Our Bohemian Inspired Outdoor Living Space

I feel like I’m cheating a little with this post, since I shared our patio reveal (and most of these pictures) about a year ago, right after our patio was complete. But we’ve started to get it set up again for the season, and that makes me so happy that I just felt compelled to share it again.

It’s been many years since I actually had a backyard, and for a long time I dreamt of having a space that felt like an oasis. I envisioned something colorful (which is normally not my aesthetic at all) with a strong boho vibe. When we moved into our house last year, our backyard started off with nothing in it at all except a concrete step leading out to it. It was a mess, and I couldn’t wait to get started. First my husband and I designed a poured concrete patio and hired a local company to install it. I wanted it to resemble slate, and in turned out beautifully. Then my friend Tyler Wisler (he is amazing) and I worked together for about a month to come up with the overall design. We ordered the furniture and accessories and collected lots of plants and flowers. My dad and my husband built the cedar slat wall, Tyler and I arranged the furniture, and it was complete.

(Before, below.)

We spent so much time in this space (especially in the evening) last year, and I am thrilled and grateful to be able to do it again. Thanks for letting me share my excitement, friends!

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Win a Paw Birthstone Bracelet!

Are you ready for Mother’s Day? We’ve got a brand-new giveaway on PawZaar featuring the our Paw Birthstone Bracelet, filled with paw print birthstone charms to honor the winner’s…



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DogTipper

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Celebrate National Pet Month with Your Dog!

National Pet Month is here,  and as you dream up fun ways to display how much you care for your canine companion during the 31 days of dogged devotion to companion animals, why not transform…



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DogTipper

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Friday Funny: Who’s The Boss?

Happy weekend! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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The Tales of Tofu: Encouraging My Kids To Be Whatever They Want to Be

Thank you House Foods for sponsoring this post.

My kids are always talking about what they want to be when they grow up. My three year old son mostly just wants to be a dinosaur, but my daughter has several career paths in mind: a dance teacher, a horticulturist, and a chef. My husband and I are very big on encouraging them, even from a very young age, to follow whatever paths they desire (and that includes in the present too). Whether we’re talking about their dreams for adult years or what activities they want to try this summer, it’s important to us that they know they can be whatever they want to be.

Recently my daughter and I were having one of our “deep talks” about hopes, dreams, and how we define ourselves (or, in preschool terms, “what makes us us”), which led to a specific discussion about her ability to be whatever she chooses. To better explain to her what I meant, I likened it to one of our favorites foods: tofu. I had just gotten a copy of the children’s ebook The Tales of Tofu from House Foods, which is the most endearing story about a superfood named Tofu who learns about how he can be anything he wants to be (by easily mixing with other foods), and it really did seem like the perfect comparison. As we read the book together, I watched her reactions and could see how the story made sense to her. She told me it “an-spired” (inspired) her, and immediately asked if we could make one of the book’s super easy-to-prepare recipes recipes. I was in!

We decided to go with the Strawberry Papaya Tofu Smoothie, and ran to the store to pick up the ingredients (see recipe below for full list). When we got home, my daughter got to experience one of her future careers dreams of being chef as we made the smoothie together. And man was it delicious. Here is the recipe so you can see for yourself!

Strawberry Papaya Tofu Smoothie

SERVES: 2 | PREP TIME: 5 min | TOTAL TIME: 5 min

INGREDIENTS
½ pkg. House Foods Tofu Soft
3/4 cup papaya; peeled — seeded, and chopped
1 cup fresh strawberries
1 cup frozen mango, chopped
1/2 banana

In a blender, combine all the ingredients. Cover and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds or so. Enjoy!

One of the things I love most about The Tales of Tofu is how it helps kids and their families eat healthier by focusing on good ingredients like fruits, veggies, and tofu. (When House Foods partnered with Melissa Rauch to to create the ebook, this was part of it’s purpose, which is so great!) I also love how the ebook finds a creative way to introduce kids to tofu, which is a food they might normally be less familiar with. Even though both of my kids eat tofu often, the ebook shows them the endless ways tofu can be prepared and combined with other foods. (Just like my kids, tofu can be anything it wants to be!)

