Monday, January 15, 2018

Sea Lion Bite you? What the heck would you do if one did, you will know after reading this.

  They follow the fish in from the ocean, at least that's the story I hear from people, they don't make much noise in the delta, unlike the bay where they are noisy as all get out. I have watched them in the slough, sometimes a lone male, he is a big guy, and sometimes a female and baby. We have all seen sea lions in circuses, aquariums, and in the wild as well, there are a lot of them on the California Coast. Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco is crowded with them, noisy, unruly, and obnoxious, tourists love them, fishermen not so much. Some of them are extremely large, taking up an entire float and defending it as if they own the thing, in a way they do for a while. (Link sea lion facts)
  I have a tendency to believe they are harmless, at least I did believe that until recently when a few incidents occurred that made me curious. The first was on television news, a girl was sitting on the edge of what appeared to be some sort of a tank made of concrete. Suddenly a sea lion jumped out of the water, grabbed the seat of her pants and dragged her into the water, it was alarming. She was dragged under the water when a bystander leaped in, grabbed her and pulled her to safety, the young girl had to be scared at a minimum.
Photo of a large sea lion, powerful, and determined to survive.

  A fourth victim was bitten at the aquatic park in San Francisco Bay yesterday, January 11, 2017, A lady and her friend were swimming, a normal activity for them, when suddenly she was grabbed onto by the seal and dragged under the water. Bleeding badly when she was released, luckily a paramedic was in the water swimming at the same time, he assisted her. She did not want to go to the doctor, that is not the choice I would make, but we all decide for ourselves, her friend did convince her to get an examination.
 December 15, 2016, a male swimmer was bitten on the thigh by one of the sea creatures, it is not known if the same animal was involved. A severe bite he was taken to the hospital for treatment. That incident was one day after another person was attacked that did not require a medical exam or treatment.
 Sea Lion's attacking humans is not completely unknown, from 2011-2013 there were 10 people bitten in San Francisco Bay and 1 in Puget Sound, Washington. There is no predicting, and no patterns to the bites, although one person was bitten when he tried to pet a pinniped, they are after all wild animals. Being in such quarters with humans we do have a tendency to think of all wild animals as somehow being more "tame" when they are that close. We hear about tourist being gored by deer, elk, and bison as well as being attacked by wild bears, raccoons, and other vicious wild creatures that deserve our respect and a wide berth. When wild animals interact with humans it can be defined in many ways, the way I think of the relationship is, "humans are involved for the entertainment of some sort, the animals are involved for survival, every day is a struggle of life and death for them." There is no understanding, no compassion, no empathy, and actually very little thought on the part of the wild animal, just fight or flight.
 Especially hazardous to divers, and people involved with the handling of seals, when bitten, medical attention is needed. Although not unheard of, the attacks when they do occur may inflict serious injury, deep lacerations are sometimes the outcome. The treatment is typical for lacerations, clean the wound, sutures, clean dressing, and a tetanus shot. Sea lions do carry a much-feared disease known by the name of "Seal Finger", (Link to bacterium leptospirosis), people in close proximity to seals, aquarium workers, medical workers, people that hunt pinnipeds, and victims of bites are most apt to contract the disease. In fact, the young girl that was dragged into the water by the sea lion, (mentioned above), contracted "seal finger" and underwent treatment.
  If you are bitten by a sea lion, wash the wound very well, apply disinfectant, dry the wound, and receive medical care as soon as possible. When diving in a remote location, an emergency plan should be established, who to call, where you are, and what happened will all need to be listed. There could be other reactions, watch the wound for ten days if the person feels ill, weak, or in any way unwell they must seek medical attention.
  Rabies, any mammal can be infected with rabies, luckily it being a mostly land-based disease the incidences of seals carrying the disease are remote at best, An infected animal could be eaten by a sea lion and contract the disease, that is true, however animals with rabies are afraid of the water due to the difficulty in breathing, and swallowing as a result of being infected. Having very sharp germ infested teeth and mouths, not only is it dangerous to be near a pinniped, it is also illegal. The Marine Mammal Protection act prohibits feeding, harassing, touching, or swimming with them, it actually places the animal in danger. To put some muscle behind the act it is also illegal in the United States to come within 150 of a Wild Marine Animal, but when they are underwater, how can it be determined where they are, which adds to the problem of swimmers being bitten.
Whatever else you do, never get between the mother and her cubs.

  Sea Lions, Pinnipeds, are fun to watch, a real novelty to some people, however extreme caution must be applied when interacting with them.
 *  Respect wild animals, don't try to put the babies in your vehicle, don't feed them, pet them or try to "help" them, they don't need our help.
 *  Don't pet the animals, or attempt to pick them up, it can be disastrous, do you notice the "eye horns" on a male deer? That is the short antler just above the eye if a person is standing in front of the animal while petting it when the animal is startled they suddenly lift their heads, sometimes the eye antler impales the petter and the human ends up on the wrong end of that stick.
 *  Don't approach any maritime mammal, actually I would suggest not approaching any maritime animal, saltwater crocodiles come instantly to mind, they will stand their ground and defend it, mere mortals don't have much of a chance.
 *  If you come across a baby wild animal, leave it alone, and get away from it as soon as you can. If you are caught between a mother and baby, your chances are close to zero for survival.
  In conclusion, be careful and alert whenever you happen to be in an area where you may encounter wild animals of any kind, you have understanding, they don't.
 Thanks for reading and sharing, leave a comment or a suggestion.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Gardening, Mulch, Composting, and planning the garden, leaves, tules, and water lily's, is it spring yet?

