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September 6, 2014 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Leaves of Three, Let it be!

Walking the nature trails is usually pleasant and uneventful. When I stay on the established routes and don’t venture off onto little paths in the woods or prairie (or worse, bushwack my own path), I’m fairly safe from biting bugs, itchy plants and poison ivy. Or so I thought. A few weeks ago I almost walked right into the largest poison ivy vine I’ve ever seen – and it was hanging over a wide, wood-chipped path on a nature trail on a well-traveled route.

Poison Ivy Vine

Poison Ivy

The plant had grown about 20 feet up on the trunk of a tree and the vine was about 2 inches thick. It looked like a branch from the tree and was hanging about four feet over the trail. The trail is visible in the bottom right corner of the photo. (click for larger view)

Poison ivy can be difficult to identify. It looks similar to other plants and it blends into the landscape. The leaves can be shiny or dull, toothed or wavy, and it can look like a shrub, a vine or a clump on the ground. So, how did I know this was poison ivy?

Close-up of Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

I’m not always positive a plant is poison ivy, but I’m always alert for its presence. If it displays any of the following, I avoid it. The plant above had all the warnings.

Identifying Poison Ivy

  • Poison ivy always has three leaves per leaflet. The leaflets are arranged in an alternate pattern. Two leaves are opposite and close together and the third leaf is on a longer stalk. Always.
  • Usually there is a notch in the leaves. They are not serrated, but can be toothed, wavy or smooth.
  • If the vine is growing up a tree, it will have air roots that will give it a hairy appearance.
  • The presence of tight clumps of white or green berries.

There are perfectly safe plants that have three leaves such as raspberry vines, but the raspberry plant has thorns and poison ivy doesn’t. Box Elder seedlings look a lot like poison ivy, so much so that I’m never sure of those and always avoid them. Boston Ivy is another plant that looks similar.

“Leaves of three, let it be” is good to remember. I have never gotten a rash from poison ivy, but I tend to err on the side of caution.

Brilliant Autumn Color

Poison Ivy Autumn Color

The plant puts on a beautiful display of color in the fall. If it wasn’t so horribly irritating to most people’s skin it would make a lovely addition to the garden.

Only humans are sensitive to poison ivy

Poison Ivy is a native North American plant. Birds and insects are attracted to the berries and flowers as a food source. Woodpeckers and Yellow-rumped Warblers (and probably robins and other fruit-eating species) eat the berries for winter nourishment. They are not sensitive to urushiol, the chemical that causes the itching in our skin.

Can you identify poison ivy?

See if you can identify the poison ivy in these photos: Is this poison ivy? I got 50 out of 55 correct.
 


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September 5, 2014 / Leslie

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, IX

RIP-XIAn Annual Event

It’s September, and that means it’s time for one of my favorite reading events, R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.

The event runs from September 1st through October 31st. There are multiple levels of peril to choose from, even a one book option for the time challenged.

There are only two simple goals for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril:

1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.

Reading categories to choose from are:
Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, and Supernatural — Something for everyone!

I tend to avoid challenges because I usually fail at them, plus they add a level of stress I don’t need. But RIP books are from genres I enjoy, so for me it’s become an annual event.

RIP-XI_PerilTheFirstI’m Choosing Peril the First:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

Other challenges to choose from are Peril the Movie, Peril the Short Story and Peril the Group Read. For anyone new to R.I.P., you do not have to be a blogger to participate.

Some Book Choices

My intentions are to read four or more of the following books. This doesn’t mean that a new release or scary recommendation won’t sneak to the top of the heap.

Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson (Apocalyptic Thriller Horror)
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (Horror)
A Good Marriage by Stephen King (Horror)
The Three by Sarah Lotz (Horror)
The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst (Fantasy)
Personal (Jack Reacher #19) by Lee Child (Thriller)
Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little (Mystery)
Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta (Thriller)

Are you joining the fun?

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© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.

