Archive for Land

Habitat Fragmentation and Land Ownership

Posted in Poems, Rhymes, Riddles, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on February 21, 2016 by Drogo

Essay for ON THE WILD SIDE January 2016

Our land is more valuable than your money. It was put here for us by the Great Spirit, so we cannot sell it because it does not belong to us. As a present to you we will give you anything we have that you can carry with you; but the land, never.”*

In this present time civilization humans are finding themselves in the midst of more than one environmental quagmire. How to get control of the plastic and junk in the ocean ? How to keep air clean enough to breath in China ? How to rid old pipes of poisonous lead and our water of pharmaceuticals waste which go into toilets ? Am I getting too personal ?

Actually, everything we do and have done in the past are exactly what professional scientists/ecologists are dealing with now. If there ever was a field in which our children will find ready employment, it will be as research problem solvers and maybe even politicians who care about cleaning up our messes. The question we all have is, however, how did we ever get to this point anyway, and what can we do about it as individual home owners, as people who care ?

To their credit, in 1621 the people native to America, the “Indians”, after prayerful consultations with their elders, dieing and weakened due to disease brought here by previous white explorers, and weary of warfare, decided it was in their best interest to make peace with the Pilgrims. In spite of the Mayflower crew robbing them of their seed corn and burial treasures, they made a pact together that would endure long enough to get squash, beans and that same stolen corn planted, harvested and then shared.**

Peace, for the natives, was the best and most productive remedy, even though strangers were encroaching on their land. Interesting…and perhaps something we can learn from during this present time of anxiety about refugees. Unfortunately, back then that fragile peace did not last very long. There will always be the good mixed with the bad, the greedy mixed with the philanthropists, and I assume this is how it will always be. Nothing seems to have changed since the beginning of time.

Of course, as years passed and more settlers arrived to colonize America, the natives were totally kicked off their land. The settlers had brought with them an entirely different ethic of land ownership from Europe, as well as military hardware far more effective than the natives hand crafted bows, arrows and spears. Over the centuries their precious land has been stolen, divided and subdivided…fragmented… sold, and some of it has sadly been misused and polluted.

I am fortunate to live in a sub-division of a beautiful old 200+ acre homestead here in the Catoctins, Due to my love of and concern for diversity in the natural world, I am allowing my 11+acres to not only feed me, but to feed all my other “relations”. The native idea of “other relations” extends far beyond human relatives and includes the wonderful diversity of flora and fauna which most of us care about…bees, butterflies, birds, wildflowers, trees. etc..These are things our children are learning to care about in school, and as wise elders, we should also.

As home owners, and landowners, we can begin to bring these various fragments of land together by allowing native plants to grown, by creating native wildflower gardens on part of our lawns, and planting native trees. That way, the habitat fragmentation which has been going on since the pilgrims settled at Plymouth Rock can be somewhat remedied. If you ever feel like giving up in despair, there is one very real thing you can do, and the opportunity is right in your own back yard, or front yard too (why not ).

The vision is to create a beautiful tapestry right here where we live of yards and properties dedicated to the health and well being of our earth. It already looks like a quilted pattern here in Thurmont, but the work is not yet finished. If anything, the work has just begun !

I belong to the Green Team here in Thurmont and am heading up a project along the rail road tracks which will not only beautify our town with wildflowers, but create habitat for wildlife. I am presently seeking volunteers to clean it up a bit in February and then spread seeds. All this must be done before March, as seeds need the time to stratify (to get the benefit of freezing weather), so as to enhance their germination.

If you are interested in helping me with this project, please do be in touch with me at songbirdschant@gmail.com. If not, then consider doing something on your own little fragment of land, no matter now small. As I always say, “Every little bit helps !”, and THANKS !

