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1. The Last Wild - an audiobook review

Torday, Piers. 2014. The Last Wild. Penguin Audio.  Narrated by Oliver Hembrough.

Like Eva Nine, in the WondLa series, Kester Jaynes finds that he can communicate with creatures of the wild - an ability that is particularly intriguing in a dystopian world where all animals are presumed dead - killed by the incurable red-eye virus.  Kester finds himself the leader of his own "wild," the ragtag remnants of the animal world.  Flora and fauna are pitted against commercial efficiency and industrialism in this first book of a planned trilogy.

The plot is occasionally predictable, but slow patches are often brightened by the humorous antics of The General (a likable but militaristic cockroach) and a befuddled white pigeon who speaks nonsense that is also somehow prophetic.

The author and narrator hail from the UK, so the reader or listener should be prepared for numerous British words that are uncommon here in the US (wellies, trainers, boot, windscreen, plaits, etc.).

My review of The Last Wild for Audiofile Magazine appears here.

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2. The Good and the Bad: Garden Pests and Beneficial Insects.

Today’s post comes through the courtesy and expertise of Shiela Fuller.

If you started a backyard garden in May, odds are you’ve encountered a few insects in your plot by August. Some are peskier than others. The good bugs arrive right along with the bad, so it is helpful to know the difference.
Before you head off to your local garden supply to buy your pest eradicator, it’s best to identify your pest so you know exactly what you are annihilating. Then before you go, take another moment to research homemade, nontoxic pest controls. They are cheap to make, safer for you to apply, and a healthier choice for the environment. Some commercial products will also kill the good bugs as well as the bad.

What have you planted in your garden and what are the most common pests?
• TOMATOES.
Backyard tomato plants attract a wide variety of bad pests. Most you can pick off by hand and eliminate the need for any spray. The tomato hornworm is a common pest. They start out small and may go unnoticed until you see large areas of plant chewed away. Or you see the telltale peppercorn – like droppings they deposit on the plant leaves. They are green with lighter green shaped “v” markings and a single “horn” poking off the end of its body. Occasionally, you will find white rice shaped eggs attached to the hornworms body. They are the parasitic eggs of a good pest. The eggs suck nutrients out of the hornworm. It dies and the braconid wasp lives on.

tomato hornworm

tomato hornworm

PEPPERS.
Pesticide spray is rarely needed for the pepper plant.
GREENS.
If you see tiny holes in the leaves of your lovely greens, the flea beetle is most likely the culprit. They won’t usually destroy your plant and you will probably have sufficient supply, even if you have shared your greens with a beetle. Just wash and eat.
POTATOES.
We love our potatoes and so does the Colorado potato beetle. The peskiest of the pests. If you decide to grow your own potatoes, you will become an expert inspector. It will be imperative that your plants are inspected twice a day. The potato beetle is prolific and the larvae, numerous. Begin by checking for the yellow eggs laid underneath the plant leaf. Remove the eggs. Dispose of them. Unfortunately, you will miss eggs and they will hatch. Numerous little specks of brown will begin to demolish your plant. Find and remove them. If you miss them they will quickly grow into reddish, slug like creatures. Pick them off. At every stage, they will eat your plant down till all that is left is a twig. Remain diligent in your search for potato beetle eggs and larva. Homegrown potatoes are worth it.

HERBS.
Most herbs are bad pest free. In fact, many are planted to do just the opposite, ward off the bad. However, important to note is that dill and parsley, attract the black swallowtail butterfly. It may be difficult to find the tiny pearlized eggs, but you may find the droppings or the black, prickled larvae eating your precious herbs. They are capable of devouring the entire plant, so always plant enough for all to enjoy.

swallowtail caterpillar courtesy of Mary Braccilli

swallowtail caterpillar courtesy of Mary Braccilli

How Do You Attract the Good Insects?

Food, shelter, and water are necessary to encourage and keep the good insects in your garden.
LADYBUGS
Plant herbs like chives or cilantro, and cosmos flowers to attract the ladybugs.
PRAYING MANTIS
Raspberry, yarrow and fennel attract praying mantis.
SPIDERS
The argiope is a large, harmless spider we should be thankful to see in our garden. With its spectacular coloring and circled web with zig zag stitching, it is a treasure to behold.
Food for good insects comes in the form of the bad insects that arrive in your garden. Provide daytime shelter for the good insects; low lying thyme or oregano offer good hiding places. Offer them a shallow tin of water and encourage them to make your garden their home.

garden spider

garden spider

Refrain from using insecticides/pesticides in your home garden. These products will actually keep the good bugs away from your garden. They are not good for the health of the insect. Or yours.

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

 


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3. What’s all This Buzz-ness About Bees?

Jersey Farm Scribe here, and I’m so excited to do a post here on Darlene’s website.

It’s exciting for me to get a chance to talk about something farm-related, since I’m usually posting on writing on Kathy’s website Writing and Illustrating or Children.  http://www.kathytemean.wordpress.com

I thought about what I should write about. I could write about the animals that I have here on The Farm. I could write about the lifestyle, being more in touch with the world around us, agriculture and fresh food. I could write about one of the many projects that are always going on… and never quite finished.

In the end, I decided to write about something close to my heart that I HAVEN’T gotten fully involved in. What a great motivator for me to finally jump in!!! Plus, then perhaps I can do another post in a few months and update everyone on any progress that has been made.

So here we go… they’re cute… they’re amazing,

honey bee

honey bee

and they’re SUPER sweet. I had the amazing opportunity to visit an active BEE hive with my brother’s family, including their bee-guru boys. We went to Dan Price’s Farm, the founder of Sweet Virginia Foundation  http://sweetvirginia.com, a Honey Bee Conservation and Education Organization. Here we all are at their farm. The three little ones are three of my four amazing nephews. I’m the odd-ball in the green suit.

group shot (2)

There were some high school kids doing a project. The high schoolers were very leery of the bees, (understandably), and a bit skittish about going up to the hive.

