Maples, palms and year-round fires

A little snow, some hanging sky, almost winter in Michaux.We went away to visit relatives we had not seen in too long, leaving behind trees in the beginning stages of fall color change, and returned to find our trees – well, most of them – naked.

On the other hand, I was able to drive through my favorite season, from the green palm trees of southern Florida, to the grayscale arboreal frigidity of home. Ordinarily, I’d have stayed in one place to experience The Change. Instead of the temperature dropping 10 degrees a week, it fell 10 degrees every few hundred miles.

I’m still glad to be home, though I think the terrific snow storm I saw proclaimed on the television will be less terrific than Al Roker’s verbiage would caution us. In days only a few decades past, the weather guy in this part of November would tell us to expect 12 inches of snow. We would go to bed knowing we would have to plow the half-mile driveway through the woods to the hard road, where the school bus would pick up my siblings and I.

Wednesday evening, Mr. Roker told us “82 million people” will be affected by the winter storm headed their way. (In 2017, Winter storms affected only 40 million people. It’s true; winter’s getting worse.) Roker colored in a swatch of real estate from Kentucky, including the South Mountain ridge of Western Adams County, to the northern Appalachian Mountains of New Hampshire and Maine.

There will not be much snow, but there will be, he said, a good chance of freezing rain, sleet, and even, in some places, some snow.

Climate Warming that is burning up California, and chasing lobsters from the warming coast of Maine toward the still cold waters of the farther north.

Not that the air in New England does not get cold enough to turn roadways to icy trails. The winter I came to Pennsylvania, much of New England was coated with a layer of ice reminiscent of the Dennis Quaid movie, “The Day After Tomorrow.” Workers from as far away as Georgia and South Carolina convoyed to Maine to help rebuild the state’s electrical grid. My mother kept heat in her house with five gallons at a time of gasoline bought in town and used to fill a generator sitting outside her garage door.

Which is related to the maple and walnut leaves missing from the trees lining my street, and to a meme on Facebook this week suggesting that leaves be allowed to lay on our lawns where they can turn to mulch. It helps, I might add, if we use our lawn mowers – as will the manicurist of the Messeder grassy moat – and drive over the fallen leaves until they are ground to pieces easily digested by works and resident bacteria.

Several years ago, I worked with an agricultural laboratory to develop an app that displayed how much a farmer’s field had been killed by use of then common tilling practices and artificial fertilizers. When we tested the system in a nearby forest, we discovered that Mother Nature had created naturally the type of soil profile farmers were spending tons of money trying to match.

The principle applies to our lawns, as leaves and other residues of summer plant life that, left to their own patterns, melt into the ground, where worms and various bacteria turn them into plant food and, in season, new life.

Or we can keep spending tons of money, enriching Saudi and Russian oil barons, making each California fire season worse than the one before and, eventually, trading maple, walnut and sycamore for palm trees.

Everything is connected.

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