Thursday, June 30, 2011

Really? REALLY?!

I try, heaven knows I try not to heap blame upon our human heads for the increasingly depressing state of the planet. I was reminded (yet again) to avoid this when visiting two sites recently, one that talked about the vanishing frogs and other about the vanished thylacine.  Insulted readers left these comments:

"I wonder if you realize how toxic and polarizing the terms 'spread by human activities' is? I am not arguing whether this is factual or not in this instance. I am noting that I have an immediate and visceral response to this statement. Why is it so important that any environmental problem has to be given a heaping dose of guilt for it to be valid?"  
and
"Yes, the killing of this entire thylacine species is the fault of humans, but I'm sick of hearing about how awful humans are every time we discuss something that went extinct at the same time we existed."

Okay, people hate being guilt-tripped, and pointing out that you-know-who is once again responsible for some planetary calamity can harm rather than help the cause. Fine, I get it.

But then I hear that six astronauts had to jump into their escape "lifeboat" capsules on Tuesday, because a piece of space junk came dangerously close to colliding with the International Space Station. And it turns out this is not unusual: "It is not the first time space station crews have scrambled for shelter from accumulated space junk. Crews are routinely put on alert to prepare to move out of harm’s way."


Space: the final frontier for us to trash
And just what is that space junk?: "Only 10% of all objects in Earth’s orbit are satellites, while the rest is trash: spent rocket stages, defunct satellites, acceleration blocks and other debris ... The minefield of space debris is a growing hazard with ever more satellites in orbit, and one of the most important challenges of future orbital ventures, industry expert Vladimir Gubarev told Reuters."


Says The New York Times: "Since the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched in 1957, the space neighborhood has become cluttered with human-made detritus--more than half a million pieces, by recent estimates, from the size of a marble on up. If the orbits of two intersect, the result can be a destructive collision. 'It's getting kind of dangerous,' said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithosonian Center for Astrophysics who has become an expert on space debris."


And I end up with my head in my hands, making those weird chuckling sounds that are the frayed ends of laughter. Really? Really? An entire FREAKING PLANET to pollute was not enough for us? We also had to discard so much litter into space that astronauts are now having to dodge it?

What can be done with a species like this?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Words on Wednesdays--novel excerpt #3

For the next three Wednesdays, I'll be sharing an excerpt from Kidnapping the Lorax, so readers can see if it is a novel they'd like to purchase. This excerpt takes up where last Wednesday's left off.



