I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why I finally switched to organic milk

Months after writing my Factory Farming: Dairy post our family has finally made the switch to organic milk.  I held off until recently mostly due to price and the feeling that, overall, Island Farms dairy cows were not horribly mistreated.  While we dramatically reduced our consumption of milk in the interim, I did it because of the issues mentioned in my post and did not place much focus on the diet of the cow whose milk we were drinking.

My viewpoint was changed about a month ago after I watched a documentary called Genetic Roulette.  It goes into detail about some of the genetically modified foods that we are eating and that the animals in our food chain are eating.  I will be up front now and say that, as far as I am concerned, chemicals have no place in our food system.  Having said that I am not a chemist, or biologist, or any other kind of scientist, and I cannot backup my opinion with any concrete proof I have discovered independently.  For me, some things do not need to be proven beyond a doubt when the reasoning is within what I consider logical.  If you are predisposed to believe that chemicals in our food system are safe then the documentary may not change your mind.  But it should give you some things to consider.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Eight Spotted Skimmer

The kids and I took our 6 month old puppy, Ryder, for a walk near Beaver Lake today and had the fortune of meeting the lovely dragonfly pictured above.  Our fortune was almost its misfortune as the path was narrow and its prone body was lying near the middle.  Initially we thought it was dead but, upon closer inspection, noticed that there was some slight movement.  My daughter, being a tad more adventurous in the insect department, immediately wanted to pick it up and hold it.  I was able to get a couple of great pictures while it was in her hand.

Despite the fact that I have a much better camera now, I often forget to take it with me on our walks.  Alas, the camera on my phone (yes the trusty, old blackberry) had to stand in again.  Given the stationary nature of this dragonfly I was able to get a much clearer picture than of the red dragonfly last year.  This evening after the kids went to bed I was able to easily find the name of the dragonfly on a photo website by Terry Thormin.  Once I had the name I went to the E-Fauna BC Atlas page to learn a little more about it.

From what I can gather we were looking at a male, Eight-Spotted Skimmer.  The Eight-Spotted Skimmer is native to British Columbia and is typically seen between early May and late October.  E-Fauna has a map showing its range in BC, which is limited to a few areas in southern BC.  According to the conservation information its population is abundant and not considered at risk.  Since I have forgotten most of everything I ever learned about dragonflies I was curious to know how long they live.  I found what I was looking for at The Dragonfly Site.  I was specifically interested in the life cycle of a dragonfly but this site has a ton of information.  If you like dragonflies and have a bit of that childlike curiosity I would highly recommend checking it out.  The short answer to my question is that dragonflies can live anywhere from 6 months to 4 years, but spend only a short amount of that time as an adult dragonfly.

After much inspecting, and an attempt on my son's part to hold the dragonfly, we decided we would leave it behind but at least get it off the ground.  This proved to be more difficult than I anticipated for two reasons. First, the reluctance of the dragonfly to leave my daughter's hand/sleeve and second, or maybe it should be first, the reluctance of my daughter to let it go.  My son and I distracted the dog so he would not decide to have a dragonfly snack (our dog has eaten sunscreen, cat poo, and other disgusting things, so I was not taking any chances) while my daughter was supposed to detach it from her sleeve and set it down.  Apparently she was unable to accomplish this on her own so back we went to "help".

As you can see from the pictures the dragonfly was in good shape so, given we are almost half way through October, my guess is that it had reached the end of its life cycle.  It turns out that I was not helpful in detaching the dragonfly either so we were pleasantly surprised when it started fluttering its wings and, in the end, under its own power, flew up and clung to a branch.  Perhaps the warmth from my daughter's hands helped give it a little boost in the short term.  Regardless it was a great find on our little walk and I was happy to learn about another dragonfly species and add a couple of pictures to our collection.