Friday, December 18, 2009

The Similarities of Farming and Health care

Fascinating! The New Yorker ran an article comparing the proposed health care reforms to agriculture, and includes the history of US agriculture. Finally, the whole "agricultural extension agent" thing makes sense!

A big thanks to the Scientist Gardener for drawing my attention to this!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Overpasses and Underpasses for Wildlife

Here is a photo gallery of overpasses and underpasses made for or adapted for use by animals. Hold the mouse cursor over an image to read about the specific project. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thoughts on Invasives

This article was a good read, even though it strikes me as somewhat contrary-for-the-sake-of-garnering-attention. The best part is actually the discussion following the article. The following was posted by "Andy" on the 8th.

"Eventually newly evolved or introduced pathogens, etc. will catch up with the invasives and then their lack of coevolution with their new biotic and physical environment will bring them down.

"Look at the European honey bee as an example. Introduced to N. America about 600 years ago. By the 1800's they were common throughout N. America (read Irving Washington's account of Oklahoma and Texas for example). They likely had pushed out many (extinct or reduced greatly in population and range) if not most of N. America's native pollinators and may have caused the extinction of the Carolina Parkakeet through tree hole competition."

"I think something that needs to be looked at in depth is the reintroduction of native plants and animals pushed out by invasive species, once that invasive is brought into control through evolution of pathogens, competitors, etc. This has the potential to greatly reduce the initial shock of native species loss following non-native species introductions. This will require the maintenance of native reserve areas where invasives are removed; for long periods (century or more). Which is about all most invasive species control programs can actually accomplish. "

This is the same conclusion that logic has led me to.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Blog to Visit

Just a quick plug before our dinner guests arrive. . .

If you like our blog here, you should check out Ecosystem Gardening, too. Her blog covers similar topics, but is a hell of a lot less haphazard than this one!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

With Great Power. . .

I was blown away when I read the following:

"When we buy and sell land we are really buying and selling certain rights of use to the land, rather than the land itself. And rights are always balanced by responsibilities. Therefore, having the right to a certain piece of land should always come with specific responsibilities, such as social, economic, and environmental stewardship. When we begin to understand this, we will begin to structure our economy and our laws differently."

Read the full article here.

The idea of owning land and yet not having carte blanche to change it is perplexing to many landowners. I first learned about this issue years ago when a family member told me about his wetland property, which he was not permitted to develop. Another family member once griped to me that he wasn't permitted to shoot wildlife with impunity when it crossed the borders of his little kingdom. Now that I have my own piece of wetland, and my own (edible) wildlife wandering in, I understand their perspectives better. But I am also now in a better position to say that no, even though we have paid for the property, that shouldn't give us the right to ruin it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Winter, Finally!

It's about time! I was too busy chasing our toddler to go outside for some real photography, but even the views from our windows have been photo-worthy.

That's Chris's anti-bunny veggi garden.

Many yards in this area include old wells. The neighbors have capped theirs with a decorative wishing-well structure in order to keep curious kids safe. (It's that box-thing hidden behind a crabapple there beyond our big pines.)

This is the ugliest view: the driveway, our falling-apart fence, slumping raspberry canes, and the street. Even this view is amazing under fresh snow.

Gabe's Garden just looks lumpy. The stately grasses are now comically slumped.

Monday, December 7, 2009

France Versus Monsanto

"France's highest court has ruled that US agrochemical giant Monsanto had not told the truth about the safety of its best-selling weed-killer, Roundup.

"The court confirmed an earlier judgment that Monsanto had falsely advertised its herbicide as 'biodegradable' and claimed it 'left the soil clean'."

Read the article on the BBC here.

And here is another good little article on many of the issues with GM crops. I particularly liked their highlight of Monsanto's advertisement on the radio news show Marketplace, produced by American Public Media. The ad causes Chris and I to wince daily on our drive home: its presence is a glaring defect in an otherwise sterling radio station.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Drat! Another food off the menu.

Chris and I have wondered why sometimes a sushi dinner - and from a high-quality place mind you, because Chris can smell a not-so-fresh-fish from thirty paces - we both go running for the restroom. And I do mean running. It's never a mild thing, either: we're either fine, or the meal shoots through both of us.

The reason why: many sushi joints serve up a fish called Escolar in place of tuna. Escolar contains gempylotoxin, which "may lead to intestinal cramping and diarrhea".

It should be telling how bad for you this fish is by the way Japan treats it. The nation that eats every sea critter it can get its hands on, creepy, yucky, endangered, poisonous, or otherwise, has banned Escolar from consumption since 1977.

Equally baffling and repugnant, many restaurants also serve up endangered species.

It is unclear whether the restaurants knowingly serve up the wrong fish. I suspect in the case of the endangered fish, it is accidental, because a rare food could potentially be sold on the black market for a much higher price, while cheaper substitutes for tuna are easy to come by. I would give the restaurants the benefit of the doubt, but in this day and age, I call their mistakes negligence.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Natural Topiary

When asked about his garden, a friend on mine shakes his head, and self-mockingly bemoans the "penis-shaped bushes" that greet his guests.

He may be exaggerating, but he isn't alone. Evergreen shrubs in these parts each winter lose needles on their lowest four feet. When I first encountered the phenomenon, I assumed the shrubs in question were diseased. (They weren't; they were trying and failing to regrow, and I regret to say that I killed two of them.)

It's the deer that do it. Overpopulated and hungry, they eat what they can reach.

Some examples from around the neighborhood:

They're a little pointy for proper phalluses, but they would make good companion plants for the standard suburban topiary "meatball".

They're not native, but. . .

Alyssum, also known as sweet alyssum, Lobularia maritima, has really grown on me. They aren't native, and they do readily reseed, but I haven't heard of them being invasive around here. These are all volunteers growing where the parent plants dropped seeds last year, and they are some of the last blossoms in the yard.

Looking closely at them this year, I realized: oh, these are in the mustard family!" See how as the flowers open upwards, they leave a long stem of seed-pods? And also each flower has four petals.

All mustards are edible, but after one taste I have to report that I won't be eating alyssum salads any time soon.

Found them!

Dang it, I looked all over for these images when I made the post on violet seeds.

Anti-Junkmail Experiment

Well, it was worth a try. I had some post-cards printed up that said "please remove me from your mailing list." The cards included a list of possible reasons for my wanting to receive junkmail, from which I could circle what I wanted to tell the company, including "you spent my donation on requests for more donations" and "your mailings are a waste of paper and other resources."

That's a card to White Flower Farm on top: a particularly over-priced mail-order plant company that spreads invasives and sold me some under-performing saffron crocus bulbs. Along with various other unwanted catalog-senders, this batch of mailings also included some environmental organizations that I really, deeply want to support, but who have irritated me away with wasteful mailings and free gifties that I don't want, and don't want to put in a landfill.

On each card, I cut out and pasted the address of the company or organization on the right, as well as my own address on the left, so that the company would know who to cross off of their list.

My expectation was that these cards would be received and largely ignored. What I didn't expect was to find them returned in my own mailbox.

I like to think highly of our postal service, but it seems that either they have forgotten where on a postcard the mail-to address traditionally goes, or they are permitting companies to print return addresses on their mailings that are actually unsuitable to go through the mail.

Perhaps after the Christmas hullaballo dies down, I will go to the post office and ask.