Brazilian Feast

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

This week, mom and I looked for recipes from Brazil, to find out what food tastes like there, and to find out which foods from Brazil we would most like to eat. For our first Brazilian Feast, we made: Feijoada (a Brazilian pork and black bean stew) with rice and Pao de Queijo (Brazilian cheese rolls), served with cabbage salad, orange slices, mango juice, and toasted cassava root for sprinkling on top.

The whole family helped to make the Feijoada. The night before we started cooking, I measured a gallon of cold water, 1/4 cup of salt, and 2 pounds of dried black beans, and mixed them together in a pot, and let them soak overnight. The next morning, the beans were purple and plump, and the water was blackish-purple.

The next morning, Dada fried 3/4 pound of applewood smoked bacon, and Mom chopped up 0.54 lbs. of chorizo sausage, 0.58 lbs. of corned beef, and 0.86 lbs. of boneless pork ribs, into 1 inch chunks. I put the meat into a big pot with oil to brown, and then added the beans, and some diced onion, green bell pepper, scallions, tomato, bay leaves, and cilantro. Then, we let it simmer away.

Mom made the Pao de Queijo, because I was too tired, after all that cooking. This is a picture of her making it:

And this is a picture of me and my Mom, eating our Brazilian Feast:

My favorite part of the feast was the black beans and meat, because it tasted so meaty-beany-delicious! My least favorite part was the cheese rolls because they were a bit too gooey for me.

Posted in The World Book of Wonders | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The True Colors of Humanity

by Larisa White of California, U.S.A.

Brazilian photographer Angélica Dass has created a wonderful exhibit that explores the true colors of the human race, calling into question the absurd habit of referring to people as belonging overly-simplistic color categories like “black”, “white”, “red”, or “yellow.” She calls it her Humanae Project.

For this project, she has photographed thousands of people, from many different countries around the world. She then took a sample of color pixels from the area of their noses, and matched this color to a Pantone color code, and used that matching Pantone color as background for the portrait. A sampling of the portraits she created looks like this:

Humanae Work-in Progress by  Angélica Dass

 

For me, seeing this work has been a delight, as it demonstrates so beautifully what I have been trying to teach my own family, in words — when asked how a family made up of one “whitish” European mutt, one “yellowish” Asian-American mutt, and one “cocoa-brownish” Ethiopian boy can really be a family when we all look so completely different. The things that unite us in love cannot be seen in the surface-coloration of the individuals. True beauty is only found in the complexity of wondrous diversity.

Posted in Coast Range Druid Blog Posts, The World Book of Wonders | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Places You Can Go with Portuguese

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

I was looking through “The Travel Book,” and I wondered how many countries I could visit, if I only knew how to speak Portuguese.  I counted only 8 different countries. That surprised me. I thought there would be more. Things that I would really like to go do and see, if I could only go to places where people speak Portuguese, are:

  • Surf-board on the Atlantic swells, off the coast of Angola;
  • Go wildlife watching for tapirs, jaguars, cayman, and howler-monkeys, in the Pantanal, in Brazil;
  • See elephants, and the western-most communities of chimps, in Guinea-Bissau;
  • Sail on a dhow, past remote island archipelagos, in Mozambique;
  • Explore the mediaeval Castle of São Jorge, in Alfama, Portugal;
  • See sea turtle babies in the sand, on the beaches of São Tomé & Principe; and
  • Play in a soccer match on the beach, in East Timor.

The countries that have Portuguese as an official language are:

In South America:  Brazil

In the Atlantic:  São Tomé & Principe

In Europe:  Portugal

In Africa: Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique

In the Timor Sea: East Timor

Posted in The World Book of Wonders | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wild Animals in Alaska

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

I went on a cruise ship to Alaska, in September 2017. My first stop was at Mendenhall Glacier, in Juneau. While I was there, I saw a cute little baby porcupine on the side of the trail, munching leaves and grass! I also saw a Mama porcupine. It was probably the baby’s mom. This is a picture of the little baby porcupine:

AK Mendenhall Baby Porcupine

The second stop on the cruise was in Skagway. From there, we took a ferry to Haines, and then a bus to the Kroschel Wildlife Center. There’s a crazy old kook there who keeps an orphaned grizzly bear as a pet, and feeds it oatmeal porridge with a spoon!!! He also feeds the bear blueberry pie!  Look at the picture:

AK KW Blueberry Pie Grizzly

Steve Kroschel also kept a moose, a wolf, a red fox, and some reindeer. He was always feeding his animals organic carrots. Karen is his orphaned moose, and he even let me feed her a carrot. Guess what? I had my first kiss at the Kroschel Wildlife Center. I “kissed” Karen:

AK KW E kissing Karen

The most funny part of the entire thing was the wolverine:

AK KW Wolverine

He had razor-sharp claws and teeth, so Steve put on his shoes before bringing him out. He came out with the wolverine on a leash, and he kept saying, “Ouch! Don’t bite!” while the wolverine nipped at his pants! It was so funny, I burst out laughing.

