Fragments from Floyd Photos and Front Porch Musing from Floyd County Virginia Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:32:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mist, Dew, Fog: Rain’s Gentle Cousins Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:32:39 +0000 There have not been a lot of rose-smelling pauses around here lately. And I’m most of the time not knowing whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt, as some unnamed fellow-southern-person famously said.

It has been (blessedly) rainy here of late and we’re about to catch up with the deficit for the year. Some of it has come as frog-choking downpours. Some as gentle day-long mist.

The heavy-fog gentle drizzles leave a different signature on the land and vegetation than the heavy drops that come like buckets poured from heaven.

One of those signatures of mist or heavy dew overnight is this tinsel of tiny drops on the finest of grasses (I cannot identify this one yet.) We find it along the margins of the field (just cut for hay this week) or (in this image) along the edge of the gravel road, almost to the exclusion of any other vegetation.

And on this particular morning, these Mist Plants (as I call them) created what looked for all the world like a cloud lining the road. And now that I think about it, that’s what it was–water droplets suspended in space.

Next time, I’ll take the larger view and show you what I mean.

Click for larger version.

And compare to this image (now a PhotoNote Card).



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Embracing the Information Age Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:28:13 +0000 We have, until now, lived in a dual-technology household.

I am attracted to new tools and ways of finding, saving and retrieving information.

She is at best indifferent.

And so it was with no small thrill and pride that I came into our kitchen just yesterday to discover that she has made an important step in the directions towards which I have been encouraging her and attempting to lead her.

She has moved to dual monitors.

And there is hope.

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End of the Age: A Splendidly Disturbing Time Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:29:52 +0000 We toured the 31 outdoor wooden “sculptures” in a distant Floyd County field with both our imaginations and the creating artist’s names and a brief hint at explanations about each piece staged over a half mile winding trail.

The one pictured here is called the “Harvester” and the artist, Charlie Brouwer, explains it this way.

Charlie says “While mowing the grass one day, I realized that in a way, I was harvesting it. Later I read a parable about harvesting. Jesus explained it by saying “The  harvest is the end of the age and the angels are the harvesters.”

I decided I’d rather be on the side of the angels than the grass, so I pitched in to help, as you can see.

And of course one thing inspiring another, it brings to mind–to my mind at least–the certainty of the notion that indeed we do live at the end of an age.

The age behind us has been called the Holocene by the geologists, a time span at whose proximate end the Industrial Revolution has met The Information Age. The carbon-powered frenzy of that age has brought us into the Anthropocene–an age of uncertain duration where human activities dominate every biome to the exclusion of and by the massive extinction day by day of entire groups of former creatures.

Shale gas fracking is just one symptom of the end of the age, a manifestation of the greater disease for which the EQT-NextERA Mountain-Valley Pipeline in Floyd and adjacent counties is a symptom.

The disease is 200 years old, and stems from a pathology of intentional reimagining that somehow our species lives above and independent of nature and “the environment.” Our economic system has been built upon this failing notion. This delusion will not go on much longer.  But it will not end because rational intervention wins the day.

I’m not saying we can’t effectively prevent this pipeline route through Floyd County. I’m not saying that fracking is not getting serious heat across the country just now.

But with a wider view of what lies ahead, I don’t think a few fingers in the dike are going to make life a hundred years from now be “life as usual” as we experience it today.

We’ve come to the boundary between what was and what will be. There are profound dysfunctions that many but not all see that in the end will be refractory to our usual ways of activism, thinking or voting.

I’m just almost convinced that, in the words of David Hilfiker:

 …the forces arrayed against environmental sanity are simply too strong for the usual political or personal fixes to be effective.  And until we understand what we’re up against, we can’t react effectively.    American consumerism, the structure of our government, the nature of our economic system, the power of the corporations, and the dominance of media are a tightly interwoven web that is virtually invulnerable to human attack.” 


Invulnerable, given the time frame, which has systems falling apart and tipping points  being exceeded at a much faster rate than the NEXT economy, the NEXT society, the NEXT land-and-ocean ethic is coming into place.

As consumers, as voters, as thinkers we will not in sufficient numbers do what needs to be done in support of any top-down way to pull us back from the brink. I think that is an unfortunate truth about the future our children are about to inherit.

