durham Country Market in Durham on the southwest corner the intersection of the Midway and Dayton-Durham Highway and depart 2:03 pm sharp.  If you are running late, try to catch up with us on Dayton-Durham Highway between Midway and Butte Creek. Bring your own map and field exercise instructions.

If you cannot ride with me on Friday, you should do your field observation virtually by using Google Earth Street View. Please do not drive the route or bike it alone. I do not want to upset workers or landowners.

For students who do ride with me, keep this mind: You must obey traffic laws. Do not trespass. We are guests when we leave campus. Be cordial and do not cause the stewards of the landscape to be suspicious. Also, stay out of their way.


With each assigned reading in Walking the Flatlands, you are learning more about his District. With each field assignment you are learning more about our District.  This Friday we will go deeper into our DistrictÕs agricultural landscape. The project has several purposes including:

1.     Improving your use Google Earth.

2.     Improving your use of topographic and soil maps to augment field observations.

3.     Sharpening your observational skills.


Those three purposes are related to preparation and field observation. The purposes of your field observation include:

1.     Creating a well-written descriptive snapshot of a landscape.

2.     Comparing and contrasting the landscapes created by different kinds of agriculture.

3.     Identifying landscape evidence of earlier agricultural eras in our District.

4.     Further assessment of similarities and differences between MadisonÕs and our respective Districts.



1. Open this Google Earth kmz. You must make observations at the 11 sites indicated on the map, either in the field on Friday or in Google Earth Street View. 

2. Plot those 11 locations on a topographic map, which you can find here (

3. Go to this link Durham Soil map.  Print it out and bring it with you.  This soil map was produced in 1925 by the Federal Bureau of Soils.   Your route is shown on the southeastern quadrant of the map.  Here's a key to the symbols: Vl = Vina loam, Vf = Shallow phase, Vc = Vina clay loamVa = Vina clay loam adobe,  Sa = Stockton clay adobe.

4. If you are going into the field, bring some enlarged Google Earth images and enlarged copies of the topographic and soil maps. If you are working with Street View be sure to refer to the topographic and soil maps.

5. Observe the landscapes at each of the 11 sites indicated on the map. 

At each observation point consider all of the questions that we used in the previous field exercises. Write notes.

6. Use your field/street view observations, your knowledge gained from all of the readings Walking the Flatlands and information on the topographic and soil maps to write a descriptive snapshot of each of the 11 points.  These snapshots should not exceed 50 words.

The eleven clues/questions below correspond to each observation point. I provide them to guide your observation and/or map work. However, your descriptive snapshot should not be only an answer to the questions.

Observation Clues/Questions

Site 1. 180 degree panorama looking south. Why arenÕt those warehouses on the east side of the RR tracks parallel to the RR tracks? Look at the soil map.  Prior potior?


Site 2. 180 degree panorama looking north.  Urban amenity? What is the architectural style of that house?  If you canÕt see it, look at the picture at this link.  Look at Madison p. 93-95 for possible architectural styles.


Site 3. 180 degree panorama looking south. What is it?  How wide? What is its name? How is it different from Mud Creek?


Site 4. Do a 360 degree observation. WhatÕs different about this orchard landscape?


Site 5.  Do another 360 degree observation.  How is this landscape different from what you saw in 1998?  What does soil have to do with it?


Site 6. 180 degree panorama looking north. Ōlarge pile of junkĶ?


Site 7. Do a 360 degree observation. WhatÕs different about this orchard landscape?


Site 8. Do another 360 degree observation.  How is this landscape different from what you saw on Morehead or last weekÕs River Loop Strip?  What is the landscape evidence of different land use?  Does the pic at this link look familiar?


Site 9. Do another 360 degree observation.  Why does Stanford Lane make that funky turn? Why is that pick-up truck elevated above the orchards to the east and west?  Look at your soil map.


Site 10. 180 degree panorama looking west. WhatÕs with the cylinder and the windmill?  What kind of tree is that closest to the mailbox? What does it mean about the locationÕs agricultural history?



Site 11. 180 degree panorama looking east.  What do you see?  Have you seen it before? Where? Why is that line of Valley Oaks there? Riparian forest?


7. Use your maps to add details to your field notes and description.  Write your field notes in the field.


On Monday, October 9 you will turn in:

1. Eleven double-spaced, typed and edited descriptive snapshots: one for each of the 11 observation points.