Did You Know? (Owl and Snake Edition)

Eastern Screech Owls will keep blind snakes in their nests to ‘babysit’ while parents are away gathering food?

The owls in these nests with snakes seem to be healthier than owls from non-snake nests; it is believed this is because the snakes eat insects in the nest that may harm the babies. I found this information on page 88 of North American Owls by Paul A. Johnsgard. What a highly detailed book! It tells about the many different kinds of owls, their sizes, territories, nesting habits, where to find them and on and on.

There are two families of blind snakes: the Leptotyphlops with about 80 species that have teeth only on the lower jaw and have un-toothed maxillary bones fused solidly to their head, and the Typhlopidae with maxillary bones that are toothed and not fused to the skull with about 160 species. I doubt the owls care which of the families of snakes they have. Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Western North America by R. D. Bartlett and Patricia P. Bartlett has pictures of many of these blind snakes. They spend most of their time underground and look remarkably like worms.

This type of mutually beneficial interaction is called a symbiotic relationship. There are many types of these relationships. Mycorrhizal Planet by Michael Phillips tells how plants have photosynthate sugars to offer mycorrhizal fungi, which can’t access carbon. The fungi in turn assists the plant by facilitating the uptake of mineral nutrients and water.

Weird Friends: Unlikely Allies in the Animal Kingdom by Jose Aruego and Arianne Dewey is an excellent book for children explaining symbiosis and has many examples of different animals helping each other. Natural Attraction: a Field Guide to Friends, Frenemies, and Other Symbiotic Animal Relationships by Iris Gottlieb goes one step further and shows not only symbiosis, but parasitism and commensalism as well. This book has nice pictures of animal pairs along with explanations of who is gaining what in each relationship.

The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear is not about a symbiotic relationship, but true love! They sail away together and get married on a tropical beach. It was originally published in 1871. It is truly an example of how love stories never go out of style. We have many other book series with pairs of animals. A few of them are The Elephant and Piggy books, Hondo and Fabian and Frog and Toad series. While symbiosis is a mutual benefit, friendship is probably the best benefit anyone can ever have!

Did You Know? (Cats Edition)

That cats cannot taste sweets?

This fact is on page 40 of Why Pandas Do Handstands and other Curious Truths about Animals by August Brown. Kids will love this book with so many fun animal facts. I guarantee that adults will also find out things they never knew.

While cats can’t taste sweets… they can taste catnip! Besides being used for cat toys, catnip was used by humans as a tea before tea from China became popular. It is also used to soothe headaches and calm upset stomachs, reduce fevers and scalp irritations. Smithsonian Handbooks: Herbs by Lesley Bremness tells about other uses for it as well.

A lot of people think that cats love a ‘saucer-full of milk’ when in fact, while they may like it, most cats are lactose intolerant and it causes diarrhea. Animal Planet: Senior Cats by Sheila Webster Bonham, Ph.D. advises that if your cat likes dairy, and it’s o.k. with your veterinarian, a small saucer of cream is a better infrequent treat since cream doesn’t contain as much lactose as milk. Dr. Bonham also talks about how cat teeth are designed to grasp prey and shear off chunks of meat. Also their digestive track processes meat efficiently and has trouble processing raw vegetables.

The Ultimate Pet Health Guide by Gary Richter, M.S., and D.V.M. is an excellent guide to the benefits and drawbacks of putting your cat or dog on a raw diet. It also has a whole chapter about glandular therapy, along with chapters about holistic and herbal medicines which humans have been using for centuries.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, enjoy your sweets, but don’t share them with your pets – no matter how bad they think they want it. But do go ahead and wad that wrapper up and toss it for your kitty to attack!

Did You Know? (Cashew Edition)

That cashews grow on the bottom of a cashew apple, and are related to poison ivy?

Cashew nuts are actually the seeds of the ‘cashew apple’ – a Brazilian evergreen tree with bright orange fruit. I found this on page 405 of 1900 Ingredients by Christine Ingram. Cashews are never sold in the shell because they have to undergo extensive heating to remove them from their shells.

Wikipedia tells us that “the seed (drupe) is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the better-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy.”

