Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Indoor Health Adventure at the Public Pool


                       Christiansburg Aquatic Center
 When you're a kid, you really look forward to splashing around with water in the summer, whether it's from a sprinkler out on the lawn or at a pool or beach. Having a backyard pool is a nice thing for a family to have in the hot weather and makes for an interesting, enjoyable summer. But what if you want to go swimming as the weather cools off?
      Unless you live near a boat dock and the temperatures stay the same all year, you'll need to find an indoor place to go for a swim in cooler temps. And it's a healthy thing to do as well.
     Pools are actually quite a popular enterprise, for the buyer and seller. According to  Aquaticnet,  there are over three million above ground pools in America, and 270,000 commercial pools. And we were going to try out one of the latter.
     It was sad when "our" indoor pool, part of Radford University, was closed because of a shortsighted former president. At one point our town had an outdoor pool at the park by the river, then one in the central park (right before integration, when the town gave it up). Now the nearest indoor community pool is down the road, in Christiansburg. But as we were residents from the nearby town without a pool, we were given a free pass (for now). 
     Christiansburg's aquatic center is fairly generous in size, though most of its parking is well below the center; it requires negotiating a lot of stairs (not too convenient for babies or the elderly). It has a "competition" pool with several lanes and is seven feet deep all the way around, handy for swim meets. Though you will get your hair wet as you have to swim under the thick lane dividers to get to a ladder to climb out.
     In another room -- there is a glass wall dividing them -- is a big family pool. It starts at three feet near the steps into the water, which is convenient, and only gets as deep as five feet. There is also a fun pool area for little kids, with a curved water slide, colored buckets that toss water on you every so often, and what looks like a continuous, unmoving sprinkler above everyone's heads. Rather unique, an outdoor water experience brought to an indoor pool.
     If you go by mid-afternoon (close to 2) there is almost no one in the pool at all. We shared a huge area with a couple, who shot baskets with a little ball that went into a small rim on the edge of the water, trying to get their baby to do the same. Needless to say, he couldn't. Those durn lap dividers weren't in the way so swimming was more comfortable in this big family pool.
     We hope to go back. It's all a matter of scheduling, as we don't usually swim in cold weather. It would be one way, though, of keeping in shape, especially around Christmastime.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


                             The northern gray cheeked or Jefferson salamander (Virginia)
                                 This looks like nodding trillium, in the Mount Rogers woods.

     There was rain, rain, and even more rain, wind whipping through the campground. It actually created "wind rain," and a discovery that a slippery, grayish salamander was hiding out UNDER the tent!
    Grindstone Campground in the Mount Rogers Recreation Area (VA) has three camping loops: the opossum, the cottontail, and the groundhog. I reserved a spot in the cottontail, the middle group of sites that seemed the least crowded, reservation-wise. Though I wish that now we'd known someone with a great big RV to take us in at the different loop.
    The bath house with its tiny light made me a bit nervous as I strode toward it in almost pitch blackness. Of course, I'd just finished reading a passage of Bill Byrson's A Walk in the Woods about nasty encounters with bears in the woods. Not a great time to have just read that. There were too many "bear scares"  in his book for comfort. My son Zeb once spent in the car during a campout because he heard a big rustling of leaves in the woods and thought a bear was close. Supposedly, black bears aren't that aggressive, but they are still bears. And I forgot one night I had a muffin and other food in my camp shirt pockets. (Perhaps the downpour kept any away. That is what I like to think.)
    It rained both nights of our August stay -- grrr, grumble, grumble -- but what do you expect out in the woods? Weather made to order? At least it wasn't too hot. The second night we tried to dry out towels over an open fire. Then it began to rain, first slowly and then, never ending. I had to read in the car (9 p.m. is too early for me to sleep) with my flashlight. Being so sleep deprived from the night before (sometimes a first night in a tent is like visiting a new place your body can't get used to) I think I "conked out" at 10:30, a record for me. The rain didn't quit and lulled me to sleep.
    Next morning, it was raining again, only not as hard. We had to pack our tent while it was soaked, to be aired out later, and ate brunch in town at a KFC place. On the way out a camp rep did a survey with us. I mentioned the rain and two stupid women who took their two threatening dogs into the bathroom. I couldn't even relax in there and read in a good light.
    The trips to discover butterflies and old rocks with others were interesting. But the constant rain at night was aggravating. And this was well before any hurricane came!

