‘Nature Awareness’ Posts

 

Nature Awareness #1

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Describe the customs of two or three Indo-European cultures regarding the land and natural resources, and compare and contrast these practices with the prevailing modern attitudes. (minimum 300 words)

Greece is a country surrounded by mountains, thin soil, and water, which prevented some use of their natural surroundings in regards to farming or living off the land. Less than 1/5 of Greek landmass is suitable for farming. They did produce some crops such as barley, grapes, and of course olive trees, but their terrain was very limiting. Instead of focusing on land farming as their main source of income, the Greeks focused on trade via ship and fish farming, which allowed them to flourish and spread their influence further than if by land. Their mountainous terrain, however, did allow them to mine riches such as gold, silver, and iron ore.

Today Greece still has a fairly large production of grain in its agricultural economy. Most of the agricultural land as we know it is owned by people who came to work the land in the early 19th century. As new generations have taken over and split the land between kin, the agricultural base gets smaller and smaller. Land for grazing is public access, but most herders are required to pay a fee for grazing rights.

Further north, the German culture had a more obscure method of farming the land, in that no one really knows for sure whether their system of farming their fields into “strips” comes from. Naturally they had more farm-able land than the Greeks, but eventually nobility shook up the land ownership from the peasants and forced most of them onto small enclosed parcels of land. The Germans mainly farmed cereal grains and herded cattle around the North Sea.

Germany was also heavily forested and most of their buildings were made of wood because of such. However, since wood did not last long and eventually rotted, they built most of their graves out of stone within the ground, much like tombs. Germany also had a high value of Iron, which made the land very desirable to the Romans.

In modern days, Germany is a very eco-conscious country. It is committed to the Kyoto Protocol and programs such as recycling, biodiversity, etc, even though it still runs high carbon emissions comparable to the United States.

One thing I like about Greece or many of the European countries really, is that they are very traditional in their way of thinking. They like to pass on and preserve the knowledge of their ancestors, their traditions, because they are proud of the lineage and their way of life. I find this is the same across many countries when it comes to the land-workers. I think the older countries, such as those in Europe, have more of a chance at fighting corporate conglomerates because of simply how traditional those countries are. Whereas Americans feed the corporate conglomerates that give little care to their environmental impact.

(Word Count: 465)

Weber, Max. “The Agricultural Organization and the Problem of Agrarian Communism.” General Economic History. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://www.ditext.com/weber/1.html>.

Weiner, Tom. “Germania.” People.usd.edu. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://people.usd.edu/~clehmann/pir/germany.htm>.

“Agriculture in Ancient Greece.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_ancient_Greece>.

“The Ancient Greek World.” Penn Museum – Penn Museum. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://www.penn.museum/sites/Greek_World/index.html>.

“Culture of Greece – History, People, Clothing, Traditions, Women, Beliefs, Food, Customs, Family.” Countries and Their Cultures. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://www.everyculture.com/Ge-It/Greece.html>.

 

Nature Awareness #9

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Identify one species of plant or animal in your local area which is threatened, endangered, or locally endangered, or which became extinct in historic times. Explain what destroyed or threatens this species locally, how does or might the absence of this species affect your locality, and what, if any, steps were taken or are being taken to preserve the species. (minimum 100 words)

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a threatened species within the state of Pennsylvania, currently ranked as imperiled but breeding. Within the United States it has grown to a secure status, but is still considered threatened here. The Bald Eagle’s numbers dwindled to an extreme amount in the 1970’s due to pollution of waterways within Pennsylvania by the insecticide DDT. Additional threats included disease and disturbance of their breeding grounds. Their status was not just threatened within Pennsylvania, but across the country. Being as this is a symbol of the American Spirit and also the natives of this land, the Bald Eagle is a very important part of our history and our roots.

