February's Snow Moon

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This year we had a special event take place in the night sky on Feb.10 ! We just had an amazing Full Moon called the Snow Moon but at the same time we had a Lunar Eclipse and also had a Comet passing by.  

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  This months Full Moon was named the Snow Moon many years ago because this is the month we usually get our heaviest snow. 

  Some of the Native American tribes also referred to this Moon as the Hunger Moon because it was a very hard month for the Native Americans due to the fact hunting for game becomes difficult  because of heavy snowfall that is often on the ground.

         

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Hiking along the path that my Great Grandfather C.D. Phillips traveled so many times.

   This hiking trip I was honored to have the chance to follow the footsteps of some of my ancestors.

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I visited the spring that my Great Grandfather C.D. Phillips (born June 1st 1866) used to drink from and carry water from to his home. Later my grandfather Ethridge Phillips used this same  spring and once my dad  Earnel Phillips was old enough one of his chores was to carry water from this spring to their home and also lead the milk cow and  horses to an area to the right of the spring that was used to water the stock a safe distance away from the family's drinking water supply. 

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     Near this spring is also an area where they would collect clay to use for several projects. This clay is so white that they would often use it to make a white wash to paint the walls inside their home. 

   If your out hiking and run across a very old homesite here on the Cumberland Plateau chances are if you look close you will find a spring nearby. Often these springs are contaminated today. But years ago these springs would often determine where a family would decide to settle and build their home. They were prized and taken very good care of and cleaned out often to keep from getting clogged up. Now a lot of them no longer flow water above ground or are unsafe to drink from. It was nice to see this one is still there and flowing fresh cool clear water!

( I do not recommend drinking from any spring or water source today without filtering it or boiling it unless you know forsure the water is pure, clean and safe.)

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My Great Grandfather CD Phillips       My Grandfather Ethridge Phillips and barely visible my Great Uncle Erbin Phillips.

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My Grandfather and Grandmother Ethridge and Winnie Phillips and 3 of their  children including my Dad  Earnel Phillips, my Aunt Maxine and Uncle Robert.

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The Spotted Eastern Red Newt or Eft

We all know the story of a frogs life as a Tadpole that lives in the water as a baby and then lives on land and water after it matures. But many people don't know the story of the Red Newts life which is a bit more complex and to me even more interesting.

   Baby Newts live in the water and at that stage of their life they have gills.  Once they start to grow and become older they leave the water and rome the earth usually staying in cool shady areas of the forest. 

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  The juvenile Red Spotted Newt is actually known as an Eft and will live on land for usually 2 to 3 years but sometimes as long as 7 years.

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    Once they become an adult they will return to the water to live out the rest of their life. As an adult and back in the water they often can change color to more of an olive green body with a yellow belly. They will most often keep their spots at that point in their life also. The Red Spotted Newt can often live for 12 to 15 years of age.

    I found and photographed this one inside the Big South Fork NRRA on a warm day back in December.

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Frost Flowers

     If your out exploring in nature this Fall and early Winter maybe you will be lucky enough to encounter a Frost Flower! 

    Although these sometimes look like a flower from a distance they are not actually flowers at all. 

    Frost flowers are delicate ribbons of ice crystals that form on the lower stems of some plants. These formations depend on a hard freeze occurring while the ground isn't already frozen. This allows the stem of the plant to draw moisture up from the ground. This moisture and sap that's left in the stem of the plant will expand as it freezes and split the stem. This creates thin layers of ice to form into exquisite patterns that curl into almost petal like shapes that resemble a flower.

   These flower looking ice crystals have a very short life. Once the rays of the sun fall upon them they melt as quickly as frost.

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Putting a little dirt and gravel in our travel

Here's a few random pics we shot this past week while out on the trails. 

The John Muir trail and Sheltowee Trace trails

The John Muir trail and Sheltowee Trace trails

A nice set of bear tracks along the trail

A nice set of bear tracks along the trail

Mushrooms on the side of a tree  

Mushrooms on the side of a tree  

Another huge bear track

Another huge bear track

If you watch there's still color to be seen in nature at this time of year! 

If you watch there's still color to be seen in nature at this time of year! 

A great place to set up camp and have a bedroom with a view

A great place to set up camp and have a bedroom with a view

Alittle color still on afew trees

Alittle color still on afew trees

Barred Owls in the Backwoods

   The Barred Owl  (Strix varia)  is a very beautiful bird of prey with dark brown eyes and a brown and white striped plumage.  Barred Owls eat a wide variety of small animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rabbits and even other birds just to name some of its diet. Owls play a major role in helping keep the rodent populations in check.

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  Even though you may live in a rural area or sometimes even in town you may share the area with a Barred Owl. Although these birds of prey are more common  and seem to thrive more in the backcountry they have been seen in cities and towns.

  Barred Owls have been around our area for many years. Pleistocene fossils of these birds  have been found in Tennessee, Florida, and Ontario dating all the way back to at least 11,000 years ago! 

   The most dangerous natural predator to the Barred Owl is the Great Horned Owl which will eat the Barred Owls eggs , their young and  occasionally even killing and eating an adult Barred Owl. 

     One of my favorite pastimes at night while in the backcountry on our backpacking adventures is to sit and talk with the Barred Owls. I've had as many as 5 at a time calling back to me simultaneously as if we are actually having a conversation. I've even had them fly into the area a sit overhead as they check my campsite out. 

   If you listen really close to a Barred Owls call it's almost as though he's saying ("Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?")   If you haven't had the chance to see and hear one of these Owls I hope you do in the near future. It's pretty amazing!

 

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Osage Orange (Maclura poifera)

  The Osage Orange tree is actually not a Orange tree at all. It is known by several names and to just name a few : Bow Dock, Bo Dark, Hedge Apple and Mock Orange.

      The wood from an Osage Orange tree is heavy, hard and strong. It is also very flexible. 

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It's said that several of the Native Americans used this wood to make war clubs and bows . It's also known that they would travel many miles in search of these trees to make their bows. The wood was so valued by the Native Americans that a good Osage wood bow would have had the same value and could often be traded for a good horse and a blanket.

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     The seed inside the large fruit is eaten by some wildlife but not a major food source for any of them.     Trust me this isn't a fruit you want to eat at all. When the fruit is scratched it will produce a milky latex looking sap that can cause skin irritations in some people. The fruit has been known to be used by some people as an insect repellent.

     

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