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Showing posts with label Water. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Water. Show all posts

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Water Feature without Water

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Part of my landscaping includes a narrow little dead end piece bordered by the house on two sides, the front fence, and a storage shed, under the shade of a couple of trees on the other side of the fence. The space is split between a sunken paving stone walkway alongside the house, a brick retaining wall, and a little bit of garden space. It's the kind of space that often is easier left to bare ground, and to be honest, I don't really want any high-maintenance landscaping - the fruit orchard and vegetable garden keep me plenty busy.

But it's such a sheltered and shady little nook - so different from the wind-swept sand and sagebrush hills that make up my view. And both bedrooms have windows that open out onto that space - windows that have to be opened up to catch the breeze after the sun goes down in the summer. So I've tried to turn that little alcove into a pretty, green and restful spot, slowly amassing a variety of perennial plants through trial and error that survive, and every once in a while finding a perfect little decorative item to add to the scene.


One such item out there now is a standing birdbath - a terracotta clay saucer lined with blue enamel, supported by a single black pole. It adds a nice little bit of color and interest. And I like the idea of a little water feature in that garden, but quickly decided water wasn't going to work there.

I've written about providing water for wildlife earlier (here), especially important in my area since I live in a climate that sees no summer precipitation at all. I have two heavy concrete basins out in the open part of my yard, and love watching the birds, bees, and bunnies that visit those regularly. But I don't want fluttering, chirping birds right outside my open bedroom window at the crack of dawn. That's supposed to be my quiet, peaceful, restful spot. And I don't want to be always cleaning up after a bunch of birds. They're in the tree branches above anyway. I don't need to be attracting more to that particular little space.

And besides, it's so hot and dry here, and that birdbath is flat and shallow. Any water in it evaporates so quickly during the heat of summer, I'd have to be refilling that thing two or three times a day. It's ok empty, but just not quite right - something is missing. So, how can I have a water feature without water?

Eureka! Wandering through the local big box store, I spy my solution on a shelf over by the gift wrap section. Glass pebbles! So I get a bag of clear and a bag of various blues - mix them together and spread them out over the bottom of the birdbath (I just set it up for the season yesterday - it needs a vinegar soaking to get rid of the mineral deposit rings. Another reason not to fill it with water). I get the sparkle and reflections of sun on water without the trial and tribulations. It's perfect!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Down to the Real Essentials

By Linda from The Witches Kitchen

Tuvalu has just a few days supply of fresh water left. They are rationing water below the UN refugee rate, Australia and New Zealand are flying in rehydration packs on Hercules aircraft, every non-essential use of water is shut down. And still, they are just days away from running out of water.

It really brings it home what's important. Cimate change hasn't caused this. It has just made it much more likely. But probability theory is the kind of maths that made most people avoid maths at school.

Tuvalu's water crisis is the result of super big tides and a drought both happening at the same time. The system failed and then the backup failed. Is it rising sea levels? The problem is that the sea doesn't stay still and let you measure it. It goes up and down twice a day, more or less depending on where the earth is in its orbit around the sun, where the moon is in its orbit around the earth, where the sea currents are flowing, where the pressure gradients in the atmosphere are moving, in a pattern so complex and intricate that it's like a million piece symphony orchestra playing Mozart. And climate change has altered the pattern to make the peaks higher and more frequent. That's the abstract. The concrete is that Tuvalu's underground fresh water is all contaminated with king tide salt water. Can't drink it.

And at the same time, there's been a drought caused by an abnormally long La Nina. La Nina's happen naturally. Cimate change just makes them happen more. This time enough more to run a whole country out of water.

We have lived with tank and dam water for nearly 30 years. There were a couple of times in the mid-90's drought when we ran right out of water. But we could buy it in - get a tanker to deliver a thousand litres of chlorinated town water and pump it into our water tank. My garden collapsed, but we could buy food from the supermarket. We lost quite a few fruit trees, some 15 years old, but the kids could take little tins of fruit to school. We all bathed in the same 15 cm of bathwater, washed our underwear in the bath with us, used the bathwater to soak our clothes, and then ran it out onto the surviving fruit trees. We put bowls of the precious bought water down in the creek bed for the wildlife to drink.

 But what do you do if the water delivery needs a Hercules?

 Permaculture theory is to plan for disaster and build in layers of redundancy. So we've added tanks, tapped a spring, lined dams, built a water trailer with a pump for firefighting. We have a composting toilet and we filter the grey water from the shower to use for the bananas. And we have learned to be very, very frugal with water, to turn off the tap while brushing teeth, to mulch the garden heavily, to wash several loads of clothes in a tub of water, sequencing the washing from the clean whites down to the work socks. (Or at least I've learned - my partner has a deficient washing gene - but we shan't mention that publically shall we!)

