By Docents Shirley Pratt & Joyce Hartmann
On Saturday, June 16th, an eager group met with docents Shirley Pratt, Kay and Bob Verboon, Joyce and Bob Hartmann at the Riddle Cabin for the morning of activities. A timely appearance by a very cooperative insect couple, Mr. and Mrs. Walking Stick made a welcoming salute at the registration table, very well choreographed in keeping the “Bug House” theme presented by docents Kay and Bob Verboon and Joyce and Bob Hartman. After an interesting overview of the SFNC background information by Bob Hartmann, Shirley’s group hit the trails.
An enthusiastic group of three sisters joined Kay and Joyce. Kay led an interesting discussion on the importance and types of insects, while their toddler brother played in the cabin area with Dad and visited with the Pair O’ Bobs (Verboon and Hartmann), so Mom could go on the hike with Shirley. Kay provided a 12-page handout full of activities for children to do with their parents later. She then demonstrated how to make the little bug houses, assembled from plastic peanut butter jars.
The children made little bugs from wooden ovals, painted them and glued them on the jars for decorations, and put a mesh screen on top of the jar, fastened by a rubber band. The Pair O’ Bobs helped them catch insects to observe and put in their jars.
Back on the trail with Shirley……
Needless to say, finding herbaceous plants to observe and learn about was the challenge of the day! Most of these more fragile plants had weeks ago given up the struggle to stay alive and thrive, so we had to reply on the trees and other shrubby plants with deeper root systems for our historic uses of plants.
Did you know that a tea made from dogwood bark would reduce the fevers of malaria? Confederate surgeons of the Civil War had to rely on dogwood bark and other herbs to treat the soldiers suffering from malaria and other fevers because they could no longer import quinine from Peru due to the federal blockade of southern port cities. One of our hikders demonstrated that dogwood tree leaves have stretchy elastic veins when the leaf is torn across the vein lines.
Do you have a lot of pesky thorny greenbriers on your property? Lucky you! The spring growth tip of the briers are very nutritious and taste similar to asparagus when lightly steamed and buttered — or just break off the terminal 6 to 8 inches of tender spring growth as you walk along and enjoy them as a tasty treat right on the spot. You may have to scout intently to find these fresh tender treats in spring — they are also a favorite deer browse food!
In the absence of cranberry juice in the region, Native Americans and pioneers had to use cedar berries as a diuretic to help with those occasional urinary tract infections. A cup ot tea made by steeping 8-10 fresh berries in hot water was welcome relief. For those annoying bugs in the house, such as ants, roaches and bedbugs, small cedar branches were cut and strewn along the traffice areas of the cabin floor. As the family walked on the fresh evegreen branches, the aromatic oils permeated the floor boards and the air, serving double duty as insect repellent and air freshener.
We even found several “bug homes” along the trail. Additionally, many tree leaves showed signs of hungry insects snacking on them! One very observant hiker even found a tiny baby walking stick insect, barely a half inch long.
In spite of the very warm and humid morning, our group of intrepid hikers returned to the cabin with a whole new way of looking at the trees in their yard!