Kris August

Celebrating the Interconnectedness of Life

Harvest Time!


Autumn is on its way! Animals and people are busy harvesting the fruits of summer's labors. We had a bounty of peaches and peppers are doing well too!


Here in Iowa we are feeling some cooler temperatures as the wind has shifted to stronger breezes from the northwest. Leaves are showing the first signs of yellowing and many plants have finished flowering and now have seeds drying in preparation for withstanding the winter cold.

Calendula officinalis

Fall is a time for stocking up and building strength in preparation for winter. It is also a time for coming together in celebration of the harvest and sharing stories around an outdoor fire. As we enjoy this cooler weather, a respite between summer and winter, it is the perfect time to offer support to ourselves and to each other.

What do you need to stock up on for winter? Physically, Mentally, and Metaphorically?

Gift Packages Coming Together!

Preparations for the 2023 Self-Care course session are in full swing!

Nettle fiber

Here is a glimpse of the gift package assembly process. Mailed at the beginning of the course in September, these monthly gifts are intended to add a physical and sensory component enhancing mindfulness and connection to the natural world.

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The gifts are chosen with care to bring out the scents, tastes, activities, and moods that express each season as we move around the wheel. Some are more energizing, some creative, some inspiring, and some relaxing. They all give ideas to enhance your exploration of nature and self!

There is still time to join us in the
Self-Care Through the Cycles of Nature class!

Exploring Summer


Summer always brings out a feeling of adventure and exploration for me. It has often been a time of traveling and seeing new places and learning new perspectives. With family in north-central Arizona, I have frequent opportunities to visit and am learning about that woodland ecosystem of piñon-juniper and ponderosa pine. On a recent hike in the Granite Mountain Wilderness, we encountered some breathtaking vistas and invigorating pine air, with fascinating and familiar plant life.


I love the rounded granite rock formations and boulders found all over the Prescott area. Here there were several common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) plants happily growing among them. Mullein was introduced from Europe over 300 years ago and is found throughout North America. Yarrow (Achillea millefolia) a native North American, was also thriving along the path.


Ponderosa pine with its longer needles (3-7”) in clumps of 3, towers above the other plant life (up to 120 ft), while alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana) with their distinct scale patterned bark draw attention to eye-level.

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Below that, bushy scrub oaks (
Quercus turbinella) with tiny holly-looking leaves (~1”) dot the landscape, some stretching taller with thickly gnarled trunks. Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) are distinctly different, having larger, strongly lobed, deep green leaves (2-5”).


Noticing these similarities and differences in the plants around me brings a mindfulness to the experience that not only improves my botanical knowledge, but also helps my brain to let go of other thoughts. Because it is something I really enjoy, spending time like this in calm, focused curiosity is an excellent form of self-care too!

What do you enjoy so much that it pulls you into a state of calm focus?

Nature Journaling and Self-Care

This weekend, I attended the online Nature Journal Educator Workshop put on by Wild Wonder founded by John Muir Laws, a skilled nature educator, author, and amazing artist.
Most of the attendees are educators for children, trying to find ways to bring children out into nature, to spark interest and observation skills while providing an avenue for early science education and environmental awareness. This is how I started nature journaling when my children were young. It was a fun way to observe weather patterns and changes through the seasons and gave us captivating stories about what the animals were doing outside and what plants were growing. From my own experiences, I realized that nature journaling was also a great way to bring adults back outside!
The topics at this conference ranged from brain development, building awareness and curiosity, to giving positive, supportive feedback. Something that I really love about this kind of teaching is the use of curiosity to engage interest. When you are curious, you become less anxious. It actually releases dopamine and makes you feel happier! What a great pathway for self-care.
Observing nature is a simple way to increase mindfulness overall and enriches our daily lives. Nature journaling takes it one step further by engaging our attention and requiring us to describe back what we see through words and pictures. The quality of the artwork is not what is important; the questions and curiosity that journaling draws forth are the goals. This is what pulls us into a deeper understanding. Curiosity drives interest, motivates us, and can bring some of the best innovations in all aspects of life.
John Muir Laws shared the following quote:
“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka’ but ‘That’s funny . . .’”
-       Isaac Asimov – science fiction author and biochemistry professor
What are you Curious about?
In the
Self-Care Through the Cycles of Nature course, we explore mindfulness, curiosity, and connection, increasing awareness by journaling and ongoing discussions as we travel through the year.

Registration is now open!
Click here for details.