* Response of a Chief of the Blackfoot Nation when told to put his signature on a land treaty in Montana; from Touch The Earth by T.C. McLuhun

** as documented in Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

– Christine S. Maccabee

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SCOD Site Flora

Posted in Environmentalism with tags , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2015 by Drogo

The trees (20-70 years old) form woods that follow the rolling hills. Often the woods are sparse, but thorns and shrub bushes make dense thicket patches. Spiral trunks occur on one young tree per acre (apx.). Spiral trees seem to result from the influence of parasitic vines, like honey-suckle, but some trees out-live their vines. There are more young trees than old trees on the site. Although it is difficult to tell the age of a tree from the outside size, inside trunk rings are more accurate because growth rates vary.

Ideally trees provide shelter, food (fruits and nuts), and fuel for cooking and heating our fires. In turn humans should plant, care for, cultivate, and protect trees. Failure to look after each-other results in us cutting too many trees down, using poisons that hurt every-thing, and trees falling on houses and branches and sap falling on cars. Increased awareness of our trees is phenomenological respect for life. Respecting trees has a beneficial effect on our ecology. Sages know the wisdom of tree stewardship. Some trees have been alive for thousands of years. Fire-wood should be gathered mostly from dead-fall logs, branches, and twigs. Reducing dead-fall on forest floors can reduce wild fires.

Here is a list of local plant and tree types, most of which can be found on the SCOD Thesis property site. All the families listed here are at least currently regional, if not native. Obviously not all types of vegetation are listed here, but it is a reasonable list: maple trees, box-elder trees, sycamore trees, oak trees, ailanthus trees, mulberry trees, apple trees, evergreen trees, elm trees, willow trees, catalpa trees, princess trees, ginkgo trees, walnut trees, beech trees, sumac trees, mosses, mushrooms, shelf-fungi, lichen, herbs, vegetables (wild leafy-greens and planted crops), berries, roots, vines, grasses, shrubs, ferns, thorns, nettles.

Fairs as Wilderness Stewardship Sponsors

Posted in Events / Celebrations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2014 by Drogo

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I attended the 2014 ‘Harpers Ferry Outdoor Festival’ (HFOF) at the ‘Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship’ (BRCES) because I believe in the concept of celebrating art and sport to preserve wild land and clean water. It is amazing to consider, during a recession based on commercial monopolies, that it is possible to support local talent and save our woods, forests, creeks, rivers, and the wild and free creatures whose lives depend on these environments. During an era where it is common for people to litter on their way to a job that pollutes natural ecology, events like HFOF are truly revolutionary and patriotic in Native American terms.

The BRCES land is beautiful; almost 1,000 acres of wilderness and a small organic farm run by a caring family. Years ago when I visited with my father, BRCES had just begun their mission on the land, and the old white house was over grown and in disrepair. Now the buildings and land are functional again, while being in harmony with the landscape. BRCES is truly a success story for environmentalists.

Volunteers run the show during HFOF. I was lucky enough to be a volunteer under the leadership of President Lisa Cullinane. Lisa is very friendly, kind, and smart; which by the way is my favorite kind of leader. We started preparing a few weeks before the event, and by the event I felt things were flowing well. Vendors are small businesses and non-profit organizations that rent spaces around the field, using tables and tents. I really enjoyed the variety of concessions, and the food and drink was good. There are always tensions and stress involved in any production, but any problems that arose were resolved. Hundreds of people attended the festival; although my non-profit tent for ‘Sustainable Cooperative for Organic Development’ (SCOD), and my fine artist partners did not get visited by many people during the event, so we did not make any earnings. For me it was ok, because I believe in the concept and I was happy to be there.

