Whale Day

For the past 24 years I have traveled to North Hudson Elementary in Hudson, Wisconsin for a very special experience. The 4th grade teachers have developed a thematic unit on the oceans that runs from February to May. All of their reading, science, language arts is based upon oceans. One day a year, I have had the honor of teaching an entire day about the oceans: Ocean Communities, Squid dissection, Sand Lab, and Shell Lab.

Student drawing of a squid

Squid Dissection

Various aspects of squid anatomy were observed and recorded.
The chromatophores allow the squid to change color. This photo was taken by a student through a 30x microscope.
Student photo of a squid beak (30x microscope)
Student photo of a sucker disk on a squid tentacle (30x)


Marine Communities

Jeanette Dickinson, a visual artist, worked with students to create a marine communities mural.

Marine science artists at work
Open Ocean Community

Sand Lab

Learning about the uniqueness of sands from around the world

Sand scientists at work

Shell Lab

Using a scientist’s eye to identify different species
Intense investigations
Is is it an abalone or a limpet?

After doing research projects, students create three dimensional ocean creatures.

viperfish from the Abyss Community
Deck the halls with ocean life.


It is fulfilling to see the Oceanography project has maintained support and grown over the years. This integrated unit has always been close to my heart. The study has generated student enthusiasm; developed learners’ understanding of so many related concepts and processes; and provided an immensely rich and integrated learning experience for every child.
Thank you 4th Grade teachers at North Hudson (Paula Feyereisen, Jessica McQuade, Heather Mathews, and Deborah Smith) for carrying on this invaluable study, especially in the light of frequent obstacles. I truly admire what you do on a daily basis.

Vicki Donatell, retired 4th grade teacher at North Hudson

Posted in Whales & Oceanography | 4 Comments

North Country Pilgrimage

Three nights of winter camping in a yurt can change your perspective on life. Jim Gregory and his son David joined me for the adventure.

Jim Gregory’s water color of our yurt.

Often working with only the light of his headlamp and a lantern, Jim was able to create his work. This was his first experience using water colors. When we left, Jim generously gave his painting to the owner of the property.

Plenty of time for creative activities.

City boy
Brought a cell phone charger
Now I am out of juice
Can’t plug it into a pine tree.
City boy

Jim Gregory on the trail

Creative Snow Plops – Nature is the Artist

Snow bird
Snow Moomin
Climbing Snow Creatures

Lost my glove liners
Tearing everything apart
Going crazy
Heck with the liners…
Going skiing
Out on the trail now….
I adjust my hat
And feel something.
Hey! I found my glove liners.

Gray Jay

Whiskey Jacks
Pirates – Scavengers
Fearless ……If food is involved
Gray Jay

Culinary Art by David Gregory

I went out before sunrise, skiing. When I returned to the yurt, I was hungry and was going to make some hot cereal. David had not skied, but made this special meal. In 50 years of camping, I have never had a breakfast like this. It was a wonderful gift.

Canada Lynx Tracks
I originally thought these were the tracks of a cougar. But my tracker friends, told me that the 16-18 inch distance between the tracks was too small for a cougar.
Canada Lynx Track.
A wolf track would have visible claws. This is a 4 inch wide track, but has no visible claws. The claws of cats are tucked into the skin until they are ready to be used. It wasn’t a bobcat, because their track would not have been so wide.

The foot is very wide on a Canada Lynx, to keep it from sinking in deep snow. It has been classified as a Federally Threatened Species. Barbara Young, the owner of Poplar Creek Guesthouse said that she has seen many lynx over the years. Once she saw a lynx jump 5 feet high and knock over a bird feeder.

Two nights – The same dream
The eyes of wildness
Burning into my Soul
Waking me from a restless sleep.


On the ski trail
Fresh tracks of a Canada Lynx
The lynx’s essence
Passes through me
But remains unseen.
The eyes of wildness
Deep in my bones.


David Gregory used cross country skis for the groomed trails. He carried Back Country Skis that are a modified ski/snowshoe for the deep snow, off trail.

When David was two, I carried him on my back while I cross-country skied. I often wonder if that has something to do with his love of skiing and the outdoors.
Jim Gregory

White Pine

There were no more than a dozen mature white pine near our yurt. Loggers cut down most of the giants in the early 1900’s. I can only imagine what this land was like when the old growth white pine dominated the area.

