Here are 12 activities for 2013 to help you get in touch with your inner green guru and discover the natural world outdoors. These ideas are designed to bring well-being to you as well as the planet. Happy 2013!
Eagle watch during the winter. Bald eagles soar over Kentucky's Land Between The Lakes region, about a four-hour drive southwest of Lexington. Guided van and boat excursions are given by the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the 170,000-acre National Recreation Area between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, and through state park programs. Schedules and reservations: Lbl.org/CALGate.asp and Parks.ky.gov/winter-adventure
Information-packed and socially responsible, these online catalogs show beautifully illustrated collections of heirloom, organic and culinary delights, encouraging beginning gardeners and inspiring green-thumbed veterans.
Find spring ephemerals. Situated atop the Kentucky River palisades in far southern Fayette County, Floracliff Nature Sanctuary is a 287-acre preserve where tender, just-sprouted spring ephemeral wildflowers as well as noble, old-growth trees, some approaching 400 years, are found. A Signs of Spring hike, scheduled with the hope of finding hepatica and bloodroot, is scheduled for March 16. Reserve a spot and check out other walks and work days at Floracliff.org.
Visit baby animals. Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Mercer County always has down-home yet warmly sophisticated events going on. On April 13, 20, or 27, you and your children are welcome to have Breakfast with the Babies to check out newborn animals at the village. For reservations and a look at other upcoming special activities, see Shakervillageky.org.
Gaze at garden sculpture. At historic Yew Dell Botanical Gardens in Crestwood, an annual outdoor sculpture exhibit will be installed from May 17 until July 28. Each piece is matched to each garden setting. The gardens are partially supported as a preservation project of The Garden Conservancy, a non-profit group which helps fund exceptional American gardens.
Water, water everywhere. Watering cans, sprayers, and rain barrels are essential for summer survival when the going gets hot. Some favorites:
■ Motion activated water sprayers, which discourage pesky critters and drench sweaty gardeners. Check out the ScareCrow at Contech-inc.com.
■ The U CAN, a fantastic, ergonomically designed, American-made two-gallon watering can. Theucanbrand.com
■ Bluegrass PRIDE's rainwater collection barrels, and other inspirational green programs: Bgpride.org
Go native. Including native plants in your garden plan makes sense for environmentally conscious gardeners. They're already well-suited to our climate and terroir, and support wildlife habitat needs. Wild Ones is dedicated to landscaping with native plants, has monthly meetings and is a treasure trove of native plant activities. Visit nearby nurseries like: Dropseed Native Plant Nursery, Louisville; Shooting Star Nursery, Georgetown; and Highland Moor Nursery, Midway.
It's all about bulbs. Order bulbs for fall planting, and reap rewards with a daffodil, crocus and allium profusion the next spring. Choose amaryllis or paperwhites for indoor forcing, and you'll have winter color and fragrance. Some favorite sources: Easy to Grow Bulbs and Brent and Becky's Bulbs.
It's for the birds. Fall and spring migrations mean that unusual birds are passing through Central Kentucky. Take a day trip with experts from the Audubon Society of Kentucky by checking event listings. For a bit of birding sweetness, read Julie Zickefoose's newest book, The Bluebird Effect, and her blog.
Pumpkins, squash and gourds, oh my. These favorites are everywhere in late fall. Many kid-friendly harvest celebrations include hayrides and corn mazes at farms and markets, like Devine's in Mercer County; and Springhouse Gardens, Springhouse Gardens in Jessamine County. A favorite spot for gourds is Front Porch Crafts in Horse Cave. Find a few you like for decorating, carving or cooking, but save the seeds to plant next spring.
New license plates. In support of the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund, three different nature license plates are available for an additional fee of $10. They include a bobcat prowling in a rhododendron, a crimson cardinal fluttering above a Kentucky coffee tree and a viceroy butterfly atop a goldenrod stalk. Photos and a list of land this fund has helped purchase and preserve are at Heritageland.ky.gov. Find time to visit some of these treasures.
Backyard coops and greenhouses. What's in your backyard? Could a productive addition to a lawn or flower garden be a hoop-tunnel or greenhouse for extending your homegrown kitchen garden season, or a chicken coop for keeping egg-bearing hens? Commune with local cluck lovers at Facebook. Greenhouse source: Gardener's Supply.
Susan Smith-Durisek is a master gardener and writer from Lexington. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog: Gardening.bloginky.com.