Environment

Yellowstone Park is Wolf Country

By William T. Hathaway

yellowstone wolves

This year marks the 20th anniversary of wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park. From 66 released originally they’ve increased to over 300 and are no longer endangered. That they thrive here is not surprising, for they are creatures of this raw land in a way that we aren’t. Wolves are fitted to this environment, and so to understand them, we have to know the country that nurtures them.

The area from Yellowstone to central Idaho has one of the lowest densities of human population in the United States. Those who do live here are held in thrall by land and weather, too harsh for most of our species. The elements keep us ever on the defensive without even noticing us.

People claim to own this country, but she owns us. Daily she teaches us how small our power is: we are like children clinging to a shaggy bison, helpless riders on a massive beast. We had enough power to exile the wolves, but then the wilderness was no longer whole, the grazing herds became unhealthy, and we had to bring back these culling predators. The banishment was short from their time frame.

The mountains they lope around are the eruption of a force that begins to rise in the Dakotas, gathers momentum as it buckles the prairie into ridges and ravines, then thrusts the earth’s crust into peaks. Humans read time on the land, and it dwarfs us: Rivers cut the earth for millennia, then vanished into the bottoms of their canyons, leaving them lime dry. Glaciers sheared off mountains, scraping them down to flat mesas. Epochs of wind are still gnawing the buttes into knobs of pocked rock. Now it’s time for wolves again. A missing totem, Sunmánituthaka of the Sioux, has been restored, an ancient spirit returned to us.

Their example may help us better to endure the wheel of the seasons here. Weather weighs on us all, refusing to be ignored. Winter lasts half the year, burying the earth in snow. Bears, badgers, and rattlesnakes retreat into hibernation. Wolves just nap in the blizzards, wrapped in their tails. Antelope nudge through the white mantle to graze, watched now by stalking topaz eyes. People creep in line.

As the storms tire, winter yields, then breaks like river ice; sudden blue holes fracture the gray lid into cumulus floes. The mountain runoff swells the streams into roily torrents. The land wakes up slowly, knowing her first flowers will be sacrificed to May snow. Humans are last to thaw.

Spring blows our fences down. Elk huddle in the lee of bluffs as gales curry the earth’s green pelt. Clouds mound together till they darken and break, gashing lightning, spilling hail, drifting purple veils of rain while half the sky stays blue and clear. Wolf whelps nurse in their dens.

The summer sky widens, stretching the land taut across horizons like curing buckskin. The wind winnows pliant grasses, chaps the earth, snaps amaranths and turns them into tumbleweeds bowling across the range till they snag on fences and pile up to build shelter for seedlings. People plow the dirt. Young wolves romp.

The sun scorches through the thin air, driving streams underground and shrinking water holes into puddles beached with alkali. In the dry light, colors fade, sagebrush pales dust green, wheat straw blanches on shimmering hills. Prairie rises from shady coulees to distant ridges of sleeping dinosaurs. Valleys timbered with aspen and pine slope into granite cliffs which soar to snowy crags. Howls chorus above them again in wild polyphony. The land, tough as weathered leather, charges on toward everywhere.

Humans haven’t conquered this country; we haven’t even got a saddle on her; we’re just would-be bison riders holding on however we can. When she stampedes, which is mostly, we cling too tightly to love the ride, but at less than a gallop we can loosen our grip, lift our faces to the wind, and flow with the earth as she rolls beneath us.

While we’re riding, quickly out of the corner of our eye, we can glimpse the wolves running free again. They belong here.

About the author:

William T. Hathaway’s new novel, Lila, the Revolutionary, is the story of an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted at www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. He was a Fulbright professor of creative writing at universities in Germany, where he currently lives. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.

Read more...

Home modifications help to deal with dimentia

Not every person struggling with dementia lives in a nursing home or assisted-living facility.

In fact, more than 15 million Americans – usually family members or friends – provide unpaid caregiving to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to a 2014 report by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Although it’s wonderful so many are willing to assume that responsibility, it’s also important they take steps to make sure the home is a safe place, says Kerry Mills, co-author with Jennifer Brush of the book “I Care: A Handbook for Care Partners of People with Dementia.” (www.engagingalzheimers.com)

Part of that is to focus on potential hazards. The concept is not unlike new parents making a house “childproof.” Many of the concerns are similar, such as stairs, electrical sockets, sharp objects and swimming pools.

At the same time, it’s easy to go too far, Mills said. Ideally, the environment for the person with dementia should be as unrestricted as possible.

“For example, if your loved one enjoys cooking for a hobby and can safely cut and peel vegetables, then by all means, encourage it,” Mills says.
Mills suggests several ways to make a home safer for someone with dementia.