More work by Jim Gregory.
Jim says, “This highly grained wood chip fascinated me and consisted of a lot of detail.”

Where Does Beauty Hide?

In the lichen on a fallen birch
In the fresh tracks of Snowshoe Hare

Where Does Beauty Hide?

In the shadows of the branches on the snow
In moss and fungus on the birch tree

Where Does Beauty Hide?
In the simplicity of nature
And deep in my heart.

Do you need to make a Northwoods Pilgrimage?
Contact Barbara Young at Poplar Creek Guesthouse. 11 Poplar Creek Drive.
Grand Marais, MN 55604
(218) 388-4487

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Poetry, Photography/Art, Winter | 6 Comments

The Spirit of a Naturalist Artist

We are lucky to have guest blogger, Nanci Olesen,  share her relationship with nature through art and text. When I first saw Nanci’s work in a Minneapolis Star Tribune article (http://www.startribune.com/will-publish-in-different-format/504165212/), I was touched by the intimacy of her sketches and how she was able to connect to nature through art.


I have filled small sketchbooks and journals with my drawing and writing for as long as I can remember.   I am a mom of adult children and a Montessori teacher. Montessori education is rooted in peace, simplicity, independence, and the wonder of the natural world.   I like to pay attention. I like to follow the child. 
Nanci Olesen

The next 4 drawings appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and document the quiet beauty of an everyday nature walk. Beneath each sketch are Nanci’s nature notes from the day.

30 december 18: Mid afternoon, sort of grey. Still cold, but not bitter. Me neither. I met an old friend on the path. We chatted. We found a red hatted woman happily pointing to a pileated woodpecker (red capped of course). We saw chickadees and juncos too. Later, a boy from my old school, Lamont. In a red hat! “Fourth grade is hard!” And me, with my red hat on, just taking it all in. Oh yes, and I fell on the ice… twice! Argghh.gh…

A

31 december 18
4 pm. Greeeeeyyyyyy. Snow’s coming. Ice still freaking us all out. I only slipped two times. Deep in the bird sanctuary is a little streamlet-kind-of pond. Mallards were doing their happy swim and their funny ra-ra-ra-ra sound. That same pileated woodpecker (or so I think) swooped low, making some loud wa-wa-wa-wa… and me, quietly, to all of it: “Woah.” Snow falling at an angle and temperature dropping steadily. The tree trunk seemed to say “Onward into the new year.” The pond responded “Shoooooshh.” “Tzee, tzee,” whispered the fallen branch.

1 january 19
There are two lifeguard chairs at North Beach, Lake Harriet. I like the one on the left. Sunset. Resolutions. Bravery. “Happy New Year,” I say from my perch on the chair, gazing out at the miraculous ice. Surprisingly, the lifeguard chair responds, “Same to you!!”

3 january 19
It’s that blue of dusk… especially in the winter. Glorious! Deep blue– getting inky—but still holding light. The simple magnificence of it all. Oh baby!
The b e a u t y ! Indeed.

I look to the big picture.  I like wilderness travel.  I like theatre and dance and music.  Yellow is my favorite color.  I swim in Lake Harriet. I play the piano late at night.  I have a humorous husband.  I have grown a garden and cooked dinner and hosted parties and raised our children and ridden my bike in the Kingfield neighborhood of Minneapolis for 37 years.
Nanci Olesen

Do you want to see more of Nanci’s work?
Visit her website (https://www.nanciolesen.com/)
Check out her weekly “visual practice blog” (https://www.nanciolesen.com/blog).
And her Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/drawingnanciolesen/).
Share these links on your own social media!

Below I’ve selected some of Nanci’s online work:

Berkeley loves its twinkly lights. And I love it all. New perspectives continue. Reading for real and getting organized. Thank you, Mary Oliver.

Lupine. Loopin’ back to all that is and was, and loping forward to the next of it. There is so much best in us left in us. Gratitude.
#lupinedrawings, #kahlilgibran, #showyourwork, #littledrawings, #nanciolesen

Lake Superior full moon 12 days ago. Time flies as we await the melting ice. Looking for the big picture. This one. The one I see.
#fullmoon,   #carryon,   #watercolorpencils, #showyourwork, #nanciolesen

On that amazing day I saw the full moon over the ocean, I met a Baird’s Trogon, I heard a monkey howl in the darkness, and I trembled through a tremor from an earthquake. #nanciolesen, #coloredpencildrawings, #costaricadrawings, #showyourwork

Nanci drawing, at the top of Devil’s Causeway in the Flat Tops Wilderness in northern Colorado, summer 2018.