Kidnapping the Lorax is available in paperback and for e-readers at 
























Lacey Thurman was feeling very self-satisfied. After several days of ineffective attempts, she’d finally succeeded in producing a decent bowel movement. As the automatic toilet flushed behind her, she straightened her skirt and then tore off two squares of toilet paper, which she used to slide the lock on the door. One couldn’t be too fastidious about hotel cleaning practices, even in a five-star such as the Benson. She tossed the paper behind her into the commode, and stepped out of the stall. 
At the basin, she’d removed her watch and washed her hands before hearing a sound that caused her to turn around and come face to face with a young woman and two men. The woman was wearing the hotel uniform and Lacey’s instinct was to reach for a towel from her, but something was terribly wrong here. All hotel personnel had been removed from the area before Lacey entered the bathroom.  How did these people get past the Secret Service men guarding the door? 
The trio seemed equally surprised to see her. It was the man with curly hair who recovered first. “Lacey Thurman, Secretary of the Interior” he said in a low voice, “be quiet and come with us or I’ll have to kill you.” He raised his arm as he spoke, pulling something from his coverall pocket, and she saw it was a gun. She nodded her understanding, unable to speak regardless of his order. The hypnotic gun gleamed, it gathered all the light emanating from the many bulbs and refracted by the mirrors over the basins, and swallowed all that light into the shiny blackness of the muzzle pointing at her heart. Lacey could imagine the flash of light that would signal her death, and the black hole of that gun sucking the life from her body. The gun must have already killed her bodyguards; there was no other way the three of them could have gotten in here.
They stood looking at one another for a moment, the trio seeming to hesitate, as if unsure what to do next. Lacey would later think bitterly, I should have run then. But in this moment, she could not marshal her leg muscles to run; she could barely remain standing. The moment passed. At the curly-haired man’s signal, the other man, the big one, circled behind her and came in close, and she felt the muzzle of another gun, its vicious dark certainty tucked in her ribs.
As they started walking, Lacey looked back toward where her watch lay, but the man said, “Leave it. You’re not going to need it where we’re going.”
The young woman led the way—not toward the right, where her bodyguards must lie dead, but toward the left, opening the door to the supply closet that her guards had tried and found locked, shortly before they’d left her alone in the bathroom. Lacey couldn’t understand why it was unlocked now. The trio moved her quickly, in a tight formation, through the supply-pantry and into a short hallway and toward another door. With unnatural, vivid clarity, Lacey took note of the plush plum carpet under her shoes, the two softly-lit sconces on the wall, the wallpaper with its deep blue and plum stripes, narrow gold lines. Then they were through the second door, and outside the hotel, in an alleyway. So quickly, so very quickly. Lacey stumbled, and the man behind her, a bear of a man, put his arm around her waist and half carried her the last few feet to a waiting vehicle. A cream-colored, older model Volvo. Beige interior. The young woman, freckles standing out on her pale face, opened the back door and climbed in. The large man deposited Lacey on the backseat, and the other man, the one with the curly hair, leapt in behind her, and shoved her down to the floor. A heavy blanket was thrown over her.
“Be careful now, Tracker!” the man in the backseat cautioned as the Volvo leapt to life. “Just drive normally,” he said. “You know the drill.” He was the only one who had spoken so far. “Nobody saw a thing.”
Lacey felt the car accelerate, heard the turn signal, muffled by the blanket enveloping her, and felt the car turning right. “The bomb shouldn’t go off for another three minutes,” the man chortled. “Plenty of time. We’re way ahead of schedule.”
A bomb! Dear God! Lacey began a prayer for the people she’d left in the hotel, but the car turned again and she realized she needed to pay attention now and pray later. She had always had a miserable sense of direction, but now her very life depended on it—she would have to memorize their route. They had traveled for perhaps ten minutes when the man, clearly the leader, said, “Tracker, turn on the radio.” The sound of Hawaiian slack key guitar filled the car.
“Not K-BOO, for fuck’s sake! Get an all-news station!”
There was alternating static and snatches of songs and voices, then Lacey could hear someone giving the weather report. “Clear the rest of today, with clouds gathering later tonight; increasing chance of rain moving in over the next few days. Next up, we’ll take a look at what’s happening on Wall Street.” They were all silent—listening, Lacey realized, for news of her disappearance from the hotel, of—dear God! —her kidnapping. She was being kidnapped! The car picked up speed.

* * *


































Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Indian pipe!" = Hello, pleasant day for a hike, isn't it? Would you by any chance be interested in looking at this unusual wildflower?

This past Sunday, I had just noticed a low cluster of translucent whiteness off the side of the trail when I heard someone approaching from behind. I turned and greeted the stranger with an enthusiastic "Indian pipe!" He said "What?" And I repeated, "I n d i a n  p i p e," being careful to enunciate since he apparently hadn't heard clearly, and gesturing toward the plant in question.

Indian pipe gets that name from its shape;
it's also called ghost flower
and corpse plant.
Photo from wildplantdatabase.net
In hindsight, I realize this was a rather odd way to make someone's acquaintance.

"Am I supposed to know what that is?" he asked in a friendly way, finally tipping me off to the fact that he might think me a bit odd. I'm just glad he didn't back away slowly while keeping a close eye on me.

Just in case it's new to you, let me share a bit about this weird wildflower. First off, it's white coloration resembles mushroom more than wildflower, but flower it is. Obviously it lacks chlorophyl, but it has to get nutrients from somewhere--it's mooching off the trees around it. But not directly. Instead, it uses an intermediary fungus to access the nutrients that the tree manufactures.

