Thursday, March 28, 2013

More on the Wetlands Saga

It is not a petition, but a sign that work continues to block the bypass/trafficway set to plow through the Haskell-Baker wetlands at the south edge of Lawrence, Kansas.

The student senate of the University of Kansas has developed a task force to urge the University to give its 20 acres to Haskell Indian Nations University. Since KU's portion is in the trafficway area, giving its share to Haskell would block the trafficway.

Read the story here.

The fight is not over.

In other news: The cabbage and cauliflower plants are in the ground. Today, the broccoli goes in, along with the rest of the onions. Kale and spinach seed are scheduled for planting, just in time for this weekend's rain.

Temperatures will cool again next week, but not quite so low. Spring is slowly creeping in.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

More of the Story

I must clarify some information concerning my last post about the Haskell-Baker Wetlands.

In the early part of the 20th century a large portion of the wetlands area was drained to become farmland. Mid-century some preservation efforts were made and later, a larger area was restored to wetlands by both human and natural forces. However, portions of this area are virgin wetlands, with a foundation that has evolved over 10,000 years, while other portions have a foundation only decades old.

I could not find how much of the current area is virgin wetlands and whether those acres are threatened with demolition. You can try to decipher the history here.

Knowing that a large portion of the wetlands is "restored" rather than virgin does not change my feelings about the impending encroachment of bulldozers. This area is home to numerous animals and native plant species. Wetlands provide an invaluable service to the ecology at large, not only by providing habitat for animals, but also by collecting and filtering runoff water and other services.

In the fall, thousands of Monarch butterflies use the wetlands as a rest stop. Doubtless, it also provides refuge for many migrating water fowl.

We displaced the original plants and animals once by draining the wetlands for farming. Now we propose to displace them yet again. Will we capture all of the creatures that make their homes where the concrete will be poured and transfer them elsewhere? I doubt that. They're on their own.

My original point stands. When faced with the potential to gain money, to see "development" and "progress," we shove the natural world aside. Nature takes the back seat, if we even let it in the vehicle at all. It is time to change the way we think about this world. As we treat nature, so we treat ourselves. Corporate disregard for nature seems to translate into disregard for human beings. We are intent on bulldozing ourselves out of a home. We are at a crossroads -- continue on the destructive path or raise our consciousness?

I stand as witness. Whatever happens.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bearing Witness

We owe it to ourselves, to our children, our grandchildren, to the earth that sustains us, to bear witness to those wild things that are endangered.

A portion of the Baker-Haskell Wetlands on the south edge of Lawrence, Kansas, is set to fall to the bulldozer (at a yet unspecified time as far as I know), victim of our intense desire to get from point A to point B in as little time as possible using as many vehicles as we possibly can. A bypass is set to plow through the wetlands. This will not do harm to the wetlands and its residents, according to "experts."

I cannot believe that. Everything affects all around it. I can't imagine that tons upon tons of concrete bearing whizzing, poison-spewing vehicles will not do damage to the wetlands and its wild residents.

Many claim that this bypass is unnecessary and will not solve traffic issues it is intended to solve.

Mitigation efforts will be made, that is "creation" of new wetlands areas. But that will not truly make up for the destruction of these wetlands created by natural forces over how long I don't know. It will not be the same. It might look similar, but the very foundation of it will be much different.

Like the prairie. Kansas has some of the few remaining acres of virgin prairie... prairie that has developed and evolved over 10,000 years, give or take a few, since the last glaciers retreated. Millennia of evolution has created a specific soil structure, a unique population of soil microorganisms and macroorganisms, specific mixes of plant and animal species. We've plowed and torn up most of these prairies. Yes, we can "restore" them, we can plant seeds of similar grass and forb species, protect remaining native critters. However, that restored prairie will not be the same as that which evolved over 10,000 years.

Like the prairies, these wetlands have evolved over how ever many millennia. The wetlands hosts unique mixes of plants and animals, has a unique foundation -- soil structure and microbial population that we cannot replicate.

So what? Many will ask.

This is a question I cannot answer with logic or science. This is a question that can only be answered from the pit of my soul -- "Because."

Because we humans do not recognize the inherent value of the wild  things, of the ages old natural environments. We only understand when they are spectacularly beautiful or strange or unique -- the Grand Canyon, for example. Especially if we can put a monetary value on their existence. We overlook the inherent value of those things that we deem ordinary or not so beautiful. The prairies are "just grass." The wetlands are "just swamps." The only way to save them seems to be to show where they improve the balance of the bottom line.

But my soul cries out at the loss of these things. My soul is wounded when a pipeline cuts through areas so wild that humans cannot comfortably inhabit them. The human soul is wounded. We will never know the true value of these things... at least not until they are gone.

A fuzzy look at a wetlands inhabitant, some kind of sparrow.
Unless that is, we stand in the middle of a virgin prairie, with grasses waving, wildflowers blooming or setting seed, birds winging across a blue sky that stretches so so far... or stand among the sea of cattails in the wetlands, watch a muskrat swim in the slowly moving water...  and let loose of the "mind," opening our hearts, opening our souls...

When we recognize the vastness, the depth of the wild places, we find our true position in the broad scheme of things. That comforts some of us.

But it frightens the shit out of many more of us. So we "prove" our superiority, our value, our power by bulldozing across these natural places, dismissing their value because we can't put dollar signs in front of it. And the bulldozers cut large wounds across the collective human soul.

