Sunday, December 18, 2011
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Today was one of the coldest days we've had so far this season, and it feels like winter is setting in at last. Then again, look how green the grass is, and tomorrow the temperatures here in Massachusetts will climb into the 50s. This fall's weather reminds me of another warm pattern we experienced in 1998, now recognized as an early indicator of the climate changes we are experiencing now. Still, walking along the Brook Path today was lovely with no real wind to speak of, lots of blue sky and warm sun on my skin. I expect the ground will be covered with snow the next time I walk here.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Elizabeth Forel, President of the Coalition for New York City Animals, cares deeply about carriage horses and I do, too. I can never stand to see carriage horses in any city I visit. To me, it has always been clear that they are enslaved and suffering. Forel writes:
Friday, December 2, 2011
The sunset at this time of year always reminds me of a Maxfield Parrish painting.
MAXFIELD PARRISH (1870-1966) was a unique figure in American art, not belonging to any school, part traditionalist, part inventor, sometime illustrator of gnomes and dragons, other times finding inspiration in the oak trees of his New Hampshire environs.
A meticulous craftsman, Parrish's idiosyncratic painting method involved applying numerous layers of thin, transparent oil, alternating with varnish over stretched paper, yielding a combination of great luminosity and extraordinary detail. In his hands, this method gives the effect of a glimpse through a window....except that the scene viewed is from the fairy tale world. Source: illustration-house.com
Click here to peruse some excellent books about the artist.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
I have never done any scuba diving, only snorkeling, but I’m ready to begin if it means seeing the underwater world at Raja Ampat, which means Four Kings, in eastern Indonesia's Papua province. These palm-fringed islands have been described as "a living Eden and the last paradise on Earth," and have some of the richest and most biodiverse marine life with nearly 1,400 varieties of fish and 603 species of coral.
According to Smart Travel Asia: "For serious marine diversity it doesn’t get much better than Raja Ampat. Over 1,500 coral-studded islands lazily pepper the Equator and the azure waters are home to a fabulous variety of colourful soft corals, and reef fish can be observed and large schools of fish populate the region, such as sharks, manta and mobula rays, dolphins, whales and turtles."
Like so many natural wonders, this still pristine paradise is facing serious threats. View some incredible photos and read more here.
Friday, November 25, 2011
I don't normally tend to think of myself as political, though my stances on the environment and the treatment of animals, both domestic and wild, is beginning to point me in that direction. And I do support the Occupy Wall Street protest movement because I do not believe that"growth" and the pursuit of profit is the remedy for what ails this economy. I believe our focus should be on creating jobs that help us save our planet, the only home we've got. We can also create more jobs by finding ways to reinvent our current manufacturing processes to make them cleaner and greener.
Today, while the frenzied masses line up to shop, shop, shop, why don't you go out and play, play, play? Head for the woods, romp in your yard, walk your dog, sit on a park bench ― enjoy being, not buying.
Buying, as we know from past experience after 9-11, is only a temporary fix. We need to find other ways to revitalize the U.S. and global economy. When so many people are out of work and with more layoffs to come, what can people be thinking? Spending on "stuff" when stashing away savings is more important than ever is absolutely absurd.
If you must spend today, spend time in a way that enriches you and others. Tomorrow, consider donating money (or time) to a cause you believe in. Wouldn't it be wonderful if one day, Black Friday could be replaced with Thanks for Giving Day?
Click here to learn more.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Hutto does wild turkeys a great service by showing how intelligent, creative, sensitive and resilient they are. He understands what wonderful and soulful companions they can be. I continue to feel blessed to live with a flock of wild turkeys and I share Hutto's reverence, respect and admiration for these wonderful birds.
I hope that those who see "My Life as a Turkey" will be enlightened and moved to think differently about wild turkeys. I also hope the film will give people pause to think about domesticated turkeys that are raised for food. The great majority lead miserable lives, forced to endure needless and unimaginable suffering on factory farms. As I watched the adorable poults in "My Life as a Turkey," I could not help but think of the millions of domestic poults that begin their innocent lives mutilated and abused.
Why haven't you heard more about this? Because factory farms are deliberately operated out of public sight. The farmers who engage in this "agribusiness" are secretive because they have so much to hide. Their focus is on profits, not on providing humane and respectful care for sentient creatures. The truth is that the majority of Thanksgiving turkeys that end up on your dinner table live and die in inhumane warehouses not fit for any living being.
Turkeys are not the only animals "produced" on factory farms. Chickens, pigs, cows, ducks and geese are also "mass produced" on factory farms and never see the outside world, never feel the sun or touch grass. The practices employed in raising them are cruel; their lives are brutal and short. Factory farmed animals are heavily dosed with antibiotics (because they are kept in such overcrowded conditions and disease spreads quickly) and fed diets laden with unhealthy additives.
