Category: Random Celebration Days

An herb with a bad rep: National Dandelion Day

Today is national dandelion day. A day to celebrate a non-native herb (at least within North America), that over the past hundred and fifty years or so has developed a bad ‘rep’.

Dandelions poking out through the monkey-grass in the backyard.

The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is actually an native herb to Europe and Asia, and was introduced to the Americas probably around the time of the Mayflower landing in Plymouth (1), and was then also introduced to Australia & New Zealand by European settlers as well. This wasn’t an ‘accidental’ introduction—the herb was brought with the settlers due to it’s numerous ‘medicinal’ benefits. One folk name for the plant in Europe & Asia is ‘piss en lit’ (‘piss in the night’) due to diuretic properties of the roots (1).

Prior to it’s ‘bad rep’ as an invasive weed (which—technically it is that as well), the dandelion was planted and harvested due to its numerous medical and nutritional benefits.

In terms of its ‘medical benefits’:

  1. As early as the 10th & 11th centurie, Arabian physicians were using it in medicine (1)
  2. Within China & India–it was used to treat not only liver diseases but digestive problems as well (1)

It addition to liver diseases and digestive problems, dandelions were also used to create remedies to other aliments such as baldness, toothaches, fevers, lethargy, and even depression (1).

In terms of ‘nutritional’ benefits, all parts of the dandelion can be consumed:

The flower head can be used to make wine, tea (1) or jam (2). A google search will turn up numerous recipes for all three. I may have to think of how to increase the amount of dandelions we have in the backyard so that I can possibly try to make dandelion jam (or tea) one of these days.

The leaves can be used in salads or soups (1).

The roots were used in also in tonics and teas. These ‘nutritional diuretics’ aided in both improving digestion and ‘flushing’ out toxins from the liver and other organs. In addition the roots could be roasted as well (1). 

People would start to harvest dandelion heads in late spring in order to have dandelion wine to drink later in the winter—it takes about six months or so for the dandelion wine to age before being ready to drink (1).

The dandelion has been shown to also be high in the following nutrients/vitamins (2):

Nutrients: Potassium, calcium & lecithin (phospholipids), magnesium, and zinc

Vitamins: Numerous B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5 & B6), Vitamin C, and Vitamin E

In terms of the benefits of having dandelions in your yard? Well, they attract bees & other pollinating insects. The flower head consists of numerous tube-like florets, each one containing nectar and pollen.

While they may not ‘look’ attractive in the yard—their deep taproot and root system actually helps to loosen the soil (especially ‘clay-based’ soils), helps aerate the soil (due again to their long root system), their roots also pull nutrients up for neighboring plants (that may have shallower root systems), and they also add nitrogen and minerals back to the soil—in addition to helping to reduce erosion (3). 

Basically prior to the past 150 years or so, dandelions were actually planted along side other plants in home gardens—not only for their nutritional & medical benefits, but because their roots systems helped make the soil better for other plants in the garden.

Mature dandelion ready to release it’s seed pods to the wind

So, maybe it’s time to reevaluate how we look at the dandelion. While it can be invasive, it can also be extremely beneficial to have within the yards as well. The flowers provide ‘food’ for numerous beneficial insects, and can even be harvested for sprinkling over a dinner (or lunch) salad in a pinch (just ensure that you haven’t sprayed your yard with herbicides). Also—who doesn’t love to pick a ‘mature’ dandelion and blow it, watching all the seeds disperse into the air.

References: 

  1. Rothfeld, Anne. “The Dandelion” June 7, 2016. https://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov/2016/06/07/the-dandelion Retrieved April 2, 2024
  2. “Dandelion” https://newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/dandelion Retrieved April 2, 2024 
  3.  Sanchez, Anita “Ten Things You Might Not Know About Dandelions” https://mofga.org/resources/weeds/ten-things-you-might-not-know-about-dandelions. Retrieved April 2, 2024

No Comments flowersoutdoorsRandom Celebration Days

Time to grab a book, a reading nook, and read the day away: It’s National Book Lovers Day!

So today (August 9th) is ‘National Book Lovers Day’, and it is a day that encourages us to find our favorite reading spot, grab a good book (or two), and read the day away.

Here are some random facts on early books:

  1. The first books had either parchment or calfskin for pages
  2. The covers were usually made of wood and covered in leather
  3. They had clasps or straps to keep them closed
  4. The first public libraries appeared during the Middle Ages, and the books were often chained to shelves or desks to prevent theft.

I’ve always been an avid reader to the point where I would usually be accumulating huge to-be read piles (or actually entire to-be read bookcases) during high school and college.

I got my first e-reader shortly before I finished graduate school (as a way to help cut back on the number of boxes of books Id’ be having to move), and for the most part that is what I’ve stuck with over the years.

I will use my e-reader for reading most books (whether they’re fiction or non-fiction), but when it comes to having a ‘referenec’ book (usually a textbook)–those I prefer to have in physical form (easier to highlight, make notes, and so forth). As I movemore into freelance writing, the bookcases will once again be propagated by books–just the larger (and heavier) textbooks.

