Archives for January 2011

New Blog Looks for Signs of Spring

Soon after my previous post about Cedar Bog Nature Preserve’s early harbinger of spring — the snow-defying skunk cabbage — I learned of a new blog that invites Champaign County, Ohio, residents to share signs of spring that they observe. Called Hot or Cold a change in the Weather, the blog is a collaboration of Champaign Land Preservation, the Champaign County OSU Extension Office and Urbana University.

It’s part of a bigger project, which includes community programs and workshops on nature and observations of climate change on a personal, nonpolitical level:

  • “Writing about Nature,” a free workshop on Saturday, Feb. 19 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Champaign County Library.
  • A couple of nature walks to be scheduled sometime in March, one of them at Davey Woods Nature Preserve and the other at a yet to be determined location.
  • A series of events at Urbana University and elsewhere in the community on Tuesday, April 12, featuring ecologist Amy Siedl, author of Early Spring, who will talk about weather changes she has observed in nature and while tending her garden in Vermont, and USDA agronomist Jerry Hatfield, who will talk about weather changes that have been observed in relation to corn.

Molly takes a break from tracking down spring.

Follow the Hot or Cold blog for more information on these and other programs like one to be held this Saturday at Cedar Bog. The blog organizers* hope that as you  follow the blog you’ll contribute your weather memories, weather sayings and poems, and your sightings of the signs of spring, like the first robin or budding trees.

With that in mind, I and my trusty running companion, Molly, went out for a 45-minute slog through the snow Thursday evening, she eagerly pulling me along like Sergeant Preston. But after all that time, we were hard pressed to find signs of pavement, let alone any hint of spring. But, as it always does, running lifted me from the winter blues, cutting through the snow like skunk cabbage.

*Janet Ward of Champaign Land Preservation; Christina Bruun-Horrigan, director of university relations at Urbana University; UU Library Director Julie McDaniel; Clark State Community College board of trustees member Heather Tiefenthaler; and director of the county’s OSU Extension Office, Harold Watters are leading the project.

Funding and resources for Hot or Cold are provided by Pioneer Electric, Champaign Bank, Urbana University, Champaign County OSU Extension Office and Champaign Land Preservation

Think Spring, Think Skunk Cabbage!

A few of my friends on Facebook have been counting the days till spring. And meteorologists have been counting up the inches of snow we can expect on Tuesday.

In the meantime, while wrapping up a writing assignment for the Champaign County, Ohio, Visitors Bureau, I stumbled over a little trivia about the lowly and low-lying skunk cabbage.

The defiant skunk cabbage says, "Enough with the snow!"

Sure, it’s burdened by the onus of its odor. But the skunk cabbage has an uplifting characteristic—at least to anyone weary of snow.

You see, every year it’s the first plant to burst into bloom at the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve, south of Urbana. It usually does so in late February—even when there’s snow on the ground.

Unlike other plants, the skunk cabbage has the God-given gift of burning not just carbohydrates for energy, but also fat. Ah, to be a skunk cabbage.

In doing so, this early harbinger of spring creates enough heat to melt the snow around it, and give us all a gleam of hope.

Cedar Bog became Ohio’s first nature preserve in 1942 and is a National Natural Landmark. Just four miles south of Urbana on Woodburn Road, it’s a precious gem right in Champaign County’s back yard and home to several species of rare and endangered plants and animals. It’s a must-see attraction.

For a front row seat for the blooming of the skunk cabbage, be sure to attend Cedar Bog’s annual Skunk Cabbage Walk. The date is to be determined, by the skunk cabbage, of course, so look for announcements on the bog’s website.