Have you ever seen a flash of light or sudden quick movement out of the corner of your eye that could not be explained? When out in nature, have you ever had the fragrance of a tree or flower hit you strongly? According to folklore, you may have encountered a fairy or elf.
Fairies, elves, and other forms of what we think of today as fantasy, magical creatures are considered “nature spirits” – they protect the flowers, trees, and water of our world. Every culture in the world has a history of folklore around nature spirits.
The month of May is especially rich with stories. Nature spirits tend to hibernate in the winter and burst forth with singing and dancing in May, as the natural world blooms and comes alive. It’s believed to be an especially good time for humans to interact with these nature spirits and celebrate the world of nature.
Keeping ancient traditions alive, a “Fairie & Elves” program last weekend at ORNC included stories, poems, and craft-making – musical shaker boxes, colorful streamer mobiles, and crowns woven with greenery & topped with butterflies and flowers. The highlight of the program was a short walk to the woods to build fairy & elf houses.
Families gathered natural materials of bark, leaves, tulip poplar flowers, twigs, acorn caps and more and called upon their creativity to assemble miniature havens. Here’s a sampling of the activity:
Would you like to grow your own vegetables and herbs, but just don’t have the space or enough sunlight? Oregon Ridge Nature Center now has plots available for people in the community to use. A $10 fee covers the cost of deer fencing.
If you’re an experienced gardener, or a novice who wants to learn, this is a great opportunity. You’ll have access to a 10×10 plot. A water pump is nearby. The ground is pre-tilled.
The plots are located just past Oregon Ridge Grille. Gardeners are requested not to use the Grille parking lot. You can park adjacent to the garden area on the side of the entrance road.
To get started, call the Oregon Ridge Nature Center at 410-887-1815 to reserve your spot. Then head out to your favorite nursery and pickup some seedlings.
Gardening re-connects you with nature; is a fun source of physical activity; and an opportunity to socialize. We look forward to seeing you out there!
What will you plant this summer?
As the tree canopy begins to leaf out, the understory at Oregon Ridge is coming into bloom. Take to the trails and see flowering dogwood, deciduous azalea, sweet violets – both blue and white. Look closely and you’ll see spring beauty, Jack-in-the-pulpit and trillium. Soon the park’s mountain laurel will be in flower too.
Bloom time is fleeting. Enjoy the wildflowers and blossoms while you can.
Blog post and photography contributed by fellow Master Naturalist Martha Johnston. More of her nature photography can be found on her blog here.
During your visits to Oregon Ridge, have you spotted any wildflowers? Share your pics with us!
It’s spring and reminders of the changing season are everywhere at Oregon Ridge. You can enjoy your Oregon Ridge hikes and visits even more by selecting a favorite tree or plant and carefully observing its changing stages over the growing season.
Perhaps your favorite is one of Oregon Ridge’s ephemeral wildflowers, a trailside mountain laurel, a tulip poplar with its distinctive flowers and leaves, a flowering dogwood or a majestic sycamore.
What to watch for? It depends upon the type of plant:
- Deciduous trees and shrubs: first leaf, all leaves unfolded, first flower, full flower, first ripe fruit, full fruiting, 50% color, 50% leaf fall.
- Evergreen trees and shrubs: first flower, full flower, first ripe fruit, full fruiting.
- Wildflowers and herbs: first flower, full flower, first ripe fruit, full fruiting, all leaves withered.
- Conifers: first needles, first pollen, full pollen, first ripe fruit, full fruiting.
- Grasses: first flower stalk, first flowering/pollen, full flowering/pollen, first ripe fruit, full fruiting, all leaves withered.
Scientists call the study of the timing of these changes phenology – literally, the science of appearance.
By sharing your observations with a citizen-scientist project, you can contribute to a better nationwide understanding of the impact over time of land use, invasive species and climate on our natural world. The Project BudBurst website and Nature’s Notebook website are two user-friendly sites backed by universities, scientific societies, nature and outdoor groups, and governmental bodies. Both offer terrific online field guides for individual plants and easy-to-use tools for recording observations over a growing season or for a single observation.
Make it a family or class project or simply a source of personal enrichment – and visit Oregon Ridge Park often to observe the growing season in motion.
If you choose a tree or plant to watch over time, please let us know!
Nature at Oregon Ridge Park blog contributor Martha Johnston acknowledges Project BudBurst and the USA National Phenology Network for information contained in this post.
Right now we’re immersed in a crayon box of color. Purple, pink, yellow, and every shade of green. Even with Spring in full bloom though, sometimes we don’t even notice the details of nature. The “outdoors” is almost only a backdrop to what we’re doing.
A fun activity to pay attention to nature, one you can do with your kids or alone, is to head outside and find as many different colors as possible. Explore the fields, trails, and meadow. All the flowers in bloom are obvious. Look closely at the tree buds. You’ll still see browns and grays, especially amongst the trees. Look at the ground – how many different shades of green can you find? Don’t forget the butterflies! I saw both yellow and white ones flitting around today.
Moss counts as a color:
How many different colors can you find?
If you’re looking for an activity to let children run free, explore, and have fun in the outdoors – Oregon Ridge Nature Center offers many programs – such as last week-end’s St. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt.
Note: To protect children’s privacy on the internet, the following photos have been selected and/or cropped so that no faces and/or identifying names are shown.
About a dozen children and their adults needed more than the “luck o’the Irish” to decipher clues on a scavenger hunt leading to a pot of gold, they also needed a wee bit of nature knowledge. And the hunt took them – not exactly to the end of a rainbow, but under the possum cage. Even then, the pot was empty. There was still another clue to solve before they reached their gold.
The hunt started at the Nature Center, where the first clue was buried amongst “shamrocks”. Each clue was a rhyme and the children had to complete the last word to learn where to head next to find the shamrock and their next clue.
Ready for the hunt: binoculars and a shamrock:
And they’re off!
One clue sent them looking for a nest. It wasn’t “up” in a tree …
This robin’s egg found in the nest held a clue:
Deciphering the rhyme:
A tree holds what you’re looking for
Find a white-barked _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. (sycamore)
And off they went to a sycamore:
Searching for the next clue in the sugarbush:
Looking for a “fir”:
the “pot of gold”! Oh my, it was empty … one more clue had to be solved before the “gold” was found in the leader’s backpack.
Oregon Ridge Nature Center holds programs and activities almost every weekend that appeal to children and adults of all ages. For upcoming events, check our calendar here.
The 1st day of spring! We smile. We cheer. And we breathe a big sigh of relief that winter is officially over. No matter how mild our winter was, we’re glad to put it behind us.
Celebrating the return of increased daylight, growth & birth goes back in time as far as legends and lore tell us. The symbols of our current religious and commercial festivities have their roots in those ancient traditions.
The 1st day of spring is actually the date of the vernal equinox, when the earth is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun – the sun is in the same plane as the earth’s equator. This means that the day is equally as long as the night.
From now until the summer solstice, days will get longer. Longer daylight means growth, warmth, energy and renewal. Look around outside and that’s clear – flowers are blooming, birds are nesting, and animals are mating. For cultures more attuned to, and dependent upon, the seasonal changes of nature, this inspired festivals and rituals.
Rabbits, or hares, symbolized fertility and birth, as did eggs. Those have evolved into our Easter bunny and baskets. The dates of some of our religious holidays are grounded upon the date of the vernal equinox: Easter falls on the Sunday after the first full moon following the March equinox and Passover usually falls on the first full moon after the equinox. Many other religious and cultural commemorations are marked by the date of the vernal equinox and the return of spring.
How are you celebrating the return of spring?