Natural Wonders

with Maggie Jones

In the summer of 1972, I wandered out of a newly rented farm house, looked up, and saw 2 red-tailed hawks soaring over woods and pasture.  They were so beautiful, so other-worldly, I was overcome with a desire to know everything about them.

Years later I became a wildlife rehabilitator and a falconer and was able to have close hands-on experience with them. Today that desire to learn about the natural world has only broadened and intensified. I’ll read some of my favorite biologists’ writings and occasionally include my own thoughts.

8 + 11 =

February 20th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
February 20th, 2024
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Ed Holahan sits in for Maggie and talks with Forrest Jahnke of the Crawford Stewardship Project.

February 13th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
February 13th, 2024
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Today I have an inspiring essay to read by David Krier about getting involved in Wisconsin’s Master Naturalist Program, wimasternaturalist.org . Find out how David discovered this opportunity and how it has enhanced his life. Based on the Master Gardener Program, this is a way to have the best teachers and fellow students in your life, learning about anything that interests you in the natural world. And don’t ever worry about not having enough skill to get going! 

February 6th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
February 6th, 2024
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This is John Muir’s true story of a day, exploring a huge glacier in Alaska, that became dark and dangerous. He was accompanied by a small dog named Stickeen, who wouldn’t be told to go back to camp. 

He wrote of how spent they were, at the end of the ordeal, from their efforts to survive; We were safe, and then, too, came limp weariness such as no ordinary work ever produces, however hard it may be.

January 30th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
January 30th, 2024
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I’ll be reading first from John Muir’s tales of exploring in August 1879 when he was 41, from his book Travels in Alaska, chapter 8. 

 Then we will  jump back in time to when Muir was 26 and exploring the Great Lakes region’s plants. He spent 2 years living in Ontario, in 1864 and 1865.  His first published writing was in the form of a letter he wrote to his professor about his delight in discovering the rare orchid calypso borealis. It was published in a Boston newspaper.

January 23, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
January 23, 2024
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We travel back to 1879 with John Muir in Alaska, exploring the Stickeen Glaciers; this one is called the Dirt Glacier. I’m reading from his book Travels In Alaska, published in 1915.

The challenge will be keeping up with him !

January 16th, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
January 16th, 2024
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TWO MORE stories from Frances Hamerstrom from Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter.

Today the chapter Birds on His Shoulders takes us to the Snake River in Idaho during WW2.  Frederick’s first assignment during WWII  was at Mountain Home Air Force base.

Then the last chapter in the book, Biography of a Dancing Ground— This piece, if I had to choose only one of her writings to take to a desert island,,this would be it.

January 2nd, 2024

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
January 2nd, 2024
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Another hunting trip with Frances Hamerstrom from her book, Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter.
This chapter, called “Swamp Buck”, takes a side trip from the hunt for the big buck of her dreams, to her telephone party-line strategies and how she applies her crowded phone access tricks to minor hunting problems that arise in the field. As always , delightful.

December 26th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
December 26th, 2023
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Another hunting trip with Frances Hamerstrom from Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter.

The title of this chapter is “A sharp-tail  Hunt in North Dakota”.  Fran doesn’t give us the year for this chapter—I’m guessing it takes place, as the previous chapters have,  in the 1930;s . We will be with them in the badlands of N dakota. 

This is exquisite vast territory. Fran’s description of the landscape evokes the place as if we were there with them. 

December 19th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
December 19th, 2023
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Here are 2 more chapters from Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter; A Woman’s Place, and Is She Coming Too?

The Hamerstroms are 25 (Fran) and 23 (Hammy), years old when they head west to study under Paul Errington At Iowa State College.  Two more hunting stories from 1932.

December 12th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
December 12th, 2023
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From the  Wi. Conservation Hall of Fame;

“Married in 1931, the Hamerstroms forged one of Wisconsin’s most remarkable wildlife ecology teams. Research fellows under Aldo Leopold, the Hamerstroms became best known for their work with prairie chickens. “

But before they arrived in  Wisconsin, they lived in their native east coast.  In this chapter called “The Game School, How I Got Us In” from Is She Coming Too? Memoir of a Lady Hunter, we are with them in the first weeks of their marriage. They are living in New Jersey, going to school, learning how to raise game birds, following their ideas of how to move toward a life outdoors with plenty of hunting opportunities. This is not a school like you or I have probably attended.

