Monthly Archives: July 2019

6 posts

Hydrologic Cycle Intro Continued . . . a.k.a. Hiatus

A rainbow, according to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, “is an arc or circle that exhibits in concentric bands the colors of the spectrum and that is formed opposite the sun by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays in raindrops, spray, or mist.

This is a (panoramic shot from my iPhone ergo slightly distorted) rainbow:

It showed itself this past week and held me in the moment for more than a few moments.

It is also a perfect representative of the hydrologic cycle, which is the cycling of water throughout our world.

Cool fact: there is as much water in the world today as there was billions of years ago. The difference is the type: fresh, saline, ice, vapor . . .. Water is continually transforming itself, and sometimes it refracts and reflects the sun’s rays.

What’s water got to do with energy and things climate? We hear all the time about the need to draw down carbon. But less about the fact that we have a lot of water in the air, and not in the earth. We need to start drawing down water, too. How?

More to be learned and to share in the next weeks, which are busy. It must be summer. Or maybe just my usual distraction on steroids? In any case, I hope you will take this moment, as I have and did, to breathe and admire Mother Nature’s passion and beauty. Preferably outside, not staring at a computer screen!

 

This is what the sun was doing to the west when the rainbow shone to the east.

 

 

Introduction to the Hydrologic Cycle

I’ve always joked about my tendency to bury plants and my subsequent inertia in regard to watering them. But I got a lesson yesterday. I’d just finished pursuing the most recent Mother Earth News magazine and had read an article by Joel Salatin in which he writes that we are responsible for what we know. “As long as you think someone else is responsible for your training, your development, or your success, you’ll be stuck where you are. The day you realize you are responsible is the first day of liberated learning and progress.”⁠1  That struck home. I stood up and went over to my office window to look out at our evolving annual garden area. I surveyed its challenges. I thought about Tier One and the garden I imagine it becoming some day. After months and, yes, years, I had to admit that no one (other than Carl) would do it, if I didn’t. 

This lesson has been a long time coming. Since 2012, when we moved up here, I’ve been hedging my bets, thinking I could carry on my city life while living in the country. I want to write. To play the flute. Dabble in things politics. But the only way for my fantasy Eden to burgeon forth will be if I focus my attention on gardening. I sighed and looked down at my still swollen, broken pinky toe, and told it, “get ready. We’re in for a bumpy ride.”

Focus is a challenge for me. My distraction-ability seems to get worse (or better?) every day. There’s the constant and underlying simmering stress of the changing weather, the animals in harm’s way, people in concentration camps within our own borders; we seem to be repeating the lessons of World War II. On top of that, are the myriad To Dos in my life. With so much to do, how focus? 

Mother Nature does it, why can’t I? She juggles the hydrologic cycle, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, and the oxygen cycle all at once and with us assaulting her, and still she proceeds. Getting hotter and hotter to be rid of the pestilence that is killing her. 

But I digress. You see how I am? I was thinking about yesterday’s lesson from Joel Salatin. If I’m going to create a garden, I better have at it. Out I limped. Weeks behind schedule, (and because the ones I buried weeks ago didn’t sprout) I took the herbs that Carl and I bought two days ago and planted them in the ground. While Carl set up a water catchment system to create a hydrologic cycle Ma Nature would be proud of, I weeded the raised beds that have been entirely ignored since I planted my home-birthed seedling beets and leeks and onions and kale and lettuces back in late May. The only plants that are alive: a few of the onions (or are they leeks?) and the lettuces we bought, full grown, from Rosalys three weeks ago. And then? I watered the garden with the rain water that was captured by one of our two 2500 gallon water tanks.

That is satisfactory: to water a garden with rain water caught by a cistern. Talk about no waste!

The water sprayed from the hose, creating rainbows and puddles and very happy plants and the dawning of this thought: I might plant seeds into soil and be awed by the resulting sprouts. And those sprouts might diligently grow to be an inch or two tall. I might plant those seedlings in the ground with as much positive energy and love as I am capable of giving a plant . . . but if I don’t water them, they won’t grow.

