I planted sugar snap peas on St. Patrick's Day this year, and four days later it snowed. It wasn't what we'd expect of the second day of Spring, but the weather this year has been anything but common. The pea planting was as much a hopeful gesture as anything else - a way to reassure myself that something edible will indeed emerge from the ground again, just as we will emerge from this heavy dose of winter.
The mailmen may be the only people in Arlington who know it's time to start thinking about the garden, as they deliver seed and garden supply catalogues to frozen gardeners who have probably forgotten how to call a spade a spade. But all it takes is a quick daydream about the taste of a fresh summer tomato with basil to get me to load soil into peat pots and start raising this year's vegetable garden. I claim complete amateur status when it comes to gardening, but that's the main point: it didn't take much effort to get myself up and going and self-sufficient with vegetables for two from June through September. Hopefully it'll inspire some similar experiments around Arlington.
One of the first things I did after moving here a few years ago - long before the furniture arrived - was to dig up the yard. I am not a huge fan of grass and am definitely not a lawn guy, particularly because they require attention but you can't eat them. At first I had plans to turn the entire place into a big terraced garden complete with paths and maybe a fountain or two. Then I discovered how hard it is to dig well-established grass, and my grand visions shrank. A lot. I started with two 11-foot by 6-foot raised beds, which I staked out, dug, and framed with untreated spruce 2X12s from Home Depot. In the second season I added a third.
I filled the beds with a few cubic yards of compost from Boston Bark that were dumped smack in the middle of our driveway. I was pleased until I discovered that the dump truck hadn't been cleaned out before it was loaded with compost, and so right at the center of the magnificent pile was a full two cubic yards of concrete mix. Boston Bark did come back, shovel up the mess, and provide a new load sans concrete but I would have rather seen them get it right on round 1.
The arduous digging of sod.
The compost - with a special concrete filling.
While this was going on, the seedlings watched from inside. Although I'd raised the odd cactus or two in my day, this whole vegetable thing was new territory for me. I tried all sorts of containers, from peat pots to cardboard egg cartons to old yogurt containers. In the end, although they're a one-shot deal, I like peat pots the most because they can be placed in a waterproof dish and watered from below. The peat will soak up the water and dampen the soil, which is a great way to avoid abusing your seedlings during watering.
Another suggestion is to label your seedlings clearly with something other than a post-it note. It's a bit of a surprise when you separate a bunch of tiny tomato seedlings only to find out later that they were actually...basil. In the first year I pre-seeded tomatoes, zucchini, kale, leeks, broccoli, parsley, and basil indoors on April 1st. Later I planted beans, swiss chard, marigolds, and a bunch of salad greens right in the garden. I liked this initial set, with the exception of the leeks, which looked like blades of grass when I transplanted them into the garden and took forever to mature into pitiful stalks.
All of my seeds came from Seeds of Change, which I chose because they are from organic plants. I've generally liked their supply, but their seed packs are pretty expensive and I've had problems with items backordered (summer doesn't wait around for the seeds to arrive) or canceled altogether (a couple of times without any warning).
The first set of seedlings.
A tomato gets a transplant.
All planted and ready to grow (Bed #1).
Tomatoes and salad greens (Bed #2).
My first year was the summer of 2009 when everyone's Ark filled with water from June 1st to July 15th. Irrigation wasn't necessary, and the cool-weather crops such as lettuces and broccoli did well. I did install a soaker hose (seen in the photo) but used it rarely, and found that by September it had rotted and had several holes, making it completely worthless. In 2010 I sprung for a drip irrigation system from a company called Irrigation Direct. The weather was warm and dry and with the system on a timer, all I really had to do was harvest, eat, and repeat. (Less work is always good, because unfortunately I am not a full-time yard gardener.)
I'm a fan of planting densely because it means less weeding, and this appears to work as long as crops are rotated from year to year. I border the beds with marigolds, which help deter pests, and interplant a lot - one plant of this, one row of that, and so on. The only pesticide I use is Bt, which stands for Bacillus Thuringiensis and is a naturally-occurring bacteria that takes care of cabbage moths on the kale and broccoli. In June the basil has been decimated by June bugs (go figure) so I cover them at night - problem solved. I was told that nocturnal investigations are the best way to figure out what's eating your plants, and this has been mostly true. Neighbors come in handy, too: ours told me he spotted a squirrel running away with one of my tomatoes in its mouth. I considered it my contribution to the squirrel fund in exchange for free acorn cleanup services the fellow provides in the fall.
From seedling to garden jungle in a matter of weeks.
Rows offer the illusion of order and method.
The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and even though many of my techniques were experimental and haphazard, when the sun shines in Arlington things really start growing. We had more salad greens than we could eat, and managed to can a bunch of tomatoes in the form of salsa. Butternut squash has lasted through the winter in the basement, and I think there's a loaf or two of zucchini bread still in the freezer.
