At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
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We have three new friends this week: we rescued abandoned baby field mice and are giving them a warm, safe place to finish growing up.  In gardening news, we have planted our sprouts this week, and can't wait until next week when they are ready!  The cold weather continued and our hardy spring crops withstood the light dusting of snow.  We have tilled our aisles for spring, and the crops are looking GREAT.  Our baby ducks are just learning how to quack!  Not much new this week, but life isn't always full of excitement and it gives us a chance to savor this moment before the rush of summer flavor.


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Give us a call or an email if you want samples!  Let us do the cooking...Prepared meals available.


> Curly Dock (LEAVES)

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> Lambsquarter

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-- GRAIN --

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-- HERBS --

  > Catmint

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  > Two legs 

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Embarassed by San Francisco

If the reader will pardon first an explanation of bias, I will pass into truly alarming news.  It seems that the disturbing assault against religious freedom undertaken in Europe has come home to America, again targeting Moslems, Jews, Sikhs and other minority religious groups.  The facts of our multicultural heritage and the enormous contributions of Jews and Moslems to American society notwithstanding, legal gimmicks aimed at preventing the free exercise of religion, especially when undertaken in the guise of public safety or health, is obnoxious and pernicious.

In Europe, especially France, laws forbidding the covering of the head have passed under the explanation that these measures are necessary for security.  To some extent, this has also been adopted here at home: in Elbert County Courthouse, not even tight fitting head coverings are allowed because they disrupt the identification process undertaken by security cameras and guards, and in many other public places, head coverings are not permissible. 

Despite several noticeable commendable and remarkable acts of resistance against this growing intolerance of religious and cultural minorities, including resistance by military lawyers that permitted Sikhs to retain their religious right to long hair and head coverings, today is a shameful day to be an American. 

It seems our indomitable American spirit cannot withstand being outdone by the French.  In San Francisco, citizens have organized a petition to outlaw circumcision for males under the age of 18, an essential rite for both Jews and Moslems, and several other minority religions too. 

Though there is significant medical evidence demonstrating the healthful benefits of circumcision, the petitioners use the argument that it is damaging to the health of a boy to be circumcised.  They use the argument, falsely, that the parents do not know what is best for their child.  They use many arguments citing the Christian bible, and expect all other San Franciscans to live like Christians.

This is against the interests of a polycultural society like America, against the interests of any society.  A society is richer for cultural and religious diversity, it is a strength that should not be underestimated. 

Joshua Sabatini, a San Francisco reporter for the Examiner, reports that, “needing at least 7,168 valid signatures by today’s 5 p.m. deadline, San Francisco resident Lloyd Schofield, who is the lead proponent of the measure, said Monday he has 12,250 valid signatures. ‘It’s in excess of what we need to qualify for the ballot,’ Schofield said.  He plans to submit the signatures to the Department of Elections today. The department has 30-days to review and determine whether it officially qualifies for the Nov. 8 election.  The measure would amend The City’s police code “to make it a misdemeanor to circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicles or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18.” ( 

San Francisco has prospered by welcoming people of diverse religions and cultures, and this would be a step in the wrong direction.  It sets dangerous precedents of law over the interests of public health and free religion.  It also goes to show that you can get 12,250 people to sign anything in front of them.  If each one of those people had stood their ground and denied this the opportunity to appear on the ballot, I would sleep better tonight.

More carbon dioxide than you thought!

The problem of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is encouraging a better look at how the systems of the Earth control the amount of carbon dioxide. 

The bad news: the amount of Carbon Dioxide sunk into land masses is less than anticipated, by perhaps more than 25% according to research by David Bastviken1, Lars J. Tranvik, John A. Downing, Patrick M. Crill and Alex Enrich-Prast in their Freshwater Methane Emissions Offset the Continental Carbon Sink, published in Science (Vol. 331 no. 6013 p. 50). 

According to the Doctors, “Inland waters (lakes, reservoirs, streams, and rivers) are often substantial methane (CH4) sources in the terrestrial landscape. They are, however, not yet well integrated in global greenhouse gas (GHG) budgets. Data from 474 freshwater ecosystems and the most recent global water area estimates indicate that freshwaters emit at least 103 teragrams of CH4 year?1, corresponding to 0.65 petagrams of C as carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents year?1, offsetting 25% of the estimated land carbon sink. Thus, the continental GHG sink may be considerably overestimated, and freshwaters need to be recognized as important in the global carbon cycle.”

The oceans remain the largest sink of carbon dioxide, but this is leading to an acidification of the waters and biospheric collapse

Foxes and Coyotes enjoy groundsquirrels too

Perhaps you’ve noticed the extraordinary number of 13-stripped patriotic ground squirrels this year?  So have the foxes and coyotes who have been busy at every moment of pleasant weather hunting them. 

