Monday, March 26, 2012

The Zero Waste Home

This isn't directly OT or pediatrics or nature related -- but it does involve being a responsible steward for our environment, which is important to keeping nature (and people) around!

Check out:

Eco-friendly Spring Crafts

Check out this website for some neat ideas to use with children!

Wildflower Bombs

Here's where I got the idea from:

I found it best to just use my (old) blender, and I put in about 7 magazine pages, 2 sheets of tissue paper (for a prettier color), and 2 cups of water. I blended it up, added seeds, blended a little more. Then I poured it into my strainer to get out the majority of water and squished it into a big ball, getting out as much water as I could. I then split it out into little balls (about the size of a marble) and left it to dry. Drying took decidedly longer than I was expecting, a few days, at least! I'm excited to try them out, and I hope you are too!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ruminations on Winter Severity

I recently did a phone interview with a reporter about the unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve been having in Minnesota this winter and how that may affect the wolf population in Minnesota. My comments revolved around the challenge of needing more data to conclusively determine if and how this past winter affected wolves in the state at this time.

Anecdotally, we can make some educated guesses based on what we know about wolf and deer ecology and the state’s winter severity index (a tool used by wildlife biologists to estimate the effect of winter conditions on white‐tailed deer populations).

Images: Wolf tracks on Saganaga Lake; Source

For example, research tells us that wolves have a physical advantage over deer in deep snow conditions. Large paws distribute the wolf’s body weight and act like built-in snowshoes whereas the deer’s narrow, pointy hooves poke through the snow to the ground. A chase in deep snow would give the wolf the upper-hand. However, this year’s low winter severity rating did not provide an opportunity for wolves to use that physical tool and may have affected their hunting success overall.

Little snow also means that deer may have had an easier time foraging for food. Less energy used for traveling through deep snow and easier to access food resources logically means better fed deer. However, the quality of the resources is also an unknown factor right now. Warmer winter temperatures also mean less energy used staying warm. Generally, a deer that is well-fed and warm tends to have more strength and energy to fend off or run away from wolves. (Image: Deer burn lots of energy moving through deep snow like this. Unknown Source: email circulation)

Additionally, if more deer are finding more food and more deer survive until summer rather than starving to death or dying from exposure then that means less carrion for wolves to scavenge on in the spring.

It would make sense to ponder the reproductive impact that a warmer winter would have on deer as well or conversely, the impact on wolves. Will more does have twins this spring thus increasing the chance that more fawns will survive the year?

Alternately, we may or may not see an impact on the number of pups born per pack or how many survive their first year.

It will be interesting to see how this low snow, warmer winter plays out for the wolves and deer of Minnesota.

The game’s not over though. I find it hard to believe that we won’t see more white stuff on the ground before May…

This is Ely in March?

For more information on the complexities of predator/prey relationships, I recommend visiting the Isle Royale Wolf/Moose Project Website. Not only is there a variety of scientific articles on the subject but there are also some interesting ruminations on the unexpected connections in nature.

For more information on Minnesota deer herds, I recommend visiting the state’s Website. There are details on deer density, hunter harvest, the effects of climate and much more.

Learn more about winter severity with curriculum from the New Hampshire Education and Environment Team.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This blog was created as a companion to my Expo project for Milligan College's Masters in Occupational Therapy Program. I hope that this information and these activities will be helpful to occupational therapists, educators, parents, and all lovers of nature!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Athena Kashyap Answers Questions About Her Forthcoming Book, Crossing Black Waters

Crossing Black Waters (Stephen F. Austin University Press) by Athena Kashyap, is an exploration of borders through one family's personal odyssey from the violent upheaval of the Partition of India in 1947 to emigrating to the U.S. The book delves into the psychological impact of leaving behind a past that keeps "pulsating behind swinging shutters of thought" to recreate lives and identities anew, and searches for "home"--a "lonely room in the [my] mind," a "heartache" at the "end of rainbows," or else a fictitious "country," built around "hubs" of friendships forged over "glasses of wine and tandoori chicken." A key phrase is "I am knot"--the "not" of borrowed identity coupled with the idea that one cannot truly be separate and is "knotted" with the past for life.

Texas A&M Press: What was your inspiration for this book?

Kashyap: Writing the poems for this book, I found myself drawn to exploring my place in America, trying to carve out a niche for myself in a new country. As an immigrant, the process of fitting into your new environment is more deliberate as locals perceive you as an outsider, especially if you look and speak differently. You have to assimilate your own past and integrate it with the present reality of living in a different culture...this often involves a redefining of your identity (depending upon your age and your interest in assimilating of course). The beauty of living in the U.S., and especially San Francisco, is that there are many other immigrants so you are far from alone in this quest. My poems about Noe Valley, the neighborhood I lived in San Francisco, delve into my interactions with store keepers, cafe' owners as an immigrant and outsider, but one interested in finding her way into their lives.

