Barn Swallows: On the Fly by Shiela Fuller

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Every May, the barn swallows return to my farm.  While I do have a barn, I have about ten nests attached to my house.  These mud constructed homes for baby birds are found on top of ceiling fan blades, light fixtures, built in to the corners where walls meet, and in one location, attached to the siding. These active, cheerful birds call my house, home.

Chattering and darting every which way through the summer air, barn swallows are identified by their blue metallic back feathers, their cream to reddish underbelly, and their most striking field mark is their forked tail.  Barn swallows catch and eat insects on the fly. They also drink on the fly while skimming low over a marsh or pond.  They typically eat moths, flies, dragonflies, and other flying insects. Swallows are found throughout the world, but barn swallows are most common.  They are usually found in open habitats, farm fields, beaches, and over water.

Barn swallows are migratory birds leaving my property in late September and returning in April. To me, they indicate that spring weather is close to follow.

It is the male barn swallow that typically arrives at the previous year’s breeding location. The swallows build cup shaped nests using mud as the glue while attaching feathers, horsehair, grass, and other found materials.  Reusing nests year after year, the swallows apply a new mud covering. Both male and females are stern defenders of their nest and will “mob” intruders like cats, hawks, or people.

In North America, it has been observed that barn swallows will sometimes build nests on structures underneath an osprey nest.  The swallows receive protection from the fish-eating osprey (they don’t eat swallows) and the swallows protect the osprey nest from intruders with their warning chirps.

Barn swallows are very often found in backyards but do not eat at backyard bird feeders.  It may be possible to attract them by putting up manmade nest cups long before the birds’ migration north.  A supply of mud is also helpful.  It is nice to have a healthy colony of swallows living nearby as they help in keeping the insect population down.  Anything that eats mosquitoes is a win on my farm.

Photo 1: This is the barn swallow collecting nest building or rebuilding supplies

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Photo 2: you can see the mud constructed nest with babies and the nest placement on a fan blade.

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Photo 3: In this photo, you can see the babies being fed by a parent thanks to the clearly identifiable forked tail.

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“All of the photos were taken from a respectable distance, some from inside my home, with a high zoom lens.”

To learn more about these fascinating birds visit:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barn_Swallow/lifehistory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barn_swallow

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/barn-swallow

http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Hirundo_rustica/

 

 

 

 


 

 

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Book Giveaway:A Blast from the Past Inspires a Tween Novel For Author Mary Zisk.

Following up on the blog post about my middle grade novel, The Art of  Being Remmy, [link: https://darlenebeckjacobson.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/author-illustrator-mary-zisk-presents-the-art-behind-the-art-of-being-remmy/] Darlene and I would like to offer a hardcover signed copy to one lucky reader. See giveaway instructions at the end of this post.

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 It often happens that a memorable event in an author’s life can inspire an entire novel. For me, that event happened in 1964, when I was a Beatlemanical thirteen year old. I entered a Draw-the-Beatles contest sponsored by WABC Radio in New York City and became one of the winners of tickets to see The Fab Four in concert! Not only did my artwork transport me to an electrifying concert of nonstop screaming, that thrill confirmed my destiny that I would always be an artist.

Decades later, I channeled my tween self and wrote a middle grade novel triggered by that concert. Ultimately, the concert became the climax event that pulled together a fictionalized plot about a girl who fights to overcome rules imposed on females in mid-1960s society. 12-year-old Remmy Rinaldi pursues her dream to be an artist in spite of her father’s strong objections, the taunts of a boy rival, and the threat of losing her best friend to a rat fink.

As the novel evolved, I decided to change the historical period from 1964 to 1965, which meant that the concert moved from the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium to the more famous concert at Shea Stadium. But I still used my impressions and emotions from my 1964 concert:

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Ed Sullivan steps onto the stage and we scream, knowing why he is here. He yells something about “The Queen” and “America” and then “Here are THE BEATLES!!!!”

I didn’t think it could be possible, but the screams get even louder as the Beatles—the ACTUAL BEATLES—run out to the second base stage and everyone jumps to their feet.