Camping was easy. I slept in my tent the first night, in the field behind my table. At night the humidity lifted, however this created a dew which saturated my books and artwork exposed to the sky; however items in the tent and oddly enough below the table-cloth were fine. The second day my art partners arrived and set up a tent to shade us a bit; which really helped survive a day of full sun in the field. I also wore sun-block, a large hat, and sunglasses so as to not be sun-burned. Some of us rented the white house for the second night, which was very nice indeed! Staying at the house was a relief from the electric generator that was kept running all night at the main field, to keep their fridge on to preserve the food. Also the best part of the field at the crest, had become over-crowded with vehicles; which in my opinion ruined the very purpose of being there… in other words it turned the perfect camping spot into a parking lot. Despite traffic congestion, most reveled in the mirth, and many stayed up all night with enthusiasm and excitement!!

Bands began playing the first evening, and continued through the night into the next day and night. Some of the bands I had already worked with as friends, so it was a good treat to have them play there. I was even able to deliver my final fan cartoon print-outs to one of the band members that visited my table. Unfortunately I was not able to advertise for the bands, as I had hoped, because like I said very few people came to my booth. Although most of the show revolved around the main stage, my favorite part was the small stage by the grand fire pit. The field has a natural amphi-theater shape around the fire pit; which had just been made formal by Boy Scouts with impressive stone work and movable wood benches. At night the fire pit area hosts musical jam sessions, which embrace the audience, allowing anyone to play with the bands; this is musical freedom and creative collaboration at its finest!!!

Lastly in this article I want to thank everyone that helped make the event happen. Some of my personal high-lights were being with friends, hiking the trails, and witnessing natural phenomena such as the lightning-bug show across the fields, and even into and above the trees!! As I observed the natural light show, I meditated on how often our Nation’s founders enjoyed wonders that surpassed the magic of their technologies back then. Even today many scientists concede that our artificial efforts fail, in comparison to the energy efficiency of the natural world. Thank you also to those that stayed and picked up all the trash! I admit I was tired after the event, and disappointed to once again have to pick up after people that litter. Also the sheer abundance of garbage was not encouraging to my opinion of humanity. However I was pleased there were enough people to pick up all we could find, after many hours of pick-up. I even returned to the site days later to double check that the clean-up was as effective as I thought. Any negative issues did not stop us from having fun, nor did any problems hinder the success of the event as a whole. I definitely want to return next year to BCRES, and be a part of music festivals and sports competitions that donate to wilderness stewardship, and take place within a nature preserve. Please let us get more people to join us!!!!

Rev. Walton D. Stowell II, M.Arch.

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Savannah, Georgia

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Historic Architecture, Organic Architecture, Recommendations & Tributes, Sustainability with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by Drogo

Historic Architecture, Environmental Landscape, and Urban Social Art

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Savannah has the historic integrity of an ivy-league campus, yet for the poor as well as rich. Yes, it is very much the old pirate ‘Port Royal’ still, but in some ways it also surpasses the nobility of elite university campuses. Even the SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) campus is spread throughout the city, and SCAD classes are held in renovated industrial buildings, often with Richardsonian strength; so that liberal education is fully-integrated with the city. As far as competing with modern industrial metropolitan cities, Savannah has plenty of modern and post-modern architecture, and SCAD teaches cutting-edge technology; but it has no desire to be as massively impersonal as New York, or any other major city.

Savannah urban design is overwhelmingly utopian, despite there being dystopian flavors as well. The main streets force cars to either park or drive around the eleven park squares (circuses), while pedestrians can go straight through on sidewalks and bike lanes. It is easy to find any place in the formal city because there are no diagonal streets, one tall building in the middle (DeSoto Hotel), and a few tall buildings downtown parallel with the Savannah River. The downtown main-streets (River Street) on Saint Patrick’s Day are celebrated on par with Mardi-Gras. There are so many unique aspects to Savannah, from its very origins. The basic ‘Roman encampment’ grid urban layout is flavored by multiple circuses with vegetation. Live-oaks, palms, and crepe-myrtle trees are naturally hung with Spanish moss. From sandy soil hedges, herbs, flowers and grasses are also publicly grown for the enjoyment of all.

