Friday, July 29, 2011

Don't Weed Out Beauty...

Nestled as I am in my new home, as most of the moving boxes have made their way to the recycling center and my belongings have been tucked onto shelves or into drawers, I can't help but turn my attention outdoors to the yard. While I have been busily attending to the matters inside the house, the weeds and wildflowers just outside my door have been having a heyday. With nobody to keep them within their bounds, they have gone crazily wild, twisting and extending, encouraging newcomers to join their ranks and basically taking over the place.

Pokeweed is everywhere, blocking the walk to my front door and growing to huge proportions in the blink of an eye. Where to begin I wonder? Which plants get pulled and which ones stay? Having been a long time gardener, I know which ones would be considered weeds according to the botanical experts, but the idea of plants being defined by good or bad bothers me. Playing god and deciding the fate of a living thing bothers me. Who's to say which plant really is a weed? Certainly not me. So what to do?

I don't know the answer to this one. Our whole society is based on rewarding those things that are the most beautiful, and ignoring those things that are not so. By extending this thinking to our gardens and pulling out the weeds, we end up with a very contrived looking planting. When people exert power over their looks and weed out what they consider inferior and puff up their looks through hair dying and makeup, they get this same contrived look too. When nature is allowed a free hand, true beauty blooms in our fields and gardens. When people are allowed freedom to be natural in their looks, true beauty blooms there too. Fear of being different, perpetuates the line of thinking that allows us to groom ourselves and nature. Breaking away takes courage yet brings freedom and a relief of no longer having to follow the rules.

Thankfully, in this town I now live in, there aren't many rules to follow. There is a freedom to just let things go - for both gardens and personal looks- and I love that. Maybe freedom from expectations will allow the weeds flourishing in my garden to have a chance to live out their lives here, happily ever after, as will I with my gray hair and lack of makeup.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Don't let Lyme Disease Fears Keep You Away from Nature...

When I first moved to the East Coast from Illinois, fears of contracting Lyme disease kept me away from natural areas for awhile. After doing research though, I came up with a plan which would allow me to spend time in wild areas while avoiding Lyme disease.

First plan of action is to be as knowledgeable as possible about Lyme Disease. Be aware of the risks and know how to prevent it. Also know the symptoms so you can be treated as soon as possible if you contract it. A few simple precautions will go a long way toward keeping yourself safe. I used the following website to provide me with information because it is specific to my area: but I am sure there are lots of others with great information.

Here is my Lyme disease prevention plan when visiting natural areas:
  • Wear light colored clothing and check for ticks on yourself frequently.
  • Stay on trails and walk in the center of trails, away from tall grass.
  • Don't sit on the ground, fallen logs or stone walls...all places that harbor ticks.
  • Remove clothing after returning home, then wash and dry.
  • Take a shower with a wash cloth after returning home.
  • Check for ticks, especially along hairline, groin, armpits.
  • Whether you have spent time in a natural area that day or not, check for ticks nightly if you live in a tick prone area.
  • If you take your dog into natural areas, make sure you treat them monthly with Frontline and check them for ticks when returning home as well.
The crazy thing is I have never found a tick on myself after spending time in nature, but pulled one off of myself on a day spent at home just after moving here last October- proof that ticks can be anywhere. Luckily, the tick I pulled off wasn't engorged, a sign that it hadn't been on me long enough to transmit Lyme (I hope!).

Following these precautions will not guarantee that you don't get Lyme disease but they will go a long way from having you get it. The one difference between my Lyme disease prevention plan and that of the experts is that they suggest you apply DEET to your clothing. I have never followed this approach because of DEET's toxicity and have found that following the steps above, especially checking thoroughly for ticks afterward does the trick. Don't let fear keep you from enjoying nature when a few simple steps will keep you tick free.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Animal Speak...

Nothing like a little screech in the night to bring all human conversation to a halt. Tonight, mid-sentence, my son and I did just that when from the woods we heard what we thought was the yowl of a bobcat. Silence reined as the sound was upon us and we both whispered out loud, "what was that?" We listened intently for a few minutes more and heard nothing, the screech we had just heard playing over and over in our minds, trying to decipher exactly what had made that sound.

