Monday, March 31, 2008

Who's a Twinkie?

The Minnesota Twins begin their heroic campaign for 3rd or 4th place in their division tonight, 6pm, ESPN2 (if yer in the upper midwest). Yes, it's a tough division. Half the starters are new. We traded Johan Santana to the Mets for a bunch of silly players. Johan will be winning the NL Cy Young this year because 1/9 of the batters he faces will be pitchers. I say he gets 300 Ks.

And I champion having baseball in a dome. With 6-8" of snow forecast today, why wouldn't you want to be at 65 degrees in the Metrodome? And in July, what, 90 degrees and blood-sucking bugs the size of birds coming at you? No thanks.

Anywho, what better way to start out spring than cheering for overgrown teenagers getting paid as much money as some smalls country's GDP? Is there any? At least you might as well watch a small market team, where there is still some shadow of real American baseball.

The good thing about opening day is even though you know it won't happen, you still believe in your team, you still think maybe, just maybe, somehow, they will win it all and ease the numbing pain of your life for a few hours. Cubs fans, know what I mean? Pirates?

You could watch the NHL Minnesota Wild make the playoffs as a 3rd seed this week, but hockey has too much action, like basketball. Give me something hypnotic like baseball or football where people stand around for large chunks of time just thinking about what to do next, then anticipating it while thinking some more. (does that make them stupid?)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Help! Help! Get the Petals Off Of Me!!!

Echinacea 'Fancy Frills' looks like it's under attack, or, bursting with some petal fungus, or just unable to stop itself so that one day, when you're walking your garden early in the morning, you'll come up to this plant and see hundreds of petals scattered about the bed--and on top of the stalk the caved in remnants of the cone itself, looking like some c4 had its way with it. Reminds me of when I had a 24 hour flu last month and puked at least a dozen times uncontrollably, neverendingly (I teach English, I can make up words thank you). "For the love of God, someone, please help me stop making so many petals!"
This concludes the week's look at coneflower cultivars. I'd like to thank my sponsors: Pfizer, Miracle Grow, and General Dynamics.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Be a Monk, Live in the Plains

Not a great title. I've been looking over notes on a book by Kathleen Norris entitled Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (apparently the Dakotas are perfect places to be spiritual, and especially ascetic: quiet, devoid of stuff, barren, unfarmable....). It's also about putting down roots, learning and living a place, being connected to it and to the history of the ground and the people who've lived there. She focuses on the values of Benedictine monks and Native Americans, as well as European immigrants. Often, she compares the former two to the vanishing rural towns, farms, and way of life of the latter--I think it's all synonymous with how we live today, ipod nano-ed up, genetically modified food, empty empty willing to be emptied existence because it's easier. I like my ipod, but I also like my garden sans ipod. Anywho, continuing in posts about spirituality and religion and place, I give your Norris with some Linda Hogan:

I suspect that when modern Americans ask “what is sacred?” they are really asking “what place is mine? what community do I belong to?” I think this explains in part the appeal of Native American religions, and also the appearance of guidebooks to monastic retreat houses. We are seeking the tribal, anything with strong communal values and traditions. But all too often we’re trying to do it on our own, as individuals. That IS the tradition of middle-class America; a belief in individual accomplishment so strong that it favors exploitation over stewardship, mobility over stability. That we pay a high price for applying upward mobility to the life of the spirit, denying roots, and turning a blind eye to that which might nurture us in our own heritage has been evident to at least one Native American writer. Linda Hogan speaks eloquently of her discovery:

“that many of my non-Indian students are desperately searching for spirits, for their own souls, that something in the contemporary world has left many Euro-Americans and Europeans without a source, has left them with a longing for something they believe existed in earlier times or in tribal people. What they want is their own life, their own love for the earth, but when they speak their own words about it, they don’t believe them, so they look to Indians, forgetting that enlightenment can’t be found in a weekend workshop, forgetting that most Indian people are living the crisis of American life, the toxins of chemical waste, the pain of what is repressed in white Americans. There is not such a thing as becoming an instant shaman, an instant healer, an instantly spiritualized person.”

