Category Archives: Nature Studies

Lessons from Fossil Rim

Alan and I have flown through the DFW (Dallas, Fort Worth Texas) airport a number of times, and once we even had to spend the night, although we didn’t know where to go or what to do, so we pretty much “wasted” our day. However, my friend Marilyn (who’s also going to share her recipe for chicken enchiladas this Saturday), recommended one excellent opportunity for fun and learning if you’re in the area. Here’s what she shared with me:                                    Becoming a grandparent is a gift from God because you get a second chance to relive old memories and pour your life into your grandchildren. We are blessed to have our children living fairly close to us, and our two youngest granddaughters are home schooled, which presents new adventures for us.

Recently we went on a home school cooperative field trip to Fossil Rim, a 1,800- acre conservatory protecting 1,100 animals on open meadows near Glen Rose, Texas (just an hour or so from Ft. Worth or Dallas). Not only can you observe these animals, you can interact with some of them as well!                                   Fossil Rim was named for the terrain which is an upheaval of land that is the beginning of the Texas Hill Country.  Limestone outcropping and caves may be seen in the area. Many fossils can be found indicating total flooding. My granddaughter picked up a rock in the picnic area that was a conglomerate of aquatic fossils and reminded me of Genesis 7:19, “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.” When we first arrived, there was a presentation on the importance of being good stewards by Mark, a former missionary kid and missionary, using a creation Jinga (though he didn’t use the term creation). Blocks were stacked in the order of creation starting with the appearance of the land and ending with the creation of man. Genesis 1:9, “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.” Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Mark then talked about stewardship, and as the children were chosen to pull boxes from the stack, Mark illustrated the imbalance that occurs when man does not care for what he has been given. Eventually the stack collapsed. Genesis 2:15, “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”  Next was a discussion of how an animal is brought to the park vet for examination. There are three methods: 1) Place food inside a trailer to entice the animal to enter, 2) Use a snare, or 3) Tranquilize the animal, which is only used as a last resort. We were taught how to use a blow pipe and had fun practicing our skill on a cardboard zebra.  After the teaching time, we boarded the tour bus where our guide told us, “The bus is to the animals what an ice cream truck is to children!” He was so right. The giraffes were the first to see us and approach. Did you know that because of their weight, the giraffe’s gait is to advance front and back legs on one side and then the other in unison?  That was news to me! I also learned that giraffes have no upper teeth. They took the pellets from our hands with their soft lips. They have whiskers on their chins and long beautiful eyelashes. We were told that their favorite food is the leaves from the acacia tree, which also has thorns. The whiskers and eyelashes serve to protect their mouths and eyes from the thorns. The eyelashes also shield their eyes from the sun. Their tongues can be up to 20 inches in length.  The giraffes were tall enough to “come into” the tour bus. When they took the pellets from our hands we felt their soft lips and bristly whiskers. The biggest one, a male named Mosey, was able to reach beyond me all the way over to my hubby on the far side of the bus.  All along our route, the bus continued to be an attraction to the animals. This aoudad sheep seemed to be smiling at us.  Fallow deer hunted for the pellets that were thrown. Fallow deer come in a range of color from white to dark brown, and many are spotted like white-tail deer fawns.  The proud blackbuck was too busy guarding his harem and territory to come to the bus,                   and the mountain bongo stayed in the shelter of the trees.                                                   But the gemsbok,                                                                 addax, and a Hartmann’s mountain zebra came to get their share of pellets. Other species came to the bus, and still others were in restricted areas that we could see but not feed. I couldn’t help but marvel at the variety of God’s creation and in considering the animals’ ability to approach the bus unafraid made me ponder the bond that God designed between man and animals before the fall. Genesis 2:19b, 20a explains: “and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field.

  “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a

Under His Wings

There are three families of geese that have been camping out at Tanglewood Cottage this summer, and as you might guess, there are pros and cons to this situation.However, today I want to mention one of the sweet pros, which is that Canada geese are great parents and keep watchful eyes on their goslings. Whether their little ones are snuggled under their wings or resting beside them in the shade, I have never (and I mean never) seen the parents neglect their young. They are ever watchful, and ever concerned. They paddle all over the lake, but they stop by every morning for some breakfast                …and for some lunch…and for some dinner…rain or shine! On warm afternoons, they love to rest in the shade, and since I’m usually writing at my desk each afternoon, a couple of my favorite songs keep singing in my mind. The songs are about God, who is better than the best of all earthly parents, and the words so comforting that I want to share them with you:

Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.” (Psalm 17:8)

Under His Wings
(William O. Cushing, 1896, public domain)

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Refrain:
Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.

Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.

God Leads Us Along
(George A. Young, 1903, Public Domain)

  1. In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
    God leads His dear children along;
    Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
    God leads His dear children along.

