Archive for the Nature Studies Category

Arboritecture – Tree Architecture

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Crafts, Futurist, inventions, Nature Studies, Organic Agriculture & Horticulture, Sculpture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 28, 2017 by Drogo

SCOD Tree Architecture – Arboritecture, a subset of Hortitecture

Trees could revolutionize our way of living, if we returned to living in and around them more. Conventional architecture is terrible at doing so, and is designed in opposition to trees, because vegetation touching dead building materials tend to make them rot. It is possible to live with an awareness of various levels of growth and decay, but it would require a culture more integrated with the natural environment.

Imagine devices that used living energy from photosynthesis. Design Science should explore the relationship of natural-artificial hybrids, methodologies of integrating plant matter into building fabric, issues of maintenance and sustainability, and ecological biological and organic architectural materials for environmental design.

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EARTH STARS

Posted in Nature Studies, Poems, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 31, 2017 by Drogo

by Christine Maccabee

EARTH STARS

Right here on Earth there are probably as many ‘stars’

as there are in outer space. Not enough can be said as to

need for human-kind to focus more on these terrestrial stars,

preserving them and the wonder and goodness of their Earth

for generations to come.” C.M.

Ever since my early 20’s I have been fascinated by flowers of every variety and thus began seriously investigating them. At that time I was also reading literature about the ancient tradition of mandalas as a meditation tool in India. The mandala has a center which symbolizes the source of life be it Allah, God, the Great Spirit, or whatever one might call it. The center holds everything else together, like the spoke of a wheel and without it things would fall apart and there would be chaos. From that center radiates Creation, or life, in all its amazing diversity and beauty. Similarly, most flowers have this same feature with centers from which reproduction occurs in the form of seeds. That center of nectar, pollen and seeds serves the purpose of ongoing sustenance, thus enabling on-going life for myriad life forms, including of course, people.

Captivated by this reality, I created mandalas from various parts of flowers, using stamen, pistil, petals, leaves and bracts, basically dissecting the flowers carefully and pressing the various parts. Each design I made was unique, and many reminded people of snowflakes. If you look at a flower closely, especially those which radiate perfectly symmetrically from the center, then you will understand my fascination. In fact, there are people who seriously meditate on flowers, thus creating more of a sense of balance in their lives. For me, creating mandalas was a waking and a working meditation, keeping me centered and focused as I created each one ; I sold hundreds of framed pieces over a period of 20 years. Now I simply grow flowers…

This summer I had a newcomer to my gardens, the Morning Star Sedge, a native grass which I did not plant but which was brought here by a bird, no doubt. I discovered it quite by accident along a pathway down to my main garden and was astonished when I saw it. It is not a flower at all, but a type of native grass, used ornamentally by some people in their landscaping.. The seed head is beautiful, very star like (see photo) and perfectly symmetrical. You may be familiar with its graceful but sturdy grasses from which the stems of the seed heads emerge. The seed heads are a lovely green which turn chocolate brown by late summer. By early autumn I am sure the wild birds will be enjoying those seeds as well as the seeds of the chicory and woodland sunflowers which I also have here in my gardens as habitat.

As anyone who reads this column knows, I am passionate about preserving habitat for pollinators and birds. Here on my 11+ acreage I am purposely allowing close to 100 wild native plants to complete their entire life cycles, from flower to seed. Such diversity of plant life, no matter how tall and gangly, or small , sustains the health of a host of animals, insects and humans in this our rainforest. By August the final show will begin and I look forward to it. I look forward to witnessing thousands of tiny Aster flower stars and hearing the profound sound of untold number of wings whirring as the bees fuel up for the coming inevitable cold weather. The essential Golden Rod flowers will also begin blooming (Golden Rod is not a major pollen producer which creates allergies as some people mistakenly think) and I will watch as the Monarch butterflies feed on them before their long journeys south. Did you know there are, or were, 2,687 species of Aster and 16 species of Golden Rods in America. On my property I have about 5 species of each.

The beautiful earthly flower stars, besides providing food for a wide variety of pollinators and birds, are a source of inspiration to humans. Also, it is well known that some have important medicinal properties, such as the Cone flower. I will soon gather and dry the flowers and leaves of my Cone flowers which will be added to teas I make from other herbs I grow. Cone flowers provide Echinacea which is important as an immune system enhancing herb. The root is the most potent, so here and there I will pull some out for their roots.

