Fragments from Floyd Photos and Front Porch Musing from Floyd County Virginia Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:10:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Day on the Ponds Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:08:46 +0000 ponds3

I have unnecessarily dreaded the blistering heat I expected for our July visit to West Plains, Missouri to visit the wife’s family.

It will be hot enough for mountain folk, but tolerable enough that we’ll get down to the ponds this afternoon to catch green sunfish and catfish for a fish-fry tonight on the deck in the cool of the evening.

Meanwhile I’m seeing more flowering plants that are new to me, and hearing more from the “local ag extension” end of things by way of my bro-in-law.

Of concern and news to me; pigs are sick. Lots of them. Something like 8 million pigs (mostly young piglets) have died this spring and summer so far from PED–porcine epidemic diarrhea.

North Carolina Waterkeepers have understandable concerns about how so many carcasses are disposed of.  While PED is not transmitted to humans, other bacteria of decay  from thousands of pig carcasses are of concern.

Virus Plagues the Pork Industry, and Environmentalists –

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Considerations Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:29:46 +0000 2014-07-28 07-00-09 -0500

Considerations. I love that word. It literally means to think together under the stars.

Some in deep meditation consider their belly buttons. Here at first light, I consider my toes.

These be traveling feet. A new day, a new place to be. I gotta go.

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My Water Is Our Water Sat, 26 Jul 2014 11:58:57 +0000 groundwater670

There is NIMBY. Understandably, that is seen as an “all about me” attitude, dismissive of the harm done to others as long as I or my interests are not directly damaged.

But in Floyd, there is NIMWS. Not In My Watershed. It is a larger concern than NIMBY. What happens to you matters to me. Briefly, here’s why the pipeline is a water issue involving all of us who live here.

Water will be a high-level concern when considering the possible long-term impacts of the proposed Mountain Valley pipeline across Floyd County. Our Blue Ridge geology presents unique uncertainties and known risks from groundwater contamination.

Much more will be said about this one environmental issue in the coming weeks and months, and from that, we will all be better informed about water as a fragile and limiting human and agricultural resource in our county.

For now, I’ll offer one link, an except from that source, and an image [above, click to enlarge] from a source water protection document produced by a group of Floyd Citizens with expert help in 2010.

The point is that there is no such thing as MY WATER here. We share an interwoven plexus, a tissue of rainwater veins that can communicate E. coli and other contaminants across many miles.

While relatively few landowners would be directly impacted by the pipeline’s disturbances to natural and cultural resources–and those perturbations are many–far more wells stand at risk than those within or close to the right-of-way.

We should all know this, going in.


Contamination in Fractured Rock Aquifers ~ USGS

Fractured-rock aquifers are widely distributed near land surface and are highly susceptible to contamination from human activities.

Researchers are developing an improved understanding of the movement of water and contaminants in fractured-rock aquifers, methods for characterization of field conditions, and modeling tools.

Contaminant transport and fate is fundamentally different in fractured rock than in unconsolidated (sand and gravel) aquifers. Significantly more uncertainty exists as to the direction and rate of contaminant migration, as well as the processes and factors that control chemical and microbial transformations.

At many contaminated sites across the Nation, remedial action is delayed or stymied by the complexity of contaminated fractured-rock aquifers.



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WordLessFriday Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:29:46 +0000 Self-portrait.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 7.25.08 AM

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A Day in the Woods Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:27:14 +0000 I confess I too seldom take time these days to recharge my batteries by getting away from home, away from the computer, away from various obligations and commitments and duties.

I realize the cost of that missing element when, like yesterday, I take a botanizing walk with guy-friends and remember how much fun that is–not to mention enriching.

One of us kept at least a partial list of things we identified and those we never quite figured out.

I am inordinately thrilled to have observed a lily I have never seen. Adding a newly-identified flowering plant to my life list is not a common occurrence. I will post images with or without an ID later on in the month when I have time to work on it based only on the few images I came back with.

We hiked down Rock Castle Creek trail, starting near the Cabins, and making maybe two miles, not quite reaching the creek. We did not make good time; covering the distance was the farthest thing from our minds.

Of special note and to be investigated: a disease (I understand it is bacterial) is laying waste to individual  Rhododendrons. Spotty in most places, the affected plants were not just spotted or wilted as they would be with “die-back” caused by a fungus (the Irish Potato Famine villain Phytophthora).

