Pollyanna on the environment: part 4 – why hope?

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This is mostly a picspam of what I think of when I think about what we as humans can experience and allow future generations to experience by taking better care of “the environment.”  I wrote a post a few months ago linking to a website with a really brilliant series on the potential our indoor environments can hold and I just felt like doing a random inspirational post about the wilderness that is still here for us to enjoy.

There are so many awesome and beautiful places on this planet and so many places that can be restored or made even better.

Did you notice the obvious human influence and management in several of the photos? We humans do not automatically spoil nature by our presence. We are not some inevitably corrosive and damaging blight on the beauty of this world.

There ARE many areas we have messed up, and Chernobyl is one of them. This is an interesting documentary I watched some time ago – it seems to be a bit staged in parts, but overall it is a fascinating look at what happens when we abandon an area and how resilient and quick nature is to rebuild.

youtube.com/watch?v=ud33w26qsWQ

Especially notice the types of plastic and biodegradable items left behind.  Then watch how greenery is taking over and everything is becoming lush and more and more wild looking.

Please remember that we as humans do not have to despise ourselves. We can not only live in harmony with nature’s cycles, but we can improve and beautify what we touch, as well.
Y Girl

Pollyanna on the environment: Part 2

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I think I’ll start with imagining things closest to us, as per the zones in permaculture. We’re on zone 0 right now, the environments we spend most of our time in.

Let’s start with air…

As a kid I had plenty of time to read because of being homeschooled. I read a LOT, and some of that was books by Zane Grey. I remember how he rhapsodized constantly about the beauty of the deserts in Arizona and the Southwest and talked about drinking in the air as if it was wine. I like climates like Ireland, but those books did give me a sense of fascination and awe with the badlands of this country, the high and lonely places. And that comparison of air to wine! Isn’t it exaggeration to say that air could be so invigorating?

So many of us live in places that smell of exhaust and pavement and dusty, sad, bedraggled plants giving off pollen that makes us sneeze. We hear the stats about pollution and asthma and the o zone layer and see pictures of garbage dumps like this.

None of that is necessary, though.

What if we got off fossil fuels entirely? That is totally doable in my opinion. If we change our housing to be more people friendly (and gorgeous!), have good networks of mass transportation, farm sensibly using techniques that are good for the land and are already proven to work, and used alternatives to wood and coal for heat and cooking – then we CAN all breathe clean air. It may not always be like wine, but it would be good for us.

Oh, and sometimes I wonder just why I keep going up to Yosemite to hike. Part of it of course is that I have a list of hikes I want to get done before I move away, but part of the reason for driving to Yosemite to do the hikes is that the air does indeed smell like wine, especially at dawn. You can look at pictures of Yosemite and get a great deal of the experience that way, but the air. The aroma of pines!

And yes, I realize it is hypocritical to talk of air pollution and then DRIVE somewhere to get to clean air. Oh well.
We usually have decent air around my place, though in the winter most of the neighbors use fireplaces for heating, which really does a number on the air quality.

What if we all could wake up to snowy, crisp days in winter, with air that prickles and stings with fresh and natural scents? What if those of us in the tropics had humid, muggy air that simply smelled of trees and perhaps neighbors’ cooking? What if those of us living on the hot planes of Africa could do our cooking without using wood and instead we smelled the baking dirt, the gardens growing in the sun, spices? What if we could experience springtime in the country smelling earthy pastures and profuse flowers and wet pond plants?

I think good air is possible for us all. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but there is no reason why we cannot achieve it. Just imagine… we can all breathe air that is rich as wine.

Y Girl

Pollyanna on the environment: Part 1

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It can get pretty discouraging reading about how badly we humans have messed up this little planet in just the last 100 years. We’ve been modifying it for thousands of years, but for a long time it was more on a scale similar to termite mounds or bird nests – we built things like step wells in India, the pyramids in Egypt (and South America), Roman roads all over Europe, built things like the Hagia Sophia, and in general manipulated our environment in many ways.  But, we still had a not-overburdened planet. When one area got kind of messed up, we could move and find new resources. Read the tales of explorers coming to the New World just a few hundred years ago and you will find stories of such magnificent abundance of food and beauty as will make you ache for a time machine. Read stories of lobstermen and trappers and how MUCH there was out there of every type of food and raw materials. It’s just astounding. In California, where I live, there used to be far more streams and springs even in the middle of summer, where you could get a drink when traveling. Now there are very few springs and all but the biggest waterways dry up all summer long.

