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Hi everyone!

Welcome to the “Search for Spring”, I am hoping to post a few times a week about some of the interesting things I have found in the woods around my home. Each post will have a picture, some scientific information, observations, fun facts, and general thoughts. I would like to encourage you to contribute things you have found in the area around your home, thoughts on them or my post, as well as ideas about anything from the forest you would like to hear about. I will do my best to answer your questions or if I do not know the answer, provide you with information to read or if you prefer look up the answer. One thing that is not necessarily in my wheel house is finding bible verses that go with what is being discussed, so please, if you have a verse or verses that come to mind please feel free to share! I would like to keep this a positive safe space for connecting with each other and sharing observations, bible verses that are brought to mind, and questions. I love sharing my love of all things small in the woods, and I hope you grow to love them too.

Kaitlyn Yoder

Bees, Bear, and Skunk Cabbage

Posted by Kara Kauffman on OA11er @ 11:49 AM

I was walking in the woods several weeks ago in February and noticed the first skunk cabbage of the year in a low spot of the forest with more moisture in the soil. Wetlands are common places to find skunk cabbage and if you are lucky you may even see a black bear, newly emerged from hibernation, feeding on the tender skunk cabbage. Skunk cabbage may not be the most appealing or even the first thing we think of when we think of spring wildflowers but in fact that is exactly what they are, wildflowers.  Skunk cabbage gets its name from the foul odor that it emits especially when the leaves are damaged, not very appealing, but the smell does have a purpose. The smell attracts pollinators! 

You may ask where are the flowers? The photo at the right shows a small “ball” on the inside of the whorl of what is known as a spathe, the purple and green speckled leaves. That ball is actually a spike of many tiny petal less flowers. After it has been pollinated, it grows large leaves and the spathe withers away as the plant changes it to a large leafy plant. It is one of the first sources of pollen for honey bees, which they need to start their spring broods.

That’s not the only neat tool skunk cabbage has, skunk cabbages generate their own heat through a chemical reaction. This melts the snow and warms the ground around them so that they are able to emerge as early as February. Skunk cabbage are considered a perennial because their root systems can live for up to 20 years and be so extensive that it is almost impossible to uproot them.

I have always considered skunk cabbage to be one of the primary signs that spring is on the way. However, I have always wondered how it manages to be successful during a time when many other plants are unable to start growing because of the cold. God truly does take care of His creation, even in the cold chill of early spring He has given skunk cabbage a way to not only survive but thrive in a time that many of us consider to still be desolate and wintery. He provides them with a way to have warmth in a time of cold, much like the word of God can bring warmth to us in times that seem wintery. He not only provides for the skunk cabbage but brings them out so that they can benefit and support other wildlife in a season where not much else is stirring. They provide an early source of nutrition for recently emerged black bear and an early source of pollen for honeybees and other pollinators. In much the same way we can us the warmth of God’s word to spread a message of hope to others in times when spring seems far away.

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Posted by Kara Kauffman on OP1er @ 1:55 PM
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Introduction

Posted by Kara Kauffman on OP1er @ 1:52 PM

Hello everyone,

If you do not know me, my name is Kaitlyn. If you do know me you may not know that one of my favorite hobbies is photographing wildflowers and other tiny details of creation. I stumbled onto this hobby over the course of several years of study, one of which was a summer spent kneeling in the dirt and counting all of the plants within a specific radius. This may sound boring or tedious but it was one of my favorite summer jobs. Ever since then I have made it a point to notice the little things in the woods, from insects to plants to fungi to bark detail to buds, I could go on. I am in constant amazement of our creator when I see all of the delicate detail and finesse He put into his creation; He truly is amazing.

Another part of my studies focused on what is known as a landscape level perspective. This view focuses on the big picture perspective, the collective sum of all of the tiny details and how they work together to create a beautiful functioning ecosystem where each part has value and a function. For example, in the photo above in the middle you may notice a subtle variation in the vegetation. You can recognize it by the defined red color of the leafless vegetation and the “unnatural” looking geometric edge. From this perspective you can see light-yellow cream-colored lines that are likely trails made by the machinery removing logs and are now covered in several species of grass and forbs, maybe some goldenrod. Next you may notice the red color, almost like the color for raspberries. I would guess that that is exactly what the red represents. This particular timber harvest removed quite a bit of timber which means there is a lot of sunlight hitting the forest floor which encourages the growth of wild raspberries, wine berries, and other types of brambles. From experience, I can expect certain species to grow after a timber harvest based on its position on the top of a ridge and facing in a southerly direction. How wonderfully complex the Lord has made his creation!

I am continually amazed by the intricacies and connections between all things. The small parts of the forest join to build larger systems, which support even larger systems until they all come together in the complete worldwide system. All parts are important and all parts are needed to make the system function. Too often in life I think we can be caught up by the overwhelming prospect of comprehending and or controlling the complete system whether it be world events, the intricacies of our personal lives, the complexities of work, or the world we depend on to live. I also believe that an equally dangerous trap is escaping to all of the small details because they appear, at face value, to be under our control. I think that we should do our best to not neglect one option in favor of the other in order to search for security that can only be found in God. A phrase that has supported me through many times when I feel out of control is “It is well with my soul”. When I see that phrase, I am reminded to do things that keep me grounded. These things are different for everyone, but for me are primarily spending time in the word of God and getting into the woods for walks.

 

Which brings me full circle to my hobby of photographing wildflowers. This is one of my favorite times of year. Some of you may dislike this time of year because its not warm, and it can be rainy, muddy, and gloomy. In the traditional sense spring is “here” when the grass is green and in need of mowing, when the trees have leaves, and the gardens are full of flowers. But now, in this time of mud and gloom with a few sunny days, is the time when spring truly begins. Spring is heralded by skunk cabbage sprouting in wetlands, ducks returning from their wintering grounds, and coltsfoot sprouting along the roadsides. As I was wandering the woods recently, I was the struck by the question “what am I doing?” I do it every year walk in the woods, look at the small things, count the animals, and try to name all the wildflowers I see. I would like to share my search for spring with you. I am not perfect and may get some details wrong but I hope that you will be encouraged to seek out the small things that signal spring and the gift of renewal. I will try to post something a few times a week and we will see what we find new and familiar this spring.  

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