"Cows Save the Planet" was my first read of summer, and I have to say, if you are unfamiliar with the term "soil carbon sequestration" (as I was), this book was truly fascinating.
In a nutshell, Schwartz interviews an eclectic group of farmers, ranchers, researchers, scientists, activists, and environmentalists, and presents a compelling case that proper soil management can end escalating worldwide desertification, improve soil fertility, preserve biodiversity, reduce obesity, and halt climate change. From Australian soil carbon sequestration diva Christine Jones, who explains the secrets of how we can save our planet by rebuilding our soil; to Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean ecologist, farmer, environmentalist, who promotes systems thinking; to Gene Govin, a North Dakota farmer who practices Savoy's Holistic Planned Grazing; to the four Slovakians and one Czech who have written about the New Water Paradigm...I am really excited to get my hands dirty!
and, for those of you who want to know more right now...I have two movies for you. Enjoy~
School's out for summer!
*Arthropods are the most diverse life form on the planet.
*There are over 970,000 known species-out of an estimated 4 to 5 million.
*Of the 1.9 million recognized species, over ½ are insects!!!
The other ½ of lifeforms/species include non-insect arthropods, other invertebrates, plants, fungi & lichen (and finally) vertebrates.
*It is estimated that arthropods outnumber humans by as much as 250 million to 1.
Did you know? only 1% (about 10,000 species) of known insects are considered pests.
Millipedes, centipedes, arachnids, & insects:
flies, fleas, moths, butterflies, beetles, wasps, bees, ants, thrips, lice, true bugs, termites, cockroaches, earwigs, walking sticks, leaf insects, booklice, crickets, grasshoppers, dragonflies, mayflies, mites, ticks, springtails, silverfish, spiders
Arthropods also include Crustaceans:
crabs, lobster, crayfish, shrimp, krill, barnacles, pill bugs, and woodlice
The "Bumblebee Queen", by April Sayre, is a simple and elegantly told story of the life cycle of the bumblebee. Patricia Wynne's illustrations are lovely, thoughtful, and accurate.
Are you a fan of Ms. Frizzle and her Magic School Bus? If you join Ms. Frizzle and her class to take a trip "Inside a Beehive", you will be amazed at how much information you will learn (and not only about honeybees...) I highly recommend this book to beginning beekeepers of any age.
Visit HoneyBee Suite to see some close-up images Honeybee or bumblebee?
Is the drought in California a surprise to you? It would not be if you had read Cadillac Desert, by Marc Reisner. Way back in 1986, Reisner published this eloquent and well-researched expose on the history of water and the west.
From the back cover:
"The story of the American West is the story of a relentless quest for a precious resource: water. It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed, of political corruption and intrigue, of billion-dollar battles over water rights, of ecologic and economic disaster."
This book should be required reading for EVERYONE, and if you know someone living in California, you should consider sending them a copy too.
Last week, the New York Times ran a series of articles on the drought and the dire situation that the Golden State is in. I found it odd that the issue of where L.A.'s water comes from was never addressed. Mayor Garrett of Los Angeles, remarked "Do we have enough water to sustain life? Absolutely. Do we have enough water to grow economically? Absolutely." Perhaps Mayor Garrett should find more knowledgeable advisers–for the truth is that L.A. has been piping water in, from hundreds of miles away, for over a century. This "drought" is not a matter of climate change or seasonal weather, but nature refusing to cooperate with the sham any longer.
Unsustainable & Unconscionable: California is definitely living on borrowed time (and water); in addition to draining rivers and lakes from all over the west, they have been pumping groundwater at a tremendous rate, which is NEVER a good idea. Interestingly, California is the only state which does not regulate the use of groundwater, though they are starting to think about it. (Uh-huh.) This seems long overdue when people in East Porterville, CA have dry wells and are subsisting on bottled water. Considering that one-quarter of our nation's food is grown in California, the repercussions of a century's worth of rampant unsustainable use of water will be felt far beyond its borders. It is time to start growing your own veggies and attending local Farmer's Markets!
In our last visit to Orange County, I was heartened to see that homeowners were beginning to replant their front yards with native plants instead of turfgrass. The native yards were dizzy with birds, bees, and lizards. No surprise-we did not see any living things in the grassy lawn next door.
