The Wrack: two worlds

blog of the wells reserve & laudholm trust

Fools Russian

April 1, 2017 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: congressnerranerrstwo worlds

Sad-eyed Albert Einstein.

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 4/2/2017, and Making It At Home's 4/5/2017 issue.

Over the past three years, it has been the practice of the Wells Reserve at Laudholm to publish a bit of make-believe each April Fool’s Day. We have posted hoax articles to draw attention to real issues like staff changes, invasive species, and the health of local rivers. Unfortunately, this year the truth-blurring antics of President Trump and his staff have convinced us that adding “fake news” to the local scene, even if only in jest, would be counter-productive and irresponsible.

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The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 2/19/2017, and Making It At Home's 2/16/2017 issue.

Snug fit

Image: Volunteer Cliff Babkirk from Sanford pops in a custom-made window insert at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm’s Visitor Center.

 

My family and I were some of the last visitors to wander through the Willowbrook Museum in Newfield before it permanently closed last fall. As we perused the houses, barns, and sheds filled with furniture and tools from the 19th century, I felt the vast landscape of time lying between then and now.

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The Rift

January 20, 2017 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changeglobal warmingicetwo worlds

NASA image of the Larsen C rift 11-2016The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 1/22/2017, and Making It At Home's 1/25/2017 issue.

It’s morning in Antarctica. It’s high summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and warmer ocean water and breezes have lifted the temperature on the Larsen C ice shelf to a balmy 32 degrees. Like a rifle shot, the ice occasionally gives off a pop that finds no place to echo across the flat, white, featureless plain.

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The First to Die

November 11, 2016 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: two worlds

Bust of an unknown Greek - Museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli.jpg

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 11/13/2016, and Making It At Home's 11/16/2016 issue.

If “the first casualty of war is the truth,” as US Senator Hiram Johnson once opined, then truth never stood a chance. This country has been waging war — on poverty, drugs, Iraq, terror, sugar, Christmas — for my entire life. Every election has become a “war for the soul of America.” If there were any doubt left about the vivacity of truth, Tuesday’s result bayoneted it.

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He who smelt it, dealt it

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/23/2016, and Making It At Home's 10/26/2016 issue.

It’s too early to tally the full damage from Hurricane Matthew, which earlier this month plowed up the Southeast U.S. coast from Florida to North Carolina. Working at the local Wells Reserve, a place that pays a lot of attention to coastal watershed issues, I watched closely as four research reserves in our national system of 28 took the brunt of the storm. Plus, I have a demonstrated interest in manure, so the following story caught my eye.

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Better Living through Chemistry?

October 1, 2016 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: insectstwo worlds

Robert Hooke's drawing of a flea in Micrographia, c. 1730

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/2/2016, and Making It At Home's 10/5/2016 issue.

When my wife, sons, and I went away to our annual family reunion over Labor Day Weekend, we never expected to return home to find a party raging at our house. We’d left our cat, Greenberry, in charge of the homestead. When we got back from our trip, she was playing host to hundreds of obnoxious guests.

Fleas.

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Rounding Second

August 21, 2016 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changetwo worlds

https://www.flickr.com/photos/29381982@N08/12043928655

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/21/2016, and Making It At Home's 8/24/2016 issue.

August 21st is my 38th birthday. The odometer keeping track of my trips around the Sun just rolled over 22.2 billion miles. There’s still plenty of tread on the tires. I am beginning to notice a few twinges of maturity, though. Joint pains, hair loss, reflexive stubbornness, the irrepressible need to give advice – the signs of creeping codgerdom.

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Timing Is Everything

August 6, 2016 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: floramonitoringmushroomsphenologytwo worlds

A tasty tree-t

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/7/2016, and Making It At Home's 8/11/2016 issue.

The orange ruffles hadn’t been there last week, but now they were impossible to miss. Overnight, it seemed, a chicken-of-the-woods had returned to roost on the old oak stump in our yard.

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At Your Service

July 3, 2016 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: birdsservicetwo worldsvolunteer

Associated People Lynne Benoit-Vachon Nancy Viehmann

Thank you, volunteers

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 7/3/2016, and Making It At Home's 7/6/2016 issue.

Every morning as I make my coffee, I watch the birds at the bird feeder outside my kitchen window. The other day I noticed, perched on the deck railing near the feeder, a brownish-greyish bird throwing a temper tantrum.

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What Fathers Do

June 19, 2016 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: two worlds

Fatherhood is a long haul

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 6/19/2016, and Making It At Home's 6/22/2016 issue.

