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Great for tight spaces or poor soil

A couple of years ago, I initiated a demonstration on growing vegetables in bales of straw using organic fertilizer and chemical. My test consisted of preparing the bales in two ways. On one, I applied three pounds of 4-3-4 Holy Tone Organic. On another, 2.5 cups of 10-10-10 fertilizer. I kept both bales wet until their internal temperatures were equal to those of ambient air.
    Temperatures in the bales treated with 4-3-4 organic fertilizer reached 120 degrees within days. Temperatures in the bales treated with 10-10-10 fertilizer required at least a week before reaching 110 degrees. All of the bales appeared to show signs of decay, with and inky cap and shaggy mushrooms growing on all.
    After the temperatures within the bales dropped to ambient air temperatures, I seeded the bales with kale, as I conducted my test in autumn. All of the bales produced an abundance of kale; there did not appear to be any differences with regards to yield. However, the kale growing in the bales of straw were not as vigorous as those growing in the nearby garden.
    Soon after minimum temperatures dropped to below 28 degrees. All of the plants growing in straw died. Those growing in the garden continued to produce eddible leaves of kale, which we continued to harvest most of the winter. Come spring of 2015, the kale in the garden resumed growth while the kale grown in the bales of straw was dead.
    Last June, I amended the straw bales treated with Holytone organic 4-3-4 with another pound and a half. I amended each straw bale, initially treated with 10-10-10, with another 1.75 cups. After watering the fertilizers thoroughly, I transplanted one Roma tomato and one Accent Sweet pepper into each bale. The plants were irrigated daily until they appeared to be well established as evident by the rapid growth. From that point on the plants were irrigated twice weekly in the absence of rain.
    The tomato plants quickly outgrew the pepper plants, resulting in only one pepper plant surviving. It did not produce any peppers. The Roma tomato plants produced an abundance of tomatoes in all straw bales regardless of the fertilizer treatment. The editor of Bay Weekly will verify the results because she was invited to harvest the tomatoes for canning.
    By September, all of the bales had shrunk to only a few inches thick with many of the roots of the tomato plants penetrating the landscape fabric placed beneath them at the beginning of the demonstration. The remaining residues of straw went to the compost pile.
    Yes, you can grow tomatoes and peppers as well as kale in bales of straw — providing you plant only one species per bale and not try to grow a variety of plants in such a confined space. The most vigorous species will dominate and crowd out the less vigorous species. Each bale will give you two crops.


Grass and Clover

Q    I have a raised vegetable garden I made last year. Over the winter some grass and clover blew in and is growing pretty good. Would it be better to spade or plow the weeds in the soil, or should I pull them out completely before I plant this summer’s crop?

–Dean Castle, via email

A    Pull out the clover and spade under the grass.

Send your gardening questions to The Bay Gardener at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Heeding spring’s reminder that water is a force in our lives

