Holiday House Tour-The Kitchen

I have a snowman collection that I started while in Switzerland. I had them in the double window as you walked in the kitchen,over the bench seat.img_4918dsc_9921

The dog tree in the kitchen didn’t always have Judy’s golden puppy Tucket in front of it for the tour, but I just had to put this picture in.  I have all goldens and westies on the tree for our dogs.fullsizerender-66

The deer seemed a little large when the huge boxes arrived from Frontgate but I loved them on the table.img_4969

Judy and I decided to keep the windows clean and simple and just tied burlap squares around white poinsettias and finished them with red organza ribbon.dsc_9923We had a baking station, as if someone in the house were making cookies that day.dsc_9918

Another one of Judy’s amazing arrangements!dsc_9916Just simple boxwood wreaths in the windows tied up with gold ribbon. The HO HO’s I got years ago but had never used.img_4924dsc_9915

Massachusetts Groundhog??!

So if it is not enough that we have now won the Super Bowl with the Patriots,we also now have our own groundhog  to predict the weather for the next six weeks! This is the story:

Ms. G’s Campaign for Massachusetts’s State Groundhog!

Longtime Boston TV Meteorologist Mish Michaels led the campaign to make Ms. G the State Groundhog for the Commonwealth. Ms. G’s official duties now include posting a forecast on February 2nd, Groundhog Day! Mish was joined on the campaign trail by her 8-year old daughter and her daughter’s classmates in Wellesley at the Hunnewell Elementary School.

Mish first met Ms. G, a resident of Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, back in 2007 while working with Mass Audubon on stories for WBZ related to the environment, weather, and climate change. Mish encouraged the Mass Audubon to host an annual Groundhog Day event featuring Ms. G. In 2008, Ms. G posted her first forecast on February 2nd. A star was born! In fact, Ms. G has had better local forecast accuracy with her “shadow/no shadow” forecast than Punxsutawney Phil way down in PA. It is Ms. G’s local weather expertise that inspired Mish to take on the role as Ms. G’s campaign manager.

In early 2013, Mish met with Wellesley Representative Alice Peisch to discuss the road ahead for Ms. G. The goal—not only to have a groundhog with local forecast expertise, but to encourage students to study weather by making Ms. G the official State Groundhog. Representative Peisch crafted language for the proposed bill, H.2864.

The Ms. G Bill was debated by the Senate on Thursday, July 17, 2014 and was overwhelmingly passed. First grade students from Hunnewell Elementary who helped lead the campaign were on the floor of the Senate to be part of this historic vote. Once the bill was passed, the students were treated to a standing ovation and many “high fives” by Senators.

On Monday, July 21, 2014, the Ms. G Bill passed both final House and Senate votes and on Thursday, July 31, 2014, Governor Deval Patrick signed H.2864, making Ms G the Official Massachusetts State Groundhog. Congratulations to the second graders at the Hunnewell School in Wellesley for their successful legislative campaign which started when they were in kindergarten!

You can buy Mish’s book on Amazon.com.

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The Amazon-some Facts or what I learned while there….

Aside from the sheer vastness of the Amazon and the Rio Negro and the incredible vegetation, there were a few things I took away with me that I learned about while there. One is the fact that a lot of the vegetation is merely buried during the rainy season-in the very least,a  lot of the trees were covered up to half of their height. The roots of tree can be extremely large-leading one to believe they are hanging on for dear life!

The trees are worse off in the rainy season, when many leaves die but relatively few new ones are produced. In the dry season they thrive; far more new leaves are produced than are shed, allowing the tree to benefit from the season’s increased sunlight. It appears that the trees anticipate the dry season, putting out leaves earlier, suggesting that they have evolved to take maximum advantage of the light.They have deep roots and are able to tap water deep in the soil.

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I also loved seeing the pink dolphins.

Amazon River Dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)

The Amazon River dolphin averages about 6.5 feet in length. They come in all shades of pink, from a dull gray-pink, to rosy colored pink, to a bright pink like that of the flamingo. This color variation is due to the clarity of the water in which the dolphin lives; the darker the water, the pinker the dolphin will be. The sun’s rays cause the dolphins to lose their pink pigmentation. Murky water helps to protect the dolphin’s bright hue. These animals are also known to flush to a bright pink when excited. There are several anatomical differences between the Amazon River dolphin and other types of dolphins. For one, Amazon River dolphins are able to turn their necks from side to side while most species of dolphin cannot. This trait coupled with their ability to paddle forward with one flipper while paddling backward with the other helps them maneuver when the river floods. These dolphins will actually swim up over the flooded land and their flexibility helps them to navigate around trees. Additional characteristics that set these dolphins apart from other species are molar-like teeth that allow them to chew their prey and bristle-like hairs at the ends of their snouts that help them search for food on the muddy river bottoms.

