- Hit the Trails
- Honey Fest
- Nature Center
- Nature's Noel
- Plant Sale
- Summer Camp
- Syrup Fest
Naturalist Jennifer Rupp loves, loves, LOVES astronomy! There’s a big event coming up. Let her tell you about it….(and be sure to watch the awesome video she’s linked to)
I had the best mentor in Astronomy a kid could ask for growing up. His methods, patience and ideas influence the way I think and plan for teaching others about astronomy to this day. I used to ask him questions incessantly. One of my favorite topics was aliens. “Have you ever seen a UFO?” I would ask. “The folks who aren’t familiar with the sky are usually the ones who see ‘space ships’. They don’t realize that they may be seeing something that’s supposed to be there!” he would reply.
Well everyone, be prepared. Near the end of this month, and the first part of June, there will be something happening in the Northwest for all to see! And no, they aren’t UFO’s! They’re three of our solar system’s planets in the sky together. Mercury (the planet so close to the sun that it never appears in the sky very high), Venus, and Jupiter will appear near each other, and over time move closer before going their separate ways. Keep in mind, this is all three dimensional, so they only APPEAR near to each other. Some days, there will be an astronomical conjunction. That means that they appear on the same lines either in Right ascension or Declination (basically the latitude and longitudinal coordinates of the sky). It will be an impressive sight. If you’d like more information, you can find a video depicting the phenomenon, as well as much more information about exciting sky happenings here:
Keep an eye on the Indian Creek Nature Center’s calendar for family friendly astronomy programs.
Consider joining an astronomy club in your area! It will open your mind, and help you realize that the sky is more than two dimensions! For all of you here in Cedar Rapids, the local astronomy club can be found at: http://www.cedar-astronomers.org/ .
Jan waxes poetic about the beautiful wildflowers springing up around our grounds…
The fairyland quality of the vernal woods draws many wildflower lovers. Oak-hickory woodland floors are sprinkled with subtle hues of ephemeral wildflowers dancing with the wind. Ephemeral means “here today, gone tomorrow” – the perfect description of these hardy, mostly perennial wildflowers who rush through their entire growing season in the brief window of spring when sunlight can reach the forest floor just prior to tree leaf-out. Once the tree canopy fills with leaves, these gentle little beauties have completed their bloom cycle and disappear, returning to dormancy to wait for next spring.
No time to wander the woods? You can enjoy many of these amazing little flowers along the trails near the barn. Here are a few of my favorites and their interesting stories.
As you approach the barn, enjoy the welcoming bluebells along both sides of the walkway. Around the rocks at the side of the front door fuzzy, heart-shaped leaves have poked through the ground cover. Wild ginger is preparing to bloom but don’t expect a dazzling show. Its maroon colored cup-shaped bloom will hide under the fuzzy leaves and embrace the ground where it invites a pollinator inside to dine. Beetles and slugs are the invited pollinator guests.
From the vantage point of Prairie Gate Bridge behind the Sugar House you will see a dense patch of lancelet-shaped, speckled, dusky green leaves poking through the oak leaf litter. This is trout lily or dogtooth violet. Look closely for the delicate white star-shaped blooms. Some years there are none but this year trout lily has sent up its flowers. A plant has to be seven years old before it flowers. Trout lily has two strategies for ensuring future generations. One is by flowering and producing seed but the other strategy occurs underground and is asexual. The patch continues to spread when the deeply buried bulb sends out long shoots to produce new plants. Hundreds of plants may grow in the dense patch.
On the sides and banks of this ravine you will find many other species: spring beauties, nodding trillium, bloodroot, anemone, windflowers and bellwort. By mid-May the umbrella-leafed mayapples will be sporting their waxy-white blossoms. Red columbine will nod in the breeze inviting arriving hummingbirds to feast on nectar tucked deep within the tubular flower. Often bumble bees raid this sweet treat. Too large to fit inside the flower and unable to reach the nectar, bumble bees bite into the base of the flower and steal nectar without returning the gift of pollination to the plant.
Enjoy your walk and visit often. As the seasons unfold, there is always something new to behold.
Dana wants you to know about our big Plant Sale! It goes on … rain, snow or shine!
