Sometimes You Get Lucky

Indigo bunting

I have heard of them . . . the indigo buntings.  I never really thought I would see one . . . let alone twice!  Yes, it is just a bird . . . but what a beautiful bird.  Living closer to Nature is one of the reasons I moved here.  Just this summer alone, I have been lucky to see baltimore orioles, grosbeaks, and bluebirds, along with the indigo buntings.  Baltimore orioles actually made a nest in the woods behind my cabin.  That orange is so vibrant.  Unbelievable!  And, now I know its song.

Most of the birds don’t get too close so this picture doesn’t display the indigo’s beauty.  Well, if I had a bird feeder, it would bring them in closer.  But then, it would also bring in hawks, which I don’t want.  I am not crazy about the food chain.  Yes, they all have to eat . . . but I don’t want to see it in action.  That is one of the reasons I am a vegetarian.  Not possible for some of those other creatures out there.

There are the usual cast of characters that were in IL:  the cardinal, robin, black-capped chickadee, blue jay, crow, sparrow, cat bird, yellow finch, wren and any others I have forgotten are all here, too.

I used to think the robin had the best song . . . I don’t know anymore.  Some little, seemingly incidental, brown bird has a very cool song.  It may just bump the robin’s song out of the top.  Then again, if you have ever heard the cat bird . . . well, that has to be in the running, too!  No need to put any music on while basking in the sun eating breakfast . . . there is a symphony going on all around.

I just count myself very lucky!

Garden Progress

Tomatoes and strawberries

Here is my garden update. Growing here are my tomatoes, strawberries, and onions.  The soil is in need of repair so I was able to find organic strawbales, which was no easy task, by the way.  I am using them to mulch, hold moisture, and they will also amend the soil.  This is, again, all new to me.  I am not an expert at this at all.  The strawberries, in the back, are doing well.  Except, they do have some spots on the leaves.  But, there are plenty of strawberries, and I just planted them last year.  The tomatoes and onions are holding their own.

Cabbage

Above are my potatoes, cabbages, and beans.  I also planted radishes, garlic, lettuce, spinach, and kale but are not visible here.  The spinach has not come up yet and it has been at least 14 days.  Maybe it has been too cool or not enough watering.  I don’t know.  Time will tell how well they do.  Last year was not a good year for yield.  I will keep trying until the soil improves.

Cover crop

This plot has all my vining plants; cucumbers, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, and asparagus.  Well, asparagus is not vining.  I planted cover crops, which is what you can see, as the veggies only have two leaves and are not visible.  There may be a mixture of some grasses with the cover crops.  I will cut these down and add more straw.  Again, this soil isn’t going to be amended overnight.  It may take several years to really get it producing but I can wait.  It is a learning process.

I bought three more Concord grape plants that are very healthy looking and have grapes on the plants already.  In addition, two more blueberry plants will be added to the three I already have.  The deer ate much of the three that were already in from last year.  More fencing needs to be added.  Two more gooseberry bushes joined the one from last year.  Two peach trees are also new and another raspberry bush replaced one that didn’t make it.  Of course, I am hoping all of these produce.

XR Madison at Ride the Drive

Grass bike

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you.  It is a bike covered in growing grass.  Our Extinction Rebellion (XR) Madison group took part in Madison’s Ride the Drive, Sunday, June 2.  The sign, if I remember correctly, says, “Needed Now, Grassroots Activists for Climate Change.”  It got attention for sure.  One of our members had this idea and put it together . . . and everyone wanted to see it and take a picture.  It was a great way to bring people in so we could talk to them about the climate crisis.  We were able to get some new members.  Our group is new so it will take some time to build our numbers up for some direct actions in the future.

A Green New Deal Town Hall

The town hall in Viroqua has come and gone.  It was May 14.  Life is crazy busy, and I am just posting this now.  So, here is a little reflection on what has transpired.  The town hall was successful . . . people came . . . 35-40 people . . . all activists.  Yes, I was preaching to the choir.  Oh, well.  I wonder what I would have done if the opposition showed up.

I didn’t use much of the Sunrise Movement’s presentation.  There was a different message I wanted to relay.  My stance is we live in a bubble . . . isolated from reality.  Scientists and biologists in the trenches feel the crisis.  They see the ice literally melting and species going extinct right before their eyes.  We, on the other hand, are living a normal life.  Climate change has moved very slowly over the 50+ years we have been talking about it.  Somehow, even the people who lived through the fires of Paradise, CA may not even think we have a crisis.  I could be wrong.  I read an article stating they are making plans to rebuild.  They were aware a fire was possible.  Don’t you want to move somewhere else after that!?

Every article I see now about the climate crisis is alarming.  But, we don’t see the ice melting and the species disappearing.  We are working and shopping.  So, my presentation focused on reminding people that everything we do burns fossil fuels.  And, that is how all that CO2 gets up there.

Another hopeful thing I brought up was that there is this, “defining moment,” I like to call it.  From the report the IPCC issued in October 2018 stating we have 12 years to turn climate change around, to the Sunrise Movement’s visits to the offices of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator Mitch McConnell, Extinction Rebellion’s startup in November and April, Greta Thunberg’s inspirational talk at the climate talks in Poland, to the student climate strikes, this global climate crisis movement is incredible.  Who would have thought that this issue would finally be front and center!

