That Nature Show

That Nature Show

That Nature Show: The Fungus Among Us

0 Written by: | Friday, Oct 17, 2014 12:00pm

Mushrooms_in_the_grass

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

Husb., a biology teacher, likes t-shirts with Sheldon-y, Big Bang Theory inside-joke science slogans on them and I like to get them for him. He has one with the molecular formula for caffeine on it. (Yay! Caffeine! “The most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world.”) Another, one of my personal favorites says, “Stand back, I’m going to try Science. ” Another asserts, “I’m A Fungi.”

Teehee! Oh, you wee silly science folk, y’all are so adorable with your weak humor I want to be one of you. Read More →

Baltimore Fishbowl Weekend, That Nature Show

In Praise of Napping

0 Written by: | Friday, Oct 10, 2014 1:00pm

Photo via NYTimes

Photo via NYTimes

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

There’s not enough napping. Our modern lifestyle of hectic constant busyness —  the never-ending errands of suburban motherhood, homework, sports practices (for instance, my son, 9, has taken up fencing, for which he needs, so help me gods, his first jock strap) business and holiday bazaar planning meetings, commuting, shopping for school uniform regulation white sneakers that gray with mud not 24 hours after purchase, email-answering, to-ing and fro-ing —  is contrary to our mammalian biology. Read More →

Baltimore Fishbowl Weekend, Lifeline, That Nature Show

Fall Foraging for Chestnuts

0 Written by: | Friday, Oct 03, 2014 2:00pm

images

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

Everyone’s going apple picking. Sure, you could do that (here is a list of Maryland pick-yer-own), but you’re not everyone. You like difficult things.  You are a Baltimore County forager. This isn’t trendy farm-to-table eating, this is backyard-to-pie-hole Paleo. Read More →

Lifeline, That Nature Show

That Nature Show: Where Does Your Sewage Go?

0 Written by: | Friday, Sep 19, 2014 10:50am

800px-Discharge_pipe

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

When my kids, now 7 and 9  were little, there was a children’s book that got famous called Everybody Poops. Here’s the movie version.  

I thought my potty training days were over, but here’s the deal: right now, as I write this, there are about five guys in my basement with what looks like giant dental equipment dealing with what I foolishly thought was simply a clogged shower drain, but turns out is a massive problem going from my house to the main sewer line in the ground several yards into the backyard and needing the assistance of a backhoe and a jackhammer. Something about tree roots, and terra-cotta,  also something about over-zealous use of toilet paper. When I heard this I turned to my children grimly, and said, “Have you been balling up the Charmin?”

Read More →

That Nature Show

Bringing Color to Fall: Chrysanthemums

0 Written by: | Friday, Sep 12, 2014 12:00pm

 

Historical painting of chrysanthemums from the New International Encyclopedia, 1902. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Historical painting of chrysanthemums from the New International Encyclopedia, 1902. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

Garden centers are full of chrysanthemums in stunning fall tones. Yellow is the color of the small original flower, native to China where it is one of the four noble plants, and the subject of edifying poems.  Cultivars include orange, purple, purple with orange undertones, brick red, maroon, you name it. Mums come in whatever color you want to adorn your front stoop, along with pumpkins, gourds, and bales of hay for a fall-themed entryway. Read More →

That Nature Show

Time to Plan Your Leaf Peeping

0 Written by: | Friday, Sep 05, 2014 12:00pm

Photo via riotofreasons.blogspot.com

That special light of early fall. Photo via riotofreasons.blogspot.com

It’s that enchanting Charlotte’s Web time of year, the season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness,” said the poet John Keats.  Early fall.  The light angles in such a way that everyone looks well-rested.

Grapes are reaching their full ripeness in Maryland vineyards.  Target is starting to flush with Halloween candy and farmer’s markets with pumpkins. My kids are starting to think about costumes. My son, 9, wants to be a ninja. My daughter, 7, wants to be a cat fairy princess wearing tap dance shoes. I just want to stare out the kitchen window at the trees that are starting to turn from green to gold. I would like it to be September forever.

Word to the wise: if you want to make a leaf wreath with all your gorgeous findings, as I did a few years ago, do not do what I did. I was like, how hard can it be to make a leaf wreath? Does it take a genius? And then I glue-gunned my collection of orange and red maple leaves to some chicken wire that I wrestled into a star-shape. Duh. They crumpled up and turned mouse-brown, and I had the worst looking fall wreath on the block: dead leaves on chicken wire.

