May « 2009 « verdure
Saturday, May 30th, 2009

I got Mike this passion flower vine:

And then Mike got me these:

Meanwhile, there’s an orchid growing, no help from us, with a tree in a pot outside. The debris are acorn remnants from the squirrels.

I haven’t been able to identify this flower out by our front gate. It smells a bit like gardenia, but obviously the petals look completely different.

Uncategorized | No Comments |
the rainy season
Monday, May 25th, 2009

So Florida has been in this long drought. Not Murray-Darling Basin dry, but unenforced rationing of lawn watering dry. Since the 13th, however, we’ve gotten 5.86″ of rain at the airport. The average for all of May is 2.74″. It’s brought out the frogs and the rain lilies and what grass there is in the lawn is growing like mad.

This nifty drought map notes that in the last week we’ve gone from 57% of Florida being in Severe or Extreme drought down to 31.5%. Tampa Bay is now colored yellow for Abnormally Dry (least serious category). It would be nicer if the downpour was spread out more of course.

With the rain often comes lightning. Wunderground’s animated radar has become my favorite website, watching for when we may need to unplug the computers in case of power surges.

These clouds are from the 16th.

The lightning here reminds me of Kilauea: a force of nature that you must adjust your life for. The consequences of trivializing either can be immediate and severe. I’d like to think that such reminders of our fragility would lead to a general respect for the balance of all the rest of the system. But reading the reality of the changing winds is as difficult for recording industry heads as it is for workers of the land.

From the Murray-Darling Basin article:

What Jones [a fisherman] finds, as he travels around the basin to argue that water must be allocated for his Coorong [national park and lagoon ecosystem] and his lakes, is a sentiment that the whole water crisis is the environmentalists’ fault anyway. The greenies are derided for their shrill sanctimony. Farmers express indignation that any of their precious “working river” is lost to the sea. They tell Jones that it makes more sense to divert the Murray all the way inland, officially consigning the river to eternal servitude as an irrigation channel, while fishermen buck up and learn to live off the sea. In cotton-growing areas wholly dependent on irrigation, Jones says, “I’m lucky to get out with my life.”

And from another National Geographic article about the Tongass National Forest in Alaska:

a former logger and millwright, Bob Widmyer… said, “They decided they had to save all the trees and shut down the mill, and everybody here and in Ketchikan started to starve.” The Widmyers ended up at a culinary arts school in Arizona. They were back in Alaska now, and he operated a commercial fishing boat. “I’m kinda bitter,” he told me. “This is a damn rain forest. It was put here to log.”

Some blamed environmental activists and the Timber Reform Act for throwing people out of work, but others argued that the mill closures had more to do with a sharp recession in Japan, a slumping world market for pulp, and Alaska’s disadvantage in competing against countries with faster growing trees and less expensive pulp production methods. Ketchikan’s mill was also facing serious air- and water-pollution fines.

I get that each one of these farmers and loggers are being faced with the loss of their investments and livelihoods, and that in both of these examples, the government was formerly encouraging the consumption of the very natural resources that are now being withheld. These groups have an interest in the present moment to continue to reap the land as they’ve built a history of doing, but their stubborn disregard for their own future viability as well as other people’s, let alone the health of parts of ecosystems that aren’t obviously involved with someone’s occupation, is stunning. The rain forest wasn’t put here for you to log any more than it was put here to protect the salmon spawning beds, and attempting to grow rice in a desert, though possible, for a while, was never a good idea.

Uncategorized | 2 Comments |
Rainbow Springs
Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Florida, being rather flat (though there are some pleasant, rolling mini hills), does not have raging rivers, or, usually, waterfalls. So here I was, excited to see the promised waterfalls at the headsprings. It turns out they are man-made. The pumps that raise the water from the springs are turned off at night.

From the park’s website:

In the 1930s the spring was developed as a tourist attraction. Sea walls, a lodge, gift shop, the waterfalls, and a reptile exhibit were developed…. Under new ownership, the real heyday for the attraction occurred in the 1960s. During that time, activity greatly increased with glass-bottomed boat rides, riverboat rides, a log raft ride, a gift shop and cafe, an aviary, a leaf-shaped gondola/ monorail system, a rodeo, and submarine boat tours. When I-75 was built however, traffic was diverted away from this area and tourists began heading to a new attraction called Disney World.

