Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Whippersnappers

It was a dark and stormy night quite a few years ago, as I drove with trepidation down a flooded dirt road, slippery with mud, when I passed a huge hollow tree that had blown over. Suddenly a tiny unidentifiable apparition latched onto my windshield from out of nowhere. It stared directly at me with great glossy eyes, clinging frantically to the wipers, and had to be a bat, probably rabid!

In dread and horror, I called my daughter, who was waiting for my return, safe and dry at home. "There's a bat stuck on my windshield!" I shrieked.


"Turn on the wipers, it will go away," she advised.

"No no, then it will get squished and be gross and disgusting! You must come here and shoo it off!" I commanded.

So, she drove the short distance and with what turned out to be a Victoria's Secret shopping bag conveniently abandoned in the back seat of her car (what's with that?), she scooped up the critter, bundled it up, and we separately drove home.

In the kitchen we cautiously unfurled the bag and discovered, not a bat at all, but what we decided could only be a soft and fuzzy baby flying squirrel.

That accidental adoptee became Whippersnapper, who wreaked absolute havoc the entire span of his brief life, escaping with tedious regularity from his cage, and cruising from the top of one valance to the other, a loose renegade for days at a time. We caught him with nets, treats, towels, and potholders (they bite!) or whatever else was at hand, when we were lucky.

Well, but he was cute. Okay! Adorable! In a sweet little rodent sort of way.

So, after he died, and I was sad, my kids decided I needed ANOTHER one (NOOOOO) and found one - on the internet, naturally.

Being nocturnal, The Whipper toils in obscurity in the kitchen (being very shy) every night when he emerges from his lair and races maniacally around his cage in circles, so fast he is a blur. I have yet to decide if he is terrified of his feline audience, or is taunting them. "Nyah nyah, can't catch me!"

In the picture above he is holding a cherry that he snatched from my fingers. He loves fruit.



Cleome


A morning glory is at its best on a humid, overcast day.

The nice lady who lives in this house let me come up close to photograph her flowers, which she grows in pots on the porch.


This is a link to a compilation of studies about ozone damage to plants from commenter Daniel on my last blog post. It is the most important thing I have ever posted on this blog, because it explains what is happening. And it does not bode well, at all, for the future.

http://membrane.com/trees/ozone_plants.html

I could have titled this post, "IT'S THE OZONE, STUPID"

Here are samples of leaves I collected yesterday, before Daniel sent me his fateful link, that exactly replicate the damage described on his website.



Oak

Hydrangea

Maple

Redbud, Beech, and a Maple


It is utterly terrifying because not only does ozone damage trees, which is unimaginably devastating in and of itself, it damages annual crops.

The best minds in the world (and I am certainly not among them) should be focussed on two things:
1. How to get to clean energy as fast as possible
2. How to construct atmospherically controlled greenhouses for food production.

Of course, when you have nonsense such as what is described here by filthy rich oil and coal lobbyists, we may not get there in time:

The Fate of the Butterfly


Well, it's a good thing I took a picture of the spectacular lotus to post on the blog, because shortly thereafter an insane storm arrived with such heavy downpour that it was smashed flat. I lost power at around 8 pm and have no idea when it was finally restored, as I was out all day after. *must clean out freezer and fridge*


The only bonus was to be the recipient of a first-ever, personalized local rainbow, which began and ended at Wit's End. I think, because the sun was about to set, it encompassed a very small area. How lucky I was to spot it and photograph it!


A tree fell across the street and crashed into the power pole, which was broken. Because lines were lying on the road, a crew was dispatched from Pennsylvania to cut the tree limbs out of the way. They had arrived around 3 am, their chain saws woke me at 5, and when I saw them around 7 they were quite weary, keeping vigil until the overstretched linemen could arrive to set a new pole and hook it all back up.


Here is some of the carnage from the storm. The workers told me they heard there had been a tornado, which is the same thing everyone was saying last weekend in Frenchtown when the huge trees collapsed. Mind you, no one actually saw any such tornado, and my guess is that is it alleged because nobody can imagine so much tree damage absent that sort of extreme wind.

They don't realize how weak the trees already are. Soon, if you look at them cross-eyed, they will crumple.



This video was on the Huffington Post, and followed by these intriguing comments:

"There was hail in my suburban NJ town yesterday and that was crazy, so this is true. Something very serious is going on and it's scary. Trees were down all over the place."

"It's the end of the world as we know it."

"I feel the same way, everything is dying, even mature trees here in Houston."


While I was chatting with the power company employees, I had a closer look at these pines that I pass every day. When middle daughter Sophie was little enough to still have an adorable lisp, I bought about a dozen tiny year-old trees, thinking that they would make a good screen for the road eventually, as traffic on our country lane was bound to increase. Of course, most of them were mowed down by the town clearing the roadside, because they were too small to see, swamped in weeds, even though I marked them. But these three managed to escape decapitations and now they are much much taller than Sophie.

Seeing how the needles are turning yellow made me cry. Once sometime earlier, when we were working in the garden, Sophie asked me, "Is it true fir trees are really soft?" She had a favorite picture board book she loved to read over and over, about a pine and how it goes through the seasons, and it took me a minute to realize she thought "fir" and "fur" were the same. I told her as gently as I could that actually, fir trees were generally sort of prickly.

