By late-March it starts to feel as though winter is the only time of year not in a hurry to get somewhere. By comparison, every other season seems to go by with a Doppler-type velocity like an Indy car blurring past. But I realize that any day now, spring could get sprung, and when that happens, plant life will change by the day, if not the hour. Some of the first plants to catch my eye are ones which have historically been used to treat coughs and colds. Good » Continue Reading.
My earliest memory of St. Patrick’s Day is how angry it made my mother, who holds dual Irish-American citizenship and strongly identifies with her Celtic roots. It was not the day itself which got her Irish up, so to speak, but rather the way it was depicted in popular American culture: Green-beer drink specials at the bars and St. Patrick’s Day sales in every store, all endorsed by grinning, green-clad, marginally sober leprechauns.
Although Mom stuck to the facts about Ireland; its » Continue Reading.
In seedy neighborhoods across the U.S., ordinary people are shelling out hard-earned cash to feed a habit of near-epidemic proportions. The fact of the matter is, about 40% of American households are addicted to feeding birds. Things are even worse in the U.K., where close to three-quarters of the population are beset with this malady.
In severe cases, people provide birds with dried fruit, suet, and mealworms, and even landscape their yard with » Continue Reading.
Bad-hair days might be a personal frustration, possibly even a social calamity, but bad-air days can send the population of a whole region into a tailspin. Literally. By “bad air” I don’t mean urban smog, although that certainly merits an article, if not an actual solution. And while the fetid pong in one’s dorm room after an Oktoberfest all-you- can-drink bratwurst bash and sauerkraut-eating contest might bring tears to one’s eyes, that’s not the bad air I’m considering.
Under certain weather conditions, air » Continue Reading.
Given that maple producers have to boil down roughly 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, you would think that dry weather might improve things. Obviously if drought could get rid of a bunch of water for free, the sap would become concentrated and you wouldn’t need to boil as much. Heck, in an extremely dry year maybe we could just drill into a maple and have granular sugar come dribbling out.
If only it worked that way. In general, a shortage of » Continue Reading.
Holiday parties are great for mingling with friends, but also for meeting new folk. Once you loosen up a bit, you might even let a charming newcomer kiss you under the mistletoe before the night’s end. But perhaps not if the new arrival is uninvited. And no one wants to be kissed without permission. Especially by a bug.
Chances are better than usual you’ll run into uninvited house guests this winter, and you can blame it on the past summer. Hot dry conditions in 2016 helped » Continue Reading.
Apparently, the ceremonial burning of a large chunk of wood on or near the winter solstice (Yule to the old Germanic peoples) may have begun as a Nordic custom in the 6th century, possibly earlier. Known as a Yule clog, Yule block, Christmas log and other variants, the Yule log was purported to bring good luck in the new year if it burned all day long without being fully consumed. A remnant was always saved, and used to light the following year’s log. Though the tradition » Continue Reading.
Speaking as a guy who can hide his own Easter eggs and still not find them, I marvel how Father Christmas, who is at least several years older than I, still manages to keep track of all those kids and their presents. Lucky for us that the most enduring memories are associated with smell. If it was not for the fragrant evergreen wreaths, trees and garlands (and possibly a hint of reindeer dung), Santa probably would have long ago forgotten his holiday duties.
Of all the memorable aromas of the holiday » Continue Reading.
When I was a kid I was fascinated by caterpillars, but had trouble with the word. To me, the sweet little woolly-bear traversing my hand was a “calipitter.” It was only years later I learned that a calipitter is an instrument used to measure the diameter of a caterpillar to the nearest micron.
Caterpillars continue to interest me, although I no longer find them universally cute. Imagine the letdown and loss of innocence following the discovery that some of these » Continue Reading.
It turns out that, in terms of fall foliage, the color of too dry is officially known as “blah.” This would undoubtedly be the least popular color selection if it was included in a jumbo pack of Crayolas. Basically, it is a jumble of faded hues with a mottled brown patina throughout. This year’s dry summer could mean that “blah” may feature prominently in Mother Nature’s fall hardwood forest palette.
Why would a prolonged lack of moisture affect autumn color? Let’s look at what makes leaves colorful in the first place. Among » Continue Reading.
One of the drawbacks of being an arborist is the language barrier. Routinely I spout off about trees such as Corylus, Carpinus, and Crataegus before noticing a glazed look on the faces of my victims, I mean audience. Once I engage my Nerd Translator, though, such offensive words are corrected to hazelnut, ironwood, and hawthorn, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Sadly, this works in reverse, too.
Fairly often someone calls up wanting to know » Continue Reading.
Ever find yourself pining away for the “good old days” when things were simpler, a time when 911 was just a number, and no one was allergic to peanut butter? Maybe you like the era of Beatles concerts, big collars and even bigger hair, or you dream of living in the horse-and- buggy days.
Personally, I get misty-eyed when I think back to the early 2000s. It’s not that I can’t remember further back—my memory isn’t quite that bad » Continue Reading.
One of my favorite plants is either highly versatile, or very confused. On the one hand, professional herbivores like rabbits and deer refuse to even touch it, but many people, myself included, will gladly eat it every day it is available.
While contacting it is painful, it has been proven to relieve certain chronic pain. It is steeped in over a thousand years of folklore, at one point imbued with the power » Continue Reading.
Just about everyone who saw the Walt Disney classic “Bambi” shed a tear, or at least stifled the urge to lacrimate (that’s cry in Scrabble-ese). Even if I had known of the devastating effects deer have on forest regeneration, not to mention crops, landscapes and gardens, it still would have been a trauma for my five-year old self when Bambi’s mother got killed. (Oops—spoiler alert there, sorry.) But how might the movie have ended if they had all lived happily » Continue Reading.
Another regional attraction has just opened, and for the next few weeks you can see the show at innumerable open-air venues across the Northeast. The performance is free, although only matinees are available.
The new event is the blossoming of a widespread, though strangely little-known, early-flowering plant. It is either a small tree or a shrub, depending on who you ask, which makes me wonder if it’s hiding something. In fact, this thing has more aliases than one of America’s Most Wanted. Variously known as serviceberry, » Continue Reading.