Friday, July 14, 2006

For the Love of Nature... Part 2

After a while, I spent much of my time in my room reading, separated from nature.

My next nature experience comes from my two final years of school. I took Advanced level biology, and we went on a field trip to Flatford Mill, which is featured in Constable's picture The Haywain. You can read more about it here at

The building on the left (Willy Lott's Cottage) is where I stayed! There we did line transects of the seashore (nice walk DOWN the hill, tough climb back!), a salt-marsh (where one boy got his boot stuck in the mud and had to be rescued by our teacher, much to our hilarity), and a foot-path. We did pond dipping and stream dipping. We hiked around the villages near Dedham Vale, and went to Church in an old Norman Church, which was shared by the different denominations, each attending church at different times.

We walked through fields of cows, watched the ducks outside the classroom window and enjoyed the beauty of nature. I knew then, that I wanted to learn more, and decided to study biology at college.

It didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, but after a false start in biochemistry, I transferred to biology and had fun again. We marked the boundaries of robin territories in the winter. We captured small mammals, marking them and then seeing if we could capture more or recapture them, in a population density study.

I watched the rabbits on campus, with their rabbit babies, I saw fungi growing including this rather deadly specimen, the Fly Agaric or Amanita muscaria from the English Country Garden Webpage.

And we went on a field trip to Devon. Here I saw the expanse of Milky Way for the first time, un-obscured by light. I saw glowworms glowing as we walked down to a beach for a bonfire. I did line transects across sand dunes and by a lake, and a quadrat study on top of Dartmoor. (You can download information on Quadrat Studies here) Dartmoor was a wet day, a goodly hike in our wellie boots, with us dodging cowpats (with fungus growing in them) all the way. It was cold, tiring, and fun! We identified local flora and fauna and drew from our microscopes… and I loved it! That year I was supposed to collect flowers to make a flower collection… and I spent hours walking around doing it… only to find my collection went mouldy!

I quit college later to come to the States. Since I have been here, I have started my own flower collection of local flora. I have made it my business to learn the names of the birds and trees that are no longer as familiar to me as the ones from back home.

I have started growing my own herbs and vegetables, as well as various garden plants… and I have spent time in teaching my son and daughter these things too. We set up a bird feeder (and would still have it up if the squirrel hadn’t broken it) and learned the identity of the birds that visit. Just this morning, I was reminded why I let so many of my plants go to seed… for there on my motherwort, sat a flock of goldfinches… at least 6! Humming around my son’s gladioli was a hummingbird. Buzzing through the air were the various dragonflies around… Gradually I am learning the identity of all these strange creatures here in Virginia… the groundhogs, the opossums, skunks and raccoons… all animals I had heard of, but never seen until I came here! And now I remember why, I wanted my son and daughter to be comfortable in nature. For though I rarely climbed trees, and though I never built a fort, I did get to have nature play, and I did get to enjoy myself in the great outdoors.


Alice said...

This is one of the most interesting nature posts I have come across to date. I will be showing this to my children this afternoon.

Thank you!

Spinneretta said...

No indeed... thank YOU for commenting and reading it all the way through :)