Thursday, April 21, 2011


…Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us naught but grief an’ pain
For promis’d joy!
Robbie Burns, “To a Mouse”

            Well, triple piffle. Ms. Cockeyed Time Optimist with Knobs On has been proved wrong again. It happens so often, you’d think I’d be inured to it; but my gift for misreading situations never fails to come as a surprise.

Rosa 'Zephrine Drouhin,'
an heirloom Bourbon rose

            We finished our most recent paying job Wednesday afternoon, not Tuesday morning. That’s because neither Tim nor I know how to keep our mouths shut. We left the site at lunchtime on Tuesday to meet a lady and her husband who just wanted to discuss us undertaking to lay out drip irrigation in their garden—how long could that take? Huh. She’s a capital-G Gardener, like me. He’s ex-Navy, like Tim. Ever witness two ex-sailors, regardless of former rank, hook up? The sea-stories go on and on. And two capital-G Gardeners have volumes of information and experiences to share. So it was almost three o’clock before T and I got back. That’s too late in the day to start a mulching project, right?

            The mulch got spread on Wednesday, by which time T says he’s not feeling so great. He’s the kind of guy who, if he admits to operating at less than full capacity, you’d better listen to him. So today was visit-the-doc-in-Wilmington day. And because we’re in the Big City, we stop at Barnes and Noble, Target, Walgreens, the Hallmark store, Harris Teeter and our favorite Italian restaurant. By the time we get home, Jeopardy!’s only 45 minutes away, and there’s another day shot.

Nectaroscordum siculum
ssp. bulgaricum
Bulgarian lily
            Needless to say, haven’t made an iota of progress in the garden. Oh, except for hooking up the hose to the hose-bib out front so I can hand-water the south side of the house. (It’s a more efficient use of water—if not time—than running that irrigation zone’s sprays.) We hope to stockpile supplies tomorrow and get a few projects done this weekend

            Fortunately, the plants progress on their own. New sprouts from old friends pop up; sprouts elongate and bloom. Surprises await every morning when I toddle out in my jammies to pick up the paper. (It’s okay, really. The neighbors are used to the unsettling sight. Most just avert their eyes.) Wednesday, I spent a half-hour taking pictures of the new stuff, paper inconveniently tucked under my arm and our outdoor cat, Grey-Boy, insinuating himself around my ankles, wondering when breakfast would be served. Those are the pictures scattered through this post.


Verbascum hybrid
(but I don't remember which one)

            Earth Day celebrates its 41st anniversary tomorrow. I was in tenth grade when Sen. Gaylord Nelson, a Wisconsin Democrat, launched the modern environmental awareness movement. Thirty months later, I signed up for a college course called Environmental Science, a new addition to UVa’s curriculum just the year before. (It was already famous as a gut science credit for us Liberal Arts types, along with the History of Math. I took both, and have rued my lack of hard scientific knowledge ever since.)

Sytrax obassia blooms
Large-leaf snowbell,
cousin to Japanese snowbell

            Be that as it may. The idea behind Earth Day was to encourage people to stage peaceful demonstrations in support of healthy, sustainable lifestyles for everyone on the planet, and to raise awareness of the notions of clean water, clean air, clean energy and recycling. Over time, Earth Day activities expanded to include protests against environmental deterioration caused by overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides; industrial pollution and toxic waste dumps; loss of wilderness and wildlife habitat; over-dependence on fossil fuels; the dangers of nuclear power plants (can you say “Fukushima Dai-ichi”?); climate change; and oil spills. (BP’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is high-profile this year: how heartwarming to learn recently that BP execs received bonuses for their excellent safety record despite those paltry eleven deaths, and our government has certified that all the spilled oil is out of the Gulf of Mexico… except for those millions of gallons on the bottom that will affect life in and around the Gulf for millennia.)

Amsonia tabernaemontana
Mountain blue star

            Earth Day’s April 22 date was chosen partly because of its proximity to Arbor Day, May 1, hence the tree-planting connection. It's one of the largest secular globally recognized “holidays” (for lack of a better term): last year 175 nations participated in some sort of observance.

            Before we get too cocky and self-congratulatory about how enlightened we all are and how far we’ve come, let me share some sobering statistics from the University of North Dakota’s Symposium on Sustainability. If we don’t change our behaviors, this is what will happen today and every day after:

·         97 billion emails will be sent, 40% of which will be spam.
·         4000 books will be published. (Why one of them isn’t mine is one of the sorrowful mysteries.)
·         $3 billion dollars will be dedicated to military expenditures.
Dichelostemma ida-maia
California firecracker

·         The Earth’s population will grow by 211,000 people. That’s like a new Akron, Ohio, springing up EVERY DAY.
·         An area the size of Boise, Idaho, will become desert.
·         200 million tons of cropland topsoil will be lost to erosion.
·         50,000 acres of forest will disappear.
·         Between 20 and 500 species will go extinct.
·         3 billion gallons of oil will be consumed.
·         800 million people will go to bed hungry.
·         18,000 children will die of malnutrition and related diseases.

Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Princess Diana'
Apple serviceberry

The cheerful folks at UND didn’t even mention fresh-water-table degradation and depletion, the trashing and pollution of the oceans, the burgeoning Frankenfood industry or the problems of storing spent nuclear fuel. (Fun facts from Bill Nye, the Science Guy: the half-life of plutonium is 240,000 years. That’s the half-life. For disposal purposes, our ostrich-like government requires dumpsites have to be rated “safe” for 10,000 years. The oldest surviving man-made structures, the pyramids, are less than 5000 years old. Are we insane? Or merely stupid?)

Horrendously out-of-control
eleagnus hedge

The gist is, many of our behaviors and life-style choices today are simply unsustainable for the long run. So while you’re out scheming to have fun planting trees, building birdhouses and attending street fairs tomorrow, maybe you can take just a moment to think seriously about what you’re gonna do when—not “if,” when—the Great Power Failure comes.

On that sober note, I’m outta here. I want to go outside and breathe some clean, earth-scented air while I still can. (Gee, I make the guys at UND look like an SNL sketch, don’t I?)

Have a happy, sustainable Earth Day. And thanks for dropping by.