Currently I am in a study cycle in Berkeley, CA, working on drawing and writing skills.  I have a grant to work with a mentor at the Berkeley Art Studio on a children’s book that is living in my head.

Posted in Nature Notes, Photography/Art | 1 Comment

The Cock of the Rock Adventure

Mindo Cloud Forest, Ecuador. For two days,  we took early morning hikes with our superb birding guide, Lucia, who pointed out numerous species of tanagers and other birds.

Photo by Carol S Wade
Golden Tanager
Photo by Lucia Pilco
Golden Tanager
Photo by Lucia Pilco
Vermillion Flycatcher
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Chocó Toucan
Photo by Lawrence Wade
  Common Potoo   
Photo by Lucia Pilco

After two days, Lucia told us about the Cock of the Rock. But in order to see the bird, we had to do the following:
4am Get out of bed
4:30am Cross the river on the trolley
4:45am  Take a taxi with Lucia
5:15 am Get dropped off on a remote dirt road in the jungle
5:20am  Be completely stunned when three other taxis arrive -filled with 10 serious birders.
Shortly after 5:30 the owner showed up and opened the gate. The group hustled down to the bird blind and jostled for a viewing position. The blind fit around 6 people comfortably, but on this morning there were 13 people and many of them had huge cameras with 3 foot lenses.

That is Lucia trying to get through the camera maize.
Photo by Carol S. Wade

 Listen to the cacophony of Cock of the Rocks calling :

  Cock of the Rocks do not pair up, like most birds. Every day the males come to the same location (lek) and display (head-bobbing, and wing flapping) Their goal is to attract a female and then be chosen to mate with her.

Finally, it was light enough to see the birds and get a photo. But first, I had to stake out a spot in the crowded bird blind.

male Cock of the Rock

This was a surreal experience: seeing these unusual birds in this remote area. Sharing the space with all the birders. The friendly and helpful owner, collected $10 from each person. Lucia said that he fills up every morning (over a $100 a day).

That is Lucia between the two old people.

Reader Jim Evrard shared his adventure with the Cock of the Rock:
While serving in the Peace Corps in Peru in 1965-66, I had an opportunity to see the Cock of the Rock along a wild, rapid-filled stream in the high selva on the eastern slope of the Andes. I served as a technical advisor to the Peruvian Wildlife and Forestry Service based in Cuzco and saw the bird while on a working expedition involved in evaluating private land with the ideal of possibly establishing a sawmill.

P.S. Just so you know, that area was a hotbed of communist activity led by Che Guevara, Fidel Castro’s second in command. I was hauled into an army checkpoint along a road because I couldn’t produce my identify card (stolen by a pick-pocket). The soldiers had machine guns and had grenades strapped to their chests. Since I spoke Spanish with an accent, they thought I was a Cuban until I could identify two other Peace Corp Volunteers who were working and living in that area.

Posted in Birds, Nature Notes, Photography/Art | 11 Comments

Galapagos: Islas Encantadas

Editor Note: View all videos on full screen.

The Galapagos Islands truly are enchanted, often I felt like I was walking in a dream and wondering whether it was really real.
Lawrence Wade

I have never been in an area where such care is taken to preserve and restore the natural habitat. The authorities encourage people to visit, but the number of people and the places they can visit are carefully controlled so there are never large crowds in the uninhabited areas.
Robert Sable

Photo by Carol S. Wade

Video by Carol S. Wade

It was an amazing experience being around animals who had no fear of humans. We could easily get within 6 feet of most of them.
Lawrence Wade

Photo by Alan Sable

Advice from a Giant Tortoise
Access your ancient wisdom
Listen deeper
The Earth is your mother

Move slowly, everything will be accomplished
Your past will only pull you back, keep growing, live now.

Speaking of the past history of Giant Tortoises…
Up to 200,000 Giant Tortoises were taken by whalers and pirates from the Galapagos Is. They were stored upside down in the hull of their ships for up to a year and eaten for food. On Española Island, researchers from the Darwin Center found a remnant population of tortoises ( 2 males, 14 females). The Darwin Center was also able to reclaim a male from the San Diego Zoo that was taken off of Española in the 1930’s. The Española tortoises are breeding at the Darwin Center and to date, 1800 Giant Tortoises have been repatriated to the island.

