I have gotten this strange but oddly satisfying notion in my head that every once in a while a certain creature comes into my life in order to teach me something important. For lack of a better term I have been calling it my spirit animal and I have only really had a few. For the last few years my spirit animal has been the crow. An intelligent, strong and resilient animal. I admire them immensely and will always have a special place in my heart for them.
I don’t choose my spirit animal. Fate, mother nature, my own craziness or whatever chooses for me. and it takes a long time for me to be certain on the right one, and the timing must be right; the moment must be ready for a lesson.
And so keeping that in mind let me set the stage. we have been providing a few nuts and seeds to some of the urban wildlife that come to visit us in the wilds of our apartment “backyard”. We live on the edge of an urban wildlife corridor of sorts and we have gotten many visitors, mostly squirrels and birds, some raccoons, a little lame rat that I can’t bring myself to hate and the odd deer or two and even a hawk once.
Our little buddies are quite friendly and amuse us with their antics and honor us with their wild friendship.
One day came the tiny chickadee, it didn’t want nuts or seeds. It just flew in and tried to find a place to land. It fluttered around a bit before settling on a iron trellis located in a bright blue pot, from there surrounded by white jasmine blossoms it sang to me for what seemed like long time, probably only a minute or two, before it flew back into the trees. I was delighted to receive such a visit and so when I received a few more from this a very vocal bird who seemed desperate to want to tell me something, I knew that I must listen carefully and so after the fourth or fifth visit I finally started to get it. An image formed in my mind and I knew exactly what to do . I filled fresh water in the one container we had out and then I got two more, including a little one I placed near the bushes for the little birds who may feel safer there. I went back inside and closed the screen door. I was immediately rewarded by the little chickadee. It flew down and began to drink. Then came two others who joined the party, drinking at their own separate dishes. Afterward and since I have noticed the water being greatly appreciated by many more animals than we imagined.
A part of the creek where we live has been dammed up by the homeless people who have camped back in the brush and blackberry brambles behind our apartment. They have been polluting the water with trash and the area around it. This has been a water source for many animals including the deer who pass through the area seasonally.
There is not much we can do. We have reported the camp and so have some of our neighbors but the situation as of now remains as it is. Local officials are wary of breaking up camps due to Covid.
And so we keep our water dishes filled.
We do what we can with our little bits of good. The chickadee did have something valid to tell me and I have learned to listen to such messages.
So do I think the chickadee is my latest spirit animal?
I don’t know at this time but I do know I have much to learn. And why not have an open mind and listen?
I saw the sun yesterday afternoon. Tears welled up in my smoke-irritated eyes. It seems like weeks since I saw blue skies and breathed fresh air. I am fortunate to live in the one of most beautiful places in the world; The Pacific Northwest, unfortunately at the moment we have the worst air quality in the world. Fires have been raging along the states of the west coast. My state of Oregon is one of them.We are literally on fire here. There is a big one called the Riverside Fire, it is the closest to us. Clackamas county only a half a mile south of us was and is currently under some sort of evacuation notice and for a time I was scared that we might have to evacuate ourselves. So far so good but we are not out of the woods yet. Ugh. Bad joke.
It has been quite a year for everyone and I am ready for some boring times because I am very tired of the interesting ones.I sit here by the window watching our backyard squirrels busy getting ready for the changing season. They are acting much the same out there in the smokey air. My indoor cat is a bit perturbed at me for curtailing our walks. And our resident hummingbird seems to be filling up its gas tank readying itself for migration. I have a feeling I may have to migrate someday. We all may face some more interesting times in the future but right now at this moment I am grateful to sit here by the window and gaze out at the green trees through the haze. I notice the sky has brightened a smidgen. I know there are brave people that have come from all over the world to help and they are out there fighting for us. I am grateful. My heart breaks for all the destruction and deaths, the human ones and all the animals who have nowhere to evacuate to. I feel a special kinship with the animals of the forest. I even feel like one of them at times. My protectors, my heart and soul; the trees are burning and I feel so damn helpless.
We can only do what we can and spread our little bits of good around whenever and wherever we are able. I am off to clean out and refill the water containers I have outside for our furry friends. Its the least I can do.
Stay safe, take care out there, wherever you may be.
And so my husband is a nut, we all know that. He was telling me last night about squirrels and the availability of fermented berries and pumpkin? Yes, fermented pumpkin, and the rise of alcoholism in squirrels.
I googled this nonsense and came up with a story about country clubs in the south and how the alcoholic squirrels there, yes by cracky, here we go again, alcoholic squirrels have been harassing club-goers begging for sips of their mint juleps and spiked sweet teas.
I declare! In all my born days.
Squirrels are not only friendly and cute. They are also the animal you’re most likely to see wasted in your yard. Squirrels get intoxicated from ingesting fermented crab apples, squash, magnolia petals, and cherries among other delicacies.
Oh fiddle dee dee, Magnolia petal wine! We could be missing out here kids.
And so all these good-intentioned, well-meaning homeowners are being a bit lazy and leaving their backyard fruit to ferment. Not knowing that they are practically providing an open bar to the neighborhood squirrels along with any raccoons, stray cats or rodents that may show up.
This would explain a lot of the loopiness common in squirrels and other animals. I sure as heck know how silly even the most serious humans can get when they are “feeling no pain.”
I am fine with our backyard squirrels imbibing. It might make them more fun. As long as I don’t have to live with them lying on my couch all day and complaining about a wicked hangover and wanting sympathy and their nuts shelled for them.
The squirrels who inhabit our backyard are definitely peanut happy. Unfortunately there are no fruit trees or liquor stores nearby but they are content, and probably better off, with the nuts and seeds we feed them. They also like the clean water we give them in one of our cat’s old kitten dishes.