It may seem a long way off, but soon we'll be in shorts and t-shirts and I'll be feeling lucky that there are 200 fewer square feet of my lawn to mow than when I moved in. If luck smiles on me again this year, I'll be feasting on another chaotic pile of plants that are as local as it gets.
1 ½ lbs of zucchini.
A late-season harvest: tomatoes, squash, beets, and everything else.
Summertime on a platter.
Climate Change News
May 26, 2018 | 07:30 am
Republicans paid by the fossil fuel industry deny these realities.Last week, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held yet another climate science hearing similar to those from April 2017, February 2017, January 2016, May 2015, June 2014, December 2013, and so on. It seems as though disputing established climate science is House Republicans’ favorite hobby. This time, it was Philip Duffy’s turn to spend two hours playing whack-a-mole with the committee Republicans’ endless supply of long-debunked climate myths. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) claimed that sea level rise is due to the White Cliffs of Dover tumbling into the ocean (yes, really), and his colleagues argued that scientists in the 1970s were predicting global cooling, that Earth is just returning to its “normal temperature,” that Antarctic ice is growing, and sea levels are hardly rising. Self-contradictory sea level rise denialThose last two claims originated from a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial entered into the Congressional record by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), written by Fred Singer. As the group Ozone Action documented, Singer has been a lifetime contrarian on virtually every scientific subject imaginable - acid rain, nuclear winter, nuclear waste, nuclear war, ozone depletion, secondhand smoke, amphibian population loss, and even minimum wage benefits. In recent decades he’s worked for a plethora of fossil fuel-funded think tanks, denying established climate science. Singer’s WSJ editorial is difficult to follow, largely because it contradicts itself several times, saying:there is also good data showing sea levels are in fact rising at an accelerating[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
May 26, 2018 | 04:10 am
Even holdout Exxon Mobil has analyzed what holding global warming to 2C means for its business. Now the sector needs to invest – or divest – accordingly. Oil companies are under more pressure than ever to reckon with their climate impact, this AGM season. Supermajor Exxon Mobil has published its first assessment of what holding global warming to 2C means for its business, prompted by a shareholder revolt in 2017. Shareholder activists have moved on to target second-tier companies, winning resolutions to make Kinder Morgan and Anadarko follow suit. Several firms pre-empted a vote by agreeing to their demands. In Europe, where most oil majors have already produced 2C scenarios, the conversation is turning from disclosure to action. “We have seen a significant uptick in the number of reports this year,” Robert Schuwerk of Carbon Tracker told Climate Home News. Analyzing the implications of 2C, the upper warming limit in the Paris Agreement, is “becoming normalized as a concept”, he said. There is not yet a standardized approach, though, making it hard to compare companies: “I think that is going to become a focus.” By each choosing methods to flatter their business plans, firms are perpetuating collective denial. Globally, the vast majority of oil and gas reserves need to stay in the ground to limit temperature rise to 2C. That implies some producers will lose out. But, as a Carbon Tracker report this week highlighted, corporate scenario analyses show everyone winning. “The primary risk is over-investment in a resource base, bringing on a[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News May 26, 2018 | 03:50 am Read more...
Climate Change News
May 25, 2018 | 05:00 am
Add warming temperatures to the pile of problems. Forests in the northeastern U.S. are lush and diverse. Towering oaks in southern Connecticut give way to majestic sugar maples in Maine....Tony D’Amato, director of the forestry program at the University of Vermont, says forests in the region provide beauty and support the economy. But they’re under pressure from many threats, such as deforestation for development, logging, non-native species, over-browsing by deer, and forest diseases. D’Amato: “As you start to make a list of all the things that are threatening our forests, it’s hard not to get a little bit concerned.” Climate change will only add more stress. For example, seeds from some trees need snow to germinate. But as the region gets warmer and wetter, there may be less snowpack. That also leaves young tree roots vulnerable to freezing. D’Amato: “Climate change in its own right is quite daunting, but when you put it on top of everything else that’s affecting our forests, it’s really a challenging long-term dilemma that many managers and conservation groups have to deal with.” Read original at Climate Change Is Putting Extra Pressure on New England's ForestsRead more...
