Tag Archives: nature

Walking My Ozark Hills

Walking my Ozark hills has been a real joy for many years now. They provide inspiration for some of my posts, comfort when things go awry, relaxation on lazy afternoons.

Watching the goats out in the pasture the other day reminded me of some people who wanted to buy some goats one year. I warn people to set up a day when they will come by so I can keep the goats in.

walking my Ozark hills can be challenging
This Ozark hill is very steep. All those leaves hide gravel, holes, fallen branches and other hazards. Only an emergency will get me to go straight up this hill.

These people were expected in the morning. Instead a vehicle pulls up the afternoon before. They were out driving and thought they would drop by to see the goats.

using a goat and deer path for walking my Ozark hills
Goat paths are often easy to follow. They angle along most of the way up then fan out leaving me scrambling the last third of the way. One hazard of following a goat path is being taller than they are. There are times I must detour around fallen trees they walk under or over.

I knew where the goats were. They were on top of the hill. Walking my Ozark hills had long since taught me to respect them. I warned these people about how steep they were. They insisted they were in shape and would enjoy a little hiking.

hillside gravel
Loose gravel is an accident waiting to happen. My Ozark hill is covered with the stuff. It shifts underfoot. It slides down taking my foot with it. Hill climbing shoes must have good tread.

We set off across the bridge and out along the side of the hill. I knew from previous times the far end was an easier way up. They kept pace until we started up the hill.

This hill is steep, stair steep without the stairs. It is covered with loose gravel that rolls under foot. It is a steady climb of a couple hundred feet or more.

lichen and moss on rock
Larger rocks are covered with folious lichen and moss. This is interesting to look at. It is dangerous to assume such rocks are securely embedded in the hill. The bigger ones are. The smaller ones often aren’t.

We got to the top of the hill. The goats looked us over and decided to move over to the next hill. A cascade went past down the hill and up the next hill.

The people watched the goats go by. I asked if they wanted to follow the herd. They declined. They would be back in the morning as previously arranged. I heard panting as we went down the hill.

looking at the creek walking my Ozark hills
Steep as the hill is going up, don’t look down. The creek flows along much of this particular hill. The path can run on the edge of the slope down. There are places where one slip on the gravel will land me in the creek. So far I’ve only slid down five or six feet before stopping. It does get scary at times.

Walking my Ozark hills never seemed that bad to me, at least not going up. I tend to follow the goat trails and set a steady pace. It’s good aerobic exercise.

The hard part is coming back down. Some parts are done tree to tree or sitting down and sliding. Who needs a roller coaster when I have my hills?

Enjoy my Ozark hills in My Ozark Home.

Search For Silence Brings Quiet

Noise seems to be everywhere. At times it is overwhelming, leading to a desire for silence, an absence of all the noise.

I have never heard silence, that total absence of sound. Doing so seems an impossibility for any person able to hear. Perhaps someone who is deaf can hear total silence, I do not know.

Silence is one of those things people say they want to hear. In this technological world companies make ear covers to keep out all outside noise. I’ve never tried a pair of these, but have no doubt they work.

nature brings quiet

Several years ago I found this place to sit. The redbud tree has grown. The hillside is above me. The creek is below me. It is a quiet, restful place to sit where time seems to suspend itself.

Even with these silence is not truly possible. There is an old story that, if you hold a large sea shell to your ear, you will hear the ocean. You don’t. You hear the sound of your blood coursing through your ears. These ear covers can’t keep out this sound.

Discounting this, there is still the sound of your breathing. The brain seems wired for sound and can generate clicks and roars, that ringing in the ears to keep silence at bay.

Ozarks can bring quiet vistas

Once spring arrives in the Ozarks, the hills become a place of daily change as wildflowers grow and bloom, trees leaf out, their greens shifting through the summer until they color for fall.

Instead of attempting to find silence, seek quiet. The problem isn’t noise, but the overabundance of noise. Consider the ordinary house.

I’ve walked into houses and heard the television playing to an empty room, the radio blaring elsewhere, computers or other devices spewing music. No one is listening to any of these. They are background noise to keep silence at bay.

trees and clouds bring quiet

Overhead the leaves move in the breeze casting changing shadow patterns on the ground. Above the trees the clouds can make fantastic shapes. Both can let the mind feel quiet.

Even if these devices are turned off, other motors hum. Refrigerators, freezers, water pumps, air conditioners, heaters, all the devices we depend on for our lifestyles rumble along in the background.

In the rural Ozarks a big storm can drop the electric lines. All the motors cease. Intense quiet seeps through the house.

Nerves relax. Muscles relax. Ears strain. Then comes the sigh of relief. A clock is ticking. It’s quiet, not silence, quiet.

creek sounds bring quiet

The sound of water gurgling down an Ozark creek is restful. Watching the creek can let me spot a snapping turtle or a mink. The simple sounds of wind and water make the mind feel quiet.

For people used to noise, this quiet can become disturbing. There is supposed to be noise, the brain says.

Me? I relished the quiet. I reveled in this quiet. My nerves seemed to relax. My mind let the quiet seep in bringing calmness with it. The resuming hum of the refrigerator, when the electricity came back on, was an intrusion and resented as well as appreciated.

