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Archive for the ‘Nature/animals’ Category

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

– Wendell Berry, The Peace of Wild Things

April is National Poetry Month.

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I was wandering about on an unexplored path in Lyman Woods when I spotted crocus pushing through the remnants of last Autumn. Not yet open, they were  a wee bit of optimism on a cool and cloudy day. The path was muddy and the grayness of the day lent an air of melancholy to my mood.  These determined early spring bulbs offered an antidote of encouragement. Here was life, in its simplest of forms, in budding blooms and clinging to decaying logs on the forest floor.

Sometimes, we just have to look to find hope just beyond our footsteps.

The day turned misty and there were not many folks walking the woods, so, I stayed closer to the entrance, exploring the small, still sleeping gardens near the nature center, scoping it out for future visits with our Up North family. As I shuffled about, I could hear a chorus of spring peepers in the near distance, which called me further along a rustic path.

As I walked,  I wondered aloud –

 “What is that I see beyond this tree?”.

A little library calling me.

One never knows where a Little Free Library will appear. It may even pop up in a forest.

Of course, I opened the small little door, well appointed with a knob fashioned into a twig. There were several books inside, and I found these two, which I know will be enjoyed by our grandchildren – and their mommy who is known to go owling when she hears the hoots of owls late at night.

What discoveries have you made along your paths lately? Have you found any good books?

Owl Moon image from here

Owl Babies image from here.

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Herons and hawks and eagles, oh my!

It has been a mad March hereabouts, with temperatures fluctuating 40 degrees in a matter of a few hours! We have had snow and rain, sunshine and strong winds – March in the Midwest.

The wetlands and ponds and sloughs in our little kingdom have, however, tempered the gloom of this frenetic month, as the great bird migration takes place.

Perhaps it is my own increased awareness and interest in birds as I wander the habitats around me, but it seems that his year, this spring, there have been more birds, especially waterfowl, stopping by for some R & R, courting and breeding and feeding,

I really need to take my serious camera with me on my excursions; that and a bit more patience. I squeal and clap with the glee of young schoolgirl when I need to be still and calm and present.

I was driving, barely pedaling at 10 mph, in the parking lot at the boat dock at the Saganashkee Slough (aka Sag Slough). I thought I saw something. I stopped, looked up through the sun roof, and there he was, in all his glory – a bald eagle. He circled and circled, just over my head, close enough for me to see his white head and distinguished tail. The circles grew wider and wider, with this majestic bird rising and soaring until he became but a speck in the distant sky.

The very next day, parking my car at the grocery store, a red-tailed hawk swooped past me and landed, quite authoritatively, upon an electrical pole. A small field of dormant grasses and a paved parking lot were his domain. I am quite certain he looked at me and winked. While I was shopping, so was he. As I walked toward my car, he swooped off his hi-wire perch, his purchase in his talons as I carried a sack of groceries in my as I headed back to my car.

There was also this drama another day this past week; a day when the wind was still and the temperature warm.

I was at the very same boat launch at the Sag Slough. I rounded the bend and saw one of those puzzles common in a children’s publications with the caption “what doesn’t belong in this picture?”. I drove back around to figure it out. There it was, plumes of white peaking over the launch –  and me in my driving machine. I arrived just in time to see it, a snowy egret, arise from among a gathering of gulls and sweep across the water before resting further along the shoreline.

Wow!

Sensing the shore was where the action was, I went around the parking lot, again.

I wonder if a drone has been watching me, the goofy granny in a mocha VW, circling a small parking lot, at a boat launch with no boats, going 10 mph).

It was on that third lap of ring-around-the-wildlife that I saw a heron in the grasses.

I stopped, parked, stood next to my car. The heron turned, waded a few yards down the shore, stopped, waited, then in an instant speared his meal. Gulls and geese and ducks and cars went about their noon-time business while the heron prepped his catch, putting it in the water, then out again, repeating the process. He expertly carried the fish a few feet, lifted his head. I watched, in awe as he tossed the fish into the air – and caught it. He swallowed and I could see the fish slowly slide down the heron’s long, elegant neck. It was dramatic, dear friends, and it was nature at its most pristine.

 

This Great Blue Heron, sated and stately, prepared for lift-off. Like the egret earlier, the heron arose from the water. He flew low and swiftly along the shore. I watched in awe and wonder in this mad and marvelous month of March.

Are you seeing birds in your neck of the woods? Are they nesting? Migrating? Settling in for the season ahead? Leaving for greener pastures?

Bald eagle photo and more information from here

 

 

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It was in the silence.

I drove slowly along the river. There were pools of water close to the road; overflow from the early March rains. A portal for bikers, this inlet is also a favored fishing hole for humans – and migratory birds. This was slight detour on my way home from errands; an activity I frequently participate in, especially this time of year when nature begins its slow journey into Spring.

So it was, driving along in the slow silence of the riverbank, that I sensed that which I could not hear and did not see. I stopped and I waited. I needed to be still and patient and respectful.

Can you find it?  You might need to click on the photos.

It took me a few minutes to see what I sensed, then, a slight movement. A barely discernible ripple in the water. There it was. A heron.

He waited then slowly slipped along the shallow water, barely causing a ripple, almost hidden, a slight turn of his head, waiting . . .