AK KW Crazy Stephen

After Steve massaged the wolverine’s gums, and kissed his nose (!!!!!), the wolverine calmed right down like a baby falling asleep in Mama’s arms, and let me pet his rear end.

On the bus back to Haines, we also saw a bald eagle on a tree, and three bears hunting for salmon in a river.

Posted in The World Book of Wonders | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ecological Succession in Alaska

by Larisa White of California, U.S.A.

I just returned from a week-long cruise to Alaska. It was amazing to spend time in a place where the Living Earth was so blatantly ALIVE — changing land, with geological contours reshaping themselves before your very eyes; changing waters with 20+ foot tidal swings, and flowing ice rivers crashing into the sea; changing skies with dancing mists and clouds and rain. Cruising – in a single day – revealed a complete, 200-year ecological succession story along the length of Glacier Bay.  It began with the bare rock, recently exposed by receding glaciers. The next step was the arrival of mosses & lichens, which clung to the bare rock and began to crumble it into soil. Then, there were the first few pioneer herb plants and low-growing shrubs.  Then, the first few trees to establish, followed by a young forest, and at last, a majestic stand of old-growth rainforest, swirling in mist. WOW!!! A sampling of images, for your enjoyment:

A tidal glacier, calving:

A receding glacier (note the river of ice, which no longer reaches the sea):

Pioneer mosses and lichens on bare rock:

Hills covered in low herbs; a field of saplings on lower ground:

A full-blown temperate rain-forest:

The power and speed of change evident in these landscapes reminds me of just how powerful Mother Earth really is, and how well she is able to recover from dramatic climate changes. In an age where worries about human-generated climate change have caused so many people to despair, this story — written in land, sea, and sky — also gives us a reason to hope.
Posted in Coast Range Druid Blog Posts, Lessons from Nature | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Places You Can Go with Spanish

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

I was looking through “The Travel Book,” and I wondered how many countries I could visit, if I only knew how to speak Spanish.  I counted 21 different countries. Things that I would really like to go do and see, if I could only go to places where people speak Spanish, are:

  • Boat out to Isla del Sol, home of the ancient Incas, on Lake Titicaca (the world’s highest lake), in Bolivia;
  • Paddle through a maze of jungle canals, thick with wildlife, in Costa Rica;
  • Go wildlife watching in the Galapagos Islands, in Ecuador;
  • Go surfing at Punta Roca, in El Salvador;
  • See lost Mayan temples climbing above the jungle canopy at Tikal, in Guatemala;
  • Feel the breeze of a billion butterfly wings at Reserva Mariposa Monarca, in Mexico;
  • Climb Cerro Negro, then sand-board down its soft slopes, in Nicaragua;
  • Visit Machu Picchu, in Peru!!!!!!!!!;
  • Swim in the shallow, sandy beaches of Palomino Island, in Puerto Rico; and
  • Visit Gaudi’s Barcelona, in Spain — and of course, see a Barcelona soccer match while we are there.

The countries that have Spanish as an official language are:

In Central America:  Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama

In South America:  Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela

In the Caribbean:  Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico

In Europe:  Spain

In Africa: Equatorial Guinea

Posted in The World Book of Wonders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Places you can go with French

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

I was looking through “The Travel Book,” and I wondered how many countries I could visit, if I only knew how to speak French, because I’m studying French on Rosetta Stone.  I counted 34 different countries.

Things that I would really like to go do and see, if I could only go to places where people speak French, are:

  • Eat a hundred pieces of chocolate in Belgium;
  • Watch a football (soccer) game in Burundi;
  • Learn Congolese traditional dancing and drumming in the Republic of Congo;
  • Stand on the “Bridge of Lava,” which is the thinnest part of the Earth’s crust, in Djibouti;
  • See fire dancers at a traditional Bwiti initiation ceremony, in Gabon;
  • Hunt for sleeping chameleons in the trees, at night, in Madagascar;
  • Swim in a natural swimming pool after a lobster lunch on Ile des Pins, in New Caledonia;
  • Go cross-country skiing in the Alps, in Switzerland;
  • Hike through cocoa and coffee plantations, in Togo; and
  • Swim through an underwater world of sunken ships, caves, and coral reefs, in Vanuatu.

