Archive: Posts about Flora and Fauna
November 5th, 2012, 3 Comments »
Over lunch, I glanced out the window into our back garden. The sky was full of starlings. I grabbed my phone and stepped outside. When I looked up, I was reminded of those shots of an endless stream of bombers crossing the English Channel on D-Day. The sky was busy with birds.
This was the first time I’d ever seen a murmuration of starlings in real life. They were a great amoebic mass, and seemed to behave almost exactly like a school of fish. Nature copies itself all the time.
I’m afraid the combination of an iPhone camera and many small black dots against a partially-cloudy sky isn’t exactly a recipe for brilliant web video. But here’s what I put together. And yes, I did get pooped on. Just my foot, mind you, but it counts.
Murmuration of Starlings over Argeliers, France from Darren Barefoot.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t cite the most Internet-famous (and much better looking) video of starlings, uh, murmurating.
3 Comments »
October 28th, 2010, 6 Comments »
Last December, while visiting our property on Pender Island, we discovered the body of a recently-deceased fawn. It was on the road leading into our property, so I dragged it aside.
Yesterday, Julie visited our property to check on a couple of things, and she found that the deer’s bones had been scattered far and wide. She kindly brought the deer’s skull home for me.
With the exception of some gungy teeth, it’s picked clean. It’s also rather delicate–the bone is very thin. Do you think I should wash it? Drench it in vinegar? Or should I just forgo my dumb, urbanite anxieties about deer plague?
6 Comments »
August 27th, 2010, 4 Comments »
This is either funny, banal or rude. Or all three.
I was reading this Slate article, discussing whether or not children were entering puberty earlier than they used to, when I encountered this paragraph:
With no objective blood test or scan, most experts consider breast budding and testicular growth the hallmarks of puberty’s beginning. Unfortunately, those measures are very subjectiveÃ¢â‚¬â€particularly for male children. Pediatricians guess the size of a boy’s testicles by touch and comparison to a rosary-like string of balls called an orchidometer, which is not very accurate.
How about that–not only does this sound like a medical device for measuring flowers, but it also looks like a rosary. To Google Image Search! You can tell me why there’s a hockey team listed among all those rosaries. Here’s what a set looks like:
I searched Flickr for pictures as well. All I found was this photo of sheepish Danish veterinarian, wearing a faux elephant orchidometer.
Wikipedia indicates that it was invented by an Austrian doctor in the 60′s, and “doctors sometimes informally refer to them as ‘Prader’s balls’ (after the inventor), ‘the medical worry beads’, or the ‘endocrine rosary.’”
I was curious about the origin of the term ‘orchidometer’. According to a couple of dictionaries, orchid comes from the Latin orchis, which refers to a, uh, tuberous root. That term in turn derives from the Greek orkhis, which literally means testicle.
And now your Friday is complete. If I’d known about the orchidometer a few years ago, when I was writing a play about balls, I might have included it.
4 Comments »
June 23rd, 2010, 2 Comments »
Last weekend I was on an island in the Howe Sound, and discovered this massive stump and root system washed up on a rocky beach. In all cases, click the photos to see a larger version.
I figure the thing was about forty feet across, and the tree itself might have been three or four feet across at its above ground base. I’ve seen bigger ones on fallen trees in the forest, but you rarely see the whole base of the tree exposed.
It’s a little hard to see, thanks to my lousy iPhone photos, but the stump carved a path through the rocks on the beach when it came aground.
The underside was covered in thousands of mussel shells. They rattled like wind charms in the breeze.
There’s actually a fair bit of plant life on the tree’s underside.
I was intrigued to discover a rusty hook in one of the roots. Was this installed to enable someone to tow the huge chunk of wood somewhere? Because it was upside down, it was difficult to tell whether the tree had been cut down–the likelier option–or had fallen over of some more natural cause.
2 Comments »
January 22nd, 2010, 10 Comments »
I’ve written before about our apartment composter. I wish my family had one when I was young, because watching the accelerated process of decay would have delighted the eight-year-old Darren. I’m still a little amazed that I can dump, say, some old lettuce into the thing and, 24 hours later, it’s magically turned into dirt.
The device hasn’t worked perfectly. The first one pretty much gave up the ghost after a year–the motor appeared to have rusted out. After some hemming and hawing, the manufacturer sent us a replacement, though, and that one’s been working like a charm for six months or so.
I have learned a few things about optimized composting, though:
- The composter is sensitive to humidity. It rains in Vancouver nearly twice as much as it does in Victoria. We keep our composter on our deck, though out of the rain. Still, the additional humidity means the composting material can get too wet. When this happens, we just chuck in a cup or two of sawdust. Top tip: get free sawdust at Home Depot.
- Compost can get smelly. This is only a problem when you open the bin to add material, and it doesn’t matter since it’s on the deck. If you’re keeping your composter inside, you can add some baking soda to reduce the odor. Besides, I kind of like this smell. It’s very loamy.
- It helps to poke at the dirt every few days with a spade. That way it doesn’t stick the walls of the bin, or gunge up the churning arm.
- To my dismay (per Lauren’s comment in this earlier post), the composter won’t break down so-called compostable containers made of corn resin.
- In Victoria, we didn’t have a garden, so I would, oddly, illegally dump the compost in a local park or something. In Vancouver, we’re hopefully going to have one of the community garden plots associated with our building. In the meantime, on moonless nights, I’ve been stealthily dumping dirt into a couple of the garden plots.
10 Comments »
November 3rd, 2009, 12 Comments »
Yesterday on Springwise I read about The Living Christmas Company, which delivers living, potted Christmas trees to your home in southern California. They pick them up after the holidays, and replant them. In fact, a family can get the same tree year after year.
I tweeted about this clever idea, and the Twitter account Climate Smart pointed me to Carbonsync (yes, I am troubled by the inconsistent capitalization of their name on their site–let’s move on). They’re offering a similar delivery and pickup service to your home in and around Vancouver.
The Living Christmas Company doesn’t indicate pricing on their site (or, at least, I couldn’t find prices). Carbonsync offers their rental tree program for the princely sum of $125.99. It’s been a very long time since I bought a Christmas tree, but that seems pretty rich. How much does your average Christmas tree cost? $25? $40? Maybe $60 for a really fancy tree?
I’m usually happy to pay a green tax, but 100% feels a bit steep. If we assume that delivery and pickup cost $40 or $50, then I guess that’s in the ballpark. Still, that price point feels a little steep, doesn’t it?
Happily, we’re not really a tree-buying household, so I’ll remain $125.99 richer.
12 Comments »
October 21st, 2009, 1 Comment »
For no reason in particular, lately I’ve been mentioning lost animal posters. The other day I saw a poster for a lost chinchilla named Finn. Is the name important? Do chinchillas come when they’re called?
In any case, I’d assumed that poor Finn was probably caught and consumed by a dog, coyote or particularly large cat. However, it turns out that he survived:
I appreciate that the owner went around and actually marked up all the posters with the good news. I always wonder what the success rate is on lost pets. It’s a little weird that the owner wrote the follow-up note in the first person, isn’t it? But, then, I gather chinchillas are excellent jumpers.
By the way, this is the best photo I’ve seen in Wikipedia for a while.
1 Comment »
September 22nd, 2009, 2 Comments »
I spotted this sign–on the ground, nowhere near a tree–yesterday:
The bigger story here, obviously, is this: where did that tree find a Sharpie?
2 Comments »