Archive for the ‘Nature’ Tag

Our Sunday Guest, Kat Koch, with “Yellow Jacket Stings”   Leave a comment

Yellow Jacket Stings. These words are enough to make the average American recall memories of checkered tablecloths and picnics, swarmed by black and yellow bodies. Most people view this insect as a pest. While they can be dangerous, they are also incredibly beneficial for your garden, and are a source of food for skunks, bears and some birds.


These members of the Vespidae family are pollinators as well as insect eaters. In fact I recently learned of a charming habit of the worker wasps involving their consumption of insects. Trophallaxis is a process where they catch insects and chew them into a paste, which they then feed to the wasp larvae — yum! Wolves and birds do a similar kind of thing, but somehow, while still cool, when an insect does that it seems just a little bit creepier.

There are 16 species of Yellow Jackets in the United States, only two of them native: the Eastern and Western Yellow Jacket. The other 14 come from such countries as Germany and Honduras. Most of them are around a half inch long and have the characteristic black and yellow striped body. Some species create their nests underground, while others build them in trees or human-made structures. Only the females sting, and, unlike honeybees, Yellow Jackets can sting multiple times.

Did you know you that you can track Yellow Jackets? They, too, leave physical marks of their presence. In order to build a nest, these wasps harvest leaves and wood pulp, for example, your patio furniture. Little grooves will begin to form in the wood as they harvest. Since they use different sources of pulp, if you look closely you’ll see that their nests are actually different shades of color. Fascinating!

Yellow Jackets are known as social wasps. Their nests can have up to 200 members — more if the winters are mild. Life centers around the queen, who is the main reproducer. Males and sterile female worker wasps make up the rest of the population. Yellow Jackets become most aggressive late summer through early autumn, when they are defending their young while simultaneously moving towards their own deaths.

Encounters with Yellow Jacket nests can be a harrowing experience. Some people are deathly allergic to their stings (0.5 percent of children, and about 3 percent of adults), and need an Epi-Pen injection and medical supervision to save their lives. If you are lucky, however, like I’ve been, interactions with yellow jackets can also provide an amazing learning opportunity.


For about five summers, I spent time instructing and directing summer camps. To help keep the campers safe, we were always on the look-out for Yellow Jacket nests. I’ve seen class groups accidentally step on a nest, get stung repeatedly, and then shift right into an incredible learning experience, using the widely found plant called plantain to help reduce the swelling and pain of the stings. Kids never, ever forget that plant, because its medicine is so effective!

So, what about that 0.5 to 3 percent of the population that is deathly allergic to Yellow Jacket stings? How can you tell if someone is going into anaphylactic shock? The following symptoms are common: itching all over, hives or swelling stemming from sting site, shortness of breath, flushing, throat constriction and metallic taste in the mouth, to name a few.


Treatment of a Yellow Jacket sting depends on the number and severity of your symptoms. Call 911 immediately if you are in any doubt about treatment.

Encounters of a curious kind… I am always amazed at the transformative process of doing Kamana journals on the hazards of our world. As the actual risks are clarified, I begin to lose some of my fear and my fascination is continually piqued.

Yellow jackets offer a great opportunity for us to practice our awareness skills, as well as a chance to delve into the mysterious and seemingly creepy world of the insect. What is your relationship to yellow jackets? What kind of personal experiences do you have with them? And what else can you learn about these curious creatures?

Much gratitude to:

Dan Corcoran

Adult Program Director
Wilderness Awareness School

and Kat Koch

Kat Koch is an Instructor with our Kamana Naturalist Training Program. When not running amuck in the woods you might see Kat dancing Lindy Hop or Salsa, singing and playing various instruments, making bow drill fires or teaching yoga.

for permission to reprint this article.

Our Sunday Guest, Sonja Rosas, with, “how we act in the city and the forest”   Leave a comment

I was in the city recently and noticed that I move differently in urban and residential environments than I do in rural and natural environments. As a naturalist I’m used to thinking about people as social animals so I started comparing my behaviors in environments with different human population densities and tossing around ideas about the proximal and distal causes–that is, immediate and ultimate reasons–for why I do these things.

First, let me describe how I tend to move in natural areas where I’m unlikely to interact with other people (what biologists would call ‘conspecifics’, or members of my own species), such as at the property where most of my blog adventures take place:

Rural and Natural Area Behavior Patterns

Slow and leisurely movements, avoidance of sudden moves, and the attitude of what Jon Young calls ‘the lazy surveyor’.

