Thursday, August 21, 2014

Simplify your garden: Go wild!

Before we downsized and sold our suburban home, we kept formal gardens and they were wonderful.  But the care of our gardens took hours and days and weeks of work to keep them organized and flourishing.  The result was marvelous. But the time involved was not. At our new location, our little cottage, we are now experimenting with smaller, more informal gardens that largely depend upon native plants for their blooms and color.
Formal Garden
In our more informal setting, we let the native plants and flowers mingle with the grasses and plants that just pop up and join in for the fun, with the exception of invasives and poison ivy, which we remove by digging up  We added a few colorful flowers and bushes, mostly native to our North East area, that mingle next to the wilder plants.  We tell our plants in our garden to have fun, make room for everybody, move over, if necessary We wish them luck and tell them we hope that it rains so that they get some water. Surprise us, we say, with your arrangements. The end result is very joyful.

We mow a small amount of our yard to make the wild and wooly chaos of our plants look organized.  On one side of our yard, the middle is wilded and on the other side of the yard, the edges are wilded.  A stone path runs through the middle.
Informal Garden
Keeping large parts of the yard wilded is making a buffer, slowing down the flow of rainwater into the lake, thus reducing erosion.  The end result of simplifying our yard is that we only need to mow small portions of the lawn once a month, just to keep walking paths around the garden.  Birds and butterflies enjoy their newly found meadows.

The time we spent before pulling weeds is now spent swimming, kayaking, talking walks, researching and writing.
Wilded with flowers
Naturalized yard
When it comes to gardens, I say go wild.









Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is the World Over Populated? Or Who Ate my Toast?

A friend just asked me whether I thought that the world was really overpopulated.

"Overpopulated for what?"  I asked.

He replied, "Oh, you know what I mean.  Our whole life we were debating whether the world had too many people, whether we were going to run out of food."

"That's true," I said, "but have you noticed that the longer that we debate this, the bigger our population gets and the more food we have to eat?   What's the problem?"

"But," he protested, "Don't you remember the warnings of  Rachel Carson when she wrote Silent Spring? She tried to show us that there are repercussions to all those pesticides we were using to finesse our food supplies.  What about the arguments of Robert Malthus about overpopulation?"

"Oh yeah, I get what you mean, now" I said.  "You're talking about those hysterics who told us we had too many people on earth.  Way back when the US was a quarter of its current population size, people argued that we should reduce our population growth to zero, work toward a stable population.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we quadrupled our population, increased our GDP,  our food production went through the ceiling and we added a minimum of 20 to 30 extra pounds just around our waists, without even estimating what we added to our legs and our behinds.  Is that what you are talking about?"

"Yeah, something like that".

"Well, I never believed in overpopulation." I said, "Not even for a minute.  We are not overpopulated. 'The more, the merrier', that's my motto  More people means more growth.  That is what keeps our economy chugging. "  

"But what about all these people I keep running into, right when I don't need them" he protested. "I get stuck in traffic every single day, at least twice.  Once on my way to work, and once on the way back.  Isn't that overpopulation?  Wouldn't it be easier if there were fewer people to contend with on the highways?"

"Heck, no" I replied. "That's because we don't have a mass transit system!  What are we doing all riding around in cars?  What happened to bikes, to walking, to public transit?"

"So, you don't think its as simple as slowing down on population growth?  Listen", he said. "When I was born in 1940's, the United States had 130 million people. In 2046 , when I am 100 years old, we will have around 400 million.  I'm just guessing, of course, that I will make it to the ripe old age of 100, now that we have these newly improved life expectancies.  Don't you think that all these people will negatively affect our public spaces, our national parks, our school systems and waiting times in doctor's offices?  How many people does it take before we are overcrowded?"  

"Try to be alone!" he added, woefully. "Just try to find a place outdoors where you can sit there for an hour and not see anybody.  Just try it.  See what happens.  It is clear to me that we have taken over all the habitats on earth,  plants and animals, ours and theirs.  There is no place left to hide!" he exclaimed.

"Sounds pretty boring to me."  I replied.  "Why would we want to be that isolated from people?  I love people."

