Kamana Student Services http://kamana.org Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:45:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Have you sorted out your new Student Servicing? http://kamana.org/blog/2014/03/17/have-you-sorted-out-your-new-student-servicing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=have-you-sorted-out-your-new-student-servicing http://kamana.org/blog/2014/03/17/have-you-sorted-out-your-new-student-servicing/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 18:14:22 +0000 http://members.kamana.org/?p=5784 Take Our Poll ]]>
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This Week in the Woods: March 2014 http://kamana.org/blog/2014/03/17/this-week-in-the-woods-march-2014/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=this-week-in-the-woods-march-2014 http://kamana.org/blog/2014/03/17/this-week-in-the-woods-march-2014/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 17:17:33 +0000 http://members.kamana.org/?p=5782 The trickle of spring gains strength each day. The high temperatures are moving into  the 50’s and the light lingers longer every evening. The weather is uncertain still, the day begins in sunshine then a few hours later the water falls from the sky with such force and volume the word rain seems totally inadequate, the rain turns to hail which hits the ground so hard it bounces in random directions. Then the sun returns and the warmth sends water vapors soaring back into the sky completing the cycle. March is wait awhile weather, if you don’t like the weather just wait awhile, it will change.

The morning light starts about 6:25am and is greeted with songs from Robins,  Towhees, Juncos and finches as these resident birds are setting up and defending territories. The boundaries are not fully established yet and a great deal of chasing, chest bumping and other displays are in progress. From the dark woods the long lingering minor note whistle drifts in the early light, as the Varied thrushes say goodbye to the lowland woods and begin their trip back up the mountain slopes.  The numbers of ducks swell and diminish on the local ponds and lakes as northbound migrants stop in for a day or two on their journey. The first swallows and hummingbirds arrive but these early birds are just stopping by to catch a bite before continuing northward. The hillsides are turning a dull red-brown as the Alders catkins droop  and grow longer each day.

The bright green flags of Indian plum slowly unfurl into bangles of white flowers just in time to provide energy for the Dance flies reproductive antics. Dance flies are in the family Empididae and have round ball-like heads with a longish “beak” which they use to impale their prey.  These are small flies which most people would never notice except on sunny days from mid-March to early April when they gather in swarms to do their mating. The males catch a juicy insect then carry it into the swarm of flies. He flies rhythmically up and down and often the whole swarm seems to synchronize to some inner beat. The female flies horizontally through the up and down movement and spotting a male of her fancy, she starts matching his up and down movement. Finally she makes a move for the food he is carrying and he drops it and grabs her and they tumble to the ground to mate.  If you find a swarm in a particular place in your yard or garden make a mental note of it as these small flies often bring their big dance show to the same location year after year.

Near the edge of a river a huge Pterodactyl-like bird lands awkwardly in a tree. Surprisingly there are several more of these 4 foot tall birds, flapping wings and squawking, sounding like some primitive animal from Jurassic Park. They are Great blue herons returning to the nesting area. A heron rookery may contain dozens of nests and in late March nest building and repair precede egg laying in early April.  Herons are birds of wetlands and shorelines, standing every so patiently at the water’s edge waiting for a fish to make a mistake. Then with lightning speed they stab into the water with their large strong bill and more often than not come up with a wriggling fish. They can also be found in fields where they sometimes hunt voles or frogs with the same technique. It seems odd to see these large gangly birds in trees but they are well worth watching this month as the birds do elaborate posturing rituals as they pair bond at the nesting area.  Throughout the winter these stately birds have generally been tolerant of each other as they feed in the same general area.  This changes in spring and the males may fly at each other and rapidly clap their beaks to chase other males away.

Down on the mighty Columbia river swarms of gulls and diving birds splash and dive  and  more than  a hundred sea lions work from below, popping up to the surface only to be heckled by the loud swirling masses of birds. What has brought them all together is the return of an endangered fish who has come upstream from the ocean to lay eggs. And no, it’s not a salmon. It’s a 20 mile long mass of Pacific Smelt. This 6-9 inch fish once swarmed the shores and river banks by the millions each year.

The annual smelt dip was a family ritual for many north westerners and all you needed was a small hand net and a bucket. During the peak of the run dippers could stand along a river bank and fill a 5 gallon bucket in minutes. I recall one outing where the banks of the Cowlitz river were lined with fisherman on one side, river otters and seals on the other and thousands of gulls soared and dove into the water. The cacophony of thousands of gulls overhead still rings in my ears.

Alas, like all such natural bonanzas, we took more than nature could replace and by the 1990’s smelt dipping became a memory. However both last year and this year the Smelt have returned in large enough numbers that a limited season of riverbank dipping harvest is underway once again. This small fish was a huge part of the oceanic food chain and its return is a blessing for the many species that rely on its abundance.