It’s not very hard: the rodents are not shy at all.  While observing the hunt, I was able to get within pouncing distance from several squirrels, who simply watched me with curiosity.  They rely on their quick reflexes and the abundance of shelter.

According to Edward C. Cleary, the Associate State Director of USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services in Ohio, “Thirteen-lined ground squirrels are omnivorous. At least 50% of their diet is animal matter — grasshoppers, wireworms, caterpillars, beetles, cutworms, ants, insect eggs, mice, earthworms, small birds, and each other. The vegetative portion of the diet includes seeds, green shoots, flower heads, roots, vegetables, fruits, and cereal grains. They rarely drink water, depending instead on water contained in their food. They cache large quantities of seeds and grass, but never meat. The cached food may be eaten during periods of bad weather or in the late autumn and early spring when other food is scarce.”

Cleary does not think them to be a significant pest.  “The thirteen-lined ground squirrel’s preference for insects and field mice may provide some benefit to the agricultural community. Large concentrations of these ground squirrels in pastures, fields, and gardens can, however, cause loss of forages and crops. They dig up newly planted seeds, clip emerging plant shoots, and pull overripening wheat, barley and oats to eat the grain. They will readily feed on commonly grown home or truck garden vegetables, often damaging much more than they consume.  Thirteen-lined ground squirrels will invade golf courses, parks, lawns, athletic fields, cemeteries, and similar wide open grassy sites. Their burrowing and feeding activity can cause major economic and aesthetic damage in such places.”

It has a maximum running speed of 8 mph (13 km/h), and reverses direction if chased.  In late summer, it puts on a heavy layer of fat and stores some food in its burrow. It enters its nest in October (some adults retire much earlier), rolls into a stiff ball, and decreases its respiration from between 100 and 200 breaths per minute to one breath about every five minutes. It emerges in March or early April.

They will typically range over 2-3 acres.

We all breathe the same air

Atmospheric science is a worthwhile undertaking that is enjoyable as well. The increasing importance of weather prediction during a period of global climate change needs not be emphasized here, but the challenges and rewards of the study are still of interest – even to scientists who do not study the atmosphere.

In example, a research team led by Dr. Kristi A. Gebhart of Air Resources Division, National Park Service, Fort Collins, CO, has completed studies on the back-trajectory-based source apportionment of airborne sulfur and nitrogen concentrations at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.  Her findings were published in Atmospheric Environment earlier this year (Volume 45, Issue 3, January 2011, Pages 621-633).

Dr. Gebhart says that “the Rocky Mountain Atmospheric Nitrogen and Sulfur Study (RoMANS), conducted during the spring and summer of 2006, was designed to assess the sources of nitrogen and sulfur species that contribute to wet and dry deposition and visibility impairment at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), Colorado. Several source apportionment methods were utilized for RoMANS, including the Trajectory Mass Balance (TrMB) Model, a receptor-based method in which the hourly measured concentrations are the dependent variables and the residence times of back trajectories in several source regions are the independent variables. The regression coefficients are estimates of the mean emissions, dispersion, chemical transformation, and deposition between the source areas and the receptors. For RoMANS, a new ensemble technique was employed in which input parameters were varied to explore the range, variability, and model sensitivity of source attribution results and statistical measures of model fit over thousands of trials for each set of concentration measurements. 

Surprisingly, she found that most of the depositions were from places other than Colorado: “results showed that carefully chosen source regions dramatically improved the ability of TrMB to reproduce temporal patterns in the measured concentrations, and source attribution results were also very sensitive to source region choices. Conversely, attributions were relatively insensitive to trajectory start height, trajectory length, minimum endpoints per source area, and maximum endpoint height, as long as the trajectories were long enough to reach contributing source areas and were not overly restricted in height or horizontal location. Source attribution results estimated that more than half the ammonia and 30–45% of sulfur dioxide and other nitrogen-containing species at the RoMANS core site were from sources within the state of Colorado. Approximately a quarter to a third of the sulfate was from within Colorado.”

This research shows not only the importance of the Federal government in regulating the air pollutants, but also the importance of a United Nations regulation of air pollutants. 

Though one country, state or county – or even a single person – might not think they are able to affect anyone else by their emissions, or that the emissions would be so diffuse by the time they arrive at their neighbor’s lands, they are certainly wrong. 

Like all science, atmospheric science teaches us just how much people depend on each other, and what an integral role we play in our environment.

If you have further questions about her research, you may either read her findings yourself, or contact her at gebhart-AT-cira.colostate-DOT-edu. 

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