Once spring starts coming, you can’t nag it back underground. Wind and chill, I complain, stole the weekend. And when the weather was fair, flu kept me inside.
    What’s a little chill? We feel fine, the cherubic pink blossoms of magnolias proclaimed. Forsythia didn’t need sunshine to shoot yellow through its switches. Willow goes green as happily in the 40s as in the 60s. Maple is littering my lawn with a new bumper crop of spent blossoms before its last year’s leaves are raked. Sprouts wiggle through as if wet leaves didn’t weigh all the tons I’ll soon feel in my muscles.
    What I need, spring, is a little more time.
    And I need a little more knowledge, I realize as I read staff writer Kathy Knotts’ story Holy Waters: Churches on a mission to save the Bay.
    She’s writing about Watershed Stewards, many of whom take their vows to help their congregations — 16 churches so far and one temple — manage their waters for the earth’s sake. Of the 160 graduates of the Anne Arundel Watershed Stewards Academy, 15 percent are church or temple sent. Why they come to this mission in such numbers, you’ll read in Kathy’s story.
    Religious or not, each of the 160, I realize, brings something of the knowledge of a hydraulic engineer to his or her place on this earth. Each of them understands the force of the water not only where it falls, but throughout its flow all the way it takes to navigate back to downstream to the big water it’s seeking. That would be the Chesapeake, and where I live it’s not very far away — and all downstream. So the water flows fast, off our roofs, through our gutters, down our streets and hills.
    I have dug a channel to catch and direct the flow from the buried drainpipes that lead from my gutters. Neighbors have rain gardens and rain barrels. As a community, we have put in swales and drainpipes. But we need more, and part of what we need is more sophisticated engineering.
    “Every church has a creek,” says Calhoun,” and every creek deserves a church.”
    I suspect those words are true of every home and every neighborhood as well. We’ve all got creeks, and we’ve all got stormwater exerting all its power to get to them.
    Fortunately, more and more of us, individuals and organizations, are gaining know-how in managing stormwater.
    The first step is looking at water in a new way.
    I like how Brian Van Wye, chief of program implementation for D.C.’s Stormwater Management Division, puts it: “For decades and decades, people designed in the city to get stormwater off of a site as fast as possible. What we’re trying to do is turn that on its head and slow it down and, as much as possible, turn stormwater into a resource on that site.”
    I read his words in a CityLab article distributed by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s listserve, explaining how private investors are taking on public stormwater retention problems in return for marketable retention credits: http://bit.ly/CityLnk.
    For me, that’s a new way of looking at water as wealth.
    Bigger thinkers than me are already there, and that’s a good thing because managing water takes moving elemental forces around, and that’s costly work. As you’ll read in Kathy’s story, the big project underway at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Eastport will cost over one million dollars.
    St. Luke’s is one of hundreds of projects big and small in Anne Arundel County, installed or undertaken by Riverkeepers, conservancies, schools, churches, businesses, neighborhoods, homeowners and Watershed Stewards and the county itself, often working in concert. Here at Bay Weekly we’re beneficiaries of some of that work, organized by the Spa Creek Conservancy. The stormwater fee we pay in Anne Arundel is one source of that money that gets the work done.
    But behind it all is the energy unleashed in each of us when, heeding the call of spring, we see the forces of water at work in our gardens and all the places we call home.
    I think my channel needs a series of step pools. I think I need to enroll in the Watershed Stewards Academy: http://aawsa.org.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Life, love and inspiration from a humble hiding place

The miracle of Anne’s work is that no matter our background, it feels like she is talking directly to us. Indeed. Those are the words of Steve Tobin, the director of Compass Rose’s beautifully constructed production of The Diary of Anne Frank. In the playbill’s director’s note, he goes on to say, “The triumph of her story is that more than 70 years later we are still telling it, and still being inspired to be better members of the human race.” The wit and wisdom generated by a young teenager stuck for two years in the crowded upper rooms of her father’s workplace in Amsterdam as the Nazis surrounded city blocks to ferret out Jews still resonate today because Anne’s energy love for life and intelligence are timeless. But it was, of course, the extraordinary circumstances that make her diary, and its recovery, close to a miracle. At Compass Rose, Tobin and his cast and crew completely commit themselves to the universal truths of this story, and the result is an emotional, suspenseful and sometimes funny tale of life, love and inspiration. Mia Goodman is young, but her acting credentials are impressive even for an adult: Ford’s Theatre, Arena Stage and Signature Theater, to name a few. Goodman pours every ounce of that impressive pedigree into her portrayal of Anne. She’s a typical young teen, but with a depth of understanding of her situation that manifests itself not so much in fear as in optimism. When Hanukkah threatens to slip by uncelebrated but with a prayer, Anne comes to the rescue with a special homemade gift for each of her compatriots. In this scene and others, Goodman gives us an Anne whose buoyancy and love cannot be contained by her circumstances. When she writes in her diary she talks directly to the audience, and Goodman’s depth as an actress, combined with her youth, make us believe she is indeed talking directly to each of us. Goodman’s performance is, in a word, captivating. Her supporting cast achieves the same standard. As Mr. Frank, Steve Lebens is wise, understanding and brave in a very impressive performance. Alicia Sweeney gives us a Mrs. Frank who displays an inherent love and generosity that cracks when one of the other adults is caught stealing food. Jenny Donovan does a fine job as Anne’s sister Margot. As Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, the guests whom the Franks generously offered hiding, Bryant Centofanti and Jill Kyle-Keith are suitably contentious. Their son Peter is very nicely played by Eli Pendry, who subtly allows Peter’s teenaged nervousness and awkwardness to wane as his friendship with Anne grows. Edd Miller is impressive as Mr. Dussel, the latecomer whose demanding crankiness melts into an acceptance of his situation and a love for the family who have taken him in. And Rachael Murray is effective as Miep, everyone’s connection to the outside world. Helping transport us into a cramped 1940s hiding place are the multi-level set by Tobin, appropriate costumes by Beth Terranova, props by Joann and Mike Gidos and lighting by Alex Brady that is so emotionally effective it almost acts as another character. Anne Frank’s words on the page are inspiring. In the hands of these outstanding performers, they, and we, are transformed. We understand how, despite her circumstances, she could write: “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”


About two hours with one intermission.

