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Category Archives: Nature

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.

Spring Cleaning

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Inside and outside. Finally we feel we have turned the corner and spring really is coming. We paid a bit of attention to sprucing up the outdoors today. Pruning and raking.

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We have these lovely kousa dogwoods that bloom every spring. Today I spent the time to clean out those vertical shoots. It’s a bit late to prune but they haven’t started to bud yet, and it is still cold enough to take off those small shoots that shouldn’t remain.

I also did a quick inspection of the rhododendron.

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I love these rhododendron and they did quite a bit of drooping this winter. I am crossing my fingers to see if they recover once the weather warms up.

As for my final inventory today. I wondered whether this will be another winter where the herbs get devastated. It looks like most of the rosemary didn’t make it. The sage up at the community garden may still be alive but that has me worried also. The thyme is still alive. As is some of the lavender. This was a brutal winter.

Coming up this weekend. The massive clean up and the new mulch laying in. We have a two day clean up scheduled with a local landscaping company. There will be large amounts of mulch put down. Pond clean up. Some final pruning.

All in all, this property takes a bit of time to maintain. The living things that surround us here are important and make this yard a real oasis all summer. I don’t mind getting out there and cleaning it up. Makes us ready for those lovely spring cook outs. And scenes like this.

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There’s An App For That

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For the Belmont Bioblitz. Did you know we have a project on the iNaturalist website? Populated by Howard County Public School Middle and Elementary School children. The first blitz. Last fall.

What is a BioblitZ? How do I help with one? How do I record the species observed? How do I document what I see, and identify it? This May two more Howard County 7th grades will descend upon the Belmont site, in Elkridge, and with the help of dozens of volunteers and subject matter experts will spend four days adding observations to the expanding collection to document the species found on the historic grounds.

Belmont is a treasure. In many ways. Historic. Relatively pristine. And, located where the coastal plains meet the Piedmont plateau.

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If you ever wanted to volunteer to do something absolutely positively fun, exciting, rewarding and important, check out the possibility of becoming a volunteer at the Howard County Conservancy. As a naturalist, we learn along with the children, more and more about our local environment.

Today my small training group, armed with our smart phones and the iNaturalist app, went out to train and get a chance to record what we found in four of the zones on the property. We found quite a bit of fungi on the trees in our zone. Like this one.

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Which we uploaded and will monitor to see who may identify it for us.

The school children have such a great time with this event. They become citizen scientists. They learn to observe, to record, to research, and to monitor scientific data taking and sharing. This year the two schools participating are Ellicott Mills and Thomas Viaduct Middle Schools.

More info to learn how to volunteer here. Yes, I am shamelessly recruiting volunteers. I can see on our data sheets that we have an incredibly busy April and May, with dozens of opportunities to lead hikes, lead activities and to support those hike leaders. Training is taking place this month.

Come take a few walks with us. The views are awesome, and so are the people.

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Telling Tales

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World Storytelling Day! The Equinox weekend. Did you ever want to attend something truly awesome? Like stories told by people who are absolutely incredible at it?

Here’s your chance. My favorite non profit, where I volunteer, is holding a storytelling day of its own. With three amazing performers. For families and adults. Two venues. One, for the whole family. One, focused on the little ones. In the Howard County Conservancy Gudelsky Center in Woodstock. Upstairs, for the families and adults. Down in the Nature Center, for those with little ones to be spellbound by the weaving of the stories.

Saturday March 21st (yes, we know the equinox is Friday but Saturday the children aren’t in school). 1-4 Pm. Details here.

Vernyce Dannells, Kristin Pedemonti and Walter Jones, Jr, are have their way of telling tales. Drawing you in. Making you smile, dance, sing along maybe.


Kristin Pedemonti. As conduit, connector and catalyst Kristin builds bridges between people and cultures, breaking down stereotypes and barriers through Traditional and True stories of acceptance, perseverance, possibility, resilience and understanding. Her stories are collected through worldwide travels as well as interviews with artists, educators, entrepreneurs, innovators and students in the developing and developed world. Kristin’s tales illustrate that everyone has a story, those stories matter and we all have the potential to make an impact on the world around us, no matter what our age, background, gender or geography.

Award winning, cause-focused storyteller, speaker, author, lead facilitator for CGI member Artfully Aware and TED Talks talent search finalist, Kristin Pedemonti performs world-wide at festivals, conferences, TEDx, universities, schools corporate and special events. She’s performed throughout the US including NYC & globally in Belfast, Berlin, Bogota, Gdansk, London, Nairobi, Naples, Paris, Stockholm, Warsaw & beyond..

In 2005 Kristin sold her home & most of her possessions to create/facilitate Literacy Outreach in Belize, where she has conducted programs for 33,000 youth and trained 800 teachers how to use their own cultural stories in schools. Her book, Building Bridges Between; Connecting Culture, Classrooms & Communities is slated for publication. In 2013, Kristin facilitated Artfully Aware’s Community Created Book Project in Kenya, Ghana and Haiti. The resulting books, Ghana Is… and Perseverance & Possibility in Kenya are now available.