My nephews, 12, 11 and 7, had absolutely no problems. They were informing the older kids of where to stand that was safe. (bees create a main highway where they travel in and out of the hive, and as long as you keep that area clear, you’re perfectly fine!) They operated the smoke puffer (definitely NOT it’s technical name) and answered all the questions the hive experts had like it was NOTHING.

Hive Manager: Does anyone know how many different types of honeybees there are?
7 yr-old-nephew (looks at her as if to say, um, who doesn’t??: Three. The queen. The worker bees, which are girls, and the drones, which are boys.

Hive Manager: That’s right. And the bees that we see flying around sometimes, which are they?

11-yr-old: Worker bees.

Hive Manager: And why’s that?

12-yr-old AND 7-yr old: Because they are the only ones that leave the hive. All the drones do is mate with the queen and all the queen does is lay eggs.

Eventually, the hive manager realized she was going to have to think of harder questions.
Then Marcus and Ethan, the 11 and 7-yr olds picked up a BEE COVERED slat from the hive, (without any gloves on!) and with absolutely no fear:

holding bees (3 part 1)     holding bees (3 part 2)

 

 

 

And here is Jared, (12) even letting a bee crawl on his hand!

bee in hand (4) I was unbelievably impressed, to say the least. (as were the high school kids who they completely showed up!)

I learned a lot. I won’t get into the dorky-science details here. (I’m a total science nerd at heart). But here’s a fun one:   Bees communicate with DANCE!

Seriously… how cool is that?

PBS has a great video on The Waggle Dance:  http://video.pbs.org/video/2300846183/

They use it to communicate where the good hive or flower is located. It’s pretty unbelievable.

I think most people know at this point that there are concerns for the honeybee’s health around the world, which would be devastating to our food sources. It’s more than just not having beautiful flowers. Fruits and vegetables pollinate and grow because of bees. And the animals that we raise for food eat these fruits and vegetables as well!

But luckily there is something really simple you can do that can make a BIG difference! You know those signs you see?       local honey sign (5)

Those are people who either run their own hive, or have someone come in and run a hive for them. This is GREAT for the honeybee population. You can help out your local farmer, and help the honeybees at the same time.

Honey is such a great natural sugar substitution. Try substituting it for sugar in recipes, to give an extra yummy flavor, and a much healthier sweetness. Sugar is sweeter than sugar, so you would about ½ to ¾ cup of honey for every cup of sugar.

I do a combination:

For every cup of sugar a recipe calls for I use:
¼ cup sugar
½ cup honey

This is amazing in almost ALL baking, cakes, muffins, cookies, breads, the works.

Honey has some pretty amazing healing powers as well. It’s been used as a natural antibacterial agent for years!

Feeling like you have a cold coming on, or just can’t kick one? Try this:

Hot water
Raw Honey – (natural antibacterial agent and throat coater)
REAL ginger – (natural anti-inflammatory)
REAL garlic – (natural antibiotic)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (with the mother) (balances the acidity level – excellent for chest cold)

Okay…. so I’m not gonna lie, this is not a delicious drink. But I can from personal experience it can really help to kick those sniffles!

Allergies? Try local honey. A full T every single day. The closer the hive is to your home, the better.

The idea is that you’re introducing a small amount of the pollen into your system via the honey, making your body more use to it (similar to how allergy shots work). This method of course depends on what you are actually allergic to, and there is actually not a lot of actual pollen in honey, but there is some.

I am lucky and don’t suffer from allergies myself, but I have a few friends I’ve suggested this to that swear it helped them. Plus, this one IS delicious!

(I am obviously NOT a doctor, these are just personal home-remedies I’ve always used)

Kids definitely like finding out where their food comes from. And there are also some GREAT Kid-Friendly Honey Recipes:   Bite-size Honey Popcorn Balls  http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/bite-size-hiney-popcorn-balls-10000001661174  honey popcorn (6)

 Honey Glazed Carrots http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/honey-glazed-carrots 

glazed carrots (7) And of course, a great dipper for apples, carrots, fruit, bread, chicken, you name it!!!!

So next time you see a local sign for…

honey sign (9) … take a quick stop and find out where their hives are located. You may end up in a more interesting conversation that you’d expect!!

As for me? I plan on trying to get a hive on my property by 2015.

And a big thank you to Darlene and all of you, because you all are part of what has motivated me to pursue it!!

bio picErika Wassall, The Jersey Farm Scribe is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. Check out her posts on Writing and Illustrating for Children every other week, and follow her on Twitter @NJFarmScribe.


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4. The biggest threat to the world is still ourselves

At a time when the press and broadcast media are overwhelmed by accounts and images of humankind’s violence and stupidity, the fact that our race survives purely as a consequence of Nature’s consent, may seem irrelevant. Indeed, if we think about this at all, it might be to conclude that our world would likely be a nicer place all round, should a geophysical cull in some form or other, consign humanity to evolution’s dustbin, along with the dinosaurs and countless other life forms that are no longer with us. While toying with such a drastic action, however, we should be careful what we wish for, even during these difficult times when it is easy to question whether our race deserves to persist. This is partly because alongside its sometimes unimaginable cruelty, humankind also has an enormous capacity for good, but mainly because Nature could – at this very moment – be cooking up something nasty that, if it doesn’t wipe us all out, will certainly give us a very unpleasant shock.