September 4, 2014 / Leslie

Review – Audiobook: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Mr MercedesMr. Mercedes
by Stephen King
Narrated by Will Patton

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio | June 2014
Format: Audio CD | 14½ hours | Rating: 4 stars
Audio Listening Level: Easy – Intermediate
Rating: 4 of 5

From the Publisher:

In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

My Thoughts:

Bill Hodges, a recently retired police detective, is sinking into depression. He spends his boring days consuming alcohol, watching TV, and occasionally looking into the barrel of a revolver. Then, out of nowhere, he receives a taunting letter from someone claiming to be “The Mercedes Killer”, the ‘perp’ from a case he was unable to solve before he retired. Given a new purpose in life, Bill sets out to solve the case, whatever it takes.

This is a departure from Stephen King’s traditional style of ghosts, vampires, and other supernatural elements. Instead, he has written a creepy crime thriller. There were a few plot points that were a little unbelievable (the computer hacking and the unrealistic romance), but the story was fast-paced and suspenseful, and the writing was enjoyable. King’s pop-culture references and references to his own previous novels add a little lightness and humor to the mix.

While all the characters were fairly well-developed, Mr. Mercedes was the most interesting: a very warped, socially mal-adjusted killer with no morals. We are allowed into the mind of the killer, and that was horror enough for me. And, as usual, pets and children are always in danger in a Stephen King novel.

Fast-paced and suspenseful, I always find King’s writing enjoyable in whatever genre he chooses.

Audio Production:

Will Patton did a fantastic job with the narration. His voice for Mr. Mercedes was compellingly creepy and had me looking over my shoulder wondering how many disturbed people we unknowingly pass by everyday. Each of his character’s voices was well-defined, and his tone became more urgent and suspenseful as the story progressed. A winning audio performance!

Sample:

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Source: Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster Audio
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September 3, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Red Geranium

Red Geranium

Almost wordless: The Red Geranium was a favorite addition to my garden this year.

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September 1, 2014 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ September 1st

Sunflower-Butterfly-MailboxWelcome 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.


 
Another busy week for me, which meant another slow week on the blog. I did find a few things in my mailbox. A couple of new print books and an audiobook.

New Arrivals

BooksSep1_IMG_3332

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson from Riverhead.
In this illustrated volume, Steven Johnson explores the history of innovation over centuries, tracing facets of modern life (refrigeration, clocks, and eyeglass lenses, to name a few) from their creation by hobbyists, amateurs, and entrepreneurs to their unintended historical consequences.

The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst from Harlequin MIRA.
Lauren finds herself trapped in a town called Lost on the edge of a desert, filled with things abandoned, broken and thrown away. And when she tries to escape, impassable dust storms and something unexplainable lead her back to Lost again and again.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty from Penguin Audio.
Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. One parent is dead. The school principal is horrified. As police investigate what appears to have been a tragic accident, signs begin to indicate that this devastating death might have been cold-blooded murder.

How was your week?

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© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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August 27, 2014 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Wildflower

Wildflower

Almost wordless: Wildflower seen on my walk through the prairie a few weeks ago. At first I thought this was Milkweed, but now I’m not so sure.

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More Wordless Wednesday. © 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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August 25, 2014 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ August 25th

Butterfly-PinkFlower_Mailbox56392Welcome 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.


 
It’s been a slow couple of weeks on the blog because I’ve been busy with a few projects, plus work and life in general sometimes interferes. I’m still reading, or rather listening, but haven’t had much time for writing or commenting. Even Weekend Birding has taken a break, and that rarely happens.

A couple of new additions this week, both non-fiction.

New Arrivals

Books_Aug25_IMG_3319

Dataclysm: Who We Are by Christian Rudder from Crown.
Our personal data has been used to spy on us, hire and fire us, and sell us stuff we don’t need. In Dataclysm, Christian Rudder uses it to show us who we truly are.

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides from Random House Audio.
A white-knuckle tale of polar exploration and survival in the Gilded Age.

How was your week?

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© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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