Wednesday, December 28, 2011

seed reviews- 2011's results, 2012's hopes


Nero di Tuscana kale- still going strong, Piracicaba broccoli in the foreground

 I started this blog in March of this year, during the long, cold 2010-11winter that seemed like it would never end.  My first post ran down the list of seeds I had just ordered from Fedco and what my hopes for them were.

Now it's the end of the year and it's time to take stock of the garden in 2011.  Everyone else is making lists and counting down things from the last year and predictions for the future.  I'd like to write about something other than cancer, and this is the second-most compelling thing to write about that I can think of at the moment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

and some rays of hope



bare evans bali cherry at early sunset


I love working outside at twilight this time of year.  A couple of weeks ago I was putting away the rain barrel, shutting off the outdoor tap, taking up the fencing around the garden and a bunch of other little 'shutting down the garden' odd jobs.  I was working hard and sweating a bit, and noticed it was getting dark.  I looked up, and there were some crows gathered in the cottonwood tree, cawing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

a dark time

candles on our glass dining room table after dinner
This time of year it's hard to get any sun.  The sun sets by 4:32, and will set at 4:32 every day until the 17th of December, as observed by the Updraft Blog.

It's a dark time of year, and a good reason (as well as the holiday season) to hang lights and put shiny sparkling things in places where they'll lift your mood.

This year, we have some additional darkness.  For our family, that is.

Monday, November 7, 2011

in praise of the urban heat island

tomato, post-frost
In the outlying Twin City suburbs- Blaine, Somerset, Waconia, Jordan- there was a killing frost on September 15 this year.

In our St. Paul yard, it came October 22nd. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

remember the fifth of november

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_Transfer_Day  image used by means of creative commons
Remember to close your account with a big bank that is.

Kristen Christiansen, a gallery owner in LA, has organized tens of thousands of people on Facebook to close their accounts with Too Big To Fail banks  and open accounts with credit unions or small banks on what has been named bank transfer day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

make me laugh & get a free birch tree

yes _you_ could win this fabulous new birch tree.  see below for details.

I have this beautiful little birch tree in a 10 gallon pot sitting in my back yard.  It's about 12 feet tall and maybe an inch and a half across at the base.  I planted it three growing seasons ago, as a little 3-foot twig with some roots at the bottom.  It has been the focal point of the western side of the rain garden for a few years now, just starting to get some white bark, turning from the coppery color that the new bark usually is, starting to get some character.  Everything was going fine until...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

ides of october

Leaves are falling, wind is blowing, our compost pile is overflowing.

We raked leaves today, piling all of them up, from our front and back yards into one huge pile, taller than either of the kids, and let them jump into it, slide into it from their play slide, bury themselves in leaves.  I forget how much I loved jumping into leaves and getting lost in leaf piles that seemed so so big when I was so little.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

getting fleeced at the apple orchard

the little guy insisted that i put him up in the tree so he could pick his own apples
It seems like my wish for the global economic system to collapse already is coming true this week.  Europe is coming apart at the seams, and at home Americans are occupying Wall Street.  The mass media is even covering it now, so it must really be happening.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

all the little things that make life good

zucchini, hot peppers, grape tomatoes and a surprise purple bell pepper

Picking little veggies in the garden, playing with little kids.  Those are the little things, but only physically.

I walked my son and daughter home from preschool today, which is now in its second week.  We stroll slowly home, kids finding things along the way to be interested in, a stick to poke things with, or each other.  A little vacant lot covered with grass-- my daughter lingered at the edge of it, looking at me as if to find out if it was OK to run on it.  Yes- I nodded- and she ran out maybe a third of the way into the lot and ran back, giggling the whole time.  My son and I had to do the same then, and we would have kept it up, but then he found a stick, and wanted me to hold him up so that he could try to hit the branch of the tree with his new stick and see if he could make leaves fall down.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

dear global economic system: please collapse already.

this week's harvest from the community garden plot
 Every morning these days I get up before dawn, shower, then go downstairs to make myself a cup of coffee, a cup of tea for Gita, and some cups of 'kid chai' for the kids- warm milk with some brown sugar added, in a kid sized 'coffee cup'.  When I went to the fridge this morning to get milk, the one essential ingredient in each beverage, I came up empty.  So, as the sun was coming up, I was driving to the grocery store a few blocks away to get a gallon of milk.

