weekend reading: the blue in bluebirds; tick research; a doll of a d.i.y. house

western bluburd by Tom GreyWHY ARE BLUEBIRDS blue? That and other stories caught my eye recently–along with the latest updates on ticks, glyphosate, and on a lighter note: the “reveal” of my friend Kate’s DIY dollhouse. The latest links, for weekend reading:

why are bluebirds blue?

WHY ARE bluebirds blue? The obvious answer seems to be, “Because they have blue feathers,” but that’s not it, says a recent segment on the public-radio show BirdNote. It’s all about the feathers’ structure—and the light trick they create right before our eyes. Listen in to learn what’s going on. (Tom Grey photo from BirdNote.)

tick on fingertip

ticks arrive earlier, plus an avian connection

AS THE WORLD WARMS, life cycles shift—including those of disease-bearing ticks, which are awakening earlier and spreading into new areas. Recent research from Cary Institute warns Northeasterners to be vigilant earlier. Efforts at Cary and elsewhere have long pointed to the host role small mammals play in Lyme and other tick-borne disease transmission, and now a study at Berkeley delves deeper than before into the role that birds play, too.


dream dollhouse

MY FRIEND KATE is a full-on indoor-outdoor DIY type, growing food in raised beds (that she built, of course); redoing the bathroom in her mid-century Wisconsin ranch house; even recovering her grandmother’s groovy vintage sofas. Can-do Kate spent part of the winter building a dollhouse all from scratch, with vintage wallpaper and real tile and linoleum and all. It’s specifically a 1955 Betsy McCall dollhouse from a pattern that cost 60 cents when new, because that’s how Kate is: midcentury modest all the way.

glyphosate rated ‘probably carcinogenic’

IN A MULTI-NATION assessment of five organophosphates—a group of chemical pesticides and herbicides—the World Health Organization’s cancer-research arm rated glyphosate Category 2B, or “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Diazinon and malathion got the same rating as did glyphosate, the world’s most widely produced herbicide and the active ingredient in Roundup. Big surprise: the chemical industry disagrees, vehemently so, and doesn’t accept the findings.


PLOW, plow, plow? No, no, no. A “The New York Times” feature on no-till farming brings the subject to life and explains the benefits—soil restoration, water conservation, reduced need for fertilizers and more. It also outlines the obstacles to “selling” the idea on a larger scale, since resistance to change can run deep.

  1. Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says:

    I loved seeing that No-Till article about the farmers changing their game plans. So encouraging! It’s “Ruth Stout” on a grand scale. The photo of the man kneeling in his field is a portrait of a true pioneer.

  2. john says:

    Ironic, is it not, that the vast majority of no-till agriculture is heavily dependent on Roundup to clear the field and then Roundup resistant crops are planted. Then Roundup is used to control weeds during the growing season unless the weeds have (surprise, surprise) developed resistance to Roundup in which case more toxic herbicides have to be used.

  3. Jayne says:

    Haven’t visited the web site in awhile. I think I lost you when I got a new computer months ago! Yikes! Love the new look, and the information is overwhelming. Our blue birds are flirting with the new bluebird house I put up! A bit earlier than I would expect up North…still getting used to my new timetable living in coastal Georgia! Did not miss the snow this year! But I have missed your blog – I’m back!

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