Since becoming a part of the endangered species list, the Bald Eagle has finally started making a promising come-back within Pennsylvania. We have over 170 nests in our state alone and their breeding areas are becoming more protected by the National Heritage Program and the Game Commission. They strongly advocate reporting Bald Eagle sightings, and work to keep a protective barrier around the breeding grounds of at least 1000 feet. Thankfully the Bald Eagle also seems to be adapting to suburban and urban sprawl, which should help encourage their growth even more.

(Word Count: 205)

Pennsylvania National Heritage Program. Bald Eagle. Pennsylvania National Heritage Program. Bald Eagle. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/wrcp/factsheets/Bald%20Eagle.pdf>.
“Bald Eagle Population Soars Past 170 Nests — Pennsylvania EBird.” EBird News and Features — EBird. 11 Mar. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://ebird.org/content/pa/news/bald-eagle-population-soars-past-170-nests>.

 

Nature Awareness #13

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Based on the research and conclusions you have drawn from question 1 through 12, describe how you might further extend your personal and/or group spiritual practices to include the Nature Spirits and other natural elements. (minimum 300 words)

I’d really like to encompass more of my life-style into the natural world. Out of my Grove, I am probably the most connected with nature and her cycles due to living the life of a 4th generation farmer. I grew up in nature, following nature, working with nature, and enjoy what nature has to provide. It wasn’t until my spiritual self awoke in my teens that I realized I needed to return that favor. A gift for a gift, as they say.

When we kill animals now for food, I offer a prayer and I give back to nature. When I eat dinner during the warm seasons, I eat it out on the back deck and take time to reflect and appreciate the birds and wildlife in the woods behind my house. When we grow crops and leech the nutrients from the soil to do so, we plant a barley cover crop to grow, die, and nourish the soil to replace the nutrients we used.

But despite what knowledge I grew up with, it is a lifetime journey learning ways to live in harmony with nature. It is even more my duty to teach others within my Grove to do the same that did not have the same upbringing I did. Living a life more connected to nature in an urban or suburban neighborhood is no easy task, but we are doing this at CedarLight. We have a beautiful sanctuary that we planted ourselves, which provides that little piece of nature within concrete sidewalks and streets. We go on regular trips within nature to clean up streams or to camp in the wilderness and keep that connection going. We share our knowledge of the earth and our skills to live in harmony with nature with each other so we can all be kinder to our mother and the spirits that share this land with us. Simply living in balance with nature is a spiritual act in itself, and the best way we can do this is by living it, and share it with others so that they can continue the process.

(Word Count: 351)

 

Nature Awareness #12

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Based on your research for Questions 1 above, describe what sort of offering would be appropriate to make to the Nature Spirits in your area, and what would be an appropriate way to make such an offering and why. Discuss the potential ecological consequences of making this offering and ways to modify the offering in order to minimize any negative environmental impact. (minimum 100 words)

In all honesty, I think appropriate environmentally conscious offerings in my area are really no different than those made in any other area. At CedarLight Grove, we’ve learned that regular alcoholic offerings in the same spot are bad for the foliage in the drain-off for that particular area. We now offer to cauldrons and spread the excess in multiple locations. We offer grass and clover to the Earth Mother to combat the trampled grass around our circle from our regular events. We offer water to the trees during the droughts, we offer bird-seed for the Nature Spirits to consume, we offer water (and coffee) to the well for the Ancestors, and we offer incense to the Shining Ones. Most of these compliment the sacred land upon which we tread and worship, and I think most of these practices would do well in any environment, in any state within this country or any country.

I could see offerings of silver build-up being a problem if I thought the amount of silver offered was not diluted by the environment as a whole. Perhaps if hundreds of people were offering silver in one location constantly it would create a problem, but nature is pretty resilient an adaptable. Perhaps even an excess of bird seed that somehow forced the local nature spirits to “rely” on its presence could be an issue, but to me that just means I should be more pious and dedicated in keeping the offerings there for them.

I am proud of my Grove for how eco-concious we have become over the years. I’m proud of how we’ve paid attention to our local environment enough that we see what we can do to change our methods of worship to be just as powerful, but just as respectful to our natural world as well.

