Orquideario La Encantada Oaxaca Aventuras # 2

Él señor Octavio Suárez

Cerca del pueblocito de Huayapam en el estado de Oaxaca, Méxíco es un tesero escondido. Se maneja por un camino de tierra y detrás de una puerta se encuentra una reserva de orquídeas, se llama, ‘Orquideario La Encantada’. Nuestro guía fue, Él Señor Octavio Suárez.

Él señor Octavio Suárez es un guardián de la planeta. Por casi cuarenta años, había estado estudiando orquídeas del estado de Oaxaca, Méxíco. Señor Suárez ha escrito dos libros sobre las plantas. Él dijo que la reserva orquideario es el proyecto de su vida. En su orquideario hay más de un mil quinientos plantas y mas de doscienos especies son del estado de Oaxaca . Cuando Suárez empezó su jardín botánica estaba tierra desnuda. Él plantó todos de los arboles en su reserva, y las llama, “Sus hijos”.

Hay hábitas diferentes en la reserva. Estos incluyen zonas húmedos y mesófilo (cálido) donde crecen especies orquídeas diferentes.

Señor Suárez tiene un permiso especial para coleccionar orquídeas. Él colecciona solo plantas jovenes y las ha cultivado en su tierra por más de cuarenta años. Por años, trataba de trabajar con otros científicos para proteger las orquídeas de Oaxaca y desafortunadamente ninguno estaba interesado. Casi todas las orquídeas de Oaxaca están en peligro de la extinción por el cambio climático, los fuegos, la deforestación, y la avaricia de colectores.

Aunque lo visitamos al fin de noviembre, todavía, había muchas orquídeas florecientes. La mayoriá de especies de las orquídeas florecen en la primavera y en el verano.

Las polinizadores son un parte esencial  del vida en el orquideario, porque polinizan las flores y las plantas crean las semillas. Hay muchos tipos de polinizadores incluyendo las abejas, colibrís, mariposas y las mariposas nocturnas.

Orquídeas tienen asociaciones importantes con los árboles, desde muchas crecen en los arboles. Orquídeas se llaman, “parasitas”, pero no tan verdadero. Tienen una sistema de alimentacíon que está independiente del árbol huésped.

Un hecho interesante es su simbiótica relación con hormigas. Algunas especies de hormigas forman una sociedad permanente en una parte de la orquídea. Las hormigas protegen la orquídea atacando cualquier intruso que toca la planta. Si una persona huele la fragrancia de esa orquídea, tendría hormigas enojados en su cara.

 

Él señor Octavio Suárez

Near the small town of Huayapam, in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico is a hidden treasure. Drive on a dirt road and behind a gate, you find and orchid reserve called ‘Orquideario La Encantada’ (Enchanted Orchid Reserve. Our host was Mr. Octavio Suárez.

Mr Octavio Suárez is a guardian of the planet. For almost forty years, he has been studying orchids from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Mr. Suarez has written two books about the plants. He said the orchid reserve is his life project. In his orchid reserve there are more than one thousand five hundred plants and more than two hundred species are from the state of Oaxaca. When Suarez started his botanical garden, it was bare ground. He planted all of the trees in his reserve and called them, “his children”.

There are different habitats at the reserva, including moist and mesophilic (warm) where different orchid species grow.

Mr. Suarez has a special permit to collect orchids. He collects only young plants and has cultivated them on his land for more than forty years. For years he tried to work with other scientists to protect the orchids of Oaxaca and unfortunately, none were interested. Almost all of the orchids from Oaxaca are in danger of extinctionbecause of climate change, fires, deforestation and the greed of collectors.

Pollinators are an essential part of the life in an orquideario because they pollinate the flowers and the plants create seeds. There are many types of pollinators including, bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths.

Aunque lo visitamos al fin de noviembre, todavía, había muchas orquídeas florecientes. La mayoriá de especies de las orquídeas florecen en la primavera y en el verano.

Orchids have important associations with trees, since many grow in trees. Orchids are called ‘parasites’, but that is not true. They have a system of feeding that is independent of the host tree.