Fancy Nancy: Poison Ivy Expert by Jane O’Connor is a darling story about poor Nancy getting into poison ivy while picking flowers. Nancy’s neighbor gives her a cream made from jewelweed to help soothe her itch. Jewelweed has long been used for this as a natural cure.

The Quick Guide to Wild Edible Plants by Lytton John Musselman and Harold J. Wiggins has a chapter about identifying poison oak, ivy and sumac along with pictures so you DON’T end up eating or touching them! It also tells us that mangoes and pistachios are related to cashews.

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins is a fun tale told to a man in the park (eating a peanut butter sandwich: chunky peanut butter, by the way) by a very old squirrel that can speak! He tells the stories of squirrels travelling on the buzz paths, and having great adventures. He states that ‘nuts to you’ is a classic squirrel greeting, meaning all manner of things, but mostly good luck.

As vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise, cooking with cashews and other nuts is getting more and more popular. VBQ the Ultimate Vegan Barbecue by Nadine Horn and Jorg Mayer has recipes using cashews for a pesto, sour cream and an aioli spread. This Cheese is Nuts by Julie Piatt has lots of cashew cheese choices. So, go nuts with these recipes, and “nuts to you!”

Did You Know? (Patchouli Edition)

In using essential oils, you should never diffuse patchouli oils (and some others) because they are too strong and can irritate your skin and/or mucous membranes?

I found this fact in Essential Oils Every Day by Hope Gillerman on page 85. There are also many essential oils that shouldn’t be used with or near children under 5 for the same reason. This is a very interesting book that gives good directions for the use of dozens of essential oils.

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy lists 66 ways that patchouli can be used. Some people think it was only used by hippies in the past, but it has also been used as a pest repellent and for the conditions of paralysis, constipation, hepatitis and spina bifida. If I could only have one book about oils, this is the one I would pick. It includes step by step directions for distilling and preparing your own oils as well information about their many different uses.

Perfume by Lizzie Ostrom has information about almost every perfume ever made. Just looking at the names of the perfumes in this book brought to mind the people I’ve known who have worn them, as well as the ads that were in magazines and on television at the time. Avon was one of the first to market to young girls with their ‘pretty peach perfume’ in a bottle with a squeezy peach lid. Ms. Ostrom also tells us that patchouli leaves are exported to the West packed in with fine cashmere shawls to deter moths and also give Indian shawls their characteristic fragrance.

There can sometimes be many chemicals added to products with essential oils in the process of making perfumes, creams, and lotions. Also, when an item is labelled ‘fragrance free’ that usually means they haven’t added fragrance . . . BUT ‘fragrance free’ and ‘scent free’ are two entirely different things! Many people are very sensitive to the fragrances and scents of these items and care should be taken in using them.

Slow Death by Rubber Duck and Toxin Toxout both by Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith talk about all the chemicals in different products, whether added or naturally occurring. For example, on page 42 of Slow Death by Rubber Duck we are told that because of nonexistent labelling requirements in North America (except for some chemicals in California), phthalates are almost never listed as an ingredient in products that contain them. ‘Fragrance’ and ‘parfum are often code words indicating some phthalate content. Toxin Toxout gives tips and advice for getting rid of the toxins already acquired by the body.

The way things smell can be very different from person to person but imagine if your olfactory senses were as sensitive as a dog. Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior and Happiness by Gary Weitzman DVM, MPH, and CAWA tells us that dogs ‘see’ the world with scents. This is especially evident during tracking events for dogs. During a trial, dogs are on a leash as they follow a pre-laid scent trail across a field in different environments. Dogs’ sensitive sniffers are also used to smell diseases and illnesses such as cancers, as well as bombs, drugs, mealy bugs and toxic products to name just a few. Read Being a Dog: Following the Dog into a World of Smell by Alexandra Horowitz to find out more about all the amazing things their noses can do!

Did You Know? (Wagon Edition)

The ‘little red wagon’ was invented in 1917?

