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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.
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 »
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 »
Fall is by far my favorite time of year in North Carolina. The changing of the season and beautiful foliage is always inspiring. One of my absolute favorite things to do this time of year is to go tracking. Exploring the woods and wild fields throughout this area is fun…and, with most of the leaves off the trees it’s easy to see the lay of the land.
Animal trails and sign are much more visible now and become a major point of interest for me. I can spend hours interpreting their tracks and trails and never get bored. All the animals have such an intimate knowledge of their environment and seem to move through it so effortlessly. I’m always fascinated by what I discover on my hiking and nature excursions. Perhaps most importantly, I’m reminded that I need to explore more often…don’t we all?
“My experiences in nature always seem to ground me and smooth out any stress that I may have accumulated during the week”…
All of us love to spend time in the woods and hiking is a favorite weekend activity for many of us. This area has many hiking opportunities. The Palmetto Trail is close by and F.E.N.C.E has numerous trails to explore. Let’s face it – we all need to get outside more, and not just for the exercise. I believe that being in nature is important and helps promote a healthy… 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.
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.
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……
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When people think of trout fishing in Western NC., rivers like the Davidson, Mills and Tuckasegee
Rivers come to mind. The Pacolet River isn’t even a remote thought for most. The state of North Carolina regularly stocks the Pacolet from the Falls to the Hwy 108 Bridge in Lynn. Rainbows and brown trout present anglers with ample opportunities.
I’d fished the Pac a few times, in the past with, some success, but after hearing that fish are regularly released at Harmon Field, I decided to give that stretch a try. As I grabbed my gear that familiar smirk came across my face. It happens every time I go. I’m instantly reconnected to the child within, remembering the excitement of catching my first fish as a young lad. As I approached the river I could hear the squeals of young children splashing in a shallow pool, near the cabin area. I decided to start at the footbridge and work my way up. A deep hole, next to a concrete block, with fast water provided the perfect starting point.
Many people think the best way to catch trout is with a fly rod…not so! I’ve caught hundreds of trout with my ultralight spinning outfit and, when casting in tight quarters, actually prefer it to my flyrod. More of us have spinning outfits than flyrods anyway. The biggest mistake that most people make… Read the rest of this entry »
Ask ten people what the word survival means to them, and you’re liable to hear ten completely different answers. Some would say survival is you against nature in a desperate, debilitating struggle to make it out of the woods alive. Others would conjure up images of anti-government extremists organizing militias, burying grain and ammunition, waiting for a major catastrophe or global war. The majority would be somewhere in the middle. A few might even define survival as an entertaining show on TV. Maybe one out of ten people would think survival is pretty cool, and that knowing how to live off the land would be a good thing.
My introduction to survival training came 18 years ago when I signed up for a week-long program at Tom Brown Jr’s Wilderness Survival School in New Jersey . After reading several of his books, I took the plunge. I went with the intention of learning how to track animals so I could become a better deer hunter. As a child, I was one of those nerdy kids who caught butterflies, and basically everything else that moved, just so I could take a closer look. Nature fascinated me, and I read everything I could get my hands on about animals and insects. In a nutshell, I thought I knew a lot about Nature before I even went to Toms introductory class. Little did I know, my world was about to be turned upside down. In one week this man showed me that I didn’t know anything about Nature, and what I had learned was superficial at best. I was missing over 90% of what was there to be seen and experienced, walking right past it all. Emotionally, I was crushed. I thought I knew Nature! “Why had I been missing so much?” … It was because no one had ever taught me the skills to be “Aware.” School certainly hadn’t taught me such things. After all, now that we’d become a civilized society, I didn’t need to have that knowledge anymore, right?
So many unanswered questions swirled through my head…
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?
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.
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 »