Garden ‘Surprise’ Party!

Hi Friends!

It feels just like a garden ‘party’ here in the Midwest ~ a bit of a ‘surprise’ party! These party plans seem to have been underway since February, when we had a stretch of unseasonably warm days. Shortly thereafter, gardeners began to notice foliage emerging from our sleepy, leaf-covered garden beds. I remember taking walks through my garden in late February and early March whispering, “Slow down. It’s much too early.”

Our garden party guests might be feeling confused, as well. Migratory birds and other wildlife have been caught by surprise. This week, I noticed a robin finishing her nest under the eaves, with a southern exposure. The University of Illinois Extension reports that plant growth is 15-20 days ahead of schedule in our area. By tracking growing degree days (GDD), researchers confirm that we are well ahead of normal. Insect populations are making an early appearance. Dandelions have already been in bloom for two weeks. Our usual gardenkeeping tasks seem completely off-schedule this Spring.

My Garden Joys 2017  journal has been capturing the memories of our early garden ‘surprise’ party!

Throughout April, I’ve been extra busy making changes to our front yard as I continue to ‘right-size’ our perennial gardens. A few weeks ago, I decided to eliminate an old stone planter that was a part of this garden long before I moved here. Over the past thirty years, I have enjoyed creating many different plant combinations in the old stone planter. Now it was time to carefully move many of the perennials to other garden beds and compost the rest. (It’s never easy to say goodbye, so I had to keep repeating the mantra ~ “These are not children or pets.’ ) In my heart, I knew that I was doing the right thing… and I always listen to my heart!

Fortunately, I saved many of the loose bricks to use in the backyard. I think they should have a place of honor in our ‘History Garden,’ near our 1922 garage. Using all of my strength, I just couldn’t budge the remaining bricks. So, we called our favorite Handyman, who came with his sledge hammer. What a job! He discovered three layers of stone and slate in the foundation beneath the soil. A very talented Mason had done an excellent job of building the stone planter so long ago!

Next, we hired three strong landscapers to carry the stones to their heavy duty truck and haul them to a business for recycling. We planted grass seed in its place. Now there will be a bit more to mow, but a lot less to weed. 🙂 It felt so great to cross this garden project off my l-o-n-g ‘To Do’ list early in the season!

Some of my most treasured memories are the years that our stone planter was filled with old-fashioned Hollyhocks, in the loveliest colors. They often grew taller than me! I’ll always remember collecting the Hollyhock seeds to make little packets of ‘Seeds of Friendship’ as small tokens of gratitude for our wedding shower. It was such a small way to share the abundance of my garden with special friends.  One summer, the hungry neighborhood groundhogs kept munching on the tops of each Hollyhock stem. That year, we had ‘miniature’ Hollyhocks, only 12 inches tall, in full bloom! Passersby would often stop to comment on our tiny Hollyhocks and I would always share our groundhog tales with them. Ahhh… the garden memories that filled our stone planter over the years!

This week, it was so surprising to see what was blooming in my garden each day! ⇧ We truly are weeks ahead of our typical bloom times. So, I’m scurrying to keep up with our garden ‘surprise’ party this Spring!  The Herb & Tea Garden beds no longer have their warm blanket of leaves. Along the insides of the white picket fence, my favorite, old-fashioned perennials are thriving in this Spring garden party.  The Bleeding Hearts, Cranesbill Geranium, and Anemones are in full bloom and the Coral Bells and Peonies already have buds.

I spent a recent afternoon tidying up the potting bench in the garage.  The garden tools and flower pots are ready and waiting. After I washed the window curtains above the potting bench, I made a simple bunting with flower seed packets. Doesn’t bunting make every surprise party more festive?  🙂

The past two weekends we enjoyed surprising summer-like temperatures just right for some nice, long walks. Last Saturday, we took a late afternoon walk through lovely Lilacia Park. This treasure has over 700 Lilacs and 25,000 Tulips ~ all blooming several weeks early. Instead of a quiet walk amongst the fragrant blossoms, we were surprised to find several wedding parties and crowds of Senior prom dates and their families enjoying the colorful garden party. So festive!