•  For the front and back doors. Use bells on the doors, motion sensors that turn on lights or alerts, or other notifications that make the care partner aware when someone has gone out. Add lamps or motion-activated lighting so people can see where they are going when they are entering or leaving the house.

“Another way to discourage someone from wanting to leave the house is to make sure that he or she gets plenty of outside exercise whenever possible,” Mills says.

•  For stairways and hallways. Add reflective tape strips to stair edges to make stairs more visible. Remove obstacles, such as mats and flowerpots, to minimize risks of falls on or by the stairs.

Also, install handrails in hallways and stairways to provide stability, and install a gate on the stairway to prevent falls. Improve the lighting around hallways and stairs by installing more ceiling fixtures or wall sconces.

•  For the bathroom. Install grab bars and a raised toilet seat to help both the individual with dementia and the care partners so they don’t have to lift the person on and off the toilet.

Add grab bars inside and outside the tub, and a non-skid surface in the tub to reduce risks of falls. You can also add colored tape on the edge of the tub or shower curb to increase contrast and make the tub edge more visible.

Lower the water temperature or install an anti-scald valve to prevent burns, and remove drain plugs from sinks or tubs to avoid flooding.

•  For the possibility the person becomes lost. Provide your loved one with an identification or GPS bracelet in case he or she wanders. Label clothes with the person’s name, and place an identification card in his or her wallet with a description of the person’s condition. Notify police and neighbors of the person’s dementia and tendency to wander.

About Kerry Mills

Kerry Mills, MPA, is an expert in best care practices for persons with dementia both in the home and in out-of-home health care residences and organizations. She is a consultant to numerous hospitals, assisted livings, hospice, home care agencies, senior day care centers and nursing homes. In her twelve-year career in health care, she has served as executive director and regional manager for numerous long-term dementia facilities. She is an outspoken advocate for persons with dementia, lecturing in Hong Kong, Canada, China, Europe and the United States. Her book, coauthored with Jennifer A. Brush, “I Care,” (engagingalzheimers.com), is the 2014 Gold Award Winner of the National Mature Media Awards.

Read more...

The 100-mile diet – Why you should be a locavore

In some parts of the world, people strive to follow a 100-mile diet, eating only food produced within 100 miles of where they live.

Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, respectively, claimed the top three spots in the 2014 Locavore Index, a ranking of each state’s (and the District of Columbia’s) commitment to promoting and providing locally grown foods.

At the bottom of the heap are Arizona, Nevada and Texas, with the Lone Star State dead last despite the fact that it’s the nation’s No. 1 cattle producer and No. 3 for crops receipts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“There are many good reasons to eat locally produced foods, the first among them that they’re very good for us,” says cardiologist and professional chef Michael S. Fenster, MD, (www.whatscookingwithdoc.com), author of “Eating Well, Living Better” and “The Fallacy of the Calorie,” (Koehler Books; fall 2014).

“There’s a direct relationship between our food, our environment, our genetics and our health. Eating locally grown foods gives us our most nutritious meals, most flavorful meals. Few choices have as many personal ramifications as that which we decide to stuff into our gob.”

He offers four more reasons – “the tip of the iceberg lettuce, so to speak” — to go localvore:

• Money: Eating organically, eating fresh and finding the seasonal local foodstuffs can be expensive – if you do all your shopping at the supermarket, Dr. Mike says.

“Finding healthful produce at venues like a local farmer’s market can result in prices that are at least comparable, if not substantially less than, those at the megamarket, which has the additional costs of shipping from the nether regions,” he says.

Likewise, visiting a local fishmonger can result in tasty bargains compared to flash-frozen fish flesh. Shopping for what is bountifully in season, and thus locally overstocked, can mean big savings.

“Finally, by purchasing items produced locally, your money strengthens the local economy and helps sustain the people producing the types of food stuffs that you wish to sustain yourself upon,” he says. “That is the smiley face circle of life.”

• Freshness: In some ways, it’s amazing we’re alive considering all the food we eat that’s dead, Dr. Mike says, noting almost 60 percent of the modern Western diet is prepackaged, preserved and processed.

“Any time we manipulate our comestibles in such a fashion, we add compounds that are not naturally found in them or remove parts that are,” he says. “Those pre-cut vegetables in the supermarket may be convenient, but they started losing nutritional value and flavor as soon as they were sliced and diced.”

Because local growers don’t have to add preservatives or pick produce weeks early to ensure they’ll produce will keep during shipping, local foods can be consumed at the peak of freshness and ripeness – when they taste their very best.

