Archive for December, 2008

Happy days!

Friday, December 26th, 2008

For everyone who celebrates a Holiday this season, and for everyone who does not, I wish you happy days!

This somewhat differently shaped magnolia blossom appeared just in time for the holidays after I put the branch that had broken off the tree in a vase. Sometimes good things happen … ;)

Keeping up with the neighbors

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Let me let you in on a little secret:¬† I am not a car person. As long as it starts and gets me there I am content. With a little effort I might remember a car’s color, but do not expect much else from me, like unimportant¬† little details such as manufacturer or model name. That gene is definitely missing. My ‘car-uncaring’ attitude might have to do with the fact that I grew up in a village where small farmers made up the larger part of the population and where cows, pigs and live-stock in general definitely outnumbered powered vehicles.¬† But even I, in my car-unconscious bliss, remember a time when the size of the car one was driving was a kind of a statement of who you were, an indication of wealth or importance. And it was always the bigger and faster the better. Over the years there might have been a slight shift away from merely size and model to where the car was made. One thing has stayed pretty much the same though, and that is our careless attitude about how environmentally friendly that thing we are driving really is. It took a startling increase in fuel prices to even get us to start thinking that maybe we might have to change our approach, that there might be a better way and that looking towards the future we could not be satisfied with yesterday’s approach.

One could not tell by looking at the U.S. car industry which was still burping out fuel guzzling super-sized behemoths at a time when most people could see the handwriting on the wall. Gas prices were not going to get any lower soon, oil was going to run out if not today then in the foreseeable future, yet we still allowed the oil companies to lead us around by our noses. Now that things have predictably turned sour we are supposed to bail out the auto makers (among others, god only knows what else is in the pipelines waiting for us taxpayers to give a leg up).

The startling thing about this mess is that there does not seem to be much soul searching going on in Detroit. At best we hear that alternate energy sources are not ready yet, so I would like to know what the bail out money really accomplishes. Is it merely buying time so the same thing can be done for a little longer? But guess what – some people, companies, countries, actually try to look towards the future with innovative ideas. Unless the U.S. car industry jumps on that bandwagon there may not be a tomorrow for them. This might be a good reason into looking what’s going on outside our borders and try to keep up with the neighbors.

There’s a new wind blowing in Washington

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

and doesn’t it feel good! There finally is hope that things will change in Washington. And for the better, as if one had to mention that. President-elect Barak Obama has taken a significant step towards taking on environmental issues by nominating top climate experts to key science posts in his administration. There is Harvard physicist John Holdren as Mr Obama’s scientific adviser, marine biologist Jane Lubchenco is to head the US oceanic research body, also on board will be Nobel Prize-winning scientist Harold Varmus and Eric Lander, a specialist in human genome research. Things are definitel looking up!

The pheasant hunt – sport or just an easy kill?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

A beautiful scene – wild pheasants: In winter, when snow covers the fields, wild pheasants come into the garden to gobble up bird seed that drops from the feeder. In this image a colorful male bird watches over two of his ladies.

And then there is the hunt. Hunting is defined as the pursuit of prey by human society. In the early days hunting provided food to round out the diet, especially in the cold months when grains and berries were no longer available as a food source. Over the years hunting has somehow also become a sport. Remember Hemingway’s safari tales? Is that kind of insensitivity behind us now? Apparently not quite.

There is another kind of hunting. The kind where animals are bred for the enjoyment of bored rich people who gather for a day of fun and games to shoot and kill animals that are so used to people they have lost all fear of them and make little or no effort to run/fly/hop away.

The kind of hunting I am talking about here is the killing of animals that are raised on farms, like Reynolds Game Farm, a place that raised pheasants so they could be “hunted” in a stunningly unsportsmanlike fashion. It seems that it was not enough to raise these beautiful birds in a controlled environment where they lived in pens, they also had their wings clipped so they could not fly away. Now it appears that due to limited finances this game farm at least will be closed, and the pheasants will provide food for needy families. Which I consider a good thing, but there are still more game farms like this one around the country, and it still raises the question: isn’t anyone bothered by the unfair advantage the so-called hunters have? I mean, where lies the sport if you shoot defenseless animals? We all remember stories of one kind or another, where one hunter inadvertently, in the heat of battle, so to speak, shoots another. Well, fair is fair, right? At least the other guy is holding a gun too.

Sadly, the unfairness is not the reason for closing the game farm, it appears that the economic downturn is. A siver lining?


Thursday, December 11th, 2008

“We, the people, respectfully request that an organic farm be planted on the grounds of The White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC.”

Thus starts the petition to president-elect Barack Obama. What a simple yet innovative idea!

Can you imagine corn and lettuce and tomatoes growing on the White House grounds? Well, some people with vision have not only thought about it, they have grafted a petition to do away with some of the manicured lawns and replace them with vegetables. The benefits? Fresh vegetables for the table of not only the occupants of the White House and their guests, but also for public school programs and food pantries in Washington, DC. The cost of this plan should be lower than the care and maintenance of the current lawn. The plan is for volunteers on bicycles or on foot to deliver the food. To get all the information about this project visit their site, and maybe sign the petition.

Apparently it is also possible to grow vegetable on top of an old school bus. Not the easiest way to do that I think, but it is certainly an attention getter ;)

You may also want to check out the article “Foodies Petition Obama” on La Vida Locavore‘s site.

No acorns this year?

Monday, December 8th, 2008

it seems that an unusual phenomenon is being observed in many locations in the US: no acorns. None. Zero. Zilch. And as a result, squirrels and other wildlife who depend on the fruit of a variety of oak trees are starving. It appears that no one has an explanation for the absence of acorns. There are many theories, of course, but no one seems to be able to point an exact cause. My first hunch was to blame environmental or climactic changes, but it does not seem to be that simple. Curious.