Monthly Archives: November 2008

Hot compost anyone? Read it and weep

Here’s a photograph, taken on Friday, Nov. 28:

Compost 123 degrees

That, folks, is a thermometer. It’s the thermometer in my compost. It reads (in case you can’t see it) a hundred and twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit. (123°F.)

Others may be grateful for family, friends, turkey, jobs, whatever; I’m grateful for  the compost heap (which I mis-typed as “heat,” a serendipitous error).

I built this heap on Tuesday the 18th, the day before surgery, and in the days just after, husband Steve brought me progress reports: 120° on Thursday, 140° on Friday. On Saturday I hobbled out to see for myself: 140°.

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Eating Crow

Dagnabit, I was wrong about so many things in my last post, I feel compelled to go public. Trust me, I wouldn't do it if I didn't feel morally compelled. (Rumors that I'm worried about being sued are entirely false.)

The post was, of course, about the tree cut in Montana to adorn the lawn before the Capital.

Capitol tree still upright fr, photogallery

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Montana’s big moment–and big tree (revised)

Er–Note: This post contains several errors. Consult the next post, "Eating Crow," for details.

White House tree, KPAX
KPAX Montana's News Station

Read carefully, then answer the questions in the quiz at the end of the article.

My home state is apparently just about bursting with pride, having been chosen for the singular honor of supplying the nation's Capital Christmas Tree this year. It's a rotating honor; Vermont, a five-time winner, is still recovering from its stint last year; Arizona is doing deep breathing and multiple push-ups to prepare for its turn next year.

The tree's vital statistics are widely and variously reported, being critical to its role. There's near-complete unanimity about the age of the tree: a hundred and forty-four years, give or take a few. However,  sources demonstrate an odd inability to agree on what you'd think would be the simplest of facts, the height of the tree. Some sources say it measures 78 feet, but a cbs2 reporter who must be wearing two push-up bras confidently reports 68. One overenthusiastic Montana TV website says it's a hundred feet long. As a loyal Montanan, I am going with a hundred and fifty.

With a reporter's typical reluctance to reveal sources, the cbs2 reporter remains circumspect even about the tree's source, saying, "That tree, we are told, was grown in Montana." Well, she's being careful; the people, whoever they are, who claimed that the tree came from Montana might have been wrong. Or lying. There's been quite a rash of lies about tree sources recently. I'd tell you how I know, except I can't reveal my sources.

The Montana tree arrived at the White House yesterday, having traveled over 4,000 miles on what's more like a victory tour than a straightforward journey. Either that, or it got lost shortly after being cut in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest, because it put in 2,000 miles in Montana alone.

On Nov. 15, ten days before the tree got to D.C., The New York Times reported that the cost had reached about $400,000. Relax, though; it's covered almost entirely through private donations. I find this both charming and appalling.

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Compost to control plant diseases (revised)

Black shank:field tom.: updt 9:5:'08 FL Dept. of Ag and Consumer Serv. plant disease

Field tomatoes stricken with P. nicotianae Breda de Haan
USDA Forestry image fr. Division of Plant Industry Archive
Florida Dept. of Ag. and Consumer Services

So a day or two ago I was innocently researching away about compost and just for fun, hit the Google ‘scholar’ option to see what came up under the wide-open search term “compost.” (Toe surgery confines me for the moment to whatever I can find on the Internet; even the University library six blocks away is too far).

Lo and behold, I found myself looking at a number of articles dating back to the eighties and continuing right up to the present day about managing diseases with compost. Slap my ass and call me Judy, but I never heard of such a thing. Like a good metaphor, however, it makes sense as soon as I hear it: so many plant diseases are soil-borne that changing the soil balance would reasonably affect disease contraction, severity, and so on.

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News Flash: Pine Beetles devastating US Forests


New York Times, Nov. 17, 2008–Montana campground.

Clint Kyhl, a Forest Service employee working out of Laramie, Wyoming directs an “incident management team” that focuses on managing fire threat in dead forests. Dead forests? Yes. Because more and more, up and down the Rockies, that’s what we’ve got: dead forests.

I don’t need a newspaper to show me this; I can see it when I look at the foothills of the Hyalite Mountains just south of Bozeman, and when I go skiing in the Bridgers to the north.

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