Skunk Cabbage Meadow

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When the skunk cabbage pushes up through the melting snow, it’s a curious-looking plant, even a little sinister in my view.

skunk cabbage in snow

The new plants remind me of Little Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. I almost expect them to start talking. “Feed me, Seymour!”

Skunk cabbage does have an odor, and most animals won’t eat it.  The exception is bears, who will eat the “spathes,” the emerging blossom pictured above.  The smell of the skunk cabbage attracts pollinators who like the odor of rotting meat.

Skunk cabbage has the ability to produce heat, sometimes up to 70′ F, which explains how it is one of the first plants to push up through the snow.  Skunk cabbage flowers before it produces leaves.  A single plants can live for 20 years.

Native Americans used skunk cabbage to treat coughs and headaches.  It is actually available as an extract online!

skunk cabbage extract

Check out this site below for more information.

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Plants-and-Fungi/Skunk-Cabbage

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Thanks!

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What I’m Reading

The Gift of Sarah Barker

by Jane Yolen

Viking Press, 1981.

sarah barker

The Gift of Sarah Barker is one of Jane Yolen’s earlier books.  The young adult novel explores the growing romance of Sarah and Abel, who live in a Shaker community.  The novel kept me reading, carried along in part by my curiosity about how the Shakers lived. It must have been a challenging situation, especially for teens, to be so disciplined.  The men and boys, and the women and girls, worked near each other every day, but strict rules guided how they interacted.

Yolen’s description of daily life in this religious community pushed me to do a little research after I finished the book.

The Shaker’s main tenets are Celibacy, Community, and Confession of sin.  The Mother Ann Lee, the founder, arrived in America in 1774 with eight followers.  At its peak, the Shaker community numbered 4000 to 5000 Believers. “Hands to work, hearts to God” are the words they lived by.

Today the last active Shaker community is found in Maine, at Sabbathday Lake.  The website below provides comprehensive information about the Shaker sect.

https://hancockshakervillage.org/shakers/shaker-religion/

The Hudson Children’s Book Festival

HCBF 2019

I spent a couple of happy hours wandering around this fabulous event at the  Hudson middle school.  In the gym were various organizations with tables of information and books.  Free books were displayed on tables in the middle of the room.

Pat and I gave a pass to the cafeteria full of loud music and children blowing off steam.

The authors’ area was packed.  Writers came from as far away as California and Tennessee.  I was thrilled to meet two of my favorites: Jack Gantos of Dead End in Norvelt and the legendary Jane Yolen–Owl Moon.  Coincidentally, I was reading one of her earlier books that weekend.  She kindly gave me some tips about how to move forward.

On the way home, we paused at a truck stop to get gas.  I also needed a phone charger for the car.  Two Pakistani guys owned the place.  The first cable I found was three feet long and $15.99.

“Don’t you have anything cheaper?” I asked.

The taller man went to a carousel and found a better choice for $9.99.  Then the short guy came up with one for $7.99.  What kindness and lack of greed!

In the bathroom, I appreciated this sign:

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It was a great day for book fun and information.

https://hudsonchildrensbookfestival.com/

 

Awakening Magic is in print!

Awakening Magic cover2

Prince Emric does not wish to inherit the throne.  He yearns to make music and explore the world.  Soon he escapes to a life on the road with the Travelers.

When the kingdom is in crisis, and on the verge of war, only Emric can unlock the deep earth magic to reunite them all.

As I may have mentioned, Awakening Magic is my favorite of the Karakesh Chronicles.  Why do I like it best?  Maybe it’s the music that flows throughout the story.  Certainly its partly the surprises I got while I was writing it.  I still ask myself, “Did I really think of that?”

I don’t remember how the twists in plot appeared.  For me, the writer, that is the excitement of making a story.  The characters go off in a different direction. The plot tangles and winds into complicated knots that somehow weave together at the end.

Please like this page, leave a comment, and read Awakening Magic.

Available at:

https://www.amazon.com/Awakening-Magic-Karakesh-Chronicles-Ellis/dp/1947854356/ref=sr_1_3?

www.handersenpublishing.com

 

Ducks!

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We have been watching this mallard pair for a while.  No babies yet, so I’m wondering if it’s still early for nesting.  Anybody know?

Mallards are native to the Northeast U.S.  They are “dabbling ducks” and happy to reside in any wetland habitat.  They eat a variety of food including seeds, aquatic vegetation and small creatures like earthworms and snails.

The female lays 1 to 13 eggs that incubate for 23 to 30 days.  The ducklings are ready to leave the nest after only 13 to 16 hours.

As I’m a teacher, I dredged up my preschool songs about ducks.  Here’s one:

Little Ducky Duddle, sitting in a puddle, sitting in a puddle so small.

It doesn’t really matter how much I splash and splatter,

I’m only a ducky after all–quack, quack!

This is how my mind works.

Please like and/or comment on this blog. Thank you!

 

Wild Things Below the Balcony

This morning we witnessed a creature drama in the brook below our balcony.  We’ve seen birds, squirrels, and ducks, but these two were a big surprise.

muskrat

At first we thought it was a beaver, but it didn’t have a beaver’s tail.  Muskrat!  Was Ratty in Wind in the Willows a muskrat? We watched it swim upstream and climb out of the water.

Along came a huge snapping turtle.  The shell was almost two feet long.  Her appearance sent that muskrat diving for cover–twice!  She continued to mosey downstream.  Do snapping turtles eat rodents?

snapper

This was a lot of excitement for apartment-dwellers.  I feel fortunate that the Seakill company who built this complex didn’t disturb the waterway.

What will we see next?

Reading like an Author

woman reading beside red painted wall

Anything written by Barbara Kingsolver is bound to be good.  I got my hands on Unsheltered (2018) because it was waiting to be reshelved on the library cart. Glory! What serendipity!

I used to read fiction just for the story.  Now that I’ve got two middle grade novels in print, and one more in the wings, I read differently.

Take, for example, the way writers include exposition.  I recently finished two novels in which the information was provided so awkwardly that it was irritating.  One book about the Reconstruction era became more of a history text toward the end.  The other novel had some character carrying on with facts to the point of boredom.

Kingsolver, of course, does exposition beautifully.  I’m only in the beginning third of the novel, but I’m so impressed.  The protagonist, Willa, has a conversation with the curator of the town’s archives that gives us the history of Vineland, New Jersey.  There’s humor and voice, and the personalities of both speakers are revealed.

While reading Unsheltered, I get the impression that the author crafted and revised each sentence meticulously.

Another feat of expertise is Kingsolver’s inclusion of historic characters.  On a whim, I googled Mary Treat, the biologist in the story.  Surprise!  Mary Treat was a real person, one of the first published female scientists, who corresponded with Charles Darwin, among other illustrious biologists and thinkers.  I love that our first encounter with this historic personage is seeing her flat out on the ground, apparently observing some creature of interest.

In this book, the plot moves from present day to Mary Treat’s era, and keeps the reader involved in both parallel stories.  I already adore Mary Treat, and the character of Willa has my heartfelt compassion.

How does Kingsolver do this?  There’s much to learn from such an accomplished writer.