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  • October | 2013 | Slow Water Movement
    from the top of Mount Hunger looking west This places the oaks on the top and slope of a southwest facing ridge Red oak in Vermont tends to favor those sorts of areas because it s near the limit of its cold tolerance and also likes drier areas south and southwest facing slopes catch lots of sun and create microclimates that favor oaks Looking back at Mount Hunger from the west you can see the oaks just barely on the far right of the photo below You can also see how elevation affects foliage with the trees higher up having lost their leaves already The highest areas support spruce and fir which are of course evergreen and thus do not lose their needles These oaks happen to extend down to the trail up the mountain so we also saw some up close This tapestry of tree species and their corresponding colors is useful as well as beautiful Oaks are important to track for a variety of reasons They are important to many species of wildlife from bears to squirrels They tolerate harsh conditions and hold the soils They are indicators of various changes increases in temperature may increase their range but increases in precipitation happening at the same time may offset that Changes in land use may favor or discourage them and it seems all the tree species in Vermont are vulnerable to one sort of disease or another During both the summer and the winter the oaks blend in with the other hardwood tree species but during October and early November they jump out to be seen by anyone who is looking When we are really lucky someone takes aerial photos during the fall and we can map the distributions of oak in very fine detail View Larger Map In this air photo you can see the oaks as green blobs with pokey green conifers scattered about and colorful maples birches and perhaps hickory also visible Here s an iNaturalist map of where red oak has been reported It occurs in about half the state in the Champlain Valley and Connecticut River Valley and the major rivers that bisect the Green Mountains but is largely absent from the higher mountains and most of the northeastern part of the state If you d like to contribute to this map now is a great time to do so as the oaks are still very visible There are other oak species that can be found in Vermont too including white oak burr oak and swamp white oak but these are much more limited in range All of these seem to keep their leaves longer than other hardwoods so they should be increasingly visible in the warmer areas where they occur and where other trees drop their leaves later This entry was posted in Uncategorized on October 17 2013 by slowwatermovement Don t Forget to See the Beauty by slowwatermovement 1 Reply There s a lot of politics going on right now Believe

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/slowwatermovement/2013/10/ (2015-09-25)
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  • September | 2013 | Slow Water Movement
    about as different in natural setting from Vermont as you can get in a day s drive The cape is made of old glacial deposits dropped there at the peak of the last Ice Age and rearranged since by wind and water Despite fairly stormy conditions very sandy soils don t hold water and only dry loving species like pitch pine can survive As with all of New England Cape Cod s recent ecological story has been one of heavy impacts by humans followed by a significant amount of recovery Wet warm summers and abundant water from winter snowpack allowed the forests to regrow in areas heavily impacted by humans though of course these new forests are probably quite different from the ones that were here 500 years ago I came across a sign at an interpretive site that I found somewhat annoying The title was something like From Forest to Desert It described a landscape that European colonists stripped of lumber This allowed the glacial sands beneath to form into large shifting dunes While the area has since recovered to some extent it was at that time ruined A harsh tired battered landscape A wasteland Not a desert Cape Cod picks up on average 30 inches of precipitation a year This is drier than much of New England but some three times as wet as the wettest place that can be considered in a desert climate It s thirty times wetter than the driest part of the Mojave in Death Valley It s also often insufferably humid whereas the Mojave can easily reach the single digits of relative humidity Most importantly it was not at that time a functioning ecosystem It is no more a desert than a playground sandbox is Image from Wikipedia Creative Commons Licensed as Public Domain You see a desert is a unique place a harsh one and one many humans have difficulty surviving in But for those who look it is a place of wonder I feel pretty confident that the blowing wastes of post colonial Cape Cod did not resonate with the intoxicating odor of sagebrush or creosote bush after every rain Wanderers would not come across the astonishing tracks of a sidewinder rattlesnake No cryptogrammic crust of tiny lichens held the soil The crispness of a shadow on a summer day would be somewhat blurred An approaching thunderstorm would be shrouded in haze and mist like all New England thunderstorms rather than the bare skeletal elemental thunderstorms that eke out quick downpours and blasts of lightning over desert mountains The places under Cape Cod thunderstorms do not burst forth a week or two later with a sudden extravagance of life The power of modern humans to create a functioning ecosystem is questionable Destroying a place creates a wasteland Destroying a place does not make it a desert It s time to do away with silly terms like desertification These terms lead to a disregard that leads to destruction of some of our