The week before Father’s Day, my sons gave me a great gift: they went to California for seven days with their grandmother, leaving me and my wife alone for the longest stretch of time we’ve had together in eight years.

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Spring Fever

March 20, 2016 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changemonitoringtwo worldsweather

Spring is dawning

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 3/20/2016, and Making It At Home's 3/23/2016 issue.

My wife and I and our two boys moved up to Maine full-time in July 2012. We felt like we’d arrived in the Garden of Eden. Lobsters were four bucks, the ocean was 73 degrees, and the outdoor season stretched well into November. It wasn’t the Maine I knew from my childhood (swimmable water!?), but who cared? It was awesome.

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A Rare Bird

February 26, 2016 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: bird bandingjune fickersciencetwo worlds

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 2/28/2016.

Deer June

“Today, I feel like a chimney swift, because I’m looking for a mate!”

We had been asked, at the start of the meeting, to reveal the animal we most felt like. At 89 years old, June Ficker had the best answer. Of course it was a bird, because she was the Wells Reserve at Laudholm’s most committed and knowledgeable master bird bander. But the uproarious “looking for a mate” part was so June. She had that spark, that consistent ability to deny the age society said she should act.

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The Peculiar Creature Darwin

February 7, 2016 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: naturalistnaturesciencetwo worlds

Uncle Chuck

Shhh... don't tell anyone about my grand idea...

 

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition of 2/7/16 and Making It At Home Thursday edition, 2/11/2016.

 

On February 12, 1809, two boys were born, one in England, one in Kentucky. Though separated by an ocean they were, by the end of their lives, united in genius, vision, and courage.

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Snow blowing past the big barn's double doors, February 5, 2015

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition of 1/24/16 and Making It At Home Thursday edition, 1/28/2016.

Always eager to start some new long-term monitoring project, I’m now keeping track of the number of conversations I have about the weather. I’m planning to henceforth keep tabs on with whom, when, and for how long we chatted. I’m already certain one thing will be constant: the changing weather will be discussed in only the most general, equivocal, unchanging terms. You and I will talk about the weather, my friends, but we will say nothing new.

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mythic

Santa visited the Wells Reserve at Laudholm this summer. One of these statements is false.

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 12/20/2015.

[Trigger warning: the following paragraph may contain troubling information for preteens]

Like many parents, my wife and I get a real kick out of the Santa thing. There’s something delicious about a full month of lying, straight-faced, to our eight-year-old and five-year-old. Usually we’re trying to dispel myths, convey science, explain the world, and correct pronunciation. Come Christmas season, we just start making @#$# up. The holidays are a wonderful vacation from reality, aren’t they?

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Piqued

October 18, 2015 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changefoliagemonitoringmusictwo worlds

burning beech

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/18/2015.

Welcome to Southern Maine and “peak foliage.” Those blazing reds and oranges along the Turnpike and our back roads are a sight to behold. Of course, I’m talking about brake lights.

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On the Road

October 3, 2015 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: monitoringsciencetwo worlds

oh, the shame

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/4/2015.

Just about every two weeks, for the past three years, I’ve gassed up my car. On the printed receipt from the pump, I write down the mileage from the trip odometer before I reset it. Every few months, I take all the receipts out of the Altoids tin I keep them in and enter them into a spreadsheet – gallons, price per gallon, location of fill-up, miles driven – and use it to calculate my average miles per gallon, and where the reliably cheapest gas is. Embarrassingly, I’ve even graphed the ebbs and flows of my refueling fun.

What can I say? I like math; I like numbers.

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Living on the Edge

September 19, 2015 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changecoastal watersforestgardentwo worlds

On the edge

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 9/20/2015, and Making It At Home newspaper.

To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a man at a coastal research center during Maine Coast Week, all the world’s a coast.

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Picture: Julio Cortez/APMantoloking, New Jersey, October 30, 2012.

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/30/2015. (Continued from Remembering Katrina, Part I.)

Ten years ago this week, Category 3 Hurricane Katrina left nearly 2,000 people dead, hundreds of communities uprooted, and more than $100 billion in damage along the Gulf Coast. Adding in Superstorm Sandy’s devastation in October 2012, just two events swallowed the equivalent of: five months of Medicare spending, or two years of the federal education budget, or four years’ worth of the Federal Highway Trust Fund, our national gasoline tax-funded infrastructure bank that is now running on empty. So much money, washed out to sea.

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the Lower Ninth Ward

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/23/2015.

