My Grandfather, the Conservative Conservationist

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My grandfather circled in red

My grandfather was a conservative. This was back in the day when the concept of caring for the land didn’t divide people. In the Great Depression and World War Two, people recycled because they had no other materials with which to make things, and young men built trails and planted trees because they needed a job.

Along the way, they learned to love the land. At least that’s what happened with my grandfather, Ed, or Eddie, as my grandmother called him. He grew up the son of Polish immigrants in Kenosha, Wisconsin. His mother was a gardener, and, according to my mother, a great cook that used her fresh fruits and vegetables in her delicious food. And so my grandfather became a great gardener, and my memories of him consisted of his many hours tending his gardens and apple trees, punctuated by racist rants at other drivers.

But, he was a conservationist. In the Great Depression, he quit middle school and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and spent years in northern Wisconsin with many other young men. He never returned to school and spent the rest of his life working in factories.

The experience in the woods never left him. In the 1960s, after his kids left home, he packed up his life and moved with my grandmother to Colorado so that he could be near the mountains.  When his camping days were over after a stroke in the 1970s, we inherited his tent, a small green canvas tent. It was smelly and often damp, and it had a patch that came with a story. When he ventured out to camp with us on occasion, he would tell us the patch came after a bear attack. We never knew if he was joking.

But, he loved the soil. The gardening, the trees, the camping, all were experiences that fed his soul.


Nightjars Worldwide

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The Nightjaring Facebook group  logo

Lest we forget that there are other nightjars in the world facing the same issues of habitat loss, declines in arthropods, and migration challenges, there is a Facebook group dedicated to those who study nightjars that breed in Europe.

The Persistence of Pesticides

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Rachel Carson. Photo Credit: Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Anyone tired of me talking about this topic yet? I talked about pesticides here, here, here, here, here, here  and here .

But now there’s this story and this video about pesticides, in particular the neonicotinoids, and their effect on birds and our own food. The story just doesn’t go away. Rachel Carson wrote at length about pesticides and their impact on the health of ourselves and our wild neighbors in Silent Spring, published in the 1960s, and we banned DDT as a result. Then we invented more.

[Side note: I highly recommend The Gentle Subversive, a short biography of Rachel Carson by Mark Hamilton Lytle.]

Water, water, water everywhere

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It was a wet year in the Badlands. Beautiful, yes, but what does that mean for the organisms unused to so much moisture?

This summer in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area was a wet one. Many communities experienced flood as higher than average rainfall overfilled our waterways. We can expect more of this to come, according to climate scientists. In other areas, increased rainfall caused wet conditions that impacts habitat for animals not used to the moisture in their environment. But, remember, when we live near water, eventually it will come for you.

Water does not resist. Water flows,
When you plunge your hand into it,
all you feel is a caress. Water is not
a solid wall, it will not stop you. But
water always goes where it wants to
go, and nothing in the end can stand
against it. Water is patient. Dripping
water wears away a stone. Remember
that, my child. Remember you are
half water. If you cant go through an
obstacle, go around it. Water does.

~Margaret Atwood

The Hidden Marine World

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The hidden nocturnal world is my balliwick

I’ve often talked about the hidden world of wildlife on land and in the air, but I have paid very little attention to the majority of this planet, our oceans. Chalk it up to ignorance and my own bias, I have been remiss. And while the majority of our planet’s surface is covered by water, still more lurks in the depths. This infographic was particularly startling.

Leaf Habitat

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Wisconsin’s Driftless Area in the Winter, with hibernating mussels, catfish, and beaver. Not pictured: The microbiome overwintering in the soil.

It’s a little late in the season to talk about leaf removal, but if you’ve been lazy like me, or as I prefer to think of it, consciously lackadaisical, and left your leaves on the lawn, congratulations! You have created overwintering habitat and food for  the critters that live in our soil. Many of them fertilize and pollinate our lawns and gardens. Check out this story for more information.