December 31, 2009 in Washington Voices

Nature journals record what lives and thrives around us

Pat Munts
 

Earl the cat made it very clear it was time for his walk. He’s afraid of our other cat and has hired us, his staff, as a protection detail. The walk usually goes down through our field to a favorite sand pile or a wander through the pines. Anywhere that is of interest to him, we go. Yes, I know we are nuts.

The time isn’t wasted though. Every season, as we wander, I get to see things happening in our field I would otherwise miss. Animal tracks of all kinds tell me who has wandered through. Wildflowers covered with honeybees mean I need to plant more of them for my hive. The first blades of spring grass mean the weather is warming. The sound of robins in February means spring is close.

The sad part is I haven’t written many of my observations down. I need to start nature journaling.

In their book, “Keeping a Nature Journal” (Storey, 2003), authors Claire Walker Leslie and Charles Roth define nature journaling as: “The regular recording of observations, perceptions and feelings about the natural world around you.”

They emphasize that it doesn’t matter where you live or how much you know or don’t know about nature or even if you can write or draw. It’s about noting what you see and hear, and feeling the world around you.

From now on, I will take my camera, binoculars and a pocket notebook with me when we walk. That way I can take pictures of what I see and write down what I smell or hear. I can download those into a journaling file on the computer.

To keep better track of what happens in my vegetable and landscape gardens I will set up two systems. Mind you, they have to be easy to keep up or I won’t do it. For the vegetable garden I will put a notebook in an old mailbox near the entrance to record information on happenings there. Planting and harvesting dates, bug sightings and what I did with them, fertilizer applications, and notes of things to change will all go in there. I’ll draw maps of what was planted where so I can plan my rotations for next year. There will be a pocket in the back of the notebook to store seed packets and plant tags so I’ll know what I planted.

For my landscape beds I’ll keep a notebook in my tool box to record what was planted and when, notes about what died and lists of things I want to move around or observations of plant combinations looked really good or bad together.

In the garage, I’ll keep a master notebook with bed maps that I can transfer notes to as to where I planted something and pockets for the plant tag.

Other things that can be used for journaling include waterproof surveyor’s record books, sketch pads and pens, blank books and even a shoe box of natural trinkets you find in your wanderings.

Pat Munts is a master gardener who has gardened the same acre in Spokane Valley for 30 years. She can be reached by e-mail at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.


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