The Birds and the Bees
As careful as I am to keep political commentary out of my column, I find it impossible when I consider what is happening to our fragile climate. My first year of teaching was 1969-70 which coincided with the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. This day was met with hope and fanfare by my students who believed we’d become globally aware and proactive of the way humanity could care for the earth. Now, as we approach the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, our delicate planet is in peril; compounding the problem is an administration denying the reality of climate change.
In the last 50 years, more than 2.9 billion—yes, with a B—birds have vanished. In this decade alone, eight species have disappeared from the earth. There are many reasons for the losses from habitat reduction to wide-spread pesticide use. The days of insects heavily splattering summer windshields are gone because of increased pesticide use and gone, to, is a major food source for our birds. Resources are further compromised by the indiscriminate use of land from wetland destruction to deforestation. Large tracts of habitat for birds, insects and other wildlife no longer exist and many others are on the edge of elimination.
Among the most vulnerable insect populations are our pollinators which include butterflies and bees. From Bumblebees to Honeybees and Monarchs to Swallowtails, countless varieties have suffered from colony collapse, neonicotinoid poisoning, and loss of flowering plants for food. Most of the negative impact felt by our bees and butterflies can be traced to human actions. To suggest otherwise is to dangerously refuse acceptance of the mounting factual evidence.
Our continued use of fossil fuels and our unwillingness to reduce our carbon footprint only exacerbate the problem. Studies confirm our pattern of unchecked global warming is causing insect and animal species to move from lower elevations to higher ones permanently altering their native ranges. Eventually, many species will run out of habitable areas. Also, rolling back emission standards has increased CO levels in the atmosphere.
Habitat destruction and atmospheric pollution may seem distant to many Iowans. Yet, locally, in Dubuque County, our small feeder streams are heavily polluted with nitrogen and phosphorous—both tied to agricultural use and stormwater runoff. Currently, Iowa is responsible for adding over 600 million pounds of nitrogen to the Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone”—the area in the gulf where no marine life can survive. Additionally, due to our inability to rein-in fertilizer runoff, Iowa is responsible for 55% of the nitrogen entering the Missouri River basin. Our watersheds are critical to maintaining clean drinking water as well as safe wetland and river habitats. Soon, no one will want to eat the catfish, bass, trout and walleye caught from our rivers and streams because of deadly chemicals in the fish.
These are but tidbits of what’s happening here and around the globe. More disturbing is our current administration that has gone beyond denying climate change and pressing for changes at home that take us deeper into our climate catastrophe. From potentially opening public lands for drilling, to rolling back EPA standards to even wanting to remove the words “climate change” from reports, our present administration has nearly erased decades of successful progress in the fight to reduce the human impact on climate change.
I believe we must act locally to help mitigate our global crises. Come next spring plant more annuals and perennials everywhere! Boldly add color—and pollinator plants—to your yard. Plant slopes in native species and eliminate some mowing. Provide habitat including trees, shrubs and native grasses for birds to nest and hide. Specifically, consider planting viburnum, serviceberry, winterberry and chokecherry all of which have berries that persist into winter. If a small rivulet or stream is nearby, consider removing debris tossed in by people. Help create a cleaner stream by not washing your car in the driveway where detergent-filled water ends up in that same stream. No, we cannot change the ignorant thinking of an administrator hell-bent on denying our global disaster. Not one willing to tell sixteen-year old climate activist Gretta Thunberg to “Chill, Gretta, Chill!” If his policies continue to remain unchecked, we will all be permanently chilling.
Life in the Wild Is No Life for Pets
DEAR PAW’S CORNER: If a pet gets released into the wild, can it survive on its own? — Ben G., via email
DEAR BEN: Some domesticated pets can survive for a while outdoors, hunting or scavenging for food. But they have a much shorter lifespan and can easily fall prey to injury, sickness or other predators.
Dogs, for example, have been domesticated for so long that they’ve lost many of the key skills required of a wolf or a truly wild dog. According to a study published in 2010, “Pet dogs failed basic intelligence tests that wolves and wild dogs pass with ease.” This may be because pet dogs are trained to expect food at certain times of day, and do not have to hunt for it — so they’ve never really had to think about how to solve certain problems.
And while cats are noted for their independence and hunting skills, a cat abandoned in the wild may not fare very well — and may become prey for larger predators or even feral cats.
The same goes for other domesticated pets. Rabbits? There’s a good chance Flopsy will just sit there in the field where you abandoned him until a hawk spots him and swoops in. Parrots? They’ll have trouble finding food they can eat, and except for the very southernmost parts of the U.S., winter temperatures will stress their systems fatally.
My point is that releasing pets into the wild is utterly cruel and downright cowardly. A pet is a responsibility, one you’ve taken on. If you’re having trouble taking care of a pet, resources are available in your local community, from shelters to pet charities. Ask for help. Don’t just abandon your pets.
Send your questions, tips, or comments to
© 2019 King Features Synd., Inc.
There was an old note found taped to the bottom of this birdcage rocker when it was put up for sale at a James Julia auction. It traced the chair back to a Massachusetts woman who was hung as a witch.
The Windsor chair was introduced in England in the late 17th century, and it was about 50 years later, around 1730, that the first American Windsor chairs were made in Philadelphia. The American makers created different styles of Windsors. They all had a shaped wooden seat made of a single thick piece of wood, spindles used for a back and perhaps arms. There were splayed legs that were inserted into holes in the seat. The Windsor gradually changed into a captain’s chair with no spindles and a low back. Windsors were made of several types of wood chosen for properties like strength for the legs, pliability for the top of the back, and easy carveability for the seat. Then they were painted a single dark color. If there is a hole in the seat, the chair probably was converted to a potty chair. Rocking chairs can be early chairs with added rockers or 18th century chairs made with original rockers. You can tell by the way they
There are tips to telling the age and origin of an authentic chair. An English chair will have a splat in the back and may use cabriole legs. It has a lower back than an American chair. Older American chair seats are about 18 inches from the floor; later ones are lower, about 16 to 17 inches. The number of spindles in the back is a good gauge of age: The more there are, the older the chair. Nine spindles is a very old chair. The chairs are named for the shape of the back. This is a birdcage Windsor with rockers that may have been added. It was made in the early 19th century in Massachusetts. The auction estimate at a James Julia sale was $500 to $700.
• • •
I have an antique hand mirror made by the Unger Brothers. It is set in silver. The back is decorated with raised cupids in a water scene, but there are engraved initials of a previous owner that have been added. Do the initials lower the value?
Your American dresser mirror from the early 1900s is worth more than $100. Added initials on silver do not seem to change the value. It might be fun to explain that the mirror belonged to a distant relative.
• • •
R.S. Prussia, cake plate, violets, white center, two-tone pink border, gold highlights, 10 1/2 inches, $60.
Parker fountain pen, marbleized white resin, 18-karat gold nib, 5 1/2 inches, $240.
Animal trophy, elk, shoulder mount, 6-point antlers, c. 1950, 58 x 56 inches, $485.
Quilt, appliqued, flowers, urns, bud and vine border, red, yellow, green, 1850s, 92 x 100 inches, $770.
• • •
TIP: Your collectibles will live best at the temperature and humidity that is comfortable for you — not too hot, cold, wet or dry.
For more collecting news,
tips and resources, visit
© 2019 King Features Synd., Inc.
Cremer’s Secret Recipe