Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What a Night

Yesterday was the winter solstice, and a full moon (although it was cloudy). I suppose those two correspond with way less frequency than "once in a blue moon." In fact, it's been over 10 years. Even more significant, there was also a lunar eclipse in the very early hours of the 21st, but the clouds, at least in this area, would have made it hard to see, were one awake and healthy enough to try. I, personally, was not... I have spent my winter break thus far being terrible ill... I'm getting better now... I missed another disappointing snowfall (less than 2 inches for us), and the shortest day of the year along with its once-in-a-lifetime eclipse (or once in several, as the last coincidence of an eclipse and the solstice was 632 years ago). I understand the eclipse was lovely in areas where the sky was clear...
Ah, well... next time?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


A beautiful frost on another c-c-cold morning.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Let it Snow!

Just under 3 inches on the snow-meter, but I think it was more in a lot of places (depending on wind). Enough to be lovely, but not enough for skiing and not enough to stay pretty even if it stays cold... so I'm hoping for some more!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Don't Let it Snow.

First SNOW FLURRIES! Accompanied by frigid temperatures.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's On

Today, small lakes have frozen over, with a thin layer of ice...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Call of the Wild

I'm standing in the prairie, rushing to collect flags, when the primordial trumpet of sandhill cranes causes me to stop all motion. I look around, get sun-blinded, regain my bearings, look again, see nothing. How can a noise that is so loud, and that sounds like it's surrounding me, be coming from things that I can't even find? Finally, with the help of a few 7th graders, I see them. Six "vee" formations, or seven maybe, each with a hundred or more birds in it. They are so high up that they look like dust almost, or ashes floating in the wind. But once I see them, I can't stop seeing them... a thousand birds, each as tall as me but so high up I can hardly see them, so numerous I can hear them distinctly, all journeying together, most likely to Florida... it's an amazing sight, one that brings you close to the ancients. I can imagine, a thousand years ago or more, people walking through the prairie, and stopping at the arresting call of the cranes. Taking a minute to ponder, to celebrate, before resuming life's daily tasks. In this season of thankfulness, I am grateful for cranes.

Another Day...

Yesterday's high: 66 deg.
Current temp: 26 deg, on our way to a high of 36, which will feel colder if we keep having winds at around 20 mph.
Are you kidding me?

This (admittedly not very artistic) photo shows a frozen puddle. There is no ice on edge of the lake, but this is largely because the biting strong winds are making the water turbulent, and therefore unable to freeze over.

This morning, I got out my winter coat and winter boots (not the warmest pair I own, but winter nonetheless). I thought I might feel silly and overdressed. Not so. Rather, I am sort of annoyed with myself that I went with the fall gloves and hat, and didn't get out the long underwear. It may have been overkill, but it would have been comfortable overkill!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Flip Flop

Currently, it is thunder storming (dark as night) and almost 60 degrees even this early in the morning. Crazy November weather!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Holy cow! It is seriously, bone-chillingly COLD out there!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Still Here

Today we saw:
  • a toad
  • a great blue heron
  • a frog (student-reported, I didn't see the frog).
Shouldn't these people be employing their winter survival strategies one of these days?

Monday, November 15, 2010


Cattails look a bit ratty at the moment, like wet sweaters... Their seeds are everywhere...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It looks brown out. In the hedgerows, tree branches are empty except for the occasional adornment of Osage oranges. The prairie has shades of yellow, tan, brown... but no green. Insects no longer hop out of the way as you walk through the dried grasses. The chickadees have gathered for the winter, and juncos dart from here to there. I haven't seen a heron in a week or so, or a redwing blackbird in longer...

So WHY is it supposed to be in the mid-60's today and all week? Seems like it's much higher than average...

A Strange Complaint

It looks brown out. In the hedgerows, tree branches are empty except for the occasional adornment of Osage oranges. The prairie has shades of yellow, tan, brown... but no green. Insects no longer hop out of the way as you walk through the dried grasses. The chickadees have gathered for the winter, and juncos dart from here to there. I haven't seen a heron in a week or so, or a redwing blackbird in longer...

So WHY is it supposed to be in the mid-60's today and all week? Seems like it's much higher than average... I do like it, but it's starting to seem odd.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Not a Lot to Say, but...

