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
Mar 20, 2018 | 06:27 am
Plan would hamstring agency’s mission, environmental advocates warn. In a closed-door meeting at the Heritage Foundation on Monday, Pruitt told a group of conservatives that he has plans for additional science reform at the agency, according to multiple attendees. EPA hasn’t formally shared details of the plan, but it’s widely expected to resemble an effort that Republican lawmakers and conservative groups have been pushing for years. It’s been met with staunch resistance from Democrats and many scientists. The plan could come “sooner rather than later, ” said Steve Milloy, who served on Trump’s EPA transition team and attended the meeting at the Heritage Foundation. EPA did not respond to a request for comment. And Milloy cautioned that he did not know the specifics of the plan and said he was not authorized to discuss the meeting. The initiative is expected to require EPA—when issuing rules—to rely only on scientific studies where the underlying data are made public. It’s an idea that House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has been championing for years. He and others argue that EPA has been crafting regulations based on “secret science ” to advance its regulatory agenda. Smith, one of the leading opponents of mainstream climate science in Congress, has repeatedly accused federal climate scientists of engaging in a massive conspiracy to falsify climate data. And he has repeatedly introduced bills that would require EPA to publicize data it uses when crafting regulations. Those efforts died when President Obama was in the[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Mar 20, 2018 | 06:07 am
Lithium could be a lifeline for oil majors as the energy industry shifts toward lower-polluting alternatives to fossil fuels, said Jeff McDermott of Greentech Capital Advisors LLC. “Their specialty is resource extraction,” McDermott, managing partner of the New York-based boutique investment bank advising energy companies and investors, said in an interview in London. “They should buy lithium miners, get involved in the upstream of core battery technology.” This suggestion marks out one solution to the existential question some of the world’s biggest energy companies are facing about how to survive as governments clamp down on the fuels they produce. As the curbs on carbon emissions tighten, a key issue for fossil fuel producers are how much oil and gas demand is at risk. Lithium is a key ingredient in rechargeable batteries that are prevalent in electronics from mobile phones to electric cars. The metal is part of the cathode, which houses the electric charge. Demand for the mineral is projected to rise 38-fold by 2030 to 7,845 metric tons per year from 200 metric tons in 2016, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Big oil companies have the capital to deploy and expertise in developing large projects that could help the lithium industry expand. Oil majors have been dabbling in clean energy for decades, but it doesn’t make up a significant percent of any of their businesses. This is beginning to change, with the industry seeking new revenue streams and to keep themselves at the center of the energy business.[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News Mar 20, 2018 | 05:59 am Read more...
Climate Change News
Mar 19, 2018 | 21:36 pm
Human-caused climate change will drive more extreme summer heat waves in the western U.S., including in California and the Southwest as early as 2020, new research shows. The new analysis of heat wave patterns across the U.S., led by scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (UM) based Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) and colleagues, also found that human-made climate change will be a dominant driver for heat wave occurrences in the Great Lakes region by 2030, and in the Northern and Southern Plains by 2050 and 2070, respectively. Human-made climate change is the result of increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere. "These are the years that the human contributions to climate change will become as important as natural variability in causing heat waves," said lead author Hosmay Lopez, a CIMAS meteorologist based at NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory. "Without human influence, half of the extreme heat waves projected to occur during this century wouldn't happen." Read more at Human Influence on Climate Change Will Fuel More Extreme Heat Waves in USRead more...
Climate Change News
Mar 19, 2018 | 21:29 pm
The first ever Global Green Finance Index was launched by Z/Yen and Finance Watch last week, and the financial centers of Western Europe outperformed those in other regions based on the perception of the quality and depth of their green finance offerings. The Global Green Finance Index (GGFI) was created in an effort to “chart the progress of the world’s financial centers towards a financial system that delivers sustainable development, and values people and the planet as much as profit.” Created by NGO Finance Watch and commercial think-tank Z/Yen, the GGFI ranks the world’s leading financial centers based on a worldwide survey of finance professionals’ views “on the quality and depth of green finance offerings across 108 international financial centres.” “The core of the GGFI is a perception survey which observes and promotes change where it matters most — in people’s minds,” explained Professor Michael Mainelli, Executive Chairman of Z/Yen. “The more we can get people talking about a sustainable transition, the quicker it will happen. The high level of interest in GGFI 1 is a step in that direction.” “The GGFI aims to contribute to the definition of green finance and identify best practices and areas for improvement,” added Benoît Lallemand, Secretary General of Finance Watch. “We hope it will promote bold policy initiatives and high-quality financing that can cut through greenwash. It is urgent that sustainable finance becomes mainstream in all financial centers.” According to this inaugural edition of the GGFI — GGFI 1 — the top five centers[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Mar 19, 2018 | 21:19 pm
India is the most vulnerable country to climate change, followed by Pakistan, the Philippines, and Bangladesh, a ranking by HSBC showed on Monday. The bank assessed 67 developed, emerging and frontier markets on vulnerability to the physical impacts of climate change, sensitivity to extreme weather events, exposure to energy transition risks and ability to respond to climate change. The 67 nations represent almost a third of the world’s nation states, 80 percent of the global population and 94 percent of global gross domestic product. HSBC averaged the scores in each area for the countries in order to reach the overall ranking. Some countries were highly vulnerable in some areas but less so in others. Of the four nations assessed by HSBC to be most vulnerable, India has said climate change could cut agricultural incomes, particularly unirrigated areas that would be hit hardest by rising temperatures and declines in rainfall. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Philippines are susceptible to extreme weather events, such as storms and flooding. Pakistan was ranked by HSBC among nations least well-equipped to respond to climate risks. South and southeast Asian countries accounted for half of the 10 most vulnerable countries. Oman, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Mexico, Kenya, and South Africa are also in this group. The five countries least vulnerable to climate change risk are Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, and New Zealand. Read more at India Most Vulnerable Country to Climate Change - HSBC ReportRead more...
