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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Please do not disturb!

                There are four intertidal “zones” that are based on exposure during wave action. Presence of water, air and water temperature, wave action, variation in saltiness and exposure to light determine what organisms live happily in each zone.  Some organisms have a low tolerance and are found only in one zone, while others have a greater tolerance and are found in several zones.

Dave and Tim and I had a great time tidepooling in Oregon this past June.  You can "Tidepool" or "rockpool" by visiting the rocky intertidal zone along a coastline. The intertidal zone is the region where the ocean meets the land, meaning that during high tide the area is covered in sea water, and during low tides, the water recedes. Low tide... is when the magic begins along the Pacific coast. Low and high tide times are listed on the buildings in state and national parks.  Being aware of the rising tide is important. It is really easy to get lost in your curiosity and wonder while climbing in and around the rocks. We found, the best time to tide pool was early in the morning. We would take our coffee and sit on the bench overlooking the ocean for awhile and then begin our climb down onto the monstrous black rock formations that decorate the Pacific coastline.The 360 miles of Oregon's Pacific coast include beaches, dunes and estuaries(where the tide meets the stream), but the majority is rocky, steep cliffs, small islands, sea stacks that have eroded into arches and caves. The coolest part is that most of the coastline is undeveloped and open to public access.   
Here is a look at some of the inhabitants of Oregon's coastal tidepools:

Green sea anemones look like those rubbery, sometimes slimy feeling weird things you find in the toy department between the Flarp and the Woopie CushionsThis green plantlike creature is actually an animal with algae plants living inside it. In this win-win relationship because the algae get protection from snails and other grazers and don't have to compete for living space, while the anemones get extra nourishment from the algae in their guts. The anemone's green color is produced by the animal itself, not the algae that it eats. 
Just like their jellyfish relatives, sea anemones use their tentacles to sting and retrieve prey. Small fishopen snails, and other intertidal animals are caught by the tentacles, pulled into the mouth, and eaten. 
If you see an anemone with tentacles tucked inside while underwater, it is probably eating.
A closed Sea Anemone---probably eating

Poking or stepping on anemones causes them to spit out valuable water they need to stay hydrated during low tide so it's important to walk gently.

Another tidepool inhabitant is the Gooseneck Barnacle.  Gooseneck Barnacles, are crustaceans that live attached to hard surfaces of rocks in the ocean intertidal zone. These barnacles can live 20 years or more. They use their feathery feet, called cirri to feed and breathe.
Another barnacle we found is the Acorn Barnacle. Each barnacle has a  slightly different texture and door shape. Opening and closing,  barnacle’s curved legs sweep the water for food.  We found some barnacles submerged in a tidepool on top of the rocks and watched them open and close. If a patch of barnacles grow long enough and big enough, they’ll crowd each other and begin to grow upwards only where they become tall and narrow.
empty acorn barnacle
Acorn barnacles

taller gooseneck barnacles
here you see the "neck" of the barnacle


Gooseneck barnacles

Still another tidepool resident is the sea star. We just could not get enough of them! We used to call sea stars starfish but sea stars aren’t really fish. Sea stars do not have backbones which makes them part of a group called invertebrates. Fish have backbones, which makes them vertebrates. 

Most sea stars have spiny skin and five arms, although some can grow as many as 50 arms. The arms are covered with pincer-like organs and suckers that allow the animal to slowly creep along the ocean floor. Light-sensitive eyes on the tips of the arms help the sea star find food. 

Sea stars eat mollusks such as clams, oysters, and snails. The sea star eats by attaching to prey and extending its stomach out through its mouth. Enzymes from the sea star’s stomach digest the prey.  Sea stars occupy every type of habitat, including tidal pools, rocky shores, sea grass, kelp beds, and coral reefs. Some sea stars even live deep in sandy beaches.
Sea stars cannot survive if they are exposed to air or sun too long. They cannot get too warm or unattached from the rocks so pulling them off the rocks will end their lives.  They are attached so securely that you would have to use something to pry them off.

