Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ancestral Strawberries, Lying Low in Bits of Field

Since Trump said the U.S. was no longer a party to the Paris Treaty on climate, the Sierra Club, among other environmental organizations have advised Americans on ways they can commit to remain in the treaty individually or as a community organization. Cities, universities and other U.S. entities have made their own pledges to remain signed on. Copied below is a Sierra Club-issued example.

           Pasque Flower, a spring American native plant evolved in the chilly climate regime of northern prairies

The American People Support the Paris Agreement

We, the undersigned people of the United States, will continue to support climate action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
I commit to:
  1. Reduce my own carbon emissions and do what I can through everyday actions such as taking public transportation or carpooling, making my home more energy efficient, switching my home electricity to renewable sources, and limiting food waste.
  2. Support U.S. states, cities, businesses, investors, universities, and other entities taking strong climate action and showing the world that the United States is still working to fulfill the Paris Agreement - and call on others to join them.
  3. Urge President Trump to keep the United States in the Paris Agreement and protect federal safeguards for our health and environment from regulatory rollbacks and budget cuts.
  4. Call on Congress to hold polluters accountable and oppose any efforts to weaken the environmental protections and climate policies that protect our health and well-being.
So much assorted people activity is to blame for carbon and methane choking the atmosphere that it seems to me that a person not especially talented at hosting parties or political organizing might devote herself/himself to cutting emissions on a whole range of lifestyle-enhancing fronts, going so far as to advertise all the ways and all the other implications including symbolic or totemic. Think in terms of gasoline ignitions and idling engines, as well as current being drawn from wall outlets. Remember that nearly all synthetic manufacturing is carbon-emitting at some stage of production in our times. So then ask, what is my vocation and on whose behalf do I do my daily work? What do you value about yourself enough to nurture and what else might be your legacy, toward everything you revere including Creation which is now at risk.

     Now that I have a yard of 12,100 square feet, counting the house and gravel parking spot, and no power mower for the grass I'm remembering the summers fifteen years or more ago in a smaller yard that I'd planted with native prairie flowers all around the skirting of the house. That yard got mowed with a Sears Craftsman reel lawn mower that husband Jerry bought me. The item was in storage mostly for the past dozen years, but now I've gotten it back. Lately I had the blades sharpened by a qualified neighbor and this is my intended mower for as long as I am master of my fate. No carbon spews from this mower, other than whatever-all that I am breathing out.

     A reel lawn mower tends to cut the grass selectively, rolling over but not cutting stems that stand above the thickness of turf below. Sparse herbage of whatever kind tends to be spared by the tumbling blades. The cut grass ends up not shaved like a conventional power-mowed lawn but noticeably shortened and textured with longer tussocks lying over against shorter in a beautiful effect reminiscent of hay maturing in a meadow, or prairie grass quivering to puffs of wind.

    Slow-mowing the way I do it won't work for a lot of people; it verges on being strenuous exercise at moments, good for shoulders and upper arms. But for other folks that's a point to recommend it. However, combining your mowing practices with cultivation of wild native plants is a best-yet approach to phasing carbon spew out of your yard care. City rules where I live say grass is to be kept no higher than 5 inches. At least the front and streetside regions of my yard can be kept like that for the grass growing season by slow-mowing. Around the corner on the north where the lawn blooms this time of year in orange hawkweed and patches of white pussytoes I've begun contouring it with mowed pathways around the thickest orange and white stands of those meadowy flowers. On the highway side are a couple more long patches in which pussytoes and a few blue forget-me-nots (like the hawkweed, not native but naturalized from old Europe) rear their blue and white heads. The yard so far looks groomed, with a contrast between naturally occurring moss where I have wet ground, a low carpet of grass and high waving tufts, and it's colorful like a proper northern Minnesota forest clearing. I don't see how it could be considered unkempt or unsightly.
     Manual, non-motorized yard care edges out the need for physical fitness routines, if you have any. Then, which errands can be run on foot or by pedal-power? What if you really do have time for these self-energizing chores because you make a living--at least some of the time--from home? This is habit-building that can preserve bodies, the air, the climate, and the wild neighborhood of distant kin that have been succumbing to pavement, traffic, commercial/industrial chemicals and the changed weather regime with its symptomatic harsh flooding rains, angry heat and opposing runs of drought. 

                                          New-cut lawn with standing summer wildflowers left as found

       There are less-kempt lawns than my own in this town, here on its northern end maybe most of all, and where ground is allowed to diversify from monotonous grass back into its old mixture, hoisting and lowering broader-leaved standbys of the natural community that was, you will have food plants for everything including ourselves. This thought opens out a long green-gold rug of memory, as I recall crops picked in open air in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and to a lesser extent later. Wild red raspberries,  black raspberries with seeds lodging in the teeth till poked loose and nibbled to fragments, wine-tart blackberries and dewberries, blueberries in Lake Superior country, mulberries along fence rows, apples in orchards long untended except by bees still free to flourish, a plum tree, a forgotten peach tree that let 32 immaculate peaches the size of softballs onto the lawn's edge, and the wild strawberries of late June. The strawberry blossoms (Fragaria virginiana) were a signature of well-drained ground abundantly warmed by sun at summer's onset. The fruit, big as thumbnails at a maximum, hid hanging just above earth, screened in grasses, with the beacon property of new-found Easter eggs. Nursery-grown strawberries could never be as sweet. A hilltop's picking of strawberries could add up to the 3-4 cups called for in a pie. 

     Shown below is my newest botanical in watercolor and ink, brought forth out of preserved memory and thanks to obsessive lawn care abandoned in the face of the foreclosure crisis and of all the things that have hounded midwestern U.S. citizens out of the towns lying along remnant strips of countryside. At least here, a dainty ancestor to one of the fruit crops most acclaimed in this land still keeps to its life cycle.

Conservation, conservatism and, yes, liberalism are roots to the same huge plant...

       Wild Strawberry Marked your Path  - appearing soon at

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