A Day of Thanks, A Day of Remembrance

Alder Leaf

Small Maple Leaf

I don’t have much to say about Thanksgiving in the United States. I find it a rather awkward holiday. So, let’s move on. This is a Nature blog, not a holiday blog after all!

I’m planning to do two posts for the month of December.

Right now, I’m doing some “not so light reading” in preparation for my next high-level post. Its rather depressing, but you know once it passes through me, I’ll make it much more enjoyable for you to read! I’ll also share a funny personal story about how to make ANY job a “Nature-Led” job.

Until then……

Pull your weeds after the rain.

Go for a walk in Nature.

Stay true to yourself.

Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com

A Nature-Led Halloween

Flowers and pumpkins

In the U.S. we celebrate Halloween on October 31st every year. Oddly enough, when I searched “Which countries celebrate Halloween?” I found a listing of the “Top 14” countries (Wait, 14? Yep.) and the U.S. wasn’t even included on the list! Well I suppose we can’t be first of everything, all the time. At least IRELAND, the birthplace of All Hallows Eve made the list at number 10. Who made this list? Author unknown. Let’s take this ordered ranking with a pinch of salt because no one saw fit to attach their name or justification for it.

One of these years I would love to visit our neighbors to the south, aka Mexico, to experience Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead.) What a wonderful cultural tradition to feast with the spirits of deceased family members in a day of love and remembrance. Everything about it is visual eye candy from the sugar skulls, painted faces, beautiful dresses and black suits.

Here in the U.S. kids run around in the dark going door to door yelling “Trick or Treat” and receiving candy. We pretty much just ignore the “Trick” part of the equation. If you’re considered mean, or if the kids are just mean, you might get eggs thrown at your house, but that’s not very common. If you don’t want to give out candy just keep your porchlight off and the little gremlins will ignore your house like moths looking for the next porchlight to gather around.

I’ve always enjoyed Halloween, myself. I think its fun to dress up and be something different for a night.

Last year, I was sad to think the kids wouldn’t get to celebrate Halloween as usual and while we did have to do things a little differently, many of us still had a lot of fun. I took my son and many people left candy out, so that it felt more like a scavenger hunt. A few neighbors dressed warmly and tossed candy up and over for the kids to catch like pop-up flyballs at the baseball stadium.

This is what I did: We had our window blinds open and waved at the kids as they came to grab a bag off the line. Normally we get eight or nine trick or treaters with a bunch of candy leftover, but last year we got at least 20! I have no idea what to expect this year.

Pandemic Halloween 2020

I’ll be doing this same “Clothesline candy system” again this year.

The vaccine was just approved for children 2-11 years old this week. They’ll be receiving 1/3 of the adult dose. Hopefully many kids can start getting vaccinated by Thanksgiving (November 25th.)

What is Cultural Appropriation? Dressing up to mimic a person of another race in a stereotypical or satirical way. Hollywood was guilty of this for a number of years, often trying to generate comedic value from it. Look no further than Micky Rooney’s character Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961). I don’t think we need to ban everything with offensive content in it. Put a notice on it calling it out for what it is and lets do better to eliminate these prejudices moving forward. Indigenous people’s regalia (headdresses and dress) are not Halloween costumes. They are religious and cultural artifacts. It’s good to admire people of different backgrounds and ethnicities, but don’t attempt to change your skin tone in the name of some misplaced attempt at authenticity. It’s offensive. If you weren’t born Black, don’t put on a “Black face.” When in doubt, go as a tree, or a dog, or some other non-human being. They have no idea what this craziness is all about and aren’t likely to get upset about it. The family dog would love it if you dressed up as soft and fluffy as they are for some couch loafing time.

When I was a kid I alternated between two costumes that I loved from grades 2nd to 6th grade, Generic Princess and the Wicked Witch of the West from Wizard of Oz. My nose kept falling off so I guess I was really just a kid in green face paint. I’ve also been a pirate and Cleopatra. My last “costume” was as a tired mom. It was really cold that year so I threw on my fuzzy bathrobe over my overcoat and walked around with a thermos full of coffee. Somewhere around the eighth house visited I got some Kahlua poured into it. That was nice.

How to make it a Nature-Led Halloween:

Re-use decorations for as long as you can year after year. (Simple is best in my opinion. It takes me 15 minutes to put up/put away Halloween each year and I’ve had these things for at least ten years now.)

Be mindful about the decorations you put outside. Is it secure from the elements like rain and wind? Does it have the potential to trip or tangle up people or animals? Do not use fake spiderwebs or netting outdoors. These have been known to harm and kill owls, bats, and small birds.

Use natural decorations like pumpkins that can last for weeks, often times all the way to Thanksgiving. Then compost them when they get moldy or if its an edible pumpkin or gourd, eat it before it has a chance to go bad.