They have trained us to do this and we have found we like it very much. My husband plays music on his guitar and we dole out the peanuts. The squirrels run around and our cat Mocha loves to watch them and the many birds that visit us too.
These little creatures just bound up and they are so happy to see us. You can see it on their faces; the look of happiness and that little happiness spreads to us too. It’s “like a little jolt of electricity, a little high” as my husband put it.
This is our kind of partying.
What I am really trying to say, as nutty as it sounds is: We need more “drunken squirrels” in our lives. Fun little interactions with nature. Connections with other lifeforms other than ourselves. These creatures share our environment with us. Even if its just a cute squirrel in the park. I think we humans are becoming more and more separated from that connection with nature everyday. This makes it all the easier not to notice it all trickle away.
“If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love.” ― Steve Irwin
The air is fresh and chill. The wind blows tiny droplets of rain onto my face. I close my eyes and it feels like I am flying but the honking of geese above me remind me that I am not. I am walking, and walking on a muddy trail at that. My eyes quickly scan the ground and I scamper up a rocky hill like a little mountain goat.
These trips have gotten me in great trail shape. I spend a good portion of my free time out here in the wildish trails around my home in Portland, Oregon. It is a necessary component of my life to get out in whatever nature I can get to. We have no car, by design , my husband and I. We walk, bike or take public transit which is pretty good here. We like this sort of life, this muddy trail kind of life. I am very fortunate to have found someone who likes this as much, or more than I do. We are best friends, pals and companions as well as a loving married couple. He encourages me to be me and he smiles and shakes his head in amusement as I run up and down hills and even sometimes climb into the trees to snap pics and talk to the animals, real and imaginary. This is great fun to us and we are lucky to live where we do. So in spite of the rain or maybe because of the rain we are here at one of our favorite spots.
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge is a swampy, wetlands area smack daub in Portland, Oregon. Lots of birds live here especially ducks. I like to greet them as we pass by. We see lots of animals on our adventures. We have seen deer, beavers and nutria, possums and a plethora of birds especially the waterfowl. This is one of the places we go in all kinds of weather. Today it is super rainy and the trail is super muddy but we love this.
Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge is a city park of about 141 acres in southeast Portland, in the U.S. state of Oregon. Located in a floodplain along the east bank of the Willamette River near Sellwood, the park is known for attracting a wide variety of birds. Wikipedia
Errol Heights Natural area is cute in a boggy sort of way. This is a short walk but has become a favorite of ours since it is so close in the city. On our first visit we met a curious man who popped out of the bushes. He told us in breathless Kiwi accent about the 10 beaver dams there as he was running around trying to photograph all of them in order before the sun set.
One meets all sorts of interesting people in places like this.
The beavers are pretty shy but you can see evidence of them not just by the dams but but by the trees they are in the process of cutting. Many of the tree trucks are protected by wire netting but there is still ample wood available. The birds are typically out in full force here as it is a haven for waterfowl and songbirds. I love to just stop and listen to their beautiful music. Today the soundtrack is dominated by geese who fly overhead in their famous V formation. It is amazing a place like this exists in the middle of the city. We are lucky to live here.
On this Earth Day please do something however small for the Earth. Plant a tree, walk instead of drive. Don’t buy anything new. Look to the past for inspiration. We once were more in touch with the Earth and the basics of life and death. Life was messy and sometimes ugly but real.
We worked hard and got our hands dirty. More people grew their own food, made their own clothes and bartered with neighbors. Children played outside all day in the fresh air. We were strong and healthy…life was good and rich and full.. but somewhere along the line we gradually removed ourselves from the nasty bits of life. The dirty. the unpleasant, the time consuming.
Life is now for the taking, prepackaged and ready to go. It’s been inspected and sanitized. And it’s on sale for those that can afford to pay. Everyone else must make do…and we left the rural communities and farms and tight knit families. We worked in the factories to make goods and life was good, there was enough to go around…we reached a gilded age. A time of plenty.
It is not only unfortunate but starkly unfair that our spending spree comes at the expense of our progeny; the ones left in our wake who will not think so much of us I think.
On this Earth Day, plant a tree, plant several….do something, or better yet, do nothing. Go outside. Spend some time with the earth. With nature…
I think if we all spent more time outdoors. learned to love the natural world all over again….and if we brought our children and allowed them this gift; the love and deep appreciation of nature.
I think we’d as a people would care more about our beautiful planet and take active steps to do as little harm to our home as possible and perhaps leave it a little better than how we found it. Hopefully they will look upon us as pioneers who blazed the trail and set in motion events that will subsequently save our planet from us and thus save ourselves too.
HAPPY EARTH DAY 2015
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” ―Theodore Roosevelt
“The earth is speaking to us, but we can’t hear because of all the racket our senses are making. Sometimes we need to erase them, erase our senses. Then – maybe – the earth will touch us. The universe will speak. The stars will whisper.”
“We don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”
~Native American Proverb (source unclear)
“And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair”
― Kahlil Gibran
“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!”
If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either. ~Joseph Wood Krutch
“We have become, by the power of a glorious evolutionary accident called intelligence, the stewards of life’s continuity on earth. We did not ask for this role, but we cannot abjure it. We may not be suited to it, but here we are.”
Dirt has a bad name. We assign it to foul, perverted things. Icky nasty things we do not touch lest it taint us, infect us. We are a society bent on cleanliness; antiseptic-ness. We pride ourselves in our civilized approach to dirt. Filth is what animals live in not we who are above such things.
That dirt which lies beneath our feet, it is alive, that soil; a mosaic of organic-ness which makes up much of our planet. We don’t think much of it but it’s there. We walk on it, build our homes on it, plant our food in it. It’s what holds it all together and it’s more important than people realize.