I found this information in the book Radio Flyer by Robert Pasin. New to America in 1914, Anthony Pasin studied English and worked many jobs. His struggle reminded me of this quote:

Before I came to America, I thought the streets were paved with gold. When I came here, I learned three things: The streets were not paved in gold, the streets weren’t paved at all, and I was expected to pave them.

attributed to an anonymous emigrant, Immigration Museum at Ellis Island

Anthony worked hard and in 1917 made his first wagon from wood to haul his tools to his job. Soon, he had orders from neighbors and friends. Inevitably he was not able to keep up with the demand. Soon he began pressing them out of steel, and eventually was making scooters, tricycles and wheelbarrows as well. There were more little red wagons built than station wagons!

Yesterday’s station wagons were like the minivans of today. Everyone had one. They were just the ticket for a family road trip vacation. You load up the car, kids and a cooler full of sandwiches and Viola! Perfect family vacation!

But there are always exceptions as Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Long Haul by Jeff Kinney shows us.

Catalog summary: Their journey starts off full of promise, then quickly takes several wrong turns. Gas station bathrooms, crazed seagulls, a fender bender, and a runaway pig—not exactly Greg Heffley’s idea of a good time. But even the worst road trip can turn into an adventure—and this is one the Heffleys won’t soon forget.

Another good story about a road trip is American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott.

Catalog summary: With a strong family, the best friend a guy could ask for, and a budding romance with the girl of his dreams, life shows promise for Teodoro “T” Avila. But he takes some hard hits the summer before senior year when his nearly perfect brother, Manny, returns from a tour in Iraq with a devastating case of PTSD. In a desperate effort to save Manny from himself and pull their family back together, T’s fiery sister, Xochitl, hoodwinks her brothers into a cathartic road trip. Told through T’s honest voice, this is a candid exploration of mental illness, socioeconomic pressures, and the many inescapable highs and lows that come with growing up—including falling in love.

The inspiration behind Anthony’s small wagons created to pull tools were the wagons that crossed the prairies. Wagon trains began making their way west in the 1820’s. Obviously the wagons were much bigger than the little red ones, but this was where his vision began.

Woman on the American Frontier by William Worthington Fowler talks about the early days of pioneers and wagon trains. It was certainly an exciting time in history. You could also read Custer’s Trials: a Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles. This book gives us an inside look at the time period and the things that happened in the new ‘wild west.’

No matter what you read, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I hope it brought back memories of your own escapades with your, or the neighbor kid’s, little red wagon, as well as your own family vacation road trip horror stories.

Did You Know? (Depression Edition)

People often use the term depression to describe the sad or discouraged mood that results from an emotionally distressing event?

Events such as a natural disaster, a serious illness, or death of a loved one all qualify. People may also say they feel depressed at certain times, such as during the holidays (holiday blues) or on the anniversary of a loved one’s death. However, such feelings do not usually represent a disorder.

Usually, these feelings are temporary, lasting days rather than weeks or months, and occur in waves that tend to be tied to thoughts or reminders of the distressing event (such as the coronavirus). Also, these feelings do not substantially interfere with functioning for any length of time. I found this information in the Merck Manual on the Everett Public Library Research Databases page.

Chances are high that you are not currently suffering from depression, but boredom.

Puzzles of all kinds are a great way to keep boredom at bay. You really don’t need a book, just grab any puzzle book and do a word search, acrostics or crossword puzzle either alone or with a friend. My mom and grandma were always on the phone doing crosswords together…. LONG before social distancing!

Of course, jigsaw puzzles are always popular as well. They are kind of like magnets…. Set one up in the corner of the room, and everyone in the family is drawn to it. Next thing you know, the whole family is all sitting around working together! If you don’t have the space for that, there are multiple jigsaw apps that you can do and even download your own pictures to and have them become the puzzle.

If you suspect that you may actually be suffering from depression, we have several different streaming videos you can watch. This one helps you identify depression and this one deals with living with depression. These may help you to know if you need to seek professional help, and perhaps treatment. Both are available on our streaming service Kanopy.

While you are checking to see if you have depression, you may as well read The Psychopath Test: a Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson (on Overdrive) and see if you are a psychopath as well! There is a checklist of 20 questions that are graded and determine your score or likelihood of being one. This may not be an exact way of telling, because a lot of the characteristics that make up a great leader score high on the checklist. I always thought I was fairly normal until taking it. Who knew?!

