Backyardsafari's Blog

Environmental Inspiration in Your Own Backyard

Backyard Exploration August 2, 2010

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Readers, I have a bit of a confession to make. I really love nature and being outside, but I do not go out as much as I should. This is, truthfully, because sometimes I am lazy and it can be difficult to motivate myself to go. I know this is not uncommon, and something lots of people struggle with, but it is not often written about in nature blogs. I am trying to be honest here, though, to show that you don’t need to be the kind of person who is dying to climb mountains at 6 am every weekend in order to love and experience nature–although if that is what you like to do more power to you!

I should also tell you that I don’t own a single pair of those zip-off nylon convertible pants that make up the stock of most outdoor stores. I wear jeans, almost exclusively, everywhere, and for every activity. This preference is sometimes confused with inexperience, but really I’ve just always done it this way, ever since I was a kid. I usually feel more comfortable in tough jean material, which can take walking through sticker bushes and sliding down sandstone better than thinner fabrics. I’ve worn them in the woods, in streams, up mountains, occasionally to run in, and even swimming in the ocean once. I’m not discouraging the use of professional outdoor clothing at all–I have many friends and colleagues who swear by them–I’m sharing this just to show that in most cases you don’t need to stock up on any certain type of “outdoor wear” in order to explore nature. If you have a preference, please use it, but don’t let the lack of these materials keep you from checking out your backyard!

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I’ve been having a hard time being active lately–I don’t like treadmills because there is nothing interesting to look at, but when I run outside I keep thinking about how far I have to go to get back home. It’s a mental block, and I decided to solve it by just going for a walk. An exploration, really, following my feet and looking for interesting things as I went. I started today, and ended up wandering for a over an hour! Along the way, there was a great number of wonderful things–more than I ever expected to see!

My walk took me from a tree-lined street, along a highway, across a field, down a different highway, and finally on a foot path next to a golf course. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like there would be much nature to see on such a journey. This is not the case, of course, especially if you look small!

To begin with, the variety of flowers and butterflies I saw was astounding! Bright pinks, whites, yellows, and purples abounded in both. I also saw bumble bees with full pollen sacs on chicory flowers, grasshoppers, and a lot of other interesting plants.

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In the field I saw these thistle plants along with some bright yellow flowers. The thistle seeds are starting to blow away on the stuff that looks like white fur. Here is a close up:

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I followed the top of a hill beside a paved footpath next to the highway and found this hidden treat growing in a ditch:

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It was also up along the hilltop that I noticed a small dirt path heading into the trees on the other side of the ditch. I broke away from the main road to follow it, and that is how I discovered a very appealing foot-path through some trees beside a local golf course.

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I saw many beautiful things on this path, including daisies, queen anne’s lace, chipmunks, and a few different kinds of insect damage. There were the usual holes on leaves where insects had chewed through, but there were also leaf mines and something called a gall, where an insect egg is laid inside a plant and then lives inside it as a larva.

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Finally, as I moved beyond the path and back through a field, I saw this small hole in the grass. I assume it belongs to a field mouse or some other small mammal.

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I had a really wonderful time on my walk! It’s amazing the things you can see when you slow down and start to really look around you. I expected to see some things, but I never expected to see the plethora of plants, insects, and animal signs that I did. It really motivated me to get out more and keep making that effort.

I’ve mentioned this before, but my main inspiration for starting Backyard Safari was to show people that you don’t need a lot of special equipment or wide open spaces in order to have a relationship with nature. All I started with today were jeans, flip flops, my camera phone, and the small patches of wilderness that make up the spaces between roads and houses in Suburbia. What I ended up with, though, was much bigger!

One of the best things about nature is how wonderful it is in all sizes. If you only have a small space to explore, try looking for the small things in it! A herd of elk or pack of wolves is amazing if you have them, but so is a passing butterfly, a milkweed pod, or a ripening blackberry. The important thing is that you get out there and see what there is to see!

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4 Responses to “Backyard Exploration”

  1. Debi Says:

    What a lovely experience you had! I absolutely love this post. Thank you so much for sharing what I’ve come to discover living in very urban Los Angeles — nature is all around you if you just stop to take a look. You’ve got me itching to go take a walk now, too – thanks! :o)

  2. Julia Says:

    I was sitting at my kitchen table in a funk after work. Reading this post reminded me that there is a (modest) park right behind my house. It’s right off the street, but there’s still a stream and plenty of wildlife…I’m going for a walk!!

    Right on, BYS!

  3. […] all around us? My latest video hopes to answer these questions! This video is inspired partly by this earlier post, and partly by this unbelievable stop motion […]


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