I just finished reading A Sting in the Tale-My Adventures with Bumblebees by Dave Goulson, and I highly recommend this book. Goulson writes a memoir that is filled with the wonders and discoveries of a curious child in rural England who morphs into one of the world's leading experts on bumblebees. In an engaging Bill Brysonesque style, Goulson describes both the effects of monoculture and habitat fragmentation on native bees, as well as the consequences of introduced/invasive species into an ecosystem.
Dave Goulson is also the founder of Bumblebee Conservation Trust which is a treasure-trove of information, guides, images, and advice (though the focus is on UK bumblebees). Goulson's recent reanalysis of a study on the effects of neonicitinoids, used by the UK's Food and Environment Research Agency, showed that neonicitinoid pesticides in fact ARE threatening bees worldwide. The agency had previously drawn a conclusion that was completely contrary to the results of the study :^(
Street artists from London are working to bring awareness to the plight of the bumblebee and honeybee, and have painted murals in London, Croatia, New York, Miami, and New Orleans.
Hey Seattle–we should do this too! #savethebees
Did you know that the animals and people of the Arctic carry more mercury and PCBs in their bodies than any other living beings on earth? Investigative report Silent Snow by Marla Cone.
This video, by the Canadian Environmental Health Atlas, was recently posted by the Pesticide Action Network. Three types of environmental contaminants, that have been linked to falling IQs and that have been found in the bodies of the U.S. population, are discussed.
One of the three is a group of commonly used pesticides known as organophosphates (OP), the second group includes flame retardants PBDEs, and the last toxin is lead, a known nerve poison. These chemicals wreak havoc in human bodies–even in minute amounts, and the combined effects of these poisons impact developing brains.
More Bad News: not only are we poisoning ourselves and our children, but "tons of dangerous chemicals and pesticides from the United States, Europe, and Asia are carried to the Arctic by northbound winds and waves. As a result, Inuit women who eat seal and whale meat have far higher concentrations of PCBs and mercury in their breast milk than women who live in the most industrialized areas of the world."
When I first began keeping bees (almost ten years ago) I also began taking more notice of the diversity of native bees that visited our yard, especially the extremely photogenic bombus. What was frustrating is that it was very difficult to ID the bees, and there was no North American guide to bumblebees available.
Xerces society offers handy pocket ID charts as well as these information packed guides for Western and Eastern United States (free pdf downloads).
News Flash: Princeton Press just released the first comprehensive guide to all 46 North American bumble bees. It's jam-packed with color photos (of live bees too! not just bees on pins), color pattern variation diagrams, distribution maps, taxonomy, and latest molecular research. The introduction includes photos of insects who mimic bumble bees, habitat and foraging facts, and how to use the guide.
Bumble Bees of North America is a wonderful resource for all backyard beepeekers and gardeners.
Elizabeth Gowing, a beekeeper currently residing in the UK, included our Seattle honey in her 100 days of honey-tasting blog and adventure. She enjoyed our urban cut-comb honey and stated that "Eating honey from the comb is a different experience from eating strained honey...And it tastes fabulous. The nose is of stone fruits – plum or apricot, with a sting of citrus. The taste is more berries – ripe blackberries or cherries."
Elizabeth Gowing is also the author Travels in Blood and Honey which chronicles her adventures in beekeeping while living in Kosovo.
Ju bëftë mirë!
Speaking of springtails, I caught a couple of these little guys last February, which resulted in a post on Rusty Burlew's Honey Bee Suite post: "What's hopping on my bottom board?"
Bugs do all kinds of things to keep the earth functioning: pollination, recycling, soil formation, maintain plant communities, and as part of the food chain. Go Bugs!
and be sure to take a visit to the UW Center for Urban Horticulture and the Elisabeth Miller Library:
Looking for inspiration for your balcony pots, your little backyard, roof, or neighborhood empty lot?
I recommend "The Rurbanite", by UK Alex Mitchell;
one of their new arrivals.
I spent most of the 1980s and 90s in Alaska
flying airplanes, floating wild rivers, winter camping, raising a child, and living off the grid :^)
With my MAT in Advanced Inquiry for Biological Sciences, I've taught K-12 students from north of the Arctic Circle to the Puget Sound Ecoregion, garnering 40 years of experience as a classroom teacher, learning mentor, and private tutor.
Here in Seattle, I am an advocate for environmental stewardship, place-based education, and outdoor play. I share my enthusiasm for birds, bugs, and backyards and have been a featured writer and photographer for Pacific Horticulture.
All photographs © T. Byrne unless otherwise noted.