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.
August 25th was the first day I really noticed them. The evening of the 24th I heard a lot of geese calling, then again the morning of the 25th. I watched as they flew over filling the sky. Never have I ever seen so many geese in one place. Hundreds flew from the west, over our house, to land in the wetlands in the valley below.
Every day and every evening I'd hear their calls, in just a few days they had a pretty set routine.
7am - wake up in the wetland valley, rise up with the fog, fly to the west (I jokingly imagine they're going out to breakfast, but maybe). The first group would start about 7am but they'd fly over until about 8:30, all in their family "V"s .
9:30am - return to the valley. Again the family "V"s would fly from 9:30 until about 10:30.
7:30pm - leave the wetlands and fly to the west again (going out to dinner? hah).
8:30pm - return to the valley for the evening, whiffling just past the big maple.
So an interesting thing Canada geese do is an action called whiffling. This is when a goose is flying along, then suddenly it seemingly falls out of the air. Sometimes it looks like a barrel roll, sometimes a free-fall. When they do this, the air tension in their wings is released creating a sound - similar to shaking out a towel, a heavy wooshf sound. Why they do this no one is completely sure but it does a few things: releasing the air from the wings helps the geese to slow down quickly, they have been observed doing these maneuvers to escape attacks from bald eagles, and it seems the young geese do this for fun/learning.
Every evening heading down to the valley they'd pass a large maple tree at the back of our yard, it would be here they'd do their whiffling - not all of them but often a couple in each family grouping (each V). When they first arrived it happened more often (my guess is to slow down to find the safe landing areas), but every evening (only during the evening flight back to the wetlands) there'd be one or two.
From August 25th to September 3rd the geese kept to this routine.
September 4th started Canada goose hunting season.
On the morning of the 4th the geese started their day rising from the valley as the sun crested over the hill and the hunters were ready.
I want to add an aside here, I don't think it's fully appreciated the overlap of hunters, naturalists, and conservationists. The hunters clearly also watch and observe the routines and patterns of the geese, knowing when they'll be where and what they do. As the geese have very few remaining natural predators (eagles and coyotes), hunting is important to maintain healthy populations of geese. In learning about the behaviors of the geese I was able to find more information from websites geared towards hunters than the ones for birders.
I'm not a hunter, but I appreciate what they do to keep our wild animals healthy (and, fun fact, the fees from hunting and fishing licenses go directly to land preservation and conservation. They are the reason we have the Killbuck Marsh.)
Okay, back to observations!
The morning of hunting season the geese leave the wetlands at first along their normal route, then the later flocks start turning to a more northernly path (away from the hunting grounds). Eventually they start flying south to north instead of the east to west that they had been flying. In the evening they came back just after sunset (no hunting after sunset) and instead of flying in their family Vs, they flew all together in a large cloud of geese. No whiffling at the maple tree, just a direct route to the wetlands.
The following morning (5th) they got up and left the wetlands again but this time in their smallest family groupings and flying in all different directions. By the evening very few would return to the wetlands.
Hunting season is over now but the geese are long gone, heading south to their winter grounds.
Never did I imagine the sound of a Canada goose flying overhead would draw me to my window where I would watch them in awe. But after that first night, watching hundreds fly overhead I couldn't help but be amazed and inspired to watch and learn more.
I wonder if they remember hunting season from years past and that's how they knew to change their behaviors so quickly the day the season began.
I wonder how their spring migration through will be different and/or be the same.
The V formations that the geese migrate in are made up of their extended family members. Eventually they break off into their smaller family groups once they reach their winter/ summer grounds.
Watching the geese, some are loud, honking the whole way. Others can be large groups flying in complete silence.
In one V formation, a pair of sandhill cranes made their way into the group!
I will never look at the Canada goose the same way ever again. Already I'm looking forward to observing their spring behaviors, of corse I'll keep you all posted!
Some of the geese at our house
Some interesting facts:
Geese who spend summers in the more northern regions of Canada tend to migrate further south in the winter (sometimes as far south as Mexico). Where as the geese who spend summers in southern Canada/ Upper Michigan tend to migrate shorter distances, wintering in the Carolinas.
Canada geese mate for life.
They can live for up to 25 years.
Canada geese are the largest geese in the world (in the genera Branta).
