With all the bad news today, unusual stories bring us a lot of entertainment, probably more than they should. They also provide opportunities for puns, as you will read in this tale about the baked potatoes found at the Wayland Free Public Library in Massachusetts.
The first cooked russet potato appeared on a Monday with a second arriving on the following Thursday. The library humorously suggested that the potatoes were part of a rare potato-migration. They are asking people to keep their eyes peeled for whoever left them. Perhaps the russets were rustled?
The library has been having great fun with the potato mystery. Books about cooking potatoes have become very popular. So far, the culprit has not been identified and no more potatoes have shown up—but Mr. Potato Head is looking for his friends.
Photo above is courtesy of the Wayland Free Public Library.
Book Note: I do enjoy funny stories, which is why I wrote How NOT to Photograph a Hummingbird, after watching a man at the Tucson Botanical Gardens race around, trying to capture a photo of a hummingbird that seemed to be taunting him. In my story, he is injured by Sonoran Desertflora and fauna, but remains undaunted in his efforts. Of course, I also include a glossary of the plants and animals in the story because science education is what I’m all about. I just love to make it fun for all the budding scientists out there!
I usually travel during the December holidays, so I don’t do much holiday decorating. A garland and a lighted ball is sufficient for me. This year, due to the pandemic, I’m staying home and I’ve been trying to decide if and how I’ll decorate. I don’t really need decorations to feel the holiday spirit. This morning, I found the holiday colors I was looking for. I don’t need an evergreen tree in my house – I have a golden tree in my yard. This pomegranate tree comes complete with its own red fruit ornaments. And instead of a star, I’ll top my tree with a hummingbird.
Nature is the best decorator.
Book Note: How Not to Photograph a Hummingbirdis a humorous tale about the dangers of trying to photograph a hummingbird. I was fortunate that this particular hummingbird cooperated with my photography efforts.
On November 20th, absurdity is celebrated by being whacky, for example. It strikes me as absurd that on November 19th, we celebrate carbonated beverages with caffeine day. One day later we can expand and include other absurdities.
Some might think it is absurd to write a book. Some days, writers think so, too! Or go to Caribbean islands and spend all your time chasing large lizards that are not happy to be part of a scientific study. I often visit islands with gorgeous beaches and never actually get in the ocean – now that is absurd!
Absurdity and ridiculousness keep life interesting. What is absurd? The illogical, unreasonable, the crazy, zany and the nonsensical. November 20th is the day to accept life’s absurdities and perhaps create some of your own. Have some fun with it. Let your absurd side run free . . . if only for a day!
Book Note: An absurd moment did hit one day when I was thinking about a recent visitor to Arizona and a story began to unfold in my mind. The scientist in me included Sonoran Desert flora and fauna in the story (with a glossary, no less!), but the comedian in me caused the story’s impolite visitor to stumble from one desert danger to the next, while trying to photograph a hummingbird. Even though I write mystery novels in addition to my FUN children’s science books, I did not kill off the visitor. But the number of his injuries might give him pause when thinking about returning, right?
For a good (and educational) laugh, check out How NOT to Photograph a Hummingbird. Your kids will enjoy the absurdities; you could even read it to your little ones–it is illustrated.
I love pomegranates. I have fond childhood memories of my family sitting around the table, each of us carefully peeling the tough husk off and eating the luscious seeds one at a time. We were careful to wear clothing that could be stained with the permanently dyeing juice.
Brought to the Sonoran Desert by Spanish settlers, these trees do well in this dry climate. I have planted a few in my yard, so I can enjoy pomegranates throughout the winter. I usually only consume half the fruit crop, leaving the rest for the birds and other pomegranate-eating animals.
This summer, the monsoons have failed to develop as usual and I’ve only had half an inch of rain fall in my yard, as opposed to the usual four inches by now. The pomegranate fruit stalled in their growth and have been bursting open before the seeds have ripened. They’re still sweet in flavor.
But don’t worry, the pomegranates are being consumed by the locals.
Here, you’ll see a bird hopping in and out of the opening.
Even though I’m disappointed that I won’t get many, if any, pomegranates this year, I am glad that the locals can enjoy them.
“Hello to all! I’m Curtis Curly-tail and I am here to tell you about my latest YouTube video, which focuses on Roadrunners in Southern Arizona. Did you know when these large birds leave tracks behind, you can’t tell what direction they came from or where they went? I wish I could do that! And roadrunners are really, really fast. That makes me a little afraid of them, too. They do love their lizard snacks!
We lizards are pretty fast, ourselves. So far, so good.
In the heat of the Sonoran Desert, many cacti use the shade of trees to help them survive. They also help in the cold winters. These are nurse trees.
Underneath a mesquite in my yard, I found this thriving Graham’s Nipple or Arizona Fishhook Cactus. The scientific name isMammillaria grahamii. I wouldn’t have noticed it if not for the bright colors of the flowers. The term fishhook refers to the one-three large spines in each spine grouping that are hooked and reddish to brown in color. This species are named after Colonel James Duncan Graham (1799-1851), who took part in a U.S.-Mexico border survey.
Indigenous people have eaten the fruit and pulp of this plant as food, as well using it as a medicine to treat earaches. I’m enjoying it for its natural beauty.
To help with our staying-at-home, many nature organizations have been showing photos and videos of interesting plants and animals. The American Bird Conservancy featured Sanderlings, Calidris alba, in one of these offerings.
Some of my fondest memories include Sanderlings that I watched and strolled among on Bunche Beach and Sanibel Island in Florida. My parents would often call them baby sandpipers, thinking they were the chicks of the taller Semipalmated Sandpipers, also present on the beaches. They never quite believed me when I said the Sanderlings were full-grown.
One of my favorite restorative activities is walking along the beach. The Sanderlings run along the edge of the waves, poking their long thin bills into the sand. If I keep a slow pace, they continue their work, sometimes darting ahead a few steps, sometimes dashing up farther on to the dry sand. When my presence is too intrusive, the entire group or flock takes off with rapidly fluttering colorful wings, cheeping noisily.
I was surprised to discover that Sanderlings breed in the high Arctic tundra, quite different from the Florida Gulf Coast. They’re members of the Scolopacidae family, which includes the more famous Red Knots and Long-billed Curlews. It also includes those Semipalmated Sandpipers.
I’m glad ABC chose to feature Sanderlings, one of my favorite birds. I look forward to being able to travel to join them on the beach again.
Note: A favorite bird of mine back home is the Roadrunner. To learn all about these special runners, check out my rhyming book, Don’t Make Me Fly!
My friend Elaine lives in the Sonoran Desert in Southern Arizona in the US, while I live on Warderick Wells Cay in the Bahamas. Even though we’re over two thousand miles apart, we share a family of birds. I like to have an occasional adventure and when I was visiting the Leon Levy Preserve on Eleuthera recently, I saw a magnificent bird, the Great-Lizard Cuckoo, in a tree. PHEW! I usually see these birds on the ground running. When you’re a lizard, seeing a running cuckoo can be terrifying! They eat lizards, you know.
Watching the cuckoo run, I realized I had seen something
similar in a video my friend Elaine sent me. In the Sonoran Desert and many other
places, there’s a bird that runs just like my Great-Lizard Cuckoo. That’s because the Roadrunner is a member of
the Cuckoo family.
Cuckoos are found on all the continents except Antarctica and they’re all magnificent. I’m so glad my friend and I can both enjoy these wonderful birds. If you want to learn more about Elaine’s Roadrunner, check out her book Don’t Make Me Fly! It’s all about the roadrunner and it’s lots of fun because it’s written in rhyme.
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