Marshmellow, anyone?



    At a recent campout we dined with a group of people at a picnic shelter in the Mount Rogers Recreation Area (VA). I had brought along a bag of marshmellows and thought the kids there would "jump" at the chance to bite into one, and be raring to go into the woods to get sticks to put them on for roasting. I actually had all the ingredients for a s'more (which stands for "some more" -- you know, marshmellow that is melted and put between a piece of Hershey's chocolate and graham crackers), but no one bit, so to speak.
     Maybe their parents were total, extreme vegans. It's an interesting thing about marshmellows. You probably think, since they are white, that they are totally made from white sugar. Well, not quite. There is also some corn syrup thrown in and gelatin with water, whipped up and made into the cylindrical shapes you see in bags sold in the supermarket. And the gelatin can come from pigs! Yes, gelatin is processed protein from animals to help make things fibrous and strong. And you thought it was totally vegan -- surprise!
    Some people may think that if it is from an animal it must be from horse hooves -- no, those are used in glue, not gelatin, not marshmellows. 
     Many decades and centuries ago, Europeans used a specific plant, Althaea offincinalis, the marsh mallow plant. It is said parts of the plant could be used for a cough or sore throat, but then some people discovered that mixing ingredients, the plant's sweet sap, with  egg whites and sugar, could make a white sugary treat. In 1948 Frenchman Alex Doumak came up with a process using gelatin and creating long tubes of the stuff, then cut into the shapes we see today. According to "Candy USA," we spend $125 million a year on marshmellows. And fifty percent of them are roasted over an open fire in the summer.
    Does this fact make me less likely to eat marshmellows? Actually, the sugar content melting on my teeth does, not the gelatin background. So I took my bag of marshmellows home and turned on my electric burner, with a fork through my white dessert, for a really fast, sugar high!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Celebrate Virginia's state parks -- Visit!

                   We've had some unique experiences at our state parks. Whether it was camping in the mid spring (it was cold!) at Natural Tunnel State Park or getting a great view and jumping in the pool at Breaks Interstate Park, there is a lot to offer for those wanting a relatively inexpensive, natural vacation where you can relax a bit and reflect if you want.
     This year Virginia's state parks are celebrating their 80th anniversary and welcome state and out-of-state residents alike. I've seen a lot of Claytor Lake State Park lately, but then, I volunteer once a week there in the summer at their nature destination, the "discovery center." Claytor also has a generous lake for canoeing and fishing or lying on their beach, and many state parks have the same thing, along with camping possibilities.
     We've had more than a few memorable experiences with them. At Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, we took our young sons on a trek that wound past the lake and into the woods, to where a few huge pines stood. We were told the pines were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, which seemed reasonable. The hike back to our tent was not so reasonable; we wound up carrying  our youngest son, who was barely two years old then. They probably enjoyed going to the beach and playing with sand the most.
     Fairy Stone only the spouse and I have visited in recent years. It has a "dreamy, religious" theme to it. Supposedly these wood fairies or elves became sad about hearing that Jesus had been tortured, beaten, and died on the cross. So they wept and their tears formed cross like stones. Actually, scientists believe a certain geologic process in the Blue Ridge mountain ridge of Virginia, in the area that became the Fairy Stone State Park, pushed up stones, many of which looked like crosses or part of a cross shape. The shape was prominent in staurolite crystals, but finding a cross shaped stone is another matter. I bought a "fairy stone" necklace while there; I still can't tell if it's a rare stone or plastic.
     Each state park in Virginia has its "own" legend or tale to tell, which I'm sure other state parks have as well. I'm planning to camp soon. Getting out in nature away from the cares and hustle and bustle of the city is okay with me. It's time to get out and enjoy the woods!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lazing along the New River

             "What  do they think they're doing?"
             "I think they gave up on paddling."
             The husband and I had anticipated a leisurely sit by the town gazebo for a little summer concert, but the band didn't show. So we took our fold up chairs to sit near the New River and just leisurely look out at what was happening. It was summer, but a middle aged gent in gray and dark green was standing in green water up to his waist, casting and recasting his line, trying to hook onto something in that deep water. Not too far along was a couple -- she in a yellow kayak, he in what looked like an orange raft-- trying to navigate small rapids. Apparently, she had no problem at all going against the current, but she also bypassed the strongest part of it. He, meanwhile, with way less leverage he was so deep in his raft, kept paddling, paddling, and paddling. Did it for 10 minutes or more. She finally grew impatient and pushed him toward calmer waters. Then they let the current push them along.
           The New River does push you along in some spots. In others, (from experience, I can say), you really have to stick the oar in and use some muscle. It all depends on how much of a hurry you're in. In the middle of summer, who would be in a hurry on a sunny, early evening trip? Husband Frank wants to try out a kayak himself this week.  We'll give it a try and see how it goes.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Hungry Mother -- worth the walk on the 80th anniversary!