Here is another cool creature from the tide pool habitat.

Like many snails and some other mollusks, Black Leather Chiltons lick algae off the rocks with tongues that are studded with metal-tipped points. Over time, groups of chitons can literally wear down the rock. Black leather chitons live in places with heavy surf: 
How do they stay attached to the rock when big waves crash? Amazingly, the underside of the chiton has a deep slit inside the outer edge where the gills are located with a muscular foot in the center. The middle of this foot is pulled up while the outside edges seal, creating a suction that clamps the animal down. They move by relaxing the suction and moving the foot.
Weird right!?

California mussels produce a liquid adhesive that allows them to stick to hard surfaces. Exposure to the seawater makes the adhesive solidify.
Attached together, the mussels form beds of hundreds in the intertidal. Since the mussels are bluntly pointed on the bottom, there’s some space between them even when the sides are packed together that is a haven for many animals, protecting them from crashing surf at high tides and drying sun at low tides, as well as protecting them from many predators.

Although hermit crabs do venture into deeper waters,they are mainly found in coastal waters where there is more food and places to hide. We found hermit crabs in the quiet tidepools that formed on the tops of the large rocks. The dimples in the rock formations hold water in them when the tide went out. These peaceful areas don't see water again until the tide comes back in.
quiet dimples in the rocks

As a hermit crab grows, it needs larger shells. A large hermit crab in a too-small shell won’t be able to pull itself all the way into the shell, leaving it exposed to predators. 
Hermit crabs are omnivours that eat pretty much anything they can find in the water. Small fish and invertebrates including worms, are the most common prey for the hermit crab along with plankton.
Due to their small size, hermit crabs have many natural predators  which includes sharks, fishcuttlefishsquid and octopuses. 

quiet tidepool on top of a rock
Peek a Boo

thousands of these small hermit shells wash up in parts of the tide pool areas

 There are also plants that live in the tide pools. Rockweed, sea palm, sea lettuce, sculpins  and sea weed are all found in the tide pools of Oregon.
 What may look  a pink rock is one covered with coralline red algae. I saw these red rocks while hunting for the elusive seastars. While not a coral (which are animals), it resembles some corals.
Unlike land plants, water plants lack true roots, stems, leaves, and flowers. They are a safe place and nourishment for small creatures.  We see, once again, how all living things (including humans) NEED and DEPEND on other. 


Though the rocks and waves may look rugged, the rocky shore habitat is fragile. Rocky shore creatures like green anemones are at risk from coastal development and pollution (including waste oil and agricultural runoff). And some tide pools are in danger of being "loved to death" by visitors. Tread lightly as you explore tide pools to avoid crushing plants and animals, and never take creatures from their habitat. 
Also, if children are watching cartoons or programs where animals are removed from their habitats, please explain why that may be happening OR tell them it is wrong.  I tried to use a video from Peppa Pig(my granddaughters favorite cartoon) where her family was rock pooling but they had  buckets and were removing the animals. It is important that we know what our children are watching. I have,  many times, told my students that I had a problem with what we were reading or watching. I tell them my reasoning and we discuss it.

Monday, June 20, 2016

History Channel Mt. St. Helen video

Let me begin by apologizing for being twenty one years old when Mt. St. Helen erupted. All these years later I cannot even remember it happening.

 I was busy getting married and having a baby and I was, well............twenty one.

With that said, let me say that I am proud of the curious, need to be in the know, life long learner and naturalist that I have become. 

So when Dave and I planned our train trip with Tim to Seattle, visiting the site of the

deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States was a destination we needed to get to. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed.
The eruption removed the upper 1,300 feet of the summit and left a horseshoe-shaped crater and a barren wasteland below it.