"Well, you might feel differently if you were a bird or other animal," he said..  "How often can an animal  find a spot where they can sit down in a quiet place and munch peacefully on a carcass or take a drink from a stream without running into one of us?  They must have permanent indigestion from all our commotion."

I replied to him, "That's not because of overpopulation.  We don't have to spread out like that.  We could cluster our living arrangements more densely, like bees or ants, and take less land from other animals, give them more space.  Blame that experience on our spreading suburbs.  That's not overpopulation."

"Okay, then, help me out here." he said. "If every time I bring up an example of overpopulation, you make it sound like the problem is something else.  Is there, then, no such thing as overpopulation?  Shouldn't we slow down population growth?"

"Nope," I said. "We could keep growing forever. Relax! Let things happen naturally.  It doesn't have to be orchestrated.  There's no need to overreact. Nature knows how to take care of things, just you wait and see.  One untreatable infectious disease brings down our population size a whole lot faster than any slow, complicated policy change.  All it takes is a couple of unexpected food and energy shortages to do the trick without any need for intelligent action on our part.  And I haven't even brought up the important impact of the inevitable war yet."  

And with that, I walked away, fully confident of my position in this argument.




Addendum:
The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See  was produced several years ago by Greg Craven.  I find his video very compelling and pertinent to this discussion. 











Wednesday, August 6, 2014

When a blog languishes

What an irritating thing to do.  Just stop blogging?  Why?

Suppose there are friends out there wondering what happened.
For example, is she still alive?

Did she commit a serious crime?
If so, when will she be getting out of prison?

Has she lost her voice?
That shouldn't stop anybody from typing.

Did a bear eat her after mistaking her for a bird feeder?
How is the bear feeling?

It may be simpler to get back to blogging
than it is to come up witha litany of flimsy excuses.










Monday, January 13, 2014

Did I tell you That It's Always Raining in Portland, Oregon?


Just about everybody plans to move to Portland Oregon, so it seems.  But I must tell you something up front, from the beginning. Carefully think about this before you start packing.  Remember that it is always raining in Portland, Oregon.

We recently moved there ourselves, into our newly acquired 100 year old condo in North West Portland, walking distance to just about everything. We don't own a car, but instead use public transportation or our bicycles. Because we are “Honored Citizens” meaning we are older than 65 it costs us $1.00 to take the Max train to the airport.  Streets are well marked for bicycles and we can safely use them to go shopping, to the library, the hardware store.  Buses are well managed and comfortable.  The streetcar runs around the downtown area and is very dependable.On those very unusual times when we want a car, we just rent.

People in Portland are young at heart, eclectic and tend to be environmentally sensitive. There is a lot of creativity and a great number of people who have chosen the entrepreneurial route, and who are designing and running very interesting small businesses.  They are easy to meet and tend to remember your name the next time that they see you.

I expected to have so many young people dismiss us from the conversation because of our age, but thus far, this is not what has happened.  We join conversations that are lively and interesting, and have made friends from the age of 30 and upward thus far into the 70s, with ease.  People see and greet you.  Cars stop for EVERYBODY to cross the street, and not just when there is a red light.  When we first arrived, we just stood there in disbelief at a street corner when cars stopped to let us cross even when there was no STOP sign.    My husband and I have decided that when we go back to the East Coast, our biggest danger is that we will forget that cars don’t stop for pedestrians and are likely to be hit.

Oregonians converse about many things with a calmness that just amazes me.  They have a habit of allowing people to finish their sentences before replying.  In indoor environments, they speak in relatively quiet voices.  I have a favorite coffee shop that I visit and enjoy sitting there listening to calm low toned voices speaking with each other, avoiding shouting and sharp, disruptive tones.   It reminds me of places like cafes in Paris and small shops in Sweden.  Stores and restaurants in Portland still have excellent service, much like the US had in the late 1950’s.  Clerks come up and ask us if we need any help, and actually provide assistance when asked for it.  Waiters check to ensure that we got what we ordered before taking off to the kitchen.  This is happening so consistently that we have finally decided that we are not confronting aberrations, but truly a different culture.