After all, nature’s shock troops are still out there. Economy-busting megaquakes are biding their time beneath Tokyo and Los Angeles; volcanoes are swelling to bursting point across the globe; and killer asteroids are searching for a likely planet upon which to end their lives in spectacular fashion. Meanwhile, climate change grinds on remorselessly, spawning biblical floods, increasingly powerful storms, and baking heatwave and drought conditions. Nonetheless, it often seems – in our security obsessed. tech-driven society – as if the only horrors we are likely to face in the future are manufactured by us; nuclear terrorism; the march of the robots; out of control nanotechnology; high-energy physics experiments gone wrong. It is almost as if the future is nature-free; wholly and completely within humankind’s thrall. The truth is, however, that these are all threats that don’t and shouldn’t materialise, in the sense that whether or not we allow their realisation is entirely within our hands.

The same does not apply, however, to the worst that nature can throw at us. We can’t predict earthquakes and may never be able to, and there is nothing at all we can do if we spot a 10-km diameter comet heading our way. As for encouraging an impending super-eruption to ‘let of steam’ by drilling a borehole, this would – as I have said before – have the same effect as sticking a drawing pin in an elephant’s bum; none at all.

775px-Sanfranciscoearthquake1906
San Francisco after 1906 earthquake. National Archives, College Park. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The bottom line is that while the human race may find itself, at some point in the future, in dire straits as a consequence of its own arrogance, aggression, or plain stupidity, this is by no means guaranteed. On the contrary, we can be 100 percent certain that at some point we will need to face the awful consequences of an exploding super-volcano or a chunk of rock barreling into our world that our telescopes have missed. Just because such events are very rare does not mean that we should not start thinking now about how we might prepare and cope with the aftermath. It does seem, however, that while it is OK to speculate at length upon the theoretical threat presented by robots and artificial intelligence, the global economic impact of the imminent quake beneath Tokyo, to cite one example of forthcoming catastrophe, is regarded as small beer.

Our apparent obsession with technological threats is also doing no favours in relation to how we view the coming climate cataclysm. While underpinned by humankind’s polluting activities, nature’s disruptive and detrimental response is driven largely by the atmosphere and the oceans, through increasingly wild weather, remorselessly-rising temperatures and climbing sea levels. With no sign of greenhouse gas emissions reducing and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere crossing the emblematic 400 parts per million mark in 2013, there seems little chance now of avoiding a 2°C global average temperature rise that will bring dangerous, all-pervasive climate change to us all.

Sakurajima, by kimon Berlin. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The hope is that we come to our collective senses and stop things getting much worse. But what if we don’t? A paper published last year in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, and written by lauded NASA climate scientist, James Hansen and colleagues, provides a terrifying picture of what out world will be be like if we burn all available fossil fuels. The global average temperature, which is currently a little under 15°C will more than double to around 30°C, transforming most of our planet into a wasteland too hot for humans to inhabit. If not an extinction level event as such, there would likely be few of us left to scrabble some sort of existence in this hothouse hell.

So, by all means carry on worrying about what happens if terrorists get hold of ‘the bomb’ or if robots turn on their masters, but always be aware that the only future global threats we can be certain of are those in nature’s armoury. Most of all, consider the fact that in relation to climate change, the greatest danger our world has ever faced, it is not terrorists or robots – or even experimental physicists – that are to blame, but ultimately, every one of us.

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5. Why are sex differences frequently overlooked in biomedical research?

By Katie L. Flanagan


Despite the huge body of evidence that males and females have very different immune systems and responses, few biomedical studies consider sex in their analyses. Sex refers to the intrinsic characteristics that distinguish males from females, whereas gender refers to the socially determined behaviour, roles, or activities that males and females adopt. Male and female immune systems are not the same leading to clear sexual dimorphism in response to infections and vaccination.

In 2010, Nature featured a series of articles aimed at raising awareness of the inherent sex bias in modern day biomedical research and, yet, little has changed since that time. They suggested journals and funders should insist on studies being conducted in both sexes, or that authors should state the sex of animals used in their studies, but, unfortunately, this was not widely adopted.

Even before birth, intrauterine differences begin to differentially shape male and female immune systems. The male intrauterine environment is more inflammatory than that of females, male fetuses produce more androgens and have higher IgE levels, all of which lead to sexual dimorphism before birth. Furthermore, male fetuses have been shown to undergo more epigenetic changes than females with decreased methylation of many immune response genes, probably due to physiological differences.

The X chromosome contains numerous immune response genes, while the Y chromosome encodes for a number of inflammatory pathway genes that can only be expressed in males. Females have two X chromosomes, one of which is inactivated, usually leading to expression of the wild type gene. X inactivation is incomplete or variable, which is thought to contribute to greater inflammatory responses among females. The immunological X and Y chromosome effects will begin to manifest in the womb leading to the sex differences in immunity from birth, which continue throughout life.

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate physiological processes, including cell growth, differentiation, metabolism and apoptosis. Males and females differ in their miRNA expression, even in embryonic stem cells, which is likely to contribute to sex differences in the prevalence, pathogenesis and outcome of infections and vaccination.

man woman

Females are born with higher oestriol concentrations than males, while males have more testosterone. Shortly after birth, male infants undergo a ‘mini-puberty’, characterised by a testosterone surge, which peaks at about 3 months of age, while the female effect is variable. Once puberty begins, the ovarian hormones such as oestrogen dominate in females, while testicular-derived androgens dominate in males. Many immune cells express sex hormone receptors, allowing the sex hormones to influence immunity. Very broadly, oestrogens are Th2 biasing and pro-inflammatory, whereas testosterone is Th1 skewing and immunosuppressive. Thus, sex steroids undoubtedly play a major role in sexual dimorphism in immunity throughout life.

