Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Coffee and Pumpkin: Fueling the Adventure

What's the adventure? Well LIFE! What a gift to be here, in this moment. Truly. Look at these insect lives all prepared for winter. Holy moly, we are agog, day in and day out at the wondrous nature of life, in all forms. 

Question Mark or Eastern Comma chrysalis on American Elm...

I don't say this tritely and I don't say this ignorant of the many challenges in this world, but we are alive and we have a duty to honor this gift. Steve and I personally have some chaff still to shed, but we are making progress. Our hearts are in nature, specifically exploration, observation, restoration and hiking. That sounds like enough to fill up the rest of these precious lives so that's what we are running with. We have found (as has everyone before us that followed their heart), you really do have to choose. Life DOES move on. You DO get older. Choose wisely once you know what's important to you.

As most of you know, we love coffee. This one is our favorite and our sacred ritual every morning of drinking from the same well worn, ceramic mugs, while tending cats and watching all the birds in the still standing and tippy plant stalks is how we roll around here this winter 2022/2023.  

On days when we head to Mohican State Park/Forest for hiking we also stop here for treats and an Americano. What you see in the photo is of course, a pumpkin muffin. I love most muffins and most baked items, but I really, really love pumpkin because not only does it taste so very yummy, but it fills me up. I don't like to eat right away in the morning, but once I do eat, I am usually hungry for the rest of the day so filling me up is a big deal. 

I get lucky around here because I am also married to a pie making man and he knows my adoration for pie and pumpkin and he also has to deal with me when I'm not full so he works to keep me full. ;)

Some days this caffeine fuels indoor paperwork and regular chores, 

and other days we use it to explore in all weather and at all times of year. Beaver at Gleason Family Nature Reserve in Morrow County made an incredible impoundment that attracted a late migrant American Bittern early December. As they were flying over and south, how could they not see it? Impossible. The water is so big and so flashy brilliant, it beckons life from all around. And how could we not see the bittern, just a foot off the trail and put to flight by us chattering humans? Also, impossible. So we delighted and exclaimed and felt like the luckiest people around.

Hiking big miles is harder when we have a morning ritual that lasts as long as it lasts and the days are dark by 5 p.m., but we get out anyways and hike as long as we can. 6 miles on this day took us through chestnut oaks and white oaks and black tupelo. We ate lunch in this spot right here:

and marveled at these itty bitty mushrooms at home in the leaves.

We sometimes lunch in another spot and watched, at the very end of summer, a Bald-faced Hornet queen go directly into a hole in this rotting log. This is no doubt her overwintering spot and so flabbergasted were we to be present and paying attention, I am still pondering this hole and all the other holes and crevices where little creatures are tucked in and safe for winter. So much hardier than we, are they.

The red squirrels that live on these 3.5 shared acres don't need caffeine, but somehow maintain boundless energy. These black walnut caches in all plant joints around are seriously cracking us up. Look right in the middle of this pokeweed and you will see a black dot. That's an intact and ready to eat black walnut. They are everywhere around here. Though my father would love it, we hope they aren't planning for a snow this deep.

The brush pile enhancement and stream water bar addition are fueled by a deep desire for restoration. It's something fundamental in us. We have to do it and then it's so miraculous we have to do more. 

Water connects us all and if you watch the video above about our stream restoration, you will hear I mention maps. Maps are fantastic. They are the keys to the landscape and giant worlds to explore in your mind and then on foot or however you can. This little hand drawn map from long ago shows the headwaters of so many major Ohio rivers and streams, all originating here, in this little loved and fairly abused (where isn't though really? we are from the Great Black Swamp...) Morrow County. Magic is in the making though here friends. Magic, I tell you. Committed humans, righting many wrongs. It will be longer than our lives no doubt, but it's beginning.

As an affirmation for the restoration, little gifts of apples and persimmons, and their desire to live, this Eastern Cottontail alerted us to someone coming in from the east. 

Oh, and how right they were. A Red Fox. Not common around here due to all the human fear, but still here. This one decided the apple was their snack instead.

