Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fogwell Forest, Allen County
     The latest stop on our nature preserve tour was Fogwell Forest in Allen county, near Roanoke, Indiana.  It was an easy walk, a good pick for my tired, borderline fussy kiddos as the trail was only 1/2 mile long.  However short, our hike was quite diverting.

     One of the first sights that met my eye were what appeared to be these magical glowing red leaves interspersed among the leaves of a normal looking tree.  Upon further investigation, it turned out that these leaves were not, in fact, glowing. Big surprise.  The sun was simply reflecting off of them in a way that highlighted their dynamic, rich redness.
     The magical red leaves were part of this stand of trees that were growing so close together that all their leaves appeared to be "mixed up," into one green-and-red-leafed conglomeration.  Pretty beautiful if you ask me.  

My kids just don't get it when I get excited about photographing things it seems only I can see.
     One of my favorite things to teach in my art classes is color theory: how and why the colors are arranged on the color wheel, and how colors relate and interact with each other.  The kids love it too because it's, well...colorful! Colors are easy to see and understand and are very relevant to everything we do in art.  Anyway, one of the color concepts we investigate is complementary colors, or color opposites.  
Red and green sit opposite each other on this color wheel. 
     The 12 basic colors are arranged in a circle called a color wheel.  Since there are 12, everyone has an opposite color, it's "complement."  Even though they are opposites, when seen together complementary colors "compliment" each other by providing contrast and are generally pleasing to the eye.  

Red-violet and yellow-green are complementary colors.
     I love finding examples of complementary colors in nature.  It's as if nature knew long before man which colors would work the best together and be the most eye-appealing!  The red and green mixed-up trees above are just one example of nature's complements.  If you open your eyes to complementary colors, you can find them all around!  

The red and green complementary pair is quite prolific in nature.
Orange and blue (I doctored this photo a little, I confess.) These teasel pods were photographed at Bock Nature Preserve in Kosciusko county.
     Complementary colors aside, we passed many other eye-catching artworks of nature on our walk.  

I love how the sunlight illuminates the interior of this trail entrance, as if it is beckoning us to enter.
An interesting  juxtaposition of shapes and colors.

I've been seeing these green berry things at every preserve we've visited, always
curious as to what they are.  They are the fruit of the dogwood tree. It turns out
we've had three of them growing in our yard for years!
Yarrow, also called "nosebleed plant" for its ability to stop bleeding.
It is said that you can apply the leaves of the yarrow plant directly to an
injury and it will staunch the flow of blood.
 I'd still recommend a nice clean band-aid. 
This patch of Sensitive Fern creates a nice pattern of lines and shapes. 
     When we started our hike, Hank and Evelynn were grouchy and tired.  They tend to fight a lot on any given day, so you can imagine the interplay of dirty looks and sneaky swats aimed at each other as we approached Fogwell Forest. But nature has a way of calming one's soul. It's nothing new...a slow leisurely walk surrounded by dappled shadow, cool breezy air, and the calming green colors of dancing leaves and plants will improve your mindset in just a few minutes.  There's actually word for this..."forest bathing."  This is the English translation of the Japanese term, "Shinrin-yoku," which means to literally surround yourself with forest air. According to research, the airborne natural chemicals that plants emit to warn off insects and strengthen their immune system has benefits for humans, too. The forest air leads to lower concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol, a lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure, leading to a much better attitude!  Even for tired, grumpy kids.

It works!
See you next time!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mengerson Nature Reserve, Allen County

     When I first embarked on my tour of surrounding nature preserves, I envisioned traveling through rural areas and navigating hilly back roads leading me to my destinations. And until now, I've been right.
     Mengerson Nature Reserve is located in the heart of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  In fact, we made a pit stop at Target right before we pulled in!  As we were parking, it struck me how odd it was to be at a nature preserve in the middle of the city.  But what a treasure for folks who live in town, to have a bit of Indiana's natural splendor so accessible!
"Which way to go?"  
     As we entered the preserve (once we decided which path to take), it was like entering another not situated in a town at all. Surrounded by the leafy trees, the active wildlife, and the calls of the birds, it was easy to forget where the preserve is located and get lost in nature's splendor.
The Mengerson Reserve was a gift of Carl and Ursula Mengerson, given in 1973. 
Carl Mengerson's Tree is an oak.
     The further we hiked, the more surprised I became at what a wonderful bit of forest is hiding right here in the city, from open meadow, to an area of early-stage woods, to a mature sugar maple forest! 