This weekend, however, we are staying cozy and warm inside. Mother Nature has surprised us again! This afternoon our temperatures are in the upper 30s. April showers, along with high winds, thunderstorms, and excessive rainfall totals all weekend are ending the month with more surprises

We wonder what the merry, merry month of May will bring…

What’s blooming in your garden or nearby park this week?

Have you noticed any garden surprises this month?

Enjoy the small wonders in each day!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Thank you so much for taking the time to visit today. Hope you will join in the conversation…

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Walking in Peace…

Hi Friends!

A quiet walk in nature always soothes my soul. Especially during these uncertain, often frightening times in our world, it helps to seek out an oasis of peace, calm, and beauty. Just one hour of walking amidst the blessings of Springtime on a Sunday afternoon really lifted my spirits! I hope it will lighten your heart as well, as you walk along with us…

As we left home, we didn’t have a definite plan about where we might walk yesterday. April showers during the past week have made many of our favorite walking places very muddy. As we drove, it suddenly dawned on both of us ~ a beautiful place of quiet and peace where we have walked in the past ~ the 40-acre grounds of the National Center of the Theosophical Society in America.  Although the Theosophical Society is closed on Sundays, the grounds are open during daylight hours and visitors are always welcome to enjoy a quiet walk.

So, we set off on our peaceful walk…

We wandered past the historic library building,

under the willow trees, across a tiny creek,

to the Perkins Pond at the south end of the campus.

A few feathered friends entertained us as we watched families of Canadian geese and ducks enjoying a relaxing, afternoon swim. Benches along the quiet pond invite visitors to pause and meditate, or sit and reflect upon the quiet beauty.

As we walked under the tall pines, following moss-covered stone paths,

we meandered from patch to patch of colorful Spring flowers,

deep in thought…

A bright patch of yellow

led us to our next peaceful place.

As we looked up, beyond the daffodils,

tucked in amongst the tall trees,

a sight stopped us in our tracks…

Our hearts smiled, as we carefully stepped

between the Spring blossoms

for a closer look.

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We lingered in this peaceful spot for a few moments,

speaking very softly,

not wanting to disturb the stillness.

Then we continued on our walk,

past an area filled with busy bee hives,

a prairie garden restoration underway,

across the squishy, rain-soaked grass,

and past a peaceful shrine

with candles aglow.

In the distance, I could see

the quiet oasis

where we have walked before.

In the middle of the peaceful, grassy area is a Cretan labyrinth. The large stepping stones set upon a field of pebbles is unicursal in design. Entering from the bottom of the labyrinth, visitors can walk its single, winding path from the circumference to the center and back out again.

Many years ago, we walked this labyrinth with a large, meditation group. I have also walked this labyrinth in quiet, private meditation. Since there is only one path to the center of the labyrinth and back out, it helps to quiet the mind while walking.

On Sunday afternoon we walked the labyrinth

peacefully,

on our own,

following the long, winding stone path.

While walking,

we lost track of direction,

of the outside world,

and although our feet were moving

our minds felt still.

Before leaving the grounds, we enjoyed a stop at the Quest Book Shop. It is a fascinating place to linger and explore, filled with books and other resources for meditation, yoga, health, metaphysics, psychology, and science encompassing beliefs from around the world.

 

Love.

Hope.

Nature.

Friendship.

Understanding.

Harmony.

Stillness.

Peace.

Namaste,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Thank you so much for stopping to visit today. ♥ Where do you enjoy walking in nature?

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Garden Memory-Keeping

Hi Friends!

My favorite days are those with quiet moments of reflection. Beginning my days by writing Morning Pages encourages me to nourish my creative soul. Ending my evenings with quiet time to write in my Gratitude Journal comforts even the busiest of days. As a new gardening season dawns upon us here in the Midwest, I’ve been thinking a great deal about the different ways I have preserved my garden memories over the years…

Thirty years ago this Spring, I bought my cozy, little bungalow with its large, mature garden. Oh, my! There was so much to learn (and remember) ~ both inside and outside!!  My dear, sweet parents would come visit every weekend to help with house restoration projects. My mom offered her sage wisdom as she taught me all about gardening. (Heartfelt thanks, Mom, for sharing your passion for gardening with me!) I definitely needed a place to hold all of this new learning!