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I was also fascinated by the Brazilian rosewood.Brazilian rosewood is endemic to the coastal Brazilian Atlantic Forest, one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.  Of the over 8,000 plants species that grow there, Brazilian rosewood is one of the largest.  It can also be recognised by its dark branches that grow in zigzag patterns and by its feathery leaflets.

The tree is able to withstand a broad range of climatic conditions from tropical lowland forest to sub-montane forest.  Nitrogen fixing bacteria and fungi in its roots allows the species to survive in nutrient deficient soils. Throughout a short period between November and December its flowers are pollinated by insects, mainly bees and it produces fruit from January until September.

Like all rosewoods, the species has a strong sweet smell reminiscent of the fragrance of roses. The high oil content of the wood also makes it desirable for use as an essential oil for fragrance cosmetics (Chanel no.5 for example) and for use in medicines.

Its timber is heavy and strong, making it highly resistant to insect attack and decay. It is therefore much sought after in local markets as a building material for use in flooring, structural beams and wall panelling/lining. Worldwide, its timber, being highly resonant, is also used to make musical instruments such as guitars.

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excerpts from articles on Brazilian Rosewood,the Amazon, National Geographic on Pink Dolphins

The Amazon and Rio Negro

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A few weeks ago, we went on a fabulous trip with some friends. We flew into Manaus,Brazil and stayed there one night. The next day we took a private bus to our lodge which was 100 miles northwest of Manaus. We stayed for 4 days  at a wonderful lodge called Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge. We had a tour guide that took us out every day on the Rio Negro which is a tributary of the Amazon. Even that was about 18 miles( where we were) across to the other side with over 400 islands in it!

Here is more information,as we learned it,about the Amazon and Rio Negro:

Rio Negro is the largest left tributary of the Amazon, the largest backwater river in the world, and one of the world’s ten largest rivers in average discharge. It has its sources along the watershed between the Orinoco and the Amazon basins, and also connects with the Orinoco by way of the Casiquiare canal in southern Venezuela. In Colombia, where the Rio Negro’s sources are located, it is called the Guainía River. Its main affluent is the Vaupes , which disputes with the headwaters of the Guaviare branch of the Orinoco, the drainage of the eastern slope of the Andes of Columbia. The Rio Negro flows into the Rio Solimões to form the Amazon River South of Manaus, Brazil.

Rio Negro is navigable for 430 mi from its mouth  in the dry season, but it has many sandbanks and minor difficulties. A small portion of it forms the international boundary between Colombia and Venezuela.

In the wet season, it floods the country far and wide, sometimes to a width of 19 miles, for long distances, and for 40 miles upstream. During this time, from April until October, it is a succession of lagoons, full of long islands and intricate channels. The foothills of the Andes begin just before reaching the Vaupes . At this point, the Negro narrows and is filled with many large rocks over which it violently flows in cataracts, rapids and whirlpools..

 While the name Rio Negro means Black River, its waters aren’t exactly black; they are similar in color to strong tea. The dark color comes from humid acid from incomplete breakdown of phenol-containing vegetation from sandy clearings. The river’s name arises from the fact that it looks black from afar.

Much has been written on the productivity of the Rio Negro and other blackwater rivers. The older idea that these are “hunger rivers” is giving way, with new research, to the recognition that the Rio Negro, for example, supports a large fishing industry and has numerous turtle beaches. If the Negro was empty of Indians during the 17th century, introduced exotic diseases and warfare are more likely causes than low river productivity.

About 700 fish species have been documented in the river basin, and it is estimated that the total is 800–900 fish species, including almost 100 endemics and several undescribed species. Among these are many that are important in the aquarium trade, including the cardinal tetra.

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Beatrix Potter

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If you ever wondered how Beatrix Potter got the inspiration to draw such incredibly adorable animals in such beautiful, charming settings you need only go to the village Near Sawrey in the Lake District where she lived in a house called Hill Top Farm .

Born into a wealthy Unitarian family, Potter, along with her younger brother Walter Bertram (1872–1918), grew up with few friends outside her large extended family. Her parents were artistic, interested in nature and enjoyed the countryside. As children, Beatrix and Bertram had numerous small animals as pets which they observed closely and drew endlessly. Summer holidays were spent away from London, in Scotland and in the English Lake District where Beatrix developed a love of the natural world which was the subject of her painting from an early age.

