Happy Campers

Finishing off this hot month of July with a “cool” snap while my oldest completes a week of botany camp at the Fort Worth Nature Center. This means mornings in the high 60’s to low 70’s which makes for perfect hiking. Yesterday they completed the longest hike in FWNC camper history, or so I am told – 4 miles on the Canyon Ridge trail. I tried to get her to wear her boots first day but she refused and wore her sneakers. Today she donned her boots.

They brought home seed heads collected from some fire wheel and bee balm plants after working in the greenhouse, and we are already plotting more wildflower areas of our tiny yard (they should go down soon, just as the plants are dropping seed pods in their own fields right now). We’re curious if the bee balm will be a two year cycle before they bloom much like our milkweed plants and coreopsis. I can’t appreciate the TLC the staff provide and the friendships she makes enough. Not to mention the privilege of learning this material as a 7 year old. I had no clue about the anatomy of a plant or flower until at least middle school. Here she gets to examine it all up close and in action.

My middle child finished up her second week of camp studying “magical forests.” Middle child came out squealing about her first spotted gar sighting, and she even saved up enough of her birthday money to purchase this coveted plush possum (after many close encounters with their teaching possum). All of the FWNC animals are only kept in captivity due to permanent injuries that prevent them from surviving on their own.

This little guy is especially docile and took a break from its daytime snooze in the cool earth to say hello. It travels from school to school helping kids learn about the magic of its being and other forest critters (and its super soft coat)!
Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge

They do not name any of the captive animals to help reinforce the idea that wild animals are not pets...

Some beautiful Texas critters on the threatened to vulnerable species list are the ornate and eastern box turtles, and their biggest demise is humans picking them up and keeping them as pets. Box turtles do not make good pets for children as they do not like to be handled (kids are hands – ha ha!) – so for those thinking of acquiring one from a breeder for your family, perhaps it’s better to wait until the kids are grown up (for further info see www.boxturtles.com).

You’ll often see turtles crossing the road. I’ve been told by the staff that they have a very strong sense of direction and once they’ve picked which way they are going they cannot be convinced otherwise. In other words, if you see a turtle crossing the road, don’t try to pick it up and face it in the opposite direction or turn it around. It will just end up going right back the way it was (which means back to danger). So really do help it complete the crossing if you do anything at all. And of course don’t try to take the turtle home. Most of them are only trying to seek higher ground to lay their eggs because every turtle needs to lay eggs in dry earth, whether they are water or earth dwellers.

So enough of the turtle soap box. A smattering of photos from the past couple weeks…

Clockwise from top L to bottom R: teaching the youngest to ID poison oak (“leaves of three”), hiking along the caprock trail with fossilized shells in limestone, through the caprock woods down to the prairie landscape, silverleaf nightshade blooms on the fork to the prairie trail, and a rare glimpse of the bison herd at the fence (they tend to move inland during the summer heat). I hear they have eight calves this season. There is nothing quite as beautiful and haunting a reminder of our American history as looking one of these creatures in the eye.

Adding this book to the remainder of my summer reading to get a better of idea of what life was like while these creatures roamed free in the numbers that allowed our native ecosystems to thrive.

Will be writing about more of our summer garden critters (and bugs!) soon… and more caterpillars! Our family just witnessed another mother swallowtail laying her eggs on our fennel from the kitchen window today – how’s that for a dinner show? Here’s an egg my daughter spotted on some fennel seed, which are all dried out by now and my kids think are especially tasty (the seeds, not the eggs).

Can you spot it?


  1. Discovered your blog today; my friend Steve Schwartzman told me about you. You have three, I have four. You are near Dallas, I near Houston. In the thick of teen chaos at the moment, and becoming a TX Master Naturalist are keeping me away from blogging at the moment. I do, however, look forward to reading more on your blog as time allows. Cheers from here! ~ Shannon

    1. Sarah

      Oh this makes me so happy! Becoming a master naturalist is on my bucket list. I started blogging hoping to educate myself and make connections, especially with others who don’t think I’m nuts when I get all giddy about the idea of a pocket prairie or the solitary wasp who is nesting on my compost bin! And then I get even more excited about getting our kids involved. Your blog is a delight to read. Thank you for reaching out! I look forward to reading more from you soon, whether they be older posts or new.

Leave a Reply