The newest addition to the parks of Wayne County, the William J Robertson Nature Preserve is quite a treasure.
On a snowy day in December, a friend and I bundled up and we made our way to Rittman to explore this new addition. Although it was cold, about 20 degrees, and cloudy, there was still much to be observed.
I have never given Canada geese any thought. At best I've looked upon them as an obstacle when spending time near ponds, their hisses and honks encouraging me to take a different path. But all of that changed at the end of August when I got to observe them in a new way.
What's blooming? What's there to see?
Click through to take a look.
Today was overcast, mid 70*s, the rains came just after the last photo was taken.
Okay, so, for the past few weeks I've been watching an old water trough that's full of tadpoles.
Fun, I thought, I wonder what kind of frog, or maybe toad, these will grow into. I mean, every elementary kid knows tadpoles swim, then grow legs, lose their tails, and hop out into the world.
But the more I watch, the more questions I have.
Let's start at the beginning.
Many people are familiar with this plant, it can be found in forests, parks, yards, cities; this hearty little plant hides in it a great secret.
But first some facts about it...
It's scientific name is "Impatiens capensis" but it also goes by "touch-me not" due to its seed pods.
In the late summer it grows seed pods that, when disturbed, burst open sending seeds flying. A fun stop on a walk with little ones, and it insures more jewelweed plants in the future!
Now what you might not know...
Jewelweed has many safe and natural uses when you find yourself in the woods.
Have you stumbled through stinging nettles? Then you know how painful and uncomfortable that can be. A solution?
Break open a juicy jewelweed stem off the plant and down the center of the stem and rub the juicy center on the sting. You will find the pain soon dissipates.
It also works to soothe the itch of poison ivy and poison oak as well as insect bites.
Next time you're out, take a second look at these helpful plants and 'pop' a seed pod or two!
Yarrow is considered to be a native species, although varieties have been introduced and hybridized, found in sunny to partially sunny open areas in dry soil. Our native species consists mainly of tiny white flowers but some pale pink varieties occur in the wild.
The gentle fern-like leaves, and delicate flowers, and unique scent have made this a favorite in flower arrangements. Varieties of yarrow in bright, bold, and pastel colors can be found in domesticated gardens.
Medicinally this is an important herb, the leaves providing relief from burns and rashes when crushed and made into a poultice. Dried leaves were brewed as a tea to soothe colds, fever, and headache. A beer brewed with yarrow has been popular in Europe since the Middle Ages. The Chinese considered the yarrow plant to be good luck.
Yesterday and today again we've had a great view of the fog rising from the valley. I'm so in awe of the continued beauty and natural surprises each day unfolds for us. Noah has been able to watch rainbows in the afternoon over the valley the past few days. Dragonflies dart around the yard (yesterday brought white tails and a halloween pennant!).
I try not to get too personal on this blog, while I love sharing our explorations in nature, we are quiet private people. This spring has brought some big changes for us, we bought our first home! I share this only because I have a feeling it'll be relevant in future posts. It's incredible having land where we can finally put our knowledge to use. We now have over half an acre of lawn that we will be transforming bit-by-bit into an ecologically diverse land of native plantings, and will be monitoring closely the changes to biodiversity as they arise. Some of this journey will absolutely spill over into this blog but I will also continue writing about our great natural areas and seasonal highlights.
Let's catch up!
From January to now we've changed seasons, seen heavy snow, very warm days, and finally today the springtime rain, so refreshing you can almost hear the flowers sing.
Life, like the seasons, is always changing. We take different paths, explore new areas, never fully knowing where each path will lead. Even taking old paths, it's never as it was before - perhaps a new tree, or erosion, or a secondary trail has become the choice route.
I don't know where this is going, or where I'm going, or if I need to go anywhere. Isn't life just a smattering of experiences, if we're lucky most of them will be good.
Let's do a quick catch-up/recap and see where that leads us!
