Science and Sarcasm
29 May 2006
Shiawassee River fishing report [29 May 2006]

Shiawassee RiverB and I have had a rather unsatisfactory, yet tiring, Memorial Day weekend. B's mom has been in the hospital for a knee replacement surgery that hasn't gone simply or easily. She's OK, but will end up staying for at least a week rather than the 3 days originally planned. Lots of additional planning and phone calling have kept all our various phone lines busy all weekend. We also finally said goodbye to our 20-year old cat, Razz, this weekend. It was a difficult day, but one we've seen on the horizon for a couple of years. I'll write more about Razz at another time. We also enjoyed a brief visit from my Chicago sister and her wonderful little family. We'd hoped to get a whole day together, but old cats and hospitalized mothers necessitated some reorganizing.

Today, we took some time to go fishing and relax outdoors. Our daily maximum temperatures have been in the 90's for the past 3 days so there is really only one way to actually enjoy the outdoors despite the heat and humidity - find some water and immerse yourself. We chose to wade in the Shiawassee River, fly rods in hand.

We hadn't fished the Shiawassee yet this spring/summer. It's our favorite warm water river because it's close to home. We often enjoy a quick, evening fishing outing during the summer. It has a fantastic population of smallmouth bass and is fun to fish, or to paddle, or both. Later in the summer, the water levels become almost too low to allow fishing or paddling, but late spring and early summer are a perfect time to enjoy this local waterway. Currently, the flow is well above its seasonal average due to recent thunderstorms. We headed for a nice access spot at an abandoned bridge. From this point, we can normally wade for a half-mile or more. Today, we found the water high, extremely stained and much less wadable. In fact, at first glance we were not sure if we'd be able to wade at all. Once we stepped off the bank though, we realized that it wasn't quite as deep as it looked, the bottom wasn't visible due to the murky water. I don't like wading when I can't see where I'm going, but we pressed on.

Giant SwallowtailI brought my spey rod to enhance my ability to cast farther. I figured wading might be limited and wanted to reach the opposite bank anyway. We rigged up with sink tips and streamers, slathered on an effective dose of lemon eucalyptus mosquito repellant and jumped in. We couldn't wade as far up- or downstream as we normally do here, so we were limited to fishing a shorter stretch more thoroughly. We caught only two smallish smallies in an hour-and-a-half and decided to change our location to a small township park further upstream. Both fish were close to the bottom; one took a white zoo cougar and the other hit a black conehead sculpin. Go figure. I struggled to effectively cast my spey line and sink tip, making my last outing even more remarkable.

At the park, we again fished a short stretch of water, and so covered it more than once. A few canoers paddled through. My casting improved slightly, but we didn't catch any fish. We both decided enough was enough, we could take 'no' for an answer and figured we'd quit early and go home for supper. As we reeled up our line to head back to the car, a Giant Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio cresphontes) flitted up and down the short sandy edge and posed long enough for one good picture.

Fleece quotient: 0, no waders either
Lost flies: 1
Wildlife sightings: bank swallows, barn swallows, tree swallows, Giant Swallowtail
Air temperature: 95 oF max
Water temperature: ~ 70 oF
Injury report: abused hands
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Yep!
Enjoyment grade for the trip: B+

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day monumentNowadays, Memorial Day is largely a social opportunity for most Americans, a day away from work, the official starter's pistol of summer. We head for the lake, for the cottage up north, Grandma's house and spend the day grilling burgers and dogs, drinking beer, swimming, enjoying the sunshine. While this is a valid way to spend the day, we're pretty far removed from the original intention of the holiday. In fact, Memorial Day began back in the 1860's in Waterloo, NY near where I grew up. Back then, there weren't nearly as many veterans and war deaths to recognize and commemorate. Today, we annually acknowledge well over 1 million fallen soldiers since the American Revolution. Most recently, we remember the 2500 US and coalition soldiers who've died and 18,000 who've been injured 'freeing' Iraq. We also remember the 26 million veterans of past conficts living in our communities.

There is no greater sacrifice than to give one's life. I respect and ackmowledge this sacrifice made by so many American men and women during the brief history of our country. The part where I begin to have trouble is the 'for our country' or 'for our freedom' implication. I'm afraid that the national pride and glorification of war drummed up on Memorial Day serve only to blind us to many of the realities of our losses. To me, many of our military men and women were and are asked to give their time, effort and life for causes that are unjust, greedy, egomaniacal, fascist and evil. Our present occupation of Iraq is the best example of this.