The countries that have French as an official language are:

In North America:  Canada

In South America:  French Guiana

In the Atlantic Ocean:  Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique

In Europe:  Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland

In Africa:  Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo

In the Indian Ocean:  Comoros & Mayotte, Madagascar, Seychelles

In the Pacific Ocean:  New Caledonia, Tahiti & French Polynesia, Vanuatu

Posted in The World Book of Wonders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ethnic Dance Festival

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

Yesterday, and last Sunday, I went to the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival at the San Francisco Opera House.  The theatre had golden decorations on the walls, and comfortable cloth seats. We saw eighteen music and dance performances, from: Peru, Hawaii, Cuba, Japan, Philippines, Iran, China, Mexico, India, Spain, Congo, Mozambique, Brazil, and Tahiti.  My favorite dances were the ones from Brazil, Mexico, Tahiti, and the Congo.

The Brazilian dancers (Fogo Na Roupa Performing Company) did a lot of gymnastic jumping and kicking moves.  Their costumes  were very bright, with patterned colors in red and yellow and gold. And there was a kind of parade with a king and queen and a giant umbrella. The music was very loud.

The dances from Mexico (Ballet Folklorico Mexico Danza) were folkloric dances that seemed to tell stories about what it was like in the Mexican Revolution.  The costumes had many, many bright colors, like yellow, blue, red, and green, and they had pretend guns and swords.  Some dancers also had stuffed costumes that looked like pretend horses that they were riding. The part that I liked most about the Mexican dance was the men and women in costumes dancing with big skirts and tuxedo tails.

The Tahitian dance (Te Mana O Te Ra) had a lot of women moving their hips really fast, in circles, around and around, and back and front. They wore yellow grass skirts with black stripes that swayed when they danced. How do they do that?! Imagining it makes me feel dizzy!

The dances from the Congo (Bitezo Bia Kongo) started with drumming. Four men were drumming on hand drums bigger than me, that were hanging between their legs, from shoulder straps. They looked heavy. The drummers even danced while they were drumming! Then, the dancers came out. They jumped a lot, and played other small percussion instruments. They also moved their hips like the Tahitian dancers, only slower. If I could, I would like to learn to drum and dance like the men from the Congo!

Posted in The World Book of Wonders | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Places you can go with English

by Estifanos (age 6), of California, U.S.A.

I was looking through “The Travel Book,” and I wondered how many countries I could visit, if I only knew how to speak English.  I counted 68 different countries that have English as an official language!

Things that I would really like to go do and see, if I could only go to places with English, are:

  • Go island hopping by mail boat in the Bahamas;
  • Swim on a pink sand beach in Bermuda;
  • Visit penguins on Carcass Island, in the Falkland Islands;
  • Learn African drumming in Serekunda, in Gambia;
  • Listen to Irish traditional music in a pub, in Ireland;
  • Ride a bamboo raft to Somerset Falls, in Jamaica;
  • Go salt-water fly-fishing for dinner, in Kiribati;
  • Hunt for dinosaur footprints near Morija, in Lesotho;
  • See pygmy hippos in Sapo National Park, in Liberia;
  • Sail in an ocean-going canoe in the Marshall Islands;
  • Zip-line over Riviere Des Galets to see the waterfalls, in Mauritius;
  • Slide down garnet-laced sand dunes near Terrace Bay, in Namibia;
  • Spot elephants, lions, and hippos in Gashaka-Gumti Park, in Nigeria;
  • Snokel in Jellyfish Lake, in Palau;
  • See birds of paradise in Varirata National Park, in Papua New Guinea;
  • See mountain gorillas in the rainforest of Volcanoes National Park, in Rwanda;
  • Eat a lobster dinner in Frigate Bay, in Saint Kitts & Nevis;
  • Visit the stone-age village of Skara Brae, in Scotland;
  • Play “Swiss Family Robinson” on the deserted outer islands of Seychelles;
  • Learn traditional East African dances, and eat Maridi honey, in South Sudan;
  • Swim with humpback whales, in Tonga;
  • Learn to play the two-ball, team sport, “Te Ano,” in Tuvalu;
  • Visit the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in the United States;
  • Kayak through tunnels and caves, to the underground lake of Valeva, in Vanuatu;
  • Kayak through mangroves on the wild end of Saint Thomas, in the Virgin Islands;
  • Watch cheetahs hunting puku, in Zambia; and
  • Hike to see dinosaur fossils, in Zimbabwe.