An interesting fact is their symbiotic relationship with ants. Some species of ants form a permanent society in a part of the orchid. The ants protect the orchid attacking any intruder who touches the plant. If a person smells the fragrance of an orchid, she could have angry ants in her face.

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Guardians | 1 Comment

La Tejatera – Oaxaca Aventuras # 1

Yo asistía a Español Interactivo, una escuela immersíon en San Andrés Huayapam, México en el estado de Oaxaca. Yo aprendí mucho de la cultura, la gente, y el español. Cada día tomamos una excursión y nos encontramos con una persona de la comunidad. Durante una excursión visitabamos con la tejatera, Señora Maria Isabel. Este es la primera de una serie de historias sobre que yo aprendi.

La Tejatera

El Téjate – La bebida de los dioses.

Qué es tejate? Tejate es una bebida de los Zapotecas que se originó en Huayapam. Los Zapotecas son una gente indígena de Oaxaca. La cultura Zapoteca es más de dos mil quinientos años. Los Zapotecas eran granjeros, artistas, guerreros, y constructores de pirámides.  El tejate es conocido por curar problemas con el estómago. Los ingredientes son maíz, cacao, la rosita de cacao, y la semilla de mamey. Durante la preparación, todos los ingredientes se tostaron en un comal y después se molieron en un molino. Todo el processo tarda, por los menos, cuatro horas.

La cantidad de cada ingrediente es un secreto del pueblocito. Así que nadie, nunca escribió la receta. Es una parte de su patrimonio.

Mamey Sapote. La semilla es un ingrediente de tejate

Los ingredientes son tostados en un comal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los ingredientes se mezclan a mano y es necesario que la tejatera es muy fuerte. El tejate necesita tener la cantidad exacta para el color y el sabor. Pero eso, depende de la preferencia de la tejatera. La Señora Maria Isabel mezcló el tejate con su mano y añadió agua por medio hora. Durante este tiempo, ella tuvo que revisar si grumos en la tejate. El color de la téjate cambia de café a blanco y cuando hay muchas espuma encima del tejate, la bebida está lista para probar.

La Tejatera, Maria Isabel mezcla los ingredientes para mano

La señora Maria Isabel de Huayapam, y ha sido una tejatera por veinte años. Su madre ha sido una tejatera por treinta cinco años. Han estado una familia de tejateras por muchas generaciones. Solo las hijas en la familia pueden ser tejateras. Hay un riesgo de perder la tradición porque hoy en día las niñas tienen muchas otra opciónes.

Cuando yo tomé la tejate me sentí muy calma. Yo preguntaba si la bebida estaba sacrado por la Zapoteca. Maria Isabel me dijó, ” La gente indígena , le llamaba, ‘La bebida de los dioses’ “.  Me parece que, el tejate es una parte de sus vidas y de sus ADN.

Español Interactivo los maestros: Karina, Erica y Luz

Gracias mis maestros a Español Interactivo por ayudarme con este mensaje.

 

I attended Español Interactivo a spanish immersion school in San Andrés Huayapam, Mexico in the state of Oaxaca. I learned a lot about the culture, the people, and Spanish. Everyday we took a field trip and met with a person in the community. During one field trip we visited with la tejatera, Señora Maria Isabel. This is the first in a series of stories that I learned at Huayapam.

Tejate – The drink of the gods.

What is tejate? Tejate is a drink of the Zapotecs that originated in Huayapam. The Zapotecs are an indiginous people from Oaxaca. The Zapotec culture is more than 2,500 years old. The Zapotecs were farmers, artists, warriors, and builders of pyramids. Tejate is known to cure problems with the stomach. The ingredients are corn, cacao, the florets of cacao, and the seed of mamey. During the preparation all the ingredients are toasted on a comal and then ground up at a mill. The entire process took at least four hours.

The amount of each ingredient is a secret of the small town. So, no one ever wrote down the recipe. It is part of their heritage.

The ingredients are toasted on a comal.