Throughout history, civilizations have prospered or declined as a result of the availability and productivity of their soils. Soil resources are critical to the environment as well as food production.
Soil is defined as a natural body consisting of layers that are primarily composed of minerals, mixed with organic matter. It is the loose covering of fine rock particles that covers the surface of the earth and is the end product of the influence of the climate, organisms, minerals and the passage of time.
When used in agriculture, it serves as the anchor and primary nutrient base for plants and soil resources that are crucial to the environment. It absorbs rainwater and releases it later, helping to prevent floods and drought. It cleans the water acting like a sponge as the water percolates through it.
Soil is the most abundant ecosystem on Earth and is home to countless lifeforms; invertebrates, bacteria, fungi and algae. It supports and plays a crucial role in all life on this planet.
Good soil should contain a healthy mixture of soil-based organisms. These are the naturally occurring micro-organisms that release powerful enzymes responsible for keeping it free of molds, yeasts, fungi and other parasites which would otherwise make normal plant growth impossible. These organisms fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil and decompose organic compounds, including manure, plant residue, and pesticides; helping to prevent them from entering waterways and becoming pollutants.
The primary home of the vast soil food web is the topsoil. It’s the top layer of soil and contains most of the available nutrients. It’s where most of the biological activity takes place.
Scientists believe that 24 billion tons of topsoil are lost every year to erosion by wind, water and other causes including the way we feed the planet. Conventional agriculture encourages the depletion of topsoil because the soil must be plowed and replanted each year. Many experts believe that our chemical dependencies are stripping the soil of its life-giving properties and turning it into unproductive, thus, lifeless dirt. One inch of topsoil can take 500 years to form naturally. According to current trends, the world has about 60 years of topsoil left.
Topsoil erosion occurs when the topsoil layer is blown or washed away. Without topsoil, little plant life is possible. This is a phenomenon known as the Aeolian processes. This has happened before notably during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s when a period of severe dust storms greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the US and Canadian prairies.
On a dry grassland, the grass rooted into the soil can be the only thing keeping the soil stable. If too many animals are allowed to graze for too long, the grass can be stripped away and the soil will lose its anchoring roots. The area can become a desert. This is called desertification. Desertification and soil loss is a worldwide problem.
“According to the United Nations desertification is a creeping catastrophe. Already creating millions of environmental refugees worldwide every year, one third of the earth’s surface and the livelihoods of at least one billion people are threatened.”
This problem only deepens through time. As our global population continues to swell and demand for food increases, our ability to feed the world will become more difficult and in time perhaps impossible. Once land is lost it’s hard to gain it back. I know dirt isn’t exciting, most of us don’t think of it beyond a few scientists and the odd nut like me, but we all can do something about it. It is our planet and we have to right to our existence because it’s down to that. We need responsible and sustainable land stewardship not just here and there but everywhere.
A great place to start is at home, in our own yards. The website Wikihow features an excellent article; How to Prevent Soil Erosion . It is focused on what the average person can do about soil erosion at home and in the community. It is on the small scale but a good start.
Beyond that I think we the people need to raise awareness about this problem and through societal and monetary pressure persuade the movers and shakers in this world that we care about our topsoil and the future of the food supply. And that steps must be taken to prevent further loss and to reverse bad farming and land management practices. We need to adapt sustainable farming practices that encourage the development of a healthy topsoil by rewarding those who regenerate the environment and produce food that supports a healthier society. Most importantly we need to change the way we think about soil and how we use it. We must treasure it as the precious natural resource it is.
Future generations are counting on us…
Have a fruitful day,
“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” ― Wendell Berry
The miracle of life lies out there teeming in the dark rich earth. I can feel it. I can sense it and it is a wondrous thing. No matter how many times I see a tiny sprout emerge from the soil I am awestruck at such beautiful complexity inhibiting such lovely simplicity. Everything has it’s place, it’s purpose. Exquisite harmony and balance reins supreme…or at least it used to.
I have spent much of my 44 summers enthralled in the wilds of an urban garden; laying in the grass staring up at the imaginative clouds, cavorting with the butterflies and communing with the bees. As a young girl I felt a kinship with nature that has only intensified with age. I feel in tune with the earth and with all living things and I have always had a special affinity for the natural world and all the beautiful shapes and colors of life on our amazing planet.
It has been only natural for me to embrace gardening as one of my passionate pastimes.
As an adult I have spent countless hours in glorious toil in the backyard sun, digging and planting and weeding and planning. I have transformed a weedy double lot into what I refer to as my sanctuary, my retreat from the artificial inside. I feel safe there and so do many of the urban wildlife that visit. The neighborhood cats especially like it here and it isn’t uncommon for me to have a clan of disinterested felines “cheering me on”.
I am a great observer. It is another one of my pastimes; watching and observing and drawing conclusions….and I am a great watcher of the earth and I don’t have to tell you how sick it is.
How sick our mother is. Our planet Earth. Our only home is ill. She is dying. The signs are all around. Some people don’t want you to believe that because they are more interested in the status quo but if we don’t change our ways there will be no status at all.
It seems so far away; all this unbalance, this poison that eats away. It is all around us, in our plastics and pesticides, in our gas- guzzling machines and in our diet colas. It hasn’t hit most of us yet…not really, but can you hear the rumblings? I can. I do as I sit in my garden; my sanctuary.
I sit in a prime spot next to a huge swath of brightly colored California poppies. They are one of the stars of the garden at this time of year and a favorite among the bees, including my favorite, the honey bee. I remember a time when they would be in beautiful abundance; busily buzzing from one flower to the next. I have noticed them slowly start to vanish…little by little; just a trickle at first but now it grows more obvious every year. My eyes scan the flowers and I only see a clumsy black bumble. I patiently wait…I don’t see a honeybee. I scan the grass at the clover I allow to grow, still no honeybee. The sun is out on an 80 degree day in June and where are they?