(Word Count: 302)

 

Nature Awareness #2

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Describe your understanding of the term “nature spirits”? Discuss this concept in relation to both ancient Indo-European and modern ADF practices. (minimum 300 words)

The way I feel most complete in my worship is to create a balance within all of the facets of my rituals and liturgy. We may honor the three kindred, we may open three gates, and we may acknowledge the three realms of land, sea, and sky as sacred, but I also incorporate this three way thinking into each individual kindred as well. My general praise of the Nature Spirits goes as follows:

Honored Nature Spirits, spirits who roam the lands, spirits who swim the seas, spirits who soar the skies, spirits of feather, scale, and skin, those who exist in this world, those who exist in the otherworld, and those who walk between the worlds. We are honored to share our blessings of the earth with you, as you share your blessings with us. We are honored to walk in balance with you, as you walk in balance with us. Join us brothers and sisters, as together we make the earth sacred ground. Nature Spirits, we honor you!

That is how I view the Nature Spirits, within conceptual threes I can better link my understanding and balance within all worlds and within all the kindred. From the Nature Spirits who roam these lands, who swim the waters, and who soar through the skies, but not just physical beings such as the hawk and lamb, but those who take on a more other-worldly figure and walk between the worlds or simply exist in that other world such as spirit guides and totems.

Logistically this categorizes the Nature Spirits in two categories, those of the physical realm and those of the spiritual realm. But as a third category, I would offer the thought of those who can walk between those realms, those that might speak to us in a dream and appear before us the next day. These are spirits of nature, all forms of nature in all available space to us within the Middle Realm.

Several cultures share similar thought processes on spirits of the land versus spirits of the otherworld. Ireland have the fae folk, which some believed were both physical and spiritual and were more of the mischievous sort. The Norse have their Landvaettir which they thought of as protectors, also as physical and spiritual beings. The Greek based most of their nature spirits off of the elements and locations, such as the naiads of the water and the dryads of the trees, but had many names for spirits based upon rivers and terrain as well. The common ground between all of these is their link between our physical world and the spiritual world, and the need to give offerings to sate and honor these beings. Just because we are a modern scientific and tech-savvy culture does not mean that their influence is any less or that we should acknowledge them less frequently. If anything it is our duty to continue this practice and use our modern social culture to make society aware of the Earth and the spirits that reside here.

(Word Count: 504)

 

Nature Awareness #7

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Describe the basic climate of your region, the primary influences on your weather patterns, major economic resources of your region (for example, crops, minerals, ranching, tourism, manufacturing) and how are these affected by climate and weather conditions. (minimum 300 words)

The largest economic resource that I see where I live is tourism. I live in one of the most toured historical locations in the entire United States, Gettysburg Pennsylvania. Once warm weather hits here, the main streets are filled with history and war buffs from all over the world. There are shops of varying degrees that sell old American Colonial wares, civil war garb, memorabilia, and all the luxuries of a regular city for the comfort of its tourists (McDonalds). The tourist season obviously slows down in the winter due to the cold and snow preventing much of the physical exploration of the battlefields here. But I personally enjoy the battlefields in the dead of winter, in fact I find them more spiritually powerful. There are no tourists or mundane distractions to get into the way. There’s only you, the history, and the land.

Another major resource for Adams County is apples. The Lucky Leaf Apple-juice plant is located here (now called Knouse Foods), and there are miles and miles of roads lined with apple orchards. A big part of our economy here comes from these orchards and the small farmers markets (or large manufactured apple products provided by Knouse). We have an Apple Blossom festival, along with several other small country festivals throughout the year that encourage and celebrate the small dutch farmers that are well respected throughout this land.

What I like most about living in the mid-atlantic, having grew up in Maryland and now living about 30 miles north in Gettysburg, is we have pretty well-rounded weather. It’s a continental climate, with humid summers and moist cold winters, but also temperate springs and summers. We get the best of all worlds without being too extreme in either direction. We occasionally have strong thunderstorms, heavy snowfall, or the occasional drought. You have to be prepared for all types of weather when living here, which I like because I feel it gives me that sense of skill for whatever direction I might go in.

