I would just like to take a moment to recognize that Sunday was National Sibling Day and I really appreciate my sister. On Sunday she sent me a nice message and some pictures of us that had been taken over the years. I really wish I could see her more often. She has such a positive role in my life, and we get along so well. We are like marshmallows and chocolate; they are both good on their own, but WAYYY better when they are together. Over this past weekend I went on the Sustaining the Sustainer Retreat; while we were there we took some time to reflect on what things in our lives are stressful and what things are nurturing to us. I would have to say that my relationship with my sister is something that nurtures a spirit of well being inside of me. I try to surround myself with things and relationships that build me up instead of bringing me down (trying to keep the personal pollution to a minimum). I encourage you to take a moment to look at the components of your life right now. Maybe that includes work, hobbies, relationships, school, health, or other things and figure out what is nurturing you. Try to focus on those positive things and somehow incorporate them into your daily life more. For me one thing I will try to do more is talk to my sister until I can see her over the summer.

If you don’t have a sibling don’t feel left out because of National Sibling Day because today is NATIONAL ONLY CHILD DAY!!!!

World Water Day

Today is World Water Day! I wonder if Professor Wingfield scheduled the Water Wars peer teaching group to present today on purpose. World Water day started in 1993 and is meant to focus on the importance of fresh water and sustainable management of fresh water resources. Each year there is a different theme; the theme for 2016 is Water and Jobs (“Better water, better jobs”). This theme focuses on jobs that are created directly or somehow indirectly to water sources around the world. Many people around the world have jobs that depend on a continual water source. With out this water they would not be able to support themselves. I feel that these people have a greater respect for the need of fresh, healthy water. It seems that many people in the culture that surrounds us today do not realize just how important water is in our every day lives. I fear that water has become an expendable resource in the eyes of a lot of people. It seems that the attitude is that water will always be around so why worry about using too much of it? The fact is that fresh water resources are being used up every day, and the sources of fresh water that we do still have are being contaminated with pollutants. In a first world country it is easy to think that water is just a basic thing that will always be available when we need it, but there are people struggling with water availability even in this country. Even so, when water is needed in one part of this country it is usually redirected from another area of the country to fill the need. In other countries it is not so easy for people who don’t have water to suddenly get it from somewhere else. That is why people can become extremely protective of the fresh water that is available to them, no matter how small the supply is. I am excited to learn more about this topic when we hear from the peer teaching group in class today. Water is not something anyone should take for granted.

old topic. new perspective.

The topic of overfishing the world’s oceans is not a new one to me. I knew that the depletion of many fish populations due to overfishing has been a big problem for quite a while, but I had not really seen the immensity of negative effects that stem from it. Not only has overfishing caused the extinction of some fish species that were being harvested, it has left a wake of destruction in its path.  In a class that I am taking this semester the professor showed us a video concerning the problems that are involved with overfishing. Fish are being harvested faster than their numbers can replenish. Advancements in technology have enabled fishermen to locate exactly where to find even a single fish of the kind they are looking for. This direct targeting gives the fish no fighting chance of being able to escape today’s fishermen. Even with the ability to find a specific species of fish, the amount of other species that are harmed in the process is devastating. Fishermen only want the specific fish they are trying to sell, so when other animals get caught in the nets they are usually tossed back over this side of the boat dead as bycatch. Sharks, sea lions, dolphins, turtles, rays, crabs, birds, other fish species, and many more animals can be caught in the nets unwanted, so their dead carcasses are tossed back into the ocean in startling amounts. This is a huge waste of life and causes all kinds of problems. Some methods used to collect fish can be very destruction on the ocean habitats as well. In simple terms a bottom trawler rakes a net along the sea floor, collecting and destroying everything in its path. Fragile coral reefs are completely  desecrated by this. So many abundant oceanic habitats depend coral reefs and they are being destroyed by this wasteful method of fishing. It is all done in the name of money. Sometimes it seems that the more I learn about humanity and its greed, the more disgusted I am by  everything. How do people not see how destructive we are?

bycatch that gets dumped back in the ocean……

Giving back to the Earth :)

I would like to tell a story that I think has very much to do with being sustainable in several ways. One day before I left for school during the fall of my senior year of high school I found out that one of my cats died. His name was Teddy, named after Teddy Roosevelt because he was a big game hunter; and this cat kept the balance of life at my house. He hunted A LOT; moles, mice, squirrels, and occasionally some birds, which was a little unfortunate but hey that’s how the world works. This cat was a natural way for us to keep pests out of our yard, instead of using pesticides or mouse poison.

When one of my friends found out that my cat died she was very very disheartened; keep in mind that this girl really loves cats. She was so upset about my cat dying that she wrote invitations for several of our friends to come to my house after school to have a funeral for Teddy. That evening my friends came to my house for the service. We dug a hole in my back yard at the edge of the woods. My friend read a poem that she wrote for Teddy as she cried over his body. She placed the poem and some flowers in his grave as we buried him, giving his body back to the Earth. It was a sad time but it makes me feel better knowing that Teddy came from the Earth, and to the Earth we returned him. After the touching service had concluded we ate some apples from a tree in my yard, and some scuppernongs from a grapevine in my yard.

There are several morals to this story:

If you don’t have a cat your shed will be full of mice.

Don’t tell your friend that your cat died unless you want her to cry for hours.

If you want to dig a grave for a cat in hard red clay get someone else to do it.

If you offer your dead cat to the Earth as a sacrifice it will give you fresh fruit.