  I awoke yesterday morning to the sight of a hawk preening at the top of the Pecan tree outside of the window. That tree is full of life, the camera on my cell phone is not of the quality to take a photo at a distance, the zoom is, well, weird. The bird looked like it may have been a Northern Harrier, but sometimes Red Tail Hawks are colored differently, I did not look at it with my binoculars like I usually do. I hesitate to use my binoculars to look at that tree, it's about 50 yards away however my neighbor's bedroom window is just behind it. I have no interest in looking through that window, but I can see how it could look like I am. I would rather not take the chance, during the summer it's full of leaves and the house is hidden, but there are no leaves on it during the winter. Plus it's foggy here this time of year, it's not like the cabin fever of the North during the months of January, and February but it can get dreary. The winter months are actually fairly nice, when the sun shines, which is often, the temperature stays above freezing and greenhouses do their job.
Two of my leaf towers, and assorted plastic bins full of leaves.

  January is the month when I start to plan the garden, as most gardeners know it takes a considerable amount of planning, layout, and preparation. The overnight temperatures are not high enough to start seeds in my small greenhouse, I will wait until it is a consistent 50 degrees F. Most things in January are dormant from all appearances in our area, the worm farm residents are lethargic, all the leaves are gone from the trees, and the mulch in the garden is decomposing getting ready for planting. I struggle with where to purchase my seeds, (I welcome suggestions). I have purchased seeds and plants online with limited success, I sometimes think buying them too early in the season is not a good way to go, especially with seeds, most of the plants are not ready yet. I mention the seeds because they must be last years, perhaps as old as a full year, but does it make a difference? (Link to information on seeds)
  The plants are different, I have ordered and received plants in very good condition, every time, although they are small, that doesn't matter much to me. I do question if buying plants from a nursery in the mid-north is really the best choice, I wonder if they are bred for an entirely different type of environment, it is wetter, cooler, and lack the sunshine we have in the West. I think they are, I live in zone 6, most of the online nurseries sell their plants by the zone, if you are in zone 2 then this is what you need. My concern is how can a plant even start from a seed if the environment does not match the growing environment? I'm not sure how to determine online if a plant will survive in my area, sure there are the money back guarantees but how many of us take advantage of that? I'd venture to say not very many. I have ordered and received plants, planted them, then they die, I'm not sure what happened, but like most gardeners, I expect one or two fatalities each year, but that year they all died to arouse my suspicions. (Link to USDA page on home gardening)
  My success with starting seeds is a little shaky however, I'm not really good at starting seeds, I plan on getting better this year. I have a learning curve, not a huge one, but still, I need to refine my method. (Boy that's a good way to phrase it). I still wonder about the age of the seeds, normally I like to plant nightshades as plants, with vines, melons, and squash as seeds. An easy way to plant thousands of seeds, like with tomatoes is to feed a bunch of the vegetables to your chickens, they plant and fertilize at the same time. The overnight temperature will be a stable 50 degrees by the first week of February, that's still way too early to plant, normally the last week of March is the best.
  It's tricky, especially with vegetables such as green beans, and peas, it's been my experience if they are planted at the wrong time the hot sun will destroy them. The low humidity, especially during droughts, sucks up the water that is placed in the soil, I use organic material to hold the moisture in. I use a lot of leaves, I store them in wire "leaf towers" that I have made, I use old trash cans as well as my compost bin.
Leaves, more valuable to some people than others.

 As the level of the raised bed soil decomposes and settles down I add more leaves, straw, or in a pinch, I will use tules from the river. I use leaves in my worm farm, raised bed garden boxes, and flowers, my neighbor told me too many leaves on tomatoes will harm them, I have not experienced that. They are great for weed control and retaining moisture, as is the "Tules". Tules are like cat-o-nine tails, without the tails, they grow in the river bank and during some years there is a big die off. A die-off occurred last year, I don't know why it happens, but I took advantage of it, my grandson and I (mostly him) gathered up several wagon fulls and spread them on the garden, I used some in the worm farm as well. Their water retaining capabilities is unmatched, once they get soaked they stay wet for a long while, but like straw, they take a lifetime to decompose. I used some in the worm farm, now I have worm castings with 1/2 decomposed tule stalks of which I have to pick out of the stuff, they are like big thick straw.
Tules, notice there are no Cat tails on them. 
  I have also used the water plants, I want to call them "lily pads", but they aren't, they are some sort of plant that looks and acts like them. I placed a lot of them in the garden boxes last spring along with the Tules, they were like the reeds in their decomposition rate, in fact, some in the compost bin have yet to decompose at all and it's been about a year. If the tules, straw, and lily pads were all ground up in a chipper they would most likely work really well, but it's not worth the effort, time or expense.
  As long as I have leaves, worm castings, and time the garden will be just fine this year, I will continue to experiment with different organic materials, for instance, cacti do not work well for composting. Cacti are extremely hardy, they can appear to be completely dry, and void of life until a drop of water hits them, then they spring back, not good in a vegetable garden. Sawdust works really great, but it takes a lot of it, I prefer not to buy a lot of garden additives because it reduces the cost-effectiveness of the vegetables.
  So leaves it is, my neighbors, welcome my weekly excursions to their bare lots, ditches, and yards to load up my little trailer with the things, in fact, some think it's funny.  As far as the plants and seeds are concerned, I will go to a local nursery this year, (not a big box store) and purchase what I need. I have a neighbor who owns a nursery near us, I will buy from him, after all, if us locals don't who will? I have rambled on long enough, and it's time to conclude, Thank you for reading and sharing this blog, I will stick with the leaves this year, and most likely for a long time to come.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Six reasons the California Mudslides so bad Sure wildfires, drought, and water there's more read this for the real answer.