Traditional religions take for granted the truth of Hogan’s last statement, but Americans seek the quick fix for spiritual as well as physical pain. That conversion is a lifelong process is the last thing we want to hear. That it may reach back into the generations before us, that the wisdom of what I might term a cloud of witnesses or Linda Hogan calls watchers, to describe visitors from the Indian spirit world, might still be raging in our blood, having plenty to say, is even more threatening.

Like Linda Hogan, I find a great spiritual hunger among many people who are uncomfortable with talk of God, let alone the idea of church. Many of them are rightfully rejecting the distorted images of Christianity that they absorbed in childhood at the hands of too often ignorant catechism and Sunday school instructors. It’s a past most of us would like to forget. But simply denying it won’t work; and inventing Indian ancestors only clouds the real issue, which is fear.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tim O'Brien, Vietnam, Truth vs. Fiction


"By telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin down certain truths. You make up others."

"That's a true story that never happened."

"And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It's about sunlight. It's about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and march into the mountains and do things you are afraid to do. It's about love and memory. It's about sorrow. It's about sisters who never write back and people who never listen."

"True war stories do not generalize. They do not indulge in abstraction or analysis. For example: War is hell. As a moral declaration the old truism seems perfectly true, and yet because it abstracts, because it generalizes, I can't believe it with my stomach. Nothing turns inside. It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe. " [oh my dear writing students, are you listening to this???]

"Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a lifetime ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometime remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That's what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story."

Tim O'Brien, I love you. I've loved you since 1999 when, in my college English capstone course, my favorite professor had us read the only book worth reading that term, In the Lake of the Woods (a novel about murder, politics, policy, lies, truth, fear, Vietnam, loneliness, haunting, terror, love, loss that surely comes as close to making you BE the 60's and 70's as any writing ever has). Later, I read the book which the above quotes are from, The Things They Carried-- the most evocative, well crafted piece of fiction / nonfiction I've maybe ever read (top 10 certainly). What is truth? Can't fiction be a more powerful truth? Does it matter what is true, what isn't? As a writer, the above quotes define how I think, why I write--I'd guess for many writers this is the case, especially the idea of making your stomach believe. Which is why my freshman composition students will always read this book in my class, and why they always respond so positively to it.

O'Brien is here at UNL for two weeks, and the last two nights I've heard a very down to earth writer speak charmingly, candidly, with great humor and timing (a good writer who speaks well to an audience, too? Who is human? VERY rare--paid well or not, even though I'm sure he's being paid quite handsomely.). Tonight he wore jeans, a tie, a suit jacket, and the requisite baseball cap. He writes in his underwear. And he's from Minnesota--what isn't to like? Read him. These books are pieces of writing that can save your life no matter who you are or what you do. A cliche to say, but I deeply believe that this is rare writing, forever writing, writing that can lead us--only in moments of course, which is the grace and burden of life--to where we could, are supposed to be, but may never be. That seems like a terrifying prospect.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Also Also Not a Coneflower

Say hello to Razzmatazz. Not only was the person crunk (that's crazy drunk) when making this lovely fleur de mushroom cloud, but continued to remain inebriated while adding in some meth when naming this poor bastard flower. (Yes, I said it--I have to get on about something in life, and I choose this today. My apologies.)

How long will it be until the entire stem is covered in petals? What about the root ball?