24* in full sun
In the first image if you look really close, in the water, all the way back, you can just make out ~27 swans (a swimming), they're joined by nearly the same number of Canada geese (a shouting).
The crisp, fresh air, and secretly warm sun were so welcomed on our first day out of quarantine (everyone is safe and healthy, no worries).
A new-to-us park just one county over in Wadsworth, Holmesbrook Park is surprisingly rustic for being very close to downtown!
There are both paved and primitive trails, a creek, pond, steep hills, and lots of different trails to explore.
Below you'll see some photos from the trek.
The Christmas fern was so big and lush (although I've noticed that seems to be the thing this season, they're looking really good!)! It was chilly enough for the needle ice to form but as we were heading back the sun was beginning to turn it all to mud. The bridge was oddly steep but had good grips, it's kooky and I like it.
I'm interested in seeing what this looks like in the spring - lots of forested areas, not too many noticeable invasive. Worth checking out!
City's website can be found HERE
The tradition continues!
For this year's New Year's Day hike we kept close to home - the rain, snow, ice certainly helped with that decision - and ventured out to Wooster Memorial Park.
Unsurprisingly we were the only ones at the main entrance - another couple was strolling around the Kenwood with their brightly colored umbrellas, but that's a much more sensible walk than what we were about to undertake.
The first substantial snow of the year... what a gorgeous one at that!
I don't know about you, but it's been hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it's already December. The year has gone on for ages and yet here we are. Christmas is 21 days away - have you started shopping?
But back to that snow, where we live, around 2.5 inches landed on our trees, cars, and rooftops overnight and throughout the following day. What was revealed in the morning was nothing less than idyllic. The snowy scenes of lore, the scenes of Dickens novels, those hand painted Christmas villages come to life.
The last image is something very special. Aquatic plants that almost appear to have bloomed ice flowers. Water goes up the plant, temperatures go down, water in plant turns to ice expanding outward in these beautiful shapes. Similar to needle ice and frost flowers (I still have yet to find the frost flowers that look like packing peanuts at the base of wing stem & iron weed, some day)!
Now in its 3rd year!
Our Calendar Fundraiser is our way of giving back to the parks we love! All profits from calendar sales go directly to the park.
View the images below then head over to the shop to purchase your own!
Barnes Preserve 2021 Calendar
Beautiful Ohio 2021 Calendar
Wooster Memorial Park 2021 Calendar
Have you been watching this season?
This has been one the the most spectacular autumns, the kind you remember fondly for years to come. How the vibrant colors come as a wave until we've been overtaken with gem-tones: the deep yellows, rusty oranges, dark burgundy, and the surprising maroon.
First it was the bright yellow leaves of the honey locust and the walnut, then the sugar maples beginning from the tips of the branches moving inward, the hickories follow with the large yellow leaves and mast falling with every gust. The mighty oaks are just now coming into their glory (from where I sit today), their color forming more sporadic patterns than the maple gradients. This entire fall season I've also been watching the pines, red and white, they too have been turning - the needles closest to the trunk are slowly turning brown and forming the soft blanket at the base of the tree.
Of course there are many many many other types of trees putting on many different color displays, these are just the ones in my immediate view.
What does your season look like?
Why and how do the leaves change?
As the hours of daylight get shorter and the temperatures begin to drop, the trees no longer have the resources needed to continue making chlorophyll, so they begin the process of going dormant for the winter.
Chlorophyll is what gives the leaf its green color and what absorbs energy from the sunlight turning carbon dioxide and water into sugars and starch for the tree to “eat”.
As the light and temperature change, the leaves stop making food for the tree and the chlorophyll breaks down exposing other pigments in the leaves.
Yellow & Orange: Carotene
Red & Purple: Anthocyanins
The tree begins adding an additional layer of cells where the leaf stem attaches to the tree, sealing off the connection and creating a “leaf scar”. As the wind drifts by, the leaves then release and fall to the earth.