I saw a bluebird.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Come Again Another Day


The ground was parched and dusty. The air was dry. We hadn't had any real rain in 6 weeks or more? And then... after a nice rain in Saturday, the "worst storm in 70 years" hit the mid-west on Tuesday. Sideways rain. 70 mile-per-hour wind gusts. Branches down, roadsigns flying, semi-trucks blown off the road. General craziness. I don't want to sound Naomi-centric, here, but I feel I did two things to precipitate this weather event.
1. I finally hired someone to paint the outside of our house, who started in the middle of last week, and is not yet finished.
2. I went to Minneapolis (for the 1st annual National Green Schools Conference, which was awesome) in a large rented van with students in it. Needless to say, our homeward travel was delayed. Also, we got to see our first snow of the 2010-2011 winter season, though it did not get that cold here... until last night, when we had a hard freeze (but no precipitation).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Falling into Spring?

I suppose the sight of a redwing blackbird, silhouetted against a bright blue sky, sitting proud on the highest branch of the aspen tree should be a vision of March or October. I guess their clear whistles slicing through the crisp air should remind me of spring or of fall... but really, I hear that noise and I think of early March, that first sunny day when it's still very cold but it feels quite warm, comparatively speaking. That day when the redwings first show themselves and you know that you're out of the woods... it's all downhill from there, so to speak... it seems a little wrong to hear it now, knowing that the cold months are just beginning. But here they are, five of them this morning, all perched atop trees, their calls piercing he chill. The message this time? We have a long trek through slush and ice ahead of us!

Also, still seeing a lot of robins and grasshopper. Can't think that I've seen a dragonfly in a while...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Notes to Self.

As of this week, I am still seeing:
  • frogs
  • monarchs (though not in the great numbers I was a few weeks ago)
  • grasshoppers
  • milkweed bugs
  • garter snakes
Also, notes from the bird world...
  • goldfinches are brown (have been...)
  • yellow rumped warblers are coming through.
  • juncos are here.
  • so are sandhill cranes, though I haven't seen or heard them, other people have been reporting it for a few weeks.
  • Geese are going crazy. I know that a lot of them stay around all winter, and a lot of the big flocks I've seen have been going north... but the amount of goose activity... the number of times I've had to stop class and just wait because 50-100 noisy geese were flying over in the past week has been quite high. Say what you will, something is going on with the geese right now.
Sometimes, we just need some boring record-keeping notes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


The prairie is becoming increasingly crispy and brown; the trees in the distance continue to shed. Milkweed seeds beckon from across the fields, white half-released puffballs that catch the sunlight and practically beg you to come and grab them and toss... you feel their softness and weightlessness as you lift them skyward and open your fingers, keeping your hand up in the air as the last of the potential plants takes off and joins the world on its own. And you watch as they float in the air, gracefully hanging from their parachutes. They drift like big flakes of gently falling snow, until they land... everywhere... on my coat, the trail, the water... below, they adorn all sorts of non-asclepias plants... and I hope some land in ideal places for new milkweed to grow. Although they may be somewhat... well, weedy, they provide countless minutes of pure and youthful and worry-free joy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Random Things From the Past Week or So...

The same class that found the dismembered deer leg also found this lovely specimen... a muskrat tail, severed from its former muskrat.
Woolybear caterpillars, appropriately dressed for chilly weather, are some of the earliest insects I see in the spring and the latest in the fall. We started seeing them last week and have seen several since... Another sign of autumn.
Witch hazel flowers are starting to bloom.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I suppose I have been neglectful in not mentioning that leaves are coloring and falling left and right. Maples are red and orange and, in some cases, naked. Ashes are purple and yellow. Oaks are slowly turning brown...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

So Cute!

Raccoon tracks are so cute. Like little baby hands, (at least, the front paws, if little babies had long claws).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning

This morning I left home before sunrise (which is not unusual during the school year, especially as we get closer and closer to solstice) and I was rewarded with a lovely sunrise... of course, I watched the sun cast its glow on the bands of clouds from behind a car windshield, and with roads and powerlines in view... but there were these moments when I saw it across open agricultural fields, sprawling bur oaks peeking from the low hanging mist in the background... when it just seemed like proof that every ordinary day has extraordinary moments, and that mundane places are still kissed by the glory of nature.