Next up, according to my daughter, is Tofu Tacos, another delicious recipe included in The Tales of Tofu. I can’t wait! You can download your own digital copy of The Tales of Tofu from www.house-foods.com right here. It’s such a wonderful way to not only encourage your little ones to be whatever they want to be, but also to introduce them to tofu and create discussion on the importance of eating healthy foods. And of course, it’s a great way to make food together, which in our house, is one of our favorite ways to bond.

How do you encourage your kids to be whatever they want to be?

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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How to classify the domestic cat?

felis lybica

As I have noted many times on this blog, I think that the only way to correctly classify the domestic dog is as form of gray wolf. I am okay with regarding them as a divergent subspecies, but Pierotti and Fogg make a pretty good case that we really cannot define a domestic dog subspecies, because that subspecies would have to include everything from truly feral dogs to pekingese. I think that the wolf genome comparisons also show that creating a special dog or dingo species distorts the monophyly of Canis lupus.

Some will argue with me on this one, but you will have to use a species concept that is totally not based in cladistics or one that allows for a huge amount of gene flow between the two species.  An ecological species concept can work, but then you’re going to be forced to split up Canis lupus into many different species. Arabian wolves are simply aren’t ecologically equivalent to arctic wolves. So I think creating a special dog species is problematic from a systematics perspective.

However, I’ve been asked several times what I think about how to classify the domestic cat. Almost every authority in cats uses the name Felis catus to describe the domestic cat, while Canis familiaris is slowly being replaced by Canis lupus familiaris.

The revised taxonomy of Felidae  that was released in 2017 does change how we classify wildcats. Classically, we recognized a single species of wildcat, Felis silvestris. The domestic cat is derived from a Near Eastern population, which was classified as Felis silvestris lybica.  There was another wildcat that lives Western China that was sometimes recognized as Felis sivestris bieti or Felis bieti. The big taxonomy debate in this genus was where to include this Chinese mountain cat into the greater wildcat species or have it be a species of its own.

The new taxonomy changes quite a bit of this. Felis bieti is now recognized as species, but Felis silvestris now refers to only European and Caucasian wildcats.  Felis lybica is the new scientific name for the wildcats living Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and some parts of Central Asia, where it is sympatric with the Chinese mountain cat.  The fact that lybica and bieti exist in the same area without much gene flow is apparently the reason for elevating bieti to a species.  The reason for splitting up silvestris, though, had do with a deep mitochondrial DNA divergence between European and Caucasian wildcats and the rest of the wildcat species. Apparently, these two forms split from each other 173,000 years ago.

This revised taxonomy is really, well-supported with data, and I generally think it is right in its conclusions. However, I do think it made an error with this genus.

It retained Felis catus as a full species.  The same logic that says dogs are Canis lupus familiaris says that you cannot have a special domestic cat species either.

So the best way to classify domestic cats is as Felis lybica cata. You will probably only see this name written on this space, because unlike the literature on dogs, there is a noted deep adherence to Felis catus in the literature on domestic cats.

I honestly don’t know why there is such an adherence, because domestic cats are not that different from Felis lybica.  They come in more colors and coat types, but most domestic cats can live just as wildcats do. That’s why feral cats are an ecological hazard in so many places. They are quite effective predators, the ultimate mesopredator that found a niche living under the nose of man.

We don’t have as many good nuclear DNA studies on the various small cats as we do on various forms of the gray wolf complex, and this may be why there is a tendency to avoid a cladistic classification for the domestic form.

But if we’re doing this for dogs– and for good reason– we should be doing the same for cats. And the same for pigs and domestic mallards and domestic jungle fowl.