Sex differences have been described for almost every commercially available vaccine in use. Females have higher antibody responses to certain vaccines, such as measles, hepatitis B, influenza and tetanus vaccines, while males have better antibody responses to yellow fever, pneumococcal polysaccharide, and meningococcal A and C vaccines. However, the data are conflicting with some studies showing sex effects, whereas other studies show none. Post-vaccination clinical attack rates also vary by sex with females suffering less influenza and males experiencing less pneumococcal disease after vaccination. Females suffer more adverse events to certain vaccines, such as oral polio vaccine and influenza vaccine, while males have more adverse events to other vaccines, such as yellow fever vaccine, suggesting the sex effect varies according to the vaccine given. The existing data hint at higher vaccine-related adverse events in infant males progressing to a female preponderance from adolescence, suggesting a hormonal effect, but this has not been confirmed.

If male and female immune systems behave in opposing directions then clearly analysing them together may well cause effects and responses to be cancelled out. Separate analysis by sex would detect effects that were not seen in the combined analysis. Furthermore, a dominant effect in one of the sexes might be wrongly attributed to both sexes. For drug and vaccine trials this could have serious implications.

Given the huge body of evidence that males and females are so different, why do most scientific studies fail to analyse by sex? Traditionally in science the sexes have been regarded as being equal and the main concern has been to recruit the same number of males and females into studies. Adult females are often not enrolled into drug and vaccine trials because of the potential interference of hormones of the menstrual cycle or risk of pregnancy; thus, most data come from trials conducted in males only. Similarly, the majority of animal studies are conducted in males, although many animal studies fail to disclose the sex of the animals used. Analysing data by sex adds the major disadvantage that sample sizes would need to double in order to have sufficient power to detect significant sex effects. This potentially means double the cost and double the time to conduct the study, in a time when research funding is limited and hard to obtain. Furthermore, since the funders don’t request analysis by sex, and the journals do not ask for it, it is not a major priority in today’s highly competitive research environment.

It is likely that we are missing important scientific information by not investigating more comprehensively how males and females differ in immunological and clinical trials. We are entering an era in which there is increasing discussion regarding personalised medicine. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to imagine that females and males might benefit differently from certain interventions such as vaccines, immunotherapies and drugs. The mindset of the scientific community needs to shift. I appeal to readers to take heed and start to turn the tide in the direction whereby analysis by sex becomes the norm for all immunological and clinical studies. The knowledge gained would be of huge scientific and clinical importance.

Dr Katie Flanagan leads the Infectious Diseases Service at Launceston General Hospital in Tasmania, and is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Department of Immunology at Monash University in Melbourne. She obtained a degree in Physiological Sciences from Oxford University in 1988, and her MBBS from the University of London in 1992. She is a UK and Australia accredited Infectious Diseases Physician. She did a PhD in malaria immunology based at Oxford University (1997 – 2000). She was previously Head of Infant Immunology Research at the MRC Laboratories in The Gambia from 2005-11 where she conducted multiple vaccine trials in neonates and infants.

Dr Katie Flanagan’s editorial, ‘Sexual dimorphism in biomedical research: a call to analyse by sex’, is published in the July issue of Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene publishes authoritative and impactful original, peer-reviewed articles and reviews on all aspects of tropical medicine.

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Image credit: Man and woman arm wrestling, © g_studio, via iStock Photo.

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6. August is for Readers

Animalogy by Marianne Berkes and illustrated by Cathy Morrison
August's theme is READING. Here's an image from Animalogy with a family reading by the campfire. This was my first book for Sylvan Dell Publishing, now Arbordale Publishing and I'm starting my eighth one now. And it's going to be another book by Marianne Berkes. Happy reading!

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7. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic Video: When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode

[There is a video that cannot be displayed in this feed. Visit the blog entry to see the video.]

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8. What to Do on a Rainy July 4th: Watch a Hummingbird!

This female ruby-throated hummingbird has been perched on the feeder outside my window for some two hours. Unlike larger birds, such as finches, she doesn't care how close I get to the window in my bright red shirt, and is unfazed when I move the camera. Every few minutes she takes a drink or two from the feeder. I even saw her tongue!

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9. Boat is waaaaay over there, keep looking....

Pitter and Patter
Every month I look forward to June's inspirational word-of-the-month. July's word is BOAT. I don't really have an illustration of a boat that I care to post so you'll have to use your imagination a little. Imagine that there's a boat on the river but it's out of the frame, so you can't see it from here. And while you're imagining what sort of boat it is, why it's there, who's on the boat, please take a look at the dragonfly, otter and trout.

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10. What's New? The Zoo! - a review

Krull, Kathleen. 2014. What's New? The Zoo!: A Zippy History of Zoos. New York: Scholastic.  Illustrated by Marcellus Hall.



What's New? The Zoo? is an illustrated overview of zoos that combines history with hard science and social science.  Kathleen Krull outlines the history of zoos, and offers insight into what compels us to keep animals, what we've learned from them, and what has changed in zoos since the founding of the first known zoo,

4,400 Years Ago, The Sumerian City of Ur, in Present-Day Iraq
The king of beasts lunges and roars.  The King of Ur roars right back, feeling like the ruler of all nature.  How delicious to wield his power over dangerous animals!  It's the world's first known zoo, and all we're sure about (from clay tablets in libraries) is that is has lions.
From this beginning, Krull highlights transitional moments in zoos throughout the ages and across the globe.  Just a few examples include:

  • Ancient Egypt and Rome where zoos were created to impress
  • Ancient China where the zoo was a contemplative and sacred place
  • Sweden where the science of zoology was established in 1735
  • The U.S. National Zoo where the concept of zoos protecting threatened species was introduced
  • South Africa's Kruger National Park where the protection of rhinos was so successful that rhinos were delivered to other zoos
  • Germany, 1907, where the "cageless zoo" concept is introduced
(Did you know that Aristotle wrote the first encyclopedia of animals?)

On most pages, humorous, watercolor illustrations nestle around paragraphs of simple font against white space.  Several pages, however (including one depiction of fifteen buffalo waiting for a train at Grand Central Station, 1907), are double-spreads with many amusing details.

