Archive for 2012
Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
Dear Earth Connection readers–
Many of you know that my husband Andy Schmookler is the Democratic nominee for Congress where we live, in Virginia’s sixth Congressional district.
As the campaign has become increasingly time-consuming, it has gotten more and more difficult for me to post regularly on THE EARTH CONNECTION.¬† In fact, I have not found the time to post anything at all in the last several weeks.¬† And so I have decided to ‘suspend’ the site, at least until after Election Day, November 6.
I am sad, in a way, to have to give THE EARTH CONNECTION a rest.¬† Since I launched the site on Earth Day 2008, it has been truly a labor of love.¬† Planning regular postings has meant I ‘had’ to spend more time in the woods observing, more time reading about the natural world, more time researching actions that have benefited our planet, and more time investigating steps we all can take to help protect the Earth.¬† Knowing that hundreds of people are visiting THE EARTH CONNECTION every day has spurred me to dig deeper, to work to better express my feelings of love, wonder, and anguish about our magnificent planet.
Part of what has made THE EARTH CONNECTION so rewarding for me has been hearing from you, the people who read my site.¬† I have been inspired, warmed, and educated by many thoughtful comments from readers over the years.¬† Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my site and for posting comments.
And while I am sad in a way to have to set THE EARTH CONNECTION aside, working on Andy’s campaign is simply another way to work for a healthier planet than offering postings on the Web.¬† Andy has been outspoken on the urgent need to address climate change, and his campaign is focusing on the more fundamental problem that what’s going on in our political system these days has made it impossible for us as a nation to act responsibly and constructively to address climate change and the other pressing issues we face.
Here is a link to a video of a five-minute speech Andy gave that has gone viral. ¬†It well describes the nature of our crisis.
Thank you all so much!¬† And stay tuned for future developments. . . . . . .
For Our Earth–
Saturday, August 11th, 2012
THE OWL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
As is often the case, I was wide awake the other night, when I would rather have been sleeping.
But the anxieties that usually visit me at¬†such times were suddenly stilled.¬† The low, nighttime¬†din of insects had been pierced by a sweet¬†whistling.¬† Beginning on a high note, the whistling¬†continued, each note lower than the last.¬† After¬†seven or eight¬†notes,¬†the whistling stopped.¬† Then, a few moments later, it resumed in the same way, starting¬†high¬†and ending¬†low.¬† After¬†several trips down the scale, each sequence followed by a pause, the pattern changed.¬† Now the whistling was one low, sustained note,¬†filled with¬†vibrato!¬† It sounded absolutely quivery.
The owl doing the whistling must have been very near, closer than I can remember ever hearing¬†an owl¬†in the 14 years we have lived on this ridge in the Shenandoah Valley.¬† I lay in bed, listening intently, thrilled to listen to an owl’s nighttime calls.¬† Insomnia had paid off!
After what must have been more than a minute,¬†the owl stopped its whistling.¬† And the night was the same again, silent, except for¬†the ongoing summer¬†sounds¬†of the¬†insects.
But I was different.¬† My anxiety had been replaced by deep joy.¬†¬†Happy, I drifted into a pleasant sleep.
P.A.¬† I think the owl I heard was a barred owl.–April Moore
Monday, August 6th, 2012
My cousin recently showed me how I can clean my glass stove top with baking soda instead of specialized stove top cleaner. Since then, I have been thinking that there are probably many household uses for the humble sodium bicarbonate. A simple compound, baking soda is likely much more benign than many household cleaners that come with warnings to avoid contact with skin or eyes.
I went online, and sure enough, I found dozens of around-the-house uses for baking soda. Here are a few of my favorites, taken from the website, TIPNUT.
**Whatever type of stove top you have, if it’s crusty and gross, baking soda can save the day. Generously sprinkle the stove top with baking soda. Then spray with hot water, enough to dissolve the baking soda without making it run all over. Let the mixture sit for about 30 minutes. Then you should be able to scrub the stove top clean without difficulty.
**Remove coffee mug stains. Just wipe the cup’s inside with a wet cloth. Then rub with baking soda. If stains are stubborn, pour in hot water mixed with baking soda, and let sit overnight.
**If the usual cleansers you’ve tried don’t do the job on bathtub stains, make a miracle paste of baking soda and bleach. Apply the paste to a wet sponge and wipe down the tub.
**If you’ve been using toxic Soft Scrub on your stainless steel sink, you can stop. The sink will get just as clean by sprinkling it with baking soda and then rubbing the sink with a damp sponge.
**You can even freshen stale-smelling luggage with baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda inside the suitcase, close it, and then reopen after a day or two. Odors will be gone, and you can just vacuum up the baking soda.
**Make your own air freshener spray by mixing 2 cups of hot water with 1/8 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Shake to dissolve, and simply spray in your home as needed.
**You can remove rust from cast iron cookware by using baking soda as a scouring powder.
**Water stains on wood can be removed by making a paste with a few drops of water and baking soda. Rub the paste into the stain, and then wipe off.