Energy Management

Time management has been touted as the big key to productivity for years, and I won’t argue with that, it is important. As a procrastinator myself who struggles with the perfectionism of doing a thing “just right” or not doing it at all, time is a blessing and a curse.
What if, along with counting the hours in your day, you also consider your energy levels throughout the day? When are you most clear and focused? When is a better time for quiet activities that are necessary but require less energy? What do you need to be more sustainably productive, to avoid burning out that enthusiastic energy that comes at the start of a project?
What would you rather be doing with your time? How can you do more of that so you can recharge your energy for the needed tasks of work? Putting as much value on resting and recharging as you do on “productive” work can actually increase productivity and bring better life balance.
Living with the natural cycles, circadian rhythms and regular patterns through the day and the year, is a way of managing or
following our energy levels to be the most productive, but also to live in a more balanced peaceful way.

Spend a year with us exploring the cycles of nature and learn how they can help re-energize your life.

Class registration opens soon!

Happy Earth Day!

20230416_132606Earth Day is Saturday April 22, 2023
Last weekend I participated in a volunteer training workshop for the
Iowa Wildlife Center (IWC). I absolutely adore hanging out with these people. They do such important work not only rehabilitating injured wildlife, but also educating other rehabilitators and the general public on the needs of wildlife including habitat preservation and land stewardship. Over many years, Marlene Ehresman, the Executive Director, Co-Founder, and a wildlife biologist herself, has gathered an amazing group of volunteers and experts from diverse fields to help her in this goal.
This weekend was full of fascinating and relevant topics. Marlene shared the goals and mission of the organization and the big picture of the philosophy and values that drive everything and hold this community together. Jenna Maag, the Wildlife Care Manager and Executive Associate at IWC reviewed the important steps from intake to release of injured wildlife and shared photos of many animals cared for by the IWC. My husband, Dr. Radford Davis, gave a presentation on some of the wildlife diseases of concern to human caretakers and important preventive measures to remember.
I talked about compassion fatigue and balancing the hard conversations around animal caregiving and caring for the earth with everyday life, resilience, and finding compassion satisfaction. It can be difficult to witness all the current effects of climate change and species loss, the primary cause (80%) of that being habitat loss due to human encroachment.
There were also some really hopeful talks on land stewardship and the possibilities of restoration moving forward by ISU Professor of Landscape Architecture, Julia Badenhope. Julia worked with her students on a capstone studio for planning and land restoration at WildWay, which is former farmland and a beautiful mix of woodland and prairie owned and cared for by the IWC.

I learned so much more about the field of landscape architecture and how much is considered in their planning using techniques such as working with the local watershed and bringing in native plant species to provide habitat for all animals - birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects - supporting the entire ecosystem. It is impressive what can be done in cities and wild spaces to enhance our connection with nature while also combatting and adapting to climate change.

Our day finished with Bruce Ehresman, retired DNR wildlife biologist, avian ecologist, and Marlene’s husband, who has been working hard tending and re-wilding the land at WildWay for several years. Guided by the input of many, including IWC's Stewardship Working Group and his own research on current best practices, he has removed thousands of invasive exotic plant species and seeded the prairie with love and care for the earth.
I am grateful to be a part of this organization and to have the opportunity to spend time with such wonderful, caring human beings. Thank you to all of the speakers for your diverse sharing of knowledge, and to the volunteers for your enthusiasm, input, and questions! And thanks to Kevin Cavallin for being our tech guy, photographer, and all-around volunteer!

The dedication and persistence of everyone in the organization is a beautiful example of a healthy community. Our shared love of the earth and all her inhabitants brings us together.

In the words of Bruce Ehresman:

"In truth, it is not really work at all when so much positive energy is received from our wild relatives and from our caring, understanding friends."

What gratitude can you show our only home on Earth Day and every day?

Welcome Spring!

Spring Greens!!

Spring is one of my favorite times of year. It is like a treasure hunt going outside to see who is springing up! In my own area, I know where to look for my plant friends as they poke their heads up. I watch them year-round, following their life-cycle as I follow my own.
This year everything feels just a little delayed, but those spring greens are coming up now, and we have had our first herby goat cheese of the season! These tender young greens are also lovely in salads, pizza, pesto, and many other delights.

The first rule of foraging is to know your plants, so be sure you can 100% identify before eating them! Also avoid eating weeds that have been sprayed with pesticides - those aren't good for us or the insects and other animals that enjoy this fresh spring growth.

Let me introduce a few spring greens in my garden. Some of these are just coming up here in Iowa, late March. Some I am anticipating the arrival of in the upcoming weeks. These are my photos from the last few years as I appreciate my little corner of the world.

