This summer, the monsoons in the Tucson area failed to develop. In order to save our plants, we’ve been watering a lot. Despite the water, several of my trees have died. Watering by hose just isn’t the same as rain. Rain has many benefits that artificial watering can’t replicate. I noticed that, after the single rainstorm we had this monsoon season, the plants responded spectacularly even though it was only a few tenths of an inch of rain. I can give them a gallon of water and not get such an enthusiastic response.
What is it about rain that plants crave?
It’s what rainwater contains that isn’t found in tap water. Rainwater has more oxygen, which is carried down into the soil. More importantly, rainwater carries down carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is needed to produce the carbohydrates to fuel plant growth. Also, carbon dioxide makes the rainwater acidic. This reactive water helps release micronutrients (zinc, manganese, copper and iron) in the soil that plants need. Unfortunately, in some places, pollutants in the air make the rainwater too acidic, which damages plants.
Have you noticed how fresh and clean plants look after a rain? Another important purpose of rain is to wash the dirt off the leaves. Plants photosynthesize much more efficiently when sunshine isn’t filtered by a layer of dirt.
Hopefully, our watering will help the plants hang on long enough until the rain once again falls from the sky.
The monsoon rainsalso play a part in the blooming of the Night-blooming Cereus every year. These amazing Sonoran Desert cactus plants all bloom together on one night every summer. You can read about them in my book, Queen of the Night, The Night-blooming Cereus.
In my spare time, around caring for my companion animals (including a horse!), I write fun science books, mostly for children, but a few for all ages. My writing career started after an encounter with a small lizard, a curly-tail, on a beach in the Bahamas. I wrote my first children’s book inspired by him, Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers, and have gone on to write books for preschoolers, all the way to including adults, such as, Silent Rocks.
I very much enjoy my unexpected second career as an author. I hope you will check out all of my books here, and the workbooks inspired by them–which are wonderfully fun yet educational.
Thank you for stopping here at Lyric Power Publishing LLC. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to look at the books by all of the wonderful authors published here.
The typical image of a garden in fall abounds in reds (helenium), oranges (asclepias), and golds (Black-Eyed Susan). But there are plants for fall that lean toward the cooler side of the spectrum. Among the most common are asters.
Asters of one kind or another are native to every part of North America, as well as many other parts of the world. However, recent genetic studies have shown that the North American “asters” don’t belong in the genus – which is composed of plants from Asia – and they have been re-classified as either Symphyotrichum or Eurybia. Despite this change of formal name, they will no doubt remain asters in common parlance.
The genus Symphyotrichum includes New England asters (the species name is novae-angliae) and New York asters (novi-belgii.) New York asters are also known – especially in Great Britain – as Michaelmas daisies. “Michaelmas” refers to the feast of St. Michael which falls in late September. Both of these asters are wild in my part of the country but are also available as nursery plants.
I have a large specimen of a New England aster that draws attention to itself because of its size (over 4 feet) and bright purple color. And, like others in this family, it provides a hearty supply of pollen that draws the bees especially at this time of the year when fewer flowers are available. As I weeded around the plant last week it was abuzz with hard-working bees.
In addition to the straight species, I also grow the popular cultivar, Purple Dome (see picture at the top of the post). Because the lower stems do tend to get diseased before the season is over, I took the advice of a garden lecturer I once heard and grow blue gentians in front of them to distract from the blackened stems. Purple Dome is much shorter than the species and expands easily into sizeable clumps. They get divided every other year.
In another part of the garden I have a patch of blue asters. Like Purple Dome, these low-growing cheerful flowers have formed a nice clump and I can divide them to get additional plants every few years. Unfortunately, I have lost the information about them, so I don’t know their name. I think they may be a cultivar of Symphyotrichum novae-belgii, or New York aster.
I live on a back road in rural New England where a multitude of wildflowers bloom in Mother Nature’s garden. Sometimes she is generous and shares some of her treasures. Two kinds of wild aster have popped up in my garden. By moving them into clumps I can make them an attractive part of a cultivated garden. There is a light blue one and a white one. I think they are Symphyotrichum cordifolium and Eurybia divaracata.
