Monday, August 29, 2005

To see the wind

When you turn off the highway by the Co-op, if you look to the right, this is what you will see.

(Well, my bike might not be leaned against the picnic table.)
And if you walk over for a closer look:
The sign commemorates the filming of "Who Has Seen the Wind" in Arcola in 1976. Helping to establish the little patch of prairie surrounding it has been one of my main hobbies for the last few summers. Yet today was the first time I tried to photograph it.

As I tried different angles and distances, I wondered why it was so difficult to capture the appeal of these native grasses and wildflowers. Finally I realized that it was beyond difficult. When you stand outside and watch the living scene, you see something that cannot be captured: you see the wind.

Nora Stewart (my mom) donated the wildflower seedlings. She and Don (my dad) put in a lot of work on the planting and early tending, with help from the Arcola Girl Guides. By the second summer, though, enthusiasm was waning and there was a lot of weeding to do. I could tell the wildflowers from the weeds, so I joined the campaign against the kochia. Often I worked alone, but I could tell that Mom and Dad were still at it, by the way the weed patches shrank between my visits. Garth, Ruth, and James sometimes joined me, and a couple of times we had help from Edgar and Anita Thornton and Russell McMillan. My lone hours of weeding seemed insignificant when I saw the progress we made with a big crew.

In hindsight, Mom says she should have asked that the site be prepared without topsoil. We know, from experience with a small project to revegetate a road cut, that these tough native plants will grow on bare clay. Topsoil is a nice bonus for them, except that in this case, it meant a huge seedbank of kochia. There were times when it seemed to carpet the entire plot. We kept at it though, and by the third summer (last year), the wildflowers were well established. Then Mom and Dad broadcast seed of several native grasses over the plot. Conditions were excellent, and the grass came up thick. Now the kochia had some real competition.

As you can see, our little prairie now gives excellent ground cover, and annual weeds have been a much smaller problem this year. The challenge now is to keep out the quack grass that is spreading up from the surrounding ground. The town purchased railway ties for a grass barrier, and their grader operator Alan Noble did a very neat job of cutting a notch for the ties to sit in. Garth's friend Dan from B&D Meats gave a hand putting the ties in place. Garth and I have been digging away at the quack grass that was already inside the barrier, knowing we weren't getting it all but hoping anyway. Today I see that it's time to start back over the same ground.

I'm making it sound like a lot of work, and it can be, to get the plants you want established. On the other hand, if the weeds had been controlled beforehand, the work would have been much less. The plants themselves have needed very little attention; the wildflowers were watered only in their first summer, and the grass was never watered at all.

Through the summer this plot has displayed bright spots of colour from the smooth blue beard-tongue, waves of delicate sky blue each morning when the wild blue flax was in bloom, and a blaze of gaillardia.

Those who walked over for a close look were rewarded with crocuses, harebells, showy locoweed, and rich velvety brown coneflowers. It's getting late in the season now, but I found a few summer bloomers still hanging on: the last gaillardia (above), and the last coneflower, sheltered from the hot sun by the wagon wheel.

Of course, the spiny ironplant is still going strong, and a single dotted blazingstar still showed some purple.

But with summer winding down, the show is left mainly to the asters and the goldenrods.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Back on the mighty Moose

We had the canoe on the creek again today. This time it was Ruth and me, while Garth took James swimming at the Carlyle Pool. They dropped us off at the concrete crossing two miles west of Highway 9, and I told Garth we'd meet him at the highway, even if we had to walk.

Well, walk we did, quite a bit. In the creek. Ruth loved it. It wasn't what I'd had in mind, and I couldn't get my jeans rolled high enough, but it got us over the gravel bars and the rock ridges. It also kept me looking at my footing, so I saw crayfish that I'd never have noticed otherwise. There were fish, too, about six or seven inches long. The one I saw fairly close up looked like a pike.