The Canada geese were nearly completely wiped out in the early 1900s. From the end of the American Civil War until the 1950s Canada geese were completely eliminated from Ohio due to overhunting and habitat destruction. In 1956 10 pairs were re-introduced to Ohio and through those re-introduction and conservation efforts, they have made a great comeback!
In talking with my grandmother, when she was growing up (born in the 30s, growing up in the Ohio countryside) she and her siblings never saw Canada geese or White Tailed Deer.
There are a number of different subspecies of Canada goose
More geese at our house, worth watching the video to the end :)
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.
July 2, 2021
The video above shows them swimming around, living their best tadpole lives.
Below are some close ups of their sweet little faces (and kind of weird lips!).
The tadpoles we all know and love. Great, awesome, no one has any limbs yet, that's fine.
July 28, 2021
Today I get there and oh my stars how they have changed. Some have legs, some have arms, some are clinging to the side of the trough out in the air.
My initial thought was, wow, one trough holding so many different types of frogs, the green one out of the water, the brown one with arms, the larger legs only ones...
and then I looked closer.
And now I have questions...
For now, Happy Swimming!
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!).
We share our home with a wide variety of spiders as well. This morning I had two different types of jumping spiders join me as I sit outside drinking my coffee. As soon as I got my camera they disappeared. In the outdoor basement stairwell a different kind of spider has made an incredible web - it started as a chaos web, logng webs in no obvious order, spanning across the entire opening. The spider at that time was around 1/4 inch big (including legs). Now, roughly a week later, it has added a beautifully symmetrical round web a layer above the chaos web, sitting right in the center. It's grown to roughly 3/4 inch now, neon green with yellow and black likes & spots. Large round abdomen, sharp pointy legs. I've not been able to properly ID it but it reminds me of the garden spider family - I'll keep watching to see.
Before the heat of the day set in I got ready and headed out to the farm (family farm where I help out when I can, also where my big veg garden has been the past few years). The route from our new house to the farm takes me through a back-road section of the marshes, one of my favorite drives. I crossed the train tracks and turn the corner and I can hardly believe my eyes. There, on top of the bright yellow railroad crossing sign, sat a barred owl!! I stop right there in the middle of the road not believing my eyes. The owl, no qualms or concerns about me, sat on the sign watching as some small rodent made its way underneath. After a minute it took off in a flash down to the ground where it quickly gobbled up its prey (always keeping one eye on me) then up to the tree (photo one) to look for another tasty treat. Amazing, I thought, what an incredible experience. I thank the owl for letting me take its picture and continue down the road. I go about 1/8th of a mile then slam on my brakes again (my poor car). A second barred owl (photo 2)! I can not believe my luck. This one was a little more shy, looking back to where the first owl was from time to time. I sit with it for a while, chatting and photographing, till I thanked it and went on my way.
Seeing these two relit something in me, reminded me there's so much yet to see, it's time to get back to those things you love - why I get up early to photograph the dawn. We're pretty well settled in the house now, I can get away without much concern. I've needed a sign, who knew that sign would be sitting on top of a bright yellow sign!
At the farm I found one great subject after another (see additional photos).
You can preach all day to slow down, look closer, take your time, that's all very easy to say, and while it's all true and so fulfilling in action, it's hard. Sometimes a lucky spark has to come along and reignite the fire inside.
I hope you all find your spark, just when you need it.
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!
Today's skies dance, the sun then the clouds, back and forth each taking their turn.
A squirrel has spent most of the morning hanging by its back legs, gorging on the sweet buds of the walnut tree. At least I think it's the walnut, just now emerging, long after the maples have leafed out.
Yesterday a cold snap came through, temperatures in the 50s and cloudy.
Today is still crisp but the sunshine makes all the difference. We're finally in the new house after a month of cleaning and renovating.
The yard bird list begins:
Cardinal, blue jay, goldfinch, mourning dove, robin, crow, common grackle, red-winged blackbird, house wren, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, catbird, brown-headed cowbird, Eastern bluebird, barn swallow, northern mockingbird, rose-breasted grosbeak, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, northern flicker, great blue heron, green heron, barred owl, turkey vulture, bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, Cooper's hawk, sandhill crane, wild turkey, rose breasted grosbeak.
It's incredible, I can't wait to see what else comes around!
June 2 (rainy 65*)
A walk at Wooster Memorial Park - a friend and I have been watching a patch of jack-in-the-pulpits that are in bloom. They seem much smaller this years, perhaps due to the extreme hot/cold temperature fluctuations earlier in the season. Every week we check in to see if they get any bigger, so far still small.
