Hummingbirds Tank Up

The severe drought we were having in 2011 brought Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in record numbers to our backyard feeders.  Flowers all year were scarce so to get their little tanks full for a 2,000-mile journey south, they rely on my daily feeder maintenance.  These miniature feathered friends drank more than a gallon of solution per day during the peak, cooked from scratch in my kitchen (4 parts water, 1 part sugar, boiled 5 minutes, cooled).

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Stop.  Look.  Listen.
Enjoy all nature has to offer.

Talking Dirt

Talking Dirt

“Good gardening is just like good parenting but much less draining because there’s no backtalk or PTA meetings.” ~ Annie Spiegelman

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There are several books I have in my home library which help me with my wacky organic gardening way, but this!  It continues to be my favorite and worthy of its own post, if nothing more than for her clever similarities between gardening and parenting.

I read through it often because she makes me smile.

Gardeners and non-gardeners alike, there something in here for all of us.

“Your soil is full of minerals, organic matter, air spaces, water, insects, and microorganisms.  These soil organisms help store and then release essential nutrients to your plants.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to keep the underground living system thriving.  These organisms (mites, beetles, millipedes, earthworms, bacteria, and fungi) power Mother Nature’s perfect decay cycle by recycling organic matter (leaves, stems) and turning it into humus (or compost), an end product that your plants can easily digest and is full of nutrients to fuel their growth and development.  You may even be voted parent of the year by your plants.  This is so much less taxing work than vying for parent of the year with real live children.  Finally, we can all feel like winners.  Mazel tov!” ~ Annie Spiegelman, Talking Dirt

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Take care of your soil.
It, in turn, will take care of you.

Hummingbird Banding Xtravaganza

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“The hummingbird competes with the stillness of the air.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa

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The coming of autumn in Houston is always marked by the Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration to the south.  We are smack dab in the Texas flyway, through which these little jewels have traveled hundreds of miles already from as far north as Alaska — just to tank up at my backyard feeders.  With the goal of building up fat stores with lots and lots of sugar water, they will finish their journey to the south — flying several hundred more miles directly across the Gulf of Mexico.

It is an amazing journey for an amazing species.

Because I go through the trouble of maintaining feeders in my yard year after year, they return to guard them like it’s the last meal they’ll ever have.  They will linger in significant numbers, through October.   See for yourself!

Our Big Year journey coupled with prodding birding friends have had my family eager to attend a hummingbird banding session before the year end.  Lucky for us, the great folks at the Gulf Coast Birding Observatory had one this weekend.  The event is geared specifically toward enlisting all the young, budding naturalists into the field of ornithology; adults pay $2 each, but if you’re a kid, you get to enjoy it all for FREE.

And what each child takes away is just priceless.

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DirtNKids (no Ice) Bucket Challenge: Water Conservation

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US_Ice_Bucket_Challenge

Photo credit: No Idea

Like millions of others, I watch friends and family take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and laugh and amuse myself.  Arguably, it’s a fun and crazy way to spread the word about this dreadful disease.  My children already know about Lou Gehrig’s Disease and its affiliates, that there is currently no cure for it, that it can strike anyone at any time. As children of nature and science, we are too familiar with Stephen Hawking‘s contributions to the world of astronomy and physics, despite his affliction with ALS.

Not to knock any diseases of homo sapiens, this is the real picture in my head every time I watch an Ice Bucket Challenge video.Not US Water Bucket Challenge

It contrasts with the one at the beginning of this post, wouldn’t you say?  It’s really hard to focus on one human disease when drinking from a water puddle brings to mind many diseases, all of which can be prevented just by providing clean water — free from contaminants.  Watching all that H2O wasted just to become some 15-second video sensation seems…well, kind of selfish.

Where the average American consumes around 100 gallons of clean water, the average sub-Saharan African uses only two.  What we need now is a paradigm shift and a renewed appreciation for our most valuable natural resource – clean, fresh drinkable water.

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The Only Home I’ve Ever Known

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That’s here.
That’s home.
That’s us.
On it, everyone you love, everyone you know,
everyone you ever heard of,
every human being who ever was,
lived out their lives.

