DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

Environment

Collage of my front porch garden

Any little corner of the world can be transformed into a personal and unique work of art.  Every change that we make to our world and environment changes all of us just a little bit.  Flowers and plants, like books, are among my best friends in the world.  They are quiet and dynamic, and the depth of their being touches my heart.

I became a home-owner for the first time just three years ago this month.  My favorite type of house is the Craftsman bungalow.  While my house is not a 1930’s artisanal gem, it is a renovated small 1950’s ranch with a large front porch add-on.  A front porch is an architectural hug, an invitation, a welcoming embrace.  I fell in love with my house because of the porch with its columns, ceiling fan, and large front window.  I immediately sketched out in my mind the containers overflowing with luxuriant plants, flowers, and herbs that would adorn the biggest room in my house!

A porch can be an oasis...

While trained as a visual artist and painter, gardening affords me a multi-dimensional experience, artistically speaking.  The plants have color, texture, aromas, form.  As living beings, the plants interact with one another, and they attract a world of what most would consider to be pests.  In any case, as I stated above—plants are dynamic, and they act on the environment around them.  My basil has introduced miniature snails to my front porch.  Tiny bees hum, darting in and out of the blooming oregano, while moths find shade and shelter during daylight hours under the leaves of flowering plants.  A salamander enjoys frolicking around my geraniums.  Zippered webs with juicy lemon yellow and black garden spiders have haunted my columns and rosemary.  Birds, chipmunks, and squirrels peck around in the soil and mulch, searching for succulent treats, scattering debris in their wake.

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Apr 17 2013

Backyard Birds (part 2)

by Dea Anne M

ssialisI posted here awhile back about my newly discovered fascination with (and delight in) the many birds who inhabit my backyard and neighborhood. I see a lot of small songbirds at the feeder along with larger birds like cardinals, woodpeckers, and the occasional comical mourning dove who’s always a little too round of belly to perch long enough to get his fill.  I often hear an owl hooting in the early morning hours and sometimes catch sight of the hawk that lives in the neighborhood. While the bird feeder gets heavy use all year, my pleasure so far this spring has been to observe the birds as they prepare nests and get ready to bring new birds into the world.

I’m especially happy to see this year, for the first time, Eastern Bluebirds appearing at the feeder. To encourage them to make a home in the back yard, we’ve put up a special bluebird box. The instructions tell us not to be discouraged if the birds choose not to nest there the first year but it’s looking hopeful for young bluebirds and I couldn’t be more excited. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, everything starts with the male bluebird depositing bits of nesting material into the box which he then stands on top of and madly flaps his wings. Once this breathtakingly suave display has secured him a mate, it’s up to the female to actually build the nest and incubate the eggs. Last week, I observed a male bird in full flap on top of the box and since this weekend I’ve seen the female going in and out. The bird box instructs one to check it regularly to be sure rival birds such as house sparrows aren’t squatting (so to speak) but this morning’s monitoring confirms that the box is holding the small, cup-shaped nest made up of fine grasses that is the hallmark of the Eastern Bluebird. Hooray!

Here lately, the only thing that makes me happier than seeing one bluebird is the thought of seeing a lot more. Though bluebirds are migratory, those that live in the Southeastern states often stay put all year. You might have bluebirds in your neighborhood too! Do you want to know more? Check out the North American Bluebird Society for more information or visit the University of Georgia’s site for its Museum of Natural History for facts related to bluebirds in Georgia.backyard

If you’re new to bird watching or if you are, like me, mainly a “Whats that outside the kitchen window?” bird watcher, then you can’t do much better than Backyard Birding: a guide to attracting and identifying birds by Randi Minetor. Packed with high quality photographs and information about everything bird, the author also includes great information about creating a bird’s paradise such as providing water sources and attractive nesting materials as well as dealing effectively with predators.