I have found that most asters are easy to grow, and there are so many different kinds that most gardeners will be able to find at least one that suits their site. I recommend them.
Jo Busha is the author of Time and the Garden, a collection of essays written over a ten-year period about gardening, life in Vermont, and observations of the natural world. It is arranged by season, but not all the essays have a specific seasonal connection. It will appeal to gardeners, readers seeking a strong sense of place, and people interested in rural living, even if they aren’t able to live it. This place, where Busha has lived for 45 years, has played a huge role in her life. While not a how-to book, gardeners may find the essays instructive. Book lovers are likely to feel this a cozy read, warmth for a snowy day.
Authors are frequently asked where they get their story ideas. Often, the response is, “Where don’t I?” Story ideas can come from any location and any activity.
For instance, I was riding a placid Button (my horse) when I decided to practice ducking under tree branches. On trail rides, Button frequently cuts a little close to the trees, giving me a new understanding of why Western riders wear long-sleeved shirts. The spines on those trees are rough. Blood-letting used to be popular in days of old but not today.
Back to my ducking practice. A lovely mesquite grows next to the arena. I sit under it when I let my horse out for some free time, a turn-out. My plan was to ride Button under the branches, leaning forward, low on her neck. I successfully cleared the first branch, the ends scratching gently over my helmet.
Branch ends catching in the helmet can be a problem. I know this because there was that time when the branch end caught in the groove of my helmet and yanked me backwards. This time, the branch ends flowed over my helmet. I was happy.
Until the second branch wrapped around my neck. I thought I could push through it, accepting that I would lose some skin to those mesquite spines—but, “No!” The branch tightened on my neck and pulled me off my horse! It was as if it had looped around my neck. I grabbed onto the bars of the round pen to try to make my descent to the desert floor more graceful . . . Ha! My horse stood over me, snickering.
What does this have to do with story ideas? This experience not only makes for a good blog post—right?—it inspired me to create a new kind of tree for a story. This tree has tentacles instead of branches. I came out with a new term for it, too: “Twigentacles.” If Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll can make up their own words, I figure I can, too. I thought about “tangletwigs” or even better, “entanglewigs,” but settled on ‘twigentacles.’
Which one is your favorite?
I think as long as the new word’s meaning is obvious, I’ll keep making them up! Wouldn’t it be fun to add a new word to my new books?
During the worst of the summer heat in the Sonoran Desert, I ride my horse in the mornings around the stables. I enjoy trail rides through the brush, around the washes. In some areas, trails have been worn in the sand by a multitude of hooves. This becomes important later.
In the evening, Button and I take a walk and she has an opportunity to roll in the sand. Lots of nice sand in the area. It was a hot evening with a lovely breeze, so we walked some the trails through the thickets. I’m always looking around for dangers, real and horse-imagined. We were almost back to the arena, when I decided to ‘power walk’ back. Button was in the rut and I was walking on the trail’s edge. I looked up, then with a sudden start saw two white stripes move on the ground in front of me. A Western Diamondback Rattlesnakewas nestled in some dead branches alongside the trail. The reptilian gentleman was looking at the large mammal about to step on him.
Realizing my mistake, I threw myself forward over him and in front of Button. She, fortunately, didn’t step on me or panic at the presence of the rattler. Button went into the arena for her roll and I went back to get a photo. The rattler posed nicely, slowing his amazing rattles, so that I could count all 12 of them. We each went on our own way.
The next morning, the snake wasn’t in the same place, but had moved over to a yucca in the path between the two arenas. Several riders were afraid to pass him, but Button and I strolled by, wishing him a good morning.
The third day, I couldn’t find my new snake friend anywhere. I hoped he had moved to good hunting rounds.
The fourth day was Button’s day off from being ridden. We were taking a quick morning walk so we could both stretch our legs because we wouldn’t have our usual exercise. The plan was the cross the wash, circle around the bush on the other side, then back up to her stall. We plowed through the deep sand, reached the bush, heard the rattle (the first time we’d heard his rattle), said a hasty good morning, circled wide and headed back down the wash in the other direction. I hate it when I hear bushes rattle.