Not all trees release their leaves - some oaks and beech trees will hold on to their leaves until the new growth begins the following spring. This is a process called marcescence.
There is much debate about why they do this but we do know a few things…
It mainly occurs on juvenile trees. These trees often grow on dry, infertile sites. These trees are all in the same family (Fagaceae), this family also includes some evergreens. If there is an ecological benefit to holding on to these leaves, it has yet to be clearly defined.
Why are some years full of bright leaves and others brown?
The weather has a lot to do with the intensity of leaf color. Low temperatures that stay above freezing favor the formation of anthocyanin in leaves which produces the bright reds in maples.
Early frost, however, will weaken the bright red colors.
Rainy and/or overcast days are great for observing fall colors as the gray backdrop really shows off the intensity of fall colors.
August, it's one of those months that really brings home the summer-ness of summertime. It drags you through the tall, hot, dry grasses - the tiny seeds and insects clinging to your hair, your sweaty skin, tangled in your clothes. August is why we beg for fall, for reprieve. Slowly we begin to see the changes. Here in late August the tupelo trees are just beginning to turn deep red, as are the sunsets. On occasion, the cool breeze gusts through cutting the heat. Mornings we start to see the fog rising from the valleys. Weather lore says - for every fog in August there will be snowfall the following winter.
July 29 at the Farm
Identifying grasses can be tricky, and where to begin is overwhelming. Luckily(?) my garden and nearby has plenty of subjects to learn.
I came across the most handy field guide "Weeds of the Northeast" by Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal, and Joseph M. DiTomaso. It's a great resource for identifying common weeds you've likely never considered identifying.
Turns out my garden is full of goosegrass, foxtail, lambs quarter (although that's good in salads so I'm not upset), with ragweed in the margins. Nearby there's quackgrass, Timothy, barnyard grass, orchard grass, slender rush, fescue, bluegrass, horse weed, I could go on...
The guide is great, showing seeds, seedlings, mature plant, flowers, and fruits of most species.
I didn't intend on this becoming a book recommendation, but flipping through it right now, it really is a great guide.
If you want to buy a copy, you can do so at the link here, although I don't get a commission, part of the sale does go to support the independent bookstore I work for (and if you've been there, you know it's a wonderful place).
July 31 in the Swamps
It's finally cooled off enough to venture outside in the late afternoon!
A walk in the Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area is always a treat. Birds, frogs, mystery splashing, dragonflies, and a wide variety of smartweed everywhere.
The woods near the marsh were full of Canada Germander - open the photos to see the individual flower shapes, they are gorgeous, easily as impressive and showy as any orchid. Yellow pond lilies can be found under most leaves. Similarly shaped leaves of the arrow arum shelter their drooping seedpods, dipping into the muck.
July 3rd, Kenwood
The prairie out at Kenwood is really starting to wake up.
July 8th, Farm & Force Rd
So many sights out in the swamps.
July 10th, Barnes Preserve
The woods are still full of blooms if you look close enough.
July 13th, Wooster Memorial Park
More flowers opening in the prairie. In the woods the jewelweed pods are ripening. Ghost pipe emerging after the overnight rains.
July 23rd, Hocking Hills Cabin
Every year we vacation at "the cabin" down in the Hocking Hills region. This year we didn't go to any of the parks (too many people, too many active cases nearby) so Noah and I did our nature observing around the cabin. Not pictured - 5-lined skink!!!!
July 26th, Barnes Preserve
Sights at Barnes Preserve in the morning.
Laying under the giant ferns time has snuck up on me...
Today we celebrate our 5 year Blogiversary (is that a thing?)!!
Five years ago...
I was running a gallery, art center, bridging communities
Juggling too much
Trying to impress others
"You Should" became an incredibly toxic phrase to me.
Then I got quiet
And heard the wind in the leaves
I needed to reconnect with the woods
This blog was my first step on a path
I had no idea where it would take me
But I knew I had to follow.
