I get to work teaching canoeing. One of the small wonders of this job is spending time connecting with the animals that have left a shadow of their souls in the footprints they leave on the beach.
Two of my favourites: the elusive mustelid, the mink, whose slinky body and webbed feet adorn sand as it goes foraging for fish and small rodents. second, the muskrats, whose tracks remained a mystery to me for years, with their special halo of hair on their bare feet to help with swimming. These two share in a predator/prey relationship, both have beautiful pelts, and both leave me excited when I leave my tracks alongside theirs.
Posted in crafts and skills, Nature
Tagged Animal tracks, beach, canoe, canoeing, lake, mammals, river, tracking, wildlife, wildlife tracking
Luke and I went camping to bring in the new year, and had quite the mishap. We arrived at the trail head at 3am and decided to sleep there before hiking in in the morning. We laid out our sleeping bags, and since it wasn’t raining, figured we would be fine with a “just in case” tarp rolled up at our feet to pull on top of us. If you’ve done this, you would know: it never works. The condensation just accumulates under the tarp, and there you are, soaking wet, with a wet tarp laid over you like a blanket. Obviously, it rained. We retreated to the car, cold, wet and dehydrated, deciding what to do. We talked about going home. And then, we looked at each other and said: are we being babies about this? And right there, it was settled. We were hiking down to that beach. We rehydrated, napped, layered up, and boy was it worth it. We had the beach to ourselves for 2 whole hours, and then climbed up to a cliff and watched the sun set on the last day of 2012 over the Pacific Ocean. And you know what? I’m glad we can challenge each other and decide to do things we might quit on if we were alone. That’s what makes Luke and me such good friends.
We didn’t get pictures, and I’m glad. It was out moment.
Picture this: there we are in the Joshua tree desert, just walking along, when I notice a beautiful plant I know and love, and often buy from the grocery store: ground cherry! Well, I get excited and start eating a whole bunch, and Luke and his mom eat one cherry each. Lucas, in an attempt to bust my balls, goes: isn’t this a nightshade? Nightshades, a family of plants, have both very poisonous members, such as Bella Donna or bittersweet nightshade, but also very edible ones such as tomatoes and peppers. All of
A sudden I start to panic: am I sure of my identification? I’ve never seen this plant in the wild! We turn on the iPad Audubon app and lo and behold, Audubon calls this plant extremely poisonous. Fast forward ten minutes, and we are all on the side of the road with our fingers down our throats, forcing ourselves to puke up this supposedly toxic plant.
Well! Upon further research, Audubon was WRONG. Only the unripe fruit is poisonous, once yellow it is safe to eat. Thank god! But this was a good learning experience. Here are the things I discovered:
– I need to trust myself. I really do know my plants
– I need to slow the f down. I get excited about new things and don’t think through sometimes
– I need to be a thousand percent sure of my ID if I’m going to feed it to other people
– Audubon guides suck and give you misinformation
It was a whole roller coaster of an experience and I’m glad the outcome was what it was: the fruit out of our system, and it being edible in the first place. But nature is a powerful thing and though it provides, it can take away, too.
This was a really good lesson.
I went to Joshua tree, home of dr Seuss and U2. It was my second time there, and seeing some of the plants there felt like meeting up with old friends again, who I haven’t seen in years. I really wanted to share the sites and smells of some of these plants with you all!
Joshua trees, or yucca brevifolia, is the iconic tree of the park. It is shockingly not a woody plant! It’s part of the agave family, which explains why the sap Luke and I chewed on was so sweet. The leaves are used for making rope and weaving baskets.
Mistletoe!! That plant you’ve made out beneath is actually a parasitic plant quite widespread! It’s name apparently comes from the Anglo-Saxon which literally translates to shit-on-a-stick, which is how their seeds get spread, through bird butts! The plant then grows into the branch of a tree or shrub, sucking nutrients like a vampire. Apparently, you can use the sticky from the berries as a trap by rubbing the berries between your hands, and then rubbing the sticky on a stick or rock where a small animal will land and become stuck! Fascinating!
You may not recognize creosote, but I guarantee if you recognized the smell if you crushed it’s leaves in your hand. It smells like telephone pole (!!!) which are oftener covered in this chemical substance (though not derived from this plant) to protect it from rotting. Creosote releases this chemical to keep other plants from growing nearby it, an then clones itself. The oldest plant has been dated to almost 12,000 years old. Medicinally, it is used by indigenous communities as one of those generic treatment for STDs, chickenpox, etc.
Lastly, I present to you honey mesquite, a member of the pea family which was a crucial bean crop for the local population, especially because it usually fruits during drought years. I’ve never had the chance to try it, but I hear it’s gluten free!
Hope you get a chance to meet these bad ass plants some day, and when you do, tell them I say hi!
My buddy Luke’s sister, who we are staying with in L.A. had this great idea for plant presses with fimo. They are beautiful, and are a fun way to infuse nature into your home. It’s simple: collect some plants (I did sequoia, California live oak, and lavender) press them into some fimo, and bake. I wrote their common name on their back, and they make beads, magnets, and wall hangings. Great gifts!
I’m in California, hence the adventure series. One if the things I love about parks is visiting their nature centres. You get a chance to see just how the animals around you look, which is helpful, since you probably won’t get to see them in real life. They also provide you with tons of naturalist info about that species, which helps you better identify track and sign in a new ecosystem. Here are some examples!
feathers, nests and eggs
Every good naturalist needs a nature table. Here is a picture of mine. It’s a combo of skulls I have found or have been given to me, my favourite field guides, track casts, and projects I’m still working on.
I find it inspiring, as it brings
Some nature into mu urban bedroom, and it makes others ask me questions and so helps us better to get to know each other, with all my cards ( read: skulls) on the table.