I mentioned these encounters and one person suggested that the rattler was stalking me. Actually, it could be said that I, and Button, were stalking the rattlesnake! He was quietly minding his own business and the two of us came into his area, invading his personal space. It’s all in the point of view. Sadly, I haven’t seen this magnificent fellow again.
If you’d like to learn more about rattlesnakes, I recommend Don’t Make Me Rattle, in which I show all the reasons we should respect these beautiful reptiles, rather than be afraid of them. They do so much for us and many people haven’t a clue. Grab a copy today and then pass it on so that others can learn all about them, too, including how to avoid contact on the trail.
NOTE: Lyric Power Publishing LLC offers supplemental educational and fun workbooksand activity sheets. One of them is 46 pages and jam-packed with fun activities that teach all about this magnificent creature.
I’ve always been a reptile person. I operated a reptile rescue in New Jersey for several years. I’m a retired biologist and, while writing science-based children’s books was inspired by a tiny curly-tail lizard, I do love the big lizards. My Don’t Series of rhyming “desert books” are the most popular, followed by the Curtis Curly-tail Adventure Series, but I’ve written a book about the endangered rock iguanas of Cayman Brac called Silent Rocks and The “Dragon” of Nani Cave is actually an iguana. Maybe someday I’ll write a story that includes Stella, a green iguana, who came to live with me in New Jersey many years ago. Today, I’m remembering her.
A vet in PA had contacted me about taking in an iguana once he had her stabilized. I ran a rescue with the philosophy that I would always make room for an iguana in real need of a place to live. This included healthy iguanas who would need new homes, and being a long-term home for iguanas who needed a forever home.
Stella was found in a neighborhood known for drug business. Her tail had been chewed by dogs, probably a drug dealer’s guard dogs. She was taken to a local vet, who wasn’t convinced she would survive her injuries. He amputated at least three feet of her tail and put her on antibiotics. Once she was ready to be released, she came to live with me. She must have been a magnificent specimen in her prime, at least six feet long and a vibrant lime green.
She was left with a stump the vet had sewn shut. He didn’t believe she would regenerate her tail as iguanas are capable of doing, but she did, squeezing out a thin tail between the sutures. Unfortunately, this made the tail very flimsy and eventually it snapped off. She didn’t miss it.
Her health improved under my care. She even produced eggs the following year, which I found annoying. She wasn’t healthy enough yet to handle the stress of producing and laying eggs, but it did show that her body was healing and trying to do what iguanas do. The eggs were infertile, of course.
I provided forever homes to special iguanas and decided that Stella would become a permanent member of my household. She was a regular at my educational talks, always popular with the audience. When I moved to AZ, she of course came with me. She continued her outreach activities.
Sadly, a few years ago, the nictitating membrane on her eye become swollen with blood. This is a transparent eyelid that protects iguana eyes. I was afraid it would rupture and she’d lose her eye or a lot of blood. The vet diagnosed her with high blood pressure and she was put on medication. Sadly, the swelling continued so she couldn’t be used for outreach anymore, but she lived a happy life, next to her BFF, Ezra. Since she had high blood pressure, the vet decided to try a new instrument on her, a tiny sphygmomanometer. Yes, a tiny blood pressure cuff like those used on people. It worked! It showed she did have high blood pressure.
Stella was a do-her-own-thing type of gal, but every now and then she’d want to cuddle and I treasured those moments. A few times, I was certain her adventuresome life was coming to an end, only to have her rally and continue on for a few more years. She was estimated to be thirty years old when she recently passed peacefully in her sleep.
Stella’s body is being donated to an educational program that prepares skeletons from reptiles. She will continue to teach and her story shared. Stella would be pleased.
Rest in peace, dear friend. You are missed.
From the Curtis Curly-tail Series mentioned above:
What language do you speak and write? I was raised in Illinois in the U.S., so I write in the English language. However, some of my books are set in the countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations, where they also speak and write English. But the British spell certain words differently than we do in America. For instance, here in the US, we spell the word “color” without the “u” used in the Commonwealth countries, where it is spelled “colour.”