Photo by Alan Sable

Photo by Lawrence Wade

Frigatebird
Photo by Robert Sable

Frigatebirds swoop just at the surface of the water with their wings spread and scoop up fish with their beaks.
Robert Sable

Frigatebird Nesting Colony
Photo by Robert Sable

Nesting pair of Frigatebirds. The male has inflated it’s gular pouch.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Frigatebird feeding its young. Video by Alan Sable

Flamingos over-head
Photo by Robert Sable

Our group watched the flamingos flying toward us. Some were taking photos, others  watched in awe. But all were thankful for the opportunity to see something so magnificent.
Lawrence Wade

Flamingos feeding
Photo by Robert Sable

Green Sea Turtle
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Dancing with a Green Sea Turtle
Floating together
Back and forth with the surge
Experiencing wonder
Such beauty and wildness
Never to be forgotten

photo by Lawrence Wade

 

Waved Albatross mated pair. The largest breeding colony in the world is on Española Island, Galapagos.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Wave Albatross courtship dance. Bill clacking and head nodding. View on full screen. Video by Carol S. Wade

Waved Albatross chick
Photo by Robert Sable

Tree Cactus, Santa Cruz Is.
Photo by Alan Sable

Tree Cactus, notice the Land Iguana who had set up its territory underneath the cactus.
Photo by Alan Sable

Galapagos Land Iguana is up 4 feet long and weighs 30 pounds.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Land Iguanas feed on tree cactus pads. They scrape out the large spines and are able to eat the smaller ones.
Photograph by Robert Sable

During times of drought, many land iguanas die.
Photo by Alan Sable

A land Iguana and marine iguana battle for nesting territory.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

The fight went on for over 15 minutes. The land iguana was flipped over on its back 2 times and its neck had bite marks on it. Our group left before the end. It was unnerving to witness the rawness of these two species battling for their survival.
Lawrence Wade

Very young Sea lion pup.
Photo by Carol S. Wade

A pup trying to nurse from an unwilling mom. Video by Alan Sable.

The pup wanted to keep nursing and the mother waddled away. The pup followed braying mournfully.
Robert Sable

Young Sea Lions swimming intertidal pool Video by Carol S. Wade

Sea Lions are awkward and “comical” on land. In the water, they are breathtakingly sleek and acrobatic.
Robert Sable

Bleached bones of a Sea Lion.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Life and death was continuously around us, interwoven into the fabric of the land. For instance, you might see a plump sea lion pup nursing, take three steps and find a  sea lion carcass or a young pup who is starving because his mother was killed for unknown reasons.
Lawrence Wade

Marine Iguana is the world’s only sea-going lizard.
Photo by Robert Sable

Note the long fingers and nails that the marine iguana uses for climbing steep cliffs on their way out of the water.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Marine Iguanas spend most of their time on land basking on rocks. They must get warm enough to feed in the cool nearshore water on algae. Their diet causes them to have an excess of salt in their body which they “snort out” through their nose.

Photo by Lawrence Wade

Blue Footed Booby.
Photo by Robert Sable

Blue footed Boobys dive from great heights with their wings tucked in until they are torpedo shaped. They dive deep in the water for fish.
Robert Sable

Blue-footed Booby Mating Dance.
The male is displaying and trying to attract its mate.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Red-footed booby Photo by Lawrence Wade

Nazca Booby Colony
Photo by Robert Sable

Nazca Booby breeding colony. Video by Alan Sable

American Oystercatchers
Lawrence Wade

Swallowtail Gull
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Blowhole Video by Alan Sable

Undersea World of the Galapagos

Many large schools of Surgeonfish.
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Sea Star
Photo by Lawrence Wade

King Angel
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Hogfish
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Sting Ray in the surf
Photo by Alan Sable

Sally Lightfoot Crab. The name “lightfoot” comes from their ability to “walk quickly across the water”.
Photo by Carol S. Wade

Lava Heron eating a Sally Lightfoot Crab
Photo by Robert Sable

The curtain closes on our adventure.
Photo by Carol S. Wade

Trip of a lifetime!
Robert Sable

 

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Notes | Leave a comment

Holiday Books for Nature Loving Kids

During the holidays, you can buy my books at a 60% discount off of the retail price. Each book is priced at $10 + $3.50 shipping = $13.50 I will sign all books. If you don’t like them, books can be returned for 100% refund.

