Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘climate change

Better Sink

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I am always learning, and thanks to George’s comment on yesterday’s post, where he reminded me about something he shared on a recent visit, I have a renewed appreciation for the value of our grassy fields. Improving our planet is not all about planting more trees.

Grasslands are actually a more reliable carbon sink than tree forests, because they store much of the carbon underground in the root systems.

George pointed me to a podcast where I was able to learn about the Santa Maria Cattle Company in the Chihuahuan desert ecosystem where they are successfully reversing the desertification and building grassland using cattle as the primary tool.

Seems like inverse logic, doesn’t it?

Mismanaged, cows can overgraze and destroy the grassland. Luckily, better thinking is leading to a more enlightened perspective. It is possible to learn from our mistakes and choose a better way. Fernando Falomir and his family are showing what is possible and sharing what they have learned so others can do the same.


George also turned us on to Gabe Brown and the work he is doing to champion regenerative agriculture. Turning dirt into soil! Seems so simple.

Instead of the convention of tilling the earth to plant one crop and ply herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, while also needing to add irrigation to achieve results, Gabe reveals how farmers can succeed by mimicking the diversity of nature instead.

The compacted and deadened dirt can be exchanged for a thick aerated biomass soil that seems so obviously logical as to not require harsh and harmful chemicals to be viable. It can be done, because that is the natural way things worked before we started slamming our short-sighted mass production methods across the land.

In fact, we have a wonderful example right in the heart of Minnesota, where George has returned to his family land to put these precious principles into practice with Walker Farms.

It’s not all about trees.

I’ve definitely learned that.

Thanks, George Walker!



Happening Now

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I’ve witnessed the evidence in my lifetime.

The trend is undeniable. Feel free to argue the cause.

I claim human activity is responsible.

For the time being, at least we still have trees.

I need to plant more trees.

I heard an ominous story on news radio during my commute home yesterday that highlighted the concerns of owning animals at a time when growing hay to feed them is getting harder to do successfully.

We have hay in our shed for this winter, but future years are not guaranteed. It pains me that our green grass is too rich for granting full-time access to our horses. We end up feeding them hay year-round.

It’s awkward. Like being adrift in the ocean, surrounded by water that you can’t drink.

It will be tough if we reach a point where there isn’t enough hay to feed all the grazing livestock.

It’s not a single issue calamity at risk, though. There are plenty of other aspects of the warming planet that are simultaneously having an impact. I’d sure hate to be in the insurance industry now that we are experiencing waves of increasing intensity severe weather events.

I can’t figure out how they will be able to cover the ever-increasing expenses for claims from the devastation of storm after storm.

I wonder what it will be like here six years from now. We don’t currently have a long-range plan worked out for the ranch. The initial improvements we put in place upon arrival have sufficed for a few years now. There isn’t a lot more we need to do beyond maintaining the buildings and grounds as they are.

Simply responding to the ongoing climate slide may become our main challenge.

I suppose I could always focus on marketing our paradise as a place to Forest Bathe.

I really should be planting more trees.



Written by johnwhays

October 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

Autumn Mowing

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I don’t have any recollection of the lawn ever being so “June-like” this late in October. It felt totally strange yesterday to be cutting such long, thick, green grass with the air chilly and the sun at this uncharacteristic low angle.

In addition to the summery grass blades, the standing puddles of water left over from the recent rains were downright spring-like.

When I got done, the fresh-mowed lawn contrasted strangely against the golden hue of fall that the trees now provide for a backdrop.

It also seemed odd to be mowing the grass a few days after we had just received snow.

On my walk back to the house after I was done with chores for the evening, I stopped to take some pictures of the low sun beaming through the golden trees.

That carpet of leaves is a favorite of mine. I wish we could have layers of leaves that look like that as a ground cover, in place of lawn grass around our land.

Guess that means we would need to get busy transplanting more trees.

Spread the wealth!



Written by johnwhays

October 18, 2018 at 6:00 am

Wondering When

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When will that day come? A day when the human induced changes alter the planet to such a degree (pun not intended, but left anyway) that life as we know it today can no longer carry on the same?

For almost a week, I have been checking the NOAA national radar to see how Hurricane Florence looked as it spun toward the coast and then paused to pummel the Carolinas. Yesterday when I checked, what was left of the disturbance had moved on to the north. Now they are inundated with flood water and the rivers continue to rise as the water follows the pull of gravity, flowing toward lower altitudes.

Many are without power and their lives are dramatically disrupted, and likely will be for quite some time.

Meanwhile, though the warming global atmosphere is altering the weather to dramatic affect for different locations around the planet (see Typhoon Mangkhut), the influence has yet to significantly alter activities near our home. We are able to carry on as if nothing is different.

Cyndie collected 8 eggs from the nest boxes in the coop yesterday. She decided to try a panoramic photo of the first seven, with some wiggling hesitation visible in the result. Somehow the nest boxes stayed mostly clear and crisp.

I was in Plymouth, MN when an afternoon storm front swooped in and turned day into night. Checking the radar revealed that I would be driving under the heart of the intensity for the whole way home if I left at the usual time.

I left early.

Instead of a non-stop downpour, I flirted with the leading edge at highway speed, where one-inch diameter drops fell hesitatingly at a rate that needed constantly varying intermittent speed windshield wipers, and the frontal gust stirred up dust and debris that created a persistent swirling world of distractions.

I arrived unscathed and parked safely in the garage before the thunder and rain caught up with me.

Changing my departure by one hour on one day for one storm does not constitute a significant alteration of my activities.