                           Walking the Hungry Mother Park Lake Trail.

     This is a big year for Virginia -- the 8oth anniversary of our State Park system. State parks provide very reasonably priced entertainment. If you go for just the day, or a few hours, then you can get a big bang for your parking fee bucks, as there is so much to do at our state parks. Go fishing, go for a hike (literally), picnic, observe wildlife and take photos, visit the discovery/nature center or gift shop. You can find all this and more at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion. And we chose to meet with a friend there.
    For years fellow Master naturalist friend Carrie S. had been a guide at the park, helping children identify plants in the woods, invertebrates in the stream, and edibles here and there. After a tasty lunch at the park restaurant (the cream of tomato soup was especially good) she took us on the Lake Trail Loop (well, we didn't get to go ALL the way around but did see the good parts of the trail).
   She said there were a number of trails she found "uninteresting" for her to explore. But the Lake Trail, besides having the scenic 108 acre lake be a big part of  the scenery, has numerous interesting plants Carrie was glad to point out for our edification. I was unaware, for example, that one of the first wildflowers to come up in spring in our region, coltsfoot, with its dandelion like bloom, later has this huge maple shape of a leaf, what is white underneath. The big elliptical leaves in a stream we passed as we neared a bend away from the lake she thought were those of skunk cabbage. The leaves are said to have a nasty smell, so as to attract flies to help pollinate the plant. Many plants do depend on flies and bees for pollination, especially wildflowers. 
    One understory tree with thin limbs that seemed to be bent over she said some people called a "muscle tree," though it was really American hornbeam. The trail was starting to get a bit slippery as we started uphill -- it had recently rained, probably that morning. So we stopped a second as she pointed out that maidenhair fern was noted for its dark brown stem, a good identifier. 
    And she actually cooked stinging nettles, stingers and all! Of course, she boiled them in about three changes of water, which destroyed anything pinchy. I'd never tried that, though I have cooked the inner shaft of cattails and some other greens of the woods, like dandelion, goose foot, violets. The variety of plants on this nice trail was also evident with orange butterfly weed, wild raspberry,  milkweed, and spicebush visible. Since the park is in FAR southwest Virginia, I think there is a greater diversity of plants than where I live farther north. Oh well. You can't have everything, though we do have pretty purple larkspur at our local park in spring.
    They say there is a legend (which may or may not be true) about how a mother and her young kids were captured by Indians in the region centuries past. They escaped, but the mother didn't make it. The kids came back toward a settlement and all they could say they were so young was "Hungry mother." Well, I suppose they were. 
    There was no time for a stroll on the light colored sandy beach our sons had enjoyed when they were young, but their discovery center, unlike the little one I volunteer at at Claytor Lake State Park, has an "impressive" array of stuffed wild animals, including bear, fox and raccoon. That is worth a look. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Serenity Now! at Randolph Park in Dublin

