A Different Kind of Birding Blog

Birder's Rules screen grab

Birding travel. Recent sightings. Ornithological news. Most birding blogs cover these and similar topics. That’s fine—it’s always enjoyable to hear about someone else’s birding adventures. But Birder’s Rules, written by Nicholas Lund, takes a totally different approach.

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Birds Are Smarter than I Thought

We ooh and aah over their colorful plumage. We adore their antics. We marvel at their ability to soar, turn, and plummet. But how often do we admire birds for their intelligence? Read The Genius of Birds, and you’ll realize that being called a “bird brain” can be quite a compliment.

From fascinating behaviors to the minutest details of neurophysiology, author Jennifer Ackerman takes us on an incredible adventure into how birds think. Meet Alex, the African Grey Parrot who had a vocabulary of hundreds of English words, and knew how to use them. What’s more, he understood the concept, not only of numbers, but of zero.

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Plant Science for Gardeners

How Plants WorkNew gardening books seem to pop up as regularly as springtime dandelions. Most simply rehash what has been said before—perhaps with a new twist or better photos. But How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do (Science for Gardeners) isn’t your typical treatise on how to grow what. Instead, the author, Linda Chalker-Scott, explains the “why” behind the “how.”

An extension urban horticulturist and associate professor at Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University, Chalker-Scott knows what she’s talking about. This is her third book on horticulture, but there is a lot more. She’s written a series of articles on “Horticultural Myths” that I strongly urge you to read. Then, learn more at “The Informed Gardener,” a series of podcasts, or the informative Garden Professors website. She’s also a driving force behind the Gardening Professors Facebook blog (an extremely helpful research-based Q&A site).

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Love Chickens? Read This!

once-upon-a-flock-coverBackyard chickens are pretty popular, and for good reason. What other pet delivers affection, entertainment, companionship, plus fertilizer and fresh, tasty eggs? If you’ve been smitten by the burb of a motherly hen—or if you’d like to know what it’s like to raise your own flock—have I got a treat for you!

Hasten thee to the library or bookstore and pick up a copy of Once Upon A Flock: Life With My Soulful Chickens, by Lauren Scheuer. (If that name sounds familiar, you might have read her delightful blog, Scratch and Peck.)

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The Bluebird Effect—Not Just Another Nature Book

The Bluebird Effect, by Julie Zickefoose

Maybe birding results from having a “collection gene.” (At least a bird collection—aka a “life list”—doesn’t take up any space on a shelf, and as a bonus, it never needs dusting.) I don’t just collect birds, I seem to also accumulate books. Like many birders I have a shelf full of delightful books, each chronicling the nature experiences of an author. From a Victorian lady’s garden journal to the a thin volume exploring the seasons of the north woods, I can immerse myself in the great outdoors from the comfort of my favorite chair.

I have to admit, however, that many of these books work equally well as sleeping pills. Reading detailed descriptions of the weeds on someone’s farm just doesn’t generate the page-turning anticipation of a good adventure story.

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Weed—Identify Yourself!

weedsofthewestAre those weed seedlings or flowers?

That’s a significant question early in the season. While mature weeds are obviously not zinnias or parsley, it’s much harder to distinguish garden plants from unwanted pests when they’re still seedlings. Yet, weed control is much, much easier when done at the seedling stage.

The first year we lived in Colorado, I made what turned out to be one of my worst gardening blunders ever. We moved into our house in November. I surveyed the empty beds around the patio and assumed nothing was planted there. Silly me. Like so many transplants here, I’d come from (northern) California, where the growing season lasted all year. I hadn’t yet learned that many plants spend the winter hiding underground.

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This Book Shouldn’t Be a Secret

“My zucchini plants produce flowers, but no squash. Why?”

“Every year my lettuce gets bitter, then blooms. How can I keep it from bolting?”

“I set out my broccoli two weeks before the last frost, when the books tell us to, but it never got big, and it only produced tiny one-inch heads. What did I do wrong?”

“I want to be a better veggie gardener. What book should I read?”

garden-secretsI’d just given a two hour talk on high altitude vegetable gardening, and a crowd of people surrounded me, anxious to ask questions.

Happily, I knew the answers to all those questions. That’s because I’ve read The Book of Garden Secrets. It’s the most helpful book on vegetable gardening I’ve ever read. Since I’ve read dozens of books on growing veggies, this is high praise indeed.

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