Tag: environment

American Robins (Turdus migratorius) Nesting Outside My Door

robins nest in my flower pot attached to houseRobins are the largest North American thrushes. They are named after the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), however they aren’t in the same family.

Females have paler heads with a grayer back than the male.robin's nest with blue eggs

Robins are not cavity nesters and prefer to nest in evergreens and eaves. They also like to nest near humans. In the below photo, that is our main entrance in the background, with our driveway/parking to the right.

Robins build their nests with long coarse grass, twigs, paper, feathers and is fastened with mud. The inside is softened with grass or other materials. An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year.

I left a pot on the side of my house and Ms. Robin took advantage of the situation.

baby bird robins in nestRobins eat different types of food depending on the time of day: earthworms in the morning and fruit later in the day. Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is susceptible to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution.Baby robins in nest

There were five bundles of joy in her nest.

Robins are among the first birds to sing at dawn. This possibly relates the saying, “The early bird gets the worm”.

Robin bird trying to be scary
Mom sometimes thought we were getting too close to the nest. INCOMING!!

The Robin uses sound, smell and possibly feels its prey moving in the ground with its feet, however vision is the major method of prey detection. In addition to hunting visually, it also has the ability to hunt by hearing. Experiments have discovered that Robins can find worms underground by simply using its listening skills. So all the cute running, stopping, hopping, and cocking of the head is how a Robin find its breakfast.

mom robin sitting on nestRobin roosts can be huge, sometimes including a 250,000 birds during winter. In summer, the females sleep in their nests and males gather at roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males. Female adults join the roosts only after they have finished nesting. These guys left one by one, until there were none!

© The Naturarian

 

The Hunt for Garlic Mustard is ON!

Now is the time to hunt for garlic mustard!! Otherwise known as Alliaria petiolata, a biennial flowering plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae).

Spring rain has made the ground soft which helps with removal of garlic mustard’s tap root. This root only goes down for about an inch, then takes an abrupt turn. When you pull slowly, you can feel which way the root goes and pull accordingly. If all of it is not removed, it will grow back like a dandelion. It will also start blooming in our area soon, making it easier to find.

Garlic mustard plant witth white blooming flowers

It is native to large areas of Europe, western and central Asia, and northwestern Africa. It was brought here by early settlers as a garden herb, but has broken free of the gardeners patch and is now considered an invasive species.

During the first year of growth, plants form rosette clumps of heart shaped, slightly wrinkled leaves that smell like garlic. The next year plants flower in spring, producing white flowers, and as the flowering stems bloom they stretch into a spike-like shape. This pain-in-the-butt plant has enough energy in it, that if you pull it while it’s blooming, it can still produce seeds, which are released during the early summer. You’re best bet is to burn it ASAP or bag it. Do not compost, unless you’re very attentive to your pile.

So what can be done about this invasive species? EAT IT!

Garlic mustard can be found growing almost anywhere, but prefers a shady location. Procuring this herb is as easy as traveling to your nearest forest preserve. Removing native plants from protected parks is illegal, however because of garlic mustard’s invasive status, most parks will encourage you to take all you’d like.

Garlic Mustard Recipes:

Garlic Mustard Pesto

garlic mustard pesto

2 cups garlic mustard leaves, 1/4 cup walnuts, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup pecorino romano (or Parmesan) cheese, grated

Use a food processor to combine the garlic mustard leaves, walnuts and garlic – pulse until very finely minced. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil and blend until smooth. Add the cheese – pulse to combine.

Garlic Mustard Scallion Cakes

2 eggs, 1 bunch scallions/chopped, 1 pkg flour tortillas, 1 cup garlic mustard/chopped, 2 tsp sesame oil, oil for frying. Mix scallions and garlic mustard. Beat together eggs and sesame oil. Brush on side of a tortilla with egg mixture. Sprinkle on scallion/garlic mustard mixture. Brush egg mix on another tortilla, then put on top of 1st tortilla with egg side down. (Separate cakes with wax paper, repeat until all tortillas are used. Cover with plate and weigh down with cans to seal tortilla (about 15 minutes). Heat oil in heavy pan. Brown cakes on both sides (~2 minutes total). Drain on paper towel. Cut into wedges and serve.

