Outragehisss Pets and Open House

On Saturday, March 28th, The Nature Place hosts Outragehisss pets from Noon to 1 pm, in the Arts Building music room at Green Meadow Waldorf School – 307 Hungry Hollow Road, Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977.

Join us for a wild and woolly animal program, and stick around for our camp open house, between 1 and 4 pm.

See you then!


Wild & Edible Trout Lilies

If this seemingly endless winter ever goes away, the spring will bring us some of nature’s miracles.  One of my favorite spring visitors is the Trout lily.  This unassuming little woodland gem can easily be missed, as it nods downwards, hiding its shy beauty.

Trout Lily visited by foraging bee

Trout Lily visited by foraging bee

Trout lilies can be easily identified by their leaves which grow singly or in pairs in large patches, each leaf resembling the patterning found on the flanks of the Brook Trout, with brown patches against a smooth green background.  It usually takes a plant several years to build up enough energy to produce a single flower, so that in any given patch, only a few plants will flower each year.

There was a time when I was lucky enough to find a whole creekside embankment covered in these little yellow beauties.  The previous year, someone had removed a bunch of trees and bushes, opening up the area to the sun.  This caused many of the plants to bloom at the same time.  Unfortunately, a couple of years later, the entire bank was washed away by a hurricane, and they never returned.

Trout Lilies blooming outside the Garner Arts Center in Garnerville, NY

Trout Lilies blooming outside the Garner Arts Center in Garnerville, NY

Not only are Trout lilies a feast for the eyes (especially after a long bleak winter), but they are edible.  Everything from the flowers to  the corms (tuber-like roots) can be eaten.  However, I restrict my activities to photographing them and munching on the occasional leaf.  Although these are among the first flowers to appear, they can still be found in April, when the Spring Beauties pop up (also edible, by the way). They can be seen growing side by side (as in the picture).

Trout Lily growing alongside Spring Beauties

Trout Lily growing alongside Spring Beauties

With the late winter we are experiencing, don’t be surprised if you don’t find trout lilies appearing until April this year.

Dougy Cramshaw’s Wee Folk

Collecting fairy house material

Collecting fairy house material

There was an old lady in the village by the name of Hoffman. She was a friend of the Cramshaw’s grandmother. We thought of her as being kind of magical. She told us to leave food out at the end of winter for the ‘wee’ folk. We used to leave out bread crumbs. Mostly we found that the birds, squirrels and chipmunks came for them, but she said the wee folk also came. These were like leprechauns and fairies, but when we searched for their tracks in the show she told us they were careful not to leave any. She said they sometimes rode on the backs of the animals to get around. While I believed in a great many things that were magical, I drew the line at these wee folk. Dougy, Ricky Cramshaw’s little brother, drew no such line.

Up on McGregor Hill above our street and below the Motel on the Mountain, Dougy happily searched for signs of the wee folk in late winter. He was worried that the old bread crumbs and stale cereal were hoarded by the animals and the wee folk did not get their share. He stashed the food in rotted tree stumps, hollow logs, and where the moss grew thickest. He revisited and studied the animal tracks looking for sign. And then one day, after an early morning flurry, he found it. There in the cotton-soft snow were little tracks, human-like, no more than half an inch long. He pressed his finger near to one and held it there until the melting snow chilled his finger numb. He put his finger to his mouth and blew his warm breath against it. The tiny footprints disappeared under a log and as he studied them his finger burned, losing its chill. Then he knew what he must do.

With an old scissor he cut various shapes from a scrap of bicycle inner tube, then struggled to fold and glue together a tiny pair of winter boots. The glue did not bind the little snippets of rubber together. Next he tried to mold electrical tape around the foot of a small rubber dinosaur but the tape collapsed when he slid it off. Then he took two of his mother’s fake finger nails and curled tinfoil over top of them, but the shape was all wrong; they looked more like skis than shoes. Finally, he went to his grandmother and told her of his problem. She went into a small chest of drawers, rummaged around and brought him a tiny pair of black plastic boots. They were perfect. He thanked her and ran off with them. He was so excited it never occurred to him to ask what their origin was.

Back at the hollow log, he scattered some bread crumbs and then carefully placed the miniature footwear just inside the log. That night he was in trouble for wasting his dad’s electrical tape and for playing with his mom’s plastic finger nails, but Dougy didn’t care. He knew somewhere that night on McGregor Hill a happy little wee folk would keep his feet dry. That was all that mattered.

Ed’s Corner

Getting into Spring

I look at the big calendar in our office, at March 20th, to be exact, and read two words that make my heart sing: “Spring Begins”.


After the winter we have had, there could not be two more beautiful words put together than these. Say them out loud, but softly. I know that has to feel good. I also know that there are crocuses and snow drops somewhere under the foot of snow that seems to have been on the ground for more than a month. The tapped maple trees are only now dripping. Some warmer temperatures are hinting that, soon, I may not have to put my long johns on every morning. Drip – drip – drip the icicles are melting. The ice dams in my gutters will need quite a bit more time. And the mountains of pushed/plowed snow in the mall parking lots!? Maybe we can plan a climbing experience on them for our oldest groups this summer.

If words can make our heart all-aflutter, just imagine what getting outside, into spring, can do!

  • Take a walk and search for patches or peeks of green.
  • Say “welcome back” to the first flock of robins you see on a lawn. Clap and applaud for them.
  • At noon, turn sideways to the sun and enjoy the soothing warmth on your cheek. Now do a 180 and let the sunlight fall on the other cheek. Ahh…
  • Look at the ground for designs, patterns in parking lots, created by the alchemy of snow, ice, puddles, salt, warming temperatures.
  • Just stop and smell the warming air.
  • Go out at 7 am or earlier and listen to the very beginnings – like warming up/practicing – of a soon-to-be grand avian orchestra.
  • Choose to befriend a few buds on a low enough branch so kids can see and check on them every few days. Tie a piece of yarn or string on the branch where your buds are so you can easily find them again. In fact, make ‘buddies’ from different trees.
  • Plan a small garden, it could even be in a pot. Stores are displaying their seeds already.

A few examples of late winter’s ice and salt art Salt Art IMG_7200 Salt and Ice Rorschach