                                            A walk on the wild side at Randolph Park, Dublin

      Our first real picnic in the spring with my transplanted, (somewhat autistic) sister Debra was at a cozy little park not too far from us, Randolph Park in Dublin (Virginia, not Ireland). Around 4 p.m. the three of us (Sis,  husband Frank and myself) took a little stroll down the rather level, handicapped accessible trail in the Randolph Park woods. I think Debra appreciated the fact that it was level, with all kinds of foliage. On more than one occasion she'd marveled at the fact that we have "thousands" of trees in our area -- she came from the desert of Nevada and didn't see any real greenery, and they have "dirt" mountains there, especially around Vegas.
    I noticed aging mayapple leaves, and wild berry plants (probably blackberry or raspberry) just beginning a bit above the forest floor, with Solomon's seal, red maple, red or black oak and sassafras (the last mostly around the pond bordering the woods) about.
    Debra, with her arthritic feet, didn't walk all that far. We went on the bordered walkway with quotes inscribed in stone every so often (I can only remember Robert Browning's "God's in his heaven/ All's right with the world".) She looked around herself in this peaceful place and said "this is nice. Serene." We got up and walked some more and the path curved around, birds chirping up in the trees. We spied a squirrel not ten feet ahead on the path, which looked odd. It was gray with a reddish tail. Frank surmised that was not normal. He also pointed out the nuts the squirrel  had previously stashed, which you could readily see, on a tree with rather shredded bark.
    We pivoted back toward our picnic spot, which had the gazebo that overlooks a little pond. But after we finished our hot dogs, I, then Frank, went down to the green, murky water. Among the reeds we spotted "6" green frogs; one had to be a fat male, who'd called every so often. Debra called that a bull frog, but I think there were only green frogs with muddy backs out there. One was really small, light bright green and white underneath, and really cute. 
    And then a turtle made an appearance.
    "Hey, I see a turtle!" said Frank.
    "Where?" I asked.
    "It peeked out its head and then went back in."
    We came back home and I made a banana bread mix she'd given us the previous week. After it came out of the oven Debra and I had half apiece (at least 360 calories -- how will I ever lose weight). There's only a little left, along with the memory of a calming day at Randolph Park.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Beagle Ridge Herb Farm fragant and nature minded

Ellen Reynolds talks to visitors at Beagle Ridge

     On her Facebook page for Beagle Ridge Ridge Herb Farm, owner Ellen Reynolds has some pretty looking lavender sashets on view, for the economical price of $4.95. This Virginia Master naturalist and herbal plant saleswoman had spent most of her life living "all over". When it came time to really find a place to settle down in, she and husband Greg decided on a wooded area about 10 miles from the city of Wytheville, in Matney Flats, where there are many birds in view. There is even a hiking trail for bird watchers and anyone wanting to get away from the busyness and noise of the city, to a place when one can experience peace and calm.
    She describes her decision to move to Beagle Ridge as serendipity ("a happy surprise") and welcomes visitors to her herb farm from Thursday to Sunday. Here she grows many wildflowers for sale, but especially lavender. In a study done by R. Reichow Braden and M. A. Halm, lavender was shown to ease the anxiety of preop patients in the hospital.  Both its flowers and oils  have been used in treating different pains, like toothaches and migraines, and assisting with insomnia and cancer issues. 
    Visiting lots of public schools to teach kids about nature Reynolds also feels is important. She even has a butterfly house she built, a place where Monarchs can live out most of their lives before they are let free to migrate south.
    To find out more or to see about purchasing lavender go to www.beagleridgeherbfarm.com. 

RAID-- Bad for Bugs AND People


      Husband Frank said he'd done this before as he'd seen the bugs swarming in the past (Really? You didn't tell moi); and recently he did the self same thing: he used RAID, and in the house (Ick).
    Nasty! RAID is a nasty bug spray, even if it is mostly used outside (by more informed people than this spouse). But he wanted to get rid of these winged bugs right away, "bugging" us as we sat in the living room, not two feet away and crawling around on the floor and wall just below the picture window. 
     I'd informed him that I'd seen bugs by the window and didn't immediately say don't use a toxic bug spray. So his immediate reaction was to get rid of them fast by generously spraying the area near us with RAID. I should have said "no" to bug spray right off the bat. Immediately after that our eyes and noses were affected, cringing from the smell and irritation of these harsh chemicals.
     At first I wasn't even sure they were termites. I thought they were harmless winged ants (which don't like to dine on the wood the house is made of).  I looked at several websites and found out termites have little black bodies which, unlike ants, have thick waists -- no segmentation. Flying ants have upper and lower wings, the lower ones shorter than the upper pair. Flying termites have uniform, elliptical shaped wings that are twice their body length, and when the RAID got them (hubby vacuumed up the mess afterward) you could see the little body laid out against the long, translucent wings.
     I had to inform him "you're spraying poison. What did people do before WWII? Why couldn't you have used boiling water in the house (then swept them out)?"
     I wondered what my body was being exposed to. RAID has a ton of nasty chemicals, like pyrethyroids, piperonyl butoxide, permethrin, and D-phenothrm (a mouthful).
    At a government toxicology site it pointed out permethrin, for one, is harmful if absorbed through the skin and if swallowed. It says to remove pets and plants away from the area to be sprayed and ventilate the area -- we opened the windows and ventilated the house for 3 days. Some recommend opening up the windows for a week!
    And he did this stupid thing for nothing. At the "gardens alive" website (an extension of NPR radio's "you bet your garden" show) it explains that you can get rid of termites without toxins. Just treat wood --- pine is their favorite -- with borate termiticide and put the wood in termite bait traps outside of the house. Our termites were trying to find a colony, as most East coast termites are subterranean and "want" to stay down in the ground. 
     Live and learn.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Don't Kill the Dandy Dandelion