December 5th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
December 5th, 2023
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This week a chapter from  My Double Life, Memoirs of a Naturalist by Fran Hamerstrom, one of my all time favorites of her writings.

 Called “A Letter from my Mother-in-Law”, we find her in the beginning of her life as a field biologist,  with her life long partner Fredrick, moving into a farmhouse that Leopold had arranged for them to live in, in Waushara County in the middle of winter,  no running water, no heat except the wood stove and no electricity.

November 28th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
November 28th, 2023
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Again we will enjoy a Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold published in 1949. 

This part of the November chapter called Axe in Hand,  delves into our biases when we walk into the woods with our axe, or more often now, our chainsaw. We choose what to cut and what to leave, what we favor and what we do not. Why do we make the decisions we do, working on the land?

 What I love about this chapter, and Leopold generally, is that he reveals his own thought processes. We are privy to his inner self,  weighing many different ideas and perspectives.

My thanks to the Aldo Leopold Foundation for permission to read this wonderful book. Please visit their website, Aldoleopold.org for some treats. They have a blog with many contributors that you will enjoy reading and the Phenology Calendar for 2024 is ready for mailing and packed with wisdom and observations for the whole year.

November 21st, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
November 21st, 2023
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I’ll be reading again from Is She Coming Too, Memoirs of a Lady Hunter, with  illustrations by Wisconsin’s own Jonathan Wilde. These are stories about biologist Frances Hamerstrom’s  hunting experiences throughout her life. I’ll be reading the short prologue where she writes that hunting ”is a long fascinating road leading to moments of ecstasy” and I’ll read the first chapter called “A Date To Go Hunting”  about a date to hunt ducks at age 15, with George Glover III.   

November 14th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
November 14th, 2023
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Another path today, we will head  to Costa Rica, flung way to the south and east by a Hamerstrom book,,Hamerstrom Stories,  recollections of the life of Hammy and Fran Hamerstrom. This book is filled with great stories written after both were gone, by fellow biologists, friends, family, students and interns, edited by their daughter Elva Hamerstrom Paulson.

In this book, I found a letter written by Alexander Skutch, a biologist who lived most of his life in San Isidro, Costa Rica. I’ve been aware of him for a long time,,not through the Hamerstroms but because of  a trip I made with a good friend to C.R. over the winter of 73-4. We will hear a wonderful letter Skutch wrote in 1947 to the Hamerstroms after he received a sewing machine from them in the mail.

November 7th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
November 7th, 2023
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When the days shorten and temperatures cool down, my thoughts turn to hunting and memories of wonderful experiences out hunting with friends,  beloved people, dogs and hawks, and I also think of Fran Hamerstrom’s stories about her hunts.  This book, Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter with wonderful illustrations by Jonathan Wilde, is what I’ll read from today;  Chapters ‘Mr Mannegold Gets His Chicken’ and ‘Buying Our Guns’

October 31st, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
October 31st, 2023
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I have the pleasure on this halloween to read you an essay written by one of Wisconsin’s premier bat researchers, Heather Kaarakka. She has a background working with many animals, but her great love is bats and we are all so lucky that she is working hard with the rest of the bat team at Endangered Resources at the WI DNR.  

October 24th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
October 24th, 2023
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Gathering Native Seeds-

Native plants, not the exotics from Asia and Europe that we favor so much,  are the homes of every stage of our native insect’s lives,,and our birds depend on these insects for their survival.  Our own survival depends on these inter-relationships.

But how to accomplish planting natives? It sure can sound like too much of a challenge; what plants to choose? where to find them?, how hard are they to get started and to grow them? Will I have to spend a fortune to do this? Gathering seeds is a great way to go.

October 17th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
October 17th, 2023
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I finish my reading of CrossingsHow Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of Our Planet by Ben Goldfarb. Ben’s eloquence and depth shine through in this important book.