The underground fungus, which takes the form of long delicate threads, hooks up with the Indian pipe and also intertwines the fine rootlets of the tree. Both the fungus and the tree benefit from their association, which is known as a mycorrhizal relationship.  The fungus helps the tree's rootlets soak up water and nutrients, while the tree passes food it creates via photosynthesis to the fungus--and thereby on to the parasitic Indian pipe. Neither the tree nor the fungus benefits from its connection to the wildflower, but the Indian pipe cannot survive without both of them.

While you're out in the woods, keep a eye out for the funny little white plants rising from the duff.

And please, should you ever come across me in some forest and I greet you in a seemingly nonsensical manner, just put out your hand and say, "Pleased to meet you, Pat."

Have you ever met Indian pipe in the woods?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday's Nature Quote

And this life
   exempt from public haunt
finds tongues in trees, 
   books in the running brooks,
sermons in stones,
   and good in everything,
I would not change it.

--William Shakespeare

Friday, June 24, 2011

Haiku Friday

Your challenge: write a haiku featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days, including foxglove or something from Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Post your haiku in the comments, below. Remember the pattern of a haiku is:

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

Looking forward to what you come up with this time!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Unhand that foxglove!

When my friend Jenni was a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park, she was asked to pull out a big patch of foxglove. Her supervisor wanted to eradicate the plant from the park because it's not native to the Northwest. Jenni said the oddest part of the job at first was the looks she got from the tourists, taken aback by the sight of a ranger attacking the pretty flowers. but after she had worked at her task for a little while, what became odd was the way her heart was pounding. She had to stop working and sit down. Jenni later learned that digitalis, a heart stimulant, comes from foxglove; she had absorbed it through the skin of her hands.

Over two hundred years ago, physician William Withering also learned about the heart-thumping impact of foxglove--through an old woman in Shropshire, England. The woman brewed an herbal tea that was said to cure "the dropsy." Older people tended to suffer from swollen feet and ankles--called dropsy because the the body's fluids seemed to drop down into the legs. When he analyzed the herbal concoction, Dr. Withering realized that out of its twenty ingredients, foxglove had to be the active ingredient.

Digitalis remains the most effective heart drug yet discovered. If you're handling a lot of these plants,  remember to approach foxglove with gloves.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Words on Wednesdays--novel excerpt #2

For the next four Wednesdays, I'll be sharing an excerpt from Kidnapping the Lorax, so readers can see if it is a novel they'd like to purchase. This excerpt takes up where last Wednesday's left off.



