Saturday, June 24, 2017

How Our Planet Dies (Starvation?)

Credit: pinterest
This is a bee garden too beautiful for words, but the
same ends can be accomplished with a much more
modest beginning.
There can be little doubt that we are on the wrong track for our own survival.  Here’s a good indication.  The story on CBS that I heard stated that we have lost 80% of our pollinators in North America in the last 20 years.  Pollinators, for the most part, are bees and butterflies.  In real understandable terms, pollinators are responsible for one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat.  Without them, we cannot produce enough food to feed ourselves, let alone the rest of the world that we have historically exported to.  Between being on track to lose crops and potable water supplies from other causes, we all are looking at the foreseeable day when our children will suffer from both insufficient food and water.

Beautiful blossoms burst into bloom from new milkweeds
started this year.  There are annual milkweeds, but these
are perennials.  To tag them as weeds certainly doesn't fit.
I went looking for more data, and the picture gets more complicated depending on the species of bees or butterflies we are talking about.  For example, commercial beekeepers lost 44% of their hive populations in one year, 2015-2016.  Plus, not all pollinating bees live in hives.  Many species live their entire lives individually in plants and in the ground, but they also raise our crops.  Their numbers are estimated to have dropped by 96%, that is 96%, in the same 20 years.  Some species are believed to be already extinct.

This is our small beginning.  There are four o'clocks
in the background, orange milkweeds in the middle,
and bee balm in the foreground.  As they propagate, we
will continue to transplant further down the swale.

So, what can we do?  The current approach is to stop waiting for our governments to do anything.  We could start a whole on-line battle on what administration is eradicating the EPA, FEMA, the Food & Drug Administration and so on, and planning to destroy more efforts to protect food supplies, protect us from pesticides, etc.  And, the federal government isn’t the only problem.  Here in Oklahoma, the state is owned by the oil and gas industry.  There are ongoing problems with fracking, with water quality, with earthquakes, and too many other problems to get into, but the point is that the state has no intention of taking any measures to protect our citizens over the desires of the oil and gas industry’s demands for more tax gifts (otherwise called incentives), more tax breaks, more land rights, and so on.  They just won’t do it.  So if we can’t count on the federal government, and we can’t count on the state government, where do we turn?  The answer to that is the current move underway to get every homeowner to make a difference individually.  Here’s an example.

The four o'clocks are going gang busters.  They reseeded
from plants we had there last year.  The pollinators
love them.
We have a small swale (little gully or ravine) that runs down our back yard.  It is a mess to mow, and serves no useable function in our yard or lawn.  We are turning it into a bee and butterfly garden.  People are being encouraged to turn small tracts of ground into feeding stations for bees and butterflies.  Most people are familiar with the monarch butterfly, for example.  Twice a year, they migrate from between 3,000 and 5,000 miles to get between their summer and winter ‘homes’, with the difference in distance depending on starting and finishing points.  No single butterfly survives to make the entire trip.  Four different generations will be born, breed, hatch, and die before the great, great, grandchildren reach their destinations.  They feed and pollinate along their flight paths as they move.  Between insecticides, human lack of understanding, and loss of habitat, the monarchs are losing the ability to find enough food to keep going.  Our part comes in not understanding that many plants are essential, and spraying to kill anything that is not lawn destroys vital biodiversity.  Milkweed, for example, has been widely eradicated for this reason, and milkweed is what monarchs almost exclusively feed on.  People are being asked to dedicate poor areas of property, fence lines, back corners of yards, or fields not being actively used, to natural regions where they establish plants that are of value to bees, hummingbirds, ladybugs, and butterflies.  It reduces the property owner’s maintenance costs and time, provides critical plants for nature, and can be beautiful.  Many people think such an ignored area will look ratty, unattractive.  However, there are many plants that bloom for most of the summer, are beautiful, and like milkweed, for example, come in a wide range of colors and growing patterns.  Many folks call these areas bee gardens.  Here is one small link to explain this idea, but once you get started looking, you will find hundreds of such sites, and pictures of beautiful, not ratty, bee gardens.  They can vary between ‘left to nature’ and exquisitely fancy.  Please get hooked on this effort and jump right in.

