TLC's Blog (172)
I cannot recall the last time I experienced silence - the complete absence of sound.
Sure, there have been times that I would describe as “quiet,” even very quiet, but not silent. Even late at night when Harvard is asleep, I can hear the train engines idling a mile away.
The lack of silence in our lives is a health problem that also affects our mental capacity. This fact was first recognized over a century ago. Florence Nightingale, famous British nurse and activist, declared back in the 1800s that noise inflicted on patients was “cruel,” as it hindered their recoveries. Additionally, her American contemporary, writer Herman Melville wrote: “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”
“The fog comes on little cat feet” wrote Illinois poet Carl Sandburg in 1916 as he watched the fog roll in at the Lake Michigan shore in Chicago. The next line, “It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on” describes the fog as it settles in for a while before retreating again.
This is a story about the birds and the bees (and the bats and the bugs).
That’s right, it’s a story about plant pollinators. Insects like bees and butterflies, as well as animals such as birds and bats, are responsible for pollinating two-thirds of the world’s food crops.
Have you ever heard of middens? They are basically really old landfills.
The word comes from an old Scandinavian word, moedding, which means an old dump for human domestic waste.
People have always produced waste. That is why we know most of what we know about ancient cultures that did not have a written language.
I understand that it is welcome to see something green in the woods after winter, but please keep in mind that the welcome glint of green you see spells trouble for our native trees, shrubs and wildflowers.
That green you see is honeysuckle. Soon to be followed by buckthorn.
The honeysuckle was early this year. I can usually count on it starting to "leaf out" by April 12th, but first noticed it March 31 this year!
Did you see it? A beautiful sunset on your drive home at 6:30 in the evening.
I smelled it the other day. The scent of rich soil heated by the midday sun.
Surely, you heard it! Red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, even Sandhill cranes! If you listen in the evening, you might even hear some chorus frogs!
Sunday, March 19 at 11:30 pm was the Vernal Equinox in the Central Daylight Time zone. The Vernal equinox, also called the Spring or March Equinox, is the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north. (The celestial equator is an imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator.)
My friend Ken Williams, a horticulturist at Ringers Landscape Service in Fox River Grove, wrote a great blog post about TLC's 25th Anniversary Brunch last month. I think it captures the spirit of the event and the essence of TLC.
Of the January 31st event, Ken observed: "A room full of local folks who see the wounds [in the natural world] and strive to heal them. A room full of people who don’t just walk the walk, but live the life." Sounds like TLC's members to me. Keep reading for the full article. Thanks Ken!
Interesting weather this winter, wasn’t it? Last December brought tornadoes to the south and a blizzard to west Texas. Locally, we set some near-records for daily high temperatures in late December and again in January and February.
Coming on the heels of the Paris Climate Change conference – which resulted in an agreement for nearly every nation in the world to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide through energy efficiency, reforestation, transition to renewable energy sources, and many other means – my first instinct was to attribute the extreme weather to climate change.
Well, I wasn’t entirely wrong.
I remember the first time I heard a loon. My husband, Tom, and I were camping one summer in northern Wisconsin near a small lake. That first night, we heard an eerie sound that I didn’t recognize.
“What is that?” I whispered. “That’s a loon,” reassured Tom.
Loons called from the lake each evening, providing a memorable soundtrack for what was a very relaxing vacation. The calls we heard were a “wail,” which is the sound a loon makes in the evening when it is looking for its mate.
If you’ve never heard one, take a moment to find a sample “loon wail” on the Internet. The sound is like some ghostly wolf howling, but spookier. You can listen to a variety of loon calls by clicking here.
Governor Rauner officially declared October to be OAKtober this year to help raise awareness of Illinois’ oak legacy.
The white oak, Quercus alba, is the state tree because of the tree’s importance to the natural heritage and economy of Illinois. White oaks occur in every county in the state.
The wood from these tall, sturdy trees was used by early settlers for furniture, fence posts, barrels and flooring. Native Americans used white oak bark and roots to make medicines to treat a variety of ailments ranging from mouth sores to asthma.
Have you driven through Iowa? The roadsides are beautiful. Native wildflowers and grasses line the roads throughout much of the state, offering habitat for wildlife, especially birds and insects. (Iowa roadside in photo on left)
Further, Iowa state law prohibits the mowing of roadside meadows until after July 15 except under very specific circumstances. The delay in mowing allows for birds that nest in the grasses to finish raising their chicks before the mowers destroy the nests.
The highway prairie program applies to all public roads in the state, and approximately 50,000 acres of roadsides have been planted with native grasses and wildflowers. Not only does wildlife benefit, but so do the tax payers as fewer resources are spent mowing roadsides.
It is iconic. The American lawn: green, neatly cut and free of any plant but grass. No violets. No clover. Definitely no dandelions!
It ranks right up there with motherhood, baseball and apple pie as a symbol of America. Think of those lush, green golf courses in the deserts out west, or the photos of Phoenix transplants from the Midwest with lawns. The American lawn is more than a stereotype – it is an expensive addiction.
When conservation groups burn natural land, does it disturb wildlife species? Simply put, yes.
Then why do we do it, and how can we call it “ecological fire” if it may harm some species?
Historically, fire was a natural part of the ecology of the Midwest before the land was settled by European-Americans 200 or more years ago. As settlers moved into the area, they did their best to suppress wildfires. After all, fire is dangerous and destructive, especially to human settlements that might be in the path of a fast-moving inferno.
With Earth Day on April 22 and Arbor Day on the last Friday in April, this month is all about life on our home planet. (Check out those salamanders in the photo! Nothing says spring like a handful of baby salamanders!)
Earth Day was the brainchild of US Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. After seeing the destruction caused by an oil spill in California in 1969, Nelson recognized the need for a national, grassroots movement focused on the issues of air and water pollution. He built bi-partisan support for the effort, and recruited an organizer to pull Earth Day together for April 22, 1970.