It is not without its problems, of course.  Homeless persons are found here, as they are across America.  Poverty is a problem especially in our newly formed 1% economy.  Food lines for hungry people can be long.  There are numerous opportunities to volunteer and help out.  Volunteerism is strong out here.

I hope that this delightful place where the trees are hundreds of years old and have enormous diversity of leafage, even on city streets, survives the ongoing transition we witness. We see cranes and new development everywhere.  Urban housing boards are arguing with developers over how high buildings can be, and how close to the road, how sustainable the building should be, debating building construction environmental definitions and classifications.   It is not clear to me how long Portland can survive this onslaught of construction and new development, but time will tell.

Some of the new developments that transitioned old industrial areas to new living and shopping arrangements are truly marvelous.  They are architecturally pretty and have used old structures to the max.  Newly designed buildings fit beautifully with the old, and blend well into very lovely neighborhoods with good character.  Excellent restaurants abound. The food is very fresh, organic and delicious.

By the way, did I tell you that it is always raining in Portland?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ten Things to Know Before Stepping Outside to Play

Okay now.
I see it all the time.
The purpose of this BLOG is to get you to:
 ooops, my keys are stuck.

Here are TEN critical things one must know before going outside to play:
  1. Infinity is a short amount of time repeated over and over.
  2. Death is a big part of life.
  3. Disease is a small part of global health.
  4. Fun doesn't hurt, most of the time.
  5. Life expectancy is increased equal to the amount of time spent exercising. 
  6. I think, therefore I am, I think.
  7. I am, therefore, I think I am, I think.
  8. Friends for life are limited by life expectancy of either themselves or you.
  9. Infinity is just a short amount of time repeated over and over.
  10. And ten?  What was it?

I get it.
It is time to go outside and play
and get off this internet.
Bye.








Sunday, September 1, 2013

Schizophrenic Lake near New York City

Our lake is of two minds.

On the weekends it is a party place,roaring with motor boats and groaning with jet skis, people shouting and laughing sometimes in the middle of the night in the middle of the lake not realizing all of us can hear every word they say, radios blaring.

Our closest bird neighbor, the Blue Heron, looks a bit irritated as he flies by, lands on a tall branch and just sits there waiting for everyone to leave.

On Monday through Friday, the lake is characterized by peacefulness and silence, where birds fishing and people kayaking prevail.
Early Morning Kayaking




On Saturdays and Sundays we listen to 20 foot boats roar, motors gulp and rip as they lurch from place to place in the water, sometimes making so much noise that we have to stop talking to wait for them to go by.  When this happens, our guests often ask why there are no noise regulations for the motor boats on this lake. We say we don't know why, but we think it might have something to do with the fact that a whole lot of marinas profit from boat use on this lake.

Sometimes we giggle at the ridiculousness of an oceanic boat trying to use the lake for recreational purposes, looking a bit like a hippopotamus in a bathtub, hugely out of place with the size of the lake.  Then we talk about how happy we are with the new regulations that are stopping such big boats from using the lake now that there is a 26 foot limit, even though these older already licensed gigantic boats are grandfathered in.

Water skiers fly by behind roaring motor boats  with boom boxes on full blast from the boats, sounding like large roller skating rinks, then kids wave to us as they scream by on their inner tubes pulled by groaning motor boats, waves from the boats splashing noisily against the beach.

I wonder whether they ever wonder what nature sounds like when they are not here?

Luckily there is an 80 foot rule from our shore which discourages boats from entering into areas where we swim.  But even then, we still have to listen to their motors . Starting on Friday when people clean off their decks by turning on their leaf blowers to rid them of the 7 or 8 leaves.each one painstakingly attended to while the leaf blower roars like a lion blowing each tiny leaf into the water along with tiny branches and pieces of dirt that might have accrued over the week.  God forbid that weekend company should touch a leaf with their feet.

We take our late afternoon swim out front hearing the roar of engines, screaming jet skis going crazily in circles to nowhere, all causing huge tidal waves to hit the waves hit the shore, splashing and flipping contents against the dock.

