I'm Thirsty

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If your trees could talk, they'd tell you they need a lot of watering right now. The bright sunny days and lack of rain are testing the timber of Tree Town trees ~ even mature trees will nees some help this year. The city's Tree Planting Guide has a good review on watering trees. When you mulch, remember to keep the mulch from touching the tree trunk or piling too high.

Suburban Wildlife with a South American Twist

When school ended, the 10-year-old classroom degu (South American rat) came home with us. The teacher told us that Cedar, named for her reddish fur, might not survive the summer, given her advanced age, in which case we should freeze her (near the cool-pops?) until fall, when she would get a proper school funeral. I did not fall immediately in love with this creature, despite her being cute, caged, fairly clean, and friendly. Instead, I clicked into the Oxford English Dictionary, to learn that a degu is “a rat-like animal, rather smaller than the Water Vole, the head and body measuring from seven and a half to eight inches in length.” A definition often makes me fonder. Now I like Cedar, sort of, and having her around has made me curious about the new book Central Park in the Dark: More mysteries of urban wildlife. Who knows, maybe Cedar has dozens of cousins in New York City.

Finally! It IS easy to be green!

If you are like me, you are interested in being more socially responsible, like going beyond simple recycling and doing your part to help save our planet for future generations, but you don't have lots of money and time to devote to "going green". Sound familiar? If so, then you need to get yourself a copy of Renee Loux's Easy green living : the ultimate guide to simple, eco-friendly choices for you and your home. This lifestyle guide is PACKED with information about the simple, affordable choices we can make to avoid toxins, conserve natural resources and generally be more eco-smart. Whether you choose to take tiny baby steps or completely overhaul your wasteful self, you will find the answers you need. One of my favorite easy eco-tips is the following: "About 100 million trees and 28 billion gallons of water are used annually to produce the 5.8 million tons of catalogs and unsolicited wads of preapproved credit card offers and other junk that arrive at our homes - 44 percent of which are thrown away unopened....Stop credit card offers. Go to www.optoutprescreen.com, where the consumer credit report industry lets you opt out of receiving preapproved and prescreened credit card offers." Now imagine if we all did that!

American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau

American Earth, a hefty collection of essays and poetry, reads like a who's who of the shining stars of the environmental movement. Such literary environmentalists as Wendell Berry and John Burroughs; contemporary foodies Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan; poets Mary Oliver and Gary Snyder and activists John Muir, Julia Butterfly Hill and Cesar Chavez are represented, and join the voices of 92 other advocates for protecting and preserving the natural heritage of our planet. Edited by Bill McKibben, a prolific author and activist himself, this timely and thought-provoking book gives a picture of the long history and creativity of the environmental imagination. The range of material and diversity of authors - farmers, scientists, university professors, economists, singers, two presidents and one vice-president - means there is something here for everyone.

Hunting for Crayfish

I remember very little from childhood, but some of the memories I've retained involve swimming in neighborhood creeks and rivers, and hunting for crayfish in the summer. When I moved to Ann Arbor last year, it was great to see so many canoes and kayaks on the Huron River, but surprising to see so few people swimming in the water. The Huron River Watershed Council has addressed this issue by working with local organizations to put on Huron River events, such as canoe races, group swims, and educational courses. The HRWC has also compiled resources and reports on its website regarding the increased safety of the water. You can also find the seasonal Huron River Report periodical, as well as several other books on activities in the Huron River available at the AADL. Come on in, the water is fine!

For the Birds

As I drove home from work one day I saw a starling get struck by a vehicle. When I noticed that the bird was still alive and struggling to get out of the road...I had to help. After catching the bird I contemplated what to do next while I comforted the bird and marveled at her beautiful iridescent feathers. I remembered once hearing of a place in Washtenaw County to go for help with injured birds, so I drove back to the library to get more information. After some excellent work on behalf of the information desk I had the number for the Bird Center of Washtenaw County. What a relief when the bird center staff answered my call and quickly directed me to their location near central campus. They met me at the door and took the bird into care. There is no fee for the service but donations are welcome. We left our number with the center and asked them to keep us updated. Although the starling didn't make it, I was glad that her last hours were in a warm comfortable place with good care and no pain. What a good thing the bird center is! Although some folks might be happy about one less starling.

Pick a Park, Adopt-A-Park

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You know you've got a favorite park in Ann Arbor. Now's your chance to show the park you care, you really, really care. Wear your scruffies and come to the Adopt-A-Park Kickoff this Saturday, May 17, 9 a.m. to noon. Help plant, mulch, clean and weed and your fav park will be eternally grateful and beautifully green. For more info visit the Adopt-A-Park website.

Star Dreams: Exploring the Mystery of Crop Circles

Crop circle

Huge, sweeping patterns of intricate, geometric shapes appear in fields of standing wheat and barley over night. No tracks appear leading to the shapes. The crop circles are perfectly formed - with mathematical precision and utilizing ancient symbols - they have created a following of “croppies” all over the world. Star Dreams investigates the phenomenon, interviewing true believers (in the other-worldly artists) and researchers, and providing dozens of aerial shots of the most breath-taking circles. Though you may argue about how they get here, there is no doubt they are mysterious and beautiful. Hundreds of circles appear in England every summer and you can track each one as it is reported. For more on crop circles try Secrets in the Fields: The Science and Mysticism of Crop Circles.

How do you make a rat laugh?

By tickling it, of course!

According to neuroscientist Dr. Jaak Panksepp, laughter isn’t just a human phenomenon - rats laugh, too.

Hear ticklish rats laughing and an interview with Panksepp on the “Laughter” episode of NPR’s Radio Lab.

Intrigued by animal emotions? Read the Psychology Today article about Panksepp’s research and his critics in our General Reference Center Gold database. Library cardholders can read the article from home.

Capturing the splendor

Today, February 20th, is the birthday of celebrated nature photographer, Ansel Adams who was born in San Francisco in 1902. Adams is best known for his black and white landscape photographs of national parks, especially Yosemite and the Sierras. As a boy, he wanted to become a concert pianist but when he was 14, his parents gave him a Brownie Kodak camera. That summer he went to Yosemite and returned every year to photogragh it until he was 81. He became the photographer for the Sierra Club in 1922. Adams said, "A good photograph is knowing where to stand."

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