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Category Archives: Nature

Building Fairy Houses

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It’s that time of year again. The annual program at the Howard County Conservancy to build fairy houses in the woods.

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It’s an adventure in imagination, and creativity, and in celebrating the outdoors. It is immensely popular.

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This is last year’s crowd. There are many volunteers to help and there is a large amount of material available to use. Part of the fun, though, for many of the families is the pre-event collection of materials from your own area. Bringing leaves and flowers and acorns along to use in the construction.

The event is 10 am this Saturday at Mt. Pleasant in Woodstock. Details here.

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Last year they built the houses down by Hodge Podge Lodge. This year, who knows where they will go. After getting a bit of instruction, the families go down into the woods to build their houses.

You can go off into the woods to make that very special, very private house.

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I will be wandering around taking pictures. We always make a scrapbook of the pictures to keep.

Come do something truly special and fun. Saturday morning. FREE. They do ask you to email and let them know how many are coming. The more advance notice we have of the potential attendance, the better we can gather volunteers to assist.

Last Child in the Meadow

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I think not. To take a page from the famous Richard Louv book, Last Child in the Woods, helping children connect with nature brings immense satisfaction.

Like this week. Bioblitz Belmont. Four days with seventh graders from Ellicott Mills and Thomas Viaduct middle schools. You know, those middle schoolers who aren’t impressed with things adults do or like. WRONG!!!

What a fun time we had.

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Today wasn’t as nice out as yesterday, but we still had a great, albeit wet time, wading through meadows in deep grass looking for insects, plants, animal tracks, trees and grasses. We use iNaturalist to catalogue what we found. Yes, it rained today but who cared.

We also had visits with our local nature center residents like our owl.

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And, Maize, our corn snake. I didn’t get a pic of Maize, but the students loved being able to see and touch him.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

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Uploading and editing their citizen scientist observations. Any resident nature experts are welcome to set up an account, log into the Belmont Bioblitz project and help them identify what they observed.

Tea ‘N Scones

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For Mother’s Day. This Saturday. A trip through the gardens surrounding the Conservancy Farm, with all the gardeners to show off their handiwork.

It may not be a proper cuppa, but still. This event, in its third year, keeps getting bigger.

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The flowers are in full bloom all over the gardens. Master gardeners will be there, helping you with your questions and selling some plants. The community gardeners will be there, talking about what we grow, and how.

Those clubs that maintain all the other lovely gardens surrounding the historic farm will also be there.

Come with mom. With friends. With your friend’s mom.

Here’s all the sites that are open.

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You can preregister online here.

I am baking scones. Two kinds. I am also hosting up at the community gardens. Talking mostly about our food bank plots.

The event starts at 10 am. If you are lucky you can watch the baby killdeer chase after momma and poppa.

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They hatched Tuesday and are now running all over the place.

See you maybe?

Brighton Dam Azaleas 2015 — Behind Schedule

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Yes, the azalea gardens out at Brighton Dam are far behind schedule this spring. Not to say they aren’t lovely but they won’t have peaked even at Mother’s Day, the traditional visit weekend.

They look like this.

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And not like this from a few years back.

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This picture from 2012 was in April. A much warmer winter and early spring.

Those white azaleas. Looked like this yesterday.

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They need a few more warm days to open.

Still, not a bad place to have a picnic lunch. The south side of the property has a picnic area, with a playground and tables and grills.

You can’t picnic in the azalea gardens, but you can enjoy these bright spring days just west of the center of Howard County. Right over the county line.

My suggestion. If you can, hit the gardens early next week. Avoid the crowds and take a picnic lunch.

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For those of us who volunteer. Not just for a few hours. For the long haul. Those of us who dedicate dozens of hours, if not hundreds, in some cases.

Yesterday I saw three different groups at work. One, doing gardening. One, readying a food bank site. And one, helping influence our next generations, at an Extreme Weather conference for 9th graders.