**When the sink drain is clogged, solve the problem with baking soda. First, remove as much water as you can from the stopped-up sink. Toss 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, and follow it with 1 cup of white vinegar. Plug the drain with a sink stopper and let it sit for a half-hour. Then, unplug the sink and pour a kettle of hot water down the drain.
**When the dog smells less than sweet, you can make a doggy deodorizer with baking soda. Mix 1/2 cup with 2 cups of water. Soak a bandana in the solution, and then let the bandana dry in the sun. Tie the bandana around the dog’s neck to help keep odors at bay.–April Moore
Friday, July 27th, 2012
one of the tomato plants on our deck
As I am enjoying the bright red, delicious tomatoes we’re growing on our deck, I think of Pablo Neruda’s wonderful Ode to the Tomato. Enjoy.–April Moore
ODE TO THE TOMATO
filled with tomatoes,
through the streets.
it enters at lunchtime,
its own light,
Unfortunately, we must
into living flesh,
populates the salads
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
of the roast
at the door,
the table, at the midpoint
star of earth, recurrent
its remarkable amplitude
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
of fiery color
and cool completeness.
Monday, July 23rd, 2012
As I sit here in our bedroom, with the laptop on–the usual place–my lap, I am completely distracted by an avian drama unfolding just a few yards away, outside the sliding glass door that opens onto the balcony.
The hummingbird feeder hanging next to the doorway is the place, hummingbirds agree!¬† Five or six of the little guys¬† are darting about, up and down, all around, perching on nearby branches between feedings.¬† Somehow, these little guys caught on, within minutes of my filling the feeder, that this is the spot for tasty nectar.
How can I not set aside what I’d intended to write, with so much buzzing going on? The dainty look and diminutive size of these little creatures is belied by the loud, bee-like buzzing¬† their wings make when the birds are in motion.¬† In fact, they sound like warlike little commandos as they dart about.
The buzzing sharpens with hostility as one of the tiny warriors chases another hummingbird away from the feeder.¬† Clearly, ‘share and share alike’ is not the hummingbird’s mantra.¬† Instead, these tiny birds seem to embody an ethic of ‘look out for number one.’¬† Even though the feeder is equipped with 10 feeding holes, a hummer who has the feeder to itself for a time will almost always chase off an approaching fellow hummer than tolerate its presence at one of the other nine holes!¬† Only occasionally do I see two birds drinking from the feeder at the same time.¬† And it’s usually not long before one of them decides to chase the other off.
In fact, hummingbirds spend so much time running off their fellows, darting this way and that, and hovering above, below, and beside the feeder, I’m surprised they don’t use up more energy in all that movement than they take in at the feeder!
In the last few minutes, as I’ve been writing, it has begun to rain, and there was just a loud clap of thunder.¬† Suddenly, the buzzing has stopped, and I see no hummingbirds.¬† Where did they go, I wonder.¬† Did they find their way to their usual nighttime retreat?¬† Or are they huddled, unseen, on some branch nearby or under some leaves?
In any event, I must remember to refill the feeder so that tomorrow I can enjoy the same distraction from my work!–April Moore
Friday, July 13th, 2012
One of the planet’s most important nesting sites for the endangered leatherback sea turtle has just been protected!
Puerto Rico’s Governor Luis Fortuno recently signed into law a measure that will protect almost 2,000 acres of the island’s coast from large-scale development.¬† The protected area, part of an area known as the Northeast Ecological Corridor, has been designated a nature reserve.
The Northeast Ecological Corridor includes such diverse landscapes as a bioluminescent lagoon, mangrove swamps, coral reefs, and dense tropical rainforest.¬† Besides the leatherback sea turtles, many other threatened or endangered species also make their homes in the corridor.¬† The West Indian manatee, the hawksbill sea turtle, and the snowy plover are just a few.
This new protection has been a long time coming.¬† In 2009, Governor Fortuno overturned his predecessor’s decision to protect the Northeast Ecological Corridor.¬† Fortuno wanted, instead, to open the land to large developers and their plans for mega-resorts and golf courses in the now-protected area.
But the Sierra Club, other environmental organizations, and Puerto Rican citizens said no.¬† Activists circulated petitions calling on Fortuno to protect the Northeast Ecological Corridor from development.¬† And both houses of Puerto Rico’s legislature voted unanimously to protect the leatherback sea turtle’s nesting grounds.¬† Ultimately, Fortuno had little choice but to go along with the people.
There has been even more good news for leatherback sea turtles in 2012.¬† In January, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration designated 42,000 square miles of ocean along the U.S. west coast as critical habitat for the Pacific leatherback sea turtle.
These protective designations are so needed!¬† The worldwide population of these giant reptiles has declined 95% since the 1980s, thanks to the destruction of natural habitat, changing ocean conditions, commercial fishing, and the theft of eggs.
