Environmental


You may not think of toads and frogs as desert dwellers but we actually have quite a few! One of them came for visit the other day, taking up temporary residence in our fountain. I wish I could upload the QuickTime video I shot but this blog will only allow the picture. Still…he’s a cutie! He really seemed to enjoy swimming under the falling water 🙂

visiting toad by rlc

To read more about desert dwelling frogs and toads visit the Arizona Game and Fish page.

 

Baby DoveI’m sure we all have stories about curious children who wander away and sometimes get a bit lost; it happens to creatures of all kinds. Today it was this baby dove’s turn to learn a scary lesson.

I noticed him just outside my office window. At the time, he was chasing after a lizard even larger than himself. (I missed a great photo op as baby dove pecked the lizard on the chin.)

Like most of us who mean well, I dragged the ladder outside to search for the nest—thinking I might put him back. All I found was a sad remnant of a nest in the rain gutter; there was an un-hatched egg still there. Although concerned for the baby, I decided the best thing to do was wait and watch.

Baby Dove 2As the morning went on I noticed the mom was taking good care of Baby Dove. She fed him at regular intervals and let him hide underneath her feathers. About two hours later I happen to catch site of Baby standing up and looking towards the roof. He spread his wings, bent his little legs, and flew up to that old remnant in the rain gutter!

We all have lessons to from life: the right way to build a home, when not to wander away from the nest, the importance of helping others, and when it’s best to root from the sidelines and let them learn to stretch their wings.

I just came across this video and want to share it with you.

Why should you care about GMOs? Because studies have proven they are not safe, because other countries have banned them, and because your food labels may not disclose all the ingredients. Have you ever thought about the corn oil used in your condiments or packaged foods? What about the non-organic fruits and veggies you purchase? What about your pet’s food?

Not only are GMOs unhealthy for consumers, the crops are unhealthy for our pollinating friends (bees, butterflies. etc…) and unhealthy for our local farmer’s pocketbook– GMO crops don’t reseed very well which means repurchasing seeds each season.

Please purchase, garden, and vote wisely.

Happy May Day!

Traditionally, May Day celebrates the Earth’s stirring from her winter slumber. In honor of this bridge between Earth Month and the coming summer I would like to share a couple of poems from Sublime Planet by Magdalena Ball and Carolyn Howard-Johnson. These poems are re-printed with their permission. You can find two more poems, plus an interview with the authors at Museiddity.com.

clip_image011

The Man I Love and The Writing Spider

by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

 

Proud Arachne weaving threads of silver

into words became a changeling

at the hand of Zeus. Charlotte knew

the power of words

could save even a pig. The Writing

Spider my imagination’s

mascot.

 

Forgetting my reverence for its writing

skills I begin to slide the patio door against

this micro werewolf in righteous

self-defense, his imagined face vicious,

hairy his legs, those tools under his belly

no longer idealized

wordspinners.

 

Just in time, my husband, child of Zen,

tenderly shanghais my attacker. A folded

tissue—a papery cocoon not unlike

the silky space this spider makes

for herself in window

corners—protects

his palm.

 

He shakes her loose

from her pristine hammock

gently

near the mound where ants

hang out to dine at will

on any fallen enemy

or comrade.

 

Saving one to kill or be killed.

Once, the savior of this story

 

rescued a bee, legs

and antennae

fruited with pollen,

only to have it plant its stinger

in his thumb and slowly die

anyway.

 

Neither bee nor spider

aware of how tender

and treacherous my hero’s

trap.

 

Smokewater

by Magdalena Ball

 

Slowly, if you will

tip toeing through the biomass

pores hot and open

body on alert

pick through chemical decomposition

charred landscape of desire.

 

The wood beneath your fingers

terra preta

veins visible against filtered light;

a promise

you may or may not keep.

 

Future

a concept too vague and amoral

to hold you.

 

The dirt below

becomes wilderness in your brain

the boggy soil in your gut

inspires forward motion.

 

Sublime Planet is the most recent book in The Celebration Series; I like the fact that all proceeds go to the World Wildlife Fund. If you like reading and sharing great poetry you’ll want to check out the rest of these titles. All are available as paperback and e-books.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are coming up fast—these make fun tuck-in gifts!

 

She Wore Emerald Then: Reflections on Motherhood (http://budurl.com/MotherChapbook)

Cherished Pulse: Love Poetry for the Rational
(http://budurl.com/CherishedPulse)

Imagining the Future: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparitions

(http://budurl.com/Imagining )

Deeper into the Pond: A Celebration of Femininity

(http://budurl.com/DeeperPond)

And Blooming Red: Christmas Poetry for the Rational
(http://budurl.com/BloomingRed)

And, of course, Sublime Planet in celebration of the Earth and Universe

(http://amzn.to/SublimePlanet)

 

Have a little May Day fun and share a short poem with us! In the comment section below, share a poem on the theme of May Day or Spring. Keep it short–under 200 character, like a Tweet.

