I suppose it will come as no surprise that I am disappointed in the outcome of the election. I don't want to get in to political arguments here, so there's no need for me to elaborate. However there is one thing I think we can talk about, regardless of how any of us voted.
If you read this blog, you have a love for nature in some way, shape, or form. Maybe you've always wanted to have a garden. Maybe you like to hike with your dogs. Maybe you are soothed by pictures of beautiful flowers. Maybe you are a birder. Maybe you like to cook with fresh produce. Maybe you are a beekeeper. Regardless, if you're here, it's because you care about our environment. And one thing our president-elect has made abundantly clear is his disdain for environmental issues.
A friend sent me an email yesterday from David Loeb, the head of a local organization called Bay Nature. I found it inspiring. I'd like to copy some of that letter here: "Bay Nature is not a partisan organization and we do not take sides in elections. But we do have core values that guide our mission, our outlook, and our work. And those values tell us that we do not make America great by cutting down more of its forests, or opening up its public lands for fossil fuel extraction, or gutting protections for its endangered species, or undoing rules that protect its streams and rivers, or withdrawing from climate change agreements. We are 'great' to the extent that we respect the people around us and the place where we live. We are 'great' when we come together in community to restore a creek or create a park or save an endangered species. Or, simply revel in the natural beauty of this place."
Amen, Mr.Loeb. This got me fired up and thinking about how we, as environmentalists, can move forward.
I think the first thing we can do is look at our own houses and yards. We can create our own carbon sinks by being good stewards of our land. Steps that you can take right now: Use hand tools rather than power tools, minimize your lawn and plant native bushes and trees instead, eliminate any use of herbicides or pesticides, plant deciduous trees for shade in summer and sun in winter, consider the use of water and the energy it takes to move it, and use eco-friendly building materials for hardscapes. The point is to sequester carbon in our yards. Disturb the soil as little as possible, and cover it with plants that will take in more carbon.
While you're at it, plant for local wildlife and pollinators. Add swathes of native wildflowers. Let flowers go to seed. Consider 'levels' in your garden, for different species (tall, like trees; medium, like large bushes; low, like herbaceous and woody perennials and annuals).
Consider saving water. Is your soil porous enough to hold a lot of moisture? A lot of organic matter will help with that. Mulching with wood chips (free from any tree company) provides a tremendous amount of water retention. Build berms and swales to help capture rainwater. Use rain barrels. Plant species that don't require as much extra irrigation.
Grow some of your own food, even if it's a small patch or a container garden on a patio. The less we rely on Big Ag, the better. Buy local. Buy organic. Buy from conscientious farmers. Buy meat from animals that are ranging on grass rather that in feedlot operations, and use it more judiciously. Buy fish that is local and sustainable (sushi should be a special occasion food only) - check the Seafood Watch for good options.
Think about your energy use. We could all rely less on coal and gas. This is definitely something that our household needs to focus on in the coming years. Our footprint is small because our home is small, but we can do better in this area. I'd really like to have a solar roof (see Elon Musk's new plan) that provides power for a car as well, but this is something for which we have to plan and budget.
I also did some research on some companies that are doing good work in environmental areas, and we will consider supporting them with a donation. Here are a few that are worth exploring: The Nature Conservancy, 350.org, National Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Sierra Club.
I am concerned about our future on this planet. At this point, it seems it is up to each individual to take action and make change. I know it seems like tiny steps towards an enormous goal. But what other course is open to us? Please let all of us know, in the comments, if you have suggestions in other ways we can focus our efforts. I feel like we all need to redouble our efforts.
Meanwhile, we're having glorious weather here in Northern California, a sort of Indian Summer. Since I have time this week, I've been getting lots of projects done. Yesterday I decided to cut down the pepper plants to make room for broccoli and spinach. I harvested all the peppers and preserved them, and I did the same with the basil that was in the same beds.
I got the broccoli and spinach seeds in, after preparing the soil in those beds. To do that, I use a pitchfork and sink it deep into the soil, then gently tilt it up at a 45 degree angle, simply loosening the soil to provide oxygen deep underground. I do not till or turn over the soil (that releases carbon, kills some of the microbiology, and tears the mycelium). I rake the surface very gently, then reposition my drip lines. After that the bed is ready for seeding! In the Spring, we will do our usual amendment of one inch of compost on each bed. I will also add minerals at that time in the form of Azomite (rock dust). I've been doing a lot of studying on soil nutrients and what plants really need, and how much is available in well-prepared compost. I think our addition of an inch a year is a good plan, but there is no question that cover cropping adds a good deal of fertility, and getting some well-rotted manure would help too (although my compost is part chicken manure). I didn't do that this year and I think I should have. I've also been researching the role of potassium, specifically the problem of having too much, and the part it plays in blossom end rot. This is a rabbit hole I need to continue going down, especially as it pertains to very low water levels in our very dry summers. More on that at a later time!
I also sowed more kale seed. Something is eating the tops of our kale plants just as they begin to sprout. That same something is eating the tops of the shelling peas. I suspect the opossum, as these plants are too low for deer to find them, and I haven't heard any deer in the garden at night (and believe me, we'd hear them, with all the leaves I need to rake up). My carrots are not germinating as I would like (possibly the seed is too old), so I've ordered some fresh seed from Renee's Garden and will get that in this weekend.
Today, I'm making sourdough. I've just used the last of my organic wheat berries from Full Belly Farm, so ordered six more pounds. I love this wheat. It has a slightly lighter taste and isn't as dense.
I'm hoping all this activity will also take my mind off worrying about the future. Worry doesn't really change anything. As always, I believe 'doing' is the way to best move forward. Let's take action, and do everything we can to make this planet better. A lofty goal, but it's up to us now.