But on to the alleged subject of this post, the butterflies. I have already mentioned I have seen relatively few this season, and this morning, on NPR, there was a story about them. I couldn't find it on their website, but I located an article that has the exact same information.


http://www.northjersey.com/recreation/news/Chill_rain_factors_in_butterfly_decline.html

I will end with these two links:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jul/27/world-warming-faster-study

This is reminiscent of ice storms crushing trees being written off as "weather" events:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111109436&ft=1&f=1001

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sinister Signals from the Lotus

The lotus is in flower. It is a blossom of such divine perfection that it is not hard to see how it would inspire a cult of worship.

The lotus and the water lilies have spread so much this year you can scarcely see the water, let alone the koi. The pond appears to have created its own self-sustaining ecosystem, because I quit cleaning the filter a couple of summers ago - it took so long, and was a losing battle in the heat anyway. Since then the water has become murky but the fish are thriving, getting huge and having babies, and not even interested in store-bought food.
The petals are like translucent wax, this example is almost a foot in diameter.

The frogs seem to like it here, too.

Which begs the question, why are the lotus leaves suddenly looking like the leaves of trees and shrubs - losing chlorophyl? Obviously, the lotus has not been in a drought ever, it lives in a pond.


I wonder the same thing about trees and shrubs at nurseries, which presumably are watered or irrigated, and they also are showing signs of drought – yellowing, browning, dropping leaves.

So, if it isn’t drought causing the drought-like symptoms, what is it?

UV radiation, or the composition of the atmospheric gasses? Some other causative agent?

Any of which is terrible news if true, for growing crops for food.

Later, some more pictures of what leaves look like but first, a little break, some wildflowers, first - Queen Anne's Lace, which when my kids were little we liked to cut and put in water with drops of food coloring, to watch them turn pink, blue, and yellow:



Here, a chicory flower:

And now some flowers from the garden:










Back now to the subject at hand, leaves that are seriously compromised, first some from my fringe tree, which has the most delicate, light white flowers in early spring, whose scent permeates the air:

stunted leaves from a Japanese Maple:

Discolored ivy:

hydrangea:

day lily leaves, which are generally indestructible:

Three butterflies!


I have found some studies that have enormous importance to me, in my quest to understand and document the ravages of climate change on trees.

This study is about the very specific needs that trees have for a particular amount of "winter chill". Although this report is about California agriculture - which naturally receives attention and funding, since there are vast sums of money involved - I'm sure it applies to Eastern trees as well.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090721214622.htm

And this is a long term mortality assessment of giant trees in Yosemite, where scientists have determined that climate change is killing them, and they intend to find out exactly how, and how fast:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8159025.stm

And this is the most exciting notion I've yet come across, it's new technology to detect the health of trees - an infrared camera that serves as the same diagnostic tool for trees that x-rays and cat scans do for humans. I'm trying to track down an American expert but meanwhile, this story is about an arborist in the UK:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/8118269.stm

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sunday Outing



On the way to the Frenchtown farm for a moveable feast of gazpacho and ceviche and other soon-to-be-rare marvelous delicacies, we came across the results of a storm on Friday night.

A HUGE oak.

A broken lilac.

A chestnut.

the lichen on the bark that is indicative of a weakened tree - don't know if it's a cause, or an opportunistic result.

an apple tree.

And the seriously mottled leaves.

In response to a proposal at climateprogress.org, about relocating tree species, I posted this comment:

I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from planting trees, especially as opposed to, say, ripping through a forest in a quad, but this idea – which is similar to plans I have read about to move other species, such as butterflies, proposed by scientists – seems completely unscientific and is baffling to me.

The underlying premise assumes that species will accept assisted migration to higher elevations or northern latitudes, based on a linear rise in temperature (itself pure conjecture and most likely specious), and completely ignores the influence of all the other components of the environment, such as moisture, soil composition, extreme weather, and most essentially the interwoven web of an ecosystem.

There are complex relationships that have developed over long periods of time between species – mushrooms and trees, birds disseminating fruit and nuts and seeds, the understory plants of forests and their need for the proscribed amount of light filtered by the leaves. It goes on and on and I am smart enough to know that I don’t really know a thing about it, other than it is incredibly complicated and virtually IMPOSSIBLE to replicate artificially.

So if I know that, how come trained, educated scientists propose such ridiculous solutions to extinction?

Maybe because they’re also human, and can’t bear to surrender to the objective truth.

Another dead tree along the drive to the farm...

And the lichen that blankets it.

This is a bit of a joke. I commented with a dire warning on a diary at Daily Kos, to a photographer who had a post up of pictures of some trees in New York parks, pointing out to him that we really need to get on with serious CO2 reductions because the trees don't look so great. He replied that one of his favorite old oaks is now covered with "fresh new green life" or some such thing, in the form of a lichen.

When I related this to significant other, he started chuckling, with retorts such as "right, that gangrene on my leg is fresh new green life!" or "Yay, my cancer tumor is larger, it's thriving!".

That lichen is a harbinger of death.

Anyway, enough of that, I'm not going to point out the thin tree crowns as we arrive at the Frenchtown farm to see the new foal and visit family.



It was an achingly beautiful afternoon.

Here is the vegetable garden.

A favorite little blue toy.

One of the pond denizens.






Moxie being extremely rude and petulant, with tongue sticking out! Spank that brat!


Moxie gives Steve a kiss in remorse.

And if anybody thinks I am doom and gloom, ha ha, check out this diary.
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/7/19/755099/-Contemplating-Human-Extinction-(updated)

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