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March 25, 2017 / Leslie

Is it Spring Yet?

I ask this question every year. It seems like the minute the calendar says it’s spring, the cold, and sometimes even snow, returns. So I take my cues from the local wildlife. Yesterday I saw a chipmunk in the backyard, birds have been singing, and the winter flocks of robins have broken up and they are scouting the area for nesting spots.

Is the American Robin a harbinger of spring?

Does the first sighting of a robin in the northern states mean spring is here? Maybe, but maybe not.

In the autumn robins typically gather into flocks and vanish from the backyards. Northerners assume they migrate south to warmer climates and move back in the spring, but in recent decades their behavior has changed.

Don’t Robins Migrate?

Robins from the northernmost parts of the US and Canada do move south. Forty years ago it was rare to see a robin during the winter in Illinois, but in the past few decades sightings have become more common. Robins have been routinely observed during the Audubon Christmas bird counts and I often see them in groups when out walking on the nature trails.

American Robin

What has changed?

Birds don’t migrate because of the cold, they leave when food supplies are scarce. Migration is risky, and if birds can avoid making a long trip into unfamiliar territory, they will stay local or move short distances. The short answer to what has changed for the robin is the availability of food.

In the summer robins eat insects and worms, in the winter they eat berries. The explosion of buckthorn, honeysuckle and other invasive fruit bearing shrubs has allowed more birds to remain in northern climates than ever before.

We don’t know if the robins we see in the winter are the same ones that were here during the summer. They could be flocks from Minnesota or Canada, and my Illinois robins may have gone to Missouri. Then again, they may be the same robins that are here in the summer.

Where did we see robins this winter?

I generated the map below using eBird to show where robins have been observed from December 2016 through February 2017. The darker the color, the higher the frequency of sightings.

Clicking on the image will take you to the real-time map. It is interactive and you can zoom in for a closer look at the locations. You can also change the date range at the top of the page to compare this to sighting in previous years.

eBird generated map of robin sightings from December 2016 to February 2017.

What is eBird?

eBird is a real-time online checklist program. Birders and citizen scientists enter their observations into the eBird database. Reports and maps can be generated for individual bird species showing their abundance and distribution at a point in time.

So, Is the Robin A Harbinger of Spring?

Depending on where you live, the sight of a robin may still mean spring is near. For me, when I see them scouting my yard in pairs and arguing over nesting territory, spring has truly arrived.

© 2017 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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March 22, 2017 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Smile!

Almost wordless: Someone was having fun!

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March 17, 2017 / Leslie

Dishing Up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis

Simple Recipes for Cooking Through the Seasons

About the Book

Publisher: Harper Wave | March 14, 2017
Format: Hardcover | 304 pages
Rating: 5 of 5

Andrea Bemis, the creator of the popular farm-to-table blog Dishing Up the Dirt, builds on her success with this beautiful, simple, seasonally driven cookbook, featuring more than 100 inventive and delicious whole-foods recipes and dozens of color photographs.

For Andrea Bemis, who owns and runs a six-acre organic farm with her husband outside of Portland, Oregon, dinners are inspired by what is grown in the soil and picked by hand. In Dishing Up the Dirt, Andrea offers 100 authentic farm-to-table recipes, arranged by season, including:

Spring: Honey Roasted Strawberry Muffins, Lamb Lettuce Wraps with Mint Yogurt Sauce, Spring Harvest Pizza with Mint & Pea Pesto, Kohlrabi and Chickpea Salad

Summer: Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Biscuits, Roasted Ratatouille Toast, Kohlrabi Fritters with Garlic Herb Cashew Cream Sauce, Farmers Market Burgers with Mustard Greens Pesto

Fall: Farm Girl Veggie Bowls, Butternut Molasses Muffins, Early Autumn Moroccan Stew, Collard Green Slaw with Bacon Gremolata

Winter: Rutabaga Home Fries with Smokey Cashew Sauce, Hoisin Glazed Brussels Sprouts, Country Girl Old Fashioned Cocktails, Tumbleweed Farm Winter Panzanella

Andrea’s recipes focus on using whole, locally-sourced foods—incorporating the philosophy of eating as close to the land as possible. While many recipes are naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegetarian, many others include elemental ingredients like bread, cheese, eggs, meat, and sweeteners, which are incorporated in new and inventive ways.

