OUTSIDE

The Spring Green Light

Sun Face

For all you warm weather people out there, your time has come. The vernal (spring) equinox is upon us, which is the official beginning of Spring, arriving this year on March 20.

The event is not only a promise of warmer weather, it also plays a key role in determining what date Easter occurs, which can move around quite a bit year to year.

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Aliens in Your Neighborhood

Aliens in Your Neighborhood

If you know what to look for, you will discover aliens nearby, brutal ones bent on world domination. Some walk around, some fly, but the really dangerous ones blend into the landscape and slowly increase in numbers undetected until it’s too late and they take over. This isn’t science fiction, but a nasty reality show called exotic invasive pests, and many are out to get our forests.

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Tree Wisdom

Tree Wisdom

With area Arbor Days at hand I thought it appropriate to reflect on how intertwined our lives are with trees. We not only use forest products multiple times every day, but their constant presence is inspiring enough to be used in literature, poetry, and music. A centuries old form of writing to teach wisdom is the proverb, a brief statement that expresses a general truth. The Bible is full of them, and they are used by about every culture on the planet. A way to juice up a proverb is to use figurative language, like: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water…”.

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The Curiosity of Contrails

Contrails

You may not have realized it, but if you look up on a clear day you will likely see a man-made cloud somewhere in the sky, trailing behind jet aircraft high up in the atmosphere. Contrails, short for condensation trails, are formed from the water vapor found in aircraft exhaust as a byproduct of fuel combustion. Natural clouds form from the same process of water vapor condensing in cool air as it rises, so technically contrails are clouds, just from an unnatural source.

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The Bad Rap of Snake Oil

The Bad Rap of Snake Oil

I have a friend who told a humorous story about being in a meeting where someone was speaking of things that he knew to be untrue, downright bovine excreta. When he had taken all he could of it, he stood up, got up, slammed a dollar onto the table and cried out “gimme a bottle of that snake oil!” Snake oil is indeed a popular metaphor for anything being touted as true, but in reality is fraud. And those attempting to sell or convince you to accept something fraudulent are referred to as snake oil salesmen.

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The Scoop on Sweetgum

The Scoop on Sweetgum

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is a common tree in our area, normally found growing in low areas where the soil is moist, such as near streams or drains. The name comes from the taste of its hardened sap that bleeds from wounds on the trunk.

The tree is easy to identify, with leaves distinctly star-shaped and with a small-toothed edge. The bark is gray and furrowed with flat ridges that form a diamond pattern. The twigs are showy in the winter with corky wing-like protrusions. The fruit is a spiny ping pong sized ball that hangs on well into winter.

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Be an Astronomer for One Night

Orion

The winter night sky gives you the opportunity to see a few things you may not have thought you could see. In one small part of the sky you can easily identify a constellation, name two stars, see a sun that has a planet orbiting it, and see a Nebula. This will be the fastest astronomy lesson you'll ever have, so hang on.

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Bug Brain Surgery

Bug Brain Surgery

Parasites do not have a positive reputation. I mean let’s face it; they live and feed on other living animals. They are considered cheaters, degenerates, thieves, evil things. And yet some of them do amazing amazingly complex things to earn a living, including brain surgery.

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