But seriously, disposing of degradable items by putting it back in the Earth, whether it is food waste or a dead animal, is an easy way to do something sustainable by nourishing the soil.

Giving back to the Earth :)

I would like to tell a story that I think has very much to do with being sustainable in several ways. One day before I left for school during the fall of my senior year of high school I found out that one of my cats died. His name was Teddy, named after Teddy Roosevelt because he was a big game hunter; and this cat kept the balance of life at my house. He hunted A LOT; moles, mice, squirrels, and occasionally some birds, which was a little unfortunate but hey that’s how the world works. This cat was a natural way for us to keep pests out of our yard, instead of using pesticides or mouse poison.

When one of my friends found out that my cat died she was very very disheartened; keep in mind that this girl really loves cats. She was so upset about my cat dying that she wrote invitations for several of our friends to come to my house after school to have a funeral for Teddy. That evening my friends came to my house for the service. We dug a hole in my back yard at the edge of the woods. My friend read a poem that she wrote for Teddy as she cried over his body. She placed the poem and some flowers in his grave as we buried him, giving his body back to the Earth. It was a sad time but it makes me feel better knowing that Teddy came from the Earth, and to the Earth we returned him. After the touching service had concluded we ate some apples from a tree in my yard, and some scuppernongs from a grapevine in my yard.

There are several morals to this story:

 

 

Chickens

This past Friday some of us from the LLC went to Arcadia Farm to volunteer for a few hours. It was a small group of us, but I think we got a good amount of work done. We broke up a few rows of soil that sweet potatoes had just been harvested from. The woman we were working with, I can’t remember her name, said that we could keep any potatoes that we found still in the ground while we were digging. Sonam found a REALLY big sweet potato! I hope she made something good out of it; I’ll have to ask her about it. We found many other small potatoes and brought them back with us. I kept a few and cooked them for my roommate. Alright, back to the relevant part of the story. So we broke up the soil to make the rows ready to plant a cover crop for the cold season to put nutrients back in the soil. We were able to plant one row or some kind of radish seed. These radishes are not meant to be harvested, she told us that the greens will be cut down and the radish roots will just be broken up into the soil to decompose and enrich the soil for the next crop that will be planted there.

The farm was smaller than I expected it to be; it was pretty much a big garden, but they had a lot of things planted there. Before we started working she showed us around the different plants they were growing. Much of the space was empty because it is the end of the growing season and they had already harvested some things. I did see what an okra plant looks like for the first time though. There were a few things that they had just for educational purposes because sometimes they show groups of kids around; they had a few cotton plants, some popping corn that they show to the kids, and some chickens. I think she said they had seven chickens. We saw them in a little coop that she said was designed when they had some kind of contest to see who could create the best chicken coop. It was actually pretty cool; it had wheels on one end so you could just lift it and role it to a fresh patch of grass every day for the chickens to scratch for bugs and fertilize a new spot each day. I thought that was an interesting design that is very beneficial for the chickens and allowed the grass to grow back. She also explained to us what they do with the produce from the farm. The whole goal of Arcadia Farm is to provide fresh produce to communities that do not have access or the ability to get fresh foods. They partner with several other farms to provide a wide range of produce as well as milk, eggs, and cheeses. She told us that they renovated an old school bus with refrigerators that they drive to certain places every weekend to sell these fresh foods to communities that need it. They accept foodstamps and other government aid from low income families that probably wouldn’t have the money to buy those kinds of food otherwise.

I think that Arcadia Farm is doing a great thing to educate and provide a local, sustainable food source for the surrounding area. It was a great experience for me to get off campus and help out for a while, and I hope to volunteer there again soon.

Conservation in Front Royale

During the summer of 2013 I took a Conservation 100 class at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation in Front Royal, VA. This was my first experience with anything related to conservation, and I believe that is what really got me interested in sustainability and conservation. These two things go hand in hand because I think that in order to ensure that there is an abundance of resources and biodiversity for the future we must protect what we have now and use it wisely.

While I was taking the Conservation 100 class each student had the opportunity to choose a mentor the worked in a specific field of study. I chose to work with the herpetology specialist because I have always been interested in reptiles and amphibians. Each day we would go out into the woods with our mentor to get hands on experience learning about the local reptile and amphibian species. One of the days our mentor showed us how they track the box turtle populations in the area; when they found new turtles they would attach a radio signal to their shell, that did not hurt the animal in any way, then release it. She then showed us how to use the antenna to track the signal on a specific turtle. It took a lot of wandering in the woods listening to faint beeping, but we finally found the turtle we were looking for. We made sure it was in good health, then released it again. On a couple other days we walked along some small creeks turning over rocks to find different salamander species. We ended up finding three different species local to the region. Our mentor told us that the Shenandoah salamander, which we did not find, is an endangered species that only lives on a few mountain tops in the Shenandoah Mountains. They look almost identical to the Eastern Red-Backed salamander, which we did find, but the two species compete for the same food and living space. The Shenandoah salamander can only live above a certain altitude, unlike the Eastern Red-Backed, so there is no way for them to avoid the rough competition. I was also made aware that water pollution is also a huge problem for this endangered species because their skin absorbs whatever is in the water. This is also a problem for all amphibians around the world today. I learned so much about local reptile and amphibian species and how they are being affected by changes that are going on. Taking that class and learning from my mentor is what makes me want to learn even more about sustainability and conserving animal species around the world.