I was pre-caffienated and barely capable of driving at that hour.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

beginning of the fall

today's harvest from our community garden plot
On my way home from work today, I stopped at our community garden plot (or allotment as they'd call it in the UK).  I got off the bus one stop early and walked over.  It's only two blocks from home, so it's an easy side trip.

Still I hadn't been there for over a week and I wasn't sure what I'd find.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

good advice for homemade winemakers

photo by Renee Wilkinson of hipchickdigs.com
This is the time of year when you either do or you procrastinate and you don't do.

We have been doing so much lately- but little that's relevant to this blog.  Our adventure into the world of purchasing foreclosed property and landlordship has drained most of our resources for other more enjoyable pursuits. The kids get our spare time, then there's not a lot left.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

my cylinder count: five

merriam park on a summer evening.
Our 'cylinder count' went up by one this week.  We own a small rental property, and since the caretaker has moved on, I've mowed exactly once with our reel mower.

I love the reel mower, but it's not the easiest thing to load into the car, and it's not the best at mowing the tough weeds that have grown up in the rental building's yard over the years.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

dog days

garlic from the garden
It's been a quiet week.  The heat and humidity have gone away.  The nights are getting cooler, the sun lower.

Gita and I took a walk last night.  The air was cool- almost cool enough for a jacket.  The katydids and crickets sang for us.  I could smell the scent of flowers- maybe datura, maybe mockorange, maybe the last of the oriental lilies- I wasn't sure.  I could smell them, but not see the source.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

this is your garden on japanese beetles. minnesota 2011


on our 'black ice' plum tree planted this spring
More accurate is to say 'japanese beetles on your garden'.  I just like the 80's reference.

The infestation has gotten worse since I wrote the last column about japanese beetles.  I've picked off a few hundred in our yard thus far.  At first I tried picking them off, then stepping on them, but some flew away.  So now I crush them a bit between my thumb and forefinger, then step on them. That works.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

growing bananas in minnesota, cannas in the basement

first reddish tomato spotted today- july 24
My apologies for the washed-out quality of the photos. I started taking pictures after 8:30, and the sun is beginning to go down about that time now.  By the time I was done, it was after 9:00.

The sun is headed back south- but we still have a lot of summer left.  The best part of it really- the quiet (except for the cicadas) steamy dog days of August.  The slowly cooling evenings, the transition to early fall.  This is the best time of year.  The heat and humidity of the last few weeks has to end at some point- and today it seemed to be on the way out.  At least for a while.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

the plague of japanese beetles

japanese beetle.  image courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension Service

 I was weeding the garden tonight, cutting down the fava beans which have wilted in the heat.  Favas like cool weather, and thrive in the spring, then tend to get a black fungal disease as the Minnesota summer turns humid and hot.  So I cut them down about this time of year.  The storm last week knocked most of them down anyway, so I was just finishing what Mother Nature started.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

stopping to smell the flowers

i took this photo in june.  my daughter loves flowers.  i love that she loves flowers.
 It's the middle of the gardening season.  The leafy greens have bolted and the tomatoes and peppers and squash aren't ready just yet.  A good time to take a deep breath, kick back, and smell the roses.  Or have a beer.  Maybe both.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

real men use reel mowers


"Real men use reel mowers" is one of the best quotes I've gotten from my current boss.  He's an older landscape architect who's been with the company for over 30 years, but you wouldn't know it by looking at him.  He's quicker (and skinnier) than most of the people half his age that work there.

Monday, July 4, 2011

vacation in wisconsin

me chilling with the kids
 
hartman creek state park

hiking around the lake







We've been out of town for a week.  I thought I might post from the road, but that just never happened.

That's a good thing.  We all had a chance to relax and not do all the things that normally take up our time.  That includes blogging.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

water water everywhere

we have so much water in the rain barrel- i just let them play
 The gardens are on autopilot.  They've been planted and weeded a few times, mulched, or at least most of them have been.  The soil is warm, the rain falls, and everything grows just as it says it would.

