Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturdays in the Garden | There's No Place Like Home

Happy Fall Equinox!  It was on the 23rd and today is putting on an exemplary show of what an early fall day should be like.  I do love autumn only a smidge less than spring and I wish I had done something special to mark the day and welcome the season.  A feeble pretense of paganism perhaps but I do feel like there is something peaceful about being in tune with a calendar based on nature's cycles.  Did you do anything to celebrate the coming of Autumn?
September 26, 2015

So. Dung Beetles. I ran into a colony of them out in Western Iowa on a prairie grazed by bison and it was one of the cooler things I found in the last two weeks.  The beetles feed mostly on the feces of herbivores and form it into balls which they then roll to a hidden place where they can munch in peace or can bury it and lay their eggs in it.  They have become somewhat scarce in some parts of the U.S. because of all the chemicals and drugs we inject in our cattle etc... which ends up making their poo toxic to the beetles.  The Nature Conservancy which runs the preserve I was working on says that they purposefully chose  milder inoculations for the bison etc... so it's not as hard on the beetles.  Looks like it is working:)! The beetles are so fascinating to watch.  I ran into one beetle working hard to move a dung ball down the trail and then ran into the rest of the colony on a big tasty pile of feces a few feet further on. 

Another marvel of nature that I find both fascinating and deeply annoying are the vast arrays of hitch-hiker seeds that plants produce.  What an ingenious adaptation to ensure seed dispersal - produce a seed designed to catch in any passing mammal's fur.  Brilliant!  The annoying part?  I think golden retrievers may be these hitch-hiker seed producing plant's most treasured dream.  My dogs have spent the last 5 weeks coated in all manner of these seeds - literally thousands of them per dog.  I should have taken a picture of them with their faces covered in seeds.  I am glad to be home again where there are none of these plants....until next year.  And all the plants yell...Mission Accomplished!

A few more pics from the last two weeks:
A wolf tree.  Wolf trees are old trees (like this venerable oak) that stand alone in a pasture/prairie and without competition from other trees, let their branches really spread out. They are particularly attractive to wildlife and people alike. Doesn't it make you just want to sit under the branches in the shade and read a good book?
Asters are the bomb

The most salient point of my life right now is a deep happiness at being home.  Dorothy weren't lyin', y'all!  I am feeling a serious longing to clean and then snuggle into my nest until spring but that would make me an agoraphobe so I will resist.


I mainlined the first 5 episodes of Longmire, season 4 last night and it's been good but I'm not sure if my expectations were too high because it's been a little disappointing in a few respects.  I will likely do a review post someday once I've had some time to digest the whole season.

I am a huge fan of podcasts and have several I listen to religiously but I am also always on the lookout for new and exciting programs because my attention span is perhaps not what it should be. One of my favorite shows that I have recently discovered is We Have Concerns.  The two hosts, Jeff Cannata and Anthony Carboni crashed another podcast I listen to, Sword and Laser (about Fantasy and Sci-fi Literature), and it made me want to check their show out. It's basically these two talking about an unusual, somewhat geekily interesting topic for 20 minutes at a time.  I really like the mixture of humor and thoughtful discussion.  It can get a little bro-mancey/dudely at times but besides an occasional bout of eye rolling, it doesn't bother me too much though your mileage may vary.   I started at the beginning and my favorite episode so far has been number 9, Jolt of Personality, that examines brain function and how you can change it with a jolt of electricity and what implications that could have.

I'm not sure really how I feel about book festivals - I am both attracted to and repelled by them -but I just learned about one upcoming in Iowa City, IA that looks pretty darn cool.  I will not be able to make it to the festival and I am a little sad about that.  They are having several authors speak/read that I would be interested in, particularly John Scalzi and Rebecca Makkai and I was really impressed with how diverse the lineup is.  University of Iowa is well known for it's Writer's Workshop and they apparently also have an International Writers Workshop that brings writers from all over the world to the University.  It is also diverse as far as genre.  I already mentioned Scalzi who is primarily Science Fiction but they are also presenting an award to famous mystery writer Sara Paretsky, there's a couple of non-fiction social justice speakers and some literary fiction represented.  Anyway, I am just putting it out there for Upper Mid-westerners who might be interested: Iowa City Book Festival, October 1-4.

Finished Last Week:

  • Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family by Anne-Marie Slaughter:  This is a non-fiction ARC addressing work-life balance and feminism.  
  • This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart:   I had only ever read Stewart's Arthurian novels.  This is romantic suspense and I have gobbled it up.  
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling:  Re-read:)
  • Grace Under Fire by Julie Hyzy:  A cozy mystery that takes place in a Biltmore like tourist destination.  I found it to be rather uninspired and had me thinking about what it is I am really looking for in a cozy. 

Currently Reading:

  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe: So maybe some day I'll pick this up again?  Until then it will sit here on the currently read and look encouraging.
  • The Founding (The Morland Dynasty #1) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: This is the first book in a series that follows a single British family through numerous generations into modern times.  This first book takes place in the early 15th century.  This is such a fascinating idea and I have high hopes but I have to say the characters in this first book are shallow and are doing nothing for me.
  • Of Noble Birth by Brenda Novak:  Despite the presence of pirates it is not making me happy mostly because of deficient humor and boring main characters. 
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey: Space Opera!
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik: I think this book may be suffering under the influence of too much hype.  I like it thus far (about 1/4 in I'd guess) but I don't feel gushy about it and am definitely not craving it.


Blimey, my last post was almost two weeks ago!  The last two weeks of my field work sapped a lot of my energy and I didn't have a lot of opportunity for internetting.  So, Hello there Blog!  I will henceforth try to give you a bit more attention!



Obviously I'd like to get back on a more regular posting schedule but I have also been having a big think about my approach to the blog which is pretty haphazard and slapdash.  I'd like to be a little more thoughtful about my posts but that may take some time to get into.  Anyway, the only thing I know I will post on this week is Unfinished Business....
TUESDAY: Review of Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family by Anne-Marie Slaughter.  I highly recommend this non-fiction book to anyone interested in feminism, work-life balance and/or current work culture in the U.S.

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