Unfortunately there is an on-going war being conducted against Earth’s stars in the form of herbicides, pesticides and habitat loss. Next month I will continue speaking for the wildflowers and the health of our planet, our people, and all our relations. Meanwhile, I suggest you walk slowly and often in wild places where wild things grow ; and don’t forget to look to the stars !

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~ from ON THE WILD SIDE for July 2017

Christine is a Master Naturalist in Maryland and has developed a a Wildlife Habitat Sanctuary and Native Plant Preserve on her property , just 10 minutes north of Thurmont. You are welcome to visit by appointment. She can be reached at songbirdschant@gmail.com

Corporate Chemical POISONS

Posted in Artificial Chemical Products, Commercial Corporations, Legal / Laws, Medical, Science & Math, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 23, 2017 by Drogo

First rule regarding Corporate POISONS: #1 DO NOT TRUST THE COMPANY;

Second rule regarding Corporate POISONS (and big money influence): #2: Do not trust the ‘test results’.

My grandfather was poisoned by arsenic lead that the company said was safe for farmers to breathe in the fields. It made his lungs bleed because it actually did poison him, despite their claims. Any chemical manufactured and sold commercially should not be trusted to be ‘safe’, even if ‘scientists tested it’. The only chemicals we can truly ever trust, are natural organic chemicals that humans have worked with for hundreds or better yet thousands of years. Poisons that have negative affects on some carbon-based life-form species who have DNA, probably have some adverse affects on related carbon-based life-form species who have DNA; because Ecology and Biology tend to work like that.

FUCK MONSANTO!!! Pirate Flag X

Commercial Propaganda Exploiting Nature

Posted in Artificial Chemical Products, Commercial Corporations, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 15, 2017 by Drogo

Here is a short study of one commercial product whose propaganda greatly affected me as a child. I recall enjoying the deep psychological pleasure that the addition of the bottle (with a small image of a tropical jungle on it) gave me when showering. My mind had been conditioned to imagine spiritually floating through a series of tropical paradise landscapes towards a waterfall for blissful “natural” cleansing. The irony is that no proof is given of the “organic” or “natural” chemicals in the product, and clearly the real under-lying goal is to profit from the economic loss of the consumer (as is the case with typical capitalist corporations).

HERBAL ESSENCE

herbal essence bubbles  1972

herbal_essences_by_emmgoyer7-d563fe7  2015

herbal essence shower

The more recent commercials are extremely sickly POST-MODERN, playing on their own popularity by exaggerating and exploiting the sexual and “natural” aspects to an insane and self-defeating level. Yes the images are very appealing, but the message has become about declaring “yes we are an amoral company that doesn’t really care about the natural environment, or real communal spirit, or native tribes; but buy our product because you are just as selfish as we are, and the commercial is sexy“.

2015 Crass Post-Modern Commercial: “Take Your Hair To Paradise” 

In fairness, SCOD can credit commercial products like this for exposing how propaganda works to encourage people to adjust their behaviors. SCOD Bog Peeps project was based on this premise, of showing beautiful people in natural ‘paradise’ settings. The difference being that SCOD is truly dedicated to helping people to live WITH-IN Nature.

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John Muir, Nature’s Visionary

Posted in Book Reports, Nature Studies, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 27, 2016 by Drogo

ON THE WILD SIDE for SEPT. 2016 by Christine Schoene Maccabee

 

Choked in the sediments of society, so tired of the world, here will your hard doubts disappear…and your soul breathe deep and free in God’s shoreless atmosphere of beauty and love.”

– John Muir, 1903

The above quote was part of John Muir’s impassioned invitation to President Roosevelt and Vice President Howard Taft to join him in Yosemite and camp out under the stars. Together they talked about protecting the giant redwoods from timbering, as well as preserving the ecological wonders only Muir, and the natives who had lived there, knew intimately. Upon returning East the Roosevelt Administration created 5 national parks, 23 national monuments, and added more than 148 million acres of woodland to the national forest system. Muir was also founder of the Sierra Club of which most of us are aware and some of us members.