As we remember our lost brothers and sisters today, we'll participate in parades, listen to speeches, wave flags, play taps, put stickers on our bumpers. We should also realize that there are more important, more meaningful, more tangible ways to pay our respects to our brothers and sisters in the military and to their surviving families. Let's make sure they receive benefits and access resources they need and deserve. Instead, our current administration reduces benefits and makes the difficult job of acquiring promised benefits even more impossible. President Bush believes the Veteran's Administration is akin to a 'welfare system' (which is apparently a bad thing) and reduces its efficacy at every opportunity. According to today's Boston Globe:

Bush, who sends soldiers to risk their lives every day in Iraq, strongly supports rescinding the lifetime healthcare benefits promised to WWII and Korean veterans. His proposed budgets, despite dollar amount increases, don't factor in inflation or the increasing numbers of veterans needing healthcare, and thus have repeatedly failed to fully fund benefits to the men and women who have served our country.

Consequently, VA hospitals and clinics have closed, many veterans' healthcare programs have been cut back or eliminated, entire groups of vets have been denied eligibility for service, and those that are eligible may wait months and even years for appointments and necessary surgeries at the remaining VA facilities.

But the president lectures us about the importance of supporting our troops.

The best way to truly honor our veterans and our fallen soldiers is to support them during and after their service and sacrifice. Instead of allowing our government to continually do less, let's require them to do more. Taps and flag waving are nice, but it doesn't pay the bills or ease the pain.

Have a safe, enjoyable and thoughtful Memorial Day.

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22 May 2006
Michigan-based angler-artist

Abstract Steelie by Derek DeYoungB and I, along with a couple of friends, strolled through the East Lansing Art Festival this weekend. We saw lots of remarkably cool paintings, prints, photographs, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, tapestries. We saw plenty of not-so-interesting stuff too. But I suppose that's to be expected from a small-scale midwestern art festival like this one. What is good art anyway? It's entirely an 'eye of the beholder' situation. If you like it, it's good.

The work displayed in several booths really caught my attention, but one booth made me stand and stare more than the others - for a reason you'll find easy to believe. This particular booth displayed Michigan trout and steelhead paintings, prints and sculptures by a local Grand Rapids artist and fly angler, Derek DeYoung. Derek is a very nice young man, and was willing to talk fishing with interested folks like myself. The image above is one of his paintings. I've stolen it to encourage readers to click through to his web gallery and look around. In several of his prints, I recognized exactly which fishing locale Derek was painting - he has included important landmarks on the Grand and Flat Rivers in several pieces. His use of unusual perspectives and watery reflections, and humor, made me stare and smile at his paintings. B and I liked his partially-submerged brookie prints enough to bring one home.

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21 May 2006
Like...rad ducklings, man.

Surfer ducklingsNo fishing to report on this weekend, but B came across this little photo essay about a small little unsupervised family of ducklings that a photographer caught catching some serious wave action at the Tulsa Wave, a man-made whitewater park on the Arkansas River in Tulsa, OK.

I'm not sure what type of ducks they are, dabblers of some sort. They were definitely very purposeful in their enjoyment of a sunny day on the water.

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14 May 2006
Turd Blossom indictment for perjury, lying and possibly obstruction

Rove up in flames[cue 'Jaws' "shark's coming" soundtrack...] is reporting that Karl Rove has been indicted on charges of perjury and lying to investigators in the Plame-Wilson CIA leak case.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than half a day Friday at the offices of Patton Boggs, the law firm representing Karl Rove.

During the course of that meeting, Fitzgerald served attorneys for former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove with an indictment charging the embattled White House official with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order, high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting said Saturday morning.

...It was still unknown Saturday whether Fitzgerald charged Rove with a more serious obstruction of justice charge. Sources close to the case said Friday that it appeared very likely that an obstruction charge against Rove would be included with charges of perjury and lying to investigators.

An announcement by Fitzgerald is expected to come this week, sources close to the case said. However, the day and time is unknown. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the special prosecutor was unavailable for comment. In the past, Samborn said he could not comment on the case.

The grand jury hearing evidence in the Plame Wilson case met Friday on other matters while Fitzgerald spent the entire day at Luskin's office. The meeting was a closely guarded secret and seems to have taken place without the knowledge of the media.