However, nothing surprised me more than when we stumbled upon her...
We finally found our deer!  Who knew it would be in a city preserve?!
     The kids actually saw her first.  We've been looking for deer, any animals really, on all of our hikes and the first one we find is in the middle of town.  How ironic.  We went on to see a 'possum and several rabbits in the Mengerson Reserve.
The Mengerson Reserve is 36 acres with about a mile of trails.
Ursula Mengerson's tree is a tulip.
     Not only did we have the opportunity to see and hear much wildlife today, but the kids and I saw many other interesting sights as well.
The proverbial "hollow log"
Long, peeling strips of bark on the Shagbark Hickory
European nightshade
Wormy paths carved by critters dining underneath the bark of an ash tree.
     Unbeknownst to the children, (who would have rolled their eyes had I said, "look at those neat branches") my eye caught these images.  Just branches and lines? Perhaps. But when I see them, my mind recalls images of some of my favorite stained glass artists.  
Magnolias and Irises, 1908
Louis Comfort Tiffany

Sleeping Christ, by Harry Clarke
Chapel of the Sacred Heart
Diseart Institute of Education and Celtic Culture

     The time is drawing near for me to begin working on my own stained glass images inspired by my walks with Indiana's nature.  I have many ideas bumping around in my head, but I also have a few more nature preserves to visit first. See you at the next one!

Monday, June 18, 2012

LIttle Wabash River Nature Preserve, Allen County
     A recent nature hike took us to Little Wabash River Nature Preserve in Allen county, near Roanoke, Indiana.  This area is former farmland, but you'd never know it now.  The former owner created a pond and hand planted many different varieties of trees.
A panoramic view of Little Wabash's pond and surrounding trees.  All of this was created on farmland  by the land's previous owner.
What was once perhaps corn and soybeans is now a well developed woodland.
Look at the variety of leaves in this photo!
This preserve contains cedar, cottonwood, willow, birch, oak, maple, spruce, basswood, hickory, beech, elm, tulip, black cherry, sweet gum, dogwood, sumac and cypress.  I wish I had known about this place when doing that pesky leaf-identification project in 5th grade!!
One of the only signs that this forest was planted by man - this cedar lined entrance path.  
      Even though this land no longer produces commercial crops, my little band of hikers found something to harvest...

Legend has it that the Greeks discovered raspberries in the 1st century BC, when they noticed them growing on a mountainside in Turkey. But people didn’t grow and eat raspberries back then like they do today.  Instead, the roots and blossoms of wild raspberry plants were used to make eye ointments, astringents, and teas for stomach and throat problems.
Raspberries made their way to America by the late 1700s, and commercial production of this tasty fruit was soon on the rise.  Today, people can’t seem to get enough of the them, like Hank here!  
Hank does't care that raspberries aren't considered a true berry, he just cares that they are tasty! Unlike true berries which have a single pericarp (the edible outside layer), raspberries are an "aggregate fruit" since they are actually a collection of smaller seeded fruits called "drupelets." A single raspberry has an average of 100 drupelets, each with it's own tiny seed inside.  

     With our tastebuds satisfied for the moment, we trekked on through the woods hoping to catch a glimpse of the deer this area is known for.  This preserve is commonly a crossroads for white-tailed deer, and is actually closed from November through January for permitted deer hunting.  But alas, we saw no deer today.  

Ferns near to the edge
the border, the field, the wood
the dappled shadow

~A haiku by Raymond Foss
     Perhaps our next journey into the nature of Indiana will bring us closer to seeing the illusive white-tailed deer.  Our hopes are high!  Come along with us...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cypress Meadow Nature Preserve, Allen County
     We've hit the trails again!  This time our nature explorations took us to the Cypress Meadow Nature Preserve in Allen County.  This preserve contains a lovely little pond surrounded by bald cypress, willow, and cottonwood trees.

I'm loving the panorama feature of my new camera!  Fuji Finepix S4250
Once you step foot into this preserve it is easy to forget that it's quite literally across the road from a major highway, I69!  
     As it's name implies, Cypress Meadow contains both cypress AND meadow.  The trails leading away from the pond take you to an open meadow where you can find young white oak, ash and walnut trees. 
A twisty trail walled with cypress and willow trees.
The "meadow" of Cypress Meadow.
      The meadow provides a suitable habitat for several native wildflowers.
Oxeye Daisy
Prairie Wild Rose
Hemp Dogbane
     I am always on the lookout for interesting visual compositions of shapes, textures, and colors on our hikes.  I am collecting many wonderful photos which I will ultimately use to design the stained glass panels for my Lilly Teacher Creativity fellowship project. Remember, that's why I'm taking all these nature hikes. You can visit my very first posts here and here to be reminded of my grant proposal and goals. 
I love the fierce directionality in the lines of this tall grass as it blows in the breeze.
The dark background behind these flowing, willowy branches really makes their
 color pop, and accentuates the curly, twisting lines.
     Another aspect of any nature walk in the Indiana summertime is the occasional tag-along guest...
These are American Dog Ticks. At one time on our walk, there were 6 ticks hitching a ride on Evelynn's shoe laces!   Later at home, we found 14 ticks making our dog General their new home.  Even as I sit here typing this, I'm beginning to get a case of the creepy-crawlies!
     Ticks or no ticks, they make great hiking companions!  Join us again next time, won't you?!