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April 19, 2014 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Burning the Prairie

Habitat Restoration

During the past few weeks the Forest Preserve District has conducted several burns at the prairie where I volunteer as a bird monitor. I happened to be walking on the woodland path circling the prairie the morning of a burn. I was surprised that they were going to burn along the paths too. I watched them set up and pestered them with a few questions before moving back out to the prairie to avoid the smoke.

Burning The Woodland Path


The burn crew explained that the fire was slow-burning and would clear out the brush, leaf litter and invasive species that are not adapted to fire. The native trees have thick bark and the plants have deep roots. Prairie plants can have roots up to 18 inches deep.

The Prairie


A portion of the prairie had been burned a week or so earlier. Different sections of the prairie are burned each year. After the burn, nutrients are recycled back in into the soil. With the brush removed it is easier for seeds to germinate.


New growth was already sprouting. I’m hoping to see some native wildflowers popping up soon.

Moving away from the fire

The birds were getting noisy and calling to each other to move away from the smoke. A family of deer appeared on the path. The youngsters paused briefly to look at me, then turned and followed mom to the other side of the woods.


A Turkey Vulture soared overhead.


Birdwatching was done for the day.


Saturday Snapshot was originated by Alyce at At Home With Books. It is now hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

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April 16, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Curious Fawns


Almost wordless: I watched a doe and three fawns cross the nature trail when I was out walking last week. Two of them stopped to look at me before finally obeying mom and scampering off into the woods.

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April 15, 2014 / Leslie

Review and Giveaway: The Remedy by Thomas Goetz

RemedyThe Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis
by Thomas Goetz

Genre: History / Science
Publisher: Gotham
Publish Date: April 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover | 320 pages
Rating: 4 of 5

From the Publisher:

The riveting history of tuberculosis, the world’s most lethal disease, the two men whose lives it tragically intertwined, and the birth of medical science.

In 1875, tuberculosis was the deadliest disease in the world, accountable for a third of all deaths. A diagnosis of TB – often called consumption – was a death sentence. Then, in a triumph of medical science, a German doctor named Robert Koch deployed an unprecedented scientific rigor to discover the bacteria that caused TB. Koch soon embarked on a remedy — a remedy that would be his undoing.

My Thoughts:

With all our modern advances in medicine and science it’s easy to forget how primitive the practice of medicine was in the 19th Century. Doctors did not know what caused a disease or that it could be contagious or spread from person to person. They didn’t wash their hands or sterilize medical instruments. This began to change towards the end of the century with the acceptance of the Germ Theory of disease.

The Remedy begins with the history of the germ theory and the two men who worked to discover the origins of disease. Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur each demonstrated that diseases are caused by microorganisms. Joseph Lister also contributed to the germ theory with his use of antiseptic surgical techniques. Interesting factoid: In 1879, Listerine mouthwash was named after him for his work in antisepsis.

The section about Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and the scientific method, although very interesting, was only tangentially connected to the cure for tuberculosis. Doyle was trained as a physician and was interested in Koch’s work, but the two never met. Eventually Doyle went on to write full-time and abandoned medicine.

Extremely well researched and filled with fascinating information, we learn not only of their scientific discoveries, but also get a glimpse into the personal lives of those involved. I was amazed at the rivalry and the amount of jealousy between Koch and Pasteur and the lengths to which Koch was willing to go to be the first to develop a cure for tuberculosis.

This is a compelling and very readable story about an important time in medical history. You don’t need to be a scientist to understand or enjoy it.


Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy of The Remedy to give away to a reader with a US mailing address. To enter, fill out the form below on or before April 26th. For an extra entry tweet or blog the giveaway and include the link. I will draw a random winner who will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond.

Source: Review copy provided by Gotham Books.
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April 13, 2014 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ April 14th

SpringBirdsFenceMailbox-smlWelcome to Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia of To Be Continued, a place where readers share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.

After several years of being on tour with different blogs as the monthly host, the Mailbox Monday Blog is now the permanent home for the meme.

I didn’t get much reading or blogging done last week. I’m not sure where all my time went but I did spend a good chunk of it doing income tax returns. I always end up putting my own taxes off until the last minute.