But mind you, those potential future reorderings are coming into place in small pockets, and my hope–a reasonable hope that can live in the absence of unreasonable optimism–is in fighting the good fight in my here-and-now, with what energy and strength and wisdom I might have gained in 60-plus years.

Making a small difference, creating ripples even within that tiny pond is a worthwhile reason to get up every morning.

The dying beast of the fossil fuel era, even as we act as if it will go on forever, is coming to an end across all of agriculture, transportation, commerce, travel and infrastructure. Much of the unrest in the world is symptom of this unsustainable pressure on a fixed and vanishing resource. Marcellus shale and the 2.5 million miles of pipelines that scar this nation and threaten groundwater, air and human dignity are final convulsions of the end of the age.

I’ll give Mr. Hilfiker the final word:

 “Despair, grief, even cynicism and apathy are normal responses to the coming tragedy. We must not push them aside but recognize their reality and allow ourselves to grieve. And we must help each other navigate through these painful waters. But we must also remember that what’s coming makes it even more important to find hope within our grief and act with courage and decisiveness. We can’t make it all better, but we have been given the opportunity to participate in what is perhaps the greatest human struggle in recorded history. We are witness to a time in history like no other, and we can make a difference. Helen Keller once said, “I rejoice to live in such a splendidly disturbing time.”  ]]> 3
Waters Below. And Beyond. Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:58:42 +0000 From start to finish, horizontal fracturing (fracking) is a last-gasp means of making money at the cost of water.

Every deep-well extraction requires up to 7 million gallons of water (combined with a cocktail of some 500 chemicals). A single well can be fracked up to 18 times. 18 x 7,000,000 x the number of existing wells plus the new ones that have to go in every day to take the place of the wells that have already stopped producing.

That’s water that once was useful for human and animal drinking, for crop irrigation, for making the family meal. Not any longer, not any time soon. Forever, for all practical purposes.

But fracking’s abuses of water are done at some distance from Floyd County. It is our water (and that of the other 13 counties along the course of this proposed pipeline) that are at risk in our own yards and in our coming months and years.

How much risk? We can’t say for sure, because there are not many other 42″ pipes among the 2.5 million miles of fossil fuel pipelines already afflicting thousands of US counties and tens of thousands of American families. Two and one half million. Miles.

While we are concerned over fracking’s distant water footprint, what will we say about our own wells when those of our neighbors just a short piece away have been fouled or the flow shut off entirely by the blasting, excavation, road-building, right-of-way herbicide spraying, accidental spills, intentional disregard, and negligence of strangers who could not care less what they leave behind?

It is becoming a much better-known fact that if one well’s groundwater source is fouled, that fouling can spread an unknown distance in every direction because of the communicating rock fractures that stores water in Floyd County and other Blue Ridge and NC Piedmont counties or the underground limestone caverns and rivers of the Ridge and Valley counties .

And so every impacted county resident needs to understand “My water is your water” regardless of where they live. This right to adequate volume and quality of water should not be among the takings of eminent domain, but our water’s integrity for the long term will not be assured by the takers. It will not be their problem once they’re gone.

This is true, all the way back to the land in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and other human landscapes where this corporate dysfunction takes root, ostensibly for the greater good.

Our pipeline issue is just a symptom. Floydians are swarming against it like white blood cells against a pathogen. The immune response is becoming system-wide.  Fracking must end. The other end of the “natural gas bridge” needs our full support and attention. Currently, there’s no other end of the bridge under construction.

We’ve almost waited too late because of this “cheap and clean” injection that is only a sedative against the pain of moving ahead.

So while we work against this pipeline, we work against all pipelines and for the return of a collective politic that takes the long view,  that puts the health of the planet and true well-being of the planet ahead of the corporate bottom line.

GRAPHIC: a doodle on iPad using Adobe Ideas app. There’s Buffalo Mountain, the confluence of our creeks with the rivers of others, and the rock fractures we cannot see but upon which we depend for a liquid that not a one of us can live without.


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Perspective Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:57:57 +0000 I think I had something to say on perspective but I lost mine before I could get it down.

Somehow I ended up at If you use gmail, might want to give your google records a good look.

Under RECENT ACTIVITY/View all Events, and having received no alerts from Google whatsoever, I find a log-in to my gmail account from Washington DC less than a week ago. Weren’t me.

