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Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Caribou is the same thing as a Reindeer.

in North America it's called a "Caribou"
A Caribou IS a Reindeer. The confusion may have arisen because the use of reindeer as a Christmas symbol originated in northern Europe, where almost nobody uses the word "Caribou". If the tradition had started in Alaska, Santa's sleigh might have been pulled by eight Caribou.

The Caribou is a member of the deer family, living in the northern regions (like the North Pole). Unlike other deer, Caribou of both sexes have antlers. Like other deer, they are herbivores - meaning they eat plants. They have extraordinarily thick and buoyant coats, enabling them to live in extremely cold weather, and actually sleep while floating in water.

There are millions of Caribou/Reindeer in the world. Almost all species
migrate twice a year, following safe and trusted routes they've taken every spring and fall for centuries that are about 600 to 800 miles long. (They walk or run, not fly) .  On migratory trips, the adult females leave about two weeks before the rest. The males and juveniles leave later.

Merry Christmas!!
Partidge in a perdrix?       The Christmas quote about a “partridge in a pear tree” could possibly have been a simile, pun or mistranslation, according to John Riutta, in Backyard Birds Newsletter.  The tale, having wound itself through many languages and cultures may have borrowed from the French.  The French word for partridge is “perdrix” (pronounced something like “pear-dree”).  This sounds suspiciously like “pear tree” in English.  Maybe the long-forgotten author of the song was focusing on a single partridge in a tree full of partridges. Who knows?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

two trees provide oxygen for your lungs

Any project that plants trees is far, far more than just a "do-good" project with dreams of making a neighborhood or street look prettier.  Planting trees is absolutely crucial to the continuation of life as we know it on this planet.

You see, there are a lot more people on the planet every day; and we're killing trees to the point where we have just a small fraction of the trees we once had. The crucial point we often forget is that it takes roughly two mature trees to produce the amount of oxygen needed by one human being. (This happens through "photosynthesis", where a tree takes carbon dioxide from the air and converts it into oxygen.)

Trees still vastly outnumber people so we're not in immediate danger of suffocating. But it could happen, theoretically, in the distant future. So now is the time to plant all those little trees. In so doing, we can look toward the faraway future, when that tree (or its descendants) puts a substantial amount of oxygen into our air.

By the way, in Texas, now is by far the best time to plant trees (unlike up north)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Plant a Wax Myrtle to have a "bird magnet"

Wax Myrtle

North Texas' underplanted, “ideal for warblers” evergreen shrub

When garden or birding magazines suggest planting a “winterberry”, what they’re really recommending for north Texas is a Wax Myrtle. It's an evergreen that’s native to this area, unlike the winterberry – which is likely to die here. What’s more, the Yellow-rumped Warbler (common in north Texas) is the only warbler species that can digest the waxy, blue-black berries. these berries (only found on the female plants)  give the shrub its name. When seed, from plants or from feeders, is unavailable to birds they can exist off the berries alone, especially when they have water (a birdbath?) nearby.

Left to its own in nature, Wax Myrtle can grow to 20' tall. Typically, however, the evergreen shrub is kept to 6 or 7 feet in most residential landscapes.  It grows in almost any decent, loose soil, requiring very little water.

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? :    (I first wrote this after hearing of the tragedy in Connecticut. Then, fearing I would put too much emotion into it and not enough reason, I re-wrote it the next day.)

  After we grieve for the victims and their families of the latest school shooting, let’s collectively do something about our country’s rabid gun mentality. That’s the proper memorial and legacy.

I don’t advocate making target-shooting or hunting illegal, nor do I want to restrict reasonable self-protection. So let’s start with a logical step of making guns less available – especially to all the felons, mentally ill and the irresponsible among us. Then let’s ban the sale of weapons that have no logical role in our civilization except to kill other humans.

Someday, we’ll admit to ourselves that “a well-regulated militia” in 2012 means Police Departments and the National Guard, not an informal conglomeration of unorganized citizens. Maybe the Supreme Court will agree, but probably not in my lifetime.

If you have children or grandchildren, you’ll probably agree right now. If someone out there wants to gun me down for what I think, go for it.  I’m in the phonebook.