A few facts about the leatherback sea turtle:
- It is the largest reptile in the world, and an individual can weigh as much as 1,200 pounds.
- The leatherback’s lifespan is not known, but scientists believe it lives at least 40 years and maybe as long as 100 years.
- Scientists believe the leatherback reaches sexual maturity at about 16 years.
- In the U.S., the leatherback nests on the beach from March to July.¬† A single female may produce several clutches of eggs in a season.
- Once hatched, baby leatherbacks make their way to the ocean.–April Moore
Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012
I find that this, our nation’s Independence Day, is a fine time to remind ourselves of how dependent we actually are, in the big picture.–April Moore
Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
Greetings, Earth Connection visitors.
I have spent many frustrating hours attempting to post my friend Ira Shorr’s lovely Driftwood Diary, his series of photos and commentary from a British Columbia beach.¬† But alas.¬† I lack the computer smarts to figure out how to post Driftwood Diary in a manner that will allow the reader to enjoy the photos and commentary simply by scrolling down the page.
After much gnashing of teeth, the best I could do¬† was to post links to each short segment of Ira’s work.¬† I hope you will click on each link, starting with the first one, and enjoy Ira’s creative presentation.¬† It will take a little while, but I think it will be worth it.
And let me put out a call.¬† If anyone reading these words has experience using Word Press and can advise me as to how I can post text and photos from a Word document, without having to resort to links, I would be grateful if you would contact me.–April Moore
Friday, June 22nd, 2012
One of the many wonderful things about a family reunion at the beach last week was watching ghost crabs on the sand.
These pale, sand-colored crustaceans, common along the U.S. east coast, blend in perfectly with their beach home.¬† They even appear translucent, which may explain their spooky-sounding name.
It was a delight to walk along the beach and spot these little fellows, scuttling sideways, this way and that, along the sand.¬† Often I would watch a crab perched motionless at the edge of the opening to its burrow.¬† And before I could make a move for my camera, the crab had disappeared down the hole, out of sight.
Sometimes I noticed sand flying out from a burrow entrance.¬† Below, an unseen ghost crab was industriously making improvements to the shaft or chamber that made up its home.¬† Now, some burrows sported a neat little pyramid of sand beside the entrance, while other burrow entrances were surrounded by messy-looking little collections of sand.
Well, I had to learn more about these ghost crabs, so I did a little research.
Apparently, the orderly pyramids of sand denote a reproductively mature male’s burrow.¬† The carelessly tossed sand indicates the home of a female or a young individual.¬† Scientists speculate that females use the neat pyramids to find potential mates.
The burrow is an important part of a ghost crab’s life.¬† In summer the burrow is a cool retreat from the hot sun, and during the winter it serves as shelter from the cold.¬† In fact, a ghost crab may hibernate in its burrow for up to six weeks during the coldest part of the winter.
The ocean is also important to the ghost crab.¬† The crab makes nocturnal trips down to the water line to wet its gills, which must be kept moist for breathing.¬† And the female ghost crab releases her eggs into the ocean, where they develop into marine larvae.
A true sea creature, the ghost crab won’t drown if submerged.¬† It is protected by its air-tight exoskeleton, which also prevents water loss from internal tissues.
While ghost crabs are sea creatures, they spend much more of their time on the shore, where they scavenge for food.¬† And they are not picky eaters.¬† They’ll eat just about any plant or animal material that washes up onto the shore.¬† Mature ghost crabs do most of their scavenging at night, while the younger ones can be seen scurrying along the sand’s surface during the day as well.
And do these crabs scurry!¬† The fastest crustacean on the planet, the ghost crab can reach a speed of 10 mph!¬† Of its 10 legs, two (the largest) are used for feeding and digging a burrow.¬† The other eight legs–slender and pointed at the end–are for movement.¬† For a walking pace, the crab uses all four pairs of legs.¬† To speed up, the crab lifts one pair of legs off the ground.¬† And to speed up even more, the crab shifts into ‘high’ gear by pulling up all but two legs. ¬† Then it runs across the sand!
Ghost crabs live as long as three years.¬† And like other arthropods, they molt.¬† Inside the hard, external skeleton, the crab’s body grows, encased in a new, soft skeleton within the rigid outer skeleton.¬† After awhile, the tight, outer skeleton cracks, and the crab squeezes out.¬† While the new skeleton is still soft, the crab enlarges it to gain some growing room¬† (like buying shoes a size too large in order to grow into them).¬† Once the new skeleton has hardened, the crab resumes foraging on the beach.
At maturity, a ghost crab is about two inches wide.–April Moore
Sunday, June 17th, 2012
Below is a lovely, poetic tribute to summer by Denise Levertov.¬† For me it captures the glory of summer.–April Moore
by Denise Levertov
The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.
The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.
A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily
moves his delicate feet
and long tail.¬† I hold
my hand open for him to go.
Each minute the last minute.