The aggregate of our joy and suffering,
thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines,
every hunter and forager,
every hero and coward,
every creator and destroyer of civilization,
every king and peasant,
every young couple in love,
every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer,
every teacher of morals,
every corrupt politician,
every superstar,
every supreme leader,
every saint and sinner in the history of our species
lived there on a mote of dust…
suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage
in a vast cosmic arena.

Think of the rivers of blood
spilled by all those generals and emperors
so that in glory and triumph
they could become the momentary masters
of a fraction…of a dot.

Think of the endless cruelties visited
by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel
on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants
of some other corner.
How frequent their misunderstandings,
How eager they are to kill one another,
How fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance,
the delusion that we have some
privileged position in the universe,
are challenged by this point of pale light.
Our planet is a lonely speck
in the great, enveloping cosmic dark.
In our obscurity,
in all this vastness
there is no hint that
help will come from elsewhere
to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life.
There is nowhere else, at least in the near future,
to which our species could migrate.
Visit, yes.
Settle, not yet.
Like it or not, for the moment,
the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a
humbling and character-building experience.
There is perhaps no better demonstration
of the folly of human conceits
than this distant image.

To me, it underscores our responsibility
to deal more kindly with one another
and to preserve and cherish
the Pale Blue Dot,
the only home we’ve ever known.

~ Carl Sagan

Vacay 2014 — The “Getting There”

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Pastel Formations

“Life is a pilgrimage.  The wise man does not rest by the roadside inns. He marches direct to the illimitable domain of eternal bliss, his ultimate destination.”  ~ Swami Sivananda

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He’d been bugging me about it for some years now.  Being the household barber, and lately having little weekend time to work him and kids into the “other” mounting chores, Scott finally broke me down.  I just didn’t have the time to fight — the hair needed to come off.

“Just think of it as a vacation cut.  You’ll have two weeks to get used to it, and if you absolutely hate it, it’ll be halfway to back-the-way-it-was by the time we get back,” Scott explained convincingly.

Fine then.  Go get me the clippers before I change my mind.

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Vacation is for the Birds

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GlacierValley

East Glacier — Sun Peeps Through

“This is Nature’s own reservation, and every lover of wildness will rejoice with me that by kindly frost it is so well defended.”

~ John Muir, Our National Parks

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Hey, peeps.  We’re back, and what a refreshing vacation that was.

It was essentially a repeat of last year, with the notable addition of five days in Glacier National Park — a place we’d been itching to get back to since last August.  We also spent a good amount of time in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks as well.

What with another 5,000+ miles on the Hummer, just about every memorable detail of the most awesome LEGO Movie is now permanently etched into my subconscious.  (How our parents survived road trips without DVD’s, I’ll never know.)  And thank goodness for Dramamine, which kept our two kids with motion sickness well and rested.

Needless to say, it didn’t suck.   Okay.  Now, your questions.

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A Star is Born

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Remember back in 2012?  I don’t, really.  Thank goodness for blogging.

That was when I first discovered the keyhole garden from a fellow blogger.  It’s only taken two years, but finally, the keyhole garden is in business.  (Thank you, Jocelyn!)  Unfortunately, due to a very full schedule through the end of June, it may get sloppily planted with more expensive seedlings from the nursery rather than sowing seeds.  I’m just too antsy to wait and do the whole thing in nature’s time (seed to fruit).

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Warbler Magic at LaFitte’s Cove

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The Prize!  Our Ticket to Ride

The Prize! Our Ticket to Ride

Children are born naturalists.  They explore the world with all of their senses, experiment in the environment, and communicate their discoveries to those around them.

~ The Audubon Nature Preschool

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Directly in the path of the Mississippi flyway, the spring migration of neotropic migrants is now fully underway in Texas.  We returned to the wooded outcroppings near the coast Easter weekend, the goal to see as many birds as possible.  Mostly, we hoped to add new species to our growing Big Year list, particularly those migrants who fly through only once or twice per year on their way to or from breeding grounds to the north.

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