Thru April 17. Th 7pm; F 8pm; Sa 8pm (and 2pm April 9 & 16); Su 2pm, Compass Rose Theater, Annapolis, $38 w/ discounts: www.compassrosetheater.org; 410-980-6662.

Follow their journey on new ­migratory map

Osprey, swans, Canada geese, ducks — plus all sorts of songbirds: We know they’re distant travelers even now on the move. Now we can follow the paths of their journeys.
    For the first time, scientists have documented the migratory year 118 species birds follow throughout the Western Hemisphere.
    The animated image shows us how and when these species make their flights north and south. The map can be switched to show which species are on the move, as well as the time of year they begin their annual trip.
    The Cornell Lab of Ornithology map is based on millions of birding observations recorded on the citizen science website eBird, a database inviting everyday people to record their bird observations. Researchers concluded that a combination of geographic features and atmospheric conditions influence the routes birds follow during spring and fall migration.
    A key finding: Birds that head out over the Atlantic Ocean during fall migration, heading to the Caribbean and South America, follow a clockwise loop. On their return trip, they take a path farther inland. These looped paths suggest the birds are taking advantage of atmospheric conditions, using headwinds and trade winds to their benefit.
    The spring migration route is more roundabout, but the birds travel faster thanks to the strong tailwinds as they head north.
    Knowing more about migration can aid conservation efforts on the ground, such as knowing where to place wind turbines or when to light tall buildings to prevent bird deaths at night. Accurate migration models also help researchers understand migration timing and pathways, how they respond to climate change and whether there are links between variation in migration timing and changes in population size.
    See it yourself: http://bit.ly/BayWeekly_Migration. Then send us your photos of birds on the wing.

John Goodman proves a horror movie lives on the power of its monster

“I’m going to keep you alive.”    
    These words chill Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Mercy Street) when she wakes up chained to the wall of an underground bunker. Her savior is Howard (John Goodman: Love the Coopers), an ex-Navy man who tells his captive that he saved her as a disaster ended most life on Earth.
    Michelle is skeptical, as one might be on awakening in underwear, injured and chained. But Howard swears his intentions are altruistic while the air outside is toxic. Eventually, he releases her from the chains.
    She meets Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.: The Newsroom), who fought to get inside this bunker. He offers Michelle vague reassurances of a light in the sky and bad things happening. She begins to believe.
    The problem is, the bunker isn’t safe either. Though it’s well stocked and comfortable enough, Howard is a malevolent benefactor. He watches Michelle constantly, creeps up behind her and flies into a violent rage when she doesn’t behave the way he wants.
    Should she brave the world? Or find a way to live with Howard?
    A claustrophobic thriller about three people hoping to survive each other’s company, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a sequel in name only to the frenetic monster movie Cloverfield. This restrained, tense thriller focuses most of its horror inward, creating dark and disturbing feelings without special effects.
    Goodman excels. His Howard ranks with the most deeply unsettling characters ever created on the silver screen. Goodman obliterates his loveable-dad stereotype with Howard, a monster who is so frightening because he’s so believable. Everything about him is eerie, from his mood swings to his calm, nonsensical monologues. Goodman never pushes the character too far, and as a result Howard becomes more menacing. His every move is insidious, whether he’s pounding a fist into the wall or dancing to music on an ancient jukebox.
    As Michelle, Winstead lets her expressive face to do most of the work. She makes it clear that Howard makes her skin crawl. But Michelle is not a victim; she is a survivor, and Winstead gives a determined set to her jaw that tells us she will fight to make it.
    Making his impressive debut, director Dan Trachtenberg wisely allows the actors to do most of the heavy lifting, keeping camera work minimal. He shoots most scenes in uncomfortable close-ups, emphasizing the forced proximity of the bunker. Though it’s a great debut, the film flags at the end, which feels tacked on from a different script. Still, it’s a small flaw.
    A tight thriller with brilliant performances, this movie will give you goose bumps for years to come.

Great Horror • PG-13 • 103 mins.