The very talented Kathleen Krull never disappoints!  If you like your science accessible and entertaining, this is the book for you.

A SLJ interview with Kathleen Krull on the history of zoos.

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11. Illustrator: Meg Hunt.

Meg Hunt is a fabulous illustrator and hand-letterer, although her aesthetic is informed by the printmaking process as well. In her own words, she’s inspired by “a sense of delight and the ability to tell stories.” She’s a self-described bookworm, nature buff, and former aspiring Muppeteer.

It’s obvious that Meg has a sincere love of nature and animals, a fondness acquired during childhood and one that flourished once she moved out west. A native of New London, CT, Meg attended the University of Connecticut and received a dual degree in printmaking and illustration. She’s mentioned that attending an interdisciplinary college aided in her own abilities to explore and play within her art–while there are obviously some pros and cons of attending state schools, I definitely agree with her sentiment on this. After finishing up college, Meg moved out to Phoenix, AZ for 4 years, then to settle in Portland, OR.

Meg turns to a variety of literature and comedic podcasts to help her draw out ideas. Her process shifts between analog and digital–she employs different physical tools such as watercolor paint, powdered graphite, mechanical pencils, wax pastels, and many more to add texture to her final compositions.

In addition to her work as a freelance illustrator, Meg has also taught at Portland State University and currently teaches Visual Techniques at Pacific Northwest College of Art. She is represented by Scott Hull Associates and her client list includes Nickelodeon Magazine, Junior Scholastic Magazine, Radiolab, Chronicle Books, and Threadless.

Follow along with Meg on her websiteblog, and Twitter.

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12. Caring For Baby Birds.

It’s summer!
If you’ve maintained a wild bird backyard habitat throughout winter, you can continue through summer with added benefits. Providing food, water and shelter encourages birds to build a home and raise young when resources are plentiful. Fill a suet feeder with nesting supplies such as yarn threads, strands of hair, and broom bristles. Keep a part of your yard “natural” with a pile of leaves and pine needles, to offer a variety of supplies for birds to choose from. Keep your eyes out the window and take note to which birds make use of your materials.

Many birds will make their nest in close proximity to humans. Robins and mourning doves are known for making nests in shrubs, trees or on wooden ledges under decks. Swallows will build a nest from mud and attach it to the side of the house. Wrens love small bird houses and especially those that can safely swing in the breeze. Be on the lookout for neighborhood cats who like to lunch on unsuspecting baby birds. Snakes can also end the enjoyment of raising baby birds in your yard. I don’t recommend killing snakes as they also provide an important service in the ecosystem, but it’s never a good day, when a snake is found inside a nest box full of black-capped chickadees.     bird 1

In addition to prey, another hazard for baby birds is falling from the nest. If a baby bird found is very small and most likely dead, it has been pushed out by more aggressive siblings or from nest over load. If you find a baby bird that has feathers and can hop but cannot fly, it is most likely a fledgling, just learning to fly. Contrary to popular belief it is OK to pick up and replace the baby to its nest. Or, if it looks like the parents are attentive, leave it alone. If you cannot find the nest, place the bird in a tissue lined box in the same location in which it was found. Watch to see if the parents return to feed. Many do. If after a few hours you can’t be sure the parents are around, your best option is to take the baby to a local wildlife center. The people there will nurture the baby until it can survive on its own and usually return the bird to its original locale.           bird 2

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge is in southern New Jersey and takes in wildlife of all varieties.
6 Sawmill Rd, Medford, NJ 08055
(856) 983-3329
http://www.cedarrun.org

Another note of caution, be careful of tree cutting in the spring and summer. Many nests have been dislocated when unsuspecting tree cutters take down a bird’s summer home.

Taking care of our feathered friends can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for young and old alike. Why not invite some birds into your backyard this summer?

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

 


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13. Picture Book Surprises, part 3: Poetry Friday


Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole
by Irene Latham
illustrated by Anna Wadham
Millbrook Press, August 1. 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

What a surprise to visit an African Water Hole with Irene Latham!

The fifteen poems in this picture book introduce us to the importance of the water hole to the African grassland ecosystem. Each poem is accompanied by a short bit of nonfiction text that tells more about the water hole or the animal featured in the poem.

Working alone or in small groups, I can imagine students using this book (and others like it that combine poetry and nonfiction) as a mentor text for their own writing about an ecosystem, their neighborhood, or the cultures they are studying in social studies.

Jone has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Check it Out.

Roundup host/hostesses are still needed in July, August, November and December. Sign up here.


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14. Faith and science in the natural world

By Tom McLeish


There is a pressing need to re-establish a cultural narrative for science. At present we lack a public understanding of the purpose of this deeply human endeavour to understand the natural world. In debate around scientific issues, and even in the education and presentation of science itself, we tend to overemphasise the most recent findings, and project a culture of expertise.

The cost is the alienation of many people from experiencing what the older word for science, “natural philosophy” describes: the love of wisdom of natural things. Science has forgotten its story, and we need to start retelling it.

To draw out the long narrative of science, there is no substitute for getting inside practice – science as the recreation of a model of the natural world in our minds. But I have also been impressed by the way scientists resonate with very old accounts nature-writing – such as some of the Biblical ancient wisdom tradition. To take a specific example of a theme that takes very old and very new forms, the approaches to randomness and chaos are being followed today in studies of granular media (such as the deceptively complex sandpiles) and chaotic systems.

These might be thought of as simplified approaches to ‘the earthquake’ and ‘the storm’, which appear in the achingly beautiful nature poetry of the Book of Job, an ancient text also much concerned with the unpredictable side of nature. I have often suggested to scientist-colleagues that they read the catalogue of nature-questions in Job 38-40, to be met with their delight and surprise. Job’s questioning of the chaotic and destructive world becomes, after a strenuous and questioning search in which he is shown the glories of the vast cosmos, a source of hope, and a type of wisdom that builds a mutually respectful relationship with nature.