  When I was young my family lived about 3 miles from the Minnesota River, upstream from where it joins the Mississippi River on its way to the Gulf. There were people living on the "River Bottoms" as we called it, the river is in a river valley, next to the river strawberries were grown, harvested, and sold. I remember going down there with my mom, she had a paper route and I would ride with her. Every spring the river bottoms flooded, after the water receded the people would move back into their mostly brick homes, muck them out, clean everything and start farming again, every year they did that. The last time I visited a few years ago, the roads were closed, there is no longer access to that area of the river. The strawberry farmers are no longer able to farm on the river bottoms, it's a good change.
The Minnesota river today, it's pretty at its normal non-flood

  My dad told me the same thing about California and it's wildfires and mudslides, even though none of us had ever been to that state, he had an opinion. That opinion was the same in the 1960's that he had for the strawberry farmers, every year there are wildfires in mostly the same places. Every year people evacuate, then return to rebuild, but before the reconstruction can begin the mudslides have to do their dastardly deed. But what are people suppose to do? It's so easy to be removed from a catastrophic incident and comment on what people "should" be doing, if you ever want to irritate the devil out of someone utter the words "If I were YOU", well I'm not, and I am fortunate not to be suffering as the Southern Californians are. Actually, most of what happens during our lives is out of our control, natural disasters being a major part of that uncontrollability.
  Southern California has a very diverse topography, ocean facing some of the best beaches in the world are there, next to the beach are cliffs in many places. Passing the cliffs on the beach and crossing the Pacific Coast Highway we encounter high hills, going inland for many miles in places. Then the coastal range of mountains, running from Mexico all along the coast up past the California Northern border and continues northward. People build houses, buildings, and Cities on the slopes, valleys, and canyons that the Mountains create, Lots of brush, weeds, trees, and structures line most of the hillsides and mountainsides.
Photo of Cardiff, "Swamis beach", notice the high cliffs off the
beach, and in the distance the coastal range, rain, gracity, and
steep slopes are contributing factors for mudslides.

Why are the fires and mudslides so extreme, what conditions make this such a volatile area? There are a few things at work here, and they are not new developments:
  * Drought: We had a drought that lasted every bit of 5 years, every living thing in this state was thirsty, the trees suffered badly. Then we had a winter of extremely heavy rain, mudslides did occur during them as well, however the undergrowth was still intact, the soil was not exposed so it did not wash away. Following the drought we had a very robust growing and greening period of about one month, the underbrush dried, then turned golden, (after all it is the "golden state") and the wildfires started. The wind-driven wildfires in the Northern half of the states burned as rapidly as one acre a second, driven by winds gusting to 80 mph. In the North the winds did not last for several weeks, they died down after a week or so, but that's no comfort to the people dealing with that catastrophe. In comparison, the "Thomas Fire" in the Los Angelos area, it started December 4, 2017, it was declared 92% contained and no longer under command of Cal Fire on December 27, 2017, 23 days of uncontrollable winds howling through that huge fire. (Link to Cal Fires report on the Thomas fire)
 282,000 acres were burned, 1,065 structures destroyed and almost 300 damaged. Why was it so huge and intense?
 * Santa Ana Winds: in Southern California there is a wind event that occurs and may last for a month or longer, they can occur any time of the year, although we associate them mainly with the Autumn months. The National Weather Service defines the Santa Ana's as "Strong downslope winds that blow through the mountain passes in southern California, the winds can easily exceed 40 miles per hour. They are warm and dry and are custom made to enhance the effects of wildfires, especially under drought conditions." (Thank you, Wikipedia Link). The fall months in California are the hottest, driest, and most fire-prone months of the year, low humidity, the hot desert winds from inland, (the Santa Ana's), a heated air mass, and high wind speeds all combine to create critical wildfire weather conditions, it's no wonder they are called the "Devil Winds". Further exasperating the conditions are the mountain valleys and passes, they compress the winds through narrow passages causing an increase in velocity.
  * Wildfire: Last year everything in its path burned up, pushed by the extreme winds and the above factors the soil was laid bare by the fires. Hot, fast, and furious the victims in the path of the fires had very little time to evacuate, some did not. After the fires, the soil was laid bare exposing it to the elements, wind, and rain, but that's not the main reason the intensity of the slides are so unbelievable.
 * Topography: Due to tectonic activity on the West Coast mountain slopes are typically steeper, set on bedrock with the loose rock just beneath the soil. The loose, porous rock becomes saturated with water causing it to become waterlogged, then they slip with the assistance of gravity. During periods of intense rain or snow the condition is greatly affected, the underlying rocks, boulders, and sand begin to slip, after complete saturation there is no stopping it. Rocks on the West Coast are millions of years younger than those on the East Coast, time compressed the rock in the East, that and high temperatures from the Earth's mantle have made them less "crumbly" than their Western cousins. Weaker rock, shallow in the earth, and a high water table allow the deluge of water to sit on the rock, allowing water to be soaked up like a sponge, then a slide. Water weighs a lot, one estimate of travel downhill of a mudslide is 20 miles per hour, I don't think the speed matters as much as the weight, and volume of the muck heading downhill. The inertia created by all of that weight is too much to ask of any structure, man-made or natural, to withstand the pressures, it's no wonder mudslides destroy houses.
The inertia caused by water, rock, sediment, and gravel is unbelievable