Mamey Sapote. The seed is an ingredient in tejate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ingredients are mixed by hand and it is necessary that the tejatera is very strong. Tejate needs to have the exact amount of each ingredient for the color and taste. But this depends upon the preference of the tejatera. La Senora Maria Isabel mixed the ingredients by hand and added water for half an hour. During this time, she had to check for lumps in the tejate. The color of the tejate changes from brown to white and when there is lots of foam on top of the tejate, the drink is ready to taste.

Tejatera, Maria Isabel mixes the ingredients by hand.

La señora Maria Isabel de Huayapam, and has been a tejatera for twenty years. Her mother has been a tejatera for thirty-five years. They have been a family of tejateras for many generations. Only the daughters in the family are able to be tejateras. There is a risk to lose the tradition because now days girls have many other options.

When I tasted the tejate, I felt very calm. I wondered if the drink was sacred to the Zapotecs. Maria Isabel told me, “The indigenous people called it the drink of the gods.” I believe that tejate is a part of their lives and of their DNA.

Español Interactivo teachers: Karina, Erica and Luz

Thanks to my teachers at Español Interactivo for helping me with this posting.

Posted in Spanish | 1 Comment

The Cloud People – Zapotec Culture Expressed Through Art

I had the honor to visit the taller (workshop) of Jacobo and María Ángeles, from San Martin Tilcajete a pueblo near the city of Oaxaca, Mexico.

They are artists who carve and paint alebrijes, magical wooden creatures. To the artists, who spend so much time creating the pieces, the creatures have a spirit inside them.


The taller of Jacobo and María Ángeles is dedicated to keeping their Zapotec culture alive. The designs reflect the artists’ spiritual connection to their Zapotec roots. Zapotec culture dates back 2500 years. Zapotecs were warriors, farmers, builders of pyramids and artists. In the early 1500’s, the Zapotecs were conquered by Mexica or Aztec. Shortly there after, the Spanish invaded to further the oppression of the Zapotec people. However, the resilience and beauty of the Zapotec culture is visible today throughout the Valle de Oaxaca.

The Zapotec believed that bats or murcielago were the keepers of the Underworld.

 

 

 

 

According to Zapotec legends, some of their ancestors emerged from caves, and others came from trees or jaguars. Still others are believed to be descended from supernatural beings who lived in the clouds. That is why they are called “Be’ena’Za’a” – “The cloud people.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sacred dog of the Zapotecs, Xoloitzcuintli was hairless. “Xolo” symbolizes the importance of  family, positive leadership and spiritual power.El tlacuache – possum

photo by Jacobo and Mária Ángeles

Jacobo and María employ over a hundred artists and administrators. In addition, they have a school where they train interns that live in the community.

The Zapotec symbol for the caracol or snail represents the value of contributing to the community.  This symbol is used in Alebrije designs and it is the emblem for Jacobo and Mária’s workshop. Other animals honored in Alebrije designs are:
Ants  (hardworking)  and  fish  (respect).

Zapotecs believed that iguanas represented creativity and sensitivity.

Many of the carved creatures are based upon the sacred Zapotec calendar. This is the artist’s way of keeping their culture alive and honoring nature. Jacobo says, “Our identity is deep from our origins.”

Photo by Jacobo Ángeles

Most of the Alebrijes are carved from the sacred Copal tree. Before starting to work, they burn the resin of the Copal to help cleanse their energy and connect to their ancestors. Mária Ángeles is the woman on the right. The woman on the left has caracol designs on her arm.

All of the work is done by hand using primitive tools: machetes, knives, and chisels. Photo by Jacobo and Mária Ángeles

“Carvers need to study the woodblocks to find the hidden “nahual” or spirit, using their imagination and skill at using a machete. The “nahuals” are waiting patiently inside the trees for the artist to discover them by using their senses.”
Jacobo Ángeles

An unfinished jaguar that our guide, Elias, was working on. The entire body will be covered with Zapotec symbols. The jaguar is the protector and signifies leadership.

Our guide, Elias, has been painting alebrijes for over 25 years. He and other artists only use natural pigments: copal bark (black), cochineal bugs (red), the skin of the pomegranate (yellow), flowers and other materials.

