The Hippo


May 31, 2020








Stocking pet. Courtesy photo.

More spring DIY projects

Provost sent a variety of spring growth-related activities via email. Here are a few of those ideas.
Lima beans project: “Soak dry lima beans in a bowl of water overnight. Place four to six lima beans inside a gallon sealable plastic bag with enough wet cotton balls to line the bottom. Seal the bag, while leaving air inside, and hang it in a sunny window. Check regularly to be sure the cotton balls stay damp (but not too wet).” Before you know it, the beans should sprout roots; plant the results in a pot filled with soil.
Avocado project: “Insert 3 to 4 toothpicks around the wider end of the pit so you can hang it over a glass of water with the pointed end sticking up. The water should cover the bottom ¾ of the pit. Put the glass in a warm place and keep enough water in the glass to keep the pit in the water. In 2 to 4 weeks, roots and a stem will sprout,” Provost said. “You can transplant the pit to a pot with soil leaving ½ of the seed exposed. Pinch back the newest leaves to encourage more growth.”
Stocking pets: This project involves placing potted soil inside the toe of old panty hose, sprinkling it with grass seed and tying the pantyhose closed, decorating the stocking with wiggly eyes and felt to create a face, and then placing it in a sunny location on a dish.
“Keep it watered and watch the grass — hair — grow,” Provost said. “We did them [at camp] last summer as well. The kids loved doing them, and they looked so cute. Every once in a while, you’d see one in a random spot on a railing some place. It would get watered by the rain.”
Egg shell pets: “Wash out half-empty egg shells. Put cotton ball inside the egg shell and sprinkle with grass seed. Decorate the outside of the shell. Keep the cotton ball damp (but not too wet) and watch the grass grow.”
Bird feeders: Provost says you can create these by coating a pine cone with peanut butter and bird seed. They can be hung in the trees or bushes in your yard; however, New Hampshire Fish and Game says bird feeders should be put away for the season starting April 1 because they often attract bears.

Embrace the outdoors
Spend time with nature as the weather gets warmer

By Kelly Sennott

Late March and early April is a fickle time for the outdoors. Temperatures range from freezing to 80 degrees, and the ground is usually still covered in snow or mud.

But then, all of a sudden, it happens again. Tree leaves sprout. Blossoms bloom. Birds chirp.
Though all that won’t be happening at spring’s official start — March 20 — there are a number of ways to embrace the season starting right now.
Take a walk outside
When Beaver Brook Nature Center Education Director Celeste Barr’s kids were young, she’d take them on walks through the woods during spring vacations. Even in this strange in-between season, there’s a lot to see outside. (And also a lot not to see — remember, flies and mosquitos haven’t come out yet.)
“We went to nearby trails to see waterfalls each day,” Barr said. “Waterfalls are sort of dramatic at the beginning of spring because there’s a lot of snow melt. Sometimes in the late summer, they’re all dried up.”
Potential hikers should wear appropriate footwear — waterproof boots, winter boots, or crampons if it’s still icy. Barr recommends the trails by Purgatory Falls (in Mont Vernon), Garwin Falls (in Wilton), the Tucker Brook Town Forest Falls (in Milford) and Wildcat Falls (in Merrimack, off Currier Road). This year, she’s also anxious to check out Senter Falls in Lyndeborough. (At there’s information about the state’s waterfalls; Barr also recommends a book called New England Waterfalls by Greg Parson and Kate B. Watson.)
Ruth Smith, community engagement manager at the New Hampshire Audubon, says kids get a big kick out of seeing snow fleas, which are tiny harmless insects that can best be seen hopping on top of the snow. They eat decayed plant matter or sap oozed from trees and they’re extremely small.
“They’re like little dots of pepper on top of the snow, and they hop, like a flea would,” Smith said during a phone interview. “As the snow starts to melt, they emerge from the area around. You can see them really well this time of year. … They can jump many times the length of their body. … And they’re a definite sign of spring. It has to be warm enough for them to be moving around.”
Another critter Smith suggests you watch out for: the mourning cloak butterfly, which sports dark brown wings with light yellow trim.
If you’re extremely adventurous, Girl Scout camp manager/director Karen Provost suggests you track animal footprints in the snow or mud. (Look for directions online to learn how to make “plaster-of-paris” casts from their mud tracks.)
Growing season
Spring means green, and while it might not show up exactly on March 20, there are many ways you can celebrate the season that aren’t weather-dependent.
One is to bring the outdoors inside. Take cuttings from trees and bushes that flower, bring them inside and stick them in a vase of water. (Barr suggests you do this while pruning trees.) You’ll find that the water and warmth convince them to bloom earlier.
“It doesn’t hurt [the tree]. If the branches are too crowded, you’re supposed to cut them anyway,” Barr said. “It works well with little apple trees, berry trees — any of the fruiting trees. I have a plum tree, and it’s just gorgeous. It has red stems and pink little flowers that come out in April. A forsythia comes out a nice, bright yellow,” Barr said.
Another is to track outdoor growth.
“In the spring, you can pick a branch — everybody has some sort of shrub or tree in their yard — and tie a colored string around the branch,” Smith said. “Take a picture of it every day, and watch how the buds change with the season, and watch them until they open up into a leaf.” (For a step further, Provost suggests you print those photos and create a “spring flip book.”)
Bird nests and houses
You know spring’s coming when you can hear chirping outside your window again. The birds are back, and you can help them out by providing them with bird houses and materials for their nests.
For the nests, Smith suggests you put out cat or dog hair, dryer lint, colored yarn, or, at naturalist/Audubon board member Kelly Dwyer’s suggestion, dried wool, which you can purchase through the New Hampshire Audubon. (If you’re going to do the yarn trick, Provost says the strands should be three to five inches in length and placed in bushes or trees around the house; then watch for the colors to appear in nests around the neighborhood.)
If you want to build a birdhouse, you should do research first. You need to think about the size of the house, the size of the hole, and also the type of birds you want to attract. When it comes to design, the simpler the better.
The Massabesic Audubon holds a build-your-own-birdhouse workshop with pre-cut kits (designed to attract bluebirds) during its Earth Day Celebration (which is Saturday, April 11, at 26 Deerneck Road in Auburn; it starts at 10 a.m. and there’s a $5 materials fee).
“You can probably get thousands of plans on the Internet, but in our experience, the simple bluebird construction of rough pine … works best,” Dwyer said. “Some people get elaborate houses, and those don’t blend well and are not so attractive [to birds]. The more [the house] mimics the natural nest cavity, the more attracted they would be to it.”
Dwyer sticks her birdhouses near the edge of the woods about 5 to 6 feet in the air, and suggests to potential birdhouse suppliers that they not let their cats outdoors.
“It’s not fair to attract birds if you’re going to have your house cat outside,” Dwyer said.
Want to preserve the glory days of the early spring season — i.e., no bugs? Build bat boxes.
“Bats eat 500 to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour, so you want to encourage them to live in your yard. Bat boxes are very easy to build and there are instructions available online,” Provost said.
As seen in the March 19, 2015 issue of the Hippo. 

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