Ahhh there’s one. One honeybee and two bumbles…
Perhaps it is still to early for them…perhaps I didn’t wait long enough…I will go out and look tomorrow for another one…
More stuff to ponder…
Just me Nancy reporting from the urban wilds of my backyard…SMILE! Have a good one and remember what our friend Anne Frank said:
“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” ― Anne Frank
Sometimes that is all we can do…
(And one more thing: please no more pesticides. I know YOU don’t use them but for anyone who may. Please as a personal favor for me…stop.)
“The natural world belongs to us all and it is vanishing at an alarming rate. We the people of this planet have a responsibility to the generations that come after us. I believe we gardeners have a special and vital role to play in the protection of our dwindling natural assets.”
There he is again, my neighbor. The one I call “The Poisoner” and he is living up to his name. It is a sight that invades my vision 4 or 5 times a year; a big guy with a large canister spraying poison like a madman all over his yard.
Sometimes it’s the weeds in the lawn, other times it’s the poor green growth that dares to show itself between the cracks in the sidewalk. On a few occasions when he really gets going , he sprays the entire parameter of his house. He wears no mask, no gloves, just him and the Roundup.
When he is finished, nothing is left alive. Except his poor lawn which is a sickly palish green despite the many hours he spends on it. He is a warrior of sorts; it is him against nature. I think he’s fighting an expensive and time-consuming battle that we all pay for in the end.
Whenever I see him with his spray can, I try not to become angry. It used to make my blood boil; to watch him spray his poison like there’s no tomorrow while I’m digging up dandelions by hand. As the years have passed and my work has gotten easier due to the many organic gardening techniques I have learned and implemented, his work has not diminished…it has seemed to only increase.
While I enjoy a healthy green lawn with a myriad of various flowers surrounding; a yard that is truly bursting with life. He lives in a dead zone. It must be frustrating to him. He must notice during the summer while he waters his lawn every single day, I water mine once a week yet mine is still green and his has brown patches.
I suppose I could let him in on my “secrets” but they aren’t really secret. I learned about these techniques from books I found at our local library which is literally just steps from our houses. I suppose I am shy and I hate to admit that although I have talked to his wife, I haven’t spent much time conversing with him. He seems to me somewhat hostile and the glares he gives me may just be in my imagination. Frankly, I am hesitant to go over there and point out to him that what he’s doing is all wrong. People don’t like that. So call me chicken but whenever he gets to spraying his poison, I just get out of his way.
I thought in my naivety that he might learn from mine and other neighbor’s examples on how one can have a lovely yard without the use of such harmful chemicals but alas he has not.
I know he isn’t the only one who resorts to such methods. In the United States alone 80 million pounds of chemical pesticides were used on residential lawns last year. A staggering number to say the least.
Toxins from pesticides can remain in the body and build up in the liver. Even at what is considered “safe” levels, a person’s reactions can be mild to severe. High levels of exposure can be fatal. Some people are seemingly unaffected or mildly affected, while others become severely ill from similar levels of exposure. Some possible reactions include: Fatigue, Skin Irritations, Nausea, Vomiting, Breathing Problems, Brain Disorders, Blood Disorders, Liver & Kidney Damage, Reproductive Damage and (gasp) Cancer.
Whether or not a person uses these chemicals themselves these toxins find their way to us by seeping into the groundwater and entering the environment where they damage and kill precious wildlife, toxic indeed!
“Contaminated groundwater can affect the quality of drinking and other types of water supplies when it reaches the surface. Contaminated groundwater can affect the health of animals and humans when they drink or bathe in water contaminated by the groundwater or when they eat organisms that have themselves been affected by groundwater contamination.”
In recent studies of major rivers and streams, one or more pesticides were detected more than 90% of the time in water, in more than 80% of fish sampled, and in 33% of major aquifers (Gilliom, Robert).
Pesticides are one of the 15 leading causes of impairment for streams included on States’ Clean Water Act section 303(d) lists of impaired waters.
I can’t see how some would think a substance that kills something would NOT be harmful. I know it is a lot of work keeping a lush weed-free lawn. Many people would say it is not worth the trouble and definitely not worth the resources. I have read about people getting rid of their lawn entirely and planting a vegetable garden. I can see the merit of that. Perhaps I may try that in the future….who knows? But today this is not what I am attempting to address.
So besides digging up the lawn entirely which I am truly tempted to do…how does one have a beautiful lawn without resorting to chemicals?
I do admit that if one wants to go totally organic, which I will be getting to in the next paragraph, one will probably have to put up with a few weeds which aren’t so bad in reality. Many weed seeds provide food for birds. Weeds are a normal part of most lawns. When there are some types of weeds in the lawn such as white clover and bird’s foot trefoil, these weeds provide a source of nutrients for the soil and later for the grass itself. A good first step is identifying what weeds you do have and determining if they are annuals, perennials or biennial. This helps you find out the correct method for controlling them. You can find some great information at WWW.msuturfweeds.net.
Annual weeds will generate from seeds and will grow to produce flowers that in turn produce more seeds. Remove them before the seed heads form and you will cut their life short. Biennials have a two-year life span, as with annuals. The trick is to get to them before they go to seed. Remove the seed head. This will do much to reduce the amount of weeds in your lawn overall.
Perennials are different. These weeds also spread by seed but they have nasty runners that spread under the soil. These runners produce rhizomes which are stems that grow horizontally underground and unbeknownst to you will survive the winter. These must be totally dug out of the lawn, when you do this some may come back. But don’t despair.