Meanwhile, upstream from the smelt, the Pink Salmon are emerging from their gravel nurseries. The tiny fish still have a bit of egg showing but they are eating and on the move. The spring melt water will wash them out to Puget Sound and the young fish will head out on their 15 month ocean adventure, perhaps passing the smelt as they go.

At the forest edge where the Alders and Salmonberry mix with Cedars there is a movement  under a dark tangle  of Sword  fern fronds.  A small pointed nose appears, vanishes, then near a log another movement. Finally the tiny creature pauses and stands up on its hind legs to sniff the air. It’s a Shrew, a small mouse-like insectivore. It is non-stop motion, swinging its head side to side, darting here, poking under there. It wriggles its upper body part way under some fallen bark and then rears back using its hind legs to pull an earthworm  twice as long  as its body out from under the bark. It spends the next few minutes slurping down this giant meal. When it has eaten about half the worm it suddenly goes still, lays it down and closes its eyes. Is the shrew dead? Did it just die from overeating?

Nope, it just took a nap. After a brief six minute siesta it continues to devour the rest of the worm. This particular shrew is active 24 hours a day and so at regular intervals they fall asleep wherever they are.  After another nap the shrew is off hunting again. To fuel its incredible metabolism is must consume 2.5  times its body weight. The tiny hunter pauses, turns its head back and forth as if to home in on something then runs full speed towards an opening near the road.

From under an overhang of a fallen log there is something almost roundish and black and yellow emerging from the ground. The shape turns out to be a queen bumblebee who mated last August and in early September found a dry and insulated spot to sleep through the winter.  On this sunny spring day she has crawled slowly out of the earth and sits in the sunshine, soaking up the warmth. She vibrates her wings, slowly at first and then faster and faster, the pitch moves from a low buzz to a whine and she makes a short hop to stay in the sun.  Suddenly the shrew appears and the bee uses her wings to push herself upward while using her feet to climb a salmonberry stalk. It’s a desperate chase, the shrew climbing behind the bee begins to gain and as it almost reaches the bee the she takes off into the air and leaves the small mammal dangling on the stalk. The shrew runs down the stalk and continues the chase on the ground and both disappear into the brush. The fate of the bee will be decided by how much energy reserve she has left over from winter. The heightened level of activity of predator avoidance cannot be maintained more  than a few more minutes.

On a warm rainy night there are several tree frogs in motion. They are late to the party, the noisy chorus  of hundreds swells from the wetland edge. As the late comers arrive they need to find a space to call their own and begin singing. One by one the males are approached by females and they clasp each other and crawl awkwardly from the shore into the water.  Later the females will lay small bubbles of clear egg clusters on bits of grass and small twigs and both will move out back into the woods for the rest of the year, leaving their offspring to fend for themselves.

Under a maple tree there are hundreds of sprouting seeds, each with two small leaves. They form a green carpet for a day or two. The deer mice come out after dark and graze these maple pastures, neatly snipping off each stem about an inch from the ground. If there is a high population of mice they will completely eat up all the maple sprouts. However, if a predator like a weasel or owl moves in, the mouse population drops and more maple seedlings will survive to sapling size. The black-tailed deer love maple saplings, and if their population is high, they will eat all the saplings under 10 feet tall. So, for maples to reproduce themselves they need predators to eat or scare away the herbivores that will consume the maples younger stages. So when you look at a forest the age and species composition of trees have been shaped by the small armies of mice and deer.

Every day the bird voices grow  louder, and more and more flowers appear. Take a walk in the surging tide of  spring and let me know what you find there.

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Working with Winter http://kamana.org/blog/2014/03/12/working-with-winter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=working-with-winter http://kamana.org/blog/2014/03/12/working-with-winter/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 22:45:40 +0000 http://members.kamana.org/?p=5780 Winter is asserting itself this year.  Front after front moves through my area bringing a mix of icy wind and precipitation that has really curbed my outdoor adventures. The ground conditions are so changeable that I am forced to choose one of three kinds of bulky footwear depending on the moment.  I dress in multiple layers and my beloved toe shoes sit quietly in the closet awaiting a warm, dry day.

My daily outdoor activities are confined to two 45 minute walks of our new dog Charlie.  He is an 80 pound puppy, full of life and energy, and his youth and well-being require lots of exercise.  For an amateur naturalist, this lack of outside study time would seem to be a problem.  Yet I’ve found that this is not the case at all.  Nature offers us blessings in winter just as it does the rest of the year. You just have to know how to find them.  But wait. You already know this, don’t you?  Sure you do.  It was first revealed in the opening pages of Kamana one.

