Nerds in the Woods 2019, Part III: Sometimes Nature is Soft and Sometimes It is Sad and Sometimes it Slithers

I have grown bored of crayons.  Sigyn, don’t you want to walk around and see what the other booths have on offer?  After all, it might be educational

The Bird Team has a charming display of nests and eggs.


No, Sigyn, I do not think these will hatch.

There is also a clever bird game. One uses an electric stylus to touch the metal stud of a bird photo and then the stud next to its name, the object being to correctly identify the winged things and get a colored light, not a buzzer.


Sigyn, of course, has zeroed in on the bright red cardinal, a bird she knows very well.  I have correctly identified the mockingbird, an avian after my own heart.  They really are superb mimics!  I have hopes of training the ones in our home neighborhood to say, “You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny!” whenever the human female appears and to repeat, “Thor is a poophead,” at intervals in between.

The Mammal table lets one trace animal tracks and color them in.  I am reminded of the time I put a raccoon under the hood of the human female’s car.  That was one of my best pranks!  I still laugh every time I think about it.


Raccoons have such cute feet.  They look like little baby hands.  They have handsome fur as well.


No, Sigyn, please do not cry!  Of course this fellow was not killed for his skin!  Nor was it taken from his body after his spirit went to join his ancestors in Procyanid Valhalla.  It, um, was just really hot one day and he took it off to cool down and, erm, go swimming.  He…forgot where he put it, yes, that’s just what he did, and he went and bought himself a new one.  So you see, it is absolutely not tragic and you can just go ahead and enjoy petting it.

(Good thing I think quickly and have a silver tongue, else my beloved would be most distressed.)

Let us proceed to the next table.  I have heard that they have live reptiles–and you know I cannot resist a good snake!


And that is a VERY good snake!  Come to Loki, you sleek black beauty!  The human female can have her plants and Sigyn her crayons and tin buses.  THIS is what Nerds in the Woods is all about!

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Nerds in the Woods 2019, Part II: Scribbles in the Shade

My sweetie would wander about all day, given the chance, but she says she promised to help with the children’s activities at the Native Plant Society of Texas table.

Besides, although the day is fair and breezy, it is more than a little warm in the sun, and some shade would be quite welcome.  (My helmet is glorious, but it is heavy and heats up something dreadful.)

The first order of business is to check out the art supplies.  My sweetie has a distinct fondness for crayons. She enjoys both coloring with them and sorting them out into waxy rainbows.

And, apparently, she also has a thing for bus-shaped art supply caddies. 


She is completely enthralled by its tinny resemblance to the real thing.


Tape, hole punch, pencil sharpener…  I just want to know what’s in the engine compartment, which snaps off as its own little tin.

The tyke-friendly art project on offer this year is a little book of leaf rubbings.  Sigyn and I have done these before, but only always single sheets, never a whole book.  I very much doubt that pint-sized mortals will have the patience to complete more than one, but it might be amusing to play with the components.

The process is best accomplished with more than a modicum of help from grown-ups.


As I suspected, the mini-mortals are coloring with more enthusiasm than finesse, and not all of their efforts are “keepers”.  The sample booklet, however, was produced with a little more care.


Look Sigyn, it’s a post oak–just like the big tree in the back yard at home, the one that did not leaf out this year and which I have suggested to the human female more than once is probably just choosing its moment to fall onto the house

Whoever brought the art supplies (it wasn’t the human female–she showed up with a list of plants, a sign that reads, “Ask a Botanist a Question,” and a lunch) took great pains with the rubber stamps and colored pencils to produce a beautiful cover.


All most of the children are managing to achieve with the rubber stamps is blackened fingers.  Keep your distance from my sweetie, you filthy younglings!

The adults running the table are binding the books in a manner similar to this.   Ehhehehe!  It is taking the human female many tries to learn to do it correctly, and I suspect the first few she did will were assembled incorrectly and will fall apart before their creators even get them home.

A fine way to represent your organization, woman.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this new group of Plant Nerds doesn’t invite you back again next year…

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Nerds in the Woods 2019, Part I: Poking at Plants

Longtime readers may recall that Sigyn and I have on more than one occasion accompanied the human female to the annual Nerds in the Woods gathering.  This is a one- or two-day event, during which nerdy naturalists seek to catalog all of the various bloomy, flappy, squiggly, crawly and otherwise organic entities in the local Lick Creek Park.

In the Olden Days, the human female used to head up the plant team.  She spared no efforts, traipsing to remote parts of the part to compile her long lists of herbiage, things with (no doubt made-up) names like “daisy fleabane,” pinweed,” “forked blue curls,” and “rosettegrass.”  Several years ago, I tipped the organizers of the event off to just how hard she worked her fellow volunteers and how tedious she is with her constant bragging about how there are “more plants in the park than anything else, blah, blah, blah…”  So they stopped inviting her.  She volunteered to help out.  They unvolunteered her.  Cue moping, which was more tedious than the endless stream of botanical trivialities.

