Let's see, what does this new month of May offer us besides that wonderful feeling of spring gradually returning? Well, there’s Mother’s Day, of course, on the 12th. Then, there's the first long weekend of the summer season, with Victoria Day falling on the 20th.
This month always starts with National Forest Week, so let’s test your trivia talent with a couple of questions about the woods (answers at the end of the column):
1. What is the most accurate way to determine the age of a tree?
2. Which solvent, used as a paint thinner, comes from trees?
3. The forests of which province have the longest history of logging?
Also on the May calendar:
• May 1, 1884 — In Chicago, construction started on the first building to be called a skyscraper. It was a dazzling 10 storeys high.
By 1931, skyscrapers were up to 102 stories with the completion of the Empire State Building in New York.
• The Kentucky Derby. Did you know that horses having names beginning with “S” have won the Derby 15 times more often than horses with names beginning with any other letter? Examples include: Sir Barton, the first Triple-Crown winner in 1919, Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in 1977, Spectacular Bid in 1979, Spend A Buck in 1985, Strike The Gold in 1991, and Sea Hero in 1993.
By the way, no horses having names starting with “Q,” “X” or “Y” have ever won the Derby, so far.
• May 6 — Another of those sometimes-spectacular annual meteor showers will occur for a few days on either side of this date. There are eight such showers annually.
This general topic seems “hotter” these days because of all the recent attention given to asteroids zipping by, as well as speculation about assorted big asteroids roaming in space and the possibility of one of these colliding with Earth and permanently ruining our day.
On the other hand, the eight annual meteor showers involve small heavenly fragments that quickly burn up in our atmosphere and sometimes put on quite a display.
That’s definitely preferable to a fatal visit from a giant asteroid!
• May 21, 1819 — A new-fangled invention called the bicycle was imported from England and put on display in New York City. People scoffed and said it would never catch on.
• May 21, 1927 — The first successful solo airplane flight across the Atlantic. Charles Lindberg took off in the Spirit of St. Louis with no lights, heat, radio, de-icing equipment or automatic controls. His 33 1/2- hour flight from New York to Paris received more press coverage than any other single event in history.
Five years to the day later, Amelia Earhart took off on the first such flight successfully made by a woman. And in 1957, 30 years to the day after Lindberg’s flight, USAF Major Robinson Risnor retraced the 33 1/2-hour flight in only 6 1/2 hours.
1. The most accurate way to determine the age of a tree is to check its driver’s licence. Failing that, count the annual rings in the cross-section of the tree trunk. Which is what you guessed in the first place, right? There will be one ring for every year. If it’s a wide annual ring, it means the tree experienced good precipitation, good temperatures for growth and very little insect damage.
Extra trivia at no extra charge: the study of tree rings is called dendrochronology. That’s good to know, isn’t it? Try using that word in a sentence every day. Good luck.
2. It’s turpentine, a byproduct of pulp production.
3. Most of us would probably guess that British Columbia was the first province into logging, but it was actually Nova Scotia.