Breakfast with rodents

| Apr 4, 2007

Breakfast with rodents

Iwas home alone the other evening when I heard a scuttling sound coming from the kitchen. Two mice had climbed up a strut in the woodwork of the sink counter and jumped down into the compost bucket below, which just had a few centimeters ...

| Mar 7, 2007

Coo-ee! Or how to snipe posh pigeons

Iwas just turned 20, and earlier in the year I had quit teachers’ training college in the genteel Cotswolds town of Cheltenham in rural western England. I was earning money by working part-time at a slaughterhouse as a skinner, helping out as a bouncer ...

A short essay on seeming rugged

| Feb 7, 2007

A short essay on seeming rugged

My eldest daughter Miwako visited me from Canada recently, bringing with her a large cardboard box full of old letters, field notebooks and field logs that had been stored away somewhere. The oldest of the notes was the log of my first expedition into ...

Pied piping for the parsnip

| Jan 3, 2007

Pied piping for the parsnip

Thanks to the great Roman naturalist and writer Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79), we know that parsnips were brought to Rome each year from imperial provinces across the Rhine, and that they were destined for the Emperor’s table. The scientific name for the parsnip ...

Guns, geese and bears by the pair

| Dec 6, 2006

Guns, geese and bears by the pair

We leaned back in our seats and gazed at the ruins of the goose. Our hut on Devon Island was festooned with decorations we’d made from toilet paper, and the five of us — the Arctic Institute of North America’s wintering party in Canada’s ...

Bear-faced cheek and jumbo bugs

| Nov 1, 2006

Bear-faced cheek and jumbo bugs

One of the best perks I get from the wild woods is honey. Mr. Matsuki, our forester up here at the Afan Woodland Trust in Nagano Prefecture, is a beekeeper who prefers to encourage wild Japanese bees — whose honey has a very delicate ...

Tackling the cedar-pollen blight

| Oct 4, 2006

Tackling the cedar-pollen blight

According to figures given to me by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, about 16 percent of people living in Japan suffer an allergic reaction to pollen from Japanese cedars (Cryptomeria japonica). In the Greater Tokyo area this increases from one-in-six to an astonishing one-in-four people. ...

Tree of the Baskervilles

| Sep 6, 2006

Tree of the Baskervilles

I was in Britain from July 6 to July 13 this summer, and on the Saturday of July 8, my companions and I stayed at Baskerville Hall just outside Hay-on-Wye, a beautiful and very historic little town in the Welsh county of Powys on ...