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The New Year has arrived in grand fashion. It is well noted as the time of year when we make resolutions to reach various goals. Many make commitments to exercise, lose weight or change unhealthy habits and lifestyles. Others strive to reach monetary goals and perhaps get out of debt, once and for all…if that’s even remotely possible of course. My resolution each year is always the same…to get out in the woods more often and explore…I simply couldn’t survive without it.

Dawn of a New Year

Dawn of a New Year

I have always been deeply moved by the writings of David Henry Thoreau and John Muir. One of my favorites by Thoreau is…“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

All of us enjoy the time we spend in Nature, but have you ever really considered why? I think it’s because…”we ARE Nature.” Too often, I believe, we look at Nature and the Environment as being somewhere “out there,” separate from ourselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’re all made from the same building blocks. Plants provide us with oxygen and in exchange, we emit carbon dioxide. It’s a perfect relationship. With that in mind, the fact that 61% of our genes can be found in the common fruit fly and 35% in a daffodil should come as no surprise. It’s all part of God’s plan. We are truly ALL connected…and that’s a beautiful thing!

We’ve all heard and read numerous well documented stories of people with various illnesses and disorders that have seemingly been miraculously… Read the rest of this entry »

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Winter Wonderland !!

The beginning of Winter is just a few days away and I’m excited about the outdoor opportunities it offers. The Moon is waning at the moment as we move toward the beginning of Winter this Sunday, the 21st. After a beautiful Fall I welcome the changing weather. With the leaves off the trees, it’s a great time to explore your favorite patch of woods. Animal sign is easy to interpret, as their trails and runs are very visible this time of year. It’s truly a great opportunity to learn about your woodland neighbors.

Much of the East coast experienced a poor crop of Acorns this year. I could hardly find any in my woods and I’m sure our local squirrel and deer population have been affected by the lack of food. I read recently that some scientists fear the shortage may affect squirrel and deer populations as a result. Indeed, I have noticed that the population of squirrels on my property seems to be less now than last year, and I’ve seen a few that were uncommonly small. Since acorn production runs in cycles though, it’s not that uncommon to have lean year after a year of abundance. Perhaps next year will balance things out. We did however experience a good year for Black Walnut and Hickory nuts. Both are absolutely delicious, though it is a bit tedious to extract the nutmeats. I find it well worth my effort .

Numerous species of migrating birds have been… Read the rest of this entry »

Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat processor and the second largest chicken producer in the U.S., has admitted that it injects its chickens with antibiotics before they hatch and then labels them as raised without antibiotics.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has told Tyson to stop using the antibiotic-free label, but the company has sued for the right to keep using it.

Poultry farmers regularly treat chickens and other birds with antibiotics. But scientists have become increasingly concerned that the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture may accelerate the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.tysonchicken

After Tyson began labeling its chicken antibiotic-free, the USDA warned the company that such labels were not truthful, because Tyson regularly treats its birds’ feed with bacteria-killing ionophores. Tyson argued that ionophores are antimicrobials rather than antibiotics, and are not used on human patients. Tyson suggested a compromise which was eventually accepted by the USDA — they would use a label reading “raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans.”

Tyson’s competitors: Perdue Farms Inc., Sanderson Farms Inc. and Foster Farms sued, and in May 2008, a federal judge ruled in their favor and told Tyson to stop using the label. Not long after, USDA inspectors discovered that in addition to using ionophores… Read the rest of this entry »

Corn Syrup’s New Disguise

According to the Corn Refiners Association, high-fructose corn syrup contains the same amount of calories as cane and beet sugar, is metabolized by the body the same way as these sweeteners are, and is an all-natural product.116cornusa

Their current ad campaign insists that high-fructose corn syrup is just like honey, which is made by enzymes in a bee’s abdomen — as opposed to the enzymes and acids in centrifuges, ion exchange columns and liquid chromatographers used to make high-fructose corn syrup.

High-fructose corn syrup could be all-natural, if cornstarch happened to fall into a vat of alpha-amylase, soak there for a while, then trickle into another vat of glucoamylase, get strained to remove the Aspergillus fungus likely growing on top, and then find its way into some industrial-grade D-xylose isomerase.

High-fructose corn syrup is indeed similar to cane sugar in that it is about 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. The American Medical Association issued a statement explaining that “high-fructose syrup does not appear to contribute more to obesity than other caloric sweeteners” … but they also said… Read the rest of this entry »

Not very long ago there were people living close to the Earth, honoring, celebrating and respecting life through prayer and beautiful ceremonies. These people understood nature’s many gifts. All their food, clothing, medicine, tools and materials for their homes came from their immediate surroundings. Understanding the natural world was critical for their health and survival. The Earth was Sacred to them. Who were these people? Our ancestors…that’s right, All our ancestors knew how to live off the land…or perhaps, to live With the land would be more accurate. They had strong physical, spiritual and emotional ties to Nature. There was no air pollution, no water pollution, no litter, and there were no garbage dumps. They lived in balance with the land.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

By contrast, in our high-tech fast-paced world today, it’s easy to see how we are gradually distancing ourselves from the natural world. Nature, for the most part, is viewed merely a commodity to be used and used up anyway we see fit.  And, most of our experiences with Nature today come in the form of outdoor recreation. Many of us spend that time racing around the woods and waters on various machines “doing Mach 3 with our hair on fire!” Sadly, going on a Nature walk or fishing on a quiet riverbank somewhere is considered boring to most people. Whatever form of outdoor activities you prefer, one thing’s for certain… Read the rest of this entry »

In a previous article, I suggested that slowing down while hiking or exploring would allow you to see more wildlife and enhance your experience on your outdoor adventures. I received a few emails from some folks who loved the idea, but have a hard time getting around. Hiking just isn’t an option for them.

