Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dire news about Global Warming

Mark Anderson wrote an article entitled “Global Warming: Be Very Afraid”for Wired News in which he interviewed Elizabeth Kolbert, a staff writer for The New Yorker author of a three-part New Yorker series on climate change last year.

Her remarks were quite interesting and dire. I believe we have gone past the tipping point and that climate changes will happen at a much, much faster pace than predicted. We still think most of the change will be most noticeable only mid to late century but with the melting of the Arctic and Antarctic glaciers and the resultant dark bare ground absorbing and retaining more heat I believe the speed of change will be breathtaking – not in centuries but a decade or two. Unfortunately we are already too late to do much about it. Maybe our plants will be the beneficiaries if we get enough rain.

More Antarctica warming news from this livescience website.

More from Yahoo and AP writer Seth Borenstein that we may be already too late to do anything about global warming.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dwarf Irises

We were poking around the yard looking to see what was coming up and were surprised to see these little irises hidden by an evergreen shrub. We must have planted the shrub after the irises bloomed and were forgotten. We'll have to dig them up and plant them in a better location where they can be more easily seen. That's the trouble with bulbs, if you don't mark them you lose track and plant something in the supposedly bare spot! We stick plastic forks and knives where we plant them but I guess that method of marking doesn't work. You can see the fork in the picture.

These irises are very tiny and very early beating out all but the crocuses. Certainly much earlier than the daffodils. A nice change from the usual crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths etc. A border of these would be quite nice in my estimation. I don't know the name of these irises but Brecks sells them as dwarf irises.

William T. Hathaway describes a couple of the dwarfs as Iris verna and Iris cristata on his website.

And from the plant expert website a description of various dwarf irises including very nice photos much better than mine unfortunately.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Save water! Notes on the World Water Forum in Mexico City.

I heard on the radio sometime ago that thousands of Ethiopians were dying because they didn't have enough water to drink because of the region's prolonged drought. Can you imagine not having enough water to drink let alone to bathe and wash with?

I was talking to a friend who lives in New Mexico about their drought situation. Apparently their aquifer is not being replenished because of the low volume of water of the Rio Grande. He also mentioned that the farmers were the big users of water amounting to about 80% of the total use. He was also upset that gray water collection systems were not being installed in new construction when it would be the easiest time to install tanks, pumps and cisterns underground.

He said they have a little ditty to remember not to flush everytime to save water..."if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down". Kinda yucky but we do it in New Jersey too even if we have ample water. A friend from Philadelphia was aghast that we would try to save water in NJ - I even bucket out bath water to flush the toilet...the yuck factor was too much for him! "We have lot's of water so why go through all the trouble to save such a small amount?". Well, our water resources are being stretched and who knows what global warming will do to the amount of rainfall we get. We already went through a drought about 5 years ago so we save water. I wish there were someway to easily use the unsoapy shower water to water the garden.

Here's a couple of articles that tells about the problems of heavy use of water by farms. I guess it's easier to spray it on, let it run in irrigation ditches or flood fields than using the more labor intensive drip irrigation.

From the Environmental News Network and Wired News & AP.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Spice bush - Lindera Benzoin

I was driving through our neighborhood and I saw a lovely small tree absolutely covered with golden blooms. I wondered what kind of tree it was but didn't think more of it until I saw many more when driving up to Princeton. I also saw several on the Princeton University campus. I queried the Garden Web folks and I finally ID'ed it as a spice bush, Lindera Benzoin-confirming it by doing a Google Image search. This is not the same as the Carolina Spice Bush, Calycanthus occidentalis which has larger reddish blooms.

Upon closer inspection the individual flowers on the spice bush are very tiny but appear in clusters. This is one of the earliest shrubs to bloom in Spring only preceded by the witch hazel. I haven't seen very many planted in private home yards but mostly on large campuses, I wonder why? They call it a shrub or bush but to me it looks like a small tree. Apparently there's a butterfly, the spicebush swallowtail (a black butterfly with light blue on the back portions of wings) that eats the leaves and the spice bush also provides food, a berry, for birds in the winter. Some people even use the berries for jams and to spice their food.

I liked the look of the bush so much I bought five. The added bonus of having more swallowtail butterflies cinched the deal. When I took the pictures the trees were slightly past bloom so they don't look as spectacular as a week before.

I was curious about the name benzoin. Sounded similar to the highly volatile aromatic hydrocarbon benzene so I looked it up. Daves Garden website botanary (botanical dictionary) defines it as: "From an Arabic word for aromatic gum".

Friday, March 17, 2006

Hot peppers for prostate cancer?

Capsacin in hot peppers are shown to kill human cancer cells implanted in mice but the dosage was 400 milligrams three times a week the equivalent of 3-8 habanero peppers depending on how hot they are! What would a man have to take to approximate the dosage given to the mice? Too huge and hot to contemplate. The article is from Yahoo News and Reuters.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Birds-towhees, nuthatches, flickers

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a movement in some brambles and honeysuckle. It turned out to be a black and burnt sienna colored bird but I couldn't get close enough to look at it carefully. It did have some white streaks on either it's wings or back but couldn't make out which. Looked in one of the bird books I have and it turned out to be an Eastern towhee one of the largest sparrows. I don't know if this is a common bird but this is the first time I've seen it. There are lots of flickers around now as well as nuthatches my favorite bird, both white and red breasted, singing? their nyuk, nyuk or nuk nuk call and also a rapid nasally wawawa, wawawa with a short A sound. A couple of the books I have describe the nuthatch call as a yank, yank but to my ears its more like Curly of the Three Stooges. The Eastern towhee apparently makes a "drink your tea" call but the one I saw remained silent. They also have red eyes but I couldn't get close enough to see this. Here's a great bird website from Cornell University which gives a lot of information about the towhee including the sounds it makes.
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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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