… The Beatles sing and rock and strum and dance so it looks like they’re making music. We bounce and clap to what we think is the music. But it’s impossible to hear anything over the nonstop screams…

But hey, it doesn’t matter. The Beatles are here and my friend and I are here. We are all sharing the same steamy August night, and breathing the same hot air, and seeing the same stars, and hearing the music and screaming collide. I’ll never forget this. Ever.

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The Beatles in concert at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in August 1964

And I never did forget that night.

BOOK GIVEAWAY: Do you have a childhood event that defined your life or set you on a lifetime path? Do you have a childhood memory that you will always treasure in your heart?

Tell us about it.  Leave that memory in the comments section, and you’ll be eligible to win a hardcover, signed copy of The Art of Being Remmy. Good luck! One lucky winner will be drawn at random and announced here on December 27.

 

Links:

http://www.maryzisk.com/the-art-of-being-remmy.html

https://www.facebook.com/artofremmy/

 

 

 

Gifts That Give Back.

While searching for those perfect gifts for everyone on your holiday list, why not try some of the sites listed below. These companies/products “pay it forward” with your purchase and provide a variety of wonderful services for children, animals and the homeless. Gifts that keep on giving.

  1. BOBS from Skechers: I am a HUGE fan of Skechers shoes for the comfort they provide. By buying from the BOBS collection, you help save the lives of SHELTER DOGS AND CATS in the US thanks to their partnership with Best Friends Animal Society. http://www.skechers.com
  2. Cuddle+Kind: Every time you purchase one of these handmade, soft and cuddly dolls you donate TEN MEALS to hungry kids around the world.  http://www.cuddleandkind.com
  3. STATE: With each purchase of a State bag, the company delivers a backpack of school supplies, including socks and snacks, to a local child in need.  http://www.Statebags.com
  4. Help give poverty the Boot with a purchase of a pair of ROMA BOOTS. The company has provided durable, colorful rain boots to needy children in 26 countries including US.  http://www.Romaboots.com
  5. Smile: Did you know 5.1 Billion people in the world own cell phones, but only 4.2 Billion of them own a toothbrush?  For every toothbrush bought from Synced Smiles, the company donates TEN to people in places like Malawi, Ugands, and the Philippines.  http://www.Syncedsmiles.com
  6. Need Socks?: These foot-warmers are one of the most requested items at homeless shelters. When you buy a pair of soft and comfy BOMBAS, the company sends a pair with antimicrobial treatment and reinforced seams to a homeless shelter.  http://www.Bombas.com
  7. This Bar Saves Lives: When you purchase one of these yummy non GMO and gluten-free snacks, a NUTRITION PACKET to help fight malnutrition is sent around the world. http://www.Thisbarsaveslives.com
  8. Need Toilet Paper? Who doesn’t.: When you buy Who Gives A Crap brand toilet tissue and paper towels – made from 100% recycles paper or bamboo, 50% of profits are used to build toilets for people who need them in developing countries.  http://www.Whogivesacrap.org

May all your gifts make a difference. Happy Holidays!

New Jersey Association of School Librarians Conference Highlights.

On Monday I attended my first New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL) Conference in Long Branch, NJ.  It was a wonderful opportunity to hang out with fellow authors at the Author’s Alley, and meet so many great school librarians and other personnel who are committed to bringing great books into the hands of their students.

Here are some of the highlights of the day in photos:

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IN Author’s Alley: Nancy Viau, Paul Czajak, Becky Bertha

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With fellow author buddies Beth Ferry and Annie Silvestro

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With PB author Margery Cuyler

 

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Rachelle Burke and Angela Parrino

 

 

 

 

 

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opportunities for creativity

 

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with PB author Katey Howes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

kidlit group

 KidLIt Authors Club members: Tim Young, Darlene Jacobson, Nancy Viau, David Neilsen, Rachelle Burk.

Great food, fun and an opportunity to share books with people who love them and want to get them into schools.

http://www.njasl.org/fallconf

Easy Recipe to Boost Immunity This Holiday Season.

