Beth Ferry Presents: Crows and Scarecrows.

Fall is the perfect time to think about crows and scarecrows. And today’s post is brought to you by best-selling picture book author BETH FERRY. Her latest book, THE SCARECROW, illustrated by the Fan Brothers, is just released.

Scarecrow cover

Here’s Beth:

Crows and ravens are not the same bird, but they are commonly confused. Ravens are larger, shinier, and are more likely to be found in wilder landscapes, whereas crows are smaller and more often found in urban landscapes. Crows make the well-known “caw-caw” call, while ravens make a sound like a “croooak” or a “gronk-gronk”. This will help you see the difference.

crow vs raven

Crows are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds alive. They have the biggest brain-to-body ratio among all the birds. In 2004, it was determined that they are more intelligent than the Bonobo chimpanzee, which makes them the most intelligent creature after humans. Some scientists call them “feathered apes”. They can communicate, use tools and have great memories.

In Japan, carrion crows use cars to help them crack walnuts. Because they have learned to understand how traffic lights work, they will place a walnut in the road when the light is red and wait for a car to smash it. Then they will swoop down and eat the nut. See it here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvTgRmguSq8

There are two species of crows that have been seen using tools and even making hooks to forage for food.

Crows also have great memories and can even hold a grudge. The University of Washington conducted a study using masks and the crows were able to associate certain behavior with the faces on the masks, remembering who annoyed them and scolding and dive-bombing the people wearing those same masks five years later. You can read more about it here: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/uw-professor-learns-crows-dont-forget-a-face/

Like other intelligent creatures, crows are very social and usually live in pairs and mate for life. They are considered the most family-oriented bird in the world.

And it’s impossible to think about crows without thinking about scarecrows.

The word scarecrow is an aptronym. An aptronym is when a name matches the job of its owner and literally means “an apt name”.

The word scarecrow was first used in literature in 1719 in Robinson Crusoe although scarecrows have been around for much longer.

Scarecrows have existed approximately 3,000 years, designed to do exactly what their name suggests – scare crows. They were first used by the Egyptians to protect their wheat fields along the Nile River from flocks of quail. In 2,500 B.C., Greek farmers carved wooden scarecrows to look like Priapus, the son of the gods, Dionysus and Aphrodite. He was supposedly ugly enough to scare birds away from the vineyards to ensure a good harvest. At the same time, Japanese farmers made scarecrows called Kakashis, to protect their rice fields. They dressed them in rain coats and round straw hats, but added bows and arrows to make them look more threatening. In Germany, scarecrows were made out of wood and made to look like witches. They were supposed to hasten the coming of spring. In Medieval Britain, young children were used as live scarecrows or “bird scarers” and would patrol fields of crops, waving their arms or throwing stones at the birds to scare them away.

But, as you’ve just read, crows are so smart that scarecrows are basically ineffective and today used mainly as decorations. The 21st century has seen new scarecrow-like inventions, including the California Scarecrow (see below) which is a solar-powered, mechanical device that has 17-foot arms that wave and twirl and flap mylar strips. It is not quite as picturesque as a real scarecrow.

electronic crow

But although scarecrows are no longer effective at scaring crows, they have become a beloved part of the culture and celebrated during autumn as decorations and during Scarecrow and Fall Festivals.

Lastly, here is a beautiful poem by Robert Frost that highlights the lovely crow.

crow poem

Would you like to win a Scarecrow Pin?    Leave a comment and Darlene will enter your name in the give-away and choose one lucky winner at random from those entered.scarecrow

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Beth Ferry is the author of numerous books for young readers, including Stick and Stone, Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish and The Scarecrow. She is inspired by two main things: word play and the sea. Luckily, Beth is an avid reader who lives close to the beach so inspiration is never far away. In addition to picture books, Beth has begun writing graphic novels. When not writing, Beth can be found playing with her bulldog, Chaucer.

 

 

 

 

 

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Save Seeds…Save Life…Spread Some Beauty

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the critical importance of SEEDS.  It’s not something we think much about, but our very lives depend on seeds.  Without them, we have no food.  And we all know how important food is.  If you hold seeds in your hand…you hold life.  Monsanto and other companies hold patents on seeds.  Think about this: THEY CAN CONTROL THE WORLD’S FOOD.  If we want to ensure biodiversity and ample food for future generations, we need to preserve seeds and all the abundant varieties of foods they represent.  How can we do it?

Saving seeds was common practice for our ancestors, to ensure that there would be food even during lean times.  As mechanization and hybridization took over farming in the 20th Century, the practice was lost….but thankfully, not forgotten.

