Why Does Poison Ivy Itch?

You’re in the woods, building a fort or exploring, and having a great time. A few hours later, you get a horrible, itchy rash. Argh, poison ivy! Despite the name, poison ivy does not make poison. Instead, every part of the poison ivy plant – leaves, stem, vine, berries, roots – makes an oil called … Continue reading Why Does Poison Ivy Itch?

Portrait of a Woman as a Young Mother

Appeared in August 2019, The Cabinet of Heed In the framed photo, a woman in profile—eyes smudged with dark circles, shoulder adorned with an epaulette of spit-up—hugs a newborn tight and high on her chest, resting her cheek on his head. The baby’s eyelids look like closed pistachios. His ears match the monkey’s on his … Continue reading Portrait of a Woman as a Young Mother

Waste Not, Want Not?: a deep dive into the wonderful, wacky world of organic waste disposal

My husband paused halfway between the trashcan and kitchen sink, clutching an apple core. “Tell me again what I do with this?” “Compost.” I pointed to the green compost bin, courtesy of our new trash haulers, Earthbound Environmental Solutions. He paused. “Why is that better than the garbage disposal?” “Climate change.” He paused. He pauses … Continue reading Waste Not, Want Not?: a deep dive into the wonderful, wacky world of organic waste disposal

Why is That? Why Does Birch Tree Bark Peel Off?

Originally appeared in Chippewa Valley Family Magazine. Birch bark can be so tempting to peeeel off. But wait! Is that a good idea? Why is the bark coming off, anyway? Is the birch sick? Let’s look at the layers of a tree. Bark is made of two layers, outer and inner bark. Outer bark is … Continue reading Why is That? Why Does Birch Tree Bark Peel Off?

What Happens After You Flush?

Ever wonder what happens to poop and toilet paper after you flush the potty? All your house’s drains empty into the same outgoing sewer pipes. Water (and other things) from your toilet mixes with the water from your shower and your sinks. Any food chopped up with your garbage disposal goes into the sewer, too. … Continue reading What Happens After You Flush?

Why Is That: Why does snow squeak when it’s cold?

Have you ever noticed that early in the winter, snow is almost silent when you step on it, but as the temperatures drop, snow squeaks? Molecules in ice crystals, even snowflakes, line up stiffly in a strong structure, held together by hydrogen bonds. It looks almost like the steel frame of a skyscraper. However, all … Continue reading Why Is That: Why does snow squeak when it’s cold?

How Do Scientists Count Birds?

Get some binoculars and try counting the birds outside your home sometime. It might seem easy at first. You might see a couple of cardinals, maybe a crow. But then those birds fly away, and you see another cardinal. Is that the same cardinal as before, or is it a new one? Now try to … Continue reading How Do Scientists Count Birds?

What happens to my recycling?

Trash haulers must accept items that counties decide should be recycled. In Eau Claire County, that’s clean glass jars, aluminum, steel, paper, cardboard, and all plastics except those labeled No. 6 (which is very hard to recycle). When the garbage trucks pick up your garbage, they flip a switch and put your recycling in a … Continue reading What happens to my recycling?

Why Is That? How Do They Predict Tornadoes?

Spring is often a time of confused weather: warm one day, chilly the next. This kind of unsettled weather can sometimes develop into strong storms, like thunderstorms or tornadoes. Although tornadoes are not as common in the Chippewa Valley as they are in other parts of the Midwest, they do occasionally develop in the area. … Continue reading Why Is That? How Do They Predict Tornadoes?