The farmers in Minnesota- the real ones with hundreds of acres that is- not the eighth acre variety- are having a hard time getting crops in with all of the rain.  It seems that I hear or read one or two articles a week lately about how late the planting season has been, or how poor the outlook is for harvest this year.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

raising kids and gardens in the city

do little boys ever get tired of playing in water?
We had some beautiful rainstorms this week- slow, steady rain with a few claps of thunder, but never enough to be scary or to even thing of going down to the basement.  No- just a nice soaking rain that fills the rain barrel and soaks everything evenly.  Just as I was beginning to wonder if the mid-summer dry spell was coming early.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

what happens when the temperature hits 103F in minnesota

i
The Morden Blush roses seemed to thrive on the heat
I don't have to tell anyone that this has been a weird spring and summer in Minnesota.  For the whole country for that matter.  Almost-record setting snow, then a record-setting flood season, then a horrible record-setting tornado season (which has only begun) and now record heat, at least here in the Twin Cities.  The previous record for the day in the Twin Cities was 95.  But it was 103F on Tuesday- unbearably hot for a place that isn't really prepared for that sort of heat.

Friday, June 3, 2011

lush lush summertime

the kids in the pool in the front yard
Summer really truly doesn't start for 18 more days, but this feels like the real thing.  Memorial day weekend is over, and I've heard that meterological summer starts on June 1st, and that feels right to me.  There's never been a frost recorded in the Twin Cities in June- I think the last one was on May 28th or 29th.  So it may as well be summer.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

building with natural stone



chilton limestone steps and walls- eventually on top it'll be a patio
I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew, especially when it comes to do-it-yourself handyman projects.  Because of what I do for work, and because I've seen a lot of these type of projects done, I always overestimate my abilities when it comes to yard and garden projects.

This spring's big project is a case in point.  We have had an ugly area of our backyard just off of the back of our house since we bought the place 5 and a half years ago.  It was a sort of half-ass attempt at a patio in an area way too small for anything resembling a patio.  There was a level area for 7 or 8 feet, then a steep slope with a drop of about 2 feet down to the yard.  Someone had tried to make a sitting area out of it by placing irregular yellow limesone flagging on top of the same nice rich black soil that we grow our garden crops in.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

pop goes the raingarden



the raingarden pops in late may
 So I mentioned the ostrich ferns unfurling in the raingarden last post (and had a record number of comments on fern cuisine- thank you commenters!)  Today I took a look at the raingarden and could find few if any edible fern fronds left.  They've unfurled with a vengeance over the last week.  Of all the spots in the yard, the raingarden is always the one that surprises me most.

It's the last place for the snow to melt- it's on the north side of our stucco garage, and the hollow helps shelter the snow from what little sun falls there.  We had snow there into the middle of April this year, and the plants showed it.  A few ferns popped up, some volunteer sapling sprung back, and the virginia creeper picked up where it left off last fall.   But mostly it looked dead or at least disappointingly dormant for way way too long into the season.

Then this week- we had storms- lots of storms and rain.  We had a tornado that hit the center of the Twin Cities and tear up several square miles of North Minneapolis the same day that the massive tornado struck Joplin, Missouri.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The first garden-made meal of spring

the trillium grandiflorum and maindenhair fern adiantum pedatum again
No we didn't try to eat the trillium or the maidenhair fern.  I'm not sure, but I vaguely recall that trillium may be poisonous.  I doubt maidenhair fern is, but that's just too pretty to eat.  No- the first all-garden dish of the spring came as a surprise to me.

This is one of the reasons I love my wife.  She still knows how to surprise me.  I came home from work a bit late today, and she'd already been home for a while, so I went outside to play with the kids while she cooked dinner.

I came in for something or other after a little while and she told me to close my eyes- which immediately made me suspicious.  But she insisted, so I did close my eyes, and open my mouth and let her put something- food I hoped- in.  She told me to guess what it was.  What vegetable it was.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

planting again- this time in the community garden

enjoying the blossoms on the community gardens' plum trees

As if eighth of an acre isn't enough- we had to go and get a little plot in the community garden two blocks from our house.

This is the second year we've had a 10 x 15' plot there.  It's not big, but it does have the full sun exposure that our back yard veggie garden lacks, and makes growing tomatoes and peppers and okra a lot easier and more productive.

So last Sunday morning, I put the tomato cages, a shovel and our baby plants in my old wheelbarrow andwheeled it two blocks to the garden.  The fruit trees in the orchard were blooming, the sun was out, there were a few neighbors already in the garden, doing their thing.  It was a good day to be there.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

rainstorms, rain barrels and the most hip state in america



little man takes it upon himself to keep the garlic watered

It looked like tonight was going to be the first big roof-shaker of a rainstorm.  The big puffy cumulonimbus were  coming in from the west and the sky was unnaturally yellow- then orange.  We waited a little bit to put the kids to bed, wondering if we'd have to head for the basement instead of the second floor.