Branch out this weekend to many Marylands

For each of us, Maryland is a different place: perhaps a state of mind, perhaps a state of being, perhaps a blood line running through your veins.
    Like many Marylanders and distant cousins spread throughout the land, your link may take you all the way back to 1634, when Lord Baltimore’s sea-tossed ships The Ark and The Dove bumped into now-St. Clement’s Island and decided the Potomac River was the place for them.
    Bay Weekly contributing writer Mick Blackistone is one of those so linked. So are my sons, through their paternal grandmother Mary Mattingly.
    Another link: You can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Maryland Day at the same time and for much the same reason: possession of land. Englishman Cecil Calvert, the mind behind our colony, was made baron of the territory of Baltimore, in north central Ireland, in the 1620s, when such grants were in the English king’s power. His colonial ambitions were further tried in Newfoundland, which proved too cold, and finally in Maryland.
    In Ireland, Baltimore is a rocky village on the coast of County Cork.
    So you can toast Maryland Day with a glass of Irish whiskey. Or beer. But better not make it wine, lest you suffer the fate of a thirsty group of Baltimore colonists. Father Andrew White, who chronicled the voyage, reports the sad consequence of celebrating Christmas 1633 at sea with wine: in order that that day might be better kept, wine was given out; and those who drank of it too freely, were seized the next day with a fever; and of these, not long afterwards, about twelve died ...
    Modern Marylanders preserve the legacy they’ve inherited in many ways.
    For the Ann Arundel Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, including Bay weekly correspondent Diana Dinsick, the touchstone of Maryland history is the Rising Sun Inn, a pre-Revolutionary farmhouse and later tavern tracing its lineage to Virginia Puritans, an outlying branch of the believers who caused so much trouble in England for Charles I, whose history is entwined with Maryland’s.
    For Annapolis, the touchstone is preserving the homes and stories of Revolutionary era personages great and small.
    For Captain Avery Museum’s dedicated volunteers, the touchstone is inviting new generations to share the opportunities of a waterfront home — first of a sea captain, then a Jewish community summer home.
    For the Galesville Historical Society, it’s preserving the traditions of two communities in one, black and white. For the Deale Historical Society, it’s sharing memories of generations leading to ours.
    There are many Marylands beyond these, probably many for each of us, and often divergent.
    New Jersey transplant Joanna Evens can’t get over our roads, she writes of her new home in Southern Maryland:
    “My suspicion is that many numbers of people here are hunters. I can tell by the number of pick­up trucks that crawl up my car trunk as I meander along Rt. 4. Meandering is something I brought with me from New Jersey. Why rush to the next stoplight? The pickups don’t like meandering. …
    “I realize the contorting roads are part of the terrain and not unlike those used when slow-moving wagons transported tobacco. I don’t like driving them — yet — but I like seeing the old barns that suddenly surprise me as I take a sharp turn. The barns are colorful, some colorless, but grace the empty fields much like a stately lighthouse on an empty beach. They seem to be guarding something, perhaps the past.”
    Maryland Day weekend, this weekend, is a good time to visit other Marylands beyond our own, extend our acquaintance with generations past and ponder what we’re handing down to the future.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

Hardy ornamental plants will survive, so shape them as you want them

Be ruthless. It’s time to chop ornamental grasses and butterfly bushes. Cut them down to the ground.
    Also remove the old flower stems and old foliage of sedum to make room for new growth.
    In addition, it’s time for serious pruning of lilacs that are over-grown or infested with stems borers. Trim azaleas, rhododendrons, cherry laurels and hollies that make it impossible to look out of the bedroom or living room windows. Some of the branches that you cut can be brought in and forced to flower.
    Late winter and early spring are the best times for hard pruning. The roots of all ornamentals growing in your landscape are packed with sugars, carbohydrates and nutrients just waiting to move upward into the stems to produce new branches and leaves. Hardy ornamental plants survive and flourish no matter how drastically you prune them. So you don’t need to fear killing the plant if you remove too much.
    Cut those clumps of ornamental grasses as close to the ground as possible. To eliminate the need to carry away the old dry stems, cut them into pieces six inches or smaller and allow them to become mulch. While you are at it, cut those stems of butterfly bushes as close to the ground as possible. I use a chainsaw to prune my butterfly close to the ground, forcing new branches to emerge from the roots. If the forsythia and weigela shrubs are over-grown or not flowering well, cut those branches close to the ground as well. This is how you force the new branches to originate from the roots and not from branch stubs.
    Overgrown azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies, yews and cherry laurels should have their branches pruned to 12 to 18 inches lower than the desired height. You will avoid having to prune them again in a few years, and regrowth will have a more desirable appearance.
    You don’t have to be a certified professional horticulturist to know how to prune hardy ornamental plants. These plants are survivors and dormant vegetative buds up and down the branches are waiting to burst into active growth. That plant will recover and appear normal in a relatively short time. Trust me.


