30-minute thoughts: Living spaces

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Having recently moved back to the US, we’re re-engaging with America’s largest irrigated crop: the lawn. As with many issues, I find myself in inner conflict. I like the idea of having a nice, tidy green lawn of soft, cool grass where our daughters can play, without worrying overmuch about ticks and other beasties. But I hate the idea of pumping and pouring precious groundwater into something that’s not meant to grow here, of dumping chemicals on the ground purely for the sake of aesthetics, of being a contributor to the mass death of insects (and the threat that poses to the rest of the biome, including the species homo sapiens), of killing off all plant life except a certain species or two of grass in an area in the pursuit of some cultural ideal.

We’re hoping to pasture a few chickens on the lawn, using the ingenious Egg Cart’n “chicken tractor” as a movable coop–which offers an extra incentive to limit chemicals applied. (Disclosure: my father-in-law designed and sells these things. And they are ingenious.)

We have, perhaps, a quarter-acre plot (with power lines close by), which limits, for example, the ability to plant a forest in our backyard. We’ve dedicated a bit of the space to growing vegetables, using a variant of “Square Foot Gardening” (raised beds). I did end up “nuking” some big, solid patches of dandelions with glyphosate. We hope to experiment with planting some buffalo-grass plugs and over-seeding a drought-tolerant fescue, without chemically burning down most of the many weeds (and some grasses) we have in the lawn right now–for something of a grass-based lawn (if it “takes”) without going to extremes. We’ll till up one area and seed a “bed” with a mix of lots of wildflowers. May they be helpful to some pollinators and other insects. We’d like to plant some more bushes and small trees, ideally ones friendly to birds and maybe other small wildlife.

I recently found High Country Gardens, which looks like an awesome source for sustainable lawns and plants; they have some books I’m very much looking forward to reading. Their “lawn alternative” wildflower mix looks awesome…but a bit of a stretch for our small-ish backyard. Facebook’s “Healthy Yards” page offers helpful reminders in my feed. I’ve looked a bit at the Kansas Forestry Service’s website and trees-list, and a bit (esp. re. grasses) at KS Extension Service resources. But overall, I’m running on a dearth of knowledge, a dearth of energy to explore and learn, and with competing ideals of cultural aesthetic mandates (especially in a small town, vs. completely rural–but some of which are internalized) and of responsibly living on the earth.

I find nature deeply nourishing. I don’t spend a lot of time in nature. I like growing things. I don’t feel like I have huge amounts of time to invest in them. I want to minimize use of chemicals. I do use them somewhat, and prefer not to buy things branded “organic” or “non-GMO”. I dread the depletion of the aquifer under us…and I use a water softener, reverse-osmosis system, and irrigate my lawn. I love the idea of wild, emergent natural spaces, with an ecosystem sorting itself out. I live on a plot in a small town, and think about ticks or leeches (depending on the place) and poison ivy when I’m in woods or grasses. I enjoy, and shudder at, carefully manicured English gardens. I’m deeply refreshed at the oh-so-carefully-shaped wildness of Japanese gardens. I, um, have a few internal paradoxes.

What resources do you recommend for exploring the creation of “living spaces”, with both human living and the sphere of “life” of which we’re a small part in mind?

My Mental Milieu (Covid-19 edition)

Hi all,

I’ve come to realize that my view of the world differs substantially from that of a number of friends and acquaintances. I’m also increasingly hesitant to enter the pig-pen wrestling events that constitute much of Facebook “debate”–both for my own mental health, and from an increasingly low assessment of “benefit” in cost/benefit calculations. And yet, I think some of the sources I follow do offer perspectives that others would find helpful, and are worth sharing.

So–this post is written as though a friend, who trusts me in multiple dimensions and whom I trust, had asked me for input on helpful/interesting sources of information. It’s not soliciting debate, and it’s not intended as a forum for others–I’m being closeminded and tyrannical that way. Please assume that comments submitted on blog post or FB post will be, by default, deleted or not published, with no personal insult intended. I may let some through, at my discretion. If there’s something you think would be valuable to include in this list, and that it’s likely that I’d agree, feel free to PM me or submit a comment on the blog (it’ll get snagged awaiting moderation)–again with the caveat that I may or may not respond, with no personal insult intended.

If you’re a friend, you probably have a decent idea of my biases, and we probably approximately agree about what they are. If you aren’t, you’re hereby released from the obligation to educate me about what biases you detect.

OK–so some of the sources I’ve been found helpful for good information on Covid-19 (and related subjects):

Specifically followed recently re. Covid-19:

(I don’t know either how it happened that there are three medical/bioscience professionals named Jennifer in this list!)

