Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review Time – “Track of the Cat”, by Nevada Barr

If you enjoy suspenseful novels that take place in the great outdoors, then Nevada Barr is your author.  “Track of the Cat” is the first in Barr’s Anna Pigeon series, which take place in various National Parks across the country.  Her protagonist, Anna Pigeon, is a park ranger who manages to stumble upon all sorts of calamities during her posts.

Having read “Deep South” by Nevada Barr several years ago (set in the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi) I was excited to read another one of her works.  “Track of the Cat” takes place in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas, and involves the accidental death of a fellow ranger.  Anna of course couldn’t shake her suspicions when things didn’t quite add up.  Then when her own life is threatened and another fellow ranger ends up dead, well . . . now she’s in way too deep to turn away.   Being true to herself, Anna couldn’t let well enough alone.

Throughout her mysteries, Barr’s love of wildlife and the great outdoors is apparent as you read along.  Barr herself was a park ranger and spent time at many of the parks depicted in her books, so you know the descriptions are thoughtful as well as accurate. 

Conclusion:  Although I still like “Deep South” better, I have to say “Track of the Cat” was a fun read, and I look forward to reading about more of Anna’s adventures.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Western Coachwhip Snake vs. Man & Baby Bird

Well, just another boring day out in the wilderness. . . . . Ha!  The following is an account of our excitement last Friday.  I just started volunteering for an organization named Nature Abounds for their "Watch the Wild" program.  I had only hoped to be able to start off with a bang, but couldn't imagine what my first incident report to them would be.  The following is my observation and photos of an interaction with what I believe was s a young Western Coachwhip snake and baby Cassin's King Bird. We believe the snake was a young snake approximately 3-4 ft long.

Observation: At approx 10:00 am I saw a snake climbing our flowering plum tree heading towards a nest containing a baby Cassin's King Bird. My husband and I ran outside and my husband flung the snake out of the tree with a rake. The snake dropped the baby bird and very quickly slithered away. The snake kept trying to come back and my husband kept flinging it away. When the coast was clear, we used a shovel to gently pick up the baby bird and put him in the nest. Not wanting to put human scent on the bird, but knowing that he still needed help, I put leather gloves on and uprighted him by his legs only.  The adult birds kept flying around but would not go back to the baby bird. The below photos explain why. Apparently, the snake climbed up an adjacent tree and crossed over to the tree containing the baby bird. Once again we ran outside and flung the snake away (this time before he got to the baby bird). My husband then transported the snake to a field across the street from our house.

Time will only tell now whether or not the baby bird survives, however, I am happy to report that about an hour after this incident the bird parents returned to the nest to tend to their baby. 

Do you see it?  Look closely . . . . 

Western Coachwhip snake going from right tree to left tree.

He wasn't too happy with us for taking him away from his meal.

However he did allow me to take a good shot of him.

Scott taking him to find a new home in a neighboring field.

It's hard to see, but the traumatized baby Cassin's King bird is back in his nest.

P.S.  Unfortunately this weekend we noticed that the nest was barren.  We can only assume one of two things happened, either a snake came back or the bird died.  Trust me, I was hugely upset at the snake because I so wanted that little bird to live.  However, after simmering down, I do realize this is nature running it's course.  I like to think that my husband and I have been very lucky to have observed some of the many wildlife incidents that we have.  One day when it's time to leave this earth, we will be able to say, "Wow, how fortunate we have been to have experienced life so fully."

For more information on Nature Abounds' Watch the Wild program, IceWatch USA, and their other initiatives, visit:  

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Garden Escapades – Radishes a plenty and more!

Today I plucked the remaining radishes out of the garden, and I have to say that this year I had a fabulous crop!  I wasn’t sure how these little red gems would do in the Arizona heat, but with a little shade netting and cool night temperatures, they did just fine indeed. 

I planted three different types all from Ferry-Morse.  The first, Cherry Belle, was the most abundant with a mild radish flavor.  The white Icicle radishes didn’t produce too many, but what did come up was mild in flavor, not my favorite, but fun to have a different color and shape.  Now the third radish, the Sparkler, was surprisingly hot.  These red and white radishes left my tongue screaming and my husband laughing at me (he doesn’t eat radishes).  Of course the question he posed to me was, “If they are so hot, why do you keep eating them?”  Well, I guess as any hot pepper lover knows, you just can’t help yourself.  It’s addicting in a way.  They are good and spicy, and they came from my garden, so by golly I’m gonna eat those little buggers!

Anyway, now it’s time to tend to the other items in the garden, all of which are doing fairly well.  That is, except for the carrots.  Yesterday I went out to water and discovered that all the green tops had been eaten off of those little sweeties.  As Elmer Fudd would say, “Hey there’s something awfully screwy going on around here.”  Yes, the rabbit is back.  Last month he promptly demolished our green bean plants which were doing so, so well.  Let’s just say if we find that little critter we’re going to make some hasenpfeffer stew!  But I digress. 

Back to the point.  The tomatoes are doing well, the peppers are doing well, the eggplant looks so good we have to pinch it to make sure it’s real, and the artichoke (our new experiment) is growing in leaps and bounds.  So I will report back on any interesting gardening tidbits, and in the meantime, “Shhh, be very, very quiet.  I’m hunting rabbits.”  Where is that Elmer Fudd when you need him? 

Happy Summer Solstice to you all!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Review Time – “Gone”, by Lisa Gardner

What do you like to read?  Do you like a little mystery?  Suspense?  Maybe a kidnapping?  Or perhaps a homicide or two?  Well, excellent!  I have a recommendation for you. 

I have to admit this is my first Lisa Gardner book.  I picked up “Gone” at a garage sale a year or so ago and just pulled it off my shelf to read a couple of weeks ago.  Let me tell you, I was happy that I did. 

So without telling you too much and giving the story away, “Gone” takes place over a two day span and is about a kidnapping that has more twists and turns than a roller coaster.  Gardner gracefully jumps back and forth between characters, a successful maneuver to keep you turning the page to find out what happens next. 

Along with your dose of suspense in this ever changing plot, she gives you interesting characters with human faults.  Characters that laugh, cry and are a little twisted, and meanwhile slowly feeds you bits and pieces that will leave you vested and hungry to learn more.    She’ll have you wondering if this crime was done by someone the victim knows, or if it could possibly be related to a heinous crime the victim was involved in some time ago.  Then again, could it just be random?

Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but this book is the fifth in Gardner’s FBI profiler series.   But it didn’t matter one bit.  I never noticed.   If anything, now I want to read more of her books.  Well done, I say.  This book’s officially going on my recommended list.