That Spring, so long ago, my garden memory-keeping began…

My earliest garden journal was a simple, spiral sketchbook, filled with pencil-drawn maps of each flower bed. As I learned the names of my plants, I would happily add them to the little maps.  Plant tags and empty seed packets were taped into my journal as my garden grew. I took careful notes of how many flats of each annual I bought to add instant color on planting day, every year in mid-May.

Over the years, my gardening style evolved into cottage gardens filled with old-fashioned perennials… and my garden journal grew even more important. Each year, I happily dug, divided, and moved my perennials around and created new flower beds. Every Spring, I was so grateful that I had those little garden maps to help me identify the foliage as the perennials peeked through the soil!

Years later my garden grew again, as my dad and I worked together to build raised beds and a white picket fence to create my Herb & Tea Garden. My garden journal was filled with dreams, measurements, lists of culinary herbs and herbs for tea. (Huge thanks, Dad, for making my garden dream come true!)

Every year, I took photos to document the changes as my garden grew. With the advent of digital photography, my garden memory-keeping took a different turn. Instead of pencil and paper, I began recording the changes in my garden with weekly photographs of each perennial and herb bed. At the end of the growing season, I looked forward to creating a digital slide show of the year in the garden. I adored those slide shows, burned them to CDs, and shared them with family and friends. What could be sweeter on a cold, Winter’s day than to take a year-long ‘walk’ through the garden, while enjoying a cup of tea! It was also a great resource as I planned for the next gardening season.

For the past three gardening seasons, my blog has been a handy place for garden memory-keeping. It’s fun to look back to see when my perennials bloomed and to plan for changes in the garden. It has also been a great way to share plants with nearby friends. After seeing blossoms in blog photos, several friends have come to dig flowers to start gardens of their own. Sharing plants is truly one of my favorite joys of gardening!

Last summer, inspired by the wonderful book The Right-Size Flower Garden, I began making some very big changes in my garden. I decided to eliminate my large Cutting Garden bed, and transplanted several old-fashioned favorites to the borders of my Herb & Tea Garden. Next, I eliminated a very wild Butterfly Garden bed and created a History Garden bed filled with perennials that have been a part of my garden since long before I moved here. After all of these changes, I sketched and watercolored two new garden maps. Thank goodness for the garden maps! Now it is such a delight to watch the foliage of those perennials emerge in their new beds this Spring!

There will be many more big changes here during the 2017 gardening season as I continue to ‘right-size’ my perennial beds in the front yard. It feels like this could be the year that my garden will undergo the biggest changes of all.  In addition to garden maps, photos, and gardening blog posts, my heart has been wanting an extra-special way to preserve this year’s garden memories.

So, I have just begun keeping a journal of “Garden Joys.”

I think it will become a wonderful place for quiet reflection

and feelings about all of the changes ahead in my garden this year.

I’m excited to use a few art supplies from my little Paper Garden studio downstairs

as I document this year’s garden!

There will be a bit of doodling, along with bullet-style journal entries.

 So far, I’m really enjoying this style of memory-keeping!

It’s inspiring to try something so different from my earlier garden journals.

It’s a fun way to nourish my creative soul and grow…  just like my garden!

♥♥♥

Do you keep a garden journal or preserve your garden memories in some way?

Hope you will share with all of us!

♥♥♥

If you are curious about some different ways

that people document their gardens,

be sure to visit my blogging friend at Jean’s Garden.

Jean has done some interesting research on different varieties of

Garden Record-Keeping and has some very helpful tips to share!

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for stopping to visit!

Wishing you gentle showers followed by warm, sunny days…

It’s your time to bloom!

♡ Dawn

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Springtime Blessings!

Hi Friends!

Sunny Springtime greetings!

Today I’m counting my blessings out loud

as my very favorite season begins…

Bougainvillea in bloom in the Sonoran Desert, with the Superstition Mountains in the distance

I have been enjoying precious family time

in the Arizona desert.

