Blueback River Herring by Philip Taylor

Its March and the spring spawn of Blueback River Herring. Every year these fish migrate from the ocean to spawn in the tributaries of the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, where I grew up. My grandfather told me the herring ran so thick he could walk on water. I didn't believe him until I found the 1607 journals of John Smith (yes, the Pocahontas guy), and I quote, "...we found, and in divers places that aboundance of fish, lying so thicke with their heads above the water, as for want of nets (our barge driving amongst them) we attempted to catch them with a frying pan". Yet, the pan didn't work well, so he took to his sword, stabbing more fish in an hour than his men could eat in a day. 

I've search these waters of lore for such bounty. Octararo. Rappahannock. Wicomico. Nanticoke. Sassafras Pocomoke Chester Gunpowder White Clay Brandywine and here, the Susquehanna. 

But everywhere I the waters are empty. Why? We've taken too many. Commercial harvest peaked in 1908 at 66 million tons and crashed by the 1980's. We've dammed every creek and river, no pun intended. See here the Conowingo Dam, a 100 ft. barrier to migration. We've ruined remaining habitat with silt and pollutants from bad agriculture and sloppy industry. Now its illegal to catch and keep even one herring in fear that they'll go extinct. Despite being one of my favorite fish, I've never seen one.

These fish are at the heart of bay ecosystem. They feast on algae and are prey to birds and bigger fish, like rockfish, connecting lower and upper trophic levels. Next time you cross a river, I encourage you to stop, look into its waters. You'll see a rocky bottom, beautiful, but void of fish. It might appear normal, but its not. Its like looking into a wrist watch without cogs. Herring are a bellwether of ecological integrity. Something worth fighting for.

Free the waters. Practice good farming. Understand what your place wants to be. For the Herring:

Trees by Philip Taylor

Question: Do trees grow out of the ground or do they grow out of the sky? 

The way their roots grip into and tunnel through the soil gives the impression that they grow upward toward the sky, building themselves from raw materials in the ground as they mature from germination to adulthood. This thinking is half the story. Trees, as with other plants, absorb lots of water with their roots, which they get from the ground. Oxygen and hydrogen - H2O - indeed make up about 48% of a tree. Roughly 2% of a tree is made up of rarer elements, like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The availability of these rarer elements often limits the way trees behave....and there are thousands of academic papers and trillions of dollars of GDP predicated on understanding how nutrients affect plants, i.e. industrial agriculture. Even the backyard or window gardener can realize the power nutrients, just look for 'N-P-K' on the next bag of fertilizer you buy. These critical nutrients [Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (K)]. among others, are balanced in the right proportion for your plants. This is why MiracleGrow is called MiracleGrow....but its not a miracle, its biology. Ok, enough on nutrients.

The other half of a tree is made of gas, or as I like to see it, the sky.  Trees have the power to use invisible gas of the atmosphere to build themselves. They absorb carbon dioxide into their leaves through stomata to make glucose, and from glucose they construct leaves, trunks, roots, apples, bananas, almonds, strawberries, mangos, etc. etc. etc. This is photosynthesis for reals, not some formula that is taught out of context in 2nd, 4th, 7th and 11th grade. 

As a side I've always thought it strange that trees never know what they look like, despite being fully alive. Imagine life without eyeballs, living without seeing. The simple life I suppose. 

So, next time you see a tree, which will be soon, appreciate that it makes itself out of gas. The picture is a sycamore and two pignut hickories on my grandmother's property in Maryland, where I love to lay in the moss and stare into the sky.

#tree #wood #nature #arbor #life #carbon #sky

Cretaceous Seaway or CO ocean by Philip Taylor

Here is Hudson with Cretaceous sands on his face! Many mourn the fact that @colorado doesn't have an ocean, but it has an ancient one! At Marshall Mesa in south @bouldercolorado there is a rare outcropping of Fox Hills sandstone. This sandstone is soft and was the ancient beach of the Cretaceous Seaway. During this time mosasaurs swam along the shores and plesiosaurs, like Thalassomedon, walked its sands. The world here was tropical and huge swamps dominated the landscape. Over long periods of time, animals and plants sank beneath their own weight and formed large coal beds, called Pierre Shale, which is tucked beneath the Fox Hills sandstone. These tropical swamps are the reason why Marshall Mesa was an epicenter for coal mining. Now, my children play on these ancient shores and cyclists ride the flowstone with eagerness. As you ride don't ignore the tumultuous and beautiful world below you, before you. 

Conestoga Loam by Philip Taylor

This is my homeland. The border of Maryland and Pennsylvania. The Mason Dixon line. The boundary between the North and South, which unfortunately remains in many ways. The bedrock does not care about the spatial position of states, the positions of humans. It goes on, much in its own way. The soils are however more sensitive to our ways, eroding into rivers, accepting and rejected what we spray, toss and plow into the land of good tilth, endlessly provisioning, recycling, churning the crust of the Earth. This farm is in the Conestoga Valley, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Back and forth to school, everyday for 7 years, I drove by this farm, across this land. Route 222. Amish Country. Its an ancient seafloor comprised of micaceous and graphitic limestone, hundreds of feet thick, covered by a thin film of alfalfa. Beneath it lies world upon world upon world. This is Late Cambrian material. Deep history. We are but a spark in its existence. An agricultural flashpoint. We can only hope to bear the fruits of its inertia. Farm. Farm well.