Bog Garden I: construction

I’ve been thinking about putting in a bog garden for a couple years now, since I first encountered Mike and Richard’s excellent example:

Bog at Black Jungle

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Info on how they did it is here.

Rather than use a preformed plastic pond, I decided to use pond liner (should be available at any nursery/greenhouse with a water garden section; I got mine from Wentworth Greenhouses). It went like this:

Layout – I used a garden hose to outline the bog. I wanted a teardrop shape; since my liner was 8′ x 10′, I sized the bog at 5′ x 7′ at its maximum. The 3′ extra is to accommodate an 18″ depth (obvious, but…). the teardrop is oriented so that the narrow end points at the low spot in the layout. We’ll see whether I pull it off, but what I want to suggest is a seep/spring that peters out into the grass – I’m going to transplant some Siberian Iris into the drainage area.

bog build

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Digging out. A bamboo culm to span the sides, a tape measure for depth readings and a level. Getting the sides perfectly level is less critical with a bog that it is with a water garden – sphagnum will hide some sins. That being said, it’s probably best to avoid pitching the thing like a dang ski jump.

bog build

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Dig? Dug!

bog build

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Most pond-liner how-tos I’ve seen recommend putting down special underlayment to protect the rubber and if my soil had been a little bonier I might have considered it. It’s not though; I’ve got nice sandy loam down to 18″, so I took the swamp yankee approach – a newsprint protective layer.

bog build

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Laying the rubber in place:

bog build

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And beginning the fill with a sphagnum peat/rainwater slurry:

bog build

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I used 3 1/2 bales of peat

bog build

to get it mostly filled up

bog build

and then topped it with a bag of long fiber sphagnum (I’ll add another bag if I can find one).

bog build

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Voilà!

bog build

Some photos from a cold wet New England spring

Given what’s been happening in the Midwest, I am not going to complain at all about the spring weather here in New England; instead, I’ll just observe that it has been cold and wet. Cold enough that seeing wildflowers is a bit of a surprise – although photoperiod-wise they’re right on time, it still feels a little early. The green of new leaves against a gray cotton wool sky is close to hallucinatory in intensity; acid green, indeed.

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Pink Ladyslipper Cypripediun acaule getting ready to bloom.

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Frond unrolling.

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A new-to-me bog. I shall return.

Book review: Winged Obsession

Cross-posted to LibraryThing. N.b. – I’m reviewing an ARC – nitpicks may not apply to the final product.

I approached Jessica Speart’s Winged Obsession with a bit of trepidation; the last butterfly book I read (which covered some of the same territory) was a bust, to say the least. My initial impression was less than positive. Whatever good things there are to say about the book – and there are good things – Ms. Speart’s writing style is not among them. I don’t require end-to-end lyricism, but I felt as if I were reading something pitched at a supermarket checkout line level. Page 5:

He took it all in as he studied one booth after the next. He wasn’t there for the bugs, and though he got a kick out of seeing movie stars, they weren’t his prey du jour either. He glanced down at the photo in his hand. It was a legal resident-alien driver’s license gratis the California Department of Motor Vehicles. His prey was an Asian man who was a notorious bug collector. It was time to make the donuts and find his quarry.

My discomfort increased when, on page 74, she asserts that, “Operation Falcon exposed a Middle Eastern plot to smuggle endangered wild falcons from North America for the sport of sheiks and oil-rich falconers.” Um, no. I think it would be more accurate to say something like “Operation Falcon exposed the gullibility of USF&W as they were played like a cheap fiddle by a con man who entrapped just enough other folk to keep one step ahead of the game and it killed many wild falcons especially on the back end, when F&W was responsible for caring for confiscated birds.” I was a bit of a skeptic going in – the narrative is clearly ‘heroic law enforcement officer’ – errors like this deepened my skepticism; the phrase that leaps to minds is ‘drinking the (USF&W) kool-aid’.

With all that said, the last third of the book held me spellbound as Ed Newcomer, the USF&W agent, was running Yoshi Kojima to ground. Kojima is a very strange man, but is no dummy – an expert smuggler. Real tension gets built as Newcomer gets closer and closer… At the same time Newcomer is working the California roller pigeon case (Op. High Roller -most of my falconry friends will be familiar w/ the case already) and is having some marriage trouble. We get a wrap-up of the pigeon case, but there’s no resolution (that the reader is privy to) on the home front.

Overall, I’d give this 2 1/2 stars – down from 3 because of the writing style and kool-aid quaffing.

Separately – because it’s not a fair knock on Ms. Speart’s work – I wish the book had veered a bit into some of the conservation issues it brushes up against. At one point, we see a facility that breeds endangered California butterflies; release areas are a huge issue, so the facility has oodles of dead adults they can’t do anything with. The question of what do you do with this kind of material is a big one with no good answer. In the US, the answer is nothing. In Europe – at least in the cases I’m familiar with – the answer may be different. When smuggled dart frogs are confiscated on their way into the EU, they are often later released to hobbyists. This puts frogs into the hands of folks who will hopefully breed them and may save them from being destroyed, but also allows ‘laundering’. In the US, it’s pretty clear, based on export permits, CITES paperwork, etc. what species were imported legally. It’s a lot fuzzier across the water – as soon as confiscated Dendrobates unobtaniatus are released, all instances of same already in country magically become offspring of the released one. The thorny issue of wildlife monetization pops up as well – one side says that by making wildlife valuable (esp to the locals), habitat will be preserved. The other side sees dollar value as a fast road to decimation – the best way to increase value is to make the item rare (the deBeers strategy). Finally, I would have loved some analysis of the hidden bad guy in the butterfly smuggling story – the Japanese government. Do they just not care? Have they been captured by the smugglers on this issue? Is there anything non-Japanese citizens can do?

“Our laws are very important, or Congress wouldn’t have saddled us with them. [...]“, retired FWS agent Terry Grosz sadly declared.

Wow. Naive/idealistic/crazy?

 

Microphonograph and The Audible Audubon

My across-the-hall science teacher partner in thoughtcrime has a bag of tricks that would make Felix green with envy. Today, he reached in and a microphonograph and a deck of Audible Audubon cards appeared. The Microsonic microphonograph uses a fixed platter/record and rotates the tonearm.

Microphonograph

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Manual pages can be found here, here and here.

The Audible Audubon are a series of cards – one per species. On one side there is a picture of the bird; on the other, a brief narrative description and a clear record.

Microphonograph & Audible Audubon

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Put the card in the microphonograph and out come calls!

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A nice little bit of late-70′s tech and a reminder of how much more available info is now that it’s digitally encoded in semi-standardized ways (see Sibley and Audubon iOS apps).