Kicking off the year with nature

Published 10:16 pm Friday, January 10, 2020

By Biff and Susan Andrews

Biff and Susan Andrews, who used to write weekly or bi-weekly nature columns in their capacity as Master Naturalists, are back. In case you missed us. If not, we’re back anyway, though perhaps not as often or as regularly. Columns will continue to range from birds to bugs, weather to water, living forests to dead driftwood. It’s the world around us … nature.

So, it being January, a new year, let’s see how some nature folk celebrated the event. A dozen of our members went on a “First Day Hike” at a local natural area (Sandy Bottom). The weather was right, the folks congenial, and Mother Nature radiant in warm winter splendor. And 2019 was the warmest year on record.

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Another group of our members goes annually on a New Year’s Day canoe trip in a remote waterway. The leader of the trip is a big tree expert who has found dozens of champion trees in Virginia and adjacent states. It was another great way to commit to the outdoors on a meaningful day.

Others of us took a more relaxed approach. We merely went for a walk on a lovely day. The Japanese came up with a concept a few decades ago, called “Shinrin Yoku” or “Forest Bathing” as it is known here, that has become an American trend. Paid leaders conduct formal excursions into wooded areas and counsel their followers to let civilized concerns slip away, as in yoga. We prefer to call it “taking a walk.” So we took a walk with our faithful dog, Skylar Roland Andrews, also known as “Poot.”

The sun was warm. The forest was remarkably green, even though leaves were gone. But we chose a trail with about 20 species of ferns on it , so there was lots of green. Happy dog, check. Fresh air, check. A mile and a half of exercise, check. No TV, cell phone or social media, check. Just family, woods, dog and miscellaneous birds — check, check and triple check.

It was a good way to start a new year. Another way to kick off a good start with Mother Nature in the new year is this: the Historic Southside Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists is seeking new members. A Master Naturalists meet-and greet session will be held Jan. 14 at the Isle of Wight Ruritan building, 17011 Courthouse Highway, Windsor. All you need is an interest in nature and a willingness to learn more. The training session, which will begin Jan. 28, at the Isle of Wight Extension Office, will teach you everything else you need to know. For information on topics, field trips, fees and an application form, visit or call the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office at 365-6261. Registrations are due by Jan. 23. Hope to see you there!

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at