2016 found us in our woods almost constantly. We were healing and growing as a family as nature's creatures thrived and grew under the glorious late spring sun. Life continued on, and it was glorious!

a swallow on a birdhouse

Caleb with a fellow woodlander:

Caleb holding a turtle

We rejoiced over our first frog encounter of the year:

a frog

followed quickly by the first toad:

a toad

It was hard to hear the usual melody of birds, crickets, and frogs. A buzzing sort of hum echoed forth. The gang all started guessing.
A boat?
A wood chipper?
A farmer on a tractor?
It seemed strangely familiar to me. Memories of engine-powered gliders hovering over the Mississippi bubbled out from my stash of long-forgotten memories. Still, I was a bit surprised when that recall proved correct.

the glider

On a family news note: Caleb acquired his first vehicle. Might be high in miles and a bit up in years, but it gets the lad from point A to B. Sweet freedom!

Caleb in his car

I found myself oft alone in my wandering endeavors. The kiddos all had their reasons, and I accepted the fact that not all enjoyed the miracles of the forest on the same level as I. (Cue the slideshow!)

picture: of

Yep... just me alone.... or was I??!?

mushrooms making a face on a tree trunk

If only trees could take selfies.

a closer shot of the tree face

I tend to shun (okay, outright mock) the whole selfie movement, but on rare occasion I feel the urge to take one. Usually when I find myself on unsteady ground (or treetop) and find it practical in the event that loved ones wonder about my final moments.

a rare Shannon selfie

Oh, the arrow? No idea. I found it in my wanders on what seemed to be old gravel pits. Found these cool beings as well.


On days off I still enjoy baking treats for the kiddos. Saw this cake in a food magazine and had to give it a try.

a cake that looks like a campfire

A day off? Stay home??!?
Anna and one or two of her sisters sometimes tagged along. The wildlife seemed to put on quite the show when they were in tow...

a bird on a sign

Ella even found an egg right on the path one jaunt.

an egg

Birds: marvelous maestros of magnificent masterpieces, they themselves foremost.

an oriole

Even the little guys are well decked out in spring.

a yellow bird

No bird show is complete without the "graceful" pelican. (If you have ever seen one in flight you'll be laughing along with us right now.)

a pelican

The owl family brought our family a sense of joy like that of youngsters playing a good game of hide-and-seek. Even the boys got in on "the hunt," which occasionally rewarded one or two of us with a fleeting glimpse of a large white bird flying away. But I wouldn't be satisfied until we caught one on film.

Then one evening, after months chasing after the source of owl calls, we finally caught a curious barred owl on camera.

a barred owl

Even the 'shrooms got in on the bird-theme.

a duck-billed shape mushroom

Ella was captivated by these "flying" inchworms.

an inchworm hanging by its silk

Rosa and Nora brought their cameras from time to time. Here's a shot Rosa took of one of the many many red-wing black birds.

a red wing black bird

Even the trees can't help but gawk at their winged compadres.

a tree face

Although the forest has a unmatched beauty all its own...

down to the minutest detail...

a damselfly

never say the sky's the limit when it comes to an artistic masterpiece...


The best way to make Anna's day: a wabbit sighting!

a rabbit

Not that we always had to go far to see wildlife. Our friendly raven family's fledglings put on quite the show upon leaving the nest. This youngster landed in our lilac bush, and must have decided he or she rather liked it there.

the raven in the bush

Those haunting blue eyes were quite the sight.

another shot of the raven

Rosa got quite a dramatic haircut. Here she is posing among fellow roses at our local Arboretum:

Rosa among roses

This sign warms the cockles of my heart. Hope it brings a smile to you as well.

funny sign

Here's just some of the eye-candy we saw there:

Meanwhile, deep in the forest, secret lovers share a tender kiss....

kissing trees

These little guys deserve a better name than their given one: fall webworms.


Nature beats all those fashion designers any day. Just look at that stylish garb!

a closeup of a moth

Another cool example of artistic design: mushrooms.


This one looks like a gaping mouth:

a mushroom

I must admit, I have a total mushroom fetish. They are just so cool!

scattered mushrooms

We recently found a nice dog-friendly walking path at a local park. Here's Lizzy with Rosa and Bubba with Anna checking it out.

the 2 dogs with Rosa and Anna

Rosa and Lizzy share a special bond.