 

 

Natural History

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Easter, Earth Day, and My E’s

My little E and E wanted to wish all of you a happy (belated) Easter and a happy Earth Day today! There’s still some live action videos of our Easter shenanigans up on my Instagram Stories if you want to check out the fun we had. And today after school, the kids and I are headed straight over to a local park for an Earth Day clean up. (You can check out some of my favorite eco-themed posts on the blog right here.)

Did you have a good weekend (Easter celebrations or otherwise)? Do you have any Earth Day plans?

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Coyotes hunting in a pack

This video shows coyotes hunting very much like larger wolves, but it also shows you an odd thing about mule deer.

Mule deer stick together. Mule deer that are not related to a fawn will come in to defend it, while white-tail does defend only their fawns. This makes some sense. White-tails evolved in dense forests where it was pretty easy to hide fawns, while mule deer evolved in open country. Kin selection would favor the genes of mule deer that were willing to come in and defend fawns of related does.

So this is really amazing footage, which shows can cooperatively hunt very much like wolves. These are Western coyotes, which typically aren’t thought of as pack-hunters, but under certain conditions, they absolutely can work as a pack.

I like the way this elk hunter clearly stated that we shouldn’t kill every coyote we see and definitely sees a place for them in the ecosystem.

Mule deer aren’t as numerous as they once were. They have definite habitat requirements, unlike white-tails, which live in virtually every town in the East. Since wolves have been extirpated from most of the West, is it possible that increased coyote numbers could be affecting mule deer populations (even at the margins)?

We know that when wolves came to Yellowstone, they cut the coyote population by half.  Wolves are not major predators of pronghorn, but coyotes take many of their fawns.  When wolves kicked the coyote numbers down a bit, the pronghorn population began to recover significantly.

Wolves certainly do hunt mule deer, but in the West, they have options to go after elk and moose.  Coyotes might take elk and moose calves, but they aren’t likely to be a problem for most mature individuals.

Maybe something similar is going here, but I should caution that the real problem facing mule deer in the West is habitat loss, and although predator control can fix the problem at the margins, it won’t solve the habitat problem.

 

Natural History

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What’s Your Favorite Dog-Friendly Store? #Giveaway

What’s your favorite dog-friendly store? Now that Barli is done with his therapy dog training class, I’m working to get him out and into stores as much as possible to work on his skills…



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DogTipper

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The great flightless insular moorhen controversy

tristan moorhen

Off the southeastern coast of Africa, the British Empire still holds onto some islands. The most famous of these is St. Helena, where Napoleon lived out his final days in his second exile thousands of miles from France and Europe and any trouble he might want to cause.

On two of these islands, though, a taxonomic controversy has brewed for decades. On Gough Island and Tristan da Cuhna, insular forms of moorhen (also known as gallinules in much of the US) existed.  They were smaller than the common moorhen, and they possessed shorter wings. In this way, they exhibited both insular dwarfism, a common trait of organism evolving on isolated islands, and the loss of flight that sometimes happens when birds evolve without selection pressures from predation to ensure flight in the population.

The moorhens on Gough Island, nearly 400 miles away, were quite similar to those on Tristan da Cunha, and in the 1950s, some Gough island moorhens were introduced to Tristan da Cunha.

These Gough Island birds did quite well on the new island. where an estimated 2,500 breeding pairs now exist. However, because these birds were introduced from Gough Island, they are not regarded as native and are not protected.

Traditionally, experts have regarded the Gough and Tristan moorhens as distinct species. The Gough species is called Gallinula comeri, while the extinct Tristan species is called Gallinula nesiotis.

However, over the years, it has been suggested that the two were of the same species, and the introduction of the Gough species was actually a reintroduction.

Not many DNA studies have been performed on these birds, but the most notable is Groenenberg et al (2008).   This study examined samples that have been collected over the past two centuries, including a specimen from Tristan da Cunha that was collected in 1864.

