Our Most Endangered Species
Published on September 12, 2012 by Sara Foss

Courtesy of the Guardian comes this sad photo gallery of some of the species we're driving to extinction.

Organic Advantages
Published on September 10, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes her reaction to the controversial Stanford study that found that organic food isn't really all that much healthier than non-organic food, and thus might not be worth the extra cost. 

Here's an excerpt:

"My reaction was not to run to the nearest Agway and purchase some permethrin to get rid of those pesky squash bugs, or some Roundup to rid the garden of weeds. My first thought was, 'But what about the ground water?' I mean, those pesticides and fertilizers applied by large commercial vegetable growers have to go somewhere. Like the aquifer, or the Gulf of Mexico.

At work, we started talking about the study, and people had different reactions. 'Wow, this is a real blow to the organic industry,' one person said.

'Nutrition?' another said. 'What about taste?' And he began waxing poetic about some organic carrots he recently ate.

I guess I’m a little like my poetic friend. I am convinced that our own carrots, grown in fine fertile soil built up over many years with copious dressings of well composted ox poop, taste far better than any carrot I have ever purchased anywhere. And the last bag of non-organic carrots I bought I had to feed to the rabbit because they were so tasteless no one else in the family would touch them.

Does an organic carrot have more vitamins than a non-organic carrot? I don’t know, but is that the sole point of organic farming? Or is the point to grow and eat food without poisoning the earth, the water and, potentially, our bodies."

Click here to read more.

Bats Get a Bad Rap
Published on September 4, 2012 by Sara Foss

Unless they're flying around my apartment, I'm a big fan of bats, because they eat mosquitos and get around using sonar, which is cool. Anyway, over at the DG my colleague Margaret Hartley has written about bats, and how they are unfairly maligned, in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"One summer years ago, when sisters, in-laws and various relations were visiting, something flew into my daughter’s room in the middle of the night.

We noticed something was up when the light went on and we heard my daughter, who was maybe 7 at the time, was telling her 12-year-old cousin not to worry. 'I think it’s a big moth,' she said.

'You’re right,' the 12-year-old said. 'It’s a moth. That’s what I thought.'

My husband and I assessed the situation, then did what we always do when a bat flies into the house on a summer night. We opened the hatch to the attic, turned on the light up there and opened the two attic windows.

And waited.

Within 15 minutes the bat was out of the house and the kids were sleeping again."

Click here to read more.

Back to School Waste
Published on August 27, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the wastefulness of the back to school shopping season in her column Greenpoint. 

Here's an excerpt:

"I have a composition book I carry around with me to write notes, ideas, story fragments, shopping lists. Once it was my son’s school writing journal, back in the years when spelling was optional, and I like reading the first entry: 'On the first day of forth grade I was verry exsided. I could hardly wate! . . . It took a few days for me to Realise the truth: I was traped in school! The end.'

The entry always cheers me, and makes me wonder why a fourth-grader can spell 'school' but not 'very.' But mostly it makes me wonder why he used only 10 pages in that journal, including all the drawings of race cars.

It’s school supply season, which means school list season, which means furious mom season.

Yes, it’s that time of year when I embark on my annual rant about why every kid is required to have one green folder, one red folder, one yellow folder and one blue folder, plus a separate spiral notebook for every single subject except the one with the teacher who demands a three-subject notebook."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Why We Need More Trains
Published on August 21, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley explains why this country could use a light rail system in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt: 

"It started with a sneeze. Then another, and some runny red eyes, and a couple of boxes of tissues. Suddenly, all the plans changed. My husband and son were sick, and I was taking an emergency day off from work and bringing our daughter to New York City for a college orientation.

And, as often happens, complaining about the lack of mass transit in this country.

When the plan was one dad and two kids traveling, the intention was to drive something like 125 miles to Poughkeepsie to pick up the MetroNorth train at its northernmost stop, a far cheaper option than Amtrak. It meant leaving home before 5 a.m., something that could only be done if I got up at 4 to push everyone else out the door."

Click here to read more.

Four Bears
Published on August 20, 2012 by Sara Foss

Thanks to a surprising bear sighting over the weekend, I have now seen four bears in the wild, which I discuss at length over at the DG. 