 

Elias and other artists paint the designs without following a pattern, using their innate creativity.  Elias said that painting the Zapotec symbols all day long can be a meditative experience.

A large piece may take 1.5 years to complete from start to finish and 10 weeks to paint. Elias and a team of other artists worked together on this lion project.

Copal Tree
photo by Jacobo y Mária Ángeles.

Unfortunately, the Copal tree has been over-harvested. To honor this sacred tree, and ensure its survival, Jacobo and María’s community began a reforestation project over 15 years ago. They grow the plants in a nursery for two years and then plant 2,500 Copal seedlings in the mountains annually.

The row on the right are one year old cutting grafts. The row on the left are seedlings planted from Copal seed.

8 year old Copal Tree

The trees will be harvested after 40 years. At that time the trunk will be a meter in diameter.

Yearly planting project that involves the entire community. photo by Jacobo y Mária Ángeles.

photo by Jacobo y Mária Ángeles.

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

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/early fall is the Time of the Grasshoppers. In the past month 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.

Grasshopper Predators

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.”

Reader Becky Knickerbocker shared the following story:

Yesterday I was sitting outside on the patio at Chapel View Home in Hopkins. I was visiting with a 96 year old blind woman in a wheelchair. The sun was warming us and we were talking about the plants and animals I could see. Birds were singing, bees were buzzing, crickets were chirping, and squirrels and chipmunks were running past us with nuts in their mouths. All of a sudden a grasshopper landed on her knee. She said, “Oh, how fun. I like it. Don’t shoo it away. I can feel it!”

Posted in Insects | 1 Comment

Off the Grid

Jim called, Want to go kayaking at Isle Royale?
‘Sure’, my 18 year old self said.
Oops! I’m 74.

Our ride to Isle Royale
photo by Jim Gregory

Isle Royale or Minong (in Ojibwe) is an archipelago 40 miles off the coast of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota. It is the least visited National Park in the US and took 8 hours to get to our destination. Lake Superior is known for its quickly changing water conditions and weather. I was thankful for the calm water passage.

Minong means ‘The good place’ in the Ojibwe language.

North Shore Ojibwe paddlers travelled up the coast to Thunder Bay in their birchbark canoes, where the crossing to Minong was only 19 miles. They would take advantage of calm conditions and leave in pre-dawn hours. It would take many hours of hard paddling. Ojibwe travelers knew the danger in crossing, since lake conditions could change at any time.

The Ojibwe paddlers believed the lake was a living entity and that heightened their feeling of vulnerability. Before setting out, prayers were said for a safe crossing.

I should have said a prayer during the crossing to combat my negative self-talk:

Have to use a water filter pump just to drink the water.
It may have giardia in it.

It’s 39°, I should have brought gloves and long underwear.
Let go! You are off the grid now.

The volcanic rock on Minong is basalt and is over a billion years old. There are countless beautiful formations.

lichen covered basalt

The call of a loon
Warblers flitting in the aspen trees

What is this new feeling?
Joy
Fills my body
The sound of wildness
Touches a deep place within me

Characteristic rock formations at Minong. Folded layers of volcanic rock.
photo by Jim Gregory

Listening to the stories of the Grandfather Rock

Reader Angie Adamek captures essence of our experience with this comment:
The Great Lakes ‘water-meets-rock’ is so irresistible to me with its gurgles and splashes. Looking at your pics evokes the sounds and smell that go with them.

Untouched rocky beaches.

Treasures found on the beach.
To show respect for the land, I took nothing with me.

 

The crystal pool.
This quiet place had very calming energy.

This was a rock not a skull. So unique and beautiful.

Plenty of time to meditate?

Even the clouds were magical.

We are paddling
Just ahead
A dark cloud is pouring rain
But the wind is at our back
Pushing the rain ahead of us
The early morning sun shines through
Illuminating the golden rain drops
We stop
To embrace the beauty.

The water visibility was 50 feet or more.

Carnivorous Pitcher Plant
On one of the barrier islands there was a Spaghnum Bog.

