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Life Begets Life

May 9, 2017

Good Morning Dear Readers,


I've realized over the years there's one thing I like writing about more than anything: organisms. Be it people at a bar, or bugs in my backyard, life is what makes life ponderously amazing. Even when thinking about planets outside of our solar system or the bottom of the sea, I always find my mind wandering back to life and all of its glory. Maybe Douglas Adams got it best when in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (or one the sequels) he proposed asking a computer the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. For there is no mystery greater than life itself, there is nothing on this planet less beholden to universal laws and more absurd than the living.


A few examples from my backyard

Fresh eggs! Nom nom nom nom nom 


Life begets life.


All winter long I kept a bird feeder full of delicious black sunflower seeds. We had house sparrows galore, as well as Carolina chickadees and the occasional cardinal. Not too shabby for a tiny urban backyard, but not to great either. Then last weekend we got chickens. Now the backyard is a whose-who of important birds. There's grackles, house sparrows, cardinals, wrens, more morning doves than I can count. I'm not entirely sure what caused this. There's been food and water back there for months, and I didn't add any shelters except for the one for the chickens, and yet all of a sudden my backyard is a block party. I have a hypothesis untestable as they come. Ready? Here goes: We all know birds are dinosaurs. Scientists are realizing more and more dinosaurs had feathers, and a T-Rex had a wishbone! They even know some of the colors of the ancient bird plumage. Cool right? My theory is that these chickens serve as a sort of diminutive brontosaurus. They're a large trundling creature that only the most fearsome predators would dare to bother. The other birds know this, possibly because they've interacted with chickens before (yes, my neighbors also have chickens but this theory is dull) or more likely, they have ancient genetic memories encoded in their DNA that amounts to 'birds of a feather stick together.' A rule they've been more or less following since their dinner parties were interrupted by velociraptors. 


Don't believe me? Fine. Try this one.


Evolution at work:

​Will the bees pick the dainty white flower or shun her? 


I do not believe in mowing lawns. I find it a waste of space, resources, and worst of all, a mowed lawn provides little habitat and only seems to support grackles and mockingbirds. I have yard islands. With judicious use of my electric mower, I cut trails through my backyard and let the rest 'go wild' except I seed it wildflower seeds so really there's nothing wild about it, and yet hundreds of indian blankets make it look as wild as the side of a freeway in Texas. My backyard positively hums with green, black and yellow pollinators going about their business, grasshoppers grow big as field mice, and an assortment of spiders hunt in these colorful two foot tall islands of skyscrapers. I love this kind of thing, the proliferation of biomass. Its exciting and easy to do and has probably doubled the biodiversity of my backyard (I'm working on identifying everything back there but its tough with a baby. Let me know if you're at all interested in learning more about the flora and fauna and I'll get you some pics). Most impressive though is that in barely a season one can already witness evolution at work in my backyard. Of the hundred indian blankets, there is a single flower that is white and red instead of orange and red. This, lest we forget, is how evolution works. Nature has no plan. She just changes things now and then and sees if they work. Currently, it seems like the white flower gets far less love than the orange ones, but I won't really know until the yard islands return next year. IF there's more than one of the white variety, rest assured I'll be attempting to rename the species gaillardia raquelita after my darling wife.

So there! Life is strange and wonderful and all around us. My scifi books are filled with weird creatures, as is my backyard and my house on most weekends. If you're interested I'll tell you a little about it each week.


Thanks for reading!


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