Here's an excerpt:

"On Sunday, I saw a bear. This was really exciting, because I love bears. I’d already had a pretty good day, and the bear just made it better.

Earlier, I’d hiked Big Slide in the Adirondacks, and was treated to some marvelous views. And when we neared the trailhead, we saw a deer, which was cool, because I’m a big fan of deer. It wasn’t too late when we finished up, and so we decided to drive down Route 9 in search of a convenience store. This seemed like a good decision until we got stuck behind a really slow truck towing a trailer. His lights weren’t working, so we couldn’t tell what he was doing and pine needles and other debris kept blowing off the roof of the trailer and onto the windshield. Also, did I mention how slow he was driving? And yet he refused to pull over.

However, I now realize that getting stuck behind this guy was a stroke of luck, because if we hadn’t been driving so slowly we would have missed the black bear, which darted across the road and into the bushes, looking somewhat harried."

Click here to read more.

Treaties With Wildlife
Published on August 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about balancing the needs of wild creatures, with the needs of her chickens, ox and vegetables.

Here's an excerpt:

"Halloween, no matter what the publicists who litter my email inbox with improbable information say, is not around the corner.

I know this, because there are no pumpkins in the field yet. And if the hungry deer get their way, there will be no pumpkins at all, except for whatever grows on the volunteer vines climbing over the compost piles and the garden edges.

The solar charger that fires the electric fence around the pumpkin patch is working poorly because of the dry weather (dry soil requires multiple grounds, apparently more than we put in) and the deer do not seem to respect a fence with little or no charge.

Frankly, we think the deer should show a little more respect. It’s not like we haven’t been feeding them for years. The ox respects his electric fence, whether it’s plugged in or not, but maybe oxen are more apt to listen to reason than deer are.

There seems to be a healthy crop of deer this year. In fact, there seems to be a healthy crop of all sorts of wildlife this year: rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, songbirds, squash bugs, hawks. Often we are faced with balancing our love of living in a wild place, where we can watch the wild animals, with the practical need to keep them out of our cultivated places."

Click here to read more.

Walking with the "Bird Dog"
Published on August 6, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about this summer's bird sightings in her weekly column, Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt;

"The big dog sat on the cot by the upstairs window, above the bird feeder, looking out as the little birds — goldfinches, nuthatches, sparrows — flew straight up from the feeder and circled next to the window before diving back down for sunflower seeds.

Were they showing off? Visiting? The big dog just watched them, her head bobbing up and down and side to side, following their flight patterns.

I like to think the dog is becoming something of a birdwatcher. Certainly we are observant during our morning rambles.

Last week, for instance, we heard some wild, maniacal bird laughter in the woods, and the dog looked up at me, quizzically I thought. 'It’s a pileated woodpecker,' I told her, and she seemed satisfied. On our way home, we saw a pair of pileateds flying, one after the other, out of a half-dead red pine."

Click here to read more.

How To Keep Strangers From Sitting Next To You
Published on August 5, 2012 by Sara Foss

One of my main goals in life is to keep strangers from sitting next to me. I'm pretty good at it, too. I'm not sure how I do it, but I give off a very strong vibe that basically says "Don't sit anywhere near me" whenever I'm in a place where strangers are looking for seats.

According to a Yale researcher, there's actually a method to keep strangers at bay, and a new study outlines some of the techniques - pretending to be asleep, checking cell phones, etc.

Click here to learn more.

Also, here's a link to Steve LeBlanc's ever-popular "How to Scare a Stranger."

Keeping Up With the Garden
Published on July 31, 2012 by Sara Foss

In her column Greenpoint over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the difficulty of keeping up with the garden - something I've been having difficulty with, as well.

Here's an excerpt:

"The garden is coming in fast and furious now, furious being the operating word. If we don’t pick every day, or several times a day, we’re in big trouble. And someone gets mad.

'HEY! How come no one picked the beans?' someone will say. 'Why has all the lettuce bolted?' someone else will offer. Or 'HEY! Why are these cucumbers so gigantic?'

My new morning routine includes picking time, which comes after dog-walking time and before critter-feeding time. A basket of cucumbers and summer squashes, a big bag of basil tops for pesto — Quick! Before the basil bolts! — and several cabbages."

