Showing posts from March, 2023

This week in birds - #543

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : White Pelicans enjoying a rest by Galveston Bay. *~*~*~* The Gulf of Mexico is abnormally warm which could mean a very active tornado season . *~*~*~* Freshwater biodiversity does not always get the respect it deserves in discussions about conservation but we rely on it for many essentials. *~*~*~* The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is considering sanctions on Mexico for failing to provide sufficient protection  for the vaquita marina, a small porpoise that is the world's most endangered marine mammal. *~*~*~* DDT has been found in high concentrations on the ocean floor along the California seacoast that once served as a dumping ground for the material. *~*~*~* Former governor of California Jerry Brown can now rest on his laurels; a beetle has been named for him ! *~*~*~* Do you suffer from a brown thumb as a gardener? Never fear; here are some plants that e

Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson: A review

  Are you ready for a tale of New York one-percenters who live in a world so far removed from mine that it might as well be a kids' fairy tale? Well, here ya go! Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson. It's the story of the Stockton family, headed by matriarch Tilda and patriarch Chip. Tilda is obsessed with tennis and tablescapes and she has perfected the art of ignoring anything she finds unpleasant.  We see events primarily through the eyes of the female characters, especially Sasha who has become a part of this powerhouse family through her marriage to son Cord. She is from much humbler origins and she is finding it very hard to find a place to fit in the family unit.   Sasha and Cord live in the four-storey limestone building on Pineapple Street in Brooklyn Heights that is owned by Tilda and Chip. Sasha and Cord are not allowed to change anything about their apartment. The Stocktons' older daughter, Darley, has given up her rights to inheritance for the sake of love. She i

Poetry Sunday: The Trees by Philip Larkin

The new leaves on the trees look pristine, unmarked. They are the paler green of the recently unfurled. They will get darker as the season advances and they will not remain long unmarked. But for now, they are the very essence of this new season and they invite us to breathe deep and appreciate Nature's beauty that surrounds us. Forget the past, they seem to say, "begin afresh, afresh, afresh." The Trees by Philip Larkin The trees are coming into leaf Like something almost being said; The recent buds relax and spread, Their greenness is a kind of grief. Is it that they are born again And we grow old? No, they die too, Their yearly trick of looking new Is written down in rings of grain. Yet still the unresting castles thresh In fullgrown thickness every May. Last year is dead, they seem to say, Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

This week in birds - #542

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  A Redwing Blackbird balances on a stalk in a field. *~*~*~* The IPCC's climate assessment report issued this week did not hold much good news for the planet; nevertheless, one of the lead authors of that report still believes there is room for hope . *~*~*~* The annual Great Backyard Bird Count takes place in February. Here is one participant's report of this year's count. *~*~*~* President Biden this week designated two new national monuments in the West - one in Nevada and the other in Texas. *~*~*~* Jackson, Mississippi, a city where I once lived, is experiencing a crisis in its water system , basically due to neglect. And like so many of the problems in Jackson, this one has a racial component. *~*~*~* This is an artist's concept of an interstellar object named Oumuamua that visited our solar system and exited it in 2017 . There's been some disagreement over just what it was but scientists now

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton: A review

  Guerrilla gardening? Is that really a thing? Well, in this book it is. And maybe if it isn't it should be. Guerrilla gardeners essentially invade land that is not being used and they plant things on it. Mostly vegetables. And then they distribute the produce from their plantings. Moreover, these guerrilla gardeners steal things other than the use of land that doesn't belong to them: "They took cuttings from suburban gardens, leaf litter out of public parks and manure from farmland. Mira had stolen scions from commercial apple orchards — budding whips of Braeburn and Royal Gala that she grafted to the stocks of sour crab-apple trees — and equipment out of unlocked garden sheds, though only, she insisted, in wealthy neighborhoods, and only those tools that did not seem to be in frequent use." So this guerrilla gardening collective cultivates disused land wherever they can find it. It might be along road verges or motorway offramps, demolition sites, or junkyards. Any

Not Bloom Day - March 2023

I didn't do a Bloom Day post on March 15, because, well, I lack blooms. There is just not much going on in my yard bloom-wise at the moment. That just makes the few blossoms that I do have much more appreciated. The redbud has been in bloom. Full disclosure: This picture was taken a few days ago. The blooms have now faded and the tree is beginning to leaf out.   By my little goldfish pond, the trout lilies have been blooming. Carolina jessamine is always a dependable spring bloomer. This antique rose decorates the side of our garden shed. And this is 'Julia Child,' my favorite yellow rose. Isn't she pretty? I hope by the time April Bloom Day rolls around I will have a bit more color to share with you.

