DIRT

Fe-stained_ground(http://www.geosociety.org/)

Dirt is dirty and I would not think that it matter or play a vital role in the ecosystem. This is of course wrong. There are minerals and other important substances in it that keeps everything in and on the ground living. Plants and animals living underground, as well as the ‘health’ of the ground to keep erosion away.

I was blown away the fact that people that own lands to grow plants really took care of their dirt and know whether their dirt is good or not by smelling and tasting it. I would never think that just from this two factors we can actually determine the health of dirt.

It’s very scary how us human have the power to kill the ground; killing the ecosystem. Turning a land covered in water into a desert wasteland. It is devastating, if this keeps happening. In the end, we might actually kill the world by not only causing the global warming but also by hurting the ground which can lead to a chain effect to the ecosystem.

Dirt…Dirt Everywhere

Watching the documentary, one sentence that really struck me was the “sometimes people take soil for granted” I guess this is like the whole idea why people mistreat our soil, because we see soil everywhere we think that the soil will just be soil and there is nothing more than that and nothing will ever change. Little do we know that soil that we see in everyday life, plays an important parts in our daily life the soils are dying as we mistreat them everyday.

It’s really surprising when I see what how big companies work; because they wanted to grow crops in a large quantities in short amount of time, they changed the system of how they are treating lands. This resulting to an unhealthy soil which makes it really difficult to grow plants and makes it an unsustainable land over time. Though it is very efficient in the beginning, it kills the land, and makes it unproductive as they grew more plants. I guess, this is like the nature of human that we want everything instant because we have “no time”. We want to get the result fast. Well, I can’t really blame companies for hurting the land the way they do now, I feel that, we are also the main cause why big companies tries to make their system more efficient. Because there are lots of demands for foods, companies trying to think how can they meet up to the demand which resulting, in a efficient way to grow fast crops without thinking how that system affecting the soil.

Seeing this documentary really open my eyes to the soil. Something that easily be ignored really plays the most important part in our livelihood. Though it does not look as beautiful as other stones that we value like gold, diamond, or else, soil shines in their own respective part. Without healthy soil, I don’t think we can survive in this environment.

So moral of this documentary, love the soil, or you will die…. hmm, that’s kinda scary…..

dirt-splsh

What is that?!

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I am originally from New Hampshire. For the last two years I’ve been living in the city in Sarasota, until about two months ago when I moved into a more suburban part of town. I’m noticing that there are still a lot of plant and animal species in FL that I’ve never encountered before. In fact, there are many things in my own back yard that I have no idea what it is. For example, I took the picture above with my cellphone camera over the weekend. That bee is over an inch long in real life. First of all, I’ve never seen a bee that big, so thats freaky. Then the bee is also dragging around the carcass of another larger insect that I have no idea what that is, but ewe. I saw this same thing a couple of weeks ago except a living member of the unnamed insect species was seemingly fighting the bee for the carcass back. This is all bizarre to me, so really any discussion that we have in class about things that are native or non that live around here is much appreciated on my end. Fearing the unknown,  I wonder, “is that massive bee going to sting me?” Or similarly when I see a colorful frog or snake I wonder if it is dangerous. When I lived in my apartment more in the city part of Sarasota my neighbor said he saw a coral snake near the walkway of our building. That kind of freaked me out for a while, but as we went over in class, I later found out that there is a more common snake around here with the colors of a coral snake. Since, my neighbor was from Indiana, I tend to think it wasn’t a coral snake after all. This is also important to stay safe in the ocean. I was snorkeling at point of rock in Sarasota one and recognized a lion fish, so I stayed away from it and then moments later I actually saw someone spearfishing. Hopefully he got it.

little black inhabitants of my room

When I think of invasive species that directly relate to my life I immediately think of ants. I don’t know if those little black ants that we have here in Sarasota are considered invasive, but as far as my dorm concerned they are. I was actually wondering if those were fire ants or some other kind, and if anyone knows, feel free to post a comment (and get one more done with). They don’t seem to bite me, so I would guess they are of another kind.