In short essays throughout the book, Andrea also presents an honest glimpse of life on Tumbleweed Farm—the real life of a farmer, not the shabby-chic fantasy often portrayed—offering fascinating and frequently entertaining details about where the food on our dinner tables comes from. With stunning food photography as well as intimate portraits of farm life, Dishing Up the Dirt allows anyone to be a seasonal foodie and an armchair farmer.

My Thoughts

This is much more than just another cookbook of healthy recipes. It’s a tribute to life on a small farm and the passion that the author has for the life that she and her husband have created in their small community in Oregon.

The introductory essay to each season is as much a part of the book as the recipes and provides an enlightening look at farm life. Recipes are divided into section by season rather than food types, emphasizing the fresh, local, whole foods one would find in season at a farmer’s market or your own garden. Most of the recipes are simple one dish meals or breads, soups, vegetables, pizza, and desserts. There are a few meat dishes but many are vegetarian.

Each recipe begins with its own introduction such as why it’s a favorite or its origin, and sometimes a few helpful tips. Almost every recipe has a photo of the finished dish, something I find very helpful. I enjoy a good presentation and I like to be able to duplicate it.

Spiced Zucchini Honey Walnut Bread

[Every year I have a surplus of zucchini and can always use another recipe.]

Even though these are simple recipes, the author does not skimp on the instructions. Both ingredient lists and directions are detailed making this an excellent book for both new and experienced cooks.

Regular visitors here know I have a passion for gardening and, in addition to my wildflower garden, also have an organic herb and vegetable garden. And while I don’t have the space to add all the veggies used in these recipes, the book has inspired me to change the garden around a bit and add a few new ones.

About the Author

Andrea is the writer, recipe developer, and photographer behind the food blog DishingUp TheDirt.com. Her recipes and Tumbleweed Farm have been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Well and Good NYC, and Eating Well Magazine. She lives on her farm in Oregon with her husband and dog.

Connect with Andrea on Instagram and Facebook.

Add to Goodreads.

Purchase Links:
HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Tour Stops

Tuesday, March 14th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, March 15th: Just Commonly

Thursday, March 16th: Ms.Bookish.com

Friday, March 17th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World

Friday, March 17th: Under My Apple Tree

Monday, March 20th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Tuesday, March 21st: #redhead.with.book

Wednesday, March 22nd: Sidewalk Shoes

Friday, March 24th: Create With Joy

Monday, March 27th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, March 28th: G. Jacks Writes

Wednesday, March 29th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, March 30th: Literary Quicksand

Friday, March 31st: Library of Clean Reads

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Source: Review copy from the publisher through TLC Book Tours.
© 2015 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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March 13, 2017 / Leslie

Mailbox Monday ~ March 13th

Welcome 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.


 
Just when my spring perennials thought it was safe to poke up their first leaves, winter returned with cold temps and snow. And I was getting into a gardening mood after receiving a new cookbook last week with recipes that focus on using locally-sourced and home-grown foods. I’ve already bought some of my seeds and have been planning the garden design. Six more days until spring!

New Arrivals

Dishing Up the Dirt: Simple Recipes for Cooking Through the Seasons by Andrea Bemis from TLC Book Tours.
Andrea Bemis, the creator of the popular farm-to-table blog Dishing Up the Dirt builds on her success with this beautiful, simple, seasonally driven cookbook, featuring more than 100 inventive and delicious whole-foods recipes and dozens of color photographs.

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© 2017 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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March 9, 2017 / Leslie

Book Review: Ill Will by Dan Chaon

A Rapid Review

Creepy but oh so compelling . . .

Publisher: Ballantine Books | PRH Audio | March 2017
Format: 480 pages | Audio 15 hours | Rating: 5 stars
Audio Listening Level: Intermediate – Difficult

Two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.