Inoffensive posturing to avoid alarming birds and disrupting wildlife baseline behavior, such as ‘fox walking’; ‘bird dancing’ (recognizing when I disturb birds’ baseline behaviors and deferring to them thus minimizing my impact and enabling me to observe natural behaviors); performing sit-spots at favored wildlife viewing areas and ‘leap-frogging’ slowly between them; smudging with sagebrush smoke to attenuate my scent; and using hides.

Practicing vigilance to view and observe wildlife by employing wide-angle vision (‘owl eyes’); listening carefully to all sounds in my surroundings; scanning constantly; following-up on interesting bird calls, alarm patterns, etc.

Now compare these actions with those I, and other people, frequently employ in human-dominated environments.

Suburban and Urban Behavior Patterns

Brisk, direct pace; with purpose and intent.

Offensive conspecific posturing (behaviors made to communicate with other people) like standing tall with shoulders back; offering direct eye contact; adopting a swagger.

Inoffensive conspecific posturing like avoiding excessive eye contact; smiling; standing at a polite distance from folks in an elevator; and refraining from pointing your binoculars at peoples’ front windows even though a really sweet lesser goldfinch is at the feeder (well, you should do this…).

Practicing vigilance to maximize personal safety by employing narrow-angle vision; standing with back to street poles or buildings, especially after dark; scanning crowds; checking out people standing close at crosswalks/bus stops and walking behind you (ever get the guy who keeps looking over his shoulder when you happen to be going in the same direction and realize he thinks you might be tailing him? Like that); maintaining a space cushion between yourself and strangers (and their misbehaving dogs), etc.

I think few people actually notice that they or other people actually do these things because we’re so used to doing them. We’re conditioned from an early age to posture appropriately for our culture, sometimes explicitly (like when Mom taught you not to stare), but mostly implicitly (we learn by observing that we greet a friend differently from an interviewer, for example). People who ignore these rules are considered impolite at least.

This could be a very interesting study project for a young anthropologist, and I’m just skimming the surface, but I do have a hunch for why this divergence in behaviors occurs, but first a couple of disclaimers…

First, it’s really only a divergence among those of us who study nature. If you’re only ever in urban environments and aren’t easily distracted by song sparrows and pigeons you may never worry about fox walking or using wide-angle vision and so forth. Second, these two sets of behaviors are not mutually exclusive. You may readily employ behaviors from both of these two sets simultaneously–in a neighborhood park, for example.

The reason I think we do this is because we as social animals try to avoid becoming targets around other humans while when we’re trying to observe animals (which is in effect hunting without weapons, unless we’re really hunting, of course) we’re trying to avoid being perceived as predators.

When I’m downtown in the city I’m simultaneously trying to avoid becoming a target for negative attention and letting others know I’m not a threat. Conversely, in the woods I don’t have to worry about other people, just that the chickadees and robins don’t alarm call me!

What do you think about this? Do you agree that we act differently in public places with lots of people than in the forests and fields? Has reading this made you more aware of your behaviors as a social animal? Does it make you more interested in moving mindfully over natural landscapes?

Let me know!

* * * * * * * * * * *

One WILD Naturalist


Springing Into Summer, Along the Wareham River.   2 comments

* * * * *

There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth.

~ Rumi

* * * * *

Lady’s-thumb, Polygonum persicaria*,

 has a long window of ediblity.

* * * * *

Yellow Dock,  Rumex crispus

* * * * *

Summer afternoon – summer afternoon;

to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

~ Henry James

* * * * *

Austrian Black Pine, Pinus nigra*,

needles are always harvest-able, and make delicious, tea.

* * * * *

In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day.  No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them.

~ Aldo Leopold

* * * * *

Wrinkled Rose, Rosa rugosa*,

petals make a lovely, addition to salad.

* * * * *

I question not if thrushes sing,
If roses load the air;
Beyond my heart I need not reach
When all is summer there.
~ John Vance Cheney

* * * * *

Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca *,

buds and flowers are ready to harvest, right now!

* * * * *

Japanese Knotweed, Polygonum cuspidatum *

is no longer edible, now, it’s busy taking over!

* * * * *

* * * * *

If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance.

~ Bern Williams

* * * * *

Sweetfern, Comptonia peregrina*,

is amazingly fragrant and ripe for the picking.  Just shake a branch and the smell tells you how wonderful it tastes!