  * Thicker Sediment: During the last Ice Age, on the East Coast the bedrock did not give way to the Glaciers, they withstood the grinding. On the other Coast however, due to the "Weak Rock", the Glaciers ground away the younger and softer rock causing larger quantities of loose sand and gravel, creating deeper deposits. This sediment buildup is part of the problem with the amount of mud sent down the slopes by allowing the thicker and looser sediment to absorb more water and lubricating the muck on its downhill destructive journey.
  *Earthquakes: The added weight of the water, combined with the sediment, weak rocks, and gravel, the earth-shaking can and does on occasion cause the ground to begin moving. Once all of this begins, there is no stopping it.
  That is a pretty good description of why the intensity and amount of mudflows occur in California, we do see mudslides in other parts of the world, but it doesn't seem to be as intense. I lived in La Quinta California for 3 years, it's in the middle of the Coachella Valley, the great California Desert. While living there I was told a story about a mudslide that occurred in that city during the 1930's. La Quinta is in a Mountain Valley, it's a nice little town, but it's in an enclosed canyon with one way out.
La Quinta, in the 1930's all of those mountains were saturated
with rainwater, then the sediments began to move downhill.
 A heavy rain occurred inundating the entire state with rain, especially so in La Quinta, a hang out of the Hollywood elite in those days. The mud began to flow, the city was buried in mud up to 30 feet deep, everything was buried never to be recovered, some of the structures are still buried. Loose, weak rock, high water tables, a lot of sediment, sand, and gravel combines to create a deadly combination. It was the perfect storm of ingredients combining together to bring us to this spot, everything, wind, drought, wildfire, lots of water, and ground cover eradication, all aimed right at Los Angelos.
  Thank you for reading and sharing, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the mudslides tonight, we must always be prepared for a natural, or man-made disaster.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

It's raining and it's good, Wildfires will follow in just a few months, here's 9 tasks we can do now to prepare in the west.

  It's raining today, and it's supposed to continue through tomorrow as well, we need the rain badly as we are most likely headed into another drought. I've been in the house all day with skunkpuppy, she is going nuts, I'm not so much, I have a lot of work to do. The tide was higher than normal today, it changes almost daily, it depends entirely on the conditions of the ocean outside the "Golden Gate", storms at sea are powerful and we can feel the effects although we are 40 miles inland.
Storms at sea cause high tides far inland.

I noticed on my wife's Facebook feed someone down the road is concerned the road will flood, she said this is their first winter on the island and they heard it was a normal occurrence. It is a common occurrence, but it is not normal, it is human-caused. I would have liked to comment on it, but I did not, I can see no use in it, I've found a lot of people don't read, and some, when they do the written word, has to be "proven", a little back up never hurt anything I guess.
  There was at one time two ditches running the length of our road, about 3-1/2 miles of it, one ditch on the shoulder of the road, the other in the middle of the yard. The yards are big, each one is at least 1/4 acre, they run from the river to the road. The ditches were dug when the road was subdivided in the early 1940's, our home is on the low end, in fact, I live in the lowest area of the island. So the ditches were dug and worked really well for a long time until the homeowners decided the ditches were not needed, so they filled them in. Our levee maintenance is performed by BIMD, Bethel Island Municipal District, they are supposed to maintain the ditches as well, they don't. (Link to a discussion of levees vs. floodplains) The ditches were filled in and now the entire southern end of the road floods, leaving the standing water almost all year around. It's a real mosquito breeding area, and the people still complain of the flooding, I suspect most of them do not know they are supposed to have a ditch, the flooding is caused by the same people that are complaining about it. The complaints have gone on for many years, the answer is obvious to me, but apparently no one else.
  Our levees are good, they are solid and well maintained, there are occasions when the water gets so high it's within a few feet of topping over, much like the spillway at Oroville. With the wildfires that occurred all throughout the western states last summer the soil has been exposed allowing unprotected run-off in some areas. The western states are not strangers to the results of wildfires it has been happening for thousands of years, if not millions.
A very controlled envrionment prepared to control erosion