The blessings of winter are found in the Thanksgiving Address.  In winter, the elements of the Thanksgiving Address become concentrated and this allows us to really notice and experience them.  When I walk in winter, the things I take for granted at other times of the year reintroduce themselves and remind me of the Kamana basics I’ve let lapse. For this winter, my reminder came on the north side of the water catchment that begins one of our favorite trails.

It was a particularly cold day but it was calm and the sun was bright.  On the north side of the catchment I caught the sun.  The feeling of warmth on my very cold face was glorious and a moment for spontaneous thanks.  That beautiful moment of warmth renewed and fed my spirit.  It gently took over my mind and asked me “How many times have you recited the thanksgiving address recently?”  Being a little ashamed of my lapses, I decided that Charlie and I would consciously walk thankfully each day.  I would set the thanksgiving in the order I encounter the elements and what I don’t encounter I would add to the end.

So what has this renewal of thanksgiving done for me? Well for starters, walking in the rain, which is my least favorite weather, is better appreciated.  Because I walk morning and afternoon every day, I am very aware of the local air quality.  I can now smell and see the cleansing of the air when I walk in the rain.  I’ve noticed the birds will feed in the rain if it will be long lasting and if it’s only a shower, they stop feeding.

I see the waters rise and fall as the runoff enters the reservoirs and streams.  I also see the beauty of the water surface as it changes with the winds, the cold, and the rain.  The waters stillness reminds me to thank the water and those that live in it.

The birds have allowed me to close in again.  I get scolded for not walking softly and rewarded with close encounters when I do. My trail has led me to my first owl pellet of recently deceased rodent, something I’ve always wanted to find. The raptors also reward me by allowing me to see them capture game and they often land in the branches just before me.

Thanksgiving helped me decide to plant an onion that had sprouted in the bag, and it has led me to section more and plant them as well.  Thankfulness and delight wells up as I witness the low plants thriving to feed me. This little kitchen discovery led to the next.  I was getting garlic for a meal and decided to tear one of those apart and plant each clove individually.  Again they have all sprouted and I’m thrilled by this simple exercise; an exercise I should have been aware of long ago.

The things to thank Mother Earth for are seen in the tangible way she’s nurturing my little garden to provide for me.  As the sprouts broke the surface, I was reminded of my old worm bin that’s been idle for 11 years, so I’ve cranked that up again as well.  We forget about the creatures that live under the ground, and the critical work they do for us.  Managing the worm bin allows me to see the soil being made by the reconstitution of everything that falls to the ground.  My thanks can now be given by feeding back to the earth my small offering of rich fertile castings.  I water my house plants with the liquid the bin produces and they’ve responded with vigorous health and beauty.

Thanksgiving to the four winds has more meaning now.  I have literally been hit in the face with cold fronts that drop the air temperature like a freezer door opening.  I’ve felt the warmth as a wind shift changes to a southerly breeze.  I’ve learned to use convection to regulate my core temperature by exposing different parts of my skin to cool me as I walk along.  In other articles I’ve talked about the flowing breeze that can be followed over the treetops, and now I can add the little ground eddies that play with the leaves and small plants.

I have learned to see how the clouds and the winds work together to foretell of incoming precipitation or of another day of pleasant weather. This has become so accurate that, on several occasions, I’ve been able to out forecast the 6 o’clock news.  There is no secret here; anyone can do this if they just look up and take notice.

Thanking the four legged beings is easy.  The mammals are seen all the time, from the ever present squirrel to the fighting raccoons.  The deer wander across the yard and, on one very snowy day, two gorgeous grey fox broke cover, circled us, and then returned to the shelter they had chosen for the storm.  Most obviously, I have young Charlie to help show me how much the animals have to teach.  He’s shown me the value of leaving the watch at home and just following where our noses lead us.  To have fun and play like no one’s watching.

I thank people every time I take out a reference book or research a subject that catches my attention.  I thank them for documenting their wisdom and creating the inventions that make life easier. It’s also the subject of people that lure my mind into noisy conversation and occupy me so completely that I forget to apply all I’ve learned about walking in nature.  Thank goodness for the birds and mammals who react out of character and catch my attention.  Their message is clear: Stop for a moment, quiet my mind, and be more respectful.

The trees and shrubs are mostly asleep right now but still they receive thanks.  Awake, asleep, or dead, they work to provide food, medicine, shelter, and block the wind when we have to walk in foul conditions.  The smell of smoke from a chimney tells of a tree who’s ended its life yet still works to provide someone warmth and comfort. Trees and shrubs also provide the unmoving negative spaces that allow me to easily detect movement.  It’s only in winter, when the curtain that masks the landscape is dropped, that I get to see so deep into the forest and recalibrate my gaze back down to the actual level that wildlife plays and works at.