As TruthOut reported Friday evening, Rove told President Bush and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, as well as a few other high level administration officials, that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and will immediately resign his White House job when the special counsel publicly announces the charges against him, according to sources.

Perhaps the mainstream press is waiting for an actual weekday perp walk to begin reporting this. Technorati has set up a special page to monitor the blog fallout from this revelation.

Additionally, the heat has been turned up on Cheney as well with the release of his handwritten notes in the margins of Joe Wilson's 2003 NYT editorial.

ADDENDUM: Well, it's one week later and still no second shoe has dropped. I suppose this is too much wishful thinking right now...

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13 May 2006
Pere Marquette River fishing report [8 May 2006]

PM @ Green CottageB and I were both bone-tired from 2 long days of intense driftboat fishing on the Manistee River. We've fished with a guide probably 4 or 5 times now and it seems that we've fished ourselves into physical exhaustion each time. But I'm certainly not complaining. We had arranged to take Monday off from work to enjoy a leisurely return to civilian life - and it's a good thing we did.

Monday, we slept late, packed up our gear and cleared out of Schmidt's cabin by mid-morning. While we stood around in the parking area at the fly shop, we spotted our first Baltimore Oriole [Icterus galbula] of the season. That pretty voice and high contrast bright orange are impossible to miss - a good way to start off the day's adventure.

We'd decided to fish the Pere Marquette River at Green Cottage on our way back south. The weather was again bright, clear and sunny so we weren't expecting much in the way of fish action. We parked, rigged up our rods and hiked and waded well upstream to fish a section that we've come to know pretty well. There were still quite a few steelhead spawning, but we elected to leave them alone. We both planned to fish streamers back downstream along the edges and deeper water. I chose my 7-weight spey rod which is, perhaps, slight overkill for this stream, but I wanted my left hand to share some of the burden of casting to ease the responsibility of my sore right hand. This turned out to be a great decision.

I hiked upstream from B and we both started swinging streamers downstream. I started on a shady, deeper, wood-filled bend and I figured that, if I could stimulate some fish interest anywhere today, this might be the spot. I fished it pretty completely and interested no one however. I quickly fell into an effective rhythm with my spey rod and floating line and was landing my small white and yellow streamer within an inch or two of my target on cast after cast with only the occasional misfire. I don't think I've ever casted a spey rod this well before. Maybe it was the smaller river, or maybe my partially disabled hand required me to be a bit less intense about my casting. I could shoot my fly between or beneath overhanging branches and around midstream obstacles with confidence. When I did occasionally twirl my fly around a branch, I quickly untwirled it without problem. It was magical! I was having a great time even without catching fish.

B at the last holeI eventually leapfrogged downstream of B. She had caught a couple of small trout - on her ginger-colored woolly bugger I think. I had only enjoyed a little tug or two, nothing serious. I noticed a gentleman fishing downstream a ways from us and so slowed my pace so as not to rush him and hopefully continue without interrupting his plans. A few minutes later he decided to hike upstream of us, so we continued downstream to fish the long undulating riffle section. I continued to bang my streamer downstream, up close to the shady bank and submerged lumber, and then swung it out toward the middle with only slight stripping or twitching action. I can't put much action on the fly with a spey rod - it's a bit too long and cumbersome for that type of approach. I came to the dark run that I had watched the man below us fish. He reported catching a couple of little ones, so I didn't expect the rest of the fish population to still have an open mind about furred and feathered food substitutes - but I was certainly going to try these good-looking spots anyway. I methodically fished my way downstream, eyeing one particular darkish, fast spot with a small, barely submerged log over it. I exercised some restraint and didn't just zip down and fish it first. On about my third cast on that small log, I must've landed my little yellow streamer right in front of a hot little skipper steelhead. He immediately hit my streamer hard and launched himself 2 feet out of the water and out toward the middle of the stream. Woohoo! He appeared to be maybe a little 2- or 3-pound immature steelhead. I had him hooked pretty firmly as he shot out of the water twice more, flailing and splashing wildly and covering a lot of territory in a short amount of time. He calmed down for a second or two at the bottom of the swiftest portion of the flow so I took that 2-second opportunity to collect my thoughts and reel up some excess line. I kept the line tight, but nonetheless, this was my mistake. I think I should've probably continued to pressure him a bit more because he made one last strong underwater maneuver and my empty fly came springing back at me. Dang! B had been close enough to enjoy the whole thing too. He was a good fish.