Perhaps a butterfly flapped its wings in Hong Kong, or perhaps the gods who play dice with the sky rolled double sixes. Whatever the cause, the atmospheric disturbance that formed over the southeastern Bahamas on August 23, 2005, would go on to have massive effects.

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Getting Off My Horse High

August 9, 2015 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changetwo worlds

The great a-tractor

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/9/2015.

My car, a Volkswagen Jetta with a diesel engine, generates 140 horsepower. I sometimes imagine what it would be like to ride in a horse-drawn carriage down I-95 to my office at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, towed by 140 horses. Using eight feet as the average length of a horse, and pairing the horses together, my anachronistic folk’s wagon would rumble along behind an equine train more than 560 feet long.

I wonder what our top speed would be.

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Ick.

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 7/19/2015.

The Fuligo septica, or dog vomit slime mold, as it is picturesquely known, appeared in our front garden after a particularly humid day last week. The five-inch-wide, bright yellow splatter was impossible to miss on the black mulch. To the touch, it felt like scrambled eggs. My son declared it “ick.” I was delighted.

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Fodder for pundits

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 6/21/2015.

As I stood in the kitchen of my New York apartment coming to grips with the news of my father’s sudden death, something spooky happened. One of my father’s favorite tunes, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from the Monty Python film The Life of Brian, began playing. My father had been found dead only hours before, and now a clear reminder of him was spontaneously emanating from some luggage in the corner.

I assumed it was a cell phone ringtone, but standing there, in that most alone moment of my life, I had no explanation for why someone would be phoning a suitcase, or why “my father’s song” was suddenly playing.

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Mind the dip

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 5/24/2015.

The small bird my boys found in the backyard last weekend was olive green with an orange crown like a dirty hunter’s hat. It showed no signs of violence, but it was definitely dead. No rigor mortis, so it wasn’t a winter casualty emerged from the snow. …that’s as far as our “CSI: South Portland” investigation went before I got a shovel and buried the bird six inches under. My seven-year-old placed a cantaloupe-sized rock over the grave and we went on with our day.

It was only after going back inside that evening that I began to wonder what species of bird it had been.

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Mothering Nature

May 10, 2015 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: birdsecosystem servicesnaturetwo worlds

Catch me, mom!

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 5/10/2015.

Because I love science, and because I have kids, I watch a lot of nature films. My favorite bit of animal cinema involves day-old ducklings emerging from a hole in a tree trunk and plummeting 50 feet down to the leaf-strewn ground below. Their stubby wings flap in vain, but the baby wood ducks all survive. Ducklings bounce, it turns out. Their mother, who had been waiting (anxiously? nonchalantly? impatiently?) for them to emerge, guides them to a nearby lake. Their real lives begin.

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Abraham Lincoln O-116 by Gardner, 1865-crop' by Alexander Gardner - Library of CongressNative nameLibrary of CongressLocationWashington, D.C.Coordinates38° 53? 19? N, 77° 00? 17? WEstablished1800Websitewww.loc.gov. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abraham_Lincoln_O-116_by_Gardner,_1865-crop.png#/media/File:Abraham_Lincoln_O-116_by_Gardner,_1865President Abraham Lincoln, February 1865. He looks tired.

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 4/26/2015.

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, the Civil War staggered to a bloody and exhausted end. Our nation lay in ruins: our national psyche fractured, half our economy and infrastructure reduced to ashes, 750,000 battlefield casualties (1 in 10 white men in America of military age lay dead). Why did we fight those four long years, at such cost to country and kin?

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solar installation at Maine Audubon's Gilsland Farm

Photo: the new sun-tracking solar panels at Maine Audubon

 

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 3/29/2015.

Around the time I turned six years old, a funny thing happened. Starting in 1984, each successive month was warmer than its 20th century global average. That doesn’t mean December 1985 was warmer than November 1985. It means December 1985 was warmer, around the world, than the average temperature in December from 1900-1985. So was January 1986. And so was February 1986.

And June 1992. March 1997. August 2004. February 2015.

For the past thirty years (and counting), each month has been warmer than its average. We may remember, year to year, locally colder Januarys or cooler Julys, but around the world, our collective thermometers have not seen a dip for 360 straight months. The odds of this happening randomly are, well, Powerball-esque.

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An Ode to Pi

March 14, 2015 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: science translationtwo worlds

mmm... piThe following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 3/15/2015.

I hope you made time for pi Saturday morning. Not the apple or blueberry kind (pie), but the number we usually abbreviate 3.14 and denote by the Greek letter p (pi). After all, yesterday was March 14, in the year 2015:  3/14/15. And at 9:26am and 53 seconds, it was officially Time for Pi.