For the thorough types among us, National Geographic’s Bird Watcher’s Bible: a complete treasury is everything that the title promises. Filled with exhaustive information and the type of high-caliber photography that National Geographic is known for, you will find hours worth of entertainment and knowledge about all things avian.national

If you find that you want to go more deeply into birding (or already have), then don’t miss Derek Lovitch’s How To Be a Better Birder. Lovitch advocates for what he calls a “whole bird” approach to watching and identifying birds and incorporates meteorology, geography and radar along with traditional observation. Lovitch also calls upon avid bird watchers to get involved in conservation efforts—a sentiment with which I must agree.

Finally, if you’re planning a trip to the beach, don’t miss The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal by John Yow. From the Outer Banks to Florida’s Gulf Coast, Yow shares his personal journey of discovery in studying the birds unique to our seacoast. Filled with wit and anecdote, Yow’s book will appeal even if you plan to never pick up a pair of binoculars.

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Dec 28 2012

The Year in Pictures

by Jimmy L

Sometimes it’s hard to look back and remember everything that happened in the past year. But The Guardian has posted 19 beautiful photographs that sum it up pretty nicely, from the athletic feats at the Olympics to the election night moments in November. And this one, taken in Hoboken, New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy wrought its destruction:

Floods in Hoboken

A similar collection of iconic 2012 photographs is also up at the World Press Photo site. Dedicated to understanding the world through photojournalism, the site holds a yearly contest in several different categories including General News, People, Sports, Daily Life, Portraits, and many more. The following photo was the winner in the Nature category, and shows a desperate polar bear who has climbed up on a cliff face, trying (unsuccessfully) to feed on eggs from the nests of guillemots, in late July.

Cliff-climbing polar bear attempting to eat seabird eggs

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Mar 30 2012

Spring is Here!!

by Amanda L

The official beginning of spring started a few weeks ago and spring break is next week. What better way to celebrate but to spend some time in the great outdoors. I have written before about a variety of outdoor places  to visit and  fishing opportunities around the state. A new opportunity for day excursions and fishing is the new Georgia Go Fish Pass. This pass will allow up to six people free admittance to the Go Fish Education Center in Perry, Georgia. You may be required to show identification. The pass can be checked out from your local branch or reserved if all of the passes are in use. The pass is checked out for one week. NOTE: The center is only open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Looking for hiking opportunities around Atlanta? Of course there are the state parks around the state. Don’t forget that  you may reserve a Georgia Park pass just like you would any other material. You may check it out for seven days. The Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s website lists all of the participating parks and historic sites. Georgia Parks that are located on National Forest land are not included in this park pass.

Closer to home in DeKalb County, the Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve is another opportunity which is free. The local ranger provides interpretive hikes for free for individuals.  For more information, check out their calendar of events.

And when you’re not out in nature, why not come to some of the Library’s spring break programs? We have games, crafts, movies and more for the whole family.

The Library offers several hiking books for the Atlanta area:

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Feb 8 2012

Planting a promise

by Dea Anne M

Most of us know that Arbor Day is a holiday celebrated by planting trees.  The first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska on April 19 1872 and an estimated million trees were planted that day. Arbor Day is now celebrated worldwide, though dates vary, of course, due to climate and other considerations. The best time for planting trees in Georgia is between November and mid-March so this year, Georgia’s Arbor Day will be celebrated on February 17th. The Georgia Forestry Commission is encouraging everyone to get out there and plant a tree and leave “a lasting legacy for future generations.”

Do you want to learn more about planting and tending trees in Georgia? Check out these resources from DCPL.

…and young gardeners can learn more about Arbor Day and trees with Arbor Day by Kelly Bennett and Tree by David Burnie which is part of the wonderful Eyewitness series of photograph laden, non-fiction books for children. If you’re interested in planting more trees throughout the year, you could also become involved with Trees Atlanta, a non-profit group dedicated to replenishing the urban forest in metro Atlanta.