Poetry Sunday: Today by Billy Collins

Spring may not have quite officially sprung yet but it always arrives a bit early in these parts, and so it has again this year. And already we enjoy the perfect days so well described by Billy Collins in his poem. Our springs are brief, soon to be spoiled by summer's oppressive heat, but while they last, these days are glorious! Today by Billy Collins If ever there were a spring day so perfect, so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze that it made you want to throw open all the windows in the house and unlatch the door to the canary's cage, indeed, rip the little door from its jamb, a day when the cool brick paths and the garden bursting with peonies seemed so etched in sunlight that you felt like taking a hammer to the glass paperweight on the living room end table, releasing the inhabitants from their snow-covered cottage so they could walk out, holding hands and squinting into this larger dome of blue and white, well, today is just that kind of day.

This week in birds - #541

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : A trio of Cedar Waxwings looks down from a tree that will soon be fully leafed out. And soon enough the waxwings will be headed back north to their summer homes. *~*~*~* The big environmental news of the week was that President Biden has decided to approve the controversial Willow oil project in Alaska . At the same time, he is declaring the Arctic Ocean off-limits to U.S. oil and gas leasing and announcing additional protections for the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska , the nation's largest expanse of public lands. *~*~*~* Seaweed has suddenly become a "hot global commodity." But will it be able to thrive in a warming climate?  *~*~*~* And speaking of seaweed, a giant blob of it, known as the great Atlantic Sargassum belt is drifting toward the Gulf of Mexico and may wind up on Florida's beaches this summer. *~*~*~* Forty years ago it looked like the California Condor was irrevocably headed tow

Essex Dogs by Dan Jones: A review

I should state right up front that Essex Dogs is really not my cup of tea. It is a war story and I generally try to avoid stories that take place in a war setting. But I have read and enjoyed books by Dan Jones in the past and so when the title came up I added it to my TBR list. And now I can cross it off that list! The Essex Dogs of the title are a small group of men-at-arms and archers who fought in the Hundred Years War between England and France as a part of King Edward III's forces. This book, I understand, is the first in a trilogy about the war that is planned by Dan Jones.  The book follows the Essex Dogs during their involvement in the 1346  Crécy campaign. In addition to viewing the conflict through their eyes, we also get the perspectives of renegade priests, the ever-scheming aristocrats and merchants, and the ordinary people who are caught in the conflict mostly against their will. As always, it is these ordinary people caught in the middle who bear the brunt of the a

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths: A review

  This is the second in Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series and, just as with the first one, it was quite an enjoyable read for me. I find Ruth to be quite a relatable character (maybe it's her weight problems!) and archaeology and mythology have long been important interests of mine. At one time I harbored a desire to study archaeology and make that my career, but ultimately I opted for a more workaday branch of the humanities/social sciences. So Ruth's activities are subjects that I know a little about and about which I am always interested to read more - even in a fictional account.   Galloway is a forensic archaeologist who is extremely intelligent and good at her job but is personally awkward and vulnerable. In this sense, her vulnerability is increased by the fact that she is nearing forty and is pregnant and unmarried. This case once again brings her into contact with DCI Harry Nelson who is brought in to investigate the mystery of some old bones, belonging to a chi

Poetry Sunday: Lines Written in Early Spring by William Wordsworth

The great poet William Wordsworth wrote this poem in 1798, more than 200 years ago, but it still seems just as relevant today. The poem was his meditation on the harmony of Nature and on the failure of humanity to take its place in that harmony. He sees joy in Nature and believes that he has a part in that joy. But all around him, he sees cruelty and selfishness in the actions of his fellow humans which leads him to bemoan "what man has made of man."  Lines Written in Early Spring by William Wordsworth I heard a thousand blended notes, While in a grove I sate reclined, In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts Bring sad thoughts to the mind. To her fair works did Nature link The human soul that through me ran; And much it grieved my heart to think What man has made of man. Through primrose tufts, in that green bower, The periwinkle trailed its wreaths; And ’tis my faith that every flower Enjoys the air it breathes. The birds around me hopped and played, Their thoughts I canno

