Stuff and Nonsense


An Evening With Dr. Douglas Tallamy

Recently I had the good luck to attend a presentation by Dr. Douglas Tallamy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware and the author of many publications, including the recent Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard.

Dr. Tallamy spoke about the vital need for a homegrown approach to conservation. With eighty-three percent of the land in the contiguous United States privately-owned, we must integrate native plant species into our yards, balconies, or window boxes to create conservation corridors he calls "Homegrown National Parks."

Such parks would boost the wildlife diversity in North America tremendously by making suburban lawns and gardens more productive for insects. Insects eat foliage, birds eat insects. The more delicious bugs to nom on, the more populous and healthier the birds. If we don’t increase the number and quantity of native plants in our landscape, then the populations of insects will continue to drop and that is very bad for the birds and everything else.

According to Dr. Tallamy the best plant you can add to your landscape is the oak, because they support more than five hundred species caterpillars ("bird food"). Asters and goldenrod are also strongly suggested, as they support the most species of insect herbivores and pollinators. Conveniently, asters and goldenrods are usually drought-resistant and deers avoid them.

Overall, it was a fascinating evening and I recommend getting a hold of a copy of Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard.


CliCK Willimantic: Beeswax Wraps

Beeswax wraps are all the rage at farmers markets and craft shows near me. Made of cotton, beeswax, jojoba oil, and pine resin these wraps are an all-natural, washable, reusable, and compostable alternative to plastic wrap and baggies. They're great for wrapping sandwiches, snacks, cheese, fruits, and vegetables. You can also use them to cover a bowl or casserole.

You shouldn't wrap raw meat in a beeswax wrap and expect to be able to use the wrap again -- they're not airtight and can't be cleaned the way you're meant to clean a meat container. You also probably don't want to use it to cover a bowl of something sloshy, like soup or sauce, as the wrap will grip, but not seal.

Anywho, 14th on my 43 in 43 list is to use less plastic. Beeswax wraps seemed like an answer to the plastic wrap and baggie problem, but the idea of purchasing such a basic product bothered me. I possessed a box of cute, high-quality cottons and knew Amazon could supply me with beeswax, pine resin, and jojoba oil. Surely, I could make my own beeswax wraps.

For months I thought about making wraps, but didn't actually do anything until I saw that CLiCK Willimantic was offering a DIY class is their teaching kitchen. CLiCK is part local processing facility for small farms and business, part education center, and part community garden. It hosts ServSafe certification classes as well as classes for more domestic types -- jams, pickling, vermicomposting, and the afore-mentioned beeswax wraps.

Last weekend, nine or so of us learned to gently melt the wax, resin, and oil together over a double boiler, then brush it onto our fabric squares and pop it in a low oven for 3 minutes. Once the fabric looked evenly shiny and saturated, we hung them up to "dry" for a few minutes. And that was it, the whole shebang. Nine complete beginners made two wraps each in an hour.

While I clearly applied too much wax to my wraps, I'm still quite proud of them and have already put them to use. If I were ready to make more wraps now, I would place the CLiCK wraps in the oven until they warmed up and then lay them on unwaxed fabric to blot up some of the excess wax mixture.

CLiCK is part local processing facility for small farms and business, part education center, and part community garden. It hosts ServSafe certification classes as well as classes for home gardeners -- jams, pickling, vermicomposting, and the afore-mentioned beeswax wraps.


February 2020 Reads

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
In a war between the corporate states of earth and the humans of Mars, armies of the poor are recruited and modified to transform into "light" which allows them to be beamed to the frontlines. Then one infantryman finds herself returning from missions with experiences very different from those of her platoon ...

The Light Brigade raised some interesting ideas about late-stage capitalism, fake news, fear, and individuality, but their treatment was frequently heavy-handed. Still, a highly readable combination of violence and philosophy.

We Who Are About To... by Joanna Russ [hoopla digital]
Eight space travelers become stranded on an uncharted planet. Seven survivors fantasize about colonizing the planet, creating their own society complete with babies. However, our narrator is quick to realize survival is not possible for any of them and that the only real choice is death. This certainty alienates the other survivors, who are simply not prepared to hear it, setting in motion a dangerous conflict.

We Who Are About To... is a well-written, ultimately satisfying tale which raises interesting questions about paternalism, imperialism, autonomy, and dying.

The Bird House by Kelly Simmons
Nonlinear story of elderly widow Ann Biddle, the secrets of her past, and their impact on her present relationships.

Ann was an absolute firecracker and I enjoyed her developing relationship with her young granddaughter. The nonlinear narrative was a good choice and held my attention effectively. However, Ann's dementia felt unreal -- like a poor attempt to inject additional drama. Overall, a melancholy read about aging, secrets, and intrafamilial struggles.