Reading this old nature-wisdom through the experience of science today indicates a fresh way into other conflicted territory. For, rather than oppose theology and science, a path that follows a continuity of narrative history is driven instead to derive what a theology of science might bring to the cultural problems of science with which we began. In partnership with a science of theology, it recognises that both, to be self-consistent, must talk about the other. Neither in conflict, nor naively complementary, their stories are intimately entangled.

800px-Boby_Dimitrov_-_Summer_lightning_storm_over_Sofia_(2)_(by-sa)

Cloud to ground lightning over Sofia, by Boby Dimitrov. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The strong motif that is the idea of science as the reconciliation of a broken human relationship with nature. Science has the potential to replace ignorance and fear of a world that can harm us and that we also can harm, by a relationship of understanding and care. The foolishness of thoughtless exploitation can be replaced by the wisdom of engagement. This is neither a ‘technical fix’, nor a ‘withdrawal from the wild’, two equally unworkable alternatives criticised recently by Bruno Latour in a discussion of environmentalism in the 21st century.

Latour’s hunch that rediscovered religious material might point the way to a practical alternative begins to look well-founded. Nor is such ‘narrative for science’ confined to the political level; it has personal, cultural and educational consequences too that might just meet Barzun’s missing sphere of contemplation.

Can science be performative? Could it even be therapeutic?

George Steiner once wrote, “Only art can go some way towards making accessible, towards waking into some measure of communicability, the sheer inhuman otherness of matter…”

Perhaps science can do that too.

Tom McLeish is Professor of Physics and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at University of Durham, and a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the American Physical Society and the Royal Society. He is the author of Faith and Wisdom in Science.

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15. Find the Forest For Summer Fun.

Now that summer vacation is here, why not try taking the kids for a real adventure by exploring nature’s wonders at a nearby forest or state park.  These beautiful, natural areas are in every state and many have free activities for the whole family.  Camping, hiking, bird watching, water sports, fishing and learning about plants and animals are some of the things you can discover at your local park, forest or nature preserve.

Visit: http://www.discovertheforest.org   for tips on how to enjoy nature, how to be safe in wild areas, and DID YOU KNOW facts.  All you have to do is enter your state and a list of all the forests and wildlife areas will appear.   Discover your inner explorer by visiting a forest or natural area this summer.  You won’t be sorry.

Boston Arboretum

Boston Arboretum


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16. Ladybird books; Series 536 Nature


I've been busy cataloguing a collection of vintage Ladybird books. It takes me ages to list each one because I find myself caught up in the illustrations and fascinated by the text. It’s not unusual for an hour to pass with nothing achieved!   I’m not complaining as they are delightful little books and the ones from series 536 (nature) are some of my favourites. Introduced in the 1950s by Douglas Keen they are a range of thoroughly researched educational titles, commissioned from specialist authors and illustrators, including C.F.Tunniclffe and Frank Hampson.









The painting above is by Johnina Hamilton or Ena as she prefers to be called. Ena is a very talented artist and really what could be nicer than a bunch of flowers painted by a friend. I've always loved the picture and was delighted when Ena offered it to me. 



There are 25 books in the nature series. For those of you wishing to collect the full set, the titles to look out for are;

British birds and their nests
A second book of birds and their nests
A Third Book of British Birds and their Nests 
British Wild Flowers
The Ladybird Book of Pets 
British Wild Animals 
What to look for in winter 
Garden Flowers 
What to look for in summer 
What to look for in autumn 
What to look for in spring 
Weather 
Trees 
The Seashore and Seashore Life 
The Night Sky 
Butterflies, Moths and other insects 
The Story of our Rocks and Minerals 
Pond Life 
Your Body 
Garden Birds 
Sea and Estuary Birds 
Heath and Woodland Birds 
Pond and River Birds 
Birds of Prey 
Birds of Northern Britain and Northern Europe 

This one is not part of series 536, but it's such a sweet book I wanted to share it with you...


I still have lots of Ladybird books to list so if you are looking for a particular title don't forget to call in at  March House Books

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Did you know we each have a flower sign according to our date of birth?

I was born on August 26th so that makes me a Morning Glory! Want to check out your flower sign?  Head over to Whats-your-sign.com


Morning Glory August 22 - September 22
Morning glory zodiac flower signs are thoughtful and reflective. You tend to think and plan first before you take any action. You are organized and very observant. You have a natural eye for detail, and can be very analytical. You love to help people, and often use your organization skills to help others who struggle in "getting their act together." You bloom beautifully right where you are planted, and you have a neat way of making things right and tidy. People come to you for guidance and healing. 



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The hand-painted ribbon for Lilly’s doll arrived (see previous post here) so I must get the parcel ready to send to Australia. I also found a couple of 'Lilly' books, so they will be going in the box


along with a few things for Zoe;


That's all for now. Happy Wednesday!

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17. Weeds into Toys

Arrowhead Weed toy

Hi again folks. What have you been up to? I hope it’s getting warm and green wherever you are.

Here in Charlotte it’s very warm now, too warm, but it’s been exciting to see all the flowers make an appearance, and inevitably, there are lots of weeds popping up, too. Lately I’ve been thinking about the things my friends and I used to do with various weeds when we were kids.

  • There was the weeds-into-pop-guns trick, pictured above (arrowhead weeds, I just learned they’re called).
  • Clover chains
  • Trying to make a grass blade whistle (okay, not weeds, but still counts)
  • Of course making a wish on dandelion heads

Know any others?