Jennifer Gruenke, retired biologist w/ background in virology, immunologyhttps://www.facebook.com/jennifer.gruenke.5

Jennifer L Kasten, MD, MSc, MSc – repeated source of informative posts and helpful links
Vince Staggs – biostatistician, health services researcherhttps://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008029755306
Adam Nisbetthttps://www.facebook.com/adam.nisbett
Jennifer Koontz, MD (semi-local doctor in KS, often helpful+relevant interpretations of what’s happening broadly and in KS specifically)https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.koontz.161
Dr. Erin Bromage (PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from James Cook University, Australia; says “I am not claiming to be an expert in coronaviruses, medicine, or preparedness.”)https://erinbromage.wixsite.com/covid19/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them
Whitney Tilson – I’ve actually followed him for a number of years on other subjects. His cross-promotion is a bit annoying, but he seems generally to have a good sense of numbers and trends, intellectual humility and honesty, and goodwill (and willingness to act on it), and I’ve found his Covid-19 newsletter to be a valuable input.send me a PM and I’ll send you a subscribe address for his free COVID-19 email newsletter.

“Science” pages and blogs

These are a number of pages I’ve followed for a while, and found quite valuable overall. Note that attitude, language, and other things some will find offensive are far from infrequent. If you find these valuable, I’m sure you can find other related pages that would also be interesting.

Science-Based Medicine (If I had to pick just one of these, this would probably be it.)https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/
The Credible Hulkhttps://www.facebook.com/therealcrediblehulk
Insufferably Intolerant Science Nerd*https://www.facebook.com/InsufferableIntolerance
* ( Double the “you might find content that offends you” warning for this one.)
Respectful Insolencehttps://respectfulinsolence.com/

General Publications

New Scientist (a UK weekly science mag–far from a journal, I think far from PopSci, not sure how it compares to SciAm).https://www.newscientist.com
New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com
The Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/
The Economisthttps://www.economist.com/
The Conversation – news from academicshttps://theconversation.com
The Atlantic (I don’t assess this as highly as I once did; still interesting. Something like a Never-Trump Republican editorial stance.)https://theatlantic.com
Be skeptical: New York Post, Washington Times
Dismiss without a second thought: Natural News; InfoWars. And a host of others.
Interesting, potentially valuable: I recently found Flipside, a newsletter that includes both left and right on its editorial board and tries to pull in thoughtful commentary from others on both sides. Attempted “bubble-buster”. I don’t know if it’s best in genre or not.https://www.theflipside.io/

Assorted topics (already somewhat dated)

Calling Bullshit course – I’ve started but not gone far, but it seems worthwhile. A primer on practically assessing claims and narratives. Relevance is, perhaps, self-evident.https://www.callingbullshit.org/
The Hammer and the Dance – increasingly dated, but helpful in understanding the need to “hit hard” to buy time to figure out equipment, therapies, and eventually vaccines. (Hint: some places did, some didn’t, and we haven’t made terrific use of the time we bought.)https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-the-hammer-and-the-dance-be9337092b56
The two docs who own that urgent-care chain made a lousy argument. There are many critiques. One collection is here.https://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/2020/04/about-those-urgent-care-doctors-in-bakersfield-theyre-wrong-heres-why.html
If you get Covid-19, it’s not just dying or going “back to normal”; there can be long-lasting effects.(1) https://www.facebook.com/barry.mangione/posts/10157600661769272

(2) “Finally, A Virus Got Me”. “”Many people think COVID-19 kills 1% of patients, and the rest get away with some flulike symptoms. But the story gets more complicated. Many people will be left with chronic kidney and heart problems. Even their neural system is disrupted. There will be hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, possibly more, who will need treatments such as renal dialysis for the rest of their lives. The more we learn about the coronavirus, the more questions arise. We are learning while we are sailing. That’s why I get so annoyed by the many commentators on the sidelines who, without much insight, criticize the scientists and policymakers trying hard to get the epidemic under control. That’s very unfair.””
“Plandemic” is full of falsehoods, and the people behind it untrustworthy. (Note that these are just a few links, and also note the caveat that I haven’t even completely read through all of them; they’re included only as representative sample.)(1) https://www.facebook.com/kathleen.weber.montgomery/posts/10113287265749743
(2) https://www.facebook.com/rickydhouse/posts/10107708071444999
(3) https://www.reddit.com/r/CovIdiots/comments/gezery/plandemic_documentary_debunked/
(4) https://respectfulinsolence.com/2020/05/06/judy-mikovits-pandemic/ (note that this doctor’s tone is far from conciliatory, which may be off-putting.)
Why antibody tests may overestimate (presumptive) immunity among the population. This is Bayesian statistics, with counterintuitive results–but ones that impressed me years ago with regard to other “mostly accurate” tests. (Note that one comment I recently saw indicated that https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/04/30/antibody-tests-might-be-deceptively-dangerous-blame-math/
Why conspiracy theories thrive in pandemicshttps://theconversation.com/why-pandemics-are-the-perfect-environment-for-conspiracy-theories-to-flourish-135475

Local Information

There’s a good chance many of my local friends already know about these sources of information–but for what it’s worth:

Reno County Emergency Management – the Facebook page seems like it gets the most focus in disseminating info.https://www.facebook.com/RENOEMA
KS Gov. Laura Kellyhttps://www.facebook.com/GovLauraKelly
Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce. Some good information.https://www.facebook.com/HutchChamber
Hutchinson Community Foundation – involved w/ a lot of organizations that are helping people.https://www.facebook.com/Hutchcf/
Kansas Dept of Health and Environment.https://www.facebook.com/KDHEnews