Garlic Mustard Tossed Salad

4-6 leaves ruby red leaf lettuce, 4-6 leaves Romaine Lettuce, 1-2 handfuls tender garlic mustard leaves, French sorrel and bronze fennel (one leaf each), 1/3 cup mandarin orange slices, drained 1 slice of smoked salmon, 1/8 cup sunflower seeds, croûtons.

Wash and crisp all the leaves and tear the lettuce leaves into a salad bowl. Cut the garlic mustard leaves, the French sorrel and the fennel into narrow strips and add to the salad. Cut the oranges and the smoked salmon into thin strips and place in the salad. Sprinkle on sunflower seeds and croûtons. Dress lightly with Italian dressing. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Garlic Mustard

20 medium garlic mustard leaves + 1/4 cup of chopped leaves, 1 cup of (any type of) sausage, 1 cup of rice, 2 Tbsn. chopped garlic, 1 Tbsn. lemon juice.

Mix rice and sausage and stir well. Add chopped leaves and lemon and toss. Put a teaspoon of this mix on a medium leaf of garlic mustard. Roll & hold leaf together with a toothpick. Serve on a plate.

© The Naturarian

There is No Planet B ~ “People Start Pollution. People Can Stop It.”

Pollution Prevention: Keep America Beautiful — Iron Eyes Cody (1904- 1999)

I grew-up watching this commercial. It will always bring a tear to my eye.

In 1961, Keep America Beautiful partnered with the Ad Council to create a campaign dramatizing how litter and other forms of pollution were hurting the environment, and that every individual has the responsibility to help protect it. The goal of the campaign was to help fight the negative attitudes and behaviors that lead to pollution.

The anti-litter campaign originally featured “Suzy Spotless” scolding her litterbug father and later featured pigs rummaging through trash left behind by humans. Although mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, change was in the air with the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962.  The book represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement, selling more than 500,000 copies.

In 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson, created Earth Day. The Keep America Beautiful charity started a toll-free hotline and began offering a free brochure and more than 100,000 copies were requested within the first four months. On top of that, the National Litter Index dropped for the second straight year. However, it wasn’t until later that the Pollution Prevention campaign became embedded in American culture.

On Earth Day, 1971, a public service announcement featuring Native American actor Chief Iron Eyes Cody and the tagline line, “People Start Pollution. People can stop it.” aired for the first time. Iron Eyes Cody became synonymous with environmental concern and achieved lasting fame as, “The Crying Indian.” The PSA won two Clio awards and the campaign was named one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th Century by Ad Age Magazine. In 1982, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honored Iron Eyes Cody, whose film repertoire included three Western films with President Ronald Reagan, with a star bearing his name on the Famous Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

During the height of the campaign, Keep America Beautiful reported receiving more than 2,000 letters a month from people wanting to join their local team. By the end of the campaign, Keep America Beautiful local teams had helped to reduce litter by as much as 88% in 300 communities, 38 states, and several countries. The success of the Keep America Beautiful anti-litter campaign led to hundreds of other environmental messages through the years, from many different sources, including the Ad Council.

Please be good to your Mother Earth, not just today on Earth Day, but forever!

© The Naturarian

Shelf and Bracket Fungus

Shelf or bracket fungi tend to grow in somewhat circular shapes. They can be parasitic, saprotrophic (decomposing) or both. Many times these fungi can kill the tree they infest and then continue to live on it for years after its death. Some species have multi-colored growth rings just like the trees they eat.

A few of these are edible! Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom) is commonly cultivated for food. Polyporus squamosus, or Dryad’s Saddle is listed by many sites as an edible. Be sure you learn your Shroom ID before gnawing on one of these. I AM NOT a shroom IDer… That is why I did not caption the above photos 😉

Sadly, once a tree is infected, the fungus cannot be killed. These fungi cause either white or brown rot in the heartwood; both are structurally weakening. The brown rots are the result of a fungus not being able to break down lignin in the cell walls (Lignin is what makes cells strong). White rots attack both lignin and cellulose. Sometimes, the tree becomes hollow, yet remains stable, however decay usually leads to weakening of the trunk, eventual limb fractures or toppling. Top rots which affect upper parts of the tree are less hazardous (dropped branches) than the root or butt rots which can be quite damaging because the whole tree may fall!

Bracket fungi cause millions of dollars in damage through lost wood production in the lumber trade. The only mitigation is to harvest the tree before the rot spreads too far. Income is lost because foresters need to harvest more wood to make quotas. Removing the infected trees decreases nesting sites for birds and animals, also. The rotten wood is easier to excavate and fallen logs provide cover.

There is a good side to these fungi!

The Chinese and Japanese continue to use many types of bracket fungi as a way to prevent and treat a number of diseases, including hepatitis, hypertension, bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, rheumatism, cancer, reduce saracoma 180 (cancer in connective tissues), esophageal carcinoma (malignant tumor with epithelial cells), hyperglycemia and to treat rheumatic tuberculosis. They have also been used to relieve pain, reducing fever, indigestion and hemostasis, and reducing levels of phlegm, steroids, fatty acids, applanoxidic acid, ganoderic acid, ganoderenic acid, and furanoganoderic acid. Studies have been conducted which show the fungi has antitumor, antimicrobial, antibronchial asthma, immune-stimulating, immune-regulating, liver- protecting, anti-hypertensive, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-allergic and anti-oxidative properties. Antibacterial properties are also found in the tube layers of Artist conk (Ganoderma applanatum). It prevents tumor growth and increases white blood cell activity. Extracts from Ganoderma applanatum lower glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels significantly.

I brought up Artist Conk, want to know why it is called that? When the bottom is touched, it bruises the tender white underbelly a dark brown. Many folks have some beautiful art with Artist Conk as their medium.

Remember, mycelium, the body of the fungus, decomposes chemicals in the tree cells. White rots attack both lignin and cellulose, which are the molecules found in paper. The rotted wood is white because that is the color of the cellulose left behind. Scientists are experimenting using white rot fungi to convert wood chips to paper pulp. This process reduces energy use and pollutants. White rot fungi can also destroy toxic chemicals like PCB’s in soil. Go Go Fungi power!

Fungi are just the suckerfish of the woodlands. Someone has to do the dirty, clean-up work so the cycle of life can go on in the forest.

Here are some interesting sites I came across while researching this topic:

YES!! Fungi are great cures for many ailments.
I do investigate these ‘medical alternatives’, as a true cure may be found in them!! Burdock root (burr plants) & Turmeric (ginger) keep my skin issues in check. They are affordable, don’t destroy my system (like antibiotics) and no need to go to the doctor.

The U.S. GOV site on alternative meds

A list of every medical mushroom

A well written piece about shrooms with a bit of history

Dr. Mercola writes many articles about alternative health, good stuff)

© The Naturarian

35 Water Saving Methods in the Garden

  1. More plants die from over-watering than from under-watering. Be sure only to water plants when the ground is dry.
  2. Use sprinklers that toss big drops of water close to the ground. Smaller drops of water and mist can drift onto non-target areas or evaporate before they hit the ground.
  3. Water lawns during the early morning when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces evaporation and waste. Watering in the evening can leave leaves wet all night, promoting disease problems. Better yet. DON’T WATER THE LAWN AT ALL!!! It doesn’t die, it goes dormant.
  4. Hand-water with a hose where possible. Homeowners who water with a handheld hose can use one-third less water outdoors than those who use automatic sprinklers.
  5. Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps reduce soil compaction from raindrops and helps control weeds that compete with landscape plants for water.
  6. Purchase a rain barrel and install below your gutter downspout and you’ll capture a little more than half a gallon of water for every square foot of roof during a one-inch rainfall—that means a 90-square-foot roof would completely fill a 55-gallon barrel! You can use that bounty to water your ornamental garden. Don’t use on your veggies, too many contaminants!!
  7. Plant smart. Xeriscape landscaping is a great way to design, install and maintain both your plants and irrigation system. Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. Once established, they do not need water as frequently and usually will survive a dry period without watering. It will save time, money and water.
  8. Position sprinklers so they’re not watering driveways and walkways.
  9. Adjust your lawnmower to cut grass to a height of 3 inches or more. Taller grass encourages deeper roots and shades the soil to reduce moisture loss.
  10. Start a compost pile or scrape food into the trash instead of running your garbage disposal*, which requires a lot of water to work properly. Use the compost to improve the quality and water holding capacity of your soil. *Save yourself from having the plumber out also!!
  11. Use a timer on hose-end sprinklers to avoid over-watering. 15-20 minutes is generally enough time.
  12. When the kids want to cool off, use the sprinkler in an area where your lawn needs it the most.
  13. Only water your lawn when needed. You can tell this by simply walking across your lawn. If you leave footprints, it’s time to water.
  14. While fertilizers promote plant growth, they also increase water consumption. Apply the minimum amount of fertilizer needed.
  15. Aerate your lawn. Punch holes in your lawn about six inches apart so water will reach the roots rather than run off the surface.
  16. Never put water down the drain when there may be another use for it such as cleaning or watering a plant or garden. For example, collect the water you use for rinsing fruits and vegetables, then reuse it to water houseplants; or when cleaning out fish tanks, give the nutrient-rich water to your plants.
  17. Install sprinklers that are the most water-efficient for each use. Micro, drip irrigation and soaker hoses are examples of water-efficient methods of irrigation.
  18. Outfit your hose with a shut-off nozzle that can be adjusted so water flows only as needed. When finished, turn the water off at the faucet instead of at the nozzle to avoid leaks.
  19. Use hose washers on water hoses and attachments to eliminate leaks.
  20. Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended. Your garden hose can pour out 600 gallons of water or more in only a few hours, so don’t leave the sprinkler running all day. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn it off.
  21. Verify that your home is leak free. Homes can have hidden water leaks that may be noticeable indoors, but outside can go undetected. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.
  22. Avoid purchasing recreational water toys that require a constant stream of water.
  23. Go with splashes of color instead of mass plantings of annuals. Yes, they’re beautiful, but annuals (such as petunias and impatiens) typically require more water than most perennials.
  24. Rethink your lawn layout. If you live in a dry climate, you’ll need a lot of sprinkler activity to maintain a huge grassy swath. Consider replacing it with decorative gravel, which also reduces runoff.
  25. Collect shower/bath “warm-up” water in a bucket for use in watering plants
  26. Use water from dehumidifiers to water indoor and outdoor plants. You can also collect condensation water from air conditioning units to use for watering plants.
  27. Choose shrubs and groundcovers instead of turf for hard-to-water areas such as steep slopes and isolated strips.
  28. Plant in the fall when conditions are cooler and rainfall is more plentiful.
  29. If water runs off your lawn easily, split your watering time into shorter periods to allow for better absorption. A heavy layer of thatch can be hydrophobic, so de-thatching might help.
  30. Remember to check your sprinkler system valves periodically for leaks and keep the sprinkler heads in good shape. Check your timing devices regularly too to be sure they operate properly.
  31. Water your plants deeply but less frequently to encourage deep root growth and drought tolerance. I recommend 1′ of water per week.
  32. Learn how to shut off your automatic watering system in case it malfunctions or you get an unexpected rain.
  33. Remember to weed your lawn and garden regularly. Weeds compete with other plants for nutrients, light, and water.
  34. Wash your car and pets on the lawn, and you’ll water your lawn at the same time.
  35. Use porous materials for walkways and patios to keep water in your yard and prevent wasteful runoff.

reduce-your-use-e1518218433850.jpg

© The Naturarian