MLK Quote

MLK Quote

Nature's Inspiration Movie -- Nature's Inspiration Movie: The photographs in this short video are from award-winning photographer, Ken Jenkins, and they are breathtaking. However, this video is much more than beautiful photographs! Peggy Anderson has compiled beautiful quotations from the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, and many others that truly capture the beauty of nature and solitude. Absolute must watch for nature lovers.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Nature Notes...Some Good News...Some Awful News

This post is for the meme hosted by Rambling Woods. Her blog is beautiful and she has loads of information and really a blog dedicated to nature. My this post is nothing compared to her. But since it involves nature, so I thought of linking it with her.

. This post is going to be almost wordless; just some photos and some news. Some bees -- bumbles and some native ones are back; tons of flowers are blooming, along with fruits and vegetables. So, here are the photos:

Squashes and cabbage

Nasturtium plant and its flower; they are edible. I forgot the name of this flower, need to look up my diary but too lazy to get up from the desk and hunt it down :-P

Whoever ate this portion of the leaf must be very romantic; otherwise how could it create such a nice heart? Or is it showering love to me for letting use my garden and not using any chemical? Awww...I would like to think it's loving me :-). Melon flowers and onion flower

Is this my lover who created that heart-shape? Not sure. Few bees are back; a bumblebee feeding on my onion flowers (I am not calling them allium flowers because these are edible onion plants and I will be soon harvesting onion from them)

Now here is the good news first: Seattle to build nation's first food forest. You can read the details here. Seattle’s vision of an urban food oasis is going forward. A seven-acre plot of land in the city’s Beacon Hill neighborhood will be planted with hundreds of different kinds of edibles: walnut and chestnut trees; blueberry and raspberry bushes; fruit trees, including apples and pears; exotics like pineapple, yuzu citrus, guava, persimmons, honeyberries, and lingonberries; herbs; and more. All will be available for public plucking to anyone who wanders into the city’s first food forest.

Here is the sad news, and this news might provide conclusive evidence for the causes of colony collapse disorder in bees and vanishing of our pollinators. You can read the article here. Target shoppers in Wilsonville, Oregon found a tragedy in the parking lot as tens of thousands of of bumble bees were found dead and dying on the pavement, along with honey bees and ladybugs. As the estimate of dead bees rose to 50,000, the Oregon Department of Agriculture confirmed the insecticide Safari caused the deaths in a Wilsonville earlier this week.

Here is the most worrisome news. Those of us who grow our own food or can afford organic or farmers' market food might not feel concerned about this news though we should. Close to 100 billion dollar (a very conservative approximation as latest research are showing that even auto-immune diseases, parkinson and alzheimer and cancer could be related to diet; so, if these are also considered, then it will be more than 100B) is spent, every year, by the US economy for diseases related to food. The country can get broke if all these spending continues to rise. You can read it here, If you like things like Mtn Dew, Chex Mix, Hungry Man frozen dinners, or roughly 80 percent of all the packaged foods sold in your average, American grocery store, you may want to sit down - several of the chemicals found in some of America's most common foods are considered to be so unhealthy that they're actually ILLEGAL in certain other countries.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Earth Abides

The title of my post is actually the name of a book, a famous one which is considered as some kind of iconic/cult book, classic literature. It's author is George R. Stewart and was first published in 1949. It is a futuristic story of a world ravaged by plague. The plague has decimated the whole human population; only a handful are surviving here and there. The collapse of the world, destruction of human monuments, civilization and its symbols, struggle of the few survivors, and the emergence of a new civilization from the chaos is the theme of the story.

Now if you are wondering why I am referring to a book which has no connection to gardening, it is because I am feeling like our human civilization can seriously get wiped out not because of plague but because of the way we treat nature. Every time I go to Home Depot or Lowes (for those outside of the US, these are gigantic chain stores that deal with anything one needs to build houses, offices, yards and gardens, from tiniest nut&bolts to bulky wood-planks), I see people buying big cans of all sorts of pesticides, chemicals and Roundup. When all the world is proposing to ban or limit toxic chemicals and pesticides like glyphosate, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency of the US) is proposing to raise allowable concentrations of it in the food-crop (a pesticide which has been proved to cause every sorts of ailments in humans); then there is the Monsanto Protection Act that got passed by the government; senate is proposing to introduce an Ag-Gag bill through which it will become a criminal act to secretly tape abuse and torture of farm animals; anybody caught video-taping such acts will be prosecuted and their names will be entered in the terrorist-list (how much more ridiculous it can become??)!!!