I will find out more about the city founders, besides Oglethorpe; specifically the Native American chief of the local Creek Indians, because he seems to deserve the same level of respect as the English founder, Oglethorpe. The British and Indians were friends, and one of the largest monuments in a prominent park is dedicated to the Indian Chief’s grave. Southern hospitality is less surface courtesy in Savannah, and more a part of its essence; in regards to integration of whites and blacks, international representation, multi-culturalism, and willingness to welcome even enemies (like General Sherman during the Civil War).

There are several ways to consider the social types that comprise the ‘daily population’ of Savannah. There are five basic social types; the rich residents (white blue-blood aristocracy and new-money millionaires), the poor working-class (merchant and service residents and workers), the street beggars (homeless, hustlers, artists), SCAD students (artists, professors, staff), and tourists (pedestrian, trolley, horse-buggy).

According to Dr. Hsu-Jen Huang (SCAD Architecture Professor), Savannah has been growing, even during the recession. In ten years, the city population and SCAD enrollment have doubled. Some buildings still fall between the cracks, but for every loss two more renovations or new constructs emerge. After the 1994 book Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, Savannah has continued to blossom as one of the best cities in the World. Many of its qualities were always inherent in the original urban design, and it continues to grow because of accepted differences.

From the American Revolution, to the Civil War, and beyond; Savannah embraces its strange stories. It has an other-worldly, old world, old town feel. Ghost tours are quite at home with the lamp-lights, cobblestone streets, brick walkways, and French ironwork balconies. It is in fact a small city; one which favors pedestrian traffic more than automobiles. The whole downtown is walkable, and locals often easily commute with bicycles as well (as I did for 3 years).

There are so many fun things to do there, it might be hard to know were to begin; if Savannah were not an immediately immersible, hospitable environment. The whole city is a memory garden, which literally blooms because of all the flowers. There are less flowers and leaves in the Winter, but Fall, Winter, and Spring are best weather-wise; as there is rarely snow, and Summers are often walls of heat and humidity (which it is known for even during Fall and Spring).

Architecturally Savannah is truly unique, with historic world and southern romantic blends. Town-houses often have the side-porch design, as with nearby Charleston, SC. The cast-iron railings and french dormers have that New Orleans feel. Parks and trees really do make a huge difference for traffic. Even while continuing to grow, Savannah is still one of the most colorful and pedestrian friendly cities in America. I can say after living there, the magic is real; including the variety of character personalities that the famous book alludes to.

Midnight In the Garden of Good & Evil describes much of the architectural and social feel of the town. ‘Midnight’ the book has much more analysis of detail, while the film has literally has more visual images. I lived in three parts of town, and often passed by famous landmarks on daily commutes to classes. The main character’s house (Mercer Mansion) is on Bull Street along a square, towards the largest city park, Forsyth Park. Forsyth Park was my favorite park that I loved living on, because of the large open grass lawns, largest and most beautiful fountain, organic paths, and shady flora. There I was free to publicly practice Tai-Chi, hippy folk music, or jogging without much bother.

Most of this essay describes the utopian aspects of Savannah, but this paragraph should put some of the dystopian perspectives in context. The poor and the dead, out-number the rich and the living. Southern swamp-lands naturally have a salty entropic power that corrodes metals, moisture that promotes the decay of organic matter, and massive humidity that stifles productive activity, while encouraging roaches and gnats. The humane social ‘decadence’ of the town, allows for an ease of poverty. Kindness tolerates and sometimes falls prey to hustlers. Vandalism and theft are common crimes in Savannah, with the occasional mugging (typical of cities in general). Although crimes are committed by lower classes, the majority (which are poor) are respectful, lawful, and often generous. So you see despite the ‘scariness’, actual dangers are minimal for a city.