Of course, in the good old days people did do things like use lead in pottery glazes, try arsenic as pesticide for crops, and commit acts of war such as spreading salt to make land infertile. Even cosmetics were often contaminated, with no oversight at all of ingredients (not that the FDA seems to help much nowadays either), and containing various poisons. The good old days were pretty terrible in a lot of ways and human rights have certainly come a long ways since then (phew!). Medicines and technology have made life a lot easier and with less suffering for many.

But now, something has gone wrong and we seem to be fouling not just our personal nests but the entire world, in what may be permanent ways. Why bother reading dystopian novels or watching disaster movies when we already are dealing with that? It’s just not quite as dramatic and fast as an apocalyptic movie.

This is where I always get really depressed and then I rebound and start thinking about all the good things that are possible. It might be pretty Pollyanna-ish, but who cares? Sometimes that is fun. In this series I’m going to let my imagination run a bit wild and idealistic. Let’s imagine what could be possible, what IS still possible!

Y Girl

Chickies! Er, hens by now!

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In the beginning of March I ordered 15 little White Leghorn chicks from Cackle Hatchery, which is actually where I got my first batch of chicks from back when I was a young teen. At that time I remember I ordered Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds because I figured they would be pretty as well as friendly and lay plenty of eggs. I always heard how Leghorns were flighty and unfriendly, though definitely tops on the egg front, so I decided back then not to go with the cheap and boring looking white hens. This time, however, I got the Leghorns. They have a reputation for being good foragers as well as good layers and I don’t have much time for making pets out of any more animals at the moment, anyway, since I accidentally tamed yet another feral cat.

From the very beginning they were super friendly, very athletic, and extremely curious about everything.  By which I mean they did not take kindly to being confined in their nice, roomy box until old enough to go outside.  The things I went through trying to keep them in there!  WAY too many times I heard this distinctive little “pat-pat” sound and realized they had gotten out and were running around on the carpet.  I swear, they sounded different when they were being “bad” than when they were staying put.  Totally cute, but, a lot more energetic and good at flying than other chicks I’ve seen over the years!

After a couple weeks, with sunny weather and some decent feathers, they got to go outside in their pen.  They loved it, and it was fun going out to pick them up at dusk every night, transferring them from their little circular feathery cuddle into their nighttime box in the house.  Excuse my gushing, but I always love how babies and baby animals have that soft, warm feeling when you pick them up.  So yeah.  By now I kind of had to admit I was not sticking to my resolution to be just business about them.  They were too adorable not to coo over.

I had made them a portable metal and wire fencing house that is relatively easy to move around to a different spot every day and was planning to make two more and split them into three houses as they grew.

Things were going along with occasional hiccups (when a chick would escape and have to be caught) when they finally decided to start roosting.  Now we had Problems.  Because apparently two to three foot high perches are for inferior chickens.  These chickens need to be at least eight feet high for restful sleep, and preferably more.  They started working very hard at getting out and would spend all day undoing the door ties, pushing things, etc., so that when evening came they could fly to the top of their house and thence to the cottonwood branches.

I have never, ever met such motivated birds in my life.  They LOOK quite innocent, don’t they?

But really, they are a ravening horde!

Those snowy little dames do not really like their commercial feed that much and act like the chickens from the Chicken Run movie – “let’s diet, exercise, and practice flying as much as possible!”  I am working on revamping their house to make it better for their roosting needs but still movable, but at the moment I am embarrassed to admit they are pretty much free range hens.  They chase the cats, have eaten ALL the veggies (so I will need to restart that before I can get going on the gardening posts again), and love hanging out under the shady porch and then running pellmell, “pat-pat,” away whenever anyone steps outside.  They will follow people around, come when you call, and try to look in the windows.

So, in the next couple of days I will, I HOPE, manage to get them under control again.  Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed this story of animals changing plans.

