Whether you love or hate the biannual clock changes, this is a good time to visit the analemmatic sundial. All you need is yourself and the sun. It is a fun reminder that time is a measurement of ourselves on our planet rotating around the sun. With the analemmatic sundial, you become the gnomon, and your shadow tells you the time. No watch or cell phone needed.
This sundial was created in honor of long-time volunteer Tom Cleveland. Tom loved sharing his passion for people and for nature, and time often slipped away when you were talking with him. Creating this nature-based interactive element that is both fun and educational is a fitting tribute to a great person.
Watch a sunrise. Each one is unique. Some are dynamic, some are subtle. You might hear the driving rain and thunder, or you might hear the geese and swans waking up along the river. Right now, the red winged black birds have returned to the Lynch wetland and are calling. If you get out of your car and go further into nature, you will find that you are surrounded by songbirds, and you will feel the tiny air currents their wings make as they fly past you in the predawn darkness. You will see the frost form on the prairie grasses. You will wake up with Nature. It is a transformative way to start the day.
Connie shares a collection of essays from thought leaders in the convergence of agriculture, people, and nature. Iowa is one of the top agriculture states. Along with the money that sustains our economy from the corn, soybeans, pigs and chickens comes eroding soil, contaminated water, and habitat loss. Connie recognizes the real agriculture challenges that brought us to the place we are now and explores how we build a future that sustains the land and the people.
We play in the snow and plow the snow and watch the snow fall, but we don’t actually live in the snow. This is the perfect and ephemeral opportunity to check out the lifestyles of those who call the subnivean zone home. The zone is the band of snow that lies on top of the ground, creating just enough space to provide warmth and safety to a surprising variety of wildlife.
Throughout the year, we frequently see the larger mammals, such as rabbits, squirrels and opossums. The littler critters, such as mice, typically scurry beneath our notice unless they enter our houses. This time of year, we can see exactly where the voles, shrews, moles and mice are going. They tunnel just above the surface of the ground and beneath the snow, leaving evidence of their routes and habits. A special thank you to Indian Creek Nature Center Executive Director John Myers for sharing this adventure. 100 Things to do at Indian Creek Nature Center
The conversation made me wonder, just how many cool things are there for guests to do at Indian Creek Nature Center? We are going to find out. Because this is a blog written in brief snippets of time and not a well-organized book, cool nature experiences will be in absolute random order. They will probably be tied to the seasons, because, well, seasons are the basic themes of nature. Feel free to share your own ideas, and if you don’t live close by, there is probably a natural area near you at which you could do cool things.
The pagoda dogwood is a shrub with an exquisite form, if given the space to grow freely in the sunlight.
Its Latin name Cornus alternifolia describes its leaf patterns. Almost all dogwoods have opposite leaves. The pagoda dogwood has alternate leaves, though the leaf shape and texture maintains a strong resemblance to other dogwoods.
The best donut is a mulch donut. Its the only kind that burns calories instead of making your waist line bigger.
The best filling for the best donut is something native, something edible, or something native and edible.
Aronia melanocarpa, the aronia berry, is perfect. This native shrub is great for native bees, has beautiful white flowers in the spring, attractive red leaves in the fall, and the berries…are edible.
They are incredibly nutritious, very low in sugar and exceptionally astringent. Which makes them a berry with a striking and flavorful first impression, but not necessarily a tasty one. If you can’t get over the mouth-pucker they cause, try baking them in a low sugar oatmeal cookie or throw them in a smoothie with kale and an apple.
This should really be called “what’s happening up Bena Brook” because there is a lot of awesomeness in the woods right now. Some treasures were experienced but not captured digitally, including the four-leafed prairie trillium; the young equisetum; the violets, the iron bacteria in the brook; and, the gray catbird tending the skunk cabbage meadow.
Over the past year, I have enjoyed this commitment. Showing up once a week, more or less, at the same place to take the same picture.
The prairie shifts. The wind sways the grasses in and out of frame. Green stubble emerges from the black and grows up tan. Clouds form, dissipate, and reform. I love the clouds.
It is a place I love, and will continue to visit regularly. There are a lot of other spaces vying for my attention, and it is time for this project to come to a close. I hope you enjoyed the journey with me.
Your garden at home may be on a similar trajectory as The $64 Tomato, or it may be the sort of garden in which you watch in curious amazement to see what fruit is growing from the compost pile. You may have already purchased canning jars, visited the Ely Seed Lending Library, or you may still be thumbing through the catalogs to see what new varieties of pea sound tasty.
At Sugar Grove Farm, as at most businesses, there is another layer of questions we have to ask. Will we have the labor to successfully plant, weed, and harvest the crop? Are the seeds we are purchasing organic? Do we have buyers for the crops?
Every year, as we become more familiar with the site and the time involved in crop management, as the soil becomes richer through cover crops and certified organic amendments, and as we have improved infrastructure (such as driplines for irrigation), we should be able to expand our offerings.
Stop by the Creekside Shop during harvest time if you want to experience these tasty and unique fruits and vegetables. All will be certified organic.