Spey is the wayWe continued on downstream, fishing our streamers close to the bank and to in-stream structure. We caught a handful of little trout and wild steelhead smolts and watched a few big dark steelhead protecting their redds. We fished a few of the best runs more than once as we made our way back toward the parking area. I was still feeling like an accomplished, confident spey caster - very unusual for me. Snap-T upstream, D-loop, forward roll - again and again it landed exactly where I planned. Remarkable.

While B fished her last run of the day, I watched from the bank. We simultaneously heard an unusual 'chip-brrrr' bird voice just above and behind us. We turned and B spotted him first - a male Scarlet Tanager [Piranga olivacea]. Though they're not unusual Michigan birds, I hadn't seen one in many years. I was happy to end the day with a visit from one of the most beautiful birds in North America.

Fleece quotient: 0
Lost flies: just one
Wildlife sightings: an unidentified owl, Eastern Kingfishers, Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet Tanager
Air temperature: 65-70 oF max
Water temperature: 58 oF
Injury report: none
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Yea!
Enjoyment grade for the trip: A+

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11 May 2006
Manistee River fishing report [5-7 May 2006]

Land hoB and I enjoyed a well-deserved, up-north, 4-day fishing trip with about a dozen Flygirls this past weekend. We all stayed with Schmidt's Outfitters in Wellston using their lodging facilities as our group HQ and their guides for driftboat fishing on area rivers on Saturday and Sunday.

B and I got off to a late start tearing ourselves away from home and work on Friday morning. After checking ourselves in at Schmidt's in the late afternoon, we continued on to fish for a couple of hours before dark on the Manistee River below Hodenpyl dam. The Hodenpyl stretch has become one of my favorites. The big, wide water reminds me of western rivers - lots and lots of water and woods with hardly any houses. The rainbow trout in this section are also big and beautiful - descendents of the McCloud River strain of redband rainbow trout transplants many years ago. Hodenpyl is one of the places I look forward to fishing with my spey rod. I took my 7-weight spey out for some exercise on Friday night, but I hooked only one fish and didn't land it. B caught a small rainbow. By the time we got back to the cabins, we'd missed dinner. A couple of slices of pizza from the gas station would have to do.

B, Cliff and the last nice brownSaturday morning, we met our guide, Cliff. He's a fun, interesting and knowledgeable guy - he's currently building a log cabin of logs he felled and peeled this winter. We were happy to enjoy his company and expertise for 2 days. Over breakfast we confered and decided to fish below Tippy Dam for the day. B and I have never floated or waded much in this lower section of the river and fishing reports had been recently very favorable. We put in at Tippy and floated downstream to Sawdust by lunchtime, catching quite a few fish on the way. After lunch, we motored back up to the dam and floated the same stretch again. Even though it was a fairly sunny day, we caught lots of smallish rainbow and brown trout and a few 14-16" trout - all on small white and light colored streamers in the morning. Cliff had us jerk-stripping these streamers on floating lines - counter to our attraction to sinking tips. It took a bit of focus to mentally adapt to his technique. He assessed that trout were keyed in on newly hatched salmon fry, or alvins. In the afternoon, we caught a similar array of fish by twitching a sub-surface, rubber-legged bug called a 'Wet Michigan Skunk' (pictured below) also on floating lines. Neither B nor I had ever used this particular fly before and we were quite amazed at the effect it had on the trout. Every trout, large and small, within 12 feet of the fly would turn to check it out. The wet skunk is a very simple fly that doesn't appear to mimic any natural food source, but it definitely turns heads. My hands were already tired and sore from field work during the week; a long day of twitching a fly rod was taking its toll. I made sure to keep the Advil flowing. Between the two of us, we probably caught 40-50 trout - a very very good day. The big fish of the day - an 18-incher - was caught by Cliff while he demonstrated how he wanted us to twitch the fly immediately as it landed on the surface.

The river was quite a popular place on Saturday; drift boats and jet boats were numerous. One boat even held a film crew. However, many of the other anglers were fellow Flygirls and Cliff slowed down for a friendly chat with a few other guides. We were among a river of friends. And playful bank swallows. Dinner on Saturday night was a predictably large, entertaining Flygirl group affair. Without intense or overly purposeful organization, the group managed to pull together an impressive spread.