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/slowwatermovement/2013/09/ (2015-09-25)
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  • August | 2013 | Slow Water Movement
    boreal conifer forest Freshwater mussels and salamanders thrive in the area s waterways And while the South is often portrayed as an area of homogeneous conservative politics and culture as always the truth is more complicated For sure I don t agree with much the mainstream politicians from the area have to say but as with any place when you get out and explore you will find many good people who love the rivers and mountains and the land I had a reminder of this when visiting family in the area when we discovered a river greenway in the tiny town of Marion North Carolina less than a mile from the hotel we were staying at This is the Joseph McDowell Historic Catawba Greenway a paved path along the Catawba River This flat paved path allowed my fiance s 90 year old grandfather to enjoy a stroll along the river while also giving me plenty to look at The path meanders through about a mile of floodplain forest with lawn areas benches and two platforms where anyone can fish including people in wheelchairs There is also a small loop that brings you to a round hill with historic graves on top View Larger Map There are plans to expand the trail in two years if we stay in the same Comfort Inn the trail will come nearly to our door The trail will also connect to a school I m not sure how long this trail has been around but it appeared to be new It was being enjoyed by many people both times we visited a elderly couple out for a walk children fishing biking and looking at turtles joggers people pushing strollers For a town with a population under 10 000 the greenway was getting a lot of use despite the fact it wasn t easy to find I happened to see it on Google Maps but my fiance had been to the hotel in the past without ever knowing the trail was there Later we passed through the Roanoke Virginia area and found another greenway the Roanoke River Greenway View Larger Map We had a bit more trouble finding access to this greenway and sections of it seemed in a bit of disrepair though this appeared to be at least in part due to recent floods Nevertheless there were many people enjoying the river in some sections via fishing dog walking jogging and strolling Other sections were mostly empty when we visited though I m sure they are used at other times There was also information on controlling stormwater runoff The river did look to have some water quality issues but considering the population of the area it was not in bad shape The area supported the expected mix of native invasive and naturalized vegetation and landscaping that one finds along an urban river with some areas of native revegetation as well These should help with the lack of riparian buffer in some areas over time These

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/slowwatermovement/2013/08/ (2015-09-25)
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  • July | 2013 | Slow Water Movement
    also had 2 forms of GPS two cell phones maps food water and knowledge that walking north would quickly get me to a road This particular ridgetop was bissected by moose trails wandering amidst the trees Unlike many if not most high peaks there was no trail to the peak no radio tower not even a peak register in an old weathered coffee can I was alone unless a moose was watching me through the trees This is what most people call wilderness or as close as you can get in the northeastern US It is a Good Thing People hike the Long Trail to get back in touch with nature or so they say Nothing wrong with that I certainly come to rely on my trips into the wilderness for my mental health But that being said it s not always possible to get off into an old forest For some people it isn t possible at all I spent most of my childhood fussing over how much I hated where I grew up which to be fair I still hate and how important my few trips to the mountains were It s probably the least wild place on the planet a gridded off suburb where every native plant and creek has been eradicated I wasn t in Torrance last week but I was stuck in the office and nature gave me a reminder that it s not necessary to be in the wilderness to find a sense of wonder When walking to my car in a parking structure I took the concrete stairs Often urine scented and never pleasant these staircases are as far from wilderness as one could imagine Yet for some reason I paused I looked around for a minute in the hot concrete corridors I realized all around me was fluttering The lights apparently stay on all night and moths fly in the window and get stuck As is usually the case in nature nothing is wasted Several fat spiders were hunting the moths even wandering from their webs to make lazy efforts to grab them There was no need to try too hard because the webs and the ground below them were full of moths Others sat on the beige walls motionless and easy to observe and photograph I found fifteen different insect and spider species in the stairway in just a few minutes Many of them were identified for me on iNaturalist Some were beautiful Some like this dobsonfly were a bit creepy Most were species I d never noticed before Because small things are poorly understood and studied it s not impossible that one of the little brown ones I didn t photograph was an undescribed species Even in the wastes there is life It doesn t mean we shouldn t fight for conservation of old forests but it does mean we need to find beauty and wonder where it is presented Even in the darkest places A while back I made

