Catch Nature This Fall and Feel Better

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This morning my dogs, Lucy and Sparky, and I headed out to the chicken coop to let out my six chickens. I like them to run around my yard eating up pesky insects like ticks and beetles. They scatter and as I am walking back and watching them IT happens! I walk through the very strong web remnants of an October spider. I am sure you can imagine the crazy “dance” I did as I headed to safety. What I call the October spider is an orb spider that is more visible and busy this time of year. Its official name is the Neoscona crucifera (Hentz Orb-weaver). They are around all summer but they are nocturnal and tiny in the early months. You probably won’t have noticed one unless you were out early enough to spot a female’s dew covered web. She has a routine, coming out in the evening, building a VERY strong, beautiful orb web and then heading to a hidden corner to begin her night watch. She will clean up her web each morning, however, as the weather begins to cool she may stay around during the day. If you are lucky you could “catch” her web but try not to do it the way I did this morning. A better idea is to take a dark piece of construction paper and spray it with spray adhesive (or hairspray would work) then gently touch the adhesive side of the paper to the free-hanging orb web. Voila! A natural work of art.

The orb spider is not the only member of nature currently changing routines. Changing seasons equal changing sceneries and cooler temperatures. That means it is time for a nature walk, but don’t forget your camera. Creative expression is one of the many ways to improve mood and outlook, exercise is another, and simple nature observation is a third. Three good reasons to get outdoors and go for a walk. San Lee Park is a great resource in Lee County to Learn by Doing the 4-H way and, good news, the nature center, and the playground are now open. If you don’t have time or transportation to get to the park your backyard and neighborhood are a first-rate option.

This fall I have seen many beautiful mushroom colonies in many colors but mostly bright orange, yellow, and white. Butterflies and dragonflies are out and if you see one lighted on a leaf or flower slowly approach and use your Zoom feature to get a closer look. Lizards and skinks are running around but you have to be quick to get a photo right now. Once the weather cools these cold-blooded creatures will slow down so you might get a photo of one sunning itself. Please share with us the photos and artwork you collect during your explorations.

yellow mushroom colony

Photo taken by Bob Nelson at Lake Villenow.

A walk in the woods is only great if you take proper precautions to protect yourself. Ticks and mosquitos are still active so wear long-sleeved shirts and pants and/or wear insect repellent. If you are exploring on private property, not yours, make sure to obtain permission and wear bright colors because hunting season also begins this month. Respect wildlife and keep a safe distance from wild animals. Check the weather report before you head out. If trails are available pay attention to the special markings so you can avoid getting lost.

Yellow mushrooms

Photo taken by Jennifer Adams in Pittsboro.

It is up to us all to take care of our natural resources. Consider this when you are out, “take only pictures, leave only footprints,” and be a part of the team. 4-H’s 30 Days of Doing gives us tips to honor this “Leave no Trace” philosophy. Avoid harming our environment, take your waste and litter with you when you leave, and clean up after others who were not so considerate. Plan ahead and make sure to know regulations and special concerns of the area. If trails are available stay on them to protect yourself and the natural environment around you. Leave discoveries in the same condition you found them, ensuring others get a chance to enjoy them as well. Take your pets with you, they like to walk too, control them with a leash, and clean up after them as you go. 

So grab a backpack and fill it with water, sunscreen, insect repellent, a notebook and colored pencils or pens, a camera, dark construction paper, and hairspray, and waste disposal bags. Even though we were unable to enter our art and photography into the Lee Regional Fair this year there are still opportunities to share your stories and creativity. If you have any great photos or artwork, more nature precautions, or great stories to share with fellow Lee County residents post them on social media with #Lee4H. Also, keep in mind that Farm City Week 4-H art and photography contests for adults and youth will be coming in November. 

Pam Kerley is the 4-H Program Assistant for N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center. 4-H is a positive youth development program offering programs that suit a variety of backgrounds, interests, budgets and schedules. From in-school to after-school, clubs to camps, 4H’s programs are available in Lee County and we welcome children who want to have fun, learn and grow. In North Carolina, 4-H is brought to you by the NC State Extension. N.C. Cooperative Extension experts and educators share university knowledge, information, and tools you can use every day to improve your life.