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.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Never met a stranger

Zane loves nature. He wants to be outside whenever possible, even in the heat or cold. If he sees a bug, he puts his palm out and asks, "hand?" Which means, "Will you put it in my hand?" He doesn't squeeze or poke at anything I place there. With a beaming smile, he just watches the creature crawl. When it is time to let the critter go, he waves and says, "Bye-bye!" Then he askes me, "Zane kiss? Zane hug?" If I tell him, "No," we don't kiss and hug worms, or frogs, or whatever, he will pout with his big sad bottom lip sticking way out. So I always cave, telling him he can, "Blow a hug and kiss." So he does. He blows kisses and hugs towards every snail, beetle, toad, and roly-poly we find. Of course, I won't let him put just anything in his hand. I have been pointing out spiders and wasps, explaining that these creatures might bite or sting him. I don't want him to be afraid necessarily, just cautious and aware.
When we are in the country we take lots of walks down the dirt road. It delights Zane that there are no cars in the road and it is safe to walk on. He is very observant, stopping to examine every ant. He is also learning which insects are ticks. When he finds a tick he knows to bring to me. He love for living things does not stop at sails or spiders, he has to hug and kiss trees or rocks too. It is almost like he just wants to show his love for life and the world. Maybe he is just trying to give thanks for being alive?
I am proud that he loves every thing so much. Love is much better than hate. But when we are in town, his kindness can be awkward. In the city, it makes people uncomfortable. Because he will hug and kiss nice old cars that he likes, or intersting holes in the sidewalk. Pretty much anything that he likes or finds interesting gets a hug and kiss. I have had to scold him for blow kisses to the lady in the check out line or hugging the random dogs in the park. And it just makes us both look crazy when he kisses the man hole cover in the sidewalk or hugs an street sign. He is passionate. I recognize the strength as well as the weakness in such passion.
Lately, he has become more reserved. His baby days of hugging and kissing everything he likes or enjoys is fading. Now I feel less embarrassed, now that he can be embarrassed. But when we are alone in the backyard and no one is watching, we hug the trees and kiss the ladybugs without an ounce of shame!
Zane letting a millipede walk on his hand.

Sprouts of Hope

I am trying to grow a fall garden. This week has brought cooler temeratures, a few summer thunderstorms, and a bit of hope. I know I am not the only species that is rejoicing in a change in weather. This summer has been the hottest and dryest on record, but lately the birds have begun singing again and the grass covered hillsides have changed from brown back to green. So I felt inspired to stick a few seeds in the ground. Only the bush beans seem to be thriving so far. Perhaps the spinach and lettuce knows that summer is not over yet. It may be too soon to start speaking of fall. But at least I can see a bit of greenery at the end of the tunnel!

Friday, August 10, 2012

An Amazing South American Amphibian

       In the gloomy forests of South America lives a tiny frog called Darwin's Frog (Rhinoderma darwinii), who has one of the strangest reproductive cycles. The female frog lays about 30 eggs in sheltered leaf litter, then she leaves. The male frog, however, stays and guards the eggs. When the tadpoles are just about ready to hatch their egg becomes transparent and their father can see them wiggling inside. The adult male carefully wraps his tongue around each individual egg, picks it up, and slips it into his vocal sac through a slit in his mouth. The eggs then hatch inside the male's vocal sacs. The young tadpoles live inside their father's vocal sac eating the egg yoke as well as a nutrient rich secretion (perhaps similar to milk) made by the male. The tadpoles go through metamorphosis and develop into tiny frogs, a miniature replicas of their parents. When they are mature the male frog sort of burps them up and his children come hopping out of his mouth, one by one!
Like so many amazing animals, this frog species is endangered.
What an amazing world we have! What an amazing world we are losing!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Drought

What is growing in this drought? What life is stirring in the forest when the temperature is in the triple digits? I am sad to say, not a lot. This summer I am finding it hard to write about the Ozarks because the natural world is struggling. Silver maples all over the towns and villages are dead, eaten away by beetles and then taxed by the drought. All along the rolling hills oak trees have turned brown and will die this year. Some trees have dropped their leaves and gone dormant, I suspect these trees will come back to life briefly in fall and survive the year. Sycamore trees have found a way to drop 80% of their leaves. By holding on to very few leaves they are conserving moisture and might make it through the summer.
It is hard to find many animals other than grasshoppers, cicadas, cardinals and crows. Everything else seems to be hiding. Even at dawn, before the day is unbearable, the forest is quite. Very few birds are rejoicing in the rising of the sweltering sun.
I have tried to focus on my garden. It is the only sense of environmental control I have. Yet I can not seem to water it enough. And the squash bugs ate half my plants. And something stole every last peach! I worked hard to care for my peach trees this year. Then something came in the night and took every one, pits and all. What could it have been? All I can think, is that the desperate soul who stole them, needed them more than I. Even in the garden, I have no control. Nature is huge. The earth will do as she pleases.
It has been a depressing summer for environmentalist and naturalist. We can't help but think this is the beginning of the end. Climate change is taking its toll. How will we all survive? Will we all survive?