In the prairie we startled an indigo bunting who rushed off into the trees. The blooms are just beginning, the foxglove beard tongue has a few blossoms, but the fleabane, black medic, purple clover, white clover, blackberries, and elderberry are all in full bloom.
June 6 (sunny upper 70s)
"Cheer, cheer, woohoo" the cardinals sing. There's a lot of chitter chatter in the canopy this morning. By song I can only identify the common birds - today there's a commotion I can't seem to identify, almost scratchy like the grosbeaks but without any melody, perhaps baby cardinals?
It's another clear sunny day, already very hot. The barn pigeons are flying back and forth overhead. In the trees the tree frog is singing, (calling for rain?). A whitetail dragonfly skimmed by. White clovers are filling out the yard, dotted with the occasional dandelion. Grasses are starting to bloom - yellow tassels hanging off the long stalks.
It's only 9am and already too hot to be outside. The living room is dark and cool in the morning.
It's been just over a week since we've moved out to the country. Change always takes an adjustment period. For so long we've dreamt about this. At night we've had the windows open, fresh air, cool breeze, distant calls of geese from the wetlands. There's so much I'd like to do here, set up compost bins, plant a wildflower meadow, plant trees, have veg and flower gardens... I have to keep reminding myself we have plenty of time.
This morning I awoke early, the sun filling the bedroom with a hopeful glow for the day. Cool rains came through overnight, a heavy fog in the morning. As I look out the window I caught a fleeting moment, the fog caught in the valley behind the near tree-line with just a faint impression of the hills in the distance.
I fell back asleep, rising to my alarm an hour later, the sun warmed the fog releasing it from its bed in the valley.
The ephemeral moment was gone and now I start my day.
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!
February I started recording some of my walks, they can be found on my youtube channel. This was also the month that I started selling my Hiker's Guides at Local Roots.
It was a very cold, snowy, icy month. We found otter tracks in the marsh, skunks began making their appearances late in the month, witch hazel getting ready to bloom but not quite there yet.
March brought us the changing season - spring has arrived.
The spring Adventure Pack was sent out finishing the full year cycle of the Adventure Pack. I'm happy with how it all came together and I think, now that its done, it's going to evolve into something new. Ideas are brewing, I just need to find the time to sit with it.
This month we also put together a spring marsh clean-up day! With 10 volunteers over 3 hrs we were able to gather up 30 bags of trash! I'm a big believer in if you see a problem, don't complain, don't wait for someone else to fix it, take responsibility for your world and act to make it better! I'm so thankful for all of our volunteers for their hard work and ODNR for providing supplies and dumpsters.
March brought some wildly fluctuating temperatures, the migratory ducks came through, early blooming flowers like the witch hazel and skunk cabbage bloomed early in the. month. The redwing blackbirds, spring peepers, and beavers made regular appearances through the month. At the end the forsythia and daffodils and maples were blooming. The rains really started turning things green.
This time next week I'll be hanging an exhibition of my nature photography - on display and open to the public - at Wooster Community Hospital's Outpatient Pavilion. Show will be up from Earth day (April 22nd) through the end of June. All the pieces are available for purchase through this site Info Here (the hospital does not do any art sales). This will be my first solo show since 2013 and I'm so excited to see it all come together!
Although we're not even half ways through, April changes so fast there's lots to note.
April 1st brought a great snow storm that thankfully melted the next day. Out in the parks the spring ephemerals have started waking up. Cutleaf toothwort, spring beauties, trout lily greens, and dutchman's breeches greens all up in the snow. About one week later all but the trout lily are in bloom (although now they may be). It's been a hot and dry April (sounds funny saying that after noting the snow storm).
The marshes are very low right now. While out in the marsh I was watching a cormorant (diving bird) float on the water, all of a sudden 3 turkey vultures glided over in their casual manner and the cormorant got really (upset?) (excited?) and while in the water spread its wings out wide (like they do to dry) then started hopping on top of the water (trying to fly? trying to frighten them?). Eventually the turkey vultures left the area and the cormorant calmed down and continued floating.
This year I don't have a "one year study" started, or one in mind. Perhaps if I find just the right spot but until then I don't want to force a project and make this thing that I love to do a chore. You can go check out the archives at the link above, so many wonderful years recorded.