The moon and the stars are thanked every night and their power is celebrated when I can turn off the headlamp and walk in shadowy night time world.  A world that’s so exciting and peaceful at the same time.

That leaves the Creator and the unborn to thank.  By giving thanks to all I see, I feel the creator has heard my appreciation for all the gifts I’ve been given.  And if I can pass down any of my own knowledge and wisdom, I thank those yet to be born for carrying what we’ve learned into the future.

The thanksgiving address is not something I just recite.  I try to live it, I wander through it, and I experience it with honest appreciation.  It tells me what to concentrate on when there appears to be nothing to do outside.  At this time of year it tells us that winter is brought on the spirit of the four winds to offers us a glimpse of the secrets that lay hidden during the rest of the year.  Secrets that help us in our studies come summer.

Why not bundle up and go see it while you can? You’ll be thankful that you did.


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This Week in the Woods: January 2014 http://kamana.org/blog/2014/01/24/this-week-in-the-woods-january-2014/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=this-week-in-the-woods-january-2014 http://kamana.org/blog/2014/01/24/this-week-in-the-woods-january-2014/#comments Sat, 25 Jan 2014 01:04:36 +0000 http://members.kamana.org/?p=5746 You have probably begun to notice that the darkness of winter is slowly melting. With each turn of the globe the light gains strength, although the coldest days of the year still grip the woods.  January is where we trade cold sunshine for warmer clouds, so the ground either squishes or crunches underfoot. It is surprising that we average 4 mostly clear days in January and this year we have been gifted many more.

A winter storm blasts through the forest bringing undulating sheets of rain. The trees dance wildly, the long branches shimmy and wave as they ride the wind. The day after is calm and almost every square inch the forest floor is covered in bits of branches and clumps of lichens. The pungent smell of resin and bough fills the air. At the peak of the wind storm there is a loud muffled cracking sound and a 70 foot tall Douglas fir begins to vibrate violently and the trunk tilts at an ever growing angle. The tree reaches the point of no return and picks up speed as it falls. A small hemlock is in the fall path and the two collide with a loud crash and snapping of branches. Bits of branch, bark, needle and lichen are thrown 25 feet in the air like forest confetti.  Although the trees lay broken on the ground the green needles still do their job, gathering the energy of light to break apart water and carbon dioxide and convert it into sugars. It will take several days for the trees to finally die.

Just inside the bark of the fallen trees are tubes full of sugars which the living tree was transporting down to the roots.  Now that the tree has broken its connection with the soil those sugars have begun to ferment and within a month there will be tiny piles of sawdust on the bark the calling card of beetles who have been attracted by the aftershave-like smell from the fermented sugar in the newly fallen tree.  The tiny sawdust piles are from Ambrosia beetles who are the first of a vast army that will take up residence inside the dead tree. Within six months of its death a tree might host more than 100 species in the dark moist world inside the bark. Within a year of its falling a dead tree will host more life in its dead body than it did when it was alive, all playing a role in the long term project of converting the tree into forest soil.

The beetles chew into the tough outer skin of the tree and then chew a six inch tunnel. They then carve out short side tunnels. The female does all this work then she goes topside and sends a chemical valentine into the wind to attract a mate. Once mated she lays a small group of eggs in each side tunnel then does an odd dance which scatters fungal spores from special receptacles in her antenna. The spores sprout rapidly into a white fungal mass which the hatching beetle larva feed upon. Other insect moochers move in and graze on the fungus followed closely by predators. A Pileated woodpecker may rip open the bark and eat the developing beetles and Horn-tail wasps stick their long stiff ovipositor into the holes in the bark fishing for larvae to use as hosts for their glued on eggs. Other beetles move in and eat the rich layers just under the bark, creating a vast honeycomb of trails.

Over time major changes modify the habitat of  the dead tree  which invites a succession of different residents. The mushroom matrix from the forest floor expands into the fallen tree, collecting its water and nutrients and passing them to the living trees nearby. The seeds of trees and plants find root and grow out of the log, the bark sloughs off forming a pile beneath the tree which becomes home for salamanders and shrew moles. The branches fall off and decay and the tree settles into the soil, covered in mosses and plants and eventually becomes a lump in the forest floor. After fifty years or so, what remains is the core xylem which is impregnated with lignins and other chemicals giving the tree strength in life and a long lasting form in death. Fungi which specialize in breaking down these tough carbohydrates turn the wood into cubical chunks which are further separated by roots and insects. A colony of Carpenter ants makes a home in the final bit of tree and one night a black bear smells the ants the shreds the remaining wood in search of fat juicy ant larvae. The tree was 85 years old when it fell and it has taken 50 years to break down into shapeless small chunks of wood, entwined by fungus and roots. It will take another 25 years for the last bits to dissolve into soil, leaving only a slight discoloration showing where the tree once lay.

