The promise of spring – a new beginning

Published 9:20 am Monday, April 14, 2008

Spring officially sprung a few weeks ago and I couldn&squo;t be happier. After an uneventful and relatively mild winter, I welcome the return of our vast array of plants and wildlife; of course the warm weather doesn&squo;t hurt either. Over the past few weeks we&squo;ve been serenaded by spring peepers and countless songbirds. Butterflies have started to emerge and are feeding on the numerous flowering plants and trees&ellip;but this is just the beginning of things to come.

I&squo;m always amazed and inspired by the change of the seasons, but spring holds a special place in my heart. Spring is a time of renewal and indescribable beauty. As the plants grow they provide a vast array of colors and food, not just for the local wildlife, but for us as well. In fact, some of our best wild edible greens are available right now!

This past week, I&squo;ve been dining on dandelion, chickweed and violet leaves and flowers. They make a wonderfully nutritious addition to salads or can stand on their own. Other available favorites include wild garlic, sheep sorrel, wild mustard and plantain. And, don&squo;t forget about wild leeks, or ramps as they&squo;re called in the South. These potent spring favorites should be available at higher elevations in about three to four weeks. If you&squo;ve ever eaten ramps, you know what I mean by potent. The best part about wild edibles is the fact&ellip; they&squo;re free!

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Most of us don&squo;t eat wild plants anymore, but if you have an interest I suggest you pick up a field guide to help you properly identify them ‐ Peterson&squo;s is always a good choice. A word of caution&ellip;remember, never eat any wild plant if you&squo;re not 100% certain of its identity.&bsp; F.E.N.C.E. offers guided plant walks from time to time and I plan on offering a few &dquo;free to the public&dquo; plant walks throughout this Spring and Summer as well. I&squo;ll keep you posted about these as they become available.

The bird activity has really picked up lately too.

I&squo;ve witnessed the mating and nest building rituals of numerous species. A pair of bluejays are building a nest in one of my big cedar trees and just a few days ago I witnessed a couple of pileated woodpeckers, that had obviously paired up, actively feeding and playing together around my house. Red-tailed hawks are almost daily sightings and you can expect to see brown thrashers, mockingbirds, and towhee&squo;s in increasing numbers. Local favorites like chickadees, juncos and Carolina wrens have toughed out the winter and should be nesting soon also.

To me, spring is a reminder that we always have the opportunity to start anew&ellip;a chance to recognize and appreciate our many gifts as we strive to accomplish our dreams and live in balance with the natural world and each other.

Make 2008 your best year yet. Find the time to explore and study nature. Learning about plants, animals, insects and nature&squo;s many mysteries is fun&ellip;and it might just change your life.

Spending quality time with your family in the great outdoors is pure magic, and those memories are the ones you&squo;ll always cherish.

Richard lives in Tryon and teaches outdoor programs at Earth School. He is a self-trained naturalist and a local fishing and nature guide. For info about his programs visit