• Rhythms: Our great hairy ancestors have always been omnivores.

“There is ample evidence that the reason we as a species became the smartest kids on the block is that we took advantage of a varied diet. This hardwired drive for diversity in dining is also one reason why restrictive diets that seek to severely limit what we consume almost always, ultimately fail,” Dr. Mike says.

By leveraging the seasonal and cyclic variations that naturally occur, your palate will never become dull and monochromatic, he promises. A pleasant dining experience directly lights up our primal happy-happy joy-joy place, an experience that contributes directly to overall well-being.

• Sustainability: All the reasons for purchasing high-quality ingredients locally ultimately circle back and rest upon the concept of sustainability. In knowing where your food comes from, in being able to ascertain both what it contains and what it does not contain, you take a proactive step in determining your own health and wellness, Dr. Mike says.

By focusing on procuring the best for you and those who depend upon you, you act to sustain yourself and your family. By affecting such a posture, you deliver local impact.

“With enough people acting locally, the impact becomes regional and if enough people demand control over their foodstuffs then, like a crazy cat video gone viral, it can have a global effect.”

About Michael S. Fenster, MD

Michael Fenster, M.D., F.A.C.C., FSCA&I, PEMBA, is a board-certified interventional cardiologist. Also known as “Dr. Mike,” author of “Eating Well, Living Better: The Grassroots Gourmet Guide to Good Health and Great Food,” (www.whatscookingwithdoc.com), he combines his culinary talents and Asian philosophy with medical expertise, creating winning recipes for healthy eating. A certified wine professional and chef, Dr. Mike worked professionally in kitchens prior to entering medical school and maintained his passion for food and wine throughout his medical career.

Read more...

No yard? You still can have a garden!

If you don’t have a yard large enough to contain a garden (or any yard at all), you may think that your local supermarket and farmer’s market are your only sources for fresh produce. But don’t load up the grocery cart with fruit, veggies, and herbs just yet. If you have a small townhouse yard, a fire escape, a south-facing window, or even a basement apartment (yes, really!), you can grow enough food to save a considerable amount of money and enjoy fresh, healthy produce.

A new book from the popular For Dummies® series will give you all of the information you need to start growing in your small space, ranging from different types of urban gardens to tips about pest management, irrigation, composting, and much more.

“It’s true—with the right knowledge, you can create a garden essentially anywhere,” promises Charlie Nardozzi, coauthor along with Paul Simon and the National Gardening Association of the new book Urban Gardening For Dummies® (Wiley, January 2013, ISBN: 978-1-1183-4035-6, $19.99). “It’s all about using proven small-space techniques that allow you to maximize yield.”

Specifically, Nardozzi says, the name of the small-space game is sustainability. If you want your garden to last through the years and stay in harmony with nature, you’ll need to ask yourself questions like, Am I being environmentally responsible? Is what I want to do economically feasible? Is there a way I can involve my community?

Here, Nardozzi shares ten tips that will help urbanites everywhere to create and maintain sustainable small-space gardens:

Understand sustainability. In order to create a sustainable urban garden, you must first know what sustainable agriculture means. In essence, it means putting as much back into the land as you take away, so that the land can continue producing indefinitely. It also means minimizing the use of nonrenewable resources, because by definition these resources are finite and their use cannot be sustained indefinitely.

“Advocates of sustainable farming—and sustainable living in general—feel that our mainstream consumer culture is living on borrowed time, until the day that the earth’s resources can no longer support us,” Nardozzi comments. “Only by adopting more sustainable lifestyles can we conserve these nonrenewable resources. Urban gardeners can employ sustainable management practices to help gather community support and preserve remaining open lands available in our cities for continued agricultural and urban farming uses for the next generation.”

Know your soil conditions. Many urban gardeners are correct in thinking they have poor soil—it’s likely to be compacted and poor in structure and quality. Once you have selected a garden area, test the soil to determine the soil type, pH, organic matter content, and available phosphate and potash. Don’t let all of that jargon scare you; you can buy soil-testing kits at garden centers or send a soil sample to a soil-testing laboratory.

“The key to improving the soil is to do it before you begin any planting,” Nardozzi explains. “If you incorporate the proper amounts of organic matter and soil amendments, your soil will provide nutrients and make air and water more available to plants.”

Compost is key. Aside from the conservation aspect of reducing our waste, compost improves soil structure, promotes plant growth, and helps soil store nutrients to keep them available for plants. Research shows that plants mulched with compost are more disease-resistant and sturdier than plants grown without it.