Moose Scat
There are almost a thousand moose on the island.
(We didn’t see any.)

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

 

Alpen glow on the rocks, signaling sunset.

At the Temperance River, foam in the water created patterns that mirrored the currents and moved continuously.
Photo by Jim Gregory

As it happened, we visited the Temperance  River, my late wife’s favorite place, on the 12th anniversary of her death from lung cancer. We wrote her name in the froth on the surface, and watched it as the current carried it away. I looked at the pictures I took, and I became fascinated with the patterns on the surface of the water where the river flowed into Lake Superior.  Jim Gregory

Art work by Jim Gregory

I decided to focus on foam patterns as a painting subject. First I attempted the macroscopic view of the overall patterns that were created, the swirls, the shapes and the flows. Then, after working with the painting, I realized that the microscopic view of the shapes of the individual floating pieces, were much more fascinating and worthy of capturing.  Jim Gregory

Art work by Jim Gregory

The smaller floating particles, were very similar to the dots I had practiced in my Chinese landscape painting classes.The larger floating foam particles, were similar to the brush strokes from my bamboo brush in my Sumi-e painting classes. Jim Gregory

Art Work by Jim Gregory

Studying these patterns found in nature, I had a greater appreciation for nature’s creations and for the beauty that is always surrounding us. I will be forever grateful to Larry for the homework he assigned to me and my willingness to follow through.

Jim Gregory

Art work by Jim Gregory

 

Art work by Jim Gregory

Posted in Nature Notes, Nature Poetry, Photography/Art | 17 Comments

Spring Beauty

So much is changing every day here in the North Country. After a winter of white and brown, Nature has burst out in a symphony of colors.

Thanks to all of the contributors who shared their photos and thoughts to this posting including Mary Goehle, Holly Einess, Jeff Saslow, Heather Holm, Sabrina Harvey, and Janine Pung.

Warbler Migration

During the week of May 9th, there was an influx of many different species of warblers. Warblers are extremely beautiful, but difficult to photograph because they are small and always on the move.

Yellow Warbler
Mary Goehle

Maybe the yellow warbler (pictured above) will take up residency here for the summer. I’ll have to listen for its ‘sweet, sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet’ song.

I’m a novice birder and have been enjoying watching warblers flitting about the trees as they pass through on their migration. Mary Goehle

American Redstart
Lawrence Wade

Magnolia Warbler
Mary Goehle

Black and White Warbler
Lawrence Wade

Chesnut-sided Warbler
Lawrence Wade

 

The Green Tinge

Big Willow Park  –  Minnetonka, MN
Mary Goehle

I love when the leaves are just starting to come out. They look delicate, almost like lace, especially in the evening sunlight. There are several ironwood trees in this area. They’ve finally given up the marcescent leaves they were holding onto over the winter to make room for the new. Mary Goehle

 

Tree Flowers

Tree flowers are an important food source for early pollinators.

Willow flowers
Holly Einess

Red Maple Flowers
Holly Einess

 

Pollinators

Text and photos by Heather Holm. For more info on Heather’s work go to:
https://www.pollinatorsnativeplants.com/about-the-author.html

Two-spotted bumble bee gyne (Bombus bimaculatus) collects pollen from wild plum.
Photo by Heather Holm

New bumble bee queens (gynes), have been emerging the last few weeks from their winter hibernation. Gynes, which later become queens once they establish a nest and produce offspring, are the longest lived caste in the bumble bee colony, surviving for approximately ten to twelve months. Their life begins the previous summer or autumn when they are reared to adulthood by their mother and sisters in a bumble bee colony. Prior to hibernating, the gynes feed on sugar-rich nectars produced by flowering plants, and mate with a male. The calories and nutrients from the consumed nectars are stored in organ-like tissues called fat stores, and the sperm in a separate organ – the spermatheca. While hibernating, they use the energy from the fat stores for nutrients and warmth, and an antifreeze-like substance circulates through their body to prevent them from freezing. The winter hibernation in a shallow burrow in the ground is precarious, and many gynes don’t survive because they do not have enough reserves or fat stores. Those gynes that do survive until spring are famished and need nearby food (flower nectar) to help them prepare for the week-long search to find a place to nest.

