Tag Archives: nature

The inimitable inchworm

An inchworm is a fascinating critter to observe, as I recently discovered.

inchworm
Despite only moving millimeters at a time, an inchworm can really get around quickly. The one I was watching was apparently seeking sustenance – but having little success, it appeared.

S/he would make its steady way up to a pine needle, nibble on it, and push it away. The hapless inchworm sometimes found itself upside down, looking remarkably like a puppy battling a particularly tough blade of grass.

A brief struggle to right itself, then on to the next tidbit: a bit of seed or bark or perhaps moss. Most items fared the same as the pine needles: thrust aside, sometimes spit out, discarded in favor of the next bite.

Ah, the endless interest to be found in watching the littlest beings among us!

Because of Louis L’Amour

In the Westerns I devoured as a teenager, the good guys made a point of leaving the trails they traveled in a better condition than they found them: moving a branch off the trail here, settling a rock into place there (provided, of course, that they weren’t grievously wounded and/or being pursued by the bad guys at the time).

The lesson has stuck with me: the portages I recently traveled have been left in better shape than I found them. Thank you, Mr. L’Amour.

Quiet Magic

Quiet Magic by Sam Cook, with illustrations by Bob Cary

University of Minnesota Press

This book is exactly what it promises: quiet and magical.  It’s a collection of stories and essays the author wrote for the Duluth News-Tribune, grouped by season.  Each piece is 2-4 pages in the book: a nice little morsel.

Each piece is 2-4 pages of observations and experiences related to the north country, the people to be found there, hunting and fishing, canoeing, etc.  Cook’s gentle humor and perception make for a delightful few minutes of reading per story.

I find myself continually returning to Loomis Lips for the chuckle factor.  Without spoiling it, I’ll just note that it’s about human nature.  Oh, and fish.

The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide

The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide

(c) 2013 by Creek Stewart.  Published by Living Ready Books

Rating:  * * * *

With frequent references to the materials Katniss and the other characters in The Hunger Games use to survive, this book provides the reader with an overview of survival techniques using the resources at hand to build shelters, find and purify water, forage for food, navigate, perform first aid, etc.

I really like this book because I expect it will grab the attention of readers who would not otherwise pick up an outdoors book. Each section is quick to read, full of references to the trilogy of books with which the author is clearly familiar, and contains photos for illustration.  While not exhaustive, the book goes into enough detail to spur interest in exploring the survival techniques further.

The author stresses that while The Hunger Games aren’t real, occurrences like getting lost while hiking or car breakdowns on rural roads – outside cell phone coverage areas – are.  A little knowledge can go a long way in preventing hypothermia and other adverse outcomes.

Death on the Barrens

Barrens

Death on the Barrens:  A True Story of Courage and Tragedy in the Canadian Arctic

by George James Grinnell

First published January 1, 2009 by North Atlantic Books

Rating:  * * *

The author, one of six young men on an ill-advised, poorly planned Arctic trip in the 1950s resulting in the death of the trip leader, recounts the experience from the distance of 50 years.

This is a memoir, not an autobiography.  Rather than focusing on the events of the trip, the book is about the participants:  their hubris, expectations, hopes, fears, anxieties, and reactions to the changing conditions throughout the journey.  As should be expected, the author’s experience is front and center, with descriptions of the other participants adding context.  Grinnell strays into rants from time to time, but since the chapters are all quite short it’s easy to move on.

This is a quick read that will leave you shaking your head.  I recommend reading it.

If you like this book, you may also like Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

Badluck Way

Badluck Way:  A Year on the Ragged Edge of the west by Bryce Andrews

Publish Date:  January 7, 2014

Rating:  * * *

“A memoir of Montana”

The stunning photography first drew me to this book.  The landscape is harsh and beautiful.  The same could be said for the lifestyle on a working ranch, as the author learns.  This book captures the idealism of youth as it meets the practicalities of ranching.  It provides an interesting glimpse into the daily chores and routine on a working spread, which includes working around the demands of both livestock and predators.

Wolves are a large part of this story.  The Sun Ranch was devoted to conservation and sustainable use, in contrast to some of its neighbors at the time, which could cause friction particularly when the wolves recently re-introduced to nearby Yellowstone Park migrated to ranching country.  The author learns that although conservation and ranching are not mutually exclusive, the balance is delicate.

I received an advance reader copy through NetGalley.

The Last Savanna

The Last Savanna by Mike Bond

Rating:  *

Ian MacAdam, a white man who has lived most of his adult life in Kenya, joins a group to hunt down ivory poachers.  Learning that the poachers have kidnapped an archaeologist with whom he had been involved several years prior, he strives to save her as well as capture the poachers.  Meanwhile, the poachers’ story – their clan relationships, the circumstances that led them to poaching, what they hope to gain – is told in alternating chapters.

Bond touches on the “beauty of [Africa’s] perilous deserts, jungles, and savannas” (from the publisher’s description).  The poachers and their pursuers travel vast distances through a multitude of ecosystems, encountering wildlife as varied as hyenas, elephants, and scorpions.  And don’t forget the domesticated camels.  These elements are fascinating.

Despite that, I did not enjoy this book.  The publisher indicates this is a story of “the deep, abiding power of love.”  I find no indication of abiding love, or in fact even fleeting love.  Instead, it’s a story of men squabbling over women they want to own; jealousy that the other might be the first to rape a woman of the wrong skin color; and the ingrained belief that women are entirely evil and that their only worth is in providing service and children to men.  The two women in this book (Dottie, MacAdam’s wife; and Rebecca, MacAdam’s mistress) bow to the narrative of the men in this book.  MacAdam views the poacher-hunting as a way to re-capture love (or perhaps purpose) in his life, but to do so he spurns his wife who has begged him to re-engage with her.

Slap any label on it that you wish:  freedom, religion, the urge to live life to the fullest.  In the end, it boils down to pure selfishness.

I received an advance reader copy through NetGalley.

Donny and Ursula Save the World

Donny and Ursula Save the World by Sharon Weil

Rating:  * * * *

Choose your ism: survival-ism, terrorism, environmentalism, fatalism, cataclysm, botulism (or something like it), escapism. Employing a series of hilariously apt double entendres, this book explores the notions that money is the root of all evil and sex makes the world go around.

I can pretty much guarantee you won’t read another book this year that so brilliantly ties together GMO seeds and belly dancing.

Through NetGalley, I received a copy of this book from Passing 4 Normal Press.

Tranquility

Crooked tree with canoe tip

I nestled into the canoe seat and the moment my paddle touched the water I felt it: a calmness, a serenity drifting over me, settling over me like a cloak. Despite the raucous calls and splashing from other happy lake-goers, all I heard was the soft plink of droplets falling from the paddle and the nearly inaudible ssshhhhhh of the canoe gliding over the surface of the water. Tranquility.

Camping’s Top Secrets

Camping’s Top Secrets by Cliff Jacobson

Rating:  * * * *

A compilation of useful tips for everything from treating hypothermia and blisters to packing sourdough starter for a trip to sewing cozies for cooking pots.  I have the 2nd edition, copyright 1998, but there is at least one subsequent version.  These are great tips, detailed but not exhaustive.  Other books by Jacobson provide greater detail on almost everything in this book.  I look  through this book about once a year and focus on something I’ve only skimmed before.

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