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Nov 9 2011

Seven Billion

by Jimmy L

According to the United Nations, the world population reached seven billion on Monday October 31, 2011. This figure is completely inconceivable to me, but the BBC website has created a website that makes it easier to see this number in the context of its numerous contributing factors. If you enter in your date of birth (since this is a British website, make sure you enter day first, then month and year), it will tell you what your number is,  i.e. how many people were alive at the time you were born. It will also tell you how many people have ever lived since history began (78.7 billion). If you click “Next”, it will break down population growth by country, gender, and other factors. If you’re interested in thinking about this topic more, check out some of these books:

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Oct 26 2011

Decatur Electronics Recycling Day

by Joseph M

Do you have any old electronic items sitting around at home gathering dust because you aren’t sure about the best way to dispose of them?  Check out Decatur Recycling Day, a biannual event taking place this Saturday, October 29 in the Decatur High School parking lot from 9am to 1pm.  Almost anything with an electrical cord can be recycled at no cost, including cell phones, computer components, cameras, DVD players, batteries and more.  Television sets can also be recycled for a charge of $10 cash.  In a change from previous years, styrofoam will no longer be accepted.  For more information, including a list of acceptable items, please visit this link on the City of Decatur website.

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Oct 14 2011

Fall into the Woods

by Amanda L

All my life I have loved being outside in the Fall. Watching nature make her last spectacular color push until she falls asleep for the winter is one of my favorite pastimes. When I head into the woods each Fall, I often  have my camera and a variety of books within reach to consult.  If you sit quietly for an hour or more, you never know what animal, bird or insect you might see that you have never seen before.

Over the years, I have seen deer, coyotes, pileated woodpeckers, armadillos, skunks and a screech owl to name a few. Last year, my most memorable moment was when I thought a herd of deer were coming towards me as I sat in the woods. To my shock and surprise, I found two rambunctious armadillos chasing each other through the leaves.  If I’m unsure of the animal, insect or even a tree, I always consult a guide book. The Library has a variety of these guidebooks to help you identify what you have seen. There are also books on nature photography.

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Of course, we all know that library collections have long circulated all sorts of  items that aren’t books, but check out this article: Seed Lending Libraries Bloom.

That’s right…it’s a seed lending library! Patrons “borrow” seeds and then save the seeds from those plants to return. I think this is a great idea and sounds like a wonderful way to encourage gardening within communities. The article specifically mentions the Potrero branch of the San Francisco Public Library but there are similar programs in place at the Richmond Public Library in Virginia and in Connecticut at the Fairfield Woods branch of the Fairfield Public Library.

What type of items would you like to see in a lending library? The public library in Rochester, IL offers a crafts supply lending library and the Berkeley Public Library in Berkeley, CA has a tool lending library.  Also, did you know that at one point, we at the DeKalb County Public Library lent out framed paintings for people to put on their walls?  And that today, as you read this, we are lending out free family passes to Zoo Atlanta and Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites?

Getting back to seeds, it isn’t too late to get them in the ground whether that ground is your yard, a raised bed, or a container. Think you need some help?

Try Growing Herbs and Vegetables: from seed to harvest by Terry and Mark Silber

or check out Gardening With Heirloom Seeds: tried and true flowers, fruits, and vegetables for a new generation by Lyn Coulter.

(Thanks to my colleague Jessica for the link that inspired this post.)

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Dec 8 2010

Breathingearth

by Joseph M

I was browsing the web the other day when I came across an intriguing site that I thought I would share. It’s called Breathingearth, and essentially, the website features a real-time cartographic simulation providing information on births, deaths, & CO2 emissions worldwide. You can also obtain population and emissions data about individual countries by moving the cursor over the different nations on the map.

Birth & death rates are obtained from 2010 estimates in the CIA World Factbook, while information about CO2 emissions is based on 2006 figures from the United Nations Statistics Division. In addition to providing an appealing visual display for fans of maps (like myself), choosing to represent the information in this format puts data from individual countries in a framework that allows for quick comparison and helps users to see “the big picture”, so to speak.

If you’d like to find out more about global issues like pollution and population control, the website has a few suggested links to visit, but you can always take advantage of the wealth of information available at your local library as well!

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