High Places

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Fred “Walter Mitty” the blogger pretends to be places he’s not. Wandering through his digital scrap book, he goes far afield in his head, even while the rains pour down and cold winds cut like a knife, and he sits behind his desk, not far from the cheery fire in the woodstove.

Here’s one I found going back to a Parkway excursion a month or more ago. I had passed over it in Photoshop when working on that folder of images, since my main purpose that day was to document infrastructure decline in the National Park. Of course, some of the pix that came home were of scenes and landscapes for their own sake, this being one of them.

There is something about tree silhouttes that intrigues me. One future note cards set, I hope, will be of trees through the seasons: maybe a winter set, and another with them in leaf in spring or fall.

Speaking of note cards, the Parkway cards I wrote about a few weeks back have been delayed by some printer-color problems at the shop. They’ve had to replace a part or two, and that has delayed the availability of the cards by a couple of weeks. Best laid plans (of mice and men…)

Which reminds me: last night–no mousey noises. Bar Bait. Thanks for the tip, y’all.

The Great Warming

What does it take to get the attention of our young people, the generation that will be most impacted by the coming changes of such great magnitude?

Certainly it must reach them through the buzz, use the internet and other current technologies well, and be timely. The Great Warming seems to have covered those bases, even if the home page is so full of great information as to be overwhelming. And what a great graphic, don’t you think?

So let me narrow it down for you, for starters: Check out the Discussion Guide on Global Warming: Changing CO2urse. (Not a typo, but it takes a minute.)

Sponsored by the Northwest Earth Institute, seven study guides are offered, including

  • Voluntary Simplicity
  • Choices for Sustainable Living
  • Exploring Deep Ecology
  • Discovering a Sense of Place
  • Globalization and Its Critics
  • Healthy Children-Healthy Planet
  • Global Warming: Changing Co2urse

As you might imagine, the module on Discovering a Sense of Place caught my attention. I have seen this bonding between people and place crucial in my own story to gain a perspective not possible as a migrant homeowner. Even one’s sense of patriotism–honoring the father-land, literally–must begin in the countryside before it can fully extend to love of country.

Also, a reminder that Step It Up 2007 (Bill McKibben’s “distributed revolution”) is April 14. Read more about it in Business Week.


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It’s happening, as it always does, too quickly. Every drive down the lane shows something else already gone by as Spring rushes through on its way to summer. Already, these bloodroot photographed a few days ago along the roadside near home have dropped their petals; the oddly-lobed and distinctive sheathing leaf that belongs one per plant will now begin to swell, growing six inches across by the middle of May.

The red-sapped rhizome that gives this plant one of its common names contains some caustic substances (perhaps accounting for the native American use of this plant as a emetic.) They also are said to have used the “blood” as a war paint or skin “tattoo”.

I used to demonstrate this on field trips by digging a bloodroot rhizome, breaking it in two to show the oozing red interior (I once had a student become faint from seeing this gore) and paint a red-orange stripe across my forehead. Very dramatic. Very stupid, I’ve learned since.

The sap contains the toxin sanguinarine. Recently, some ill-advised breast cancer patients used bloodroot sap topically, and developed disfiguring skin lesions.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about bloodroot is a feature it shares with two other very early-blooming plants, Dutchman’s Breeches, and Trillium. They all exhibit myrmecochory and produce elaiosomes.

What? These aren’t familiar words? Don’t you just love botanists for the way they wield Latin and Greek to their advantage and the obfuscation of others?

Very simply, these plants produce a little nutrition treat called an ELAIOSOME attached to their tiny seeds. These are “intentionally” attractive to ants, who gather the seeds, feed the treat to their young, then dispose of the actual living seed in their nutrient rich frass, or waste bin.

In a week or so, I’ll see if I can show you a closeup of a dissected Bloodroot seedpod and enlarged leaf to compare to the tiny leaf wrapped now around just the base of the single flower.

Clean Coal: Count the Costs

Fight mountaintop removal coal extraction in the appalachian mountains
More than 470 mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining. Watch this video about mountaintop removal, including excerpts from the documentary Kilowatt Ours, featuring Woody Harrelson and a soundtrack featuring an original recording of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” sung by Willie Nelson. (08:23)

PLEASE do more than watch the video when you visit the link. Keep clicking on the page. Get an education. Then educate somebody else. Maybe even a politician.

You might also keep in mind this quote from a few days ago: “the Bush administration released a new energy plan in April 2001 that called for construction of 1,300 new power plants by 2020.” And understand that “clean coal” mined just as you see here will power those plants. Unless WE SPEAK OUT for our mountains, streams, freedoms and rights.

Leaving the Best: Sustainable Forestry

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I’m sorry not to have been able to write at greater length about Jason Rutledge and Healing Harvest Forestry Foundation. A few more images of his demonstration last Saturday in nearby Copper Hill can be found here.

Suffice it to say, Jason is an early ambassador and elder statesman of forestry stewardship. He and his son, Jagger (who you can see in the gallery image cutting up the tulip poplar he just dropped) are engaged in a work of love (the profit is small and hard to come by, especially in a day of declining timber values.) And both are as articulate about their purpose, methods and goals as you’d ever expect to find coming from a suit and tie, much less from the garb of a woodsman in the backwaters of Virginia forests.

What Healing Harvest sees perhaps most clearly is there is more to the forest than the trees. In the end, it is the “environmental services” of the forest–its carbon sequestration, cooling effect, energy conversion and especially water resource impact–that makes our woods so valuable to us. To US, not just the small landowner who thinks in terms of his acres during his day.

But then, Jason can also convince you that it makes sense now and in pennies to consider leaving your woods better and better with each sucessive, selective, low-impact, worst-first cutting.

In this demonstration, Jagger Rutledge used a “Swede cut” to drop a tulip poplar 31″ across at breast height. (The area it grew in is destined to become a pond). He estimated the tree was about 80 years old. The 8-foot section that was cut from the trunk of the tree weighed approximately 2200 pounds. And the Rutledges’ team of Suffolks moved it away as if it were made of balsam wood, leaving no dozed road, no collateral tree damage–just a scuff in the leaf litter in the process.