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/slowwatermovement/2013/07/ (2015-09-25)
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  • June | 2013 | Slow Water Movement
    part Vermont is ridiculously green during the entire growing season So unlike California lawns we are not irrigating with water appropriated from elsewhere We won t fertilize it why would we want it to grow faster lawn fertilizer also will make its way into the Winooski River and Lake Champlain degrading water quality We also found that we had a lawnmower left with the house It needed only minor repairs but by the time we got it running the lawn was quite overgrown and this lawnmower doesn t deal well with long grass It was a struggle to say the least and I ended up dragging it backwards some of the time because it seemed to work better All said and told by the time everything I wanted to mow was mowed I d gone through nearly a gallon of gas I could driven my relatively inefficient truck 20 miles with that amount of gas Not to mention the lawnmower has no emission control system And I love yardwork but I d rather be growing plants than mutilating them Because the lawn had gotten so long mowing it resulted in extensive drifts of cut grass Above is after the second mowing I hope it kills some of the lawn underneath It s been interesting watching the weeds and wildflowers respond to different mowing regimes Areas that are mowed often when not buried in clippings tend to have grass clover ground ivy and dandelions An area that was apparently mowed regularly last year but was not mowed this year instead has waving grass seed heads and two surprisingly beautiful types of hawkweed A few fleabanes look similar to New England Aster have also popped up Our larger field which was probably cut a couple times of year in the recent past but was a lawn further back is full of bedstraw The below area was apparently mowed less recently due to there being a fallen tree and some blackberry bushes nearby Here there is milkweed and goldenrod So our tentative plans Native wildflowers under the shade of our hardwoods a large swale and rain garden on the downhill side of the house with water directed to it away from the basement and tons of garden space Our garden this year is tiny due to a late start and lack of rototiller Breaking sod by hand is HARD work Also the plants have barely grown due to the cool wet conditions As for the large field I d most like to have a mature forest of sugar maple but since that will not happen in our lifetime and totally abandoning the field would probably result in an invasive buckthorn thicket the plan is to grow a few dogwoods and manage the rest for pollinators As most people have heard bee species are struggling and butterflies and pollinating flies also need help Brush hogging the field after the growing season when birds are no longer nesting and insects are going dormant will also allow the field to transition from mostly grass to more pollinator valuable species such as milkweed already present in small numbers and goldenrod Planting or allowing a few dogwoods to grow will provide more flowers as well as perches and potential nesting habitat for birds We already appear to have red winged blackbirds nesting in the area not a rare species by any means but they certainly reward us with their beautiful songs and apparent bird cussing when i walk into their territory Leaving ground unplowed will allow bumblebees to nest in the area another reason not to mow during the summer we want these bees around but don t want them pissed off and stinging me We ll also be planting fruit trees and maintaining the blackberry patch and a few blueberries uncertain how they will do in this soil Hopefully the pollinators visit those as well At first I wasn t excited about the field but it now seems full of opportunity and work The biggest challenge is that we don t yet have a brush hog It s amazing how many things you don t realize you need until you buy a house and land This entry was posted in Uncategorized on June 13 2013 by slowwatermovement Red Sky in the Midafternoon by slowwatermovement 1 Reply There is a saying Red sky at morning sailor take warning red sky at night sailor s delight This very old weather saying derives from red skies near the beginning or end of day that tend to form when a storm is opposite the sun In areas outside the tropics storms tend to move from west to east Red sky in the morning means there is a storm to the west and probably approaching while red sky at night indicates the sun breaking through clouds as a storm presumably moves away The same is true on a smaller scale for rainbows which form opposite the sun Last Sunday I saw red skies of sorts in the midafternoon We were really nailed by a severe thunderstorm on that day which did indeed come from the south west Vermont doesn t usually get the rotating monster thunderstorms that wreak havoc across the Great Plains but during the summer season we are prone to occasional severe thunderstorms arranged in squall lines which sometimes form into a bow like shape and bring heavy wind These storms approach with a dramatic low shelf cloud that only appears when the storm is very close and rushes across the horizon at surprising speed Behind the roiling clouds of the squall line the cloud often appears smooth and less dark because you can t actually see the clouds and instead this is wind blown rain and often hail When you see one coming you get to a safe place as fast as you can these storms often knock down trees Note the low dark cloud with smooth light cloud behind it When this latest severe storm came it brought

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/slowwatermovement/2013/06/ (2015-09-25)
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  • May | 2013 | Slow Water Movement
    forgiveness To our children to other organisms on Earth maybe even to organisms elsewhere I ve recently start reading the science fiction book 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson In this book people hollow out the insides of asteroids add light and nutrients and build ecosystems It could be that some day we are able to do such a thing if we make it that far But if we have ruined and mixed up all of our ecosystems by then what hope do we have More likely we will struggle to even survive the next century and will desperately need to recreate what has been lost What then It s not enough that people fought to save some species and habitats We need to know what was lost To bear witness For much of my life I have worked in natural community mapping It is an act I love defining and mapping the patterns of the natural world This will surely be a part of our future understanding But all too often our knowledge is restrained We don t get enough time in the field or are there the wrong time of year We don t have good enough air photos Natural community maps were initially mapped on paper and no one ever had time to use surveying tools Later GPS was used but with crude accuracy Only very recently with very high resolution aerial photos has exact mapping if anything is exact in ecology even been possible Then I found iNaturalist Instead of a half hour of field time plus a half hour of data entry each observation takes only a minute Others can independently verify observations My friends can help Sixth grade classes can help Other botanists much more skilled than I am ARE helping True you can t directly map natural communities yet but you can map any species The database is incredible better than any other I have used The community is even better What to see where white pine grows in Vermont Have at it Of course areas with no dots don t mean it isn t there but you can already see a pattern it thrives in the Champlain Valley and is rare at higher elevations Pull up the map of a place and see what people have found Some day we will pull up a picture of a wal mart on Google and see under it little images of trout lily and spring beauty It won t bring the forest back and it won t bring back the way it smells after a rain the patterns the snow makes when the sun shines through the trees in spring the buzz of increasingly rare native bees But damnit someone WILL know that twhat is now a wal mart was once a bobbing field of spring wildflowers Someone will care There will now always be a record of these trilliums blooming no matter what happens to the plants We are building a monument to the world