A portion of the Haskell-Baker Wetlands is owned by the Haskell Indian Nations University and will not fall prey to the bulldozer. However, the entire wetlands is considered a sacred place by natives and by many of us who are not native. The bypass construction will disturb the sacred ceremonies that are held there, although the "experts" say that the sound won't be disruptive. Sigh. How little they understand.

Many have fought this development for years, but the courts say it is legal and all the proper "legal" things are in place. Go forth and destroy. A few still cling to small scraps of hope that something, something will stop this. Others are exhausted and discouraged by the declaration of the courts. I do not doubt that all of the "legal" factors are in place. However, I am saddened that humans are so willing to sell their souls to the false gods of money and convenience.

I make no call to action here. I don't care if I've convinced you one way or another. I simply bear witness. These photos were taken last week. It is early spring. Little is green at the wetlands now (although today all is covered with snow). You may think that this is not such an attractive place.

Look again. Look deeper. Look with the heart. Look with the soul. Witness the beauty.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring, Sproing, Sprung

I swore to myself that I would not take crocus pictures this year. I've got a bazillion from previous years, but, well, how
could I resist?
I planted peas today. I set up a trellis, then planted a row on each side of it. Then at what will be the feet of the pea vines, I planted a row containing spinach, arugula, mizuna and lettuce. The cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower are sitting on the front porch to harden off so I can plant them next week.

Today was unusually warm, in the 80s. Tomorrow the high will be 50, then lower on Sunday with a chance of rain and snow. The high temperatures will then return to the 50s, until late next week when it will drop a bit. We'll have several freezing nights yet, even after my planned planting of cabbages. I'll just bundle them up and trust them to be able to handle a little nip in the air.

The up and down temperatures are typical of March in Kansas, so I'm not going to fuss... much. Once you get a taste of warm days, it is difficult to go back to the icebox.

But I've got peas in the ground. The crocus are blooming madly. Daffodils are sending out green shoots at a frantic pace. Even the tulip leaves are peeking out. The other day I noticed a few lonely snowdrops where I planted them last fall. In future years, they will be out before the crocus. And the lovely little Iris reticulata surprised me yesterday with their purple blossoms.

Iris reticulata
Green is popping up everywhere. Tonight, as I was pottering about, finishing up my work in the garden, I saw vultures gliding across the gray-blue sky. The vultures have returned. That means spring is definitely here.

But spring can be quite chilly, so tomorrow I'm bundling up. Tonight I will lay a fire in the stove so we will have heat in the morning.

Ah, March of the fickle heart. More like sproing than spring.
April usually has a better attitude, but she can turn a cold shoulder, too.
Either way, the Equinox is less than a week away. Then at least the calendar will say "spring."

OK. Another crocus.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Life Flows...

The snow has fled and the crocus are back in the business of blooming. Now I listen to the rain fall.

Blades of daffodil leaves are bent and somewhat yellowed from trying to poke up through a heavy layer of snow.

And it's lambing season.
The other day I went to a neighbor's home to return something that had been left behind and she invited me out to see the new lambs. The one in the picture above had dropped just minutes before we arrived in the paddock. Mama sheep had not yet finished cleaning it. Birth is messy and bloody and oh, so wonderful. My neighbor expressed her admiration for the sheep, how they give birth without much fuss. Smarter than we think they are.

"Of course they act like prey animals," she said. Maintaining coherent groups, following the crowd, that's the smart way for prey animals to survive. We humans just don't understand their intelligence.

Older lambs were out playing in the small valley still much laden with snow, under the watchful eyes of their mothers. The grass is still brown, and many bare patches of mud show. All those with grass-eating livestock are concerned about the grass. The snow and rain will help, but only the grass that survived the last two hot, dry summers,

So they go warily into this spring.

But it is spring. And life keeps flowing...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Snow Finale?

The snow fell wet the second time around and clung to everything. The north wind stuck it to the trunks of trees and it pile high on branches causing the red cedars to bow, like dancers taking a final curtsy.

Another 6 inches or more on top of the previous 12, which had shrunk considerably under sunny skies and above-freezing temps. This second snow is not melting as quickly, however.

I looked out the window just now, and it is snowing again. Only flurries today, though, according to the National Weather Service.

We've had temperatures slightly above freezing, but no sun since the most recent snow.

Beauty in white.

But I am ready for the ground to be clear, for the green things to grow, for spring songs to be sung. Crocus had already bloomed up by the house before the snows fell.

It is more difficult to convince myself to go outside when I must break through a foot of crunchy snow, when I must -- simply must-- put on my tall boots if I plan to take more than a few steps outside. Such a short "winter" of snow and I'm ready for it to be over. I might be more eager to play in the snow if it were January, instead of the beginning of March. It's time to plant peas!

However, there will be plenty of mud and muck to slog through when it's gone. I will just have to keep telling myself that snow is even better for the plants than rain. Much less "heavy water" (deuterium oxide) in snow than in rain and other waters. Deuterium oxide is hydrogen and oxygen, just like regular water, put the hydrogen atoms each have a neutron at there cores. Heavy. Hydrogen with the neutron is called Deuterium (D).

Apparently this D2O bogs down biochemical processes, so the less of it in water, the better. Research has shown that plants actually grow faster when watered with melted snow. So I am scooping up buckets of snow to water my baby plants.

In spite of snow's lighter water content, I am looking forward to spring rains. At least the drought seems to have eased.