October 10th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
October 10th, 2023
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Ben Goldfarb’s new book is  Crossings, How Road Ecology is Shaping the Ecology of our Planet. He has tackled a difficult and huge topic and delved into the not so obvious aspects of how our highways impact the world we and our fellow creatures live in. 

Today, I read from Chapter 7 –  Life on the Verge, Will the highway’s novel ecosystem save America’s most beloved butterfly or obliterate it? Perhaps  you may be as surprised as I am to hear what he has to say about the positive effects a highway running in the right direction can have on the monarch butterfly.

October 3rd, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
October 3rd, 2023
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Reading from Crossings, How Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of the Planet, by Ben Goldfarb; this is the second half of the introduction. I hope you remember Ben. He  is the author of the wonderful book Eager, The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why they Matter, which I read in 3 different programs not too long ago.True to form, Ben is telling fascinating stories. He thoroughly  tackles a difficult subject and gives us hope for the future. He  visits and describes  people who are working to remedy the ills that are presented by our roads all over the world. 

Sept 26th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Sept 26th, 2023
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Ben Goldfarb, who wrote the wonderful book, Eager, The Surprising Secret Lives of Beavers and Why They Matter has written a brand new book.  Crossings, How Road Ecology is Shaping the Ecology of Our Planet, addresses a topic that we all should think about; roads and highways, and the impact they have on wild places and wildlife. True to his upbeat and inquisitive ways, this book is a great read and it’s heartening to hear Ben’s stories about people who are working to create solutions to the problems created by our ribbons of asphalt.

September 19th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
September 19th, 2023
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I hope you can make a quick trip to Duluth’s Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, one of the world’s best hawk migration look-out spots.  If you can’t do that, take break at noon or in the afternoon, especially after a cold front has come through, get a friend and lie in your backyard and look up during this time of great movement of birds on passage, some flying over 4,000 feet and some right over the tree tops..good luck! 

September 10th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
September 10th, 2023
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Have you seen nighthawks recently in the early evening, on the wing soaring and darting after insects, accompanying the migrating dragonflies?

These 2 species migrations are 2 separate events happening in the same airspace and time, —perhaps like me you assumed the birds are eating the insects but it seems this isn’t true. I’ll have Northern rough-winged swallows, nighthawks and dragonfly stories today, with observations that are a delight from 1914 on the Tennessee River.

September 5th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
September 5th, 2023
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Today, chimney swifts; this is another contribution from David Krier. Dave is a gifted thoughtful naturalist, with an engineer’s sharp observation skills.  I know both Dave and I are very grateful to the people of the Vernon County Historical Society Museum for making sure that their chimney has been preserved and protected for the sake of the swifts and for the community to enjoy for many years to come.  

August 22nd, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
August 22nd, 2023
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This is a story of a grand discovery cloaked in a small unassuming form, (much like the little blowsand loving plant Draba, that Aldo Leopold wrote about in S.C.Almanac). This is about a small worm eating snake, called the Lined Snake, which had never before been found in Wisconsin until Viroqua’s own Corey Raimond in September of 2011, decided to go out to explore.  The chapter in the terrific new book Amphibians and Reptiles of Wisconsin about the Lined Snake is written by Corey and Jeffrey Lorch who works at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison. We’ll explore the work they do there that benefits not only wildlife, but all of us.

August 15th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
August 15th, 2023
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Dave Krier has many reasons for all of us to pay attention to the lights we have on at night, which can be disrupting to insect life, birds and bats, and keep our neighbors from enjoying their view of the Milky Way. We all need to pay attention and think about the impact our outdoor lights have on the life around us. And there are many ways to remedy this problem. Thank you Dave for this thoughtful essay.

August 8th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
August 8th, 2023
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Draba, a tiny plant stimulates the mind and heart of those who love the unassuming among us. I read a wonderful essay about Draba, and why it means so much to so many, written by Leah Beiniak, a Program Associate at the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, and then I read part of the April Chapter of A Sand County Almanac  by Aldo leopold . My thanks to the Foundation for their generous permission to read these essays. 

August 1st, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
August 1st, 2023
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A sweet essay about a close encounter water rescue of a little jumping mouse ( Zapus ), written by Ben Johnston.