This week in birds - #540

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment :  The redbud tree is in bloom and the American Goldfinch is beginning to bloom, too. This one is just beginning to show its summer colors. Soon it will be transformed into a much more brilliant yellow and black. *~*~*~* This year's Farm Bill could actually help some grassland species like the Bobolink that are in danger of disappearing from America's prairies. *~*~*~* The famous California mountain lion called P-22 was given a tribal burial this week in the mountains where he once roamed. *~*~*~* Spring is arriving about three weeks early throughout the continent. Trees, like my redbud, are already sprouting leaves and blooming. *~*~*~* A toxic algae bloom called the "red tide" is killing tons of fish along Florida's west coast. *~*~*~* This is the Dusky Tetraka , a songbird of Madagascar that had been thought to be extinct. It has been rediscovered by a team searching the tropical forests in

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths: A review

This is the first in Elly Griffiths' series of books featuring the forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. (Parenthetically, I once knew a woman named Ruth Galloway and I was curious to see if the fictional character would be anything like her. Answer: Only in being extremely intelligent and independent.) This Ruth Galloway lives in a remote area of England near Norfolk called Saltmarsh. It is the area where the land meets the sea, a place that was sacred to the inhabitants who lived there during the Iron and Bronze Ages. Ruth is nearing forty, is single, and slightly overweight, and she lives with her two cats in a cottage on Saltmarsh. Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson asks Galloway for her help when a child's bones are discovered on a nearby beach. He believes that the bones may be those of a child who went missing ten years earlier and he needs Galloway's help to determine their age. It turns out that they are actually two thousand years old, but Galloway's inter

Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson: A review

Human Croquet is actually one of Kate Atkinson's early books. It was published in 1997. As such, I would rank it perhaps in the middle of her works as far as the quality of the plot and the writing. So, not one of her best but certainly not bad and well worth a read. (I don't think Kate Atkinson has ever written a bad book.)  The book is set in a typical 1960s British suburb called Lythe. Lythe's claim to fame is that it was once the heart of an Elizabethan estate and was the home of a young writer/tutor named William Shakespeare. In the 1960s it was the home of a young girl named Isobel Fairfax. Human Croquet tells her story. Isobel lives in a home with her quite dysfunctional family that includes a brother who is obsessed with alien abductions and an aunt who lives with many cats in her bedroom. Isobel's mother, Eliza, went missing when Isobel and her brother Charles were only children and they have never really recovered from this loss. Isobel's and Charles

A Slipping-down Life by Anne Tyler: a review

  If I were to make a list of my favorite contemporary writers, Anne Tyler would be near the top. I haven't read all of her books, but I have read most of them and there's not a single one that I haven't enjoyed, some more than others, of course.  This one would probably rate near the middle of the pack. It is actually one of her earlier ones, having been published in 1970. It just recently came to my attention that I had not read it, so I immediately set out to rectify that oversight. A Slipping-down Life gives us the story of young Evie Decker. Evie is a lonely, shy teenager living in a small North Carolina town with her widowed father, a teacher. There is nothing special about Evie. She's slightly plump and not especially attractive. There's really nothing to make her stand out or make people notice her. She doesn't have any particular talents or interests. But then she hears a rock singer named Drumstrings Casey being interviewed on a local radio station an

Poetry Sunday: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

I have featured this poem here before. In fact, I have featured it more than once, but it is a favorite of mine and so here it is again! Enjoy.   Still I Rise by Maya Angelou You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I'll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? ’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room. Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I'll rise. Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops, Weakened by my soulful cries? Does my haughtiness offend you? Don't you take it awful hard ’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines Diggin’ in my own backyard. You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise. Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a s

This week in birds - #539

  A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : This over-wintering Rufous Hummingbird appears to be giving me the evil eye. *~*~*~* There is an abundance of wind and solar energy projects set to go in the United States and yet they are running into serious delays as a result of antiquated systems.   *~*~*~* Incidents involving the accidental release of chemicals happen in the United States on an average of every two days. *~*~*~* Climate change is real and, as a result, parts of this country are seeing the earliest spring conditions on record . *~*~*~* The future of the great Okefenokee Swamp is being threatened by a plan to mine for titanium dioxide in the area. *~*~*~* Winter in northern climes brings drastic changes to the landscape. These pictures bear witness  to those changes.  *~*~*~* One benefit of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed by President Biden in 2021 is that it helps to reconnect habitats for freshwater and terrestrial