But it passed quickly and quietly- now there's just a little rumbling off in the distance and the occassional pitter-pat on the window.  A good storm as storms go.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

how to make homemade wine


Gita and I squeezing the mashed fruit pulp to extract the juice
First I have to ask you to forgive me for posting photos from 2006, but I recently promised to post photos of home winemaking, and I haven't bothered to take pictures of the process for years, so here they are.  We are a bit younger and better looking in these photos, so I guess that doesn't hurt either.  It's amazing what a few years of having young children can do to a person.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

finally- a good day for planting

daffodils in the front yard



It was too good of a day today to pass up the chance to plant the veggie garden.  Yesterday was cold and grey and still had some snowflakes falling.  I had to go to the north shore of lake Mille Lacs yesterday morning, which normally would be a fun thing to do, but was completely miserable in the wind and cold.  The ice was off of the lake- but just barely.  Ice was still piled up in big surreal iceberg like chunks on the western side of the lake, and icicles were dripping on the roofs of buildings.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

may day planting

leonard messel magnolia beginning to bloom
Minnesota weather has never been very predictable and this spring is no exception.  We worked all day cleaning and cooking for our daughter's birthday party.  She's 4 years old now, and very proud of that fact, and also very excited about having a party just for her.

So we cleaned and cooked and did our errands while it rained cold rain for hours.  Then, just as the party was about to start- the sky cleared, and the sun came out, and we were wishing that we had cleaned up the yard a bit, because all of the kids headed outside to the swingset, and to play on the piles of rock (eek!).

Monday, April 25, 2011

breaking ground

freshly spaded and raked garden bed
So it finally was warm and dry enough to get out into the backyard garden and turn over the soil.  We spent an hour and a half- two hours tops, turning it over and raking out the lumps.  It was incredibly satisfying, and not difficult, given this is the sixth time we've broken this particular piece of ground, and that each year we've make the soil darker and softer by adding leaves, grass and the stems of last years garden plants.

Friday, April 22, 2011

beyond organic: permaculture and biodynamics

a
rudbeckia and echinacea in front of the old concrete block retaining wall
When I first heard about organic produce, it was the early 90's and I was a student at the University of Minnesota.  I had just moved into a student housing co-op and was still fairly new to the big city.

A friend took me to North Country Co-op,  a radical worker-run food co-op (that unfortunately went under a few years ago) and I was both fascinated and horrified by that beautiful and weird place.  Shopping at a place that didn't provide bags for your fruits in convenient little rolls, just above the refrigerator, a place that had big bins of grain, where you wrote down the price of your food on a little piece of reused paper, and were asked by the cashier if you were a member when you went to check out.  (Why would I be a member of a grocery store?)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

i think we've had enough snow now, thanks

 I'm hoping that the prediction of snow for tonight doesn't come through.  It was supposed to be six inches a few days ago.   The predicted amount is diminishing each day- so that one of the other dads at ECFE tonight said that it was only supposed to be one inch now.  That still feels like one inch too much for me.

I took these photos after Friday/Saturday's snowstorm and thought that that would be the end of it.  I hope that's the case.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

rain barrels are useless? no.

no-mow fescue in my front yard, no irrigation

There was a great article posted this week at Owen Dell's landscaping blog- great at least for spreading half-accurate information on irrigation and pissing a lot of rain barrel users off.  This was also commented on at the Garden Professors' blog, and just as controversial there.

I have never met Owen Dell.  Apparently he is a landscape architect too, but in Southern California.  In his article he posits that the needs of the average LA lawn come to 140,000 gallons a year, and that it would require 2,333 rain barrels to provide that amount of water.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

spring arrives

feeling spring
 Today was supposed to be rainy- yesterday was supposed to be sunny.  Who knew it would be the other way around.  Today, for the first time in a long time, the outdoors felt lush.

As it was, we had planned to take our out-of-town, out-of-country guest to the big mall in Bloomington today, so we went there, indoors, even though it was the first day of the year where it was comfortable, even preferable to be outside without a jacket. . 

But not before I spent a little time playing outside with the kids.  I was able to get a few snapshots of what is coming up in the yard now as well.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

the awesome power of water

video

Gita and I went for a drive today around town, taking her sister-in-law for the nickel tour of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  We got out of the car near St. Anthony Falls to see the falls at their flood-swollen best.