Another thing I love about living in Gettysburg is the Appalachian Mountains. On a hot summer day when you drive up into the mountains on a forest-covered road and you feel that cool, tree-filtered air hit you, there’s nothing like that sensation. Or to feel the cold mountain water run-off filter into one of the public swimming holes, there’s a lot to be said for living in a climate with open farm-land and densely forested mountains. The best of all worlds.

(Word Count: 416)

 

Nature Awareness #11

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Based on your experiences, meditations, and research, describe what, in your opinion, makes a place seem “natural.” (minimum 100 words)

A place defined as natural is one well-tended, or left wild that is in sync with its natural self. I tend to find the more untouched areas as natural in their original state, but big beautiful tended gardens that are grown to compliment their natural cycle are just as wonderful and natural. Even though I prefer untouched wilds left to their own devices, I do not feel that human involvement in the world around us makes it unnatural. We are just as much a part of nature as nature is a part of us. Our challenge is to coexist and develop that reciprocal relationship with nature so that we are not disturbing its cycle or the direction it wants to evolve.

I often see arguments about how humans placed in a natural environment either taint it or destroy it. This is not always the case. The natives that lived on this land for centuries before us still put up lodges, still created fences to hold horses, still plucked foods from the soil. But they did so in a way that was respectful and balanced with the natural growth. That is what we as Druids and as humans need to learn from the land, and from ourselves.

(Word Count: 206)

 

Nature Awareness #10

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Identify one plant or animal species which was introduced to your area and explain how its introduction and continued presence has affected the local ecology and what, if any, steps are being taken to mitigate those effects. (minimum 100 words)

In the summer of 2010 I started noticing big bright purple boxes being hung on my way home from work. I decided to do some searching to figure out what exactly these boxes were for, and discovered they were detection boxes or traps for the Emerald Ash Borer, an Asian beetle discovered in Michigan in 2002. Since 2003 the Bureau of Forestry has used this method to keep an eye on an infestation of the EAD by placing these purple boxes baited with a Manuka oil lure in the center throughout the state, which is apparently the most successful method of detection.

The presence of the Emerald Ash Borer has been extremely dangerous to the Ash tree in North America, being able to kill an infested three within 4 years. This is very disheartening because the Ash tree is a very beautiful and sacred tree. While the EAS beetle does not travel well on its own, transport of hardwood across states has spread it quite vivaciously. Considering that the Ash tree makes up over 3% (or 300 million) of the trees in the state, it would be devastating to lose so much of our Ash population due to the spread of this invasive beetle.

In the summer of 2010, Pennsylvania declared Quarantine on most of the western counties to prevent any hardwood from being transported between counties, or out of state. The Bureau of Forestry continues to keep up the purple box detection method during the summer months, and I will be sure to keep a look out for them this summer as well.

(Word Count: 264)

“Is That a Purple Box Kite Lodged in That Tree?” High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal Home Page. 16 June 2008. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <http://www.hpj.com/archives/2008/jun08/jun16/Isthatapurpleboxkitelodgedi.cfm>.
“Emerald Ash Borer.” PA DCNR – DCNR Home. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/fpm_invasives_EAB.aspx>.

 

Nature Awareness #8

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Name and provide the following information for each of three species of animals (birds, mammals, insects, fish, etc.) and three species of plants native to and currently found in your area:

1. Its status (endangered, threatened, thriving, overpopulated)
2. A brief physical description of the species, noting if you have seen it, and where.
3. Describe at least one of the following:
1. a way it is or has been used by humans (for example, as food source, medicinal use, raw materials for tools, clothing, housing, etc.)
2. a way in which it has been affected by human presence or development
3. a way in which it has adapted to or entered into an ecological relationship with human presence or human development.