SEED BANKS are popping up in an unusual place…your local library.  There are more than 600 seed libraries in North America.  These collections will provide a free packet of seeds, information on gardening and seed saving techniques.  SEED SAVERS is responsible for much of today’s seed library stock.  It has 25,000 varieties – many of them rare or exclusive – dating before WWII. These seeds belong in the public domain and cannot be patented. The goal is to get these seeds into as many people’s hands as possible.  Why not visit your local library and plant some seeds?

seeds

For more information on this important program visit: http://www.seedsavers.org

http://www.libraryseedbank.info

You can spread some beauty in your own backyard by making some wildflower SEED BOMBS. 

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Seed-Bomb

For more garden crafts visit:  http://www.redtedart.com/garden-crafts-challenge-get-crafty/

The Disappearing Butterfly…How You Can Help!

This post originally ran three years ago, but I find it so important I am running it again.  I will continue to run it as long as these beautiful creatures continue to decline. Pass it on.

While many insects make a lot of people say “yuck”…butterflies are in a category of their own.  There is no ick factor to these beautiful and amazing creatures.  One of the most recognized – and perhaps most popular – butterflies in North America is the MONARCH. Sadly, this beautiful insect is disappearing at an alarming rate.  In the 1990’s up to 1 BILLION monarchs migrated from the Northern US and Canada each fall to the OYAMEL FIR forests of Mexico.  Another million wintered in forested groves along the California coast.      monarch Now, scientists estimate that only 56.5 MILLION remain.  This represents a decline of nearly 80%.  Help keep monarch butterflies in our world. 90% of the milkweed they depend on is gone from roadsides and fields. Most of the decline is blamed on changing use of land; but we homeowners can change that.  You can use your property to create “monarch way stations” by planting MILKWEED and other nectar filled plants.  These plots allow monarchs to successfully produce generations and sustain them for their annual migrations. Milkweeds are the ONLY plants on which monarchs deposit their eggs and on which their larvae feed. 

monarch caterpillar

Without milkweed, there would be no monarchs.     To learn more about monarchs and way stations visit: http://www.monarchwatch.org

Milkweed is easy to grow from seed.  And, here is a link for free milkweed plants.  They require little care and will spread easily once they take hold.  They can take over a garden, so be careful where you plant them. Go to: http://www.livemonarch.com/free-milkweed-seeds.htm          

Milkweed from my garden.

Milkweed from my garden.

  Not only will you bring beauty to your own habitat, but you will be helping an endangered species. Here’s a link to a wonderful post to start a discussion about Monarchs from Terry Jennings.: http://www.kcswildfacts.com/KCs-Blog.html?entry=monarch-butterflies-amazing-travelers

IF YOU WOULD LIKE SOME MILKWEED SEEDS TO START YOUR OWN BUTTERFLY SANCTUARY, LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENT SECTION AND I WILL MAIL YOU SOME WHEN THEY ARE AVAILABLE IN THE FALL.

How to “BEE” Kind to Bees.

For thousands of years, honeybees have transformed flower nectar into that wonderful sweetness called honey.  Not only is honey a delicious treat in recipes or to sweeten a cup of tea, it has many medicinal properties as well.  Due to its sterile qualities, doctors used it as wound dressings during the civil war.

Honeybees are important in another crucial way – as pollinators of our food supply.  The USDA estimates that “about one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination”.  Some crops, such as almonds, rely completely upon honeybees for propagation.

So what, you might ask?  Honeybee populations are dwindling worldwide from a combination of factors that contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder. This happens when worker bees leave behind a colony with only a queen and a few immature bees, resulting in death of the colony. Currently the main factors are thought to be: viruses, parasites, management stressors, migratory stress and pesticides.  To view a film on CCD: http://www.vanishingbees.com

Honeybees are one of many indicators of a healthy environment.  A disturbance in their life cycle, could be a symptom of larger issues.           

HOW CAN WE HELP?

  1. Buy organic to help reduce pesticide use.  Refrain from use of pesticides in your own yard and garden.
  2. Plant pollinator-friendly plants such as bee balm and red clover.
  3. Buy local and single producer honey to support small scale bee keepers in your own community.
  4. Enjoy the wonderful taste of local honey in your own recipes.

BEE KIND TO BEES…Our Food Supply Depends on it!

 

Let’s Go Camping!

Summer is a time of year where we usually enjoy spending more time outdoors. Hiking in parks and forests, visiting wildlife sanctuaries, swimming in lakes and beaches…so many great things to do on lazy summer days.  If the idea of CAMPING in the great outdoors sends a cold shiver down your spine, maybe you just haven’t found the right way to enjoy the camping experience.  Camping is WAY MORE than using port-o-potties, giving up showers and running water, and sleeping in a muggy, bug-infested tent in the middle of nowhere.

