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Nature Through a 4-year-old’s Eyes Explorer’s Club #2 – Meadows   

img_67902.jpgSome of the first words my grandchildren said were “walk” and “outside”. They always calmed down as soon as the door or window was opened. They quickly forgot all the chaos of being inside and pointed to the sky, the sun, or a bird. Their eyes would widen as they slowly took into account this much larger world outside their home.

Even now when I get the honor of going for a walk with a grandchild, I jump at it because I learn so much from their point of view.

One of the main attractions as they learned to walk was picking and eating berries. Berries are found in meadows, along hedgerows, and on the edges of forests. In berry picking season we head off to pick black and yellow raspberries, wine berries, and blackberries. We also pick and eat mulberries, blueberries, and grapes.

But, of course, it’s tricky. What berry is safe to eat and how ripe does it have to be are always challenges?

“Berries!” My granddaughter cries out.

“Don’t pick the green ones. Make sure they’re ripe. Let me see them before you put them into your mouth.” One has to be diligent.

What’s nice about a 4-year old is that they can almost be trusted in knowing what to pick and when to pick it. They also have developed an ability to pick and not eat everything immediately. They can even share some of their bounty with others.

“No, grandpa, these are for mama.”

So, its great fun to forage for edibles. Now you might think that meadows lose their attraction when berries are not in season.

“Grandpa, lets go pick berries.”

“We can go check but I don’t think there are any ripe berries in season right now. But we can look for other things.”

“Okay. Let’s go.”

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Fortunately, there are so many flowers throughout the summer and with flowers come all sorts of insects. Dragonflies and damselflies, preying mantises, cicadas, and butterflies are great attractions in meadows. I love to pick up and examine ones which have died. They are beautiful and if you give your 4-year old a box to store them in, they can create quite a collection.

“What’s this?”

“That’s a Chinese preying mantis.”

“I want to pick it up. Can I touch it?”

“Be careful, it’s alive and can pinch you. You have to hold it like this.” I show her but it flaps away into the grasses like a wind-up toy. It’s pretty exciting.

Now there are two challenges with falling in love with meadows. First is that they are the most endangered habitat in many parts of the country, so they’re hard to find. I dedicated a whole chapter to this challenge in my second book, Saving The Places We Love. We have regulations that preserve forests and wetlands, but in most areas, meadows are just mowed down for farming or development. Where I live we have lost the beautiful sounds and sights of the meadowlark and the Bobwhite. They have left because there is no longer enough habitat for them here.  What a loss! I can still remember how I used to call Bobwhite into my backyard just by mimicking their call (bob…bob…white).

The best meadows we have locally are at nature preserves and under power lines. Some of these meadows are managed as areas where native grasses grow – which of course support many native insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles.

The second challenge when exploring meadows is that you should always check for ticks when you are done. Some ticks carry diseases. We have found a few deer ticks over the years which can transmit Lyme disease. So we have made it a practice to check whenever we go for a walk through brush.

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Best Places to Visit in Howard County, Maryland

brightonI am often asked “What are the best places to visit right here in Howard County?” This is a tough question because there are so many interesting spots across the county. Visiting them all would literally fill up your weekends for the entire year. I therefore am not going to start with just a short, limited list.  I think you are better served if I group many of them together into general categories for this post. Throughout the coming year I will try to be even more specific as to my favorite places within these larger categories. That approach will be easier for you and will (more…)

Monarchs and Mojitos

monarchLast night I, and 140 of my closest friends, spent the evening at the Howard County Conservancy’s Monarchs and Mojitos event. Mark Raup and Paula Shrewsbury, both professors in the entomology department at the University of Maryland, were our hosts for the evening. We heard a great deal of interesting aspects about the life of a Monarch butterfly and the challenges this beautiful species faces. Monarchs are threatened with extinction (more…)

Ned’s Top Ten Maryland Hikes

Billy_Goat_Trail_bouldersI have not done all the trails in Maryland but these are the memorable ones that I have done that are easy to locate. Many of the places I have hiked were along rivers or shorelines where there were no trails. Some of these required walking in the streams or in the shallow estuaries. It was all fun. But the ones listed here can all be found on maps and are (more…)

Ned’s Top Ten Hikes in Howard County, Maryland

nature walkWell here they are. My new rankings for 2015!! All are good for walking, some are fine for jogging or biking. A few are used by horseback riders. My challenge to you is to get outside this spring and explore each of these. If you have a group to inspire, feel free to contact me at ned@sustainable.us. I routinely lead interpretive hikes on all of these paths. (more…)

The National Trail System

Appalachian-TrailCan you imagine exploring a mountainous region without a good trail system? It would take far longer to find your way through the mountains or to find the tallest peak. You might even wander around lost for weeks trying to find your way in and out.

Fortunately, today there is a great system of trails throughout the country, and in many cases good apps for finding your way. For the most part, they are well marked and maintained, largely by volunteers. For example, the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail is maintained by 6,000 volunteers in small clubs all along the way. This is true for many (more…)

The National Trail System

(Excerpt from Saving the Places We Love)

Maine Geo Hike 1107 023Can you imagine exploring a mountainous region without a good trail system? it would take far longer to find your way through the mountains or to find the tallest peak. You might even wander around lost for weeks trying to find your way in and out. Fortunately, today there is a great system of trails throughout the country and, in many cases, good apps for finding your way.

For the most part, these trails are well marked and maintained largely by volunteers. For example, the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail is maintained by 6,000 volunteers in small clubs all along the way from Georgia to Maine (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/). This is true for many of the trails that crisscross our country. Thanks to all of you who help maintain these trails. (more…)