Friday, August 31, 2007

Live and let live

Since moving to our beach cottage 13 years ago, I've developed a real fascination and appreciation of spiders. A few can definitely harm us, so we need to be careful around them - but they mostly keep to themselves and are quite beneficial and incredible to watch.

This yellow and black garden spider, with her web suspended among cattails at the edge of the creek, offered a perfect opportunity to observe and photograph.

Our beach cottage was built in the late-50's as a summer retreat. The original owner worked at a shipyard in Mobile and he and his sons basically built it from scratch using scavenged materials from where he worked. Constructed on pilings with lots of windows all around, it's like living in a tree house that just 'belongs' here among the sand oaks. There's nothing fancy about it, but it's been a wonderful place of self-discovery and, in many ways, my first real home. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Krebs or let him know how much I've loved calling it home.

Our time here is now divided into 'before Katrina' and 'after Katrina'. Three blocks from the beach, the house suffered damage but withstood Hurricane Frederic in 1979, Ivan in '04 and Katrina in '05 - but we lost our roof in Katrina and the house is forever changed. We had to redo the inside and I love it as much as before, but for different reasons now.

Before Katrina it was mostly as Mr. Krebs had left it. A home made house full of flaws, but somehow more real for it. It literally 'breathed' with the weather outside - more like camping with a roof over your head. The outside was kept at bay - but always with you, too. And that's how I learned to appreciate spiders. They spun their webs and occupied cracks and spaces around the windows and where the walls and ceiling met. As long as they were there, other insects didn't stand a chance. We didn't need a fly-swatter, the spiders thrived on them! In the unfinished storage area below, a funnel web grass spider occupied a large gap in the window frame and I was always mesmerized by any opportunity to observe it outside it's 'retreat'. Sadly, it did not survive the flooding of Hurricane Ivan.

If you haven't seen the story already, check out the GIANT SPIDER WEB IN TEXAS . Makes me glad I've learned to live with them!

More detail and a great picture of the web compiled by Mike Quinn is located at

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fish for dinner?

What to do with the fish we catch?

My answer is always the same. Keep enough for a meal and release the rest. After all, the freshest fish is the best fish!
This incredible speckled trout was released unharmed right after the picture was taken.

Fish are a renewable resource, but overfished stocks require years of monitoring and regulatory actions to restore the fishery to a level at which it can sustain itself. As each passing year brings more restrictive recreational bag and size limits, practicing catch and release is one way recreational anglers can help insure the health of future fisheries and guarantee everyone's ability to enjoy a fun day of fishing. Starting out it may be hard to resist the urge to keep as much as you can, but you'll soon realize that the fun of catching is well worth the trip.

Here are a few suggestions to help insure the survival of released fish and provide you with a sense of satisfaction as you return your catch to it's environment and watch it swim away.

  • Match your tackle to the fish you are targeting. If your tackle is too light the fish will be exhausted by the time you land it and an easy target for predators when released.

  • With a pair of pliers, mash down the barb of your hook for easier release and improved safety. Circle hooks are also good additions to your terminal tackle.
  • Leave the fish in the water during release if possible - and if the fish must be handled out of water, wet your hands first to minimize the removal of the protective slime layer covering the fish since removal of this protective layer makes the fish more susceptible to disease.

  • Don't grab the fish in the eyes or gills.

  • Cradle the fish's underbelly while holding it's tail as you rock it back and forth head first into the current until it swims away. This motion moves water across it's gills and will help it revive.

  • Keep current regulations and a measuring device handy for quick determination of legal size.

Sitting down to a meal of fish you just caught is the perfect way to end to a great day of fishing. It's one of the most satisfying things I know of and anyone can do it!

Loving "the Green"

Thank you, Robert Redford! I love the Green !

As I settled in tonight for Episode 7 of It's Not Easy Being Green ( a great little series about a family embracing self-sufficiency) I had no idea of what awaited me in Rob van Hattum's documentary
WASTE = FOOD . It was the most enlightening and hopeful thing I've seen in a long time.

McDonough and Braungart's Cradle to Cradle philosophy goes beyond sustainability with the power to change the world.

Monday, August 27, 2007

God on who's side?

  • I will shoulder my musket and brandish my sword,
    In defence of this land and the word of the Lord.