In my 20’s I knew next to nothing about the person of John Muir until I read a book, Baptized into Wilderness, which is filled with many inspiring writings from his years spent as caretaker in Yosemite. How he managed to brilliantly overcome the trauma of living with his tyrannical father, a Scottish Calvinist Minister of the worst sort who beat him daily, is nothing short of a miracle. As Muir wrote in his autobiography,“by the time I was 11 years of age I had about three-fourths of the Old Testament and all of the New by heart and by sore flesh.”

Fortunate to be nurtured by the love of his mother and sisters, and due to his fascination with nature and inventing, he grew into a strong young man, fully determined to make his own way in life once the family moved from Scotland to Wisconsin. Helping to clear land and create their homestead was no easy life, but in his free time, Muir invented all sorts of crazy things made from scraps of iron and wood. At age 22 he decided to show his inventions at the state fair in Madison and was a smash hit with his “early rising machine” which tipped a person out of bed at an appointed hour. His father accused him of the sin of vanity.

He avoided the Civil War on the grounds of passivism while attending the University of Wisconsin, which he dropped out of after his sophomore year, little knowing that 34 years later he would receive an honorary degree, Dr. of Laws, from that same college. With a beard as bushy and long as any had seen, he headed to Canada on foot, “botanizing” along the way. The things of nature were always his first love.

After loosing his eyesight due to a freak accident at a machinery factory, Muir gasped, “My right eye is gone! Closed forever on all God’s beauty.” His left eye also failed, leaving him blind. However, after endless nightmares and despair while convalescing in a darkened room, his vision slowly returned. Muir proclaimed “Now I have risen from the grave” and he forever shunned the work of factories. Instead, he took to further journeys by foot, with his plant press on his back, heading south to “anywhere in the wilderness” which took him through the Appalachian Mountains and swamps of Georgia . He sketched and journaled and pressed plants along the way.

That first long walk of 1,000 miles took him to Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. However, his longest journey by foot, which he called “my grand sabbath day three years long” drew him West, climbing Mt.Ranier, exploring glaciers in Alaska, and ultimately settling in the California Sierras. It was there that he wrote his most inspiring words describing the beauty and wonder of the plant life, animals, boulders, sequoias, and experiencing ecstatic moments at the top of a tree during a hurricane. Muir proclaimed his reverence for all life forms, becoming a “voice for the voiceless”as he worked to convince others as to the need to preserve as much of the untouched purity of the natural world as possible.

Muir’s invitation to go out and become “steeped in the wonder of creation” was not only for people back then. It is still an invitation to us all today. My own life has been shaped by Muir and many other voices for the voiceless ; that is how I have come to write of my own passion to preserve and enhance wild places, allowing even more habitat on our properties and in our backyards .

Fortunately for us there is a monthly meeting of the Sierra Club at our library in Thurmont ! This month we will meet on Saturday, September 3 from 10-12. Do come join us as we work on a variety of projects to help preserve the goodness of our planet for generations to come.

With John Muir’s Vision as our inspiration we can make progress in spite of adversities. If he did it, so can we !

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Christine is a member of Thurmont’s Green Team and a Master Habitat Naturalist. She would be happy to help you with habitat, particularly plant ID, on your own property and can be reached at songbirdschant@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

GOT THE BLUES ? (butterflies)

Posted in Nature Studies, Poems, Rhymes, Riddles, Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 16, 2016 by Drogo

ON THE WILD SIDE for July 2016 by Christine Schoene Maccabee

GOT THE BLUES ?

Blues are little sparkling gems of the butterfly world, belonging to the

family of gossamer wings (Lycaenidae), whose local populations

periodically go extinct.” Butterfly Book by

Donald & Lillian Stokes

When I first saw an eastern tailed blue butterfly I was startled. I stood stock still as it opened and closed its small wings, brown when closed, and when opened, well, words cannot describe the beauty of the blue color flashing before my eyes. It sat on a flower for only a few moments, opening and closing its wings in the sunlight as I stood there in awe. I treasure those few moments as some of the most rewarding in my efforts to create habitat for rare and endangered species, and I hope to see more breathtaking blues this summer.