* * * * *

No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.
~ James Russell Lowell

* * * * *

Autumn-olive, Elaeagnus umbellata*,

those tiny golden berries will be fat, pink and tasty, come September.

* * * * *

What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.

~ Gertrude Jekyll

* * * * *

Poison Sumac, Rhus vernix*,


Do NOT touch, contact with any part  can cause severe dermatitis and long standing misery.  Worse than Poison Ivy.

 * * * * *

* * * * *

Do what we can, summer will have its flies.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

* * * * *

Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana*,

my favorite aroma therapy.  Crushing the berries, any time of year, delivers  wafting, expansive delight.

* * * * *

Then followed that beautiful season…


Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape

Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

* * * * *

Wild Lettuce, Lactuca canadensis,

leaves are now past their prime, and quite bitter.

* * * * *

Red Clover, Trifolium pratense*, 

flower heads and leaves provide loads of tea making goodness.

* * * * *

Mullein, Verbascum thapsus*,

is a fabulous shoe deodorizer!  Just crush several leaves, stuff them in your shoes, overnight, and presto, no stinko!

* * * * *

What I most want is to spring out of this personality,

then to sit apart from that leaping.

I’ve lived too long where I can be reached.

~ Rumi

* * * * *

White Sweet Clover, Melilotus alba*,

makes a wonderful addition to coffee.

* * * * *

Reeds, Phragmites communis,

it is written that the young stems can be made into marshmallows.  If I can find reasonable instructions on how to do so, I will give it a try and let you know the results.

* * * * *

* * * * *

All photos in this post were taken along Merchant’s Way, between the Feed Store and the Narrows Bridge, in Wareham, MA.  The plants shown, are a small representation of the diverse population, thriving along the river banks.  Unfortunately, due to the railroad tracks and heavy traffic, it is not a safe area to forage.  However, it is a fabulous place to walk , identify, get to know and photograph Wareham’s natural beauty.

Below are links to posts identifying each plant marked with an asterisk *.  The few plants remaining I will endeavor to work up, in the next week or so.

Thanx for stopping by,  See you next time.

Another June River Walk:

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Lady’s-thumb, Polygonum persicaria:

Austrian Black Pine, Pinus nigra:

Wrinkled Roses, Rosa rugosa:

 Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca:

 Japanese Knotweed, Polygonum cuspidatum:

Sweetfern, Comptonia peregrine:

 Autumn-olive, Elaeagnus umbellate:

 Poison Sumac, Rhus vernix:

 Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana:

Red Clover, Trifolium pretense:

 Mullein, Verbascum Thapsus:

White Sweet Clover, Melilotus alba:

Wareham on Dwellable

Our Sunday Guest, Jo Ann Abell, with “Pioneer Plants”   Leave a comment

Not all plants are born equal. Some go through their entire life cycle with nary a glance from passersby. Take, for instance, the plants that grow on bare ground and other hostile places with poor soil and few nutrients. To survive, these plants have developed special adaptations such as long tap roots and root nodes containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Some have thorns and a bitter taste as an added layer of protection. These plants grow, propagate, and die, and in the process enrich and stabilize the soil, paving the way for other, less hardy, plants to grow. These early soil colonizers are the ‘pioneer plants’ — otherwise disparagingly referred to as “weeds.”

Common mullein, also known as Aaron’s Rod or Adam’s Flannel, thrives in poor soil or areas where the soil is disturbed. A biennial, the first year it grows in a rosette with large, silvery-green, flannel-like leaves. The leaves are spread in a circle, shading the plant stem and roots and maximizing the sun. The rosette lives through the winter and in its second season, sends up a stalk with yellow flowers that bloom from June through September.

Although mullein is non-native, some gardeners allow it to grow because it is drought-tolerant, a prolific bloomer, beneficial to bees, and some birds including American goldfinches and indigo buntings eat the seeds. Mullein self-sows freely, but can be controlled by deadheading the flowers to prevent new seedlings.

Common milkweed is another pioneer plant that rarely receives its due praise. Found in fields and pastures, vacant lots, and along woodland borders, this native plays an important role as host plant of the larvae of the monarch butterfly (a declining species in Virginia), and is a highly sought-after nectar source for wasps, bees, butterflies, and beetles.

These young milkweed plants have injudiciously decided to grow in the middle of our lane where their future is a bit precarious, but hundreds come up every year in Butterfly Meadow and elsewhere around the farm.