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going, going, going...

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 2/22/2015.

I learned a new word this year. Subnivean, from the Latin for “under” (sub) and “snow” (nives). It’s the zone within and underneath the snowpack. It’s where we’ve all been living lately.

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ouch

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 2/8/2015.

In America, enshrined in our First Amendment, we have a right to voicing our own opinions. But ever since the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, I’ve been thinking about whether free speech does have limits. If what I say ends up hurting others, or even myself, I may have a right to say it… but should I?

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The Strummer snail

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 12/28/2014.

I sat in the tire shop the day before Christmas, waiting for the technician to switch my summer tires for winter ones, and scrutinized my fingers. I’d recently read an article about new biological research that pointed to a possible explanation for one of the great mysteries that has bedeviled mankind for millennia: why DO our fingers get wrinkly in the bath?

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Winter Wonder Wander

December 6, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: artearly childhoodeducationrachel carsonsciencetwo worlds

Future Scientist

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 12/7/2014.

My family likes to takes walks, particularly in the fall and winter. Given the calories we’re consuming lately, and the long nights given over to reading and TV, we’re trying to grab every opportunity we can to stretch our legs and lungs outside.

While golf may be a great way to spoil a long walk, as the saying goes, fortunately there’s nothing like the scientific method to enhance a little wander through the woods. Proposing, testing, and analyzing hypotheses prevents hypothermia by keeping the brain warm, I tell my wife and kids. They roll their eyes… but then we find something to examine.

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Only Turkeys Don't Vote

November 22, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: policythanksturkeystwo worldswater quality

Can't we all just get along?

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 11/23/2014.

The most important thing I can say about this year’s midterm election is simply: thank you for voting.

Maine had the highest voter turnout in the entire 50 states, with 59.3% of us going to the polls, well above the national average of 36%. If it was the “gu-bear-natorial” nature of our election, so be it: each vote tallied was an expression of individual preference. Some races were decided by single digits; others, by lopsided majorities. In each race, and on each ballot question, we now know what a majority of our fellow Mainers decisively think. That’s valuable information and worth thinking about.

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(c) JHpolitics.com

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 11/2/2014.

From reports, it sounds like this year’s midterm election is a doozy, money-wise: across the country, campaigns are spending record sums marketing their candidates and causes.  So I read, anyway: I do not watch broadcast TV, I have an ad blocker on my computer, and I only listen to satellite radio and MPBN. Voluntarily [and gratefully] deaf to the din from most of the marketing wars, I rarely hear about the latest advances in breakfast cereal, let alone the biannual election season onslaught.

About the only political advertising I do see are ads in newspapers (bless you, candidates, for feeding our starving print publishers), and outdoor campaign signs.

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Associated People Kristin Wilson

Our Native Ferns - Carboniferous Pteridophyta

 

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/26/2014.

Three hundred and fifty million years ago, the supercontinent Pangaea floated where you sit today. It was a warm, wet world, bathed in oxygen and soupy seas. Just that geologic period’s name alone – Carboniferous, from the Latin for “coal bearing” – should be a clue that it was a time from which we get a lot of the fossil fuels we now use to power our society.

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Which side are you on?Figure 1: A chart of the scientific consensus on climate change (97% of scientists agree that humans are driving global warming), and how much attention the minority opinion seems to receive in the media. Or is it a graph of the amount of America's wealth controlled by the top 3% (54.5%), vs. the bottom 97%?

 

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/5/2014.

Two weeks ago, my family and I were perched on the steps of the grand fountain in Columbus Circle, Manhattan, watching 300,000 people march past. They sang, they shouted, and they carried thousands of messages, all communicating one thing: world leaders, it’s time to do something about climate change. A week of action followed. Further protests spread around the world, corporations declared carbon reduction goals, and even presidents and prime ministers frankly spoke of “addressing the need to revise a framework for negotiation.”

That’s some progress, anyway.

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Tidal Rave

September 20, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: estuariesestuarynerranerrspunkinfiddletwo worlds

Little River estuary salt marsh. © Jeff Stevensen

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 9/21/2014.

With a too-short summer and the back-to-school fracas, anyone would be pardoned for missing the official Congressional resolution naming this coming week “National Estuaries Week,” the annual celebration of the places where rivers meet the sea.

Before you get too excited, please understand that the resolution is merely pending, and that estuaries don’t get the whole month. According to Congress, the entire 30 days of September have, in recent years, been reserved for Gospel Music Heritage, Bourbon Heritage, Prostate Cancer Awareness, Childhood Obesity, Honey, and even Self-Awareness. (And you thought our legislators didn’t do anything – shame on you.)