We stopped at a small store so that Tim and I could buy some kind of jacket or sweatshirt. Average temperature that day.....61 with rain and we had foolishly forgotten our jackets at home( in Wisconsin).
After we bought our coats we headed out in search of the best place to view the mountain. 
We stopped at the Mt. St. Helen visitors center,  an aesthetically beautiful place with a birds eye viewing platform.  
The platform allowed us to view the mountain as well as the valley below it. Unfortunately, the top of the mountain was hooded in fog which made it difficult to see even through the viewing cameras but the valley below it was magnificent.
beautiful foxgloves

surrounding forests

Red alder trees-
The largest species of alder  in the world, reaching heights of 66 to 98 ft. The official tallest red alder stands 105 ft tall in Clatsop County, Oregon

beautiful meadows

The valley below the mountain

As we sat and watched the video on the big screen inside the educational center there were images of then president, Jimmy Carter comparing the area to a moonscape. Actually, that was a great analogy.  Charred and gray with ash just like the images we have seen of the moons surface.  It reminded me more of images I have seen in movies of an atomic bomb blast where a powerful force wipes out everything around it.
Mt. St. Helen mountain and valley
The moon valley

There was volcanic activity again in 2004.  The activity continued through 2008.


The good news:
There were important interactions between plants and animals after the eruption.  Animals mixed up the soil, consumed plants, dispersed seeds and fungal spores, and served as predators and prey. Within days of the eruption, gophers mixed underlying nutrient-rich soil with nutrient-poor and  volcanic deposits. Roots of plant seedlings connected with fungal spores that turned out to be essential to their survival. 
Amphibians and other animals used tunnels excavated by gophers to escape to ponds and wetlands created by the eruption. Small mammals transported seeds from surviving vegetation to barren areas where the seeds germinated. 
Downed trees created pools of water that created essential protective habitats for fish and amphibians. 
Dead trees provided nesting sites for birds and hiding cover for other animals. They supported fungi, and released nutrients and carbon into the developing soil. 
 Stream conditions improved quickly because sediment was flushed from channels and vegetation began to shade the streams. Even though the streams water was warm, salmon and trout thrived because their main food,  aquatic and terrestrial insects, were abundant. 
12 of the 15 species of amphibians that existed before the blast survived by burrowing under the ground and are thriving.
vegetation recovery...a satellite view

We will definitely visit Mt. St. Helen again.  Hopefully it will be a clearer day.  You could even take a helicopter ride over the mountain if that is something you would like to do.  I think David and Tim might like that ride but I am not too sure about Dave and I. If you are a climber, you can climb the mountain but are warned to watch out for small explosive eruptions ( thanks you go ahead and let me know how it is). There are hiking trails and areas where you can camp.

I leave you with this...........the natural world does not need humans. Humans need the natural world.

In the words of John Muir:

 Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. 
I will add to J.M.'s quote:   give yourselves and your children the gift of knowing your own country and the beauty all around it.

Volcano cam
Here's something for cam lovers.

NOVA video
Long but worth the viewing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

As Dave and I walked out to the orchard this morning to begin the annual pruning of the trees, a familiar sound stopped us in our tracks. The boisterous buzzing resonated from the towering tops of the Silver Maple trees that loom over our orchard. 
Now, that mysterious buzzing might have been unnerving to any one else but Dave and I knew where those bees came from. They were our neighbors honey bees and they were busy pollinating the buds of our giant Silver Maple trees.