I found myself also thinking about my family's migration during the partition of India into India and Pakistan in 1947 and juxtaposing these poems alongside those of my own migration. While the migrations were for different reasons--my family was forced to leave Lahore because of political reasons, while my own decision to come to the U.S. was a conscious choice to broaden my opportunities, in both cases there was a similar searching for the homes we left behind. Several of my poems explore what "home" might mean, even if it is just "a lonely room in the mind."

I am also interested in understanding more about borders of different kinds--national, between self and other, geographic, and also between life and death, and the poem and the page. My father's death at age thirty-nine, when I was nine years old, was a life-changing event, and a couple of poems in the book focus on loss--loss of a child, loss of a father. I investigate the boundaries between life versus death, and reality versus fantasy/myth/or art. A few of my poems also lie between poetry and prose, and some scatter words on the page, questioning the supremacy of line, blurring the traditional notion of poetry.

Lastly, the concept of "black waters," derived from the Indian notion of leaving what has always defined you to lose yourself in the unknown, fascinates me. Instead of the horror it invoked in the past, of losing your caste privileges and identity, I embrace this as a wonderful thing. Leaving home is as painful as breaking up with your first love, but as the world grows smaller, more and more people have more than one home and have been more than one person in their life-times. Piecing together who you were at different times and places and seeing a pattern emerge out of it is a new way of looking at your identity.

TAMU PRESS: Were there any specific figures, poets, or events that influenced your work?

Kashyap: I've always liked Whitman, though I have also been attracted to contemporary poets such as Rimbaud, Barbara Guest. I work a lot with sound, so I am drawn to lyric poetry. At the same time, I enjoy experimenting with the page as an artist's canvas, seeing how the placement of words might impact their meaning.

TAMU PRESS: What audience do you believe will benefit most from/be most interested in this book?

Kashyap: Anyone who lives or has lived in more than one country, for whom "home" has not remained constant.

Crossing Black Waters is set to publish in April of 2012
"crossing black waters"

Once she stepped outside, her skin
dissolved. She struggled to stay

afloat, but years distanced her
from the caress of the Ganges

that once swept her plains, hum
of her hidden Himalayan caves,

she grew weak. Yet, when
she was about to drown

webs of seed, teeth and hair
unraveled to release her,

let her float away, guided only
by loose, unkempt stars.

Monday, March 19, 2012

T. Edgar and Nancy Paup Marketing Intern

COLLEGE STATION—Texas A&M University Press has named Kelsey Lawrence, an English major from Austin, Texas, the T. Edgar and Nancy Paup Marketing Intern for 2012.

This position was established by a generous gift from T. Edgar "Ted" Paup '74 and his wife Nancy, enabling the Press to recruit a talented, energetic student worker to assist with inventory management and related marketing responsibilities of Texas A&M Press and the six other Texas scholarly publishers in its distribution consortium. The Paup gift not only benefits the Press but also substantively supports the educational goals and ambitions of a worthy Texas A&M student.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from Texas A&M in December, Lawrence has taken on these new responsibilities at the Press, welcoming the opportunity to expand her knowledge and practical experience in publishing, the field in which she hopes to make her career. These additional credentials were helpful in her recent acceptance into the master's degree program in Publishing & Writing at Emerson College, in Boston, Massachusetts, and also the master’s degree program for Publishing: Digital and Print Media at New York University. Lawrence is planning to visit both campuses before enrolling for the Fall semester.

Ted Paup's mother, Chan Driscoll, was a founding member of the Texas A&M University Press Board in 1978 and served on this important support organization until her death in 2007. Now, Ted is an active member of the Texas A&M Press Advancement Board, continuing his mother’s legacy of supportive, engaged interest in the Press’s publications program.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Quiet Place

This video about Sigurd Olson's Listening Point, created by the Minnesota DNR, reminds me of some very important topics in environmental education that really apply to all of our lives.

The importance of time to reflect: 
For people around the world, it is becoming harder and harder to disconnect from modern conveniences, stop socializing and quietly reflect on any subject.  My experience as a classroom teacher drove this home regularly.  Though there are great variances in students and classes, the students I worked with could usually make it about five minutes.  I asked them about other times in their day during which they were quiet and reflective, and almost to a student they admitted that is was generally only when they slept.  That's a problem.  People of all ages need time to be silent and to think, without the intrusion of others, technology or information.  Sigurd Olson used to retreat to his cabin every day for quiet reflection, what would that do for our students, for ourselves, to be able to have silent time each day?

