Tag Archives: nature

Our near death experience with a (non) poisonous plant

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.



Plant press with a twist

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!


Nature table

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.


Arctic Polygons

How Freaking Beautiful Is That?

How does this happen?


  • In the winter the cold causes the frozen soil to shrink, and cracks form.
  • In the spring, the active layer melts and water seeps down into the cracks. It freezes and expands when it is chilled by the still-frozen soil. The frozen water forms wedges of ice in the soil.
  • The active layer and the tops of the ice wedges melt in the summer, adding more water.
  • Each winter, cracks form again in the same places, and in the spring, more water enters and enlarges the ice wedges as the freezing water expands.
  • This cycle of crack, melt, and freeze enlarges the wedges year by year until the soil above them is pushed up, forming a blocky pattern of ridges on the ground called polygons.


Take a moment, won’t you?

Yes, I know. Life is hectic. Running from class to class, rushing through work, cooking, cleaning, social life. But take a moment, won’t you? At the bus stop, at the window, and just watch. That’s what I’m doing right now. Theres a black pigeon with white wing feathers walking around, next to another pigeon with white underpants and a white band on its head. There are also some juvenile gulls, all searching for food under a very old beech tree, spiky nuts still on the branches. The clouds are long and stringy, its a little cool and windy out, and it smells like barbecue.

Sometimes, it feels good just to notice. Even if it’s just for a moment.

The Wonder of Girls

One of the best books I’ve read that details the biological and spiritual growth from girlhood to womanhood. It looks beyond overt feminism and self esteem issues, into the role of women in our world, how our biology determines it, and how to make sure that those girls you mentor, or mother, have the experiences it takes to turn into exceptional women, with scientific support and personal stories to prove the point. One of the highlights was the important of extended family and mentors for brain development, something lacking in our current culture. Enjoy!


Tracking Wolves

I’ve just returned from one of the wildest places in North America, the lodgepole pine forest of Central Idaho. There, we tracked wolves, played in cold mountain streams, had snow fights during warm sunny days at high elevations, saw bear poop, wolf tracks, a badger, porcupines, jumping mice, american martens, and many other wild creatures.

But what really makes an epic journey is not the journey itself, but the ability to tell one’s story around a fire at the end of the day. I’m thankful for the people here I consider family, who are willing to break open poop to figure out what the wolves are eating, stick their ear to the ground to hear a badger dig, and flash a little jumping mouse who was winking at us.

and most of all, I’m thankful for magical places.

(pictures to come)

for more information, check out Wilderness Awareness School’s wolf tracking expeditions, for teens and adults.