More solace was found in the woods
The first one-year-study began with a hike-a-day in March on the Trillium Trail looking for the first trillium to emerge.
I had no clue how little I knew then
Every bud, every new sprout, was potentially a trillium (as I had never paid attention to what they look like when emerging from the earth)
Photograph - go home - pour over field guides - not a trillium but a (insert spring ephemeral here).
Building that base.
Unwittingly learning the phenology of these woods.
A year passes, the first photography phenology study is complete.
I’m in awe (I’m still in awe of the Earth).
Time goes on, take nature classes, make nature friends.
Travel shines a light on how much more there is to learn.
Every year a new study (usually multiple).
Learning the Earth’s cycles made me aware of my own cycles - as one can anticipate spring, I can anticipate my over ambitious self will kick into gear in the mid spring months, then as will fall pull back in November.
At some point it becomes undeniable how interconnected everything is. The self, the seasons, the birds, the moon. We are all parts in one grand machine.
This journey has been incredible. So much bigger than I could have ever imagined.
I’m grateful, darling followers, that you have chosen to follow along. Hopefully you’ve been inspired to explore or learn more about the world around you.
What’s in store for the next 5 years?
That’s a good question…
I’d like to continue to raise plant awareness (plant blindness is a real thing)
For the Adventure Pack to grow and evolve - I can almost picture it facilitating a seasonal series of nature retreats - but we’ll let that grow some.
Two if not more of my books/guides will be released.
Hiking, volunteering, making friends, and finding joy.
Thank you so much for being here, I hope you’ll continue on this journey with me!
Is there anything more perfect than a sunny June day?
The leaves are lush on the trees, the sun shines bright, the breeze blows cool. On the air the scent of blooming honeysuckle and multiflora rose (yes, super invasive but boy are they sweet).
June is the month to lay in the grasses and watch the clouds drift by (see photos from June 3rd, that's exactly what I did).
You don't have to journey deep into the woods, or immerse yourself in prairie habitats to find things in bloom this time of year. Right now some of the toughest most resilient plants are blooming and to find them you only need to take a drive down the road.
Bird's-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
- Uses: along roadsides to control wind and water erosion as well as in fields as green chop, hay, and pasture.
- A great food for the Canada goose, deer, and elk. Pheasants and other birds use this as cover.
Predominantly found in waste areas, disturbed areas,
As a biennial it spends its first year as a basal rosette of large fuzzy leaves. The second year a large stalk of flowers emerges from the rosette, sometimes growing as large as 2ft tall (the plant all together can grow to be 3 to 7 feet tall!).
- Brought from Eurasia as a great medicinal plant as well as for its unique appearance.
The flower of the mullein was used as medicine to help with coughs, tb, bronchitis, colds, earaches, flu, allergies, tonsillitis, asthma, diarrhea, colic, migraines, joint pain, and also used as a sedative.
The leaves have also been used by being applied to the skin for wounds, burns, bruises, frostbite, and skin infections.
Other uses include: as a flavoring ingredient in alcoholic beverages, if nature calls it makes a good toilet paper, the dried stalks were dipped in wax or tallow and used as torches.
Crown Vetch (Securigera varia)
A newbie to our area being introduced in the 1950s as a ground cover used to prevent soil erosion. It can now be found in 47 of the lower 48 states.
- Fruiting pods are not edible.
- The plant itself, when in bloom, is often browsed by cattle and deer and makes for a good hay (although it takes much longer to dry than traditional hay).
Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
- Introduced ornamental species from Eurasia
- Escaped from gardens and can now be found in all lower 48 states.
- In Ohio it is considered an invasive species.
- In the United States and Canada there are 191 species of Fleabane.
- Ohio has only 3 native species: the Eastern Daisy Fleabane, the Philadelphia Fleabane, and the Wild Prairie Fleabane.
- The leaves are edible but fuzzy, so it's best to cook first!
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
- Introduced species
- Chicory has been used as far back as 1000 years ago in Ancient Egypt as a medicine for everything from gout to stomachache to cancer.