Climate Change News
May 25, 2018 | 04:10 am
Study explains blocking phenomenon that has baffled forecasters. A study published May 24 in Science offers an explanation for a mysterious and sometimes deadly weather pattern in which the jet stream, the global air currents that circle the Earth, stalls out over a region. Much like highways, the jet stream has a capacity, researchers said, and when it's exceeded, blockages form that are remarkably similar to traffic jams -- and climate forecasters can use the same math to model them both. The deadly 2003 European heat wave, California's 2014 drought, and the swing of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 that surprised forecasters -- all of these were caused by a weather phenomenon known as "blocking," in which the jet stream meanders, stopping weather systems from moving eastward. Scientists have known about it for decades, almost as long as they've known about the jet stream -- first discovered by pioneering University of Chicago meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby, in fact -- but no one had a good explanation for why it happens. "Blocking is notoriously difficult to forecast, in large part because there was no compelling theory about when it forms and why," said study coauthor Noboru Nakamura, a professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences. Nakamura and then-graduate student Clare S.Y. Huang were studying the jet stream, trying to determine a clear set of measurements for blocking in order to better analyze the phenomenon. One of their new metrics was a term that measured the jet stream's meander. Looking over the math,[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News May 25, 2018 | 03:50 am Read more...
Climate Change News
May 24, 2018 | 19:18 pm
Massachusetts and Rhode Island today selected two offshore wind projects for development, securing a total of 1.2 GW of offshore generating capacity along the East Coast. “With today’s landmark decisions, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are ready to pioneer large-scale offshore wind development that will light the way for our industry and nation,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement. “With world-class wind resources, infrastructure and offshore energy expertise, the U.S. is primed to scale up this industry and lead it. Becoming a world leader for offshore wind will open tremendous new opportunities for U.S. workers, factories, and ships throughout our coastal states.” Vineyard Wind won a competitive bid in Massachusetts with a 800-MW offshore wind proposal that includes a generator lead line. Massachusetts law requires the state’s electric distribution companies to obtain 1.6 GW of offshore wind energy by 2027. A request for proposals from the state called for long-term contracts for offshore wind generation and associated renewable energy credits totaling 400 MW, but bidders were able to submit proposals for up to about 800 MW. Bids were evaluated and selected by the state’s distribution companies and the Department of Energy Resources. “Vineyard Wind is proud to be selected to lead the new Massachusetts offshore wind industry into the future,” Lars Thaaning Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind, said. Thaaning said Vineyard Wind is grateful for the time and commitment shown by many stakeholders, including Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton and Massachusetts[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
May 24, 2018 | 19:04 pm
While the Trump administration generally avoids discussion of climate change, it is participating in a coalition to promote “clean, reliable” nuclear power. The US, Canada and Japan are to create a coalition aimed at promoting nuclear power as a carbon-free energy source around the world. The UK is also taking part, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) confirmed to Climate Home News on Wednesday. The Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy (Nice) partnership will be launched on Thursday at a ministerial summit being held in Copenhagen and Malmö. In a blog post on his department’s website, US deputy energy secretary Dan Brouillette called for countries to work together for a “Nice Future”. “If the world is serious about reducing emissions and growing economies, then the ministerial must consider all options when it comes to carbon-free power, including clean, reliable nuclear energy,” he said. Read more at US Launches Nuclear Initiative to Cut Carbon with Canada, Japan, UKRead more...
Climate Change News
May 24, 2018 | 18:49 pm
Hardly a day goes by without a research company releasing yet another report forecasting the future of electric vehicles and all related industries, oil included. Some of these are skeptical, but most predict a bright future for electric cars. The latest is no exception: a UK-based company, Aurora Energy Research, has projected that the adoption of electric cars could wipe out as much as US$21 trillion in revenues for the oil, gas, and coal industry by 2040. In oil, Aurora Energy Research predicts that revenues could fall from US$1.5 trillion in 2016 to US$1.1 trillion in 2040 on the back of fast EV adoption combined with major improvements in energy efficiencies. Meanwhile, oil prices could plummet to as little as US$32 a barrel. This is what could happen under a “Burnout” scenario developed by the research firm that envisages fast growth in EV adoption and equally fast growth in electricity demand on the back of digital tech use driven by the expansion of the Internet of Things. Read more at EV Revolution Could Wipe Out $21 Trillion in Oil RevenueRead more...
Climate Change News
May 24, 2018 | 18:35 pm
Hot oceans fueled Hurricane Harvey, generating more intense rainfall. Last summer, the United states was pummeled with three severe hurricanes in rapid succession. It was a truly awesome display of the power of weather and the country is still reeling from the effects. In the climate community, there has been years of research into the effect that human-caused global warming has on these storms – both their frequency and their power. The prevailing view is that in a warming world, there will likely be fewer such storms, but the storms that form will be more severe. Some research, however, concludes that there will be both more storms and more severe ones. More generally, because there is more heat, there is more activity, which can be manifested in several ways. Regardless, there is very little doubt that a warmer planet can create more powerful storms. The reason is that hurricanes feed off of warmer ocean water. In order to form these storms, oceans have to be above about 26°C (about 80°F). With waters that hot, and with strong winds, there is a rapid evaporation of moisture from the ocean. The resulting water vapor enters into the storm, providing the energy to power the storm as the water vapor condenses and falls out of the storm as rain. Read more at Global Warming Made Hurricane Harvey More DestructiveRead more...