   When my sons were rather young they would seek out these innocuous yellow flowers out on the lawn and gave them to me to put in a vase --- the humble dandelion. Then, as now, I thought they were rather pretty and couldn't understand why homeowners looked upon them with such disgust.
    But I find that dandelions are actually quite dandy. If you look in any "edibles" handbook you will see that quite to contrary of today's thinking, these wildflowers -- yes, they are in wildflower guidebooks, not weed books --- are quite attractive. And edible.
    Dandelions have vitamins A, and C in them. And being a "green," they are also good at "detoxing" the liver. In grammar school you may have been told the liver just stores excess energy and fat. It does more than that, actually; it processes and detoxes what comes into the body, from chemicals in our food and cosmetics to our doctor pills and common drugs over the counter like aspirin and Tylenol (acetaminophen). Dandelions help our overworked livers work better.
    Though the bigger leaves may taste a bit bitter, like many greens (mustard greens and collard greens), the early, smaller leaves don't taste bad. If you mix them into a big salad you can hardly taste them, anyway.
    At our wedding "rehearsal dinner," an outdoor affair, my soon-to-be spouse's good friend from high school brought along some dandelion wine. I think it had only been aged something like a week. It looked like muddy water and didn't taste any better. Kind of like muddy water but with a "kick" to it. His cousin Larry took some good gulps of it (and probably some other stuff too) and had a good hangover the next day. He looked rather pale at the wedding reception.
   Yeah, dandelions can make living interesting. They make good natural crowns for the hair too, or fluffy bracelets.
   So let them stay on the lawn for a week. They soon close up their flowers and go to seed and leave your property, till next spring. They don't hurt the lawn, so don't hurt them and poison the environment for birds and others who light on the grass.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Winter Walks -- Healthy and endorsed by Thoreau

    It was Thoreau, the famous New Englander, who wrote fondly of the winter walk. He wrote the "meadow mouse has slept in his snug gallery in the sod," while we people  are "crunching crisp snow under our feet," as "feathery flakes" come down. Most of us look at winter weather and think ugh, it's cold and uncomfortable out. It doesn't have to be. And it's especially good if you're out in the sun.
   My friend Bud was the first one to point out he went on winter walks during Christmas vacation breaks from school. Winter on the East coast can get pretty darn chilly, and I have to admit my walks have been fairly short when I first tried to do this. Some think wintertime is only for kids, who build snowmen and toss snow balls. As a grownup I've built a snowman (or woman) or two and gotten boots as waterproof as possible for stepping into new or half melted snow. It can be a challenge if there is a layer of ice under the snow as you get older, so I'm sure the snow is more on the crunchy than slippery side.
    Dr. Lynn Millar, a Winston-Salem State University professor of physical therapy, points out that especially as you get older -- I've recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis because I twisted my knee badly last year -- it is important to get out and exercise in winter. The sunlight in winter lifts your mood and provides needed Vitamin D, and is really helpful if you are getting  corticosteroids, which increase the risk of brittle bones, Millar says. I find just "nature watching," noting the woodpeckers and sparrows and cardinals on the trees, whether the squirrels are up and looking for nuts, and what kind of different shapes the tree limbs form, makes for a worthwhile jaunt outside any time. Try a winter walk sometime.
   (A link to more info on winter walks and health: http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/winter-walking-benefits-arthritis/ )

