Nature’s World

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 24, 2004

Things worth knowing

By Al Batt

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

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&160; &8220;How are you doing?&8221;&160; I ask.

&160; &8220;I’ve had those days when it felt like a pack of Chihuahuas were ripping my exposed flesh or Chuck Norris was kicking me in the head.&160; It wouldn’t take that many of those days to make a dozen.&8221;

&160; &8220;But today is a good one?&8221;&160; I ask.

&160; &8220;Not too bad.&160; I’ve turned my cows into free-range cattle, letting them roam anywhere they wish, and letting the chips fall where they may.&160; With my added free time, I’m going to be spending more time with my new squeeze.&160; She’s cuter than a newborn speckled pig.&160; If the Doublemint Twins were triplets, she’d be the third one.&8221;

&160; &8220;Wow!&8221;

&160; &8220;Her only problem is her mouth.&160; She’s a talker.&160; Whenever she goes away, she leaves her voice running.&160; And for some reason, she thinks my refrigerator could use more magnets.&160; Women!&160; Oh, I sent my Uncle Clancy to the doctor.&160; He was blinking too loud.&160; Thanks to my keen medical insight, Clancy was taken right into surgery.&160; Yesterday, he shows up at my shack, madder than a wet hen.&8221;

&160; &8220;What was wrong?&8221;&160; I ask.

&160; &8220;Clancy claimed someone stole his toupee during his surgery and replaced it with another.&160; He wanted me to go to the hospital and get his original toupee back.&160; I asked him why he thought it was stolen at the hospital.&160; He told me that it was right after his operation that he noticed the toupee he was wearing was ugly and cheap-looking.&8221;

&160; &8220;What did you tell him?&8221;

&160; &8220;I told him that meant his cataract operation was a success.&8221;


Things worth knowing

Chihuahuan Ravens lace their nests with barbed wire and baling wire.

The state gem of Washington is petrified wood.

The crab apple gets its name from the Middle English word crabbe, which means wild apple.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker has a small pinkish wash on its belly.&160; The male has a red cap and red on back of neck.&160; The female lacks the red on the neck.&160; They are another bird that loves peanuts.

The Albert Lea Audubon Science Center has delightful buckthorn walking sticks made by Paul Moore for sale.


While visiting Sheboygan, Wis., I drove by the offices of Acuity, a large insurance company.

Acuity flies a flag each day and it’s quite a flag.

The steel pole is 338 feet high, taller than a football field is long.&160; The flagpole weighs 65 tons &045; without the flag.&160; The pole is sunk into 550-ton block of concrete that is 40 feet deep and 8 feet wide.&160; The flag is 120 feet by 60 feet, covering 7,200 square feet.&160; Each star is 3 feet high.

Ben Salzmann, President and CEO, said, &8220;We proudly fly this flag because we are blessed to live and work in the United States of America.&8221;

Gee, your manure smells great

Many scientists have been working on making manure smell better. &160;Essential oils &045; ike those traditionally extracted from aromatic plants such as rosemary and lavender &045; might one day make even manure smell better or not smell at all. Odor-abatement research has shown that as little as 1 gram of essential oils from oregano and thyme is sufficient to block production of foul-smelling volatile fatty acids in a half-liter slurry of cattle feces and urine. Carvacrol and thymol can be obtained from several common herbal plants. In tests, these chemicals inhibited odors for several weeks. The essential oils have been shown to reduce fecal bacterial populations in manure slurries. &160;

Mozart, mice and mazes

Research has found that a Mozart sonata improves maze performance in rats and mice. &160;The studies have given a confidence boost to longtime proponents of the so-called &8220;Mozart effect,&8221; based on a 1993 study with humans that reported that listening to 10 minutes of Mozart boosted college students’ &8220;spatial reasoning&8221; abilities on tests for the next 10 to 15 minutes.&160;

Doubters point out that rats and mice can’t even hear much of Mozart’s music.&160; The pitches are too low for them.

In the July 1998 issue of the journal Neurological Research, researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh reported a study in which rats were exposed to Mozart while in the womb and for 60 days after birth.&160; The rats completed a maze faster and with fewer errors than rats exposed instead to simpler music, silence, or a static-like noise.&160; Two more studies with similar results have appeared in scientific journals in recent months: one in the December 2005 Neurological Research and the other in the latest issue of Behavioural Brain Research.

Buzz off, skeeters

The crushed leaves of American beautyberry&160; have helped keep biting insects away from animals such as horses and mules for a long time.&160;

Placing crushed beautyberry leaves under the animals’ harnesses mashed out a repellent oil. &160;Some folks took to mashing the leaves and rubbing the residue on their own skins. Early testing by USDA researchers have found this just as effective as DEET. DEET, the world’s most-used insect repellent, was itself developed by USDA for the U.S. Army decades ago.

Bird feeding

Birds generally have a higher metabolism rate than mammals.&160; This means their body temperature is higher, they have a faster heart and respiration rate, and they convert food into body energy faster.&160; This means that to maintain their body energy they have to eat frequently.&160;

Some birds can only survive as long as an average winter’s night without feeding.&160; To reduce heat loss from the body surface, a bird’s bill is horn-like material and its legs and feet are like tendons instead of fleshy like a mammal’s.&160; Feathers act as insulation and retain heat.&160; Birds can adjust their temperature by fluffing or smoothing their feathers.&160;

Birds find a place out of the wind or roost together to save energy during the night.

How do feeders figure into a bird’s survival strategy?&160; Research on Black-capped Chickadees in Wisconsin found that chickadees consumed from 14 to 29 percent of their daily energy requirement from bird feeders.&160; Chickadees that had home ranges close to feeders used the feeders more frequently.&160; Feeders were also used by more chickadees as sunset approached than at sunrise.&160; Using the feeders near sunset would be a logical way to maximize caloric intake, to have a high fat reserve to survive the night.&160; Feed the birds and enjoy their presence.


Please join me on a tour of Alaska on Aug. 10-17.

For more information on this delightful trip, call 507-373-4705 or 800-328-4298.


What are you looking at?

Let Al know what you are seeing by sending an e-mail to”

Final thoughts

&8220;Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.&8221; &045;&160;Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi,

&8220;Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortally.” &045;&160;Dalai Lama

&160;DO GOOD.


(Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. E-mail him at