I just wanted to post a note for anyone stumbling across this site via the blog that, while the blog section is no longer being updated, the other pages are still being kept up-to-date and I am continuing to use this site as a home base for my freelance writing. So feel free to browse the blog archive, but also check the “Writing” page for a regularly-updated list of links to the pieces I’m publishing elsewhere. Thanks!
Recently, kind of on a whim, I bought four little packages of wildflower seeds from a mail-order sale that a chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society was having.
When it comes to plants, it doesn’t get much more native than this – these seeds were all collected in the Blue Mountains of eastern Washington. Here we have western columbine (Aquilegia formosa), shooting star (Dodecatheon pulchellum), glacier lily (Erythronium grandiflorum), and red baneberry (Actaea rubra).
I’ve never attempted to start native wildflowers from seed before, so I’m figuring this out as I go along. These are all species that require a period of “cold, moist stratification” before they’ll germinate, meaning in the wild the seeds would sit in the cold soil over the winter before sprouting in the spring. Because I’m a control freak, I opted to do my own cold stratification indoors, rather than just planting the seeds outside and letting nature take its course; I transferred them into little plastic bags with some moist sand and stuck them in the fridge.
In a couple months I’ll take them out and start the seeds in potting soil. (Well, except for the baneberry, which apparently requires two periods of cold stratification – I’ll need to take them out, keep them somewhere warm for a while, and then put them back in the fridge for a couple more months before I try to start the seeds.) Even in the best case scenario, it will be a couple years before any of the plants that grow from these seeds get to the point of blooming… so except this to be the first post of a many-part series.
We got our first snow of the year yesterday! Sadly it’s not really enough to build forts or go snowshoeing. In the meantime, here are some recent wildlife and conservation tidbits from elsewhere on the internet, two by me and four courtesy of others.
- Creating a Wildlife-Friendly Yard With Native Plants, my first post as a regular contributor to Living Alongside Wildlife. (Please consider following this excellent website on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribing to new posts via email, which you can do on the homepage.)
- The Inaugural Legacy Awards: Honoring Three Inspiring Young Women, a post I wrote for the Children & Nature Network blog about an event I attended in Kennewick, WA last month. (I’m going to be helping run social media for their Natural Leaders program, so you can further support the stuff I do by following Natural Leaders on Twitter and Facebook as well.)
By other folks:
- Not sure how long this is continuing for, but the Central Puget Sound chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society is currently having a seed sale. If you live in the Northwest and are interested in adding native plants to your yard (and up for the challenge of germinating them yourself), maybe check it out.
- Pregnant Snake Prepares for Motherhood by Eating Toxic Toads, from Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science.
- Robins, Waxwings, and Honeysuckle, from Jim McCormac of Ohio Birds and Biodiversity.
- Red-tailed Hawk Eating Breakfast, from 10,000 Birds.
Anything else from around the internet lately on wildlife, conservation, or environmental education that should be included here? Share in the comments!
This week some genuinely cold temperatures are (finally) arriving in Walla Walla, but before they did, we took a walk in the Fort Walla Walla Natural Area, a patch of woods in a park a few miles from our house. What caught my eye was all the berries ripening on the shrubs along the trail, which are excellent fall and winter food for the birds in the area as well as looking pretty. I didn’t have the forethought to bring a nice camera, so all the photos in the post were taken with Evan’s and my iPhones, but they turned out okay enough to show you what we were seeing. Continue reading
I don’t know if any of you have heard of the YouTube series MinuteEarth, but I wrote a script for them a while ago and the video was finally posted:
A few other recent links:
- I’ve seen two recent blog posts on the beautiful fall-blooming wildflower Fringed Gentian, one from Julie Zickefoose and one from Jim McCormac. Why did I never run into these when I lived back east?
- There’s a partial solar eclipse tomorrow (Thursday)!
- Cool but eerie – listen as the birds in a forest in California fall silent over a period of several years.
Any other cool nature- or wildlife-related links I should add? Share in the comments!
There’s another set of photos from our last trip to Mt. Rainier that I keep meaning to share – our hike to Comet Falls. It’s a four-mile round trip trek up the side of a mountain that takes you to the area’s highest waterfall, which drops over three hundred feet (maybe even over four hundred – depends on which source you consult).
After we’d gazed in awe at the falls for a little while, Evan surprised me on the way down by reciting a Hebrew blessing, which he said was meant for times when you’d seen an amazing natural sight like this one. I loved the idea that Judaism has a blessing specifically for beautiful things in nature, but when we looked it up later we discovered he’d slightly misremembered things: Shehecheyanu is actually a blessing for the start of something new.
Barukh Ata Adonai, Eloheynu Melekh ha’Olam,
Shehecheyanu v’key’yemanu, v’hi’gi’anu laz’man ha’zeh.
Blessed are You, Lord our God,
Who has kept us alive, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.
But, it’s still appropriate. When I left my job in Oregon in June to move to Walla Walla, I was purposefully vague on this blog about the reasons why; this blog is supposed to about natural history and enjoying the outdoors, not my personal life, and the move had nothing to do with my environmental education career. Still, I guess at this point there’s no reason not to give a brief life update. I moved to Walla Walla because Evan is here, and two weeks ago we made our engagement official. Since I couldn’t make an environmental education job magically materialize here, I’m spending the next year as an AmeriCorps member, getting to know my new community while continuing to work with youth.
So, Shehecheyanu, here’s to the start of something new.
We returned to Mount Rainier over Labor Day weekend for a mini-vacation, and while heavy clouds kept us from getting a clear look at the mountain until we were driving out on Monday, we still got some nice hikes in, including a walk through Grove of the Patriarchs. A boardwalk loop takes you through a stand of enormous old-growth cedars and Douglas-firs, some over a thousand years old, protected by their location on an island in the Ohanapecosh River. Walking among really big, really old trees is always a humbling experience, and this was no different.
I feel really fortunate to have such a beautiful national park within weekend getaway distance, and I can’t wait to go back (again)!