Tuesday, November 09, 2010


34.2 degrees this morning here on the mountain. A sliver of light is reaching up from Peacham Pond and a light fog holds tight over the little valley below my office window. The goldenrod and insidious colts foot that surround the platform bird feeder still drip from last night's rain as humidity stays at 98% and the birds eat wet seed for breakfast.

Karl the Wonder Dog and I walked down the main road and out the forest road this morning hoping to encounter the big buck that comes through most nights. He's an awesome animal and I'm happy even if I just see his footprints in the mud. We had to settle for the six turkeys under the apple trees but still it was a pleasant morning hello.

A couple years back someone suggested I write a piece for Blog Action Day, an annual October event with a changing theme. The theme in 2008 was Poverty and I tried to offer local color to a topic that was dear to me having lived through very poor times in Vermont of the 50s. In 2009 the topic was Climate Change and as I reread what I wrote then, I am immediately reminded that 2010 experienced the first 9 months in a row with above average temperatures. Currently we are running at about 40" of precipitation for the year. That is clearly change.

The blog topic for 2010 was water, and rain during the past month or so has given us enough to think about. I got tied up planting at the nursery and just couldn't participate in Action Day as I wanted. Just the same I have given a lot of thought to water and a recent visit to a museum exhibit reinforced my concerns. Read on.

Many readers are probably familiar with the photographic chronicles of Edward Burtynsky but I never saw his work until attending a recent exhibit at the Shelburne Museum. I had never even heard of ship breaking before and as I told a friend about this he told me I should leave the plants alone and get out a little more. Burtynsky's photos were striking enough because of their physical size but the images hit me like bricks when I learned how and where ship breaking was accomplished. My mind raced from thoughts of Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day 1969, the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 and this year's BP spill in April. But then there was this ship breaking thing where "past-their-prime" ocean going ships of all types are floated into the Mouths of the Ganges in Bangladesh at high tide and dropped in the mud flats. There they are cannibalized from end to end by laborers using cutting torches without eye or safety protection as every thing within the ships becomes part of the ocean at the next tide. Pollution as big as BP but without the fanfare of the media.

Vermont has great water and our water here on the mountain is the best. A trip to any city with a drink from a faucet will remind me how much I want to get home where water doesn't smell of chemicals or pollution. It is something to covet and protect.

As gardeners we consume a lot of water. Some use chemicals in their gardening and many are somehow affected by other gardeners or farmers or businesses chemical use. Here in Vermont we are sadly reminded too often of different degrees of pollution at Vermont Yankee, a nuclear power plant. A few years back Cabot Creamery spilled ammonia into an upper branch of the Winooski River that killed everything for miles. But we never hear about big commerce on the Winooski in Essex or along the shores of Lake Champlain. ...or along the Mississiquoi River, Otter Creek, the White River, Passumpsic ....Have there ever been negative water events we have not heard about?

Water is a valuable resource. You cannot garden or live without it. Although I missed the deadline for writing for Blog Action Day, I didn't forget the value of our water supply. When you raise the next water glass at your house, think about how you can protect the resource. It's bigger than growing nice tomatoes--I guarantee it!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the fog has not moved and the sun has not broken through. One grosbeak and one blue jay challenge each other for the balance of yesterday's sunflower seeds. The picture up top is a spring on our property.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
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1 comment:

vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com said...

Apologies, friends, with "Water". The Edward Burtynsky links didn't work. Try again and explore the work of this outstanding photographer. I wonder what people thought of me at the museum as I stood motionless and absorbed ship breaking.

George Africa