Savannah’s name appropriately indicates the climate heat, and the flat field look of the surrounding wetland marsh grasses. Old pirate maps referred to the lands inland along the River as ‘Savannah Land’. Google Street view is very impressive, with realism. It really helps get the feel for the freedom of moving through the town by photographic vista. In the 1990’s we were taking panoramic photos for architecture projects so it really feels appropriate. Day trips easily include the famous Bonaventure Cemetery, Oatland Island Wildlife Center, and Tybee Island Beach.

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Organic Design by Frank Lloyd Wright

Posted in Alternative Architecture, Arts (Design & Performance), Cooperatives / Communities / Networks / Travels, Individuals / Members / Monsters / Creative Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by Drogo

Essay on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Organic Architecture

Taliesin

Fallingwater

Broadacre City

 

American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, borrowed the word ‘Organic’ from his mentor Louis Sullivan. Wright began expressing his own vision of how organic nature applies to design. He tried to define ‘Organic Architecture’ in words, but the truest expression will always be in his designs and how they relate to the landscape.

 

Taliesin East & West

Frank Lloyd Wright formed the Taliesin Fellowship dedicated to organic design, education, and spiritual theory and practice. It later evolved into the FLW Foundation, and Taliesin Architects continued after Wright’s death. Wright built two small Communities based on his designs and theories. Taliesin East was built first on 600 acres in Wisconsin. Then Taliesin West was built on 600 acres in Arizona. Both developments respected the landscape by leaving much of it natural, while fitting in artistic architecture using site features. Both remained in a constant state of evolution during Wright’s lifetime.

 

Fallingwater

Fallingwater was a unique residence designed by Wright which show-cases his Organic Architecture. The natural organic landscape meets his organic designs above a waterfall. I was awarded a student residency there in high school, and every day for weeks we went down to the cold waters of Bear Run to wake up and begin our sketches and studies. Inside the house, concrete rests on stone, and the woods are seen through generous windows. That house has more of a give and take between the architecture and the landscape (including the water) than most other modern buildings in the World.

 

Broadacre City

Broadacre City was designed to show how various types of buildings should be organized in urban planning, using Organic Architecture. The hypothetical City was 4 square miles and published first in his Disappearing City, 1932 and continued to evolve until his death in 1959. One important rule was that the tallest buildings (sky-scrapers) should have enough open space around them so their shadows do not fall upon other buildings. Another factor was giving most residents one acre to build their own houses based on Usonian models. It was an effort to take the new concept of suburbs to a Utopian extreme by furthering the concept of combining rural and urban while striving to keep the best of both. Broadacre decentralized urban design, and lay grid upon rural country; advocating that the desire for suburban life be fully granted. Mass transportation would still be available at stations, but freedom was maintained through the use of individual vehicles on the roads and in the air.

 

 

Thomas Jefferson’s Landscape Architecture

Posted in Arts (Design & Performance), Book Reports, Historic Architecture, Nature Studies, Organic Gardens with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2011 by Drogo

Essay on the Organic Design Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson

Interdisciplinary Concerns of a Colonial Landscape Architect:

Architecture, Agriculture, Botany, Horticulture, Anthropology, Sociology, Geography, Geology, Entomology, and Zoology

 

Ruins of architecture help to distinguish historic landscape architecture from organic terrain that may or may not have been influenced by human designs. Masonry is perhaps the most enduring milestone when it comes to lasting remnants of changes we have made to our landscape. Plants, animals, and soils are more organic and form-shifting. Organic elements of landscape designs change annually as their elements grow, die, or move.

 

Keeping a landscape design controlled even to the desired proportions is virtually impossible. Plants are almost always too small, too big, or in the wrong spot. Trees provide the most for us: shade, nuts, berries, shelter, shade, fuel, etc… but they are also capable of great destruction as well if trunks or branches fall upon animals or architecture.  An understanding of relative growth proportions in the environment can go a long way towards ease of maintenance.

 

Most Americans know Thomas Jefferson as a Founding Father first, and second as architect and politician; but few know of his feelings and designs towards Landscape. Landscape designers were called “Master Gardeners” or “Landscape Gardeners” back then. We know from his writings that his primary influences were English Gardens and Classical Architecture. He was well versed in contemporary French and English literature and philosophy, and experienced various landscapes during his travels.

