On Earth Day and Everyday…We Can All Do Our Part to Stop Climate Change.

A 2019 study from the Swiss Institute of Integrative Biology suggested that planting 1 trillion trees would dramatically reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and significantly help stop global climate change. Mar 10, 2020

trees

A trillion trees sounds like an impossible goal. But every time you plant a tree in your yard, on school grounds, or in your neighborhood open spaces, you reduce greenhouse gas because they are natural carbon absorbers (a mature tree can absorb up to 48lbs of carbon a year).

Every time you plant a tree, you are part of the solution for reducing and stopping the effects of global warming. For more information about planting trees visit:

https://onetreeplanted.org/pages/tree-facts

https://onetreeplanted.org/blogs/stories/flatten-curve-carbon-emissions

There are other things you can do to take care of Mother Earth as well:

We can continue to recycle properly and phase out our consumption of single-use plastics (recycling just 1 lb. of plastic #1 saves 22.9 kWh of energy and 47.4 lbs. of CO2 emissions).

Support programs like www.4ocean.com whose products are made from reclaimed ocean plastics. One pound of plastic is removed from the ocean for every item purchased.

We can commit to reducing the 1/3rd of food that is wasted globally by composting, shopping smart, and meal planning.

Switch to organic produce.The good news is that organic systems that emphasize soil health help farmers and ranchers increase resilience to the impacts of climate change. … Organic systems do this by capturing and storing more carbon (CO2) in the soil (carbon sequestration). They also release fewer greenhouse gases. Apr 27, 2020

To learn more about how organically grown fruits and vegetables help the environment visit:

How Organic Agriculture Helps Mitigate Climate Change

For information on how to start a compost pile of your own visit:  https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/advice/a23945/start-composting/

compost-1561137922

Contact local food banks or soup kitchens to see if they will accept your food donations.

We can incorporate more plant-based meals into our diets.

Every small thing we do makes a difference when each of us pitches in. Planet Earth is our home…the only home we have. We owe it to ourselves and to all the plants and animals we depend on to be good stewards of the earth. Please pass this on and share it.

SQUIRREL FUN FACTS For Squirrel Appreciation Day.

Today, January 21, 2021 is Squirrel Appreciation Day. Many of us may consider squirrels no more than bushy-tailed rats and a pest to backyard gardens, parks, and the like. But these members of the rodent family are interesting and helpful members of the food chain. For instance, did you know that squirrels can find food buried up to a foot deep under snow? They avoid predators by running in a zigzag pattern. Squirrels sometimes “trick” rivals by digging a hole and pretending to bury a nut when they really don’t. Many of their buried nuts and seeds end up turning into new trees!

Sounds like there is a lot going on in those small brains! If you take a moment to watch these fascinating creatures , you’ll see some amazing things.

There are some fun websites with lots of kid-friendly facts and activities about squirrels.

https://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/animals/squirrel.html

https://easyscienceforkids.com/all-about-squirrels/

Here is a short video with some fun facts about our backyard neighbors:

Here are some recent books written for children that feature our friendly neighborhood squirrels.

Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines
Book 1 in the series

The EVOLUTION REVOLUTION Series by Charlotte Bennadro, Illustrated by Cathleen Daniels

These three chapter books show the clever abilities of squirrels.

Here is the link for Barnes&Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/evolution-revolution-charlotte-bennardo/1124455042?ean=9781534903210

SQUIRRELS FAMILY TREE by Beth Ferry

Squirrel's Family Tree

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=squirrels+family+tree&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

How To Make Birch Tree: An Easy Art Project For All Ages by Guy Oliveri

It is my pleasure to day to feature illustrator Guy Oliveri who will share an awesome, simple , and creative art project that requires only materials you already have at home. A perfect project for home-schooling and virtual schooling. Here’s Guy:

If parents find themselves homeschooling these days, it is important not to forget art. Here is a fall art project that I created for my students.

In this project, I tried to show that a student could use tools that may be found around the home. This not only focused on creativity but also taught a bit of critical thinking- i.e. how do you think we can make a birch tree? It is also a project that has no age boundaries.

What you’ll need:      1.png

  1. A unique background- newspaper, old book pages, music sheets (We found this old music book at a yard sale).
  2. Paint or markers to make a background
  3. Correction ribbon
  4. Correction pen
  5. A pencil
  6. A push pin or a scoring too.