When researching local flora and fauna in the State of Pennsylvania (which thankfully is very similar to my homeland in Maryland since I’m only 40 mile away), I wanted to pick things to write about that I’ve had a relationship with or feel I can relate to in some way. I may provide some back-story with a few of these just to show their influence on my life and environment.

Animals

White-tailed Deer

The Pennsylvania state animal is the white-tail deer, adopted as of 1959. To me the white-tail deer is also a pretty iconic American symbol, especially for those that come from a more down-to-earth family of hunters like myself. Being raised with these beautiful animals gives me a special relationship with them that most people don’t have these days. Especially being raised to live in unison with the White-tail deer, from knowing their sleeping habits, identifying deer runs (their most traveled trails) and rubs (where they rub their antlers on trees), their preferred habitats and even the difference between the male and female hoof-prints.

Growing up, the white-tail deer was always a nuisance with gardens and overpopulation in my family. It seems to fluctuate back and forth from thriving to overpopulated, but it’s regular enough to assume that there is no threat of the white-tail towards endangerment anytime soon in this area. Now in other states however, such as Florida and Northwest States, there are two species of white-tailed deer that are on the endangered species list due to urban and agricultural development. Locally, however, this is not the case.

Most of the local overpopulation concerns come from the fact that the main predators (wolves and cougars) of white-tail in Pennsylvania are extinct in the same areas that the white-tail thrive, and also because modern society is producing less and less hunters or those with “back to your roots” skills. There is also a health concern with overpopulation of the white-tailed deer, simply because of the onset of lymes disease that they can carry and spread throughout suburban communities.

In general, white-tail deer have not been too affected by human development as most species would. However urban development that replaces an entire forested area would be detrimental to the local deer of that area for obvious reasons. They are very adaptable to human presence so long as food is still available, such as from suburban gardening and landscaping. They are often found in both rural and suburban communities, and along major highways which often impacts driving safety during the twilight hours.

The white-tail deer gets its name because of the white underbelly of its tail, which it predominantly flips up as it is running away so that all you can see is a white fluff of fur disappearing into the woods. They also have a very keen sense of smell which allows them to pick up human scent quickly, allowing them to run and hide. They are reddish brown in the summer, and in the winter their coat turns a dark gray to help blend in with the lack of foliage. They feed mostly on twigs, grasses, fungi, and various nuts, seeds, and crops readily available, which can be a problem for local farmers. Male white-tails can weigh up to 400 pounds, and in general white-tail can run up to 35mph, are excellent swimmers, and jump over obstacles 8 feet in height.

As mentioned, the biggest use of the white-tail deer is hunting, both for food and hides. It’s widely known that there is a trophy sport behind hunting various species of deer, mainly for the amount of points on their antlers. The skins are used (and I have tanned for on many occasions) in various types of clothing when made into buckskin, or tanned normally for décor and use in furniture.

References:

“White-tailed Deer.” StateAnimals.com. StateAnimals.com. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.stateanimals.com/states/pennsylvania/whitetail_text.html>

“Pennsylvania State Animal, Whitetail Deer (Odocoileus Virginanus), from NETSTATE.COM.” 50 States – Capitals, Maps, Geography, State Symbols, State Facts, Songs, History, Famous People from NETSTATE.COM. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.netstate.com/states/symb/animals/pa_whitetail_deer.htm>.

“White-tailed Deer Odocoileus Virginianus.” ENature.com. ENature.com. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.enature.com/fieldguides/detail.asp?recNum=MA0046>.

(Word Count: 562, not counting titles or references)

Red-tailed Hawk

The red-tailed hawk has the most special place in my heart above all other animals. It has been my totem for years and years, even before I realized it. In Native zodiac lore, the red-tailed hawk is my zodiac animal instead of the Aries ram. In the mid-2000’s a baby red-tailed hawk fell from a tree in our woods, and my father and I took care of him until he was able to be on his own. Even at such a young age, his talents were deadly. We named him Comanche, and he often dive-bombed the neighbors while they were outside after we released him.