Resolved or not, 1/52nd of a year certainly seems like a worthy amount of time to devote to estuaries, those humble places of mud and marsh that do so much.

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Fabricating 'Reading the Landscape

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/17/2014.

Around the time I was twelve, I went through what my parents called “the Indiana Jones stage.” I wore an officially licensed brown fedora, carried a homemade clothesline “bullwhip,” and definitely expected to be an archaeologist when I grew up. I even talked my way into a field expedition to the Caribbean island of Grenada, though I was two years short of their minimum age requirement. Rules didn’t matter – in search of lost tribes, buried treasure, even whip-cracking adventure, I dreamt only of piercing the jungle’s dark heart. Cue the trumpets!

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Full Power Ahead

July 18, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: solar powersustainabilitytwo worlds

Associated People Paul Dest

Energy supplies

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 7/20/2014.

If the Wells Reserve at Laudholm had an oil well and a refinery and a power plant on site, we could keep the lights on, fill up our heating oil tank, and top off my Volkswagen every day for cheap. But we don’t. That’s just one of the drawbacks of fossil fuels: the infrastructure needs are enormous. Add the geopolitical strife, the pollution, and the finite supply of oil, coal, and natural gas, and it’s a wonder that our society uses the stuff as greedily as we do.

We can’t live without energy. Fossil fuels power the global economic engine, and they’re immensely profitable to their producers. If only they didn’t have those annoying consequences. If fossil fuels were as vast, inexhaustible, and reliable as the sun that rises daily over our heads, they’d be great.

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Ear-reka!

June 28, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: endangered specieslaudholm livemusicsoundscapetwo worlds

Associated People Susan Bickford Eileen Willard

Concerts for the Coast 2014

Photo (c) C.A. Smith Photography

 

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 6/29/2014.

Every hour, the Mississippi River Delta loses an area of marshland the size of a football field to the Gulf of Mexico. Every day, World Cup host Brazil still clearcuts six square miles of rainforest. Every month, the oil-producing nations of the world suck 2.3 billion irreplaceable barrels of oil out of the ground beneath our feet.

If we look around, we can watch the natural world disappearing right before our eyes. The good news is that those rates of loss have been worse in the past. The bad news is that what we see disappearing isn’t the only thing we’re losing.

It turns out, the sounds of the natural world are fading too.

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Associated People Susan Bickford John Speight Tin Smith Eileen Willard

photo by Eileen Willard

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 6/15/2014.

When Facilities Manager John Speight watched a pickup truck accidentally drive into what he’d thought was a well-protected propane tank at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm last weekend, his first thought was: “I hear the hiss, so I’m still alive.”

His second thought was: “let’s keep it that way.”

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Feathered Friending

May 31, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: bird bandingbirdsjune fickertwo worlds

Associated People Scott Richardson

Barred Owl face

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 6/1/2014.

My son and I were simultaneously awakened at 4am this past Sunday by the call of the wild. At first we heard what sounded like a howl, but then as the fog of sleep cleared, the noise resolved into the distinct calls who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all.

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Panacea

May 17, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: early childhoodeducationnature studyresearchtwo worldswellness

This boy was checked for ticks immediately following this photo. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom... from ticks!

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 5/18/2014.

Hey, parents! Psst – come over here. I’ve got something for ya. Something I think you’re gonna like.

What if I told you I had something that supercharged your kids’ test scores and GPA, made them more attentive and cooperative, improved “good” cholesterol and blood circulation, lowered obesity and stress? How much would that be worth to you? What would you pay for this wonder drug? $100? $1,000?

Well, it’s not for sale. Actually, it’s free, it’s legal, and you’ve already got plenty at home.

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Look, there's a scientist, doing science!

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 5/4/2014.

I am not a scientist, but working at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, a coastal science research station, I get to meet many scientists from Maine and away. While it’s hard to understand them sometimes, they are all very decent [and underpaid] people. And they are all as astounded as I am that, as a recent Harris poll reveals, more than half the country does not believe them when they say climate change is real, that it is happening, and that it is man-made.

I’ve heard it said that science “is the body of knowledge that we can all agree on.” Or at least, it's what the vast majority of us can agree on. When did "vast majority" become less than 50%? Sure, there will always be people who don’t trust anything but their own eyes, but the rest of us have to, at some point, make a leap of faith and trust science even if we don’t understand it, right? And we’re better off when we do: without science, we wouldn’t have electricity in our homes, cars to drive, TV to watch, or even drinking water.