Nature Seeker Workbook

Wade Cover 020913_flt@300 copy 2Nature Seeker Workbook is the product of 20 years of work as a naturalist in the Upper Midwest. Over 800 books have been sold in three years. It is a unique personal field guide to the natural world in Upper Midwest.
More than 50 field-tested activities. Hundreds of detailed and original drawings.
Highlights natural history through all seasons
Entire units for forest and wetland ecology.
Includes Nature songs, poetry, weaving and more
For students  1st – 6th grade 157 pages  (2013)

To learn more about Nature Seeker Workbook go to:
www.oldnaturalist.com/nature-seeker-workbook/
or go to the pull down menu at this site  –  go to Publications. Click on Nature Seeker Workbook.

OceanographyOceanography includes challenging activities on physical oceanography, biological oceanography, interviews with oceanographers and a teacher’s key. For students 4th-7th grade. Over 10,000 copies of this book has been sold. This book is in its 6th revision (2015). 144 pgs. topics:
Plate Tectonics          Marine Communities
Geology of seafloor   Marine Plankton
Mapping the Seafloor   Marine Food Webs
Ocean currents               Food pyramids

To learn more about Oceanography and Getting to Know the Whales go to:  www.oldnaturalist.com/oceanographywhales/ or go to the pull down menu at this site and go to Publications. Click on Whales/oceanography.

This book had to be written because of the author and illustrator’s passion for whales. Whale biologists have readily contributed data to make whales come to life for children. For students 4th-7th grade. Over 10,000 copies of this book has been sold. This book is in its 5th revision (2015). 146 pages

Whale Biology Topics
Draw a whale   Prehistoric whales   Whale and dolphin key  Whale dissection
How Whales feed       Lunge-feeding flip book           How Whales Breathe
How long does a Whale dive?    A Day with a Blue Whale  Whale Speed
Whale Migration              Year in the life of a Humpback Whale

How to purchase:
1. Send a check for $13.50 to the address below.
2.  order by email:  larrywade16@gmail.com
3. call me to order:  (952) 288-5025
4. You can also pay by credit card through PayPal go to: /www.oldnaturalist.com/nature-seeker-workbook/  and scroll down  ( Nature Seeker only – $13.50 includes shipping)

Larry Wade
15524 Day Place
Minnetonka, MN 55345

Will ship within 24 hours. Send me your email address and I’ll get the tracking numbers to you. The last day for the sale is Dec. 25.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Listening to the Giants

This Fall a group of seekers visited the Coastal Redwoods in Northern California. The learning and impact was glorious. In this post many people contributed their love of the Earth and the Redwoods.

Prairie Creek State Park
Photograph by Ken W. Brown

We have been given the responsibility to be guardians of all these sacred places, like the redwoods, and to keep them safe and holy. But so many life forms are in peril of going extinct because of our greed and our belief that this is “our Earth”, and we can do whatever want with it.
Donna Taylor

Today, only 5 percent of the original old-growth coast redwood forest remains, along a 450-mile coastal strip.
Save the Redwood League

Photo by Diane Kaplan

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it.

from The Talmud

Redwood Spirit Tree
Photo by RMaya Briel

The beauty and rarity of this Albino Redwood and it’s ability to find a way to live and be useful to the forest astounded me. It does not create it’s own chlorophyll and is fed by the trees around it. In return it takes on the heavy metals for the others. This lesson of interdependence and being yourself is worth pondering.
RMaya Briel

Photo by Diane Kaplan

Being with the Redwoods touched my soul. I feel the Redwoods within me.

Diane Kaplan

Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
Ken W. Brown Photography.com

And the Redwood said:  “I have seen humans eating cookies”

Human: “It is an advantage of being human”

And the Redwood said: “We have creatures and plants living on us
Roots that are connected to the Earth
And our crown is bathed in the sky.
We have the rain and the fog.
We are not full of cookies,
But we are full of life.”
Channeling a Redwood – Donna Taylor

A very old and wise maple tree nestled in the Redwood Forest
Photo by Robin Sanislo

I was thinking of writing a poem about the trees, but I couldn’t because, really, the trees themselves are the poems. An epic poem.
Annie Kitaeff

Redwood Burl
Photo by Annie Kitaeff

Shadows in the Redwoods
Photo by Annie Kitaeff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being in the Redwoods, I became aware of the urgency of life, the enormous power of the life force, the precious nature of life, and the need to live in harmony with other life forms. As teachers, the Redwoods are unparalleled.
Annie Kitaeff

Survivor
Ken W. Brown Photography

I had come to the Redwoods to help them, and yet was so exhausted that I didn’t feel I had the physical strength to do so. I did what I could. However, at one point, I just felt that I needed to lay down. I laid on the forest floor and fell into a mystical, sleep-like state. I felt the redwood trees healing me with their roots growing into my heart as I lay on my back on the forest floor. I wished to give to them, but they gave to me so much.

