Monday, January 16, 2017

We Can Do Better

Living on a lake is such a gift. That's the best way I can describe it. Wild water has so much to give to us. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same. I'm betting the majority of the people that live here in our 250+ home community have never walked in the woods by the lake. That's okay, that kind of thing isn't for everyone. That's why most of the residents here, my neighbors, would not have seen this without me bringing it to their attention:


How do you feel when you see this? 

Angry? Sad? Shocked? Disgusted? I hope not indifferent. I feel sadness. I expected myself to feel anger, but to be honest, I just feel sad for the people that did this. They obviously can't appreciate what a gift this lake and these woods are to us and that in itself is a very sad thing. This is a selfish act. If you only think of yourself, you cannot possibly be living a happy life, so lets not be angry at those who left this mess for us, but hope that someday they may be able to see the beauty in nature and appreciate it as we do.

Since I discovered this mess, I felt responsible for it. I wasn't going to hope that someone else would step in and volunteer to take care of the problem because we all know that would never happen in the world we live in. So, we made one trip to clean up yesterday with the boys and filled two bags. D was thrilled to help. He had a blast guessing if his items were trash or recycling. 

Today, I went alone. When I arrived to the woods, I heard a rustle, looked up, and not one, not two, but THREE bald eagles that had been perched above this EXACT spot took off to the other side of the lake. I feel like it was a sign. Nature's way of saying thank you maybe? As I picked up plastic bottles, pieces of metal, broken glass, shoes, and more I listened to them calling to each other. I watched them soaring over the water and I knew I would finish this task, with or without help. 

As I picked up items one by one, it became clear to me that this trash has been here a long time. How could it be that no one else has come upon this before? Or had they and just looked the other way? I know we are all busy. I am truly one of the busiest people I know and here I am, alone in the woods after working all day, commuting for two hours and with a long list of chores and two busy boys waiting for me at home. If I can do it, so can you, so will you? 

This doesn't just apply to my neighborhood, but to yours as well. How often do you drive by the same trash every day, day after day? I know I did. Even though what I showed you above was in the woods, out of view, and mostly very old, we had tons of garbage lining our street as well. What kind of person drives through their neighborhood, minutes away from their home and makes the decision to throw their trash on the ground? And what kind of person drives by that same trash every day without a second thought? Are those people one in the same?

When we visited yesterday, it took us all of 30 minutes to clean up everyone else's mess along the road including several sets of blinds, a fireplace grate and no less than SIX bags of dog poop. Can you spare 30 minutes?  And why would you even bother picking up dog poop in a plastic bag if you are just going to throw it in to the woods. JUST DON'T. We can do better.

We can do better.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Dupont Environmental Education Center

The Dupont Environmental Education Center is one of four Delaware Nature Society sites. Located on the Riverfront in Wilmington, it's tucked away the corner, easily overlooked. Unless you know what you're looking for, that is. It's open year round and is FREE!
The four story center can be viewed from I95 and is quite the juxtaposition of modern lines against the soft wetland grasses. A 1/4 mile boardwalk loop through the marsh gives you a closer view of the wildlife that call the area home, as well as the Christina river. The DEEC is where many weekly events listed on my calendar are held, including Lunch with Live Animals,  Dipnetting in the Marsh and Binocular Walks.
We started our visit inside the small nature center where D met a black rat snake and some of the fish that are native to the wetlands. 
After that, we walked the boardwalk loop and visited the gardens which, as a horticulturalist and landscape designer, I can tell will be gorgeous in the Spring and Summer months. Even though the plants were dormant and the waterfall was off for the season, the stone work and sculptures really stood out.