 

Earth Cake by rlc

 

Whether you call them Earth Cakes or Garden Cakes, these make fun gifts to give for Earth Day–and the kids will love making them with you!

 

Supplies:

  • Bucket for mixing up soil
  • Flat working surface
  • Cardboard discs, plastic lids, or other recyclable/reusable “cake plate”
  • Can that is slightly smaller in diameter than your “cake plate”
  • Wax paper
  • Potting soil/garden dirt
  • Water
  • Flower seeds
  • Small flowers or leaves (optional)

Directions:

In your bucket combine potting soil, water, and garden dirt if needed. You want the mixture to be “packable” and able to keep its shape.

Place some wax paper on your work surface.

Pack a small ball of your soil mixture. Place it on your wax paper and gently press into a flat disc or “cake layer.”  Use your can as a cookie cutter to create uniform layers. Make two per cake.

Sprinkle a small amount of flower seeds over each layer. Gently pat the seeds into the cake. (I used a wildflower seed mixture for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds). Let your cake layers dry for a few minutes.

While waiting for your cake layers to dry, prepare your cake plate by arranging a layer of leaves, flower petals, or other “doily.”

By now your cake layers should be dry enough to handle without breaking. Gently peal them off the wax paper and position them on your cake plate seed side up.

Decorate the top of your cake with a small sprig of flowers or a few small leaves.

To Plant:

Lay each layer in a pot or in the garden and cover with a small amount of soil. Refer to the direction on your seed packet for planting depth and watering instructions.

(Alternatively, the cake layers can be crumbled into your garden)

Are you a creative person? Do you enjoy crafts, art, writing, music, gardening, and other creative activities? Join us at Museiddity.com!

How do you celebrate Earth Day? Shout it out here in the comments section!

Squash BlossomEvery day is Earth Day, but when the “official” day comes around some of us like to acknowledge it in a special way. If this Earth Day has crept up on you don’t despair, there are plenty of inexpensive ways to honor The Mama today!

  • Take a quick trip to your local nursery for a small tomato plant. Cost is minimal, space needed is minimal and the rewards are spectacular!Tomato Plant

I enjoyed my very first home-grown tomato yesterday morning with eggs and toast. Surprise! Tomatoes are sweet! I have two tomato plants–the heirloom tomatoes are not yet ripe…

You can find out more about heirloom seeds at Heirloom Seeds.Com

  • Reverse Gardening—prepare a space for weeds to grow.Globe Mallow

What most people call “weeds” are actually native plants. These native grasses and wildflowers are an important part of the local ecosystem; they provide seeds, nectar, nesting materials, and even places for butterflies to be born.

Speaking of butterflies, this year I have a wild Globe Mallow growing in my backyard (picture above)—most likely compliments of a feathered friend. The Globe Mallow is native to the area and known to attract butterflies.

No yard? No problem! Wildflowers are tenacious, most are happy to be in a pot.

For more information on native plants visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

  • Make room for pollinators.
    Butterflies, Bumblebees, Carpenter Bees, Bats, Moths…we need the pollinators and they need a safe place to breed. Find out which pollinators live in your area and create a pollinator-friendly environment with specially constructed homes, their favorite plants, nesting materials, and above all No Pesticides.Bee on Rosemary

A word about pesticides—what’s bad for the bugs is bad for you. Ditch the sprays, cancel your monthly pest-control visits and go au-natural!

For ants- Spread yellow cornmeal wherever you see a trail; they will bring it back to the nest. The cornmeal expands after ingestion.

For mosquitoes- find a narrow-necked bottle and put fill just an inch or so with sugar water; pests fly in but can’t fly out.

To learn more about pesticides visit EarthJustice.Org.

For more ideas on natural pest control visit Eartheasy Solutions.

  • Right now, while you are thinking about it, put those reusable shopping bags in your car. Don’t have any? Make your own! Stitch up snazzy shopping sacks by using old bath towels, bed sheets, pillowcases or blankets!

Did you know? Shredded junk mail makes an excellent packaging material? Use it instead of bubble wrap to take up extra space in shipping boxes.

Have a Beautiful Day!

How are you celebrating Earth Day?
Share your stories or your reduce/reuse/recycle/green home tips in the comments section!