    • Refrain:
      Some through the waters, some through the flood,
      Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
      Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
      In the night season and all the day long.
  2. Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
    God leads His dear children along;
    Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
    God leads His dear children along.
  3. Though sorrows befall us and Satan oppose,
    God leads His dear children along;
    Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
    God leads His dear children along.
  4. Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
    God leads His dear children along;
    Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
    God leads His dear children along.The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).

 

Planet Earth and Planet Earth II

I suppose everybody on earth but me has seen the incredible nature documentary series, Planet Earth II, produced by BBC in 2016 as their first ultra-high-definition T.V. series, narrated by the inimitable Sir David Attenborough, and enhanced with theme music composed by Hans Zimmer.                          (Could it get any better than that combination?!) There are six episodes, including studies of the wildlife on islands, mountains, jungles, deserts, grasslands, and (believe it or not) wildlife in our cities. Our son Joel saw the documentary on “Cities” at a friend’s house and came home with such enthusiasm that we immediately discovered the series is available on Netflix (and probably other online sources).The photography is absolutely breathtaking, and they used innovative techniques, such as setting up to 25 “camera traps” in the remote mountains of India to trigger photographs of the elusive snow leopards.                               Every episode was mesmerizing and marvelous!                               What an amazing world God has created for us! If you watch all six episodes and are wishing for more, Planet Earth II is actually a sequel to Planet Earth, an 11-episode natural history documentary published by BBC in 2006 that was so popular it was broadcast in over 130 countries in 15 months!  The original series took five years to film and was the most expensive nature documentary series BBC had ever produced up to that time.                        It won many awards, including four Emmy Awards. Although the original Planet Earth series definitely showcases animals in each environment, I think the earlier series highlights the geographical marvels  of our world even more than the wildlife. The beauty of our earth blows my mind! “Our planet is still full of wonders…It’s not just the future of the whale that today lies in our hands: it’s the survival of the natural world in all parts of the living planet. We can now destroy or we can cherish. The choice is ours” (David Attenborough).  I believe God wants us to cherish His creation, tend it, and take care of it!

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28).

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

 

Take Courage!!

In a contest between white-tailed deer and Canada geese over owning the waterfront, who do you think would win? I mean, if you think about it, deer weigh up to 100-150 pounds and are 4′ high at the shoulder. Geese weigh in at a hefty 8± pounds  and aren’t as tall as a deer’s leg. So, I was more than a little surprised the other morning at what happened when three deer encountered three families of geese in our front yard! The mother doe paused briefly before scampering across the waterfront and into the brush on the other side, but the twin yearlings—a male and a female, were quite intimidated. They froze in place until the geese rallied all their forces (which only included 6 adults and a dozen goslings). When the gang was all there, the show of force was enough to frighten the deer into turning tail and running back into the woods! The geese really couldn’t have done any serious harm to the deer, but deer are also quite defenseless. Nevertheless, the courage and protective instincts of the geese paid off, and they were able to continue grazing with their goslings.

This incident made me think about a message I heard recently on courage, which Merriam Webster defines as the “mental or moral strength to venture, perseveres, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” We are encouraged to be courageous many times in the Bible, and although it says in 1 Peter 5:8 to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,” the fact is that Satan is an imposter. Jesus is not “like” a lion, He is a lion,the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5), and He tells us to fear no one but God: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).  I applaud the geese, who led their vulnerable little ones in a confrontation with foes much larger than they were. Let’s stand our ground and be courageous rather than feeling intimidated by what cannot ultimate destroy our souls!

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Learning to Fly and Living in Community

A pair of robins built a nest on the drain pipe under the eve right outside the window of our “tea room,” where we always eat in the summer. It’s been a special delight to watch them rearing their broods of chicks. The first of this summer’s batch fledged
while my son Joel and I were eating breakfast last week,  but one chick fell so fast I feared for the his life, although he must have done fine because there was no sign of the chick dead or alive on the ground. Then, several nights later,  I dreamed that I saw a mother and baby robin together silhouetted in the sun, and I woke up with the distinct sense
that the last two robins would fledge that day. I’m one of those people who seem to carry on a continual conversation with God, and such premonitions are rare but not totally unusual, so I decided that I would keep a very close eye on the two babies all day.  Just as the sun was coming up, the first baby took flight,and I really believe the Lord gave me the dream so I wouldn’t miss the spectacle! The last chick wasn’t at all sure about taking off. He perched on the edge of the nest, surveying possible flight paths. It was definitely a long way to the ground from his secure nest!  On the other hand there were lots of trees and bushes not too far away…About then Mom came by with a big, fat, juicy worm and Dad stopped in to give junior a little pep talk. Dad hopped into the nest and gave junior a little push toward the edge.  Baby was feeling a little ambivalent but took a few tentative steps out of the nest. The world was looking bright and beautiful, but the nest was looking very comfy…In fact, he thought it looked safer to have one foot in the nest and one foot out.In fact, after due consideration, the nest looked definitely safer than the world, so the fledgling perched on the edge of the nest and started praying
(or sleeping, I couldn’t tell which).  🙂  In a while, Mother Robin returned to talk things over with her fledgling again just as it was time for Joel and me to eat breakfast, so I had to give up watching.We didn’t get to see the baby’s first flight, but while we were eating,  we caught sight of the fledgling in the tree just outside our window! He had made a successful first flight, and his parents hadn’t lost track of him.In moments one of them was by the chick’s side with a yummy snack! In no time at all, the fledgling would be following his parents,
winging his way through the woodland world.

