Monthly Archives: March 2014

March Tweets & Pins

Here’s the monthly roundup of our favorite tweets and pins for your perusing pleasure. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Pinterest if you like what you see!

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Polluted Milan is planning to construct a vertical forest by planting 900 trees on the balconies of two towering buildings.
A new supernova was discovered, which is important because supernovas can help refine distance measurements in our big gigantic universe.
Chinese researchers discover that ball lightning has to do with dirt. UFOlogists all over the world cry.
Activism has inherent risks, the worst of which are murder.
Umbra at Grist gives some pointers for tackling home mold problems before calling in pros.
All it takes is a mutation in one gene to turn a protein into a toxic venom.
Black widows, like rattlesnakes, can decide how much venom to inject when under threat.
I’ve probably said this before, but don’t feed deer corn in the winter.
Swedish people made this. I like them.
Science is learning how to make power out of.. heartbeats.

[Naturalist Notebook] March Reads

Do any of you ever have that experience where you’re looking at your amazon.com wishlist and you’re so overwhelmed because there’s so much to READ and LEARN and DO and TRY that you have to just walk away and take a deep breath because how can you possibly accomplish it all in one measly lifetime?

No? Okay, well, it doesn’t happen to me either, I was just being hypothetical. Tooootally hypothetical.

Books are, for me, one of the greatest things mankind ever came up with, next to cars, the post office, and waffles. To be able to disseminate such vast amounts of information so easily and widely is priceless, even in the age of Google. I haven’t taken the dive into the Kindle or tablet reader yet – have you? (I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.) There is something so intimate and tactile for me about sitting down with a new tome and folding the corners of pages I want to remember. And really, it even starts before that: there are few more kid-in-a-candy-shop experiences for me than buying myself something at a bookstore and excitedly rushing it home to put it on the dresser. Or, as is more common, pouring through webpage upon webpage of books to select the exact one I want to order, and then checking the mail every day (even though I know it will take many days) until it arrives.

Books are like people I know. They have things to tell me. They stay with me. Sometimes I share them with others. Sometimes I read them so much that their pages wear and their spines wither, but they always forgive me.

Okay, I’m starting to anthropomorphize inanimate objects, so let’s get to the point of all this rambling before I float off into space. Really, I just felt like sharing a few from my library with you.

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To be fair, I’ve only read two of them. Weed ‘Em and Reap: the weed eater reader by Roger Welsch is one I bought forever ago and never got around to reading, so it’s been pulled out and placed in the “Time to Read This Now” pile.

The other two are strong favorites.

Making an Impression by Geninne Zlatkis is an instructional book about carving your own stamps and producing a wide variety of items or art pieces with them. This of course appeals to me greatly as a printmaker, but even more so because of Geninne’s deeply individual style. Her nature sketches are simple but evocative, and she encourages the reader to go on their own journey in finding a style. She gives you lots of projects and patterns to try on your own, and just looking through her photos is like perusing an art catalog. I love her work. In fact, this book has been a huge influence in my stamp-making and printing recently and whenever I’m feeling stuck in the mud creatively, I can pull this one out and refresh instantly. I don’t want to give away too many goodies, but if you’re artistically or craftily inclined, I highly recommend this book. (You can also check out what Geninne is up to at her blog) You can click on the photo to go to Amazon, where you can actually flip through some of the pages and see what I mean.


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stamps

I went on a bit of a stamp carving bender recently. Above are some test prints as I carved away, and below are some pieces I’ve made for my Etsy shop. What do you think?

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Greeting cards with a variety of natural curios.

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Mini-envelopes for seed sharing, small treasures, for hiding love notes in lunch pails and coat pockets, scrapbooking, business cards, and whatever else your imagination can come up with!

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Thanks Geninne! You have officially rocked my socks.

The other book I wanted to share with you is called Li: Dynamic Form in Nature by David Wade. Holy cow, you guys. I could not put this little gem down. It’s produced by Wooden Books, which is a UK company, and most of their books follow a similar formatting: small, simple designs, and enough info and illustrations to get you excited about the topic. Some of those topics are little known in the Western world, like the study of Li, or the Golden Mean (which will be my next Wooden Book purchase).

So what’s “Li,”  you ask? Well, let’s see if I can explain it without completely butchering it. So there was this Confucian scholar named Zhi Xi who lived in the 1100s. He brought the idea of Li from the I Ching, and taught it as being the underlying organizational principles of the universe. These principles show up in nature as patterns, mostly that we take for granted but that actually are related and have particular causes. (I hope I got that right – if any of you out there know more about this topic, please comment, I would love more information!)

