Friday, April 23, 2010

Do one thing

It was Earth Day yesterday.  We celebrated 40 years of acknowledging we need to - and actually doing something about - pulling the earth back from human destruction. Corporations and other groups were out in force this week showing corporate spirit for a clean environment.

I'm all for it. But the challenge of this week is the likelihood that some people will feel that with all these groups working on the problem, they, individually, do not need to get involved.  Or, perhaps, that as one individual they cannot do anything, or anything meaningful, or anything today or this week.

But the need and the opportunity are in front of each of us every day. And each of us can do one thing. Pick up that plastic bottle someone else threw in the street. Pick up that candy wrapper that - accidentally, I'm sure - slipped from someone's hand in the lobby. Choose to buy the food that is not over packaged. Buy produce that is in season and grown locally.

Each of us can do one thing. And the cumulative effect of each person doing one thing can be huge.

Recently, I interviewed Gary Stortz who runs Stortz General Store north of Decorah.  Gary and his wife provide fishing gear to trout anglers along North Bear Creek. North Bear Creek is one of Iowa's success stories - a stream of exceptional quality where the waters run clear and cool and trout reproduce naturally. Achieving that stream quality required the cooperation of a lot of people, Stortz told me. Keeping it clean does, too.  "When trout fishermen find a wrapper on the ground, they pick it up," he said.  "When everybody kicks in, you can do anything."

I like to think what Gary has seen along North Bear Creek can be true across Iowa, the nation, and our world.  When every kicks in, we can do anything. We can each start by doing one thing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Prairie spring

The lawn is emerald green. The trees leaf out. Violets dot the lawn with splashes of lavender. The inevitable dandelions bloom. But from a distance, the prairie is brown.

It is only 11 months since I prepared the land and seeded this prairie. So, this is my first spring and I don't really know what to expect. Snow blanketed the prairie from early December until mid-March, leaving me to wonder what happened to tender seedlings under all that cold. Did anything make it?

From a distance, it's brown. A closer look reveals something quite different. A vole tunnel proves that even under the snow the prairie was alive. Plants of all sorts are forcing their way through crab grass residue. Camera in hand, I snap photos of each different seedling, hoping to know now what flowers I may see later this year.

Some of the plants are robust, clearly in their second year of growth. Some are tiny, first-year babies. All that I see so far are 'forbs,' 'a herbaceous flowering plant other than a grass.'  I have yet to spot any prairie grass but trust these species are coming and must assume they emerge later.

Back in the house, I sit with photos and a prairie seedling identification guide in hand. (Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers) It is a tad disappointing to find that the best I can do is say that a plant is an aster of some type or a cone flower of some type or a sunflower of some type. In some future year I may be skilled enough to recognize the differences at the seedling stage, but for right now, no.

Because I am me, I am overly eager to do something to curtail the dandelions in the prairie. I can hear one of my brothers in law already, "Aren't dandelions a native plant?" Ha. Ha. I know not to talk with them about the challenge with dandelions, crab grass and barnyard grass!

It's a delight to find that my baby prairie is back and thriving. Already I can spend hours walking around and through, watching as new seedlings emerge.  Discovering, learning, experiencing something new every day.

An editorial by Dick Doak in the Des Moines Register suggested 'painting Iowa's landscape' with prairies. Establishing native prairie as a botanical signature for Iowa in the same way saguaro cacti are for Arizona. Restored prairies across Iowa would invite everyone to discover, learn, and experience an amazing piece of nature.  I'm all for it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Men at work

As surely as the daffodils rise each spring, men  emerge from winter hibernation to tackle outdoor projects. I enjoy watching both. It is a true delight to see so much get done.

My husband holds a formidable list this spring - an extension on his shed, trees to trim, tiling a wet ditch, installing a new furnace, remodeling a bathroom. All that in addition to putting in the garden. He's lined up a host of contractors to do the heavy lifting - and climb the trees (thank goodness!). As a result, we have a steady stream of men arriving over the next weeks. Experts for each task.

Inevitably, even with experts, things don't work exactly as planned every time. As the builders drilled post holes, they encountered an unexpected electrical conduit. I applaud the electrician who arrived to solve the problem. He got it done in spite of the drenching rain. My husband is an attentive supervisor, even holding an umbrella for the electrician when the rain was heaviest. He is sure the little details of each project are completed to his satisfaction.

My contribution to these projects is minimal. I take pictures for the record. I point the way to the bathroom. I assure them it doesn't matter if they run over my flowers.  Mostly I gain vicarious pleasure from all this work getting done.

David and I fall into bed at the end of the day and laugh - Boy we sure got a lot done today!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The joke's on me

I am not a superstitious person by nature, but this morning had me thinking the world was in on some cosmic joke at my expense.

9:00 a.m. - The person teaming up with me for a 10 a.m. meeting calls to say she can't make. Sitting with son in the doctor's office. I get it. No problem. I'll do the presentation solo.

9:45 a.m. - I check in at the reception desk for the 10 a.m. meeting. Early, as planned. The receptionist says cryptically, "There was a mix up. Your meeting was at 9 a.m."  My contact comes to say, "So sorry. I expected you at 9 and I have a 10 o'clock scheduled. Can't do it today. We'll reschedule."  No problem, I say, smiling, as I sigh inside. They validated my parking.

10:00 a.m. - I go to the library to pick up a book I have on hold.  Can't find it in the Hold stacks.  "Oh, that hold was up yesterday," says the librarian. "Do you want to go back on the list?"  Sure. No big deal. "You're number 4," she confirms.

10:09 a.m. - I'll just pick up the sandwiches my husband asked for since I was going to be downtown and head home. I see paper covering the South Union windows.  Can't be good, I think. And then the sign on the door - Closed for remodeling.

How can I do anything but laugh?  Three strikes and you're out, I think.  Ah, of course, it's April Fools Day. And the joke is on me.

Is it any wonder I pay particular attention at intersections on the drive home?  Wouldn't put it past the cosmic powers to think this is a particularly good day for an accident!