There is a new walkway/mini-park which makes it possible to get closer to the falls now than was possible in the past (at least legally) it's accessibly from the St. Anthony Main area, and blends in with the old electrical generation infrastructure.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

landscape architecture month

crocuses in our side yard with honeybees doing their thing

We have crocuses coming up all over now.  That's not too surprising- but seeing honeybees already when there's still snow in some corners of the yard- that's surprising to me.  I guess they got tired of staying inside this winter too.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

thoughts on cold storage

our first two quarts of maple syrup


Not having a refrigerator for a week has made me appreciate how effortless and relatively inexpensive it is to store things so long as electricity is available.

We have plenty of electricity right now, but our new energy-efficient refrigerator that we purchased at the Warners Stellian warehouse sale isn't working, and they're dragging their feet replacing it, so we have been 8 days without a working refrigerator or freezer.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

sustainable rural living in nepal

young men on a traditional hollow log boat in chitwan national park
As I tried to show in my post on sustainable living in urban Nepal- sustainability is not something that is consciously sought after in Nepal- at least not as far as I could see.  It just is.  There has never been an excess of fossil fuel, either extracted locally or imported, so the dependence on fossil fuel has never had a chance to become ingrained.

Contrast this with the US where it's not unusual to hear, or read of, people complaining that 'its too expensive' to go green or 'too difficult' to live in a sustainable manner.  The problem may just be that we're too spoiled.  When oil becomes less available, as it already is beginning to be, and it becomes unaffordable or impossible to do things as we've become used to doing them, we'll have to adjust quickly.  In rural Nepal, the change may hardly be felt.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

baby plants and iowa envy

Downtown St. Paul today.  From  http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/2011/floods/
Right now we have snow on the ground and the rivers are flooding.  So I can't walk to Harriet Island  on my lunch break in downtown St. Paul.  Looking at the NOAA map, it's clear that the snow ends pretty much exactly at the Iowa border.  It wouldn't be so bad, if it hadn't been like this all month.  So I assume that as soon as you cross the state line heading south, you'll start seeing green grass and leaves on the trees.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

sustainable urban living in nepal



Swayambunath- an ancient Buddhist temple seen from my brother-in-law's roof.  Note the water tank in the foreground

I promised in my comments on another blog (much better than this one) that I'd post some photos of sustainable urban living in Nepal- my wife's country of origin.  Specifically, photos of the solar hot water heater, since that was the topic of the John Michael Greer's posting this week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

what goes on under the snow

snowmold growing at the base of a magnolia
 It wasn't easy waking up yesterday morning and seeing fresh snow on the ground, or watching it fall all day after that.  It looks like we got 4, maybe 5 inches of heavy, icy snow.  Sometimes I think snow shoveling is fun, but yesterday's wasn't.

Monday, March 21, 2011

happy spring equinox!

my kids watering the new starts
Really, yesterday was the spring equinox, so happy belated spring equinox.  We didn't do anything to celebrate, but we did plant our first seed starts of the year. 

My kids love watering them.  Right now these are some of the best watered seeds on the planet.  I think they've been watered 3 times in the last 24 hours or so.  But it's great to see them so excited about it, and really being interested in the cycle of life.  My daughter is learning about the concept of death- and asks a lot about it.  We took both of them to my grandma's funeral last fall, and it made a great impression on her, and has been the source of many questions.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

chop wood, carry water. grow tomatoes

I was doing some research on the phrase 'eighth acre farm' before naming the blog, and found a lot of interesting stuff.  There was an article claiming that a 1/8 acre would be sufficient area to support a human being if they were to farm it intensively and eat a vegan diet.   There was another attacking 'sustainablity types' for the notion that eating vegan or living on a "micro-farm" would save the world and going so far as to suggest that doing so would somehow be harmful to the actual remaining family farms as well as the notion of urbanism itself.

The photo at top is the produce I picked out of our garden on an average August day last year.  We had tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant (with some bug bites- but they're organic!) and cucumbers.  I probably could have included a massive armful of kale, but it's not quite as photogenic and my goal was more a pretty picture than an accounting of what we grew.

We won't ever feed our family entirely off of our backyard and our community garden plot and I won't save the world by trying.  Saving the world is becoming more and more difficult every week anyway.  Seeing the tsunami footage and watching the resulting slow-mo meldown of the nuclear reactors is horrifying. My heart goes out to the people affected.  I get the same familiar feeling of wanting to do something, and not knowing what.   There's the familiar request for funding for the Red Cross or any number of other agencies, some probably legtimate others not so much.