There is depression, and then there was The Great Depression. I looked at Culturegrams on the Research Databases page. I wish we had this resource when I was in school. You can look at states, countries or provinces and find out everything about them: populations, imports/exports, and events that happened there. I just selected “United states”, typed in “the great depression” and I learned how a lot of the different states were affected during the Great Depression between 1927 and 1930.

For example: Alaska – “Like the rest of the country, Alaska suffered during the Great Depression. President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to help people get a new start, so the federal government organized work programs to provide jobs. The government sponsored a program to help more than 200 families from Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota move to Alaska. These settlers were sold land at a low price so that they could have a place to live and farm. The program had mixed results.”

Anyway, hopefully we will all be able to go back to our normal lives soon, and once again we will be too busy to be bored or depressed! Also, let’s hope this COVID setback doesn’t start another “great depression.” In the meantime, puzzle, craft, write a new novel or whatever it takes to take your mind off things. Our databases have Creativebug, Tumblebooks and many others to keep your mind occupied!

Did You Know? (Mosquito Edition)

Mosquitos are more prone to bite someone who just ate a banana?

Also, mosquitos carrying malaria are more likely to be drawn to sweet tastes. I found this out from the book Why do Pandas do Handstands by August Brown on page 41.

Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart tells us that malaria has killed more people than all wars combined. Tests performed on mosquitoes found in amber from 30 million years ago have found they were already infected with malaria, so this disease predates humans.

We have a children’s music CD titled Wiggle Town that has a song called “Mosquito.” It is quite a catchy tune, the refrain goes “buzz, buzz, stick me, OW!” At least you won’t actually get bit listening to it!

Sometimes, things are even named mosquito. At the dawn of the 20th century, a man working in an office overlooking Elliot Bay saw the myriad of boats serving Puget Sound and said the activity looked like “a swarm of mosquitoes.” The name stuck, and thus, the ‘Mosquito Fleet’ was born. There were steamboats, launches, sternwheelers, sidewheelers, tow boats, passenger boats and boats with propellers or boilers along with many others. Mosquito Fleet of South Puget Sound by Jean Cammon Findlay and Robin Paterson is full of pictures of some of the vessels from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

If you are going to take your chances of getting mosquito bites by eating a banana, you may as well get some banana leaves too. You can make a scented leaf basket with dried banana (or other) leaves with the directions in Organic Crafts: 75 Earth-Friendly Art Activities by Kimberly Monaghan. Another fun leaf craft is to make ‘great green leaf prints’ by pounding them onto cloth. You can find the directions to do this in Berry Smudges and Leaf Prints by Ellen B. Senisi.

And lastly, you can make a soccer ball from banana leaves like Deo, a young boy in a refugee camp in Tanzania, whose family was forced to leave their home in the inspiring story The Banana-Leaf Ball by Katie Smith Milway.

Did You Know? (Seahorse Edition)

The seahorse is the only male animal that can get pregnant?

I found that interesting fact in Project Seahorse by Pamela S Turner on pages 13-15. I was delighted that there was so much information about seahorses in this book; as they have always been one of my favorites at the aquarium. Ms. Turner also tells us about the studies being done to help preserve seahorse populations.

Eric Carle’s book Mister Seahorse is beautifully written with wonderful artwork. It’s the story of Mister Seahorse with his pouch full of babies talking to all the other fish dads who are also taking care of their eggs until they hatch.

Seahorses and Sea Dragons by Mary Jo Rhodes and David Hall has a lot of information and pictures. I was surprised to learn that sea dragons are typically much larger and don’t have the pouch that sea horses do. Instead, sea dragons have a ‘brood patch’ that the eggs attach to.

There are seahorses and sea dragons with the most common difference between them being the longer nose of the sea dragon. You can use the books How to Draw Horses and Ponies by Peter Gray and Draw Dragons and Other Fantasy Beasts by Gary Spencer Millidge and James McKay to invent your own creatures!

Animal reproduction is a mysterious thing. Read more about how other animals take care of their offspring in My Encyclopedia of Baby Animals by Emmanuelle Figueras. You’ll find several examples of males that take care of their eggs: the midwife toad that carries the eggs on his back, the cardinal fish that carries them in his mouth, and the emperor penguin who protects the egg until it hatches, just to name a few!