I said to my friend, Larry, I didn’t have much strength to bring because I was so physically tired. He said to me, “But you brought your truth and that was your strength”.

Dr. Jedidiah Krauss

Humboldt Redwood Tree Prayer
Ken W. Brown Photography.com

Human: Grandfather, Grandfather
You said I was small.
But you weren’t just talking about my height.
Grandfather, Grandfather
Teach me not to be small any more
Help me to remember who I was

Redwood: “One tree never stands alone
One tree never has all the answers
We are all one root system
Let the sky and the Earth talk to you
It is almost like a singing”

Human: I am the forest.
I am interconnected with all living things
I am unique and can contribute to the whole
I listen with my whole body
I am the sky
I am the Earth
Grandfather, Grandfather
It hurts to feel this good.

Human:  Lawrence Wade
Channeling a Redwood – Donna Taylor

Redwood Root System
photo by Veronica Smith

Let the Roots Run Deep – Lyrics and song by Lawrence Wade

 

View on full screen. Shared by Veronica Smith.


Life is a big circle and many forget that when any part of our ecosystem is gone, it diminishes who we are and our potential.
Jim Cotton

Sunrays
Ken W. Brown Photography.com

Breathing with the trees
Joining their breath.
I am with you and you with me,
woven together…humble, patient
Be

Barbara Goodman-Fischtrom

Photo by Barbara Goodman-Fischtrom

Sunlight through the Redwoods
Photo by Annie Kitaeff

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Guardians | 5 Comments

Hawks on High

Every Fall, thousands of hawks migrate past Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve, in Duluth, MN.

A juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

 

Hundreds of bird watchers come for the annual Fall migration.

 

Phil Fitzpatrick is a poet and is writing a book about Hawk Ridge. Phil said that he is writing this book to bring the “Magic of Hawk Ridge alive” for the readers.

Release of Sharp-shinned Hawk

Phil’s poem about a release:

Release III

like you are holding a cup
he tells me
my eyes intent
the hawk’s too
make a C now
the head is turned
awkwardly
they can do that
close your fingers
around mine
wildness in our hands
bony yellow legs
long talons stretch
hold him up
we all watch
hawk and people
all quiet
streaked brown beauty
again
hold him up
like The Statue of Liberty
perfect images
cup statue
raised up
one two three
liberty

Artist Penny Perry

Penny will be illustrating the book in pen and ink.

I have spent a good part of my life observing and drawing birds. Penny Perry

Phil needs to raise some money to pay his talented artist Penny Perry and publish his book, Hawks on High. He has started a KickStarter campaign to pay for the project. Any profits for the book will be donated to the Hawk Ridge Sanctuary.

To see a video about Hawk Ridge, and to read more of Phil’s poetry go to :

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hwkrdg/hawks-on-high-everyday-miracles-in-a-hawk-ridge-se?ref=email

 

 

 

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Fall, Nature Poetry, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Field of Dreams

Jim Cotton and Kim Puckett live on less than an acre of land along the foggy coast of Humboldt County, California. Below they share their story, by living their commitment to the Earth.

My father passed on the values of being self sufficient, not being wasteful, and growing organic food. As a biologist, I value the natural world, if we can have less impact and reduce our carbon emissions, the planet stands a better chance of surviving. I am going to do everything I can to help.
Jim Cotton

I like to have good food. Food is fuel, but it is more than that to me. It is one of the glories of life. The tastes, the textures, the smells. Also, I really like getting my hands dirty. Working in the soil and producing my own food, it satisfies something deep inside of me. I like the satisfaction of saying to myself, “Okay, this is for dinner”. I know what has gone into it, since we grow everything organically. It is a good feeling.
Kim Puckett

