Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Poor Bird!

This poor Cooper's hawk was trapped in the Library of Congress all week. I'm amazed that she didn't starve. A hawk of this size needs the equivalent of a quail a day, and she got only two meals in a week's time.

I suppose that this is more evidence that the nation's predatory bird populations are on the rise.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Evil Empire Strikes Back!

There's a very good post up on Monsanto's blog right now, defending Monsanto employees against people who call them "evil", with links to other good posts.

I wasn't expecting Europe to lift its ban of GM foods, but it seems to have happened.

And from the radio this morning, news of a report on global hunger and food production, in which a surprisingly balanced stance is taken. The report is in support of using GM foods as one of a number of solutions, but also says that small farms have a lot to offer, and that GM crops and small farms do not mix. I still need to listen to the whole thing and do some more research. . .

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Snowpocalypse, the Day After

New England knows how to handle snow. Even though we got something nearing two feet, by the next day, the roads were mostly cleared.

Still, much caution is needed to drive in these conditions.

Plows and other diggers are still at work clearing side roads.

You need to know where you are going in this. Signs and lights are clotted with snow, and piles of snow block the visibility at turns.

Another very useful sign.

These photos were all taken from the car as we drove to work. This is the best picture I could get of the Charles River floodplain.

Trees are sagging and cracking under these loads of snow.

A pond.

You can tell the proper New Englanders from the rest by how well they clean off their cars. You either have to be new to the area or very stupid not to realize that driving with a mattress of snow on your car, especially on the highway, could kill someone. I'm pretty sure it is illegal.

Our workplace has a locked courtyard with a lovely garden. All the saplings are bent into arches. The understory of the woods everywhere looks like this, too, as does the dogwood in my yard that I'm too lazy to shake off. I'm curious to see how, or if, they recover.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snowpocalypse 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011. We all stayed home. Chris is still recovering from walking pneumonia, and I am still under doctor's orders to do no heavy work, so we asked a neighbor to clear our driveway. But for most of the day, were were well and truly snowed in.

More than a foot of snow accumulated on the railings.

The branches were so loaded with the sticky snow that you couldn't see into the woods.

Looks like some sort of hunched creature now, doesn't it?

Gabe's Garden, the view from the front door.

Chris' veggie garden.

Check out the fence. Chris had to go dig out the Mousetrap. It was squashed under the weight of the snow, but sprang right back up.

I took these pictures from the windows. I just don't have the energy to be slogging around through knee-deep snow right now.

It's good hibernating weather. Poor crow.

The plows built us some magnificent piles. Gabe would run to the window to watch them work.

I considered opening the door and dipping him into the snow, but he wouldn't have appreciated it. Instead, I brought a bowl of snow inside for him to eat.

My poor shrubs are getting squashed, but I don't have the energy to shake them free of snow. Oh well - they look so pretty like this anyhow.

Snow photos coming soon!

We hunkered down at home yesterday to enjoy the nor-easter. Hopefully I'll have some photo-editing time tonight. I hope everyone else who got snow stayed warm and safe!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

For Your Reading Enjoyment. . .

I like reading about legal matters, when they are written in layman's terms that I can grok. Things that seem so simple on the surface turn out to be so complex underneath, and a proper look at legalities leaves out partisan fluff and goes straight to the heart of the matter with Vulcan clarity of logic. Here, for example, is a nice blurb at the Garden Professors about why educators need to be very careful when recommending home remedy pesticides, even when such remedies seem more safe than their commercial counterparts.

And in this corner, Monsanto acknowledges the benefit of no-till farming, as is demonstrated by a Purdue study. Whoda thunk it?

Last but not least, here is a nice little article on how invasive species trigger mass extinctions. And to think I ever wasted time arguing with people who consider invasive species to be a man-made problem. Of course, they said, when species migrate without the help of people, it's all natural and completely different from what's going on now! Morons.

(This does not absolve us from our role in mixing up the world's ecosystems, but, more importantly, gives us a more accurate and scientific perspective from which to evaluate the current mess.)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hello snow plow. . .

While my father was outside blissfully shoveling away at the pre-Christmas blizzard, I happened to look out just as the snowplow pulled up. Usually the plow does a cursory job on our unimportant dead-end street. In the past we've had to shovel as much as ten feet by thirty of road in order to regain access to our street and the mailbox.

On this day, however, I think the plowman was angling for a tip from my Dad. He carefully scooped away at the build-up blocking the end of our driveway.

That's Gabe, above, contemplating the pile of snow, rocks, and creeping thyme that doesn't usually live in the driveway.

We see the first hint of a truly exciting resculpting of the garden there, in the middle of the opposing bed, where a rock peeks out from the heaped snow. No rock should be there. And even at this stage, I'm pretty sure I know which rock got moved.

I'm glad that my father didn't think to tip the guy. Stay tuned. . .

