Saturday, June 1, 2013

Four years on

My Rachmaninoff  
May 16, 1991 ― June 1, 2009

When I began this blog five years ago, it was, in many ways, a living tribute to my beloved Maine Coon cat and would soon become a chronicle of the final months of his life.

Four years ago today, I lost him. 

I think of him often, I will never forget him; he has become a part of me.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

An earthworm friendly garden

Earthworms are happy here

Earthworms are a sign of health in an ecosystem. We've had the third wettest June on record in Massachusetts. Tons of rain and lots of autumn leaf mulch in and around many garden beds have made earthworms very happy. They also appreciate the fact that I never use chemicals or pesticides.

In places where I've raked leaves away, earthworms practically bubble to the surface. The soil beneath the leaves is black, healthy and crumbly. All the rain and lots of earthworm activity have accelerated leaf decomposition and delivered compost.

Left undisturbed, earthworms thrive and multiply under moist leaf litter. The ones you see collected in the blue bucket were relocated to leaf piles in the woods where they will continue to hasten our leaf composting. 

Resist the temptation to move earthworms from moist leaf litter and plop them into full sun garden beds. They will die. They must have leaf cover, shade, moisture and nutrients from the leaves to survive and thrive. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Smithfield-China sale

Pigs as "pork production"
The way it was

News of a $4.7 billion deal for the sale of Smithfield Foods, Inc. to China is the worst news ever for pigs already enduring massive suffering on Smithfield farms. 

Smithfield, the world's largest producer of pigs for slaughter, says the deal aims to increase the supply of high quality, safe pork to China. 

But what does it mean for the pigs? 

A reader commenting on the story in the New York Times said it all:

"Smithfield tortures millions of pigs each year to bring the American public their pork products. With this purchase, the Chinese will have access to standards and practices that are abhorrent to animal welfare. Industrialized pig CFAO's are polluting the land around them, polluting local water sources, and contributing to global warming. With this purchase the need for millions more pigs to feed a hungry Chinese market will all but ensure that these practices  continue. The Chinese have greater confidence in American produced products, be they gadgets or food. I just wonder how long we will allow this needless suffering of millions of animals to continue. How healthy can consuming an animal who has suffered their whole lives be?"

Read "Needing Pork, China Is to Buy a U.S. Supplier" and scroll through the comments here.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

They remain imprisoned

This post continues my thoughts regarding the parallels in the recent news story about women imprisoned against their will in Ohio and forced to endure shocking abuse, and the miserable conditions animals raised on factory farms are forced to endure their entire lives: prison-like confinement, deprived of sunlight, subjected to psychological torture and physical abuse.  

The pigs shown in the photos above do not live, they are "produced" and treated as objects with no regard for their basic and instinctual needs. They are so closely confined that they can hardly move and or even scratch themselves, and spend their entire lives surrounded by metal and concrete. 

They do not know what it is to feel the warmth of the sun, dig in the dirt, sleep on a bed of hay or feel soft grass beneath their feet as pigs did before the advent of factory farming and as they still do in the stories we read to our children.
What's more the antibiotics and chemicals fed to produce pigs and other animals raised for food have created food hazards and pose many dangers to our public health. 

Churning out animals as quickly as possible to "put food on the table" is what the greedy and profit-driven agribusiness would like us to believe. But putting their profits over our public health is as unconscionable as the suffering they impose on the animals they abuse.

Profits over public health? Humane treatment or suffering in silence? 

You have the freedom to choose and the power to act. Whether you eat meat, begin a vegetarian diet or go vegan, you can still change the way we treat farm animals simply by using your pocketbook.

Buy organic, humanely raised meats and dairy products. Protect your health and the health of your loved ones and do your part to end this suffering. Write to your legislators, make your voice heard and speak for those who have no voice and have no choice.

To learn more visit Farm Sanctuary.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

For them the horror continues

“Farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, 
fear and pain. 
They are far more aware 
and intelligent than we ever imagined…” 
— Jane Goodall

"Three women found alive after a decade in captivity endured lonely, dark lives inside a dingy home where they were raped and allowed outside only a handful of times..."

We have all been riveted by this week's news story that sounded more like something out of a horror movie than real life. Thank goodness these women and the little girl held with them are now safe.

We were shocked, appalled and saddened, and yet vast numbers of animals imprisoned in factory farms are forced to endure horrific and deplorable conditions and nobody seems to care. We rescue people from such miserable conditions, but for too many animals the horror and suffering continues.   

