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 Dec 15, 2017 | 05:02 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 19:53 pm
Abi-Samra has more than 35 years of experience in power generation, transmission, distribution, retail, and end-use energy applications. He is president of Electric Power & Energy Consulting and an adjunct professor with UC San Diego. He also is the author of a new book Power Grid Resiliency for Adverse Conditions (Artech House, 2017). The book is part technical reference guide and part history lesson. In it, Abi-Samra describes the impacts of heat waves, ice storms, and hurricanes on grid operations through case studies from North America, Europe, and Asia....Synchophasors measure the instantaneous voltage, current, and frequency at specific locations on the grid, offering operators a near-real-time picture of what’s happening on the system, which lets them take action to prevent power outages. Load shedding involves the short-term interruption of power to one or more end users to allow the grid to rebalance itself. Many industrial-scale power users trade off the occasional loss of power for lower power prices, known as “interruptible rates.” The early 2000s were also marked by hurricanes that hit Florida and Louisiana particularly hard. Widespread loss of transmission and distribution poles led to efforts to replace wooden poles with steel and concrete. Further hardening came after Hurricane Katrina devastated substations, leading to investments to elevate them above storm surge levels. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 exposed storm vulnerabilities in the Northeast, particularly the near-impossibility of insulating a system from damage in the face of fearsome winds and flooding. The idea that resulted from Sandy was to “allow the[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 19:43 pm
The emissions trading scheme will initially cover only the power sector, not heavy industry as planned, but will nonetheless become the biggest in the world. China’s long-awaited nationwide emissions trading scheme (ETS) will be officially launched on 19 December, starting with the power sector only, according to a document from National Development Reform Commission (NDRC). It represents a scaling back from the original plan for eight economic sectors to take part in the carbon market: petrochemicals, chemicals, building materials, iron and steel, non-ferrous metals, paper, power, and aviation. Nonetheless, it will instantly overtake the EU’s carbon market to become the world’s largest. The power sector accounts for 46% of China’s carbon dioxide emissions, of which an estimated 39% will be covered by the ETS, according to data from World Resource Institute. Explaining the change, Chinese officials said some industrial sectors did not have strong statistical foundations, and the system would involve constant testing and continuous adjustments. Carbon futures trading will not be available at the launch stage of the scheme, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative for climate change, said during the UN climate conference in Bonn last month. It is intended to create a cost for emitting carbon, not a platform for market speculation, he said. An official at NDRC who asked not to be named said the conservative approach reflected the importance leaders attached to the overall stability of the country’s financial markets. Read more at China to Launch Nationwide Carbon Market Next Week: OfficialsRead more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 07:24 am
This week, Gatehouse Media published a long-form investigative report called “In the Shadow of Wind Farms” claiming that wind energy has caused negative health effects for residents living near wind turbines — a claim that flies in the face of actual science. GateHouse Media’s anti-wind article leans almost entirely on anecdotal evidence compiled during its six-month long project that included interviews with dozens of people who claim negative outcomes from living near wind farms. Meanwhile, in the realm of scientific facts, the American Wind Energy Alliance, the main trade group representing the wind power industry, points to 25 scientific reviews that document the safety of wind farms for human health and the environment. One health researcher has told DeSmog the GateHouse article was “simply irresponsible journalism” and actually had “potential to exacerbate the experience of anxiety and related health effects.” Although GateHouse, a syndication outfit that publishes 130 daily newspapers in 36 states, briefly mentions the fact that scientific evidence for these claims is nearly non-existent, it plows ahead with a lengthy article full of anecdotes and unsubstantiated claims that aren’t supported by real science. How this piece got published in its horribly one-sided (anti-wind) approach is a question worthy of many letters to the editor. Whether GateHouse — which is notoriously quiet when asked questions by other media outlets about its operations — will answer or attempt to defend this attack piece, time will tell. But there is no hiding that the anti-wind movement is clearly coordinated, which even[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 06:49 am
Approaching the second half of the century, the United States is likely to experience increases in the number of days with extreme heat, the frequency and duration of heat waves, and the length of the growing season. In response, it is anticipated that societal, agricultural and ecological needs will increase the demand on already-strained natural resources like water and energy. University of Illinois researchers have developed new, high-resolution climate models that may help policymakers mitigate these effects at a local level. In a paper published in the journal Earth's Future, atmospheric sciences professor Donald Wuebbles, graduate student Zach Zobel, and Argonne National Laboratory scientists Jiali Wang and Rao Kotamarthi demonstrate how increased-resolution modeling can improve future climate projections. Many climate models use a spatial resolution of hundreds of kilometers. This approach is suitable for global-scale models that run for centuries into the future, but they fail to capture small-scale land and weather features that influence local atmospheric events, the researchers said. "Our new models work at a spatial resolution of 12 km, allowing us to examine localized changes in the climate system across the continental U.S.," Wuebbles said. "It is the difference between being able to resolve something as small as Champaign County versus the entire state of Illinois -- it's a big improvement." The study looked at two different future greenhouse gas output projections -- one "business as usual" scenario where fossil fuel consumption remains on its current trajectory and one that implies a significant reduction in consumption by[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 14, 2017 | 05:10 am
The warming Arctic could put a serious dent in wind energy production. There’s a pretty steep temperature difference between the North Pole and the equator. But that difference — which fuels atmospheric energy, powering storm systems and the breeze — is shrinking, and it’s altering the distribution of wind energy resources around the globe. This could put significant strain on wind power production in the United States, Europe, and Asia, a study published Monday in the journal Nature suggests. The study shows that warming temperatures could result in a 17 percent drop in wind power in the U.S. and a 10 percent decline in the U.K. by 2100. On the upside, wind power in Australia, Brazil, and West Africa could actually increase. Read more at The Warming Arctic Could Put a Serious Dent in Wind Energy Production.Read more...