There weren't as many ducks as we saw last time (northeast of Forget), and most of the adults were flying okay. It was fun to watch Ruth's reaction when a bunch of ducklings suddenly burst out of the grass on the bank where we had just passed, and went flapping and splashing and quacking away behind us.

Ruth spotted the painted turtle. It was sunning on something (Ruth says it was a piece of driftwood; I was too busy looking at the turtle), and we passed just a couple of feet from it. Ruth wanted to back up and look closer, but before she could get me organized to do that, it slipped off and swam. Wow! Turtles are fast! I'd never thought of a turtle as streamlined, but watching that little discus-shaped body skimming off into the weeds, I got a new perspective.

A great blue heron let us drift up quite close before launching off. Swallows harassed a female northern harrier. A pair of blue-winged teal kept ahead of us nicely, and finally flew back upstream, passing us in the creek channel, when Garth and James came hiking up towards us from the highway.

The only plant that Ruth asked about was the sneezeweed blooming on the banks. She commented later about the rosehips covering a bush that hung over the bank. That and the rose patch she walked through (in bare feet) while lining the canoe through some shallows. I didn't take much notice of the plants on this trip, because I was too busy studying the channel ahead and steering. In general though, it was a very different shoreline from the stretch northeast of Forget. There were no cattails and very few reeds. As I recall, the bank vegetation was mostly grass. Of course, the landscape was very different too, with the creek flowing through a definite valley instead of a broad plain.

In addition to all the wildlife, we enjoyed the curious horses. A pair met us just around one of the first bends, and watched with friendly intensity as we passed. Towards the end of our journey, I could see some majestic black horses ahead. There were four blacks and a grey, it turned out, and like the first pair, they stood close on the bank as we approached. Then a meander of the channel turned us straight toward them. There must have been some heavy-horse blood in them, judging by the great hoofs they showed us when they turned and galloped up the valley side.

It was almost sunset when we reached the highway, about an hour later than we'd planned. Next time we'll remember to take a snack, and a camera (sorry again!). On the way home we saw two young coyotes go bounding off the road ahead of us. We passed several combines and grain trucks in action, and I wondered what the farmers would be thinking, seeing us driving through the Wordsworth area with a canoe on top. Garth just wished that he was out combining too.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Local histories online

I just stumbled on an amazing resource: "Our Roots: Canada's Local Histories Online." Yes, online. Not just a catalog, but the histories themselves, with their full contents photographed and viewable online. I was looking for websites referring to Carlyle (SK) and I found a booklet about Carlyle from 1910. I saw histories from Abernethy and Antler, but suprisingly, only a church history for Arcola. Why not "Arcola-Kisbey Golden Heritage"? I put that question to the site feedback people, and offered to lend my copy for digitizing if necessary. If it turns out that they are looking for more materials, I'll let you know. Anybody have a copy of that little booklet - what was it called - something about the "sunny side of the Moose Mountains"?

Blog versus sleep and other essentials

Trying to fall asleep at four a.m. this morning, my mind still spinning through all the new possibilities for connections in the blogosphere, I realized how blogging can weaken connections at home. It's just like hanging out with friends at some party late at night, except it seems innocent, because I'm not out partying, I'm right here at home with my family. Everyone is nearby, quiet and content; it feels cozy and good.

But the hours go by, and unless my loved ones interrupt, I might as well be at a party. The only difference is, if I was, I'd think of them and come home.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Hummingbird sighting

I heard the hum first, and I was sure I knew that hum, but oddly, it was coming from the treetops. I stopped and stared up at the Manitoba maples behind the garage, and sure enough, among the topmost branches, a hummingbird was darting and hovering, and occasionally perching. I'm not sure I've ever seen one perch. After a moment it came down almost straight at me, fast, with wingbeats slow enough to look like a rapid flutter instead of a blur, and no hum. Then it veered off and hovered and perched, hovered and perched its way through the chokecherry bush-tree. At one point I had quite a clear view, and I noticed creamy-white corners on its tail. Checking the bird book, I decided it must be a female, and in this area, almost certainly a ruby-throated. The last I saw of her, she was heading west through the tops of the next row of Manitoba maples. I wonder what she was getting up there. Sap from the aphid damage?