Weeds indicate the conditions of the soil. Certain weeds indicate certain problems and if you work to amend the soil this may help. For instance, if you have a problem with dandelions this could indicate that your lawn has an overabundance of nitrogen and on the other hand if you have too much clover in your lawn this could indicate not enough nitrogen. Nature is always in a delicate balance and problems occur when that balance is out of whack.
Monocultures are not natural and lawns aren’t really natural. They are just another symptom of the man over nature thing; something we humans have a problem with. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but the health and wellbeing of the natural world relies on a delicate balance and when that balance is thrown off problems will and do occur.
W A T E R
“Water is the driving force of all nature.”
Leonardo da Vinci
Water is essential to all life and a healthy lawn does need it especially in the summer. So how does one keep a green and lush lawn during those hot summer days?
Timing is important, Water your lawn during the early morning hours; the best time is between midnight and 9 am. This is giving the water a chance to enter the soil before it is exported by the hot summer sun. Watering in the evening causes the moisture to remain for too long in which there is a danger of fungus developing.
In general the optimal amount of water that a healthy lawn needs is only one inch per week. Of course some lawns have different needs. Some have more shade than others and it depends on climate as well. Be sure to leave your lawn a little on the long side as the longer blades help provide shade and aids in retaining moisture in the soil underneath. In addition, if you mow your lawn frequently it taxes the grass and it must work harder to regrow the top portion.
Of course you may if you choose to have your lawn go dormant in the summer; letting it turn brown. It may not look very good but dormancy is nature’s way of dealing with drought and your lawn will bounce back in no time once the rains return.
The subject of organics and pesticides is vast. I am only covering a small part of this broad and expansive topic. Organic gardening relies heavily on soil health and the organisms living in the soil. This also depends on the elements present in the soil and how we can give back those nutrients which green growth thrives on. In future articles I will be covering that very important subject, but for now I will impart just one little tidbit on the matter…
Please try to be natural in the care of your yard and garden. Natural is not perfection. Nature is wild and random. It is what we came from and it is what is meant to be. We humans must stop trying to change this world too much. Mother Nature is turning on us, the very beings she created because we are destroying her.
The problem is huge and at times overwhelming but together step by step, we can save this planet!
“The Earth we abuse and the living things we kill, will in the end, take their revenge; for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future.”
Lately I have been doing a fair amount of research for a few articles with environmental themes. And there is something that bothers me about the whole thing. As I was wading through all this technical minutiae, it struck me on how depressing the whole thing is. There are reams upon reams of information on the environment out there; books, websites and blogs from our fellow bloggers and what has struck me like a wicked slap in the face is all this doom and gloom that permeates it all.
I am someone who cares about our world an awful lot. I know there are many of us who do. I am quite passionate about the state of our planet and how we treat it. I seldom can watch the news anymore. It gets me all riled up. I find myself yelling at the screen. Environmental disasters such as oil spills and the like can set me on high simmer. So probably like many others; I have tuned out, I have admittedly buried my head in the sand. A person can only take so much bad news before they shut down.
I recently did a piece on saving the trees. It was mostly hopeful and upbeat. I included some ways on how we all can help our friends the trees. I did a lot of research on the subject and I must admit; it made me depressed.
I like to put a hopeful spin on my writing and in my life in general but at times I have to fight bouts of depression. I suppose many of us creative types do. I have borrowed a page from Winston Churchill; calling it the black dog. This dog is never welcome but from time to time it sits on my front porch and howls a bit. This clouds up my skies with gray and I try to distract myself, writing helps, working in the garden helps…helping others and trying to spread a little cheer around really helps.
Let me tell you, reading through endless reports on the state of our environment does not help. To be fair to my fellow writers out there. I know they work very hard, probably much harder than I. They are learned individuals where I am a self-taught layperson. From what I’ve been reading it is easy to see why your average person who probably cares a lot for the planet is turned off by all this stuff.
I think some writers like to show off their vocabulary and knowledge and perhaps like to play a bit on the sensationalism factor. It is difficult at times to be a reader soaking this up. There are gifted writers of non-fiction out there who makes learning a pleasure; conveying information seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly but those writers are not as common as I like them to be.
I find myself wading through this information just to get to the pertinent information. Like a bowl of oatmeal; it is good for me, but it’s bland. It just sits there like a tasteless lump and it difficult to digest.
I guess that is one of the reasons that I try to write like I do. I could use bigger words. I could try to impress you with my 20 plus years of acquired knowledge but how boring is that? This brings me back to the environmental thing. I was reading some blogs by who I’m sure are very smart well-meaning people but…and I ‘m half joking when I say this….but it made me want to jump off the nearest bridge.
If we are going to save this planet we should know what’s going on. I realize just how important and serious it all is and I am no Pollyanna, although at times I may seem like one. I am a former pessimist turned optimistic realist, emphasis on the optimism.
I talked to MM about my troubles. He is practical where I am not and he usually gives very sound advice. He said: “You do it.” “Do what’? I asked. “You should concentrate your writings on the environment, put a positive spin on it, but be real and get people to listen.” He replied calmly like it was the most simple thing in the world.
What he said made me think and I mulled it over awhile. It reminded me of my life at the moment. Over the past year or so, I’ve been hit with a lot of bad news that has caused me much distress. At first it affected me physically, then emotionally and I fell into a cycle of depression followed by bouts of over-enthusiastic denial steeped in flowery words and platitudes. I believed somehow everything would turn out for the best and I am finding this cycle repeating itself with no clear resolution. I realize this is very much like the problem with our environment; we hear all this bad news and become overwhelmed. Some of us obsess on the bad news, some ignore it and a small portion of us totally deny it. None of this solves anything and here we are hanging on while what good we do have just slips through our fingers.