If you want the leaves to keep their color, you have to preserve them first. Thank you, Martha Stewart.  Read More →

Lifeline, That Nature Show

The Migration of the Monarch Butterfly

1 Written by: | Friday, Aug 29, 2014 11:55am

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The monarch butterfly. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

The lovely orange-and-black monarch butterflies have begun their fall migration to Mexico. It takes them about two months.  They ride cold fronts, soaring on currents. As it does for birds, soaring saves the butterflies the energy they would expend flapping their wings.

They often traveling 20-30 miles per hour, covering 80 miles a day. Think about that. A flimsy little thing like a butterfly flies for two months straight with speed and intention. What excuse do you, a large strong mammal, have for not getting things done? Like, oh, for instance, not pressing your children’s school uniforms to a crease?

From Maryland they fly in pairs or small groups. Look for them. As they journey south the groups grow larger. One of the five so-called “Super Stops” for migrating monarchs is on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. At Black Walnut Point on Tilghman Island, Maryland, the innkeepers at Black Walnut Inn have planted an acre of chrysanthemums to attract hundreds of monarch butterflies each fall. The butterflies need to refuel on nectar. Their favorite food is milkweed. And it is on milkweed that monarchs lay their eggs. You get the idea: milkweed is vitally important to the species for growing and reproducing. Read More →

Lifeline, That Nature Show

Lovely, and Alarming, Canada Geese

0 Written by: | Friday, Aug 22, 2014 12:20pm

 

Photo via allaboutbirds.org

Photo via allaboutbirds.org

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

The Cornell Lab or Ornithology’s website describes the Canada goose as “a familiar and widespread goose with a black head and neck, white chinstrap, light tan to cream breast and brown back.” Yep. That’s a good description, last I looked out my living room window at a gaggle of them. The site goes on to note that the goose has “increased in urban and suburban areas in recent years.” Increased? That’s putting it lightly. They’re freakin’ takin’ over the place. 

I was happy this past spring when they left Owings Mills for points north for their summer feeding grounds in Canada. I spent the summer thinking, Gee, I don’t miss that honking cacophony at all. I liked also not being spun around by my dog, a Bichon, who would invariably lunge after one of them when I took her for a walk. I’d tell her, as if bursting the bubble of a small child’s wish to fly, “You couldn’t take one of them if you tried.” She looked at me like, “But Mama I’d be so happy trying!” My dog is the embodiment of the Winston Churchill quote, “Success is going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.” By that account, Sugar leads a wildly successful life. Read More →

Lifeline, That Nature Show

It’s Shark Week: Appreciating and Fearing the Great White

0 Written by: | Friday, Aug 15, 2014 12:30pm

shark

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

It’s been Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. I hope all you shark lovers (and who isn’t, especially when viewed from the safety of your couch?) have been raising your goblet of rock. The creatures are television gold, and so popular there have been numerous retail tie-ins including ice cream flavors at Cold Stone, the favorite of my son, 9. Of course his favorite shark is the Great White. Second favorite shark? The mako. Third favorite? The basking. Distant last favorite: the whale shark.

My daughter, 7, says she wishes there were such a thing as a pink cupcake shark with sparkles, because, if there were, that would be her favorite. Failing the evolution of such an animal (Dare to dream? There is a Pink Amazonian River Dolphin, after all), she says her favorite shark is also the Great White.

The Great White is everyone’s favorite sea-scare. My what great big teeth you have!  Who hasn’t had a spine tingle while swimming in the waters off Ocean City, thinking as you paddle, what if? What if you saw a cresting ominous fin? Here’s what happened when Woods Hole Oceanographic scientists caught a Great White on film: the thing attacked their camera.

Read More →

Lifeline, That Nature Show

That Nature Show: Going Batty for Bats

0 Written by: | Friday, Aug 08, 2014 11:55am

 

Diaemus_youngi

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you. 

If it’s bats to like bats, I don’t want to be right.

I mean, c’mon, these are little flying mammals! Adorbs!  Tiny mouselike paws, fur, wings…and echolocation? Meaning they can “see” at night by sending out sound waves? Totally sci-fi! Am I right?

If I told you there were mole-ish or mouse-ish creatures in my world (in fact, the German word for bat is fledermaus) that could fly at night because they could see through sound waves, you would look at me and you’d make the “screw is loose” hand gesture. But there you have it. They exist. The world has magic in it. Read More →

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