Elf Sighting

After reading about her new wheels in the Gazette last week, I was excited to find Dory and her Elf at the South Hadley farmer’s market yesterday. The solar- and pedal-powered bike doubles nicely as a baked goods stand!

Baker Dory Goldman with her Organic Transit Elf at the South Hadley farmer's market, August 2013

Baker Dory Goldman with her Organic Transit Elf at the South Hadley farmer’s market, August 2013

I had imagined the Elf having floor boards, but there’s not much between the driver and the road except for the pedals. Very Flintstones.

Bryophites Rock

Poking around the garden yesterday with my robotic tripod, I captured a lot of moss and a few odd interlopers. Did you know that moss that was frozen under a glacier for 400 years can come back to life? Or that little moss tumbleweeds support an entire ecosystem as they bounce around the tops of glaciers? Here we have them growing happily on top of glacial till and outwash.

puff-ball-web

 

Click for the higher res image – the original is in the 50 megapixel range! I like the way a long exposure and tiny aperture increased my depth of field and caught the evening light.

Soil Maps and Lost Landscapes

Soil Map Detail

I just discovered these incredible soil maps of Western Massachusetts. Produced by the USDA in the 1980s, they contain a wealth of information on what is under our feet. Here in the Pioneer Valley, we live on vast piles of glacial till and outwash. An ice sheet 2 miles (!) thick slid across this area 12 to 14,000 years ago, leaving behind sand, gravel, stones, boulders, and bedrock when it melted. Continue reading

True Leaves

True Leaves

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned in starting a garden is the phenomenon of “true leaves.” Many plants start out with two leaflets that correspond to the two halves of their embryo. These are generally simple and rounded in appearance, and serve to get the baby plant going. As it continues to grow, the next set of leaves to emerge are the true leaves, which look like tiny versions of the mature plant. In the case of baby lettuce, they are also extremely cute. Continue reading

Tracks in the Snow

Wandering around the hillside these days, I’ve seen quite a few animal tracks in the snow. I like the way the rabbits repeated a path until it became a trail, connecting the clear ground by the house to their various destinations in the garden. Time for some camera traps!

A rabbit road and intersection

A rabbit road and intersection

My own tracks trace a winding path.

My own tracks trace a winding path.

And of course, the snow blower leaves its own sort of tracks.

Snow Blower Video

 

3 Reasons I Love Maple Trees

A arborist came over before the snows fell to trim the maple trees on our property. He didn’t bat an eye when I asked him not to chip the branches, saving himself gas and providing me with Patrick Dougherty quantities of building materials and fuel.

Continue reading

Would You Kill A Robot?

“Christoph Bartneck of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand recently tested whether humans could end the life of a robot as it pleaded for survival.” –No Mercy For Robots, NPR

Broken Hard DriveThe answer is yes, most people will terminate a robot with hardly a second thought. But most people don’t see robots as alive, even when they are programmed to beg for their lives.

Furthermore, the robots he used fall somewhere between a bacteria and a paramecium on the scale of complexity. Even with an acknowledgement of life, most people don’t think twice about stepping on bugs.

A better question might be, “Would you kill a robot that is a part of your life, one which has shared in your experiences, holds some of your thoughts, and has memories of you and your loved ones?” Anyone who has suffered the death of a hard drive knows the answer to that question. Such a loss is a personal tragedy, complete with very real anguish and even mourning. That’s why I back up my digital photos and videos religiously – two brains are better than one.

Weather and Climate

Severe WeatherI heard about the tornadoes on the TV in the library court yesterday afternoon. Then I drove home through a warm breeze, carrying wisps of fog from the snow banks across the road and down to the river. The same weather system that brought destruction to the South gave us a night that reached 60 degrees in January and a gentle rain.

I’m tired of listening to scientists remind people that no individual weather event can be directly attributed to climate change. This is an intellectually honest and precise description of the descriptive power of scientific knowledge regarding an immensely complex system. It also completely misses the point.

The climate is defined by the sum total of the weather on this planet. If the climate is changing, then we will see the weather changing. And we can, with every freak snow storm, warm spell, hurricane, drought, etc. As disturbing as the weather has become, at least it is reaching a point where denial is no longer a tenable response.