Holidays

What is a Cornucopia?

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Cornucopia (Photo: Saratica Cornucopia, Flicker Sharing).

Explaining the Mythic Origin of The Cornucopia

It's nearing Thanksgiving and suddenly you start seeing see pictures of tables decorated with turkeys, vegetables, sweet potato pies, fall leaves. All that's fine, but then there's a thing that thing that looks like a woven basket with fruit and nuts spilling out. How the heck did that make it onto the table? Where did it come from? Sure, it looks like a horn or some such but what is it?

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The Cranberry: Natural History and Home Made Cranberry Sauce Recipe

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Cranberries (Photo: Wiki Commons).

What's the story of cranberries?

Cranberries are a common side for holiday dishes in North America, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas. The red berries are tart and appropriately colored for the season with a bright red color. For many the only thing they may think of when they prepare cranberries is that sucking sound that the solid mass of cranberry makes as it slides out of the can. But, If you're like me, you might like to make home made cranberry sauce, or know a bit more about where those berries came from. I firmly believe in knowing about what you eat, how it grows, and how it is produced. So, in this light, much like the Turkey Snood post, we'll start this one with a short natural history of the cranberry and follow up with a  homemade cranberry sauce recipe that has been in our family for a long time. At the end of the post I'll also provide you with some neat resources for teaching about cranberries in the classroom or on an interpretive hike.

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FEATHERED FEATURE: TURKEY SNOODS

(A Special Early-Bird Thanksgiving Edition of the Infinite Spider Blog)

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What is a turkey snood and why do turkeys care?

By Karen McDonald and guest writer Anne Littlewolf

I couldn't resist, how fun is the word snood? It's a great word to throw out at the Thanksgiving dinner table, for parties, or when exchanging biological insults with your friends (yes, there are those of us that do this). Today's post will be in two parts, in the first part we'll examine exactly what a turkey snood is and why female turkeys care, and in the second part we'll provide you with some holiday tips for making sure your Thanksgiving turkey is tender and moist so you don't get snoody insults.

Let's start with a few key terms. A female turkey is a hen, a mature male is a gobbler, and a juvenile male is a jake. Baby turkeys are called poults. You can see the physical differences between jakes and gobblers in the images below.

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A juvenile male turkey (Photo: Wiki Commons)

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An adult male turkey or gobbler (Photo: Wiki Commons).

  • Hens are usually brownish with buffy tipped breast feathers, while gobblers usually look almost black in color, and their breast feathers are tipped with black.
  • Jakes and Gobblers both have beards or modified feathers that dangle from their chest (they look almost like miniature horse tails). Jake beards are about 2-5" long and gobbler beards are 5-12" long. About 10-20% of females can grow beards too, but it's not common.
  • When you look at the fanned tails of a jake v. a gobbler, you'll see that jakes have longer tail feathers in the center, while gobblers have tail feathers of equal length all the way around. Check out the jake in the far right corner of the picture below, see the longer tail feathers in the middle?
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Jakes and gobblers displaying to hens (Photo: Wiki commons).

I'm not going to go into sordid detail about the anatomy of wild turkeys, there are lots of great websites that have already done that, and I want to get to the snoods. So, if you'd like to know more, check out the National Wild Turkey Federation website.

So, What Is a Snood?

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