Showing posts from April, 2020

Nearby Nature: What in the world are wolf trees?

This red oak wolf tree is a great place to hang out! My daughter and I enjoy our outside exploration time even more these days as our apartment has seemingly grown smaller, and we have new requirements to log into online classes several times a day. The breaks in nature are essential to deal with some of the stress of adjusting to new routines and our new reality of staying close to home. Luckily, we have plenty of nearby nature in our yard and beyond into our neighboring yards.  One of our favorite places to explore is a small strip of woods in between an apartment complex, and an abandoned pasture. Earlier I wrote about some cool mushrooms we found in there. Some of the mushrooms were growing on dropped branches from a huge red oak tree I referred to as a 'wolf tree'.  Look at out the trees you have growing in your yard, on your street, or in a nearby park. Trees that grow out in the open, on their own, not close to other trees grow in their perfect form. These loll

Happy 50th Anniversary Earth Day!

Participant at first Earth Day in 1970 I work for Vermont State Parks and just as you probably imagine, I feel very lucky and I love my job. I owe Earth Day gratitude for my ability to transform my love of camping into a career. An Earth Day celebration when I was five started me on this path. It was 1981, and my dad brought my older sister, Rachel, and I to an Earth Day celebration at Unity College in Maine. Unity is a small environmental college in Central Maine. We were there for a 5K race, and Rachel brought me into the student center to use the restroom. I was blown away by the beautiful students adorned in bell bottoms, long hair, drapey dresses, and sandals. I knew at that moment Unity College was the place for me. Many years later I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in environmental education and interpretation, and after a Master of Science degree and fifteen years working seasonally in the interpretation field, I grew into the fantastic job I love today. What has

Nearby Nature: Finding Fungus

Tiny mushrooms growing on a log in Woodford State Park - B. Steele A sign of spring you may have overlooked in your yard is mushrooms. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of larger fungi growing underground, or in a rotting log. There are some cool mushrooms coming out right now that you may be able to find in your own yard because my daughter and I have been finding them. Holding a puffball. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we live right in town, but we live in Vermont so even though we have an incredibly small yard, we have an abandoned pasture to explore nearby. Luckily, we have great neighbors who share this space with us, and they had the whole pasture brush hogged late last fall. This makes it easy to explore and find interesting things like mushrooms. The first really cool mushrooms we found the other day are these round, potato looking, apple sized mushrooms. Using our National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms , we identified these as tumbling puffball  mu

Mud Season Hiking: What You Need to Know

Family hiking on trail It's time for our yearly PSA: Please, stay off muddy trails during mud season! Conditions are  variable this time of year: dry in places, snow and mud in others. Respect trail closure  signs and turn around if you encounter muddy conditions. Continue to practice social distancing and following all Vermont Department of Health recommendations and guidelines. For updates on Vermont State Parks and COVID-19, click here .  Spring is in the air! The birds are singing, flowers are starting to pop up, and the snow is melting. While cabin fever may drive you to hit the trail, make sure to remember we’re entering Vermont’s fifth season:  MUD SEASON . What is mud season? End of winter snow-melt and early spring rain make many trails wet and muddy. The wet soils on and around hiking trails are very susceptible to erosion at this critical time of year. Hikers walking on saturated soils or the sides of trails cause damage to surrounding vegetation,

Nearby Nature

Writing in a nature journal is a great way to spend time. Here is a little secret: things you enjoyed as a child are still super fun now. My daughter and I live right in town and have a postage stamp sized front lawn, but that doesn’t stop us from having wonderful, revitalizing outdoor adventures together just as I enjoyed with my siblings when I was eight. My daughter and I started writing and drawing in our nature journal daily. The last entry   before this was in December, and now we are packing our journal full of wonderful observations, illustrations, and descriptive words each day. We are looking closely at nearby nature, and watching the seasons change from winter to spring in our yard. This is an exciting time as spring is an awakening and rebirth of life in our yards and neighborhoods. Crocuses springing out in a front yard. You do not need to go far to find signs of spring. We had crocuses pop up out of the dried grass and winter weeds in our flower beds arou