“Compost improves all aspects and types of soil,” Nardozzi shares. “What organic matter you use depends on local availability and personal preference. If you have enough homemade compost, use that. Otherwise, check garden centers or the Yellow Pages for companies that produce compost in bulk. Visually check the compost for weeds, insects, and foreign material.”

Conserve water and harvest your rain. Clean water is a very precious commodity—especially in our urban communities. That’s why, according to Nardozzi, a sustainable urban gardener needs to employ numerous methods and strategies to conserve water.

“From installing rain barrels and rain gardens to simply adjusting your mowing height, there are several easy steps to reduce your water use at home and employ sustainable conservation strategies,” he says.

Use organic fertilizers. While plants respond rapidly to chemical fertilizers, they are carried into the soil via salts—and this part of their chemistry threatens the living creatures that work every day to build your soil. (Specifically, they dehydrate essential bacteria and fungi in the soil.) Plus, the impact of chemical fertilizers is short-lived and must be repeated often to get the same effect.

“Being a sustainable urban gardener requires you to be environmentally responsible, and that means using organic fertilizers,” Nardozzi points out. “Organic fertilizers add to the ecology in the soil because they are not carried by salts and have both short- and long-term impacts.”

Know your microclimate conditions. The urban climate is influenced by a variety of factors including solar radiation, surrounding air temperatures, air movement, sun orientation, humidity, topographical location, proximity to lakes or waterfront exposure, paved surfaces such as roads and parking lots, buildings, and existing rooftop conditions.

“Understanding how to appropriately develop your landscape to mitigate the impacts of light and wind can help you create a microclimate that is beneficial to the urban environment and your wallet,” Nardozzi says. “For instance, depending on where your garden is located and how you design it, it might help to reduce summer cooling costs and lower your winter heating bills.”

Select “the right” plants for your area. “The right” plants are well adapted to your urban environment and require little to no maintenance whatsoever. Native plants are good candidates since they have evolved and adapted to local conditions. They also tend to be vigorous and hardy and able to withstand local weather patterns including winter’s cold and summer’s heat.

“Once established, native plantings require no irrigation or fertilization,” Nardozzi comments. “They’re resistant to most pests and diseases, making them ideal for the sustainable gardener.”

Consider hydroponic and aquaponic gardening. In its simplest form, hydroponics is growing plants by supplying all necessary nutrients in the plants’ water supply rather than through the soil. This method helps gardeners grow more food more rapidly in smaller areas (greenhouses, living rooms, classrooms, and rooftops, for instance) and to produce food in places where space, good soil, and/or water are limited.

“In aquaponics, the nutrient solution is water containing fish excrement,” Nardozzi explains. “Basically, it’s the integration of hydroponics and aquaculture. Live fish are raised in a traditional fish tank. They excrete their waste into the surrounding water, which is used to supply nutrients to the growing plants positioned above the tank. Because hydroponic and aquaponic gardening can be done in small spaces, they are great options for urban gardeners.”

Minimize the costs. In order to be sustainable, you need to keep your costs low while using as many eco-friendly products as your budget allows (for example, energy efficient light bulbs, which have become increasingly affordable in recent years).

“Of course, saving energy helps you save money on utility bills and helps protect the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the continued fight against climate change,” says Nardozzi. “Just make sure your project is economically feasible from the outset!”

Involve your community. Whether up on the rooftop or between buildings in a vacant lot, opportunities abound in your city to grow together with your community. Community gardens provide a place to meet new friends and to share gardening experiences.

“In fact, many community gardens offer workshops to help gardeners learn about seeds, crop rotation, companion planting, and organic pest control solutions to help keep soil and plants healthy,” Nardozzi says. “Everybody benefits!”

“Sustainability is not an outcome; it’s a process of responsible maintenance,” Nardozzi concludes. “In order to manage your urban gardening practices well, you must pay careful attention to environmental and economic factors and involve the community. A collaborative effort and responsible management of the city landscape will grant you a successful and beautiful urban garden now and into the next generation!”

 

About the Authors:
The National Gardening Association is the leading garden-based educational nonprofit in the USA. Visit www.garden.org.

Charlie Nardozzi is the coauthor of Urban Gardening For Dummies® and a nationally recognized garden writer, speaker, and radio and television personality.

Paul Simon is the coauthor of Urban Gardening For Dummies® as well as a nationally recognized landscape architect, public artist, horticulturist, master gardener, and urban designer.

About the Book:
Urban Gardening For Dummies® (Wiley, January 2013, ISBN: 978-1-1183-4035-6, $19.99) is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the publisher by calling (877) 762-2974. For more information, please visit the book’s page at www.wiley.com.

Read more...