I saved the best for last on this visit because I knew D would love this tree sculpture/climbing structure in the center of the parking lot. Luckily for him, there were two little boys who were frequent visitors that showed him to ropes and gave him some climbing tips. Even then, this structure is enough to give even the most relaxed mom a panic attack as their kid wobbles across a "branch" 8 feet off the (stone) ground. I did my best to not say "be careful!!" too many times and he had a blast. It was definitely a confidence booster for him to navigate this thing, but I would recommend it for ages 5 and up. We look forward to going back to dip net in the Spring!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pemberton Historical Park


 Salisbury, MD has more to offer than the zoo! Pemberton Historical Park is a great marriage of history and nature. Located along the Wicomico River, the original plantation home was built in 1741 and the owner was one of Salisbury's founders.
Today, the historical buildings remain and are opened to the public at certain times of the year. The rest of the 262 acres are open for the public to explore via 4.5 miles of trails. We chose the Pondside Trail, Wetland Walk and Handy Hall Trail during our visit and were able to do it all in about an hour and a half. The trails are relatively stroller friendly, however we were able to do it all without one. I usually bring a carrier with me just in case though.
The boys loved walking over to the island and around the pond, and even though it was December, we even saw a turtle on a log!

They also had fun playing on fallen trees, log flipping and looking for fish in the water among other things. They've learned to look for rings where a fish might have just been so now that is a must anytime we pass any body of water.
Pemberton offers a wide variety of ecosystems in one location which makes is even more cool. This time of year is best for visiting wetland areas without needing to worry about mosquitoes. It's much easier to appreciate the beauty of this view without buzzing in your ear.
One of my favorite aspects of hiking in Winter (aside from no mosquitoes,) is that is gives you a whole new perspective on the beauty of nature. Things look completely different when the trees are bare and the ground is littered with leaves.  When you don't have flowers and leaves to look at, your eye is drawn to other features of the forest. Have you ever noticed how many textures there are? Soft, rough, fine, smooth, bumpy, coarse, wrinkly, etc. The next time you go on an adventure, I challenge you to see how many examples of texture you can find during your walk.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Brandywine Creek State Park

First Day Hike 2017

Happy New Year! We celebrated by visiting Brandywine Creek State Park with friends. I was pleased to see that the parking lot was packed and we passed many other families enjoying nature too!
We met at the nature center and headed out on the Indian Springs loop for a nearly 2 mile hike, which turned out to be a bit of a workout toward the end. The terrain in northern DE is quite different than where we live and although the majority of the trail was flat, we did end up hiking up (and down) a fairly steep hill which reminded me just how out of shape I am. Most of the trail was stroller friendly if your kid is okay with a bumpy ride, but that section was definitely not so if you can avoid bringing a stroller, that would be best. Of course, D is a bit lazy so I doubt he would gave made it the whole 1.8 miles without needing to rest or ride so I was glad we had it. 

I was so excited when one of my mom friends reached out to me to see if we wanted to do a first day hike together, so she, her hubby, and 3 out of 5 of her boys came along. Her sweet guys have limitless energy combined with an adventurous spirit and took full advantage of Mother Nature's playground.
Her kids are pro log-flippers as well and they made sure to check them all along the way, when they weren't balancing on them, that is. The boys loved coming up to the creek and tossing stuff in (just like us!) and in the Summer, I could see them taking their shoes off and wading in to the clear, shallow water to cool off.


It took us about an hour and a half to hike the trail, which was just the right amount of time. Some practical notes... there are NO bathrooms open at the nature center on the weekend. Make sure you go before you come. There is no address for the nature center (that I could find.) If you're not familiar with the area, getting there can be kind of tricky. The address on Brandywine Creek State Park's website is 41 Adams Dam Rd. however, that is not where you want to go to get to the nature center. If you are turning on to Adams Dam Rd. from either 100 or 92 and going towards Rockland, the entrance will be on your left. If you follow the GPS it will take you past there for some reason. The blue dot on the map below is where you need to go:

Where the GPS will take you (left) and where you need to go (right)

Despite the navigation and bathroom issues, we had a great time and will have to visit when the nature center is open sometime!