RV parks and campgrounds offer lots of amenities and are a budget friendly way for families to experience the natural world. Here are a few to consider when planning a family camping trip:

HERSHEY PARK CAMPING RESORT, HUMMELSTOWN, PA: Offers 300 campsites for RV hookups, log cabin rentals, pools, movie nights, and discounted admission to Hershey Park.  http://www.hersheyparkcampingresort.com

NORMANDY FARMS FAMILY CAMPING RESORT, FOXBORO, MA: If you don’t have your own RV, you can rent a YURT, pop-up trailer, or safari tent. Located between Boston and Cape Cod, this resort offers yoga classes, mountain bike tours, and a dog park.  http://www.normandyfarms.com

LAKESHORE RV RESORT & CAMPGROUND, OELWEIN, IA:  Located on the shores of Lake Oelwein, this resort offers swimming, canoeing, Frisbee golf, beach volleyball, and a day trip to the FIELD OF DREAMS movie site.  Every year some baseball legend emerges from the corn fields to have a game with fans.  http://www.lakeshoreiowa.com

AMERICAN HERITAGE RV PARK, WILLIAMSBURG, VA: For history fans you might want to try this resort where you can stay in a cabin or cottage as you enjoy nature trails, pool, volleyball and basketball courts and discounted tickets to COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG: http://www.americanheritagervpark.com

Be sure to check out state parks and campgrounds in your state for more opportunities to enjoy the camping experience this summer.

To get you kids in the mood, try reading some of these camping-themed books:

  a rustic camping journal to record all the moments and memories of the camping experience.

Goodnight, Campsite: A children's Book on Camping Featuring RVs, Travel Trailers, Fifth-Wheels, Pop-UPs and Other Camper Options. by [Sponsler, Loretta]  “Goodnight, Campsite” is an award-winning children’s book on camping, featuring more than tents. Our book highlights RVs – Travel Trailers, Fifth-Wheels, Pop-Ups, Class A, Class C, and other camper options.” (description is taken from internet page)

https://i2.wp.com/maddogmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/smores-from-audrey.jpg  A camping alphabet book.

For more camping-themed book for kids of all ages, check out this link:

https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=camping+themed+books+for+kids&id=63353A9A8FD071C4C79134DD4B1B2A74D25F3C82&FORM=IQFRBA

Give Your Backyard Critters, and the Earth’s Creatures Some TLC.

We are ALL interconnected and part of the chain that feeds and sustains life on earth. Wondering how you can help protect the most vulnerable critters on our planet? There are FIVE simple things all of us can do to help make a difference for the creatures who share the earth with us. 

1. Bee populations are disappearing, which effects food crops around the world. Help LOCAL HIVES by adding a “bee bath” to your backyard. Fill a shallow dish or birdbath with water and pebbles or marbles to welcome these pollinators into your garden.

bee

2. You can help protect CORAL REEFS by replacing your regular sunscreen for one that does not contain OXYBENZONE. This ingredient damages the delicate reefs.

3. I’ve mentioned this one on numerous posts: FEED MONARCH BUTTERFLIES by planting MILKWEED in your garden. This is the only plant these endangered creatures lay their eggs on and the caterpillars eat. You can get get milkweed seeds in your local National Wildlife Federation office.  http://www.nationalwildlifefederation.org

milkweed

Milkweed from my garden. Bonus: it also attracts bees.

4. Eat seafood that is sustainably caught and protect whales and dolphins from getting trapped in fishing nets. Download the Seafood Watch app to identify businesses that serve and sell sustainably sourced seafood.

5. Help the endangered Sumatran tiger from losing its habitat to coffee growers. Make sure your brew is Rainforest Alliance certified. This means the beans are grown  and harvested in a sustainable, animal-friendly way.

Go Treasure Hunting!

If you’re looking for a different family trip or activity this summer, why not give LETTERBOXING a try? Never heard of it? Letterboxing combines hiking with treasure hunting for a fun and unique experience for the entire family.

Letterboxers put small, weatherproof boxes in public places like city parks, campgrounds, state forests, and the like. Then they post clues online for adventurers to follow. The whole family can get involved in puzzling through the directions while visiting new places.

All you need to get started: a notebook, pen, ink pad, and rubber stamp.

file000638110879

1. Visit http://www.letterboxing.org  or  http://www.atlasquest.com for tips on how to find a hike near you. Then crack the code or follow clues to find the letterbox.

2. When you discover a box, there will be a logbook and a Rubber Stamp. MARK YOUR BOOK WITH THE BOX’S STAMP, SIGN THE BOX’S BOOK, AND STAMP IT WITH YOUR OWN STAMP to prove your family found the treasure.

letterboxing

3. KEEP IT GOING by looking for letterboxes on trips and vacations or by making your own letterbox for  to find.

Happy Treasure Hunting!