January comes in waves of ducks that crowd and squabble and splash in the local lakes. During a cold spell as the lake surface freezes they mill about in a tight mosh pit, keeping a chunk of the lake ice free with their movement. During the day they come and go in shifts, to poke about the frozen fields and river sides for their meagre portions.  January is a lean month, nature’s final exam. Those who fed well in the late fall and put on a smoosh of extra fat pass the test.

A coyote wanders the road edge, with a well-practiced lope, seemingly tireless and on a mission. The skinny dog covers 4 miles of road side in the early morning transition from dark to light. Suddenly it stops and sniffs, its head moving back and forth as it scans with its nose. The alert animal takes two steps off the road into the grass then stops, statue still, head pointed at a slight angle, ears cocked forward. Every sense is keenly focused. Without warning it pounces like a cat, jumping 3 feet into the air and landing front feet together. The tail lifts up in victory and the wild dog snaps up a Townsends vole. After licking its chops, the coyote continues on, miles yet to go on its roadside tour.  These are days where the energy balance is a fatal equation, output must equal input as there is little reserve left to draw from. A late winter snowfall can be the final straw all the way up the food chain.

At the edge of a bush is a dead chickadee, the small high energy bird ran out of fuel. Chickadees operate with a body temperature of 103 to 108 degrees. To stoke this high metabolic fire this tiny bird needs to find a whole lot of calories at a time of year when food choices are limited.  I was surprised one winter to find a group of chickadees feeding on a road killed cat!  They feasted on the high calorie fat of this unfortunate but well fed pet, gathering second hand energy from cat food. They also turn to hemlock seeds in January and a group can shake down a snowstorm of the tiny seeds as they feed.  Since they are often in mixed flocks during the winter months, the escaping seeds that hit the ground are scooped up by Song sparrows and Juncos.  During the day this small bird must gain about 10% of its total weight by feeding.

One of the ways chickadees thrive in the cold of winter is that they store food in the fall. Since they lack a crop or other storage organ they stash one item at a time.  A chickadee can recall thousands of tiny food caches and so during the fullness of fall it tucks away seeds and insect larva all over its winter territory. The hypocampus part of the brain of this bird expands in size during the late fall and then shrinks down in spring. I wonder if the chickadee becomes absent minded in April as its brain shrinks.

During the lean winter months it retrieves its snacks by order of their calorie value. On a very cold day a dab of cached fat is picked up first followed by the next highest calorie item. It’s quite remarkable that this tiny bird brain has the capacity for such recall. Heck I can’t even seem to remember where I left my car keys.

On the coldest nights of the year there can be a 90 degree difference between the outside air and the chickadees body. They have a couple of tricks they use to survive.  As the long winter night arrives the bird retreats to a small, well insulated cavity. If this hollow is well inside a standing dead tree the surrounding wood will keep in some of the reflected body warmth.  They molted their feathers in late summer and the newer feathers are a bit heavier but much warmer than those they replaced. Their new feathers have increased the birds overall weight by about 25% and this means a tradeoff between energy expended to fly vs. staying warm at night. So the winter territory of the bird is smaller and banded bird studies have shown that the birds stay in about a quarter mile area.  They have traded away the ability to migrate for extra warmth.

As they sleep, their body temperature will drop, and can fall to as low as 85 degrees. This self-induced hypothermia allows them to reduce the amount of fat that gets burned overnight. To stay warm they rapidly expand and contract their chest muscle all night long, and trap the resulting heat under their efficient feather insulation.  The amount of calories they gathered during the day will determine their sleep temperature. The more food they were able to convert into fat the warmer their sleep temperature will be. Overnight a chickadee can lose up to 15% of its total weight. However if the calorie value of the days food doesn’t cover the balance, they may have only a tiny bit of energy left over to start the next day.  Over long cold snow storm spells the tiny birds may simply run out of fuel and never wake up, their tiny feathered bodies will provide resources for carpenter ants and other small decomposers that find them in the spring.  Nothing is wasted in nature and every death provides the promise of life for another being.

It’s dark cold and rainy but that does not deter the first flower of the new year. Along roadsides and other edges long soft yellow bangles are growing and opening into tiny flowers full of rich pollen. The early bird of the plant world is the Beaked hazelnut. It grows catkins starting in December which open in January.   Like the primitive conifers, our hazelnut is an optimist, sending clouds of pollen into the wind in hopes a few grains land in the right place.