The magic Michigan SkunkOur Sunday morning again started out early with a good breakfast at the Wellston Inn. The cloudy, rainy weather promised good fishing. Cliff, B and I decided to float the river below Hodenpyl dam. We put in at the Woodpecker access and floated down to Red Bridge. A noisy Caspian tern entertained us while Cliff slid the boat down the stairs and got us loaded up for the day. We started with light streamers on sinking lines and caught a handful of small trout below the dam. Shortly, however, the clouds cleared away, the sun grew brighter and the fishing turned off completely. We occasionally hooked a couple of fish, but floated long fishless stretches between them. My right hand was really sore - I could barely make a fist or firmly grip my rod - and as a result my casting and fly twitching were not very effective.

In the absence of fish, we were joined by an osprey, an immature 'mud-head' bald eagle, a pileated woodpecker and a common tern. Bank swallows and spotted sandpipers were numerous all along the river. Cliff also decided to fill in the long spaces between fish with a little casting instruction. He tried hard to slow down my forward cast and help me to be more patient. I do think it helped. Some time after lunch, we got into a lengthy discussion about growing up female in a household that did not necessarily encourage girls to embrace fishing or other outdoor sports. Cliff's new baby daughter will grow up learning to fish, to shoot, to garden and to respect nature. She's a very lucky little girl. Just as B and I were expounding on the benefits and ramifications of Title IX and how girls now grow up with different experiences, we were passed by a young dad on a paddling and camping trip with his daughter. She looked to be about 6 years old. Another very lucky little girl. Cliff was unaware of Title IX and how it's impacted our female experiences. We were able to teach him a little something too.

B caught the 2 biggest, and 2 last fish of the day toward the end of our float. First, she brought a nice 14" rainbow to the boat. He had a large chestnut lamprey [Ichthyomyzon castaneus] clamped onto his gill plate. Cliff pinched off the lamprey and released the trout sans baggage. A bit later, B enticed a beautiful, 14-15" Gilchrist strain brown trout to chase her wet skunk at least 20 feet before he nabbed it. We got him to the boat and realized he had 2 chestnut lamprey latched onto his side. Cliff also removed these lamprey and swiftly dispatched them. These two particular trout benefited greatly from our catch-and-release fishing.

We stopped at the gas station for a box of epsom salts on the way back to Schmidt's. I needed to soak my hand if I was to get in another day of fishing. My hand was sore but my mental state was peaceful. The rest of the Flygirls had packed up and were headed home. B and I were glad we had one more day on the river to look forward to.

Fleece quotient: 0 to 1.5
Lost flies: not as many as we'd expect
Wildlife sightings: muskrats, a mink, a 'mudhead' bald eagle, osprey, pileated woodpecker, Common and Caspian Terns, Eastern Kingfishers, 1000s of bank swallows,
Schmidt's lodging accomodations: 5 out of 5 stars
Breakfast at the Wellston Inn: 5 out of 5 stars
Air temperature: 50-65 oF max
Water temperature: 54-56 oF
Injury report: abused hands
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Yea!
Enjoyment grade for the trip: A++

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Bluebirdlets update

Nestbox bluebirds 4/26/2006I cracked open the door and snuck one last peak at our nest of 5 bluebirds (out of 6 eggs) upon our return home on Monday night. They appear close to fledging so I'll not bother them for a picture - I don't want to shoo them out of their nest prematurely.

Another nest of 4 or 5 tree swallows hatched while we were gone. I can hear them inside. A third nestbox with house sparrow eggs has been abandoned and/or predated by somebody. I'll have to do a thorough inventory of the other boxes - I suspect there are a few more clutches of tree sparrow eggs.

On a related note, Nuthatch has compiled a list of things to consider when managing nestboxes. She's included a few links to additional resources too.

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08 May 2006
Return of the blogger

I'm back from a long weekend away. No phone, no internet, great time - plenty of birds and fish. In fact, we bagged a few birds from my 'Most Beautiful Birds list.' More on all of that later.

What'd I miss?

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04 May 2006
From the eye of the potato, #3

Agriculture News

  • Farm marketA collaboration by MSU Extension, the Michigan Coalition of Black Farmers and Branches of the Vine Food Buyers Cooperative is bringing fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to low-income Detroit neighborhoods.

    Members of a Detroit neighborhood are getting a chance to learn about production agriculture and livestock raising, thanks to a partnership effort between Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, the Michigan Coalition of Black Farmers and Branches of the Vine Food Buyers Cooperative.