The countries that have English as an official language are:

In North America:  Canada, United States

In Central America:  Belize

In South America:  Guyana

In the Atlantic Ocean:  Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Falkland Islands, Grenada, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos, Virgin Islands

In Europe:  England, Ireland, Malta, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales

In Africa:  Botswana, Cameroon, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

In Asia:  India, Pakistan, Singapore

In the Indian Ocean:  Mauritius, Seychelles

In the Pacific Ocean:  Cook Islands, Fiji, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Soloman Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu

And Australia!

Posted in The World Book of Wonders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lesson from a Mama Woodrat

by Larisa White, of California, U.S.A.

We’ve been working over the past dozen plus years on a Native California ecosystem restoration project on our 1/3-acre property, and over the past two years, developing an organic fruit/veggie mini-farm, with small growing areas interspersed with the native habitat area. So, we are both providing for ourselves, and the wildlife. Last week, we discovered a nest with five baby grey-brown rats, and a mama rat in attendance.

Rats!!!

I am sure that popular opinion is that their first appearance should be met immediately with the Dalek-like exclamation: “EXTERMINATE!” followed by outright war. Especially when one is seen among human food-growing beds. As farmers we only wanted to keep them out of our food. As parents of a young child, we were also concerned with the safety against disease-vector potential for our inquisitive boy.

But as druids, we also wanted to respect the life of a devoted mother with newborn babies.  She was trying so hard to be a GOOD mother. And her babies barely had eyes open. And they were put here by Nature, just as I was. And Nature does have a way of keeping pests in balance: owls, hawks, coyotes, etc.

Our solution: we waited until afternoon, when the temps had cooled a bit, and daylight was still strong. Then, we removed the “roof” of their nesting place (boards covering the underground watering system controls), to make them feel exposed and uncomfortable — but with a running head-start before our resident owls go hunting tonight. Then, we went in to dinner. By the time dinner was over, mama rat had relocated her babies to a less inconvenient location for us.

Or so we thought.

The following day, in bright, sunny, blistering heat, I saw the mama out and about, hunting for food and/or water with an air of desperation (they are normally nocturnal) — around the perimeter of our blueberry patch.  She still had not managed to find her way through our veggie-bed hardware-cloth cages, but she was studying them, and I do believe she was working out the math.

So, what was a Druid to do?

Answer: Refuse to panic or take action in a knee-jerk response prompted by fear. Instead, adopt a meditative state of carefully observant, reverent behavior, and consider all options. Watch and listen, and phrase our questions carefully:

NOT: “Eeeek! What is it!?! How do I get rid of it?!?”

BUT: “Hello! Who are you? Why did you come here? What are you trying to accomplish? Can we find a way to live and work peaceably, together?”

It was only upon taking this approach that we discovered, upon closer inspection, that we did not actually have a brown RAT (Rattus Norvegicus — below, on right), but a dusky-footed WOOD RAT (Neotoma Fuscipes — below, on left). And the difference is huge — even though they look very similar, at first glance:

Neotoma Fuscipes (California dusky-footed woodrats) are solitary creatures, except during breeding (once or twice per year), whereas Rattus Norvegicus (brown rats) species live in groups, and breed continuously.

Neotoma Fuscipes are clean animals, pooping only outside of their nests, in dedicated latrines, and using partly-chewn leaves of aromatic plants like Bay Laurel, to keep their nests free of parasites like fleas (and the diseases they carry), whereas Rattus species are dirty animals, and pose serious disease-vector problems.

Neotoma Fuscipes has an important role in our local ecology, eating leaves and acorns, and fungi, and thereby spreading the mycorrhizae critical to the health and longevity of the native plants of our area, whereas rattus species are merely pests and dangers, eating everyone’s gardens, garbage, and pet food.

Finally, Neotoma Fuscipes are just plain PRETTIER than Rattus species: bigger ears and eyes, softer, glossier coats, and furry tails.

More info on the Neotoma Fuscipes can be found at:

http://www.friendsofedgewood.org/dusky-footed-woodrat

Yes, she might eat a bit of our veggies, now and  again, but she is unlikely to breed out of control, or spread diseases to her neighbors (us). So, Mama Wood Rat is welcome to stay.

With our blessings.

Posted in Coast Range Druid Blog Posts, Lessons from Nature | Tagged , | Leave a comment