Don't leave your vehicle unlocked... this time of year, you might find it filled with zucchinis. I got home from work and there was a megucchini on the kitchen table, big enough to do some serious intimidation, if I felt like hefting it.

been away... I haven't been watching the rain gauge. But we got dumped on last night. Check out my rain post.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Pushing up crocuses

Arcola is considering seeding some land back to native grasses, on one of the most permanently protected pieces of land imaginable - its cemetery.

Of course, there would be some ongoing soil disturbance.

But think of it - if you went looking for land that's safe from future changes in land use, how could you do better? If this project goes ahead, it has truly long-term potential.

Cemeteries are already recognized as incidental preserves of native prairie. Often the grassland was left as it was, just fenced and mowed, and the plants haven't changed much. In areas of prime farmland, where nearly all the prairie has been broken, a cemetery can be one of the largest areas of native prairie that's left. People who are nostalgic about "prairie wool" sometimes mention that they know it from the place where their ancestors are buried.

Out in the wider world, I hear there is a movement to deliberately use human burial as a way to protect land from human efforts to improve upon it. A friend mentioned "green funerals" a few weeks ago, and just this morning our lawyer asked about funeral directives for our will, and then I saw a news story about green burial and followed the trail to the Center for Ethical Burial. I always thought I'd want a simple funeral, to avoid unnecessary final consumption in my name. I wondered about cremation, but it never occurred to me that I should be sure to get my tooth fillings out first! From the above website:
A recent report by a coalition of New England environmental organizations found that in 2003, "an estimated 2.5 tons of mercury was emitted from crematoria nationwide." To put that in perspective, the Mercury Policy Project says it takes only .002 pounds, or 1/70 of a teaspoon of mercury to contaminate a 25 acre lake to the point where its fish cannot be eaten. And airborne mercury causes most of the mercury pollution that gets into our water...
They say it's a good exercise to write your own eulogy. This got me thinking: how about making your own box or urn (someone used papier-maché) and keeping it handy to look at once in awhile? Or weaving a shroud - now that sounds appealing to me.

If anyone knows about Canadian legal information concerning "green burials," please drop a note in the comments.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

One dollar per litre

Well, 99.9 cents. I wonder if it will hold there for a while, until they figure out how to put a larger number on the price display. Maybe they'll just drop the silly tenths. It's never anything but nine tenths, anyway.

Will a dollar per litre be a psychological barrier? I doubt it. I didn't even notice the price until I was walking away with my receipt. But maybe in the city, where you actually have some choice about where to fill up, so it's worth paying attention - maybe it could make a difference there. If so, a dollar per litre could be something to celebrate. I should decorate my bike and go for a ride.

How much did you get last night?

Ever since I heard the joke at Saskatchewan Conference (of the United Church, held in Arcola back in May), I've been picturing that line as a link on my blog, pointing to a place where you can submit your own rainfall observations and see how much your neighbours got.

Well, now I actually have a blog, and on Thursday I picked up a rain gauge of my own. The instructions said to place the gauge away from tall objects, at least twice their height away, but with the trees along both sides of the yard (and some in the middle too), I'd be almost in the old "brick ponds" if I stuck to that standard. So I settled on a spot in the garden (where the spike goes into the soil easily).

This morning I looked out and saw a little puddle on the driveway. Whee! I rushed out to the garden, but my hopes fell when I saw dry soil under the zucchini leaves. I think there was more rain sticking to the sides of the gauge than puddled in the bottom. Trace, I guess. Estevan is reporting 0.0 mm in the last 24 hours.