Also Not a Coneflower--All That Jazz

Echinacea 'All That Jazz' is not a coneflower. Looks like a collection of hand-rolled pink cigarettes being simultaneously smoked by a sea urchin. I may have a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder, but if I had this in my garden I'd have to unwind every petal on every bloom and tape them open to make sure they stayed in place--just like a good little petal should.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Prisoner Rehab Music Vids AND Peep Dioramas

Music videos in the yard. In orange. These Philippines prisoners dance to all sorts of songs, not just MJs "Thriller" Sweet. I wonder if they do this at the Lincoln prison I can see from my house? "All prisoners report to yard A3 for music video rehearsal. All guards to the towers with rifles and spotlights. Warden Jones man the camera and ghetto blaster."

Isn't it nice when you can waste an afternoon when you should be grading papers?

Why not also check out Peep dioramas? I like #8, being from Minnesota and frequenting the airport and its bathrooms (not for what you think).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Silver Lining--Permaloc Edging

My garden now has a silver lining. Twas in the 60s Wed and Thurs and so, desirous of permanently wounding myself in the form of stretching muscles not used since, oh, October, I edged. And edged. For 8 hours. 75 feet or so.

I used Permaloc's YardEdge aluminum edging, hoping for a clean / simplistic / professional look. Plus it won't rust and is 100% recyclable. This is not an advertisement. Had I not had clay soil it would've taken 4 hours, but I had to dig the trenches wider than I'd anticipated since the clay didn't give, and to make the edging look the best, 'tis important to let it bend a little the way it wants. Still, it's super easy to bend to your will. Super easy to install (who wants to see that black plastic coiled crap tortured the way it tortures you?). And if you prefer these attributes 'o' ease over price--think I bought 100 feet for around $250 last summer by contacting them directly--then you're golden. Speaking of which, I need another box to do the front, only have 18' left. Pointless info. Pointless.

All you have to do to install this stuff is slide two sections together via pre cut grooves and hammer down two stakes per section. And, hopefully, once the grass grows in, it won't look like you live on a farm and used cut up pig troughs as edging, like in my yard--the point of this type of edging is, of course, just to see the very top edge of 1/8" thick aluminum spacing the grass and mulch. Some day.

And please ignore the fact that the curves aren't perfect--they do get perfect toward the end, along the house's foundation bed, where the cat is watching me work, and where I got the hang of it; still, if you want to cheat a little after you've staked it in, it's easy enough to take wads of clay and force them against the edging, thus tweaking its bends and making it appear you knew what you were doing. In spots. Not everywhere.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

11 "Easy" Steps to Dispose of Broken CFLs

You've got to read the below from the EPA, who say we should use these bulbs--INSANE. Plus, 1 CFL bulb makes 6,000 gallons of water toxic (due to the mercury inside it if disposed of improperly--which is very likely to happen).

Before cleanup: Vent the room
1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
2. Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.
Cleanup steps for hard surfaces
3. Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
4. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
5. Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the glass jar or plastic bag.
6. Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
Cleanup steps for carpeting or rug
3. Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
4. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
5. If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
6. Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.
Disposal of cleanup materials
7. Immediately place all cleanup materials outside the building in a trash container or outdoor protected area for the next normal trash.
8. Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing cleanup materials.
9. Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a recycling center.
Future cleaning of carpeting or rug
10. For at least the next few times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window prior to vacuuming.
11. Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lingro Compost and a Soil Teste

I amuse myself. I do.

Lincoln has cheap cheap cheap (free) compost they make themselves! All you have to do is go to the dump and pick it up--first come first served. What flash this has. The dump.

And I've decided, with my large investment of plants, better late than never to get a soil test. UNL ag has a lab and the test, for $15, is fairly comprehensive. I'm turning into such a dorky nerd.

Now, will I also spend money to have my clay-based lawn aerated and top dressed? When will I next pee? Does anyone care? Why are you reading this?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

On Wendell Berry, Nature, & Christianity

I've recently been on a "see Christianity as ecological teaching" kick the last month or so. Though I've read little of Berry before, sad to say, I found his essay "Christianity and the Survival of Creation" representative of current thought on the subject (or, the greening of religion, ALL religions). What I enjoy is that he starts out by confronting people who would quickly dismiss such a conversation on the grounds of atheism, or agnosticism, or historical precedence, or anyone quick to dimiss the possibility that the Bible might actually be read in the way it was intended when written (another essay in the book I'm reading briefly discusses The Odyssey as an environmental treatise--wow, was that interesting, too).

