Dear Bob, here are some photos of my life here on the campus of Concordia Seminary. I love kids, working with the grounds crew, swimming, playing with my dog friends, and especially my own family people.
This morning our entire area smelled like smoke. It was so strong and so continuous that a few of our students were sent out to see if something on campus was on fire. They checked everywhere and everything but found nothing. Dog walkers coming through the campus said they smelled it from their homes. So what was going on?
Well, it's all due to the goings on in Kansas. "The Missouri Department of Conservation has advised that the smell is stemming from smoke from natural cover and brush fires in Kansas and southern Missouri, which is being pushed through our area by a cold front."
Some years back I was driving through Kansas and saw field after field on fire and was told that this is a normal practice in the spring. This is called a prescribed burn. It is said that fire is a natural process that is essential to the health of forests and prairies alike, and has long been used by property owners and land managers to prevent unwanted stands of brush and cedar trees.
We did have some really strong winds the past couple of days, but it's still amazing how far the smell of smoke will travel.
Once again Dale's car has a squirrels nest inside the engine compartment. A month ago a huge nest was removed filled with newly born babies. Now part of the black fabric backing which covers something in there, has been shredded and a pile of leaves and other brush is packed into a small space. What worries me is whether or not the squirrels have been chewing through wires or hoses which would be disaster while on the highway. Plus the danger of fire from all the dried plant material. So the car is back to being checked over.
I bought one of those ultra sonic sound boxes the last time the car had the nest, supposedly it has sound only animals can hear and they don't like it. Well. That obviously didn't work.
Saw this story last week on straw bale gardening and we're going to give it a try this year. Just about any vegetable or herb plant can be grown in a bale of straw as can annual flowers and the best part, no weeds. This is a good bet for decks or small patios, but we're going to get a whole bunch going in our side yard this spring.
The process begins by spending about ten days watering and fertilizing the hay bale to begin the process of breaking down the material. After that, plant seeds or starter plants and watch them cover the entire outside of the straw. Some people, like the man in this linked article actually go further and set up trellises to get beans to grow up, but we aren't going that far this year.
We have bales left from one of our campus Christmas displays so they are now in place for spring planting and I'm pretty excited to see how this goes.
Some time today the U.S. Green Building Council will announce its top ten states for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Illinois created the most “green” building space per capita in the U.S. for the third year running. LEED-certified spaces use less energy and water, reduce carbon emissions, create jobs and establish a healthier community.
Illinois was first and Maryland second. The entire top ten list will be released later today.
"Illinois’ 44 million total square feet was highest by far than six of the other nine states. California and Texas had more total but less per capita than Illinois."
The issue with having real trees in the house during the Christmas season means having to get rid of them in January. Many local cities have tree drop off places where they are recycled into mulch. Here on the campus we now do our own tree chipping and mulching but there was a time when the Christmas trees were picked up by our grounds staff and trucked over to the city of St. Louis' drop off spot in Forest Park. Here's a picture from 2012 when Ferdie and I got in the truck and went along to help with the drop off. This was a crazy day. Aaron was in the back, Gayle was driving with Ferdie and I squeezed into the front.
I don't know quite what to make of this. A writer for the New York Times is concerned about all the litter in the world and he was inspired by his 4 year old daughter to create a global community named Litterati to clean up the planet one piece at a time.
The plan is for everyone around the world to tag, photograph and throw away litter and then put the picture up on Instagram with the hashtag, #litterati so that the geotags on instagram will bring up maps showing how much litter is being tossed and where.
Make of this what you will, photographing a bottle cap and uploading to instagram.
Yesterday volunteers throughout St. Louis got together to plant 535 trees around various neighborhoods with the belief that every tree planted leads to a more peaceful St. Louis. The goal was "To have people come together to plant trees to symbolize the strength and connectedness of the community."
I'm not even sure what that means, but I do know something about trees and that is that when planted they need water to survive and we are in something of a drought period right now. Who will make sure their root balls are kept watered? They also should be planted in a way which does not crowd each other out, competing for sunlight. Certain varieties do better in certain places. Just plunking down a young sapling isn't all that needs to be done.
Tree lined streets are beautiful, but I fear this will not be very successful.
While Gayle and I were roaming the campus yesterday picking vegetables and herbs for a Seminary Guild display we came across watermelons which had grown over a wall and hung down near the bottom. Quite amazing to think those heavy melons did not tear away from the vine.
A rather shocking article considering it comes from the New York Times. The question is asked, "What is the goal here?" Recycling is more expensive for municipalities to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill. Prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of lower oil prices and reduced demand for them overseas."
Some cities, especially out west, have enacted "no trash allowed" garbage pick up ordinances. You must either recycle hard goods like aluminum and paper and compost your food by products. These rules are named, 'zero waste' in San Fransisco and Seattle with New York City up next.
But according to the article these efforts aren't doing anything to offset anything environmentally. "It makes sense to recycle commercial cardboard and some paper, as well as selected metals and plastics,” he says. “But other materials rarely make sense, including food waste and other compostables. The zero-waste goal makes no sense at all — it’s very expensive with almost no real environmental benefit."
I was on the Clayton Sustainability committee for many years, working often to provide the most recycling types as possible. But there comes a time when these efforts can go so far as to be absurd. You reach a point when you become a ban-ner of things just to do one more thing. Ban styro-foam, ban plastic bags, ban certain foods, etc etc.
So this story is quite amazing in its contrariness to modern thought. I must admit however, that I like the recycling program we have here. It is possible to recycle things you never thought possible and, the compostable things can go right in the yard waste bags. This includes many kitchen scraps except fatty products, dog hair, and the contents of vacuum cleaner bags.