Category Archives: Connected Living

Sustainability and finding the rhythms of living in line with natural cycles.

Activity: Simple Autumn Applesauce

One of my all-time favorite parts of autumn is applesauce. My granddaddy taught me how to make his mother’s applesauce from scratch (although they threw RedHots, a candy, into theirs to make it pink – I have a different method), and now I’ve adapted it into my own simple treat. If you’re not much of a cook or nervous to try applesauce homemade, this recipe is perfect for you – it’s easy, relatively quick, and fun. When you share it with family and friends for the holidays, they’ll gaze at you wide-eyed and compliment your culinary prowess. Just shrug and smile smugly, ‘cuz you got this in the bag. (Also, they’ve probably only ever had applesauce from the grocery store, which is terrible by comparison, so it’s win/win.)

First: You must select your apples.

Apples come in two kinds: good for cooking and good for eating. It’s not that there’s a huge flavor difference, it’s more of texture difference – apples that are good for sauce are mushier and mealy, and fall apart when heated. Apples that are good for munching raw are crispier and not mealy. (Sidenote: for something like an apple pie, you may want them to stay firm, in which case do not select mealy, sauce-type apples!) It doesn’t matter which one you want to try, it’s just that the stronger, harder apples for eating raw will take longer to cook down and may not create a smooth sauce. But who cares? Experiment to see what you like best.

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Giveaway From My Heart to Yours

If I do not create, I feel like I will melt down.

I am bursting every single day with line, color, shape, and texture. My mind spins with ways to fix broken things, make beautiful the battered and unkempt, to take apart, rearrange, reassemble. I want to fix it – I want to make it live again.

I have been told my entire life to “be quiet,” to “stop being so dramatic,” to stop “being so loud.” The thing is, I feel things dramatically and deeply, and I see things loudly that others cannot see.

I see the broken childhood of the woman that threatens to bash her sons’ heads in if they don’t stop blaming each other in the shopping cart. I feel the neglect she felt, the lack of support. She’s still there, hearing the same threats. I feel the uncertainty the children feel about whether they should trust her or not. Is it another empty threat, or will this one pan out?

I feel the trapped, smothered pain of a combat veteran’s mind in the man walking down the street in too-large, filthy clothes. No one can understand what he’s seen, the ways in which he watched his friends suffer and die, and the ways their families suffered and died. He’s still at war, watching it happen over and over again, even if it’s not a solid memory he sees.

I visited a grotto yesterday, an army of holy statues tucked into towering rhododendrons and the dripping branches of trees. I felt the hope and the sorrow and the prayers there, bearing down upon me like a great, weightless cloud, and I couldn’t stop crying. I kissed St. Francis’ feet and left him 53 cents because that’s all I had. I lit candles for those in Gaza, and for those in the Ukraine and Afghanistan, and had to walk quickly away from those candles so I would not fall apart.

I am dramatic because I *feel* what others feel so intensely that sometimes I can’t find my own feelings. I create or I wither. Creation is all I have. Creation is more than a self-soothing therapy, it is a way to transform these feelings and the things I see and the world around me. It is a way to channel pain into joy, and ugliness into beauty.

It doesn’t matter what our passions are, it’s time for all of us to make the solid, conscious choice to find compassion for others, forgive those who have destroyed some part of us, and come together as a world community to take care of those who have less. I find solace and comfort and joy and beauty in nature; maybe you find it in art, or music, or cars, or in your family. It doesn’t matter any more. We must unbend what we have learned and transform into a better, wiser species. This means healing your own pain, which means you must acknowledge it first – you must seek to find it and draw it out, like an infection hiding in your heart. Only then can you rain compassion upon others as though they exist in a desert. I challenge you to do this.

I challenge you to see the true abundance in your life. Abundance isn’t just money – it’s shelter, it’s a loving parent, it’s education, it’s the materials with which to make art and music, it’s having a job, it’s feeling safe. I have very little to give outside of these words, but I feel called to give something away. I create, and that it what I will give away – a piece that only a handful of other humans on this planet have, the first piece I really carved for print, an exploding heart.



It’s 11×14 and just black ink on bristol board, but it’s what I have to give. So write to me, here in the comments, or via email at roamingnaturalist (at) gmail (dot) com. Give me permission to post a piece of what you say without identifying you in any way, and be sure that I have a way to contact you (either via blog or email link in the comments, or a usable email address via email).

Tell me what breaks your heart, what has broken in your life, what heals you, what reminds you that everything is all right and we’re all connected. What does this piece say to you? How can it help you? What fills you with enough hope to go on in times of darkness?

One of you will be chosen to receive it via US mail, free of charge in any way. And then, I’d like you to try really hard to give something away that you have to offer. Something you love to do or make, even maybe this piece of art.

Thank you for reading and opening your hearts. I know this isn’t my typical kind of writing, and I’m glad you’re here.

The very best,

Nicole the Roaming Naturalist


Wildlife Rehab Diary: The Beginning

I have an itch to work with wildlife. A bad itch. An itch that tugs at the back of my brain all day, every day, day in and day out. No matter what I’m doing, I’d rather be sharing space with an animal. I’m not picky: I’d even take insects and spiders over a desk job if I was in a real bind.

In Oregon, I’d been accepted into a spectacular captive animal management program, but couldn’t procure the funds to attend. Heartbroken, I returned to the East Coast, trying my best to believe that something equally as incredible was in the making. (I’m the kind of person that believes if a thing isn’t in your best interest, you don’t get it, no matter how badly you thought you wanted it; but walking away from zoo school was a doozy.)