More satisfying by far would be to go there and try to help- but actually thinking through the consequences- and of how useless a white guy who doesn't speak Japanese in that situation would be- and even how counterproductive- brings me back to reality.  I had a co-worker express the same sentiment while we were driving to a survey site on Friday.  He said that he had the urge to (and I paraphrase) "just go there and help however I could- but I didn't do that during Katrina, and that was my own country- how could I think that I would be able to go to Japan?"  This guy wasn't a bleeding-heart liberal like me- actually more of a Tea-party sympathiser, but the sentiment was the same and it surprised me.

I had the same feeling reading every day about the rebel advances in Libya- wanting to go there to be with the rebels and make everything right.  Even more of a pipe dream- I know, but it's hard seeing people in the situation that they were in, and not wanting to do something.

Now our government has sent in the fighter planes and missles and it has the feeling of something that was grassroots and positive which has been co-opted by something less pure. 

I'm glad that the Libyan rebels are not being slaughtered, but I'm sure I'm not the only one to wonder how this is going to end.  Particularly given how all the other actions in the Middle East in my lifetime have played out.

As the western world seems to tip into a slow sort of decline, building a little homestead, a little island within it becomes a sort of lifeboat.  Read Dmitri Orlov's "Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century" for an illuminating, and a bit frightening account of the fall of the Soviet Union and how regular people dealt with it.  The interesting thing to me about the account of how people lived, is how much the little things people did to adapt and be self-sufficent mattered.  Having a backyard garden made the difference between being able to stay in place or having to become a refugee in one's own country.  Something as simple as gathering mushrooms and pickling them to make comfort food made life more tolerable.  People found ways to muddle through, and I assume that many have found a new sort of equilibrium in their new post-empire country. 

I'm not a fan of pickled mushrooms, and I know I can't feed a family of four off 1/8 acre, but we can grow a surprising amount of food with what we have.  From May to November, almost all of the vegetables we eat are from our yard.  We freeze and can the rest, and eat it most of the winter.  As our fruit trees grow, I expect we'll be able to add fruit preserves to the root cellar.  Right now, it's a way to save money, but it may become more important as time goes on. 

I don't believe that an apocalypse is on it's way, though I enjoy reading blogs like James Kunstler's anyway.  It seems like we're in the middle of something more like an unwinding,  the slow decline of a large and powerful empire, that can subsist on its past greatness for years and decades before finally accepting that it's best is behind it.   I was talking with my wife the other day- and remarked that England is about 70 or 100 years past the peak of their empire, and England today isn't a bad place to live at all.  Same with Italy- maybe 2000 years past their peak?  But definitely in a sort of equilibrium now- after hundreds of years of booms and busts and successive building and crumbling of mini-empires and principalities.  The transition may be difficult, but a post- empire may turn out to be better to live in than the empire itself.







Friday, March 18, 2011

the first green of spring


Really I saw the first green of spring on my way home from work.  I caught the express bus which drops me off on Snelling Avenue, then I walk past O'Garas to get home.  Saint Patrick's day gets bigger every year there- now there are porta-potties in the street and cars parked in strategic places with ads for energy drinks near the tents in the parking lot.  Lots of people with green wigs and leprechaun hats too.  I didn't get out to join the fun last night- but I did spot the first little tulips poking out of the ground.  I guess they're more red than green, but it's green enough for me.

Most of the yard near the south side of the house is melting off.  It's not pretty.  I started a retaining wall/ patio project in the back yard last winter, and it snowed early in November so my work stopped suddenly.  I found my winter hat that's been missing since then and my son's toy firetruck yesterday.  I also see that I still have a lot of work to do.
But at least the snow is melting.  This map is from NOAA's snow analysispage.  The red is melting snow.  For a while it seemed that the snow would only melt just south of the Iowa border.  I checked the maps on the NOAA page most days this March, and it just confirmed what could see out the window.  The snow was still there.   It kind of looked like a glacier was forming over the upper Midwest, but fortunately now that's on its way out.

Today's sunny, dry weather must not have been good for sap flow, however.  The maple sap bucket was bone dry when I came home.  Not a drop.  I don't know if I can blame the squirrels- do they drink maple sap?  Would the birds migrating back be stopping for a sip?  Is it just that the maple tree is getting old and didn't like the weather today?  I don't know, but I was bummed out that I wasn't going to get to add anything to our little mason jar of syrup we're filling in the fridge.  I'm hoping that this weekend's weather- more warmth, a little rain- will get it going again.