- Climate Change News Dec 14, 2017 | 04:50 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 13, 2017 | 21:24 pm
“The floods of the future are likely to be much greater than what our current infrastructure is designed for”For the US, harder rain is on the way: America’s summer thunderstorms are about to get stormier. Later this century, the notorious mesoscale convective storms of middle America will not just darken US skies: they will dump as much as 80% more water on the farms, highways and cities of the 48 contiguous states. Mesoscale thunderstorms cover an area of around 100 kilometers: these have been on the increase, both in frequency and intensity, in the last 35 years and new research suggests that, as the world warms, their frequency could triple. “The combination of more intense rainfall and the spreading of heavy rainfall over larger areas means that we will face a higher flood risk than previously predicted,” said Andreas Prein, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US, who led the study. “If a whole catchment area gets hammered by high rain rates, that creates a much more serious situation than a thunderstorm dropping intense rain over parts of the catchment. This implies that the flood guidelines which are used in planning and building infrastructure are probably too conservative.” Thunderstorms already cost the US around $20bn a year in flash floods, landslides, debris flows, high winds, and hail. Dr Prein and his colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that what they call “observed extreme daily precipitation” increased in all parts of the US from 1958 to 2012: that is[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Dec 13, 2017 | 21:03 pm
Climate scientists say the magnitude and rate of sea ice loss this century is unprecedented in 1,500 years and issue a warning on the impacts of a changing climate. The Arctic experienced its second-warmest year on record in 2017, behind only 2016, and not even a cooler summer and fall could help the sea ice rebound, according to the latest Arctic Report Card. "This year's observations confirm that the Arctic shows no signs of returning to the reliably frozen state that it was in just a decade ago," said Jeremy Mathis, director of the Arctic program at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which publishes the annual scientific assessment. "These changes will impact all of our lives," Mathis said. "They will mean living with more extreme weather events, paying higher food prices and dealing with the impacts of climate refugees." The sea ice in the Arctic has been declining this century at rates not seen in at least 1,500 years, and the region continued to warm this year at about twice the global average, according to the report. Temperatures were 1.6° Celsius above the historical average from 1981-2010 despite a lack of an El Nino, which brings warmer air to the Arctic, and despite summer and fall temperatures more in line with historical averages. Read more at Arctic Report Card: Lowest Sea Ice on Record, 2nd Warmest YearRead more...
Climate Change News
Dec 13, 2017 | 19:57 pm
Antarctic ice sheet models double the sea-level rise expected this century if global emissions of heat-trapping pollution remain high, according to a new study led by Dr. Robert Kopp of Rutgers University and co-authored by scientists at Climate Central. Global average sea level is expected to rise by one foot between 2000 and 2050 and by several more feet by the end of the century under a high-pollution scenario because of the effects of climate change, according to the projections in the new peer-reviewed study. It shows 21st century sea-level rise could be kept to less than two feet if greenhouse gas emissions are aggressively and immediately reduced, reflecting a larger gap in sea-level consequences between high and low emissions scenarios than previous research has indicated. The study provides a median projection for sea-level rise of 146 cm (4’9”) during the 21st century under a high-pollution scenario known as RCP8.5 (see Table 1), when results from new modeling of Antarctic ice sheet behavior are included. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, published in 2014, which assumed the Antarctic ice sheet would remain stable, provided a median projection for the same scenario during a similar time period of 74 cm (2’5”). Previous efforts to project future sea levels have combined projections for future levels of greenhouse gas pollution with findings from research into the effects of that pollution in warming oceans and melting glaciers. Those efforts have either excluded the possibility of ice sheet break-ups on the margins[…]Read more...