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Posts Tagged ‘prairie’

Following a rather busy June and early July, I decided to make the most of some much appreciated down time to just be me.

This, of course, translates easily into me wandering off to explore nature.

So it was on an overcast Saturday afternoon that the I opted for a walk at the Dean Nature Sanctuary in Oak Brook.

The sanctuary is a wildlife habitat – hidden in plain view. It was through the generous endowment of one of the early founding residents of Oak Brook, Dorothy Dean. With the assistance of the Conservation Foundation, Dorothy Dean generously donated this expanse of land to the Oak Brook Park District.

The story of this sanctuary is an interesting history lesson as well as a unique example of land preservation and stewardship. It also provides insight into the personality and foresight of Dorothy Dean, who used the advance of the Illinois Tollway system to her – and now our – advantage and resulted in the large pond at the site which is a refuge to waterfowl and wildlife. The story is rendered with more perfection than I can do here on my little blog. I encourage you to click on the link below to learn more.

Under the threat of rain, I parked the car, and scurried to one of the paths to make a quick loop around the pond and to rejoice in midst of a riot of prairie bloom! Cone flowers and bergamot, Culver’s root and brown-eyed Susan were bending in the breeze – or stretching toward sunlight, while a

 pair of mourning doves shared a branch high atop of tree.

As I walked, I noticed plant stems bending ever-so-slowly to the will of pollinators; bees and wasps and butterflies spreading the secrets of summer. From stem-to-stem they worked their way among the blooms of the sanctuary, while a heron stalked the edge of the pond and red-winged blackbirds taunted each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I often walk the paths of the Dean Nature Sanctuary, it seemed particularly special for me on Saturday afternoon. I enjoyed getting some exercise, clearing my mind, and observing the living things surrounding me. A dog was walking its master while a gaggle of pre-teen girls passed by, giggling at something on one of their phones. Something splashed loudly in the pond and a hawk circled overhead, looking for dinner, I supposed. I needed to head home to do the same so headed to my car feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Later, at home, checking out the website for the Dean Nature Sanctuary, a visual caught my eye. Oh! Bee Parks Honey. The Oak Brook Park District was selling honey harvested from the Dean Nature Sanctuary! I prefer to use local honey whenever I can, as you may recall, and dug a little deeper into the site. I sent an email to the Park District, and promptly received a very nice response thanking me for my inquiry and informing me that I could buy the honey at the park district office. All honey money (my term) will be used to support their universal playground project. I wish them well in this endeavor. Parks that are accessible to everyone benefit all of us.

Guess where I went the next afternoon?


https://www.obparks.org/history

 

 

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On my way out of Wilder Mansion, following a Garden Club meeting, Marilyn handed me a heavy tote bag. Showing concern, she told me to go home and put my foot up. She also encouraged me to spend some time enjoying her book which was weighing down the bag.

I have been missing my long walks with the seasonal shuffling through carpets of fallen leaves, as well as observing the many migratory birds stopping for sustenance and rest at local watering holes. Trips to the local forest preserves have all but abated, though I have been enjoying drive-by leaf peeping.

Marilyn’s book was a welcome diversion for me.

I have heard nature photographer extraordinaire, Mike MacDonald, speak and was aware of his inspirational book, “My Journey Into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders”. I had not yet journeyed into his luminous creation. Since I cannot physically wander the wilds around me, I truly appreciated being able to vicariously roam them by leafing  through this glorious book.

Mike MacDonald wears many hats, including humorist, poet, naturalist, speaker – and photographer. His command of lyrical prose and eye for natural beauty are hallmarks of his talent and are gifts to the reader of “My Journey Into the Wilds of Chicago”.

My own nature wanderings came to mind through Mike MacDonald’s exquisite images of prairies, savannas, and preserves. I instantly became an armchair traveler and felt a wee bit smug knowing that I have actually frequented many of them. I was also humbled, curious, and anxious to journey to so many more that I either have not been to, or was not even aware of. Some are but a few miles from our home, others just over the Wisconsin or Indiana border or an hour or so away.

With his breathtaking photography , MacDonald takes readers to oak savannas and mystical fens, through the changing midwestern seasons amid the changing light of day and the dark of night when the prairies alight with winking and blinking movement. Bull snakes and egrets and dragonflies offer startling scenery and interesting photographic dilemnas. From Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, the McGinnis Slough in Palos Park, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the Chiwaukee Prairie State Natural Area near the Illinois/Wisconsin border, such natural wonders abound in the greater Chicagoland area.

