A Hoosier Holiday – I saw a belted kingfisher for the first time on Thursday. I had a day off from work and decided to take a little mini-holiday down to Indiana to visit the home of Gene Stratton Porter. She was an author and naturalist who wrote novels at the turn of the century. I was surprised to see her house in the middle of town. I had thought that it would be on the edge of the Limberlost marshes.
Apparently, there are little of the marshes left. The exterior of the house was built like a large two-story log cabin, the interior was a beautiful arts and crafts style home. I especially coveted the solarium-like conservatory. It was at one end of the dining room in the form of a large wall-to-wall bay window with a cement floor which held plants in the winter. Some of the small panes along the top and bottom could be opened to let in fresh air. At night, the light from the dining room would attract large moths. They would enter the open windows and be trapped in the conservatory when the author shut the pocket doors separating the dining room from the plant area until she was able to collect and mount them. The conservatory design could totally work in a modern home.
My 9 year old niece came along on my little trip, and after we looked at the house, admired the author’s display cases filled with butterflies and moths, bought some books and postcards, we decided to visit a part of the wetlands that are in the process of being restored. We drove to the Rainbow Bend Park just a few miles outside of town,and walked down to the Wabash River. We saw a man fishing and two birds swooping at each other making a loud chrring sound. At first I thought it was a kingfisher, but all the pictures I had ever seen of them made them look short and stubby. These birds were at least 12-14 inches long. Later I looked them up and decided I was right. The fisherman caught something but he called out to us that he only got a turtle.
We also walked some nature trails and saw either a monarch or viceroy butterfly flitting among some distinctive pink flowers. We picked a specimen to press and identify later, though I was pretty sure it was an obedient plant. Sure enough, it was a Physostegia virginiana, a native plant that prefers wetlands and full sun. It comes in pink, white and lavender colors and is a member of the mint family. You can always tell a plant from the mint family by feeling the stem. If it has a square stem, it is in the mentha family. Both of us tried to get the plant to obey us when we bent the flowers. They are supposed to stay wherever they have been bent, but we couldn’t make them stay.
We started home a little late, so we decided to try to cut across the state instead of straight up I-69 and over I-94. We were doing fine and thought we may have cut the time down, when we hit a detour that took us miles and an hour out of our way.
Still, it was fun and I am finding that looking at nature is something that my niece and I can share together.