Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Post on Eat Local: Just Food

I have a new post on the Eat Local: Just Food blog about variations on the traditional potato-and-cabbage dish known in England as "bubble and squeak" -- a good option for a winter Eat Local supper.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Failed Backyard Bird Counter

The 12th annual Great Backyard Bird Count weekend (Feb. 13-16) has come and gone, and I utterly failed to count anything. The task was to watch for birds for at least 15 minutes and to track the greatest number of each species seen at the same time. The trouble is that most of our avian visitors come at their morning and evening feeding times, and not always then. And family life is busy and distracting, and I kept forgetting to look out at the most appropriate times. On Sunday afternoon I did remember, printed out the local species list from the GBBC website, announced, "Okay, I'm really doing this now," and saw nothing but three gray squirrels -- which were not on the list.

I would have liked to try to count the individuals in a large flock of crows that occasionally comes through in the early evening, filling the treetops with their dark bodies and the air with their raucous caws. I would have liked to count the chickadees and house finches that are the most frequent visitors to our feeders. I would have loved to see a white-breasted nuthatch or a downy or red-bellied woodpecker or dark-eyed juncoes or overwintering robins or a goldfinch or a cardinal. A real treat would have been to see redpolls, which only visit this far south during occasional winter irruptions but have been spotted in the Twin Cities recently. Oh well. Maybe next year. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy seeing any of these birds when I next have the opportunity, even if they don't officially "count."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

North and South Exposure

Our recent thaw and rain removed much of our accumulated snow earlier this week. We got an early view of the phenomenon I usually notice in early spring: snow disappears from lawns with a south exposure (those on the north side of an east-west street) while it remains much longer on lawns facing north and thus receiving little or no direct sun while the sun is still relatively low in the sky. This is Woodley Street, facing west.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Guest Blogger at Eat Local: Just Food

Along with several other Northfield-area local food advocates, I'll be contributing to the Eat Local: Just Food blog being launched this week by the Just Food Co-op to support the Winter Eat Local Challenge, coming up the second week in March. My first post, Getting What We Pay For, explores the idea that price is not always the most important thing to consider when shopping for food, and that putting our food dollars where our values are can be extremely satisfying.

Check out the blog, and consider participating in the Challenge, which encourages you to eat 50% of your food from the five-state area from March 7 to the 13th. The blog includes a helpful list of locally produced foods that are available now at the co-op.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rainy, Windy February Thaw

Yesterday, after a mild weekend and the onset of light rain (Rain! In early February!), the frozen Cannon River was collecting surface water and starting to look as if the ice might break up.

Overnight and this morning, gusty winds from the southwest have been rattling the house. Branches of an oak tree in a fairly sheltered position just west of my bedroom creaked and banged and scraped on the house throughout the night, sounding just as if someone were stomping around on the roof, and making me worry about the state of the shingles.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More About Animal Tracks

On Saturday, while taking pictures in the St. Olaf natural lands, I found these intriguing prints. While the impression is clearly of a large, three-toed animal, when I consult the guide to tracks I posted recently there just doesn't seem to be anything like that. Rather, the tracks appear to indicate a small hopping animal whose tiny forepaws land together first, creating a single print, with the larger hind feet landing separately ahead of the forepaws. This scenario is reinforced by the fact that the tracks appear almost in a straight line rather than staggered, as they would be if made by the left and right feet of a larger animal.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Winter Collage

Nature Photography Class

The winter nature photography workshop offered by Dan Iverson through Northfield Community Services was, to everyone's gratitute, postponed from last weekend, when the temperatures were below zero, to yesterday, when they were in the upper 20s or even higher by the time we got outside.

After an hour of classroom time during which we discussed the basics of aperture, shutter speed, depth of focus, and the trade-offs between all of the above (most helpful to those students who had cameras with manual settings, which my point-and-shoot Nikon Coolpix does not have), we headed out to the St. Olaf natural lands between the base of the wind turbine and Northfield Hospital.

Winter photography presents particular challenges on a sunny day, because with snow on the ground there is just so much light to deal with. However, the low position of the sun in the sky creates wonderful shadows even near midday; in the summer photographers have to get out there early or late in the day to get the same effect. Shadows on the snow added dramatic impact to several of my favorite photos of the day.

If you'd like to see some of the photos I took, you can click through on the album below for the larger version and view it as a slideshow if you wish. I've included some comments about each.

Nature Photography Class