This three-hour event is hosted by members of the Nature Center Guild and offers a variety of annuals and perennials. Whether shopping for Mother’s Day or for your own backyard, you will enjoy browsing the available wildflowers, prairie grasses, geraniums, and hostas. In addition, vendors will be selling herbs, small bushes, and garden art. A Master Gardener will be available to answer your questions and offer advice.
Proceeds from the Plant Sale help the Nature Center provide educational programming to thousands of children and to care for more than 210 acres of land. The event will be held rain or shine. No charge cards accepted. For more information, call (319) 362-0664.
Vendors include: Skyline Farm, Electric Cat Art in Steel, Kroul Farm Garden & Greenhouses, Plant Me A Garden, Recyclewomen, Kramer’s Flower Farm, Nancy McWherter, Sharon Wright & Myrna Myers, Fleming Nursery, Synergy Metalworks, and Chalupsky Nursery.
As we head towards our 30th annual Maple Syrup Festival this weekend, we take a look back at the very first sugarmaker at the Nature Center – Director Rich Patterson’s father-in-law, Leslie Fellows. The Fellows family lived in New Boston, New Hampshire – about 30 miles west of Manchester. Daughters Marion (Rich’s wife) and Jacqueline have many fond childhood memories to share with us. Makes it sound like a pretty wonderful way to grow up!
New Boston, 1944 to 1952
Our parents bought this beautiful farmhouse perched atop Meeting House Road in New Boston, New Hampshire, in 1944 for a mere $1,500 which then was a small fortune. This would be our home for my childhood formative years. I remember it being in need of lots of tender loving care. Our father was a man of multiple tinkering abilities…mechanic, farmer, carpenter, hunter and collector of maple sap.
He poked the metal taps into holes that he had drilled with a hand drill. Can you imagine that? None of this stuff with electric batteries or wires to a socket. He had to be some strong to keep that drill winding around and around with the curly cues of bark and inner membranes filtering to the ground. Then there it was sap seeping from the maple wood. He popped in the tap and soon the sap was plinking into the metal pail.
Today you see miles of plastic tubing stretching through the woods from tree to tree ferrying the sap to huge containers. My father in the day had to empty the pails one at a time from the trees into a larger pail. Then he replaced the pail for it to refill.
He carried this treasure to a huge old cast iron kitchen stove that he placed out back in a sheltered area by the porch. Piles of chopped wood waited their turn in the blazing fire. The kettle puffed steam as the heat slowly reduced the sap to a golden syrup. Dad always went for the pure golden syrup first. As the season wore on the sap became a darker color which wasn’t the creme of the crop as far as he was concerned. You had to hold that canning jar up to the sun to see the purity gleaming with golden shafts of yummy syrup.
This activity continued from February into March until finally the warm weather replaced the cold nights and warm days when the sap flowed the very best. Mom was the inside crew creating delicious breakfasts with pancakes and coffee. A fabulous treat was the winter candy created from steaming maple syrup. Dad would collect new fallen snow and packed it into a pan. Then he poured streams of hot syrup onto the snow. Just as fast as it hit the snow, it froze in place. Voila! There was another winter treat! It was so good. I can remember it sticking to my teeth and I would have to suck all the goodness and let it trickle down my throat.
This is one of my favorite memories as a youngster growing up in New Boston. Next to sledding the length of Back Meeting House Road down to Mr. Thompson’s garage, maple syruping is the best!
It always surprises me how many people think we close up and go home for the winter. Not even CLOSE! The wildlife around here (and no, I’m not talking about the staff) is active and fun to watch. We keep the feeders stocked and if you’re into birdwatching, it’s a great place to be!
Our winter calendar is every bit as busy as any other time of the year. In fact, sometimes even more so! It’s a good time to take a closer look at the many exhibits we have in the barn…the dioramas, the animal mounts, the energy efficiency exhibits, a recap of the 2008 flood, and more. It’s an even BETTER time to get outside and get some fresh air into your lungs, stretch your legs and work off that holiday turkey! We have special family programs scheduled during the week between Christmas and New Years when many of you are taking extra time off. Fun if it snows, fun it there’s no snow!
Nature goes on all year ’round, and so does the Nature Center. Check out our calendar and find something new to try. We look forward to seeing you this winter!