 

Thomas Jefferson never fully accepted any one style or tradition. Although he was familiar with the Colonial mundane rectangular yard gardens, he was always innovating new hybrid ideas. Jefferson’s accumulated knowledge of surveying, architecture, climate, plants, and soil gave him tools beyond most other landscape gardeners. Jefferson’s approach to landscape design included both ornamental and utilitarian concepts regarding species, form, and layout.

 

As a child, Jefferson was home schooled in ancient literature and classical music. Learning also took place out-of-doors and so he came to love nature with infinite fascination. Jefferson developed his knowledge of the natural environment from first hand experience as well as books. In 1760 he attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, where he founded a secret burlesque society known as the “Flat Hats” with a group of friends.

 

Jefferson became a devotee of improving American design with an open mind to World designs, and the natural environment of each site. He believed in contour plowing, as designing with nature was beautiful and practical. As he began traveling he embraced Palladian Architecture. These influences are evident later in his home, Monticello, when we see the geometric architecture combined with organic landscaping.

 

According to his “Garden Book”, he was able to bud-graft cherry trees, and started planting at Monticello 2 years before be began building the house. During this time he was also practicing law (represented 68 cases). In his gardens he planted forwardest peas, midling peas, asparagus, strawberries, purple hyacinth, narcissus, carnations, Indian pink, marygold, globe amaranth, auricular, double balsam, tricolor, Dutch velvet, sensitives, cockscomb, Prince’s feather, lathyrus, lilac, Spanish broom, umbrella, laurel, almond trees, muscle plumb trees, and Cayenne pepper. Monticello means “small mountain”. He fit it upon a terraced hill with rectangular and serpentine designs. In his notes he showed plans for garden olitory, pleasure grounds, spirals, and curves. Both Monticello and University of Virginia have a “temple” with colonnades that embrace a courtyard. The Monticello courtyard is Egg shaped because of the paths and hill, although both cloisters are rectangular.

 

Some conclusions can be drawn about the study and practice of Thomas Jefferson’s landscape architecture. Nature is a contractor for landscape architecture, because plant production in landscape was like human production in buildings. Designs are judged by their “finished product”; so in landscape architecture, products include flowers, fruits, and vegetables. His preferred building block was brick, but he made exceptions for wood and earth. He built several pise’ (mud packed in wooden forms) with General John Cocke at Bremo plantation. Jefferson believed that log and chinking was better insulated than scantling (wood frame) and plank siding. He believed it was foolish to ignore foods that grow easily nearby. “Useful” was his most used word.

 

Thomas Jefferson died in 1826, and it was not until 1899 that Landscape Architecture was considered a profession by society. His only complete book “Notes on the State of Virginia” remains one of the most comprehensive observations of natural environmental conditions.

 

Reference: Thomas Jefferson Landscape Architect by Nichols and Griswold

 

SCOD Mission Statement “Seek”

Posted in SCOD Pipedream Pub with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2009 by Drogo

Seek

We seek others of like mind, spirit, and soul.

We seek kinship of the heart, and loyalty in friendship.

We seek Truth, in all its forms.

We seek Land, to build upon.

We seek to unite other communities, in common communication.

We seek to untie ourselves from unwanted mundane bonds.

We seek a Medieval Tavern to gather locals and visitors alike.

We seek dwellings to be individuals, personally designed.

We seek fields to grow our own food, and have open space.

We seek groves of trees, to selectively use for harvest of food, shelter, and fire. Under their giant branches we gain wisdom from their shade.

So Mote it Be.

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SCOD is like Paganism in its mission. In Paganism there is no single leader, scripture or religious philosophy. Most Pagans, however, believe in the divine character of the natural world and Paganism is often described as an “Earth religion”.