These were dead, every twig and branch, all the way to the main trunk. In some places, whole hillsides were covered with the tan skeletons of a former thicket of Rhododendron.

It gives one pause: to think, what if the southern mountains lost all the shade, soil stabilization on steep mountainsides, bird and amphibian habitat, and other unknown stable conditions that have been maintained for thousands of years by this one plant?

So if you’re traveling the Parkway in the next few weeks, pay attention. Seeing dead Rhodies along the way? Maybe by then, we’ll at least have more details about WHY.

NOTE: I learned in my little bit of research that Rhododendrons are also affected by Sudden Oak Death, and that that diseases is also caused by Phytophthora–the organism that got every last tomato in many Floyd County gardens last year.

IMAGE: View from Saddle Gap, looking down over the lower end of Rock Castle Gorge, toward the north-north-east.

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A Life-Changing Discovery: Bacteria That Don’t Eat Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:33:29 +0000 I used to ask the question in biology class: why do we eat?

The logical and most common answer, of course, was “because we get hungry.”

“But why do we get hungry” I asked them back?

“Because our stomachs are empty.”

You get the picture. And it went around like this until students understood that when they said “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’m tired…” they were at bottom, making statements about the conditions of their cells.

And I would from there go on to describe the universal chemistry whereby electrons were stripped from “food” consumed in one way or another to eventually be picked up by the “universal energy currency called ATP.”

“All organisms from microbes to monkeys follow the same path from food energy to ATP energy to operate  muscles, glands, and nerves.”

Well, I was wrong. Just discovered: bacteria (apparently quite a few diverse species across a range of habitats) that use electrons directly to do things that require energy: growing, moving, reproducing.

So, technically I suppose, these organisms don’t EAT. They bypass that act and obtain and apparently make use of energy directly in the form of electrons from their environment without stripping them in the Krebs cycle.

This is perhaps one of the most astounding discoveries of recent decades in a world where we tend to think we’ve seen it all.

This is why I stay rapt in the real world and not so interested in reading fiction.

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This is My Father’s World Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:54:17 +0000 You perhaps know by now that Floyd County is on the map of the proposed route of a large inter-state natural gas pipeline.

This has been rightly identified as an issue of stewardship appropriate for consideration by congregations across the county.

Heck–given the large number of churches in Floyd County, odds are it could very well be that one of those churches might have a 42″ pipe coming right down the middle aisle and out through the narthex.

Christians have a dog in this fight. How we use or abuse creation is not an inconsequential after-thought in either Old or New Testaments. We cannot be silent by-standers in this matter of servanthood and not be seen as hypocrites.

The churches can provide an appropriate setting for discussion and information-sharing about the risks and costs of the pipeline to church properties including cemeteries.

They can host discussions about how to peacefully but firmly confront the first agents who request access to properties.

They can educate congregations on how to be wise and faithful servants in general in the use of the resources over which they have been given responsibility, and in particular, about the complex issues involved in resisting eminent domain or mitigating damages to our community if the pipeline cannot be stopped altogether.

SO: If you have a church affiliation in Floyd County, please consider bringing this issue ASAP to your minister, sunday school teachers, board of elders or another appropriate entry point.

Begin having these discussions right away while time remains to do what’s right in this important future-changing issue confronting all of us.

Need Information about natural gas pipelines in general? 

Need information about the proposed Floyd County pipeline in particular?


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Simple Lines from Simpler Times Fri, 18 Jul 2014 09:50:58 +0000 Sometimes in today’s busy places you have to look really, really hard to find anything for your eyes to rest upon that gives you ease. This is especially true for me when waiting for tire repairs at a certain Christiansburg facility where the road is always being dug up again and more shoddy apartments and condos and commercial strips pile one upon the other, ad nauseum.

So I was pleased to discover, wandering around back of the sterile noisy place, that even here in what I think of as the armpit of Montgomery County, there is a remnant patch of the farming community that once flourished here. Once. Then it was paved over, shouted down and left to decay gracefully along the margins of the real world as we know it.