Kidnapping the Lorax is available in paperback and for e-readers at 











Maggie tried to regain that powerful feeling the next day, wearing the pale-gray uniform she despised, as she led Walden and Tracker through one of the employees’ back entrances into the Benson Hotel. Her heart hammered as if it were pumping twice as much blood as necessary, and her hand obsessively checked yet again that the keys were still in her pocket. 
It had all seemed so straightforward in the woods. They knew when and where the Secretary of the Interior would be in the Benson Hotel for the timber conference. They also knew something her bodyguards would not know: that members of the radical environmental group Planet Now would disrupt the event by setting off a stink bomb at 10:45 a.m. Various members of that organization would be stationed throughout the room, ready to wave posters front of the television cameras, proclaiming “THIS TIMBER CONFERENCE STINKS!” 
“You’d think they’d be able to come up with a better ‘action plan’ than that,” Walden had complained when he’d first heard about that group’s intention. “It’s an embarrassment. They’ve obviously run out of innovative ideas. Somebody has to do something to save the Pacific Northwest forests, and it sure as hell isn’t going to be the Sierra Club with their lawsuits that’ll take ten years to resolve or Planet Now with its chicken-shit ‘action plans.’”
Walden had needed Maggie to buy in on his own plan because she’d once worked at the Benson and she knew how to discreetly get in and out of the hotel. By that time, he’d already recruited Tracker, a tall, heavy-limbed young man who never seemed to say much about anything. Maggie had had some initial doubts about Tracker’s abilities, but she trusted Walden’s judgment. If he said Tracker could do the job, then Tracker could do it. 
She’d readily agreed to Walden’s plan. Her decision to participate was based on her reverence for the forests of her native Pacific Northwest and fear for their continued survival—but Walden’s black curls and dangerously dark eyes had added an appealing spice to the plan. And it didn’t hurt that she still held a grudge against her former employer. The subservient position of bathroom hostess hadn’t suited her—handing towels to privileged women in thousand-dollar shoes who wouldn’t be going home to another dinner of ramen. When the Benson had fired her (she’d figured the hotel could spare those few rolls of toilet paper she’d taken home), she’d walked out still wearing the hotel’s signature pale-gray fitted-shift uniform, with the bathroom keys in her pocket, and never bothered to return either. 
And the uniform had proven useful today as she’d led Walden and Tracker, each wearing dark coveralls and carrying armloads of flowers, right through one of the employees’ entrances at the rear of the hotel. The two of them followed her past the supply-pantry entrance to the bathroom that was once her former station, past the elevators, past the kitchen with its smell of onions and baking bread, toward the rear passageway that led to the conference room. Maggie knew that only hotel employees would be using this entrance. She’d planned it so they arrived at 10 a.m., late enough that the place would already be abuzz with employees, but early enough to appear they belonged there by the time Planet Now’s stink bomb went off at 10:45. 
She said a fervent prayer as they walked the final fifty feet of the passageway. But just as she approached the conference room door, a man in a blue security guard uniform stepped in front of her, blocking the way. Another stood beside the door. “Your pass,” the first one said.
Maggie stopped and felt her face flush. “What?” she asked, her voice too quiet at first because there didn’t seem to be enough air in her lungs. “What did you say?” she repeated, with slightly more volume.
“You need a pass to go in here,” he said. “Where’s your pass?”
“Oh, my pass, my pass,” she stammered, and turned to look at Walden. Her eyes were too wide, she thought, her breath too shallow in her chest—she hadn’t realized it would be so difficult to do normal things like speak and breathe or even think straight—and somebody needed to respond to these two guards.
Walden smiled. His relaxed, snake-charmer smile. “Damn,” he said. “I knew there was something we forgot. Those stupid passes. Hey look, man, you can make an exception, right? We’ve got a couple loads of these flowers to deliver. My boss is waiting inside to arrange them on the tables. We’re already late and she’ll be pissed as hell if we don’t get in there.” 
The guard hesitated. Walden upped the amp in his smile. 
“Yeah,” the guard grinned back, “no problem.” He turned to the second guard, “Mike, these three are okay. They can go in.”
Mike seemed less convinced. “They said everybody got to have a pass.”
Walden let a couple of day lilies drop from his arms, and stooped to retrieve them. “Yeah, I’m sorry we spaced grabbing those passes. We’ll have them for sure on our next trip in.” He leaned toward Mike, conspiratorially. “Look, you guys could just let us in this once without the passes—one working stiff to another?”
But Mike had apparently made up his mind. He crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Sorry, man. There’s some big-shot government official showing up here. Our orders are don’t let nobody in who don’t have a pass.”
“God, I’d give you each—I don’t know—twenty bucks apiece if you’d let us in now. My boss might fire me. We were supposed to be here an hour ago.” Walden’s wattage was brilliant, blinding. They have to give in, Maggie thought, they had to melt under its effect.
“Twenty bucks?” the first guard repeated. He turned to Mike. “Easiest money we’ll ever make.”
Mike considered the offer. Maggie added her own weak smile to Walden’s, but it was as if her slight movement interfered with his charm over the men.
 “Sorry, man,” Mike repeated. “I’ve worked for bitches like that, but we just can’t do it.”
Maggie wondered wildly if the Walden and Tracker would now charge the guards, but instead Walden just said, “Thanks for nothing.” He turned and led the other two away from the only entrance they had any hope of getting the guns through.
They now had twenty minutes before the stink bomb went off. Walden murmured, “Take us somewhere private where we can talk.” They dumped the flowers in a trash can as Maggie led them back past the kitchen and the elevators. Stopping at the door to the supply-pantry connected to the women’s bathroom, Maggie used both hands to steady the key in the lock, and then they all slipped into the narrow room with its white stacks of small hand towels, bars of flowery-smelling soap, and hoarded toilet paper. She turned to Walden and said, “Now what?” as he ran his fingers through his dark curls, saying, “We have to go to plan B, but it’s much more risky—” and Tracker turned from the adjoining locked bathroom door, laid a big hand on each of their shoulders and said, “Shh. Somebody’s in there.” 

