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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Red Oak House garden notes no. 34

Last night, I dreamed of the upcoming garden season, a dream filled with blossoms and bounty.

The gardening season has begun here, in the basement, as Jim has planted the pepper seeds in the basement and tiny sprouts have emerged. In two weeks, he will plant his tomato seeds.

Many of the seeds we are using were purchased at Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa, when we visited there last fall. Jim also saved some of his seeds from last year's harvest.

I have this year's zinnia seeds in hand, from Park Seed Co. and have pre-ordered bedding annuals from Baldwin Greenhouse, north of Bismarck.

The time is approaching when we must wrap up winter projects. Hopefully, Jim & Jeff will squeeze in more ice fishing in the next weeks as they are many Lent Fridays left!

Here's to dreams filled with flowers and not woes.

"The Sun will rise and set regardless. What we choose to do with the light while it's here is up to us. Journey wisely." Alexandra Elle

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson: a book review

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life by Edward O. Wilson (Liveright Pub., 2016, 259 pages, illustrations)

In between watching the Winter Olympics these past weeks -- wasn't that fun! -- I read this interesting book by the great Edward O. Wilson, one I purchased last summer and tucked aside for winter reading. The endorsement we heard last year from Paul Simon, during a Billings, Mt. concert, was added incentive to read this.

Wilson, who has published thirty other books, makes his case in enormously readable prose. He details the biodiversity that is being lost in these times and what might be done to save it. "Leaders in biodiversity research and conservation have long understood that the surviving wildlands of the world are not art museums. They are not gardens to be arranged and tended for our delectation. They are not recreation centers or harborers of natural resources or sanatoriums or undeveloped sites of business opportunities--of any kind. The wildlands and the bulk of Earth's biodiversity protected within them are another world from the one humanity is throwing together pell-mell. What do we receive from them? The stabilization of the global environment they provide and their very existence are the gifts they give to us. We are their stewards, not their owners." (pgs.84-85)

I am a big admirer of Wilson's book Biophilia, published in 1984. He received the Pulitzer Prize two times for other works of non-fiction. You can learn more about him here and by watching the excellent PBS film about his life, Of Ants and Men.

In reading this book, I also learned about the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Encylopedia of Life which seek to provide everyone with access to a plethora of information about life on Earth.

In his chapter on "Restoration," Wilson's words had particular resonance for me, an activist who has spent my life becoming more deeply acquainted with my landscape: "For a large minority of conservation projects, some amount of restoration, meaning human intervention, is necessary. Each project is special unto itself. Each requires knowledge and love of the local environment shared by partnerships of scientists, activists, and political and economic leaders. To succeed, it needs every bit of their entrepreneurship, courage, and persistence." (pg. 175)

Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University and lives in Lexington, Massachusetts. Treat yourself to this thoughtful book by this gentleman.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Winter Olympics Hiatus

I'm gaga over the Winter Olympics.

My family and friends know this. I have been for decades. I like the Summer Olympics too, but the Winter Olympics, for me, are the pinnacle. Perhaps it is because I live in the north country and have dabbled in many of the sports, downhill and cross-country skiing as well as ice skating and curling.

I clear my calendar for those weeks inasmuch as is possible and binge watch, all projects on hold. I've downloaded the NBC Olympics app on my phone and I'm good to go.

This year, four events will make their debut: speed skating mass start, mixed doubles curling, big air, and mixed team alpine skiing.

I have many vivid memories of Winter Olympics past and even occasionally watch the Olympics channel our cable provider offers. Who can forget the moment when Neil Young appeared in the Vancouver closing ceremonies? My husband teases me about my admiration for Evan Lysacek.

Because of this passion, my blog will be on hiatus most of the rest of February.

Happy watching.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Wild Lands in North Dakota: A Red-letter Day in Our History

Today was a red-letter today in North Dakota history, specifically ND conservation history. This morning, at the Bismarck Public Library, the film "Keeping All the Pieces," was released by the Badlands Conservation Alliance and the North Dakota Wildlife Federation (you can watch the film by following the link). Presented by Jan Swenson, BCA Executive Director, and Mike McEnroe, of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation, this 15-minute film dramatically captures the critical stage we find ourselves in with respect to the Bad Lands landscape and the future of this hauntingly beautiful place. Many North Dakotans stepped up for interviews in this film, sharing their deeply-felt personal perspectives and concerns. In the months leading up to this release, Swenson and McEnroe have shown the film in communities across the state to more than a thousand interested parties. Now the film is out there for everyone to see. I urge you to watch it and to share it with your family and friends.

From the flyer available at today's release: "The Badlands are in crisis. Ninety-five percent of the Little Missouri National Grassland is open for oil and gas development. The future of the Badlands should be a decision made by the people, not the oil industry."

This landscape is the heart of my personal geography, my sense of place. I grew up in rural Slope County, in the southern portion of the Little Missouri National Grassland. Jim and I have been working on these issues for decades, with BCA, and other organizations, and in his entries on his The Prairie Blog. Together, on our own, or with friends and family, we've spent countless days and nights in the Bad Lands, camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, star-gazing, birding, and hunting. As Swenson says in the press release for this film, "We do this now or we lose our Badlands."

Also on my mind are two publications that were released some time ago, documenting the lands worth saving and calling for more permanent protections. The first was Badlands on the Brink: North Dakota Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River Proposal, published by the Teddy Roosevelt Group of the Sierra Club, in May 1993.  I hope to have a link to the pdf of this proposal in the future to post on this blog, as copies are difficult to locate.

The second is a document that I contributed to, along with Jan Swenson, Bart Koehler, Kirk Koepsel, Carol Jean Larson, Larry Nygaard, Mary Sand, Wayde Schafer, and Webster Swenson. Prairie Legacy Wilderness: North Dakota's Citizen's Proposal for Wilderness on the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, is a proposal by the North Dakota Wilderness Coalition, a broad variety of ND citizen organizations, made up of people who believe that the remaining fragments of wild lands in North Dakota are deserving of lasting protection. It was published in February 2008 and is available on the Badlands Conservation Alliance webpage by following this link.

What is important in this issue to remember is this: in the early 1970s, 500,000 acres of the Little Missouri National Grassland qualified for wilderness designation, By 1993, when Badlands on the Brink was published, only slightly more than 150,000 acres of potential wilderness remained. By the time Prairie Legacy Wilderness was released, less than 40,000 eligible acres remained wild.

"If we the public are not engaged, we likely will not like the results 10, 20, and 30 years from now." Jan Swenson, BCA Press Release Feb. 1, 2018

Please get involved in these discussions. View the film. Join a ND conservation organization that is actively working on these issues. Make your voice heard for wild North Dakota lands to endure for the enjoyment of future generations.

My heartfelt thanks to Jan Swenson, Mike McEnroe, and everyone else who contributed to the making of this fine film. I will confess that when I was shown an early version of this moving film, I shed tears.

". . . where Nature can heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike." John Muir

Little Missouri River, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Unit (photo by Lillian Crook)