“My Journey Into the Wilds of Chicago” is more that a coffee table book. It is a photographic celebration of the diverse ecosystems and prairies of Illinois, filled with evocative prose and poetry, humor and facts, tips on photography and insight into wildlife – and more. Much, much more.

I am grateful to Marilyn for lending me this treasure. It has allowed me to travel to some of my favorite preserves, to explore so many I did not know about, and to experience the sunrises and sunsets and seasons in Mike MacDonald’s “My Journey Into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders”.

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In abeyance

columbus-avenue-rainy-day-1885.jpg!BlogA few posts are in abeyance, waiting, patiently, to be aired while I’m on the road.

I’m hoping, since I will be traveling solo this trip, that I don’t encounter rain on the way.  Things seem to be leaking on the Cutoff; our refrigerator and the windshield of our mocha colored VW with a latte interior. I am roaming today, with towels left on the kitchen floor, and towels in the car, just in a case of a downpour, though I would sure love to see a rainbow along the way.

I went to the library in Westchester yesterday, as it was the only library around that had an unchecked copy of the book we are reading for our September discussion group.  I also picked up  a few audio books  -well, actually four audio books. I just couldn’t decide. They will keep me company, along with Wisconsin’s wonderful public radio broadcasts – or, I may just listen to the quiet,  watch the corn and soybeans and diary farms pass me by and think about the prairie.

As long as I was in Westchester, I stopped, for a second time this week, at the Wolf Road Prairie. I hope to show you some pictures soon, along with our own burgeoning attempt at prairie plants and grasses.

A basket of food is packed for nourishment, and I’m anticipating a few scenic stops along the way. Do you pack up food for a long road trip?

Well, the  grandchildren are waiting, so, off I go, bidding you fair-thee-well until I’m online again.

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“Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.”

Laura Ingalls Wilder. “Little House in the Big Woods”

That little girl’s name was Laura. She grew up to become one of America’s most beloved children’s authors with her books, commonly known as the Little House Books, still in publication.

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Today is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthday.

Those of you who have been visiting with me here on the Cutoff for some time know of my love of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her stories growing up on the vast prairies of the midwest in the second half of the 19th century. You know how I often read “The Long Winter” during snowstorms and of my visits to several of the Little House sites, most recently the one in Burr Oak, Iowa. If you are new to my site, or don’t know about the Little House books, please feel free to click onto the links to learn a bit more.

It is “Little House in the Big Woods” that has started countless schoolchildren on the long journey with Laura and her family that begins in the North Woods of Wisconsin and is one of the first “chapter” books read aloud to children in schools.

This one little book. written when Laura was in her sixties, is a chronicle of midwestern settlers who formed and farmed the heartland of the United States.

“Little House in the Big Woods” was followed by more books that chronologically tell of the Ingalls’ journey across frozen Lake Pepin to Minnesota and Iowa and the Dakota territory. Laura Ingalls Wilder brought the pioneer spirit alive. She still does as her books take us into their sod house, log cabins and shanties, enduring grasshopper plagues, near starvation, and illness that leaves Laura’s sister Mary blind.  Ma’s cheery disposition and ability to cook anything and Pa’s fiddle strings playing the girls up to their beds at night and all the adventures, both big and small, continue to entertain, educate and inspire children young and young at heart

I was so excited to learn of her birthday today that I just may stop right here and read the first chapter of “Little House in the Big Woods” . . . well, you know what will happen if I do that, don’t you?

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Ma and Pa Go to Market

Once we got the iPhone extracted from the sunroof Saturday morning, we continued on to Morris, Illinois and the 3 French Hens Market.  My friend Roz mentioned it to me earlier in the week. On Saturday, I hemmed and hawed until Tom convinced me to go, even volunteering to come along.

Getting out of the car was enough of a thrill as we spotted this stately house.

We walked the few blocks to the crowded market where there was produce, bakery, cheeses, and such. There were also booths with all kinds of wares: tools and Depression glass, dolls and carriages, repurposed objects and objects to be repurposed.

It’s fun to dream of all life’s possibilities, isn’t it?

From the park, we walked a few blocks to the main business district, and had some lunch in a cute little diner, Weits Cafe, where we were greeted by the most pleasant of waitresses, who acted like we were two of the regulars. Small town diners are our kind of place. This one didn’t disappoint.

After our lunch, we wandered around a bit and went into an antique store. Who should round the corner shortly after we arrived? My friend Roz and her cousin, whose name, I’m ashamed to say, has already escaped me. Her friendly manner and poise have not, and it was a pleasure to meet her and to see Roz!

Thanks, Roz, for telling me about 3 French Hens.

Next stop, Ma and Pa on the prairie.

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