Nibi Mocs update

Congratulations to Larry Ricker.  His NibiMocs site reached 500 subscribers today.  I'd like to think that some of you helped him reach that mark, and for that I say thank you.  If not, you still have the chance to join the ranks.  His links are in the original post.  You will really enjoy his videos, and you'll fall in love with Sam the Faithful. 

On my own front, I know I've been lazy in getting new posts out.  I've just been so depressed from not getting going myself that I've hardly had the motivation to move.  Again, I'll try to remedy that here shortly.  I just downloaded a bunch of pictures, and will start today on processing them and writing the narrative to accompany them in the posts.  Come back!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Help Larry Reach His Goal

Larry's campsite on Alder Lake.
Credit: LHR Images
Larry Ricker, who has a few aliases, like nibimocs and LHR Images, is an avid canoeist, photographer, and videographer.  While traveling with his sidekick, Sam, The Faithful, he paddles and camps throughout the Northern U.S, especially The Boundary Waters.  He has amassed a treasure trove of videos and photography that have to be loved by any paddler and nature-lover.  His work reveals his great love for what he is doing, and his gentle giant demeanor makes him easy to enjoy watching and listening to.  He’s what most of us would describe as the perfect paddling and camping companion.  If you aren’t familiar with his work, you need to do yourself a favor and check out his You Tube channel at
Larry also likes sharing his work, meeting people on line, and hearing their comments and questions.  He would love to have you subscribe to his video channel.  At the sight above, just click ‘subscribe’ in the upper right corner, watch, like (if you do), and comment.  As of now, he has 485 subscribers, and is pushing to make 500.  Please be one of his 15 friends to help him reach his personal goal.  Subscribe, then sit back and enjoy.  Although, you may find that after watching a few videos, you’ll find you have to grab the boat and gear to hit the water yourself.

Saturday, June 10, 2017


One of Jean's babies on the backyard feeder.
Oklahoma is being Oklahoma.  For us or the squirrels, outdoor life is on hold while the wind holds at 25-30 mph, where it is supposed to hold day and night for most of the next week.  At least with the bird and squirrel feeders, they don't have to depend on climbing and jumping through the treetops.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

An Ounce of (footing) Protection

Here's the idea in progress.  It looks a bit nicer when the loose
gravel is removed, and isn't hard on the bottom of the canoe
as I had feared.

I reported back on January 2nd, how I had broken my tailbone on New Year’s Day while trying to start the year off with a bang.  It wasn’t quite the kind of bang I had had in mind.

I tried to use one of the steepest ramps in the area, because the shoreline wasn’t accessible due to riprap.  The ramp was covered with slime after not being used for months.  While trying to step from the canoe, my feet flew out from under me faster than if I’d been on ice.  While forced to endure a forced period of inactivity for healing, I tried to explore how the injury could have been prevented. 

The problem was that I was using Crocs for water shoes.  Crocs have taken some recent steps to remedy their reputation for having no footing.  While they would appear to be a perfect solution to the need for water shoes, they in fact have been cited countless times by actual users for their failures in not providing foot protection or surefootedness.  I had begun to use them just in winter, because they fit well over the feet of my drysuit.  During the summer, I use proper Stohlquist Tideline booties.  So, the question remained as to what could be used in winter over my drysuit booties.  I wrote to REI with that question.  They recommended three solutions:
In all of these, they recommended going a size larger than normal to accommodate the drysuit.
Now that you’ve been given the ‘right’ way of solving the problem, the Scotsman in me has to admit that, as always, I went looking for an ‘economical’ solution to the problem.  This comes from my habit of NEVER throwing anything away if there’s a way of redeeming some remaining value from it.  To begin with, in fairness to Crocs, while they lack good footing even when new, these were several years old so were even more slippery than normal.  I wanted to add non-skid to the bottom of the shoes.  As most men, I believe that many of the world’s ills can be cured with either Duct tape or epoxy.  I couldn’t make a solid coating of epoxy on the sole of the shoe, because that would lead to cracking of either the epoxy or the shoe’s sole.  If I put non-skid only on the highest treads, the rubber in between would allow the shoe to perform normally while the non-skid would provide good traction.  For the non-skid, I went out on one of our country roads and scooped up a few pounds of gravel.  After a few screenings, I was left with something a bit more course than 36 grit sandpaper.  I brushed epoxy onto the shoe treads and then rolled the soles in the grit.  After I was able to be up and about somewhat comfortably, I went back to the ramp and tried out my new ‘slime busters’.  Now you have two options.  If you don’t have any water shoes, by all means get proper shoes. However, if you have old shoes that you think you can redeem, this solution actually works quite nicely.  I would still never try using this approach while trying to walk on or over rocks, but for just making it down a slimy ramp in one piece, it works.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Response to Trump