I think what is needed is to face our problems head on and acknowledge them no matter how ugly and then move on to positive ways to deal with them…always looking at the bright side because there is always a bright side. We need to focus on what is good and what others are doing that is making a difference…but the key here is action.
So in the future look for more environmental pieces from me focusing on the bright side and what we as average citizens can do to help.
On the Sunny side of the street but walking with purpose,
“A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.”
I’ve always had a thing for trees; I am a tree-hugger from way back, before I knew there was such a thing. I admit I’ve always carried a torch for tall guys and trees. The statuesque pines of my native Pacific Northwest really do it for me. I feel safe in the woods among the wild green of the forest. I have always been strangely drawn to them…perhaps it’s in my blood; a throwback to my very distant Native American ancestors, maybe it’s because I am fortunate enough to live a stonesthrow to a temperate rainforest or it could be that trees are just really that wonderfully special and useful structures that are a vital part of out global ecosystem.
I love to be in the forest right after a tender rainfall. The fresh scent of pine is so welcoming to me. The way the morning sun shines through the boughs of the trees and how the steam rises from the tree tops. I feel privileged to witness such an event.
Beyond their majestic beauty, trees provide we the inhabitants of this marvelous planet with so much, they give us their all and we as the human stewards of this land have not returned the favor. Ever since our beginnings as small rodent-like creatures living in a reptile dominated world we clung to the trees for our very lives. Ever experience the phenomena of falling asleep and feeling the sensation of falling only to “catch” yourself? That is a leftover from our distant mammalian past. Back to the days when our ancestors lived their entire lives in the tree canopy. Our close relatives the apes still swing from branch to branch; adept as ever, holding on with one hand whilst using the other to reach for tasty fruit.
Trees today provide sustenance and shelter to a wide variety of lifeforms and they in their wide variety have perfectly adapted to our planet’s many climates and microclimates. Trees are powerhouses of natural resources and we have depended on their immense wealth for as long as we have been here. Unfortunately, I think we take them for granted; believing them to always be in abundance. There has always been another to chop down…and another and another.
This has led to major deforestation. According to data compiled by the World Resources Institute, our beautiful planet Earth has already lost 80 percent of its forest cover due to deforestation.
Deforestation has many negative effects on the environment. Seventy percent of the planet’s land animals and plants live in forests, and will perish without their homes. Trees play a crucial role in absorbing greenhouse gases. Fewer forests means larger amounts of these gases entering the atmosphere and this increases the speed and severity of global warming.
Deforestation must stop if we are to continue on this planet. I think some don’t realise how much we need trees and as a lover of trees, like my literary hero, The Lorax, I shall speak for the trees…
Forests counter erosion by holding soil together with their roots, this helps keep the nutrient rich topsoil in place which gives plants something to grow and flourish in, this also helps reduce flooding. They protect agriculture by modifying local climate extremes and ensuring water supplies. They help prevent pollution by acting like natural sponges and air filters; absorbing storm water that normally would end up in our rivers and streams.
Trees sequester carbon and absorb other airborne pollutants. They even have the ability to clean contaminated soil and ground water. One mature tree releases enough oxygen to support two people.
The leaves of trees absorb light energy, reducing reflected heat. When trees absorb water through their root system, they release moisture through leaf surfaces by a process called transpiration. This cools the air and can reduce the surrounding temperature by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature directly under the tree by as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Tree canopies blocks the sun’s rays during the day and holds in heat at night. Without them to protect us this will lead to more extreme temperatures swings that can be harmful to plants, animals and humans.
Trees help return water vapor back into the atmosphere. Without trees many former forest lands can quickly become barren deserts.
Trees and People
Studies have shown the relationship between trees and nature and mental and physical health. Patients in hospitals heal more quickly if they have a view of trees and nature. People are much more likely to go outside and walk through tree-lined communities, helping to provide a sense of community and well-being which in itself enhances people’s health. Simply viewing nature, or urban greenery decreases stress levels and enables people to cope better with day-to-day hardships.
Trees are Economical
Trees, especially mature ones, increase real estate values. They muffle urban noise and during the cold season; act as windbreaks; saving on heating costs. During the hot summer months their shade helps cool a house thus saving on air conditioning costs.
Trees are good for business
Trees not only improves the ability of residential neighborhoods to build community, they also contribute positively to business districts. Studies have shown that shoppers prefer to spend more time in canopied business districts and perceive merchants in those districts more positively than merchants in districts with fewer trees. This ultimately results in wider community networks encompassing not just where we live, but also where we work, shop, and play.
I think I’ve presented a good case for trees. Obviously we need them and they need us . How can we help our friends the trees?
How to help trees
Deforestation is such an immense problem. It is easy to feel helpless. Where do we start?
What follows are some simple ways your average person like you and I can do:
If you have the room on your property plant a tree or two…or more. If you must cut one down, replace it with another in a different spot.
If you don’t have the room or the opportunity to plant a tree, consider joining the Plant A Billion Trees Campaign and help protect The Brazilian rainforest which is home to 23 species of primates and 1,180 species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish and 1,000 species of birds, almost 200 of which are not found anywhere else on Earth. Rainforests help regulate the atmosphere and stabilize global climate.
Help support The Nature Conservatory. This is a good cause which needs all the help it can get. Click on the link to read more about this fine organization.
Want to help closer to home? Support Local Land Trusts and Parks. There are many to choose from, just a quick Google search will uncover many.
Cut down on junk mail. It’s fairly simple: Register for the Mail Preference Service on the Direct Marketing Association website. For $1, your name and address will be removed from prospective mailing lists. This should end about 75% of your junk mail within about 90 days. ( Who likes junk mail anyway?)
