Western Scrub Jay ©NPR
It never fails to impress me how quickly the birds in our neighborhood discover that we've put out our squirrel-proof feeder filled with black sunflower seeds and our blocks of chili-spiced suet. Yesterday morning we were treated to nine species while we were enjoying our coffee: a pair of Spotted Towhees, two Stellar Jays, two flickers, a banditry of chickadees, a bustle of bushtits, some Oregon juncos, a song sparrow, one Bewick's Wren, and a couple house finches. We also had our first visit from a Western Scrub Jay last week. Hooray for birds!
Spotted Towhee ©Mick Thompson
Song Sparrow ©All About Birds
A thick plume of smoke is beginning to blanket Puget Sound for the weekend. It is eerily quiet and I have seen no birds. The sun did not come up today, not even the red ball that we could see through the haze yesterday. It is a sickly yellowish and thick looking sky, i.e. something out of a dystopian movie. The levels of pollutants is in entering the very unhealthy-hazardous range. This, on top of everything...and for us it is just smoke, not raging wildfires, in our backyards.
Another week of this before we get a bit of rain to reboot our atmosphere which means no going for my daily walk or tending my garden---because it's too dangerous to be outside breathing the air! until then...quarantine within the quarantine. Sigh.
I am knitting to soothe my soul and enjoying catching up on some good reads, including:
To find out what Annabelle is knitting-click here
I was delighted to have the opportunity to preview A Natural History of Fairies by Emily Hawkins and illustrated by Jessica Roux. A Natural History of Fairies takes these elusive creatures into a truly wondrous realm with scientific information presented in a playful manner--a cross between Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies and The Magic Schoolbus.
The Natural History of Fairies is presented as the field journal of Aunt Elise, a botanist who traveled the world from 1890s-1920s. Under the guise of learning about fairies, readers are drawn into the very real and varied natural histories of a host of flora and fauna. We are treated to scientific drawings, observational charts, and notes as we are given a peek into the lives of fairies.
The Natural History of Fairies reminds us that we need to be aware of how our actions impact the natural world, and it does this without being cloying or pedantic. Instead, it invites fairy-finders to enjoy the beauty and wonder that is hiding in their backyards and neighborhoods. This book will entice you to venture into the magical realm.
The Natural History of Fairies will be published soon, on September 29...so, since I cannot share images, here are two other fairies I have loved: the Blackthorn fairy by Cicely Mary Barker and an update version of the classic midsummer eve by Edward Robert Hughes.
We do not have Satin Bowerbirds in our neighborhood, but they are distant cousins of our crows and ravens. I am entranced by their bower building and use of color to attract a mate.
Satin Bowerbird by Bert Kitchen :: from And So They Build
The bowerbird especially loves the color blue and will make use of discarded bottle caps and plastic straws, as well as toothbrushes, clothespins, and other garbage. An amazing bird that is able to turn trash into art .
Australian printmaker Rachel Newling has lovely linocuts and engravings; while looking for artistic rendering of bowerbirds, I came across her flying foxes...she has cards available too.
Today is Lughnasadh, the beginning Gaelic harvest festival which historically was observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. I will be celebrating by tidying up my garden boxes, harvesting the last of my spring kales and Swiss chard, and replanting for the fall season.
Where did July go? Our mornings included drinking coffee on the patio and enjoying our resident Spotted Towhees, Bewick's wrens, and hummingbirds--(not so much the antics of the voracious and vociferous fledgling crow who continues to create endless ruckus).
Photos: August calendar by Linnea, super-tiny cilantro flowers (whose centers turn into amazingly large coriander seeds!), and our manzanita (Arctostaphylos) Towhee playground
Pollinators I have loved,
and this t-shirt seems especially poignant these days.
How many different pollinators can you find in your backyard and neighborhood?
Want to know more about migratory pollinators?
specifically nectar-feeding bats and Monarch butterflies... Me too!
The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides is offering a free webinar on
Monday, June 29 1pm PDT---
see you there!
It's June and here in Seattle we've been in quarantine since mid-March...
yesterday (while shopping outside by appointment only at my local garden store) I was asked to pay for a purchase by placing my credit card in a butterfly net--in order to stay 6 feet away from the masked and gloved employee who would run it inside to be processed. I did not make this up.
As an inquiry biologist, it is in my nature and training to be curious, to think for myself, and to use my common sense when approaching a problem. Lately, I see very little of the latter.
If you have also been wondering about the state of things and questioning the response to Covid-19/ the SARS-CoV-2 virus, you will appreciate this excellent article by JD Handley from the Children's Health Defense website.
Then, Swiss Policy Research is a treasure chest of fully referenced facts about Covid-19 that counter the mainstream media narrative.
I am taking a bit of comfort in knowing that there are others who question the current paradigm. I do think it is important to be careful, to make informed decisions, and to always always keep in mind the consequences of any action that is taken. My biggest concern at this point is for our parents, people who are over 80 and who have comorbidities and who are suffering from isolation. Young healthy people do not need to be using butterfly nets to process credit cards! That kind of thinking is what truly scares me.
Fear is causing people to stop asking important questions. Why I am being scolded for wondering: "why should healthy people wear masks (especially when cloth face coverings are at best ineffective and at worst cause harm)?" and "how can they possibly create a vaccine for this novel coronavirus in six months when they've been working on a vaccine for SARS for seventeen years and still have not had success--and crucially: why will there be no mandatory trials for safety and efficacy?"
Brew yourself a cuppa and prepare to settle in.
Tracey’s Rhubarb Cake
Preheat Oven to 350 F. Grease and flour 8x8 square baking dish.
In large bowl mix:
3⁄4 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1⁄2 tsp salt
1 cup white flour
1 cup ww flour
2 beaten eggs
1 cup sour cream
Then fold in:
3 cups chopped rhubarb
Spoon into baking dish, it is thick!
In small bowl stir together:
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1⁄2 cup softened butter
1 tsp cinnamon
2 T of ancient seeds or chopped nuts
1⁄4 cup rolled oats
2 T rye flour
Spread mixture over top of cake
Bake at 350 F for about 50 minutes (or until toothpick comes out clean)
Eleanor Lutz, of Tabletop Whale, created this animated butterfly chart in 2014. I think she is brilliant, and love her application of art and digital technology to science illustration. Be sure to click the link to watch the butterflies in motion!
Then, pop over to Pacific Horticulture to find my inquiry research on "Where Are the Butterflies?" Plus, tips on how to make your garden butterfly-friendly with these Eight Essential Elements.
~illustration by Roger La Borde