In spite of the dark and cold and wet, life is busy outside. Suit up and take a walk and see what’s happening. I always appreciate hearing what you find.

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How do you react to change? http://kamana.org/blog/2014/01/14/how-do-you-react-to-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-do-you-react-to-change http://kamana.org/blog/2014/01/14/how-do-you-react-to-change/#comments Wed, 15 Jan 2014 01:07:17 +0000 http://members.kamana.org/?p=5734 Take Our Poll ]]>
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Welcome Winter http://kamana.org/blog/2014/01/13/welcome-winter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=welcome-winter http://kamana.org/blog/2014/01/13/welcome-winter/#comments Mon, 13 Jan 2014 20:48:11 +0000 http://members.kamana.org/?p=5731 Kamana Student and Filmmaker Brian Sechler from Boulder, CO created a video specifically for us in the Kamana world. Enjoy!

I shot this video in a few hours around my sit spot.  I sort of know where “the locals” hang out around there.  I had to track those deer for about 20 minutes or so, but I had a pretty good idea where I’d find them.  After it got dark I found three huge bucks that let me walk within 10 feet of them.  I was kind of surprised.  In fact, they paid me very little mind until I got surprised.  Then all of a sudden they looked at me like – “whoa, where did this guy come from?” They stotted away into the night…
The chickadees practically begged me to video tape them – not really of course, but they just jumped in front of my camera and started “chickadeeing”.  Unfortunately I think I disturbed the squirrel from a nice nap in the afternoon sun, but hopefully he forgave me.  The crow was hanging out on that hillside for a long time.  I just walked right up to it and rolled the camera.  It was a fun day!


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What one addition to Student Services would most help you finish the Kamana Program? http://kamana.org/blog/2013/11/23/what-one-addition-to-student-services-would-most-help-you-finish-the-kamana-program/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-one-addition-to-student-services-would-most-help-you-finish-the-kamana-program http://kamana.org/blog/2013/11/23/what-one-addition-to-student-services-would-most-help-you-finish-the-kamana-program/#comments Sun, 24 Nov 2013 01:32:05 +0000 http://members.kamana.org/?p=5704 Take Our Poll ]]>
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Daddy Awareness http://kamana.org/blog/2013/11/23/daddy-awareness/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=daddy-awareness http://kamana.org/blog/2013/11/23/daddy-awareness/#comments Sun, 24 Nov 2013 01:12:31 +0000 http://members.kamana.org/?p=5702 How the #%$ do you find the time to do Kamana if You’re a Parent? by Nate Summers

I still remember very clearly the first 24 hours after my first daughter was born.  All of reality seemed lit by an incredible light, and I felt like a different person.  I remember dropping my wife and our newborn Katie off at the house and then getting ready to rush to the grocery store.  Somehow I remembered to pause outside my front door, and I took the time to use my Foxwalk and Owl-Eyes to go the ten or so steps to my car.  In the many years since that moment, I’ve realized how totally important it is to include time for Nature Awareness and Connection in order to be a more peaceful and less stressed parent.

Don’t get me wrong, I know how ridiculous it can be.  We just had our second daughter 5 weeks ago.  Tara is quite the sleeper but she has terrible colic, and my seven-year old Katie is in second grade and in Foxes (Youth Program) at Wilderness Awareness School.  Oh, by the way, both my wife and I work, and she goes back to work next week.  So, how the heck do you find the time to stay connected to nature and be a parent at the same time?  How could you possibly do Kamana while being a parent in the absurd busyness of the modern world?

Well, I’ve had to figure this out since it’s my job to teach others about nature connection.  Here are some ideas and pointers I’ve gathered along the last several years:

1)    Take your kid/baby/kids to sit spot.  I took Katie to my sit spot  regularly when she was a baby.  She would ride in the sling and sleep.  Later, I would walk her in the stroller, and she would sleep in the stroller while I did sit spot.  She was sometimes fussy, whiny or needed a diaper change, but we still did sit spot.  Guess what?  Now she does sit spot all the time by herself with no prompting.

2)    Make your backyard or front yard your sit spot.  No, really.  Don’t go far at all.  I’ve seen eagles, owls, falcons, hawks, hummingbirds, raccoons, and a tons of other wildlife in either my front yard or backyard.  If you don’t have one find a city park neaby.

3)    Practice awareness walking your kids to school, to their friends house, etc.  Take your dog for a walk and practice sensory awareness.

4)    Do journals and maps with your kids.  My daughter loved doing nature journals and making maps.  Believe it or not kids like to practice the core routines too.  They might not even need prompting.  Your journals might be a little bit simpler, but hey at least your’re getting them done.