Several types of lettuce

Broccoli and kale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grow what you like to eat. If you have a small space, I would not grow broccoli because it takes up a lot of room. I would grow lettuce because you can rotate it quickly. Also, part of why I love growing food, is being able to share it with other people.
Kim



 

Designing and building is my personal art form. Some people are musicians or painters. Working with my hands and my mind,  is my creative outlet. The greenhouse expands our season; allows us to have higher production; and to grow tomatoes and peppers along our foggy coast. I have decided to go with a glass greenhouse because it is sustainable. You don’t have to re-skin it with plastic every year. This greenhouse is generated from 50 sheets of recycled sliding glass door glass which I gathered over 5 years. The wood for the greenhouse came from a local mill. The wood is from a fallen cedar snag, so no live trees were cut down to build this structure. Also, working with a local sawyer, I got the wood for a fraction of what I would pay at commercial lumberyard.
Jim Cotton

Inside the greenhouse, we went with raised beds made out of recycled cinder blocks because wood tends to rot in 5 years. Before filling the bed with compost, we lined it with hardware cloth to protect the plants from gophers. Then we filled the beds with a soil mixture that was made locally from composted plants and cow manure.

We grow our tomatoes by twining them up with string because it increases production. It keeps the air flowing around the plants better. The vibes in the greenhouse feel good and I’ll bet that the air is a purer form of oxygen .
Jim

Heirloom Tomatoes

I save the seeds from the heirloom tomatoes, so in a way they will come back next year – part of a cycle. Unfortunately, you can’t save seed from the hybrid varieties. The heirlooms don’t have as much disease resistance, are odd shaped, and will not last as long as a hybrid. However, the taste of an heirloom tomato can’t be compared to even a home-grown hybrid tomato. Heirlooms are misshapen, but they are beautiful. The hybrids are supposed to be the “perfect” tomato. At the end of the season, I thank the plants before I pull them up.
Kim

Garlic harvest (variety “Music”). Pure Joy. Kim is on the right with Kate Christianson. Look at all the garlic on the ground!

 

I plant garlic here along the coast and inland at Willow Creek. I grow 13 types of garlic, including varieties named: Turkish Giant, Music and  Zemo. When we harvest garlic, we hang it up to dry. The best garlic is replanted and I exchange garlic with other growers.  Once I have planting stock separated out, then the rest is for eating. I love garlic, and it can make the blandest food taste phenomenal.
Kim

Solar Panels on the roof

This 9 kilowatt system is converting solar energy to electrical and feeding it back to the electrical grid. We haven’t got a bill from the utility company for a year. The energy for this system is supplying all the electrical needs for our home. In the future, we want to buy an electric car because our goal is to be divorced from fossil fuels. This is our way of reducing our carbon footprint.
Jim

Worm Juice

Worm Bin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a cattle watering trough that we converted into a worm bin. All of our kitchen scraps go in here. All you do is dig a hole, dump in your kitchen scraps, then turn your bin with a pitch fork. The real benefit of this bin is the “worm juice” that slowly drips into the bucket. We dilute the “juice” 1:5 with water and then put it on our plants and you can just about see them “jump out of the ground”, they grow so fast. It is a wonderful nutrient.
Jim

This flower bed is my way of not having to mow. As you can see, it is good for the pollinators. We never have to replant this bed because the flowers re-seed. Once it gets established, especially the calendulas, poppies, borage, and sunflowers, they self-seed and choke out the weeds.
Jim

Adjoining our property is what is called a CSA or community supported agriculture. They have 7 acres under organic cultivation. I believe in CSA’s and donate the water from our well to them for a dollar a year. The CSA has worked out to be really beneficial for the community. People can buy food that is grown locally and not shipped here from out of the country.
Jim
                   

Blueberry Patch

This is our blueberry patch, I got tired of mowing the lawn, so I planted the blueberries. We’ve got over 40 plants and several varieties that produce fruit throughout the season. During peak production, we get a gallon a day of blueberries. We freeze most of them. There is nothing better than having a blueberry smoothie in the middle of winter.
Jim

Fig Espaliere

I love figs and these do well in a coastal environment. Figs tend to grow tall and overshadow everything. So I am getting these trees to grow sideways rather than up, using “espalaire” technique. This allows us to have row crops in between rows of fig trees. This is a learning process for me and I have no formal training.
Jim

