Abundant Under-story

 In Apprenticeship, beaver valley, earth tracks, edible plants, foraging, grey county, nature, nature connection, nature education

Today was such a magical day, I am grateful for all the beautiful beings who shared the day the with us.

The morning started slow and calm as we all gathered ourselves together in preparation for the day, munching on the delicious muffins and perfectly sour rhubarb, banana, honey, chia seed (and more) jam lovingly prepared by Tanya.  As we sat in our opening circle, so many birds could be heard singing to the morning sun.  With the help of Alexis, Tamara and Ann we were able to identify the songs of the winter wren, grouse, red-wing blackbird, sand-hill crane, oriole and cardinal, along with many other morning sounds including that of a several chippies (many of whom had cheeks full of Alexis’s sunflower seed) and some frogs! What a splendid cacophony of wild-sounds; so many of which continue to have only a vague familiarity to my ears which are so trained to hear and understand city-sounds.

We spent some time was spent creating plant journals under the shade of the white pine and apple tree.  As I settled into my reading spot, I couldn’t help but notice how at peace the group seemed; particularly Maddy who had found a cozy spot leaned up against the round bale.  After some time for independent study and deeper reading about a specific plant, we came back together to share something unique we had learned in that time.  It was beautiful seeing the excitement and wonder as people shared their new knowledge with the group.

Soon we were on the road, although the location was a bit further from Alexis’s property the drive was beautiful.  When we arrived at Old Baldy Conservation and followed a pathway into the forest.  As the parking lot fell away, we crossed over mini board walks and ventured past the reach of fence-lines and it felt as though we were being transported into a different realm.

From 1957 – 1973 Malcom Kirk helped with the purchase of thousands of acres with the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority to protect the escarpment. The side trail we walked on is called Mac Kirk Side Trail.

Along the path I was feeling curious about all the different shrubs that had beautiful white flowers on display.  Below are pictured three shrubs which featured delicate white flowers; Hawthorn, Apple and (Pin or Choke?) Cherry; as well as wild strawberry and Hepatica.  These flowers reminded me to always be prepared to change one’s perspective.




The Hepatica was quite the mystery; it took several of us and a few field guides and what felt like a lifetime to figure out who this cute little flower was.  This time served as a lesson to always remember to look closer and deeper when faced with a plant mystery.  Our error when using the newcombs guide was that we had identified that the plant had 7 or more petals on the flower, when really there was 6 petals; many of the petals were deeply lobed but not separate, this detail was only discovered when Alexis flipped the flower over to show us from a different perspective. We also had interesting conversation surrounding this plant regarding if the leaves just below the flower were leaves, sepals or petals.  We discovered they were called bracts.



It is amazing what happens when we use all our senses. Michelle was able to smell the ginger that Chris was tasting before she recognized the plant! It is amazing how using all of our senses in the forest can completely change our experience of place.  It was so intriguing noticing how the colour of the blue cohosh had changed since we has seen them in the Mono forests.  The stem was still very blue – green, while the leaves have completely changed colour.  One of the other plant communities that I found to be captivating in this forest environment was the community of trout lily and trillium.  The trout lily were just dying back and turning a light yellow – green; this carpet perfectly framed the vibrant, yet soft colours of the pink and green trilliums.

As we neared the edge of the cliff it was amazing to see the forest change from a mixed hardwood forest into a cedar grove.  Beautiful!

Our lunch spot! After seeing so many healthy plant communities we stopped for food and enjoyed the lookout.  While sitting there we were able to observe turkey vultures with binoculars from above! What a change from how they usually soar so far above.  While sitting on the cliff, we talked about many things, but my mind wandered to the geology of this place.

Soon after the lunch spot Tim, Michelle and I  had our own mini adventure while the rest of the group discovered orchids and a little bush – waking!

Coming back together at the end of the day with circles of gratitude always warm my heart with memories and have a way of making igniting curiosity for all that can be shared, noticed and discovered in the natural world.


If you are also curious about the geology of the Niagara escarpment , I did a little bit of research!

The escapement is made of dolomite limestone, the lookout point had a 200 m drop to the bottom.  Through conversation with the group about how this may have formed, I couldn’t help but look into it when getting home.  Over the course of approximately 30 million years (estimated through fossil record) sand, lime and other sediment turned into limestone.

Dolomite was created when calcium carbonate (lime) in the rocks reacted with liquid magnesium found in the ground water to form a “caprock” or hard layer of rock.  This pitted rock can be seen where we visited and all across the Niagara escapement.

The cliff and other landscapes that can be seen today are primarily formed by the Wisconsin Glacial Episode about 10,000 years ago.  The ice sheets found in Antarctica and Greenland are the remnants of this ice age period.  The Ice sheets in the beaver valley are estimated to have been about 2 km thick! As the glacier receded, moving westward and away from lake Ontario it scraped away everything in its path.  Massive rivers of melt water flowed across helping to carve the landscape. Waterfalls found in beaver valley and across the escarpment are pieces of history, telling of what once was on this landscape.

Seeing the marks left by the glaciers; and living in the era of industrialization and urbanization makes me wonder what will be left of our cities in 10, 000 years and what marks will be left on the landscape.



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