Prickly Pear cacti in bloom

Admiring spectacular sunrises

and sunsets…

Saguaro silhouettes at sunset in the Sonoran desert

Sharing wonderful family memories with my parents,

as we talked about their childhood stories

and my childhood years.

Such delightful blessings to cherish!

Brittlebush in bloom fills the desert with sunshine in the Spring

Savoring long talks with my dad,

whose sage wisdom always guides me.

Strong, sturdy Saguaro cactus

Taking long walks with my mom,

a most charming gardener who teaches me so much

about living a sweet, joyful life.

It made my heart blossom as I helped them each day,

in the smallest of ways.

It is such a blessing to be able to help my parents now…

as we spend time together.

Helping to weed, deadhead, transplant, and water

in my mom’s desert garden

reminded me of how this charming gardener

taught me to garden,

thirty years ago,

when I bought a little house

with a large, mature garden of my very own.

Ocotillo cactus blossoms

My beloved husband took care of everything here at home,

so that I could spend time with my parents.

He is one of life’s sweetest blessings!

Purple Trailing Lantana spilling over the red rocks

Brilliant blue skies, gentle breezes, and temperatures in the mid 90s

made the last days of Winter fly by much too quickly.

Just as my favorite season began,

I returned home to

the Midwest.

Today I spent hours in my own garden

(wearing a winter jacket),

as I pruned the ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea,

cut back the remaining stems and seed heads

left standing for the birds,

and peeked at all of the new growth in my garden beds.

From across the yard, I suddenly spotted

patches of  brilliant purple!

These miniature Irises are always the first blossoms of Springtime in my garden!

What a wonderful blessing to discover

miniature Irises

and Crocuses in full bloom…

just in time for

the first days of Spring!

♥♥♥

Wishing you abundant Springtime blessings, too!

(Be sure to count them out loud!)

Choose joy!

♡ Dawn

     P.S.  Hope you will share something you are grateful for as Spring begins!

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Gathered Sunshine

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Hi Friends!

January is typically our snowiest month here in the Midwest. However, January 2017 has been one of the least snowiest months on record. In addition to our snow drought, we have also been lacking much-needed sunshine all month long. In January, we only enjoyed six sunny days. Few and far between… those days were glorious indeed!

So, throughout this month I often called upon the wisdom of

a teeny, tiny kindred spirit for inspiration…

Have you met Frederick?

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This wise, little field mouse is the heartwarming hero of the wonderful children’s book,

Frederick, by Leo Lionni.

During the long, cold, difficult, winter days,

Frederick helped his little field mice friends feel warmth as he lifted their spirits.

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For you see, Frederick was a gatherer.

He gathered bright sun rays

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Frederick gathered breathtaking colors from nature…

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… and Frederick gathered wise words when the days were warm,

and held them until the days grew cold .

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Over the years, I have always felt a strong connection to our little Frederick, the poet-mouse.

For I am a gatherer, too!

I gathered these photo memories last April, while visiting dear family in Arizona.

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Tohono Chul Park, located in northwest Tucson

near the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains,

is a true gem!

Their mission is to enrich people’s lives

by connecting them with the wonders of

nature, art, and culture

in the beautiful Sonoran Desert,

while inspiring wise stewardship of nature’s gifts.

Tohono Chul Park is truly one of the loveliest places we have visited in Arizona.

It’s the perfect place to gather warm sun rays, breathtaking colors, and wise words!

I’m sure that Frederick would agree.

♥♥♥

If you haven’t read Frederick lately, do take a peek…

Frederick is celebrating

its 50th Anniversary this year.

He just might be your teeny, tiny kindred spirit, too!

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

Scatter kindness and gather sunshine!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you have a favorite place to gather bright sunshine, beautiful colors, or wise words? Hope you will share with us!

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Seasoned with Love

lizgilbertquote

Hi Friends!

Rabbit! Rabbit!  What an unexpected joy to make garden memories as December begins! On Tuesday afternoon, I took advantage an unseasonably mild day to walk around the garden. A few remaining leaves crunched underfoot as I unlatched the garden gate and stepped into to my Herb and Tea Garden. With garden snips in hand, I clipped small bunches of sage, oregano, and lemon balm.

