Category Archives: It’s Only Natural: Geology, Environment

Adventures with the natural world.

The Mysterious Appeal of Skunk Scat

Who woulda thought that a photo of skunk scat would be such a draw? One thing is certain, though. Skunks aren’t only good neighbors—they eat the grubs of nuisance insects—but they’re also cute.

by Tamia Nelson | April 9, 2018

Not long after I founded this website, I published a short article about wildlife scat and included a photo of skunk scat. Three skunks live in the area, and I’ve met them all at one time or another. Sometimes all three of them will dine on seed left behind at the bird table outside my office window. Their bright white stripes stand out in the moonlight, and each skunk is easily distinguished from the others by the unique shapes of their white stripes and tails. I’ve become rather fond of Pepé, Pierre, and Big Momma. I’ve crossed paths with them when taking nighttime strolls onto the hillside to get a breath of air before bed. In all the years I’ve lived close to skunks, none has sprayed me with their formidable deterrent. We all give … Continue reading »

Boyz in the Woods: Coyote Tells It Like It Is

It’s the Chinese Year of the Dog, and just the other night we heard a distant coyote family howling under a full moon. So it seemed only right that we revisit this column from the early years of In the Same Boat. Coyote doesn’t have an easy time of it in the Adirondack foothills these days. Pursued by dogs, targeted by “varmint” hunters, “harvested” by trappers… Coyote finds enemies everywhere he turns. But make no mistake: He’s not giving up. Coyote is here to stay.

by Tamia Nelson | January 5, 2018

A Note to the Reader

It was early evening. Cool, but not cold — in the 20s, in fact. Warm for February. A light dusting of new snow covered the bare ground, reflecting the pale silver light of a waxing moon. I stepped outside. Except for a barking dog in the far distance, the ‘Flow was quiet. Suddenly, a shrill yip shattered the stillness. It was immediately answered by a second. The distant dog stopped barking. Silence. Then there was a third yip. And … Continue reading »

A Winter’s Tale: Drummers in the Wall

‘Twas a night just before Christmas, and a creature was stirring. But it wasn’t jolly old Saint Nick. It was… Well, no, Tamia’s not telling. Not now, at any rate. You’ll just have to keep reading.

by Tamia Nelson | December 29, 2018

The little lives of earth and form,
Of finding food and keeping warm,
      Are not like ours, and yet
A kinship lingers nonetheless….

— Philip Larkin, “Little Lives of Earth and Form”

It happened almost 40 years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday. I wakened slowly from a deep sleep and realized that my arm needed to come in out of the cold. Even in midsummer the nights are chilly at 6,000 feet in the North Cascades, and though I was one of eight climbers huddled under a single tarp on the eve of the summer solstice, my sleeping bag was on the edge of the group. This had been my choice. Our tarp was staked close to the ground, and the atmosphere under its impervious fabric was thick with … Continue reading »

What Good is a Dead Tree? by Tamia Nelson

The Others have an answer to the question in the title. But is anyone listening? Tamia is.

The Expert looked at his watch, and gave his companion a thumbs-up. The job wouldn’t take long. A flight of finches exploding into the air. Neither man noticed. The Expert eyeballed the old pine. He didn’t see the red squirrel clinging to the trunk. He saw only the brown needles and the bare limbs.

“What good is a dead tree?” the Expert asked, not expecting an answer. His companion knew the question was purely rhetorical. And he marked the pine for removal.

The two men thought they were alone. But they were wrong. And the Others who were present did their best to answer the Expert’s question. He wasn’t listening, though. Perhaps he never had. In any case, his companion was anxious to get going. Time is money, after all, and the Expert had more trees to condemn.

Yet the dissenting voices of the Others continued to make their case, long after the Expert had gone. It’s too … Continue reading »