Old barns, among aged architectural remnants, strike me as particular graceful and noble. Maybe it is that at the same time their lines are pleasing, they once were filled with busy-ness of a less hurried kind than what goes on in that commercial zone today. Those hand-built barns hummed with the sound of human conversation, animal noises and their walls and stalls were filled with simple farm tools powered by those same animals and humans.

I do know that the metal barns that replace the old wood framed and sided structures leave me cold, even if the shape is more or less the same.

So I’ll just leave it at that, here on a Friday. I’ll be off shortly, running my mouth heading south, tour bus destination: the Blue Ridge Music Center–come rain or shine. And we’ll probably have some of both.

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I Come to the Garden Alone Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:23:28 +0000 Another few weeks and Ann will be threatening me with my life if I bring in another five gallon bucket of tomatoes or beans or squash.

This is a statement of faith, as anything can happen in love, war or summer gardens.

Today, I’m going to anchor down the tomato cages, having learned from freak windstorms in years past that five foot tall fruit-laden plants are quite top-heavy. There’s nothing quite so sickening as to go out after the storm has passed and find a dozen wire cages on their sides, the soil littered with a hundred green tomatoes.

What I’ll do first though, before any gardening this morning, is take this aggravating dog out and run some of the mischief out of her. She won’t leave me alone, and has resorted to fetching undergarments from the washroom and trash from the waste baskets to get my attention. She’s got it.

Having my daughter’s equal-sized pup over the weekend of the 4th, I now know what level of play-energy Gandy is capable of sustaining–for hours at a time–and my puny rope toss and tugging matches don’t touch her reserve capacity for play.

Not unattractive–if they just didn’t like to eat the same things I do.

Gardening pests this year: not so bad. Cucumber beetles and squash bugs seem to be controlled by kaolin spray (a kind of clay–imagine chalk dust) and I got ahead of the bean beetles (fingers crossed) and the Japanese beetles (pictured here on a totally ravaged ornamental cherry taken while I was waiting on a tire repair in Christiansburg yesterday) have only nibbled my beans.

I hear the whining: Fragments has become all gardening all of the time. Trust me–there is much more going on in my life just now, but the garden does not generate stress, require agendas or have committee meetings, so it is my wilderness refugium of choice.

Please close the gate behind you as you leave.

[Larger garden panorama is at Flickr. Click to view]

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The Future: What Happens in Our Back Yards Today Wed, 16 Jul 2014 12:15:55 +0000 I woke up this morning wondering what it was I thought about the potential of a 42″ x 20 mile long natural gas pipeline across Floyd County. This is not an easy challenge to understand, even from how it settles in just one individual mind, cluttered as it is with opinion, fact, pseudo-fact, bias and the hope for clarity.

So as I often do in these moments of muddy personal waters, I just let my fingers find the words. Or at least SOME words. There are thoughts about the notion of compiling written personal narratives on the topic at some point, to see collectively how this issue hits us at gut level. 

So just to lift the subject a bit more into the local radar beyond its Facebook presence, here are my last few paragraphs from the thought bubble this early morning. 

My coming to the table stems from the fact that there is a vast difference between energy company purposes and hopes and my own.

Wendell Berry said “What I stand ON is what I stand FOR.” That pretty well says it.

My hopes stand on the present and future health of the soil under my feet. And my hopes look ahead–seven generations lets say–a vision our wise predecessors on this continent once practiced in their relationship to the land while we, in our modern sophistry,  have grown blind in this important aspect of our collective ecology.

Where there is no vision, the people perish. We need to put on our spectacles and see far ahead as clearly as possible, not squint at pay dirt under our feet in the present moment.

I will do my darndest to follow my best advice, here early on, and be prepared to listen while withholding immediate judgment until a 30 thousand foot view of all of this comes into view.

I don’t believe that anyone truly has an open mind in such matters. None of us was born yesterday and we have been paying attention. We may attend to different parts of the elephant. And that is probably, in the end, a good thing. But we have points of view.

I hope ultimately we all can give a fair hearing across a wide range of voices representing others who we allow to come to the table with their own baggage, filters, blinders and hopes–just like I come there.

In the end, no one thinks that we can sell the foundation to pay for the house. We have to decide together what is precious about this place, and agree on what can not be sold at any price.

There will be a public meeting on the topic at the County Store in Floyd on Thursday, July 17 at 7:00pm.

See Large gas pipeline projects come to Southern Virginia | WDBJ



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