Monday, February 1, 2016

Tree Walkng for state champs at Virginia Tech

   It was cold -- a great day for a tree walk? Not really, though the good news was our leader, Jeff Kirwan and a few other ladies, were quite knowledgeable about the trees we were going to see. And we met in a gray parking lot. On Virginia Tech campus.
    Virginia State University and Polytechnic Institute -- a land grant college, with actually a lot of land-- 2600 acres -- is a good place for studying animal husbandry, self driving cars, water testing and nature at thee Hahn Horticultural Center. And on this big campus you find a variety of trees, from white pine to red hickory to a tree dedicated to comic Stephen Colbert!
   Wearing my furry black winter coat and red hat, I went off with several others, starting out in the duck pond area off of Duck Pond Road/Drive. After a handful of steps Jeff brought us slightly uphill, eyeing the president's home in the distance, to a few knotted old trees, what he called state champs. I believe one was a maple. There was also a white willow, on the east side of the duck pond, as we crossed a little foot bridge, also a champ. I think this was the one where it was so wide we couldn't tell its age.
   On the campus proper we headed down the west side of the Drill Field. I was really surprised when he pointed out there was "one" tree left from when the Drill Field wasn't an open area at all, but an arboretum. It is a "burr oak" with  huge acorn cups, a sign near it saying it was planted in 1895, I believe. That's an old and grand tree! Fellow naturalist Beth U. instinctively starting yanking off the English ivy around. It's sad they tore out so many trees for a field.
   With state champs they measure the height and circumference and possibly the rings too. Jeff, a former student, was there when a grand old tree fell in what is "Stadium Woods" behind Lane Stadium, where the football games are played. The rings were measured on the fallen tree and it was 300 years old! No wonder they want to save this woods of white and black oaks! This unique urban woods needs to be preserved. And it is also where a great oak with the sign "Colbert Oak" is nailed to it, as a means to entice comic Stephen Colbert to come. At least, they hope he will come visit, is my understanding.
    In the Hahn Horticultural garden we spied a few interesting, new to me trees, like the triofolate orange, the Alaskan yellow cedar and the kind of hanging down limber pine, also state champs. We traversed part of the garden I hadn't seen before, with a lot of brown wooden planks around a small goldfish pond and curving trails going back out toward the road and parking lots. The weather warmed up; our coats were open, and it was time to get something to eat.
    All in all, it was informative and a few hours of good exercise. Every town should have a "tree walk" like this.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Warm Temps, Ground hogs and Life (Star Wars Reference)


                                                 Blooms on the quince tree.

 When Star War VII's "Kylo Ren" chases Daisy Ridley's character into the snowy woods, he ignores the dark silhouettes of the surrounding trees. The trees stand perfectly still (why, wouldn't they, they're trees) in their dormant, powered down state, nature's smart way of protecting them against the bitter cold. But what about winters "without" all that cold and snow?  
    At a recent Master naturalists' meeting, Judy K. pointed out a tree of hers, a quince, was blooming weeks in advance, in late fall -- not in springtime, like it should. What the heck is going on here? When it's almost 70 degrees on the East coast for Christmas, a time when people normally are huddled inside and expect bitter cold wind and snow, it's pretty confusing. Imagine how confusing that can be for the trees themselves. Some trees in the New River Valley (VA.) that had dropped their fall leaves began growing new ones right away or blooming, like silver maple and Judy's quince tree with its reddish flowers. And after they bloom, folks, that's it for the season, no apples, no more  funny helicopter samara seeds (for the maple trees, at least). Thank you, El-Nino!
    I was lucky my daffodils were deep enough they didn't start pushing up their leaves. It's nice to have flowers in the spring, something to look forward to and ruminate upon after dealing with a cold, stark, dreary landscape for many months (January and February, specifically). Phenology is the study of the timing of recurring biological events, and lately, the timing has been somewhat off.
    But it's interesting that Virginia Tech physiology specialist John Seiler says trees native to the region have a mechanism in place that kicks in, even in this crazily warm weather. They have to have so many "chilling hours" before they break out into bloom in warming weather. My dogwood and cherry trees definitely stayed "put" without bursting into color this year. And now that the cold in January is back and dormant they should stay dormant.
    The ground hogs haven't come out yet; that tradition/legend is about whether the ground hog (called a "woodchuck" up north) sees his/her shadow or not. It's said the first prediction about how early spring would come was in the 1886 "Punxsutawney (PA.) Spirit" newspaper. It predicted that if the ground hog -- Punxsutawney Phil -- didn't see his shadow, there would be an early spring. Europeans had thought badgers and hedgehogs could foretell the future and brought that concept to America. (I really loved Bill Murray's movie "Ground hog Day," by the way. Sometimes I wish I could do over a day or experience, like bad hair days, when I accidentally walk into the men's room, when an editor isn't interested in my writing, etc.)
    Like the trees, not matter the weather, time marches on for them. Whether you're Kylo Ren or a stuck in one place tree, hopefully you can deal with unexpected changes and "weather" them well.