Two-spotted bumble bee gyne (Bombus bimaculatus) visits large-flowered bellwort.
Photo by Heather Holm

 

With over twenty bumble bee species in Minnesota, each have their unique phenology (and emergence time). Usually the first species I observe emerging from hibernation is the two-spotted bumble bee (Bombus bimaculatus). Last week, the two-spotted bumble bee gynes were beginning to collect pollen from plants, an indication that they have successfully established a nest because pollen is the primary food source they provide in the nest to feed their larvae. Other species I’ve seen in the last week include the black and gold bumble bee (Bombus auricomus) and common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens). These gynes were visiting flowering plants to feed on nectar or nest searching. Nest searching gynes fly low to the ground and spend time investigating cavities under logs, in the ground, gaps under leaf litter or debris, or similar sites that may have once hosted a mouse or chipmunk nest. This searching is time consuming and energy intensive, so frequent refueling (nectar) is needed. Once a nest is established, the queen produces multiple broods, beginning with females (workers), followed by males, then ending with the production of gynes. At the end of the summer, the queen will die as will all the workers and males, but her recently-produced daughters (gynes) will mate, then hibernate, and establish their own annual nest the following spring.

Black and gold bumble bee gyne (Bombus auricomus) visits wild plum.
Photo by Heather Holm

Some of the flowering plants gynes were visiting in my neighborhood this week include wild plum (Prunus americana), large-flowered bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora), and common blue violets (Viola sororia). In the next week or so, look for bumble bees visiting prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) dogwood (Cornus spp.), Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum), and wild geranium (Geranium maculatum). 

Common eastern bumble bee gyne (Bombus impatiens) searches for a nesting site under leaf litter.
Photo by Heather Holm

 

No Mow May

In the upper Midwest, we love our lawns and many strive to grow the ‘perfect lawn’. But many cities have designated this month as ‘No Mow May’ to try to help early pollinators get a foothold during the warm weather.  A recent article in Rewilding Magazine, co-authored by Heather Holm, argues that although ‘No Mow May” is well intentioned, it does not meet the complex survival needs of  pollinators. To read the article go to:
https://www.rewildingmag.com/no-mow-may-downside/

Dandelions and violets in my lawn
Lawrence Wade

 

Spring Birds

American Robin and Cedar Waxwing.
Janine Pung

On April 30th, a very large flock of cedar waxwings descended on the crabapple in my front yard.  Over the course of several days, I watched them flutter among the branches as they feasted.  I saw a pair sweetly pass a berry back and forth, from bill to bill, until one of them swallowed it.  I even observed some flying upside down as they tried to land a spot on the crowded tree.  Of the many photos I took from my window, this is my favorite…a robin on one branch and a cedar waxwing on another.

Janine Pung

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet in speckled alder
Holly Einess

Great Blue Heron
Holly Einess

Red Wing Blackbird singing “Okalee”  from the cattails.
Lawrence Wade

The striking beauty of a female oriole.
Lawrence Wade

 

 

Spring Ephemerals

The word ‘ephemeral‘ means ‘to fade quickly‘. ‘Spring ephemerals‘ refers to the wildflowers that are blooming now in our woodlands. Many of the blooms last no more than a week. But, oh, what a week it is….It is healing to feel so much joy at the sight of  such beautiful  flowers.
Lawrence Wade

Pretty little rue anemone! Prolific this time of year in Big Willow Park.
Mary Goehle

 

Here’s a lesson in slowing down. It would be easy to miss this bloodroot nestled in among the fungi. It stopped me in my tracks when I spotted it!
Mary Goehle

 

Showy Trillium
Lawrence Wade

Nodding Trillium – Common in our woodlands
Sabrina Harvey

 

Wild Ginger. Its red flower hugs the ground so creatures living in the soil can pollinate it.
Lawrence Wade

Jack in the Pulpit
Lawrence Wade

Bellwort
Lawrence Wade

Mayapple
Lawrence Wade

Trout Lily
Holly Einess

Spring Beauty
Holly Einess

Toads and Frogs

American Toad
Jeff Saslow

I slowed down and was made aware of the life in previous passed over places. The waters were teeming with procreation as the humid air held the croaking and calls to mate. The small spaces became everything.