5)    Practice your nature awareness while driving.  Have to take the kids to soccer practice or a game?  Start filling out that field inventory with things you see on the way there or while you’re at the game.

These are just a few ideas.  Of course, over time you will find your own ways to do this.  Just remember we all love to connect to nature.  It’s part of our birthright.  Kids are actually way better at it than we are; they haven’t forgotten how.  It will help you to include them in the process, not exclude them from it.

Good luck!

Nate Summers has been around Wilderness Awareness School for a long time. He is the lead instructor of the Anake Outdoor Leadership Program and a former Kamana 2 responder!


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This Week in the Woods: November 2013 http://kamana.org/blog/2013/11/18/this-week-in-the-woods-november-2013/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=this-week-in-the-woods-november-2013 http://kamana.org/blog/2013/11/18/this-week-in-the-woods-november-2013/#comments Mon, 18 Nov 2013 23:59:28 +0000 http://members.kamana.org/?p=5700 The mushroom rainbows of October continue to thrive into November, the cold rain hardly phases the fungi. The ground is thick with fallen leaves, food for the soil systems which will breakdown and pass the nutrients along in time for spring plants to flourish.  The last flags of fall color are the golden tops of the Cottonwood, who stand blazing in the late afternoon sun, holding on to the memories of summer days, only grudgingly releasing one golden leaf at a time to sail down and join the community of the ground.  The first plaintive minor notes of the fall migrating Varied thrushes signal the return downhill of this bright relative of the robin. In the last light of the late afternoon against the gray skies, undulating streams of crows pass in pulses of 100-150 birds, heading to their communal night roosts.  The gathering force swells to thousands of birds that restlessly settle and murmur rumors and stories among themselves, until one by one, they finally fall quiet. At 10pm, one last bird says the night evocation and finally all is still.

On a cherished sunny afternoon, as the shadows grow, there is a bustling in the hedgerow. Whatever it is makes quite a racket, crunching and snapping. Suddenly a sword fern goes down, falling like a cut tree. The tiny forester waddles into view, a Mountain beaver.  These are very odd animals, the most primitive of rodents, leftovers from the time of earlier mammals. They are about the size of a rabbit but the body plan is low and compact like a muskrat.  Huge whiskers bristle from their face and droop almost to the ground and their ears are small and have a small white spot below the lower end.  They appear to have no tail but it’s just too small to notice. This odd little critter is a burrowing animal, and digs extensive systems of tunnels which perforate the landscape. They are slow and kind of awkward as they waddle through the brush and they generally tend not to go very far from their burrow since they are easily prey.  From time to time, perhaps to mate, they will go on field trips covering a couple of acres. They don’t like hot, nor cold and so in November they are more likely to be out and about in late afternoon while in the hot summer days they are strictly nocturnal.

Even though they hold the name Mountain beaver, they don’t live in the mountains and the only thing they have in common with the true beaver is a vegetarian diet. They spent most their time underground and their above ground time is exclusively to gather a large volume of plants. Bedding material is dried in piles outside while food for storage is wilted for a day or two before being taken underground. In the summer the fresh plant material keeps the burrow humid, a requirement for this ancient mammal.   There is at least one chamber in its burrow system dedicated to plant storage and others are used as bathrooms and bedrooms.  Like rabbits they rechew fresh pellets to extract more nutrients out of them.  It is possible to find this odd animal 15 feet up in a tree munching on leaves or branch tips but most their life is spent on and under the ground.

The cold rains have knocked out most the garden webs but a few large cross spiders still linger, ever so slowly working on their webs. They have already accomplished their mission, fuzzy yellowish packages of hundreds of eggs laying wait under boards and eaves until the warmth of spring calls. When the temperature drops below freezing for the first time these last spiders will take a bow and pass away into memory, secure that the next generation will expand their glory.

The winter ducks are arriving, touching down daily in local ponds and streams.  This is a great time for duck watching as many of the winter visitors do their courtship displays and pair bonding within a short time after they arrive on the winter waters. Duck dating has many interesting and amusing antics which can easily be seen in non-hunting areas.

There is a ruckus in the woods one afternoon and the sound of squirrel call and Pileated woodpecker lead to the scene. These two animals clearly were having some sort of disagreement, the squirrel would chase the big woodpecker off its perch, the Pileated would flap its wings open showing the white undersides and call before gliding over to a nearby tree.  They went back and forth for quite a while and neither party seemed willing to give ground. Finally the squirrel ran off, perhaps tired of expending so much energy moving from tree to tree while the big bird simply soared back and forth with ease. A possible clue to the dispute was a large hole in a dead tree.