Vernyce Dannells. Vernyce is a multi-cultural performance artist whose “jumble jungle” background informs much of her work. She honed her abilities while producing arts and culture features for National Public Radio affiliates in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest. Now, whether opening Honolulu’s famed Talk Story Festival or scaring folk witless at A Philadelphia’s Teenager’s Inc. Ghost Walk, watching her breathe life and light (and sometimes fright) into a story gives a new twist to Shakespeare’s line, “The tale’s the thing!”.

Author of the chapbook Temporarily Abated, published by Cadenza Press, and the recently released Arcadia Press edition in its historical places series, Overbrook Farms, Vernyce uses her pen, voice, body and choice to weave spirited, indelible enchantments on her audiences.


Walter Jones, Jr. Multi-instrumentalist Walter Jones Jr. sings, dances and encourages audiences of all ages to sing along, dance along and join the journey as we explore various cultures, historical events and colorful characters from your favorite stories from around the world..

Walter Jones Jr. has been a public school special educator, entertainer and children and families minister for over 30 years. He has a natural rapport with children of all ages. He has been honored as a “Sign of Hope” in the Baltimore community by the mayor and city council; “Teacher of the Year” at Matthew Henson Elementary school; featured artist for the Grand Opening of the Richmond Children’s Museum; and featured artist for the Summer Reading Programs for both Baltimore County and Baltimore City public libraries..


I took the descriptions from their biography on the Conservancy website. I can’t tell you how cool this event is going to be. You have to experience it yourself. For me, the joy of volunteering at such an incredible place is seeing the commitment of the staff and the various committees to bringing world class events to our community.

Daytripping in Maryland

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Saturday morning at 10 am the free “Wonder Walk” at the Howard County Conservancy isn’t a walk at all. In the colder months the free monthly programs often are held inside, you know, just in case that foot of snow doesn’t melt out on the trails.

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The trails are still a bit messy. But, never fear, in the Nature Center Sherry Conklin and Linda Decker, two Maryland master gardeners will share with us more than 50 of their favorites – formal display gardens, arboretums, wild native places to walk and hike, and historic landscapes.

With the weather starting to change for the better, who among us doesn’t want to stop hibernating and start enjoying spring in Maryland.

You can see all the upcoming events here. You can pre-register for future events on this page. This weekend’s talk still has room and pre-registration closes Friday afternoon. Using the pre-registration email option for future free events guarantees a spot as some of our more popular ones can reach the capacity of the building. Just click on the email link to let the staff know how many people plan to attend.

Today the volunteers finally began our elementary school training to lead hikes on field trips. We were out in the snow and ice looking for signs of the various habitats, in order to lead third graders on their hikes. We found lots of things out there.

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Signs of use in one of the snags on the trail. Before the vegetation grows up in the warmth of the sun, you can get up close and personal.

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And see where the raccoons have been looking for food.

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You can even be serenaded by a very young chickadee, while you are wandering along the local trails.

Come join us Saturday and see what new places Linda and Sherry may show you. Places to put on the list for spring days ahead.

The Long Hard Winter

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Today, while making dinner I noticed the deer hanging at the edge of our yard, out by the field. Three of them in all.

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These two, an older and younger doe, were trying to find something in the berry bushes and the trash trees along the property line.

This one, who came later,

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hobbled off towards the evergreens.

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Yes, this one was crippled, and limping. Eating the white pines. Not their favorite food, but just about all that is out there these days. They are coming right up to the house at night.

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The bottom half of this tree is pretty much devastated by them. They have also eaten every piece of young growth on the azaleas.

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With all the snow on the ground, they are desperate to find food. This has been a harsh cold winter.

I have found rabbit scat beneath the bird feeders. That eagle has been hovering around here, looking for something to eat. The hawks are having a hard time, as the fields covered in snow make it impossible to find animals on the ground.

I don’t know the solution to this situation. Only a prolonged period of warming, that will uncover the ground vegetation, can solve the deer and rabbit food source scarcity.

We need the weather to change. It isn’t just the people around here hating winter. I think the animals are fed up with it too.

The Pre-Storm Frenzy

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Backyard bird version.

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Reminds me of the local grocery stores around here at the start of any snow event. Last minute frantic behavior. The flakes had just begun when the birds (and a few squirrels) descended upon the feeders and the ground by the bird bath.

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This was somewhat tame as it did get pretty intense up on the major feeder.

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I could almost imagine the parallels to the competition to get that last loaf of bread or gallon of milk.

It’s not like I don’t have food out there constantly. They just get so intense when a storm comes.

And, this one.

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Similar to the behavior of hovering for that choice parking spot in the store lot?

I have to admit, the birds that live here in our woods provide us with much entertainment. They know this is a source of food and water, year round. Today they were out there while I was rinsing dishes, and I had to go get the camera to record them.

I do hope this is the end of our winter storms. Enough is enough. And I’m glad we pruned the dead wood out of the tops of our shade trees. If we get a quarter inch of ice, like predicted, there will be branches breaking all around us. Crossing our fingers that Friday’s maintenance prevents any significant damage.

Stay warm and safe out there. We are almost into spring.


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