And a brief warning and description of a plant no one wants to live anywhere near; Poison Hemlock, making its way into our landscape. But we will prevail! Forewarned is forearmed!

July 25th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
July 25th, 2023
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We get a rare look at the pre-settlement Blue Mounds landscape and 

the thoughts of a Tory in the Wisconsin Wilderness as he must re-enter society approaching Dubuque after long travels along the river courses. “I should soon be in the vortex of a white frontier population, must abandon my canoe, exchange the peaceful tent, pitched on the clean bank of an interesting river, for dirty accomodation at some filthy tavern, and make up my account to pay in money for every act of civility I might receive.”  

We finish Mike Mossman’s essay about an Englishman geologist’s travels, published in the quarterly journal of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, The Passenger Pigeon, Vol. 50 no. 4, Winter 1988. 

7-18-23

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
7-18-23
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Another historical perspective takes us along the old Wisconsin river routes in the 1830s. Along the Fox, the Wisconsin and the Mississippi Rivers, we travel with the first geologist hired by the federal government, a British Tory, to explore parts of our new country. We are in what was then, part of the Michigan Territory  which will become Wisconsin, with George Featherstonhaugh (pronounced fen-shaw!). This essay is part one of A Tory in the Wisconsin Wilderness by Mike Mossman, published in the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology quarterly journal the Passenger Pigeon Vol. 50, no. 4, Winter 1988.

July 11, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
July 11, 2023
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Another contribution from Viroqua’s own David Krier about his experiences with bats, and how he is contributing today to gathering data on bat populations. Learn how we can all help bats.

July 4th, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
July 4th, 2023
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Maggie reads from the last chapter of Fran Hamerstrom’s book Is She Coming Too? Memoirs of a Lady Hunter; the chapter called Biography of a Dancing Ground about the sharp-tailed grouse. This is one of her most memorable essays.

Natural Wonders-Tuesday June 27, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders-Tuesday June 27, 2023
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Part 2 of Mike Mossman’s essay on John Muir’s years growing up in Wisconsin is continued today.  We hear selections of Muir’s book “The Story of my Boyhood and Youth” written just a few years before his death. It’s an eloquent portrait of Wisconsin in the 1850s. This is from the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology’s quarterly journal, the Passenger Pigeon, Volume 50, No.2, Summer 1988.

Natural Wonders- Tuesday June 20, 2023

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders- Tuesday June 20, 2023
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In 1988 The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology introduced a  series of essays called “In the Words of Ornithologists Past” in their quarterly journal, The Passenger Pigeon. We will hear the introduction to the series, and first part of Mike Mossman’s essay-  John Muir: Reveling in the Wisconsin Frontier.

 Muir arrived here from Scotland at age 11 in 1849 and reveled in our wonderful state for his formative years. 

Natural Wonders #71

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #71
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We hear an essay called Embracing the Dark, Insects Need the Night—and So Do We from the quarterly publication WINGS; Essays on Invertebrate Conservation, Spring 2023, a publication

of the Xerces Society. (Xerces.org)
They are working to protect the natural world by conserving invertebrates and their habitat.

This essay was written by Richard Joyce, an endangered species conservation biologist with the Xerces Society.

Natural Wonders #70

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #70
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We hear from Sara Woody again. She was a Fellow at the Aldo Leopold Foundation, and reflects on the quality of her experiences there and the dream job that she got as a result of the many skills she developed while at the Foundation.
This essay is called “How my Fellowship Helped me Land my Dream Job”.

Natural Wonders #69

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #69
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The birds we see so many of in summer, the cliff swallows fly long distances to come to North America to raise their young. They nest under bridges and culverts and have many fascinating secrets.

Natural Wonders #68

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #68
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I love our cuckoos, the yellow-billed and the black-billed, and I hope you will too, after hearing about their surprising lives. Today the amazing sounds and habits of our 2 beautiful and distinctive cuckoos.

Natural Wonders #67

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Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #67
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Another essay by Viroqua’s own Dave Krier. He talks about the changes made to his lawn and area around his house, making it more and more insect friendly by adding native plants and shrubs especially for the insects that birds love to eat.