The main issue that Berry sums up from all I've been reading is that, yes, Christianity (those practicing it) has purposely or blindly--for many reasons and in many ways--destroyed the intended and natural spirituality / connectedness of people, plants, animals, etc. That's obvious. What isn't is that few are doing much to get at the truth of the religious (er, spiritual) principles that have been distorted for 20 centuries. Clearly, Berry, like any good ecologist / environmentalist, wants to heal and reconnect all creation--something a certain Native American writer Linda Hogan champions in a stellar book, Dwellings. Enough. Quote time.

--"We are holy creatures living among other holy creatures in a world that is holy." In other words, God looked on the earth and saw that it was good. Everything was created divinely. God-like. Of the same stuff (humans made of dust). Interlinked. Equal.

--Not a quote, but I like how he says the church is not the only holy place. In fact, everywhere is holy (oh, Linda Hogan, do you hear this?). I could quote that he discusses anything human made or human comprehended, as an act to encapsulate God, is actually idolatrous. This is why Catholocism bugs me, especially. Oh I feel hate emails coming. Berry believes in experiential Christianity, and that the Bible champions this over chanting inside boxes.

--"The presence of His spirit in us is our wildness, our oneness with the wilderness of creation." Sounds like other religions environmentalists tend to favor over Christianity, when in fact, they all often point in the same general direction about a lot of things. Honest. Been reading that, too.

--"I don't think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is. It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it. Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. This is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonder; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine--which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes."

That's enough. I don't want to label Berry too much, though all of his original thoughts on leading a more agrarian-based life that will heal us (human and other), balance us, do have reflections of his own deeper spiritual beliefs, I don't believe those beliefs--no matter what religion they are based in--should lead to someone looking at what he's saying as incompatible with the environmental movement, which tends to happen all too often; a movement, which to succeed and get us rightly related to ourselves and the world, should not be solely micro managed by the "liberal" or the "cultured." In fact, we all have to connect more deeply and spiritually to the world, and this is one big way. Benedictine monks, with their mundane chores serving as prayers and moments of enlightenment / revelation--and as Christians--have as much to offer us as do Buddhists, Muslims, Native Americans, and Al Gore (argh--why has he become a religion? Anyone?).

Monday, March 17, 2008

How Do You Get "In" With Nurseries?

As a newbie gardener, I'm asking this primarily for inside tips, notice of shipments, and more favorable (if any) discounts on plants. Obviously, I know little how a nursery operates and am not seeking a part time job to help me understand this.

It seems to me there IS a secret society of gardeners and nurseries, that, on the surface, the common shopper isn't aware of. I feel it when I walk in to, for the umpteenth time, my favorite nursery and spend yet more money. I feel like there is, or could or should be, an under the table awards club, a secret knock, a wink and a nod to the back room. I spent significant money last year at two nurseries in particular, and enjoy talking to the staff, but what's the sequence of plays? What's the trick? Wouldn't a post from an insider on this topic be interesting?

Feel free to slap me upside the head if I'm completely wrong and naive and just plain stupid about this and you care to educate me old school. I would do this for someone who came to me and said "poetry is just too hard to get, it's got some hidden meaning I will never figure out" or "do I really have to do research for my essay" or "global warming is merely propaganda" or "tighty whities are better than boxer briefs."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Shrub Shopping List Haunts My Dreams

It's spring "break" here in Nebraska (I get no break, hence the "), and so I've finalized my wish list for this year, which may change once the nurseries open and I succumb to local supply and sudden crushes that keep me up at night--this actually happens--I am sick--help me. These will be my big ticket items, especially as I'll need 7 arctic fire dogwoods which will line the front sidewalk--I might have to buy small with the dogs to save money. Yes, I took a tape measure outside and calculated. Yes, I measured the size of each bed. Yes, I know where every one of these shrubs will go. Yes, I am methodical. Time to stop planting so many perennials, step back, and think about the core architecture while there's still time.