And lastly, unless you can hold your breath a really long time (and shrink yourself!) I wouldn’t recommend trying to ride a seahorse, but, you can learn all about horses and how to ride them in The Complete Book of Horses: Breeds, Care, Riding, Saddlery: a Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds and Practical Riding Techniques with 1500 Photographs by Debbie Sly.

Did You Know? (Hippopotamus Edition)

That hippo ‘sweat’ is red-orange and acts as an antibiotic and sunscreen?

I found this information on page 20 of Hippopotamus by Patricia Whitehouse, part of the Read and Learn series. It states that hippos can get sunburned and they have a red oil on their skin to keep them from burning in the sun. In fact, this is not sweat, but a reddish oil that comes from glands all over their skin. It is commonly referred to as ‘blood sweat,’ even though it isn’t blood either.

Other animals have their own ways of protecting themselves from the sun. “Elephants will throw sand on their backs and on their head. They do that to keep them from getting sunburned and to keep bugs off,” says Tony Barthel, curator of the Elephant House and the Cheetah Conservation Station at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. “They also douse their young with sand. That is probably part of the teaching process,” he adds. “Not only are they taking care of their youngsters, but they are showing them that they need to do that.” Adult elephants will also create shade for their young by standing over them while they sleep. Rhinos and pigs wallow and coat themselves in mud, which protects them from the sun and helps to keep moisture in their skin.

It seems odd that hippos would have to keep moisture in their skin, since they spend so much time in the water, but they dry out very quickly on land. Also, they spend all that time in the water, and they can’t even swim! Hippos walk on the bottom and push off from the riverbed to come up to breathe. Hippos Can’t Swim by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hannah Elliot is full of fun animal facts like that.

The Great Rift: Africa’s Greatest Story on DVD from BBC Earth has some phenomenal footage of hippos (and many other animals) in their natural habitats. An amazing show for the whole family.

No wonder hippos have ‘built in’ sunscreen. They live in Africa, where it is very hot and the sun blazes. Wouldn’t it be nice if we humans had that to? But humans need to apply their own sun screen. Heal Your Skin by Ava Shamban tell us about the best things for our skin. She explains the difference between sun screen and sun block, and about UVA and UVB rays as well as what the SPF ratings mean.

Sun is not the only worry that animals have. Saving the hippos and other large animals in Africa (specifically in Gorangosa Park) is something environmentalists have been working on for generations. White Man’s Game: Saving Animals, Rebuilding Eden, and Other Myths of Conservation in Africa by Stephanie Hanes probes the often troubling implications of well-meaning Western aid projects for animals. She demonstrates how there are few solutions without vexing consequences. Consequences that affect both people and animals directly.

Did You Know? (Banana Edition)

That botanically bananas are considered an herb?

I found this information on page 120 in the book The Story of Food. It is a very fun title about many of the common foods we eat. Touted as “an illustrated history of everything we eat,” there are old photos of harvesting, ad campaigns and artwork for most of the foods discussed.

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel tells us that the genetics of most of the bananas we eat are the same, and how the ‘banana belt’ came to be. He also writes about diseases that threaten banana crops and what is being done to solve the problems. There have been a lot of politics involved in the farming and shipping of this beloved fruit through the years!

For an easier read, The Biography of Bananas by Rachel Eagen has easy to understand facts with lots of pictures, telling you everything you ever wanted to know about bananas but were afraid to ask.

The Banana-Leaf Ball by Katie Smith Milway is an inspiring story about a boy name Deo and his family who are forced to leave their home. They become separated and Deo ends up in a refugee camp in Tanzania. Playing soccer joins the children of the camp together, and Deo teaches the other boys to make banana leaf (soccer) balls.

Even though the banana is an herb, I wasn’t able to find it listed in any of our herb books. Perhaps because it will not grow here. The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Arthur O. Tucker and Thomas DeBaggio lists over 500 types of herbs, uses for them (edible, medicinal etc.), and growing tips. There are sketches of many of the plants as well.

Lastly, an herb you can’t eat, drink or use as medicine…. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass is available at the library on our streaming Hoopla music, or we have several of his CDs. I’m sure, even though you may think you have never heard of the band, as soon as you listen to their music you’ll say “Oh! I’ve heard that before!” Perhaps, you were even eating a banana at the time!