Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Garden Gnomes

Earth Day came and went, but for the most part we celebrated today. The native garden we've been working on at Red Rocks Park got a makeover, thanks to Carol, Vivian, Renae, Dana, and a crew of volunteers (including a contingent from NCCC Americorps) they organized. Where was I, you ask?*

Here's "Before" -- taken just before St. Patrick's Day, when we were planning a new shrub bed—all natives—on this plot that is usually either bare or overrun by weeds of the burdock, hemlock, and other nasty persuasions.

And here, today, is AFTER. Although it's sunny and a pleasant 60 degrees (15 C) as I write this, it was nothing like that at 9:30 this a.m. when the garden gnomes got together to make this happen. Snow whizzed around their heads, and chill winds blew all warmth from their frames as they worked in muck up to their kneecaps. Barely more than 2 hours later, when I turned up to render gratitude and acknowledge their vast effort, these garden wizards had disappeared, their task complete.

Okay, this "After" is a bit too fresh to be properly impressive, but there are 27 sizable shrubs in and around this photo, plus a dozen flowering perennials. I'll try to bring you an update when everything gets to its full summer glory.

So thanks everyone! This transformation will be a tremendous asset when we finish the interpretive signs and can show Red Rocks visitors how incredible native plants are in the landscape! We hope the garden will be a wonderful way for everyone to connect with, and learn something about, the native plants that make Red Rocks Park such a special place.

*I was on another project, a less visible clean-up at the local CCC camp, in preparation for another tour season at that historic site. (I did, however, brave blinding snow and slush and driving rain yesterday to collect said shrubs from the wholesale nursery some 30 mi (49 km) away whence I'd ordered them. )

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Glorious Spring!

Are you as tired of that snow scene (below) as I am? I went away for a few days last week, and in my absence Spring has clearly sprung.

Look at that green! It doesn't rival Ireland yet, but tender green is peeking out on branches, daffodils are in full bloom, and things are definitely looking hopeful.

(Look at those chickens, waiting by the gate for breakfast...)

Today is the 40th anniversary of the very first Earth Day. As I did last year, I had thoughts of making April "Earth Month" and going to town on related posts. As with last year, I didn't get very far, but after all, Earth deserves more than a day—or a month. It should be in our thoughts, and especially in our actions, every day.

None of us needs a sermon today, but if you're reaching the Age of Wisdom, the Time of Reflection, think back to what you were doing 40 years ago today. Think about the feeling of Hope we had that what we did—for the cause of Peace, for the Planet, for Something That Mattered—would make a difference.

That feeling is what Earth Day was—and IS—about, and it's exactly what Spring is about! The world is waking up; we should be too.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

This Morning and Recent Sightings

Yes, again. Why do I always seem to take pictures when it snows? I'm sure it's partly because the continued brown scene gets old, and then of course, snow means movement in the landscape as well as lots of activity at the bird feeders...

We have very fine stuff still drifting down this morning, and only about two inches on the ground. This follows days of boisterous winds, especially yesterday, which was enough to rearrange lawn furniture and anything else not firmly battened down. Winds like that quickly wear out their welcome, making even snow a great relief! Tomorrow is expected to be in the 50s again, and Friday even lovelier.

Catch-up on recent developments re: spring:
  • –Yes, there are hints of green buds on shrubs (lilac, native currants, etc.) and tree pollen is kicking off the spring allergy season most effectively
  • –Friday, April 2nd, was the first Great Blue Heron sighting
  • –Monday, April 5th, the first Turkey Vulture sighting
All these firsts are, of course, only the ones I know about... No hummingbirds yet, but juncos are still prevalent. Bluebirds and meadowlarks are in state, but not in vicinity.

In totally novel news (guess that's a bit redundant), the Easter Sunrise service at Red Rocks took place as planned, with the added element of a helicopter crash on Mt. Morrison. We somehow missed it...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Honoring Stewart Udall

One of the heroes of conservation during my formative years was Stewart Udall, who died last weekend. High Country News honored him in this tribute written by Gary Nabhan.

The 1960s were heady times, of course, and to be honest I was a little young to appreciate their full effect. But I heard of Udall even then, and (as Secretary of Interior under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson) his name was synonymous with strong environmental protection in a much different, even inconceivable, era. For example, one of the things he stopped was the idea of a jetport in the Florida Everglades. He also helped make the Great Swamp (New Jersey) a National Wildlife Refuge and wilderness area instead of another regional jetport. In fact he helped add almost 4 million acres to U.S. public lands, including Canyonlands and three other national parks. He brought Wallace Stegner to Washington as Interior's writer-in-residence, and supported Rachel Carson when she alerted us to the dangers of pesticides.

Another inconceivable idea, the Trans Alaska Pipeline System, came later, but by then Rogers Morton was Secretary of Interior (after a brief tenure by Alaska's Wally Hickel), an "oil crisis" was in full swing, and U.S. policy had not-so-subtly shifted. Then came the infamous James Watt (under Reagan)... Anyway, so Udall's record at Interior remains outstanding, and not just in comparison with his successors. [Photo credit: Luca Galuzzi]

Interviewed earlier (2004) by the same publication, Udall commented on the fate of conservation in these subsequent political climates:
From 1961 until the Reagan administration, all of the presidents gave strong support for conservation. It was like a relay race in the Olympics. You would pass the baton, and Nixon took it and ran, and Ford and Carter, but when James Watt took over [the Interior Department] for Reagan, he didn’t want the baton, it just dropped to the floor, and" — with the exception of the Clinton administration — "that’s where it’s been since then."

Udall also saw his errors, as he wrote, with wife Lee, in an open letter to their grandchildren in 2008:
As a freshman congressman in 1955, I regrettably voted with my unanimous colleagues for the Interstate Highway Program. All of us acted on the shortsighted assumption that cheap oil was super-abundant and would always be available. This illusion began to unravel in the 1970s, and it haunts Americans today.... I am convinced that the American people will tighten their belts if a president forges a national strategy to stretch the life of our oil reserves and to adjust to a long-range plan of energy conservation....

Foster a consciousness that puts a premium on the common good and the protection of the environment. Give your unstinting support to all lasting, fruitful technological innovations. Be steadfast enemies of waste. The lifetime crusade of your days must be to develop a new energy ethic to sustain life on earth. ... Go well, do well, my children. Cherish sunsets, wild creatures and wild places. Have a love affair with the wonder and beauty of the Earth.