* * *

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday's Nature Quote



We are much more fascinated with the man-made than with the natural. We are more impressed with what we have made than with what is just there. We are constantly making improvements on nature and applauding our cleverness. We prefer our animals to be anthropomorphic and our mice to be Mickeys.... It's a form of human narcissism, I suppose. We find teeny transistors more marvelous than seeds, Disneylands more extraordinary than natural ones.

--"Plastic World" from At Large by Ellen Goodman

© Copyright Zorba the Geek and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Friday, June 17, 2011

Haiku Friday

Your challenge: write a haiku featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: sharks, leaf app, or something from Monday's nature quotes. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Remember the pattern of a haiku is:

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

Post your haiku in the comments, below--I'm looking forward to it! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Words on Wednesdays--novel excerpt #1

Now that Kidnapping the Lorax is available in paperback as well as for e-readers, it's high time to serialize the first part of the book, so potential readers can see if it would be a good match for them.  Here are the opening pages, with more next Wednesday:

 “From now on, my name is Walden.” He looked at Maggie. “What’s your name going to be?” 
She’d been thinking a lot about this. “Fern,” she answered.
 Walden smiled. “Your favorite kind of plant, right?” Maggie nodded, pleased that he’d remembered this detail. Walden turned his intense gaze to the man beside her. “How about you?” he asked. “Any ideas?”
The big man shrugged. “Why don’t we call you ‘Tracker,’” Walden suggested. “It’s accurate and it’s easy to remember.” He held up his hand, counting off the names. “Walden, Tracker, Fern. Those are our new names, and we start using them now. If we’re going to get away with this, they are the only names she can ever hear us call each other.”
“Got it,” Maggie said and glanced over at Tracker, who nodded. A breeze lifted the branches of the younger Douglas firs that surrounded them, and it seemed to Maggie that the forest itself was also nodding agreement with the plan. They’d had so many meetings in small rooms, behind locked doors; it was only fitting that at this final meeting before the Lorax’s arrival tomorrow, the trees were witnesses. 
“Okay.” Walden pulled a notebook from his backpack, and leafed through several pages. Hearing Maggie’s sigh, he looked up. “We’ve got to go over it all again, Fern: every single step.” He reached over and tugged on her blond braid. “But first, I’ve got something for each of you—well, for each of us.” Walden reached into the backpack again. Maggie leaned forward, but it was Tracker who recognized what was inside—she could tell by the way his body stiffened beside her. It took her a moment longer to register that Walden had brought three guns.
“No,” said Tracker, getting to his feet. “No guns.”
 “C’mon, sit down, Tracker. There’s no need to freak. They’re not even loaded.” Walden racked the slide on each, and showed them the open, empty chambers.
Maggie said, “We already talked about this, Walden. We agreed we wouldn’t use guns.” 
Walden leaned against the massive tree behind him. “I know we did, but we don’t really have a choice. Look, if we don’t use these, we might as well give up this whole idea. Because without the guns, it’s just not going to work.”
Maggie thought back over the long months of preparation, the orienteering, the miles they’d hiked, the supplies bought, the caches buried. They couldn’t stop now. Walden was right. Ultimately, there had to be a threat; there had to be weapons.
Tracker said, “We can use fake guns.” 
“Fake guns are good—for the movies,” answered Walden, his voice as calm as if they were discussing the weather instead of weapons. He spread his arms to indicate the forest around them. “But this ain’t Hollywood, Tracker, and we don’t have a prop department. Fake guns won’t fool anybody who knows guns, and the Lorax will be surrounded by people who know guns.” He hefted one of the weapons slowly, like a venomous snake that had relaxed under the influence of his voice. “So here’s what we do: we keep these clips empty. We don’t use bullets. That way we’ll turn these shiny 40 cal Smith & Wesson semi-auto pistols into fake guns.”
When Tracker said nothing, Walden turned to Maggie. “C’mon Fern, try holding this thing. It’s not going to bite you.” He held the grip toward her. 
She glanced from Walden to Tracker, who looked as if he remained unconvinced by Walden’s arguments. But then, Tracker sometimes seemed slow to grasp basic concepts. Like when Walden had first approached him about kidnapping the Secretary of the Interior, Tracker’s response had been to wonder why they would kidnap a secretary. “Wouldn’t it be better to get her boss, the guy in charge of the parks, instead?” he’d asked. 
Maggie reached out to tentatively touch the grip. Walden grinned and motioned for her to take it. She did. “It’s heavy,” she said. “It’s a lot heavier than I thought it’d be.”
Walden offered a second gun, grip-first, to Tracker. “C’mon, Tracker,” he said, “do it for Mama Earth.” Tracker hesitated a moment longer, then took the gun. He held it flat in his large hands, and carried it over to a shaft of sunlight to study it. Meanwhile, Maggie was warming up to the idea. The gun might be real, yeah, but without bullets, it was essentially a fake gun. Like a toy. She pointed it at Walden. “Bang bang,” she said. “You’re dead.”
“Not very convincing,” replied Walden. “Look, you need to hold this thing like a real weapon—like you believe it can damage somebody—if you want Lorax or anyone else to believe it.” He showed her how to hold the gun with both hands, one overlapping the other, fingertip resting on the trigger. “And stand with your right foot and shoulder forward, your body turned. Gun users know they present less of a target that way.” 
She was amazed at the feeling of power the pistol gave her, even with an empty clip. She liked its solid weight in her hands. The seriousness of it made her feel like she could do anything.