Immediately after the fires erosion measures were taken, berms were built, straw wattles are laid down, and soil erosion control blankets are all employed. The wattles and blankets are constructed of wood shavings, coconut coir, straw, or synthetic woven materials such as polypropylene. All of the erosion control products must be anchored to the ground using wire pegs, or staples driven flush with the soil surface. Rocks, logs, and all debris must be removed prior to laying the materials down or it will be ineffective. They reduce soil erosion and encourage the propagation of seeds, the materials will decompose while the ground cover takes root to protect the soil from erosion, the Polypropylene will take much longer to break down.
  During the year 2017, the United States experienced 56,000 wildfires which burned 9 million acres of land, Arkansaw, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, California, Montana, Oregon, Washington State, Alaska and I will include British Columbia. (Link to a Wikipedia paper on all wildfires in 2017) Thousands of people had to be evacuated, as reported in Santa Rosa the fire burned one acre per second at times of high winds. The Santa Ana winds added to the super dry fuel will lead to wildfires which in 2017 ended up burning an area larger than the State of Maryland, almost from Santa Monica south to San Diego. There are some things we can do to prepare in advance of a wildfire, it is encouraged to take at least these steps in advance:
  * Stay Alert, as the summer dries the landscape keep on the watch for smoke, campfires left unattended, Bar-B-Ques raging out of control (that happens more often than we think), and suspicious activities. Most fires are started by humans, accidentally, unintentionally, or for monetary gain.
  * Get your plan made, include your entire family and neighbors as well, not everyone will participate keep in mind but will rely on you for leadership in the event of an evacuation. Be certain each member of the family has on them at all times a "contact card" and instructions on what to do if they are caught away from home, designate a contact number out of state for each person to call and report in. Include in your kit a photo of your pets with the family, most pets that disappear during a wildfire never return home. Make sure to include the children in your planning, don't leave them out, we need their "buy-in" if some of their ideas are used they will take a leadership role.
  * Every member needs an emergency kit made up in advance, either purchase a commercially assembled kit or build one yourself, there are volumes written about the disaster kits on the internet. The basics need to be covered, water, lighting, rain gear, medications, extra clothing and whatever else a person feels they must have. Commercial kits include a lot of items allowing the person to add whatever extra that is important to them for survival. (Link to kits)
  * If you have neighbors that need assistance include them in your plan, in the case of disabled people arrangements for evacuation must be made in advance, many disabled people live alone, they need our help. FEMA has templates to address pre-planning. (Link to templates)
  * Make sure to charge all of your electronic equipment every night, in the event of an evacuation you will be able to grab your phone, tablet, and laptop and get the heck out of Dodge.
  * Charge all electric wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and electric vehicles.
  * Have at a very minimum, 1/2 tank of fuel in your vehicle, and have an evacuation kit for cars in each vehicle.
  * Build a kit for your pets, it doesn't take much and most of the items you most likely have in your home, as with all of your kits these must be sturdy and light enough to grab quickly to toss into your vehicle, keep your pets on a leash, they will panic. The majority of evacuation centers will not allow pets, arrangements will need to be made for all with the exception of service animals. (Link to kits for dogs, and Cats)
  * Scan important papers, documents, birth certificates, DD240's and all important paperwork, then store it on a flash drive, in fact, a backup of your entire computer can be on a flash drive or two. 
  The fires in the Southern Part of California began just as the deadliest and most destructive fires ever recorded that killed 44 people and burned down 9,000 buildings and other structures. Now the rebuilding begins, typically it takes two years from the time a house is burned down to completion of the rebuild. There are so many houses that need to be rebuilt the time frame is longer than that now, some areas are contracting with the same construction firm to control costs.
This is an attractive fireproof house, it looks like it could be resistant
to a wind event as well. 
  Residents unknowingly support the fires, we continue to build in fire-prone areas, then we rebuild there, but what's to be done? It's simple if a person doesn't live in a fire-prone area, just stop building there, however that's easier said than done. I am more of an advocate of changing our building methods and materials, after all, we send space vehicles aloft every month which are able to sustain very high temperatures and the occupants live through it. I wonder if we can use some space age materials to construct our homes, and other structures to withstand fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires.
  Thank you for reading and sharing, now that it's raining again when it stops and the sun re-appears we will be able to hear the weeds, grass, and brush grow, then within a few days, it will be dry enough to burn. We can breath easy for a few months, then the sky will fill with smoke once again, please be prepared for it.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Cardboard recycling, what do you do with yours, Worm farm diy, composting, the Chinese have it figured all out,

   I spent several hours today cutting up cardboard, yes, I do that regularly. It all started years ago when I would "bust" down cardboard boxes to "save" space in the trash can, which seemed a little off-kilter in a way. I was saving space to send it to the landfill, I had to think of some way of heading it off and saving space at the landfill. I started using the boxes in my garden for weed control, that was long before I built the raised beds, I've been an avid gardener for at least 25 years. The cardboard works well for weed control, I would lay it down at the start of autumn, cover it with leaves and other organic material and let it compost over the winter. When it came time to plant the leaves, straw, and cardboard would all be decomposed to a soil-like state, making it really good for planting. That was a good beginning in my desire to figure out a way to use the cardboard to my advantage.
Cardboard being composted, large pieces need to be rotated with
a heavy duty piece of equipment, or the material can be torn into
more manageable pieces. 
  I made a few attempts to raise earthworms, the first two tries failed, I just did not know what the heck I was doing. My idea was, (I did not do any research), hey worms live in dirt, dirt is everywhere, I will raise them in an in-ground depression. So I bought a few containers of worms from the local bait shop and added them to what I thought would be a very dynamic colony. I was wrong, supporting a successful colony of worms takes planning, knowledge, and an ability to pay attention to details. The most difficult part of starting a Worm Farm, is just that, starting the colony. To start a new colony of worms, an understanding of them must come before any other task, they are simple creatures, somewhat delicate, but very hearty after the colony is established. The most important aspect of "Vermiculture" is understanding the bedding, worms literally eat their way through their environment. (Link to set up a worm farm)
  Worms must have a balance in the bedding, that is an equal balance of:
  "Carbon"- Coconut Coir, Dry Leaves, Shredded Paper, Egg Shells, and Cardboard, to itemize just a few bedding materials.
  "Protein" (worm food)- Added to the bedding, then covered with it, Protein is the organic materials worms feed on, Vegetables, Fruits, Flowers, Kitchen Waste, and Oatmeal, there is a lot more, but this gives you a good idea.

That's a very simplified list, there are many books, blogs, and other publications discussing worm food and bedding, a person is well advised to read everything available prior to starting a worm farm, it's not complicated, there are precautions to take, however. If you are interested you can always ask me. The first item to decide is what your goal is, gardening, fishing, or chicken feed? That goal will help you decide what to feed them.