She was educated by private governesses until she was 18. Her study of languages, literature, science and history was broad and she was an eager student. Her artistic talents were recognized early. She enjoyed private art lessons, and developed her own style, favouring watercolor. Along with her drawings of her animals, real and imagined, she illustrated insects, fossils, archaeological artefacts, and fungi. In the 1890s her mycological illustrations and research into the reproduction of fungus spores generated interest from the scientific establishment. Following some success illustrating cards and booklets, Potter wrote and illustrated The Tale of Peter Rabbit, publishing it first privately in 1901, and a year later as a small, three-colour illustrated book with Frederick Warne & Company.
With the proceeds from the books and a legacy from an aunt, Potter bought Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey, a tiny village in the English Lake District near Windermere, in 1905. Over the following decades, she purchased additional farms to preserve the unique hill country landscape.

Potter published over 23 books: the best known are those written between 1902 and 1922. She died of pneumonia/heart disease on 22 December 1943 at her home in Near Sawrey at age 77, leaving almost all her property to the National Trust. She is credited with preserving much of the land that now comprises the Lake District National Park.

Ambleside in the Lakes

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We drove up to the Lake District for a few days and stayed at a hotel very near to Ambleside called Holbeck Ghyll. It was a beautiful hotel and the food and service was amazing. The first day we hiked to Ambleside along a beautiful path-saw sheep,beautiful stone houses and had gorgeous views.
Ambleside, one of the jewels of the Lakes, is set in the center of the Lake District at the head of Lake Windermere. Blessed with beautiful scenery, this bustling market town provides everything a visitor could want from the numerous shops offering wares for walkers and climbers, to the many drinking and eating establishments.Ambleside is rich with history and heritage. Originally containing a Roman fort (Fort Galava, the remains of which can be seen in Borran’s field, Waterhead), Ambleside has always been an important area of the Lake District.Buildings such as the 17th century Bridge House, one of the smallest houses in Britain, jostle with the Ambleside Museum (home to many Beatrix Potter artefacts) to hold the attention of visitors and offer an interesting insight into local life. Nearby is Stock Ghyll Force, a beautiful waterfall,  which provides another stunning natural attraction.An ideal base for a walking holiday, Ambleside has easy access to the surrounding fells and breathtaking mountains. For the less energetic, there are strolls along the shore, boat trips on the lake and a fantastic collection of interesting visitor attractions. Shoppers are well catered for also with an abundance of outdoor retail outlets, craft shops and galleries.

Porcupines!

 

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While walking in heavy snow through Estabrook Woods here in Concord a few weeks ago,my dogs took off chasing something. By the the time I got over to them, they turned to look at me and my golden retriever had quite a face full of quills! My westie had been hit as well and the third dog, another golden, was slower to get there apparently-she just had a few in her face. I took them straight to the vet knowing that they had to be put under to get that many quills out….$1000.00 later they are fine, but it was quite a lesson for all of us! Here is what we found out:

The porcupine is the prickliest of rodents, though its Latin name means “quill pig.” There are about two dozen porcupine species, and all boast a coat of needle-like quills to give predators a sharp reminder that this animal is no easy meal. Some quills, like those of Africa’s crested porcupine, are nearly a foot (30 centimeters) long.

Porcupines have soft hair, but on their back, sides, and tail it is usually mixed with sharp quills. These quills typically lie flat until a porcupine is threatened, then leap to attention as a persuasive deterrent. Porcupines cannot shoot them at predators as once thought, but the quills do detach easily when touched.

Many animals come away from a porcupine encounter with quills protruding from their own snouts or bodies. Quills have sharp tips and overlapping scales or barbs that make them difficult to remove once they are stuck in another animal’s skin. Porcupines grow new quills to replace the ones they lose.

The porcupines found in North and South America are good climbers and spend much of their time in trees. Some even have prehensile (gripping) tails to aid in climbing. The North American porcupine is the only species that lives in the U.S. and Canada, and is the largest of all porcupines. A single animal may have 30,000 or more quills. North American porcupines use their large front teeth to satisfy a healthy appetite for wood. They eat natural bark and stems, and have been known to invade campgrounds and chew on canoe paddles. North American porcupines also eat fruit, leaves, and springtime buds.

-excerpts from National Geographic

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