We  know that the weekend is coming to a close when we hear that familiar jet skier who, for at least the past  five years  finishes off his weekend by going round and round in circles, full blast, jet ski roaring, the jet ski burping and belching as it tries to swallow all the water caused by this crazy fellow just  steering the jet ski round and round in circles, going nowhere fast.  Eventually he gets tired (or perhaps dizzy or bored?) from doing this and he gives up and goes home.  We all say, "ahhh, he's finally done."  Sometimes our guests ask us, "what is this man thinking about when he goes round and round in circles?"  None of us really have a good answer for that  We have no idea.

It does look joyful on the weekends. Big, showy umbrellas are placed on docks for friends to gather and sip drinks.   Children splash with buckets along the shore.  Dogs lap water from the edges, barking at the waves and at each other.. Everyone is having a good time and they think that this is Candlewood Lake.  And it is.

But it is only one of the Candlewood Lakes that we have.  There is another one.

We wake up on Monday mornings to a beautiful,quiet lake, with birds soaring above, lake waters sitting still, perhaps small waves lapping quietly, a calm breeze softly roughing it up but only in spots.  This is a lake of kayaks and sailboats, and for large parts of the time, no boats of any kind at all. Neighbors speak with neighbors from the lake shore without shouting.  Muskrats sometimes swim by, sniffing and snuffling in the water.. Birds swoop and dive between the trees.  Our Blue Heron sails by, finding a nice rock to stand on and peers over the water hoping to see a fish.

Our lake is just one hour and 20 minutes from New York City. Imagine what it must endure.  On the weekends, it is taken over by those who have rented boat moorings at nearby marinas, or clubs added to the people like ourselves who own property and have numerous weekend guests, on or near the lake.

I have been told that on the weekends we can have up to 3,500 boats trying to use this little lake for recreation.  Now that really is a traffic jam. But compared to the traffic jams in Manhattan, this area feels rural, or at least forested or significantly more close to nature.

We have wild turkeys, coyotes and even black bears roaming nearby, blue herons, flocks of geese fly by as well as condors that sit on big rocks and look for fish and big red tailed hawks circle overhead.  When I get up early in the morning and go down by the water, I see fish over two feet long just hanging out by the edge of the lake and snakes coiled up and resting on rocks over by the island, swallows and yellow Baltimore Orioles flitting from tree to tree at the edge of the water, truly a lovely setting.

We have now learned to roll with our schizophrenic cottage life.   We used to try to ignore the boat noise.  This is impossible.  So now we just embrace it and say, "here come the boats".    On the weekends, we smile and wave at the people going by in their noisy roaring boats, we smile and laugh at the inner tubes full of children  screaming and shouting as they careen behind the family boats sometimes children tipping over and having to be retrieved, we chat with the families watching their children jumping off the rocks and hanging out in their boats over at the nearby islands. We kayak between them, they joke with us about "want a race?" and we always say, "sure".

On Sunday evening, toward sunset, we get a glass of red wine, some chips and sit down and watch hundreds of boats as they head back to their moorings, sounding like a major battalion leaving a battle ground, knowing that we will not hear from them again for the rest of the week.

We wake up on Monday morning to silence.  It is wonderful.  We are now a little cottage on a quiet lake in northwestern Connecticut, at least for the next five days.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Brain Stimulation for Retired People? You gotta be kidding!


When do we need our brain stimulated?

Is it better after breakfast or before?
Is later in the evening more effective?

Should we stimulate the brain while reading our emails or during chat moments, or after our bike rides?  Before swimming or after yoga?
While taking our morning shower or after we finish the gardening?

Should we go on our dementia prevention program after taking the grandkids to the park or before?
Is it better to stimulate our brains during our volunteer work at the hospital with or without coffee?
How many months of alzheimers can I prevent if I walk five miles rather than three on a daily basis?

What stimulates the brain?
Cooking meals and mopping floors?
Coffee?
Computer work?
Puzzles?
Conversation?
Exercise?
Caring for grandchildren?
Thinking out loud?
Writing poetry?
And does it matter whether I am doing brain stimulation alone or with a friend?


This is just too difficult to figure out.
Excuse me, but gotta go.
I'm too busy to bother with it anymore.