Fast forward six months, and a combination of coincidence and free time led me to email a local wildlife rehabilitator to see if she needed volunteers. Wildlife rehab is a world of unpaid, tireless work for creatures that will bite you, shit on you, and most likely hate you with every fiber of their being. But more importantly, it’s a world of creatures whose lives are only a passing whisper to most humans, a glimpse of what is otherwise just mystery. It’s a world of injuries and orphaning, of human-caused suffering, but of healing, resilience, and the return of a living being to its home. It’s a world of hope; fur and scales and teeth and hope. Read the rest of this entry

Baby Birds 101 – To Rescue or Not to Rescue?

Working as a naturalist, I’ve received tons of calls about injured animals and thought I’d share some of my knowledge with you about handling situations with baby birds, since it’s the most common one.

Baby finch. Author photo.

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The Milkweed & Monarch Situation – Links & Resources

Butterflies feed on lots of different plants, but each species need a particular plant or group of plants on which to lay their eggs. Monarch butterflies need Milkweed (Asclepias species) for reproduction, and these lovely indigenous flowers are in decline – between agricultural practices, roadside chemical sprays, and everything else that puts native species in decline, milkweed species, like many other plants that support native wildlife, are in trouble.

I wanted to take just a quick minute to assemble some resources and links that will help you gather all the necessary info on this topic, and the exciting movement happening in backyard gardens to protect the gorgeous, famous butterfly we call the Monarch.

Female Monarch on clover, by Kenneth Harrelson on Wiki.

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Being a Carnivore While Loving Animals: 6 Reasons I Eat Meat

Having lived in Oregon has given me an automatic label amongst even my most inner circle: vegetarian. Friends that have watched me eat meat half-jokingly say it. I don’t take offense, by any means, but it is confusing, since the only time I’ve spent as a vegetarian was a handful of months nearly ten years ago. Apparently that kind of thing sticks with people (especially if you then move to the West Coast), but I fairly quickly came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t for me. And that was a tough decision, because I’d done a heck of a lot of reading about how meat is produced in this country. I’m positive that I’m not alone – that others, too, must struggle with the juxtaposition of compassion for other living creatures and consuming them.

Let me make this explicitly clear: I am not denouncing vegetarianism or veganism. If it’s working for you, super. But it doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s who this post is for. If you’re wondering how to juggle a deep love for animals with the prospect of eating them, maybe my perspective can help you. Maybe my opinions will push you to be vegetarian, and that’s okay too. That’s what this post is: my opinion and perspective.

Barred Rock Chick

Barred Rock Chick

I have always been deeply attached to animals, domestic and wild alike. When I started to learn about the horrors of the meat production industry (and it is most certainly an industry) and how it affects us, I took some time off from eating meat. My protein came primarily from soy products, beans, nuts, and the other standard newbie-vegetarian fare. However, it didn’t take long for me to decide that keeping meat products out of my diet wasn’t for me. Here’s what’s going on for me. Read the rest of this entry

[Video] Elise’s Sweet Potato Project

Well, I’ve just had my Wednesday morning cry and I thought I’d share it with you. The reality that children are learning so early on how we hurt the planet (and each other) and doing something about it just fills my heart up so much sometimes I can’t hold back the tears.

Elise had a simple science experiment to do, but couldn’t seem to make it work with conventional produce. You’ll be impressed by what she discovered, and how its implications may affect us all. Cross the jump to check out the 2-minute video and make the “OMG THIS KID IS SO CUTE” face that I’m making right now. Enjoy!

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Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

With the American holiday of Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, I wanted to share this beautiful piece of history with you. The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois nations, have what’s commonly called the “Thanksgiving Address,” and it’s the perfect thing to contemplate this time of year, no matter where you live.

Five Iroquois Nations, via Wiki.

I believe that it’s incredibly important to remember that without the indigenous people of North America, America as a country would not exist; indeed, many of our ancestors in the US would not have survived their first winters. There’s no getting around the ugly history of American settlement: the history books are quite unkind and unfair to the First Nations. Please remember and understand that these several hundred nations still exist, that these people are still here, that their cultures are still under threat, and that they deserve our respect and acknowledgement. I am grateful to the original speakers for the beautiful words below.

Even if you don’t find a space in your holiday celebrations to say it out loud, I encourage you to pursue a few quiet moments to read and absorb this beautiful, ancient, and timeless Thanksgiving Address.
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This Corn Will Blow Your Mind

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you here: I thought this picture was 100% Photoshopped.

Greg Schoen, Mother Earth News

Greg Schoen, Mother Earth News

Turns out, it’s not. Turns out, it’s really a rare, heritage corn, carefully propagated by a man whose family survived the Dust Bowl without moving.  Turns out that it has one seriously beautiful and amazing story, going back to the roots of our country, where indigenous America met European America. Check it out at Mother Earth News or click the photo!

Baby Birds 201 – Bluejays Steal My Heart

So a small clutch of baby Scrub Jays came into the nature center several days ago. The deliverer had found momma bird deceased and was clearly distressed to have discovered her babies orphaned. There were three. They were lethargic, quiet, cold, and in shock.

I called my rehabber and explained the situation. Instead of her usual response, “Okay, when can we meet up?” she said, “Okay, here’s what you do.” Rehabbers are typically overwhelmed in the springtime and apparently she thought I could handle baby birds solo.

I was up for the challenge.

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