I had assumed we were getting enough rain through the moods and tantrums of the natural hydrologic cycle. I was wrong. The soil that’s not mulched is dry as sand. 

When in overwhelm, it’s easy to ossify. Like neck muscles when they are so tensed up that when you roll your neck, it sounds like popcorn crackling. Action requires action. If we sit and imagine what might come, that will only get us so far. l no longer sit and worry. That’s putting energy exactly in the direction I don’t want it to go. Time to accentuate the positive, express outrage and change. ACT. Attitude Change Time. 

The day you realize you are responsible is the first day of liberated learning and progress.”⁠2

I intend to tend to my garden. To read and learn more about and implement as best I can (with Carl) regenerative farming. To focus on what I can do today to support Mother Nature in her efforts to regain balance and rebuild the web we call life. And that includes writing a post on Friday that transitions this blog from things past to things future. 

Please note the photo of Carl’s and my experimentation in the wiring possibilities of potato roots.

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1 “Practice Makers Progress” by Joel Salatin. Mother Earth News August/September 2019, page 69

2 “Practice Makers Progress” by Joel Salatin. Mother Earth News August/September 2019, page 69

Crossroads

I am in the midst of writing a play. I’ve never done that before; kind of like brain surgery. And so focussing on researching about energy has lost its attraction. The play? Triage: An American Experiment in Existential Arbitration. The question: Who will save the Haze Justice Healing Center? I find the question fascinating. And it’s easier to make up sh*t than research facts. Except both make me terrible sad. And angry. And hopeful.

Meantime, Carl took the bit in his hands and typed out an invitation to all the with Electric Vehicle owners we could think of. With 24 hours of notice, we got a Leaf, a Bolt and three Teslas.

Five EVs. A lot of fossil-ed cars.

Carl is thinking next week, of meeting on Wednesday, the same night as the old fashioned, gas guzzlers meet up. 5PM-6PM. Maybe we can do some drag racing. . ..

Have you ever seen this photo?

There’s another one that shows the same place thirteen years later. In that photo, there’s only one horse. The rest are cars.

That’s how fast transformation can happen.

I just signed on to the extinction rebellion.

https://extinctionrebellion.us

No, not to volunteer, nor to start a local chapter. I don’t know enough about it–but I am curious. The clock is ticking, and how dare I expect of others what I don’t do myself?

https://actionnetwork.org/forms/join-the-rebellion-xr-us?source=direct_link&

 

A Day Late

I forgot to post yesterday. I even had an alarm set on my phone to remind me. It buzzed. I turned it off but didn’t connect the alarm to the fact that I was supposed to not be working on my play but on a post for my blog. It was an example of not being present to the moment, which I am trying to be. The moment is so precious. Yesterday, the moment was distracted. Because we had friends up from Providence, two of whom we haven’t seen since they were knee high to a grasshopper. Alton and Ford arrived, with their mother, Pam, in tow. First stop, of course, was the chicken coop.

Prior to their entering that area, we informed Alton and Ford that it was Schtude territory and to be very careful. In we all went, I carrying a broom to keep the blond dude away from the youths. I noted that they were all about the same size if you include Schtude’s feathers. But looks deceive. He might appear to be all feathery and absurd but don’t be fooled. He is dangerous. Especially when compared to the nice cock-a-doodle-dos at Friendly Farm. There’s not an aggressive roo alive on that farm. (Note to self: alive.) 

I know. I’ve been saying this about Schtude for awhile and no action. But it gets old, having to barricade myself in with hens so that Schtude can’t get to me. I hold my broomstick in one hand and go about the feeding and watering. I am careful not to turn my back to him—and he circles, judging, watching, waiting for the time he knows will come and it does. I briefly turn away to dip into the mealy worms and smack! His talons strike my leg. 

What he really wants is my head. 

The feeling, at times, is mutual. Just not always.