Most of the time quiet must be sought out away from houses or barns or roads. It’s there, out in the woods where the sounds are bird calls and wind. Even better is a snowy field. Snow seems to hush all sounds but the whisper of wind.

I will never find true silence. It’s not what I want. Quiet is preferable. Quiet to hear the world live, the mind think, letting stress seep away.

Savor some of the sights and sounds of the Ozarks in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Is It a Bird Dropping Or Not?

I washed my truck the other day. A short time later the white streak of bird dropping streaked the window.

Like the rest of nature birds have leftovers from the food they eat. Unlike the rest of nature this waste can become bombs on those who are earth bound.

Other than by bacteria a bird dropping is ignored by a hungry world. This has not gone unnoticed.

Birds consider caterpillars tasty morsels. Caterpillars would rather not become dinner for a hungry bird. How do you fool a bird?

One method came to my attention the other day.

bird dropping caterpillar

This is one strange looking caterpillar with color blotches and knobs.

Caterpillars are not uncommon but often overlooked. Disappearing leaves give evidence of their presence but even careful looking does not reveal the eater. So finding an interesting looking caterpillar is a reason to stop and take a closer look.

This caterpillar was busy eating which is the main occupation of a caterpillar. It had these big knobby antennae and blotchy body making it an interesting picture.

bird dropping caterpillar shamming

Now the color blotches and knobs become a bird dropping disguise as the caterpillar goes into defensive mode.

A leaf was in the way so I moved the branch. Immediately the caterpillar was no longer. Instead the branch was adorned by a bird dropping.

Those blotches now topped humps balancing on the leaf. The head sagged down with those knobby antennae looking like drips frozen into place. The colors were exactly those of a bird dropping.

As intended the caterpillar remained motionless until I moved on leaving it to resume eating.

hornworm caterpillar

The shape and horn mark this caterpillar as a sphinx moth type similar to the tomato hornworm. This one is consuming Virginia creeper leaves.

A short way down the trail a Virginia creeper leaf was all but gone disappearing down the gullet of another caterpillar. This was a brown sphinx moth caterpillar similar to a tomato hornworm.

a different bird dropping pose

Defensive mode for the sphinx moth caterpillar is to hang down and play dead. Its color is that of a bird dropping. Its stance makes it look unappetizing.

In taking a couple of pictures I moved the vine. Again I had a bird dropping hanging down.

This dropping was not as convincing as the first one but definitely made this tasty morsel look unappetizing. The fact that I am not inclined to eat caterpillars in the first place might have influenced my opinion. Still that hanging lumpy body looked dead.

bristly caterpillar

This caterpillar relies on the red warning color and numerous stiff bristles to discourage hungry birds.

Other caterpillars use other ruses such as webs or bristles or freezing into sticks to fool hungry birds. Since there are many moths and butterflies these must work. But the bird dropping disguise was interesting to see.

Check out Exploring the Ozark Hills for more nature essays and photographs.

Watchers At the Pond

Recently I read a book called “Watchers At the Pond” by Franklin Russell. The author observed a pond from one winter through the seasons to the next winter in the book.

Russell was a single watcher. So why is it watchers in the title?

The descriptive prose describing the pond, the days and events sometimes borders on poetic. This quote leads up to a disastrous cloudburst.

“Shortly after dawn – a red dawn of awesome proportions, stretching almost from north to south, bloodying the pond waters and eerily lighting the depths of the forest with a red glow – the pressure of the air began dropping steeply and registered in the senses of many creatures.”

For people Nature can have awesome beauty. This beauty sells big books of photographs of places like the Grand Canyon.

leafhoppers eating are still watchers

Leafhoppers suck sap. These are lined up along a plant stem draining the stalk. Small as they are, the leafhoppers saw me and moved around the stem to avoid me.

For the creatures at the pond this beauty goes unnoticed. These are the watchers. From microscopic to hawks, rabbits and foxes all the creatures watch and are watched.

Prey animals stay on the alert as they grab a meal. Any scent or noise or movement is reason to pause and ready themselves as a runner waiting for the starting gun.

spiders are watchers too

This butterfly didn’t watch well enough. The red jumping spider did watch well enough to catch a meal.

Predators watch for prey animals. Any scent or noise or movement is reason to go into hunting mode.

The resulting carnage is great. Most young animals never grow up. Adults rarely live to old age.

creek fence in flood

The flood may wash out my fence. It is time consuming to replace. For the creatures who live here, the fish, the frogs, the insect larvae, this is disaster that will kill many and wash others far away.

Even Nature destroys. For a creature the size of a sparrow the deluge from that cloudburst rivaled the worst floods recorded by people.

Hail is ice and as hard as a rock especially when falling from great heights. Quarter sized hail is as big as a sparrow’s head.

woolly aphids eating

At first this looks like a moth with eggs. In truth this is a woolly aphid with baby aphids. They stab the leaf and suck the sap out. They are not very wary perhaps hoping to overwhelm their enemies with sheer numbers. Aphids reproduce quickly.

Newspapers mention such storms and the damage to people and their belongings. To us such a storm causes problems but the debris is quickly cleaned up.

For small creatures such a storm leaves the ground littered with the dead and dying.

Yet even the pond and the survivors recover. The scavengers clean up the debris and bodies. In Nature life depends on death for food and nutrients to feed those alive and growing.

And the watchers resume their vigils.