Archive for March, 2011

TRY SCIENCE-BASED LIFE

We’ve been dealing with a sudden and serious medical issue in the family this past few days, and I have not had time to prepare a post.  So I am going to refer you to a very good blog I recently learned about through the quirky connections one can make in the blog-o-sphere.  This is a real resource.

The blog is

Science-Based Life: It's Not Just a Body of Knowledge, It's a Way of Thinking

Science-Based Life: It’s Not Just a Body of Knowledge, It’s a Way of Thinking

And the post is “Climate-gate Is No Longer a Reason To Be Ignorant About Our Climate.”    I’m going to start following this blog.

 

 

March 29, 2011 at 12:09 am 5 comments

THE BRAVE NEW WORLD OF NOT-SO-HOT PEPPERS

Last September I wrote a post, Chili Peppers in History and in Your Garden

about a presentation I saw by Dave Baumler.  Last year he grew 50 different types of peppers here in Madison.  This year he is starting over 100 different types, and he told me all about it yesterday.

..There is a whole world of peppers out there waiting to be tried.

When you’ve already got 50 kinds of peppers in your garden, do you really need 50 more?  Baumler feels certain there is a lot more to learn from peppers.  He has started seeds gathered from around the world. (more…)

March 25, 2011 at 12:16 am 10 comments

6 SOD ROOF YOU TUBES: TAKE A VIDEO TOUR OF HOW TO GREEN YOUR NEW ROOF

In 2012 we will build a dwelling place on our land.

We are working with  Whole Trees Architecture and Construction on drawing up plans to design a structure built of locally grown (many grown on our own property), unmilled timbers. These won’t be the best “specimen” trees around.  Instead they’ll be “seconds”, trees that a healthy woods may be better off parting with.   Threes sides of our house will be straw bale, and the fourth south-facing wall will be optimized for winter solar heat gain.

Up until a few days ago, we had been planning to do a metal roof, but we’ve now decided our house will have a sod roof.

Our architect has suggested sod several times, but I’ve always been hesitant.  I was afraid of the same things everyone is when they haven’t research the topic.  It seems so messy.  What if it leaks?   But increasing  familiarity has allayed my fears, and the decision to switch to sod just seemed to fall into place.

A sod roof is the best choice for us because it can have a flatter pitch, which will accommodate our house plan, and conversely a sod roof can also follow irregular contours, which will allow us to have a roof that slopes and curves in several directions, which also best fits our plans and our unmilled materials.

It’s amazing how right the sod solution feels now.  Our architect draws her designs in a studio with a sod roof, so it’s not an unfamiliar concept to her.  And there is more and more literature extolling the virtues of sod roofs.  They are warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer.  They are environmentally friendly on a range of levels.  They are not that hard to make, and they can be incredibly durable.

In celebration of our weekend roof revelations, here is a smorgasbord of you tubes that look at sod roofs from many perspectives.

Take a  visual tour of sod roofs.  But be warned.

You might start thinking about sod yourself.

Number One Video

combines some benefits of green roofs with a demo of the necessary layers used in one approach to building sod roofs.  One thing I’ve learned is there are almost as many ways to seal your sod as there are sod roofs.

Number Two Video

shows how sod cut from a building site was used on the building’s roof.  It looks very official with hard hats and everything.

Number Three Video

shows people mowing their roof.  A little obsessive compulsive for my taste.  These crazy ducks are even weed whacking around their chimney.  I mean, really!

I’m envisioning a roof that looks like a flowering meadow, but of course, a lot of variables will have to be considered before we decide what we will plant on our roof.

Number Four Video

emphasizes the global environmental benefit of sod roofs.  After a lengthy preamble, they do show some interesting examples of green roofs in cities as well as rural settings from around the world

Number Five Video

shows how one contractor goes about building green roofs.  A little industrial for my taste, but it seems to work.

Number Six Video

some environmentally friendly architecture including several very dramatic homes with green roofs from around the world.  This is architectural eye candy.

SO, WHAT WOULD SCARE YOU MOST ABOUT LIVING UNDER A SOD ROOF?

March 22, 2011 at 12:03 am 8 comments

GROWING A REGIONAL FOOD ECONOMY

One of the workshops at the Midwest Organic Farming Conference we attended a few weeks ago was called “Creating a Regional Food Economy in Our Backyard.”