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/slowwatermovement/2013/05/ (2015-09-25)
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  • April | 2013 | Slow Water Movement
    building trenches on hillsides to supposedly help water soak into the ground but the practice has not been evaluated objectively and cutting into and disturbing the soil may actually do more harm than good Still people feel the need to do something so they keep doing it Sounds all too much like the rush to dig gravel out of Vermont rivers to respond to Tropical Storm Irene It sounded like a good idea a simple solution to a very complicated problem but actual evidence shows that it does more harm than good But maybe this isn t the case for the trenches in Mexico The important point is that one should figure out if a solution does more good than harm before we implement it on a vast and expensive scale The people giving the talk seemed well equipped to do so and I was encouraged to hear that the Water Forests have such well spoken advocates even though they face many threats as well One of the unexpected pleasant surprises at the conference was the extensive dialog about the use of citizen science and technology in conservation and in particular my favorite technology based nature website www inaturalist org Above Squirrel Corn observation uploaded to iNaturalist iNaturalist is billed as a way for any person to document and crowdsource ID for things they find in nature It fulfils this role but in a time of shrinking resources and increasing adoption of technology it turns out some of the biggest adopters of the site have been scientists activists and others who need a quick and efficient way to track what species they find In particular some of the people from Latin America with very limited resources and the inability to afford ArcMap or other expensive database software have the potential to collect and process massive amounts of data about their natural environment Reducing costs helps conservation compete with the short term economic motivations that cause so much long term damage Case in point as part of the Vermont Atlas of Life project I have been able to document over 2800 occurrences of 545 species in Vermont and this is nearly entirely on my own time because my workplace hasn t adopted the software If I were able to use it at work as well I d easily have a few thousand more sightings True I am obsessive and not everyone would be so prolific but I m not the only one using the site in Vermont there are already almost 8500 observations in the project Some of the data may never be used but plenty of it will and some in ways we don t yet even realize View charlie s observations My time in Baltimore was short and I didn t get much chance to explore the city in the daytime However one evening we went for a walk by the harbor and found these little floating wetlands Having just attended the talk about Mexico s water forest these

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/slowwatermovement/2013/04/ (2015-09-25)
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  • March | 2013 | Slow Water Movement
    t recall ever hearing before It takes about 40 parts sap to make one part syrup so the symphony we heard was probably only sufficient to produce one delicious drop of syrup Still with hundreds of trees and quickly lengthening days quite a bit of sap was due to be produced from this wide row of trees between farm fields Larger operations eschew the buckets for a system of vacuum fed tubes Miniature watersheds of converging tubes lead downhill to a vat making the task of collecting all that sap that much easier Maple syrup is a rare example of a forest permaculture crop being used by the general public It is remarkably sustainable Unless overtapped the maples are unharmed by the process which only takes place for a few weeks Perhaps the loss of sap would put the trees at a disadvantage if competing with beech and birch trees for resources but most sugarbushes are managed to maintain fairly widely spaced maple trees with few other trees present The trees that are removed as well as any maple tree that succumbs to disease or old age can be burned to boil the sap When the sugaring season is over aside from road and tree maintenance the sugarbushes are left alone so if the landowner does not post no trespassing signs the land is also available for hiking skiing deer hunting and other activities Compare this to a field of genetically engineered corn clones producing high fructose corn syrup Maple can t provide ALL the sugar needs for the country too bad and moving into intact old forests and turning them into sugarbushes would cause harmful ecological effects but Vermont is full of young forests regrowing on old farm fields and being choked by invasive species Many of these could be converted to maple syrup production without much loss of habitat or other ecosystem values I m not sure what this sign was cautioning against I think the potential for sugarbush use goes beyond delicious syrup Many other wild edibles such as wild leeks edible mushrooms and in some cases fiddleheads thrive under sugar maple trees I haven t seen these encouraged in sugarbushes but there s no reason they couldn t be as they aren t going to compete significantly with the maples for light or water A well managed sugarbush has the potential to produce syrup in the early spring edible spring ephemerals in the late spring berries in the summer and venison in the fall all while retaining full tree cover If by some chance you haven t tried real maple syrup do yourself a favor and try some Get the real stuff it is worth the money Anything that contains corn syrup or even honey is not the same And I don t want to give away any local secrets but just so you know the grades of maple syrup only refer to the color of the syrup not the quality It s worth giving the

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/slowwatermovement/2013/03/ (2015-09-25)
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