Central Montana, it turns out, is having the best year for farms in recent memory, with round bales of hay in dense profusion on the landscape, luxuriant fields of barley undulating in the wind, thick stands of golden wheat ripening under the sun, and happy, fat cattle. Our first stop on our farm tour was a young farmer – Curt Myllymaki – on a large cattle and field crop farm (over 1000 acres) who is experimenting at scale with innovative crop rotations, dual cropping, and cover crops to restore soil fertility. We visited a field that was dual cropped with flax and chickpeas, as well as some stray sunflowers that “was left over in the seed hopper.” Continue reading “On a Montana Farm Tour: Small Innovations that Could Mean a Lot”
A spatter of rain
It cooled for a while this evening, then an unsatisfying spatter of rain, no more than a few specks here and there, then back to how it was.
The satellite photos above, from NASA, show England and Wales at the start of May, and a few days ago.
It’s been hot and dry for that entire period. The driest early summer since records began, but hot with it too. Hot in a way that’s not right.
There are certain protocols to the weather in these islands, and we grow up with those protocols in our bones. We indulge the rain and leaden skies because we know they won’t last. We’re always unprepared for snow, but the snow won’t last either, so why bother organizing defences. And we’re always surprised by sunny days, the better to seize on them with bonhomie and glee.
Heatwaves are not unknown – there is a place in the protocols for such treats. A heatwave may last a long weekend, or longer, up to two or three weeks in one of those legendary summers we all recall and still speak of. But not like this one. This one had outstayed its welcome by late May.
Where’s the fun in gabbing about the weather – our famous national pastime – when its presiding spirit is no longer playing along?
We had a disproportionately heavy and bitterly cold dump of Siberian snow across the land one weird weekend in March, which ironically stripped the supermarkets of chilled meat and fish and dairy products for up to three weeks. (A surprising sign of how unresilient our food supply chain is.) And now this.
So, these days, my heart sinks a little every morning when I draw the curtains and see today’s sky will be the same as yesterday’s, and the day before’s. For a while I was pleading, wishing in my mind for rain. I miss it. The playing fields and roadside verges converted to baked earth and straw appear to me like something from an alien land. But rain will come eventually, the land will green again. No-one is going to die for lack of a mouthful of clean water on this island, not this year. Maybe there’ll be lasting damage to agriculture. I don’t know. What I’m really wishing for is for this climate change thing not to be happening. But the weather is telling me it’s not a bad dream. This is really happening.
In public, there’s an unspoken accord not to connect the “heatwave” with climate change. Even though this is exactly what the long-term forecasts have been saying would happen, for years now. Intensifying extremes. The arctic overheats, the jet stream gets disrupted and slowed, and air masses stagnate in place. Once-in-a-hundred-year weather events become once-in-twenty-year then once-in-five-year events. And like when steroid-pumped Roger McGwire and Barry Bonds were smashing the home-run records – what was going on was clear from the mounting tally of homers, even though no individual big hit could be pinned on the drugs.
So, that’s how it is here, this summer, on this patch of the northern hemisphere. How’s it where you are?
Against Complacency: the fierce voice of Patrick Noble
We don’t need more renewable energy to power how we live, but to change how we live so we don’t need that power. – Patrick Noble, https://convivialeconomy.com
There are some writers on the internet that get thousands of clicks and hundreds of comments every week. Generally these writers work hard to build their online community of readers. Their art is that of building a common language.
There are others who don’t have the knack or interest in building their readership. I suspect they are the kind of artist that is fascinated by something on the horizon, something that is not readily visible, and even less readily conveyable. Their art is that of illumination and discovery. Continue reading “Against Complacency: the fierce voice of Patrick Noble”
Biophilia: The Love of Life and the Living World
“Splendor awaits in minute proportions.”
― Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia
Here is Burlingame, CA, which is the home of SFO and its attendant fleet of airport hotels, trucking companies, passenger shuttles, warehouses, security headquarters, and cargo forwarders. Pairs of aircraft roar over the water in five minute intervals as they approach the airport. Cars roar by on the freeway that feeds into fabled San Francisco. Their reflections flash in the sleek black glass buildings that line the highway.
There is also, in Burlingame, an un-authorized footpath at the edge of the water – a wild space to wander if one would escape the hotel grounds with their carefully arranged plantings. The path follows the waterline above broken slags of concrete – remnants of a more manicured edging of the shore? – and between scraggly and indomitable tufts of wild fennel. A man in a street sweeping vehicle is letting his pit-bull pup out to play at the edge of a parking lot and a field of orange California poppies and dry grasses. Further on there is an abandoned development planted in rosemary and irises, concrete esplanades crumbling into the pale green water and an elaborate wrought-iron gateway to the empty space, a space in the process of being reclaimed by grasses and small trees. Across the street is a construction site where machines are digging into the chalky soil for the foundation of another office building or hotel.
Along the footpath there are bunches of lavender wild-flowers. Small wonders of the world, these throw-away riches of California!