Y Girl

The Big Pond

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This pond is not on my current rented property, but is nearby, on family property.  It is about 100 feet in diameter and I am featuring it because it does have an effect on the climate around here, including creating a lot of cool breezes in summer, and I’ll probably be foraging for berries around it later this year.  It used to be a cattle pond when this was all a ranch and later was deepened and the dam improved for a fish pond.  In good rain years it overflows multiple times and it is pretty awesome to watch the brown swirling water rushing into the pond and right out again.  That is some serious acre-feet that goes through there.  This year it has filled up most of the way, but not quite to overflowing, due to this being a weird La Nina year.

This picture is taken in late afternoon, standing on the dam.  The pond is surrounded by blackberry bushes, originally planted to keep predators away from ducks on the pond.  By the way, this does not work.  The bushes take a lot of up-keep and lately have been allowed to run free a bit too much, so there are some big bramble patches now.  They do produce a LOT of berries, though it’s always kind of a race to pick them before the native bees puncture them and suck the juice out.  Oh well, sharing is a good thing, right?

The other side of the pond.  The brambles on the far side are at least 15 feet thick and house many bullfrogs and small birds, as well as probably lizards and snakes.  It does not seem to be frog breeding season yet, but when I was walking around a bullfrog/Yosemite Toad (I can’t get close enough to tell the difference) would dive into the water about every three feet.  Good to know this little ecosystem still has a healthy population of amphibians.

Warm blackberries with fresh raw cream are a wonderful paleo-style treat and I have a bunch of ideas I am looking forward to trying out for other recipes. I always loved blackberry cobbler and if I find I am craving it I will eat some, paleo or no paleo, since I don’t want to torture myself, but we shall see what other creative ways there are to eat blackberries (assuming they make it in the house first!).  Now I am having visions of blackberries, warm and melting sweet, dancing in my head…

Y Girl

About My Habitat – Part Five: The Summit

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This area includes the dog, an old set of outbuildings (including the one I had my first flock of chickens in over ten years ago), the water tank (everyone around here is on well water), and it goes up to a very wooded area past the perimeter fence.  LOTS of poison oak up above there, but I don’t have to worry about that, fortunately.

Next, a little above:

Sort of panning around in a circle.  Isn’t this pretty?  Definitely the absolute peak of the year in CA, IMO.

Whoops, totally forgot about this old shell of a tank.  Wonder how many years it’s been here?

Looks like we’re miles from anywhere, ahh…

Here is the dog, Kippy.  I was going to tell her to sit and stay to get a better picture, but I remembered that even when she is staying her head still keeps moving, so oh well.  The only way to get a non-blurry picture of her is sneak up when she is asleep, and that is pretty hard.

Here we are overlooking the driveway.

Another clump of iris.  These are definitely zone 4 – never get watered, weeded, or dead-headed.  This year I am picking some flowers, but even that didn’t happen much in recent years.  They smell great.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

That finishes up this series about my immediate surroundings for now, but I intend to add some more about other significant features of the landscape around here, such as the nearby quarter acre pond.  Stay tuned…

Y Girl

Frog ponds and West Nile

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It occurred to me that there are probably a lot of people who would like to put in frog ponds but are worried about mosquitoes and diseases, which is certainly something to think about.

The life cycle of mosquitoes can vary depending on temperature.  I have heard that if you disturb the water by stirring it every few days that the larvae will die, but it looks like that may not be true.  I am going to keep an eye on my mini frog pond and if the frogs are not sufficient to keep the water clear of wigglers then I will get one or two minnows from the feed store and let them keep the bugs and algae down.

I do know that after years of living next to a large pond, I have been bitten more at other people’s properties where there is no standing water than I have been next to the pond, which had gazillions of frogs, waterfowl, some fish, and bats.  As long as you keep an eye on things and you are educated about life cycles and predators of pests than you can figure out how to proceed.

Oh, and I have not yet had a chance to look for frogs to “plant” near my bucket pond, but it may not be necessary – yesterday evening I saw a frog hopping away from the pond into a rosemary bush, so it seems they have already found it!  I did some research over the weekend and I think the frog I see most often around here is the California Treefrog.  It was kind of fun to find out that frogs are such an important indicator species of the health of ecosystems and realize how many there are in this area!  In spring the large pond tends to be full of these Yosemite Toads, as near as I can tell.  I’m not sure how many there usually are in the pond at breeding season – I remember springs where it seemed like there were hundreds, but it sort of depends.

If anyone has or puts in a frog pond, send me a picture and I will feature it!

Y Girl

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