I know this isn't very sophisticated, but if you want to add your rainfall observations, just note them in the comments to this post, with the units (mm or inches or the good old "tenths"), the date and a location. Don't get too specific - I don't want people using my blog to find out personal information about my readers - but maybe a land description would be okay, or something like "Arcola (SE)" if you live in town. One of my projects is to learn enough database programming to have a little form where you can plug in the numbers, and a map to display the results.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Bengough's solar-heated pool

This makes great sense. I hear they are very happy with it. In fact, they can actually extend their pool operating season because they don't have to worry about the cost of natural gas.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Salamander sighting

Yes, I saw a salamander yesterday, in the shed. I can't remember when I last saw one; it must be several years ago, at least. The shed floor looked awfully dry for a salamander, so I tried to catch it in a little dip net that just happened to be lying nearby, but it crawled under some junk so I had to leave it. Why didn't I just grab it? I almost did, but then I remembered hearing that human hands are hard on salamander skin (something about salts, I think). And of course salamanders use their skin to breathe. When we were kids we used to pick them up and examine them closely - I hope they didn't suffer too much.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A day on Moose Mountain Creek

The kids are both at camps, so Garth and I took the day off too, and went canoeing. The land north of Highway 13 between Kisbey and Forget looks very different from between the banks of Moose Mountain Creek. Sorry, no pictures - we were already on the highway before we thought of the camera - but I'll try to give you a sense of what we saw.

We started at the low level crossing (a ford paved with concrete) about a mile and a quarter north of the highway, and paddled upstream so that the return trip would be easier. Going against the current wasn't hard at all, though; we found out later that wind was more of a factor, but fortunately upstream was more or less the same as upwind today.

The first thing we noticed was the ducks, dozens of them, making a great ruckus flapping along on the water ahead of the canoe. Some were ducklings, quite unable to fly, but paddling almost on top of the water at an impressive speed. They hung in small groups (families, I suppose), moving off ahead of us in explosive lunges whenever we got close. We were worried about harassing them, and we found that we could usually get past them by keeping close to one bank and coming up on them fast, so that they rushed off into the cattails by the far bank. Some of the adults did a lot of flapping along on the water too, and we wondered how much of it was faking just to decoy us away from the ducklings. But some seemed to have real difficulty getting airborne, so I suspect there was some moulting going on as well. I checked into the timing of moulting, and found this article (pdf) which indicates that several species could be flightless around late July or early August, depending on whether they are male or female, successful nesters or not, etc. Looks like we chose just about the worst possible time to be on the creek. Sorry, ducks.

A great blue heron made several short flights up the channel ahead of us. One time it perched on a small willow just outside the channel so we saw it silhouetted in profile against the sky. Garth was impressed with its size and the speed it made as it circled back downstream to find some peace behind us.

I was puzzled by a trio of heron-like birds that took off too soon for us to get a good look. I saw them flying at a distance several times, and they flew with heads tucked back like herons, but without the long trailing legs. They were also sort of shorter and heavier looking, with pale plumage, maybe a pale grey?

Some small swimming birds that looked like sandpipers must have been Wilson's phalaropes. At one point a group of black terns circled noisily above us. Only one of the three was in breeding plumage (black underneath, except for the tail), and this one was particularly noisy, flying straight at us several times.

About a mile above our start point, we passed under a transmission line. I'd never taken a good look at one before. The wooden tower was right on the creek bank, stabilized with culverts around the two posts and a mound of fill up around those. It looked a bit like this diagram except that the three phase wires were single wires, and both posts of the tower had a wire up top instead of the single neutral shown. The really amazing thing was the crackling buzz from the wires. According to SaskPower's "Fundamentals of Electricity," those are uninsulated wires carrying voltages several hundred to several thousand times higher than household. Yikes!