Not a wild plant, but chives are one of the first to pop up!  
We use these in scrambled eggs, salads, sushi, so many things throughout spring, summer, and fall. 

The tiny new greens are less bitter and so nutritious. As they age, the bitter properties increase and chewing on a dandelion leaf can be a great digestive aid either before, after, or within a meal.

Another highly nutritious plant, chickweed is sweet, tender, and juicy, a great addition to salads and pesto!

Adding a few violet leaves brings more nutrients & health benefits. And the flowers are a beautiful edible garnish!

Lemon balm:
The spicy/lemony flavor adds a nice kick to the herbal blend. It is great in teas and even popsicles all summer long.

Young plantain leaves are tender, they become more tough with age, but still have nutritional and healing benefits. Plantain is most famous as a quick remedy for bee stings out in the wild.
Creeping Charlie or Ground Ivy:
This guy takes over if given any chance. It is a perfect addition to a spring or summer salad, and the long vines can be used for basket weaving as well!

The abundance of Spring is inspiring!! Once I start looking, they all seem to pop up at once. I love greeting my friends in the garden as they come back every year!

What can you find sprouting up in your part of the world?

Building Connections While Setting Boundaries - A Veterinarian's Guide

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Photos by my sister, D August Baertlein

As a veterinarian, I have a strong interest and connection with animals and nature. Much of my self-care approach involves learning and teaching about nature connection and how spending time outdoors observing the natural world helps us to nurture understanding for other creatures and even our fellow humans. In my Self-care Through the Cycles of Nature course, we focus on building connections, recognizing similarities and relationships between ourselves and the rest of the natural world. Empathy, compassion, celebration, gratitude, love, acceptance, and even forgiveness is explored.
With all this connection, where do boundaries fit in? How do we also protect ourselves from those who may, intentionally or not, cause us harm? In my experience not only in veterinary business, but in many everyday interactions, knowing my personal limits and establishing boundaries is crucial for interpersonal relationships and happy outcomes.
The first rule of going out into nature is to learn about the hazards you may encounter. We learn about poisonous snakes, insects, and plants. We learn how to behave when meeting up with large potential predators such as bears or mountain lions. We study their habitats, movements, growth patterns, and lifecycles to understand what makes them tick, and what ticks them off!
This approach can also work for our fellow human beings and the hazards we may encounter in civilization. We can learn how to move respectfully and mindfully across the terrain. “Don’t poke the bear” is important to remember, but what if we do everything we can to maintain peaceful relations and still have a threatening encounter?
When a bear or mountain lion (or cat or dog in our vet practice) becomes aggressive, we know that this is most likely a fear response, coming from a place of self-defense. They do not understand that we mean them no harm. They may have been traumatized before, encountered predators that truly did want to eat them or their babies. They may have a strong need to defend their territory or “personal space.” This defensive reaction may be an instinctive response to perceived threat in a new experience. Somewhere in our thinking mind we understand this, but in the moment, we might react with our own triggered response and end up in worse trouble.
We humans have similar built-in fear or stress responses. We know about
fight (shouting, argument, or physical violence), flight (running or walking away), and freeze (being immobilized or saying nothing – often mistaken for agreement) Additional human (and animal) responses can include fawn or friend (pacifying or people pleasing), and then there is the straight up faint stress response where our body completely shuts down.

What if we recognized these reactions for what they are – responses to trauma past or present? We often react in this way when we feel helpless, unheard, or misunderstood. Of course, there is a spectrum from mild frustration to much more severe interactions and each individual reacts differently depending on temperament, past experiences, and current state of mind.

With all these potential conflicts and emotions flowing around, how can we anticipate the “hazards” of going out into civilization? What do we do to avoid them? What boundaries can we establish early on in communication so that others understand our needs without us having to go feral to get our point across? How can we reassure someone who has reached that defensive response that we mean them no harm?
As with animals, we may be able to back away, observe and listen. We may need to disengage completely and that is often the safest response for all parties.
In veterinary medicine we learn to prioritize what is most important to accomplish when working with animals that really do not understand what we are trying to do (I highly recommend training in
Low Stress Handling, Fear Free Practice and/or Cat Friendly Practice) We learn to distinguish between what is a want and what really needs to get done in this interaction. We discover that often the wants can be postponed or foregone (like a full physical exam) until the animal is less frightened. Sometimes if we push too hard, the next encounter can be even more stressful. Offering treats, watching and listening to body language, and slowing down the process can help and, yes, we may have to tranquilize animals to accomplish needed medical procedures.

