Fragments from Floyd Photos and Front Porch Musing from Floyd County Virginia Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:21:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Twigs Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:21:36 +0000 Continue reading Twigs ]]> P1010310_800StripedMaple480I am heading out in a few minutes to catch the first direct sun that flares through the spring trees as it crests the east ridge. This particular combination of angles makes for some nice backlit baby leaves and fern fronds.

These Striped Maple buds in that kind of light made for an interesting cluster of light green Vs, with each terminal branch giving rise to two leaf buds.

P1010309StripedMaple480But for the first time (a common theme this week–old dog new tricks-wise) I noticed something else. Every leaf bud also become a branch bud. No leaves are produced anywhere but at the tips of branches, and each leave will be followed by its own branch.

So the final form of this plant is perfectly dichotomous–each fork forks and reforks, its growth in overall height and breadth for the new year starting in the spring with the new leaves.

It takes so little to amaze and delight me. And for that, I am amazed and delighted.

]]> 3
Connected Community Wed, 22 Apr 2015 11:40:02 +0000 Continue reading Connected Community ]]> Dew-covered, these webs are NOT invisible at first light.
Dew-covered, these webs are NOT invisible at first light. Click to enlarge.

What the world (and my image archive) does not need is more pictures of spider webs. But I am a sucker for design in nature. Order in a world of disorder draws me in, speaks to me, teaches me and gives me hope. And questions. But the latter is for an audience I have not located, so I’ll move along here.

From this image of ordinary outdoor happenings on Goose Creek, more bowl-and-doily spiders have been at work in the coralberry at pasture’s edge. These hundred webs spring up overnight, as if spun by elves, each representing literally thousands of planned and precise movements by creatures whose central ganglion–a dot of a brain no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.

What I have failed to notice (and herein is the chief reason to never think been-there done-that when faced with the ordinary) that these discrete one-spider creations are not isolated. Between many but not all of these isolated webs that are typically a few feet apart are bridge lines connecting one bowl to another, and that one, to another yet. See them?

But why? For conjugal visiting purposes? As avenues for social calls? As networks of communication like tin cans at opposite ends of the string–shout in case of emergency!

If I had to guess I’d venture that mating access explains the web connectors, but I don’t know that. I wonder if anybody has asked this question and found an answer.

Meanwhile, I am delighted to know that the old dog even yet continues to have his senses exposed to new tricks in the natural world–an embedded biology-watcher at home in Middle Earth.

Reminds me of something we heard Thomas Berry say in the Saturday night movie, The Great Story: “If a child’s outer world is impoverished [FF: read: nature deficit disorder] then their inner world will be impoverished.

]]> 4
Bluebells: An Unexpectedly Showy Native Wildflower Tue, 21 Apr 2015 11:58:38 +0000 Continue reading Bluebells: An Unexpectedly Showy Native Wildflower ]]> 2015-04-17-122912-bluebells
Click image to enlarge

We transplanted a couple of Virginia Bluebell plants (Mertensia) when we moved from Walnut Knob in 1999, setting them into the bank across the creek in rich woods, as close to the environment from which we had taken them.

For years, they survived but not much more. Now they are spreading–both across the creek and below the back door along the branch. They have survived multiple trouncings by the dogs (ours and our perpetually-borrowed neighbor’s dog).

They have been stunning this year, at least early on, and now gone leggy as the maples begin to compete for sun.

We are surprised at how many visitors have never seen them growing wild. My first experience was in 1976. I had driven up from Wythe County to meet friends for the first time in Rock Castle Gorge the third week of April. They bloom a little earlier than that these globally-warmer years.

]]> 2
Class Warfare: Reptiles vs Amphibians vs US Mon, 20 Apr 2015 11:26:33 +0000 Continue reading Class Warfare: Reptiles vs Amphibians vs US ]]> In this corner, the Eastern Garter Snake. in the other, a Slimy Salamander.
In this corner, the Eastern Garter Snake. in the other, a Slimy Salamander. CLICK to enlarge.

…and of course in this particular match-up, it is rarely the Class Ampibia that wins. Some larger frogs do eat smaller snakes I suppose, but the best defense for a salamander or a frog is never having to defend itself. No teeth, no claws. Sissy fight.

Some few amphibians are poisonous (arrow poison frogs and fire newts for example.) But their greatest threat is not garter snakes. It’s not even the local good ol’ boys who call them “sprang lizards” and gather then for fish bait. (Shudder.)

Amphibia’s weakest link is that permeable skin. It makes them susceptible to rampant microbes in the present Chytrid outbreak that is decimating the entire Class Amphibia. And they are subject to drying out and other subtle environmental perturbations.

Their short weak legs and vulnerability to drying and predation out in the open make it hard for them to migrate–especially HIGHER to cooler zones on the mountain as the lower forests continually grow warmer and warmer. And when they have gone as high as the mountain goes and it gets warmer still, we lose the Appalachian endemics that have inhabited these valleys since well before the last ice age.