When we pulled up on the bank for lunch, climbing just that couple of feet higher gave us a view of the countryside. Pasture in all directions, with no roads visible anywhere, just a couple of fences, some power lines, a com tower, and some clay piles suggesting a dugout. Other than that, grass, willows, distant hills, sky, and some quiet cattle. Garth suggested I look the other way while he walked off a bit, but then immediately he called me to come and look, he'd found a frog. A big one. "What colour?" I asked, and sure enough, it was green: a leopard frog. I hadn't seen one since that bizarre time at Old-Man-On-His-Back some years ago, at the first Botany Blitz, when somebody found a tiny leopard frog high on a near-desert ridge with no water visible in any direction. Anyway, it was pleasing to see one, since I have heard that they have declined sharply in western Canada in recent decades.

Garth was getting bored, but I wanted to see if the creek looked any different once we got into the PFRA pasture (Tecumseh). The trouble was, I didn't know exactly where we were, or where the boundary was, or even whether I would recognize it when we got there. But Garth agreed to press on for a while. I spotted a line of something across the creek ahead - a mostly submerged fence? An old beaver dam? No, once we got up to it, it looked more like a new beaver dam, just sticks with no mud applied yet. The water flowed through it nicely but as for the canoe, we had to go to shore, climb out, and drag it over.

We noticed some of the ducklings diving instead of hiding in the cattails, and when I watched closely, I got to see a couple of them swimming underwater, directly under the boat. Here and there we saw schools of minnows, too, or maybe they were fish fry. The creek is important breeding habitat for fish that come up from the Alameda Reservoir. We saw them this spring at the concrete crossing south of town, struggling to climb the steep side of the concrete against the current, always being driven back. I'm not sure at what time they succeed in getting over that crossing, maybe when the water is higher, or maybe they go through in the culverts when it's lower.

About two miles from our starting point, the creek doubled back sharply so we were going southeast instead of northwest. Then it got quite loopy. We passed a fenceline (grateful that it ended on the banks instead of stretching across), then moments later saw the same fence again, just touching the shore on a bend. I guess we were in Pheasant Rump reserve land at that point. A few more meanders and we found a fence with those big, solid, regularly spaced posts that say "PFRA." Again, it left the channel clear, so we continued happily upstream.

Did the creek look different? Well, yes, but not sharply so, and I'm not sure the change was associated with the change in land tenure and management. The channel was certainly narrower, and the vegetation was different, with a lot more floating bur-reed in the channel, less pondweed, and visible grassy banks instead of mostly cattails and bulrushes bordering the channel. But the change was gradual, and if I had to say where it started, I'd say at that sharp bend where we first got into the meanders. That was well before we reached the PFRA fenceline.

We did notice several places where the bank was completely bare and trampled by cattle. Whether these spots were more common outside the PFRA pasture than in - well, maybe, but I wasn't counting, and we didn't get far into the PFRA. We came to another beaver dam, this time a complete one, with water gushing over a low spot. We went to the quiet side and dragged the canoe over, paddled a bit farther, and there was the steel bridge. If you've crossed the pasture to get to the oil battery in those hills south of the Gap, you've been over that bridge. We couldn't get under it though, because the water got too shallow there, and it was getting on in the afternoon, so we turned back.

Running downstream was faster and easier, but we tested the drift on a sheltered meander and decided it was mostly due to the wind. The ducks were quieter too. Maybe most of them had died of fright when we first passed? I don't think so. I think they learned the drill and just dived to avoid us. We saw some tiny ducklings dive and then come back up just so that their heads were above water, waiting till we were almost upon them before they dived again.

On the way upstream, we had noticed some plants that looked like undersized cattails. Passing them again on the way downstream, I realized that they weren't cattails at all. Checking my books this evening, I decided they must be giant bur-reed. So, some parts of the creek had mostly grassy banks, some had mostly cattails (occasionally with bulrushes), and some had giant bur-reed. Certain birds seemed to keep to certain areas, too. The terns had a particular area (north of the transmission line, I think), and I especially noticed that red-winged blackbirds were more abundant downstream where it was more marshy with lots of bulrushes.