Earlier that very morning, I found the most wonderful inspiration on Lydia’s blog, Understand Blue. Lydia always has something interesting to share! On Tuesday, Lydia shared a great video tutorial about “Duoprinting with Chlorophyll.”

The sun was shining and this was a perfect day

to connect my passion for herb gardening with my passion for cardmaking.

Pure serendipity… and so much fun!

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Heavenly, herbal scents filled my Paper Garden studio downstairs, as I placed fresh sage leaves on cardstock, between the plates of my Big Shot embossing/die cutting machine. (See Lydia’s video tutorial for her step-by-step directions.) As I cranked the paper ‘sandwich’ through the machine, the sage leaves and stems printed on the cardstock. Mother Nature’s colors were more perfect than any ink color in my studio! The Chlorophyll transferred the beautiful, subtle colors of the sage perfectly. I was in awe as I gently peeled the flattened sage leaves from the cardstock!

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I matted each herbal print on kraft cardstock. Then I reached for the perfect sentiments! The ‘Sage Advice’ stamp set from ‘Power Poppy by Marcella Hawley’ (one of my forever favorites) had just the right words to complement the Chlorophyll Prints. Using Crumb Cake ink (Stampin’ Up) and the MISTI stamping tool, I added the sentiments.

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After successfully making single Chlorophyll Prints, I was ready to try Lydia’s ‘Duoprints’ technique. So, I sandwiched another bundle of fresh sage between two pieces of cardstock and cranked them through the Big Shot. Both of these sage prints were produced at the same time. The details and colors were just lovely. Look closely…  Mother Nature even provided beautiful shading for the images, as the essential oils were pressed onto the paper. The sage prints were adhered to cream-colored cardbases.  I stamped the inside of the cards with herbal images from the same Power Poppy stamp set. Finally, I handlettered the name of the herb on the back of each card, near my signature. If only you could smell the amazing scent of sage on these cards!

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Hmmm! What next? I decided to try printing with lemon balm. It worked beautifully, creating soft shadows, as the fresh, lemony scent filled my studio!

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I continued to experiment with different herbs and other foliage from the garden. Although the images weren’t quite as sharp and crisp, I was able to make Chlorophyll Prints with oregano, the holly-like leaves of mahonia, and the heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger.

Oh my! I can’t wait to work with Chlorophyll Printing again. I must try rosemary, my very favorite herb!  It will be such fun to bring my garden herbs and foliage into my Paper Garden studio throughout Spring, Summer, and Autumn next year. I’m also planning to try Chlorophyll Printing on watercolor paper next time. It will be lovely to create cards, gift tags, bookmarks (for cookbooks), and framed botanical pieces seasoned with love and kindness!

If you feel inspired to try Chlorophyll Printing, be sure to let us know how it works for you!

img_1220Creating gifts from the heart... and the heart of my garden is just my ‘cup of tea.’  ♥

Thanks so much for stopping by today!

Warm hugs!

♡ Dawn

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A Fascinating Walk!

VoloBogIL

Hi Friends!

It’s a wonderful tradition that began early on, when my husband and I were just getting to know one another! Very often, we found ourselves walking near water, with moments of peaceful silence and interesting conversations about anything and everything. Oh the beautiful places we have walked together! Not the types to sit on a beach, we have strolled along Lake Michigan beaches, the beaches of Waikiki, and along the North Shore of Kauai. Walks along the River Seine, the River Rhein, the Lower Salt River in the Sonoran desert, and the Illinois River hold so many dear memories. Over the years, we have enjoyed walking along rushing waterfalls, meandering creeks, and a quiet marsh. Yet, there has always been another watery destination on our long list of places to walk ~  a bog!

So, Sunday morning, we packed a picnic lunch and drove north quite a distance to the Volo Bog State Natural Area. Our walk was filled with unexpected surprises, lovely views, and new learning. We both agreed that it was one of our more fascinating walks… and I couldn’t wait to share our walk with you!

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With our first glimpse of the Volo Bog, we were very curious about the large patches of pink in the distance. It was time to explore!

This bog originated about 12,000 years ago as the Wisconsin glacier crept into northeastern Illinois. As the climate warmed, the ice melted and glacial lakes formed. The trees (in the photo above) mark the edges of the old glacial lake. 