  This is why I cut up a lot of cardboard if you have ever picked up a piece of cardboard off of the ground and observed worms under it, that's an indicator of how much they like cardboard. As I understand it the worms like the glue that binds the layers together, there is a lot of sugar in it, I don't know why that would be a draw. I cut up three boxes today, it was nice outside so I sat there watching Skunkpuppy chase the normal locals around. Her entire life consists of chasing Rabbits, Squirrels, Turkeys, and Peacocks, it drives me nuts. Most blogs and information on creating worm bedding normally suggest ripping up the cardboard into approximately 1-inch squares.
This is a good assortment of paper, cardboard, and wood
shavings, I add eggshells always and lots of dry leaves.
For the most part that is good advice, unfortunately, I have such terrible Arthritis in my hands, (every joint in my body actually, I have a severe case.) due to my hands not functioning up to par I cut the cardboard with scissors. I tear the box into manageable pieces, when I can salvage a solid piece that I can use to cover the bedding, I do so. My goal is to cut the cardboard into squares 1/2-3/4 inch square, there is a lot of forgiveness in the sizes, I'm not sure what the optimum size is so I emulate the leaves. If it is at all possible I separate the cardboard, I peel the outer layer off of the corrugated inner section, then I will send it through the shredder, it won't shred a piece of whole cardboard. (Yard sale equipment has its limitations)
  On the evening news, tonight was a segment on Cardboard boxes, the subject of it was the amount of cardboard that is now being sent to the landfills and China. Sending cardboard to a landfill is a complete waste in my way of thinking, apparently, it is to the Chinese as well. The United States sends a lot of cardboard to the giant Asian Country, what do they do with it? They bust them down, then render them into pulp and make new boxes out of them, I don't know if it's genius or not but it is a very effective way to deal with a valuable waste stream. The video displayed an enormous amount of cardboard waiting to be processed, it's a successful business.
  Cardboard can be stacked, either cut up, shredded or whole, when kept wet it will turn into compost. Hot composting is the method best used to make a lot of compost in a relatively short amount of time, however, a hot compost pile will kill worms, the temperatures are too high. When hot composting air must be continually introduced to the entire pile which means turning it over, that in turn dictates the cardboard is cut into manageable pieces. If the pieces are too large then some sort of front-end loader will be needed, rotating the pile at least once a week is required. Hot composting is more work than cold composting, the difference in the amount of time it takes to compost hot is considerably less than a cold compost pile. Keep the pile of cardboard wet, it aids in the decomposition, turn the pile over once a week, keep it wet, and make sure the cardboard is in manageable pieces. It's a lot of work to hot compost cardboard, I have found a different way to do it, I am sure it is not an original thought.
My compost bin shortly after it being completed, on the left
bottom, under the 2x4 the 1/2" cardboard can barely be seen.
  Air must circulate through the pile of cardboard, so when I and my grandson built the cold compost bin we started by laying down a big cardboard box, it was from some big appliance we bought. The cardboard was laid on the ground and covered the footprint of the 4'x4'x4' wooden bin, then a layer of leaves two feet thick was placed on top of it. More cardboard was set on top of the leaves, another layer of leaves and so on. I spread newspaper over the pile between the leaves and cardboard, wetting everything as I came up. I did one thing more that I am not sure if it is working or not, I added 2,000 red worms to it, I added some protein in with the mixture of leaves, paper, and cardboard, worm food. This bin has been together for 2 years, the last time I saw the worms was 1-1/2 years ago, we dug around the pile looking for them two days ago, none were found. (I have dreamed up some excuses, but none of them mean anything.) I'm confident the worms are still thriving in that pile, I just don't know where they are, (Let's all laugh about that together) most likely way at the bottom slowing eating their way through their environment.
  Cardboard is an amazing material, it can be flimsy, or constructed in such a way it is hard as a board and very near structural capabilities. Like paper, it is made from wood pulp, which makes it 100% recyclable. Egg cartons are made from it, and the worms love it as well, I cut them into pieces that mimic leaves, I wonder if they can tell the difference. (I want to note that in ancient times the Chinese made armor out of layers of paper, the first cardboard) This is a fairly short blog, a boring subject but it is another set of skills we can add to our self-reliance toolkits. (Link to my youtube video showing how to construct a worm bin) I believe any substance that we use that can be introduced back into the earth we should take advantage of. We don't need to burn stuff, bury it, or store it if there is some way we can re-use it in a positive way. If you do decide to raise worms acceptance of the fact you will be looked upon a little differently by most people you know, typically it is not understood why someone would have a worm farm, eccentricity helps in this endeavor. It's not as eccentric as one may believe, (I don't think) I call it "circle gardening", from garden waste to worm colony, to castings, made into fertilizer and added back into the soil, zero waste, it's a noble activity. (Link to my blog on making worm tea)
  Thanks for reading and sharing my blog, What do you do with your cardboard? If you have a unique use for it let me know, I need some more ideas, I don't like wasting this valuable commodity, as the Chinese have proven it to be a "resource" versus a "liability".


Friday, January 5, 2018

Earthquake in Hayward, how predictable are earthquakes, what is the Richter Scale, what does it mean? Horses too.