Other links of interest: Just copy/paste (wordpress doesn’t appreciate a lot of outgoing links)

World Wildlife Fund
http://www.worldwildlife.org/home-full.html

The Nature Conservancy
http://www.nature.org/

Save the Frogs
http://www.savethefrogs.com/

Arbor Day Foundation
http://www.arborday.org/

The Honeybee Conservancy
http://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/act-today-2/act-today/

Save Honebees.Org
http://www.savehoneybees.org/

Save the Bees Movie
http://www.vanishingbees.com/

Queen of the Sun documentary—Instant watch available
http://www.queenofthesun.com/

Learn More on PBS-Watch Silence of the Bees here:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/silence-of-the-bees/full-episode/251/

The Center for Biological Diversity
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
http://www.xerces.org/

Mock-orange, sage and rosemary–sound like the description for a room deodorizer? Close, those are the plants in my front yard. In the back yard I have lavender and creosote. I love these native plants and usually so do the bees. In fact, there have been times when the bees were so plentiful I would go in and out of the house via the large garage door for fear of being stung! Silly, I know—bees really don’t pose a threat unless threatened but just in case…

Sadly, today I noticed there are no bees! The sage and lavender have just a few flowers, the rosemary has none. Usually the bees can’t get enough of the rosemary and usually it is covered in blue flowers. The mock orange is covered with buds but no blooms. This is all very strange; where are all my little friends?

Where exactly! For several years now the bee population has been in decline. I wrote a post about the decline of our pollinators in February of 2010—you can read it here. Today I am happy to report that everyday people are getting actively involved in finding a solution, will you join us?

Come on over to the Bee-a-thon being live streamed today at Your Garden Show. In partnership with Citizen Science, Your Garden Show is hosting speakers from around the world discussing the threats facing our pollinators and what we can do to help. While you are there, sign up to Join the Bee Count. Counting the bees only takes fifteen minutes and will assist scientists to map colonies across the United States.

You can make a difference! Simple changes such as decreasing your use of pesticides and including native plants in your landscape will make a large impact over time. After all, a bee-healthy environment will be healthy for everyone!

For more information on the plight of the pollinators and the organizations working to save them, such as the Xerces Society, read my previous post. For wonderful bee inspired artwork visit Pencil and Leaf.

Growing up amid the early days of the environmental movement had a definite impact on my life. Teachers preached the need to conserve water. Saturday morning commercials were interspersed with advertisements showing a Native American crying at the pollution and baby bears being rescued from forest fires. By fourth grade, when the other girls were hanging posters of child-star singers on their bedroom walls I tacked up posters of Woodsy Owl and Smokey the Bear.The books I read taught compassion for nature. A spider that helps save a pig from the butchery, the plight of a family of rabbits as their home is bulldozed. In my “tweens” I collected money door-to-door for environmental causes. All of life was precious to me, and I thought the world shared this view.
Something happened along the way. People lost sight, or maybe they never really held it to begin with. As I entered adulthood I resigned myself to being the oddball. People I worked with would make fun of me and my so-called obsession; at one company I even earned the nickname of Mother Nature…because I had so many plants on my desk and because I asked questions such as:

-Why do people use nasty artificial air fresheners? Why don’t they just clean their house? 
-We are told to rinse chlorine off of our skin after being in the pool. How can we do that when the water from our shower smells stronger than the pool water?
-Why do we have fluoride in our tap water? My stomach and liver are not going to get tooth decay. My pets and petunias don’t need it. We already have fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwash isn’t that enough?
-And finally, why do we build apartments and shopping centers which remain half empty on top of what used to be beautiful crop land and then truck in produce from 2000 miles away? 
Of course, no one ever had an answer.

It is heartening to finally see the pendulum begin to swing back.  Vegetarianism has become commonplace, no longer do I struggle to find a meal choice when I go out to dinner. It’s okay now to bring canvas bags to the grocery store. There is actually a truck which comes to my house to pick up my recyclables and when I tell people I don’t like to drink the tap water most of them agree, or at least understand, that it doesn’t taste fresh. 
This Earth Day I’m filled with hope as a new generation is exposed to the history of the environmental movement and the work of Rachael Carson through shows like those aired on PBS. What we have now that we didn’t have then is several decades of not heeding the advice and being able to positively see the results; one giant experiment in the effects of chemical living and absolute proof in the need to honor the biodiversity of nature. This generation has the unfortunate hindsight of cause and effect, but we also now have all the technology necessary to make some very dynamic changes; all we have to do is choose our direction. 

Log onto www.pbs.org for some wonderful educational and entertaining environmental programs; get the show times or watch them online.  I recommend:

A Sense of Wonder- about Rachael Carson, the author of Silent Spring
American Experience: Earth Days, the seeds of a revolution
Nature: Frogs, the thin green line
Independent Lens: Dirt! The Movie

A Bee Enjoying a Rosemary Bush

Invite the Bees to Your Garden

 

This picture of a bee visiting a rosemary bush was taken last week in my front yard. You’ve probably seen a photo like this before on a greeting card, calendar or inspirational poster. It may conjure images of warm, lazy days. Or perhaps you see the bee as a symbol of the promise of spring or Faith and Hope. The fact is the honeybee and its fellow pollinators need more than hope right now.  

