A stark reminder

This (though this view is from a different angle) was the view from our kitchen window on Saturday.   We need some work done on the house foundation, which meant a little bit of cutting, and pruning was needed.
Instead of just clearing out just what was needed, we also cleared out the volunteer privet, a source of tension between us and the neighbor. We've had an ongoing battle of the wits with our neighbor about the area, the trees and the "messy" hedge. They prefer topped trees and open lawn, we prefer figs to eat and oxygen to breathe.

By 2 PM Sunday, the street was lined with privet and fig debris. The pine branches are from a 3-day, 3 40 year old tree-toppling spree performed by professionals. I won't go into why those trees came down, except to say they were too tall for a certain person's taste.

The view from the kitchen window now looks out into Blandsville, a stark reminder of our suburban lifestyle.

Are you noting the tinge of sadness (and depth of bitterness) as I write this? It's kind of a shock to me, the difference. I take comfort in the privacy the trees offered and the bareness of the space has left me feeling quite bare. Soon enough we'll fill the space with more appropriate plants, but in the meantime it feels quite like an open wound.

down wind of chemical stench

My lengthy dislike for Scotts MiracleGro products started when I was just getting interested in gardening. Scotts was suing TerraCycle for using green and yellow on their packaging, though I never really believed that was all it was about. Perhaps a small start up company with a great idea for reused packaging and simple organic ingredients was putting a hurting on a major corporation's profits. Whatever it was, Scotts image seemed like the popular football star stuffing a nerdy kid in a locker.

Companies like Scotts promote chemical use in the garden, persistent chemicals that perpetuate reliance for gigantic yields and "weed-free" gardens. They promote the idea that a singular plant (grass) is the only acceptable basis of a beautiful, lush yard. A single variety plant space, such as a weed free lawn, is known as a monocrop, and a monocrop's lack of diversity can create all sorts of issues that need other synthetic products to resolve.

I won't get into the many uses of weeds...well maybe for just a second--some of those weeds might replace your prescription medicine, others could be pulled up and used to make an organic plant food, yet others simply feed the wildlife in your yard. Perhaps if the critters had natural forage they wouldn't go after your tomatoes and you wouldn't need that Scotts brand pesticide after all.

The more I learn about gardening, the more I learn that popular kid in the green and gold uniform had a few unsavory secrets. Enter stage left: Monsanto, wealthy, smooth-talking hip best friend to Scotts. Monsanto's own GMO-tainted politics does nothing to endear me to Scotts. 

To put my feelings into perspective, let's talk about something most people have some level of concern about: the honeybees. We've all heard about the rapid decline of bee populations and what will happen if they keep mysteriously dying. Bees an accessible environmental issue: less bees, less pollination, less productive crops, less food, higher food prices, food shortages...you get the idea. Scotts sells all sorts of weed killer monocrop the hell out of your yard. Make it all grass, get rid of that nasty clover...that nasty clover that bees find so useful as a source of food. Yeah, food, that little thing that keeps us all alive. Of course, Scotts' BFF Monsanto, the company that sues farmers whose crops have accidentally cross-pollinated with Monsanto GMO crops. The GMO crops that may or may not contribute to the decline of bee populations, certainly contributing to the loss of monarch butterfly populations (another handy insect that pollinates plants).

And then the National Wildlife Federation announced its partnership with Scotts. Frankly I took the news personally. I felt like an old friend went and made out with the dude that used to tease me every day about being flat-chested. Betrayal.

How do you feel about the partnership? Care, don't care, wish I'd saved my breath for some pretty furniture and lovely pictures?

* * *

You Grow Girl and Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens discuss the new partnership on their blogs.

How Persistent is Persistent?

As a Master Composter, I'm part of an email circle with others in the program, and a recent one was from a man who planted a garden to feed his limited income family. He was writing to find out what sort of remediation would get his field back to a gardening state. Without publishing the entire email, he is, in short, frustrated.
I have got a ruined field that I spent two plus years creating from a wooded plot. Two years of incredibly backbreaking work, thousands of dollars for tree removal, fencing, etc -  not too mention months of seedling care, soil amending six plus months of rock and stone removal, etc.
The main suspect? Persistent herbicide. There are a handful of herbicides used on pasture/livestock forage, grain fields and some vegetable crops. Since they're approved for horse and livestock pastures, they're consumed (along with all those vitamins and minerals that make meat so tasty), passed through the animal in pee and poop and still remain active  even after the grass clippings and animal waste have been composted. The chemicals remain in the soil, and are taken up and redistributed by rainfall. Breakdown can take anywhere from 30 days to several years. **

Now there's a new herbicide in the neighborhood, one called Imprelis. It's currently available to lawn care professionals for weed prevention, but Scotts Miracle Gro is working with DuPont (Imprelis manufacturer) to develop a home-scale application, one approved for the lawn loving home owner.

The USCC [US Composting Council] is informing the composting industry and consumers that grass from treated lawns could end up in a compost pile, and unlike most herbicides, Imprelis will survive the composting process and still be active in the finished compost. *

Currently Imprelis has a 9 page instruction booklet. As it becomes available to the public, however, I'm wondering how obvious the warnings will be.
“One problem is that the warning is on page 7 of a 9 page label,” remarked Dr. Stuart Buckner, Executive Director of the USCC, “and unfortunately not everyone reads or follows the label. We are requesting the USEPA initiate a special review of the registration due to the likelihood of residual herbicide levels in compost damaging non-target plants.”*
Does that mean I shouldn't drive around town collecting bags of grass clippings for my compost? Should I find out who does the landscaping for lawns immediate to ours and see what sort of herbicides they use? How persistent is persistent?

How many people read warning labels? How many people know what goes into the trash, recycling, and what should be taken to hazardous waste? How many people care that the grass they put at the curb is picked up by the city for compost, and irresponsible disposal of "tainted" waste could end up in my food?

I found this article to be well-written and informative.

* Quotes from the US Composting Council statement on their website compostingcouncil.org.

**NC Cooperative Extension Herbicide Carryover

Indie-cent Exposure

I went straight from work to gather my stuff for the show last night, so no inner hippie ideas today, but did notice the new holiday decor at the Caribou Coffee near my house last night and thought it was worth a share.
Caribou's woodland theme screams to be a hybrid Target plasticized rip on Susie G's critters while Starbuck's paper cut lettering and graphics are a less-soulful, nearly identical twin to Rob Ryan's poetic and thoughtful compositions.
I think it's only fair to admit I've worked for both companies, and can't ever see myself setting foot in a Caribou ever again. Because the dry heaves start when I step within a 50 foot radius of one of their stores, the images for Caribou were found online here and here. The Starbucks images are from their online holiday shop.