This fall, Keith and I completed the Indiana Master Naturalist program. Over eight evenings, we met with experts on wetlands (Jeff Kiefer), wildflowers (Jim Nardi), invasive, edible, and medicinal plants (Karen Staub), bats (Joy O’Keefe), astronomy and night birds (Barbara Tibbett and Alan Bruner), butterflies (Jeff and Sandy Belth), land trusts (Phil Cox), naturalist authors (Mike Lundsford), and Indiana geology (Nelson Shaffer).
Each session included a field trip: We went to Elanco Wetlands, Nardi Tallgrass Prairie, Turkey Run State Park, and Dobbs Memorial Park Nature Center. We saw our first cream gentian and royal catchfly. We learned that Lincoln’s mother died from “milk sickness” after drinking milk from a cow that had eaten white snakeroot. That only three species of owls hoot: great horned, barred, and long-eared. That jewelweed is a natural antidote for stinging nettle and poison ivy. That garlic mustard (an invasive plant) flourishes where deer do, since the animals will eat everything but it, leaving it free to roam.
We also discovered that there are many nature preserves right in our own backyard, places we’d never heard of, like Smith Cemetery and Pine Hills. And so we decided to make a list of all the nature preserves within 100 miles of the Perry Farm, visit them, and write about them here.
We hope you enjoy this series, which we’re calling “A Hundred Miles from Home.”
- To identify the nature preserves in your own backyard, use the Nature Conservancy’s Interactive Map of Nature Preserves
- If you live in our neck of the woods, use Indiana’s interactive map or Illinois’ directory
- If you’re also interested in fish and wildlife areas, state parks or state forests, visit the Indiana or Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ website
- Last, for more information about the Master Naturalist Program, visit the Indiana website or the Illinois website.