So if someone successfully logged into my account, I have to assume they had my password.

So whatever perspective I had and at an hour past and wanted to share has left the building. Having taken the first letters from the first line from an old favorite song for the new PW,  I will move onto other things.

The image entitled by the creator of the structure simply as  Benches, comes from a recent visit to Charlie Brouwer‘s outdoor art installation over on Alum Ridge. The next time he has an open house, go “Out There.” Click to enlarge.

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When to Say NO Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:15:18 +0000 I’m sorry to focus so often lately on the intended assault on Floyd and other adjacent counties by the planned interstate 42 inch natural (fracked) gas pipeline that will stretch more than 300 miles from West Virginia to the North Carolina border of Virginia.

I will let the image express how the thought of such a thing disturbs all of us–not just our neighbors in direct line of the pipe. The current maps could bear no resemblance to the ultimate route, so we all stand at risk just now.

Here’s what a 42 inch pipe looks like going in. It would be excavated and blasted into a trench about 20 miles long from the north to the south boundary of Floyd County.

The blasting threat lies not only in the months of near or distant explosions and mini-earthquakes and flying rock and dust. That’s a relatively minor nuisance compared to the risk to our wells.

Up to a thousand feet either side of the blast, the flow of a farm or family well could be destroyed by changes to the rock fractures that hold our water underground. So that’s a swath 20 miles long and more than a quarter mile wide threatening both the quality and the quantity of our water, even as the forever-pipe is going in the ground.

Imagine this scar down the side of Alum Ridge or down the Blue Ridge Escarpment that plunges down towards Franklin County. Imagine it during five inches of rain from a tropical storm.

Our surface waters are at risk, too.

Please share this image off this site or get the larger image from Flickr and pass it along to anyone you know who is also concerned about the legacy of the land they pass along to their children.

Speaking of which–that inheritance may lose a lot of value if the old homeplace is bisected by this pipeline.  Would you be excited about an otherwise beautiful piece of land with a buried pipe-bomb underneath it? Insurance companies may not be excited about offering you an affordable homeowners policy. There’s a lot we’re not sure of yet.

And know that it’s not just this one pipe we are opposed to. It is the whole flawed old economics that says to do what keeps the shareholders happy–a failed relationship with the plant that fans the flames of illusory “unlimited growth.” Period. Shale gas is a brief but costly part of that delusion.

And in Southwest Virginia, we don’t want to be any part of it.

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It’s a Gas. But Not So Natural Fri, 15 Aug 2014 13:51:11 +0000 Last night  there was a public meeting for sharing information about the current status of knowns and unknowns about the EQT-NextERA Mountain-Valley pipeline proposed to pass through 13 counties of West Virginia and Virginia–Floyd being one of them.

It was a super event, with (just guessing) 120 people attending.

One of the facts mentioned was the very real possibility of a pipeline explosion. Someone asked about the diameter of the  “blast crater” and the answer was that it depended on the size of the pipe and the pressure it was under at the time of the explosion.

So go figure. We’re slated to host a 42″ pipe (we will make bad hosts) and you have to assume it will be carrying as much gas as it can, so will be operating near capacity pressures.

According to the chart, you could expect to be seriously disturbed by extreme heat and powerful shock impacts, if you let those kinds of things get to you, if you live within a thousand feet either side of the 20 miles of this big-as-possible linear bomb under our soil.

Legally, the pipeline–even a 42″ pipe–can pass within 25 feet of your house.  There would be a 75 foot right-of-way, however, and I think they can’t allow structures within that width. Which may just mean three of your outbuildings will be dozed out of the way.

Larger image at Flickr. Image is from Understanding Natural Gas
Pipeline Infrastructure and Impacts / Penn State Extension

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Fountain of Youth Thu, 14 Aug 2014 11:36:09 +0000 Want to live forever? Don’t drink from a water fountain in the waiting room of your doctor’s office.  What were they thinking putting a contagion-collection contraption in the midst of so many microbes, free for sharing?

So I was not-patiently doing what patients do in those special holding cells that are the first and largest of the series of containments one goes through for the purpose of a simple annual doctor’s visit.  I waited. For two hours, pushed to the last minute so I could still make  a meeting in town. Not happy.

