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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Play Ball!

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Yesterday a good friend(who is from Boston so most photos are Red Sox related!) went to the Baseball Exhibit at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley,CA and reported it was quite amazing. A treasure trove of the most rare baseball memorabilia, all one person’s personal collection. (Anonymous). There are a few different hand quilted wall hangings/bedspreads that are incredible… one of the pictures shown above has hundreds of “autographed baseballs”; the woman sent the cloth to all of the players for their signatures and then she embroidered over them in very fine thread. She hand appliquéd the portraits as well. I can’t begin to imagine how long it took!

One piece of trivia learned: in order to sign 19 year old George Ruth to his first contract, in Baltimore, the team manager had to adopt him. The other players starting referring to him as the manager’s “new babe”….hence the name!

The exhibit  opened on April 4th and will close on September 4th,2014.

Getting Stoned??!

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THAT got your attention!

Back to the building of the house in Concord. One of the things that the client really wanted to think about was using stone on the house-especially the front elevation. We had seen a house that we loved done by architect Gil Schafer III in NY State. What became very clear as we googled,researched and discovered was that stone is not prevalent in Massachusetts. You see beautiful stone houses in Pennnsylvania,New York ,New Jersey and even some in Connecticut but definitely NOT in Massachusetts.Ironically, there IS one stone house here in Concord right on Lexington Road (pictured above) .It was built by Cyrus Pierce in 1850 but I am not certain how it came to be made of stone.

On a google search this is what came up in Massachusetts:

Stone’s Public House in Ashland(the fact that  it is called “The Stone House” might make you realize that it is rare!),Stone House Properties(Real Estate),Nason’s Stone House Farm Store in West Boxford(famous for “awesome chicken pies!”) and that is about it. There were a few new houses but they really looked new and that is not what we want. There were definitely no federal style farmhouses, and that is the way we are all leaning.

 

London In March

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April in Paris maybe, but London in March proved to be just as beautiful. We were there last week and I was completely surprised at how perfect the weather was and how much was in bloom. It made it doubly hard to come back to snowy New England!

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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