Pioneer species are often also ‘opportunist’ species which are able to rapidly exploit a sudden new opening in ground plant cover. The seeds of these species arrive, germinate, and grow quickly, rapidly reproducing themselves before other slower-colonizing species arrive to outcompete them.

Dandelions, the bane of the perfect lawn set, fall into this category, but they, too, have a job to do. Their profligate nature and the fact that they are one of the earliest wildflowers in spring make them an important food source for honeybees and butterflies. Honeybees gather the pollen in special pockets and take it back to the hive to feed the colony; butterflies and bees alike drink the nectar for fuel.

Unfortunately, many homeowners and gardeners spend a fortune eradicating these so-called weeds rather than trying to live with them or manage their numbers. We would be wise to remember that when we remove or destroy the fertile top layer of the soil, nature sends in her first line of defense – the weeds!

 “A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

* * * * * * * * *

To find Jo Ann, click here:

Wood and Field

Living with Nature in theBlue Ridge

Our Sunday Guest, Siannaphey sharing Butterfly Dreams – The Monarch   2 comments

I’ve always loved the Monarch Butterfly, I have seen them in migration in the wild, released them when I got married for the first time and mused about them in my shamanistic mind because I love symbolism in life, it is a way I intuitively operate. When I write here on my journal I am mostly guided in my spiritual pieces, and this one was gently nudging me since 4.15 this morning.

In the early hours of this morning they actually woke me up, they were tickling and buzzing all over my legs, sitting on the side of my head and I could see one of it’s full cute faces looking at me through the magnifying lens of my camera. Yes, it was only a dream but they left me with a peacefulness and joy as they floated around a beautiful light and minty greenhouse.

Since I was young I have dabbled enough in shamanism to know that, whenever any animal shows up with strong intent or in a unique way, it’s good to pay attention to the message it brings. To the Native Americans the butterfly is a symbol of joy. They remind us that life is a dance, not to take things quite so seriously. They also remind us to get up and move. Dance brings the sweetness of life. So, what do butterflies symbolize and what do we know about them?

Facts regarding the Monarch Butterfly:

  • Monarch butterflies are known as the wanderer butterflies in Australia and have been here since the early 1800s. Notable for its bright orange, black and white colouration, and whilst safe to humans they are toxic.
  • The Monarch is one of the longest living butterflies and will live for up to a couple of months after being released.
  • They are known for their transatlantic migrations elsewhere in the world, but in Australia they only make short trips if necessary, due to the already warm temperatures throughout most of the continent.
  • Monarch butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is below 55° F (13° C). They will sit in the sun or “shiver” their wings to warm up. (Sounds a bit like me!)

Butterfly: a symbol metamorphosis and transformation

Did you know that according to scientific research, the butterfly is the only living being capable of changing entirely its genetic structure during the process of transformation: the caterpillar’s DNA is totally different from the butterfly’s! Those who have a butterfly as their totem animal may have a difficult childhood.  Life lessons are revealed to the consciousness while in the womb of the mother – the cocoon stage –  and are completed when the caterpillar emerges into the butterfly and takes flight.  Butterflies are symbols of freedom and creativity. They hold the gift of transformation, shape-shifting and soul evolution, and equally require courage to carry out the changes required in order to grow.

When butterfly shows up, make note of the most important issues confronting you at the moment. What state of change are you at in regard to them? You may need to find clarity in mental or emotional processes or organise projects, or figure out your next step in your internal growth. Maybe you are about to undergo a significant transformation. Examine which stage calls your attention first: the egg is the beginning, the birth of an idea; the larva is the decision to manifest something in the physical world; the cocoon has to do with “going inside”;  the breaking of the cocoon is the creation and beauty shared with the world. They hold the gift of soul evolution…

Visit this link for a comprehensive description of the Monarch Butterfly as at Totem animal from a fellow West Australian’s website – It’s truly insightful!!

In my dream, I saw the face of the Monarch in close up detail. Butterflies have a pair of large compound oval eyes made up of thousands of individual lenses.  They can see a single image clearly and are able to perceive ultraviolet wavelengths of light.  This suggests clairvoyant abilities for those that hold this totem.

Their antennas have small knobs on each end which is said to play a role in orientation;  so when one antennae is missing the butterfly will fly in circles unable to find its way.  Those with this medicine need to stay consciously connected to spirit at all times in order to arrive at their desired destination. They appeared on my legs in my dream, my legs are weak from illness, and so I find it significant that this is where they alighted. In my dream I was also healthy.