Cornus alba ‘Ivory Halo’
Cornus alternifolia ‘Golden Shadows’
Cornus stolonifera 'Arctic Fire' (x7)
Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey' (x4)
Itea virginica 'Sprich' Little Henry (I've heard it suckers and is marginal in zone 5)
Juniperus horizontalis 'Limeglow' (x3)
Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Golden'
Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ Mellow Yellow (x2--need more)
Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’
Viburnum dentatum. 'Christom’ Blue Muffin
Viburnum trilobum 'Bailey Compact' American Cranberrybush
Weigela florida 'Fine Wine'

[I'm editing my post--it just occured to me that the Itea, 3rd pic below, looks like a tampon shrub, or a penis shrub (a collection of ancient Roman marble statue peni?), or something like that. Anyone else? C'mon....]

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's This?

It's river birch.

And crocus.

And prairie smoke.
And spiraea.

And daylily.

And a dry cat.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Take THAT Southern Gardeners

Zone 5A lives!!!

Spiraea thunbergii 'Ogon' (Mellow Yellow) is budding out.

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Coppertina' (Ninebark) is budding out.

Who needs fancy flowers? Humbug.

Sex Change, Anyone? Don't Drink the Water

In a new, long, disturbing article detailing the AP's investigation, pharmaceuticals are being detected in our drinking water--in large enough amounts to affect embryonic cells, encourage cancer cell growth, et cetera. That's only the tip of the iceberg since we know so very little. We don't absorb everything we take in, neither do our farm animals and pets, and there's no current treatment set up to filter the drugs. So, if you feel more mello, have new breasts growing, or seem a bit more crazy--and you like it--drink more water. (also see a partial list of major cities and what's in the water via that weblink.)

"Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.
One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

Another issue: There's evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

Human waste isn't the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals.

Water sampled downstream of a Nebraska feedlot had steroid levels four times as high as the water taken upstream. Male fathead minnows living in that downstream area had low testosterone levels and small heads.

Other veterinary drugs also play a role. Pets are now treated for arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity — sometimes with the same drugs as humans....

Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females. Pharmaceuticals also are affecting sentinel species at the foundation of the pyramid of life — such as earth worms in the wild and zooplankton in the laboratory, studies show.

Some scientists stress that the research is extremely limited, and there are too many unknowns. They say, though, that the documented health problems in wildlife are disconcerting.

"It brings a question to people's minds that if the fish were affected ... might there be a potential problem for humans?" EPA research biologist Vickie Wilson told the AP. "It could be that the fish are just exquisitely sensitive because of their physiology or something. We haven't gotten far enough along...."

[exquisitely sensitive? WTF! Canary in the coal mine people, hel-frickin'-lo!!!]

There's growing concern in the scientific community, meanwhile, that certain drugs — or combinations of drugs — may harm humans over decades because water, unlike most specific foods, is consumed in sizable amounts every day.

Our bodies may shrug off a relatively big one-time dose, yet suffer from a smaller amount delivered continuously over a half century, perhaps subtly stirring allergies or nerve damage. Pregnant women, the elderly and the very ill might be more sensitive.

Many concerns about chronic low-level exposure focus on certain drug classes: chemotherapy that can act as a powerful poison; hormones that can hamper reproduction or development; medicines for depression and epilepsy that can damage the brain or change behavior; antibiotics that can allow human germs to mutate into more dangerous forms; pain relievers and blood-pressure diuretics....