For over a decade scientists have been discussing the decline of pollinators. The losses of habitat, use of pesticides, and other stresses have created a marked decline in population. It has been stated that in the United States we have lost over one-third of the honey bee hives, which is over 1,800,000 colonies. This is a costly problem for crop owners and manufacturers of numerous goods who have resorted to shipping farmed bees to new locations. Costly in shipping; costly for the bees.  Shipped bees, both honeybee and bumblebee, are not acclimated to the new surroundings and can become sick. The remaining local bees can be ousted by the new arrivals. Meanwhile the underlying issues are not addressed and the problem escalates.  

You might be asking “why should I care?” The next question is “what can I do?” As for the question of “why exactly this is happening”…that is too large a topic for this blog but I will direct you to other sources.  

Why Should I Care
At least one-third of our food as humans depends on the pollination by bees; not only fruits and vegetables but the grasses which feed the cattle. In fact, twenty-five percent of all animal life depends on plants pollinated by bees. In addition to the food crops bees are necessary pollinators for crops used in textiles, edible and essential oils, plants used in the formulations of medicine and other products which utilize the wax. Let us also not forget the simple things like that bouquet of roses for your loved one or the wildflowers beckoning you to a scenic drive.  

What Can I Do
The best action you can take is to limit your use of pesticides and herbicides. Chemicals toxic to pests are also toxic to pollinators. In the case of social bees these toxins are carried into the hive where they affect other bees, but the larvae still have a chance. For solitary bees the resulting loss of egg laying females affects the numbers more dramatically. A light soap solution or organic deterrent such as plant oils is usually all that is needed for minor pest problems. Better yet, consider companion planting to encourage natural predators such as lacewings, birds and frogs.  

Add native plants to your landscaping. Bees need a variety of plants to supply all the necessary nutrients. A limited diet equals a reduced immune system. A great perk to this is that native plants often require little to no maintenance and add texture and color to your garden.  

Become a Bee Guardian or even a beekeeping hobbyist. A bee guardian simply creates a space for bees to flourish. A beekeeper manages hives and reaps the benefit of harvesting honey.  

Speak up. Encourage biological diversity in your neighborhood and encourage government agencies to create policies based on sustainability.  

For More Information
Organizations:
The Xerces Society is a non-profit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Their website is a plethora of information including scientific updates, endangered species listings and conservation tips.
http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/  

The Ecological Society of America offers case studies, resource listing, policy overviews and more. This website has links too numerous to mention and is well worth the visit.
http://www.esa.org/ecoservices/poll/body.poll.intr.html  

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a good place to begin your search for native plants.
http://wildflower.org/  

In the UK
http://www.soilassociation.org/Takeaction/Savethehoneybee/tabid/434/Default.aspx 

Scientific Papers:
Plant-Pollinator Interactions: A Threatened Mutualism with Implications for the Ecology and Management of Rare Plants
Spira, TP
Natural Areas Journal [Nat. Areas J.]. Vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 78-88. Jan 2001.
http://md1.csa.com/partners/viewrecord.php?requester=gs&collection=ENV&recid=5117593&q=&uid=789016456&setcookie=yes  

Science Direct, a database of scientific literature, has an issue on bees.
Journal of Invertebrate Pathology
Volume 103, Supplement 1 

Bloggers unite to speak out for the bees on February 17th, 2010.  To view more blogs and articles visit http://www.bloggersunite.org/event/help-the-vanishing-bees 

Visit the Writing Prompt page for today’s corresponding prompt

This year marks the 39th anniversary of Earth Day.  Celebrated on different days by different nations, (the UN officially celebrates on March 21st), Earth Day has reportedly become “the largest secular holiday in the world”,  according to Earth Day Network, with no boundaries as to creed or religion.  I wonder if Senator Gaylord Nelson ever envisioned such a mass embracement.

There is good reason to celebrate.  Our one, tiny universe is home to an estimated 100 billion galaxies.  In all our years studying these galaxies whether it be with refractive telescopes, infrared or radio waves, we have not yet found anything comparative to our beautiful blue planet.

Are we a result of a quantum fluctuation?  Are we divinely crafted?  Does it matter?

All we really know is this…

there is no place like home.

How many are there?

How many are there?

 

 Would you like to help astronomers classify galaxies.  If so, log onto Galaxy Zoo.  Take their How To tutorial, create a log in account and spend your free time exploring space.  https://www.galaxyzoo.org/

Want to support clean energy and green collar jobs?  Join the WE Campaign at Repower America.  http://www.repoweramerica.org/earthday

Have a few minutes?  Send an ecard, sign a petition or read the latest Enews at Care 2 http://www.care2.com/

I believe the earth needs a good lawyer and so do the people of Earthjustice.  If you agree please join us at http://www.earthjustice.org/