Sometimes, I miss the good old days of our original six chickens. Big Red, whom I have since learned was as much of a jerk to Carl as Schtude is to me, yet was sweet to me. And Panda, our motherly broody hen. Lola (wee) and Chipper (wise) I hardly knew, they died so young. And, of course, CooLots, our worrier, and Ping, our adventurer. Looking back, it was idyllic. An innocent time in a euphoric recall way as we transitioned from the Hay Chalet to the Chicken Palace, and onward to Chicken Paradise. Thirty-nine chickens have peopled Darwin’s View. We currently steward sixteen. 

That’s how I know that these days we are living now are the future’s good, old days. It’s called a lowering baseline. We adapt to the changes without even noticing.

This morning, I swam a lap in our lap pond, greeting our two resident frogs–Burp One and Burp Two–and the many tadpoles unnamed and winging about. Then out to see the girls who clucked about, oh so excited to greet the morning. Except Toey who is broody and irritable as she huffs and mumbles and protests the closed nesting boxes. Schtude circled me. He struck. I locked him into the coop with Toey, and—to their chagrin—Side Saddle Sadie, Collette and Wilma. 

I was free to finish the chores. It’s all so relaxed without Schtude. I get to hang out, chat, bond with Little Red, named in memory of Big Red, and Flopsie and Rosie, Copper, Adele, Daisy, Splotches and Squeaky. Suzie B., Billie . . . and I’m missing one. Who?

This is what happens. Counting the chickens and I reach fifteen and we have sixteen. To figure out who is gone, I go through the generations that are left: There were the six we adopted two years ago; the six we adopted last year and the five we saved this year. Mo (rehomed), Cady (weasel), and of course! The eldest and quietest one: Apricot. The last connection to the past generations of chickens, the fourth generation Cream Legbar. She’s sweet and utterly feral, thus happy to be forgotten and left alone.

Yes. Extreme temperatures, hot and cold, happen. Floods and fires, lightning. What will strike next, these good old days?

Let’s stick to the moment. This perfect day.

Breathe in the health, peace and goodness of this moment.

Breathe out the hopes and dreams for a safe, resilient and sustainable future for those two young men who came to visit yesterday.

Energy 109: The Renewable See-Saw and How To Go Forward

Energy 109: The Renewable See-Saw and How To Go Forward

Sun. Wind. Water. It’s all so old-fashioned and natural. But, as ever, in our 21st century, Anthropocene age, things don’t happen unless they are economic and convenient. The good news is that renewables are now entirely economic. In fact, this past April, renewables surpassed coal in supplying America’s electricity. How so? First, more wind and solar farms went on line. Second, some coal plants were idled for routine inspections. We needed more power and there they were, those renewables. What used to be fantasy has become a reality. And as the renewable sector grows, there will be more real jobs that put real money into our communities that gain robustness from that interaction. Because renewables happen close to home. Local power, local food, local connections.

But don’t get overly excited. First off, however retro and groovy renewables might be, have you already forgotten our creaky, aging infrastructure known as the grid? Renewables dumping all that power into it wrecks havoc because the grid isn’t adaptable (a.k.a. flexible) enough to take in and store all that fancy power. And then there’s the health and environmental costs of mining quartz (the foundation of the silica that is used in solar panels) and the energy used to make the solar panels, and the fuel of shipping those panels hither and yon. (As with everything, it’s complicated.⁠1 And⁠2 then consider the birds that go clunk into the wind mills. And the hydro-dams’ ruination of fish migration. And some of those biomass companies that promote wood pellets as “sustainable” aren’t using slash/waste wood but are cutting down lots and lots of old trees that had stored carbon but now, as they are processed and burned, create more carbon.  

Then compare any of that to the effects and costs of one mountain taken out for coal or tar sands, one oil spill, one nuclear meltdown.

It’s remarkable: this week, I read no less than four articles about things renewable/energy in The New York Times. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/03/travel/traveling-climate-change.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/26/climate/natural-gas-renewables-fight.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/30/business/energy-environment/oil-companies-profit.html?rref=collection%2Fbyline%2Fclifford-krauss&action=click&contentCollection=undefined&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection

And finally this one which was an old newspaper from June:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/07/opinion/climate-change-hope-solutions.html

All this to say, one, climate change is being talked about. Two, it’s still about profit, not survival. Three, oil companies aren’t profiting from the old ways but that doesn’t stop them from continuing their prioritizing of where they’ve put their (actually, our) money in the past, that old, fossil fuel dependent infrastructure. Four, maybe we can survive because we have the knowledge. But.