Jeff Saslow, on his experience in toad world.

 

Chorus Frog Singing
Lawrence Wade

There is nothing better than opening a window at night and being serenaded  by the trilling of toads and frogs.

Spending an hour at the edge of a pond listening to the frogs, watching them mate, and fight is like being in a different universe.
Lawrence Wade

 The Readers share their experience

From Lizzie Schaeppi: “Our young naturalist out in Woodrill last weekend”.

 

 

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Spring Is Cancelled – Nature is not!

Thanks to all of the contributors to this post: Sabrina Harvey, Mary Goehle, Jules Ikhaml, and Jenny Boldt.

Many of us living in the North Country are pretty sure that Spring is not going to come. But, there are those of  us who need to be out in nature.  Sure, it is probably below freezing, but that doesn’t take away from  the beauty and the life that is all around us.

March 17

Barred Owl

 

March 18, Memorial Park, Shakopee. There was a lot of open water and the early migrating waterfowl were in abundance because  most of the other ponds were still frozen. The ducks shown below do not nest in Central Minnesota and would soon migrate north.

Common Goldeneye

Ring-necked duck

Hooded Merganser

Bufflehead

Redhead

 

Mary Goehle is an avid photographer and is involved with restoration at Big Willow Park in Minnetonka, MN. All of Mary’s photos were taken in the past few weeks.

Trumpeter swans at Big Willow park. They were seen at Big Willow last year too. Photo by Mary Goehle.

Pussy Willows
photo by Mary Goehle

Great Blue Heron
Photo by Mary Goehle

Great Egret Photo by Mary Goehle

Sandhill Cranes
photo by Mary Goehle

“I was thrilled to have my first sighting of sandhill cranes at Big Willow! I saw them on April 8 in Big Willow. I did not see them on subsequent days, ” Mary Goehle.

 

Jules Ikhaml, is training to be a volunteer Master Naturalist and she has contributed to other posts at this website. These are the first native Spring Wildflowers I have seen this year. Jule’s photos were taken on Sunday April 24 at Sakada Lake State Park.

Bloodroot
Jules and Jim Ikhaml

Hepatica, Photo by Jules and Jim Ikhaml

 

Jenny Boldt is a naturalist and 4th grade teacher at Hanover elementary. She and her students study nature in the school forest weekly. All of the photos shared here are from a trail camera in the school forest. Last week, Jenny went through 6000 photos from the trail cam, then sent out the best photos to readers (I think you will find her captions  very humorous.)

“Future Nose Tackle for the Minnesota Vikings”
Photo shared by Jenny Boldt

“Fan-Tom of the Opera”
photo shared by Jenny Boldt

“Male and female Cardinal engagement photo shoot”
photo contributed by Jenny Boldt.

 

Sabrina Harvey is involved with the restoration of local parks in Minnetonka. Sabrina said she had put down some grass seed and the sparrows have been feasting for days. The warbler came bounding across the yard, attracted by all the activity, but didn’t stay long.

White-Throated Sparrow

Yellow-rumped Warbler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On April 23rd, the temperature rocketed up to 70° and I saw my first garter snake of the year and painted turtles on a log.

Painted Turtles

 

From Victoria-Evergreen Park – Minnetonka:

muskrat feeding on cattail roots

 

wood duck female and male

 

Northern shoveler

 

Canada goose on the nest

Chorus Frogs calling in the marsh. Many people call these frogs “peepers”, but Spring Peepers make a “peeping” sound while the chorus frog sounds more like crickets.