- Today is is used as a caffeine free substitute for coffee as well as flavoring in beers to give a 'hearty earthy' taste.
- Folklore surrounds this plant supposing it has magical qualities, including that of invisibility. It has been said that the chicory could be used to open a locked chest, but only on St. James's Day - July 25th. This method involved holding a gold knife and chicory leaves against the lock, but only in total silence - pain or death would follow if a word was spoken.
-Early American settlers would carry a piece of chicory for good luck.
Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba)
- Introduced from Eurasia
- Used for its qualities to fix nitrogen in the soil and as a pasture food for grazers.
- The yellow variety (Melilotus officinalis) behaves in much the same manner but has an earlier bloom time and the seeds differ slightly.
- Both have become weedy and invasive in many areas.
Orange Day Lily (Hemerocallis fulva)- Blooms through the summer months, flower blooms last only one day - namesake. Not a true lily but has similarly shaped flowers.
- Introduced from Asia, has become invasive across the US creating hardy patches through its wandering tuberous root systems.
- All parts of this plant are edible: Leaves and shoots can be eaten when very young, raw or cooked (they become too fibrous when aged), flowers and young tubers can also be eaten raw or cooked, flowers may be dried and used as a thickener in soup.
In Louis Bromfield’s book Pleasant Valley, he talks about Johnny Appleseed’s time in the area; one of the stories tells about anytime Johnny would call on a neighbor he’d bring the wife a bouquet of these orange flowers, the seeds falling from his bag wherever he roamed, and as Johnny wandered (and he saw a good many states) the flowers followed him.
Highly unlikely there’s much truth to the story but it’s a good tale nonetheless.
Happy Solstice one and all!
I hope you all made the most of the extra sunlight. We helped out at a local natural area clearing trees and brush to fight back succession of an open meadow. It's incredible what can be accomplished when everyone chips in (there were about 45 people volunteering - practicing social distancing). In just over 2 hours we had nearly everything cleared, brush and trees picked up, everything put back.
But yes, the solstice, the day of light, although it's a natural occurrence I do like assigning other attributes. Self reflection is important and if the seasons can remind us to do that then all the better. The solstice shines light, helping us to see that which was hidden. Do you like what is illuminated? Do you see where adjustments need made? Do you feel the glow of growth and opportunity? Right now it feels like anything is possible, and by golly it just might be.
Speaking of growth, it's time to check in with our favorite tree and the newest subject of our one year study series!
Can you even believe it's been 6 months since starting this?! So much in the world has changed in that time.
June has brought the summer skies, lush greens, and a breeze with the faint scent of honeysuckle.
The dappled sunlight, the grasses swaying, birds fluttering to and fro. The perfect summer day.
I don't think I've ever really looked at a Sycamore before this project. Their growth is odd - they hold a lot of dead limbs, they leaf out later than many other trees, between the leaves there is a lot of empty space (nubbins on the branches suggest they may grow more leaves later?), hollow cavities and twists in the branches make good nesting areas as I found a bird fluttering to and fro from an opening (I'm assuming feeding babies). It'll be interesting to see if it fills out further between now and next month.
For now, flip through the months below to see how it changes!
For the past 5 years we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature. From great and unique places to explore, to learning about new and interesting plant species, to understanding the earth’s cycles. We could have never imagined the breadth of what we were to learn (and what we’re sure to learn in the future)!
It has been an incredible journey.
It’s time for us to take that past experience and provide the tools and knowledge for others to find their place in the great outdoors.
That’s why we are so excited to bring you the Through The Woods Adventure Pack Subscription!
With the tools provided you’ll:
How it works:
At the change of every season (Summer Solstice, Fall Equinox, Winter Solstice, & Spring Equinox) you'll receive, in the mail, your seasonal Adventure Pack loaded with resources to inspire you to experience the outdoors in a deeper way.
Click the Adventure button in the header or click HERE!
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.