And, it is not going away.

Although the Green New Deal is wide in scope, I brought up some solutions like regenerative agriculture, reducing beef and dairy, electric cars becoming more affordable and with increased miles per charge, passive home designs, heat pumps, growing our own food instead of relying on the grocery store, and eliminating air travel or at the very least limiting it.

The best thing about the town hall is that it has brought people together to work on this crisis in our little area.  We have our first Viroqua Climate Action meeting this Monday, June 10.  There are plans to start an Extinction Rebellion group, too.

But, as I sat thinking after eating my breakfast, looking out at Nature all around me, I had that sick feeling I used to get years ago, and I wanted to cry.  Everything we do is destroying this.  How do we stop it?

Keep going.

Discovery

Asparagus

Yes, I am clueless when it comes to growing vegetables, fruit trees, blueberries, etc.  I knew that asparagus comes early in the spring . . . so I have been going out to the asparagus plants I planted last summer to see if they were coming up.  Well, I was convinced they were dead . . . dried up and gone. But no . . . they are ALIVE!  I was so excited.  You know, it is the little things . . . and . . . this is food that comes up each year so that means less work . . . and . . . survival!

Rasberries

And, of course I was checking out other things for signs of life . . . like my raspberries.  And, here they are!  Now my blueberries don’t look so good.  No life yet.  But, my apple trees have buds now.  The gooseberry plant has had buds for several weeks.  My little seedlings in my tray have come up but I just found out there is nothing in that peat they are in so I need to get them into some soil right away.  The cabbage came up but were spindly and fell over so I just planted some seeds right in the ground.  I believe they are a cold weather plant so I can do that and if it dips down again, they should be okay.

So much to learn . . . but I know more than last year!

Extinction Rebellion Madison

Banner drop

It was 5:30 a.m. this past Monday, and I was headed to Madison for Extinction Rebellion’s first direct action there.  I live about 2 hours away, and, although there are a lot of progressive people in my area . . . well . . . there wasn’t any Extinction Rebellion group.  And, because it is so rural, I wanted to reach a few more people.  I love my new rural lifestyle but there is nothing like being in the streets of Chicago for a protest.

So, I got some names of people from 350 Madison who may be interested in doing an Extinction Rebellion direct action.  Over the course of a few weeks, we corresponded via email and planned to do a banner drop.  A friend of mine in the Chicago Extinction Rebellion shared the great banner drop they did on St. Patrick’s Day on the Chicago River while the Wendella boats were going by.  My new Extinction Rebellion comrades in Madison loved the idea.

I gave them the measurements and how to get the lettering onto the fabric, etc. with a projector.  There were some challenges, and I offered whatever assistance I could via email but they came through and did a great job!

There was a city worker that stopped by after we got the banners up and told us that we shouldn’t be doing this.  None of us are ready to get arrested.  We are not as bold as Extinction Rebellion is in the UK or other European countries.  Even if a police officer came by, I seriously doubt whether he would have arrested us.

But then, maybe it is time I think about getting arrested.  This is climate change . . . and with all the new pressure on the governments of all countries to do something about it . . . nothing is happening yet.  What else is there besides getting arrested?

Garden Planning

Seedlings

There are the seedlings that got planted in their little pods yesterday.  I am hoping I planted them soon enough.  Because this is all new, I don’t really know what I am doing.

Last year, I just planted everything imaginable.  This year, I am looking at it a bit differently.  I have a new strategy.  What are the vegetables that I use the whole year round?  Garden planning to be sustainable is a little different than just making a list of veggies to plant that taste good during the summer.  My goal is to eventually be able to provide all my food from my garden so there are a few things to consider and plan.  These may be obvious but perhaps not.

First, what vegetables store the best?

Second, what foods will I can?

Third, what foods can I grow the longest?

Fourth, what other items can I add during the time nothing is growing?

To start, potatoes, onions, garlic, pole beans, squash, cabbage, and tomatoes are the basis of my diet during the winter.  I use them during the rest of the year too but mainly in winter so I will want to make sure I plant plenty of them.  All of these last a long time after harvesting.  Cabbage and tomatoes don’t last that long once they are picked.  It is the canning and fermenting that makes them last.

Cold weather crops like kale, spinach, broccoli, etc. can be started early and planted again in the fall.  Although I have not started planting these crops yet this year, and it is the time to be doing it, eventually I will be on a routine.  Sprouting can be added during the winter months to get something fresh.  This is all once I get off the grocery store.

I read a book about eating seasonally.  It wasn’t that long ago that is what people did.  Right now, I am buying veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges, apples, avocados, and lemons, etc. that are grown thousands of miles away any time I want them.  Even when I was growing up, I am sure we couldn’t get pineapples, avocados, and other vegetables and fruits that are now shipped in from all parts of the world.  We survived.

I am also working on getting my soil in better condition.  I planted a cover crop last fall but ran out of seeds.  There are cover crops to plant in the spring, too, and I added some this week.  It will add nitrogen to the soil.  Then there is rotating the veggies.  I am sure there are things I should definitely not plant where a veggie was previously.  Some plants enrich the soil, and some severely deplete the soil.

All of this is a learning experience!