This is a topic Doug and I care deeply about, and it’s central to the plans we have for our future.

We’re lucky.  We live in the Driftless Area. This area is well-suited to small-scale agriculture because of its rough terrain, and many efforts are underway to build a diverse local food production network. (more…)

March 18, 2011 at 12:05 am 9 comments

UW-EXTENSION SUSTAINABILITY TEAM: THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE

Those of us who live in Wisconsin have been observing and/or participating in a major civics exercise the past few weeks.  It’s been an astonishing demonstration of what people are willing to do when they perceive their government is overreaching its authority.  My throat is raw, my arches ache and it’s going to be a while before I feel truly warm again, but I hope we are looking at the reawakening of the political consciousness that our country was founded on.

This is what democracy looks like.

...From my perspective Saturday March 12. The man raising his camera is trying to photograph the fact that State Street was packed solid with people for many blocks, all the way to the campus.


Meanwhile, on a much smaller stage without the benefit of national and international media attention, our state government has been quietly working for us in the way we have come to expect here in the Badger State. (more…)

March 15, 2011 at 12:12 am 4 comments

OOEY, GOOEY GLOMALIN, YOUR SOIL’S BEST FRIEND

Doug and I each attended different lectures on mycorrhizae by Jeff Lowenfels at the MOSES Midwest Organic Farming Conference a few weeks ago, and we both felt Lowenfels’ talks on mycrorrhizal fungi were some of the best info we got at the conference.  It’s sent me on a quest to learn more about them.

..Mushrooms are the flowers of fungus. (photo credit http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1585644

(more…)

March 11, 2011 at 12:01 am 4 comments

THE ROLLER/CRIMPER AND MY SUBTERRANEAN LIVESTOCK

8:30 a.m. Feb 25 and I was full up on organic oatmeal, organic raisins and organic milk, leaning forward in my seat at the first of two day’s worth of workshops  at the Midwest Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse.  I was learning about “Soil Building through Cover Cropping and Composting” by Jeff Moyer, Director of Farm Operations at Rodale Farm.

He started out by asking how many of us raise livestock.  A few hands went up.

“Wrong,” he said.

.."A nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself." Franklin D. Roosevelt

(more…)

March 8, 2011 at 12:01 am 11 comments

WHAT’S UP THERE AND HOW WE KNOW

What would it feel like to be a tiny crab scuttling about at the bottom of a very shallow pond that is being filled with toxins?  We should know.  We are looking up through a very thin and increasing polluted layer of air — air that is getting rapidly hotter.

If you compare our earth to an apple, the atmosphere is no thicker than the skin.  The troposphere is the layer we live in. Almost all of our weather occurs here, and it only goes up about six miles.  That’s less than six minutes of drive time on the open road.

Next comes the stratosphere.  That ends about 30 miles up.  This is a kind of shield. It’s where the protective ozone layer is, as well as the continent-sized hole we’ve punched in it.  If you want to know what the planet would be like without our atmosphere, think about the surface of the moon.

Tracey Holloway, Director of the UW-Madison Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment,  speaking at the UW-Arboretum Winter Lecture Series, gave me some clarity on how we get our climate information and what some of it is telling us. (more…)

March 4, 2011 at 12:44 am 12 comments

WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE FOREST FLOOR

I listened to Dr. Don Waller, UW-Madison professor of botany and environmental studies and editor of “The Vanishing Present: Wisconsin’s Changing Lands, Waters, and Wildlifegive a presentation on long-term changes in Wisconsin forests last week as part of the UW-Arboretum Winter Lecture Series.  He shifted my forest focus from an upward-tilted gaze into the branches to a down-to-earth look at the ground.

I expected a talk on forests to be about trees, and yes, trees did make an appearance, but the real action is in the understory.  We all know trees are under siege from loggers, deer browse, insects like Emerald Ash Borer and climate change.  But Waller said it is damage to the spring ephemeral plants that are putting the entire ecosystem at the greatest risk.

Some of the things that are threatening the understory are issues that have escaped our notice.  (more…)

March 1, 2011 at 12:07 am 4 comments


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