By David Rogers. January 17, 2020. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Local yarn prices may be spiking this month with a surge in market demand coming from an unlikely source: teacher Susan Trew’s 5th grade class at Blowing Rock School.
COVER IMAGE: Emma Lehman (center bottom) has inspired a whole class of Blowing Rock 5th grade girls to give up recess for a worthy, imaginative cause. Photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Whether the birds of Australia’s hinterlands are partial to pink, yellow, red, or multi-colored hues of brown and blue, they are sure to be soon resting comfortably in “replacement nests” knitted by a dozen or so Blowing Rock girls. This is not four-fingered folly, but four-fingered knitting inspired — and taught — by 5th grader Emma Lehman.
Young Lehman has called her initiative “Nests for Australia,” aimed at helping out some of the millions of animals that have lost their habitat in the wake of the wildfires still raging in the South Pacific nation’s “bush country.”
What can only be described as yet another natural disaster that many blame on climate change has resulted in the charring of almost 30 million acres, according to news reports on the subject coming from New South Wales (“NSW”), Australia’s most populous state.
Millions of acres have burned since the fires began in September, destroying 2,000 homes and killing at least 26 people and approximately one billion animals.
A Fox News report posted earlier on Friday described Australia’s wildfires as resulting from “…a perfect storm of disturbing conditions,” some natural, some manmade. An earlier report from the BBC suggested that “…record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought have fueled a series of massive bushfires across Australia.” Meanwhile, many have jumped on the “climate change” bandwagon and criticized global policies on the burning of fossil fuels and governments not doing enough on saving the environment.
According to the Australian Bureau of Meterology, 2019 was the warmest and driest year on record for Australia.
I had an idea and I ran with it.
The U.S. agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reported on January 10th that it has deployed nine meteorolgical experts to the land down under through March 2020 because of the importance weather plays in how wildfires start, spread, and how accurate weather forecasts can help with the control or management of wildfires.
“Millions of acres have burned since the fires began in September,” the NOAA web post cautioned, “destroying 2,000 homes and killing at least 26 people and approximately one billion animals. Prolonged drought in Australia combined with extreme heat has created prime conditions for wildfires to spread this year. February is the traditional peak of wildfire season in Australia, and fire activity is expected to continue for several months.”
For the most part, all of the political furor is lost on Blowing Rock’s dozen or so fifth-grade girls knitting nests with their four fingers — no knitting needles needed. All they know is that they are helping some critters in another land survive the calamity, a natural disaster that has claimed territories that are larger than the total area of countries like South Korea and Portugal, and 1.3 times the size of Scotland.
Lehman explained to Blowing Rock News that her father recently saw Facebook postings about the Australia wildfires that have been burning since September. “After seeing those, I got an idea and I decided to run with it.”
A reporter plagued with “fumble fingers syndrome” asking an ingenue how to construct a finger-knitted nest was clearly a mistake, but Lehman patiently demonstrated — and then went about her business of helping her classmates learn the craft. She disclosed that the goal is for her knit-picking friends to weave four nests each — and maybe even more.
It turns out that finger-knitting is a well-known craft for kids. One of the reasons for its popularity is that it only requires some yarn and your hands. For Ms. Lehman’s project, she’s using what is referred to as “chunky” yarn to make her basic “chains” that are further knotted together (don’t ask us how) to form the nests.
“When you get them finished,” Lehman said, “they kind of look like a flower.”
Asked whether the birds would favor the pink nest with which she was demonstrating, Lehman smiled, “I don’t know. We’re just making them in all colors.”
Trew, the teacher, observed that the project had sparked the girls’ interest in a number of subjects, from science to geography, and that was certainly in evidence talking with them about why they joined the Lehman-led four-fingered knitting team.
Images captured by an astronaut show that approximately 70% of Australia’s land mass has been engulfed in smoky haze, if not directly affected by the fires.
“Because of Australia’s bushfires,” reported new knitting recruit and classmate Ann Hamilton sitting crosslegged in the corner has she manipulated lengths of yarn into chains, “a lot of animals have lost their homes. The birds have had their habitats destroyed, so we are hoping to make new homes for them.”
Lillian Anderson overheard Lehman talking about the project with their teacher, Trew.
Twin sister Claire Anderson emphasized that serving others in need wherever they are is a good thing.
“I like helping people,” the second Anderson sister said. “It is really neat to think about helping people in a faraway place, even in a different country.”
Satellite images have shown that more than 70% of Australia’s landmass has been engulfed in at least a smoky haze, if not more directly affected by the fires. Whole towns have been destroyed by the flames that have now consumed forest and brushland — and whatever was in their path — in all six of Australia’s states.
Soon, though, a few dozen lucky birds, including maybe an eagle or two, may nestle down into new and colorful nests, thanks to some imaginative kind souls in Susan Trew’s 5th-grade class at Blowing Rock School.