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Volo Bog has a floating boardwalk, allowing visitors to view various parts of the bog while walking just above the bog’s surface.

This was our chance to walk just inches above the surface of a bog! We could feel the floating walkway moving gently underfoot with each step. We walked very slowly, as dragonflies and butterflies floated overhead and a chorus of nearby crickets and frogs sang for us. Below the boardwalk, the 50-foot deep bog was filled with plants growing in this unique wetland.

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From time to time as we walked, there were views of peaceful, open water, surrounded by cattails and sedges. However, most of the bog is now lush with plant growth.

A bog is a very unique type of wetland. It forms in a glacial lake that has very poor drainage and no inflow of water from streams. Rain water and melting snow fill the bog. A floating mat of peat, which is partially decayed plant matter, began to form long ago at the Volo Bog.  The roots of living plants support this thickening peat layer.

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Volo Bog is the only ‘Quaking Bog’ with an open water center in Illinois. Its floating mat of sphagnum moss and other plants is so thick in some places that a person could actually stand on it. However, this would not only damage the bog, but would be incredibly dangerous. The floating boardwalk allows visitors to safely explore the bog.

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Cattails turn to seed in mid-August at Volo Bog.

As early as 10,000 years ago, the Native Americans settled in northeastern Illinois. The Volo Bog, a distance from large waterways, would have provided good hunting grounds and places to gather arrowhead roots, cattails, blueberries, and other edible plants.

BogFloraColorful wildflowers were in full bloom throughout the bog and the pollinators were very active on this mid-August day.

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The wooden boardwalk leads visitors through four different plant communities at Volo Bog. As we made our way, the changing plant species seemed to take us back through time. Winterberry Holly, Dogwood, and Poison Sumac were among the tall shrubs in this part of the bog. During times of high water from rain and melting snow, some of the Tamarack trees in this area drowned. Ancient ferns also grow in this shady area of the bog.

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This diagram shows the different plant zones we observed as we followed the boardwalk (yellow dotted trail) to the ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog.

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The ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog is not an ordinary pond. It is 50 feet deep and everything you see is floating… even the Tamarack pine trees in the distance! As the plant layers in the bog continue to grow and decay, scientists predict the open water at the ‘eye’ will be overgrown with vegetation in the next 100-150 years.

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Tamarack pine trees grow in this part of the plant community. These unusual pines are deciduous! In Autumn, their needles turn golden yellow and fall onto the peat soil below. The Tamarack trees, with their shallow, spreading roots, float up and down as the water levels change in the bog.

Sphagnum moss carpets the ground in this area of the bog. Native American mothers gathered and dried this moss to line their cradle boards, as a sort of diaper. Early soldiers used dried sphagnum to cover their wounds in the battlefields, since this moss produces acids with antibacterial properties.

BogFaunaThe bog is a wetland habitat for so many animal species.

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This circa 1900 dairy barn was renovated to create a wonderful, educational Visitor Center at the Volo Bog.

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As a result of our rainy summer, water levels seemed high in this open water area of the bog.

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Waterbirds searched for food in the moss-covered water, while a family of turtles took turns sunning on a floating log.

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The bog is a beautiful, fragile ecosystem that we must carefully preserve.

As we walked along the boardwalk, observing the variety of plants and animals that make their homes in this habitat, my thoughts turned to my own garden. Years ago, as I added new flower beds, I would occasionally buy a large bag of peat moss to mix into the soil. Never again!!

Most of our commercially harvested (actually, it is ‘mined’) peat in North America comes from Canadian sphagnum moss. Our walk reminded me once again that bogs are fragile wetlands that must be preserved! There are much better (and cheaper) alternatives to amend the soil in our gardens ~ local leaf mold compost, wood chips, composted garden waste, and green kitchen compost. Continued use of these plant materials will keep my garden a healthier, more responsible little patch of nature for years to come!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

This is my 100th post at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes… 

and your visits and thoughtful comments are always such a treat for me!

♡♡♡♡♡♡

Enjoy your week!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you enjoy walking near water, too?  Please tell us about your favorite places to walk…

 

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