But there was entertainment, at least: a corner-of-the-ceiling television whose volume and juvenile content could not be controlled and could not be ignored. Techno-torture.

And there was the people-watching that takes on a different character in a doctor’s office. You play the guessing game for signs and symptoms.

For many, the prevailing disorder underlying the reason for their visit appears so often to involve poor or no education, poverty, personal neglect, terrible nutrition and the manifestations thereof.

Doctor’s office waiting rooms and emergency waiting rooms seem to attract a hugely disproportionate sampling from just this population.

But where was I? Oh yeah, the people watching. Not to leave out the acoustic experience. For an hour, back and forth, coursed two very small, very loud, very out of control children. They discovered the water fountain right in front of me.  It entertained them for a full ten minutes, responsible adults–irresponsible and powerless.

And the next time my wife cautions me NOT to drink out of a public water fountain EVER, I will remember why.

What I missed in this short segment of maybe five minutes of snotty fingers dabbling in the public fountain was what happened just seconds after the end of the video:

The boy-child dropped to his knees and began sucking water out of the large, dark puddle on the carpet that his sister had created.

Shudder. Some things you see and you wish you could replay and erase.

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The Blob That Ate Toledo Mon, 11 Aug 2014 13:00:53 +0000 Sorry, the title is from a weak resonance from an old B-grade sci-fi movie (in black and white, most likely) from the deep past.  In Toledo’s case, the blob is a known entity: cyanobacteria.

In their earliest remnant forms, cyanobacteria–or Blue Green Algae–grew in these blobby shapes called stromatolites that you see in the image above.

You’ll find them prominently featured in the early chapters of freshman biology texts, because we credit them with the early colonization of the land and the production of an atmosphere with increasing amounts of oxygen from their photosynthetic way of making a living.

And now, some billion years after those early blobs, the Blue-Greens have come back to impact life on earth again in a significant and news-worthy way.

You’re hearing a lot about the situation we’ve created in Lake Erie by over-feeding the BGs there with too much phosphorus, mostly from agricultural run-off. The toxins released into the water have necessitated draconian limits to the use of the water for almost a half-million people.

What I did NOT know until the past few days (and with not enough time with everything else going on to dig very deep) is THIS connection to BG’s and human health: they may be implicated in Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS.  I offer a few sources for your perusal.  And consider the potential ultimate cost of “agriculture as usual.”

A Batty Hypothesis on the Origins of Neurodegenerative Disease Resurfaces – Scientific American

The Emerging Science of BMAA: Do Cyanobacteria Contribute to Neurodegenerative Disease?

Was Lou Gehrig’s ALS Caused by Tap Water? – Pacific Standard: The Science of Society

Are Toxins in Seafood Causing ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s? |




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Go Fish Fri, 08 Aug 2014 11:47:09 +0000 fish670I would never have thought it possible: I have gone–what?–maybe twenty years since the last time I held a fishing pole.

Growing up southern and outdoorsy, there were not many weeks go by I did not either go or desperately long to go fishing.

In this theatrical pondside image from our recent Missouri trip, I have just caught my umpteenth hybrid bluegill on a bare hook. All together, they might have weighed a pound. Where were those 3 pound catfish we fed in that same pond the day before?

I once had the opportunity to have a dinner-chat with Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. We quickly found common ground (imagine!) on the topic of fishing. It was the mystery of what lay below the surface of any pond, river, surf or lake that “hooked” both of us initially into a life-long fascination with and devotion to the restorative powers of the outdoors.

And so, having pulled in these lunkers last week, smelling the wonderful stink of fish on my hands, hooking my first earthworm in a quarter century, feeling the tug on the line from the invisible–having fished: I am a better man.

The bad news: too many kids have put themselves on house arrest, a sequester reinforced by outdoor-indifferent, overprotective parents (who don’t and probably never did fish growing up.)

The good news: fishing skills, knowledge and encouragement is happening, even in the schools! I do know that the Blue Ridge Discovery Center in Grayson County is supporting such programs in our area.

So the bottom line: if you used to fish and don’t any more, reconsider. And when you wet your first line again, have one or more children beside you. It could very well change the course of the rest of their young lives. And we so desperately need earth-advocates more than we need more shoppers, consumers and phobics!

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