Click here to read the whole thing.

From Waste to Warmth
Published on July 25, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes in her weekly column Greenpoint about how the paper she recycles at her local church is transformed into a cellulose-based insulation.

Here's an excerpt:

"There are two new bins behind a church in our town, big green bins with black plastic tops. They sort of cement the church as one of our main recycling centers.

We already take old clothes, shoes and books to the church’s thrift store or the clothing collection bin, and bring bottles to the bottle collection bin behind the thrift shore. Now we can bring loose paper and box board too.

The new bins are from Green Fiber, a North Carolina company that recycles paper — newspaper, cardboard, junk mail, office paper — and makes it into insulation. Our town already collects newspaper and corrugated cardboard, but the new bin takes a lot more, including the endless stack of school worksheets that we save for fire starter. Although we’re kidding ourselves if we think we could ever start enough fires to significantly reduce the worksheet stack. Now we can just dump it in the bin, and know it will be used."

Click here to read the whole thing.

The Long Days of Summer
Published on July 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley discusses the importance of slowing down to enjoy summer in her weekly column.

Here's an excerpt:

"We’re in the longest days of the year right now, which should give us the most time to do all the things we love to do — climb mountains, forage for wild fruit, swim in lakes, eat outdoors, watch the sun set, visit with friends and family.

Summertime is all about time, the long lazy days or the days crammed full of too many things to do. The trick is remembering to enjoy the time we have, and to push back against the busyness that tries to steal it.

In a way, we are still programmed from our school days to want summers off, with no obligations but to ride bikes, climb trees, take long walks and eat fresh tomatoes.

But we’re all grown up now, and we’re supposed to stay busy. This is the first summer everyone in my family is working — the teen daughter with a full-time summer job plus dance classes, and the boy with an extremely part-time job doing chores at a neighbor’s house."

Click here to read the whole thing.

On Rabbits
Published on July 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about rabbits in her weekly column, Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"Every morning, our indoor rabbit friend comes out of her hutch when the dogs go outside.

It’s a routine: I tie the big dog to the post and let the little dog run around while I free the bunny. She gets her pats and chats for a while, then I let the little dog back inside and take the big dog for a ramble. When we come back, 45 minutes or an hour later, I tie the big dog outside again, and come back in for more bunny time. She might need her bedding replaced and her water checked, and she certainly needs fresh greens from outside: a mixed salad of grasses, plantain weed (her favorite) and clovers.

Once her greens and a bowl of bunny food are in place, she’ll hop into her hutch and settle down to munching. And once her door is locked behind her, the dog can come back in."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Turtle Season
Published on June 25, 2012 by Sara Foss

I love turtles!

And in her column Greenpoint over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley has written about how turtles are crossing roads to lay eggs this time of year, and how we can help make sure they don't get crushed by cars.

Here's an excerpt:

"A few months back, in a pond by the rutted dirt road leading to Crane Mountain, several painted turtles sat sunning themselves on a log. I pointed them out to my animal-loving son, but was surprised to hear one of my hiking buddies pipe up instead.

'Ooh! I love turtles!' she exclaimed, and this was notable because she is more typically the sort of person who broadcasts her complaints than her delights.

But then, seeing turtles is always a treat, and after our hike we stopped again on the road, to watch them drop off the log and swim around, their pointy noses poking up through the water.

This time of year I see a lot of turtles, mostly as roadkill — a crushed snapping turtle on the side of Blue Barns Road, a big box turtle up on 9N. June is egg-laying time for a lot of turtles, and that also means it’s road-crossing time. And many of them don’t make it.

Some turtles hang out near roads because they like the look and feel of the shoulders. They like sand or gravel — it’s easy to dig through — to lay their eggs. But roads are dangerous, and turtles are slow."

Click here to read more.

Bad News For the East Coast
Published on June 24, 2012 by Sara Foss

I really like the East Coast.

That's why I was sad to read this article about how the sea level on a stretch of the Atlantic Coast that includes Boston, New York City and Norfolk, Va., is rising up to four times faster than the global average. Obviously, this increases the flooding risk for a pretty densely packed area of the country, and puts a lot of people and animals, not to mention areas of historic value and cultural significance, in jeopardy.

But who cares about climate change?

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