While I could try to list out all my favorite books, I thought I’d share some of my favorite fiction books so far from this year:

  1. Call You Mine (The Baker’s Creek Billionaire Brothers #4) by Claudia Burgoa
  2. Inked Persuasion (Montgomery Ink: Fort Collins #1) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  3. Blackout After Dark (Gansett Island #23) by Marie Force
  4. Billionaire Unexpected: Jax (The Billionaire Obsessions #16) by J.S. Scott
  5. My True Love: Jules Steele (The Steeles at Silver Island #2) by Melissa Foster
  6. My One Night (On My Own #1) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  7. State of Affairs (First Family #1) by Marie Force
  8. As We Are (The Baker’s Creek Billionaire Brothers #5) by Claudia Burgoa
  9. My Rebound (On My Own #2) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  10. How Much I Love (Miami Nights #3) by Marie Force
  11. A Scent of Magick (McKendrick Warlocks #3) by Rhyannon Byrd
  12. Inked Obsession (Montgomery Ink: Fort Collins #2) by Carrie Ann Ryan
  13. Come Together (Butler, VT #7) by Marie Force
  14. Dawn Unearthed (Ravenwood Coven #1) by Carrie Ann Ryan

Yes, there is a trend in the authors–I usually have a small list of authors that are automatic buys for me, three of the above authors I’ve been reading for quite a while (Marie Force, Carrie Ann Ryan, and Rhyannon Byrd), while the others I’ve only started reading since the pandemic. If I really like the series, it won’t matter how long it is between books–I’ll purchase the next book (I think it’s been roughly fourteen years between the release of the second McKendrick Warlock book and the third–but I liked the overall plot of the series, I’m personally waiting for Colin’s book).

I’ve also bought a large number of books by ‘new’ to me authors over the past year (mainly through special sales), which I’m going ot be working in around all the pre-ordered books that I will still be getting throughout the year. I’m hoping to slowly expand my reading genera from contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance to also include mysteries/thrillers, and ‘normal’ science fiction/fantasy (in addition the non-fiction).

Here are a few of those books that I’m going to be reading over the next few months:

  1. Familiar Kitten Mysteries Bundle (Books 1-6) by Sara Bourgeois
  2. The White Magic Five and Dime: A Tarot Mystery by Steve Hockensmith and Lisa Falco
  3. Phoenix Rising (Complete Series) by Annie Anderson
  4. The Dark Emeralds (Books 1-3) by Jerry Lambert
  5. Dead to Me: Arcane Souls World (Grave Talker #1) by Annie Anderson

Also over the past two years or so, I’ve been trying to balance out the fiction reading with some non-fiction reading, and here is a list of some of the books I’ve enjoyed reading:

  1. Minimalist Money Makeover by Michelle Moore
  2. The No Spend Challenge Guide: How to stop spending money impulsively, pay off debt fast, and make your finances fit your dreams by Jen Smith
  3. The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
  4. The Renaissance Soul: How to make your passions your life–a creative and practical guide by Margaret Lobensteine
  5. Reboot Your Life: Energize your career and life by taking a break by Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley, and Jaye Smith
  6. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
  7. The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan
  8. What your clutter is trying to tell you: uncover the message in the mess and reclaim your life by Kerri L. Richardson
  9. YouMap: Find Yourself, Blaze Your Path, Show the World! by Kristin Sherry
  10. The Year of Less: How I stopped shopping, gave away my belongings, and discovered life is worth more than anything you can buy by Cait Flanders
  11. Pause: Harness the life-changing power of giving yourself a break by Rachael O’Meara
  12. The Latte Factor: why you don’t have to be rich to live rich by David Bach and John David Mann
  13. Girl on Fire: How to Choose Yourself, Burn the Rule Book, and Blaze Your Own Trail in Life and Business by Cara Alwill Leyba
  14. The Joy of Missing Out: Live More by Doing Less by Tonya Dalton
  15. The 12 week year: get more done in 12 weeks than others do in 12 months by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
  16. Burnout: The secret to unlocking the stress cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
  17. Hello Fears: Crush your comfort zone and become who you’re meant to be by Michelle Poler
  18. How to be everything: A guide for those who (still) don’t know what they want to be when they grow up by Emilie Wapnick
  19. 25 ways to work from home: smart business models to make money online by Jen Ruiz

These are the books that have resonated somewhat with me, either in terms of finances, career, or trying to par down on the amount of stuff I own. All three of these areas are things I’ve been trying to focus on for the past eighteen months. I had decided right before the pandemic that I was going to take a ‘reboot break’ to focus on my health and finding the ‘right’ job.

Once the pandemic hit—I switched gears to more personal/professional development and ‘escapism’ (buying large numbers of books [both physical and electronic], craft supplies, and organizational supplies). I’ve worked through a small number of the courses—but have acquired a large number of books.

So, those are areas that I’m still focusing on (especially trying to get the impulsive purchasing under control again), in addition to expanding the genera I read.