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Associated People Susan Bickford

our NEC of the woodsThe following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 4/20/2014.

It’s Easter Weekend, so let me introduce you to the Wells Reserve at Laudholm’s favorite, and most vexing, local bunny.

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(c) Isaac Cordal

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 3/30/2014.

Even though I work for the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, a coastal research and education center, I’d never thought too deeply about flood insurance – that is, until a crack addict knocked on the door of my home one Saturday night this winter.

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Associated People Jeremy Miller

Best way to deal with invasive green crab

 

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune and Making It At Home Sunday editions, 3/16/2014.

In my last column (Sunday 3/2), I wrote about invasive plants and bugs, and how my bringing firewood into Maine from away could be biting off more than I could chew. This week, I’m still thinking about what’s eating our wood. Specifically, the wooden frame around the eave of my house.

I’m pretty sure it’s a starling, and if it is, then I’m also giving up Shakespeare for Lent.

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Fallen Tree - art by Alastair Heseltine

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune and Making It At Home Sunday editions, 3/2/2014.

The home we purchased last spring came with a wood stove, but up until last month, we hadn’t used it. Just in time for January’s second polar vortex, we got our chimney re-lined and, just like that, we had a cozy living room.

The only problem was that, by this point in the winter, seasoned firewood was scarce. We went through the small poplars I’d cut down in our yard last March within two weeks and then had to rely on those $5 kiln-dried bundles from Home Depot and Hannaford. Soon, even those were hard to find.

What burned me up even more than their price was that I had enough firewood stored up for the next five winters — 200 miles south of here.

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Photo by Sofi Hindmarch, Delta Farmland Trust

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune and Making It At Home Sunday editions, 2/9/2014.

Recent snows to the contrary, believe me when I say the sun is already stronger this month. Higher in the sky every day, the sun hangs out longer and illuminates what was, last month, in shadow. For those afflicted by Seasonal Affective Disorder, the hardest days have passed. As we rebound from winter’s darkest depths, springs begins to stir in the hormonal systems of other species, particularly those who mate seasonally. Chicken-keepers, awake -- egg production should, the science says, begin to naturally increase. Birders, delight -- as the sun returns, testosterone blooms with it and male birds will grow more colorful and vocal in preparation for their season of love. (The technical term for these seasonal environmental cues is the wonderful German word zeitgeber, or “time giver,” coined by Jürgen Aschoff, a founding father in the field of chronobiology.) Chemically, love is arriving. …how did St. Valentine know?

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Rough and Tumble

February 2, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changetwo worldsweather

copyright New Yorker 2013

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune and Making It At Home Sunday editions, 2/2/2014.

I will not be the first person to admit that it’s gotten harder to watch football this season. I still love the drama, the personalities, and the heroics of any given NFL Sunday. But some guilt has crept into the game I grew up watching every week with my father. I’m not seeing it the same way I used to.

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MLK and CO2

January 20, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changetwo worlds

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 1/19/2014. (A slightly different version appeared on this blog last year - yes, we're recycling!)

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

So wrote Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, more than fifty years ago. Happy birthday, sir.

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Glacial Time

January 5, 2014 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changemonitoringtwo worldswinter

Compare these two snapshots from the South Cascade glacier official USGS long-term monitoring site in Washington state:

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 1/5/2014.

Quite possibly the best movie l saw in 2013 didn’t open in 3,000 theaters, didn’t have a Morgan Freeman voiceover, didn’t follow a hobbit and his ring.

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The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 12/15/13  (and may also appear, with other goodies, in members' mailboxes shortly...):

Normally, I do not talk to dead opossums. But since I’d watched this one keel over right in front of me, I felt I had to say something.

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Aerial image looking south toward Wells Bay

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 11/24/13:

Many of the staff of the Wells Reserve at Laudholm were in West Virginia this past week for the annual conference of the 28 national estuarine research reserves. Researchers, educators, conservationists, land managers and even evangelists like me pulled ourselves away from our coastal homes to share ideas, hammer out new projects for 2014, and do some good old-fashioned colleague schmoozing.

I flew out of Portland on a sparkling, "unlimited visibility" Monday afternoon. My Southwest flight passed three miles above the Wells Reserve, giving me the rare opportunity to get a live bird's eye view of our little corner of the Maine coast. Looking down, I smiled quietly over how beautiful and tranquil the place looked.