I prune all of my trees so that I don’t have to get on a ladder. I have bent the branches in such a way that they get more light and produce more fruit. I use the “scions” (cuttings) from other varieties and graft those on to the existing trees. Some of our trees have six different types of apples grafted on to them, including King, Honeycrisp, Fuji, and Mutsu. It is way of getting a variety of apples without have a lot of trees.
Jim

I don’t like canning, it is a lot of work. But the middle of winter, I am going to open these jars of roasted tomatoes and I am going to remember when I harvested them. When I put the sauce over pasta, it is going to taste so good! We also can plum jam and  apple juice from our trees, pickled beets, and apple sauce. Also, I make baba ganoush from roasted eggplant and freeze it.
Kim

Frozen blueberries and beans

We vacuum seal all our food that is frozen. In addition, we dehydrate apples, pears, vegetable for backpacking.

Kim Puckett and Jim Cotton

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Guardians | 1 Comment

Time of the Grasshoppers

Thanks to Amelia Ladd for her beautiful pen and ink sketches.

Time of the Grasshoppers   

Bush Katydid
photo by Lawrence Wade

For the past 20 years I have been working with 2nd graders studying grasshoppers. When you spend as much time as I have in the weeds looking for grasshoppers, their uniqueness and beauty goes right to your heart.

Grasshopper Life Cycle
Nature Seeker Workbook

Late summer is the Time of the Grasshoppers. In the past two weeks I have noticed that the number of adult grasshoppers/crickets in the neighborhood has increased dramatically. It has taken the whole summer for the hoppers to go through their life cycle and most are now adults.  In the spring, the eggs hatch, however, if the rains come before the eggs hatch, many get washed out. The young hoppers go through at least five nymph stages. During this time they cannot fly. The last stage of their lives, they “get their wings” becoming adults, and the singing begins.

Katydid
Katydid calling at night.

 

Snowy Tree Cricket
Songs of Insects

One of my favorites is a night singer that calls from the trees, the snowy tree cricket.  It makes a continuous pulse, and is also called the “temperature cricket”, since the pulse changes with the temperature. You can figure out the outside temperature by counting the number of pulses in 15 seconds and multiply by 4, adding 32.

Snowy Tree Cricket calling at night.

The formula to determine the temperature from a snowy tree cricket is as follows:

________________   X   _____4_______ + 32  =  ______________
# of pulses in  15 seconds        (4 x 15 =60 seconds)                temperature in °F

 

Short -horned Grasshopper laying eggs
Nature Seeker Workbook

 

As soon as a hard frost hits, the “singing” drops from 100% to 0%. It is a shock and difficult to deal with emotionally since  it tells us that the seasons are changing. There is also a “quiet beauty” in knowing that the grasshoppers have completed their life cycles. The eggs resting in the ground, promise the continuation their species next year.

 

Carolina Grasshopper
Photo by Lawrence Wade

 

The Carolina grasshopper or locust is normally found on bare ground. It is one of our largest grasshoppers in Minnesota (2-3 inches long). They are easily identified when they fly because they have black wings.

 

Male Meadow Grasshopper calling from the grassland.
photo by Lawrence Wade

 

Female Meadow Grasshopper showing her sharp ovipositor at the end of the abdomen.
Nature Seeker Workbook

 

 

Meadow grasshoppers are found in tall marsh and prairie grass. The males make a repetitive buzzing sound in the grass during the day. The females are attracted to the sound. After they mate, the female will lay her eggs in a blade of grass  using her knife-like ovipositor.

 

 

Meadow Grasshopper calling in the weeds during the day.

Argiope or Garden Spider
photo by Lawrence Wade

 

The Argiope spider is a predator on grasshoppers and I often see them in weeds. They make a beautiful web up to 3 feet across.  Grasshoppers that fly/jump into the web are quickly wrapped up and mummified by the spider. The female Argiope is 4 times larger than the male.

 

Leopard frog
Photo by Lawrence Wade

 

 

The leopard frog is also a predator on grasshoppers and other grassland insects.

 

 

 

 

Grasshopper Laboratory

 

 

Download the Grasshopper activity pages from Nature Seeker Workbook
GrasshopperActivitySheet copy

Reader Bob Bigham added the following comment about grasshoppers:

“While growing up in Pinckneyville , Illinois we would go bug hunting and grasshoppers was one of our favorites. they would “spit tobacco juice” if we held them too tight. One day we flipped one over and it had a bright red hour glass on its belly, just like a black widow.”

Posted in Insects | 1 Comment