Saturday, June 4, 2011

My nature girl

Yesterday was a milestone birthday for my wonderful daughter. Nine years younger than our middle child, she has in many ways been an only child.  She has brought so much joy to our lives, as children do.

Nature is the backdrop for our time together. She spent early months poolside in the summer heat while her brothers swam. That first summer and fall, I would place her on the futon under the front window. She would gaze out the window, mesmerized by the crape myrtle leaves fluttering in the breeze outside.

She would want me to say that this was taken many years ago.

As she grew, we spent hours in the front yard, which was shaded by two massive cedar elms. She splashed in the wading pool, played in the sand box, and followed me around as I gardened.

Our first outdoor scare came at about age two. The little darlin’, outside one evening by herself, came inside and told me she had eaten a red berry. The only red berry in the yard was poisonous – Texas mountain laurel seeds. After a flurry of calls (poison control knew nothing of these), my mother-in-law told me the seeds were very, very tough. Darlin’ was unlikely to have broken into one. If she had swallowed an unbroken one, it would pass through without harm. She survived.

We moved to our present property after she turned four. More space to roam! She has taken many walks through the property, with either her dad or I. We had to forge around the cedar thickets that she and the dog could scuttle underneath. We are in the process of constructing a trail around our property; she leads, and I follow with loppers.

When we began keeping chickens, she would crawl into the brood pen to play with them, undeterred by piles of poop.  Later, she would go down to the chicken coop and spend long stretches of time building structures, making chicken cake (her special chicken treat), and carrying the chickens around – even roosters. She still does this.

We have enjoyed many porch picnics and meals out on the picnic table. Under duress, she helps me divide worms. I think she secretly enjoys poking through the dirt and finding the red wigglers. Recently, we constructed our own water feature, out of a kitty litter pan and an aquarium filter. We are very proud of this bit of ingenuity.

She spends lots of time outdoors and barefoot. She loves snakes, despite the fact that a checkered garter snake bit her this week. Toads are fun playmates, also. She'd like to make friends with lizards, but they are prone to quick getaways.

I can’t imagine our life with her without the natural world surrounding us. Nature is almost a physical playmate for her. And oh, what an endlessly fascinating one! Because of her (and her brothers before her), our interaction with and appreciation for nature is enhanced. Through her eyes, we see nature anew.

Happy birthday, nature girl. We are so glad you are a part of our life!

Favorite spot in the garden today:

This lovely is the Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum), planted not by me, but by Mother Nature. Last year these ran amok, making the neighbors uneasy. They are prickly and unsightly, can be up to five feet tall, and are very prolific in the right conditions. With the dry weather this year, they are much diminished, both in number and size. Either way, the blooms are stunning.

According to the Wildflower Research Center, painted lady larvae use this as a food source, bumblebees and butterflies use it as a nectar source, and goldfinches eat the seeds and use the seed fluff for their nests. This is a perfect plant for my backyard habitat!


  1. Happy birthday to your daughter! How wonderful to have a child grow up learning about the outdoors and nature. Too many children these days seem to never be able to go outdoors, except perhaps to a small park with a swing. These are experiences that she will remember all her life.

  2. Beautiful. Happy Birthday from your nature buddies.

  3. @HG & lona: By golly, there are a few children left in the woods!

  4. You truly have a gift with words. I'm crying right now after reading this one. sobsob So sweet! :)

  5. The daughter is touched. :)