Room with a view

Room with a view

Here’s a great idea, not just for folks that aren’t as mobile but literally for all of us. I call it a “sit spot”, (or “secret place” when I teach it to children). The good news is you usually don’t have to travel far. Here’s the concept. Find a slightly out of the way place on your property, or perhaps at a nearby park and simply sit down, relax and just observe. You can even bring a chair if you’d like, though I prefer to sit on the ground. I know, I know…this sounds a lot like a previous article, but a “sit spot” is different. Indulge me for a moment. This is one of the Healthiest and FUN things you can do.  This is a place you should visit several times a week, if possible. This practice will allow you to get to know one area intimately instead of roaming all over. Most of us think we know our property pretty well, but this exercise might just change your mind. If you have the discipline to do this for an entire year, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll……
Read the rest of this entry »

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A sight to behold

The beginning of Summer is just a day away and I’m excited about the possibilities and promise it has to offer. After a breathtaking Spring I welcome the grandeur of our maturing plants and wildlife. Young squirrels are everywhere, adventurously exploring their new World. Numerous species of birds have already successfully raised offspring or are in the process of. And, a beautiful pair of cardinals are raising 3 babies, in a holly tree, outside my dining room window…what a treat! I’m amazed and inspired with their dedication and their willingness to share the responsibility of caring for their young. Nature is truly a remarkable teacher.

To traditional cultures, including most of ours, (if you care to go back far enough) the Summer Solstice was a time rich with gratitude and celebration. The hot days of Summer, coupled with rain, ensured the maturity of their crops and the promise of a productive harvest. The Cherokees, for instance, would gather and Fast for several days before the Solstice to honor, pray and show appreciation for the gifts they would receive. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of these celebrations in the past and have been deeply moved by the experience.

The Moon is nearly full at the moment as we move toward the beginning of Summer this Saturday, June 21st. The gravitational pull of the Moon affects all of Earth’s inhabitants. Butterflies are appearing in large numbers and, along with our honeybees, are busy gathering nectar and pollinating numerous crops and wild plants. Also, keep your eye out for an increase in animal activity, which should be at a peak for a few days before and after the Solstice. Trout fishing in the Pacolet River should be very good too. Remember to keep your presentations subtle and you’ll have some success.

Most of the Wild Edible plants of Spring have gone to seed. Violet and dandelion leaves are still available, but are maturing quickly. Lambs quarters, one of our best wild greens are abundant and readily available. When cooked like spinach, the taste and nutrition is second to none. I’ve been eating quite a few clover and dandelion fritters lately as well. I dip the flowers in egg and dust them with whole wheat flower before frying them lightly in olive oil. Drain them on paper towels and dip them in honey, while hot, and you’ll have a tasty treat that even the kids will eat! And, it’s healthy too. Many wild berries are beginning to develop also, but right now Mulberry trees are laden with fruit and are absolutely delicious!

Gather up the family this Friday and Saturday evening, have a cookout, catch some lightning bugs and play under the star-filled sky. The moon should be magnificent. I can’t imagine a better way to spend an evening with the people you Love…can you?

“Happy Summer”

Wild Wanderings with Richard Cleveland, teacher of outdoor skills at Earth School in Tryon, NC – a self-trained Naturalist and local fishing and nature guide. For more information and list of programs visit:  www.LoveTheEarth.com



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Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans)

Last Sunday evening I awoke to an increasingly familiar sound…the howls of several coyotes echoed through the neighboring woods, piercing the cool night air. I can tell you from experience that waking, from a sound sleep, to the raucous chorus of coyotes can be a bit startling, but I absolutely LOVE IT! In fact, I sleep with the windows open, most of the year, just so I don’t miss such happenings.

I rent a quaint house, here in Tryon, NC, nestled in a sizable patch of woods. The lower portion of the property contains a small creek, which I love to explore. My creek has minnows, aquatic insects and a few crayfish. Clearly, the creek is the heartbeat of these woods. Deer, turkey, raccoons, hawks, owls, and a multitude of woodland creatures frequent this area…but they are not alone. The coyote keeps a watchful eye on all that happens here. Always observing, calculating and patiently waiting for an opportunity. Make no mistake…this is one savvy wild dog. Perhaps no other wild animal can live in such close proximity to man, and yet be so completely unseen.

This past Winter I had an encounter with the local coyote pack I will never forget… Read the rest of this entry »

Spring officially sprung a few weeks ago and I couldn’t be happier. After an uneventful and relatively mild Winter, I welcome the return of our vast array of plants and wildlife; of course the warm weather doesn’t hurt either. Over the past few weeks we’ve been serenaded by Spring peepers and countless songbirds. Butterflies have started to emerge and are feeding on the numerous flowering plants and trees…but this is just the beginning of things to come.

Tiger Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail

I’m always amazed and inspired by the change of the seasons, but Spring holds a special place in my Heart. Spring is a time of renewal and indescribable beauty. As the plants grow they provide a vast array of colors and food, not just for the local wildlife, but for us as well. In fact, some of our best wild edible greens are available right now!

This past week, I’ve been dining on dandelion, chickweed and violet leaves and flowers. They make a wonderfully nutritious addition to salads or can stand on their own. Other available favorites include… Read the rest of this entry »

DID YOU KNOW?

Autumn Olive (elaegnus umbellata) berries contain up to 17 times more lycopene than tomatoes? Lycopene has powerful antioxidant properties. These wild berries make an excellent jelly and are available right now!!

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