April 27th Kinsel Park, Minnetonka 

Red Wing Blackbird
photo by Pat Baillie

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Notes, Photography/Art, Spring | 8 Comments

Oceanography Lesson 6 – Meadows in the Sea

From: Whales in the Classroom – Oceanography
              By Lawrence Wade

Graphics by Stephen Bolles

Oceanography Lesson 6

 Why are Zooplankton important to the marine environment?
The animals in the picture above eat zooplankton. Match the animals with the correct hint below. Check your answers at the end of the post.

Check your answers at the end of the post.

Check your answers at the end of the post.

Meadows in the Sea Key

 Why are Zooplankton important to the marine environment?

1. sea turtle  2. baitfish  3. flying fish 4. penguin 5. basking shark 6. sea bird 7. squid           8.whale

Basic Photosynthesis – So You Want to be an Oceanographer.

1. flattened shape 2. sunlight 3. oxygen 4. nutrients 5. chloroplasts 6. CO2 and H2O

Zooplankton Nursery

snail – C;  mola-mola – D;  octopus –  E;    herring  –  A;   crab  – F.

 

Now a quick switch to learning about Decomposers:

Why are marine worms important?

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Road Less Traveled

Photos and text by Josh Lewandowski and Hue (pronounced Way) Dao.
Follow Josh and Hue’s  yearlong adventure:     @joshlewandowski    @hue2go

You know the pictures, the ones with high-top econolines, moneyed sprinters, and colored vanagons perched precariously on lonely canyon rims or cradled in fir trimmed valleys, glowing so provocatively you can almost hear the van life whispering come hither?

Well, we did, heeded the call, succumbed helpless and drooling to the torrent of tranquility being fed to us by the grams, posts and influenced. Logistically, we sold our furniture, gave away years of accumulated purchases, informed our landlord that we would not be renewing our lease. We sold our cars, we bought a van. Then we drove, pushed, and towed it to Minnesota.

You may have guessed from the unusually varied methods of cross-country propulsion that our van had some issues from day one. After a month in two different shops and a new engine and transmission to show for it, it was still just a startlingly empty cargo van (though one that purred steadily and with great anticipation).

Theoretically we knew that it would need some additions and adjustments to make it more liveable for an extended stay such as this year. I was pretty confident about what I could make from a couple sheets of plywood but as we thought about the actual steps needed to bring about all other changes, the tools required to tackle those steps, and the generalist knowledge base necessary to make the project anything more than simply creating sawdust and electrocuting ourselves, we needed my dad.

My dad helped me make a solar oven once and it got so hot it melted. When I took up cross country skiing, he brought home equipment from his engineering job in defense and turned our basement into a wax lab. When he is involved on a project the result is not only outrageously successful but the process reliably fun.

And it was. In just under three weeks with two sheets of plywood, a fan, battery, cooler and set of rv lights, we turned the back of our van into a dwelling that while not dripping in hygge (cause ewww, gross) is certainly more than adequate. And we learned a lot along the way.

One month in and 4,000 miles, 22 state parks, 7 wildlife refuges and a national park behind us, we’re just beginning to learn to slow down. Some of the bandwidth hoarded by modern life has been returned and we’re attempting to apply it with more intention. The bowl of ramen in the county park is becoming as satisfying as the roseate spoonbill sighting in the Audubon sanctuary. Enjoying the moments.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Notes, Photography/Art | 8 Comments

Winter Nature School – Mystery Hike # 3

This week on our nature hike, we will look for a number of mysteries that need to be solved.
What to Do:
1. Participate virtually by watching the YouTube video below.
2, Take a screen shot or a sketch of each mystery you see in the video.
3. Then write down your solution to each mystery
4.  Lastly read the nature notes and see if we have similar solutions.

I hope this week’s nature school will inspire you to get outside with your parents and explore mysteries in nature.

 

Nature Notes
Below are my nature notes from Mystery Hike #3. Since Nature is also my teacher, I am always learning and these nature notes are a work in progress.

How many mysteries were you able to solve? You can draw your nature notes and put them in your Nature Notebook or you can download the notes and put them in your nature notebook by clicking on the link below.

Download Nature Notes:
MysteryHike3NatureNotes

Click on the nature notes to read them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature School, Winter | 1 Comment