Poison Ivy’s Secret

Vines on fence

Poison Ivy loves edges

This summer millions of Americans will have unhappy encounters with poison ivy. For most people, the result is a patch of itchy bumpy skin that goes away after a few days to a week or so. Unfortunate others will develop a serious reaction that includes severe itching and swelling.


The very best way to not get a case of poison ivy is to avoid the plant and its culprit – urushiol, an oil that causes the allergic reaction. It’s on the plant’s leaves, in the vines and the sap.

Avoiding urushiol is a surefire way of avoiding a poison ivy rash, but many people have trouble identifying the plant. Fortunately, poison ivy has a secret.  Knowing it helps people avoid the plant.

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Take Time for Sunrises and Sunsets

“Take Time. Make Time”
Guest Blogger
Connie Sjostrom


Sunrise comes early in Summer.

After working 40 years of my life, I was fortunate to be able to retire early.  Always a multi-tasker while I was a working mom, you can imagine that much of my spare time was, well, not really spare. I vowed early on that my children should not miss out on “mom time” because I was working. That meant that some other things had to give a little.  Like housework…that was easy

to cut. The only “extra time” I allowed myself before the family began to stir was a cup of coffee and a scan of the local paper WHILE I blow-dried my hair   But getting back to my original point: when I retired, I knew it was going to take a bit to adjust to my new normal of no schedule. I developed two mantras –the first, “Slow Me Down, Lord”, and the second followed “Take time, make time.”

Like time to watch the sunrise.

Farm Life

Growing up on a farm I saw few sunrises mostly because I was already in the barn milking and there wasn’t a lot of extra time in those days. Milking 50 cattle morning and night…usually with only two people milking. You get the picture.

Arkansas sunset

Arkansas Sunset
Photo by Connie Sjostrom

But, I saw lots of sunsets — mostly from a tractor. Back then we worked until it was dark, and sometimes later depending on the season. Still no camera handy. And if I did get a shot, I had to wait until the roll was full to get it developed. And usually, a few weeks for it to come back not to mention the trip to town to drop it off and pick it up. It was a real thing.


When we first married my husband and I enjoyed small town living but that involved a 45-minute commute to work and little extra time to catch the sunrise. Even when we moved to the country 27 years ago, I was still up early and getting ready for my day. We had the perfect spot — on top of a hill facing East-southeast. But until I retired I was hit and miss on taking the time to actually catch the sunrise.  And then, I didn’t always have a camera at the ready, so very few were ever captured.

Fast forward to my retirement years. I now have hundreds (maybe thousands) of pictures of sunrises and I am so glad I can share those with others who may not have the time or the perfect location to view these masterpieces of creation. While Facebook has its drawbacks, being able to share a sunrise photo instantly is definitely a plus.

Sunrise this time of year is @ 5:30 a.m.  Take time, make time!

Best Birding In the World!

Birding in our Back Yard

We’ve traveled throughout the United States seeking interesting birds, and we just discovered the very best place.

It’s our backyard! Since we began actively diversifying the plants in our yard they’ve welcomed many new bird species to visit, rest, and eat. And, we live next to Faulke’s Heritage Woods, a 110 acres of shrubs and old trees that is a warbler and woodpecker haven.

Anyone who plants an array of bushes and grasses in their yard, even if it’s a tiny yard, can enjoy birding at home. Planting appropriate shrubs, mainly native species is important because some shrubs like barberry are invasive and crowd out beneficial plants.

Because the yard is right out the door, it is an easy place to grab the binoculars and a glass of wine or cup of tea and sit quietly.

Here’s what we’ve seen or heard in our yard in the past two weeks:

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Reflections on Heron Rookeries

Reflecting on Heron Rookeries

Guest blog by Sigrid Reynolds

Heron rookeries are one of the most peculiar sights you will see.

Heron Rookery

Photo by Sigrid Reynolds

Picture three large sycamore trees in the middle of a swamp in Ohio. Skunk cabbages, those harbingers of spring,  poke up along the early pioneer road that crosses these wetlands. One narrow parking spot across the street hosts cars and vans while up to 20 nature lovers with binoculars and huge camera lenses stand on the shoulder across the street. Clacking, clicking sounds pulse from the trees that host more than a score of messy stick nests. About half of them have great blue heron silhouettes standing sentry nearby. By late April, fluffy chicks poke their heads up from under a parent.  And, by June, the adolescent chicks, now the size of their parents, still demand food.

Hmmm, one’s mind drifts to adolescent humans taking over home acreage while ravenously emptying the fridge.

Great Access

This heron rookery between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, has sheltered generations of great blue herons and has delighted visitors to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park every Spring. Rookeries abound across the US but few are as accessible as this one, less than eight miles off I-80. Along the same interstate in the Indiana Dunes, is an enormous rookery of up to 98 mating pairs.  It is closed to visitors during nesting season.

Herons return each year (as do the nature photographers) and re-inhabit their nests, adding more limbs and sticks as needed. One year in a Nebraska swamp, herons arrived to find an eagle pair has appropriated their home.


Eagles nest earlier than herons and find that their nest makes the perfect platform for more sticks. A tussle seems to go on between these two large species of birds.  YouTube has intriguing videos of eagles vs. herons.  Here is an amazing one. Usually, eagle activity won’t drive the herons away but does cause turmoil.

Human endeavors do drive off herons. When wetlands are drained for subdivisions, the amphibians and fish that feed herons disappear. So, these magnificent birds must seek a landscape that can sustain them and their hungry families.

Our parks and nature preserves protect these nesting sites so that we can continue to see the solitary visitors we welcome to our neighborhood ponds and creeks. I’m grateful for these preserves every time I sit on my back patio watching “our” heron arrive. He lands on a branch of my neighbor’s big pine to peruse food possibilities before he heads down to the shores of the small pond that marks our property line.

Great American Campout!


Ready for summer

So, Memorial Day is upon us!  Let’s get outside and play! This is a link to the National Wildlife Federation’s website. Share your summertime stories with others.


The 14th annual Great American Campout™ kicks off Saturday, June 23rd but with Memorial Day weekend upon us, now is a great time to get outside and jumpstart your summer of camping- no skill required! Pledge now through October to join thousands of campers across the country who will be camping to help Protect America’s Wildlife. And don’t miss out on your chance to a win a week-long stay at a Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort of your choice! 

Your pledge also counts towards our goal of 200,000 campers which will allow the National Wildlife Federation’s Trees for Wildlife™ program to donate 5000 native trees to help wildlife. 

Tell us about your public Campout event and encourage others to join in on the fun around your campfire! 

Foiling Ticks!

Creepy Crawlers

Even before Lyme disease created a serious tick-borne health hazard no one wanted ticks crawling on them. We sure don’t want them at Winding Pathways and because our yard has tall grass, shrubs, and a woodland we have tick habitat.

Ticks In Jar

Collection of ticks

A few years ago, Rich contracted Lyme Disease caused when a tick injected bacterium into him. Thanks to a wise physician and effective antibiotics he was cured, but it’s possible to get Lyme Disease again and again. We’re more cautious about avoiding ticks now.

Ticks of many species live throughout most of the United States. They’re common in brushy, grassy, and woodsy habitat but they also love living in yards. It’s possible for a tick to enjoy a human meal even if that person never leaves a mowed yard.

Natural Tick Predators

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