I had heard about this idea briefly while watching a video on our magical universe, and then got to work looking for books about it. I either broke the internet or it’s just not a thing here, but David Wade’s book was the only book I could find solely on the idea of Li without diving too deeply into Chinese history.

I’ve snatched two sentences from the Introduction in hopes of summarizing what this book is about:

What we are dealing with here then are graphic expressions of a great range of archetypal modes of action, whose traces may be found throughout the natural world. They present, in a traditional Chinese view at least, an order that arises directly out of the nature of the Universe.

Still confused? That’s okay, here’s a picture to make it all better.

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I don’t want to give away all the goodies in this book (as Wade has both written the book and illustrated it) but hopefully this little peek will intrigue you. This chapter is on the “Rivas,” or river-like drainage systems, which, Wade writes, “are representations not of mere conduits but portray the most active part of the earth’s hydrological cycle, and as such are important energy distribution patterns.” (p. 38) So it’s not just about lines – it’s about energy, movement, and the constant not-sameness of the planet. It’s pretty amazing stuff, and if you aren’t into the ethereal part of it, that’s okay: if you’re a naturalist in any sense, you will love seeing nature’s patterns pulled out of context and how they associate with one another, or what causes them. Each image is unlabeled on its page (Wade tells you what each image is in the text), so I had a great time trying to guess what was represented in each illustration before reading the text.

This book also makes a great gift for your loved ones that enjoy art, design, mathematics, physics, printmaking, geology, etc. The list could go on. I love this book, have I mentioned that already?

I’ll get back to you on the Weed ‘Em and Reap book, but in the meantime I hope you’ve enjoyed these two. Do any of you out there have either? I’d be interested to know if you’ve ever heard of the Chinese concept of Li, too. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day! :)

Vintage Nature Illustration Wednesday – Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes)

Nepenthes (Pitcher Plants) by Ernst Haeckel in Kunstformen der Natur.

Nepenthes (Pitcher Plants) by Ernst Haeckel in Kunstformen der Natur.

Baby Birds 101 – To Rescue or Not to Rescue?

Working as a naturalist, I’ve received tons of calls about injured animals and thought I’d share some of my knowledge with you about handling situations with baby birds, since it’s the most common one.

Baby finch. Author photo.

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Roaming to the National Museum of Natural History

roam: verb - To move about without purpose or plan; to wander.

I am spoiled rotten to live so close to the Smithsonian Institution. If you’re not familiar, the Smithsonian is a group of museums, galleries, and a zoo that are located in Washington DC. I will admit with great shame that I have only visited a couple of the many locations, but the trouble is they’re so amazing that I end up returning to the same one(s) over and over.

I recently took my niece to the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), since at the end of April the Fossil Hall dinosaur exhibit will be closing for renovations – FOR FIVE YEARS. As any good auntie should be, I was panicked and made sure, come hell or more winter weather, that I’d get her there.

Now of course, being a standard 4 year old, she was only mildly interested in the bones, particularly after  overhearing someone say the phrase, “dinosaur gummies,” in reference to candy available at the gift shop. These were essentially the only dinosaurs she was thereafter interested in, but I persevered.

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“RAAAR” is dinosaur for “I love you.”

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Random Acts of Interpretation

When I lived in Portland, Oregon, I took the bus everywhere. Sometimes it meant standing in the rain or being crushed against a damp herd of strangers, but it also often meant walking through beautiful neighborhoods and getting to see things blossom in the springtime.

On one such jaunt, I happened to be walking through a small park; really, more of a median to get from one side of a main road to the other. I almost missed it, but noticed this sign taped to a tree:

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So I did.

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I wish I had better photos, but I only had my cell phone with me that day. I was so excited that I told everyone I knew about this magical mushroom and the sweet, amazing person that told me about it via hand-written note. I wondered how many people had noticed that day, or, perhaps equally as curious, how many hadn’t. I wondered if the anonymous nature-lover had posted more signs around the city, or if this was a regular gig whereby said interpreter sought out secret goodies to expose via note. It was so exciting (and I don’t give one shit how dorky that is) that I wanted to run around the city myself and recreate the experience for others.

What would the world look like if we took the time to point out things of beauty and curiosity to strangers? I love this random act of interpretation.

Have you ever seen anything like this before? If so, please tell us in the comments! :) Thanks for reading!

Vintage Nature Illustration Wednesday – Woodland

David Goddard, 1978

David Goddard, 1978