I imagine most of us are even busier than usual during the month of December getting ready for holidays, or visits from friends and family. When days offer little free time, we often neglect taking care of ourselves and end up feeling tired, out of sorts, or even sick. And, the temptation to grab something quick to eat doesn’t help in the long run. Instead, why not choose food that boosts your immunity, reduces inflammation, and helps to ward off colds, fatigue, and even dry skin.

Numerous studies have proven that foods rich in anti-oxidants, Vitamin C and Zinc go a long way toward boosting our body’s immune system, especially during stressful periods like the holidays. These foods include leafy greens, broccoli and brussel sprouts, citrus fruits, berries, pomegranates, nuts and seeds.

Here is a simple recipe for a CITRUS SALAD I like to eat for breakfast with a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal.

citrus salad

This one has grapefruit, mandarin oranges, pomegranate seeds and coconut flakes. You can add sunflower seeds, chia seeds, or a handful of your favorite chopped nuts.

Also try adding nuts and berries to yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal. Make a green salad with MIXED GREENS, and sprinkle in sunflower or pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds, mandarin oranges, or grapefruit. salmon salad

This salad of mixed greens, cucumbers, pumpkin seeds, strawberries, dried cranberries, and slivered almonds also has chunk salmon from a packet to make it a main dish for lunch or dinner. Just add your favorite dressing.

The prep time for these is minutes, so there is no excuse not to eat healthy during this busy season. What are some of your favorite Vitamin boosting recipes for this time of year?

 

New Hess Truck For the Holiday Season.

When my son was a boy, he looked forward to getting a new Hess Truck for Christmas.  Since 1964, the company has produced a new one each holiday season, still delighting kids young and old. This year’s model will be three times special: Along with the RV, there is an ATV and a motorbike. The ramp doors of the RV fold down so you can roll out the ATV and motorbike, both of which have drivers wearing helmets. These smaller vehicles can pop wheelies and move around on their own thanks to the friction motors.  The RV lights up with a total of 72 lights, the most for any vehicle. And, it’s quiet.

You can check out this holiday tradition at: http://www.hesstoytruck.com

2018 Hess RV with ATV and Motorbike

Photo courtesy of Hess.

Celebrate Giving Tuesday.

We often give in small ways everyday without realizing it. Lending a helping hand to a neighbor, having lunch with a friend, donating used clothes to a local shelter, helping at a food bank, sharing our garden’s bounty with friends, are only a few ways we give of ourselves on a daily basis.

Did you know that the act of giving back boosts health, well-being, and happiness? So, every time you give, you get back something in return. Maybe that’s why we feel so good giving gifts during the holiday season. Instead of material goods, why not give the gift of your time and talent?

Tomorrow, November 27, 2018, is Giving Tuesday. We can celebrate generosity and kindness by the simple act of giving of ourselves to others. Visit  http://www.givingtuesday.org  for ways you and your family can get involved.

helping hands

Remember: No gift or act of kindness is ever wasted.

November is Peanut Butter Lovers Month!

I have to admit I was surprised to learn November is Peanut Butter Lover’s month. Pumpkin lovers? Certainly. Cranberry lovers, or even apple lovers? Sure. Who knew peanut butter was something to celebrate this time of year.

In honor of the easy, versatile and kid-friendly food, here is a simple dip that you can proudly serve for the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond. Makes a perfect appetizer to keep kids of all ages from asking “When do we eat?”. It’s easy for kids to make as well.

PEANUT BUTTER DIP:1/4 C creamy peanut butter, 3 oz. low fat cream cheese, 1-2 T. apple or orange juice, 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/8 to 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce.

1. Combine the PB, cream cheese, juice and cinnamon in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Add applesauce, a little at a time, until it is the right consistency for a dip. Chill before serving with the following:

sliced bananas, carrots, celery sticks, broccoli florets, apple slices, graham cracker sticks, pretzel rods, or any assortment of fruits and veggies you choose.  It’s amazing how many things taste great with peanut butter. 

Feel free to try it with non-traditional dippers such as pickles, pepper slices, sausage pieces or whatever. Refrigerated, it will be good for 2-3 days.  If you have allergies to peanuts, try substituting another butter in the recipe.

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Anyone out there adventurous enough to try a peanut butter and turkey sandwich? Who knows, it may be a new way to enjoy all those leftovers.