2.Create your background with watercolor paint or markers. Then let dry. You can also design a background digitally then print it on your paper.

2.png

3.Using the correction ribbon, make long strokes from the bottom to the top. You can double up on the strokes to create thicker trees.

3.png

4.With the pushpin or scoring tool, (be careful) score the ribbon to create texture. I had my students make “smiles” from side to side.

4.png

5. Next, we shaded the some of the trees to separate some of the ones that over lapped one another (this added some depth).

5.png

6. Moving on… Now using the correction pen, create the smaller branches beginning at the bottom and working upward as well. Note: If the correction pen leaks out at first, simply make the base of the branch thicker and drag the excess upward. You may want to try a practice run on a separate piece of paper to determine how your pen is functioning.

6.png

7.Finally, a nice matte completes the project!

7.png 

8.Some examples of some other students work:    9.png

8.png

Guy photo.png

Guy T. Olivieri is a freelance illustrator, writer, and retired crime scene investigator. A recognized crime scene and fingerprint expert, Guy, has assisted dozens of mystery writers. He enjoys being a guest teacher of forensics and forensic entomology(the study of how insects help solve crimes) to elementary, middle school, and high school students. His whimsical and straightforward approach to police science has made him a sought out favorite with kids of all ages. He also teaches art, always encouraging kids to maintain that creative gift!
 
Website:  PrivateerArt.com
 

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

2020 UPDATE:Things didn’t go as well as expected this year due to the invasive and parasitic fly that bored into the chrysalis, killing the caterpillar before it could change into a monarch. After planting more than 40 milkweeds in our garden beds, only 5 butterflies hatched successfully. We will keep on planting milkweed and hope for a better outcome next year.

 

‘Tis the Season For: Pumpkin Picking Tips.

  • One of the most abundant and popular items seen everywhere this time of year is the PUMPKIN.  It comes in lots of sizes and shapes and is used to flavor everything from desserts, to coffee, and even soup.  Here are some FUN FACTS about this seasonal favorite as well as tips on how to choose a good pumpkin:
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.

  • Pumpkins are really squash… members of the squash family.

  • A pumpkin is a fruit. Most people think of it as a vegetable.

  • Pumpkins are 90% water. 

  • The largest pumpkin ever grown is 2,323.7 pounds.   You can see it here:  http://www.pumpkinnook.com/giants/giantpumpkins.htm

For more fun PUMPKIN facts visit: http://gardenersnet.com/fun/pumpkintrivia.htm

How to Select Perfect Pumpkins:

Select pumpkins that are completely orange. A partially green pumpkin might not ripen any further.  Be sure it is not too heavy to carry safely.  You might want to bring along a wagon to carry your pumpkin(s).

Use medium pumpkins for carving into a Jack O Lantern. Small pumpkins are better for cooking and baking.   

A ripe pumpkin has a hard shell that does not dent easily when pressing on it with a thumbnail.  Examine the entire pumpkin carefully for soft spots. If you find even one soft spot, try another pumpkin.

If you don’t plan on cutting your pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern, it will last well into Thanksgiving and beyond.   

Become a Naturalist

Ah Summer! There is so much about this time of year that brings out poetry, curiosity and a sense that anything is possible. When the kids get restless and itchy, take a break from video games and household routines and explore the natural world. To make it a more interesting adventure, become Naturalists and record the days observations and sightings. You can do this and still be faithful to social distancing and keeping one another safe. All you need is the following, all of which will fit in a backpack:

1. A pair of binoculars for zooming in on birds or other elusive wildlife. A magnifying glass for closeups of insects and plant life.

2. A Field Guide of insects and birds of North America.  There are many excellent ones you can borrow from a local library or download onto your Kindle or iphone. You can track and input what birds you see on Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.   http://www.birds.cornell.edu  or by downloading the eBird app. 

3. A journal or notebook will help you record sights, sounds, names of animals and plants you discover, and details to use in writing a story or drawing a picture when you get back home.

4. A camera.

5. Comfortable shoes, water, snacks.

TallTreesLittleKids

Try an outing at different times of day. What is awake in the early morning hours may be totally different from what is active mid day or at sunset. If you’re having difficulty finding “critters”, be still and listen to the sounds of nature. This stillness often leads to amazing discoveries. It will definitely bring you peace and calm your stress. If you’re near water, turn over some rocks at the water’s edge. There are many hatching insects under them to marvel at.