So this single private predation that the dog alerted me to yesterday under the forsythia brings to my mind the larger battle for survival–for the amphibians as a whole–who are harbingers of change to the biology of the planet that is coming far faster than any of us can adapt to.

But hey: we’re just talking about a bunch of fish-bait, aren’t we? We have REAL problems going on in our world and slimy slitheries don’t get a second glance.

They should. As the salamanders go, so goes temperate forest ecology. If you think this is hyperbole, go to this link of the following quote, and I rest my case:

The ultimate reason for doing this study is that we have long asked these three related questions: Why are amphibians important? Why do we care if they survive? And why are we concerned about amphibian conservation at all? Well I would contend that if you have that much biomass and if that biomass is important in forest ecosystems and if you lose it, then something is going to go wrong.

It goes back to this idea of the rivet theory in airplanes: if you start popping rivets out of the wings of an airplane, at some point the wings are going to fall off. Well, I would contend that salamanders represent a whole lot of rivets. If you lose all these salamanders in the Ozarks or at Hubbard Brook or in the Appalachians or in the Shenandoah Mountains, then something is going to happen. There’s no question in my mind, now, that salamanders are really important.

]]> 2
To Eat is to Drink Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:39:04 +0000 Continue reading To Eat is to Drink ]]> When we import food from California, we are also importing what’s left of their water.

Use this “water footprint” calculator to see how much water is required for every bit of food you eat.  Look especially at the water footprint of protein.

Of course not the full volume of water listed as the “cost” of any particular meal is wasted as some goes back into the atmosphere as water vapor or into the ground water or local stream from irrigation or animal urine.

Even so, the water has to be there for growth, washing and other processing. And so I have stopped my grumbling about all the outdoor things I cannot do today because it is raining on Goose Creek.

]]> 2
Their Tomorrow: It’s All Up in the Air Wed, 15 Apr 2015 12:13:37 +0000 Continue reading Their Tomorrow: It’s All Up in the Air ]]> 2015-04-15-061321-WorldBall480Our eldest grandchild, Abby, is in the 8th grade now. I was in the same grade in 1962. I marvel at how much life on Earth has changed since then–not just human lives but the state of all life on the planet.

Amazing, the degree of change our one species has caused in the geological blink of an eye is comparable in magnitude only to the shifts between eras caused by colliding continents, super-volcanic millennia or massive meteors slamming into Earth.

My generation has created profound ecological distress on multiple fronts–air, soil, forest, ocean–that we leave for these girls, our grandchildren.  Is there much hope for them to have hope in the future when they are my age now, past mid-century?

I have to believe that there is not if we continue with business as usual. There is little reason to hope for a stable, predictable future for them if today’s adults allow the Anthropocene to become the new geological epoch where no interests are served but mankind’s.

Thomas Berry, featured personality at the Saturday night movie at the Country Story in Floyd, proposes that we must hope for, plan for, and think towards  a much larger chunk of geological future than the Anthropocene (which is only a geological “epoch” lasting a few thousand years.)

Berry’s proposed Ecozoic is of a much grander scale–an era in geology-speak, lasting millions or hundreds of millions of years. And it is a prescriptive, not a descriptive, term. It implies a purposeful direction we must go, and that direction is not a choice, really, because failure to reach the Ecozoic will be terminal for countless species that might include a large portion of our own kind.

We begin to move towards the Ecozoic by reordering our relationships; by telling the New Story and seeing the future biologically; by replacing hubris with humility; by caring for people and planet and not just profit; and by acting as if we really understood that none of us are wholes. We are all part of necessary community, one species among many, and all together part of a much greater story than we’ve let ourselves comprehend.

Berry is a theologian, and ultimately, his Great Story (the title of the short movie we will see this weekend) brings the physical creation back into the Christian story. Matter is not evil. It matters to God, from the sub-atomic to the super-novae.  Nature is not God nor does it contain him any more than a building contains the architect who designed it. But the natural world from microcosm to macrocosm displays, in all of its myriad manifestations, the nature of the builder.

Berry’s message is not quickly or simply unpacked and I’m certain I’ve trivialized it here in this short post. It contains theological, ecological and psychological weight. And it helps us move forward towards a future I can hope for when I watch my grand daughters playing in a present that will move to quickly to their uncertain tomorrow.

]]> 1
Yellow Adders Tongue, or… Tue, 14 Apr 2015 12:30:53 +0000 Continue reading Yellow Adders Tongue, or… ]]> 2015-04-14-082026-1speckledTrout450…Trout Lily. And there are other common names as well for this familiar if short-lived flower of spring we find along Nameless Creek.

It blooms about the time trout season opens; its leaves have a speckled pattern like native trout (if there were any of those left in Nameless or Goose Creek.) So those facts might have contributed to the common name.