In 2009, G20 members signed on to phase out fossil fuels but every year they still spend $452 billion dollars to subsidize those companies,⁠3 and the USA is the top offender. No wonder Greta Thunberg is so sad and angry. Billions go to aid fossil fuel companies without consideration of the enormous cost to our earth. As E.M. Schumacher wrote in his book Small is Beautiful, we use nature as income, not capital. We are using her up. And then what? Now what?

Transitions. From winter to spring, directly to summer. Polywogs to toads and then the newts. Buds into flowers. Eggs into chicks. Bambis and thumpers bound about, pitching forward into life. These transformations happen. If you don’t pay attention, you miss the most heartbreaking beauty of life.

And death. That’s there, too. Sickness, and the pain of disease and dis-ease. Rising waters or drought. Extreme heat. The human population growing out of control and anti-abortion protests against a woman’s right to control her body.

Here we are. Scientists recently affirmed that we are in the above mentioned Anthropocene age. Human created. Depending on your perspective it is terribly ugly or spectacularly fabulous. No matter your perspective, it might soon be over. I’m not quite sure what to do with that information.

The below article by Dahr Jamail suggests a way forward. Fair warning: if you read it, prepare your heart. Be ready to breathe deeply and sit still with the information. Be ready to look into your soul, and ask, “What am I going to do?” Because if you look at this world and all that we have lost, all that we have gained, all that is at risk, you will know in your heart that we are complicit. Just by our existence. My question is how cope with that? Denial doesn’t work anymore. It doesn’t for me. I, who have so much, not least the time to worry about things like our pending climate crisis. And it’s so much easier to be complacent, to choose the convenient. Life is so busy. There’s so much terrible stuff going on. Good luck getting through a day. It’s  overwhelming, isn’t it?

On every level—moral, ethical, sympathetic and parasympathetic—we must choose. To do nothing or to act. Either way, we make a choice.

We are in the midst of a transition, a massive, mind-boggling change. We have the ability and the tools and the knowledge to transform this horror into something that aligns with our potential. Think what we as a country have done: World War II. A trip to the moon. . . .

It matters how we act as individuals. Imagine if we come together, again, as a nation. There is no doubt, we can do it again. Every day. Every action.  And you can start by making daily phone calls to your representatives on a local, state and national level.

Do I get repetitive? I’m a bit at a loss. I don’t have enough knowledge on things energy. I only know what I am doing, we are doing here at Darwin’s View. Of that I will write more as we go forward.

https://truthout.org/articles/arctic-is-thawing-so-fast-scientists-are-losing-their-measuring-tools/

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1 https://understandsolar.com/solar-uses-more-energy-to-manufacture-than-it-produces/

2 https://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/solar/solar-energy-isnt-always-as-green-as-you-think

3 http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/

 

On Gardens and Compost Consequences

Maybe it was because I had made it clear that a short cut lawn seems wasteful–what use is boring, old grass, after all? Unless it is very tall grass, surrounding and protecting our very short High bush blueberries, and waving luxuriantly in the stiff breezes coming over the mountain. Carl prefers short grass, not for its neat as a pin look but because it suggests fewer ticks. Whatever the case, I noted that he had taken to watching videos on scything. It’s a beautiful process. The rhythm. The swish and swoosh of the blade cutting the grasses, and the grasses falling into nice rows that are a fabulous mulch. If you mulch deep enough. And keep mulching. Then sun doesn’t get to the seeds.

 

This is the new theory at Darwin’s View, anyway. 

 

The scythe arrived. Carl went out to practice. He came back sweaty, sunburned and frustrated. But he isn’t one to give up. Ever. And so he watched more videos and went out to practice some more. His new workout—much preferred over going downstairs into the basement for a stationary bike ride.  