I’ve been so focused on my writing goals that I haven’t been doing a lot of crafts and (interesting) cooking, though I do have a few things l’d like to share in the coming weeks. Our last day of school is today, which means my schedule will be quite a bit different from here until the end of August.

I’ll try to be here as much as I can, but you may find me more frequently on Twitter and Instagram, since those are easy for quick snippets. My Twitter handle is @emilysmithpearc and I’m on Instagram as Emily Smith Pearce.

Good news! I reached the goals I set for myself with both my nonfiction and YA novel manuscripts. This is big. So much writing done this year, though it’s easy to wish I had gotten even more done.

Currently reading: The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger and The Great Green Heist by Varian Johnson (both purchased at Park Road Books). Currently watching: Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black.

 


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18. May Flowers!

The Prairie That Nature Built
Here's more images for May's flower theme. I love purple flowers and they are popping up everywhere in northern Colorado. Last week almost three feet of snow, this week lots and lots of beautiful spring flowers.

Below are a couple of cropped images from The Prairie That Nature Built. I want to highlight the flowers in nature!



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19. To be Indigenous or not to be that isn’t a good question even!

A quite lively discussion has blown in from space on a friends Face-postcard about something I forgot because it went a completely different way in short order and is now a history lesson on indigenous peoples.

It was said the “Native “”American”” people” were here first and that they claim to be “Indigenous” and that they have their traditional stories to back up their claim to properties etc.

That got me to thinking (usually leads to minor disasters) that just because someone in your past lived some place and told creation stories doesn’t always mean you have any more rights than the guy who was born there after you lost the battle, in my case way after.

I know, growing up, my mother used to tell me, when I asked how I got here that I came from heaven and perhaps, if I’m a good boy, God will give me land there again though I think he may balk at the casino I want to build even if it is to take all the sinner’s money or credits or what ever the currency of his realm is.

And further more if in the past there was only one super continent, Pangaea or what ever they really called it, then we all have a claim to everywhere cause we are all descendants of the original inhabitants and I’ll bet a dollar to a doughnut there aint anywho who can tell me where they thought they came from even after the break up.

I thought perhaps we are all from Mars via the Pleiades star system but had to leave cause the Marshonians wanted the place back so we moved on as they had come from the Hercules system to Mars first.

To send every one back to where they came from is stupid, you can’t fit that many people on Ellis Island let alone grow enough hemp there to have a trade economy with New York.

I don’t know the answer other than if we don’t start being natives from “EARTH” the little grey men will boot us out and wipe out the myths of our origins from then to eternity.

HareBrained_II_smJPGIt’s a race none us may win …


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20. A Whale of a Parenting Tale

Following Papa’s Song

By Gianna Marino

 

Recently, we observed “Take a Child to Work Day” and I’m sure loads of moms and dads took their young readers to see what they “do” all day. Young children have images in their minds, I’m sure, of where their parents are while they are at home, school or daycare. So, it’s a treat for kids to tag along and actually see where you are when you’re not with them, and what activities occupy you!

Gianna Marino, author of Too Tall Houses and Meet Me at the Moon has used animals in her picture books to great advantage in telling stories with deeper themes of friendship, togetherness and the parent/child bond.

In Following Papa’s Song, it’s not exactly following the Papa Whale to work, but then again maybe it is. It’s certainly reproducing those great Q and A’s reminiscent of many asked by the very young. And they are: “Are we going very FAR?”, asks Little Blue of his dad.

Papa Whale informs Little Whale they are going to greater depths than they ever have before in the briny deep. It’s a sort of metaphor for the untried and new experiences in a child’s life. I like that. New experiences are exciting for a child and, at the same time may be a bit frightening in that they are a subliminal prelude to the question all children secretly feel, “Will you always be there for me?” Little Blue’s persistent questions are those of every child – “How will we know which way to go?” and as Papa relates the age old call of the whales’ song, Little Blue queries, “When I am big, Papa, will I still hear your song?”

Ms. Marino’s Little Blue keeps Papa in sight as they plumb these new and greater depths of the ocean of life where it is VERY QUIET and sound is harder to decipher – sounds like the cry of Little Blue calling for Papa!!

Can Papa hear the call of his young one? Will Little Blue gain the confidence needed for a lifetime of greater depths of new experiences? The answer is an emphatic YES to both. Ms. Marino has managed to perfectly capture the essence of the parent/child relationship and the great paradox at the heart of that relationship. And that is, in order to be a really effective parent, the job is to prepare the young one for a day when you are superfluous. Little Blue will always need Papa Whale’s love and guidance, but at a young age, the small mammal is slowly being given the tools needed to navigate LIFE in the deep on his own! She has a beautiful reassuring message for both parent and child as they navigate life together, “If you listen closely, you will always hear my song.”

Ms. Marino’s use of color is magic. Her greens mimic the clarity of life in the upper reaches of the ocean and as the depth increases for Little Blue and Papa, the blue green morphs to an inky blue that is barely transparent – except for SOUND! And her picture of the whales’ rise to the surface and “sounding” into a pinkish yellow light is beautifully done. It is a great match of art and narrative!

Ah, life lessons! Ms. Marino has written a book with a beautiful message for man AND mammal! Take the plunge and dive in with your young reader along with Papa Whale and Little Blue. It’s a great ride that this picture book starts, and you will continue with your child for a lifetime of deep depth diving – together! And Mom, I still can hear your song!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21. "Flower Power!" by Terri Murphy


Power is harnessed when you're in tune with nature!

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22. Beeing There

beescopy

Done in the car while waiting for the library to open. Bees were pollinating purple flowers next to me.