Here are some of the non-fiction books that are on my to-be read list:

  1. The Introvert Entrepreneur: Amplify your strengths and create success on your own terms by Beth Buelow
  2. The Freelance Introvert: Work the way you want without changing who you are by Tom Albrighton
  3. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers in World War II by Liz Mundy
  4. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict
  5. When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt by Kara Cooney
  6. Just Do You: Authenticity, Leadership, and Your Personal Brand by Lisa King
  7. Owning It: Take Control of Your Life, Work, and Career by Kris Taylor
  8. Stepping Stones: A journey through the ice caves of the Dordogne by Christine Desdemaines-Hugo and Ian Tattersall
  9. Work Quilting: Piece together diverse income streams; live an insanely awesome life by Vikki Walton
  10. What if it does work out: How a side hustle can change your life by Susie Moore
  11. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  12. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

So, there you have it: some of my favorite 2021 fiction books, and some of my favorite non-fiction books from the past few years. In addition to some of the fiction and non-fiction books I plan on reading over the next few months.

Curious to know–who are some of your favorite (automatic-buy) authors?

No Comments BooksRandom Celebration DaysReflections

Duel post: simplifying my life, but diversifying my earnings

So this week was ‘simplify your life’ week, which is celebrated during the first full week of August. Since there were quite a few ‘bumps’ in the road this week–I’m going to be doing a duel post: three ways I’m currently trying to simplify my life, and the four (or possibly five) ways I’m looking at to diversify my income.

So–warning, this is a fairly long post, but hopefully it will also give you some ideas on simplifying your life and diversifying your income.

These two ideas are tied together–stressing over money is one of the leading causes of anxiety and depression. The ‘simplify your life’ week isn’t so much a push to embrace minimalism, but a ‘push’ to reduce the stress and anxiety in one’s day-to-day life.

So, while ‘simplify your life’ week is celebrated during the first week of August, it is something that can be done at any time of the year.

The three ways I’m currently thinking of implementing to simplify my life moving forward are going to take me at least a month (if not longer) to implement (and keep going), but they are:

(1) Create ‘minimalist’ wardrobes:

While I’ve tried to do the 333 clothing challenge before (where you only have 33 articles of clothing for 3 months), I usually ended up not removing anything from the closet.

Therefore I’m going to create two different ‘minimalist’ wardrobes:

Business professional and casual:

  1. One-to-two suits (one dark color and one light color)
  2. Two-to-three pairs of dress slacks (dark, medium, and light color)
  3. Five-to-ten blouses (a mixture of dark, light, and print)
  4. One pair of dress shoes (with no more than a inch and a half heel) and one pair of flats

‘Non-business’ wardrobe:

  1. Three-to-four pairs of jeans (dark, medium, and light color)
  2. Two-to-four pairs of shorts and/or capris
  3. Four-to-eight tee shirts
  4. Four-to-eight long sleeve shirts
  5. Four-to-eight sweatshirts/hoodies
  6. Four-to-eight sweaters

Then I will also have all my workout clothes as well.

When I manage to create these two wardrobes, I will probably be able to free up about half my closet in terms of space. Just by cutting down the tee shirts along (I think that I’ve boxed up about fifteen to twenty shirts that I’m currently not wearing and still have about another twenty or so hanging in the closet), would free up a quarter of the closet.

This doesn’t count the clothes that I still have in my storage unit that I used for packing material when I was moving home. If I manage to get down to these ‘two’ wardrobes before I move out of my parents house, I’ll only have to got through the other third (clothes I haven’t laid eyes on in almost a decade) and decide what I want to keep or remove.

(2) Create a single ‘workstation’ area

Since I had decided to do a reboot break shortly before the pandemic hit, and have been self isolating sense—my ‘workstation/space’ has morphed into several different areas.

I have a large collection of pens/pencils/markers/highlighters scattered around the room (without counting in the colored pencils), and I truthfully have no idea how many of the pens/markers/highlighters even work.

I have several notebooks and journals in different spots, and I still need to set up the other computer for learning coding.

So how will I create a single ‘workstation’ area?

  1. Get rid of any pens/makers/highlighters that seem to be ‘dead’ or dying (little to no ink/color when being used for more than a minute at a time).
  2. Have no more than two holders for the various pens/pencils/markers/highlighters
  3. Create a ‘sidearm’ to the desk, so that I have writing space in addition to space for the laptop(s)
  4. Possibly purchase another bookcase for the ‘reference’ books that I’ve gotten recently

Then actually sit and work at the ‘workstation’ instead of sitting on the daybed working. Also have the planner (or editorial calendar open) out so that I make sure that I’m working on what needs to be completed and not wasting my time scrolling through social media.

(3) Cut down on the other ‘clutter’

So this one is more general than the workspace or clothing goal. That is because of current living arrangements (living with my parents), and dealing with stuff within the house and not tackling my storage unit quite yet.

So, whenever I do manage to move I want to have fewer boxes than what I will currently have to take out of my parents’ house. Cutting back on the clothes will help, but then so will just scaling back on everything else.

What are some of the things I can scale back on?