  I watched a video yesterday, it was taken in Egypt in front of one of the great pyramids, it was an early morning setting and I forget what it was about. During the video every once in a while, a horse-driven wagon would drive by on the road directly in line with the camera and the Pyramid. Eqypt is a modern country, like all modern countries they have all the stuff modern societies have. As I was watching the video, now it's turned into a horse-drawn wagon video, I wondered how we in the USA have gotten so far away from our roots that practically no one depends on animal driven vehicles any longer. I have often thought about using a horse and wagon, but there is a lot of infrastructures involved in housing a large animal such as a horse. Compounding that, I have never had anything to do with horses in my life, I have worked around a lot of livestock, we always called horses "hay burners", another way of saying "liability". I have always envisioned them as being a lot of work, and very expensive to feed, house, and provide medical care for. That's about how far my planning to use a horse-driven wagon gets, it would be kinda cool to have one, but I would put the animal in danger so I won't do anything but "think" about having one. I'd like to add one more item to this misplaced horse conversation, during the late 1800's and early 1900's, in New York City, 1,000 horses would die on the streets every day. There was in existence a City Department tasked with recovering them, I'm sure it was a common problem in each major city of the world.
                 So moving right along.
The seismometer, basic operation.
  We had an earthquake this morning, 4.4 on the Richter scale, ratings on the algorithm are 0-10. The shocks caused by an earthquake are measured with a seismometer, it plots the information it gathers on the seismograph (basically a piece of paper shaped in a circle with a needle recording the vibrations in a graph type of arraignment). A lower reading on the scale cannot be felt, that is a level of 2 or below, however, they are picked up by the seismometer. The higher on the scale an earthquake is the more damage they cause, 7 on the scale can be catastrophic. Developed in 1935 by Charles Richter of the California Institute of Technology, (Link) to enable the mechanical measurement of an earthquake mathematically to enable scientists to compare the amplitude of different quakes. Magnitude is presented in whole numbers and decimal fractions, a 5.3 being a moderate earthquake and 6.3 would be a strong quake. Each whole number increase in magnitude is 10X more than the lower number, a 7 on the Richter scale is 10 times the amplitude of a 6, each whole number increase in amplitude is a release of 31 times the amount of energy emitted by a number just one step lower.
  The Richter scale does not help in predicting earthquakes, only in measuring them. We hear often that earthquakes can gradually build up strength until the "big one" happens, but does a series of small quakes mean a larger one is on the way? Let's look into it a little bit, the ultimate goal of earthquake prediction is to warn society of a potentially catastrophic earthquake taking place in the far enough future to enable evacuations of affected areas. The US Geological survey performs research on predicting earthquakes, the surveys are conducted in the field, laboratory, and computer simulations of earthquake mechanics and known fault zones. The goal scientists are working to achieve is to be able to increase the reliability of predicting earthquakes, within a certain year. The earthquake probabilities are estimated in two ways, by studying the history of large earthquakes on a fault and the rate of accumulated strain in the underlying rock. Scientists record the historic frequency of large earthquakes in a fault to determine how likely a similar event will occur. For example, if a fault has experienced four magnitudes 8 or larger occurring in the past 200 years, occurring randomly not like clockwork, a 50% probability of an occurrence in the next 50 years would be estimated, meaning it is just as likely to occur as not. Complicating this is when stress is relieved on one part of the fault it may become stronger on another part making prediction tough at best.
It's hard to read, I suggest glancing at the map just to get a feel of how many faults there are here.
  The San Andreas Fault is one of the most studied faults in the world, for the past 150 years every 22 years a magnitude 6 or greater have occurred near Parkfield, California, the last shock was in 1966. Science has been conducting studies to "capture" the next earthquake in this area near Parkfield. A vast array of monitoring instruments were set up in the area during the late 1980s, the goal is to record measurements of the quake before, during and after the event, then to be able to come to a point of making a short-term prediction. An effective means of communication between science and local officials responsible for disaster response to enable an orderly, organized and informed public to be notified early enough to mitigate damage and loss of life. The project continually makes positive contributions to public policies, and Geological Science, it's a good project. (Link to an interesting article on everything to do with earthquakes.)
  Earthquakes can occur anywhere in any region of the world, one of the largest in the history of the United States took place in New Madrid, Missouri, the year was 1725, it caused the Mississippi to flow backward for a short while. A large fault lies beneath the giant City of New York, faults are below Yellowstone Valley, and the San Andreas fault travels from California south through Mexico to Puerto Vallarta. Understanding them is important to every country in the world, urban sprawl, new highways, and infrastructure all exposes the population to more faults, all of them have not been discovered. The more we understand earthquakes causes and effects it may enable us to eliminate loss of life and lessen the damages caused by them.
  For those of us in an Earthquake area there are some things we can do to prepare ourselves:
* Expect the Utilities to be interrupted, they may be out for a day or much longer.
* Prepare to be restricted from entering your home, if the severe structural damage is visited upon your home, it may be tagged.
* Have a way to charge your cell phone and other communication equipment, have a dynamic radio with you.
* Prepare with plenty of water, 1/2 gallon per day minimum is recommended, more is better, plan on being out of running water.
* Shelter, blankets, food, and extra clothing, essential for survival.
* Have an emergency kit ready, either made up yourself or a commercially available kit, mine is by the door. (Link to a commercially prepared kit.)
* Make sure to have at least one weeks medication with you.
   These are just a few ideas, each person has different needs and requirements, There is no reason to be afraid, or unduly alarmed, accept the fact an earthquake will take place, after a while it is accepted as just a part of living in an earthquake-prone area. Most of the time when an earthquake happens people pause, look around and typically ask someone near them, "was that an earthquake?" I have experienced that with every earthquake I have been in, Normally there has been time to get out, but then again I have never been in a big one, but "they" keep telling us it's on its way, we'll see I guess.
  Thanks for reading and sharing, leave a comment, tell me your earthquake story. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What is happening in Puerto Rico, how is the response to Maria coming along? Whats with the electric service being out.

  I began writing this blog about a week ago, I got sidetracked and wrote one about the Jamacia earthquakes of 1592, (I get sidetracked a lot while I am reading, everything is just so interesting). This was a tough blog to write, so much human suffering, so little information, and so much finger pointing and accusations flying around. Somewhere, no matter what has taken place on the island of Puerto Rico, someone somewhere will have the job to sit down and document exactly what happened during that storm, and the response afterward. With everything we have read and heard, the facts are somewhere in the middle, I'm convinced of it.