Plow Pan Is Your Problem

Q    We have been growing perennials, a few annuals and various vegetables and herbs on the same large garden plot for about 13 years. I’ve noticed that the plants aren’t as healthy as they once were, despite the fact that we’ve added soil and fertilizer over the years. What do you recommend to improve the soil for the garden overall and in particular where the perennials are located?
      –Amanda Gibson, Lothian

A    If you have been gardening in the same area for 13 years, and have been tilling or plowing each year, most likely you have developed a plow pan about six inches below the surface of the soil, and it is now affecting drainage and root penetration. The only solution is double digging or sub-soiling. To test my theory, sharpen a broom handle (or use a piece of half-inch pipe) and see how deep you can push it into the ground. Test several areas in your garden. If you can’t penetrate deeper than six inches you have plow pan and need to dig below. If you have a tractor, I have a sub-soiler you can borrow.

Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Paddlers approach fish and wildlife closely and unobtrusively

Lifting the slender red hull with one hand, I put the single-person kayak in the back of my pickup truck, securing it with a bungee cord and tucking in the double-bladed oar. Within an hour, I was floating over the placid waters of my favorite lake, casting my fly rod to any number of bluegills, pickerel, bass and perch.
    Later that week, I would launch the same craft along a major Chesapeake tributary to pursue white perch and schoolie rockfish with a light spin outfit.
    One of the best things about living in Maryland is our public recreational areas. I’m not talking about places such as Quiet Waters Park, Truxton or even Sandy Point State Park, though they are all great areas to enjoy the outdoors. The public space I’m talking about is the Bay itself and its almost countless tributaries, as well as Maryland’s many freshwater lakes and streams.
    Under federal law, people have access to all navigable waters subject to the ebb and flow of tide, and to all inland (non-tidal) waters capable of being boated. That means that if you’re floating in a watercraft almost anywhere in Maryland, you are in public space.
    That amounts to thousands of square miles of public recreational water including the 2,500 square miles of the Chesapeake, the 3,190 miles of shoreline (up to the high water mark), 40 rivers and innumerable lakes, streams and creeks.
    But you can’t enjoy this vast playground unless you have a boat, which may be easier than you think.
    The kayak boom has accelerated access to Maryland’s waters. This small craft was created by Inuit hunters of the far north some 4,000 years ago. It is a very stable craft due to its low center of gravity, light and easy to propel. In its modern incarnation, it is inexpensive and virtually maintenance-free.
    There are versions available for big water (sea kayaks), special designs for fishing, others for whitewater or saltwater surfing models. There are models designed for up to four people, though solo and two-person kayaks are the norm. All are seaworthy, so you can expect to be safe and secure on any day pleasant enough to make you want to be out on the water.
    Many versions weigh about 40 pounds and can be transported on the top of virtually any vehicle. I’ve even seen them towed on special trailers built to be pulled by a bicycle.
    The general touring or recreational versions will do for most applications. Coupled with a comfortable life jacket and a light two-bladed paddle, it is a marine package almost anyone can afford and enjoy.
    This very unobtrusive craft allows the paddler to approach closely to fish and wildlife, a particular advantage to an angler, wildlife photographer or nature lover.
    Canoes also afford wide access to our calmer waters. Canoes were developed some 10,000 years ago in Scandinavia and are generally considered the first form of watercraft. Of yore, they were crafted from a single log or by covering a light framework with tree bark.
    Commonly used by Native Americans and later by European immigrants, the canoe proved to be the primary source of transportation on the lakes, rivers and streams of North America until the late 1800s. Their light weight allowed them to be easily portaged between navigable waters, and they were built in sizes that could accommodate as many as eight passen­gers and their gear.
    Today’s canoes are constructed of molded synthetic materials that are both light and robust, requiring little maintenance. Many are as inexpensive as kayaks though not quite as stable because you sit higher in the hull. On the other hand, the canoe provides more room and storage. Many models can accommodate up to three or four people.
    No matter which of these light craft you choose, it will give you immediate access to one of the largest aquatic recreational areas in America, and all that access is free.