  1. I’m going to scale back on the number of DVDs I own; the reason is two-fold: (1) When I move, I won’t have a TV (right away) to hook the DVD player up to; and (2) I haven’t been in the mood to watch that many movies, and I can always stream them instead via Amazon.
  2. I’m going to also scale back on the amount of incense scones, and related items. Since I have a monthly subscription to CalmBox, I’ve gotten a good number of incense scones and other aromatherapy items—and they’re currently all sitting in a box under the bed. I either need to start using them at night when I’m mediating, donate/resell, or discard them.
  3. I also need to decide on whether or not I’m going to keep all of my journals from the past few years (I currently have them boxed up under the bed as well). While I probably won’t keep them, I do need to think of the best way of disposing of them (shred/rip pages, black markers, and so forth). It isn’t that there are ‘state’ secrets within them—but one can never be too careful.
  4. Basically used candles will be getting discarded, while I had though of trying to make my one (to make use of the leftover wax)—I realized that I was ‘still holding’ on to things that should be getting discarded. Though I do have three or four in glass jars, and will need to pry out the candle wax so that I can reuse the glass jars.
  5. Finally, I will need to make my way up to the storage unit and start going through that—mainly to repack the boxes that have slowly fallen apart over the past nine years that they’ve been up there.

So, how does this tie in with looking into ways of diversifying my income? Well—I can try to sell things online (DVDs, clothes, unopened incense scones, and other things), which would bring in a little bit of money. Mainly, it would help free up the mental energy needed to focus on pivoting and creating an online career.

One thing I’ve realized over the past eighteen months—it is extremely important now that I ensure that I have diversity in earnings (i.e. how money is coming in). Prior to my ‘reboot break’—I had a single source of income, my nine-to-five job. While I’m not averse to having another nine-to-five job, I know it needs to be supplemented/balanced with other sources of income, that way if there is another lockdown (or the position is terminated), I still have money coming in.

Right about the time I was getting ready to start my reboot break, I found an article on Forbes that dealt with different ideas for freelancing (55 in fact), though the article is no longer active. I ‘highlighted’ the type of jobs that I thought I wouldn’t mind doing, and they included:

Blogging; teaching; advertising copywriting; tutoring; stock photography; magazine article writing; photo editing; online research; editing; business management; voice acting; grant writing; wedding photography; wordpress site consulting, data analysis; and possibly college admission essay editing.

Though these can basically be grouped into the following:

(1) Writing/editing (blogging, advertising copywriting, magazine article writing, online research, editing, grant writing, and college admission essay editing),

(2) Photography (stock photography, photo editing, wedding photography), and

(3) Other (teaching, tutoring, business management, voice acting, wordpress site consulting, and data analysis).

I then found a book earlier this year that was on the same topic, and it was: ’25 Ways to Work from Home: Smart Business Models to make Money Online’ by Jen Ruiz

I’d mentioned in the review on ’25 Ways to Work from Home’ the twelve (combined) ways I’d like to work from home:

  1. Freelance writing (high yes, with moderate to high anxiety)
  2. Self-published books (high maybe, again with a moderate degree of anxiety)
  3. Start a podcast and/or a YouTube channel (high yes/maybe with moderate to high anxiety)
  4. Create online courses (high yes, again with high anxiety)
  5. Affiliate marketing/advertising revenue/sponsored content (high yes, again with moderate to high anxiety)
  6. Graphic design/video editing (maybe–these are areas that I would be learning as I go)
  7. Selling photographs (high yes, with moderate anxiety)
  8. Creating and selling jewelry (high yes, moderate to high anxiety)
  9. Selling clothes (high yes, moderate anxiety)

One might notice a running theme in the above ways of working from home—the moderate to high levels of anxiety. I’ve always dealt with some level of anxiety depending on the situation—tests (mainly standardize, then certain subjects) the anxiety levels are high, social situations—levels are moderate to high, stepping into the ‘unknown’—high levels of anxiety.

I realize that it would be overwhelming to try to focus on all the different ways I could bring in money at the same time. Therefore, I’m going to focus on four of them to begin with, and then after they’re all ‘up and running’ for at least six-to-eight months (of steady income coming in), I may add in one or two additional streams.

I’m currently going to focus on the following ways of trying to diversify my income:

(1) Freelance writing (focus is going to be science, personal/professional development topics)—I just need to figure out who or where to pitch ideas to, while also trying to increase traffic to the blog.

(2) Affiliate marketing/advertising revenue/sponsored content

            See above for the first few things I need to try to focus on doing

(3) Selling Photographs

            Determine the best sites for selling photographs and which ones I’d be posting. Currently, I’d be focusing on nature/wildlife/outdoors, historical, and possibly architecture.

(4) Creating and selling jewelry

            This is listed last, due to the fact that I haven’t created any jewelry in awhile. The main two things I’d need to do are 1) create a certain number of necklaces, bracelets, and ear rings for sale; and then 2) either set up an etsy store or determine other sites to sell on.

I may even try selling quite a few of my tee shirts online as well. I’ve realized that I really don’t need to have over sixty different tee shirts, as I probably only wear about five to ten of them during any one month (and since it is summer time—I’m living in the tank tops).

These are going to be my ‘pillars’ or the foundation of my online career. I know that all will take work getting up and running, and that I may not see results quickly and shouldn’t get discouraged as I work towards that career of freelance/online/remote/consulting blogging career in science education/communication/advocacy, with a touch of hobbies/crafts, and other topics as well (personal/professional development and history/geography/anthropology/archaeology topics).