All these are perhaps resulting is an acute scarcity of bees and butterflies in my garden this year. My garden could be an isolated incident, so I went to many of the nearby woodland preserve, park, nature trails, and everywhere I noticed their absences. Weather has been warm for quite a while now; though it is raining now and then, but there are many days of heat and bright sunshine. My garden is waiting with all sorts of blooms, and many more to come, but the buzzing-bees and the elegant-butterflies are not here. This is the first time that I have to pollinate my squash and pumpkin plants. The flowers of any squash and pumpkin plants are bee-magnets. Other years I would be scared to go near such plants to pick up the vegetables as so many bees will be buzzing around them. This year - NADA!!

The valley of silly-lily; lamb's ear and coreopsis; yarrow

Sedum-flowers; a potato flower. The color of the flower is telling us that we will have white potatoes. The pumpkin flower

A squash flower; a gourd-flower; a small bush of roses

White Astilbe flower; lavender-flower going to bloom soon; sweet-clover flower (people consider these as weeds in their lawns; but bees love them)

Some kind of wild flower, but grows in our yards; the flower grows on long stalks, and the plant is quite lanky, about 1.5 to 2 feet; close-up of some lily flowers

I was watching the Vanishing Bee documentary yesterday. According to the documentary: 1 out of every 3 food that we eat are pollinated by bees; bees are responsible for producing food-crops that are worth more than some billions of dollars; bee population is rapidly declining in the US with more than 60% of all its native and non-native bee population gone; THAT'S WHY THE USA HAS TO BRING IN BEES ALL THE WAY FROM AUSTRALIA (JUST THINK ABOUT THE CARBON FOOT-PRINT), POLLINATE THE FRUITS, NUTS AND VEGETABLE PLANTS, AND THEN AGAIN SEND THEM BACK TO AUSTRALIA (DO YOU NOW UNDERSTAND WHY FOOD-PRICES ARE SKY-ROCKETING HERE?)!!!! 35% of all the food that the US consumes are brought from outside the US; it is predicted that within the next 10 years, 90% OF ALL THE FOOD THAT WE WILL CONSUME WILL BE BROUGHT FROM OUTSIDE THE US (talk about out-sourcing!!!); more than 80% of all the food that are grown in the US are sprayed with various chemicals resulting in more than 1 BILLION TONS OF CHEMICALS BEING DUMPED IN THE US SOIL AND AIR EVERY YEAR!!! (am I using too much exclamations?? Well, this whole post should have been written with exclamations) -- this is just what the farmers are spraying. Now think about all the chemicals that are dumped in the soil, water and air by all the home-owners in the country!!!scientists and bee-keepers are noticing that bee-colonies collapse whenever the bees are borrowed and used by farmers who spray toxic chemicals.

Among all these tragedies lies the cheerful one -- ten years back France noticed that all the bee colonies are collapsing. Research lead to the cause of using gauchy and other insecticides produced by Bayer. French people being French people (love them, especially their language; need to learn it), they at once took out protests in the streets, resulting in government banning the use of any such insecticides. Within one year of the ban, bee-population revived and became healthy again. So, even if our government is not doing anything, we can take small steps to ensure that bees stay here. Without them we will not be able to produce any food; everything needs to be imported; food will become a scarce commodity, people will die of hunger and perhaps the book Earth Abides will become a reality. Here are the small steps, according to Honey Bee Conservancy: 1. Plant native flowers. 2. Reduce lawn-area and create gardens. 3. Stop the use of any chemicals around your house. 4. Skip the hybridized plants and select single flower-tops so that the bees have easy access to the pollen. 4. Bees love and easily find flowers of bright white, yellow, blue and UV colors. 5. Create bee-baths and build bee-houses. 6. Plant for blooms season-round. Happy Pollinator Week Everybody.

Here is something funny, the Daily-Show blows whistles on Ag-Gag: read and watch the video here

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer and Spring....Life and Death.....