Use Paperless Billing. It cuts down on paper and really simplifies your life, giving you more time to go out and enjoy nature.
Another way to save paper is to simply reuse scraps. I use old envelopes for my shopping lists. Also when printing something consider using both sides and while you are at it, ask yourself “Do I really need to print this?” Sometimes you sincerely don’t need to.
Libraries are the perfect place to go for free access to newspapers and magazines in print. E-readers like the Kindle and tablets like the iPad makes it easier than ever to read the digital editions of your favorite publications.
Use reusable shopping bags. It can be a hassle to remember but once you get used to it, it gets easy. Keep a few in your car or by the front door. Lead by example and show other shoppers you care about the environment. Perhaps you’ll prompt them to do the same.
While you are shopping, whether it be furniture, building materials or paper goods, look for FSC- and SFI-certified products. The FSC is the Forest Stewardship Council, which sets standards for third-party certification of private forests worldwide. The SFI is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which focuses on wood from North American Forests. Another excellent way to shop is by using Rainforest Alliance Certified Products, for a list visit their website.
WE CAN DO THIS!
I realise what I’ve said here is simplistic and the problem goes so much further than any one person or any one nation for that matter. I could cover my property in trees and never use a single piece of paper again. Everyone reading this could do the same, but the problem would still be there. I suppose that’s why I’m writing this; to help keep a dialogue going because we as a society need to have this discussion. We need to make saving our forests and saving our planet a priority. Our governments could do so much more. Socially, we can do more. We are a constantly evolving people and what was acceptable once doesn’t mean it has to be acceptable in the future.
Many believe that growing our economies is more important than growing trees. These two important causes do not need to be mutually exclusive. We the people are a force to be reckoned with.
Write a blog post; better yet, write your local government official, write the president, any president… tell them we need to stop the abuse of our planet, if not for our sake, for the sake of our children and our children’s children who will inherit the mess from us. Think the environment is going to hell now? This is nothing compared to the nightmare that future generations may inherit if we don’t act.
I don’t mean to sound negative because I am hopeful. We have made it this far in the evolutionary ladder. This is another stepping stone to our ultimate destiny, whatever that will be.
We in the first world can lead the way, together with the rest of the world we can fix this. The time of the United States’ domination is over. We have set the standard for the rest of the world and it’s not fair to blame other less fortunate countries from trying to get a piece of what we have. Instead of condemning and punishing them, we need to help them. We need to work together on this. This planet belongs to us all and so does the problem.
We can do it!
“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness.”
Here in rainy Oregon The Sun has become a reclusive and exclusive celebrity showing its dazzling brilliance only in limited amounts.
Phone calls have not been returned and it’s agent could not be reached for comment. Sources close to the star are suggesting a contract dispute might be behind this unusual behavior. It is widely known in certain spheres that The Sun has been dissatisfied with working conditions lately: low, really no pay, overworking in one area but underworking in another, no vacation time or health benefits. The sun has had it some say. But these are just rumors. What we need are cold hard facts.
Experts have been called in and a good number of them blame the clouds, saying it is they who block out the sun. Many agree and this seems to be the general consensus. But there are some who disagree; a few have blamed the upcoming zombie apocalypse. Some have mentioned it could be the work of terrorists and one obvious lunatic has cited something called “Global Warming” as the cause.
All agree the situation has become dire and the mayor has put together a commission to study this phenomena.
Meanwhile the soggy citizens in the city of Portland are indoors; pressed up against the windows wishing and yearning and Waiting for the Sun. Moss covered and sullen, NW gardeners are is in dismay; creeping around from bush to bush with a frown–in the city of roses the roses are down battered by pelting rain and blowing wind….have I mentioned that this is early July?
The local meteorologists seem worried and look as guilty as can be, it is as if they are responsible. They keep telling us that summer is just around the corner, they mention forecasts for sunny days–always five days away.
My son is as pale as a ghost and my daughter is too, they seem to like it that way but they don’t know any better. I suppose I should be grateful, many places in the world would love all this rain and the lush green growth that results from it. (think moss) I am grateful really but I can’t help but think we are getting more than our fair share of moisture and our elusive sun problem is someone else’s elusive rain problem. Too bad we cannot share the wealth a little…
And so while My fellow Portlanders and I pull out our summer sweaters, put another log on the fire and gaze out the window expectantly for you know who, we will be grateful for what we have–every drop of it.
Cute little fuzzy buzzy bees darting from flower to flower, devoted to their task. I am an avid bee watcher. They are fascinating creatures to observe, so active and alive.
I wasn’t always like this. For most of my life I never paid much attention to bees, only enough to get out of their way. As a child I saw them as mysterious and dangerous. Now as an adult knowing their precarious position my heart soars every time I see one.
I no longer take these essential little dynamos for granted. We owe much to bees and this goes far beyond honey. It is the by-product of their “busyness” pollinating roughly three-fifths of the food plants in the United States that keeps us in groceries, so to speak.
One full third of our diet depends on bee pollination.
We can thank our helpers; the bees for many of our favorite foods including: strawberries, apples, apricots, blueberries, kiwi, almonds, coconuts, pomegranates, cherries, okra, onions, sunflowers, tangerines, oranges, hazelnuts, soybeans,cauliflower, avocado, cucumber and watermelon just to name a few.(See complete list)
The Disappearing Act
By now many of us have heard of the bees disappearing. Scientists, the media and people in the know have been all abuzz about this phenomena they named Colony Collapse Disorder. (CCD) It seemingly came out of nowhere and since its abrupt appearance in 2005, it has been affecting millions and millions of bees all over the world. It is characterised by the disappearance of worker bees that leave behind a queen, a few attendants, and maybe a few drones. Basically abandoned, the infected are left to wither and die with a hive full of honey.
