I live in the largest city in my state, but small slices of nature are never far away. A variety of parks nestle through the city, providing many places for a brief retreat from urban life. Though not too far-there is always the noise of a busy highway humming in the background. But the birds and insects don’t seem to mind.
The hilly area slopes towards the river, giving one of the highest views in the area.
I never know what will be waiting for me when I pull off the busy road. Damsel flies bustle about their daily business, snakes make their way to the warm cement paths to warm in the sunbeams, and I have even seen an oriole gathering materials for a nest. Oblivious, the cars pass by on the winding highway. Even the people passing by on the trails don’t seem to see.I must be easily amused, since I find myself easily drawn into contemplation of a rock full of lichen-who knows how old? Or fascinated by a birdsong as the wild South Dakota wind whips the grass.
The weather just warm enough now to leave bulky coats behind, and the landscape is still mostly a lackluster brown, but a closer look showed the scenery coming to life all around. I stopped to walk around this local park built on the remains of a pink quartzite quarry. The city is now working to restore the natural grassy plains and wildflowers, though a nearby historical marker pays tribute to the days when workers pushed the large stone blocks onto the train tracks to ship, as well as those who died in the days of those treacherous working conditions.
Featured plantings of pasque flowers were blooming there amidst the dried grasses of last summer. They are a local prairie wildflower, though more commonly found on the Western side of the state. The purple pasque is also the state flower, and I’d never seen one in person before, so it was a pleasant surprise. They were small, subtle glimpses of beauty as they peered from their brown surroundings.
The first destination on our trip was the Redwood Forest in Northernmost California. My Mom had wanted to see the largest trees on earth for a very long time. We stopped to see the largest tree in the region, known unceremoniously as ‘The Big Tree’.
The name was an understatement.
Then we explored a forest trail, surrounded by thick forest as far as the eye could see.
We were fortunate to see two of these unusual creatures. They are called Banana Slugs, and only live in pacific forests. The first one we saw was quite large, and it moved slowly along its leaf, disregarding us completely.
Our family made a last minute decision to take to the road for the last two weeks before school started. After much deliberation, my parents decided to try to drive all the way to the West Coast. We weren’t sure how one year old Claire would deal with all of the driving, but she actually did quite well. (When supplied with adequate amounts of candy.) The first state we crossed after our own was Montana. The landscape once we hit the mountains was rugged and had lots of interesting rock formations.
We also passed close enough to the Bear Tooth Mountains to see their snowy caps. That was one of the first exciting moments of the trip, since none of the kids in our family had ever seen a mountain. Then we traveled along the Columbia River for quite a while, seeing the same landscape that those on the Lewis and Clark Expedition had seen about two hundred years ago.
and this boat looked like it came right out of Tom Sawyer:
You can just barely see Mount Hood in Oregon in this picture through the hazy clouds. I would have loved to see it on a clear day, since its lone snowy top was just beautiful.
The moment of victory: passage into California! For such a big state, they sure had a tiny welcome sign.
When we arrived in California after about four days of driving, we stopped in Crescent City to stick our feet in the ocean for the first time.
Landon and I quickly tasted our wet fingers to experience the salty sea. Everyone else began inspecting the remains of sea life scattered around. All of the kids, including me, quickly began collecting souvenirs. We were astonished at the great number of shells, sand dollar fragments, and dead crabs on the shore.
I loved little Claire’s footprints in the sand:
Yesterday was my first day of school, so I’m working on readjusting to the rigors of college homework. This is a little bit of a shock, since my family just arrived home last weekend from spending two weeks on vacation in California (pictures coming soon). The weather is taking a sharp turn also, towards decidedly cooler temperatures. Autumn is approaching faster than I expected it.
I’ve let milkweed grow in my garden for four years, and this is the first year I have anything to show for it. This week I found not one, but three monarch eggs attached under the leaves, so I brought them inside. Many of the younger boys have not seen or don’t remember the butterfly life cycle, so I’m excited that they can watch the little miracle this summer. Dominic and the other boys could not believe how small the caterpillar was when it hatched.
(Mom says to tell you that this is bedhead.)
It is time to glance upwards after dark again, the ever faithful Perseid meteor shower will be picking up speed all this week until the peak through the 11-13. I am hoping for a clear night sometime this week, as there are a lot of cloudy and rainy days forecasted up ahead. There will be a growing moon, but in past years that has not even stopped me and my siblings from seeing some, even from our house in the city. Happy stargazing!
One by one, I keep checking items off the list of life experiences. I took care of stitches last November, and now I have officially been stung by a bee. I really thought I was going to get away without one of those.
It happened while I was vanquishing thistles in my garden. Ironically, I had just glanced at my shasta daisies and coneflowers swarming with busy bees and thought to myself, “When I was little I was too scared of bees to stand this close to them. But now that I’m older I know they won’t hurt me, since I’m just minding my business and they are minding theirs.” Little did I know I had a furry bee sitting on my shirt by my elbow. As soon as I brushed my arm against it, it decided to complain.
What followed must have been quite a spectacle. I looked down to see what had bitten me, and when I saw the furry black and yellow creature, I screamed. Then I shook the bee off my shirt and ran as fast as I could. Landon reports that he knew something was wrong when I didn’t stop running till I had ran clear to the other side of the yard.
Fortunately, Mom thinks it was a pretty mild sting, as the stinger was not stuck in my arm. I still had a little red welt, though! I’m certainly glad it was a bee and not a wasp!
Right now, we just emerged from the end of a major winter storm. It began with rain Monday night, which froze into a very thick layer through the night. It turned into sleet on Tuesday, and didn’t let up the whole day. The high pitched sound of ice pellets hitting icy windows was painfully annoying, and I couldn’t wait for it to end. In addition, ice had given our windows an opaque glaze treatment, and I never realized how much I depend on looking outside through the day. Not being able to see out drove me batty! This, coupled with the unceasing ice pellets was psychological torture! The day seemed to last forever.
I woke up yesterday morning to see the havoc the ice had wreaked on the trees. It seems like a hurricane blew through and then suddenly froze. Top branches of large trees are leaning to touch the ground. Strong limbs hang from trunks like limp noodles. Every tree has branches on the ground, and splintered boughs are everywhere. I saw a few that look like they went through a paper shredder! I doubt the city will look the same for quite a few summers.
Here are some examples of the type of damage around:
On top of the ice came six inches of snow, weighing things down even more and causing us to lose power for about three hours this morning. Our formerly beautiful trees now look like this:
Our neighbors bushes:
On a brighter note, our spring chickens have arrived! We chose this week of all weeks for them to come when we ordered them in November. I lost two nights of sleep worrying that the plane bringing them from Connecticut wouldn’t make it to the airport through the storm, and they would be trapped halfway here in their box. Fortunately they made it here safe, alive and peeping. Pictures coming soon!
Their tiny, tightly curled tops are peeking through the soil!
A flock of twenty robins flew by this morning!
One of my favorite things to do every spring is watching spring make its way up the nation on Journey North. On the website are maps showing people’s first sightings of robins, tulips, hummingbirds, and monarch butterflies all over the country. I always watch eagerly for the first glimpses of spring so I can add them to the map. Report your first sightings this year!