It has also appeared  to the vibration of the number 9, a prominent number in my numerology, having been born on the 27=9 and 9th month. Plus today’s date 26/05/2012 = 2+6+5+2+0+1+2=18 =9. In numerology 9 represents creation and the life as a rhythm and development, it is the end of the cycle before it recommences. Last September the personal year I completed was number 9 – the year of completion and transition. A time of letting go of things no longer serving me and holding on to things that have a future. The past year certainly has been a year of cleaning up! Now I’m in the number 1 year – the seeds I plant now, are to be reaped later. Others may perceive me as less sociable and needing more me time; because I am busy refocusing on my own power, activities and needs. Oh, and I noticed I woke at 4.15 after my dream. 4+1+5 =10=1 = beginnings

Now to the colour of the butterfly.  Orange relates to the 2nd Chakra (Sacral), one which I already know is not balanced in myself. The sacral’s main chakra meanings relate to the feeling of emotions (self confidence, one’s power), sensuality, security, commitment and honour in relationships and clairsentience or clear feeling. It’s energy is needed to create life and to achieve a creative expression that is essentially physical; the spiritual energy is to learn to interact consciously with others, to form unions with people who support our development, and release those that limit growth.

And, the fact that I was able to analyse, comprehend and write this so early in the morning denotes the significance even more!

For more of Siannaphey’s Confessions of a Clairsentient:

  Leave a comment

Yarrow is up!

Forageporage's Blog

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is a pretty little powerhouse.  It is not only a fast, effective insect bite and sting remedy, just crush and apply; its antiseptic properties make it important in healing all skin wounds and irritations.  Taken internally, as an infusion (tea) or tincture, Yarrow is a helpful remedy for fevers, to lower blood pressure, and in clearing urinary tract infections; due to its anti-catarrhal, antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, hepatic, hypotensive and tonic actions. (1)  The Shakers, also, found Yarrow useful “In hemorrhages, incontinence of urine, diabetes, piles, dysentery, and flatulence.” (2)

Maybe you’ve seen it growing along the roadside, or in a vacant lot.  Maybe you’ve even cultivated your own.  Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, grows between 1 and 3 ft tall; singularly or in clumps.

The tiny,  fragrant, white to rose colored, five petal flowers, form flat-topped clusters.

With fragrant, long, narrow, lacy, fern-like leaves.

Yarrow flowers, leaves…

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Loving Brambles   3 comments

Cut brambles long enough,

Sprout after sprout,

And the lotus will bloom

Of its own accord:

Already waiting in the clearing,

The single image of light.

The day you see this,

That day you will become it.

~ Sun Buer

“If you know the music the moment the violin string begins to vibrate, then you know how to navigate through the forest of brambles and entanglements with freedom and ease. If, on the other hand, you think that with practice the forest of brambles and entanglements will altogether disappear, then right from the beginning you are hopelessly entangled and won’t find your way.”

~ John Daido Loori

Earth’s crammed with heaven

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,

The rest sit round it and pick blackberries,

And daub their natural faces unaware

More and more from the first similitude.

~ Elizabeth Browning

“O. blackberry tart, with berries as big as your thumb, purple and black, and thick with juice, and a crust to endear them that will go to cream in your mouth, and both passing down with such a taste that will make you close you eyes and wish you might liver forever in the wideness of that rich moment.”

~ Richard Llewellyn

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars,

And the pismire is equally perfect,

and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren,

And the tree-toad is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest,

And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,

And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,

And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,

And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.

~ Walt Whitman

“Today I think Only with scents, – scents dead leaves yield,

And bracken, and wild carrot’s seed,

And the square mustard field; Odours that rise

When the spade wounds the root of tree,

Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed, rhubarb or celery.”

~ Edward Thomas

 Faster than fairies, faster than witches,

Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;

And charging along like troops in a battle

All through the meadows the horses and cattle:

All of the sights of the hill and the plain

Fly as thick as driving rain;

And ever again, in the wink of an eye,

Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,

All by himself and gathering brambles;

Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;

And here is the green for stringing the daisies!

Here is a cart runaway in the road

Lumping along with man and load;

And here is a mill, and there is a river:

Each a glimpse and gone forever!

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

“What are the thorns really telling her? It’s why she won’t let us see them, why she clings to them–or they cling to her–as though she got herself buried in a bramble thicket and she can’t get out and we can’t get in to free her.”
~ Patricia A. McKillip

Thanx for stopping by.  See you next time!

For Bramble, Rubus spp. identification: