Category Archives: PSA

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day when bloggers are writing about one important issue – the environment. All our blogs have different agendas and readerships, but the idea is to write a post which pertains to some environmental issue. To learn more or read other Blog Action Day posts, just click on the image to the left. Some friends from the blogroll who are also participating include Pure Florida, Hawk Owl’s Nest, and Dharma Bums.

Seeing as I’m not much in the mood for preaching at you about something you hopefully already feel is important, I thought I would instead reminisce a bit about one of the ways that, as a kid, I was introduced to the great outdoors. I grew up in the 70’s and most years we took family vacations that revolved around the water – either the ocean or a lake up north, often in Maine or upstate New York. There were no fancy hotels that I remember, just a cabin in the woods or, most often, our pop-up camper. Just looking at these pics brings back happy memories. I loved that camper! The drive to wherever we were going seemed to last forever, as did the anticipation for the trip. The morning of leaving, my dad always seemed to leave all the details of getting the camper ready to the very last minute – hitching that thing up to his beautiful shiny Cadillac was quite a feat and never seemed to go right. He was always very grumpy starting out on vacation.

I don’t remember very many specific details about any of these trips – only the feel of the sun, the sand that was always in my kid-sized bed in the camper, the year we drove to Florida in the rain with the leaky window in the Cadillac and those huge bugs! My mom loved to sunbathe and spent days by the water slathered in oil, while dad with his freckled-skin had to be careful. I tagged along with my big brothers, building sandcastles or tooling around in this big orange boat. Fun times!

When I was older I went camping with the girl scouts or later with friends. I haven’t been camping in years, but have all the gear in the attic, purchased years ago in hopes of getting the DH to give it a try. I love camping and think it’s a great way to spend time together as a family and enjoy the outdoors. There’s something about sleeping outdoors with all the sounds and smells of nature that is a great learning tool, I think, in that it replaces fear for the outdoors with comfort and curiosity. A good thing for kids today who spend so much time indoors or glued to some electronic gadget. Leave all the stuff behind and sit around a campfire and tell stories instead!

The NWF sponsors the Great American Backyard Campout each year in June. Pitch a tent or set up that old pop-up in your driveway and get a kid playing outside for a change.

Decoy show reminder

I’m posting this as much as a reminder for myself as for anyone else who might be in the area and interested in attending. I remember last year that Patrick had expressed an interest, so Patrick, mark your calendar now!

I had myself convinced that the show was next weekend… sigh. I’m just foolish enough to show up on the wrong weekend!

We’ll be bringing the pup along and I may just decide to enter him in the puppy retriever contest for fun. I’ve been saving up my pennies for a while now to be able to buy a new decoy or two.

Hope to see you there! I may even have a prize to offer the first person who can correctly ID the ducks and the NJ landmark featured on this year’s official show poster.

Click on the pic for a schedule of the weekend’s events.

Some pics from last year’s show are here, here, and here.

Summer shade

If you need a break from puppy antics, be sure to stop by Via Negativa for this month’s Festival of the Trees. There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot August afternoon than the respite found under the canopy of a great tree, like the shade of these weeping hemlocks in the rockery at Deep Cut Gardens.

Dave’s got lovely katydid pics to accompany his post and I can hear their scritching outside the open window now; a sort of late summer lullaby. If only that cricket hidden away somewhere in the house wouldn’t insist on piping up now and again.

A Cape May tease

In case you’ve missed mention of it elsewhere or, for those of you in the know who need something to focus your anticipation with (Lynne!) I’ll pass along a link to the Cape May Bird Observatory’s newest website called – lots of neat features there and just the thing when a cool Fall weekend seems years away.

A few of us girls: Susan, Mary, Lynne, Naturewoman and me are planning to meet at this year’s Bird Show in Cape May 10/26-10/28. Maybe you’d like to join our merry gang for a day or an hour or two? The bigger the flock the merrier, right?

Kind of strange, but I came across this pic of me, back when I had short hair – at least I think it’s me – on a website while I was searching around for some info on Cape May. I’ve been going down for years, but don’t remember when this was. I remember that purple coat, though. The guy standing behind me must be the hawk counter; he looks very serious about it, doesn’t he?

Anyway girls, we need to get some plans together! The Fall will be here before we know it. Be in touch, okay?

U-pick (Your choice)

For the last month or so I’ve been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life about her family’s attempts at changing their food habits in such a way as to buy only locally grown food, grow the food themselves, or learn to do without. I’m only just half way through the book so I don’t know how their experiment with eating locally turns out, but already I find myself becoming more aware of the food choices I make. I haven’t made any changes in my food-buying routine yet, but this book has me thinking.

I’m mentioning this today because I had one of those oddball experiences that make you stop and scratch your head at how illogical things can be. I stopped during my lunch hour at a hugely popular orchard/garden center/gourmet food place with the idea of buying some loose strawberries. I like to buy them that way because I prefer the smaller local berries over the humungous, but tasteless, prepackaged berries that come from California. Parking my car I noticed a sign for u-pick raspberries at the back of the lot and was excited at the prospect of fresh raspberries instead of the half moldy ones that come from California. Of course I didn’t have time on my lunch hour for picking raspberries, but assumed there’d be pints of berries available for purchase inside the market. You know what they say about assuming, don’t you? All I found for sale were the prepackaged raspberries from California, despite the acre or two or fresh and locally grown berries in the back lot! Did I buy them? No, of course not. On my way home, I stopped at the farm stand around the corner and bought raspberries from the farmer who is my neighbor. The farmer whose berry fields had woodcock this spring and who waves at me from his red tractor when he has to drive it through the neighborhood, past the Hummers and McMansions that are the norm here anymore. In addition to the gourmet fare this area seems to demand that he provide, he also makes an effort to support other local farmers and artisans; he sells fresh mozzarella and bread that’s handmade locally and colorful heirloom tomatoes that you’ll never see in any supermarket. Plus, he grows his own sweet corn, not here in our backyard, but a few miles away where the McMansions haven’t yet encroached on the space necessary to grow a field of corn.

Eating locally is all the rage right now and it seems almost possible for someone like me who loves fruit and vegetables and could easily go a month or more without eating meat. This is the season of bounty here in the Garden State and there’s lots of fresh produce. If I had to rely on my own vegetable garden I’d quickly starve, so I’m glad for the local farmers who grow berries and apples, or broccoli and collard greens, and then let me walk their fields and pick my own bounty from their labor. It feels good to me to do this. It’s a small thing really, but if we value the land and the farms that feed us, I think it’s worth the challenge to find and purchase locally grown food.

I came across this list of ten reasons to eat local (from Eat Local Challenge – an excellent blog:

Eating local means more for the local economy. According to a study by the New Economics Foundation in London, a dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy. When businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community at every transaction. (reference)

Locally grown produce is fresher. While produce that is purchased in the supermarket or a big-box store has been in transit or cold-stored for days or weeks, produce that you purchase at your local farmer’s market has often been picked within 24 hours of your purchase. This freshness not only affects the taste of your food, but the nutritional value which declines with time.

Local food just plain tastes better. Ever tried a tomato that was picked within 24 hours? ‘Nuff said.

Locally grown fruits and vegetables have longer to ripen. Because the produce will be handled less, locally grown fruit does not have to be “rugged” or to stand up to the rigors of shipping. This means that you are going to be getting peaches so ripe that they fall apart as you eat them, figs that would have been smashed to bits if they were sold using traditional methods, and melons that were allowed to ripen until the last possible minute on the vine.

Eating local is better for air quality and pollution than eating organic. In a March 2005 study by the journal Food Policy, it was found that the miles that organic food often travels to our plate creates environmental damage that outweighs the benefit of buying organic. (reference)

Buying local food keeps us in touch with the seasons. By eating with the seasons, we are eating foods when they are at their peak taste, are the most abundant, and the least expensive.

Buying locally grown food is fodder for a wonderful story. Whether it’s the farmer who brings local apples to market or the baker who makes local bread, knowing part of the story about your food is such a powerful part of enjoying a meal.

Eating local protects us from bio-terrorism. Food with less distance to travel from farm to plate has less susceptibility to harmful contamination. (reference)

Local food translates to more variety. When a farmer is producing food that will not travel a long distance, will have a shorter shelf life, and does not have a high-yield demand, the farmer is free to try small crops of various fruits and vegetables that would probably never make it to a large supermarket. Supermarkets are interested in selling “Name brand” fruit: Romaine Lettuce, Red Delicious Apples, Russet Potatoes. Local producers often play with their crops from year to year, trying out Little Gem Lettuce, Senshu Apples, and Chieftain Potatoes.

Supporting local providers supports responsible land development. When you buy local, you give those with local open space – farms and pastures – an economic reason to stay open and undeveloped.

All good reasons to stand behind and buy from the local farmer. Plus, the berries are delicious!

Beach birds

My little blue Honda was sort of waving at me from the office parking lot on Friday. Does that ever happen to you? It was waving and winking and whispering about how nice a few hours at the beach would be. So we took off together and went to Sandy Hook to see the Osprey and the Piping Plovers, both just back in the last week or so from parts south.

Late winter/early spring birdwatching is as good an excuse as any to get out of a stuffy and overheated office. Most places hold at least a few newly arrived birds. The beach was deserted and I felt the pleasure of finding this little Piping Plover and having it all to myself. The dreary weather may have kept other less desperate birders inside, but the fog and the crash of the waves only seemed to amplify the pleasant effect of hearing the plover’s repeated “Peep-lo” calls to one another across the beach. I was almost giddy with hearing it.

Piping Plovers are as special as they are hard to spot. NJ has on average just 120 nesting pairs. I can just imagine how confused and alarmed they must be when the deserted beaches they arrive on in March are increasingly populated with people as the weather warms and the nesting season progresses. They face predation from beachgoers and their pets, and from red foxes, racoons, and laughing gulls.

Symbolic string fences go up in early March to protect the high dunes where they nest from foot traffic by beachgoers. Volunteers monitor and protect the sites and educate the public about why the areas are closed. Cages or exclosures are placed around the nests once they’re dug to keep out foxes and large birds. These things help, I’m sure, but still the population continues to dwindle. There doesn’t seem to be enough being done, and the national park service doesn’t seem to have a realistic plan in place to protect these birds. Imagine these little ones having to find their way to the water past your beach blanket.

I’ve read recently of a new management plan in the works for Sandy Hook, the goal of which would be to achieve an average population of 51 to 61 pairs of Piping Plovers with a reproduction rate of at least 1.5 chicks per pair for five years. I’m anxious to see what is done to achieve that goal.

I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent here, but these little birds are close to my heart. I think they deserve much better than the *symbolic* protection we’re affording them: a bit of string, a few educational signs that most ignore, and a heap of garbage just beyond their property line. Maybe if more people had a rainy March day brightened by the plaintive calls of this bird, that, as Peterson says is, “as pallid as a beach flea or sand crab, the color of dry sand.” Maybe that’s their problem; they’re just not showy enough to merit our attention or our protection.

Upcoming bird-related stuff

A late reminder that the now biweekly *Good Planets* will be hosted this Saturday by Bev at Burning Silo. Hopefully it isn’t too late to submit a photo for this weekend’s edition. The theme this month is *home* – whatever that may mean to you. More specific info is available in Bev’s post on the subject. I would love to find a bird’s nest to photograph for inclusion, but this lonely bluebird box was all I found when I went out looking for nests and woodcock late last Saturday afternoon.

Our friend Jayne at Journey Through Grace is hosting the upcoming edition of I and the Bird on 3/22 so send a link to your best bird-related post to her at blessingsabound AT mac DOT com by 3/20. Lots of us have been blogging about birds lately, so it would be wonderful to see your serious or comical (Mary!) bird blogs read by a wider audience.

The weather here in NJ has been temperamental (like most of us come March), but I’ve been pleased to note the arrival of a small flock of bluebirds at Allaire State Park and Red-wing blackbirds in the wet fields by my office. I’ve also spotted a killdeer or two, so Spring is marching northward. The Osprey should appear at Sandy Hook within the next two weeks and I’m trying to decide on a day to take off from work to greet them on their return. The Sandy Hook Migration Watch starts a week from today – if you’re in the area why not stop by and check it out!

Is beauty enough?

“Where nature is concerned, familiarity breeds love and knowledge, not contempt.”
–Stewart L. Udall

I don’t know that this quote holds true for mute swans, but I do believe it to be true for most other things in the natural world. I think we’re more inclined to curiosity once some love and knowledge is gained, don’t you?

For all their beauty, mute swans are maligned by many for their aggressiveness. In many places their numbers have increased such that they are edging out native waterfowl and destroying aquatic vegetation. They are known to drive away least terns, skimmers, and native swans like the tundra from roosting and feeding areas.

The more you know about these elegant birds, the harder it is to look upon them as anything but pests. Like many other introduced or invasive species, the mute swan thrives, perhaps because of its great beauty, despite our knowing it so well.

Hug a bee (or a moth, or an ant or…)

Pollinators are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem and play a significant role in the production of more than 150 food crops in the US. Wild and domestic bees do the majority of the work to provide us with apples and almonds and cranberries, but other invertebrates like butterflies, beetles, and flies, as well as vertebrates like birds and bats also play a role. In addition to increasing the productivity of food crops, pollinators are also responsible for the survival and reproduction of many native plant species.

It’s easy to appreciate the beauty of flowers, but I’m fascinated to consider the myriad ways that flowers and pollinators have evolved together to ensure that plants produce offspring. The challenge to plants being that they’re stationary and can’t wander off to a singles bar on Friday night to be fertilized. Instead, they entice pollinators to come to them with scent and shape and color.

Populations of native pollinators are declining for the same reasons we know to affect other wildlife: habitat loss, pesticide use, pollution, poor agricultural practices, introduced species, etc – we’re all familiar with that list. It’s important to make people aware of the problem and the ways that they might help to mitigate the damage we do. I’d imagine that most flower and vegetable gardeners have some experience with pollinators, both positive and negative. It’s the people who have never grown a tomato or who are convinced that *nature* is out to get them that could benefit the most, in my opinion, from a basic understanding of plant biology and how it affects the food on our table and the landscape outside our front door.

The image above is the new *Pollination* stamp series from the US Postal Service due out in June of this year. “The intricate design of these beautiful stamps emphasizes the ecological relationship between pollinators and plants and suggests the biodiversity necessary to ensure the viability of that relationship.” A sure way to dress up the monthly bills.