Sunday, August 7, 2022

Rest Stop Adventure


Is it possible to have an adventure when you visit a rest stop? Good question. You are stopped, and you are supposed to be resting. However, if you’re looking for a neat little prairie that’s located right here in Stark County, be prepared to enjoy an adventure meandering through this restored prairie.Years ago, the old rest stop on Route 40 south of Bradford was one location the Stark County SWCD held its Summer Prairie Walk. Due to increased workload and declining attendance, we haven’t held this once popular event in recent years. Since then, I normally stop by the old rest stop to walk through the prairie at least once per summer. However, the last time I visited, things didn’t look as beautiful as I’d remembered from previous trips. Maybe it was during a dry part of the summer when blooming was either delayed or blooms weren’t as showy as in other years, or maybe when I visited, there just wasn’t as much blooming at that particular time. 

Since I know a prairie changes from year to year, depending on weather and other environmental factors, and of course, the prairie changes from week to week in the same prairie, I brushed aside my concern, and I was ready to stop for my first visit of the year. I only planned to stop for a quick visit to take a few pictures for this article, but I ended up staying for much longer than planned.

Taking a minute to soak in the view of the entire area before I began walking, I admired the windmills towering above and the beautiful Valley down below. The Bridge to Nowhere is a neat local icon. Then, my eyes zeroed in on the plants themselves. I was pleasantly surprised to see a nice diversity of plants in bloom, and the longer I walked, the more excited I became. Not only did I see the common prairie plants we all know and love, but I saw a few plants I’d never noticed growing in that area before, such as Royal Catchfly, a beautiful red wildflower.

Not only were the mid-summer bloomers showing their true colors, but the warm season grasses and late summer wildflowers were gearing up for their turn. There was a nice mix of pinks and purples, golds and yellows, whites, grasses, and I already mentioned the striking red of the Royal Catchfly. In addition to the plants, pollinators were buzzing around—bees, butterflies, and other insects were enjoying the nectar of dozens of wildflower species. Songbirds were chirping and flitting from plant to plant. I’m sure a host of unseen critters were also inhabiting the area as well.

All in all, my short trip to the Route 40 Rest Stop was a great opportunity to stop and rest by doing what I love to do—walking in nature and photographing plants. Even though it’s located right along the highway, it’s easy to block out the traffic and immerse yourself in nature. I only walked around the prairie to the north and east of the drive, but there is acreage to the south of the drive, too. This little prairie is worth the stop!


Friday, May 13, 2022

Spring Woodland Wildflowers--Up Close and Personal

Spring Beauty
When winter first started to transition to spring, I was excited! Maybe we would have an early spring, I thought. Then the weather got a little topsy turvy. We had warm sunny days, followed by some snow showers a day or so later. Up and down the temperatures went, and the wind! I was starting to wonder if temperatures would ever stay above the 50s when the 90s hit this week! Not only was I starting to get annoyed, but so was everyone else. And the spring woodland wildflowers weren’t sure what to think either. My favorite part of Spring is watching these delicate beauties grow and bloom. Armed with my trusty camera to start my 2022 portfolio of wildflower shots, I was growing impatient as I’d tromp around the woods looking for wildflowers and only see a few shoots or leaves nestled among last Fall’s tree leaves.
Wild Blue Phlox

Finally I started to find tiny Snow Trilliums emerge and then eventually flower. Then came lovely Hepaticas and Spring Beauties. When I found a nice little patch of Skunk Cabbage to photograph, I was over the roof! Not only are they the first wildflower to bloom every spring, even producing their own heat and capable of melting the snow around them, but they are pretty darned cool even a couple of months later. Skunk Cabbage flowers are unusual, looking like a cross between sprouting red potatoes and pictures I’ve seen of the Corona Virus. Once done blooming, their leaves are still interesting to watch. I check on them weekly and am amazed at how the leaves grow between sightings.

Even though almost all the woodland wildflowers in our neck of the woods have been slower than usual to bloom this year, they have been well worth the wait. I was surprised to stumble upon a few Jack-in-the-Pulpits recently, as they seemed to be blooming right on schedule. I noticed that many of my wildflower favorites, like Dutchman’s Breeches, had a longer bloom time this year, thanks to our weather situation. However, the ninety degree temperatures we’ve experienced this week have sped up the process, and many of the earlier spring flowers are now dying out to make room for the late bloomers. Yesterday I was met with a sea of periwinkle Wild Blue Phlox and lavender Wild Geraniums. A few May Apples were starting to blossom, and I will have to visit again in a few days to see if Virginia Waterleaf is blooming.

Sharp-lobed Hepatica

I was also fortunate to be able to see the Shagbark Hickories leafing out of the gorgeous yellow flowers they produce. I suppose I am a tree nerd as well as a wildflower freak. In recent months I’ve become almost as obsessed with hickories as I am about oaks. So once the woodland wildflower season is done, the trees will be fully leafed out, and I’ll then entertain myself with my favorite prairie plants.

