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.    


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Eastern Adventures

American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls
As much as I enjoy Illinois’ subtle beauty, I’m always ready to travel to other places. Since it had been two years since our last family vacation, (that included my husband) I was rearing to go. We had discussed a trip to Colorado but decided to head northeast, toward hopefully cooler and moister weather. We had visited Niagara Falls six years ago and thought it would be a good starting point. Despite traffic and road construction, we made it to Buffalo in ten hours. After a dinner of local favorites—much appreciated after a long drive—we made plans to get up and get moving to visit Niagara Falls State Park the next morning, before it got too busy.

Horseshoe Falls
Starting off the day in rain, we got even wetter on the Maid of the Mist boat ride. Once the rain cleared away, we were left with beautiful views as we walked around the entire park, getting up close and personal looks at the Niagara River, rapids, and the waterfalls. I was disappointed we could not travel through and stay in Canada (since we did not get a chance to do that last time), but there’s always the next time. I think the Canadian borders opened shortly after we returned home.

Chimney Bluff State Park
The next day we headed further east, driving through the Finger Lake Region. The parks we visited featured more lovely waterfalls, but totally different than the massive Niagara Falls. The Taughannock Falls State Park was a last minute sidetrip, en route to Robert H. Treman State Park. We were glad we made the stop, as Taughannock Falls plunges 215 feet past rocky cliffs that tower nearly 400 feet above the gorge. There was also an amazing pollinator garden at the visitors center that made me feel like I was back in one of my favorite places—an Illinois prairie. By then, we thought we’d seen enough waterfalls and wanted more Finger Lake time. However, once we realized Robert H. Treman State Park was more waterfalls, we hiked to both the upper and lower falls, with amazing views along the trails of the surrounding woodlands, gorge, and falls.

Fair Haven Beach State Park

Even though we didn’t get to explore as much as the Finger Lakes themselves, though drove through the region and had beautiful views of them, we did make sure we had plenty of Great Lakes time. If you’ve read my articles before, you may remember that I’m slightly obsessed with the Great Lakes. On our Lake Ontario Day, we started off at Fair Haven Beach State Park for a neat large pebble beach experience before heading west to Chimney Bluffs State Park. Not only did we spend much time hiking along the beach near the massive clay drumlins that look like chimneys, but we had a beautiful skyline view of the royal blue waters and contrasting gray drumlins. The steep hike was well worth the view.

Adirondack Mountain Stream
The Adirondacks were next on the itinerary. We spent the next day exploring these subtle mountains of dark green trees and other plant life, plus multiple mountain lakes and streams. Though the day was cloudy and hazy, we still enjoyed getting a taste of this six million acre park. I know this area would be even more beautiful in the fall, when leaves are at their peak!

As we started for home the next day, we opted to visit Lake Erie. Stopping at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, we enjoyed the driving along this interesting peninsula park—an oasis so close to Erie. Full of beautiful beaches, inland marsh and swamp areas, and an interesting lighthouse, this park is a real asset to the area. It was nice to stretch our legs for a lakeside hike along one of the many beaches and lighthouse area before doing more driving toward home.

The rest of the trip was downhill after that, as we hit more traffic and construction than we did on the way east. Even though we tried to change our route to avoid some the areas we hit driving east, it did little to help. Still, it was a fun family road trip, and we will savor the memories for years to come.

Chimney Bluffs State Park on Lake Ontario