What’s it about . . .
Dustin Tillman, a psychologist in his 40s, is haunted by the murder of his parents, aunt, and uncle in the 1980s. Convinced his step-brother Rusty, a boy with an already troubled past, committed the murders, Dustin and his cousin testify that Rusty was involved with satanic cults. Even without physical evidence, their testimony was enough to convict him of the murders. Thirty years later, with the help of The Innocence Project and DNA analysis, Rusty is exonerated and released from jail.

Recently, Dustin has lost his wife to cancer and is probably not thinking clearly when he befriends a patient and crosses a professional boundary to help him investigate a serial killer who preys on local college boys. Meanwhile, Rusty, newly released from prison, has made contact with Dustin’s son, who is dealing with drug abuse problems and the recent death of his best friend.

What did I think . . .
I enjoyed this immensely; however, this is not a book for everyone. Besides being a rather dark story, it is also creepy and, at times, scary. Plus it’s not the easiest book to read or listen to. Using three narrators, shifting points of view, two time lines that span three decades, and a unique writing style makes this novel, at times, challenging. But it was so worth it!

The story is multi-layered and complex, but also a compelling mystery. It isn’t until the very last section that everything comes together. And at that point I asked myself why I didn’t see it coming! If you like Stephen King style creepiness or Hitchcockian suspense, you will probably enjoy this unique novel. This is already one of my 2017 favorites.

Audio production . . .
I began by listening to the audiobook, but soon switched to print until I became oriented. There was no problem in the performance of the narrators, which includes Ari Fliakos, Edoardo Ballerini, and Michael Crouch, who did a superb job.

I have an easier time keeping frequent time shifts straight in my mind when I read, rather than hear, the dates. Plus points of view were often shifting. Once I became familiar with the many characters and the author’s style, it became easier to listen. It was also not easy to multi-task while doing anything distracting as the story requires a bit of concentration. Unless one listens to a lot of audio, I recommend going with the print. I listen to a lot of audio, but still needed to keep the book nearby to re-read some passages for clarification.

Audio Sample . . .:

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
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Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
© 2017 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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March 8, 2017 / Leslie

Wordless Wednesday: Red-winged Blackbird


Almost wordless: Male Red-winged Blackbirds are early migrants in the Midwest. They began to appear several weeks ago to claim their territory for nesting season. I haven’t seen any females yet, but they should be arriving soon.

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More Wordless Wednesday. © 2017 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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March 7, 2017 / Leslie

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

A Rapid Review

The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit

Publisher: PRH Audio | Knopf Books | March 2017
Format: Audio 6½ hours | 224 pages | Rating: 5 stars
Audio Listening Level: Easy

Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality–not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own.

What’s it about . . .
With no survival training and little preparation, 20-year-old Christopher Knight abandoned his car and walked into the woods. He did not speak to another human for almost 30 years. He lived in a tent and would break into local cottages to steal supplies – food, clothes, books, watches. There were rumors about the hermit, but no one really believed it was the same person breaking in for all those years. And besides, who could survive the frigid Maine winters living outside. The answers came when the cost of surveillance equipment dropped in price, and residents began to capture images of a man breaking into their cottages.

What did I think . . .
This is a true story and one that I had never heard about. I love nature but I could never, ever exist solely in the woods. Through his persistence, the author was able to get Knight, a reluctant interviewee, to answer many of his questions. I was instantly absorbed in Knight’s story.

When Knight was finally caught by the local park service, he went peacefully. He admitted he had stolen and felt bad about it. He took as little as he could, never the most expensive items, and only what he needed. The interviews with Knight were fascinating. He was not the ‘crazy’ unkempt person you would imagine a hermit to look like. He was soft-spoken and intelligent. And he managed to survive all those years but never built a real campsite, living only in a tent!

This is a quick read; an amazing, compelling story.

Audio production . . .
The audiobook is read by Mark Bramhall who performed the narration with empathy in soft, soothing tones. I switched between audio and print, and finished the book in only two days. This was an easy listen and one I would recommend to those interested in trying an audiobook for the first time.

Audio Sample . . .

An Under My Apple Tree Rapid Review
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Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
© 2017 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
Advertisements appearing on this site are placed by WordPress and are not endorsed or approved by me.

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