By the time I got to work, the ever-changing colors of the sunrise had given way to the sideways morning light. (I suppose that happened during the approximately 30 seconds when I was driving east and looking straight into the orange orb in front of me, nearly being blinded despite sunglasses, and feeling lucky not to have crashed.) Anyhow, things were still lovely as the morning's frost accentuated the plants' shapes and forms, and played with the sunlight in a really beautiful way...
... and then melted (it got up to nearly 70 degrees today, at least a 25 degree difference between day and night)...
A short while later, we encountered deer -- one antlered fellow and seven companions. I kept thinking they would eventually get scared of us, given that we were hammering things into the ground, disturbing the peace and bird-song quite thoroughly, but they did not. In face, they got closer and closer, unafraid, challenging. (Well, we got not actual hoofing of the ground or anything...) These are clearly suburban deer, unfamiliar with gun and bow alike. (I took about 20 pictures, thinking each time that this surely would be the last, they would run away now, but eventually I gave up the photographing, and it was us that left before them. Smartly, they had left before we returned with students.)
And speaking of student-deer interactions... (Fivecrows, you may want to stop reading now. Consider yourself warned.) Later in the morning, one kid found a young deer's leg -- not just the bones, but flesh and all -- stuck in the fence that surrounds a property neighboring the one we were at. No photos, thanks. I actually was with a different group and didn't see it. But I can just imagine that animal's fate, tangled and suffering and waiting... although, the rest of it was no where to be found, so maybe it was quickly preyed upon. Happy thoughts (relatively speaking)!
I also took a picture of a big fat toad with a permanently grumpy facial expression.

Not photographed: wooly bear (sign of fall!)

ps -- Those of you who were wondering, in my yard the basil is still fine. The frost seemed to spare sheltered areas, and my yard has homes, trees, fences, etc. So we're still waiting on the "big one" in our garden.

Monday, October 4, 2010


FROST. Well, sort of. We had a patchy frost last night that seemed to mostly affect rooftops and vehicles. The basil in my yard, which I think of as very sensitive and the first thing to brown up in a frost, was verdant. It got down to about 41 degrees last night...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Here's a phenological mystery for you all...
I know this isn't a lovely picture, but that's not the point. The point is that I took it this morning. And it's a crabapple. Which flowered in the spring, and fruited, and is still bearing its fruit. And now, a few of its limbs have decided to flower again, for some reason unknown to me. I don't know what's going on, and Google didn't help me figure it out... see? A mystery.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Up North

I spent the week in the north woods, where a first frost -- presumably weeks ahead of ours -- has already started turning the maples red and orange and yellow. On cloudy days, their brightness popped against the grey of rain, and on sunny days the blue of the sky contrasted starkly with the autumnal oranges... it really was beautiful. I wrote in my nature journal, during one of our reflection times, that I think I must have nature ADHD... this after a sentence about mergansers, then one about autumn colors, one about the sound of the lapping of the water on the shore, and one about the shape of the dead log, already harboring a small oasis of new life, jutting into the water. But upon looking at my photographs, I have determined that I am surprisingly mycology-minded.

And, if you think that this is overkill with the fungus photos, I would like to state, for the record, that a) I edited a lot out of these, and b) I would have taken a LOT more pictures of fungi if I hadn't had 58 lbs of canoe on my head for a lot of the time, which seriously diminishes the ease of... and desire to... take pictures.

We saw mushrooms in every color but blue and green. The first one here, though the photo doesn't capture it that well, was light purple!
I think the eyelash cups are so cute, don't you?

That last one was very crazy... about 4 inches in diameter, covered in dark purple-grey powder above and below, and curved up. Students noted that it looked like the empty paper of a Reese's peanut butter cup.

You made it this far? Here were a few non-fungal discoveries...
a brightly-colored leopard frog
This moth LOVED me, sat on my hand and probed my skin with its proboscis, and came back several times even after I got tired of not being able to write and brushed it off. It landed on my head for a while, where its wings buzzed by my ears like a tiny helicopter, and spent time on both of my hands. Eventually, it tired of me and decided that a yellow flower was more to its liking.
Such pretty colors in this hawkweed.