January 09, 2019

Have You Seen the Angel Oak?

angel oak 1

If you're ever traveling near Charleston, S.C., you really must make an effort to see the "Angel Oak." This 400-500-year-old Southern Live Oak tree (Quercus virginiana) covers about 17,200 square feet and is 65 feet tall. It's thought to be one of the oldest living things in the U.S.


There's no charge to visit Angel Oak Park, located on Johns Island, just a few miles southwest of Charleston. It's quite an expansive property, with plenty of space to view, walk near, and explore below and among the branches of this amazing tree.

The day we were there, in March, the weather was misty, but comfortable. We were on our way between Charleston and Savanna, Ga. As always, I wish I'd had more time to explore, and of course pictures can't do it justice. But believe me, it was wonderful!

leaning in

While looking through my photos to decide which ones to post, I noticed the people in this photo were leaning in! This was very flat ground; not a hill. I find their posture with the tree fascinating.

leaning in cropped

Zooming in: Was it empathy and respect for this incredibly long-lived and stunningly beautiful tree that caused them to lean toward it?

resting branches

Some of the tree's branches are so large they're like separate trees, themselves. Many are so big and heavy that they rest on the ground, which only happens with the very oldest Live Oaks.


The main trunk has a circumference of 28 feet.

supporting life

There are so many awesome features of this tree, but what really hit me and amazed me on observing it was that it's obviously a complex ecosystem unto itself--a community of living and nonliving things that work together. The knots, the bark, the branches, and the tree holes support insects, birds, mammals, fungi, mosses, lichens, bromeliads, and other life forms. I could have spent hours studying all the nooks and crannies and secret treasures.

ferns and mosses


spanish moss

Love the Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides)!

angel oak 2

Good memories; amazing tree! Have you seen it?

December 30, 2018

Twelve of My Favorite Things (2018)

For several years now on this blog, I've created end-of-year lists of my favorite garden and nature "things." They help me appreciate each moment and each season in its time. 

Every day is a blessing, and here are some "favorites" of the past year that I hope to experience again in 2019.


In January, I look forward to a few mild days for winter hiking.


Perhaps the potted Purple Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis) will bloom again in February.


Will the garden Rhubarb poke through the soil in March?


I'll have to remember to cage or spray (with organic methods) the Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) before the rabbits eat them.


Sauteed Fiddleheads (Matteuccia struthiopteris) will be on the menu in May. (Note: Some Fiddleheads can be toxic, so do your research before consuming them.)

(Clockwise from top left: Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium), 'Little Henry' Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), Woodland Pinkroot (Spigelia marilandica), and 'Pearl Glam' Beautyberry (Callicarpa spp.).

How to pick a favorite flower in June? Impossible!


July (and earlier!) will provide plenty of opportunities to search for monarch eggs on various Milkweeds (shown here Asclepias syriaca). I'm sure I'll captive-raise a few caterpillars/butterflies, for the pure joy of the experience and to help the species.


Our friends, the sandhill cranes, likely will cross our paths as we hike the local prairies and woodland openings in August.


I'll spend hours observing the acrobatic ruby-throated hummingbirds in September before they all depart for points south.


In October, I hope to have 'Explosion' Dahlias and Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) blooming until the first frost.


If I'm lucky and prepared, I'll be able to refrigerate and display a few Zinnias in early November arrangements.


Finally, in December, I'll enjoy the late afternoon shadows and light effects over the lake.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

These simple pleasures, and many more, promise that the year ahead will be bright. Each month carries its own unique, simple blessings.

I hope you, too, will find many "favorite things" and gifts that will bring you much joy in the year ahead.

Happy New Year!

December 18, 2018

Fresh Air for a Fresh Perspective

waterfowl 1

I took a hike along the Lower Yahara River Trail last week. We're having mild weather lately in much of the Midwest--mild for us, anyway. The day of my hike, the high was around 40F, and I actually felt warm, wearing my parka and winter boots.

I know some of these photos look cold, but it was very comfortable, after weeks of below-normal temperatures in October and November.


Part of the trail includes a long boardwalk bridge with excellent views of Lake Waubesa. It's now one of the favorite hiking/walking areas of many Madison and McFarland residents. I've posted about this trail before, showing what it looks like in autumn.

ice fishing 1

The view was rather misty, likely because of evaporation from the warmer air.

ice fishing 2

I was surprised to see these people setting up for ice fishing, as it was rather late in the day.

waterfowl 2

Waterfowl tend to congregate in the area where warm, moving water empties into the lake from the Yahara River.


Were these ducks finding fish, or other tasty morsels, just below the surface of the slushy ice?

sun setting

The view to the southwest portended a pretty sunset, with light clouds on the horizon.


Higher in the sky, the moon stood watch over the beautiful day. It felt great to move comfortably outdoors, and to get some much-needed fresh air.