And we live on a big island nation, one big enough to truck food around the country and keep an economy functioning in a drought. What do you do if your whole nation is out of water? And more importantly what do the rest of us do?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Slow Food: buy less, spend more, don't waste!

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo




My family and I recently went to an event organized by Slow Food, the Italian non-profit organization well-known internationally for its commitment to local food traditions and communities, and its mission to promote food that's good (fresh and seasonal), clean (safe for our health and the evironment), and fair (fairly priced for both the consumers and the small-scale producers).  (You can read more about Slow Food philosophy here.)  It was a Cheese festival, and I wrote about it on FuoriBorgo here and here.


Carlo Petrini, the charismatic founder of Slow Food, held a press conference, where he discussed many interesting issues about the economics and ethics of food, including:


-    22,000 tons of edible food are thrown away every day in American households, and 4,000 tons in Italy.

-    Consumers spend 20% less on groceries than they did 30 years ago.

-    By buying cheaper food, consumers give their money to industrial food concerns, rather than to small-scale, sustainable producers of quality food.

We live in a time of colossal over-production and waste.  In fact, according to a study prepared by the FAO in 2011 ("Global Food Losses and Waste"), roughly one third of the food produced for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tonnes - gets lost or wasted.  According to Carlo Petrini, the results of this runaway waste coupled with the widespread industrialization of the food supply, are far-reaching and severe:  the soil is being impoverished and depleted, water is becoming scarce, bio-diversity is being lost, and small farmers are having a harder and harder time making a living.

Petrini calls for a new paradigm.  He says we need to stop wasting food, buy less food overall, and spend proportionately more on the food we do buy - on high-quality food that's safe, healthy and priced to give the farmer a fair income.

This press conference was a real eye-opener for me in many ways, and a call to action.  I found the level of food waste deeply disturbing.  Yet what Carlo Petrini said about spending more, made perfect sense.  We need better, fairer food in our homes, and less of it.  And we need to stop wasting food.  All these steps go together - I'll be writing more about this.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Water water everywhere?

Aurora at Island Dreaming

April showers bring May flowers, or so the poem goes. Except that it hasn't rained here for the past two and a half weeks. This, coupled with temperatures that (as our national newspapers love to keep reminding us) currently rival the Mediterranean, has come to a head over the holiday weekend in the form of long traffic queues heading towards the coast as the whole country tries to make good use of the fine weather.

The garden isn't so keen on what is shaping up to be the hottest April on record. The container garden in our yard is particularly thirsty and our veg plot is requiring a few visits a week just to water. The clayey soil, where it has been left unmulched and uncultivated, has turned to rock hard lumps that throw dust into the air whenever the wind blows. After a wet winter, I didn't expect that I would be dealing with a lack of water so soon.

Our blue planet is remarkably dry, in human terms. According to these UN statistics, just 2.5 % of all of the water resources on earth are freshwater - and of this 2.5%, 70% is locked up in ice and snow cover. We are exploiting the freshwater resources we do have at an alarming rate, extracting groundwater at far greater pace than it is being replenished. At the same time we are degrading the quality of those meager resources we do have in ever more creative ways - salination, acidification and industrial and agricultural effluent are some of the problems that your region may or may not be facing.

Next month we will be installing a couple of water butts on our plot. Hopefully it will rain and they will have a chance to fill up over the coming months. If we have a very dry summer, we can but hope that a hose pipe ban will not be enforced; and that the water butts will have a chance to fill over winter ready for next years growing season. We will be collecting and spreading mulch with abandon over the next few weeks and using the cooler evenings to wander to our plot and water, all in the hope of reducing evaporation and runoff. We might even find a way to capture and filter some of the grey water generated by our household and use it in the garden. These are all tangible actions we can take to conserve the water resources we have and ensure the garden survives a potentially scorching summer.

Much harder to contemplate is the embodied or 'virtual water', in effect the water footprint, of all of the products that we consume. Agriculture takes the biggest share of our annual global freshwater budget at about 70%, followed by industrial production. The domestic consumption of almost 7 billion people accounts for just 8% of global usage. These are issues that clearly cannot be solved by individual action; but reducing unsustainable levels of personal consumption and waste will obviously contribute to the solution.

Back in my part of the UK, this summer could be a complete washout, a repeat of the flooding and holiday-ruining rain storms of recent years. Or it could be very hot and very dry. It might mercifully be somewhere in between. It will certainly be a summer of our household being more mindful of how we use yet another resource that we have otherwise been taking for granted.

Are you water conscious? What issues are being faced in your region? What steps do you take to conserve water?