And, like every good naturalist, remember to leave only footprints, and take only pictures and memories, and bring back any trash left behind by the human animal, so we can enjoy the natural world for years to come.

Making Sense of Change In Complicated Times by Marilyn Ostermiller

In a flash, everything changed. Our cars became doctors’ examining rooms and graduation processions. Virtual became the norm for every interaction from business conferences to birthday parties, after the Covid-19 virus invaded the planet.

            Hidden away from family, colleagues and friends, we’ve been forced to rethink how we interact with our world. Count on the five senses to handle the heavy lifting. Each sense signals the brain to help us perceive and understand the world around us.

            For those who see this as an opportunity to rethink the basics, here are some simple pleasures that involve each of the senses.

Taste: Savor the sweet life. Select at least three varieties of fresh fruit at the farmer’s market. Clean and prep. Dish up at least a cup of plain Greek yogurt, stir in honey to taste. Layer the fruit with the sweetened yogurt in a glass dish and feast on fruit compote. 

compote

Hearing: Listen up. If it’s music that soothes, turn up the volume on your favorite play list. If nature calls, take a walk in the woods, alongside a rustling brook. (Here’s an audio of a stream)

 https://dl-mail.aolmail.com/ws/download/mailboxes/@.id==VjN-D0_4JSzZJ_XtQFmq4CbJWC1BsEPqBZT1GZMO9ahPwvWwDatd8Lptv3N76nHhJPeM5WpbS6gDksqeBa5UqpKFdQ/messages/@.id==AIaCl2lrVxVVXxmNdQEFuIKFyI4/content/parts/@.id==1/raw?appid=aolwebmail&ymreqid=f68b1e5d-5bce-bdbe-3024-2e000c015800&token=zitEzqOML3j84e6ealFTT5U7-km5qEQF52lp7AcCuBbpUwx47ixU77PfMwZQ85UIQCYij3H7B6NO3kqNq-ZtvrANq13wum2_c3vqceEk94zlaltLqAOSyp4FrlSqkoV1

Sight: Get comfy in a cozy nook and reread a favorite book or dig into your “to read” pile. After you’ve read the last page, loan it to a friend, write an online review, spread the word.

Touch: Reach out and touch someone whom you don’t need to be socially distant from. If you’re a solitary person, find a pet to play with. Stroke the velvety blooms of roses, peonies or lilies.

touching bird

Smell: Consider aroma therapy, the use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils in massage or baths. Splash a couple of drops of lavender oil in your bath. Apply a drop of vanilla extract on a finger and touch it to a cool light bulb. When the light is lit, the fragrance emerges.

Resources:

Among the many available resources for ideas and explanations of how to tap into the five senses, these are a few that are available online:

The Heart of Aromatherapy: An Easy-to-Use Guide for Essential Oils, by Andrea Butje. From cardamom to yuzu, this book explores each oil’s aroma, uses and safety tips.

A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman, explores the five senses and how we have historically and culturally used them.

A Natural History of the Senses

The Five Senses, by Tinaz Denizmen, is an interactive poem to teach children about each of their five senses, suitable for two to six year olds.

Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a professional journalist, who enjoys writing about food and children’s literature.

Caring For Baby Birds All Summer Long.

It’s summer!
If you’ve maintained a wild bird backyard habitat throughout winter, you can continue through summer with added benefits. Providing food, water and shelter encourages birds to build a home and raise young when resources are plentiful. Fill a suet feeder with nesting supplies such as yarn threads, strands of hair, and broom bristles. Keep a part of your yard “natural” with a pile of leaves and pine needles, to offer a variety of supplies for birds to choose from. Keep your eyes out the window and take note to which birds make use of your materials.

bird in tree

Many birds will make their nest in close proximity to humans. Robins and mourning doves are known for making nests in shrubs, trees or on wooden ledges under decks. Swallows will build a nest from mud and attach it to the side of the house. Wrens love small bird houses and especially those that can safely swing in the breeze. Be on the lookout for neighborhood cats who like to lunch on unsuspecting baby birds. Snakes can also end the enjoyment of raising baby birds in your yard. I don’t recommend killing snakes as they also provide an important service in the ecosystem, but it’s never a good day, when a snake is found inside a nest box full of black-capped chickadees.     bird 1