The importance of a place to reflect:
Those same students who rarely took time to reflect also made it clear they often did not have a place to reflect.  Brothers and sisters running around, televisions or radios making noise, and houses and apartments that were active until late in the night did not encourage thoughtful reflection.  This describes many of our lives, active and noisy from the moment we awake until the moment we shut our eyes. 

Most of us won't have a beautiful property sticking out into a remote lake to which we can escape, but can we carve out some physical place for quiet thought?.  Where do you go to reflect?  What is that spot that calms you physically and mentally enough to allow you to gather your thoughts?  If you are a teacher in a classroom, how do you create a place for students to do the same?

The importance of Wilderness and wild places:  Olson's Listening Point is literally on the edge of Wilderness.  Burntside Lake on which it sits is one of the entry points to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  It's beauty is hard to match and the solitude it provides even today is real.  Most of us are not so fortunate to have Wilderness at our doorstep, but that doesn't mean we can't experience its draw and share our passion for it with others.  Whether it's the squirrel in our backyard, a flower in a city garden or a rare glimpse of a wolf in the wild, our natural environment has much to teach us, and we have a great responsibility to learn.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wolf or Coyote?

My family spent a recent Sunday checking out a local lake for some ice fishing in the late afternoon. Our seventeen month old was tuckered out, so on the hike in she napped in her sled.

The hike was less than a mile to the lake. It was a gorgeous sunny day! As we walked, we came across 10 piles of scat and multiple urine marks along the trail. So, what animal was marking the trail? Was it wolf or coyote? How can we tell? I see lots of deer hair. Hmm…. that could be wolf or coyote up here. We needed to see some more sign to be able to confirm our suspicions.

As the trail ended and we emptied onto the lake we encountered track patterns. The snow was not deep, but there was enough so that the first tracks we saw were holes punched in the snow. Deer struggle in this type of environment because their pointed feet sink right through the snow. Canines like coyotes and wolves, however, have interdigital webbing between the pads of their feet which allow them to spread their toes apart. Their feet act as snowshoes, spreading their weight upon the snow, and allow them to travel easier through the winter months.

Animal tracks typically fall into four gait patterns as seen in the chart above. The tracks we saw on the lake look like diagonal walkers (i.e. ungulates, felines and canines) who move opposite limbs together, right foreleg with left back leg.

Wolves and coyotes also have flexible scapulas which allow them to walk in a straight line. Their front feet land on the ground, one in front of the other, and their back feet follow in almost the same place. Similar to the tracks we spotted on the lake. The tracks were canine, but how do you tell if they are wolves or coyotes?

We also came across some individual tracks on the packed trail across the lake that people had made. The tracks were of a healthy size. Our black lab was with us and her feet are slightly smaller than a coyote. But, these tracks were about 4.5” long. Suspicions confirmed. This was all sign from a local wolf pack.

All this excitement and we hadn’t even started fishing yet! We drilled some holes, set up our little stools and caught a few fish. To start, it was mostly northern pike and bluegill that found our lines, which we released. Madeline awoke from her slumber in the cocoon and joined us to play in the snow and investigate the fish we caught. Once the sun started to fade the crappies hit like a storm! We settled for a few crappie for dinner and headed back.

Time with family in a stunning spot doing what we love with dinner in the bag. What a great day outside. We just love living in Ely!

Townes Van Zandt is Inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame

On March 4th, the late Townes Van Zandt, along with Lyle Lovett and Robert Earle King, was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater in downtown Austin. The event was celebrated with performances by Lyle Lovett, Robert Earle King, and Steve Earl, who sang Van Zandt’s songs. Van Zandt’s award was accepted by his son, J.T. Van Zandt. 

The writer of such influential songs as “Pancho and Lefty,” “To Live’s to Fly,” “If I Needed You,” and “For the Sake of the Song,” Townes Van Zandt exerted an influence on at least two generations of Texas musicians that belies his relatively brief, deeply troubled life. Van Zandt has influenced millions worldwide in the years since his death, and his impact is growing rapidly.
"The kinds of songs that Townes was writing in those days were really pieces of literature," Lovett told the Austin American Statesman. "It really was art. That was the standard that was set in those days for the places I used to go and listen, and the places I aspired to play."

If you are interested in the life and music of Townes Van Zandt, check out the Texas A&M Press book, I’ll Be Here in the Morning by Brian T. Atkinson.

Atkinson interviews both well-known musicians and up-and-coming artists to reveal, in the performers’ own words, how their creative careers have been shaped by the life and work of Townes Van Zandt. Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver, Rodney Crowell, Lucinda Williams, and Lovett are just a few of the established musicians who share their impressions of the breathtakingly beautiful tunes and lyrics he created, along with their humorous, poignant, painful, and indelible memories of witnessing Van Zandt’s rise and fall.