About the only thing that interests me in that list is the submarine boat tours, and thankfully much of the rides are now gone (you can still rent canoes and such). However, I still think it works out better if you show up with the expectation that you are going to a park rather than a wilderness. That will also brace you for the crowds. It actually reminded me quite a bit of the Japanese Gardens in Manito Park, with the paved pathways and conveniently located benches, minus the air of quiet contemplation.

There’s a swimming area, which was my main reason for wanting to visit, but by 10am on Sunday it was starting to fill with screaming teenagers, splashing around with their floaty noodle things. The roped off area was pretty small, anyway.

So more picture taking was done instead. Water is bubbling up through the sand from the two cleared away spots under this sunfish:

Springs is very much plural here. This is a different spot than the picture above:

This delightful fiber optic starburst like flower is mimosa strigillosa:

We saw several turtles. I’m still working on identifying them.

We have cardinals and blue jays in our neighborhood as well, but they flit around so much, it’s hard to get pictures of them. These at the park are the best I’ve gotten so far.

And finally, if you were wondering, McDonalds has not improved the quality of their food while you were abstaining from their food-product offerings.

Uncategorized | 1 Comment |
yummy goodness
Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Celebrate! We have picked our first tomatoes! As it turns out, the cherry tomatoes are a bit quicker to ripen once they start to turn than the bush goliath. Picked on Sunday, we each tried one of the cherries this afternoon.

This means that a ripe tomato was had 46 days from first fruiting on the bush goliath, and 34 days for the husky cherry red. This isn’t comparable to the durations listed below, as values are for the rather fuzzy days from planting outside until harvest. The bush goliath seems more sensitive to heat/dryness, as even after we moved it into the shade, it still wilts faster than the husky cherry red.

Uncategorized | 1 Comment |
paying for peace of mind
Friday, May 8th, 2009

I don’t have health insurance right now. Not that this is a new experience. I suppose my parents and I have saved a bundle that we didn’t have in the first place to protect against things that for the vast majority of the time didn’t happen. But it’s a life where accidents can not happen.

My brief exposure to middle class American health insurance actually was pretty disappointing. I figured for all that money you’d be getting some serious service. Not really. It was far more hassle than the free clinics that I have been to. I’m really quite infuriated at the bloat and inefficiency, and how each cog goes on their merry way piling on the huge bills with a topping of repeated mistakes that I’m left to wade through.

So the US’s health care system is broke and makes me whine. It’s bigger than that, though. As a nation, and personally, we are looking down the slope of destitution and seeing how very little is protecting us from snowballing down. Pinellas County has gone from 5,500 homeless a year ago to 7,500 this year.

All this is making how the Germans and Dutch handle public services look extremely attractive. That peace of mind is such a powerful thing to provide for the whole country. Talk about a making a real impact, if not to ending, then improving poverty. What a noble endeavor.

From Wiki:

The World Health Organization (WHO), in 2000, ranked the U.S. health care system as the highest in cost, first in responsiveness, 37th in overall performance, and 72nd by overall level of health (among 191 member nations included in the study).

As a proportion of GDP, public health care spending in the United States is larger than in most other large Western countries.

According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the United States is the “only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage” (i.e. some kind of insurance).

I’m not trying to make the argument that everybody else is doing this so we should too, but I would like to point out that it seems like providing public health care is not something that everyone else has found to be insurmountable. And they seem to be managing it for cheaper than we are.

No, that peace of mind isn’t free by a long shot. The Dutch pay around 52% of their income in taxes. When life is going great, you’re healthy, your boss loves you and the business is thriving, that 52% doesn’t do much work for you, personally. What you get, however, is support when your luck turns and you have the least resources with which to help yourself. There is no precipice. We’ll see for how long these European systems can support their entire country going into what, for us at least, is a once in a century slump, but from the anecdotes I’ve been reading, we’re already in trouble, watching the tent cities spring up, while the quality of life hasn’t dropped much in Germany or the Netherlands.

Uncategorized | 3 Comments |
hurry hurry hurry
Friday, May 8th, 2009

A tomato update:

Sprayed some dangerous sounding Dithane M-45 on the fig today. Turns out the Neem we already had might have worked as well. It will be a few days before we can tell if the plant is any healthier. It’s lost maybe a quarter of its leaves since we bought it at this point.

Uncategorized | No Comments |