    According to Mike Score, MSU Extension educator in Washtenaw County, the food cooperative is designed to provide people from low-income neighborhoods with fresh, locally grown produce. Score and Peacemakers International Ministries, a church working with the food cooperative, accept food orders from neighborhood residents. Food orders are filled by wholesalers at Detroit’s Eastern Market and local farmers.

    Score says the Michigan Coalition of Black Farmers recognized that this neighborhood needed a source of fresh fruits and vegetables and worked with Score to help identify a solution to the problem. “The Michigan Coalition of Black Farmers identified that this neighborhood needed a system for supplying its citizens with access to fresh produce,” Score says. “Though we originally thought about organizing a farmers’ market in the area, it was more efficient and economical to develop this process, which allows citizens to place food orders with us.”

    Though the food cooperative was not able to accept food stamps when it started, more than $400 of food was sold during the first month of operation. The club recently activated an electronic food stamp reader, which gives more people a chance to participate in the program.

    “It’s not likely that a grocery store will be built in this neighborhood,” Score says. “That’s one of the reasons we’re here helping -- these people need access to wholesome, fresh food.”

  • I'd heard of this program a year or so ago, before they'd figured out how to add the food stamp system. At that time, there were more disappointments than successes to hear about. The motivations for the project are found in the layout and logistics of low-income neighborhoods and food delivery systems - no grocery stores, no cars, often poor access to transportation to outlying groceries many miles away. Folks in these neighborhoods often shop for food at local gas stations and convenience stores within walking distance. Therefore their diets include little or no fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • The need to reduce our dependence on petroleum and develop alternate sources of energy has put renewable, plant-based biofuels in the headlines lately. Ethanol production from corn is one option that has grabbed the most attention, though many folks who have studied this process from all sides are generally not proponents. Big Ag companies like ADM and Cargill are pushing it pretty hard, but you'll be hard pressed to find neutral parties speaking highly of this process that costs nearly as much energy to produce as it generates.

    Switchgrass [Panicum virgatum], on the other hand has much more promise. Switchgrass can be used to produce ethanol just like corn, but, since it's a native perennial, it takes much much less energy to produce biomass. Unlike corn, annual tillage, cultivating and seeding are not necessary for switchgrass.

  • Top Polluting WatershedsHere's a story about another example of valuable agricultural research - at least in my view. A study conducted by a 'watchdog' organization called the Environmental Working Group found that a relatively small percentage of rural counties - many of them in Illinois - are contributing most of the fertilizer pollution that is creating a seasonal "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, where a summertime algae bloom suppresses most other aquatic life. Specifically, they found that 5% of the Mississippi River Basin contributes 40% of the runoff nitrate that shows up in the Gulf. And counties representing 15 percent of the Mississippi River watershed account for 80 percent of the total fertilizer pollution that washes into the river, according to EWG's report. And, many of these farmers are using these environmentally unfriendly farming systems because government subsidy payments make it more lucrative than less harmful systems.

    Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said the analysis makes a strong argument that more federal money should be shifted from farm subsidies to conservation programs in the areas that contribute the most fertilizer runoff into the river. He noted that thousands of farmers have been denied funding for conservation programs because there simply wasn't enough money to pay them.

    I agree that we need to shift away from the current subsidies system and instead encourage conservation programs. I wish there was more funding for this kind of essential research. Read the full story at the Chicago Trib.

  • Lastly, grow your very own grass armchair in your backyard. Consider its location and orientation seriously though, its a bugger to move. And to mow. [via Popular Science]

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02 May 2006
Heavenly garden loot

Early Spring Garden Loot

We enjoyed our first asparagus spears for dinner tonight. I missed a few stalks that froze a couple of nights ago. What a waste! I looooove asparagus and my garden now yields a nice bouquet for dinner every night if we want it. And we usually do.

For some reason, we never ate asparagus in my family. We didn't grow it and we didn't eat it. Looking back, we only grew and ate annuals. We must be some sort of anti-perennnial diet family. That was a shame because asparagus has turned out to be my absolute favorite vegetable. I'm disappointed every year when June 15th rolls around and I have to stop cutting it.

A few years back, I was lucky enough to spend time in northern Germany during asparagus harvest for a couple of consecutive years. During those visits, I ate asparagus several times per day and in more than one format per meal. Heaven. I reccommend a springtime visit to Germany for any asparagus groupie.

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