Pileated woodpeckers are the housing creators for many animals as they dig out large hollow nests in dead trees.  These are prime real estate which after the woodpecker nesting is done get taken over by squirrels, owls and other cavity nesting creatures.  Both the woodpecker and the squirrel need a night roost and these nest holes are perfect for those cold winter nights. Pileated woodpeckers keep the same mate and territory during the non-breeding months but the pair do not share roost holes. Instead the first one out of bed flies over to the roost of the second, gets them out of bed with a few choice knocks on the door, and then they fly off together to forage. The pair usually stay within hearing distance of each other through the winter months and since they are already familiar with the territory and each other, courtship in the spring is much less elaborate. One of the key territory components of these large birds are large dead trees as they make a new nesting cavity each spring.

Along the edge of the forest there is a small tree which has been vandalized, its bark is stripped off in chunks and some of the smaller branches are broken.  A few feet away the ground is all torn up and has a noticeable odor.  This is a marking station of one of the local deer.  November is the peak month of breeding activity in our local Black-tailed deer.  The long nose of deer is full of olfactory sensors and both sexes mark their intentions with glands which deposit information rich scents for each other to read. Unlike elk which band together does in breeding herds, male deer breed one doe at a time.  He picks up the scent of a female who is a few days from ovulating and then follows her around until the right moment.  As he follows her if another male intrudes the two bucks will usually do a posing contest, each will evaluate the others size and antler set and almost always, one walks away. The grand antler bashing battles that make for good wildlife TV rarely happen in nature. Mature bucks know that endangering themselves over a female is not worth the risk since there are typically many more females than males in a given area.

It is the female deer who are the most aggressive during the rut.  If a pair is intercepted by another female, the first doe will stomp, chuff (make aggressive sounds) and chase the other with determination. Actual battle is unusual but does will use their front hooves and box each other. The force of a striking hoof can do considerable damage.   Most conflicts are avoided as the dominant female marks the surrounding area with a gland in her forehead. If you have female deer in your yard you can see the difference between dominant and submissive does by their behavior.  The submissive female walks with her head low and is constantly sniffing, while the dominant walks with head high, rubs her forehead to mark  and sniffs very little.

Although it’s darker longer, colder and wetter, one of the delights of this time of year are the foraging bands of little birds that come in waves to feed. Chickadees and kinglets dance amid the branches, hanging upside down like ornaments and keep up a running commentary as they hop from bush to bush. Creepers and nuthatches work the trunks and juncos clean up the ground.  These mixed bands of birds form a super flock and are effective both in maximizing individual foraging time in the shortened days of winter and the many eyes keep watch for hawks and other predators. A sudden signal call from a chickadee and the whole group suddenly goes silent and still. The shadow passes over and bit by bit the group reanimates, led by the irrepressible chickadees, whose cheery calls and high energy seem to keep the group spirit high on these cold and wet days.

A recent study showed that spending 1 hour a day outdoors cured more than two thirds of people who suffered from the depression of seasonal affective disorder. So suit up and get out there, dance with the chickadees, admire the mist as it winds through the cedar branches and breathe in some of the fine moist fall air.  Nature will do you good. As always, drop me  a line with what you find out there.

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“Formula for Change” http://kamana.org/blog/2013/11/14/formula-for-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=formula-for-change http://kamana.org/blog/2013/11/14/formula-for-change/#comments Thu, 14 Nov 2013 22:21:30 +0000 http://members.kamana.org/?p=5672 I’m a yoga teacher part-time. In my experience both in working with people on the mat as well as my own practice, I notice it often takes saying something (or hearing it) multiple times and sometimes in multiple ways before it sinks in. Slowly these tools break the barriers of the mind and open it to something new. It is my hope that this tool, the formula for change, will be another reminder. Maybe these words and this exercise will help you. Let’s see.

This is a tool to use when you find yourself engaging in a habitual, negative thinking pattern. Here are some examples:

1. I don’t want to go to my sit spot. I’m too or it’s too… (fill in the blank)

2. I hate journaling! I don’t get Mind’s Eye! Ahhhh!

3. I feel so alone. I don’t have anyone around me who understands.

When these kinds of things come up, try the following process:

1. Catch yourself in the act of the pattern and stop for a moment.
2. Congratulate yourself. No seriously. Congratulate yourself, lavishly, as my teacher would say.
3. Take 10 deep breaths. Do nothing but breathe.
4. Ask yourself the following question: What step can I take right now that will be healing versus the same old same old?
5. Do that and congratulate yourself again.
6. Repeat:)

Try it out. Let me know what you think and feel. Comment below.

*Thanks to Ana Forrest for this tool.


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