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Jake's Ladder

October 30, 2013 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: anadromousbranch brookfishfish ladderrivertwo worlds

Associated People Jacob Aman

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 11/3/13:

Branch Brook ladder

 

Jake Aman, a researcher at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm known fondly as our “river guy,” is building a ladder this month. At a cost of $40,000, provided by funders including the Nature Conservancy, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Maine Coastal Program, the local water district and the Reserve, it’s not some ordinary stepladder. It’s fancy.

None of us will be climbing Jake’s ladder anytime soon, though. It’s a ladder for fish. With it, they’ll be able to climb up and over a small but insurmountable dam on the Branch Brook, a tributary of the Little River here on the Kennebunk/Wells border. With this ladder, the Wells Reserve will reestablish an essential connection between the ocean downstream and vital nursery pools upstream. A small piece, missing for twenty years from a mosaic that stretches from New Hampshire to Newfoundland, will be replaced.

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The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/20/13:

So, what do you believe?

Quick quiz: which of the following have the backing of “scientific consensus”? Violent video games make kids more violent. Sugar makes them more hyper. Carbs make us fat. Vaccines are linked to autism.

Answer: none of the above. Science says so; look them up.

The bigger question: do we trust science?

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Money tree?The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 10/6/13:

School has started again, which means it’s group visit season at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm. Those schools fortunate enough to have bus rental money are sending classes our way, and our team of educators are taking the kids out on the trails, down to the beach, and through the science and history of this 360-year-old place.

For a long time, I didn’t understand what “environmental education” was. I’m a perennial skeptic, particularly when it comes to claims from my own liberal brethren, so, over the past ten years of my environmental career, I’ve always taken my colleagues’ proscriptions with more than a grain of salt. What finally convinced me to start applying their lessons was, of course, that grand old motivator of cynic and sucker alike: money.

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Leafing It All Behind

September 17, 2013 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: floraleavespunkinfiddletwo worldswinter

coming soon to a beech near you

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 9/22/13 [the fall equinox]:

This week the Wells Reserve at Laudholm is abuzz with preparations for our annual Punkinfiddle Family Festival, a rite of fall for this old New England farm. It’s our last big event of The Busy Season, and it always makes the fourth week of September feel like a “the turning point” – exit summer, enter fall. Frost threatens, jackets are located, the kids are ensconced once more in school. Water toys and pleasure craft are tucked away with the rest of summer’s memories; winter is coming and it’s time to pull back.

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The King of Annual Family Migrations

September 4, 2013 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: faunainsectsmonarchtwo worlds

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 9/8/13:

Monarch on milkweed leavesFor the past 34 years, my mother has thrown a family reunion on Labor Day weekend. Thirty to fifty of us arrive from all over the Northeast and Canada for four days of feasting, toasting, singing, dancing, even a “Geezers vs. Young Bucks” softball game. It’s an annual weekend devoted to celebrating, shoulder to shoulder, our lifelong ties and the continuity of our families and traditions.

Meanwhile, for those who devote themselves to the monarch butterfly, there has been no celebration yet. This month, on this side of the Rockies, monarch adults from Maine to Alberta should be flying 2,500 miles back to a few square acres within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site sixty miles northwest of Mexico City, where they overwinter from October to March. They should be, but they aren’t.

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Hang this in your home and waitA beautiful handmade decorative piece... or something more?

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 9/1/13:

More than 100 artists will converge on the Wells Reserve at Laudholm next weekend for our 26th annual Laudholm Nature Crafts Festival. They’re all very talented, and if you attend, I promise you’ll find some unique, beautiful, and affordable Christmas gifts months ahead of schedule.

But exceptional as these local New England artists are, I think their finest work meets it match up against the “other nature crafts show” put on by the animal kingdom on a daily basis.

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Farm to Force

August 25, 2013 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: climate changefarmtwo worlds

Is the sun setting or rising on farming in Maine?

The following was originally published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Thursday edition, 8/22/13:

Wendell Berry said “do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” Situated at the mouths of three rivers, the Wells Reserve at Laudholm is downstream from most of York County. This summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s upstream, particularly farms.

At first glance, Maine doesn’t seem ideal for farming. Our colonial history is a litany of famines and failed harvests. We get some of the least sun of the Lower 48; our soils are the rock-filled remains of mile-high glaciers. Winters, though shorter than they used to be, still bookend a shockingly brief growing season. Why would anyone think of farming here?