Suddenly we came into muddy water. Cattle must have forded the creek at that spot while we were upstream.

A while later I heard a strange trampling noise, almost ignored it, but then thought it too peculiar and looked back. There was a horse on the bank, staring after us.

Back at the launch point, I saw another leopard frog. Someday I'd like to hear one. They say the sound is like rubbing your thumb on a balloon. It's actually quite easy to learn the few frog calls that you hear in Saskatchewan, and then you can monitor frogs and contribute your observations to FrogWatch.

I also got a close look at some plants I've been noticing from the highway for several years, in the marshy areas near the creek. You might have seen them: they are fairly tall, with umbrellas of tiny white flowers, looking vaguely like dill (a relative). I was hoping they weren't water hemlock, but in fact they were. It's poisonous, especially the roots; apparently a single bulb can kill a cow.

Overall, I estimate we paddled about seven miles (three and a half each way). It took us six hours, including the stop for lunch. I'll be stiff tomorrow.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hoping for a "big front yard"

I just read Clifford D. Simak's 1959 Hugo-winner novelette, "The Big Front Yard." If you haven't read it, please do yourself a favour, skip this post for now and go find it. Then come back and see if you agree with me.

It's clever, whimsical, and rich with familiarly odd characters. But that's not enough to explain its charm. I think the magnetism of this story is in its giddily hopeful ending. We start in a remarkably ordinary, mundane, safe setting, but it quickly goes peculiar. Our hero's world becomes bizarre and apparently very dangerous, but he knows no other home, and so he fascinates us by staying and carrying on as if all is well. The tension builds, and just when it looks as though he has no way out, the universe opens up before him. He wins all, just by continuing to live as he has always lived, even while his world appeared to be going crazy.

The delight, for me, was a gut-felt joy at the possibility Simak's story presented, that the terrifying limits of the world we think we know, may not actually exist. Perhaps we don't need to find ourselves an alternative to fossil fuels; perhaps we don't need to grope our way to a zero-growth economy. Perhaps if we just carry on as usual, the universe will open up for us, and all our fears of environmental catastrophe will fade away like shadows at the dawn.

I'm not sure I could have felt that joy a couple of years ago. In fact I might not have enjoyed the story at all. I might have been too angry at Simak for nurturing false hope and helping people ignore the bleak truth. Ironically, I myself hadn't really faced the bleakness, hadn't faced the worst possible outcome and accepted it. I was still fighting to "save the planet." Once I accepted the possibility of an Earth devoid of life, I was free to see a technological optimist as a friend, free to listen deeply to all sorts of environmental "bad news," and free to work as I have never worked before, in the service of life.

So bring on the joy. Thanks, Simak. Your story is like a tall cold lemonade for a worker on a hot day.

Black poplars looking brown

Why would black poplar leaves be turning brown just now?

I noticed one clone of white poplar (trembling aspen, Populus tremuloides) just starting to turn yellow out at the farm on Friday, and that seemed a bit early. One out of how many? Good question! I just realized that I have no idea how many clones there would be out there. Hundreds? The farm is three quarter sections (480 acres), mostly a mixture of wooded coulees or north slopes and grassy ridges or south slopes.

Anyway, most white poplar trees around here are still in full summer green. But last week at Coyote Lake (at the west end of Moose Mountain Park) I thought some of the black poplar (Populus balsamifera) trees were looking a little brown. Not a real "dead leaf" brown, just a brown tinge to the leaves. I didn't get a close look, and didn't think anything more of it, until today when we drove past the east end of the park, and saw whole patches of black poplars, through the whole area, looking much browner than their white poplar neighbours. South of White Bear Lake, some of them looked rather sickly. What's up?

- update - talked with Mom - we think it could be drought stress. We've had plenty of moisture through the first part of the summer, but the last few weeks have been very hot and mostly dry, and I've heard reports that crops are under stress now. The black poplars need more moisture than white poplars, so it would make sense that they are the first to show symptoms.

