Sunday, August 18, 2013


Weather: Clouds; last rain 8/08/2013; 13:52 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid roses, bird of paradise, silver lace vine, Russian sage, roses of Sharon, purple garden phlox, zinnias and African marigolds from seed, cultivated sunflowers, alfalfa.

Beyond the walls and fences: Trumpet creeper, sweet peas, buffalo gourd, purple mat flower, stickleaf, leather-leafed globe mallow, blue trumpets, bindweed, greenleaf five-eyes, silver-leaf nightshade, velvetweed, yellow evening primrose, Hopi tea, Tahoka daisy, golden hairy aster, native Mexican hat, gumweed, horseweed, goldenrod, native sunflowers.

In my yard, looking east: Hosta, baby’s breath, coral bells, winecup mallow, sidalcea.

Looking south: Rugosa, floribunda and miniature roses, Illinois bundle flower.

Looking west: Caryopteris, Johnson Blue geranium, David phlox, catmints, calamintha, sea lavender, ladybells, lead plant, bachelor buttons from seed, Mönch aster.

Looking north: Blackberry lily, golden spur columbine, chocolate flowers, blanket flowers, anthemis, chrysanthemum, dahlias.

In the open, along the drive: Fern bush, Dutch clover, hollyhock, Shirley and California poppies, larkspur, black-eyed Susan, lance-leaf and prairie coreopsis, yellow, red and mixed Mexican hats, Sensation and yellow cosmos.

Bedding plants: Wax begonias, pansies, snapdragons, sweet alyssum, French marigolds, gazanias.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Ground squirrel, geckos, small bees, hornets, large and small black ants.

Weekly update: Sanitation is one of those things you think everyone learns as a child. Even dogs and cats have rudimentary concepts.

But, it took decades to convince doctors to wash their hands before delivering babies after Joseph Lister and Louis Pasteur had established germs are real.

There are two simple parts: remove and contain things you don’t want, and prevent the spread of things you can’t remove. These are the basis of our first civic improvements, safe drinking water, sewage control, and trash removal.

When you live in the country, there is no local community. The state controls wells, but only to protect the aquifer. Nothing stops someone from putting in a septic field that leaches into someone else’s well - or just dumping chemicals that migrate.

Trash removal is a more distant concept. My local service is now refusing to take away bags they suspect contain weeds, even when the bags are in their required containers.

As people become isolated from farming, they lose their understanding of seeds. You can throw your Siberian elm cuttings over the wall, but the seeds will blow back and the roots creep under. You can burn Russian thistles, but chemicals are released into the air, and the seeds may not be destroyed. You can plow pigweed under, and the seeds come back. You can mow, and seeds fall into the freshly opened soil. You can poison goat’s heads, but the debris remains, with the seeds.

The only way you finally control an unwanted plant is prevent seeds from forming, and getting rid of the ones that do form.

If you get fungus or insects in a plant, burning may or may not help. Getting the diseased material away is all that will work, until nature interrupts the reproduction cycle.

But here, they leave the trees killed by bark beetles to feed future fires. They think only a cold winter will stop the insects from spreading. I have no idea if shredding the trees, and treating them with some chemical would help. It’s too much effort, too much money, too much beyond the imagination of politicians. So, the Jaroso fire was declared contained August 5, but who knows what effect those killed, then burned trees will have on soils and winds that feed the streams that flow into the Santa Cruz lake. From the irrigation channels of my neighbors they spread to me.

When the fire service removed its equipment from the Tres Lagunas fire it announced, "all vehicles that were assigned to the fire are pressure-washed" to prevent spreading some invasive forms of algae to another part of the country.

Do you think anyone who hears that would think they should wash their backhoes when they move from one job to another?

When I ask men if they’ll get their gravel from a particular company, they answer their brother or cousin is cheaper. When I asked if the gravel is cleaned in some way, they look puzzled. What do I mean cleaned? It’s dirt.

I didn’t even bother to ask the tree service if they wash down their tools with bleach. I just refused to take their offer of the free mulch they made from the trees I had cut. I knew one had locust borers. Their feelings were hurt.

When I was teaching English composition in a junior college in Michigan, I discovered the biggest problem was getting students to transfer what they knew about grammar to their own writing. They could do any verb recognition exercise I gave them from a text book. When I asked them to identify the verbs in their own paragraphs, they could not do it.

I don’t know what mental or cultural mechanism prevents or facilitates the transfer of knowledge from the public to the personal, but it is real. Those doctors who refused to wash their hands drank pasturized beer.

Diseases and weeds are not cheaper than the costs of prevention. They are freeloaders that exploit the refusal of politicians to spend money and the difficulty individuals have recognizing universal laws apply to them.

If I do find someone who will remove my bags of garden weeds, it will be the unintended consequence of the failure of individual utilities to consider the public. The first time someone came to look at my inoperative telephone line, "they" were paving the road. A handyman followed his truck into my drive. The road crew had said, take the alternate route, and he wondered if the lineman knew where it was. There is none, unless you’re on an ATV. The signs are put up because that’s standard procedure. Determining if the signs mean anything is not.

As for the telephone line, my internet provider finally figured out the telephony company upgraded the telephone company's equipment and obsoleted the modem the telephone company supplied. No one yet has figured out why my telephone line itself is better at transmitting high-pitched squeals than voices.

There is hope. The internet company is close to providing a wireless DSL alternative that frees me from the telephone company, and allows me to switch to a cell phone. Then, alternate routes will not matter.

Technology advances, but bleach is still necessary.

Markel, Howard. "The Doctor Who Made His Students Wash Up," New York Times, 7 October 2003, review of Sherwin B. Nuland, The Doctors' Plague: Germs, Childbed Fever and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis

Tres Lagunas Fire News Release, "Rock Snot and Whirling Disease Also Formidable Foes for Wildland Firefighters," 9 June 2013

1. The backhoe arrived from some unknown place, 14 May 2012. When it returned, the driver had been working in the hay fields of the Four Corners area.

2. The first day he spread sand that had come from some arroyo near Velarde, 14 May 2012. My neighbor, who ordered the sand, said it was cheaper than the local supplier.

3. The second day, the backhoe spread the gravel that came from some quarry west of town, 15 May 2012. The tires, the underbelly, and the bucket/scraper all had places for hitchhiking seeds.

4. A few weeks later, amaranth seedlings emerged near the location of pictures #1 and #3. The picture is of this year’s seedlings taken 25 May 2013.

5. The seedlings grew into three foot plants by mid-August, 13 August 2012.

6. Some kind of white-flowered nightshade came up in the area of picture #2, 17 August 2012.

7. When I was cleaning the drive this spring, I discovered it might be some kind of nettle. When the seeds emerged, I removed them. They were the most vicious seedlings I’ve ever seen, 7 May 2013.

8. The unknown rust-colored loco came up in the same area last summer. It now is producing seed pods, 18 August 2013. So far, it is a benign addition, like the handyman who followed the lineman down my drive.

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