And while drugs are tested to be safe for humans, the timeframe is usually over a matter of months, not a lifetime. Pharmaceuticals also can produce side effects and interact with other drugs at normal medical doses. That's why — aside from therapeutic doses of fluoride injected into potable water supplies — pharmaceuticals are prescribed to people who need them, not delivered to everyone in their drinking water."

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Garden Jokes

I've been all over the web and only found a few garden jokes that I enjoy. Do you have any good ones??? (Dirty or rated G, I care not, though I've no "bad" ones yet.)

What does everyone have two of on their face? Tulips.

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims (or busted up boxes and missing lamps).

What do you call it when worms take over the world? Global Worming.

The research assistant couldn't experiment with plants because he hadn't botany.

What does the letter "A" have in common with a flower? They both have bees coming after them.

What do you get when you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by the diameter? Pumpkin Pi.

What do you call a country where people drive only pink cars? A pink carnation.

New gardeners learn by trowel and error. (hardy har har)

Gardening Rule: When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

What's the difference between a southern zoo and a northern zoo? A southern zoo has a description of the animal on the front of the cage along with a recipe. (not a gardening joke, but I like it.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Morning

A Morning

I have carried it with me each day: that morning I took
my uncle's boat from the brown water cove
and headed for Mosher Island.
Small waves splashed against the hull
and the hollow creek of oarlock and oar
rose into the woods of black pine crusted with lichen.
I moved like a dark star, drifting over the drowned
other half of the world until, by a distant prompting,
I looked over the gunwale and saw beneath the surface
a luminous room, a light-filled grave, saw for the first time
the one clear place given to us when we are alone.

--Mark Strand

Tuesday, March 4, 2008



While I stood here, in the open, lost in myself,
I must have looked a long time
Down the corn rows, beyond grass,
The small house,
White walls, animals lumbering toward the barn.
I look down now. It is all changed.
Whatever it was I lost, whatever I wept for
Was a wild, gentle thing, the small dark eyes
Loving me in secret.
It is here. At a touch of my hand,
The air fills with delicate creatures
From the other world.

--James Wright, from The Branch Will Not Break

Sunday, March 2, 2008

MWM ISO Manly Garden Gloves

MWM iso rugged / dry pair of gardening gloves. Must shed water and clay with ease and have a contemporary, clean-edged, non flowery style to yourself (I am a metrosexual outside the garden). Prefer coverage over the wrists, but not picky--won't settle either (I am an anal retentive metrosexual outside the garden--who am I kidding, anal in the garden, too). You must be willing to appreciate my extreme and sudden mood swings, but I promise not to leave you outside in the rain at day's end. Looking for a ltr, but also a realist as I intend to live our life together actively and eclectically--this may mean the occasional chemicals or rusty rebar. If interested, contact MB 1855.

[70 and sunny Saturday, 2-4" of snow Sunday night]

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Douglas Tallamy's "Bringing Nature Home"

I'm biased, but this book kicked some tail. A few years ago, to be honest, this would've bored me. Not so now as I'm far more conscious of what role my garden / landscape plays in the world around me. And as I start my garden, I want the right plants, and thankfully Tallamy has a nice list for all four corners of the States in the back, yet NEGLECTS the midwest and plains. So, I have no choice but to guess on this and trust my local nurseries, which he says not to do since the horticultural industry proclaims alien plant species native after 100 years or so, and a zone 6 plant in one part of the country native to a zone 6 area on the opposite end. But, dogwood, viburnum, elderberry, milkweed, and violets will be coming to my house en masse in two months.

He also has a nice long chapter, with images, of beneficial insects and why they are neato.

I took notes, so I give you note form. No interesting prose for you, but the ideas, if you read through, build to some pretty conclusive ideas: we can still save our environments from mass extinction if gardeners garden native. Huzzah!

We tend to have three distinct views on the value of nature: 1) need it to exploit it (for medicine or paper or what have you); 2) need it for aesthetic or moral reasons; 3) it literally sustains us. He argues that all three are necessary and valid in order to have greater biodiversity.