This year, much to my astonishment and dismay, the local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas asked her to sit in at their table.  Oh, foolish mortals.  You will now never be free of this tiresome limpet!  Remind me to point and laugh later, when you are ready to stuff socks in her mouth to shut her up,  and remind you that you brought it on yourselves. 

Come Sigyn, let us accompany her.  I know that you are capable of strolling through the woods without nattering on, so for your sake, I will subject myself to a car ride with her.  We can always sneak away from her when we get there.

We are now here.  The NPSOT table is plunked down in the middle of a big patch of this:


Whatever “this” is…  Do you recognize it, my love?

By Idunn’s little apples!  Sigyn says it is heartwing sorrel, a useful plant to know because the leaves are edible.  I would never have guessed.  My sweetie always knows the best things!  She even says she knows of a good recipe for potato-sorrel soup, something involving heavy cream, chicken stock, potatoes, and this little bit of the wild herbiness.  (You know, once chopped up, one bit of greenery looks much like the next.  I wonder if I could make the human female a pottage of lawn clippings and get her to eat it, telling her it was this?  I bet she’d be half a bowl in before she suspected anything amiss…)

Now the human female is wandering away from the table, tallying up the various species in evidence today.  She and Sigyn have zeroed in on this bright pink posy.


The human female says it’s a prairie gentian.  It’s not very big, but Sigyn is even less big, so she needs a boost to see the yellow markings on the petals.  There are at least seven species in that photo–it’s a good year for wildflowers!

Come my love, let us leave the human female to her clipboard and census-taking.  While she’s peering at grasses and sedges, let us make our escape.  See–over there?  The electric blue of your favorite, spiderwort.


The camera scarcely does them justice!

And it would not be spring without the annual Sigyn-admiring-the-scarlet-pimpernel picture.


Sigyn is making happy squeaky noises at the minuscule yellow Sisyrinchium with the maroon eye-ring too.  She likes the flowers that are “Sigyn-sized.”  Be careful, though, dearest, as some dog-walkers have not heeded the injunction about cleaning up after their pets.  There are fire ants about, as well.

Ah.  No fire ants and no doggie “presents” up here in this juniper tree.  No, nothing but shade and sunshine and a nice breeze and some curious blue-gray berries.


Yes, dearest, I know they’re not really berries.  They’re “fleshy female cones, each with one to four seeds and a covering of grayish wax. They have traditionally been used to season meat, especially game, and some kinds provide the flavoring for gin.”

What?  I’m not allowed to know botanical facts?  You wound me!  I am a man of many talents and much knowledge!

Also, the human female leaves her books lying about and sometimes I am really bored.

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Didn’t we do this already? Part II: Real Science

Now we are Doing Science. The human female has traipsed all over the wet woods with her little checklist, noting which plants are in evidence at the moment. I’d like to point out that no one is actually going to check what she’s marking down. She’s probably just making it all up, racking up a terrific tally of species she can boast about later. (With her, it’s all about beating the Insect Nerds and Bird People.)

Now that she is back at the plant tent, I shall help with that. Let me improve her list.


She came back from her survey with this grass that Sigyn likes.


Sigyn found this pretty little flower. She says it looks like little orchids.


If I knew what an orchid looks like, I might agree.

She has also found this yellow daisyish flower.


Eew! Sigyn, wait! Look–

Too late.


There were aphids in that.

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Didn’t we do this already? Part I: The Prepwork

Sometimes it is brought home to me just how paltry is my progress in subjugating this planet. Can it be a year already since the last time the human female dragged herself, Sigyn, me, and literal bucketsful of supplies out to the wood for the annual Biology Nerds in the Woods Festival, or whatever it’s called?

Here we are again, some of us protesting volubly.

Apparently there is a lot of preparation necessary. For the human female and her cohorts, that means planning and working up activities for the younglings and coordinating the volunteers. The woods need to be tidied and, I don’t know, the animals combed, and the bugs polished, or something.

On my part, I saw to it that there would be rain. Lots and lots of rain. The sun is out now, and I expect it is going to be wickedly steamy later. The humans will be miserable! The dimples and ditches are filled, the paths are running channels, and all the plants that like it wet are, according to Sigyn, “very, very happy.”

Here. Have a picture of a wet plant.


Don’t ask me what its name is. I don’t care.

The human female plans to lay out a self-guided plant trail, labeling the wildflowers and trees with their common and sciencey names. Sigyn has leapt to help her. It will take them hours to place hundreds of painstakingly handwritten flags.


It will take me about thirty seconds to swap all the names around once they’re done. “Bluebonnets” will go on the red flowers, and the “Stop and smell the sweet clover” will go on the nettles. The “Come this way” flag is going to lead all the visitors through the deepest puddle I can find.

I’ve also arranged for a prodigious hatching of mosquitoes and sweat-flies. Let the good times begin!

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