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Healthy Minds Healthy College

Appreciating Nature

September 24, 2012

The past weekend marked the official “End of Summer”.  Shorts are still permissible on warm days, but otherwise it just gets cooler from here on.  The heat was very nice for most folks who enjoy hot weather and sunny skies. On the other side, we saw very little rain from July onward resulting in a drop in standing water across much of our landscape. So with the beginning of Fall, I figured it was a good time to step back and appreciate summer.

Hanging around the Pond

We have a small pond out back that is home to a variety of gold fish and Koi, as well as some nice aquatic plants.  This year was the first one that I’ve seen pond lilies in bloom – a very interesting flower that would intermittently open and close with the sun.  Just below the flower, you can see a fish swimming past. As an aside – fish are notorious liars – who always tell you they’re hungry, even if they ate 2 minutes earlier.  So don’t be fooled.

The pond is also great habitat for leopard frogs, with as many as a 15 hanging around in the latter part of August.  With conditions being as dry as they are, it’s good to have some water around for these guys. Plus they’re fun to watch, especially the one we call “BFF” or Big Fat Fred – a large brownish colored frog that likes to laze around on the lily pads or inside some pots in the pond. This isn’t Fred – as he was napping somewhere else when the paparazzi showed up.


I live in a partially forested area known as the Aspen-Parkland ecoregion. This region is known for the predominance of Aspens (often called White poplars) intermixed with Balsam Poplars, Manitoba Maple, Bur Oak, and Green Ash.  The Manitoba Forestry Association once came for a Walk-and-Talk as part of their Woodlot Program, which was a fantastic learning opportunity for me.  I enjoy taking time to make trails and slowly influence transitions in the forest by selective cutting and planting to vary the habitat – usually giving more space to oaks, young growth, and fruit bearing shrubs – while preserving some older poplars as habitat for birds. Some of the trees I take down are left to compost on the forest floor, while other get turned into firewood. It felt good to finally turn some of those logs into split wood, usually in the hot early evening hours after work – a good way to relieve tension if you ask me.

Bears in the late Summer

Lately, we have also had many black bears wandering around, inlcuding this mother who came by with her 3 cubs for some acorns and water from the swimming pool. While bears are always a concern, given their potential threat, this is also their home.  So far, we haven’t had any problems with bears, and genuinely enjoy watching them (from a distance) – but knowing they’re about is a bit unnerving at times.  I am anxious for them to go back to bed, so I can tromp around the bushes without being too paranoid, but I think they might be here for a few more weeks yet. The most memorable bear encounter so far has been a mid-afternoon pumpkin theft, as my son and I watched the bear tear a pumpkin from the vine and carry it off down the trail.


My final summer vignette was the growing and subsequent brewing of beer from hops that I raised in my garden. The picture below is Cascade hops, known for having a pleasant, flowery and spicy, citrus-like aroma. This year I was able to produce about 28 ounces of hops – which is nearly 2 lbs worth.  It can be used to make a very nice Pale Ale – which happens to be the preferred beverage of Bomber Coach Tim Burke – who drank his first celebratory beer last week (here’s hoping for some more).  For those who don’t like beer, hops can also be made into a tea, and it is known as having a sedative effective to help calm nerves and cure “digetive complaints”.

That’s all for the summer recap. Let Fall begin!