Open lawns are part of our evolutionary psychology—space helps us see lions and hyenas coming at us. It’s time to get over this because these threats are no longer tenable. So, plant over and understory trees; plant thick shrubs in foundation plantings, especially since most bird species nest in shrubs, not trees, and we garden for birds and butterflies (luckily, moths and butterflies are the #1 food source for birds and other animals, a win win if you ask this reader).

All we have left are patches of native places, and these have all but condemned many species of plant and animals to extinction (both because the habitat is small, but also because alien plant species more easily gain a foothold with less native competition).


--In our lifetime 95% of plant / animal / insect species pilgrims saw will be gone.

--Landscape ecologists say only 3-5% of all US land is undisturbed.

--As gardeners, we must lead by example and believe in E.O. Wilson’s concept of biophilia, that humans have an innate love for nature, and so will want more of it, nurture it, respect it.

--Biodiversity is easy to increase if we act before extinction (easier to get than fresh water or clean energy even).

--There’s more CO2 now in the air than anytime in the last 10 million years. I wonder though, what happens when the ice melts and we no longer have core samples with which to trace earth’s climatic history?

--1 hectar (2.5 acres) in Amazon has 473 tree species; PA has 134 species total. Now, how fast is THAT vanishing?....

--37% of world’s insects eat plants.

--96% of North American birds rely on insects, and the spiders that eat them, to feed young.

--Most insect species contain more protein than beef pound for pound. Yum. Omaha Steaks = Omaha Insects.

--Many common bird species decline at a rate of 1% per year!

--Within a century ¼ of all birds (globally) will be functionally extinct in ecosystems--so rare they play no ecologically important role. There are currently 9,000 bird species.


--Why insects don’t use alien plants:
1) Most are unpalatable (honeysuckle, buckthorn, burning bush, barberry, purple loosestrife)
2) Takes a long time for insects to adapt to chemical mix in leaves (millennia)
3) Insects / plant specialists – 1 needs the other, so insects shun aliens
--they evolved closely together symbiotically, they simply CAN’T eat aliens
--They evolved to beat specific plant defenses, time life cycle to them, learn to
find plant, ability to eat plant….

--5,000 aliens have invaded natural areas in North America

--Aliens do bad things, Mr. Will Smith:
--lower insect production
--exclude and hybridize with native vegetation
--alter frequency of wildfires
--alter availability of surface or ground water
--decrease diversity of soil biota
--deplete soil nutrients
--degrade aquatic habitats through soil erosion
--increase competitive pressure on endangered plant species
--degrade wildlife forage

--“Perfect” gardens are contrived plastic, and on their literal deathbed. Gardens are not and should not be perfect. I.E. they aren’t pest free, either—buying pest resistant plants does little to create biodiversity in the environment.

“Their study shows [Raupp and Sadof] that as much as 10% of the foliage in a garden can be damaged by insects before the average gardener even notices. This is exciting news. It tells us that most gardeners do not have a zero tolerance of insects in the garden and that maybe, just maybe, the populations of insects that create 10% damage levels might be large enough to support communities of natural enemies so diverse and numerous that the foliage damage levels never exceed 10%. I believe this utopia will be easier to achieve when most plants in our gardens our native.”


--One large sugar maple can sequester 450 pounds of co2 per year!

--One hour of mowing = 650 mile of driving, 800 million gallons of gas in lawnmowers each year, and $45 billion in lawn care (plus, think about all those frogs and spiders you kill)

--Blue jays bury nuts and seeds as caches like squirrels

--Tree and bush crickets use concave leaves to amplify mating calls

--Spittle bug creates bubbles of plant sap out of anus to cover itself up (human babies do this too I believe)

--30% of all animals are beetles

--Blister beetle causes blisters and an overdose is fatal, but also acts as Viagra (now, who would stand there and apply a beetle to your...)

--Moths and butterflies are largest food source for other animals