And with that, we wish you a very Happy, Happy Winter Solstice. We made it! From here, it's just brighter and brighter and brighter. 


because it's time...

Let's be good humans.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Summer of Sweetness and New Beginnings...

I missed the first flock of 30 broad-winged hawks kettling higher and higher into the sky, but I didn't miss the next 20; Steve made sure of that, dear love of mine. 

We haven't missed the thousands of monarchs and green darner dragonflies resting and feeding in the plants or cruising over.  Migration is a time we pay rapt attention. Everything is changing, everything is in flux and we find ourselves caught between two worlds.

Every morning we get up, make our coffee and sit at our table with the cats and look out the south door towards the cup plant, Lactuca, pokeweed, ragweed, spicebush and Mother Black Walnut. We wait with anticipation for the sun and start excitedly sharing directions where to look and descriptions of color patterns when the warblers and other migrating birds and insects come into view. 

In the afternoon, we lay in our west facing chairs and watch the western sky, a highway leading to lands far, far away. I can't get over it. How we don't have to chase migration. How these plants growing right here on this land are so filled with insects and fruits and seeds, that birds and insects migrating to Mexico, Central and South America are stopping here to refuel. It's these native plants and the connectivity of the plants. It's AMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZING. It makes logical and scientific sense ecologically, but knowing that we helped with the restoration and said please come back and that they responded in such a huge way, still makes me giggle in awe and love and pure devotion to this planet. 

Part of this stopping here by migrants, I am certain, is because resident birds and insects are abundant and loud right now, because they also find plentiful food here. The American Goldfinches are a daily chorus of 30 or 40 birds. The juveniles are catching up with their parents and it's a wonder to witness them feasting on the abundant cup plant seed crop. We found one of their old or abandoned nests in a goldenrod and I know part of the trust of these migratory birds to stop here on mornings when they don't have to, is the certainty in the voices of their bird relatives, that this place is safe and full of food.

I'm glad they feel that way, because we do too, on land that is more their land than ours. We pass through these places on footpaths made for us humans, by humans, but we see them along the way.

We always work to honor them by saving them and giving them space when theirs is being taken away. In this moment, it's goldenseal and allies. You can see the video we made here

We can't move the Mother Trees that bind them together in a mycelial web in this forest, but we hug those trees and wish them well in this world and thank them. 

We also hug the Mother Persimmon we annually gather from and even got the word to do so from a fellow Persimmon World follower who said, "That is a Grandmother!" Absolutely.


I told Steve I want to follow the birds and butterflies and warm weather and in the future we will, but not quite yet. This year we had/have other plans. Like discovering the magnificent Carrion Flower at our niece's wedding celebration... 

and spending time with family...

and friends... 

and 3 kitty cats that are happy to be lounging in a stick built house. 

We are also getting back to our roots. Pure nature. Less home projects. How could we do anything else when there are black ratsnakes to ogle?

And hoverflies to receive love from? Ok, maybe they did want my salt, but maybe also they were saying hi? They aren't saying they weren't so I'm saying they were.

Morrow County is blowing up with development faster than we ever dreamed and if everyone would share space, we would be doing a dance of joy, but they aren't, so instead, we agree with the sentiment of this mammal:

And to counter the devastation somewhere safe and somewhere we can afford, we bought another property. This one in Highland County in southern Ohio. This 10.2 acres will be loved, tended and restored by us and then donated to the Arc of Appalachia eventually. We hope to find a place for our 3.5 acres in Morrow all these lives are safe and protected. We can't wait to hike further onto this land this winter - the winter that we are staying put to tend land in Morrow County, land in Highland County and ourselves. The cabin is already moved to a new home and the land is breathing a sigh of relief. 

Sadness enveloped this land for a while, but now new hope is given. Death and decay always lead to rebirth. Thank you, Tim G., for your much needed clarity and generosity of friendship. 

And with that friends, we bid adieu. We wish you a Happy Autumnal Equinox and a season full of richness of heart and spirit. Thank you for protecting this Earth with us. It heartens us to know we are all united together, in community with one another, working for abundant, respected and diverse life.