I’ve always been a pretty competent speller, but I often wonder what I should do about the differently spelled words. After all, my books are for children, who are still learning their language. When the books are set in the Bahamas, should I spell color, colour? That is I where I assume the greatest market for my books will be. Or should I write in my native English and assume the readers will correct the spelling to their version of the language?
For now, I write in American English and ask the readers to substitute their preferred spellings. We will see what happens in the future.
There is another issue with British spelling which has to do with pronunciation. For example, Curtis Curly-tail Lizard, my inspiration for the Curtis Curly-tail Adventure Series, lives on Warderick Wells Cay. How would you say “cay?” Does it rhyme with “day?” No, it is actually pronounced “key.” In the US, we would also spell it “key,” as in the Florida Keys. Some experts say they are just different spellings of the same word, while others suggest they have different linguistic roots, despite meaning the same thing: small sand island.
Languages are evolving things and, perhaps, the Englishes spoken in Great Britain and the US are growing away from each other. “In America, they haven’t used it for years!” says Professor Henry Higgins says in the musical “My Fair Lady” in the song “Why Can’t the English Teach Their Children How to Speak?”
It is my hope that in the Commonwealth countries, it is not too difficult to translate the US English I write with into the English that they understand!
Note:I’m happy to announce that the fourth book, Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away!, in the Curtis Curly-tail series, is now for sale at Amazon.com. It is an adventure tale for ages 8+. The gorgeous illustrations are by Monique Carroll. Curtis Curly-tail wants to help his friends survive a hurricane. But Curtis is blown away! What happens to the iguanas on Beach Cay? (Pronounced “key,” of course!) Will Curtis be blown back home to Warderick Wells?
Pick up a copy today for your child who loves adventures–and you’ll love the environmental science woven into the story!
Hello, everyone! It’s me! Curtis Curly-tail! Lyric Power Publishing asked me to write a guest post about Elaine’s new book about–tah dah!–ME, of course! The fourth Curtis Curly-tail adventure has been released: Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away is written by, of course, my good friend and author, Elaine A. Powers. The gorgeous illustrations are by artist Monique Carroll, who also illustrated Elaine’s seed-adventure story Grow Home, Little Seeds.
In this fourth story, I join Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.
It’s not only animals that need protecting during hurricane season; people are also in danger. In this story, as in real life, people come together to help not only each other, but animals and the environment, as well. Along with the destruction caused by hurricanes, Elaine also discusses the positive effects in the book. (Yes, there are benefits from hurricanes. I’ll bet you didn’t know that!)
September 15 is National Online Learning Day. Online learning is not only more popular today,it has become a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though our authors prefer to give in-person talks and presentations, their books are a valuable resource for online learning, as well.
Lyric Power Publishing LLC specializes in fun science books, which can be ordered and delivered directly to your home.
That is not all! Lyric Power Publishing LLC also offers a YouTube channel featuring videos of live animals, as well as animated educational videos. You can hear our author’s books being read there and we plan to offer live, interactive video conferencing soon.
Of course, our authorsnow Zoomtheir presentations.Use our contact page to ask your favorite author about giving a Zoom presentation for your school, group or organization.
Online chats will never replace being able to feel the shell or a tortoise, or the scales of an iguana, or the touch of a flicking tongue, but we must all adaptwhen life throws us curve balls–and now we all learn how to learn online.At LPP, making science fun is a priority and we hope by sharing our books, workbooks, our animals and stories, now online, that we’ve done our part.
We continue to add new materials regularly, so be sure to visit theLyricPower.net website often. There, you can sign up for our newsletter to stay informed of authoronline activities and new book releases. And, you’ll receive a special gift when you do sign up!
Happy National Online Learning Day and stay safe out there, and stay in touch.
To learn about our latest science-based children’s books and workbooks, to read our latest blog posts about reptiles, birds, cats, and gardening, in a variety of locations, and about how the books come to be, what inspires an author to write, and many more interesting aspects of the publishing business, fill in the box below and we will add you to our email list.
Science-Based Books in Rhyme and Critter Adventure Stories, PLUS Workbooks & Activity Sheets that Make Learning Fun! Dismiss
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