Thanks for Your Vote



See how your representative voted on this environmental education initiative that thankfully, in an era of unrelenting bad news, is some good news for the future of our children and grand children.

Find out more about the No Child Left Inside efforts at their webpage.

Thank you, Congressman Boucher, for your support.

Food Fetish


And is it any wonder: toxic spinach, toxic buttbloating burgers, toxic food ignorance and indifference. Do we need more information or more self-control / less death by diet impulses?

Will power and caloric restraint cannot (yet) be legislated, but other information we can and will soon have before us to ignore at our peril (or whim). Consider the following:

The Guvernator has just mandated that CA restaurants will in future put caloric contents on menus and indoor billboards (invest in colored chalk!). WaPo

New food labels will show country of origin for beef, chicken, pork, fruits and veggies  WebMD

And the “average shopper” may soon be able to compare the food values of various grocery store items using the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI), a system supported by some of the largest grocery store chains. The results, hopefully, will be better choices by shoppers and better product formulation by industry so their products score higher on the scale. BalancedHealth

Meanwhile at my house, I’m thinking more about quantity, availability and storage of the food we produce or otherwise gather: for the potatoes from the garden lacking a proper root cellar; same for the turnips we may harvest in a month. And what about more wild foods (like the butternuts and walnuts we’re accumulating or the wild grapes pictured here from just down the road?) One particular wild food comes to mind that grows well at meadow’s edge, more on that in another post by and by.

In these days of National Angst, we may be more concerned about the eating than about what’s eaten. Yet life (and food education and regulation) must go on or we’ll still be fat and food-toxic the other side of the Dark Cloud of our days. So here’s hoping for better times ahead, and bon appetit.

Autumn Creeps Closer


So I made good on my intent to match the color of yesterday’s sumac with the equally-early Virginia Creeper. On the way home from town yesterday I stopped along one of my alternate ways home for a few shots of this orange-to-scarlet climbing vine.

Interesting how, when you have a certain color, pattern and growth habit you’re searching the woods for, how much more you see than when you’re seeing just enough to navigate home. Riding familiar roads with intentional vision–processing every flash of red in trees looking for this simple and common plant–made this routine trip a quest, a visual scavenger hunt. It slowed me down–to see the trees and not just the blur of forest.

If you click on the picture above, it will take you to a one minute slide show with just three images of Virginia Creeper (and some narrative edu-text) in it so far. I call it “Autumn’s Fire” and hope to add to it over the coming weeks.

Signs of Fall


They look like parrot feathers, party decorations, something somehow oriental and exotic, while in fact, sumac (yes a relative of poison ivy but this one won’t make you need an ocean of calamine lotion) is a common roadside weedy woody tree.

But this time of year, they are far from common, and along with the Virginia Creeper (I’ve assigned myself the task of getting a portrait of same today) these are some of the earliest harbingers of the color change close upon us.

Our five maples that have so nicely shaded our house all summer are in various stages of change, one almost at peak, another showing no noticeable color change though its leaves do look rather exhausted, and they all make a papery-empty sound now when the wind blows as they give up the good fight and prepare to find a place along our drive and yard and roadway.

I’ll be posting “signs of fall” for the next few weeks. “Find me some signs of fall” we’d assign the kids when they were small, and they were off on the seasonal scavenger hunt that also included for credit smells, clouds and the feel on their skin.

What are your signs of fall?

Friday Shorts 26 Sept 08


 <> Stopped at a light almost all the way from Goose Creek to her work in Blacksburg, the girls in the car in the other lane were frantically jabbing their fingers in the direction of Ann’s car roof. What are the little walking motions all about, she wondered, as the college girls walked their hands in pantomine and laughed. Then the wife realized she’d traveled twenty miles with her rubber boots on the roof of the Subaru.

<> “Did you know there’s a salt block up on the ridge” she asked, pointing to the high wooded property line that divides us from the absentee neighbors deep valley. No, I didn’t know it and I don’t care for that kind of premeditated trespass one little bit. We give permission to hunt to those who ask (a few neighbors who have long hunting histories here and good sense and common courtesy) but those who think that when hunting season comes, all property is common land to use at their discretion to drink, shoot, leave trash and cut the antlers off a carcass and leave it in our creek–those are the kind of people that tarnish the reputation of hunters at large. It only takes a few bad apples.

<> Retrieved a call at home from  work on Friday last. “Please call #### regarding unusual activity on your credit card.” A few of the transactions were mine, but most were not. Strangest thing–they were small charges mostly, less than $5 and a total of may $150. So that card gets trashed, and for all the places online where that number was stored to make it easy to order, it will not be as easy. Still, we’re thankful to the alert from VISA. Coulda been a whole lot worse.

<> We have a bucketful of butternuts sitting on the kitchen counter. (If I wasn’t so lazy yesterday I’d have taken a picture.) Butternut, also called white walnut, produces a fruit with a husk resembling a walnut, but shaped more like a football, and smaller in weight per fruit. We have at least two living specimens near Nameless Creek but this is the first time we’ve gathered nuts, so can’t say anything yet about the nutmeats. The species is being wiped out (what forest tree species ISN’T?) but a fungus called butternut canker.

<> I’ve heard it from several sources lately, so if it’s a farmers’ almanac kind of thing, you can take it for what it’s worth: because we’ve had such an incredibly productive year for berries, nuts and other fruits, this is nature’s way of preparing the wildlife for the correspondingly difficult winter ahead. I have yet to consult the woolyworms for their pronostication.

<> The ultimate goofy web app: email alerts to carry your umbrella via an “Umbrella Today” alert. Ours, thankfully, says YES!

Image: Honeycaps–from this week last year. Today’s Up-umbrella day will bring out next week’s ‘shrooms!