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. After twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live and work in the Ozarks and visit the mountain often. These are stories about the Ozark Wilderness written from a women deeply influenced by this special place.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winter at Last

Last year winter never came to the Ozarks. We never got more than a light dusting of snow and the temperature hardly dropped enough to call it cold. Last summer was terribly hot and dry, so after another summer full of similar hot and dry weather, everyone has been talking about how mild the winter to follow might be. Long summers are harder to bare if there is no winter to warm up from. The cold and hot help balance each other.
This week I was pleasantly surprised that we got a cold snap and it snowed a little. I know most people are not big fans of winter (I actually don't mind it most winters) but I think we can all agree that winter is suppose to be cold and that type of normality is reassuring.
For northern states, snow is nothing special. But for the Ozarks, it is a rare and special occurrence, a gift from the heavens. Every year we get at least a dusting of frozen precipitation, but rarely is it more than a dusting. I am simply relieved that a little snow fell, that winter may actually set in this year. The cold will surely make next summer feel more tolerable.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spring Peepers in December?

This past weekend, I woke to the sound of two spring peepers calling from amphibian ponds at Owls' Knob. Their constant peeping is a comforting sound to me in spring, but in December it is somewhat troubling. I recall having heard peepers in autumn but this is very late in the year for them to be calling.
These small chorus frogs hibernate under leaf litter in winter. They do not dig deep enough to prevent freezing so their cold blooded body drops below freezing temperatures. Their bodily functions shut down and their body partially freezes. To avoid exploding they force water out of their cells so it turns to ice in between the individual cell walls. They also create glucose, from energy reserves, that serves as a natural anti-freeze. With these adaptations their core temperature can drop to only 21 degrees Fahrenheit!
However, this December has had highs in the 70's and lows in the 50's. So the spring peepers are not retreating under logs, rocks, and leaf litter, but instead singing at the edges of ponds. I worry that they will use up precious energy reserves and not have enough glucose in their system to last the winter, (if winter indeed comes this year.) Hopefully these frogs are fat and just happy to be hopping on a warm winter day.