So, I’m simplifying different areas of my life to help bring calmness and clarity as I strive to step into the online world of freelance/remote/contract scientific writing/editing/education/advocacy, while also focusing on crafts/hobbies and other subjects as well (to keep the learner and multipotentialite in me happy).

So question—how are you simplifying your life to make room for change?

No Comments careerCraftsfinancesLifestyle Challengesmoney saving challengesPersonal DevelopmentPhotographyprofessional developmentRandom Celebration DaysReflections

Proud to be a geek: ‘Celebrate your geekness day’

Today is ‘celebrate your geekness’ day, a day that was created by Wellcats Holidasy as a day about being proud of what you do, who you are, and what you’re ‘obsessed’ with. I will freely admit that I’ve always been a ‘geek’, and I’ve been proud of being a geek. While I may seem ‘quiet’ and slightly ‘unsociable’, it is more of the fact that I’m wondering what I can add to the conversation. Depending on the topic, I may either be more of an active listener or an active participant. While I am a ‘geek’ on various subjects, I also admit that some areas I’m reconnecting to, so I may not be that big of a ‘geek’ in terms of random knowledge.

I like these five reasons from ‘a big think edge’ blog post back in 2018 on why one should embrace thier inner geek:

  1. The term communicates that you are intelligent
  2. You may be more socially competent and mature than the ‘cool kids’
  3. As a geek, you are viewed in a increasingly positive way
  4. You are technically savvy and an early adopter of new technologies
  5. Geeks bring different perspectives and knowledge to the conversation

I agree with all of them, with the exception of number four–I really don’t care for updating/upgrading my electronics and such unless I either absolutely have to, or the update/upgrade has something really going for it.

So what are things that I consider myself a ‘geek’ about?

Hobbies such as:

Birds (and bird watching)

Photography

Reading (fiction, especially romance)

Knitting and other crafts

Being outdoors, gardening and nature

Learning, especially on topics related to:

Science

History

Geography

Archaeology

Anthropology

Paleontology

My pets

What am I currently learning or teaching myself?

Python coding, cross-stitching, jewelry making, and brushing up on subjects such as intellectual protperty and clinical trials.

What are my end goals?

Continuous learning, finding harmony between ‘work’ and ‘everything else’, and bridging the communication gap beteen the scientific community and the general public.

What is one scientific topic that you wished was communicated better?

No Comments bird watchingBookscareerCraftsfinancesfitnessHealthHistoryLifestyle ChallengesnatureNature Preservesoracle cardsoutdoorsPersonal DevelopmentPetsPhotographyprofessional developmentRandom Celebration DaysReflectionsSciencespiritualitytravel

National Bald Eagle Day: Raising Awareness for An National Symbol and Treasure

So today is National American Eagle Day or National Bald Eagle Day. This is the day that various organizations set aside to help raise awareness about our national symbol–the Bald Eagle.

Bald Eagle soaring through the sky

The history behind the bald eagle being chosen for the national symbol is slightly humorous. In case you haven’t heard some of the history, here is a very condensed version:

Since most countries adopt an animal for their national symbol, the Continental Congress wanted to do so as well, but the first national seal was actually Lady Liberty holding a shield. Since that wasn’t what they wanted, they made inquires with others for thoughts and the first ‘choice/suggestion/selection’ was actually the golden eagle.

Again, the Continental Congress wasn’t happy with the suggestion–mainly because the golden eagle could also be found in Europe and therefore it wouldn’t do. They then looked to ‘native birds’ and decided on the bald eagle (though the turkey was also suggested as it was also ‘native’).

Bald Eagle soaring through the sky

The bald eagle was ‘fierce-looking’ and the fledgling country thought it was a better representation of the country to the world–therefore it was selected. Even after the war was over, there was discussion on whether to keep the bald eagle as the emblem or think of a new one–Benjamin Franklin kept rooting for the turkey.

This story does raises a fairly good historical question–if we had managed to breakaway from England without war, what animal would have been chosen as the national symbol–would it still have been the eagle, or maybe the turkey, or maybe something else?

So that is the brief history behind how the bald eagle became our national bird and symbol.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t had really ‘clear skies’ over the past three hundred years.

By the 1950s both the bald eagle and the golden eagle were at risk of becoming extinct. This was due to a combination of over hunting (young bald eagles happen to look a lot like golden eagles, so they were often killed ‘by mistake’–hunters thought they were bagging young golden eagles), pesticide use (DTT poisoned fish led to eagles laying eggs with very thin shells, which ended up at times getting crushed from the parents sitting on them), and habitat loss.

Once DTT was banned, and the eagles placed on the endangered species list their populations started to make a recovery. In case of the bald eagle, they were downgraded from endangered to threatened in 1995, and then in 2007 they were removed entirely from both the endangered species and the threatened species lists as their populations had recovered enough. They’re usually under state protection these days.

Bald Eagle and gulls flying over Boomer Lake

Though in recent years, there had been a die off of bald eagles in the southeastern portion of the US, but that has finally been traced to a toxic algae bloom in the waters (something scientists are now keeping an eye on).