Some further spiritual relations I have with this animal, being a devotee of Athena, is that a few years later we caught a Great-Horned Owl going after our chickens. Owls are obviously sacred to Athena, but I also discovered much information about the relationship between the Great-Horned Owl and the Red-tailed hawk, in so much as they are polar opposites. The Red-tailed hawk is a day-feeder in the same exact terrain as the Great-Horned Owl, which is a night-feeder. And often the Great-Horned Owl will take over the next of the Red-tailed hawk and force it to relocate elsewhere. Having both of these animals with much spiritual significance in my life gives me a sense of balance.

The Red-tailed hawk is a very popular and adaptable predatory raptor, with prominent thriving numbers. It has been found and can survive in pretty much every terrain available in the United States. Locally we are more mountainous and forested, so that is the particular terrain they are found in here. Suburban and highway development provides a lot of wooden light and telephone poles that the Red-tailed hawk has become accustomed to for favorable hunting. Economical development can and has destroyed their nesting grounds, but in general because of their adaptability they are able to relocate fairly efficiently.

This hawk is rich with brown and white feathers, and a bright orangish-red tail that makes it stand out when soaring through the sky and is a sacred relic for many native tribes. Their main food sources consist of small rodents like mice and rabbits, but they will eat small to medium sized birds like pheasants and blackbirds, or reptiles such as snakes. However they are not usually found in suburban areas to feed from bird-feeders and domestic feeding grounds. They are avid hunters, and the most popular hawk used for falconry in the United States.

References:
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Red-tailed Hawk, Life History, All About Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology.” All About Birds. Cornell University. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-tailed_Hawk/lifehistory>.

Various. “Red-tailed Hawk.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-tailed_Hawk>.

(Word Count: 415, not counting titles or references)

Firefly

Who doesn’t have fond childhood memories of catching fireflies at dusk in early summer months and placing them in jars for a keepsake? Oddly enough, fireflies are not actually considered flies, but are in reality a beetle, because they do not have the correct number of wings to qualify as a fly. Flies by definition have one set of wings, rather than most other insects that have two sets. Their bright yellowish-green luminescence is a product of a chemical reaction between Lucifern, Luciferase, adenosine triphosphate, and oxygen. However, the method of which fireflies are able to turn these lights off and on is unknown at this time. Theories suggest that it has to do with the flow of oxygen that the firefly lets into its body (sorta like breathing), which would make the most sense. Fireflies also use a pattern of flashing their luminescence to attract the opposite sex.

The firefly nests in warm areas with rotting wood and various other loose sundries in the forest, as well as along edges of streams where moisture is retained longest. They are not, however, usually found west of the state of Kansas here in the United States, and actually thrive the most in tropical areas of Asia and South America. The larvae and the adult fireflies have different diets, the larvae mostly feeding on worms and snails, whereas the adults are thought to feed mostly on plant nectar.

Several human interactions can affect having fireflies in their environment. Using chemicals on your lawn can destroy them and their habitat. Adding extra lighting interferes with their signals which can interrupt their ability to find mates, and lack of low-hanging trees and vegetation will prevent them from having places to rest and live. Even in suburban neighborhoods, however, I recall seeing them fairly populated during their time of year. Some researchers claim that fireflies are starting to disappear due to economic development and light pollution.

References:

Branham, Marc. “Firefly Facts.” Firefly Facts. Museum of Biological Diversity, Ohio State University. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://hymfiles.biosci.ohio-state.edu/projects/FFiles/frfact.html>.

Pfeiffer, Ben, and Rank Smart. “Firefly & Lightning Bug Facts, Pictures, Information About Firefly Insect Disappearance.” Firefly.org. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.firefly.org/why-are-fireflies-disappearing.html>

(Word Count 321, not counting titles or references)

Plants

White Oak

When I think of a white oak tree, or any oak really, I instantly think of it as a representation of a solid American tree. Big beautiful forests with large oaks and walnuts and hickory trees. That iconic symbol of the tall oak on a the top hill in a grassy field where you come to picnic, read in the shade, meditate, or play with your children.