The authors found that the two forms were roughly genetically distant from each other as different subspecies of the common moorhen. Indeed, if one were wanting to keep the common moorhen a monophyletic species, one would be forced to include these two insular forms as subspecies of the common moorhen.

The authors found that the Gough moorhen had replaced the Tristan form, and they were different taxa. However, because their genetic difference was equivalent to the genetic difference between some common moorhen subspecies, the authors proposed that these two forms be regarded as subspecies, which they propose as Gallinula nesiotis nesiotis and G.n. comeri.

These birds are most closely related to African and European moorhens than they are to South American ones,

However, the debate gets fairly interesting here because the South American common moorhens are typically considered subspecies of a quite wide-ranging species. When the authors performed their research, the common moorhen was believed to have existed in Eurasia, Africa, and the Americas, but in 2011, the New World population was given full species status, which is usually called the common gallinule. Taxonomists fixed the paraphyly of the common moorhen by creating this new American species (Gallinula galeata).

But this study does not fix the controversy about the moorhens on Tristan da Cunha. Even if the Gough and Tristan populations constitute different subspecies, a real debate can be made as to whether the birds on Tristan da Cunha represent an introduction or a reintroduction.

And this is where the subjectivity part of taxonomy sets in. If the Gough subspecies behaves in the ecosystem in an equivalent way to the extinct Tristan subspecies on Tristan da Cunha, then one could just make the argument that the arrival of these birds in the 1950s was a reintroduction. If they behave in a fundamentally different way from the extinct Tristan birds, then they were simply introduced and certainly don’t require any special protections as a native species under the law.

But the subjective part is where to draw the line between being fundamentally similar or fundamentally different. Yes, the Gough subspecies is genetically different, and it may have some attributes that cause it behave just slightly differently from the extinct Tristan subspecies.

However one answers this question, one should keep in mind that it cannot answered so easily.

This debate is quite strong, not just in gallinules and moorhens, but a big debate exists within some quarters as to whether the feral horses of the American West represent a rewilding from the Pleistocene. Horse evolved in North America and then became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene, but a huge debate exists on how to classify the various late Pleistocene horses. They may have been a single species that was very close to the modern horse. In which case, the feral horses of the American West might be argued to be rewilding population. A more recent study on cheek teeth and ancient mitochondrial DNA of these horses revealed there were three species of horse in North America at the end of the Pleistocene, one of which was very close to the modern horse.

But the Pleistocene ended around 10,000 years ago, and the ecosystems that maintained horses on the range no longer exist in the same way. In this case, one could not honestly say that this was a rewilding. It would be an introduction. (That’s where I stand on the horses as native wildlife controversy.)

However, I’ve often thought about what would happen if we somehow got greater prairie chickens to thrive on the East Coast once again. A subspecies of the greater prairie chicken called the heath hen once ranged all the way down the coast from New England to Northern Virginia. It was a colonial staple, and it was hunted out of existence.

The last population of these birds lived on Martha’s Vineyard, and the last one died in 1932. Attempts have been made to introduce greater prairie chickens to the island in an attempt to restore something like the heath hen to the island, but these attempts have fails.  If such an attempt were successful, it would be very much like the replacement of the Tristan moorhen with the Gough subspecies.  A debate could be had as to whether it was was reintroduction or not, but at least it would be something.

So the story of the moorhens on these South Atlantic islands tells the story of a controversy. It is one that rages in the conservation community all the time. Can you restore an extinct subspecies by introducing another related subspecies?

That answer is never going to be fully black and white. Ecological as well as taxonomic considerations have to be examined. Otherwise, someone could easily make the argument that wolf reintroduction and conservation are silly ideas, because, well, domestic dogs are everywhere. Dogs are a subspecies of wolf, so they just replaced them.

So this controversy will rage hard as we try to deal with this nasty extinction mess. We don’t always have all the answers. We don’t always have the best solutions. But we need to think it through carefully. It’s all gray or grayish.

Natural History

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