Big Day Though it sounds like an “I do” and chicken dance might be involved, a Big Day is actually a birding event where an individual or team of birders attempt to see as many birds as possible in one calendar day. A Big Year is similar in that a birder tries to list as many birds as possible within a defined area (county, province, state, country) within a calendar year. The American Birding Association coined the term Big Year, but it was made a little more famous by the likes of Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin in the 2011 film The Big Year.
corned beef Don’t be confused: There’s no corn involved at all, unless you choose it as a buttery side with some roasted brussels. Corned is the term used to describe the treatment of meat with large-grained rock salt, or “corns” of salt. During wartime, fresh meat was at a premium, so curing meats with salt was a sustainable measure.
cupule Simply put, it’s a small structure not-so-surprisingly shaped like a cup. In archaeology-speak, rock cupules are man-made hollows. In botany terms, they are the base of an acorn. Or, as Piglet would say in Winnie-the-Pooh, “haycorns.” If you Google Piglet’s haycorns, you’ll find dozens of fun recipes inspired by the Hundred Acre Wood.
dioecious For some species like the box elder, male and female flowers are located on separate trees. The term has Greek origins, meaning “two households.” “Bi-parental reproduction” is a mouthful, but condensed it means that male flowers produce flowers and no fruit while female flowers bear seeds or fruits. Ginko, juniper, plum, holly and ash are examples of dioecious species.
distaff The sticks or spindles upon which wool or flax is wound for spinning are called distaffs. The spindle keeps fibres untangled. Is anyone else thinking of candy floss right now? Back in the day, distaff also referred to woman’s work and the female side of a family.
eutrophication For a lake dweller, eutrophication is game over. It’s the poisoning of lake water by toxic algae that develops as a result of the excessive richness of nutrients and minerals (generally linked to runoff). Plant life thrives while animal life is choked out from a lack of oxygen. Harmful blooms of cyanobacteria (bluish green algae) have been recorded in Lake Erie’s western basin, while hypoxia from decomposing algae in the central basin has been documented.
false Solomon’s sea Mother Nature likes to play tricks, and this native woodland plant has a superficial resemblance to Solomon’s seal, the real deal. Also called feathery false lily of the valley. You can see the “fake news” in false Solomon’s flowers, located at the end of its stem. The genuine Solomon has flowers and berries along the underside of its stem.
faux bois French for “false wood,” faux bois refers to the artistic impression of wood or wood grain in creative media like rubber stamps or concrete textured to resemble timber. Plastic “combination combs” are specifically designed to create decorative paint effects.
frass Too many S tiles on your Scrabble rack? Frass will take care of that. It’s the fine powder left behind by insects boring into wood, and it’s also what insect larvae excrement is called. Yes, caterpillar poop has a technical name!
hardscaping Anyone who has toiled in the July sun, wielding post hole diggers and the like, might think that they are hardscaping. Instead, the term is used to describe man-made features and hard landscape materials like paths or retaining walls, which are integrated into a landscape.
inverted treeline As witnessed in Kamloops, British Columbia, the sagebrush hillsides have little tree growth until the 900-metre level, creating a truly inverted treeline. Typically, trees won’t grow above a certain level because of a lack of precipitation. In Kamloops, however, trees don’t grow below a certain line due to the precipitation.
maker’s mark Yes, it’s a gorgeous small-batch bourbon whiskey from Kentucky, but the original context was the shop mark, logo, initials or identifying hallmark of furniture makers. Cheers to that.
multiple vortex tornado It sounds like the stuff of Hollywood film sets, but it’s a thing. Several mini tornadoes travel inside a bigger one like an incredibly destructive collection of Russian nesting dolls.
nurse trees These trees are like our front-line workers. They are a larger, faster-growing tree that shelters a slower-growing species. In turn, the nurse provides 24/7 care: shade and wind shelter. Norway spruce and larch often serve as nurses to hardwoods. The nurse logs then provide an ideal launch pad for seedlings, as they provide nutrients, moss, leaf litter and insect distraction.
radiation fog There are actually three main types of fog (not including champagne-induced January 1st–style fog): radiation, advection and, simply, fog (predominant in cooler temps). Radiation fog develops when the warm earth begins to cool at night, producing cold air near the surface and warmer air above it. Advection fog is the polar opposite, occurring when warm, moist air moves into an area of colder air.
scion These young twigs or shoots are often the ones cut for grafting or rooting. Ironically, a scion is also the descendant of a notable family.
SCOBY Back when Family Ties was a daily tune-in, I learned that scuba was an acronym for “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus,” thanks to Mallory studying for her SATs. SCOBY (or SCOBAY) is short for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” This magic alchemy is what kombucha relies on.
velouté sauce Not to be confused with Velveeta, velouté sauce is a velvety, savoury sauce made with a light stock and a roux. French cuisine defines it as one of the five essential “mother sauces.” Think espagnole, tomato, béchamel and hollandaise. Now think, “What’s for dinner?”
whitefish A rather boring descriptor given to freshwater fish of the salmon family. Its family tree includes Atlantic cod, whiting, haddock, hake and pollock. And the Georgian Bay whitefish, of course, which is best served battered, peppered and doused with malt vinegar.
Jules Torti’s resume reads more like a well-folded treasure map. She has been a canoe outtripper, outdoor educator, colouring book illustrator and freelancer. Jules has volunteered (and eaten all sorts of questionable things) in the soupy jungles of Costa Rica, Uganda and the Congo. Her work has been published in The Harrowsmith Almanac, The Vancouver Sun, The Globe & Mail, travelife, Canadian Running and Coast Mountain Culture. She actively feeds her blog, Alphabet Soup, with posts on books, birds, burgers and beer (in no particular order) across the latitudes from Zanzibar to Iceland. Closer to home, she was grandfathered into the Galt Horticultural Society, was the caretaker of a 155-year-old stone heritage cottage and has chronic fantasies about church conversions, beekeeping and owning llamas. She has been known to slam on the brakes for photo ops of saltbox houses, saddle roof barns, snowy owls and sunflower fields. As editor-in-chief of Harrowsmith she is thrilled to be able to curate, write and read about the very best things in life.