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 couple of eagles flew overhead, hawks too. The robins are gathering enmasse on any tree, shrub, or vine that still holds fruits.
I picked this spot (Killbuck Marsh) for a number of reasons, but mostly I wanted to see what the skunk cabbages had to say. The greens are lifting up out of the saturated ground, but if you look close, a purple mottled thumbnail sticks out on the side. That, my friend, is the spathe, it will grow, untwist, and reveal a spadix covered with flowers (yes even in the snow) a bright yellow sphere with alien looking yellow flowers erupting from the surface. Think of what the covid virus looks like (are you picturing the gray sphere with the red bits?) imagine that yellow and there you have the spadix of the skunk cabbage!
Also emerging from the ground is cat tail!
We wandered around an old field for a while and an interesting thing happened, instead of seeing an old grassy field, I noticed there was actually very little grass here, this was mostly goldenrod, ironweed, vervain, queen Anne's lace. To see beyond the color, to see the textures, the plants, imagining them in bloom was a new phenomenon.
The low red rosette, I couldn't identify, I'm glad to have a mystery still.
As we were leaving I noticed the winter creeper filled with fruit. Soon the robins find them, then it'll be fly-rest-poop and a new invasive can potentially take hold.
It may be winter, but there's still so much to see out there!
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.
Immediately as we started down the trail I found myself sliding down the grade, a slow walk it'll have to be. A slow walk is always nice though, it encourages one to look around. The beech tree, heavy with ice, caught my eye right away (see slideshow below). Every leaf as delicate as a glass sculpture.
Everywhere a world of glass highlighted every detail, every needle on the pine, every hip on the rose bush, the small branches on trees -so often invisible- had a special light all their own.
We walked down the big hill, took the lower trillium to the outer trail. At rathburn run the water was high, fast, and cold so we turned back, following the lower trillium again (due to the ice) and took the Spangler trail up to the hemlock area. On top of the hill we wandered over by the sycamore which was holding steady even with the added ice weight, and followed the education trail back to the entrance.
About half ways through the 3.5 miles the rain broke through the umbrella, coat, 3 layers of sweaters and shirts. We were soaked. That's also why you won't see any photos beyond the hemlocks, the rain was too much we didn't want to ruin our cameras.
Although we were soaked there was no room for complaining - we had to keep moving forward, soaked or not this is our hike, our day. While sure, complaining is an option, we had more fun laughing and walking through the puddles since it really didn't matter, we were soaked through the boots, through the socks, and had to get back to the car.
And I think that's a good lesson to start the year with, you may be cold and soaking wet, but make the most of it and before you know it you'll be back inside, dry, warm, curled up with a tea, book, and the one you love.
Happy new year my friends!
- NEW FEATURE -
Some of you may know I've been playing around with videos - how to make them, how to edit them. So I started a YouTube channel - honestly I've been too busy to do much with it at the moment but my goal is to do virtual nature walks.
Below you can walk with us along the lower trillium trail on the newly installed boardwalks - this is actual footage from our New Year's Day Hike!
Let me know what you think, is this something you'd like to see more of (but in better quality/less shaky)? Would you like narration or just the sounds of nature?
At any rate, it's all just for fun, enjoy!
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.
August 2nd - Funk
Rainy day full of insects and blooming aquatic plants. Fish were jumping and immediately I was sent to the song (Summertime from Porgy & Bess).
August 8th - Farm and Killbuck Marsh
I'm grateful there are still some places where solitude may be found.
August 10th - Bog
There is always something interesting to see at the bog.
August 19th - Barnes & Farm
Big fluffy cloud days. Tupelo is beginning to turn its fall colors.
August 24th - Wooster Memorial
Getting up early can bring you some of the most amazing sights - see the fog rising through the shafts of light at the Trillium bridge.
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!
We have been working hard behind the scenes here at Through The Woods at putting together something amazing for you...
What if I told you we could help you:
and that all the tools you need can be delivered to your home with every changing season?
This also includes beautiful art prints, activity prompts, cards to help you identify common plants, and more!
Sounds awesome right?
It doesn't matter where you live, if you have access to vast natural parks or a small city lawn, nature can be found everywhere.
This is nature for everyone!
All the details, contests, and your opportunity to sign up will happen
THIS FRIDAY - May 29, 2020!
Mark your calendars, this is going to be awesome!
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.