In response to Trump's short-sighted, unenlightened, and destructive
withdrawing from the world's efforts to protect our planet and our
future generations, many local governments and businesses have
stepped forward to make their own commitments.  This response
from the CEO of NEMO, manufacturers of camping gear, is very
responsive and well-reasoned.  I would encourage you to take the
few short minutes to read his response.
A Letter from NEMO Founder Cam Brensinger in Response to the Paris Agreement Withdrawal

Yesterday’s decision by the President to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is very disappointing to our team at NEMO. 

As passionate participants in outdoor activities ranging from mountaineering and backpacking, to skiing and climbing, surfing and paddling, and hunting and fishing, we are keenly aware of threats from receding glaciers, extended fire seasons, more extreme storms, weakening winters, rising sea levels, expanding tick populations, shrinking cold water fisheries, and much more. The outdoors is part of our identity and livelihood and a cherished asset we hope to preserve and pass along to our children. We can disagree about the solutions, and the climate agreement may not have been perfect, but its measures were voluntary and embraced by nearly every country in the world, not to mention so many of the world’s most informed scientists and biggest businesses. 

The business community knows addressing climate change is not only a moral obligation, but also the biggest economic opportunity of this century. And the U.S. military knows climate change is one of the top threats to our national security. If we care about our way of life, our economy and our security, tackling the difficult problem of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and rising surface temperatures should be the patriotic endeavor of our generation, much like putting a man on the moon and winning the cold war was for our parents.

Solving this problem as a nation could unite us together, heal some of our internal wounds, and provide the economic foundation and boost to our national morale we need to retain the mantle of the world’s only superpower for another hundred years. Failing to step up to this challenge will signal our inadequacy for that privilege and responsibility. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”

Today we promise to double our own efforts toward sustainability. And because we are eternal optimists, we believe the historic misstep made by our government yesterday will ultimately have a paradoxical effect. Americans have a long and proud history of coming around to do the right thing. We aren’t always the first ones to embrace progress, but we usually finish strong. Let’s not let a lack of federal leadership dissuade us. And let’s not point our fingers at each other. Let’s instead come together, regardless of our other differences, and tackle this threat so our children can someday speak proudly of us and enjoy the same wonderful adventures outdoors we have enjoyed.  

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lake Hefner, Oklahoma City

The trail leads through the park and around the lake.  Here is a great
spot where a nice landing shore combines with grass and park benches
for a beautiful spot for stretching muscles.
The National Crime Index ranks cities across the country according to how safe a resident can expect to be.  At 100%, such a city would be the safest possible place to live.  Oklahoma City has an index of 7, meaning that only 7% of the cities in the country are more dangerous than OKC.  93% of all the cities in the country are safer.  Crime rates are higher in Oklahoma City than the national average, making almost any place else safer.  For example, the chance of being a victim of a violent crime nationally is 3.8/1000 residents.  The statistical odds in Oklahoma City are 7.7, or more than twice as likely.  Then individual posts on line, like this one from 2013, add to the negative reputation: “Hefner is one of the most crime-ridden areas in OKC.  It is the city’s number one hot spot for theft, burglary, robbery, and prostitution.  Avoid Hefner at all cost.”

