Friday, January 22, 2010

Caregiving: An action and an attitude.

(Muir Woods, CA)

I hope you are all getting out and enjoying nature in whatever way you can this winter season. Over the last couple of days we have been having some really wicked rain storms here in Bay Area. High winds, high surf, and a lot of rain-about 10" here at home in 4 days. Sorry for the delay in posting a new entry, I have been with out power for most of the week. While I was out walking in the woods I was noticing what the storms had done in the woods. There were lots of branches down, small and large trees pulled from the rain soaked ground, and a few small mudslides on the trail. Nature was doing some serious winter cleaning. As I walked this morning with the dogs, I began to remove fallen branches from smaller, still living, trees and shrubs. And it got me thinking about taking care of the word we live in.

Now I am not talking about large scale business or government driven plans here. I am talking about things you can do in your own neighborhood and places that you frequent. Some personal responsibility and local Care-Taking. Helping nature in little ways can be fun, adventurous, and an opportunity to help children develop a positive attitude about caring for the environment. For those of you who have gardens or even plants in your home, you probably do some Caregiving already. You water the plants (hopefully), you remove dead leaves and old flower heads (Deadheading my mom calls it), and some weeding. Well, why not take that same attitude outside and help nature with some Caregiving.

Caregiving is an activity that can be done be itself or in conjunction with other nature activities like Disco Hikes, Creating Nature Art, while sitting in your Anchor Spot, on an FBI hunt, or just walking the dogs. As you are out there exploring, if you see where a fallen branch has landed on a living tree or plant, simple remove the branch-try not to damage the live plant-and then break up the stick to help it decompose near the living plant or tree. You can also remove dead branches or leaves from trees or plants. The organism is no longer providing food for that dead area of the plant, and you can place the dead material at the base of the plant or tree for the FBI to begin decomposition and to add to the nutrient cycle.

Caregiving is not necessarily landscaping. I am not encouraging you to go out and clear out whole areas so they look like an English Garden. I am talking about actions like simply providing a little help removing stresses like a branch that is crushing a plant. Another example of care giving is to mow your leaves into the grass rather than raking them up and then mowing. By mowing the leaves into the grass clippings you are helping the nitrogen cycle keep nutrients in the ground and helping your lawn stay healthy. Or at least use your leaves to start a compost pile rather than sending them to a landfill.

Another way to Caregive is to join a local organization that helps remove invasive species in your area. You can also get involved with a trail restoration group, water way clean up days, or road side trash pick up days. By getting out and looking for opportunities to aid nature in processes that are already occurring, you can begin to build that habit in your kids, and develop an attitude of caring for the natural world. It is also a great opportunity to engage your friends, family, and neighbors and do a little community building at the same time.

A quick little story to end todays entry. About 4 years ago I was in New Jersey for a class. Part of the class was to do some caretaking for a cedar swamp in the Pine Barrens. This area had been logged in the mid-late 1800's and the loggers had left cedar stumps in the creeks and many off them had created jams by gathering lots of brush and silt. As a group we spent the better part of two days in the swamp removing logs and brush and clearing out two springs that had gotten clogged up with slit and mud. It was a wonderful group experience. A day after we had finished our caregiving in the swamp, there were frogs and fish in the areas we had cleared that were not there when we started. It was pretty amazing. I went back 2 years later and the area had continued to be very diverse and clear water was flowing in many of the areas that had been clogged by the logs left in the swamps. A great experience, and an example of caregiving on a slightly larger scale. Have fun giving nature a hand!

Nature Nugget:
As I was heading into town yesterday, I looked down into the valley where I live and it was filled with some great fog rising out of the forest.

It got me thinking about fog and how exactly it is formed and why. So here is what I have found out about fog. In short, fog is a cloud that forms or sinks to the surface of the Earth. The thickness of fog depends on the density and size of the water droplets in the air. And fogs are classified by the processes that produce them. Here are five types of fog for your exploration:
Radiation Fog:
This is the most common form of fog seen over land. It is a cooling fog which usually forms in still moist air overnight. This happens as heat radiates away from the Earth and air cools and reaches a temperature that equals the dew point. Yes Dew Point actually has a use. It occurs most frequently in valley bottoms where cool air accumulates after sinking from hillsides.
Advection Fog:
This is another cooling fog which forms when moist air flows over a cold surface. Most sea fog is Advection Fog. Advection-radiation fog which is also called Ground Fog and is generally only a few feet thick. It can also be called valley fog.
Upslope Fog:
A third kind of cooling fog, Upslope Fog is formed as air is forced upward along a surface and expands as it cools, due to lower pressure and temperature, and the then the water vapor condenses. Mt Washington in New Hampshire can experience Upslope more than 300 days a year.
Steam Fog:
A warming fog that forms as cold air passes over a warm water surface. It is also called sea smoke. As the warming air rises off the water, it condenses as it hits the colder air.
Frontal Fog:
A Frontal Fog, another warming fog, is formed with the passage of a warm air front as warm rain falls into colder air below. The evaporating raindrops saturate the colder air layer resulting in condensation. This fog occurs frequently after a prolonged winter storm.  

And now you know. Now get out there and touch a cloud!

Websites to visit:
 A very cool site of Lily the Brown Bear in MN, in torpor, having cubs on video in her den. At least one this morning! Perhaps two.
An artist who does some AMAZING art with nature! This link was sent to me by a reader of What's Out There.

A great story on how spending time outdoors can help children keep good eyesight.

A website dedicated to Therapeutic Landscape Design from one of our members Naomi Sachs.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Shawn! And thanks for calling my attention to that C&NN research about myopia. Fascinating! And finally, thanks for the TLN plug:)