Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sunny "Picnic"

Well, sort of a picnic, without the food. :) We spread out a blanket and enjoyed the shade and strong breeze on the top of our hill, during one of the only sunny days we've had here this summer. (Its really been a miserable summer here, nothing but cloud and rain for weeks at a time).

Lila had a nice time...

Casey, not so much. She always hides in bushes when she's overheated, but I think it would have been cooler for her if she had just sat in the open with us...

Dave read a book, and I worked on some artwork. A ladybug landed on Dave's knee, Lila rolled around in the grass. Flowers were blowing in the wind...

It was really peaceful and lovely, so nice to do something different and fun. I spend too much time on the computer when I'm home... :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Biomass my a$$

This is the most disgraceful thing I've heard regarding the environment in quite some time. They claim to do it in the name of reducing carbon emissions and eliminating their use of oil and fossil fuels. Sounds good, right? Except that to do this, they use debris "left over" from cutting down trees. What they mean by that is using machines to scrape up the entire forest floor and leave nothing but a wasteland behind - literally.

This was in the Chronicle-Herald this morning - it is a very disturbing read, but its important to know about these things, so we can hopefully do something about them.

Green power at high cost
Clearcutting for biomass leaves nothing behind

With Jeffrey Simpson, staff reporter
Sat. Jul 25 - 4:46 AM

Little forest debris is left on the ground in the Caribou Gold Mines area near Upper Musquodoboit. The debris is burned to produce electricity. (Photo by KATHY DIDKOWSKY)

Stumps and vegetation left after wood is harvested for lumber and pulp and paper only. (Photo by KATHY DIDKOWSKY)

Kathy Didkowsky grew up discovering streams, lakes and wildlife in the forest behind her house.

Now when she walks through the same wilderness in Upper Musquodoboit that she’s trying to save, Ms. Didkowsky sees more and more bare land.

The forest is being clearcut and for the first time Ms. Didkowsky noticed it’s not just the logs being taken.

"Now with biomass they take everything," said Ms. Didkowsky. "They work with a machine that literally just ripped at the trees, it didn’t cut."

When trees are harvested for pulp and paper, stumps, branches and leaves are left on the ground to decompose and give nutrients back to the soil. When wood is harvested for biomass, a renewable energy source, everything is taken.

"I cried…. It was devastating to me," said Ms. Didkowsky.

Northern Pulp manages about 280,000 hectares across the province, including land near where Ms. Didkowsky grew up.

Bob Bagdon, vice-president of human resources for Northern Pulp, says the company’s been collecting wood waste to use as fuel for years.

"We burn it in our power boiler, which generates electricity that we consume to run the mill," said Mr. Bagdon.

The debris produces enough electricity that the mill in Abercrombie Point near New Glasgow is self-sufficient and doesn’t need to use heavy oil for energy.

Biomass has been at the centre of a hot debate. The Utility and Review Board was asked to approve Nova Scotia Power’s plan to buy electricity generated through burning wood waste from NewPage Port Hawkesbury Ltd. and Strait Bio-Gen.

The untendered $60-million deal would have generated $1-billion worth of electricity over 25 years at the Port Hawkesbury paper mill.

On Wednesday, the Utility and Review Board said it lacked the authority to approve the plan in advance.

Nova Scotia Power doesn’t require board approval to purchase renewable power. It plans to review the board’s 40-page decision before deciding what to do next.

Under the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, the province is supposed to get 18.5 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2013.

"I have real issues. To turn the province into a moonscape to say that we’ve reduced our carbon emission doesn’t appeal to me," said Natural Resources Minister John MacDonell, who pointed out that in opposition the NDP had introduced legislation against clearcutting.

Raymond Plourde, wilderness co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre, said his organization supports renewable energy but would like more emphasis on sources like wind, solar and tidal.

"This province has overcut the forest already," said Mr. Plourde. "How can we add on top of that more hundreds of tonnes of the forest being cut and burned for energy production?"

On Thursday, Premier Darrell Dexter said he thought biomass would be part of a renewable energy solution. Mr. Plourde said his organization isn’t against using biomass and some wood for energy, but does not agree with Nova Scotia Power’s plan.