. . . then dipping into the water, swiftly and successfully capturing his prey.

Down by the river.

“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”  e.e. cummings

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Like a Lion

img_2807March arrived full of fury and growling thunder, with flashes of lightning and strong, gusty winds. He brought with him hail and havoc and fast rising rivers. March’s bravado –  the fiercest of  lions if ever there was.

As March exhibited the height of madness, the daily mail arrived. There were the usual bills and advertisements, a save-the-date announcement as well as a lovely invitation to a spring luncheon, which I set aside in a prominent place, a visual reminder to respond.

It was not, however, these usual postal suspects that caught my attention on this damp, dark day. It was the splash of color with petals and leaves on the covers of much-anticipated garden catalogues that brought the hope of Spring on an otherwise blustery day.

White Flower Farm continues to publish one of the finest catalogues with trusty perennials, plants, even gardening tools. It is, in fact, such a well crafted publication that it calls itself a garden book.

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One long ago and equally blustery day, though not a March day, I ordered a passel of spring bulbs from White Flower Farm. Tete-a-Tete and Thalia, King Alfred and other daffodillian royalty were purchased in bulk, planted in Fall, and filled the garden of our first house with delight the next spring and many springs thereafter.

The catalogue is exceptional, as is the staff at White Flower Farm. While ordering some plants on the phone, the helpful employee I spoke to patiently took my order. It was a bit lengthy. There was one plant, I no longer remember which one, but as I named the plant she advised me against purchasing it, stating it did not do well in my zone.  She then suggested a few similar plants that were suited for my area.

It has been several years now since I have ordered anything from White Flower Farm, but, this periodical “garden book” continues to arrive and it is something I always look forward to; not only for its beautiful photography and offerings, but, for the descriptions of plants and suggestions for where and how to settle them into a garden.

Then, there was this . . .

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. . . a new and welcome discovery!

Prairie Nursery’s publication is touted as an ecological gardening guide – and it is. Not only is it a worthy source of native and prairie plants, it is a welcome resource for those of us establishing prairie gardens, or just interested in learning more about the midwest prairie.

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The Table of Contents is amazing.

Most gardeners in the Midwest deal with some of these soil types listed. Here on the Cutoff, we actually contend with all of these soils – medium, clay, dry and sandy, moist, shade! I look forward to digging deeper into these pages and hope to establish some of the plants offered.

I was appreciative of sections of this guide that cover planting issues that include Protecting Water Quality, Hometown Habitat, Planting Guides, Land Restoration – and, of course, Deer Resistance.

These two gardening catalogues came just when I needed encouragement to tamp down the madness of the March lion – and think about a No Mow Lawn.

http://www.prairienursery.com

http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com

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img_2732Stuck in between the wonderment of December and the madness of March, February is my least favorite month of the year!

Come February, I am traditionally posting photos of a winter-white landscape, complaining about frigid temperatures, and longing for the color green. I am apt to reread Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “The Long Winter” or pull on my boots and trudge to the “way back” to see what havoc the resident herd of deer have bestowed upon our little acreage. I ceremoniously don my very old, very long, black wool coat with massive hood and scurry out to the mailbox to see what is inside. I keep the coat for just such times for it is as warm as it is voluminous – and it cushions my tush against any tumbles I may take while slipping and sliding here along the Cutoff.

This year has presented itself as a rather mild February; record-breaking, if fact be told. Hereabouts, we love to tout our weather records. We recognize weather-versaries, such as the renowned Valentine’s Day Blizzard, and mark in time the largest snowfall, the most sub-zero days, the most snowfall on sub-zero days, the windchill, the chilblains. (okay, I made the chilblains up).

 A February phenomenon.

We have had this year a string of record-breaking February temperatures. We have had temperatures well over 60 degrees (F) for several days in a row, surpassing temperatures   of 130 some years ago.

We find ourselves wandering about in light jackets – or no jackets at all. People are smiling, lawns are greening, trees are budding and folks are out-and-about picnicking, golfing, and otherwise enjoying the welcome sunshine and warmer air.

So it was that the Antler Man and I took a pleasant Saturday stroll around Lake Katherine. It was so crowded that we had to park the car in the parking lot of a nearby office complex. While parking was a challenge, walking around the lake was not, even with families and strollers, dog walkers and couples both young and not-so enjoying the gifts of nature unusual for a mid-February day.

As we walked about, we heard a flock of Sandhill Cranes, deep in the deep-blue sky, with their distinctive calls amid their great migration. A pair of swans preened in the Lake as a family of turtles sat upon logs sunning close to the shore. Further along the winding path, a single turtle positioned himself out on a fallen branch, balancing his protective shell as a gaggle of geese honked away as if in a traffic jam during rush hour.

So it is that this phenomenal February has risen in rank to one of my favorite months – at least so far this year. I say this knowing that many of you are experiencing much different weather, threatening and disastrous, in fact. Please know that my thoughts and my prayers are with you.

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“We walked in so pure and bright a light… I thought I had never bathed in such a golden flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and rising ground gleamed like the boundary of elysium,and the sun on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman, driving us home at evening.”
-From “Walking” by Henry Thoreau; 1862

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