Can you tell which kids are mine?? LOL

Rewild Your Life Challenge

A post came across my newsfeed that just spoke to me. It was from We Are Wildness University and it was advertising a 30 day challenge to reconnect with nature. I love a challenge and we ALL need to reconnect with nature more so I decided to take it a step further and blog about our 30 days to hold ourselves accountable. 

The challenge is relatively simple: spend 30 minutes a day in nature. I paid the extra $ for the full course which provides specific tasks to accomplish each day. To be honest, 30 minutes is a big chunk of our "free time" each day and it truly will be a challenge for us, so check back day to see how we are doing!

I will be putting the most recent posts on top, so scroll down to read about our challenge from day 1!

Day 14: Reciprocity

This is such a fascinating and beautiful concept. Reciprocity in nature is what makes the world go round so to speak. Here is the example given by We are Wildness University that perfectly describes it:

"Breathing shows us one of the best examples of reciprocity in nature. We breathe in oxygen. While in the lungs, carbon from our body bonds to the oxygen and when we exhale, carbon dioxide comes out. Plants breathe in this carbon dioxide, and break the carbon away, using it to grow. In turn, they release oxygen. To keep life going, we pump these gasses back and forth between one another, keeping ourselves alive and inextricably linking our lives together: two sides of a process who cannot live without the other. "

So what does this mean for us? How else can we reciprocate? My interpretation of this task is to give back to nature by planting more of the native trees and plants we need to survive. Humans as a whole tend to destroy and disrespect what has been provided to us. Lets do our part to counteract that. To bring balance. We might not be able to keep up, but we can certainly try!

Day 13: Helping Nature

This one deserved its own blog post: We Can Do Better

Day 12: Mindfulness in Nature

Staying present and ignoring the hustle and bustle of life while you are in nature is easier said than done. This is something we need to really practice on a daily basis. I am guilty of letting my mind wander to other things while out on a hike, but doing so takes away from the connection to nature and takes you out of the present to the past or future. This world is SO much bigger than us and our piles of laundry, deadlines at work and list of chores. It is incredibly important for us to be mindful of this and appreciate what's going on around us. From the tiniest ant on a rock to the largest sequoia tree in the forest, each has a purpose and is special in its own way.

Day 11: Sink Into the Earth

As an exercise in practicing stillness we are to lay on the ground (naked if possible...) and in doing so find a deeper connection with nature.  Hubby and I did this challenge without the kids, as they are not really in to being still. We didn't fare to well. I get bored easily and would much rather be walking around exploring so although we did as we were supposed to and laid on the ground, it was short lived. We did however take a nice walk through the woods by the lake, making some discoveries along the way!


 Day 10: A Deeper Look

I'll come back to this one...

Day 8: Touch & Day 9: Water

 For Day 8 we are to "become our sense of touch" by sitting still and feeling without touching our surroundings.  Of course we are also supposed to actually touch our surroundings and feel all the different textures and sensations, just as we did in our recent blog post to Pemberton Historical Park. Because I am behind on my tasks for the challenge I combined days 8&9. We are super fortunate to have a lake in our backyard so my adventure buddy for the night and I went in to the woods, picked a log facing the water and sat for a bit.

For Day 9, we are to find "wild water" and just be near it. Something about being near water in nature brings a sense of peace and like I always say in my blogs "where there's water, there are animals." Every single time. Being a bird nerd, I love hearing all the sounds of the geese, ducks and herons on the lake, even though it is partially frozen over currently. If you sit still in one place long enough, the small songbirds tend to begin trust you as they flit around in the shrubs and rustle in the leaves. It is always a goal of mine to find "wild water" so Day 9's challenge was a perfect fit in to my life.