The White Oak is particularly special in the region I came from, where I grew up in Maryland as well as just over the border where I am now in Pennsylvania. In Baltimore there was a white oak called the “Wye Oak” which was the honorary tree of Maryland, and largest White Oak in the United States. It was supposedly 460 years old, but was destroyed during a thunderstorm in 2002. What pieces and branches the state didn’t want to use for building a new desk for the governor, were given to Marylanders who wanted a piece of Maryland history. Several members in my Grove went down and gathered lots of pieces to keep at the Grove. I have a branch I keep on my home shrine, and consider this a very special and powerful piece of American tree lore to represent my heritage. It was a very sad loss for the state.

Now another White Oak in Maryland, the “Linden Oak” is the largest White Oak in the United States.

The conservation status of the White Oak, courtesy of “Nature Serve”, is a G5, which means it is secure. Considering how predominant this tree is across the United States, especially the eastern half, and how hardy the tree is in general, I can’t see it becoming an endangered species of tree in my lifetime.

The White Oak is not usually very tall compared to other trees, but instead is very widespread, and can live up to 600 years with our current knowledge. The bark is a light gray and particularly rough as if peeling off. The leaves are a seven to nine-lobed light pink in the spring, which eventually fades to white before turning into a yellowish green.

References:
Wikipedia. “Wye Oak.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wye_Oak>.

Wikipedia. “Quercus Alba.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_alba>.

(Word Count 359, not counting titles or references)

Black Walnut

The Black Walnut tree is one I am particularly familiar with due to its abundance in almost every place I’ve grown up. I have mostly fond memories of almost tripping over black walnuts that have fallen during the autumn season, or listening to them fall with a loud bang on top of my bronco. As a child I liked to use the black “gook” from inside the black walnut to paint my face, much to the dismay of the adults.

The Black Walnut is a type of hickory tree and grows to be rather large (98-130 feet), with furrowed gray bark and long creased leaves. The nuts look like small tennis balls, which are difficult to open but reveal black drupes encasing a black walnut shell containing the fruit of this wonderful tree.

The Black Walnut has to be one of the trees with the most varies uses. Not only does it produce a favorite snack and cooking favor with the walnut meat, but the wood is a dark-colored heartwood often used to create gun-stocks (as the wood shrinks and swells less than any other wood), furniture and other wood-working related creations. The drupes were used for dying hair and clothes or staining wood and various other crafts requiring this dark brown/black dye. Even the hard shells were made useful by being crushed and used for drilling oil wells and cleaning jet engines. In fact, it is such a desirable wood that there is actually an issue of “walnut poaching”.

The fact that Black Walnut provides various profitable uses, there are a lot of businesses that work towards growing Black Walnuts to provide for these various demands. Also due to high demand, and the risk of poaching, there is also a threat to their lively-hood. Recently there has been developments of a fungus carried by the walnut twig beetle that has been threatening the Black Walnut tree in the western states, and recently found to move eastward in Tennessee. This fungus affects the trees with “Thousand Cankers Disease”.

References:

“Black Walnut.” Ostermiller.org. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://ostermiller.org/tree/blackwalnut.html>.

Hasler, Lauren. “Disease May Affect MO’s Black Walnut Trees.” KBIA.org. University of Missouri Board of Curator, 11 Nov. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.kbia.org/news/disease-may-affect-mos-black-walnut-trees>.

Wikipedia. “Juglans Nigra.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juglans_nigra>.

(Word Count 341, not counting titles or references)

Mountain Laurel

The Pennsylvania State Flower is the native Mountain Laurel, which was chosen in 1933 by then Governor, Gifford Pinchot. It is a beautiful shrub with pink and white bushy blossoms that bloom in late May to early June. It can grow from four to ten fee high and is usually found in rocky hills, which probably affords it more protection than most plants, since economic development is less likely in such rocky terrain.