Many years ago I learned of the problems the blues are having with habitat loss ; the Karner blue in New York and the Xerxes blues in California are both victims of urbanization. So when I moved out here on my 11 acres I was determined to plant as much lupine as I could. The entire life cycle of blue butterflies depends on ample lupine, clover, even vetch and alfalfa, all of which are in the legume family. For awhile, I had an entire bank filled with lovely blue lupine which I grew from seed. However, after several years certain other native plants crowded it out and now I must protect the areas for lupine from them, which can be rather intensive work. The flowers and leaves of lupines are beautiful, so it is well worth the effort !

The good news is, blues can also carry out their entire life cycles on clovers,

even white yard clovers, and clovers grow easily on their own. So now, on my property, in small islands throughout the lawn, I am allowing clovers to grow. They must not be disturbed, as possibly eggs are being laid on them, and larva are feeding on them. As well, tiny ants are protecting them. ANTS ? ! you ask. Yes, ants are critical for their survival. This is another one of those little known essential symbiotic relationships most people are not aware of but which is absolutely fascinating, as most things natural are. Let me explain…

Briefly, the larvae of blues secrete a sweet honeydew from their abdomens to which ants are attracted for feeding. The larvae also have glands all over their bodies which secrete amino acids, a component of protein, which the ants can get simply by stroking the body of the larva with their antennas. Due to this, ants protect this food source by repelling insect predators and parasites which would do harm to the caterpillars. In a study made of this peculiar association it was found that 4 to 10 more caterpillars survive in the presence of ants. Great odds I would say !

So, you who have a terrible aversion to ants, just know that they are one of the most important and amazing eusocial insects in the world and deserve our respect. Even though some are considered agricultural and household pests, in the right place ants “bind together many terrestrial ecosystems”, according to the esteemed Edward Wilson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book ANTS. Personally, I work around ants, and only on a rare occasion might I kill one.

Back to the blues. I do get the blues when I see all the clover mowed down in huge yards where nobody ever walks. Bees love them also for their nectar, so clovers serve multiple purposes. However, here on my property I must deal with the “mower man”, and I do. This summer I am creating “Blue butterfly zones” and am soon to laminate signs with a picture of a blue butterfly on it to be placed on a stake in the middle of its clover habitat. If you have the heart to do this as well, and a mower man who will accommodate your interest, then do it. I suggest having several patches, not just one, and encourage neighbors to do so as well. That way there is not as much habitat fragmentation and the butterflies and bees can easily fly from one patch to another.

On many occasions I have seen the tiny pygmy, or elfin blue butterfly (as I call them), so I suspect it may be fairly common. It is no more than a half inch wide and has powdery blue wings. Insects are quite clever at surviving in spite of habitat loss, and it seems the smaller they are the better. Larger ones, such as the Monarch, have a longer life cycle and since they migrate need lots of habitat. Most blues are usually about the size of a quarter, but are still in need of plenty of clover or lupine to thrive. Perhaps I will grow a patch of alfalfa next summer and see what happens.

Nothing important in life is ever accomplished if we are complacent, or indifferent. We can sit around angry, or depressed, singing the blues all our lives, or we can do our small part to help protect a fragile ecosystem right in front of our eyes. It might not happen overnight, but someday you might be lucky enough to see a gossamer blue butterfly float out of no where and land on a clover in your yard. That moment of pure beauty will confirm for you, as it did for me, the importance of doing something, and never giving up.

Christine is a Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist in the Catoctins. She welcomes feedback, so if you see a blue butterfly, or wish to speak with her about your own concerns or interests, do contact her at songbirdschant@gmail.com

Even if you look closely at your clovers, you ay not see these larvae as they are no more than a third of an inch long, but goodluck trying. Perhaps you will find a fourleaf clover.

Swallows Are Back!

Posted in Nature Studies, Poems, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 29, 2016 by Drogo

ON THE WILD SIDE for June, 2016 by Christine Schoene Maccabee

The Swallows Are Back !

“Birds, the free tenants of land, air, and ocean,

their forms all symmetry, their motions grace…”

James Montgomery, British Poet

I often wonder how many other people feel a thrill when the swallows return to our area in early May. In late April this year I began to watch for them with high expectation. Every year the swallows are drawn back to my home like a magnet, much to my amazement and joy. Their nest of mud and grasses, lined with soft feathers, is perched in a corner of the eaves of my A-frame house. Due to the strength of this nest, and how well it is “glued” to the wood, it has lasted through many a fierce storm. It is the second nest the swallows created there in more than 20 years, the first one falling down just a few years ago. That particular spring, upon their return, they built another strong nest in the very same place, and I expect it to last just as long as the other one.