Use natural elements from around your yard to spruce up a display or flower container. You can use dried leaves on a length of twine to create a banner.

Prices are getting quite high these days for a lot of items. I really wanted some flowers, so I bought the most inexpensive ones I could find and added some fern fronds from the yard to give the arrangement more height and variation. I like how it turned out. What do you think?

Simple Flower Arrangement parts
Simple Flower Arrangement

A “brief” list of countries that celebrate Halloween: https://thecountriesof.com/what-countries-celebrate-halloween-around-the-world/#:~:text=What%20Countries%20Celebrate%20Halloween%20Around%20the%20World%201,Kong.%20…%2010%20Ireland.%20…%20More%20items…%20

Do you celebrate Halloween?

What do you do to celebrate?

How Habitats Shape Our Habits

Native Douglas Squirrel – This is Doug, 8th of their name

I’ve been thinking about how the places we live in influence our habits. For example, where I live; in a suburban neighborhood, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, we have a high concentration of deer, black bears, coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, cougars, foxes, skunks, porcupine, rats, mice and squirrels. I’m probably still missing an animal or two, like rare sightings of wolves and American badgers. There’s a funny meme about comparing European and American badgers. It’s basically, “The European Badger looks like it wants to invite you over for tea. The American badger looks like it’s going to beat you up in a dark alley and steal all your money.” Seems fairly accurate to me. Our winged neighbors include three types of owls, two types of hawks, two types of eagles, two types of ravens, the American Crow, a couple of woodpeckers, and a variety of smaller birds.

Raccoon young

 Due to the powerful, inquisitive, and highly evolved sniffers on our wild neighbors we wash our recycling and our garbage to reduce the temptation of smells for the black bears in particular. However, many a crow or posse of raccoons have also torn apart an unattended garbage bag. I once saw a construction worker put his fast-food lunch bag on the hood of his truck while he reached in to grab something else. In that same moment a crow swooped down to steal the bag of food. The bag ripped spilling fries and burger bits all over the road.

Oh yes, and we have Moose in Washington State too! They’re not all in Canada. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about running into moose in the Puget Sound region where I live now but growing up North of Spokane we would occasionally get moose wandering into town during winter. One time riding the school bus home from high school a bus driver reported seeing a moose over the CB radio. Since our route was close to it, our bus driver detoured from the route hoping to see it. He went for a few blocks but we didn’t see it so he went back to our route. I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. I’m glad the driver didn’t try to make a big long adventure of it.

We don’t need to do anything special to prepare for summers around here, but our winters consists of strong winds, heavy rain and snow in the mountains. At the end of summer, we pull in any outdoor furniture or toys that might have been laying out in the yard or on the patio all summer. Some people pull their barbeque into a covered area or purchase a cover and keep it in place if it’s too heavy to move. Not everyone has a barbeque of course, but they are particularly popular in the suburban American landscape. This too can be a bear attractant. If the grill isn’t cleaned after its cooled and you wait too long a black bear might come along and clean it for you!

Yearling Buck 2019, note the fencing around the young cherry tree in the background.

Fall is the best time to plant trees here. They can usually become fairly well established before the first frost and because our winters are predominately rainy, you rarely have to water your new plantings. Small trees do need to be staked to help them keep from getting blown over and if you’re in an area with a dense deer population, chicken wire or other fencing is needed to keep the deer from eating the young buds and leaves in the spring or it being used as an antler rubbing post by the bucks. From my personal, the bucks prefer young cypress trees as their preferred cologne. A new buck has appeared in my yard and I need to get more long stakes to protect some of my new trees and shrubs.

The state of Washington encompasses most primary biomes within its borders. We’re only missing Tundra, but we do have Alpine and Subalpine regions. I currently live in the temperate forest, but I grew up in the shrub-steppe area. South around the Hanford Nuclear reservation is desert. The northwest corner, the Olympic peninsula is our rainforest.

Rabbit young, native rabbit.

Here is some fun localized humor for you:

 “Hummingbear” feeders = Hummingbird feeders

“Bearseed feeders”, “ratfeeders”, “squirrelfeeders” = Birdseed Feeders (Most people will try 3-5 different “whatever”-proof feeders before giving up. A birdbath is a much easier way to attract birds.)

= a “squirrel poker” = A pocketknife or any small knife (<6in.) because a knife at that length isn’t very threatening

“Widowmaker” = military slang for a submarine, but in the forest it’s a large broken branch hanging up high in a tall tree. They tend to blow down during the winter winds and can impale a person, car or home.

“Alligator or gator strip” = Tire strips along the freeway. We don’t have alligators in WA state.

Caught on a neighbors wildlife camera a few years ago. The one wild neighbor I never want to meet!

Cougars on Wildlife Cam, Mother and Juvenile Son. Neighbors image, not mine.

What geographical region do you live in?

What special precautions do you have to take in your daily life?