I enjoy catching site of the bald eagle as it soars over Boomer Lake throughout the year, and I also enjoyed watching the bald eagles up at Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota sit on top of the Norway pines as they watched the waters waiting for their next meal to come closer to the surface.

Bald Eagle sitting at the top of a Norway pine at Lake Vermilion

Have you seen a bald eagle in the wild?

No Comments bird watchingHistorynatureoutdoorsPhotographyRandom Celebration DaysScience

Waterfall Wednesday: Celebrating International Waterfall Day

Waterfall at Gooseberry Falls

So today is International Waterfall Day, and the most interesting fact about the ‘day’–is that it was actually ‘created’ last year (2020) in the midst of the pandemic by a couple from Rochester New York, who love to check out waterfalls on trips and they don’t care if a hike is required or not.

So there are no natural waterfalls within Stillwater (I don’t count the water that rushes over the back end of Boomer Lake after heavy rains as a waterfall), but there are several within the state–I just haven’t been to any of them.

All the waterfalls I’ve seen have been on vacation–either to Hawaii:

Rainbow Falls

This waterfall is on the Wailuku River in the Wailuku River State Park on the island of Hawaii, located within Hilo.

I both walked here on my own from my hotel, plus joined a group nature tour of the area as well.

In addition to the ‘normal’ waterfalls–there were plenty of ‘smaller ones as well around Hilo:

Mini waterfall seen within the park
Another waterfall within the park

I’m sure that there are more waterfalls on the island of Hawaii, but since I was staying ‘local’ to Hilo–these were the only ones I saw.

One thing I love about waterfalls is the ‘mystery’ they can invoke–I always wonder is there a door to another ‘world’ lurking behind the falls, or the door to a ‘treasure’ room? Maybe it’s protecting a hibernating dragon………

In terms of the waterfalls I’ve seen in Northern Minnesota–they always depend on the time of year visiting and the amount of rain/snow that has come down and/or melted to feed the rivers.

Another view of Gooseberry Falls

One favorite park in northern Minnesota is Gooseberry Falls along the north shore of Lake Superior.

While there are waterfalls, they also feed into little pools that everyone shows up to swim or sit in–but watch out for the leeches.

Waterfall on Temperance River

Other rivers also have waterfalls along them–you just usually have to hike to find them.

Another view of the river

Another river, another waterfall, another view

So as you can tell–I like taking outdoor, nature photographs. I could spend a day at each park taking probably a hundred pictures and while people would say that most are duplicates–I can probably point out the minute differences between them.

There are numerous waterfalls both within the US (most national parks have a river going through them–and therefore possibly a waterfall, but Yosmite National Park is one that has some waterfalls I would like to see), and abroad.

The other waterfalls include: Niagara Falls (between New York & Canada)–I know it’s a ‘standard’ vacation spot–but I’d be going strictly for the pictures; Victoria Falls (Zambia), Angel Falls (Venezuela), Kursunlu Falls (Turkey), Ban Gioc Waterfall (Vietnam), and if I’m up to the hike–Sutherlands Fall in New Zealand.

Have you been to any of those falls? Also–where is your favorite waterfall located?

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Highlighting Nature Photography Day: Diversity of Wildlife at Boomer Lake

The North American Nature Photography Association designated June 15 to be Nature Photography Day.

Red-eared sliders swimming in Boomer Lake

Water snake gliding through the waters at Boomer Lake

Their first ‘Nature Photography Day’ was back in June 2006, and their goal is to promote the enjoyment of nature photography, and through the use of the camera advance the ’cause of conservation and protect plants, wildlife, and landscapes both locally and globally’.

Hybird Baltimore and Bollock’s Oriole spotted in Boomer Lake Park

They (the North American Nature Photography Association) also run a photography contest every year marking the holiday as well. This year the challenge started on June 4 and ends tonight (June 15). You are able to enter multiple nature photographs throughout the week and a half that the contest runs–I’m sad that I only saw the contest this morning, but one can either download the app (iNaturalist) to your phone or sign up on the site (iNaturalist) to submit pictures for the contest. Though even after the contest ends–you can still share pictures through the site.

Cedar Waxing in a cedar tree

I will be setting up an account via the site (and deciding when to also put in an application to join the North American Nature Photography Association) some time this afternoon, so that I can share a few pictures that I’ve taken over the past week and half (Luckily my last walk up at Boomer Lake was on the 4th).

Double-crested Cormorant spotted at Boomer Lake Park, Stillwater OK

I’d decided years ago that nature photography was going to be one of the photography ‘sub-areas’ that I’d focus on for several reasons: 1) I enjoy being outdoors and exploring, 2) I like to ‘look’ for various animals (such as birds or insects), and 3) it is almost always a ‘free’ thing to do when exploring new areas.

So here are some of the nature photographs that I’ve taken over the past few months that I would rank among my favorites so far for the second quarter of 2021:

Nymph on an wildflower

As I was walking back across the bridge, I noticed this little grasshopper nymph sitting in the wildflower. Since I’m not an entomologist, I’m not sure what nymph stage this insect was at or if it is even a grasshopper.

