Friday, January 24, 2014

Two Year Blog Anniversary

Our hunting dog, Antro
Today's the 2nd Anniversary of my blog, Hooray! It's a good excuse to celebrate.  You can eat 2 pieces of chocolate cake, 2 cookies, or/and maybe 2 brownies!  You could have 2 cups of coffee, hot tea, or milk with those sweets!  I hope you are able to do 2 of your favorite things this weekend!

Thank you for reading my blog, I wouldn't be as motivated to write if I didn't know you were reading and enjoying the posts.  We'll see what year three brings as I continue being inspired by nature now in Connecticut!

Here are some silly, snowy, and chilly iphone photos! Hope you have a little celebration of your own.

I made a secret rock garden, and it looks really cool in the snow!

Icicle pop, yum!
Icicles on the house
another view of the secret rock garden

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Getting Back to Nature Programing

On Monday, I was given the opportunity to lead a nature program at the Goodwin Forest and Conservation Education Center.  The program was my first since leaving the Austin Nature and Science Center and it felt great to be back outdoors with kids.  The program was called Nature's Gifts and it focused on helping kids learn to look and see things in nature.  Thankfully, we had nice weather in the 40's; it was cool but not freezing (the next day it snowed and the high was in the teens).  We looked for signs of animals while playing Native American and sensory games.   We had a group of 11 kids (plus parents) who were very enthusiastic about all the things we saw including birds nests, tracks, chewed hickory nuts, burrows, and other finds.  Several of the kids had attended other Goodwin programs and had things to teach me about Connecticut's woods such as what is a Witch's broom.  In particular, Sam, Sofia, and Peter were already naturalists at heart, and I was happy to share my love of nature and morning with them!

I am very thankful to the Friends of Goodwin Forest Group  for sponsoring the program, making it free to attend, and to Emma Lorusso, Goodwin's Naturalist, for giving me a chance.  I am looking forward to leading my second program on Saturday, Feb 8th, on Dendrology, the study of trees, and it looks like I may become a regular guest leader.

Photos were taken by Lynne Warren.  We also had a reporter from Reminder News, who wrote a super article about our program with more photos!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A-Birding on a Bronco

Lately while working on paintings, I have been listening to audio-books from  Librivox volunteers record books that are not under copy write laws which you can listen to for free on-line, download, or even make CDs.  So far, I've listened to Around the World in 80 days, Utopia, and most recently A-Birding on a Bronco.  I will definitely be visiting this website regularly since it allows me to enjoy good stories and the classics while working on various projects.

I gave A-Birding on a Bronco at try because I found it at the top of the list starting with 'A', it had birding in the title, and I grew up riding horses in Arizona.  I'm glad I stumbled across this enjoyable story.  Florence A. Merriam wrote this sweet narrative of her bird observations with a focus on nesting activities in Southern California.  Her gentle descriptions of loving birds in the act of nest building, brooding, and chick raising making the birds feel like old friends.  You can really tell from Merriam's words how much she enjoys finding the birds, and getting to know the secrets of their lives. Merriam describes the birds as if they were people calling them husband, wife, and loving mothers, giving them emotions, commenting on the funny things the birds do.  I think the personification of the birds was important to help her audience connect to the birds as living things instead of a museum specimen.   A-Birding on a Bronco was published in 1896 when the common way to go birding involved a gun, and little was know of the birds' habits.  Merriam's story not only helps readers learn about birds, but also helps the reader enjoy the horseback ride in the sunny California climate.  If you enjoy birding, riding horses, or classic naturalist's accounts then I think you would enjoy this story as much as I did.

Mountain Billy from A-Birding on a Bronco,
Project Gutenberg scanned image

While listening to this story, I wondered who Florence A Merriam was.  There aren't many women naturalist authors out there from 1896.  Why was she riding around on a horse observing bird nests? (and doesn't that sound like fun!)  I am happy that A-Birding on a Bronco brought this lady to my attention.

The Phainopeplas on the Pepper-tree,
from A-Birding on a Bronco,
Project Gutenberg scanned image
Florence A Merriam was a remarkable woman well ahead of her time.  She attended college earning a certificate, the equivalent of a degree for women in 1886, was active in bird conservation, and was an author.  According to a bio by the NY Branch of the American Association of University Women, "By 1885, she began to write articles focusing on protecting birds. She was horrified by the fashion trend which not only used feathers, but entire birds to decorate women's hats. Five million birds a year were killed to supply this fashion craze." and "she eventually involved the students (Smith College) in a campaign to open the public's eyes. She sent out 10,000 circulars by enlisting the help of one hundred students, a third of the college, and wrote articles of protest to newspapers." Here's the whole article  Tuberculosis sent her out west where she wrote several narratives and field guides.   I was happy to learn about Florence Merriam's accomplishments, and to connect with her love of birds and the natural world through her words written almost 120 years ago.