    Lyrics from the song “Bright Sunny South” recorded by Alison Krauss and Union Station tell of a son of the south off to the Civil War with his parents blessing. He is a child, not yet twelve.

    Combining religion with the patriotic defense of homeland has proved a powerful tool for sending boys off to war for as long as men have been motivated by greed and power . . .and throughout the history of man, on all sides, people have gone to war believing God was on their side. . . . . and their cause a just one.

    Some have called America’s Civil War a boy’s war. Minimum age for enlistment was 18, but one could enlist at a younger age if a guardian’s consent was given. Avery Brown was mustered into Company C, 31st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, at the age of 8 years, 11 months, and 13 days. Like many enthusiastic young patriots of his day, he lied about his age, claiming to be 12 on his enlistment papers. David Bailey Freeman joined the 6th Georgia Calvary CSA at age 11. Reports indicate, from approximately 2,700,000 who served, more than 2,000,000 Federal soldiers were twenty-one or under and, of those:
  • more than 1,000,000 were eighteen or under and, of those,
  • about 800,000 were seventeen or under
  • about 200,000 were sixteen or under
  • about 100,000 were fifteen or under
  • three hundred were thirteen or under - most were fifers or drummers, but regularly enrolled, and sometimes fighters
  • and, twenty-five were ten or under

John Brown was executed by the state of Virginia with the approval of the national government. It was the national government which, while weakly enforcing the law ending the slave trade, sternly enforced the laws providing for the return of fugitives to slavery. It was the national government that, in Andrew Jackson's administration, collaborated with the South to keep abolitionist literature out of the the mails in the southern states. It was the Supreme Court of the United States that declared in 1857 that the slave Dred Scott could not sue for his freedom because he was not a person, but property.

Such a national government would never accept an end to slavery by rebellion. It would end slavery only under conditions controlled by whites, and only when required by the political and economic needs of the business elite of the North. It was Abraham Lincoln who combined perfectly the needs of business, the policical ambition of the new Republican party, and the rhetoric of humanitarianism. He would keep the abolition of slavery not at the top of his list of priorities, but close enough to the top so it could be pushed there temporarily by abolitionist pressures and by practical political advantage. (Exerpt from Howard Zinn's A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES 1492 - Present: Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom)

Why do we keep falling for it over and over? Why can't we learn the lessons of the past? Today war profiteers rake in billions as our men and women sacrifice themselves, their families, and their futures in Iraq and Afghanistan. . .their lives valued in mere pennies compared to the huge profits of the few. Need more evidence? Check out this story posted at The Great Iraq Swindle

Nothing that has happened in the United States justified our invasion of Iraq and the bombing and killing of innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq - however unintentional our government claims it to be. The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with the defense of our homeland and it certainly doesn't represent the Christian values this country claims to hold so dear.

If God exists, it's hard to imagine he'd be on our side in this one.


Recently I had the privilege of observing a pair of redbirds tending their young. They’re very secretive, and I'd noticed the male returning to a secluded area several times, so I settled in quietly to watch them from a distance with my binoculars.

Soon after, a scuffle ensued as the parents joined forces to defend their territory from another male redbird and he was soon banished. While I watched, the mother remained close by as the male went back and forth bringing food – approaching from a different direction each time holding a bright green grub. He would slowly work his way toward the nest – zigzagging from branch to branch - cautiously checking every direction for predators. Once satisfied it was safe, he would dart into the nest to feed the young. I could just make out two tiny birds as he appeared to break the grub into pieces to feed half of it to each. They were so helpless at this point, but with a bit of luck and continued vigilance from the adults, they would thrive and soon be able to care for themselves. They are lucky. They will know their story and all they need to survive.

I am a child of the 50’s raised in an industrialized, predominantly Christian country. Surrounded mostly by adults with no particular affinity to nature, a religion that preached dominion over it, and a school curriculum that all but ignored it - my innate sense of wonder and place in the natural world was too easily expelled. The things that replaced it proved poor substitutes.

The authors Daniel Quinn and Derrick Jensen gave it back to me. They opened a door for me to begin regaining my story, stolen in childhood, and I am forever grateful. The life thrust upon me by the modern world had taken me further and further from it, but an unrealized longing and sadness always remained. Brief moments of recognition were there along the way, but the layers of separation would take a long time to shed. I am closer today than yesterday and hopeful for tomorrow.

What do you do to experience harmony with the natural world?