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Associated People Chris Feurt

The following was originally published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/11/13:

You may have heard the story of the birth of the modern American environmental movement: Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring in 1962, the Cuyahoga River catches fire in 1969, tens of thousands of Americans join together to celebrate the first Earth Day in 1970, and then, over the next three years, a Republican president saves the planet. Mr. Nixon creates the EPA; extends, with Maine’s Senator Muskie, the Clean Air Act; signs the Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water, and Endangered Species Acts; and even sets in motion the legislation that eventually establishes the local Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Never mind that the Cuyahoga had been catching fire regularly since the mid-1800s, or that Mr. Nixon actually vetoed the Clean Water Act, or that “Republican” meant something different forty years ago. What’s important is the story: an empowering fable of scientists and the citizenry teaming up to overcome the odds and force government to turn around a country before it disappeared beneath smudge and sludge.

For the most part, it’s a true story. It’s just not the whole story.

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Music in the Key of Maine

August 4, 2013 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: musictwo worlds

 

The following was originally published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/4/13:

 

Music is in the ear of the beholder. Whether finch or frog, cricket or quartet, it’s all part of nature’s symphony.

Working at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, I listen to recorded music in my farmhouse office most hours of the day. Because it’s such a natural fit here, I’m bringing more live music to our barn this summer too. String quartets sound particularly fine in a hundred-year-old wooden barn. An acoustical engineer recently told me: “Wood slats like your barn’s walls have ideal absorptive, reflective, and diffusive characteristics for live instrumentation.” Sounds good to me.

Barns aside, I’m constantly discovering new artists in our fields and marshes too.

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I'm a Plover, Not a Fighter

July 28, 2013 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: beachplovertwo worlds

ploverchick(c) National Park Service 2011

The following was originally published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 7/28/13.

A defenseless nest, an unleashed dog, and in twenty seconds, tragedy.

Why? Why my little chick?

My family has had a summer place up here for thousands of years. Sure, the water levels have risen, the traffic certainly has built up, and there are more dogs, garbage, and Frisbees than there used to be, but we still come back every year, generation after generation, because we love it here. Is there any better place to raise a family?

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Climate Change is a Beach

July 21, 2013 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: beachtwo worlds

a line in the sand

The following was originally published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 7/21/13.

In Maine, we’re continually blessed with nature’s beauty and its bounty. Our forests, our Gulf, and our thousands of miles of rocky and sandy coast are major drivers of our economy and the envy of the Northeast. Our summer population quadruples because, “yes, life’s good here,” thanks in large part to our environment.

But science indisputably tells us that the Maine we know is not the Maine that has always been, or will be. Even our rich cultural history is but a millisecond in our environment’s life.

If our accustomed way of life was, climatologically-speaking, born on third base, should we be blamed for thinking we’d hit a triple? What if instead of playing baseball, we’ve been surfing a wave that must, as all waves do, break?

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vicious beasts

"Isn't that the place that doesn't allow dogs?" is the question I get almost invariably when I reveal where I work.

"That's right," I smile. No Pets, No Bikes* say our signs. Which means, regrettably, no dogs allowed here, even though I can think of few things that make me happier than boyhood memories of autumn walks with my favorite mutt, Buck, at my side.

Alas, dogs (along with bikes, horses, snowmobiles, ATVs, stereos, lasers, monster trucks, etc.) have been barred from the Wells Reserve at Laudholm's trails since the early 90's.

Why?

Well, the short answer is: to preserve the nature here at the Reserve.

But here's my longer answer.

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a thoughtful guy, Martin Luther King, Jr.

I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

So wrote Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, fifty years ago this April.

It is King’s birthday today.

The official holiday is next Monday. As a kid, that January Monday meant only a three-day skiing weekend to me.

I know better now. (Also, we don’t get as much snow as we used to.)

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A Magic Place

November 26, 2012 By Nik Charov Filed under Article Tags: faunatrailstwo worlds

I stopped short on the wooden boardwalk of the Laird-Norton Trail. The fog of my breath flew a few more feet ahead of me, dissipating slowly in the still air. It was my first time at the Reserve, and I was alone in the woods.

And something was coming towards me. Something big.

I tried to swivel my ears in the direction of the sound. Picture a grown man in a business suit, in a ski hat with pinned-up earflaps, trying to swivel his ears.

Crunch-crunch, crunch-crunch, crunch-crunch it came, approaching quickly.

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On Sunday, August 26th, I attended an afternoon concert at The Colony Hotel. One hundred fellow music lovers and I enjoyed a dozen classical piano duets by maestro Warren King and his college roommate, recording artist David Pihl. Ticket proceeds came to the Laudholm Trust – it was music played for the benefit of science. What better accompaniment to our special nature at the Reserve than the seashell symmetries of Bach’s cantatas or the sunflower melodies of Mozart?

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