I’ve been dealing with them as soon as I’ve moved in to my dorm in the Cove this year. Even smallest pieces of food would be found by the ants and soon they would form a line carrying stuff to wherever they take it. Sometimes it’s quite unpleasant to come home or wake up in the morning and notice that I have missed a little piece of something, or even a dead centipede, that also would crawl sometimes into my dorm and die to become a destination for the ants. 

I’ve been wandering how it actually works for them to find the food so fast, and then manage to somehow send the message to the other ants that would organize so easily. I feel like with their size being so small, a room would seem a whole world for them, but they easily navigate to find what they want. I would guess that throughout long evolution process they must have acquired some particular skills in food finding. It’s also interesting that when they have the target they all walk organized to get a piece of it and then back to their home, but as soon as I would take their target away they would disperse in such panic and would start to bump into each other and run around the room either until they find something else or leave.  What also is curious to me is that they don’t seem to like any food. For example they wouldn’t do anything if I left a banana peel. I wonder why this happens. 

Anyway, I think I’ve learned to accept them for the most part and I try to keep my room as clean as I can, and maybe I even have to be grateful to the ants for keeping me tuned up with cleanliness. Still, I think I would be even more grateful if one day they disappeared and I could keep up with cleaning my room by myself.

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picture from howtogetr.blogspot.com

The Chameleon: a hide-and-seek champion

Watching the video of the mimic octopus in class was awesome, and its camouflage ability is remarkable. I thought it was amazing that the octopus could not only change the coloring and texture of its skin, but it was also really interesting that it could change its shape to mimic a different species entirely.

As soon as I saw the changing ability that the octopus had I thought of the chameleon. Chameleons can change color by expanding or contracting cells in their skin that contain different pigments. They use this to blend in to their surroundings to hide from predators. They also change their colors and patterns during social displays in order to either ward of angry males or to attract females. I find the variety of colors and patterns that a chameleon can mimic to be very interesting. A good example of the live-action color changing ability a chameleon has is the guerrilla ad RayBan did by putting different color sunglasses in front of a chameleon while they watched it adapt to the patterns.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMT1FLzEn9I

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Good Wine Soil

One of the things that I related to today was when the guy was talking about how the soil affects the taste of wine. One of the reasons I related to this is because I’m from a place that has a lot of distilleries and vineyards and I hear a lot of how important the soil is. I was curious as to what kind of soil made the “right” kind of soil to have a vineyard.

Something that a lot of people agree on that makes really good wine is produced in limestone rich areas. Technically, the soil is enriched with calcium carbonate, which is the principal chemical component of limestone. Calcium-based soils have a lot more going for them then just calcium though. Calcium helps soil retain water, which is ideal for growing grapevines. However, grapevines don’t thrive well if the soil is waterlogged. Calcium has a chemical structure that helps the soil drain water when there are heavy rains. This makes limestone rich areas great for having vineyards.

Calcium rich soils are also related to easier nutrient uptake. Grape vines take up nutrients through a process called cation exchange. This is where tiny little hairs on the roots absorb nutrients. Calcium helps the roots take up more nutrients by a process called flocculation, which makes more cation sites available on the vine root. It is also believed that calcium helps maintain acidity in grapes.

After I did some research about how limestone, calcium, and grape vines relate, I looked up a map of the places with the greatest deposits of limestone and matched them up against the best vineyards around the world. Some of the top ones are; Australia, Spain, Italy, France, Napa Valley, and Germany. While not all have huge deposits close by, you can clearly see that there is limestone around. The place with the greatest soil for producing wine is Burgundy, France in Champagne (I wonder where it got that name?) and the Loire Valley. Image

Dirty Business

Dirt, the birthmother of all life and sustenance on earth, is overshadowed by the beings that have sprung from her.  Beautiful irony explodes from the fact that this gritty, abrasive amalgamation of dust and sand could house and create a garden of eden from its coarse nature.  In the film I found it both interesting and upsetting how we could classify dirt, and even the rest of existence with out it, endangered, as humanity destroys the earth that gives it the tools it needs to survive to only receive something less in exchange, such as cheap electricity from coal.  The demolition of mountainsides, disintegrating the precious top layer of soil eliminates that fertile plane from existence, leaving only the barren bedrock behind.  Although the people testifying in the film seem overzealous and cultish of their love and support of dirt, is it strange for them to be?  With the power of dirt being able to give life, even different religions with their beliefs of various gods shaping humanity from dirt, I find it perfectly reasonable, almost giving dirt a kind of god-like status.  Hail to the king, Terra Firma, Dirt.

