Sunday, June 26, 2011

Musings on a summer Sunday

On immortality: The State We're In
If they ever find a safe way to enable people to live forever (or at least much, much longer) with a good quality of life, I'll be the first to sign up. I'm scared of what happens during and after we die, but what bothers me more than that is the fact that I'll miss all of the amazing things that will happen after I die. Which, God-willing, won't happen for at least fifty years. Speaking of which...

On religion: Canaan Baptist Church billboard message of the week: Honk if you love Jesus. Text while driving if you want to meet him.

On urban wildlife: Speaking of the church, a couple of pigeons have nested in its circular window near my bedroom window. Sometimes I can hear them cooing to each other in the morning. It sounds kind of naughty, like when you hear your neighbors being intimate, but it's also exciting to know another family is getting started.

On food: To make a kickin' pasta sauce, mix mashed sweet potato with roasted red pepper soup, heat, and serve. Works well on whole wheat pasta with cooked French lentils and sauteed spinach and mushrooms. Diced chicken sausage works well too, if you desire something meaty.

On education: Having a teacher who is actually engaged in students' learning takes a class from okay to great. I'm taking a field studies course, and knowing the professor actually cares whether we learn makes me want to work harder, and it will help the ten weeks pass quickly. Which they will anyway, because it's summer, and summer always goes too quickly.

On indoor gardening: It's not as easy as it seems. Broccoli needs the cooler temps of the indoors, but it gets super buggy. Pole beans grow really tall, and there's no good way to support four little plants - everything is either too big or too small. Someone must make trellises for indoor container gardening, right?

Monday, June 06, 2011

American Chestnut Land Trust

A few weeks ago, I headed out to the American Chestnut Land Trust for Vine Vindication Day. Sounds intriguing, right? It turned into a morning of chopping at bittersweet vines, an invasive plant that winds its way through wooded areas, covering and eventually smothering any trees in its path. The South has kudzu; southern Maryland has bittersweet. Both plants were brought in to provide ornamental decoration and have since taken over wherever they're found. In addition to cutting the vines down, we pounded cartridges of an herbicide into the thick stems or roots of the vines, close to the ground. This method kills just the targeted plant so it doesn't impact surrounding foliage.

The American Chestnut Land Trust (ACLT) manages between 3,000 and 4,000 acres, some of which is owned by the Nature Conservancy and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The land was previously owned and farmed by both white and African-American farmers from 1886 through the 1930s. The American chestnut trees on this land survived the chestnut blight, and the land trust owners decided to honor these trees upon starting the trust in 1986 by naming the land trust after them.  The nearby Parkers Creek Preserve has been designated a Maryland Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, and the Calvert Cliffs, along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay, are home to the endangered tiger beetle, rare plants, and fossils from organisms that lived in the ocean along the bay from eight to eighteen million years ago. The ACLT maintains fifteen miles of hiking trails and offers guided canoe trips on a regular basis.

That warm Saturday morning, we made good progress in cutting back vines in one small section of forest, freeing some paw-paw trees in the process, but there is a lot of land and a lot of vines that will grow back under the hot sun and humid air. Sometimes it feels pointless to even try. As we drove the little truck along the trail back to the trailhead, I glanced at the small cleared section and sighed at the futility of it all. But then I walked along the shore with Liz Stoffel, the land manager. We watched tiger beetles skitter across the sand, listened to the waves quietly lapping, and watched the clear freshwater of Parkers Creek flow into the salty bay. Liz gave me a fossilized shark tooth that probably came from the cliffs just down the shore, and I thought about all the creatures that had come before the boats and homes arrived, and all the creatures that depend on this protected space to thrive. The trees we freed from the entangling vines help anchor the soil and the other plants to this fragile land. Cutting brush and killing vines helps ensure that this land remains protected, which is so important when all the land around it may someday be bought up and developed, thanks to the beautiful views that the land trust protects.