Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Resilient enough?

I usually weed at ground level, scooting around flower beds on my butt with clippers and trowel in hand --- edging, too. It's an interesting perspective and more comfortable than bending double. And when I try to use a hoe I usually do more damage than good.

Attacking the prairie patch in the back yard late this afternoon, I happened to glance downhill at the half of the back 40 I'll get around to mowing tomorrow evening and had to think for a minute to figure out what was going on. It looked like a lilliputian forest, hundreds of reddish canopies poking above the grass.

Maple seedlings I finally figured out, hundreds and hundreds of them. It's been a great year for maple seeds. Not only were the trees loaded, but the greenhouse combination of heat and moisture the last few days conspired to up the germination odds. Not only is the grass full of maple seedlings --- so are the eavestoughs, and that will be another job.

It's amazing how resilient nature is when left alone. If I didn't mow them down, I'd be able to rechristen the back 40 "Maple Grove" in a few years. Same goes for weeds. It's been a wonderful year for weeds.


But of course we don't have a giant oil slick moving in on us here in Iowa's southern hills. And I'm not sure even the maple seedings could cope with that --- certainly the brown pelicans (above) that nest in Louisiana's coastal marshes won't be able to if it gets as bad as some say it will. Remember the white pelicans that spent a week or so with us here in Lucas County earlier this spring? Fortunately, they're safely in the northland for the summer at least.

Gulf Coast people aren't doing so well already --- all that oil threatens to simply eliminate a way of life based on harvesting the sea's natural bounty, now polluted.

Now in it's 37th day, BP is trying to plug that hole in the gulf floor with mud, concrete and other stuff --- latest in a series of attempts, all unsuccessful so far, to stop the flow.

My old friend Roberta R. e-mailed a link the other day to a YouTube proposal from a couple of guys to drop hay on the surface oil (oil adheres to hay --- it's a technique used before but on a far smaller scale), scoop up the resulting oil-soaked mess, dry it and burn it as fuel. Not too bad an idea, actually, if there were enough hay, enough boats to scoop it up and enough places set up to burn it.

A former president of Shell Oil Co. was on NBC this morning suggesting a technique used during a massive spill in the Arabian Sea --- A fleet of giant tankers to suck up the surface oil, transfer it to a facility where oil and water could be separated, then return the clear water to the sea. Not a bad idea either.

Golly, I wish I had a solution, but what I think is interesting is that no one really has a clue about what to do. They've been so busy reassuring us for so long that something like this couldn't happen that they've never really bothered to figure out what to do if it did. Now do you understand why environmentalists always have been uneasy about offshore drilling, or drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

Thinking subversively again, I get to wondering some days these days if Iowa has a giant oil slick of another sort in the making because of all the poison we pour onto the rich prairie soil we've been exploiting for about 150 years now. I know, I know --- the great minds at Iowa State University and the big farm chemical companies say nothing of the sort possibly could happen --- that herbicides and pesticides are good for us. But I wonder. If we won't wake up some spring --- and absolutely nothing will grow. Naah. Never happen. Then again, that's what BP thought.


We have busloads of 4th graders coming to the museum tomorrow to spend the morning before sack lunches on the lawn at 11. That means all hands on deck at 8 a.m. and I'd better get there well before that. We've been having trouble with the lock on Puckerbrush School's front door --- and not being able to get into the school would be realy embarrassing.

My assignment is Otterbein Church, where I always feel at home since my great-great-grandparents were among its founders back in the 1860s.

I get seven minutes per shift to amuse, amaze and inform, so maybe I'd better start figuring out what to say. "How many of you know why Otterbein has two front doors?" maybe. Or "how about that old wood stove?" Maybe I'll just let them ring the bell and be done with it.

1 comment:

Ed said...

Having a minor in math, I had to crunch the numbers after seeing the same hay/oil video on the internet. I can't remember but it was nearly 50% of our annual hay production to soak up the oil in the amounts listed in the video (1/4 lb hay for 1 cup oil) and that was for the then predicted leak of 17,000 barrels per day. I think they've been saying it is way more than that. Those numbers also reflect that whoever spreads the hay can spread it 100% effectively which we all know wouldn't be the case.

Gutter cleaning is on my list to do early tomorrow before it gets hot. I have six inch seedlings growing up there.