Possible Orchid Oriole spotted at Boomer Lake Park

I spotted this bird on one of my walks, and I think based on the red flank that it was possibly a male orchid oriole.

Green Heron preening itself at Boomer Lake

Just about a hundred yards or so after spotting the possible Orchid Oriole, I spotted a green heron preening itself in one of the covers. Also captured in the picture was a grackle and a couple of turtles sunning themselves.

Two scissor-tailed flycatchers sitting in a cottonwood tree

And finally–the state bird (the scissor-tailed flycatcher) is in the area again for a few months. This beautiful flycatcher is a resident from about late April through late August/early September (though sometimes still spotted in late September or early October).

So these were just a small number of pictures that I’ve taken over the past two months since I’ve been trying to get back into at least doing a monthly walk at Boomer Lake. Now that summer is here–I will probably only be doing a single walk a month at Boomer (unless really nice temps hit), so I will also use the backyard and creek area as inspiration for practicing nature photography as well.

Reference for Nature Photography Day: www.nanpa.org/events/nature-photography-day

How are you spending nature photography day?

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Adventures in the Outdoors: National Get Outdoors Day

So within the ‘Great Outdoors Month’, there is also ‘National Get Outside Day’.

This day was ‘established’ in 2008 as a means to get people outside for a ‘healthy, fun day of outdoor adventures’. This is a nationwide event that is coordinated by the US Forest Service and the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (which is America’s leading coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations and organizations).

It falls on the second Saturday of June–which means for this year it is today (June 12th). This means that in theory, today one should have free parking and entrance to parks across the country (though one should always have money on hand just in case the particular park is still charging either entrance and/or parking fees)–though other fees (such as camping or fishing) may still be charged.

While I may not be able to head to a state or national park for the day–I will hopefully be sitting outside ‘enjoying’ the outdoors later this afternoon (we’re in our hot and humid phase, with heat indexes in the upper 90s or low 100s–so even just sitting outdoors is unpleasant unless there is a nice breeze). Though I did get ‘outdoors’ this morning when I went to get the newspaper (and it was already starting to get a little muggy).

Even though I’m not heading to the ‘great outdoors’ today, I thought I’d still share some nature photos from various trips and hikes I’ve taken over the years:

While its been the only cave system I’ve visited–I would have to rank Carlsbad Caverns (more on the caves in an up-coming #throwbackthursdaytravel post) pretty high on the list for both caves and national parks:

Various formations seen within the ‘great room’ in Carlsbad Caverns

For easy hikes, I would say it’s a toss-up between hiking in the Ozarks (at Devil’s Den) and wandering through the forests along the north shore of Lake Superior:

Water-bugs skimming the top of the water @ Temperance River State Park

I managed to get a decent picture of numerous water-bugs walking/skimming the top of the water. This was a ‘calm’ portion of the river, and not very deep. I think it took me about ten minutes or so from the parking lot to reach the spot. One nice thing about the North Shore of Lake Superior–most of the state parks allow free entry for hiking, the only ‘fees’ are if you’re wanting to camp for the night. So, we just found a nice hotel, and drove up and down the coast going to different parks for hiking each day.

Spotting Lee Creek through the trees

I didn’t really try to get down to the creek at Devil’s Den to see if I could spot any insects, fish, or amphibians–maybe next time.

So I’ve been to parks (both state and national) within the Midwest and Southwest, so if I had a ‘magic wand’ that could teleport me to any national park/monument in the country for the day, I would figure out how to split my time and go between Crater Lake Natioal Park in Oregon, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho, and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

How are you spending National Get Outdoors Day?

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Reflecting on World’s Ocean Day: Creatures seen in the wild

Oceans cover approximately 70% of the earth’s surface (with the five ocean basins being the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Antarctic (newest one to be recognized)).

Aside from covering majority of the surface of the earth, they also produce ~50% of our oxygen (cyanobacteria and plankton), absorb ~30% of the carbon dioxide produced, and serve as both the main source of protein for over a seventh of the world’s population (over 1 billion people), and also as a source of income–~40 million people are to be employed by ocean-based industries by 2030.

But we’ve also depleted 90% of the big fish population, and (through global warming) have destroyed/killed about half the coral reefs (coral reef bleaching occurs when the coral expel the symbiotic cyanobacteria/plankton living within it due to ‘overheating’).

June 8 has been set aside as ‘World’ Ocean Day’ for several years now. Each year there is a theme for the day, and this year the theme is ‘The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods’. In addition to the launch of ‘A decade of challenges to [reach] the Sustainable Development Goal [#] 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources’ by 2030.

I’ve always been fascinated by the oceans–especially the number of creatures living under the waves. I even contemplated sutdying marine biology in college (either undergrad or grad)–but didn’t have the grades for a full scholarship at any school that offered teh degrees, so I’ve decided that I could always become an ‘amateur marine biologist’.

I’ve been to the ocean(s) only an handful of times throughout my life. I don’t remember the trips to the beach when I was a toddler; therefore the first time I was in the ‘ocean’ was in college on a class trip to Honduras and swimming in the Caribbean Sea.