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Dirt! Is Really is Interesting

Dirt! Is Really is Interesting.

 

I was not excited at all when it was announced that we’d watching a documentary on dirt. To me and a lot of other people, it just sounds unbearably boring.

However, it was really interesting! What stood out to me the most was the movement of American people making their own dirt houses. I had no idea people did this! They were describing all of the hard work and benefits to making their own house, not to mention how supportive the community of dirt dwellers was to them. It also looked really fun to make the house! I like to do things with my hands, and I’ve never been afraid to touch dirt.

The people running these sites aren’t afraid to either!

http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/how-to-build-a-house-from-straw-bale-and-mud.html

http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/index.htm

http://www.thegreenestdollar.com/2009/05/cob-houses-building-green-with-mud-and-straw/

Above are people living the dream (or living the mud?) are educating people how to make dirt houses. I think it’s all really fascinating.

The thing that really blows me away is that a lot of materials for making your own house is free or relatively cheaper than mainstream materials. I’ve known a few people who’ve made their own houses but would never think of using resources that are already there. I also think most people would not want to take on the hardship of making their own house.

Nevertheless, I would love to try to be apart of making a mud house someday!

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Here’s a link to an awesome video on a man in Africa explaining making his mud house:

The Kudzu Invasion

While I’m sure that other people have already written about this incredible invasion of unpleasant plant life, I think it’s important to emphasize that this is a huge problem sweeping the Southern USA. As soon as we began discussing invasive species during class, this was the first thing I thought of. In North Carolina you can hardly walk a few steps without seeing some amount of kudzu growth. While I was already aware of the kudzu mythos, I didn’t understand how it choked the land and prevented forest expansion until about a year ago. Like the Dust Bowl, the emergence of kudzu is an event that was perpetuated by human greed and spiraled out of our control before we could begin taking preventative measures.

Pictured: Government Incentive

Pictured: Government Incentive

Kudzu is originally from various areas of Asia, including Korea, Japan, and China. It was introduced in the US during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during 1876. It was meant to be an ornamental plant, and could provide shade when planted on porches and around trees. During the 1940’s, however, one very vocal advocate of kudzu claimed that the plant prevented erosion and even created clubs in the name of planting more and more kudzu across the South. This backfired when the vine started choking native vegetation and the US Government discouraged planting kudzu in 1953. Up until that point, they were paying farmers up to eight dollars to plant the stuff during the Great Depression.

Not only is kudzu everywhere, it’s also almost impossible to kill. Even with the right herbicides, the plant can take from four to ten years to die, and that means a lot of time for more kudzu to spawn. Not only that, but because it covers forests completely native trees don’t get enough sunlight and die off as a result. Kudzu growth is currently outpacing our attempts to contain it to an incredible extent, and there is very little we can do aside from use the vine for things like basket weaving, and maybe turn it into face creams, jellies, lip balm, and any other manner of products. No, really.

Kudzilla

Kudzilla

Unfortunately, the spread of kudzu is just one example of a phenomenon that happens over and over again in American culture, especially when natural resources are involved. When farmers discovered that by turning over the topsoil and planting huge fields of corn they could produce an even larger harvest in record time, companies started to manufacture bigger, more powerful equipment so that the land could be torn up and the topography changed in just a few years. As soon as the dust storms that had previously only been a nuisance started up again, however, there was no topsoil to protect the layer of dirt below and all of that loose material was swept up by the wind. This resulted in intense dust storms that lasted almost ten years and put a huge amount of Midwestern farmers in debt.

Discovering something positive and then exploiting that positive until it becomes a negative is almost a cultural tradition. Hopefully, we’ve learned our lesson from invasive plants like kudzu and can avoid going down this path again and again.