* * *





Tuesday, June 14, 2011

There's a leaf for that

Bigtooth aspen from
Leafsnap
Just one more reason for me to be jealous of people with iphones and ipads: a leaf-id app. Yeah, that's right, you take a picture of a leaf and the app identifies it for you. Or at least gets within a few choices, and then supplies you with telling details so you can make the final determination.

It's called LeafSnap, it's free, and it was downloaded over 150,000 times in its first month. The creators are currently working on including all the trees in northeast US, then adding western US trees--and then they're seeking something like tree-id world domination by expanding around the globe.

LeafSnap searches images collected by the Smithsonian Institution, and returns info on the tree's bark, flowers, seeds, and fruit. And get this: it uses facial recognition technology to recognize the leaves. And when a user snaps those pics, the resulting tree identifications are sent automatically to a database that uses mapping information from the phone to determine the tree's location. This info can later be used to monitor tree populations.

To continue the amazingness, similar apps might be developed to identify fish and butterflies or other insects.

For more info, check out what Ecotrope and The Seattle Times have to say. And what do you say--would you use Leafsnap?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kidnapping the Lorax now available in paperback!

For those (like me) who don't have an e-reader, Kidnapping the Lorax is now available as a paperback through Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You should be able to walk into a Barnes and Noble and order from that particular store, as well.

How about you? Do you have an e-reader? If not, do you want one?

Monday's Nature Quote(s)

brianmichelsen.com
We have no reason for denying to the world of plants a certain slow, dim, vague, large, leisurely semi-consciousness.
--John Cowper Powys



He may not be right, but I like his adjectives.
--Annie Dillard

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Driveway shark & spiny dogfish

Driveway shark
This morning when I saw  that an unknown artist had left a chalk shark on my driveway overnight, I realized it must be time to write about spiny dogfish. 

