About Me

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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Last Turtle of the Season, Murdered

In October I discovered a box turtle and showed it to my curious son. He pondered the creature and then kissed it. This time of year most box turtles have buried themselves in soft soil and begun to hibernate for the winter. But a few are still searching for a spot to rest. And one of the last turtles of the season was seen making his way laboriously across the road. The box turtle is protected by its hard shell, because unlike many turtles, it can enclose itself completely with its hinged plastron, and the shell protects it well against most predators. However, a turtle is no match for a motorized vehicle. That is why John and I are guilty of making many a U-turn or abrupt stop in the middle of the road for a turtle. We are those crazy people who run between the traffic to save a slow trucking turtle from the oncoming traffic. I hope you are too!
Yesterday, while driving, John saw a crazed man running down the shoulder of the road. John glanced at the man who was pointing to something up ahead. John's eyes traced the man's projection to a turtle in the middle of the road. John swerved to miss the turtle and then turned around. When he approached the turtle again, hoping to stop and assist it across the road, he witnessed a street sweeper swerve out of its way to crush the turtle. John returned only to find a dead turtle on the yellow line. Both John and the man standing on the shoulder, breathlessly froze in disbelief. The truck had the option to miss the turtle or kill it. The old turtle had been so close to a safe hibernation, another winter past, another year, but that driver chose to kill it.
Year after year, I find less and less turtles in the woods. As their habitats diminishes and they are slaughtered on the roads, the turtle population declines. If we want our children's children to witness the timid nature of a turtle poking its head from its shell, we have to be more careful. So please, take care!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Habits or Ancient Instincts

In the past two weeks I've seen a millipede, two black windows, and ribbon snake. These animals will be harder to find in the coming months, but they were recently out and about, getting ready for winter. It is amazing how the forest ecosystem shuts down so efficiently. Humans are one of the only mammals who refuse to hibernate in some way. We force our lives to keep moving as if nothing is amiss with time changes, bright lights, and ample heat. In ancient times, life must have slowed in the winter season. It must have looked like Thanksgiving evening most of the time. People ate, slept, and stuck together.
As the season grows colder and the days become shorter, we feel the urge to retreat, eat, and reconnect. The winter holidays are full of food and gift giving. This instinct must trace far back to our ancestral roots of being hunters and gathers. Though our commercialized society has dazzled the winter holidays with obligatory spending, the root ideas of food, family, and relaxation (after the initial frenzy) are ancient. In the winter, tribal ancestors would need to basically hibernate. They would have eaten their stored food and put on necessary weight to keep warm. Family would have been important in any season, but perhaps most necessary in those winter months in which going outside was impossible. The lack of activities and daylight hours would have naturally resulted in rest and sleep.

Even the shopping frenzy may have some roots in ancient thought. Perhaps the shopping resembles an activity which would have taken place earlier in the season, gathering food for winter. In ancient times there would have been a rush and frenzy of gathering, hunting, and preparing for the cold. Our instinct to gather provisions for winter is no longer necessary, but we satisfy the urge by shopping. The task and purpose has changed, but it is rooted in instinct.

I am thankful for the family I spent the holiday with and the feast we collectively created. Yesterday filled me with joy! Today, with my fat gut, lazy disposition, and thoughts of shopping on my mind, I am tinged with guilt. However, breaking down the possible reasons for this holiday habits, makes me think it may be more like ancient instincts than I had initially believed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ozark Natural Science Center Blog

The Ozark Natural Science Center's blog is going through a beautiful transformation. Staff members from the science center are writing articles, giving the blog a new face.
 As a staff member, I wrote an article called "Green Your Heart" for the center's blog.
It is posted on the ONSC website at: http://onsc.us/2011/11/green-your-heart/
Also check out my fellow co-worker Caleb's post about the harvest at:
Look for more from the staff at ONSC regularly on the center's website. http://onsc.us/

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Food and Water

   The garden at Owl's Knob, which has been neglected, is still producing kale. The leafy vegetable doesn't mind a light freeze and can almost grow year round. Though it's leaves will become skeletal in summer as Japanese beetles feast on them, they regain their composure in fall and leaf out again. It is an easy crop to grow in sun or partial shade and it doesn't mind a drought or heavy rain. I would say that kale is the ultimate apocalypse vegetable!
    But how do you eat it? Though I like snacking on its leaves raw or adding baby leaves to a salad, not everyone likes the strong flavor. Kale is great steamed along with other sweeter vegetables like squash or carrot. But my favorite way to cook kale is to saute it with soy sauce and oil or butter. This can be done in a stir-fry or by itself. Either way, it is important to not burn the kale leaves. To prevent burning you can add a splash of water, wine, or soy sauce. Keep the vegetables steaming more then frying.

The well at Owl's Knob, in which the water is 100 feet underground, is not functioning. Either the 12 volt pump is clogged, or the water table dropped. But the system is not working. However, the spring in the holler is still flowing. All throughout my life I have been drinking from this spring. At ONSC I ask children if water coming straight out of the ground, spring water, is clean. They always say no. When I tell them that the typical backpacking water filter uses clay to filter river-water, they are puzzled. But only then do they accept that the water, filtered by the clay in the ground, might be clean.
    Deep in a gully there is a mossy spring, shaded by maiden-hair ferns and old magnolia trees. The water comes trickling out of the bedrock, flowing over a slab of limestone and dropping into a sink hole that leads to Terrapin Creek, a tributary to the headwaters of the Buffalo river.
    To retrieve water from the trickle that hugs the bedrock, you must take a leaf and a rock. The leaf is placed in the stream of water with its steam hanging just over the bedrock's ledge. Then the rock is placed on top of the leaf to keep it in place. Thus, a spout is created, and the trickle of water, seeping over the stones, is launched into my jug.
Patiently, I wait for the gallon to fill.
It is like waiting for kale to grow.
Slowly but surely, nature provides.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More Adventures with Arthropods

Dirt Dauber carried a paralyzed wolf spider

Morning Glories
 This weekend, while spending time at Owl's Knob I spotting a dirt dauber carrying a paralyzed spider. I wrote recently about how dirt daubers sting spiders, paralyzing them, then store them inside their nest along with an egg. I snapped a picture of this rare instance before the dirt dauber became startled and flew off, leaving the paralyzed spider on a leaf. I touched it to find that's it's legs were soft, not rigid like they are when the creature is dead. The spider's legs were bound up close to it's body, but after touching it, the spider twitched. It was an interesting find.
Walking stick on a
Red Oak Leaf
I tried to show my son how fascinating the paralyzed spider was, but he didn't see anything special about it. Later on however we came across a praying mantis which he was very curious about. We also found a huge walking stick in a red leaf. I also found it to be a bit strange that the morning glories outside my green house were blooming.
It is interesting that it seems like more life is around me all the time. But I don't think that there is any more to see this past year than there ever has been before. I believe it is my perspective that has changed. Now that I write about nature on this blog and work at the Ozark Natural Science Center, I notice more all the time. Just imagine what you could see if you made an effort to notice more too.