In addition to prey, another hazard for baby birds is falling from the nest. If a baby bird found is very small and most likely dead, it has been pushed out by more aggressive siblings or from nest over load. If you find a baby bird that has feathers and can hop but cannot fly, it is most likely a fledgling, just learning to fly. Contrary to popular belief it is OK to pick up and replace the baby to its nest. Or, if it looks like the parents are attentive, leave it alone. If you cannot find the nest, place the bird in a tissue lined box in the same location in which it was found. Watch to see if the parents return to feed. Many do. If after a few hours you can’t be sure the parents are around, your best option is to take the baby to a local wildlife center. The people there will nurture the baby until it can survive on its own and usually return the bird to its original locale.           bird 2

Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge is in southern New Jersey and takes in wildlife of all varieties.
6 Sawmill Rd, Medford, NJ 08055
(856) 983-3329
http://www.cedarrun.org

Another note of caution, be careful of tree cutting in the spring and summer. Many nests have been dislocated when unsuspecting tree cutters take down a bird’s summer home.

bird nest

Taking care of our feathered friends can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for young and old alike. Why not invite some birds into your backyard this summer?

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

 

Whistling Grass

Here is a simple and fun activity everyone can enjoy when you’re outdoors and anywhere near grass.  Just take a wide blade of grass and place it tightly between your thumbs.  Blow onto the small opening and the grass will whistle!

It actually sounds like a turkey call.  Try different blade thicknesses and widths to see if you can change the sound.

 Can you make up a song using this whistle from nature?

50 Ways to Celebrate the 50th Earth Day.

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the first Earth Day held in 1970. Even though we are “sheltering in place” and most of us have to stay at home because of the Covid19 pandemic, there are many ways to celebrate and honor our collective home, planet earth. Here are 50.

1. The single most important thing you can do is PLANT A TREE. If the world’s people planted 3 billion trees in all the available open spaces (not taking away any farmland), we would eliminate global warming. Learn more about tree planting in your community at  http://www.arborday.org

2. Make your garden POLLINATOR FRIENDLY by planting native bushes and flowering plants to attract bees, butterflies and insects. Find the right blooms for your yard at: http://www.xerces.org

3. Find out how you can help endangered species in your community: http://www.fws.gov/endangered

4. If you see litter, pick it up.

5-9. Collect rainwater for landscaping, compost vegetable scraps, plant a vegetable garden, buy organic, stop using pesticides on your lawn.   lids

10-14. Buy in bulk to use less packaging, stop using single-use plastic bags (reusable and machine-washable ones are available online. (see photo below)  I use them every time I go to the store. You can store the vegetables in them as well. Pack lunches in reusable containers, recycle as often and as much as you can, stop using plastic wrap for food storage. Check out the reusable silicon lids in 6 sizes to fit over every bowl you own. (Photo)

20200419_091932

15. Find uses for old things.

16. Turn off lights when you leave a room.

17. Eat more veggies.

18. Get a library card.

19. Leave only footprints when you travel.

20-25. Wash clothes in cold water, don’t let the sink run when you brush teeth or wash dishes, turn off the dishwasher’s drying cycle and let them air dry, use concentrated soaps/cleaners that use less packaging,use unscented products, Use greener cleaners like baking soda and white vinegar.

26-30. Ride your bike, skip the elevator and take stairs, buy things that will last, try to fix things that break instead of tossing them, eat what’s in season.

31. Buy products made from recycled materials.

32. Use a push lawn mower.

33. Buy Fair Trade: http://www.fairtrade.org

34. Carpool

35-39. Unplug electronics when you aren’t using them, shut your computer down when you leave work, print on both sides of paper, reuse blank paper as scrap paper for notes, use shredded paper for packing instead of styrafoam peanuts.

40. When you finish baking, turn of oven and leave oven door open to heat the home.

41. Eat sustainably harvested fish to protect the ocean : http://www.oceansalive.org

42-45. Give your car a tune-up so it drives more efficiently, drive a hybrid, keep tires inflated to proper pressure for better fuel efficiency, driving under 60MPH saves gas.

46-47. Buy shade grown coffee, switch to reusable coffee filters.

48. Use rechargeable batteries.

49. Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to eat local: visit  http://www.localharvest.com

50. Use cloth napkins and towels.

The earth is home for us all. Every little thing we do to honor our home counts.

Stay Safe and have a HAPPY EARTH DAY!