But, while the dark side of Lake Hefner has been well publicized, is there a counterpoint?  I suppose it would be the effort the city has put into trying to create a beautiful and inviting green space with broad appeal.  There is Stars and Stripes Park with a large children’s playground, a golf course, two marinas for recreational boating, fishing, a nine-mile long paved jogging and biking path, an airport for radio-controlled planes, a YMCA sailing school, a convoluted shoreline at the south end of the lake with many forested bays that are havens for birds and waterfowl, and upscale restaurants along the east shore that provide dining with a view across the lake.  Lake Hefner is enjoyed and loved by thousands of local residents.  In spite of all this positive development, there are always stupid people that will seek out, or be drawn to, places where they can display their stupidity and perverted and evil natures.  Police have had to investigate assaults, robberies, and a problem with homo-sexual prostitution.  One sting alone netted 34 arrests for this activity, and police have begun regular patrols through the area.  Indeed, I saw the Oklahoma City Police patrolling even the most isolated areas around the lake while we were there.  So, what is the take-away from all this conflicting information?  I guess it would be that with any place, especially municipal parks where you can encounter two-legged wildlife, commonsense and good judgment should be practiced by the visitor.  Visit with a companion or more, utilize well-trafficked and populated areas, visit during daylight hours, especially in the mornings, and remain aware of your surroundings, which is really not different than warnings recommended for visiting shopping malls or anyplace else.  Our bottom line was this.  My wife had severe misgivings about visiting Lake Hefner.  She had indeed refused to go with me if I paddled there.  As I prepared for the trip, however, she finally agreed to go with me at the last minute.  In the end, we both greatly enjoyed the park and our day there. 

An egret poses nicely on a piling in a pier.
There are two things a paddler visiting the park should know.  There have been reports of overzealous marine enforcement on the lake that borders on harassment.  A lady I spoke with at the lake office said that has been addressed, and more efforts are being made to be more user-friendly so as to encourage more use of the lake.  One of the most unusual requirements has been for carrying running lights for paddle craft in broad daylight.  The city also requires the paddler to have a boating permit in possession while on the lake.  These are $6.25 daily for boating, another is required for fishing, and they are available also by the season.  The city has a number of local vendors where permits can be obtained.  See

The lighthouse is along the east shore near several restaurants.  In
the evening, it makes a nice feature in a photograph of the sunset.
With a 100-mile drive to reach Lake Hefner, we got an early start.  Including a stop at Walmart’s sporting department for the boating permit, it was still 11:00 before we made it to the ramp.  (L35.54922N, Lo97.59534W)  The water was still cold, but it was a rare, calm day with air temperatures reaching 74.  Even though it was a Wednesday, the shoreline was well-populated with fishermen.  On the water, however, I was the only paddler, with fewer than six fishing boats encountered during the day.  I enjoyed the company of hundreds of waterfowl including egrets, herons, grebes, pelicans, Canada geese, gulls, Chinese geese, and osprey.  The Chinese geese are not at all sociable.  I saw one nesting on shore and wanted to take a picture, but the drakes were so noisy and aggressive, that even though I was already a good distance away, they made it clear that I’d better vacate the area or risk wearing a huge, violent goose as a hat.  I took the hint.

Ibi pausing for a rest in the southwest corner of the lake.

Lake Hefner was built in 1947 to improve water supplies for Oklahoma City.  While the south end of the lake is fairly natural and attractive, the north two-thirds of the shoreline is riprap, and the banks are high enough to provide little view of the surroundings.  The dam is at the north end.  The lake covers 2,500 acres with a 16.4 mile shoreline, and is up to 76-feet deep.  
On the way home, we stopped for dinner at the Tower CafĂ© in Okarche, OK.  This is a small town that sat on the old Chisolm Trail, and at the eastern end of the Cheyenne and Arapaho reservation.  In all, it was another day well lived.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Editor Note

I managed to find a couple pictures from American Horse that were from the afternoon of the trip and in another file.  Those have been added to the post for American Horse if you wish to take a look back.  Thanks.