A- Birding on a Bronco is also available for free on the Project Gutenberg website for e-readers.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Surviving in a winter wonderland

Look it's about -4 degrees!
As with much of the country, 'real' winter has arrived in Eastern Connecticut.  We had a small blizzard during the night with snow and wind, and day time highs in the teens and lows below zero last week!  Today the high is supposed to be 11 degrees.  However, we are not as cold as some of the really freezing weather that you've been hearing about on the news.  Eastern Connecticut is in the 6b growing zone because we are only about an hour from the Atlantic and that large body of water keeps us a bit warmer than some of the other New England states which are in grow zones 5 and 4.  Still, negative temperatures with snow and wind are really cold, and it is very different from were I grew up in Southeast Arizona, and Austin, TX where we lived for the last 5 years.  
I've got a few emails from friends and family wondering how I'm doing.  Here are a few quotes that I enjoyed.

"Can't wait to learn all about an Arizona native's adventure in winter.....Connecticut style!"

"Try to keep warm, too.  And a sense of humor I guess!"

"OMG Anna that is c-o-l-d!  I’ve never been in minus 0 temps before."

So, what have I been doing to survive the cold.  First, there's hunkering down.  During the negative temps and blizzard you won't find me outside and about!  I'm good at hunkering with soup, hot drinks, blankets, and snuggle dogs!  But we do go out and when we do, we bundle up.  I wear long-johns, two pairs of socks, pants, usually 2 shirts, a downy coat and rain/wind coat shell, fuzzy hat, mittens, and often a scarf.  The dogs get their jackets, too.  So, it takes me just about as long to get ready to go out as the amount of time before the dogs want back inside!  When we're outside we're walking, shoveling snow :), making paths for dogs, or building snowmen to stay warm.  (Jacob and I really had fun making a big snowman once the temperature rose high enough for the snow to stick together.  Unfortunately, the next morning brought rain and the snowman is mostly gone.) Once you get out there and get moving its fun and beautiful, but with temperatures under 20 the dogs and I usually are ready to head back in after only about 15 minutes.   

giant snowball monster!

Cici's come to help!

Silly, too!

 Last weekend, some friends, Jacob and I went cross-country skiing.  I really enjoyed myself even though I fell down several times.  It was my first time to ski, and we took the easy trail that was mostly flat with a few gentle slopes.  I don't have very good balance and think down hill skiing would be much harder, although cross-country is more aerobic since you have to push yourself along.  I;m really horrible at skating and am always falling on the hard ice with skiing you have the poles to help keep you from falling and the snow was much softer than ice.  I've heard, however, that snow gets compacted and hard after a while, too.  Cross country is a great way to get out and see the beautiful white scenery as you glide quietly along, that is if you can take you eyes off your feet without falling down.  We were also pretty sore after our adventure.  

I think I'm saying 'Ooo' that last fall was a good one :)

John and Hannah

Since it is only January, I'm sure I'll have more to say about an Arizona native's adventure in winter...Connecticut style soon.  How do you survive winter?  What's your advice for me?  As always thanks for reading and your comments! 

P.S.  I've added 2 book reviews, several interesting websites, and a few doggie pictures to the pages section of this blog.  Hope you enjoy! 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Favorite photos of 2013

Happy New Year's everybody!  I wasn't going to join the end of the year blog recap club, but I just couldn't help myself after looking at Pam's website Digging, Margarethe at Arizona, Beetles, Bugs, Birds, and more  and Roberta's blog,Growing with Science.

Here are my favorite photos from 2013!

Insect Category

The first three photos are from my June National Pollinator series.  So many insects and arthropods are attracted to Sunflowers. I was really sweating to get those bee photos and I think the first photo below of the Leaf-cutter bee is my best insect photo ever!

I love the delicate feathery white next to the iridescent blue black.  The Leopard Moth is such a beautiful creature

Mineral Shoot-
I enjoyed posting super macro photos of minerals last April.  Not only did I get to get to know the minerals better, but I got to use a light box (photography tool) for the first time.  

Plant Kingdom-
The first 2 photos are from UCONN's greenhouse, and the nest two are from my father-in-law's garden

 A couple more pictures! I can't stop!!!

An Anole photographed my Jacob!

What was your have a favorite photo or blog post?