I was lucky to be able to find another wildflower site to visit this year, so I alternate between the two areas. Even though they are only about a mile apart, they each have a different mix of wildflowers, and the bloom times between the same species vary a little. Every time I visit, there is always something new to see along with my favorites.

Skunk Cabbage

It may sound crazy to spend what may seem to many people like a lot of time in the woods. However, it keeps me from going crazy, and it’s cheap entertainment during a time when everything is so expensive. The time I spend hiking and photographing is usually less than an hour, but it provides days of inner peace, helping to relieve the stress of a busy spring season at work and home. All in all, it makes me happy, and a lot of good comes from it. Spending time outdoors brings joy to many people. Crawling around on a muddy forest floor trying to get an up close and personal shot may not sound like fun to many, but I’ll bet there’s something else you enjoy doing outdoors that makes you just as happy. I encourage you to make time for the simple things that can make our lives seem a lot less complicated.

Dutchman's Breeches


Purple Trillium

Sunday, April 3, 2022

New Release--"Rachel and Sammy's Nature Notes"

Eklund Publishing recently released Rachel and Sammy's Nature Notes, the newest book in the Rachel Raccoon and Sammy Series by Jannifer Powelson.  

Rachel and Sammy's Nature Notes is a junior field guide to help children learn all about the natural world. Kids will hike along with Rachel Raccoon and Sammy Skunk to discover sixty native prairie plants, twenty spring woodland wildflowers, and ten butterfly species in this colorful and easy to use photographic nature guide.

Copies of this book are available, along with Powelson’s other titles, online and from several local retailers. 

Print ISBN: 979-8-426252-5-23

110 Pages

Print Edition: $18.95 

Kindle Edition: $5.99

Purchase from Amazon

Stay tuned for information on upcoming nature programs and book events to celebrate the release of Rachel and Sammy's Nature Notes. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

New Release – Land of Ice

Eklund Publishing recently released Land of Ice, the seventh book in the Nature Station Mystery Series by Jannifer Powelson. Stay cozy this winter with a cozy mystery!

Kristen Matthews—make that Stevenson—is on top of the world, not far from the Arctic Circle! Recently married to the man of her dreams, Brett Stevenson, their wedding went off without a hitch, and they are looking forward to their first adventure as a married couple. After flying to Iceland in the dead of winter for their honeymoon, they’re still suffering from jet lag when a dead body turns up while they’re sightseeing. Will things heat up or turn stone cold as they try to track down the killer in the Land of Fire and Ice?

Kristen and Brett intend to experience all Iceland has to offer, including wild and rugged scenery, the charming capital city of Reykjavik, and the area’s famous geothermal waters. But will their honeymoon plans go awry when Kristen can’t stop herself from sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong and lands herself in hot water?

Copies of this book are available, along with Powelson’s other titles, online and from several local retailers. 

Print ISBN: 979-8-782001-0-25

Print Edition: $11.95 

Kindle: $4.99

Purchase from Amazon

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Fall Fever

When Fall first arrived this year, I was skeptical that it would be a pretty one, in the way of fall foliage, that is. We had been dry for several weeks until that point, (at least in my neck of the woods in Princeton) and the temperatures were above average. Normally fall foliage performs its most spectacular and colorful displays when the weather conditions are right—cooler temperatures, especially at night, and more moisture than what we’d received until that point. When the rain started, and the temperatures started to cool, it was amazing how the tree leaves responded. 

Slowly but surely, not only did the maples begin their color show, but hickories began to change to lovely golden hues. I awaited the rest of our deciduous beauties to begin their fall displays with my trusty camera in hand. I snapped several hickory shots this fall. I normally enjoy the shaggy bark of the Shagbark Hickory at any time of the year, but this year, I took time to appreciate the beauty of the hickory leaves, which ranged from bright yellow to orange, to rust, sometimes on hickories within the same grove. Hickories’ huge compound leaves are pretty all throughout the growing season, but Fall makes everything special.

The oaks were taking their time, but their color is always well worth the wait. Their more subtle colors complement their drastic textures, with their heavy-duty leaves and ornate branching patterns and bark contributing to their fall beauty. As other tree leaves swirled in the wind and landed on the ground, many oak leaves persisted. Driving through our local countryside on the lookout for my known oak and hickory haunts, I am always on the lookout for more.

What started off to be a slow Fall that didn’t seem promising in the color department, turned into a beautiful lightshow of color. Most of the leaves have now fallen to the ground, waiting to be raked, piled, mowed, burned, or just blown around by the wind, and we are now experiencing the bleak late Fall time before the snow starts flying. Soon there will be another season of beauty to enjoy.