I’d like to share something I think is fun. The reaction I get from people when I’m out drawing or painting. When not in my car more often than not reactions are positive, like the Starbucks barista, saying he thought it cool. Occasionally my experiences are, let’s just say a bit awkward. Even so they’re often something I look back on with a smile, as they reflect the understanding of the person it’s coming from. On one occasion where I was drawing at coffee shop, a woman sat at the table next to me accompanied by her two children. As they were getting ready to leave she mentioned she was an artist too. She shook my hand and introduced herself. I noticed while one of her children had gone, the other had walked behind me (between myself and the wall). Mom noticed and noticed I noticed. As she and I continued our conversation, her daughter then got on one side of her and put both hands on her mother’s hip and began pushing. “Let’s go… I thought we were going to go.” I had said, “I guess she’s a bit protective. I remember my daughter was that way sometimes.” When her mother tried to continue talking her daughter came next to me, crossed her arms in front of her and said, nodding to my sketchbook I’d now closed, “Did you draw that?” I said “What,” opening it, “You mean this?” She then nodded over to a magazine on the nearby table and said “You copied that”. I said, “No, these are people who were here. I drew them.” Mind you, she was maybe nine or ten years old. By then mom was ready go. I could only smile. Happy Mothers Day.

 


Tagged: Allen Capoferri, Art, cafe drawing, Childhood, Illustration, mothers day, Nature, sketchbook, sketchbook drawing

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23. Book Review: 'Beth's Birds,' by Deanna K. Klingel

This book review is part of a 5-day virtual tour sponsored by the National Writing for Children Center, a showcase for children's book authors and illustrators.

Title: Beth’s Birds
Genre: Education, Preschool & Kindergarten, picture
Author: Deanna K. Klingel
Publisher: Peak City Publishing, LLC

Book description
Little Beth romps through her personal playground showing how she learns the proper names and characteristics of her bird friends. Her antics come alive in the delightful illustrations.

My thoughts...

Join our young narrator, little Beth, in a journey of discovery and she describes the birds around her house, from the moment she wakes up to later in the day. First is Jenny Wren, the little brown bird that wakes her up with its bright, cheery song. Then it's the woodpecker who loves to join her when she's having her oatmeal breakfast, and so on throughout the day as she feeds them and even gives them a party. 

Beth's Birds is a charming educational story with gorgeous bird illustrations. The language is simple and very appropriate for young minds. Children will not only learn about the different birds, but also ways to care for them and even how to make them a peanut butter cone. The story brings attention to the beauty of nature and how soothing it can be to interact with it. Recommended!

------------------------------------
About the Author
Deanna lives in the mountains of western North Carolina with her husband Dave and their golden retriever Buddy. Their seven children, spouses and eleven grandchildren are scattered around the southeast. Deanna enjoys traveling with her books and visiting friends and family along the way.

Connect with Deanna on the Web:

@deannakklingel

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24. Nanise’: A Navajo Herbal

Nanise'
Authors: Vernon O. Mayes & Barbara Bayless Lacy
Illustrators: Jack Ahasteen & Jason Chee
Publisher: Five Star Publications
Genre: Nature
ISBN: 978-1-58985-217-4
Pages: 163
Price: $14.99

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

A Navajo Reservation set in an approximately 25,000 square mile area covering the northeastern corner of Arizona, the northwestern corner of New Mexico, and a portion of southeastern Utah is home to many plants used by the native population in medicine and ceremony. Many of these grow in elevations above 7,000 feet. Nanise’: A Navajo Herbal catalogs 100 of these plants.

Each plant description includes the common name, the Latin name, and the Navajo name. A description of the plant and its distribution follows. A brief summary of Navajo uses is given, but since these are considered private, they are not detailed. References conclude the entry, and a pen and ink drawing of the plant accompanies the text.

It’s obvious that the authors and illustrators approached this volume with careful research and devotion. Those with a strong interest in botany, with an emphasis on this region and Navajo use and practice, will find this book a valuable resource.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


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25. Secrets of the Apple Tree: Carron Brown & Alyssa Nassner

Book: Secrets of the Apple Tree: A Shine-A-Light Book
Authors: Carron Brown & Alyssa Nassner
Pages: 36
Age Range: 4-8

Secrets of the Apple Tree is an informational text that uses the "Shine-A-Light" technology to make learning fun for kids. It starts out by showing an apple tree in the summer. When you shine a light behind the page (or hold it up to the light), you can see the image of the apple tree in winter, with bare branches. On the other side of the page, this inside view is shown in black and white, with some explanatory text. This pattern continues throughout the book, as the reader see mushrooms growing on a branch, a squirrel nesting inside the tree, a bug caught in a spider web, etc. 

I think that the gimmick of shining a light to see through the page will please preschoolers. My daughter was charmed by this, certainly, though she got a bit bored as the facts continued to mount from page to page. The text is designed for interactive reading with kids. Like this:

"Many animals live
around the tree.

Can you see who
the bird is about
to grab?"

(on the next page)

"Slithering, wriggling worms push
through the soil around the roots.

A tree's roots grow long and deep.
The roots soak up water from rain,
which helps to keep the tree alive." 

Every page has a question for kids to answer by shining a light on the page. At the end there's a little glossary of sorts, with more information about the creatures found in and around the tree. The authors encourage further exploration with:

"There's more...

When you find a tree, look all around it and see who you can find.
Remember to look up as well as down." 

The see-through illustrations (on the right-hand side of each page spread) are in color, using a palette of woodsy greens, browns, and grays. The left-facing pages are silhouettes, white images against black backgrounds. While neither style is incredibly detailed, the overall impression is pleasing, and the whimsy of the see-through illustrations works well. 

Secrets of the Apple Tree does a nice job of encouraging kids to pay attention to nature, to look closely, and see what hidden life they can find. And it's fun, too. I think it would make a nice addition to a classroom library for first or second graders, particularly in apple tree country. Recommended!

Publisher: Kane Miller Book Publishers 
Publication Date: January 1, 2014 (first American edition)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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