It’s graduation time as well as spring time, and I know several couples who have refused to let their kids come back home after their graduation (except to vacation). Some of these kids are flying, but some are really struggling financially, emotionally, and/or spiritually. Personally, my parents never “kicked” me out; they let me feel like their home was also my home until I married, which I thought was just perfect. I’ve always wanted my own children to feel the same sense of love and security.

My mother’s youngest brother (70 years ago) brought his bride home to the farm, where the couple lived throughout their lives, eventually caring for Grandma until she died. Alan had two uncles who never married and lived on their home farm throughout their lives too, eventually caring for Alan’s grandma until she died. What is it it about current American cultural expectations that make us think adult offspring shouldn’t enjoy the fellowship and security of family until they personally feel a compelling reason to leave?

If you’re an unmarried young adult with parents who are still happy to have you at home, please feel perfect liberty to remain with them until you personally want to leave. Don’t let social pressure drive you away from family! In the Old Testament, everybody lived in family groups!

Also, if you have adult sons or daughters who would enjoy living with you, why not let them? Share the wealth, share the expenses, share the work load, and also share the warmth and community that God intends for all humans to enjoy! Let’s parent like our heavenly Father, who never leaves us nor forsakes us!

He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock” (Deuteronomy 32:10-13).

Has Spring Failed to Install in Michigan?

While my brothers are sending me photos of glorious spring weather
in California and New York City, I’m singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” Because, here in Michigan there are still snowflakes sifting down from heaven! There were power outages over the weekend, and over 200 churches closed
(ours included) due to  dangerous, “almost impossible” driving conditions. In Williamston, MI, east of Grand Rapids, my friend, John Bjorlie, posted these three photos from the ice storm that hit their area, with the following caption: “Excellent crop yield this year from our Ice harvest.
The Ice plants were full and fruitful.”  🙂 Yes, if ice were a cash crop, he’d be in the money! Last week our lake was reflecting dreamy blue sky eyes, and our cherry tree was beginning to bud. This morning all our hopes for spring have been put on hold. Our lives are like this sometimes, too, aren’t they? Stormy, fragile, and uncertain. And yet, I believe God cares for us and will continue to provide for us. If you feel like your life is on hold because of unexpected storms—
Be patient and hang tough! Spring will come again!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12)

 

P.S.—A big thank you to John to sharing his photos with me. By the way, if you’re looking for an idyllic, rural setting for an event in the Lansing area, John and his wife have a new venue that is open for business. They’ve christened it Rosrmål Barn, after the Norwegian painting style of Rosemåling, so if you’re looking for a place to celebrate, let me know, and I can put you in contact with them!

 

 

The Birthday Club Strikes Again

Happy Spring to you!! We celebrated spring and Cindi’s birthday yesterday, which was so much fun that I wanted to share right away in case any of you living in the GR area might be interested in going to the Sugarbush Festival at Blandford Nature Center tomorrow (March 24, 2018) where they’ll be making maple syrup, etc! Also, this coming week would be an ideal time to take your kids
to the Critter Barn in Zeeland, MI, during spring break because they have all sorts of babies being birthed,  and if you show up at feeding time,  they may even let you give the baby goats a bottle of warm milk!  (This may depend on how many children come.)  Of course, being our Birthday Club, we stopped at Sandy’s Donut House  for some of their famous donuts,  and we took a lunch break at El Aztecas Mexican Restaurant,  where they spontaneously blessed us with some festive fried ice cream and sang “Happy Birthday” when they found out we were celebrating Cindi’s birthday.  If you go to the Sugarbush Festival tomorrow,  dress warmly, because it’s only supposed to be a high of 39°F,  but there are lots of things to see outside and some lovely nature walks.  Also,  think about stopping at Sandy’s for a donut on your way, or maybe serving pancakes and syrup at home first, because there isn’t a pancake breakfast there. However, they did let us taste the syrup,
and you’ll be able to buy some yummy maple syrup cotton candy or other treats! If you decide to go the Critter House,  I’d recommend going in the next few weeks while the mothers are birthing,  and call ahead to see what time the next feeding will be.  Be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting a little warm milk on,
because even kids will be kids…but it’s well worth the spilled milk! I’d never in all my years fed a baby goat before, and it was so much fun!One of the things I love best about our Birthday Club (and about life), is that we’re never too old to try new things, experience new joys and find new beauties. Are you trying new adventures? Keep exploring! The world is full of good things!

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5).

He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).