It was clear that we were not the first to use that log as a resting place since the most recent snow...
Buttttt...I have to be completely honest with you, as usual. We haven't been getting our 30 minutes in every day. It is MUCH harder than it seems when you are a family with two working parents and two busy boys. Yesterday I had to stop at the store after work and by the time I got home, it was dark and FREEZING. Today I barely made it outside (as evidenced by the blue hue in the photos) after picking the boys up from daycare, dropping them off at home and picking up a bird for the rescue. The next two days are supposed to be unseasonably warm so I am hoping to make up for lost time!

Day 7: Wander

Now this one I try to do as often as possible and it can be family friendly. I love to wander Bombay Hook with no time limit. AND it can be family friendly. It's even more fun when you've got the place to yourself and the only footprints were left by paws and claws...

Day 6: Solitude

Ha! That's a good one. The only time I experience solitude is...never? This one is really tough to accomplish for a working mom. There is no way I am able to get 30 solid minutes of time alone, but if I add up the 5 minute intervals I tried to get, it counts right? I am going to try REALLY hard this week to accomplish this and I will update if I can do it!

Day 5: Go Barefoot 

If you lived in Florida this one might not be that difficult, but it's near freezing here and about to snow so this took some willpower. I'm not gonna lie, this one was more like 30 seconds instead of 30 minutes... Don't get me wrong, I love going barefoot and almost never wore shoes as a kid but in my old age, I found it hard to step on the cold concrete porch, brick sidewalk, and asphalt driveway before we got to the grass. Brrrrrrrrrr.

Day 4: Look Up 

I promise I looked up before it got dark, the problem was that it was while I was driving for two hours. We finally got a clear day with beautiful clouds and I spent all my free time in the car so this is the only photo I could take once we got to our destination. I love the concept of just laying on the ground and staring at the sky for awhile though. So relaxing! 

Day 3: Slow Down

 Okay so this is pretty impossible for me. As much as I'd LOVE to accomplish this at some point, slowing down is a luxury for me. I work full time and commute two hours a day, so when I come home I only have a little over an hour to play with the boys, make dinner, do laundry, clean up the tornado the boys leave behind everywhere they go, etc. before its bath and then bed time. By the time they're asleep, I am so wiped out!

Getting outside for this challenge really does force my body to relax. It hard to be stressed when you're in nature. Day 3 produced more rainy, dreary, gloomy weather so we walked over to one of the retention ponds in our neighborhood to visit the ducks and then walked back home through the woods. Along the way, we found a camouflaged slug, beautiful moss patches and some cool tree obstacles. I'll have to keep working on slowing down. That's a tough one!

Day Two: Listen

Day two's instruction was to sit still, blindfold yourself and just listen. Unfortunately, the husband was working so I was by myself with the boys on a dreary, wet day. As a mom, you never really get to sit still, and it's not a good idea to not have eyes on them at all times so we had to rework the challenge to fit our needs. As much as I didn't feel like going out in the rain, it wasn't downpouring or anything so I bundled us all up, grabbed the umbrella and rain boots and headed to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.

We hiked a trail we've done 20 times before, but still managed to find a "secret path" that we'd never seen before that brought us out to a private view of the water and allowed the boys to trudge through the mud and put those new boots to use. Once we hopped back in the jeep, we drove around for an hour checking out all the birds including but not limited to six bald eagles, blue herons, swans, snow geese and ducks galore.  We were able to fulfill our challenge for the day by listening to the variety of noises the birds were making. It was a great morning together!

Day One: Free Yourself

The first step in this challenge is to free yourself from all preconceived notions on how the challenge will go. Additionally, we are to "give ourselves permission." Permission to look weird to others, act differently, find a part of ourselves that was hiding away. Personally, I am giving myself permission to let go of some of the household drudgery in order to complete our challenges. I full expect to have laundry stacked to the ceiling by the time we are done with this, haha!

Since day one is also New Year's Day, we decided to do a "First Day Hike" with some new friends at Brandywine Creek State Park. We spent way more than 30 minutes outside today and had a great 2 mile hike in northern DE! Read more about our adventure here.