Asparagus is coming; winter weeds should be going

If you planted a cover crop of winter rye or wheat last fall, most likely the grass is six to 12 inches tall by now. Use your lawnmower to mow the grass as close to the ground as possible. Mowing saves you time in tilling the soil and helps to dry it, making it easier for the tiller.
    Ground left bare will by now be covered with a carpet of chickweed and henbit. Use horticultural vinegar to kill these winter weeds now before they drop their seeds. For maximum control, spray the vinegar on the foliage during a bright sunny day. Within 24 hours, you will see the weeds turn yellow-white with the leaf margins going brown. Friends report good results with a mixture of one gallon of distilled white vinegar with one-quarter cup of Palmolive dish detergent.
    If that bare ground is your asparagus bed, once the weeds have died down, rototill lightly, delaying if the soil is very wet. Before tilling, you can easily remove old stems because most have rotted at the base. Allow the tines of the tiller to penetrate the soil no more than three or four inches so as to not disturb the roots of the asparagus plants, which will soon be sending up shoots
    Readers have asked how to grow white asparagus, which are tenderer than green asparagus and have a milder flavor. White asparagus are grown in the dark. The old method was to hill the beds with soil or sawdust as the spears appeared above ground. The modern method is to build a lightweight frame of wood and cover it with black plastic or roofing paper. As soon as the spears appear, place the covered frames over the beds, lifting every two or three days for harvesting.
    If you have not had your soil tested in the past four years, now is the perfect time to submit a good representative soil sample for testing.
    I recommend sending the soil samples to A&L — now Waypoint Analytical — in Richmond (www.soilandplantlaboratory.com/services/soilsampling.aspx).
    If your soil is a sandy loam or loamy sand, have it tested for all trace elements especially for boron (B). However, if your soil is a loam, silt or clay loam, the general soil test will suffice.
    If you have been growing multiple crops each year, you most likely will need to apply limestone. If you want me to make the recommendations, don’t specify a crop (a savings of $3-$5) and include my email so I’ll get your results: dr.frgouin@gmail.com. Once I have them I’m happy to consult you.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

 

Disney gives kids a talk on racism that parents also need to hear

In the metropolis of Zootopia, predators and prey have evolved past biological impulses. Lions and lambs live together in harmony and work for the future of all mammal kind.
    Everyone lives in peace, but not all things are equal. Predators tend to jobs that require forceful personalities, such as police officers or poli­ticians. Prey cluster in service fields. So Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin: Once Upon a Time) is laughed at for dreaming of joining the Zootopia police force.
    A tiny bunny with a quick mind and bold spirit, Judy isn’t an obvious choice for a force full of powerful wolves, elephants and lions. But she doesn’t let her size or status stop her. Judy finds ways to outwit and outmaneuver other classmates until she’s tops at the Police Academy.
    But prejudice endures, and her police captain (voiced by Idris Elba: Beasts of No Nation) refuses to give her cases. To prove herself by cracking a case that’s stumped fellow officers, she teams up with Nick (voiced by Jason Bateman: The Gift), a con artist fox.
    Can a fox and a bunny work together? Or are they doomed by biology?
    In the era of Black Lives Matter protests, Zootopia is a timely story about the insidious nature of bigotry. The film explores the hurt wrought by harmless assumptions and teaches kids the dangers of judging on preconceptions.
    The most interesting part of the message is that everyone is guilty of stereotyping. Good people aren’t good because they’re without prejudice but because they can acknowledge poor behavior, apologize to those they’ve hurt and change. It’s a message that should help parents start a very tricky talk about discrimination.
    Zootopia also offers small viewers a great female role model. Judy is tiny and weak, and she fails a lot. But she doesn’t stop trying to achieve her dream. A fiercely independent bunny with a great work ethic, Judy remains kind and caring to all. It is wonderful for children to see that she can be both kind and tough without compromising who she is or what she believes.
    Bateman’s Nick is the sly foil to Goodwin’s perky bunny. Because he’s a fox, he’s assumed to be a liar and a thief. And that’s what he’s become, in a direct lesson on the consequences of stereotyping.
    Even little ones who are too small to understand Zootopia’s range of social commentary will enjoy the animal puns, silly humor and gorgeous animation. Zootopia doesn’t carry the same emotional impact as a Pixar film, but it more than makes up with meticulous animation, family-friendly humor and its timely, believable message. 
    If you’re looking for a way to open a conversation with your kids about racism and the harm it causes, Zootopia will help you get the ball rolling.

Great Animation • PG • 108 mins.