Climate Change News
Mar 19, 2018 | 06:00 am
The Tesla Supercharger network is still one of the top reasons electric car buyers are convinced to buy a Tesla rather than another company’s electric car. The network was a critical competitive advantage we identified years ago when surveying EV drivers and potential EV drivers, and it seems to be referenced every day in comments on CleanTechnica as a core competitive advantage for the Silicon Valley EV & clean energy giant. We are finally seeing superfast/ultrafast charging stations rise up in non-Tesla charging networks, and hey, one day we’ll have a non-Tesla electric car on the market that can charge at 100 kW or more. But rolling out vast superfast/ultrafast charging stations takes time, and a lot of money....This is where the Supercharger network is today: Read more at Evolution of the Tesla Supercharger NetworkRead more...
Climate Change News
Mar 19, 2018 | 05:00 am
The Motley Fool has been advising investors on How to Profit From the Re-Emergence of Canada’s Crude-by-Rail Strategy. But what makes transporting Canadian crude oil by rail attractive to investors? According to the Motley Fool, the reason is “… right now, there is so much excess oil being pumped out of Canada’s oil sands that the pipelines simply don’t have the capacity to handle it all.” The International Energy Agency recently reached the same conclusion in its Oil 2018 market report. “Crude by rail exports are likely to enjoy a renaissance, growing from their current 150,000 bpd [barrels per day] to an implied 250,000 bpd on average in 2018 and to 390,000 bpd in 2019. At their peak in 2019, rail exports of crude oil could be as high as 590,000 bpd — though this calculation assumes producers do not resort to crude storage in peak months,” the International Energy Agency said, as reported by the 7....And Canada has plenty of capacity to load oil on more trains, which means if a producer is willing to pay the premium to move oil by rail, it can find a customer to do it. The infrastructure is in place to load approximately 1.2 million barrels per day. With the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline project, which would have moved western Canada's tar sands east to Quebec and New Brunswick, the industry now is pursuing two remaining major pipeline projects: Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain and the Keystone XL. The Financial Post reported[…]Read more...
Climate Change News
Mar 19, 2018 | 04:10 am
In proportion to its population, the Nordic region—Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden—is strikingly ahead of the rest of the world in adopting electric cars. With almost 250,000 electric cars at the end of 2017, the five countries account for roughly 8% of the total number of electric cars around the world. Norway, Iceland, and Sweden have the highest ratios of EVs per person, globally. Further, the number of electric vehicles (EVs) in the Nordic region is projected to reach 4 million cars by 2030—more than 15 times the number currently in circulation, according to the International Energy Agency’s Nordic EV Outlook 2018 (NEVO 2018). The report outlines the key factors contributing to successful developments and identifies key lessons to be learned, providing insights for countries currently developing their electric mobility strategies. The Nordic countries represent the third-largest electric-car market by sales, after China and the United States. Norway leads the way with a 39% market share of electric car sales—the highest globally. Sweden has more than 49,000 electric cars in circulation and accounts for 20% of the total Nordic stock. This remarkable growth has been driven by strong policy support and ambitious decarbonization goals, putting the region at the forefront of the transition to electric mobility. In this context, IEA intends for Nordic EV Outlook 2018 to provide a useful benchmark and to highlight a series of best practices—and hurdles to avoid—for countries around the world.Policy support has significantly influenced electric-car adoption across these countries, the main driver being[…]Read more...
- Climate Change News Mar 19, 2018 | 03:50 am Read more...