Living with Nature in the Blue Ridge: 1st Anniversary

It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by since I started “Wood and Field,” and what an incredible year it’s been! Thanks to the miracle that is the Internet, I’ve made many blogging friends who have shared what’s happening in their woods and fields – as far away as Finland! I remember how excited I was to get my first follower (okay, it was my husband, but you have to start somewhere, right?). Then I got more followers and the comments started to come in, and from then on, I was hooked!

I thought a lot about what I’ve learned over the past year. The first thing that came to mind is that storms in the mountains can come on fast and furious as temperatures fluctuate. I once exclaimed to my husband in exasperation after several weeks of high winds, an ice storm, a tornado, and torrential downpours that transformed the front field into a river and swept away parts of our gravel lane, “How come we don’t ever get any regular weather?”) What I’ve learned is that when you live in the mountains, changes in the weather can be sudden and severe.

a wild South Buffalo Creek during a big storm

a wild South Buffalo Creek during a big storm

The harsh turns in the weather have made me admire the resilience of wildlife all the more. The plants and animals that call the hills and valleys of the Blue Ridge home have evolved to cope with whatever nature throws at them. The lesson for me? I have to adapt, as well. I need to be more like the animals that carry out their routine despite adversity and remember that, eventually, normalcy will return. Of course, we might need to bring in a backhoe when that happens.

I’ve learned to watch the bird activity at the feeders for signs of significant changes in the weather. A special middle-ear receptor called the Vitali organ, can sense changes in barometric pressure. When I see the birds jockeying for position at the feeders and more gathered on the ground and in the trees, I know it’s time to get out the batteries and candles because Mother Nature is on a tear again!

Dozens of birds

Fueling up for a long winter’s night.

Another lesson I’ve learned is that although we share our space with coyotes, bears, and bobcats, we can co-exist in peace. I have to admit the first time I heard the high-pitched “yipping” of coyotes in the woods, a chill went up my spine, mostly because I didn’t know what to expect. We hear them from time to time early in the morning or at dusk, but they cover a wide territory and eventually move on. We seem to have reached an agreement that they leave us alone and we leave them alone.

Coyotes move in and out of our area, but haven't caused any problems. Photo by US Fish and Wildlife

Coyotes move in and out of our area, but haven’t caused any problems. Photo by US Fish and Wildlife

Finally, it’s been six years since we stopped mowing the fields and the regeneration is incredible. What used to be a hay field is now full of native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, and tree saplings. We saw an American Kestrel for the first time this year on the farm, a species that is on the decline in Virginia. The kestrel and other birds of prey benefit directly from the overgrown fields that provide habitat for mice, voles, and other small animals.

I am looking forward to sharing many more vignettes of what’s happening in the natural world as I begin my second year of “Living with Nature in the Blue Ridge.”

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23 thoughts on “Living with Nature in the Blue Ridge: 1st Anniversary

  1. CONGRATULATIONS, Jo Ann, on your 1st Anniversary of “Wood and Field”! You have done a remarkable job with your blog…it is so interesting and beautifully illustrated by your gorgeous pictures! I look forward to reading your entries and I have learned so many things from you that I never knew before!!!!!!!
    Much love, Margie

    • Thank you so much, Margie. You are becoming one of my best fans! A little bird told me that you are getting a lot of snow soon! xoxo

      On Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 4:39 PM, Wood and Field

  2. Congratulations Jo Ann! I love reading your blog and looking at your photos. The climate, flora and fauna may be different from where I live but your love of your natural surroundings is something we both share. Blog on! 🙂

  3. Thanks, Alison. I am intrigued by the flora and fauna of the desert – I guess mostly because I’ve lived in the mid-Atlantic region all my life. I am enjoying your blog tremendously and learning a lot.

  4. There is so much going on if we just take the time to look. Best wishes for all the future blog posts to come!

  5. Thank you, Sue. I appreciate all your comments and hope to keep learning about the biology of our “back yard” wildlife.

  6. I love your photographs…and the thought that you are letting some things go back to nature. It’ll be interesting to see the biodiversity develop.
    I know the sound of the coyotes and can feel the same ‘chill up the spine.’

    • Thanks, solarbeez. I’m hoping to inspire more people to let natural have its way a little more. We’ve seen a big difference in just a short time – much more wildlife and activity.

  7. Congrats on your “Word-iversary” – I learn so much from your blog. I’m intrigued by the idea of stopping mowing. I mow about half my meadow – it’s not huge. I used to mow about 5 acres, now I just do the couple acres around the house. I do see the native grasses coming back. I started leaving the grass be because I saw so many butterflies where I did not mow.

    • We just mow around the house and the outbuildings – probably an acre or so and letting nature have her way with the rest. One of our neighbors who has a big farm decided to stop mowing an area of about 25 acres so it increases the amount of contiguous land available to wildlife.

  8. Happy Anniversary or should we say Blogiversary! It’s always enjoyable and educational to read your posts and it gives perspective to things that actually are the same still can be so different.
    All the best and keep up your good work!

  9. Thank you, Meggie and Roffe. We live in different worlds in some ways, while at the same time, sharing so many similarities. You guys are my “farthest” followers and I love saying I have followers in Sweden!

  10. Happy anniversary, Jo Ann. And thanks for commenting on my post regarding blue jays. I checked out your website as well….I love your featured photo – It reminds me very much of my grandparents country home in southeastern Kentucky. Your photos are wonderful!

    • Thanks for visiting my blog, Gary.Glad you enjoyed my photos. We’ve only been in our new log house for about a year, but it is truly “home.”

  11. Here’s my congratulations on your blogoversary! Although I’m an urban wildlife watcher, I have very much enjoyed learning about the denizens of your mountain home habitat and look forward to reading more. Thanks.

    • It’s been fun connecting with bloggers from all over the country and some as far away as Europe who share a common passion for wildlife. I’m looking forward to meeting and sharing stories with a lot more of them!

  12. Happy anniversary and congratulations on a great first year, Jo Ann! I look forward to continuing to share your adventures through the Blue Ridge. By the way, you’ve got a follower further away than Sweden — I’m in Finland! 🙂

    • Thanks for your well-wishes. I had no idea you are in Finland! Even better for bragging 🙂

      On Thu, Feb 7, 2013 at 2:41 PM, Wood and Field

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