We must act to end this suffering as well. To learn more about why raising animals this way is terrible for them and for us, visit Farm Sanctuary.

I will have more to say in my next post.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Farmhouse quince tree

Many years ago, while house hunting with my then husband-to-be, we came across an antique farmhouse for sale. We were immediately enchanted by the sight of two friendly dogs running free in the meadows and by the quaint, nook-and-cranny style of the house. 

The custom kitchen was a marvel of perfection. Designed by a culinary professional, it had every amenity imaginable along with cabinets, flooring and wall panels in solid natural cherry, my favorite wood. 

The door leading out from the kitchen took us into a walled garden where a small quince tree stood in full flower. I was utterly captivated by its magical beauty and began to imagine myself making jam and other culinary delights with its fruit.

But it was not to be. After we looked at the house, we decided to drive up the street to get a better sense of the farmhouse's location and discovered that the town dump was located there, less than a block away. Though it was out of sight, we knew it would never be out of earshot and the constant traffic on weekends would be awful.

Seeing a flowering quince this week brought back the memory of that farmhouse and I found myself wondering, what if... 

An excellent article about the long and interesting history of quince trees and ways to use their fruit can be found here.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I befriended the countryside

I befriended the countryside 
and it led me closer
 to my own heart.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Where I stand on spiders

American House Spider

Terminix likes to send us coupons and their latest reads: "Spiders can make their home in yours." Guess what guys? That's great news here. Take your toxic chemical selves somewhere else. 

I really like spiders and always have. I let 'em live wherever they decide to set up house, er, I mean web. 

I can't say the same for one of our cats. She regularly checks for insects in the mudroom, basement and other locations where she's accustomed to finding them this time of year. She seems to prize them as a delicacy. I know they're packed with protein. 

But there are a few House Spiders living in places she has not yet discovered. They don't bother anybody and catch lots of mosquitoes, providing a free service we really appreciate.

Did you know that 3,400 species of spider make their home in North America with 40,000 worldwide? Check out for some cool info. Like me, they value and respect spiders: 

We defend spiders for the important roles they play in nature, pest control, medicine, engineering and other economic and cultural realms.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The day after Earth Day

Please read this article, recently published in Rolling Stone Magazine, by one of my heroes Bill McKibben.


As the world burns, a new movement to reverse climate change is emerging - fiercely, loudly and right next door

By Bill McKibben

April 11, 2013 8:00 AM ET

It got so hot in Australia in January that the weather service had to add two new colors to its charts. A few weeks later, at the other end of the planet, new data from the CryoSat-2 satellite showed 80 percent of Arctic sea ice has disappeared. We're not breaking records anymore; we're breaking the planet. In 50 years, no one will care about the fiscal cliff or the Euro crisis. They'll just ask, "So the Arctic melted, and then what did you do?"

Here's the good news: We'll at least be able to say we fought.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013

Help Mother Earth and plant trees!

"Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests.
"... It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty... through all the wonderful, eventful centuries ... God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools..."

~ John Muir, 1901 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

John Muir

April 21st is John Muir's Birthday

The miracle of Spring is upon us and today marks the 175th anniversary of John Muir's birth. 

I am glad, for his sake, that he is not here to see what a mess we have made of our planet, but I hope his memory helps renew our fight to save it

Throughout his life John Muir's strength of purpose and unrelenting dedication inspired many to take up his cause and act. 

Action is exactly what we need now. 
We've talked long enough.

"Most people are on the world, not in it have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate."

 ~ from The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A time to rest

A drift of snow from the February blizzard

On hiatus after finishing a massive writing project.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Right whale, wrong time

North Atlantic Right Whale and Calf

This North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and her calf were first sighted outside of Plymouth Harbor on January 12, 2013 – far earlier than normal. Now scientists are concerned about the welfare of the calf as frigid temperatures have arrived in the region and are expected to last several days. 

Right Whales are highly endangered; there are only about 500 alive today. What's more, calves are completely dependent on their mothers, who care for them for about one year.

Females give birth every 3 to 5 years to a single calf after a 12-14 month gestation. Right whales mature slowly and females are typically 9 or 10 before they give birth to their first calf. Genetics studies have indicated that males may be 15 before they sire a calf. Right whales usually migrate alone, or as a mother-calf pair, but they are found in large groups on feeding grounds.

Read more about this mother and calf here.