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Pre-Christmas Snow

Snow fell for my parents over vacation, right before Christmas. This is a view of the veggie garden as the light was fading on the first day.

View of Gabe's Garden from the front window. Nana helped Gabe to make the wreath as a surprise gift for us. So sweet!

Gabe's Garden as seen from the front door.

The veggie garden, the following day. This was before Chris opened up the box to harvest his delicious and absurdly out-of-season greens.

Here is Chris, my intrepid shoveler, demonstrating the depth of the snow piled on the bench. My father did most of the shoveling because Chris was sick through their entire visit. (And I am on on doctor's orders not to exert myself.) Poor Chris is still sick - the cold has morphed into walking pneumonia.

I just noticed that in the photo, you can see a ball of snow flying through the air from my father's shovel!

Mass die-offs versus Extinction

"The irony is that mass die-offs — usually of animals with large populations — are getting the attention while a larger but slower mass extinction of thousands of species because of human activity is ignored."

From this article.

This article is following up on panic caused by reporting on a cluster of die-offs in Arkansas.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fisher Cat

I would like to tell you that this image is as cute as it looks.

This creature, I am fairly sure, is a fisher cat, Martes pennanti. My neighbors have reported occasional sightings of these reclusive predators in their yards, and I had seen prints through my own yard that seemed to be the right size, but this is the first time I have ever seen one. Sadly, sometimes the only way to get a good look at a wild animal is after it has died. And this, I am sorry to say, is a dead fisher cat. I spotted it a couple of miles from home as I was en route to the weekly grocery outing, and I returned for a closer look at mid-day, having traded the toddler for the camera.

The fisher cat was a casualty of a car, no doubt. There is a small amount of blood in the following images, so if you are sensitive to such things, you may want to skip this post.

From this angle, its weasel heritage is quite apparent. She - as I assume this one is female, by its smaller size - is about three feet long. Three feet may sound tiny, but when I got up close to her and saw no obvious indication that she was dead, I stood and looked a long while for any hint that she might spring back to life. This is not a wild animal that I would want to get close to while alive. I hear that they can be quite fearsome in life - and the build of this creature is magnificently ferocious.

Look at those teeth, and those giant paws! Note, too, that her nose is still moist, and the blood has neither clotted nor frozen. The poor thing hadn't been dead long. It pains me to think that she have been lying there, still alive but suffering, as I did my grocery shopping.

I looked long and hard for evidence of breathing, or any twitch in that eye. I wanted to be sure that she was beyond suffering.

The paws are massive compared to the fisher's body, giving it a formidable bear-like appearance - and they are tipped with a cat's nasty curved claws. Size-wise, the feet are unmistakably larger than a cat's, but smaller than that of a coyote. Now that I have seen them, I'll be able to more correctly identify the prints in my yard.

A hundred years ago fishers were hunted to near extinction in their southern ranges due to demand for their furs - particularly in New England. And I can see why. Her fur looked fantastically warm, and begged to be touched.

If nothing else, I learned a bit about these beautiful animals while researching this post. Fisher cats prefer old-growth forests, particularly when there are rotting logs about. I can't provide the former, but we do have an excess of logs left over from the oak tree. I'll have Chris put them out in the woods to make our landscape a more suitable habitat.

Rest in peace beautiful creature.


I need to give quinoa another chance. The last time I tried cooking it, picking out the pebbles was a pain, and the cooking time was lengthy. But it's far more nutritious than I realized, and I'm jumping at every opportunity right now to get nutrition into my picky toddler, for whom I have devolved into hiding sweet potato in meatballs, hiding kale with ketchup, and flying spoonfulls of food over the dinner table like airplanes.

I wonder if I can cook quinoa in my rice cooker? Wikipedia says yes!

Monday, January 3, 2011

I need to get back on the ball with my writing.

Dang it - I haven't written a fresh newspaper article in months. My blog posts have been minimalist filler, and forget about writing for other outlets. Pregnancy has sucked away my energy for late-night writing! Grump! Dinner rolls around, I cook, I eat, and then I get wrapped up with getting our two-year-old through his bedtime routine. Oh, and he has been getting transitioned to his new big-boy bed, so every night has been an adventure. It's getting to be a routine, but the routine still involves either Chris or myself climbing into bed with him and waiting until he is asleep. And when it's me, I fall asleep, too, and Chris has to remind me to move my sorry sleepy self over into the correct bed. Add to this that Chris has been walloped these past weeks with a cough that has left him a miserable exhausted sofa-lump, so Gabe's bedtime routine has been mostly fallen to me. So, there's my excuse for not writing. And the arrival of the new baby in April will be exponentially worse. Sigh.

Anyway, it gave me a smile to see that my "recent" post on Garden Rant came in as their number three post for comments generated in a guest rant. Let me take that as a reminder to myself to sit my sleepy butt at the computer a couple of nights a week, at least until April. Perhaps a Resolution is in order. . .