If it goes through, NewPage Port Hawkesbury will need 400,000 tonnes of biomass cut from the forest every year. Mr. Plourde explained that this would be like having an extra pulp and paper mill in the province, or doubling NewPage’s current wood consumption.

"This is a whole new level — and not a small level, but a massive level — of increased pressure on the forest to produce ever more amounts of fibre."

Mr. Plourde worries that this type of pressure would be devastating to wildlife, especially birds, which are already in steep decline.

"The vast majority of (endangered species) need healthy mature forests and we’re losing them."

Trees are considered renewable energy because they grow back, but Mr. Plourde said the soil has to have nutrients in it for this to happen.

"If you scrape off everything that’s left over after a clearcut, then there’s nothing left … to rot and to help nourish the soil and feed the next generation of trees," he said.

Ms. Didkowsky has seen the area she grew up in change before her eyes — there’s less wildlife, waterways are damaged, the ground has been disturbed by heavy machines, and the land where trees have been removed has been baked dry.

"I would like to see that there was a forest management plan in place and stricter legislation to say that there’s diversity in the species left in the forest, and there’s age diversity."

Mr. Plourde said he doesn’t know of any regulations about clearcutting for biomass. He thinks the government needs to do more for the province’s forests.

"So far, the province has done nothing to actually study the ecological implications of this kind of harvesting," said Mr. Plourde.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Close Encounters of the Bee Kind

Holy crap! I just came tearing down the hill and into the house after a 3+ minute ordeal with a bee who mistook me for a flower. I was sitting on the top of our hill in the backyard when I heard bee wings. I said, "Oh, is that a bee?" and looked around. Didn't see anything. Then I looked down and saw he had landed ON MY ELBOW. He was probing me with his cool tongue (or whatever you call it that bees use to get the nectar out). I got a very good look at this while I "remained calm" and tried not to do anything to annoy him. He wandered around on my arm for a few minutes, trying again and again to get any nectar at all from my elbow, but it wasn't happening. His tongue felt very cool and soft. It would have kind of tickled if I wasn't so scared. Then, he started to take off, only to re-land once again on my arm after a microsecond! He was convinced this was the spot he heard there was nectar, and wasn't leaving until he got some! So, I knew the next time he took flight, I'd have to run. And when it happened, I ran like a bat out of hell. Nearly fell down the hill, it's quite steep, and the dogs thought it was great fun and ran with me. The bee looked a little stunned for a second as he tried to re-land, but that was the last I saw of him. Hopefully he found the flowers that were behind me a few feet, that were a kind of peachy white color like my skin, which I'm assuming he was looking for. ???

An abrupt end to our sit outside! At least I didn't get stung, and the poor mistaken bee got to live another day to gather nectar and didn't lose his life after stinging, as most do.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Home made sushi - a first!

Is it perfect? No. I could have rolled it tighter, added less cucumber, and so forth. But I'm still super-proud of my first attempt at making sushi at home!

I first considered making it myself after getting a veggie one from the local grocery store. Since it didn't have any raw fish product in it, I got to thinking I could make it myself at home. But, I was still pretty nervous about trying it. Then I found this video:

And while many may complain about his technique, he did make it look simple enough that I thought I really could try to do it myself. Now, there is sushi, and then there is SUSHI. Mine is very much "small letters" sushi, nothing spectacular, but it's good enough for me to have as a snack now and then at home, for a lot less than it would cost at the store.

For my first maki sushi, I used cold cooked shrimp, green onions (only the tops), and cucumber, deseeded. I already had plenty of nori here, which I use on rice, and rice balls (onigiri) sometimes. I also had fun making the sushi rice myself, fanning it and cutting in the rice vinegar (see a good explanatory video:

All in all, a fun experience I'll be happy to replicate in the future!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


You know the song:
GreenFeet was all my joy...
GreenFeet was my delight...
GreenFeet was my heart of gold -
And who but my Lady GreenFeet?*

This is what happens when goofy puppies play on freshly-mowed lawns...

*with apologies to Medieval balladeers...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Canada Day!