Image result for silver maple buds
Silver Maple Buds
Pollination is transfer of pollen from the male part of the flower to the female part of the flower.   For example, while gathering pollen from the flower of a Honey Crisp apple tree, the pollen gets stuck all over the Honeybees hairy body. That bee goes back to the hive and rubs up next to another bee who has just visited a Red Delicious apple tree. The different pollen's mix together and the bees take that pollen to the next tree they visit.  
Here are some crops that are pollinated by bees:
Isn't cross pollination magical?      Image result for bees pollinating  

We were delighted when Mike and Cassie shared with us that they were exploring the world of bee keeping.  At our farm we have 17 apple trees, 2 pear trees, 2 cherry and a new peach tree. All of these trees start with fragrant flowers in the spring.  Without the pollination help of bees, the flowers would bloom and then wither and drop without ever having a chance to become an apple or pear or a cherry or a peach.
Unfortunately, honey bees get a bad rap. People tend to lump them in with all the other flying 'bee like' insects such as wasps, bald faced hornets, yellow jackets and mud daubers. 

Honeybees have three jobs.  The worker bee, the drone and the queen bee. Unlike wasps, Honeybees build hives of wax and only swarm when they are reproducing. Eventually, the queen bees leave their hive with some bees but leave others behind to choose a new queen. The new queen is fed a special diet by the workers which will make her fertile. The other females are fed diets that cause them to become sterile. Worker bees are sterile females. Their heads are black and their bodies are golden brown and black with patches of orange. There are yellow bands on their abdomens and the wings are clear. Drones are males without stingers who eventually die. 

Yellow jackets are sometimes mistakenly called "bees" because they are similar in size and appearance and both sting, but yellow jackets are actually wasps.
Wasps are considered pests. Wasps seem to become really annoying and at some times dangerous, from August until it gets cold. 
Have you ever had a wasp try to get in your soda cup or sneak a taste of your food? 
We sell apples, pears and apple cider at our small town farmers market during the summer and wasps get very annoying during apple/pear season. They often times sit themselves between the pieces of fruit and sting when someone unknowingly reaches in for the best looking apple in the basket. People are most often get stung in late summer because wasp colonies stop breeding new workers.  The existing workers search for sugary foods and are more likely to come into contact with humans. Wasp nests are made ANYWHERE and in ANYTHING. My worse encounter with wasps came last summer when I stupidly grabbed a pot from out of my greenhouse without looking. The lip of the pot had an active nest and boy were they mad! Ouch!!!!

 Stings are painful rather than dangerous, but in rare cases people may suffer life-threatening anaphylactic shock. 

Yellow jackets, especially the females, are extremely aggressive and will sting repeatedly. Unlike honeybees, their stingers are not barbed and stay attached to their abdomens despite repeated use. Their venom is more potent than honey bee venom and their stings are very painful. DO NOT swing at yellow jackets as they are easily provoked.

Bumblebees have black heads with dark wings. A black band runs across the thorax and the abdomen is all yellow with black on the very tip. Bumblebees are large. They have workers, drones and a queen. In the winter, all Bumblebees die except for the queen.
I can remember unknowingly stepping on bumble bees with my bare feet when I was young. They would be buzzing in and around the clover in the grass minding their own business and along I would come with my bare feet and step right on them. Ouch!

Bald Faced Hornets are related to Yellow Jackets. These hornets are black and white. They prey on flies and yellow jackets. Bald Faced Hornets are extremely aggressive and will sting repeatedly. Their football shaped hives are made of gray paper with a hole on the bottom. They build their nests in trees. 
Image result for bald faced hornet

Mud Daubers are wasps that build their nests with mud. Organ-pipe mud daubers build their very distinctive and elegant tubes on vertical or horizontal faces of walls, cliffs, bridges, overhangs and shelter caves or other structures.

  Mud daubers are not normally aggressive, but can become belligerent when threatened. Stings are uncommon.

Image result for mud daubers wasp

Treatment for minor reactions
  1. Remove the stinger as soon as you can, as it takes only seconds for all of the venom to enter your body. Get the stinger out any way you can, such as with your fingernails or a tweezer.
  2. Wash the sting area with soap and water.
  3. Apply cold compresses or ice to relieve pain and ease swelling.

I will leave you with this amazing video that I took when my neighbors bees were swarming. As you will see, I stood in the middle of the swarm but no harm came to me. It was an incredible experience for me.