This post is for the meme Seasonal Celebration that Donna of Gardens Eye View is hosting, and Nature Notes that Rambling Woods is hosting.

Summer and Spring is both here at the same time. The temperature shoots up to about eighty or ninety degree Fahrenheit (27 to 32 degree C). Dark ominous clouds gather at the horizon. Rains pour out in bucket loads, drenching the earth. Temperature drops below fifty degree Fahrenheit (below 10 degree C). Mother Nature is very confused this year; she is vacillating about whether spring should continue or summer should come.

I am cowering and whimpering in fear about the climate change and its eminent danger, but the plants are dancing in glee. They are slurping up all the rain water like thirsty dogs and then rising upward to embrace and kiss the sun. Weeds are having a field day. I declared a war on them, one day; got drenched in green sap as I pulled, maimed and killed the weeds, but accepted defeat soon. Where do all these weeds come from, like an army of fire ants?

So, summer is a time for me to rejoice as much as in birth, life and beauty as in death. The potato plants and Jerusalem Artichokes have grown like jungles. The Asparagus have developed such big fan of fern-like leaves. Lettuces, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, onion, garlic, potatoes, cabbages, collards, radish, turnips, beans are thriving. All the seedlings are developing strong limbs. Summer is the time to work around in the garden, and when hungry, snack on the juicy strawberries and luscious snap-peas. The blueberry plants are full of blue-berries; I have covered them up in fine deer-resistant mesh in the hope of protecting the berries from the birds. The red strawberries are peeking out, from here and there, in the bush. The wild raspberries are indeed growing wild. I am now waiting eagerly to pick my first watermelon as I have planted six watermelon plants. the birds are building nests and chirping loudly. The squirrels are active. The chipmunks are back, dashing here and there.

I am already having much of the lunch and dinner by picking either salad greens or other greens, onions, garlic scape and peas from the garden. I can't wait to harvest more of the other vegetables, and pick more berries.

The seedlings from Donna's bee-garden seed packet is also growing up fast. The flower garden is in full swing; the rose bushes are covered in roses; gaillardia, sages, foxgloves and lupine, dianthus and saxifrages are profusely blooming; many of the other plants like lily-of-the-valley and other bulbs have spent flowering; now their green leaves are soaking up all the energy to bloom again next year. Many of the other plants are full of buds to be blooming soon.

Amidst all these beauties and happiness lurk some disappointment and sadness. The American Melon seeds have not produced any seedlings. Perhaps I need to sow more seeds. I feel immense pain and sadness in pulling out the weeds. After all, they are life forms and I am killing them because they are happen to be growing in human beings defined vegetable and flower beds. The bees are also absolutely absent this year. I am really worried. Last year also, this time, the air was buzzing with wasps and bees. I had to tread carefully on the ground as the bees would hover above the low-creeping ground flowers. Not only bees, but even the wasps are hardly there, this year. I can count how many I am seeing.

Summer is also the time of hard work and self-restraint. Almost every day, I have to do some kind of work in the garden -- clear a patch, dig it and make it ready, plant something, provide fertilizer-food, arrange, weed, hill up the potatoes, look for pest attack, trim and the list continues. As I visit the various garden-centers, a favorite summer past-time, I control myself from buying plants; they are just as enticing as all the candies, ice-creams and cakes. It is also the time to experiment growing pineapples in water.

Summer is also the time to sit in the patio in the twilight, contemplate and watch the birds fly to their nests. It is the time to go out in the dark of the night, with a flashlight, to catch the slugs and snails from ravaging the plants and get immersed in the musical cacophony of the crickets. It is the time to play in the soil and observe its microcosm -- the various ground spiders running around with its eggs, the earthworms wiggling, the ants making lines and nests and other insects scurrying around. It is also the time to already start making plans for the fall-garden and growing things during the fall and the winter, about how much money to save over the year to buy certain plants in the coming years, grow and store food for the winter and above all spend time with friends and families, vacationing, visiting and barbecuing.

Summer is indeed that time of the year when there are so many things to do that one blog-post will not be enough. Thank You The Long Winters of NJ for making me welcome, enjoy, endure the heat and appreciate the long days of summer.