I got to the Conservancy at 8AM. There were about a dozen of us supporting the 3rd annual weather conference. For 9th graders from four local high schools. I greeted a bus from Long Reach and then watched the Office of Emergency Management bring in their Command Center.

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While we were setting up, a half dozen volunteers arrived for the regularly scheduled Wednesday morning drop in gardening session. They were working on the herb gardens outside the historic farm buildings on the site.

We, at the time, all 12 of us volunteers, were getting ready to host the various stations that the students would visit. I got to moderate the Tree Maintenance station, manned by Bartlett Tree Service.

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They were giving a demonstration on how they take care of trees, those damaged by the weather, and those that are healthy, to protect them from high winds and other weather events.

Marty Adams and Victor Nakashima captured the interest of the students, with their stories, their information, and that climbing ability of Victor.

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They were impressed with the bucket truck, as well.

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Lots of fun questions. From fear of heights, to animal attacks, to foul weather gear, to what is an arborist, the students were engaged and interested.

After six hours there, I headed over to the Food Bank garden site. Where three volunteers were still planting spring plants in the newly tilled plots. They had been there since 10 am, when my husband came out to till the plots. The other volunteers, part of a core group that donates dozens of hours to food bank plot maintenance and harvest, were still hard at work.

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Today as I popped out to Sharps for a few things, I found that a food bank volunteer had been there picking out warm weather seedlings. Next week they will be planted. Our first harvest will be the end of May.

One day. Two dozen volunteers. I am so impressed with the commitment of my fellow Howard Countians, who donate their time tirelessly, doing what they love to do.

I’m working on recruiting Marty to be a subject matter expert at our May BioBlitz at Belmont. He would be such an asset with his knowledge of plants, trees and insects.

Have you made a commitment? Do you give some time or effort in areas that interest you?

Blue Bird Visits

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We tilled our community garden today. Time to get more vegetables in the ground. Tilling turns up bugs. That attracts the blue birds.

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First, they check everything out by perching on adjacent poles. This is the male. The female was too flighty to stay still long enough for me to photograph her. I didn’t have my good lens on the camera either, so no close ups.

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I also caught him on the ground grabbing whatever little critters he could.

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He had lots of territory that he could check out. When we left the two of them were flitting around and looking for more.

Tomorrow is the Earth Day celebration at the Howard County Conservancy. I will be up there with many of our gardeners. Finishing the early plantings. Buying some plants from the Master Gardener plant sale. Doing some basic maintenance on our pathways.

If you attend, even if you miss the 8 am bird walk, you are bound to see the blue birds. The hawks. The killdeer. And much more.

To The River

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The annual trek. A favorite hike. Done almost every year at the Mt. Pleasant site of the Howard County Conservancy. This year’s hike is Saturday April 11th. At 10 am, the volunteers will lead groups eastward from the Conservancy parking lot, head up to the fields and then down to the river.


This picture is from one of the fall hikes. We now do the hikes only in springtime to avoid picking up wavyleaf basket grass seeds on clothing and spreading this annoying invasive plant.

We now take the hike before the trails become covered and impossible to easily navigate. Once we crest the hill behind the buildings and start through the fields, we generally stop to admire the view out towards Woodstock.

We’ll also stop to check out the second largest yellow poplar in Howard County.

Poplar, Yellow
Liriodendron tulipifera
20 feet 3 inches-circumference
98 feet-height
87 feet-spread, 362.8 points
Howard County Conservancy


Crossing a few more fields, we then move into the woods and follow the stream down to the Patapsco River. Carefully investigating around some old foundations, and looking at the signs of spring along the river. Maybe a train will pass when we are down there. The railroad that follows the Howard County side of the river here continues down through Ellicott City.

This hike is free. There will be many volunteers to keep groups of similar pace together. If you want to enjoy the change in weather and enjoy being outdoors, come join us.

Details here, on the Conservancy web site.


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