Nutrients from the Sky. The Upside of Snow.

       "Winter I"  by Bob Zuck

“Winter I” by Bob Zuck

Juno, Linus, Marcus, Neptune, Pandora…. What now? We’re running out of names for snowstorms in New England. 

Can you believe our good fortune? 

I feel so much better now that my buddy, artist farmer Bob Zuck, introduced me to the nutritional benefits of snow. As it turns out, we are flush in nutrients falling from the sky.

Snow is more than moisture. It is also rich in nitrogen, a nutrient that makes up every living cell in plants and animals. Nitrogen is what makes protein unique. Nitrogen comprises 80% of the atmosphere, but it’s in a form that can’t be used. Snow grabs that nitrogen and deposits it into the soil where bacteria “fix” it for absorption into plants. We then eat the plants directly or we eat herbivorous animals. Nitrogen fixing plants include legumes (peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts) and cover crops from the Fabaceae family (alfalfa, clover, and vetch).

Atmospheric nitrogen is exceptionally abundant a result of burning fossil fuels and manufacturing. To an industrial farmer, the nitrogen in snow can’t hold a candle to commercial fertilizer, but harsh chemical fertilizers damage the soil’s microbes and so they would need more.

New England, look on the bright side. Prepare to feast on sustainable local food this summer. California, eat my dust. Wait. Eat your own dust.

Your thoughts: Do you feel better about the snow?

Got To Do It: Take a Hike!

trail marker for the Appalachian Trail.This past weekend, I went hiking on a bit of the Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap. (That’s the Delaware River on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, not Delaware, the second smallest state.) The A.T. is a marked hiking trail running from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. I decided that I will hike the entire A.T. in sections over the next twenty years. I might have done 20 miles so far. Just 2180 left to go.

Sandee Takes a Hike Sandee Ostwind Hiking in the Delaware Water Gap

This is my friend, Sandee, a 60 year old woman who had not hiked a day in her life until last October. The very idea makes her daughter convulse with laughter. Sandee is still not your typical hiker (“Let’s sit down and take a rest.”); however, she enjoys it immensely. Why? Sandee says, “Hiking has everything – physical, mental, spiritual. I feel great about myself when I finish a hike.”

Mountain LaurelMountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia, the flowering evergreen shrub, blooms in May and June in the mountainous forests of the Eastern United States. The Mid-Atlantic States are blanketed this week. White flowers in the shade and pink flowers in the sun.

 

Damn You, New York Times!

Circada on a leaf

Little Circada

I’m mad at The New York Times, with their multimedia features and images enlarged 100 times, for scaring me about cicadas. Cicadas are insects that crawl out of the ground every 17 years for a three-to-four-week frenzy of mating before they deposit their nymphs underground and die. We saw cicadas on leaves, and they are cute little critters. First, we heard them (Is that the sound of a broken fan belt? You decide…) and then we saw them on leaves here and there. Their swarming actually takes place 40 feet above in the trees. Not once did a molted carcass fall on my head.

Your thoughts, do you hike? What do you like about it?