It does have edible tubers–if you’re willing to dig way way deep in the black and often rocky soil where they grow–often besides trout streams–like Goose Creek used to be before the deep scour holes filled with silt from roads, fields and construction sites upstream.

This is tough plant to get a good image of. It grows very close to the ground, is often facing same, and has enough depth that something is always going to be out of focus unless you have a good macro lens and maybe a small tripod.

Also, only the plants that have been around long enough to acquire two leaves will produce a flower. One-leaved (far more common) are only vegetative for a year or more.

]]> 5
BloodRoot: Getting Antsy Mon, 13 Apr 2015 11:02:01 +0000 Continue reading BloodRoot: Getting Antsy ]]> 2015-04-10-100851-1Bloodroot480Bloodroot is one of the first to bloom among the spring wildflowers that emerge in April along our walking path. It appears too in patches on the way to the hardtop. And yet I have few images of it that do it justice.

I was whining about the fact that almost always, this lovely plant grows up through the visual clutter of leaf litter. No matter how showy the flower is, the background is busy and plain in shades of gray and brown.

No sooner had I offered my lament than I spotted these two specimens growing out of an expanse of moss right at eye level on the road bank above the pasture. CLICK to view larger image.

And as I worked on the image back at the house, I thought (from some far recess of an increasingly overstuffed mind) that I remembered this was one of the plants (like trillium) that offered seeds with tasty bits attractive for ants.

And yes, not only bloodroot but most of the early spring plants we see along our walk have this ant-attracting tactic. The phenomenon is called myrmecochory and the tasty bits you can easily see (google images link here) are called elaiosomes [literally “oil bodies.”]

Why have these earliest spring wildflowers (list below from a great piece in Eye on Nature) “discovered” this seed dispersal method and not later flowering plants? Because it works when ants are active and hungry, early in the season before they find their usual diet of dead insects and at a cold-ish time when there are not enough live and active insects like beetles available to do the work for the plants.

Lastly–don’t lick the roots.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
Hepaticas (Hepatica species)
Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)
Trilliums (Trillium species)
Trout lily (Erythronium americanum)
Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla)
Violets (Viola species)
Wild bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia)
Wild ginger (Asarum canadense)

Other mentions or images of bloodroot at Fragments…

Bloodroot:Another Five Months Fragments 2008
Bloodroot Fragments 2007
Harbingers of Spring Fragments 2010

]]> 1
Entering the Ecozoic: The Work of Thomas Berry Fri, 10 Apr 2015 11:07:17 +0000 Continue reading Entering the Ecozoic: The Work of Thomas Berry ]]> I knew of Father Thomas Berry of course, and bought Dream of Earth back when it was a new book in 1988. Frankly, I had not read it. I will now.

I have used one of this man’s quotes as part of my “visual essay” media presentations. It states that…

“The universe is not a collection of objects but a community of subjects.” That is one not easily unpacked, but worth the effort another time.

His wider message, as an “eco-theologian” as he has been called, is that we have not fully appreciated the Christian story by our indifference to the vitality of the story’s cosmic extent in the physical realm–from the sub-atomic to the super-novae.  All of this is part of the Story. Matter matters to God.

We have desecrated forests and coral reefs; soil and ground water; amphibians and fish–as if the world was made for man alone. We have abrogated the role of stewardship and deprived our selves and our children of the wisdom, solace and wonder that could come with a restored relationship with creation in all its forms.

Berry long ago used the term Ecozoic for the coming era he saw as the only viable alternative to the Anthropocene.

I think you can look forward to an interesting discussion following the film about Berry’s life and work called The Great Story. And the food’s not bad either!

April 18th at The Floyd Country Store
SustainFloyd Movie Series

Doors open 6:30pm

The thinking of Catholic monk and author, Thomas Berry, describes the big picture behind the activities of SustainFloyd. In relation to the natural world he believed that ‘the mountains, rivers, birds, fish, all living organisms are not there for our use but for a union which is needed for us to become who we are’. This film about Berry’s life and work is a reminder that we need to focus on creating an economy that honors the bountiful planet–a work that for us includes developing healthy food systems, non destructive energy systems and an increased awareness of the impact of our individual lives.

The film will be preceded by a beans and rice dinner and followed by a discussion led by Fred First, Joe Klein and Alwyn Moss.

Tickets: $5 at the door. Beans & Rice available for a further $5 donation.

]]> 1
Forest, Undressing Thu, 09 Apr 2015 17:19:59 +0000 Continue reading Forest, Undressing ]]> 2015-04-09-120730-1_fungi450The bark from this dead and rotting tree sagged down around the tree’s base like an overstretched sock around an Entling’s ankles. Long ago were gone its branches, leaves and twigs, so that not much was left to show for a long life but a few mushrooms.

Even so, the forest decomposers are not without their own art and grace, returning dust to dust.

Click the image to see larger.

]]> 1