The first sign of the return of my feathered tenants is their excited chirping, and my day is immediately happier upon hearing them. They sound like they are having a lively conversation, which I guess they are, and my loneliness is displaced by their cheerful company. Since arriving here several days ago, the mated pair has been zooming all day through the skies eating whatever they can find. Every spring and summer they keep my atmosphere completely free of mosquitoes, so no Zika Virus here ! However, due to all the rain and cool weather this spring, the flying bug population is not so great yet. Hopefully the birds had plenty of food while traveling north after wintering somewhere in Mexico or some country in South America. Some swallows winter as far away as Argentina !

I wish I knew my swallows’ entire story, but at least I do know part of their story here in northern Frederick county. I have seen mothers, and fathers, sitting on their nest until the babies hatch. Thereafter the wonderful partnership of the parents continues, taking turns feeding the nestlings, and themselves. It takes a lot of energy zooming around all day. It is a true joy to watch them fly far out over the fields, gathering what they can at lightening speed, and then bringing the food back to their eager nestlings. Usually there are four young ones, and once these fledgelings leave the nest the mother and father occasionally settle down to raising 4 more.

Birds, as we all know, are amazing creatures. We humans are fascinated with both their flight, and their songs, not to forget their amazingly artistic colorations. Many a poet has written eloquently about them and artists such as Audubon have painted detailed representations of them (more than 1,000 to be nearly exact!). Songs like “The Little Red Lark”, an Irish ballad, portray their amazing flights and songs, and airplanes were invented as we grounded humans decided we too had to fly. This idea may or may not have been a good one. After all, birds are following their natural inclinations, whereas humans do not, and we are definitely polluting our planet with all our unnatural contraptions, are we not ?

So, perhaps that is why I am so mesmerized by birds, particularly the swallows. They are so small, seemingly so vulnerable, and yet they can fly such long distances with the greatest of ease. In fact, once here, it is estimated they can fly the equivalent of 600 miles a day in quest of food for their young, according to the Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds. So how is that possible ? you ask.

In my research I have learned, as many of you likely already know, that birds are very light (as light as a feather in fact) due to the fact that their bones are hollow and filled with air. Also, according to a book on Natural History by Bertha Parker, connected with a bird’s lungs are tiny air sacs scattered throughout its body. These air sacs act like tiny hot-air balloons ! Therefore a typical swallow weighs far less than a mouse, lizard or frog of the same size. A birds streamlined body is another help in flying. Humans have tried to mimic these qualities, the closest coming to gliders of various types, and hot-air balloons. I will not say anything about all the other larger, costly, heavy planes, especially of war, which have completely digressed from Nature’s perfect plan.

So, back to feathers. Feathers also serve the purpose of protecting birds from rain and cold. They shed rain because they are a little oily and the intricate parts of the feathers are cleverly put together in lovely, serviceable patterns. Feathers also keep the birds body warm, trapping the heat ; think of your down sleeping bag. This winter I remember telling my chickens to huddle close and keep warm, as I closed them up for the night in their unheated coup. I even worried a bit, but they weathered the cold winter beautifully as they are fully and thickly feathered.

I am in total admiration of birds in general, and sometimes I wish I were as free as they are, unfettered by coats and boots and layers of clothing, and independent of automobile expenses. I envy them for their ability to fly and feed themselves without growing their own food or going into a grocery store.

However, as Popeye so wisely said, “I yam what I yam, and tha’s all what I yam”, and there is no escaping that fact ! I do rather like having two strong legs, and arms I can reach to the sky with, giving praise for all the wonders of life. I am also thrilled to have my swallows back here for another season. I will miss them when they gather to go south in August, and I can usually tell when the time is coming by all their excitement as they zoom around my house with their happy, chirping fledgelings, full grown by then, and fully independent. Sigh.

I wish I could fly free as a bird, and be light as a feather !

Christine is a Master Wildlife Habitat Naturalist and can be reached at songbirdschant@gmail.com with any questions or stories of your own.