This moment in time reminded me of a night many, many years ago when I was camping with my mother and two young sons. We were in a campground in Wisconsin and the air was filled with the lively voices of fellow campers, enjoying their campfires and the crisp night air. Suddenly, a chorus of coyotes yipped and sang and the campground fell deathly silent. Animals voices replaced human voices as the humans strained to figure out what exactly they had heard. What animal had made that sound?

Maybe it was a bit of fear that had quieted us both then and now. How close were these animals we wondered? A feeling of needing to get inside where it was safe came over us. Safe from what? From ourselves? Tucked into our homes, away from animals that we ourselves are, makes us less safe actually. With walls separating us from the the outside, we find ourselves removed from our true animal selves, the part of us that is in touch with the land and knowing how best to walk upon it without destroying it. Maybe those animal voices we heard had something to tell us and rather than listen, we ran away.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nature Calling You Home...

Walking alone in the woods on a trail not too far from the terminus of the Appalachian Trail, I could feel something pulling at me. As I traveled along a dirt path, making my way toward a bunkhouse where I would spend the night, I stood in awe of the towering trees and the wildflowers nodding their heads at me. Lichen on the trees, creeks flowing and birds overhead. A feeling of being at home washed over me. As though I belonged there in those woods.

A year later, I returned to those same woods, bringing my husband along and the year after that, we included our sons. Each time I traveled that path, I felt a connection unlike any I had felt before and I was surprised to learn just recently that my sons and husbands had felt that same sort of special connection when they traveled into that same magical place.

What made those woods so special that they spoke to each of us in that way? What set it apart from other natural areas we had traveled to? I feel it was the result of total immersion in the forest for a period of days without the distractions of the modern world. We left our screens and material possessions behind and traded them in for the stillness and quiet of the wilderness, connecting with something outside ourselves but still very much part of us. The air, the soil, the water...learning a new language, a language of the land, as we walked along.

Because we are nature we belong there in the woods more than we do in front of our TV's or walking along a sidewalk in town. We have come from nature and today modern man has lost his way, material goods separating us from ourselves. As we spend time purchasing I-Phones and computers and other gadgets we are simply trying to fill the void we feel by being separated from nature. A simple walk in the woods would fix what we are seeking. Next time you feel like something is missing in your life, head to the forest and feel the pull of the wild calling you home...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Paint - Before and After

Been working in 90 degree temperatures this last week to paint the entire inside of the house I bought a week ago. My kids run when they see me coming because they know I will have a project in mind for them. They have been a tremendous help though and here are some shots of the transformation we have made. Above picture, living room before we bought the home.

Living room with our new paint job and some of our belongings beginning to be moved in. Built in benches situated in front of fireplace is known as an inglenook.

Library before we owned the home.

Library after we painted walls and shelves with boxes full of books set to be placed onto shelves.

Library again showing our dining table where it will stay- against the wall for family meals and pushed to the center of the room for entertaining.

Dining room before.

Dining room with new paint. We will use this room as a family room, nicely situated as it is off the kitchen.

Upstairs den and game room before.

Den with our changes in paint and furniture. One entire wall of this room is filled with shelves which we will use to store games and such.

My husband and I's bedroom before we bought the house.

Our bedroom after.

My older son's room before.

Older son's room after new color applied to walls. Curtains need to be hemmed obviously.
Younger son's room before.

Younger son's room after, picture above and picture below. Will show kitchen and baths when they are completed. Excited about moving into this house 2 weeks from now. Still have lots to do beforehand but glad to have a good part of the painting behind us.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Goodbye Nature?

Living as I have for 9 months now, out in the country, surrounded by nature, with the songs of birds and wind in the trees louder than the sounds of man, I am made to wonder, will my connection to nature dim somewhat when I move back into town? I have found my connection to the natural world strengthened while living here and with nothing else to distract me when I stepped out my door, it has been pretty easy to notice and participate in the natural world.

I needed this time to discover the important role that nature plays in my life. To reawaken myself to it. To find focus and direction in my life. I feel a bond has been made that no amount of city living will revoke. In fact, it may simply be time for me to rejoin the more man-made world, in order to help find ways to allow people to become more aware of their broken connection to themselves, to nature. There are a few possibilities on how I can achieve this...I just have to see how things unfold.