Succulent Garden

June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

May 30, 2011


June 22, 2011

Two Years

June 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

When we moved into our house in June 2009, the garden situation was a bit dire. There was a super-ugly old cedar in front, underplanted with plain hostas (in the sun! why?) and goutweed.

May 2009

May 2010

June 2011

I think we’ve done well here.

Links on New Victorians

June 16, 2008 § Leave a comment

Not the stratospherically-rich kind who took their time in discovering the less fortunate, the frugal kind.

October 2007 article in the Telegraph Fashion section

The July 2007 piece about Hollywood New Victorian types

Sort of related: Elspeth Thompson, a British gardening expert, is converting two Victorian railway cars into an ecohome.

And that Kipling poem that’s always haunting me:

The Glory of the Garden

Our England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.
For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You’ll find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dung-pits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts, and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.

And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men and ‘prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise ;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.
And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows ;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:-” Oh, how beautiful,” and sitting in the shade
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives.
There’s not a pair of legs so thin, there’s not a head so thick,
There’s not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick
But it can find some needful job that’s crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it’s only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner In the Glory of the Garden.
Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden that it may not pass away!

And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!

“Junk Science my ass,” she murmured delicately.

March 9, 2008 § 1 Comment

According to Steve Malloy, all those Love Canal kids were faking, and the subsequent investigation, fining and establishment of the Superfund were all part of an elaborate liberal witch hunt. Actually, I have using the term “witch hunt”, unlike many Congressional representatives, because they usually lose sight of the fact there was never any chance Salem, Massachusetts was ever home to any witches, and such certainty is laughable in the face of… well everything they compare to a witch hunt.

“If a site was deemed by the EPA to pose a risk to human health — say, by divining as little as a 0.01 percent increase in the risk of cancer to a hypothetical person who, however implausibly, might one day subsist on a site’s most contaminated soil and groundwater — then the owners and users of the site could be held liable for the typically exorbitant, EPA-determined clean-up costs.”

Oh, what honest reporting! The fact is, the EPA doesn’t ever specify how much a polluter pays to clean up a job— if it’s cleaned to EPA standards, they couldn’t care less. If, however, you kinda swish a mop around in a now-orange freshwater stream, and half-heartedly sweep at the contaminated topsoil, then yes, the EPA will clean it up, and yes, the Superfund will charge the offender three times the price a thorough job cost them.

I mean, that’s what they used to do. Before Bush. And after him, too, I hope.

Anyway, it’s dishonest and disingenuous to even suggest that the CO2 excreted by actual humans will ever be subject to any kind of Carbon Tax. Angry eyebrows to you, sir, and it’s bullshit to suggest Coca-Cola will be forced to shake the last few dimes from the cash box to pay whatever Carbon Tax is levied on them.

Dear God, I miss Molly Ivins.

Iceland’s Hydrogen Economy

January 24, 2008 § 4 Comments

(subtitle: I Watched The Iceland Episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Decided It Was My Least-favorite Nordic Country, But I Might Have Been Too Hasty)

Every day while looking for clean transportation stories to put in the newsletter (new job, long story), I come across stories that don’t quite fit the mandate— they don’t have any money attached, or the owner would consider them filler— but they’re still very cool stories that I think would capture lots of interest if they were better publicized.

Then I remembered I have a blog.


Iceland is testing the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell-powered commercial fishing vessel. The ship is also equipped with a standard diesel engine, and is used primarily as a whale-watching ship. Hydrogen is a perfect choice for a whale-watching vessel, as its owner, Vignir Sigursveinsson, pointed out: “When we have the hydrogen machine, the boat will be completely soundless, which will make the experience of seeing the whales in their natural habitat even more magical.”

I didn’t know this about Iceland, but they’ve been weaning themselves off foreign oil for almost fifty years, in part because they have no petroleum and the small population and isolation drives up the prices so much. Also, a small population doesn’t lend itself to public transportation, so nearly everyone there drives, and most families have two cars.

But Icelanders are moving as fast as they can to correct the problem. They increase orders for fuel cell cars every year, and opened their first hydrogen station in 2003— nine months ahead of California. They say just 15 hydrogen stations should be enough for the whole country. If this fuel cell engine on the fishing boat works out, they’ll switch their whole fishing fleet to hydrogen fuel cells within two years.

And since all of Iceland electricity is provided by their own natural gas reserves and wind power, they’ll be the first nation to go completely carbon-free. Then they’ll just have to wait for the rest of us.

Dinah, Blow Your Horn

April 3, 2007 § Leave a comment

How I long for the renaissance of the railroad.

The lion’s share of my railroad nostalgia comes from literature, of course, like most of my nostalgia. Rail travel figures prominently in some of my favorite books. The Hogwarts Express, of course, with its sweets cart. The train wreck in The Chronicles of Narnia. The “chance encounter” in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. It was a favorite setting in Agatha Christie’s books— What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!, Murder on the Orient Express— the list goes on. But I also love what rail travel represents personally.

There is a romantic, old-fashioned aspect to watching wilderness and small towns zip by, however modern the train. Building a transcontinental traveling system captured the imagination of Americans and Canadians. It’s a tangible connection to the past.

But, wait! There’s even more to my sentimentality!: my grandfather worked on the railroad for thirty years. Richard’s father was a CN cop. I lived on Quinpool Road just in front of the tracks for a few years, and never got bored with watching the daily from Montreal skate past up on the hill.

I’ve only really traveled this way once— from Moncton, NB to Halifax— but the experience was peaceful and contemplative. Exponentially nicer than air travel. In fact, I’d love to take the train into the city every time we had to go— and I presume the thousands of people who are stuck in traffic for two or three hours every day would too. (In my fantasy there are streetcars waiting to whisk us to our destinations, if you’re wondering. Very fantastic is my fantasy.)

A clean, modern railway would do so much to lessen Nova Scotia’s environmental impact, and it would go a long way to making the province more attractive to people who’d consider living here. If a train stopped in most small towns two or three times every day, does anyone really think commuters would prefer to pay $150 per month for parking rather than $75 for a train pass? Who would prefer to suffer through the Armdale Rotary than relax and zone out on the commute home?

As it is in most small cities, public transportation in Halifax is terribly inefficient. The busses run late, they’re either packed or three-quarters empty. The routes don’t serve most people most of the time. And the system only serves the Halifax and Dartmouth. There’s no cheap way to get into the city if you live outside it, and no cheap way to get out if you’re in.

And so, a province-wide passenger rail system makes good sense. To me, it seems obvious that instead of constantly repairing roads for passenger cars to travel on, the province should pour money into an initiative to lessen their use. It works in Europe and Japan— so why not here?

Damn that Rails to Trails project. This whole thing would be a much easier sell if there were still train tracks.

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