Since that trip, I’ve been (back) to the Atlantic Ocean (when I was in Boston for my first postdoc), the Pacific Ocean (when I went to Hawaii after passing my qualifying exams in grad school), and the Gulf of Mexico on a family trip years ago.

I’ve managed see some wildlife and get pictures, and they include:

Green Sea Turtle swimming in Hilo Bay, Hilo Hawaii

Currently the only time I’ve seen a sea turtle in the wild was when I went to Hawaii back in 2009. I stayed on the island of Hawaii, and on Hilo Bay, so I would walk out and see what type of wildlife I could spot. The green sea turtle was present quite a few days, and according to some locals, if I’d gotten up a little earlier I would have also spotted the sting ray as well swimming through the bay.

I also managed to get some picture of some of the smaller marine fish as well on the trip:

Possibly the Moorish Idol swimming in Hilo Bay, Hilo Hawaii

My little handheld digital camera is waterproof to a certain depth, so once I spotted some fish I tried to stick the camera in and get some pictures (sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t). I would like to go back to Hawaii (and the Caribbean) to snorkel and get some more pictures of life under the waves.

When I was out in Boston, I managed to get a small handful of pictures of various marine life:

Whale watching

I went on several whale watching cruises, and the best pictures actually came from the second trip. I think this was a humpback slightly breaching the surface. I would like to go on another cruise (especially since I have a slightly better camera), as I’ve noticed when the aquarium posts pictures, other wildlife has also been spotted (large fish and even a shark or two).

Moon Jellyfish in the Boston Harbor

Since I also enjoyed walking along the harbor–one afternoon I spotted some jellyfish swimming in the harbor. Luckily I was able to get a couple of decent pictures of them.

Finally, when we were down at South Padre Island, Texas years ago I managed to get a couple pictures of various invertebrates in the bay:

Nautilus in the bay

One was a semi-close up of a young nautilus (a very ancient mollusk family–basically considered ‘living fossils’).

Nautilus and other hermit crabs in the bay

Here is a zoomed out picture showing the nautilus and other hermit crabs in the bay that evening.

I would love to get back to the ocean and snorkel (having either gotten contact lens and a good snorkel mask or just a good snorkel mask that could fit over my glasses–since I’m ‘blind’ as a bat without them), but also see other wildlife (from a good safe distance–so a cruise or boat ride) such as orcas, dolphins, or even a shark or two.

What marine animal(s) have you spotted in the wild?

Reference for world ocean day: https://www.un.org/en/observances/ocean-day

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Turtles & throwback photos: celebrating national trails day

Did you know that June is the ‘Great Outdoors Month’?

It started as the ‘Great Outdoors Week/end’ in the late 1990s under President Clinton, and was expanded under the presidents that followed. It has only been the past two years (since 2019) that it was officially designated as the ‘Great Outdoors Month’ by Congress.

It was designed as a way to get people outdoors and being active, plus showcase how outdoor activities are economically beneficial as well for everyone.

Within the month, there are also ‘specific’ days that get celebrated as well, such as:

National Trails Day (1st Saturday of the month–so for 2021, that would be today), and National Get Outdoors Day (2nd Saturday of teh month, so this year it will be on June 12th).

So, today is National Trails Day which was established to promote awareness to the massive trail system in the country that is maintained by the local, state, and federal governments.

Luckily, I live just a few blocks from a great walking trail–Boomer Lake (the trail goes all the way around, plus there are mini-paths that branch off from some of the sidewalk). While there are still areas that I haven’t really explored (during the summer there are ticks to be worried about, and the the cold temperatures in the winter), but I do try to get out on the trail at least once a month (if not once a week). I’m also going to try to get to Sanborn Lake and see what type of wildlife is around there as well sometime this year.

Red-eared slider seen sunning itself at Boomer Lake

There are other hiking trails that are nearby at one of the larger area lakes, but not within walking distance. Plus, walking/hiking the trails at Lake McMurtry requires you to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes. At least at Boomer Lake, it is only water snakes (and I don’t get close to those either).

When we managed to get up to northern Minnesota for vacation, there were always numerous hiking trails on the north shore of Lake Superior, and then just walking the roads around the area lakes also allowed for nature photography and watching. Depending on the time of year that we would go up there–it would either be in time to look for waterfalls, or take pictures of the different wildflowers growing.

Following the river (which I’m pretty sure was in Temperance River State Park)

One nice thing about hiking along the rivers, you could see where they entered Lake Superior:

Temperance River entering Lake Superior

Sometimes you can even follow the trail all the way down to the mouth of the river. Then you are able to see all the rocks that have collected over the centuries.

Smooth rocks in the river

I do like trying to find agates on the beach–on the rare occasion I’m successful, but most of the time I’m not (though since I’m not a geologist–I may have missed quite a few of them).

Wildflowers

I’ve managed to do several other small hikes over the years (these will possibly be their own pages under the travel section–coming soon[in addition to possible pages for the these hikes as well]), and hopefully will be able to do a several more in the future.

Where is your favorite hiking trail located, and is it an easy, medium, or hard hike?

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