Whatever else is changing around the world and altering lives thus far, circumstances for us have yet to cause any noteworthy disruption.

Sometimes I wonder when that day will come.




Written by johnwhays

September 18, 2018 at 6:00 am

Climate Forum

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Last night we attended a fascinating climate discussion at the MPR building in St. Paul, hosted by Chief Meteorologist, Paul Huttner.

I fully expected to be left in a downtrodden mood, but they actually did a fair job of offering some hope and encouragement about things that individuals can do, as well as sharing some accomplishments of young people who are getting involved to influence municipalities to take some timely action. It’s the kid’s future at stake, after all.

It has me wanting to put more effort into figuring out how we might make further progress toward utilizing renewable energy like wind and solar, in addition to the geothermal furnace we installed when we moved here. I’m also wondering about the possibility of getting a fully electric car. For the long commuting I am doing to get to work four days a week, that would feel like a most tangible change, to no longer burn gasoline and spew the exhaust.

We almost didn’t get a chance to burn fuel on the way home after the event. Upon arriving downtown, we had pulled into the first parking ramp we found near our destination. Signs indicated it was open until 10:00 on weekdays, so we felt satisfied. Unfortunately, when we returned to the building shortly before nine, it was all locked up!

After walking the full circumference in search of an unlocked door, we happened upon a back door with a security intercom. It seemed like the solution, but communication with the person was not entirely clear, and we found ourselves standing and waiting for someone who never came.

We were saved by the coincidental arrival of two police officers who were able to open the door and direct us to the elevator that led to the parking levels below ground. There were no humans around at that hour, but a machine at the exit swallowed our five dollar bill and gates automatically opened.

We gladly hustled the car onto the city streets and headed for the freeway back to Wisconsin, dumping our carbon emissions all the way home.

The data is pretty obvious folks. The climate is changing and the effects on our weather are underway.

It only makes sense to take this into account and make decisions accordingly. Not just for the immediate future, but for the lifetimes of those who will be dealing with it for the next 50-100 years and beyond.

From the “Eat local, think global” catch phrase, try this morph: Act today, with a plan for tomorrow.

And turn off the lights on your way out.



Written by johnwhays

April 27, 2018 at 6:00 am

Unintended Souvenirs

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Sure, it was cold when we got home from the Dominican Republic last weekend, but at least we didn’t walk into a bomb cyclone!

I heard someone referring to our extreme below-zero cold episode as evidence that global warming isn’t deserving of the hype. Sadly, the reality of the crazy cold and snow that just played out in the south, combined with the dramatic storm forming in the northeast, fulfills a common symptom of continually escalating extreme weather events that are ripple effects of the warming planet.

Hold onto your hats!

Were you wondering if Cyndie and I brought home souvenirs from our family vacation to the Dominican Republic? Why, of course, even if we didn’t intend to.

Actually, Cyndie may have picked up hers from an airport or the recycled air in the plane. Don’t forget your Emergen-C!

Her souvenir happens to be a wicked cold virus. I hope she doesn’t end up remembering this trip by how ferociously sick she got at the end of it, starting around the time of the flight home. By day-four, she lost her voice, her head and chest are so congested she sounds like an alien life-force when she coughs, and days of unrewardingly fitful sleep has become the primary coping mechanism.

Life on the ranch is on hold for a while. When momma is sick, nobody is having any fun.

My souvenir from the trip happens to be beach sand. Imagine that. The bottom of the bag I packed was a little grainy. It’s appropriate, though. One of my highlights for the week was being able to play soccer on the beach on two different days, and coming away with only minor injuries from the effort.

The jammed toes on my left foot still carry a little souvenir residual pain from the brave act of thwarting nephew Eric’s blast of a shot.

Overall, I’d give my performance on the challenging surface of sand a C+, judged in reference to the gap between what I meant to do and what actually transpired.

Thank you to Barry for providing photographic evidence that my kicking form was a little off on the beach.

Regardless, the fun quotient was high, and that was sufficient for me.

Now I am occupied with maintaining a quarantine between myself and Cyndie’s souvenir germs.

So far, so good with that agenda. I’ll let you know if my success continues beyond her eventual (hopefully, soon) return to good health.



Rusty Hue

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The changing season has taken a very noticeable shift in a short span of days, from brilliant to subdued, in terms of color palette. Last week, the color was electric, but yesterday the landscape looked like someone had unplugged the power and all the trees have begun to rust.









Those pictures were taken just four days apart. Our forest is quickly becoming transparent, as you can see.

It kinda gives the impression that winter is on the way, which is mind-bending because yesterday the temperature was so summer-like. How it looked, and how it felt were not quite in alignment.

Naturally, I base my perception of what kind of weather to expect, on what I’ve experienced in the past, but the planet hasn’t been itself lately. With all that humans have done to muck up the natural order, we’ve made the art of prediction less predictable.

It has me trying to reclaim the naiveté of my youth, when I didn’t have a clue about weather and seasons. Each day was just something to be explored. I’m sure it was magical. I don’t actually recall. Though, of course, I didn’t need to plan and prepare for what would come next.

This has me longing for the benefits of childhood freedom from needing to be concerned about preparing property for the freeze and clearing snow, having enough fuel, getting vehicles winterized.

Oh, to just wake up one morning and exclaim, “Snow!” with pure joy about going outside to play in it.

That is, if it still gets cold enough for snow in coming days.

It’s getting hard to predict.




Written by johnwhays

October 21, 2017 at 8:24 am