As we look forward to this Thanksgiving holiday, please do what you can to increase awareness of these practices so we can end the suffering of turkeys and other farm animals. Refuse to support these practices by purchasing only humanely raised and organic foods. Or, go vegetarian. Inform yourself by reading about, and if you can, supporting organizations that respect animals and are working tirelessly to stop factory farming and end this unnecessary suffering. To learn more, visit Farm Sanctuary and Mercy for Animals.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Marital problems, a tax lien on his property, time spent in prison ―we may never know exactly why Terry Thompson went into meltdown mode and set 56 wild animals free just before killing himself at his exotic animal farm in Zanesville, Ohio on Tuesday, October 18th. But we do know this ― he didn't just take himself out ― he sentenced most of them to a violent death as well. Local and state authorities hunted down and shot and killed 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions as well as wolves, grizzly bears, and other animals that Thompson had acquired for his "collection" of exotic animals. Read the entire story here.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Philip Hoare, writing for The Guardian, reports on a slew of whale deaths that have mystified scientists around British shores. Here is an excerpt:
"Cetaceans spend all their lives in an environment which is alien to us. Ironically, however, whale strandings can be remarkably helpful. These deaths provide us with invaluable clues to the living animals about which we know so little. A fin whale stranded in Denmark last year, for instance, was thought to be about 15-20 years old, a juvenile. The results of its necropsy, released this summer show that it was blind, arthritic, and 140 years old – thereby doubling, at a stroke, the known longevity of these animals."
To read the entire story, click here.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Alas, it’s all for naught. When she does finally succeed in catching any of the chipmunks that live here, she feels compelled to bring them straight to me and I, in turn, feel compelled to set them free, which, of course, starts the process all over again.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
This native plant (Aster divaricatus) is a late blooming, shade tolerant wildflower and in New England some even last until the killing frosts of November. Few people know that they provide a late nectar source for butterflies and other insects and if you allow the seed heads to remain through the fall and winter, wild aster seed serves as food for sparrows, goldfinches, chipmunks and wild turkeys.
There are over 120 species of the genus aster found in the United States. Asters are primarily known for their fall flowering, especially in fields. But wild asters can also be found in swamps, bogs and woods. Some of these species can be a wonderful addition to native meadows planted to replace lawns. The large double-flowered asters seen in catalogs and garden centers belong to a different genus native to Asia.
Asters are the birth flower for September. The star-like flowers are said to be "stars fetched from the night skies and planted on the fields of day."
Friday, September 2, 2011
Arising in Lincoln, the Mill Brook flows for three miles and disappears into the Concord River. I love the way it shimmers with eel-grass, water starwort and common pondweed (click on the photo for a close-up view). And even though the calendar says September, standing over the brook and gazing at the wetland meadows that surround it makes me feel like summer will never end.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
Two 'Sum and Substance' hostas are the stars of my front hosta border, which I planted where lawn used to be. It took a few years for them to reach their full size, but it was worth the wait! If you're looking for a magnificent hosta that will light up a shady area in your garden, 'Sum and Substance' will meet ― and exceed ― your expectations. Click on the photo for a close-up view.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's description of its behavior is exactly what I witnessed: "Forages in swamps, along creeks and streams, in marshes, ponds, lake edges, and pastures. Stands still next to water and grabs small fish with explosive dart of head and neck."
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Cygnets stay with their parents for approximately six months
Monday, August 22, 2011
This is a work in progress and I'm planning to refine the border on the left, but overall, I'm pleased. It was easier than I thought and I like the new design.
For a long time I justified maintaining a large lawn because I leave most of my acre wild. But now, I can still enjoy some lawn and do even more to help wildlife by making room for additional native plants that provide food, cover and nesting materials. I can even imagine putting in a small pond.
Obviously, I think downsizing your lawn is an all around good thing. But if you still need convincing, note the following benefits:
●Save time ― less mowing and mowing less often
●Save money ― on water and fertilizer
●Expand your “birdscape” ― birds love worms and worms abound in these garden beds
●Drought proof your garden ― most native plants do well with less watering
●Gain space for more native plants
●Last but by no means least ― reduce your carbon footprint!
Sunday, August 21, 2011
This month I began “sculpting” the back lawn, cutting an undulating border with a sharp edger, removing strips of sod, and then adding peat to the soil. I set my groundcover plants out just before a soaking rain, which is ideal for helping them get established. Rain is due tonight, so this afternoon I'll finish planting the rest of the Ajuga or Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), and space them closer than recommended to achieve a thick mat of green and bronze growth sooner.
If getting rid of some or all of your lawn is looming large on your to do list, take heart. Starting small is the key to success. I'll have more to say on the process and other benefits of downsizing your lawn in the next post.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
New research by scientists in the Department of Biology at the University of York in England shows that species have responded to climate change up to three times faster than previously appreciated. These results are published in the latest issue of the leading scientific journal Science.
Project leader Chris Thomas, Professor of Conservation Biology at York, said: "These changes are equivalent to animals and plants shifting away from the Equator at around 20 cm per hour, for every hour of the day, for every day of the year. This has been going on for the last 40 years and is set to continue for at least the rest of this century."
Birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, spiders, other invertebrates, and plants featured in the evidence. For example, Atlas moths have moved 67 metres uphill on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo.
Read more at Further, Faster, Higher: Wildlife Responds Increasingly Rapidly to Climate Change.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I heard a series of haunting calls as dusk fell tonight. The cats heard them too and leapt to the windows, on full alert. We stood quiet and studied the open garden and woods beyond for several minutes but saw nothing. Then, on my way downstairs, I spied a fox kit trotting past a back window. He seemed joyful and excited, probably because he and his family can finally hunt again after two days and nights of heavy rain. Now, even in mid August, often a dry month, everything is lush and green, and lots of critters on the fox menu are just as eager to be out and about tonight.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
The corn is high now and last night's full moon was called the Green Corn Moon by American Indians. It was also called the Full Sturgeon Moon by fishing tribes, since sturgeon were most readily caught in August.
According to National Geographic, "Once abundant in North America's Great Lakes and upper Mississippi River, lake sturgeon populations have plummeted. These freshwater monsters, the continent's largest fish, are extremely long-lived. Scientists determined that a six-and-a-half-foot (two-meter) specimen caught in Canada in 1953 was 152 years old."
New England has been blessed with wonderful weather this summer; not too many hot days and enough rain in between to keep things lush and green. I am well aware that severe and historic drought has stricken many other areas of the country. Some are comparing it to the Dust Bowl weather event that occurred in the 1930s. Then and now this kind of drought has caused terrible suffering for every living being.
The drastic climate change events we are experiencing in 2011 will only get worse if we don't act now. It seems that mankind is in deep denial. What will it take to spur global action? As we prepare for a Presidential election here in the U.S., I would like to think that candidates will place high importance on our environmental stewardship responsibilities, but I fear that jobs and economic recovery will block any real progress.
Our economic recovery is imperative, but as Al Gore pointed out in "An Inconvenient Truth," deciding between bars of gold and turning around our climate change future is a decision too many people hesitate to make. Yes, gold is very tempting, but if we can't live on our own planet what good is it?
Sadly, at present all eyes are on gold. The great irony is that while gold may provide "shelter from the storm" in uncertain financial times like these, it has no power to protect us from environmental storms.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
Walden and I go back a long way. There was a time when I used to swim here every day, right into October. Life was much less complicated then.
It felt that way again this morning when I went in for a swim around 8am, then lingered in a quiet little cove for a couple of hours. Young mallards swam by, chipmunks darted along the bank and when a dragonfly fell into the shallows right in front of me, I was glad to rescue it and watch it revive and dart away. It would have been doomed had I not been there. Once in the water it was helpless. Those light, lacy wings were totally immersed and small fish were heading toward it, intent on nibbling at them.
But I was there. It was an amazing morning and I will be posting more photos.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Though it was a regular workday (for everyone else) I was lucky to enjoy a quiet ride, with spectacular scenery, a nice breeze and no humidity. There was nothing between me and the scent of Summer Sweet in bloom and the sound of crickets chirping except for a few gear shifts.
I spent most of my childhood on a bicycle! A need for freedom and a deep desire to spend as much time as possible outdoors was as important then as it is now.
The feelings of exhilaration and total happiness are the same. It's good to know that some things don't change.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
By the time August rolls around, way too many people are saying summer is almost over. They're so wrong. We're just beginning late summer, a glorious time that lasts into most of September. After that, in New England, we look forward to Indian Summer.
American Goldfinches are prime players in what I like to call, "Summer, Part Two." These late breeders often wait until July to build their nests and lay between two to seven eggs. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, "American Goldfinches are the only finch that molts its body feathers twice a year, once in late winter and again in late summer. Frequent molting is both time-consuming and physiologically taxing for the birds. Some scientists suggest this may be the reason goldfinches breed so late in the season — rarely beginning in earnest until mid-July. Another possibility is that the birds wait to nest until thistle, milkweed and other plants have produced fibrous seeds, which goldfinches not only eat but also use to build their nests."
I feed goldfinches year round and I'm vigilant about keeping seed available. Thistle seed is what they love and using a thistle sock seems to work best, even in winter. It’s easy for them to cling to and they love feeding upside down. But, if you really want to attract goldfinches to your yard, be advised that feeding thistle is not enough. You need to provide a reliable source of water, good cover, plants and habitat for nesting.
Cornell says goldfinches are among the strictest vegetarians in the bird world, selecting an entirely vegetable diet and only inadvertently swallowing an occasional insect. A variety of seeds is best, so plant perennials that provide seed, such as anise hyssop, asters and sunflowers. And when your perennials and annuals go to seed in the fall, resist the urge to cut them down to the ground. Leave the stems and seed heads standing — they provide a good source of nourishment for goldfinches and other birds into winter. Also, birds love to forage in the garden, scratching and looking for seeds, so tidier, in this case, is NOT better.