Saturday, March 28, 2015

Things to Look for: Spring!

It's another late spring, and so I have no idea exactly what the timing will be on some of these things...the peepers and wood frogs are active. And I'm hoping to get out this weekend to check one of the warmer bloodroot patches that I know about (last year, which was also cold, they were blooming on April 9.). What have you been seeing lately?

Photo credit: Carly & Art
Bloodroot is one of our favorite spring flowers. Each plant blooms only briefly, and there's a window of only a few weeks that the bloodroots bloom at all. It's one more thing that inspires us to spend as much time as possible in the woods at this time of year.
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Photo credit: aecole

Every year we look for the cheery flowers of the
spicebush as they emerge to light up the understory. It's common throughout our local forests.
Maple Flowers
Photo credit: jpwbee
Maple flowers aren't as showy, but they're an important source of nectar for early-season pollinators -- and an unexpected spot of springtime color if you know to look for them.
Spring Peeper
Photo credit: bbodjack
Spring peepers are another pilgrimage-inspiring phenomenon in our household. How are these tiny critters so LOUD? And why are they so hard to find? We were so excited when we finally figured out how to spot them.

Wood frog eggs by The Natural Capital
The frogs are noisy because they're looking to mate. Spring peepers lay their eggs in out-of-the-way places, but we often find wood frog eggs in March (and tadpoles in April), easily visible in vernal ponds in many of the local parks.

Photo credit: cyanocorax
Spring Beauties are not a showy flower, but we find them dainty and adorable. They're one of the first spring ephemerals: perennial flowers that emerge every spring on the forest floor, and they last a little longer than most.

Photo credit: Dandelion and Burdock
Bittercress is less adorable, but more abundant than spring beauties -- and edible! Throw some in your spring salad mix for a vitamin-packed punch.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Things to Look for at the End of Winter

We skipped town for over 6 weeks this winter. Little did we know the worst of the cold was yet to come. Here are some things to look for out there in the winter wonderland, and some to give you hope for spring to will be here before we know it!

>> What have you been noticing in nature this winter? Leave a comment below.

Vulpes vulpes from Wikimedia Commons
When we got back to town, our neighbor let us know he's seen foxes coming and going from under our shed. He thinks we may have a den. The snow has revealed many noturnal comings-and-goings, and our neighbor seems to be right. Do we dare to hope for pups this spring? For now, see our guide to some common footprints in the snow.

Ice at Scott's Run by the Natural Capital
Even when it doesn't snow, looking for beautiful ice formations can be enough to entice me out into the cold for a good walk...usually. This might be a good time to check out your favorite body of water.

In the Swamp
Skunk cabbage by Rupert G.
Skunk cabbage is one of the select group of plants in the world that attracts pollinators by imitating rotting flesh. And, it's just about the only native flower you're going to find blooming at this time of year. It's prehistoric-looking and stinky, but it's a flower. In January and February. It's said that they generate their own heat and can even melt snow, but I've never seen might be the time to check.

maple sap bucket
Photo credit: Lolly Knit
Before this recent cold snap, Matt collected several gallons of maple sap from a few nearby trees. When it warms up this weekend the sap should start flowing again.

For those of us (myself included) who tend to feel a little house-bound as it gets colder and colder outside, we wrote a Southerner's Guide to Staying Warm Outside in the Winter.

We also put together a list of Nature Centers in the DC area, in case you need a nature fix when you really can't stand to be outdoors for too long.

Stay warm!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Things to look for in October

I've been distracted from the Natural Capital but I haven't totally forgotten about you guys...Here are some of the other things we try to take time to enjoy in October. What have you been noticing lately?

Maryland Shore
Maryland shore of the Potomac by Todor Kamenov
Fall foliage will start becoming more apparent soon. See our list of favorite local places to enjoy the color, and leave a comment with your own favorite spot. Or try our quiz of 10 fall leaves.
Wild Grapes
Wild grapes by Memotions
Wild Grapes are tart but tasty trailside treats -- if you can reach them. Have you found any lately?

Acorns on tree
Acorns by VS Anderson
Acorns have been dropping. We've been playing around with making acorn flour: take off the shells, grind the nutmeats into coarse flour, then put them in a filter and let them soak in repeated changes of water over several days. Then dry and grind into finer flour. Use it to replace a little flour in any baking recipe that doesn't require a lot of gluten. We love it in pancakes.

Virginia Creeper
Virginia Creeper by Rene J
Virginia Creeper has started to turn a brilliant red. It's the harbinger of fall color.

New England Aster
New England Aster by giveawayboy
New England Asters are lighting up our backyard right now, and on a sunny day they're covered in pollinators. Do you have a favorite spot that they grow in the wild? We'd love to hear about it.

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar waxwing by Kelly Colgan Azar
Cedar waxwings are beautiful but gluttonous birds that come through our yard every fall and feast on our holly berries. I love to find them by their high-pitched calls, which you can hear on a video in our post.
Stink Bug
Stink bug by fangleman
Marmorated stink bugs will probably start coming into your home as it gets cooler, if they haven't already. These bugs just came to Pennsylvania around 1998, and have been spreading through the eastern United States with stinky abandon.
chicken of the woods
chicken of the woods by zwavelzwam
It seems like every year we find a few pounds' worth of  chicken of the woods in October, and this year is no exception. Plenty of other mushrooms out there, too, with all the rain!
We always love to hear what other people are noticing out there...leave us a comment below about your favorite things or new finds for this time of year!