Rosa and Lizzy

Here's Bubba sharing a talent only some appreciate:

Bubba licking his nose with his tongue

A classy profile shot of the Bubbanator:


Nora would often accompany us on our jaunts, but tended to meander about on her own, with camera. Here is an stealthy shot she took of us:

The girls and I walking the dogs

One nice side effect of the selfie movement: we have nice shots of our otherwise camera-shy teens.


Even her shoes get their moment to shine:

Nora's shoes

She takes wonderful pictures of nature's nuances as well.

a dandelion puff

We explored Big Lake's Lions Park with Grandpa. What a treat! (Silly side note: If you look up that park on Google, a picture Corbin took of Caleb comes up, much to our amusement and Caleb's dismay...)
There was lots to see amongst the oak trees and meadows...

a bee on a yellow flower

I think these are mouse ear chickweed flowers:

white flowers

Numerous butterflies fluttered about...

a monarch butterfly

Ella posing by one of the many majestic oaks:

Ella with a tree

There is just something so peaceful about a hardwood forest. A voice seems to whisper in the breeze, welcome home...

the forest

I acquired a most useful guidebook to help me cultivate my mushroom fetish. So I can somewhat confidently inform you these are lovely Turkey Tail Mushrooms:

turkey tail mushrooms

I am such a novice, however, that some still bamboozle me. This one looks like about five different ones in the guidebook! Oh well...

a mushroom

This tree just has so much going for it. So many faces! Such a split personality!

a tree with many branches and knobby growths

We took in the serene scene down at the Elk River. Saw a birdboy perching in a tree...

Caleb in a tree

What's this? A swinging monkey?

Anna swinging from a branch

Na... it's just Anna monkeying around!
Isn't this a cool looking beetle? It's got so much going for it... stripes, polka-dots, texture, sheen...

a Colorado Potato Beetle

Upon identifying it, I discovered it's known as the Colorado Potato Beetle; a major pest of gardeners and farmers. Sigh. Well, I still think it's awesome!

another picture of the Colorado Potato Beetle

"Take my picture!" occasionally broke the tranquil ambience, natch.

Ella in a tree

We had a swinging good time...

Anna swinging on a vine

A nice shot of Rosa, Caleb, and Anna:

Rosa, Caleb, and Anna pose on a tree branch

Something tells me there are beavers about....

A tree with beaver damage

Every tree close to the water bore testament to that fact!

another damaged tree

Some had been felled, but most seemed to endure the damage.

one tree down, one damaged

Perhaps these trees can teach humans some valuable lessons. Victims need not just endure persecution, but recover and continue growing. And a lesson for bullies who think it's just harmless fun: note the scars still remain.

a fourth damaged tree

Wild irises abounded riverside...

a yellow iris

This cool bug appreciates these beauties as well.

a neat black and amber bug on the iris

An exoskeleton I wish I could try on:

a bug exoskeleton

As we continued down the path we came across a section of woods teeming with vines.

vines twisting about

This poor tree's innards were literally pouring out of it:

tree guts coming out of a tree

This tree thinks it's OK. Ella and Caleb think so, too.

a tree that looks like its giving the OK sign

A pretty flower with a not so pretty name: behold the Spiderwort:

a spiderwort flower

Ella managed to get a bit too caught up in her quest to climb every tree...

Ella stuck after her clothes got caught on a tree limb

A silly sign sighting:

a no motorized vehicles sign entanged in thick undergrowth

I'd love to see someone try to disobey it!
A wolf spider with her egg sac scurried by:

a wolf spider with her egg sac

I'm at a loss as to what this flower is, other than pretty cool.

a purple and white spotted hairy wildflower

Yet more forest jewels: a black female swallowtail butterfly shimmered in the sunlight.

the black swallowtail butterfly

Back on the home front:
We made some nature-inspired snacks: bird nests!

no-bake bird nest cookies

Anna thought they were delicious!

Anna with the treats

We'll end this post with some gems from an early-June wander at our usual romping grounds.
A cute finch:

a finch

An impressive gigantic moth:

a moth

A friendly grazer:

a whitetail deer

A hummingbird wrapped in spider webbing:

a hummingbird with spider webs around itself

Don't worry: the little bird just stretched out...

the hummingbird stretching

...and quickly flew off.
Some pretty coral mushrooms gives one the illusion of being undersea:

coral mushrooms

A forest dweller out having a toad-ally fine time:

a toad

This grass has a hair-like appearance:

wavy grass

We hope you remember to take some time to enjoy summer's bounty!

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