Natural Wonders #66

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Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #66
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Maggie shares the wonderful world of WDRT and Community Radio on The Spring Pledge Drive edition

Natural Wonders #64

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Natural Wonders #64
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This is one for you archers about there, perhaps you make your own bows.  

Reading again from a book called Hamerstrom Stories, published in 2002, after both the Hamerstroms were gone, this book gave an opportunity for 90 some friends, gaboons  (interns),  neighbors, fellow scientists, to tell recollections, sometimes laugh out loud funny stories, about this unusual and remarkable pair of biologists, Frederick and Frances Hamerstrom. 

In the early pages, Elva, their daughter, who edited this book, writes about finding a letter tucked into a book written by Aldo Leopold. The letter was from Leopold to his good friend, fellow biologist, and contemporary, Herbert Stoddard. 

Natural Wonders #63

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #63
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Woodcocks do their skydance displays in April and today we read 2 biologists’ stories about this enchanting natural wonder.  First, Aldo Leopold from ‘April’ in A Sand County Almanac, then Fran Hamerstrom from her book Walk When the Moon is Full.

Natural Wonders #62

Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #62
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I’m reading from a “new” book published in 2002,  after the Hamerstroms were gone but their many friends, family, colleagues, and former gaboons got together and wrote stories about their time with them, Hamerstrom Stories.

As a 14 year old boy, Dale Gawlik started working on a Harrier research project with Fran and Frederick Hamerstrom. His reflections on his time spent there with them are fascinating. Today Dr. Dale Gawlik is HRI Chair for Conservation and Biodiversity at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M in Corpus Christi and a Professor in the Department of Life Sciences. Enjoy-

Natural Wonders #61

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Natural Wonders
Natural Wonders #61
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A great ‘locally sourced’ reading today, Dave Krier, reflects on part of his work for Valley Stewardship Network, helping people create soil saving and diversity creating prairie strips. The smells and sights and sounds of the diverse plant life fill the senses.

Natural Wonders #60

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Natural Wonders #60
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We travel with a single *atom* within a watershed, becoming part of living things in many forms. Aldo Leopold calls this atom ‘X’ which slowly makes its way, over centuries, to the sea. 

Reading from A Sand County Almanac, Sketches Here and There, Wisconsin, The Odyssey.

Natural Wonders #59

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Natural Wonders #59
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Exploring native plant restoration possibilities of your land  can make a meaningful difference in increasing the diversity of life around us. 

I’ll read The Potential of Pastures and Oak Woods by Dan Carter, PhD.  Dan is an ecologist with The Prairie Enthusiasts.

This was published online Oct 4th 2022 on The Prairie Enthusiasts website, theprairieenthusiasts.org.

Natural Wonders #58

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Natural Wonders #58
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We will visit wetlands again today, and some deep history, with Aldo Leopold.  His A Sand County Almanac was published in 1949, not many months after his sudden death at age 60. He dedicated this book “To My Estella”. This is Part II, Sketches Here and There; Wisconsin,  Marshland Elegy.

I’m so grateful to the Aldo Leopold Foundation for permission to read this timeless book. 

Natural Wonders #57

Natural Wonders
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Natural Wonders #57
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Exploring native plant restoration possibilities of your land  can make a meaningful difference in increasing the diversity of life around us. 

I’ll read The Potential of Pastures and Oak Woods by Dan Carter, PhD.  Dan is an ecologist with The Prairie Enthusiasts.

This was published online Oct 4th 2022 on The Prairie Enthusiasts website, theprairieenthusiasts.org.

Natural Wonders #56

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Natural Wonders #56
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I’ll return one last time, to the book EAGER, the Surprising Secret life of Beavers and Why They Matter, by Ben Goldfarb to read from the 3rd chapter,, Deceive and Exclude. 
 We’ll learn about problem solvers who have started successful businesses mitigating beaver problems with many types of ingenious  devices that lower pond levels and allow coexistence between people and these persistent rodents.The website beaversolutions.com has a wealth of information even if you don’t live in Massachusetts.