This past weekend we finally had a couple of warm days and I was able to start cleaning up the garden but it’s too early to plant anything – it’s supposed to snow on Tuesday. I’ve been spending more time monitoring birds now that they are migrating north and Saturday we had our volunteer workshop to prepare for this year’s program. The birds don’t seem to be bothered by the goofy weather.

New Arrivals


The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson from HarperCollins.
Romance, suspense, and World War II mystery are woven together in three artfully linked novellas-rich in drama and steeped in atmosphere-from the critically acclaimed author of The Lantern.

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey from HarperCollins.
In this darkly riveting debut novel-a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also an heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging-an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.


The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh from Random House Audio.
A dark, gripping debut novel of literary suspense about two mysterious disappearances, a generation apart, and the meaning of family-the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love.

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman from Tandem Literary.
Beth Hoffman’s bestselling debut, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, won admirers and acclaim with its heartwarming story and cast of unforgettably quirky characters. Now her flair for evocative settings and richly drawn Southern personalities shines again in her compelling second novel, Looking for Me.


The Blonde by Anna Godbersen from FSB Associates.
A chilling reimagining of the life of Marilyn Monroe that is part biography, part love story, and part thriller: A young, unknown Norma Jean meets a man in Los Angeles — a Soviet agent? A Russian spy? — who transforms her into Marilyn the star. And when she reaches the pinnacle of success, he comes back for his repayment.

Hannibal: Enemy of Rome by Ben Kane from St. Martin’s Press.
As Rome rose to power in the 3rd century BCE there was only one real rival in the Mediterranean — Carthage. In the First Punic War, the Roman legions defeated and humiliated Carthage. Now Hannibal, a brilliant young Carthaginian general, is out for revenge.

What are you reading?

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April 10, 2014 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall

Mr Owita's Guide To GuardeningMister Owita’s Guide to Gardening
by Carol Wall
Narrated by Cynthia Darlow

Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publish Date: March 1, 2014
Format: Audio, 6 hours | 48 minutes
Audio Listening Level: Easy
Rating: 5 of 5

“The true story of a unique friendship between two people who had nothing – and ultimately everything – in common.”

My Thoughts

When I first saw the title of this book I thought it might be about gardening. As I began listening, I quickly learned the author did not like gardening and hates doing yard work. She doesn’t even like flower and wanted to rip out the Azaleas. Her yard is a mess and she realizes it is a neighborhood eyesore. Soon Mr. Owita would come to her rescue, in more ways than one.

Although gardening does play a role in introducing Carol to Mr. Owita, this is not a story about gardening. When the two first meet they appear to have nothing in common other than Carol needs someone to make her yard look better. Carol is a middle-class southern white woman and Giles Owita is an immigrant from Kenya who works at a grocery store and as a gardener to make ends meet. As they work together in Carol’s garden they share their stories and eventually a few family secrets. We learn that things are not always as they appear.

This is a story about friendships, relationships, families, growing older, dealing with adversity and overcoming what live tosses in your way. A beautifully written, heartfelt story, both happy and sad. If I appear to be deliberately vague, it’s because I am. To reveal too much of the story will ruin it for the reader. It’s best to experience each revelation as the author unveils it. Highly recommended – don’t miss this one.

Audio Production:

The book was read by Cynthia Darlow and although she has won several awards, this was the first time I had listened to one of her productions. Her southern accent for Carol sounded convincing (but then, I’m a northerner), and she also had a believable Kenyan accent for Mr. Owita and his wife. This was an easy book to listen to and at only 7 hours long, I flew through it in two days.

Source: Review copy provided by Penguin Audio.
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April 9, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Cattails in the Spring


Almost wordless: After the horrible winter we had I’m amazed at how many cattails are still standing along the river.

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April 8, 2014 / Leslie

A Quiz – What Bird Are You?

Since I didn’t finish writing the book review I was working on for today, how about a quiz on one of my favorite subjects? It’s only nine quick, easy questions.

Click the image to go to the quiz.


I’m an Owl

You’re a deep thinker. People sense your intelligence quickly and look to you for help with problem solving. You are observant and quick to catch on to almost anything.

And – I like to stay up late into the night. I guess owl is about right.

What Bird Are You?

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