The Great Alligator Migration
Published on February 20, 2013 by Sara Foss

There's an interesting article over at Slate about how alligators are slowly moving north, due to climate change.

I really liked seeing alligators on my swamp tour of the bayou outside New Orleans, and on my trip to the Everglades, but I'd prefer they remain an exotic creature. In other words: I don't want them anywhere near me. The rattlesnakes on Tongue Mountain in Lake George terrify me - the last thing I need is a bunch of alligators roaming around the woods, too. Though I'm far enough north that I probably don't have too much to worry about. Unlike the people in Virginia, and D.C.

Are Cats Evil?
Published on January 23, 2013 by Sara Foss

I love my cats.

However, this piece over at Slate makes a good case for not owning cats.

Of course, my cats are spayed and neutered, and they stay indoors all of the time. So I don't think they're hurting anybody, or very likely to kill any endangered birds any time soon.

Banning the Bottle
Published on January 21, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the need to reduce the consumption of bottled water in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt: 

"In Concord, Mass., the new year brought with it a new law: a ban on single-serve bottled water.

The town, the first in the nation to issue any ban on bottled water sales, voted in the new law last April with the aim of reducing waste and the amount of fossil fuels used to make the plastic bottles and ship the water.

In Burlington, Vt., a similar ban went into effect this month at the University of Vermont, where the sale of bottled water is now officially banned on campus.

UVM announced its plan year ago, with the university’s Office of Sustainability saying the push came from students who worried about the waste, the environmental costs of producing and transporting bottles and the privatization of a natural resource like water by multinational corporations.

Over the past year, UVM has retrofitted its drinking fountains to make it easier to fill reusable water bottles that students can carry with them.

Adding and promoting “hydration stations” has become popular on college campuses. When my daughter and I were touring campuses last year, we were often shown water filling stations and told how the schools encourage their students to carry their own refillable water bottles with them to reduce waste and to take advantage of the fresh, clean water the U.S. has in such abundance. Even campuses that don’t ban water sales have removed bottled water from their vending machines.

Whether an outright ban or simply offering alternatives is the best way to go, reducing the use of bottled water — especially single-serve bottles — certainly makes sense."

Click here to read more.

Miracles Every Day
Published on January 7, 2013 by Sara Foss

In her column Greenpoint over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes the miracles that are all around us, every day.

Here's an excerpt:

"I’m thinking of Walt Whitman’s 'Miracles,' the poem where he talks about walking and watching and taking notice of everything around him: a cityscape or a stranger, the shore or the forests.

“Or watch honey-bees busy around the hives of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles. . .”

It’s easy to overlook these miracles. We are busy, modern humans, living complicated lives that take a lot of energy — physical and fossil-fuel driven — to run. Sometimes we are just too busy to step outside, even for a minute, to take a deep breath and open our eyes.

To me, there are lots of reasons that taking notice is so important. It is reinvigorating and renewing. And it is real."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Stars in the Dark
Published on December 3, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the pleasures of living in a place where it's dark enough to see the stars in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"When our daughter came home for Thanksgiving, she noticed perhaps the only thing she had missed since moving to the big city: stars.

Well, maybe she missed her dog and her little brother, a little. But mostly it was stars.

We sent her outside one evening to turn off the chickens’ light and to throw a chip of hay to the ox, and she was gone so long we sent the boy out to look for her. She was stargazing, and she got her brother to look up, too.

We are lucky to live in a dark place. On a clear night, we can see the Milky Way, check for constellations, look for shooting stars.

'In the city, if I see one star, I get so happy,' my daughter said. She and a friend tried to go stargazing one night, at an organized viewing party on Manhattan’s High Line park along the Hudson, but it was raining. She was distressed to find her high school friends, also home for Thanksgiving, had not given any thought to the sky.

'Do you have stars in Burlington?' she asked one friend, and he said he hadn’t noticed.

'Can you believe it?' she asked us. 'How can you not notice?'"

Click here to read the whole thing.

Enter the Crazy Season
Published on November 27, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about how to celebrate the holiday season in simpler ways - ways that don't involve waste and over-consumption - in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"Thanksgiving, the homiest of holidays, has passed and the craziest time of year has begun.

My family loves Thanksgiving, so much that we celebrate it at least twice. Friends know that if they miss one of our two major Thanksgivings, we will be happy to host a spare feast when they arrive. We have our own traditions — making all the food ourselves, with as much of the meal as possible coming from our home gardens and, at least for the traditional Thanksgiving, making paper blimps to hang around the house.

