Visited the forest on a Saturday this week, as it was raining hard Wednesday evening. The sun was shining, and the forest had a different character with the rays of the mid-day sun angling in from the south. I was greeted by a road duster (common type of grasshopper around here), and by a few birds at the edge of the forest - made me wish I’d taken my binoculars because they were too far away for me to identify with my naked eye, but they very likely could have been chickadees. The forest soon fell silent though, as I ventured in deeper - perhaps the birds are more interested in the garden than the forest at midday.
I took a direct walk through the forest to the river today - found the main trail that goes from farm side to the river side of the forest with a few turnings and windings along the way. I did hear (both voice and tapping) and then later see a pileated woodpecker, and caught a brief glimpse of a robin. I also saw a few very short amber coloured skimmers by the riverside, among the toadflax, and one very short black-coloured skimmer. On my way out, near the entrance to the forest I saw the wings of a dead moth - dark grey coloured with a white stripe.
I was wearing shorts because of the warm sunny weather, but that did leave me unprotected from the mosquitos, clouds of whom became thicker as I approached the river, so I kept on the move except when I stopped for photos. Many visually interesting mushrooms are still popping up here and there throughout the forest, and I caught a few of them on camera, but by no means all of them that I saw. I also kept my visit to a little over an hour … next time I will have to wear long sleeves, and perhaps stay a little longer.
It was nice to walk through a stand of spruce forest on my way to the river today. I’ve also been noticing that there are actually more Manitoba Maple in this forest than I initially thought - I conflated them with the poplars. I think it was because I was used to seeing decapitated Manitoba Maples in Mill Creek Ravine, with clusters of suckers growing out of the ends of lopped off branches. The Maples in New Jubilee Forest don’t look like that, so I didn’t recognize them at first, but now I notice I do see plenty of trees with their three-lobed leaves.
Thunderstorms were in the forecast for this Wednesday evening, but though the sky was overcast when I arrived at New Jubilee forest at 5:00pm, nothing was falling from the sky just yet. I could see evidence of the wetter weather we have been having recently, as more mushrooms of all kinds have popped up everywhere in response. Most of my photos today are of new mushrooms, and some interesting old ones. The other striking difference I noticed in the forest was the yellowing of the sarsaparilla leaves - always the first to turn, and how dramatically the forest floor is transformed when they do!
I spent most of my time today preparing for the forest tour - walking through the route and the invitations. By the time I was through my practice run, rain was beginning to fall. I put on my rain gear, and stayed a little longer, walking to the clearing and back, but as the rain began to fall harder I decided to cut it short and say goodbye early.
My friend and colleague Josh accompanied me on my visit today to prepare for delivering a Forest Tour later this month. Along the way we discussed plant, mushroom and insect ID. As we returned to the parked vehicle, two pileated woodpeckers flew out of the forest and above our heads.
The sky is showing its overcast visage again this week. Winds are gusting, and instead of blue sky providing a visual backdrop to the forest, the roar of air moving through leaves would be the constant sonic backdrop to my visit. The ground is wet from rainfall early in the day, and drizzle would continue sporadically. I don my somewhat ill-fitting “shoe sleeves” or “gaiters” over my worn hiking shoes, the fabric frayed to the point of actual holes in some places, my intransigence compelling me to make them last for one more season in spite of that: I must get every last minute of use out this expensive investment in footwear! With this article of clothing in place, I am covered from head to toe in water-proof rain gear, only my face showing, making the mosquitos less of a factor in my direct experience of the forest people today.
So with my feet doubly clad, instead of bare, I embark! And whom did I meet? Well, I caught my first glimpses of a yellow warbler pair today, whom I failed to capture on camera. I also had my first interaction with a red squirrel, which did oblige me for the taking of a photograph. Many fungi made their presence known through their blooms, pulling my attention toward them - warping the fabric of space time in a positively Einsteinian fashion (these are well represented in the images below).
Near the end of my visit, I find myself in the circular clearing on the east end of the forest, and I spend some time sitting cross legged in the centre on a patch relatively clear of grass, just the right size for me to make bum-contact with the earth. I feel my sit-bones, or “rockers” convex against the soil, the inversion of the arches of my feet, a feature of my embodied geometry that I find fascinating. I play with shifting my weight forward and backward, and side to side, in ways that don’t work the same way when I am standing on my feet. The heads of the grasses around me are at eye level now; it is as though my spine grows like a stalk out of the plant-pot of my pelvis. I can twist and sway from here, like a grass in the wind. I feel like I could become privy to the conversations of the grasses and wildflowers, if I stayed and listened long enough. My legs, which ordinarily keep me so elevated above the plane of grass and wildflower communication are folded neatly in front of me, through the great range of motion allowed by my hips, moving out of the way to allow direct contact between bum and lap of the earth - opening a channel of communication with which chairs insidiously intervene. I wonder what it would be like to be buried waist deep, the bottom half of my body coming home to the earth as roots, the way the bodies of plants remain - they never left the ground to sacrifice their place for new dimensions of mobility.
But now through overcast skies the lighting has dimmed, almost imperceptibly, and I am ever so gently nudged from my comfy seat, to return to the flatter forests of cars, overpasses, train tracks, skyscrapers, busses, and finally gridded clusters of houses before darkness falls comprehensively over both.
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Hi! My name is Nathan Binnema. My grandparents are from the Netherlands, and I have lived my whole life in the city of Edmonton, as a settler on this land that I have learned to call Amiskwaciy Waskahikan. Growing up my family attended Fellowship Christian Reformed Church, which is how I am connected with Doug Visser. Around 2012/2013 I joined the public activism to fight the rezoning of the northeast agricultural land, and was introduced to the farm and the forest. I stayed in touch, and a few years later Kelly asked me to do bookkeeping for Lady Flower Gardens. Though I haven’t pursued studies in ecology or biology professionally, I have always been a biophile, and for nearly seven years now have been with a practice called phenological engagement, which involves visiting a small area consistently throughout the year, and trying to get to know all of the living creatures who also visit there, and how they are related.