Look at Your Trout Lilies!

The trout lilies are blooming! This is a good sign that spring is really here, and a great time to go out in the woods and check out all the spring ephemerals before the mosquitoes come out.

Trout lilies also provide a great opportunity to do a little bit of citizen science. The Trout Lily Project is collecting basic data on some plant characteristics where you live to answer questions about plant-to-plant variation and pollen trails.

I think I’ve only ever seen red-orange anthers, but now I have to go out and check!

All you have to do is go outside and take a look at the trout lilies nearest you and see whether they have red or yellow anthers (don’t worry— it’s easy to tell!). You’ll make a few observations (detailed on the site if you have questions) on the following:

  • Date of observation
  • Location information
  • Number of flowers observed
  • Presence of yellow anthers
  • Presence of red-orange anthers
  • Estimated percent of anthers that are yellow
  • Distance covered
  • Photos (optional)

Once you do that, you enter your observations through the CitSci.org website. And then… you automatically become A SCIENTIST!!!

Please go look, post your data, and then tell us what you found!

Nature Scenes and Hospital Recovery

We found ourselves in the hospital earlier this week for Sexy’s broken ankle. It was not a lot of fun—not fun at all—but it did give me the opportunity to see the results of some nature-based research in action.

In the hospital room we used before and after the surgery, the wall that separated us from the hallway was actually a large glass door. And, in front of that to provide privacy, was a large curtain that covered the entire thing. The curtain was pale green and made of a slightly satiny fabric. I never would have noticed it, except that I immediately noticed that it had a large nature scene printed on it, covering an area at least 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide right in front of the hospital bed.

I feel like I spent hours staring at this curtain; yet, I never would have turned on the TV!
I feel like I spent hours staring at this curtain; even after all that time, it was still preferable to TV.

I thought this was clever on the part of the hospital, as views of nature—even in the form of photographs—have been shown to reduce patient stress and facilitate healing. Dr. Roger Ulrich was one of the first researchers to study this effect, and his studies in the late 1970s and early 1980s showed that photographs of nature reduced stress compared to those of urban environments. A foundational study in 1984 found that hospital patients with windows that looked out to natural settings had better recoveries than those without windows. Continue reading “Nature Scenes and Hospital Recovery”

Small Things, Up Close

It’s well into fall now, with a thick carpet of crunchy brown leaves covering most things in the woods. We took a walk the other day, and I spent extra time looking at the small things that were hiding in plain sight near my feet. They will all be covered in snow soon.

Hemlock seedling, unbrowsed.
A fungus and an algae took a liking to each other... and made a lichen!
A fungus and an algae took a liking to each other… and made a lichen!
A blurry mix of mosses and lichens.
A blurry mix of mosses and lichens.
This club moss is like a tiny Christmas tree.

What little things have you noticed lately?

Are you spending enough time in nature?

What’s your connection like with the natural world? It can be hard to find time to get outside, even though spending time in nature has enormous benefits. The Univeristy of Minnesota website has an online assessment to help you evaluate your connection to nature so that you can identify areas where you are doing well and where you could use improvement. Take the quiz and let me know what you think.

Stressed out? Nature can fix that!

When somebody asks you, “How are you doing?” which of these answers are you most likely to give?
a) fine
b) good
c) busy

d) crazy busy! 

If your answer included some form of busy, you are not alone. Here in the US, we pride ourselves on our productivity. It’s good to be busy. We’ve developed a culture— if not even perhaps a cult—centered on the premise that being busy is a sign of importance, status, and success. In today’s world, it’s all to easy to strive to be busy, to over-commit, and to overextend ourselves thinking that it’s just what needs to get done. Continue reading “Stressed out? Nature can fix that!”

2015 Gardens in Review

It’s time to bring this year’s garden season to an end. There’s really nothing left to do inside the garden besides pick a few carrots, so I need focus the remaining weeks before snowfall on raking leaves, tending grapes, and whatever else I can manage to do to get ahead for next year.  But, before I do that, it’s the perfect time to make a highlight reel for the past season.

Veggie Garden

My 2015 garden was a good one, perhaps my best ever. The weather was great for gardening: a longer and warmer season than average with regular rain throughout the season. Continue reading “2015 Gardens in Review”

GO: Get Outside!

How much time do you spend outside? If you’re like most people—including me—it’s probably not all that much. Last fall I made a small challenge for myself, code name Project Get Out, to spend a half-hour outside each day, even in crappy fall weather, which is the worst.

I’m going to do it again this year. Only this time I’m starting earlier. I’m starting now—the beginning of September—with the goal of going all the way through December.  So here we go:

Monday (8/30): A gorgeous late-summer day made it easy to kick off thisproject! After dinner I sat on the porch to finish up a blog post. Then I got out my aerial silk and climbed in a tree. What’s that? you ask… that’s for a future post!

Tuesday (9/1): I biked to work, which took a tad over an hour, and then home from work, which took just a little longer than that. I love riding my bike to work, probably becasue it seems like an exponential win: exercise (win!) plus time outside (win!) plus money savings, fossil energy savings, badassity (win! win! win!)… Continue reading “GO: Get Outside!”

Hiking with… Pack Goats!

I haven’t been backpacking in ages. In fact, it’s likely that been avoiding since the last time I went backpacking for fun. That was ten years ago, when friend and I did a great 14-mile loop at the Porkies but ended up doing the entire thing in one day, instead of the two that we had planned, which meant that we’d schlepped our packs filled with overnight gear that entire distance for nothing.

I was excited to try backpacking again, especially when my friend, Sara, proposed trying out pack goats. Continue reading “Hiking with… Pack Goats!”