Keeping an eye on the ‘nesting boxes’ at the Pittsfield

bird housebird house

My son, Bill, led the construction and installation of a dozen “nesting boxes” for birds and bats on the east side of the Pittsfield branch last summer as one of the requirements to become an Eagle Scout. Library director Josie Parker supported the project as a reflection of the AADL’s commitment to capitalize on environmental principles...to operate more in harmony with the ecosystem. I'm keeping an eye on the project now that Bill’s off at college, and with spring coming, I hope other library patrons would post a comment if they see birds (or bats) actually occupying the boxes.

Sap to Syrup -- Doing it Yourself

You can't beat the taste of real maple syrup on hot, crispy Belgian waffles, especially on a cold winter morning. If you've ever wanted to give your mouth that Vermont-fresh taste without the store-bought price then the Saturday, February 28 program, Sap to Syrup -- Doing it Yourself, at the Field Operations Building of Ann Arbor's County Farm Park is just what you've been waiting for. From 1-2:30 pm, Faye Stoner will be discussing methods of identifying maple trees, tapping the trees, and boiling the sap into syrup. The program requires registration beforehand, so be sure to let them know if you're planning to go. Can't make the event but still want to tap that delicious drizzle? Check out some AADL items on all things syrup: The Maple Syrup Book, Sugaring Season: Making Maple Syrup, or the Newbery Honor book, Sugaring Time.

Celebrate our national parks

On February 26, 1919, Congress enacted legislation to establish two national parks. One was Lafayette National Park on the coast of Maine which was later renamed Acadia National Park. The other was Grand Canyon National Park in northwestern Arizona which covers over a million acres. The Library has a wonderful collection of books and dvds on all the national parks. So if you're planning a trip to any this summer, come check them out.

Six more weeks of winter? Boo! Hiss!

Well. Punxsutawney Phil has done it again. Casting his ominous shadow, Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter. February 2 is the official Groundhog Day when men in tall hats in a small town in rural Pennsylvania hold up the fat furry creature for all to see. It is also a "cross-quarter" day in the solar calendar, a day that falls exactly between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Groundhog Day originated with the Germans who emigrated to Pennsylvania. They wanted to use a badger but couldn't find too many, so settled on our beloved groundhog.

Pulp

Pulp Tree

Project Budburst: Tracking Climate Change In The Garden
Organic Gardening Magazine February/March 2009 Page 47
In the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Reads book "Seeing in the Dark: How Amateur Astronomers are Discovering the Wonders of the Universe" we learned about how amateur astronomers help professional astronomers. Similarly, gardeners can help scientists track climate change. Project Budburst is "a citizen's research program developed to monitor the ways in which climate change is impacting the leafing and flowering of hundres of plant species nation-wide."
Climate change : what it means for us, our children, and our grandchildren
Cool it : the skeptical environmentalist's guide to global warming
The Michigan gardener's companion : an insider's guide to gardening in the Great Lakes State

A champion of animals

durrelldurrell

Today, January 7 is the birthday of British zoologist and writer, Gerald Durrell who was born in Jamshedpur, India in 1925. Durrell loved animals from an early age and to the distress of his mother, brought many specimens home. He became interested in rare and endangered animals and his dream was to one day open his own zoo. At the suggestion of his brother, novelist Lawrence Durrell, he began to write of his adventures to many parts of the world to collect animals so that he could finance his projects. In 1953, he published his first book, The Overloaded Ark, which was a great success. He went on to write over 30 more books and was eventually able to open his own zoo on the Jersey Islands. The zoo led to the development of the the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, an organization whose mission is to save endangered animals from extinction.

In a letter he wrote to seal in a time capsule, he says: "We hope that there will be fireflies and glow-worms at night to guide you and butterflies in hedges and forests to greet you. We hope that there will still be the extraordinary varieties of creatures sharing the land of the planet with you to enchant you." I hope so too.

Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count

Washtenaw Audubon SocietyWashtenaw Audubon Society

Looking for a break from the holiday hustle and bustle? Try a more relaxing weekend this Saturday, December 20th by joining up with the Washtenaw Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count. Each year for over a century the Audubon Society has organized local groups of birdwatchers to compile a list of all the birds spotted across the continent. The results help researchers track bird populations and identify habitats at risk. You can be a part of this international effort (and hone your bird identification skills) by signing up with the local chapter of the National Audubon Society.

Dec. 6, 1947 - Everglades National Park, Florida dedicated by President Harry S Truman

"Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the receiver of it. To its natural abundance we owe the spectacular plant and animal life that distinguishes this place from all others in our country." With these words, Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park. This event culminated years of effort by a dedicated group of conservationists to make a national park in the Florida Everglades a reality. For a fascinating and comprehensive history of this amazing wetland, check out Michael Grunwald's The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise. Thinking of visiting the park? Check out Hidden Florida Keys and Everglades or Adventure guide to the Florida Keys & Everglades National Park.

Edible Estates, Community and Sustainability

front yard garden
(Above: A local Ann Arbor front yard replaced with more diverse vegetation)

Avalon Housing kicks off 5 days of sharing ideas on innovation in sustainability and community building today. Many of the events feature architect and artist Fritz Haeg, who started the project and book called Edible Estates. The series includes a talk and book signing at AADL on Monday Nov, 10th at 7pm with Fritz Haeg.

The Project

The edible estates project consisted of tearing up the manicured front lawns of several households and replacing it with plants that produced edible food. The goal was both to make a statement and to be practical. This is remenicient of Victory Gardens during the World Wars where thanks to Eleanor Roosevelt even the White House lawn had some vegetable production. Similar ideas are also implemented in community gardens, but this project specifically picked the front yard as the area to attack, making the garden front and center. Here's a video of one of the gardens to give you an idea:

Here's a video interview with Fritz Haeg about the project:

The Book

The book consists of the plans for these gardens, homeowner stories, the drive behind the project and a few guides of what you can grow in your zone. What most homeowners were worried about, as can be expected, was what would the neighbors think? However, in most cases there were positive attitudes from the community and even a closer relationship between people in the neighborhood. The front yard was no longer a buffer zone between people but an active center of activity. The book also includes a few tidbits to think about:

  • Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 13 are probable carcinogens, 14 are linked with birth defects, 18 with reproductive effects, 20 with liver or kidney damage, 18 with neurotoxicity and 28 are irritants - National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns
  • Homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops. - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The book also includes a forward by Michael Pollan, close to his article Why Mow? The Case Against Lawns, which is worth reading in full:

"Suits fly against the national lawn-care companies, and interest is kindled in ''organic'' methods of lawn care. But the problem is larger than this. Lawns, I am convinced, are a symptom of, and a metaphor for, our skewed relationship to the land. They teach us that, with the help of petrochemicals and technology, we can bend nature to our will. Lawns stoke our hubris with regard to the land. What is the alternative? To turn them into gardens. I'm not suggesting that there is no place for lawns in these gardens or that gardens by themselves will right our relationship to the land, but the habits of thought they foster can take us some way in that direction.

Gardening, as compared to lawn care, tutors us in nature's ways, fostering an ethic of give and take with respect to the land. Gardens instruct us in the particularities of place. They lessen our dependence on distant sources of energy, technology, food and, for that matter, interest."

So be sure to check out the many events this week including the talk and book signing at AADL on Monday.

Plants In The News

Pulp Tree

So when you bring the green indoors this winter the plants may say "thank you".

Maybe you heard about Midori the blogging houseplant. Midori lives in Donburi Cafe in Kamakura Japan.

Just as plants are finding a voice in Japan the government of Switzerland has placed a ban on the humiliation of plants.

Read about the botanical interface that makes plant blogging possible and check out a product that will help you listen to your own plant.

Interested in this topic, check out these books: Plantwatching: how plants remember, tell time, form partnerships, and more / Malcolm Wilkins and Natural affairs: a botanist looks at the attachments between plants and people / Peter Bernhardt

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