The Transylvania Times -

Explore The Wilderness Of Your Own Backyard


Last updated 4/6/2020 at 1:25pm

Jane Fought

The tightly coiled frond (fiddlehead) of a Christmas Fern is a wonderful discovery.

Typically, my husband, Clyde, and I get outside a lot, especially this time of year. We usually teach classes outside, scout trails, and guide trips in the forest or on the river. Not so this spring. We've had a lot more time around the house than what is typical for early April.

You can probably guess why. So, I'm not even going to mention the "C-word" in this article. Instead, I'm going to tell you how we are coping and hope it gives you a few things to try the next time you are feeling a little stir-crazy.

The focus lately has been exploring the wilderness of our own backyard. When you spend all of your outdoor time away from home, things get neglected around the yard, hence the "wilderness" aspect. Last night we took our third, fourth or maybe fifth walk around the yard and got distracted by the honeysuckle and multiflora rose. Both are invasives that have taken over our side yard.

About twenty minutes into our epic battle with vines and thorns, we discovered our neighbors, Annie and Hunter, cleaning out the brush on their side of tiny Otter Run Creek that separates our property. It was nice to see them, from a distance, and to share in the camaraderie of battling the demons of our wilderness. We all walked away from our respective battlefields tired, torn, bleeding and victorious. Ok, I might be getting a little over-dramatic about the wilderness thing, but that's what happens after a couple weeks of cancelling classes and trips and staying home.

Looking at this time as a practice in slowing down, being observant and soaking in the little things helps me to feel fulfilled even though I can't do all of the things I normally do this time of year.

Last night I looked up and just watched the clouds move across the sky. When the sun is shining I soak it in and take time to notice how warm it feels on my skin. Every day something new is blooming. First it was the trout lilies, then the bluets, violets, yellow root, and now the edible fiddlehead ferns have appeared. The redbud tree in our yard is bursting into a vibrant pink right before our very eyes.

The wildlife in our yard is pretty amazing too. I've tried to do a better job of keeping birdseed in the feeder. Watching the cardinals, chickadees, tufted-titmouse, house finch and red-breasted woodpeckers is a delightful distraction. Sometimes it even distracts us from the barrage of carpenter bees trying to turn the cabin into Swiss cheese.

The other day, Clyde pointed out what appeared to be a tiny piece of lichen crawling along on a rock. It was about the size of a dime and had tiny legs poking out from underneath. I was delighted to see a little lacewing larvae. It eats insects, such as aphids and scale. Then it places the carcasses of its victims on its back along with bits of lichen and bark – a perfect disguise from predators.

We have exactly one frog that we know of, but the only evidence is the sound of a plop and the visible ring in the water where it escapes into its puddle as we walk by. Nightlife is something we only see the next day on the video clips from our security cameras.

We have a stray cat that walks across our deck two or three times a week. We also have a raccoon that reminds us to bring the bird feeder inside overnight. A good reminder as our local bear population becomes more active.

Aldo Leopold, father of wildlife ecology, wrote about visitors to his property in the 1948 book "A Sand County Almanac." He said, "Like other great landowners, I have tenants. They are negligent about rents, but very punctilious about tenures. Indeed every daybreak...they proclaim their boundaries to each other, and so acknowledge, at least by inference, their fiefdom to me."

Clyde Carter and Jayne Fought celebrate victory over the invasives in their backyard.

Leopold would perch himself on a bench outside his cabin before daybreak and observe the dawning of a new day: "At 3:30 a.m., with such dignity as I can muster...I step from my cabin door, bearing in either hand my emblems of sovereignty, a coffee pot and notebook. I seat myself on a bench...get out my watch, pour coffee, and lay notebook on knee. This is the cue for the proclamations to begin."

Whatever the size of your outdoor space, take some time to observe it. I promise it holds mysteries to be discovered. Get out where you can and explore. It will set you free. Leopold understood this: "At daybreak I am the sole owner of all the acres I can walk over. It is not only boundaries that disappear, but also the thought of being bounded."

Jayne Fought is the owner of Island Ford Adventures, temporarily offering her outdoor education courses online. If you're looking for something to do while you are stuck at home, check out her upcoming classes, "Identifying Backyard Birds,""Trip Planning using CalTopo" and "Navigating using your Smartphone." Class Descriptions and dates are posted on the website at


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2020

Rendered 10/05/2020 11:17