As tempting as it may be, we cannot tranquilize our fellow human beings in the same way! We can endeavor to get them help in other ways – medical help, physical or mental help, but for most of us, this is not our territory or our responsibility. Our biggest responsibility – each and every one of us – is to work on ourselves and our own responses, reactions, and mindfulness. What can we do to avoid escalating a situation? Is there time to slow down and listen, to try and understand both sides of the conflict? How do we step away and not engage when the other is not listening or hearing our side?
In martial arts and self-defense training we learn not to meet an adversary head-on. We find ways to circle around, and approach from another angle. I remember being taught that if you were in a physical fight, you had already lost. The goal was always to avoid physical violence. In veterinary medicine that can end with bites or scratches and a trip to the ER, so we really do try to avoid that!
Connection actually helps as a method of self-defense and allows us to establish boundaries through mutual agreement. Connection is something that goes both ways. Even out in the wild as we learn to move through nature in a more respectful way, the animals begin to see us as less threatening. Wild and domestic animals are simply stating their boundaries in the clearest way they know how.
Connection leads to a mutual understanding and can strengthen relationships as we begin to understand and care about the needs of others. Valuing the relationship over other desires helps to distinguish between
wants and needs. When we clearly state our rules of interaction and stick to them, people we work with begin to understand and respect those needs. We must also respect the needs of others and work to find a middle ground that satisfies everyone. If this cannot happen, walking away from the relationship may be best for all.
Being in a place of calm self-control, confident in your own needs, helps when establishing boundaries. It is possible, and important, to be available and connected, while at the same time defining your personal limitations. Understand that the boundaries of others may be different, and some may have not yet recognized their own limits and are still working on establishing those. Establishing boundaries and personal rules of conduct can be an ongoing process that we learn more about as we watch and listen to our own inner beast!

Winter Wonders

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We have been having some interesting frosts. This one occurred when the ground and plants were icy cold, but there was a still fog. The moisture in the air allowed crystals to form on the trees and here on my echinacea! Often the air is so dry here in Iowa when it is very cold that we do not get these larger crystal formations. I think this is called rime ice, different from what we usually call hoarfrost around here when the trees are transformed overnight into beautiful white crystals. Time for a deeper dive into winter water and how the different frosts are created!

I leave the echinacea seed heads through the winter and the small birds - American Goldfinch and other little guys - enjoy it outside my window. 

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What beauties are surrounding you this time of year?

Regenerative Celebrations


During these darker winter days, we may find ourselves craving warmth and comfort. This is a time to hibernate, to rest and rejuvenate. That can be tricky when at the same time, our society asks us to go out and celebrate! Can we do both — honor that need to replenish ourselves and celebrate, perhaps in a more meaningful way?
Many winter holidays include light, fire, candles, often symbolizing hope and resilience, bringing light into the dark time of the year. The menorah of Hanukah, advent candles of Christmas, and keeping the fire burning on the “shortest day” that is Winter Solstice or Yule, are just a few examples. This recognition of the need for the comfort and warmth of light, and the preservation of the spark of life in the winter is very strong across many cultures.
Looking into the underlying meaning and purpose of holidays, religious or otherwise, can help us to step back and bring more intention to celebrations. Consider your own purpose or goal in celebrating — is it to honor family, individuals, an event, or a deity? Is the purpose to support community and connections? What is needed most to feel that connection? Traditional food, drink, and goodies? Rejuvenating old memories or creating new ones? What activities or conversations are most supportive? Music? Poetry? Stories? Games? Rituals? What helps to set the stage for the coming event? What can be eliminated to create a less hectic, more nurturing experience for all?
Gifts have become a tradition and an expectation for many celebrations year-round. Consider what is most needed, and what may not be needed. In our society of disposable material goods, what might be more meaningful? What are some priorities or values of the recipient? Supporting local businesses, recycling, repurposing, and hand-making gifts can be much more valuable when done with good intentions and with the recipient in mind. Gift baskets of consumable food or drink won’t add to clutter, again keeping in mind individual preferences and health needs. The gift of an event or activity, tickets to a show, a meal out, or a massage might be greatly appreciated. Photos and memory books can be treasured keepsakes. The gift of a story, or song, or an invented game could be unique and memorable for adults and children.
Whatever you may be celebrating, any time of the year, the greatest gift for yourself is to take the time for awareness and enjoyment in those moments. It is easy for the experience to get lost in the bustle. Slow down and enjoy some warm and cozy moments of regeneration this winter!
Wishing you well this holiday season!