These sharks are recognized by divers as more annoying than dangerous. The 3' to 4' spiny dogfish has an unnerving habit of veering abruptly toward divers, but it does not attack people. It eats fish, not the seals and sea lions that a larger shark might occasionally mistake a human for.

Spiny dogfish shark
In addition to its sharp teeth, the spiny dogfish has two slightly venomous spines on its back, one in front of each fin. If one of the spines punctures flesh, a gland releases venom that can create a painful wound in humans--this is most likely to happen when one of these sharks is hauled aboard a boat.

Spiny dogfish mamas carry their 4 to 6 young for almost two years--probably the longest of any vertebrate. She doesn't pass along nutrients to them that entire time, however. Each hen-sized egg has its own large yolk sac from which the embryo takes nourishment. As the young develop, their sharp spines are covered with pads of tissue that protect the mother.

These sharks were once the most abundant shark species in the world, but you know how this story goes. First we overfished their food species, then we overfished spiny dogfish themselves. Some fishery management policies are now in effect, but it remains to be seen whether the species can recover.

Have you ever seen a shark--spiny, driveway, or otherwise? 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Haiku Friday

Your challenge: write a haiku featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: rabbits, Kidnapping the Lorax, or something from Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Post your haiku in the comments, below. Remember the pattern of a haiku is:

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

Please post them in the comments (I love Fridays!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wascally wabbits!

When you are as tender, tantalizing, and devoid of defenses as a bunny rabbit, you come equipped with this survival strategy: fecundity.

Furry cuisine.
Both male and female cottontails are promiscuous. Their courtship consists of his running at her and her leaping over him and variations on this thrilling theme. The actual mating, which is brief (quick like a bunny, in fact), stimulates ovulation in the female. After a gestation of just under a month, she typically gives birth to four or five young. She may have three or even four litters a year.

Just before giving birth, she releases a sexually alluring scent (pheromone) that attracts males, and immediately after giving birth she is ready to mate again.

And that is why, even though they are bunny McNuggets to plenty of predators, including coyotes, owls, hawks, domestic dogs and cats, bobcats, foxes, and weasels, there are always more rabbits available to plunder your garden.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday's Nature Quote

As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.  

--John Muir

Photo by Terry Chay

Friday, June 3, 2011

Review from Bitsy Bling Books for "Kidnapping the Lorax"

Yay! A very nice review from Bitsy Bling Books!  Check it out at bitsybling.blogspot.com 

Haiku Friday

Your challenge: write a haiku featuring one of the subjects discussed here in the past seven days: skunk cabbage, bats, or Monday's nature quote. Feel free to mine the comments, too.

Post your haiku in the comments, below. Remember the pattern of a haiku is:

First, 5 syllables,
the second line has seven.
And 5 at the end.

Loved last week's responses and can't wait to see what you come up with this week!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What's that? A bat!

If you have bats in your belfry, chances are they're little brown ones. "Little brown bat" is the common name for the species that's most likely to take up residence in church belfries, house attics, or barns. (And yes, there's also a species known as the "big brown bat.")

Of course, you're also likely to find bats in their stereotypical home: caves. And if you're the type of person who lurks about in caves, you should be aware of white-nose syndrome, which is killing bats in the eastern US and Canada. Officials are hoping to keep this threat from the western states, and request that eastern cavers decontaminate their equipment between spelunking trips--and that no equipment, shoes, or clothing used in states with affected caves be used in states with non-affected ones.

Photo by Dave Fletcher, who used a towel to grab
this bat, and released it out the window.
But what if the bat you encounter is not in a cave, but in your own house? This happens from time to time, especially with juvenile bats who are still finding their way in the world. The kindest thing to do is open the windows, turn off the lights, and close the door to the room if possible. The bat should be able to use echolocation, sight, or smell to find its way out.

When this method failed my sister Ann one night, she took more-direct action, capturing and releasing the bat the way some people remove spiders from their homes. She placed a clear plastic container over the invader, which was hanging on a wall, and slipped a piece of cardboard behind the animal, trapping it inside the box. She then threw the whole shebang out the window.

No doubt the little brown bat appreciated the extra effort.