Since Pennsylvania has large amounts of Appalachian terrain, this particular evergreen is available nearly everywhere, either naturally or as an ornamental plant. Unlike Maryland’s State Flower, the Black-Eyed Susan, the Mountain Laurel is not under any protective status from being harvested. Additionally, unlike most evergreens, the Mountain Laurel does not lose its leaves during the winter months.

References:

PA DCNR. “Mountain Laurel – Pennsylvania’s State Flower.” PA DCNR. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/mountainlaurel.aspx>.

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Nature Awareness #6

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Briefly describe the major sources of air and water pollution in your area, what the biggest source of pollution in your area is, and what impact it has. (minimum 100 words)

One of the challenges in interpreting what the biggest threat of pollution in my area is, is the biggest source may not pose the biggest threat. You have to consider how and what the source of pollution comes in contact with, and the type of impact it has.

As far as water quality is concerned, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released in its 2010 report that in April 2007 they completed a 10 year review of the wadeable water systems throughout Pennsylvania. The two largest problems found were agriculture and abandoned mine drainage. And the largest stressors were siltation and metals. However, they emphasize that other problems should not be minimized because they may impact the local environment differently. They provide an example of urban runoff/stormsewers being a minor problem in rural areas but major in metropolitan regions.

In addition to this report, they monitor the flesh of fish for possible contaminants, and inform the public through fish advisories when the need arises. The current advisory level is to limit PA fish consumption to once per week due to unknown contaminants.

While looking up air pollution monitoring, it’s clear that the highest rating of “Ozone PPD (Biglerville)” is just around noon when the sun is at its highest peak in the sky, and at its lowest just before dawn before the sun comes up. This makes perfect logical sense.

According to the 2007 Pennsylvania Ambient Air Quality Report (the latest available), the state of Pennsylvania keeps a spread of 207 different air quality monitors around the state to monitor six different air pollutants regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those six pollutants are sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO),lead (Pb), Ozone (O3), and particulate matter (PM). Of those six, O3 and PM have been a consistent problem, while the remaining pollutants have stayed below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

The EPA also keeps a “Toxic Release Inventory” that allows you to search by zip code to find out what toxic chemical releases and waste management activities have been reported in your area within the last year. My particular zip code showed a series of mineral toxins in three separate facilities from a local mill, a tile plant, and an elevator company. These toxins released amounted to several thousand pounds with of minerals reported, but several results left empty denoting several more unaccounted for.

It’s very difficult to say from these two assessments which is the bigger threat to the local environment. I don’t know the affects that air pollution has had on the water and fish, just as much as no one knows what affect water evaporation and the chemicals therein have had on the air pollution.

I would chance it to say that water and fish are more directly consumed into our bodies and filtered through our organs, whereas air pollutants can and will travel at loftier heights and distances and the potency would vary depending on local foliage and their ability to filtrate the air quality. The issue of mineral pollutants is also more likely a threat to water than it is to air. In fact I read an article in the news the other day down in Fort Detrick about the threat of Agent Orange in the ground water in Frederick Maryland where I work.

Since this area of Pennsylvania is so heavily forested, meaning more protected from air pollutants, it is my assumption that the water pollution is more of a direct threat to people in the Gettysburg area.

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References:
9 News Now, “Contaminated Landfills Capped At Ft. Detrick”. WUSA9.com. July 23, 2010 <http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=105035&catid=158>.

“Integrated Water Quality Report – 2010”. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. July 29, 2010 <http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/water_quality_standards/10556/integrated_water_quality_report_-_2010/682562>.

“Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program”. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. July 29, 2010 <http://www.epa.gov/tri/>.

“Pennsylvania Ambient Air Quality Report”. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. July 29, 2010 <http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/airwaste/aq/aqm/aqreport.htm>.

“Principal Pollutants Monitoring Sites”. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. July 29, 2010 <http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/airwaste/aq/aqm/copams.htm>.

“Ambient Air Monitoring Data Reports”. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. July 29, 2010 <http://www.ahs2.dep.state.pa.us/aq_apps/aadata/default.asp>.