 

He brought a wheel barrel of the cut grass over to me where I was weeding out in the garden where my tomatoes and eggplants and peppers had so mysteriously disappeared. Well! I found some of them. They are still the size they were two weeks ago. But I am sure that now they will begin to grow because 1. Carl took pity on them and sprayed them with compost tea. 2. The competitive edge of nature will motivate my seedlings because I bought some starts from Rosalie’s Farm. And our neighbors gave us some starts, too. And so I planted those gangly teenaged tomatoes and eggplant and peppers in between my infant seedlings. Composted everything. And then spread the luxuriant grass that Carl had cut down with his scythe. It is amazing. I sprained my pinky toe a few days ago (not advisable) and the soft cushion of the grass on bare feet is the best! And it is thick on the ground, but every two or so feet, a plant. Hope for the future! Which we need right about now, reading the news (also not advisable). And then I went inside to announce to Carl–watching a video on how to sharpen a scythe–that I want to learn to scythe, too. 

 

Not quite sure where that logic came from: from walking on soft mown grasses while tending to incipient vegetable plants, to excessive sweating and frustration. But Carl is having such fun out there, I hate to miss it. And maybe struggling with a scythe will distract me from the fact of our new residents at Darwin’s View.

 

Rats. Carl set up a video cam in the bus stop because he couldn’t quite believe the hens were eating so much of our food waste so fast. (We pick up the food waste of a local restaurant: two five gallon buckets twice a week. It doesn’t make much of a dent in the 150 thousand tons of food waste thrown out every day in the US—that’s one pound per person. But we try to do our part. And it’s all a learning process because we aim to, some day, compost all of Jaffrey’s food waste ….)

 

Carl was correct about the hens being not quite so ravenous. One rat. Two. Apparently, part of our learning process here is what to do about rats. Having just watched the movie “The Biggest Little Farm,” my first suggestion was that we order up . . . or Carl might build . . . a couple of owl boxes. Once we get all the food out of the chicken run, the rats will have to find their food outside of the coop, under the light of the moon and smack! An owl will have dinner. 

 

Why do I have less sympathy for a rat than, perhaps, a possum? Our great niece Peyton used to have two pet rats: Brownie and Valentine. She loved her rats. I thought they were fine. Large mice. Cute in a long, rubbery tail kind of way. Maybe I could adopt and name our resident rat . . . s. Yes, when you get to the plural of rats other ideas come to mind: the armies of rats in NYC that carry thousands of diseases. (I would find details but leave it to you. Even googling NYC and rats gives me a queasy feeling.)

 

Granted, these are country rats. But two rats? That leads me to think of 101 Dalmation numbers of rats. I imagine Nick and Nora having to actually get up from their naps to protect our home from incoming incisors. 

 

And so I googled how to get rid of rats . . . while on the train to NYC. Yes, I and my swollen toe left for NYC, leaving Carl to dig out the chicken run where the compost heap has been all winter long. We have ordered up a new, industrial composter, and are developing a plan to keep the food waste up and out of rat reach. According to google, if you remove the food source, no more rat problem.

 

Unless, as a friend has noted, there’s still a problem. Then it’s time to get out the rat birth control sticks. Which only exist in the form of poison. Which is so depressing. Dessicating a bunch of innocent rats and their babies. They are just trying to survive and isn’t there enough death and destruction in the world? Or is it time to embrace my humanness. As such, I am complicit in the destruction of our planet. For all my bleeding heart hopes and dreams, yet this is the Anthropocene age. Human controlled. We cannot go back. Animals—including humans—die. And they live. They fight. They love.

 

But but but I live in Eden! I live in a bubble. Why not hope and dream? Even if it sounds kind of cra-cra when coming from a presidential candidate, maybe love can win out. Certainly, I believe that is the only way we are going to survive the upcoming times—by working together. Coopetition. Community.

 

Because we are a part of the web of life. We are all connected.

 

Leaving the question open, whether that will save our resident rats.