That’s my husband’s contribution to the holiday — since he grew up near the Thanksgiving college football games in Miami, blimps were as much a symbol of the holiday as the northern-grown food that filled the table.

Part of the reason we love Thanksgiving so much is that it is home-centered, a reason for family to gather and share a meal, to be together without any other expectations. We work off the extra pie with long walks and stay at the table long into the evening talking and playing games.

And we try to hold onto that feeling for the rest of the year, when all our activities have been usurped by voices urging us to buy, buy, buy."

Click here to read the whole thing.

What Could Disappear
Published on November 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

This New York Times graphic show the coastal and low-lying areas that would be flooded if sea levels rise due to climate change.

Not that we should worry about climate change, or acknowledge that it exists, or anything.

Handmade Holidays
Published on November 12, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about her family tradition of making Christmas presents in her weekly column Greenpoint. 

Here's an excerpt:

"The day after Halloween, my niece posted on her crafty blog that she was making little crocheted snowmen out of yarn scraps as Christmas presents for some little kids she knows.

A couple of days later, I heard 'Feliz Navidad' on the radio on my way to work. The next day, I put my snow tires on the car. So I guess there’s no denying it: Election season is over, winter is here and it’s all holidays, all the time, from now until January.

Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t really mind. Like my niece, I love the holidays — the visiting, sharing meals, doing projects with the kids, doing projects for the kids. We make block prints for our cards, make cookies for everyone, gather pine boughs and pine cones to fill vases and the window boxes, and generally focus on the little things we can do to delight each other.

I can get sick of 'Feliz Navidad' pretty quick. But I can’t get enough of making mittens out of scraps of yarn.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Lessons from Sandy
Published on November 7, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleage Margaret Hartley writes about we can learn from Hurricane Sandy in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

Sandy, first a hurricane and then a “superstorm,” didn’t do much more than kick up a bit of wind up here. And in a region that hasn’t fully recovered from last year’s tropical storms, Irene and Lee, we can consider ourselves very fortunate.

I was fortunate myself, getting out of New York City a day earlier than planned on the second-to-last train to leave before Grand Central Terminal closed down. I had planned to stay in the city an extra day, visiting my daughter, but figured if I didn’t get out Sunday I’d be stuck there through midweek. As of Wednesday, there was still no train service, so I would have been camping out at my friends’ apartment, playing board games by candlelight, which is how they spent most of last week.

My daughter was more fortunate, never losing power at her midtown dorm. And with schools closed throughout New York City, she and her dancer colleagues caught up on their sleep. “We’ve all been napping,” she told us in one of her many storm and post-storm updates. During the height of the windstorm the residents sheltered in the downstairs lounge, but after a few hours they were allowed to go back to their rooms.

We’ve all seen the photos from the city — subway tracks flooded, tunnels filled with water, water pouring through doors and over streets. The power of water is awesome, and seeing images of cars pushed around, boardwalks smashed, beaches and dunes rearranged, and streets buckled is frightening. My brother’s New Jersey neighborhood saw floods, fires and power outages; my mom in Connecticut couldn’t get out of her driveway to get to a shelter because of the trees and wires tangled together.

Click here to read the whole thing.

New Roads Out of Old
Published on October 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the process of repaving old roads in her weekly column Greenpoint. Basically, recycling is involved in this process, which makes it environmentally sound.

Here's an excerpt:

A couple of roads near my house were repaved last month, and if you’ve ever had a child or a dog, you know how exciting that can be.

The first thing the dog noticed was all the trucks parked at the intersection of our road and the one that goes over the dam. We had to stop during our early morning walks in the dark so the dog could investigate by sniffing every tire. Satisfied that they were indeed trucks, she was off to more interesting adventures, namely checking in with the beaver couple near the beach. They’ve been working on a little construction project of their own.

The boy child noticed something even more interesting than tires: a huge machine, as wide as one lane of the road, with fire coming out of the bottom to melt the pavement it ran over.

'It was amazing, Mom,' he told me. 'It’s the coolest machine ever.'

He is given to hyperbole, but to me the system is the coolest ever because it recycles the asphalt, right in place, as it resurfaces the road."

Click here to read the whole thing.

October Harvest
Published on October 8, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the onset of fall, and preparing for winter.

Here's an excerpt:

"When it wouldn’t stop raining last week, my husband called our sister-in-law in Florida to ask her for a weather forecast.

