Today: Lynne Farmer, newly retired from Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park in Preston, Minn., where she was park naturalist for the last 15 years.
“Grandma Gatewood’s Walk,” the story of an intrepid adventurer in her late 60s who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1955. In fact, she is credited with saving the trail! Before that I reread “Gift from the Sea,” a book I return to because the author has a wonderful way of capturing the life lessons that shells can teach. Before that it was “Red Tape and White Knuckles,” the recounting of a woman’s solo motorcycle trek from Tunisia to South Africa.
I’m a member of several organizations that keep watch on animal welfare and environmental issues, and there is always some new development to capture concern and attention. For example, I support Howling for Wolves in Minnesota. With the Endangered Species Act under constant challenge these days, it is crucial to have a strong and well-researched base from which to defend this important legislation, which groups like Howling for Wolves provide.
As a recently retired state park naturalist, I have a little more time to observe the transition from summer to autumn here in the toe of Minnesota’s boot. One day it is 80-plus degrees and sunny, the next it is 50-plus degrees and raining mightily, threatening flooding. One day the tomatoes are green and I fret that they’ll never ripen before frost. The next day they all are tinted red and I put my worries to rest. I have a happy place next to a little burbling fountain, complete with gnome and turtle, where I sit quietly while nature takes her course. The other day a hawk flew in front of my nose as it chased a catbird into the lilac bush. The catbird escaped. But I had a great view of it all from my “catbird” seat! The lilac along with the wild plants that grow in abundance here on the farm have all said goodbye to their peak season, though the goldenrod is putting on a glorious show. A maple tree that is neighbor to the lilac has not begun to turn the molten color that signals the end of summer, but that’s OK. Winter comes next and I’m willing to wait. My main observation is that autumn here is a season of extreme and rapid changes, to be enjoyed when it can.
I spend as much time outside as possible and although the country life is idealized as peaceful, that’s not always the case. From the sounds of mice in the walls to the whine of loggers’ saws; to the call of coyotes in the twilight; to the whinny of Old Niki; to the cackle of the chickens; to the mournful mooing of the neighbors’ cows separated from their calves; to the woods atwitter with birds and squirrels exchanging views, there’s always something sounding. Inside I like to listen to folk music and old-time radio shows, “The Moth Radio Hour,” “All Things Considered” and “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!”
During my offseason as a naturalist I have volunteered with the National Park Service at sites around the country. I love the opportunities this kind of work provides, seeing and experiencing places I otherwise might not. Most recently I volunteered at Cape Hatteras in North Carolina and fell head-over-tea kettle in love with the area. My hope is that I can continue being involved in some way shape or form with the kind of work I love, and volunteering is a great way to do so.