  I worked in the Power Production industry for about 20 years, one of my long-term gigs, I never was one to hang around one place too long. I worked in wood burners, gas turbines, fluidized bed combustor plants, and circulating bed boilers, sometimes terrible things happen. I have a brother who worked in a coal generating plant in the North, he was on shift when a 60-megawatt turbine exploded, it was brand new and going through its startup tests, something happened and a slug of oil got into the stream of high-pressure steam. When it entered the steam turbine spinning at about 3300 rpm it was like a sidewinder missile hit the blades, no one was killed or injured, they were lucky.
  I'm thinking about Puerto Rico and what seems like a long delay in restoring Electrical service, it's been about 100 days and 50% of the U.S. protected island is still without power. I'm wondering how unreasonable that amount of time is for this giant of a disaster. Now I'm not talking about the political atmosphere which is dominating our entire countries news and reality spectrum, I'm addressing what mechanical, manpower, and supply problems that may be encountered when a Power Plant goes down, and some of the time frames for receiving emergency repair parts.
  The Power Generation is now at 70% of what it was before the hurricane disaster, It sounds slow but it is actually fairly quick. there is a lot of infrastructures affected when a disaster such as this strikes. I'm not sure what damage was incurred during the storm but one can make some assumptions about what was damaged, and consequently how long the repairs may take. The equipment that could cause long delays are units such as:

  Steam Turbines, extremely large industrial machines which take at least one week to disassemble just to get to a level of being able to inspect them. I am assuming all the Generators on the island made it through the storm, if not a year wait would not be out of the question for the time of a new unit being built. Some have only one moving part, depending on the manufacturer, some have valves operating the stages of the blades inside the case. The brand of Steam Turbine makes a difference in the amount of time it takes to rebuild or construct a new one.
  Generators, driven by the Steam Turbine these guys are big, heavy, and complicated, however, they also have one moving part, but what a part it is. Constructed of mostly copper windings, they have a "rotor" (referred to as the "field"), The rotor spins driven by the Steam Turbine, some have gearboxes to reduce or increase the RPMs to enable them to match the frequency of the power grid. They must spin in sync with the grid, or an explosion can occur, the frequency must be in increments of 60 hertz, 60 cycles per minute, one revolution per second, A Generator is not surprisingly, all about the electrical output, that's it's job. Apparently, the Generators were likewise not impacted, a really good thing for Puerto Rico.
Typical electrical generator, yep they are big.

  Those two pieces of equipment if destroyed could have caused a much longer wait for the lights to come back on, but that's not the only source that is capable of creating a long-term power outage.
  Petroleum is the main driver of the Country, fueling transportation, electrical generation, and most industry, it supplies 3/4 of the energy consumed in the Island Country. 47% of the electricity is realized from the use of petroleum as the means to create steam to drive the turbines, 34% is from Natural Gas, which suggest that is the number of Gas Turbines spinning to create Power, although some plants do burn Natural Gas in conventional boilers and Steam Generators, (HRSG)
  Coal provided fuel for production of 17% of the supply of electrical power, coal, however, is extremely expensive fuel to use in the production of electrical power, more so in light of the advent of Solar, Wind, and Gas Turbine generating technology. A side note, coal will never provide the level of fuel for power plants as long as Natural Gas is abundant. Maintaining the infrastructure of coal mining, delivery, storage at the sites, fuel feed equipment wearing out, and the internals of the boiler "Fire Box" being torn up by it is just too cost prohibitive in the modern age. The solid fuel plants I worked at regularly spent tens of millions of dollars a year maintaining equipment, it's one of those industries that dictate an enormous amount of money be spent to make almost the same amount, making electricity is expensive.
  Renewable energy supplies 2% of the demand, Solar, Wind, and Hydro are the usual suspects. Wind farms supplied 1/2 of Puerto Rico's renewable energy, there are two farms on the island, one is the 95 megawatt (millions of watts) Santa Isabel plant the biggest wind farm in use on the Caribbean. Solar supplies 127 megawatts of electricity of utility-scale solar generating capacity and 88 MW of general distribution use to everyday consumers.
  It takes a lot to produce electrical power in amounts needed to supply a large city, let alone a small country. Still, the reality is that 600,000 people remain in the dark, people are angry, surprised, and some have resigned to the fact it may be much longer. During September of 2016, a power failure caused the entire island to be without power for 3 days, that was nothing compared to this. This time the finger pointing is rampant, everyone is frustrated.
  The Army Corp of Engineers, (have you ever tried to talk to those people? Holy cow, they are terrible to deal with) the Army Corp says it may take until May to restore all power, they blame the rough terrain, lack of supplies, and aging infrastructure, blaming the 11 year recession prior to the storm. Some in the mountain regions believe it may take much longer to restore utilities, they are most likely correct. Dealing with the Army Corp, (I said I won't get political but) I would like to add one comment for the Army Corp. from me "A little bit of leadership would go a long way." It is sorely lacking in that organization.
  3500 utility workers are on the job restoring power, to me that doesn't sound like a lot of workers on the scale of this disaster, another 1500 have been requested. These are highly trained, and skilled workers, in the best of times they are few and far between, we need to remember Houston and Florida both have demands for the same services.
  14,000 utility poles are in Puerto Rico, another 7,000 will arrive shortly. With 2,400 miles of power lines, 30,000 miles of distribution lines and 342 substations each suffering major damages during the storm.
A Huge transformer, it one this size is destroyed, the time to order,
build and deliver a replacement is substantial. 

  The question remains, "is this an unreasonable amount of time to wait?" The short answer is I don't know, (Bad answer Jacques) I am unable to find any source to find out the extent of damage on the island. Most of what I have read deal with the populations "expectations" of what should be happening, that's mostly emotional, I am sure I would be emotional as well. One clue that I read stated that 342 substations suffered substantial damages, that tells me of those still in need of repairs if transformers, breakers, and special insulators are needed, and on back order, the outage could last a very much longer time, maybe a year.
  I've been wanting to write a blog on Puerto Rico, however, information coming from there, Florida, and Houston is as rare as hens' teeth. There are plenty of accusations, finger-pointing, blaming, and political posturing to last for 10 more disasters. A certain amount of blame can always be directed towards the Government, (deserved mostly), local power companies can be pointed at, and any one in charge will be scapegoated (some rightfully so, others not so much), I have a hard time thinking that all of that human suffering is brought down upon the residents of the island intentionally, I like to think our elected officials have our interest at heart, although it's getting harder and harder to believe, I won't get discouraged, I hope the people of Puerto Rico won't either.