Well, that was his excuse for calling the house he used to live in. Our Internet hookup never works and he needed someone else to see when the rain would end.

Our sister-in-law was happy to check for us, to delight in the dour forecast and to complain that it’s too hot in Florida, a comment that did nothing to cheer my chilly husband. 'I can’t take the winter. It’s already too cold for me,' I heard him say.

Poor Floridians. They shiver and shake when the temperatures dip below 60. And when they have been transplanted to northern New York, like my long suffering husband, they have months and months of complaining to do.

They complain so much they miss out on the delights of October, which both northerners and poets have revelled in for ages — the changing sky, the beautiful colors, the sounds of geese and, yes, the nip in the air.

'Fresh October brings the pheasant/ Then to gather nuts is pleasant,' wrote Sara Coleridge in a poem I committed to memory as a child. I think of it this time of year, when I see flock after flock of wild turkeys along my road in the mornings. This must be a bumper year for turkeys, or perhaps for the acorns and hickory nuts they find so pleasant.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Bucket Kits For Kenya
Published on October 1, 2012 by Sara Foss

In her weekly column Greenpoint, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about her farmer friend's mission project in Kenya, which entails teaching people how to make garden-sized irrigation systems out of five-gallon buckets. The goal is to give people a cheap and easy source of water, so that they can grow their own food in the arid climate. 

Click here to read the whole thing.

Summer Crashes Into Fall
Published on September 25, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the transition from summer to fall.

Here's an excerpt:

"When my teen girl left the nest a few weeks ago, I had to clean out the trunk of my car to fit all her gear in it. Turns out I’ve been carrying that box full of ice skates with me all summer long, just in case I drove by a frozen lake.

Let me say right here that carrying a box full of ice skates of various sizes and styles is not a good way to improve gas mileage. But moving the box out of my trunk does give me an opportunity to go through it, to get rid of the ones that no longer fit anyone and get the blades sharpened on the ones that do. Because it will be skating season again before too long.

Right now we’re perched on that point between summer and fall, where the days could be hot and full of ripe tomatoes and fresh basil, and the nights could be cold, with a winter squash cooking in the wood stove. Frost is coming soon and the garden is starting to look it."

Click here to read the whole thing.

It Takes a Farmer
Published on September 18, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Jeff Wilkin writes about growing tomatoes, and why we should be willing to pay farmers for fresh produce. FYI: Jeff is one of my co-gardeners, so I have been eating his tomatoes for the past month or two.

Anyway, here's an excerpt:

"Nothing like farm-fresh tomatoes.

There was a time when I had 12 plants growing in my backyard, and new reds were showing up just about every day. They went into salads and chili con carnes, topped hamburgers and chicken salad sandwiches. Bunches more went home with friends.

But the trees above my garden branched out. A sunny yard became a shady yard, and now I harvest only a small number of fruits from containers I’ve placed in a far, maximum solar corner of my property.

My personal tomato shortage was the reason I decided to participate in a community garden plot in Albany this summer. Two friends and colleagues — Karen and Sara — allowed me space for 6 beefsteak tomato plants. The sprouts went into the ground around Memorial Day, and we all took turns watering and weeding.

The experiment hath ended. And there were results both heavenly and hellacious.

Good news first. I know the sun is a powerful motivator for tomatoes, but I could not believe how big my beefsteaks grew. The plants were probably four feet high, and by mid-July, baseball-sized fruits were red and ready. Everything kept growing, and the weight of all this bounty collapsed the puny wire tomato cages I had pushed into the ground."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Abundant Bears
Published on September 18, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the unusually high number of bears roaming around upstate New York this year. This sounds right to me: I recently had my first bear sighting in years, which you can read about here, when a black bear darted in front of my car while I was driving in the Adirondacks.

Anyway, here's an excerpt from Margaret's column:

"Two days before my teen girl left home, we went on a farewell walk on our favorite home mountain, the one she first went up in a baby carrier and has climbed dozens of times since she started hiking it on her own when she was almost 4.

This time, we saw something we’ve never seen there before: bears.

Shortly after we started our hike, we heard a rustling in the woods, something a lot bigger than a squirrel. We looked around, expecting deer, and saw two little bear cubs scampering away, their black fur glistening in the light.

My daughter was beaming. 'They are so cute! I love how their fur looks loose and ripples when they run.'

For the rest of our hike the only wildlife we saw were chipmunks and squirrels, dashing about gathering acorns."

Click here to read the whole thing.

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