There have been many different theories floating around as to the cause of Colony Collapse and there has been much finger pointing. Many of the fingers point to our reliance on the pesticides and chemical fertilizers essential to our large commercial food production and the increasing use of Genetically Modified crops.
There has been evidence to support tracheal mites and varroa mites, known threats to bees. Some have proposed Nosema; a fungus as the cause, while others suggest it may be a virus such as Israeli acute paralysis.
Some are even blaming the commercial bee industry itself. Saying that the stress the hives undergo during frequent moves on trucks – typical of the way large commercial farms operate are helping to cause CCD. It should be said that smaller bee operations and hobbyists have reported less occurrence of this devastating disorder, this is probably due to the genetic diversity that smaller hives tend to have.
I personally think it’s a combination of many different factors and it’s a sign of modern civilization’s thirst for utter dominance over nature. Our total disharmony with our wild roots is catching up to us. Our disregard is showing and the signs are everywhere, not just in bees. We are being given a rather stern warning that we should heed.
Save the Bees
And how do we save the bees? I’m no scientist. I am just a backyard gardener with a yen for the planet. Yes, I care but what can I really do personally? What can we all do?
The best action you can take to benefit honey bees is to not use pesticides and if you must use pesticides try not to use them at mid-day when honey bees are most likely to be out foraging for nectar. Try to use natural fertilizers instead of chemical ones.
Plant a large number of native nectar producing plants particularly in the colors pink, purple, and blue. Some plants to consider are red clover, alfalfa, foxglove, bee balm, and joe-pye weed. ( See complete list of plants)
And put in a good word for our friend the bee. They get bad press. At the very least people just don’t care about bees. Some people hate bees and others are afraid and justifiably so, in some cases. (See Africanized bees)
But for the most part most of us will never encounter any killer bees. Just the garden variety, the cute fuzzy buzzy bees busy with helping transform our world into a garden; one flower at a time. Leave them to their important task. They mean no harm to you and will only use their stinger in self-defense. They are gentle creatures. If you encounter a hive in a natural area, leave it alone. We are meant to coexist with bees and we can as long as we learn to respect them for what they are and what they do.
We must change our attitudes about bees if they are to survive. The facts remain that while the number of bee keepers have been decreasing, the number of companies specializing in the removal of unwanted hives is on the rise.
Love them, hate them or fear them… we need them.
As the world population swells over the coming decades demand for food will surely increase. We will need not only the bees to help feed us but we will need to rethink our role on the planet. We’ll have to realise that we need to foster a cooperation with nature as well as our neighbors. We’re all in this together. You, me, the bees… the whole world. By saving the bees, we are in essence saving ourselves.
I dug in the dirt today. It was nice to get back into the soil after a long winter. I feel a profound connectedness to the natural world and it is in this sort of work that emphasizes that to me. I feel the pulsating energy of life bursting out in all directions. It is a comforting presence this wild sentience of the natural world.
It is an ancient wisdom this knowledge of the land. Our ancestor’s once relied on this essential knowledge of the earth. Progress of modern civilization has left most people especially city dwellers unnaturally detached from the natural world.
Exposure to the nature was once so commonplace, but times have changed and we’ve changed with them.
Are we losing our naturalness?
In his book “The Nature Principle’ Richard Louv calls it Nature Deficit Disorder. Louv defines nature deficit disorder as an atrophied awareness and a diminished ability to find meaning in the life that surrounds us.
The author explains and quite passionately that “The traditional ways that humanshave experienced nature are vanishing.” which greatly affects our health and well-being. He evokes The Nature Principle which states “that a reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being and survival.”
Louv sites example after example of scientific studies backing up his well thought out claim. He brings up the validity of green exercise and it’s proven enhancement of mood and self-esteem while reducing feelings of anger and depression.
Louv refers to a study which found that humans living in landscapes that lack trees or other natural features undergo patterns of social, psychological and physical breakdowns that are similar to those observed in animals that have been deprived of their natural habitat.
This should be of no surprise to any animal of the human variety reading this.
I remember growing up in the Seventies and Eighties. I remember being outside, if the weather was nice, we’d be outside all day. The streets and yards and parks were full of kids running and playing. These days it seems that all the kids are inside, tapping on one screen or another. With all the good that the digital age has brought, we have paid for it; this pixel existence we call progress.
We are losing our natural intelligence; knowing the signs of nature. Nature is becoming quite unnatural for many of us, myself included.
Where once our ancestors roamed the wild land, living as one with the planet in an equitable balance with natural world, modern humans set out to conquer and conquer we have. We control our physical surroundings to the point to where we can bring day to night and water and life to where none exists.
Humans have progressed out beyond the Earth. We can harness the power of the microscopic and the macroscopic. We have cured diseases and built bridges and dams and power plants….We are a powerful race with much to accomplish, and much to lose.
We have polluted ourselves and our world, always in a constant battle of who will control: humankind or nature. Now nature is fighting back and I can only wonder and hope for the best.
And I do hope for the best and I do have hope for the future. I see it in the eyes of a child fascinated with a ladybug in the backyard, a teenager taking water samples at a local restoration project. I see it in the experienced hands of the citizen gardener, the urban naturalist and the amateur botanist. There are success stories, more and more everyday.
We all share this love for nature and it’s up to us, each one of us to get back what we have lost, restore our naturalness and teach our children how to coexist with technology and nature together. These concepts do not have to be mutually exclusive.
I recommend reading this excellent book “the Nature Principle” by Richard Louv and then get moving, even if it’s a five-minute walk in the neighborhood, it’s a start and all it takes is that first step to get going…. better yet bring a friend and save our naturalness one step and one friend at a time.