My roots laid bare

My mom had a reunion of her father's family at the farm this weekend. What a delight! I rarely get to see my aunts from Ontario and Idaho, and the rest of the bunch I hadn't seen since at least the last reunion, three years ago. Some I hadn't seen since five reunions (fifteen years) ago, when Garth and I were just married. Several people have gone from "barely remembered relative" to "new friend" this weekend.

During the chatter, mom and her sisters and cousins got talking about war-time memories. Collecting foil wrappers so that the aluminum could be recycled; going door to door collecting donations of jewellery and other items, and then setting up tables in front of shops in downtown Toronto to sell these items for the war effort; in school, knitting squares for afghans for the soldiers. It startled me to realize that my mother's generation was quite young during WWII, and of those who were adults during the war, I have very few relatives left. All this leaves me intensely aware of how little I know or understand about that time.

Why didn't we study history in school?

On a lighter note, it was wonderful to watch my mom with her sisters, to see how they relate, even just to hear how they all giggle. As my sister noted, it was great fun to hear phrases that Mom always said, being said in just the same way by our aunts and cousins.

Now hopefully I can keep in touch with some of these relatives. But if I don't, I can look forward to rediscovering them in another three or six or fifteen years.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Dutch Elm Disease in Carlyle

I've noticed Arcola's trees a lot this year. First there were the aphids on the Manitoba maples, stripping some trees bare, dripping fluids all over parked vehicles, and threatening the cancellation of the United Church's annual outdoor service in the backyard of the manse. The manse trees were sprayed, but in the end, the service was moved indoors anyway because of mosquitoes.

Then there was the wild, window-bending storm (yes, I could see the glass bending in the living room window) that whipped the top branches of our elm into contact with the three-phase power line, creating a ten-minute light show with showers of sparks, and leaving a neat line of brown leaves across the top of the tree as the only evidence next morning. The trees were trimmed away from the power lines just a year or so ago, but not far enough for a wind like that. I've been looking at our two elms out front several times since then, wondering what can be done. They are just too big for our narrow front yard; they will keep growing back up into the power lines, and after a trim they have a grotesque leaned-back shape.

And now I hear that Dutch Elm Disease has been found just down the road, in Carlyle. Now I'm wondering how many elms we have in Arcola. My first guess would be that we have a lot more Manitoba maples and green ash than elms, but I'll have to look around. I'll also be checking with the town office to see if they have considered any response to the disease. When we lived in Regina, the cankerworms kept reminding us to take care of our elms, but here, I haven't seen any cankerworms, and I've hardly noticed the elms at all. They're just there, taken for granted except when they get tangled up with a power line and light up a stormy night.

- update - I got to wondering what to do with elm wood. I've seen lots of warnings about not transporting elm firewood, and I found statements that you should not store it but dispose of it properly, but what does that mean? I had to hunt for this: you should remove dead wood before April 1st, and bury, burn or debark it. The trouble with leaving the dead wood around is that it provides habitat for the bark beetles. They in turn carry fungus spores that infect the trees, causing DED.

I also found out that there is an Elm Research Institute breeding and distributing DED-resistant elms, known as "the Liberty Elm." Good news.

Ocean acidification

I've stayed away from my blog for a while, partly because of travel and a busy life, but partly because I didn't want to face this issue:
Professor Raven said: "Basic chemistry leaves us in little doubt that our burning of fossil fuels is changing the acidity of our oceans. And the rate change we are seeing to the ocean's chemistry is a hundred times faster than has happened for millions of years. We just do not know whether marine life which is already under threat from climate change can adapt to these changes."
- emphasis added

Now, haven't I said enough about CO2 emissions? Time to talk about something else. Like what we are going to do about it.

But right at this moment I am exhausted from a day's work in the oilfield.