There’s Oil in These Hills

 

Looking Closer at Oil

There are a lot of things that I don’t know.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a rancher, I have no idea how to crochet a colorful scarf, and I couldn’t even imagine how one makes a computer. Or yet, figure out how 1s and 0s make actual programs.

I was okay not knowing these things, my daily life was not dependent on this. Though there was one thing I thought I knew. Something I used every day and though, uncomfortable using it, I thought I understood the dirty-ness of oil.

Where it came from, how it was extracted, and why our oil was dropping in price.

Going to Vernal opened my eyes to the reality of this industry. I’m writing this because I wanted to open your eyes as well. Because there is A LOT of things I do not think you (or I for that matter) know about … how the world gets oil.

A resource that I wish was becoming extinct.

I’ve been traversing the Rocky Mountains for weeks now and what I see scares me.

We are destroying our land.

Oil Spots NoFarmNeeded
Each sandy hill is an oil extraction point.

I get it, I’m not naive to why oil is important. We need it to drive, to become less dependent on foreign nations, for plastics, for petroleum jelly, heck for lubricating your squeaky door. Oil is an important resource.

But what’s going to be the cost for our future?

What’s Up with the Town?

In Vernal Utah, the town is run off of oil. Seemingly built in a day, Vernal is the result of our country’s dependency on crude oil. Every cent ever spent in this town comes from the oil and gas industry…as our dependence on oil plummets so does this town’s livelihood.

Newpaper Article NoFarmNedded

Vernal has bumper stickers that say, “I Heart Drilling”. Cafes are dedicated to serving smoothies if you donate to their,”Support Coal and Oil” fund. There are parties dedicated to natural gas burns. Why capture the resource, when you look much wealthier burning it?

I Heart Drilling NoFarmNeeded

Doing Laundry

Local laundromats have washers and dryers segregated. Those who work in ordinary jobs and those who work for oil industries. They’re called greasers. A coined name brought back from the 50s.

Greasers are just that. Workers whose clothes are covered in oil, in soot, and reeking of natural gas. These people’s hands are stained black with shoes well worn in. I stare at them, hoping to see a monster of humanity. A person who gets high destroying nature.

But the more I look, the more I just see people working. Trying to make a living. One guy teaches his daughter how to fold clothes as they wait for their laundry to dry. I want to hate them, for their living goes against every fiber of my being. I just….. can’t.

Following a Pipe Dream

When you’re driving through the Rockies you will see pipes everywhere. These pipes aren’t buried and they traverse the land parallel to the roads we ride. If there’s a dip in the mountain side, these pipes have bridges built just for them so they can make it across. They house oil and gas, carrying it from one extraction site to the next.

Gas Lines NoFarmNeeded

I watch out of my window as animals sniff these pipes, walk over them, and prairie dogs scurry back to their homes underneath them.

 

Photo Apr 18, 1 12 24 PM
A prairie dog with an oil pipeline in the background.

 

These pipes are unnatural. Even in locations, I wouldn’t think possible to get to by truck, these pipes have found a way. You cannot look anywhere without seeing one.

Oil Fields
The Rocky Mountains no longer look natural.

Recently, Ford did a commercial near Badlands in Utah. Badlands is a mountain area that has a lot of cool rock formations. However, the area they filmed, houses a plethora of oil extraction sights for miles. A sight that would make their consumers unhappy.

So what did Ford do?

They photoshopped the picture to get rid of every oil sight, every pipe, and every dirt road leading to it. It looks like untampered land. It looks like the area near Badlands in Utah is still a beautiful, natural, and untouched rock area. But this land is far from being just walked on. The land that is used to power what they are selling, oh the irony.

The day is lit up by natural gas burns. These pipes of fire are taller than our average trees. I can see this fire for miles, for at one point, I was more than 150 miles away from one.

natural gas burn

 

Well Oiled Machines

Extractor NoFarmNeeded

As for the oil extraction machines… they look like giant drinking birds. They dip their heads towards the ground, eventually moving back up, over, and over, and over, and over again.

The most interesting part is that these machines emit H2S. A poisonous gas that first takes your sense of smell and then kills you. My partner and I wear detectors that once start to beep, you better run out of there as fast as you can. The gas will take you down quickly.

It’s gone off three times.

The machines are loud, dangerous, and an unnatural part of our world.

These machines work in a continuous cycle, seemingly never ending. But it will one day, eventually end. But for now, the hum that they emit travels for miles, disturbing the animals, plants, and the beauty of nature around them. When critics accuse wind farms of disturbing nature, they have never heard oil rigs.

Evaporation Tanks

There are man-made ponds called evaporation tanks. Not really ponds because there are no fish and you can’t swim in them, but they are shaped similarly. They are called evaporation tanks, large areas used to house chemicals in water. The water is supposedly evaporating into the environment, leaving behind the chemical salt residue. Is this safe? To me, it looks like a boil on the earth. Very unsightly and upsetting to see.

Evaporation tank NoFarmNeeded

The Result

I can’t understand how we became this way. What are we doing? Is this making America great, greater, greatest again? Is this the path that the new president thinks will keep us alive?

My eyes have blown open to what this industry is really about. I hope yours have started to widen as well. Like I said before, I do know that this town and millions of others depend on oil. But I still have barely made a dent into what truly goes on in these oil hells.

 

Desert Walker

The Stories of a Desert Walker

Growing up, I had alwDesert Walker NoFarmNeededays wanted to be an archaeologist. Someone who went into the desert and climbed pyramids looking for ancient tombs. Then, I wanted to be a paleontologist. A discoverer of dinosaur bones, skulls, and bodies.

Now, I am actually…. kind of doing both.

I am walking through deserts looking for rare plants. Do I find any dinosaur bones? Not yet, though I’m told if I look close enough that the Mountains hold a lot of fossilized plants and some dinosaur species. I’m sort of a “desert walker, looking for fossils found in rocks, while searching for plants” scientist.

I kind of feel like I get the best of both worlds.

Are There Dinosaurs?

Vernal Utah is most commonly known as “Dinosaur Land”. An area in the United States that houses a plethora of dinosaur bones and species that have not yet been uncovered. The town has giant dinosaur statues lining their major highway. One is dressed up for all the major holidays.

Vernal Welcome Sign

A year ago, one of the geologist interns at the BLM office happened upon a tridactyl body. This body was in the crevice of a mountain side. Was this an uncommon experience? Did he just get lucky? For geologists in Vernal Utah… No. This is just another Wednesday.

The problem became that the intern forgot to tell the head geologist that he found it. Over a year went by before the intern told the BLM office. He sent one picture of the area he found it in and a GPS point that was not very accurate.

 

NoFarmNeeded Mountain
Somewhere lies the tridactyl bones

 

On a rare Friday, I became a geologist. A paleontologist with a compass in hand. Helping them find this tridactyl.

We went to the Green River. An area not only swimming with water but also bursting with unfound fossils. For three hours we scoured the mountainside, holding up one picture, trying to match that landscape with what we were seeing.

I found it. Literally, found the exact location, where it was.

… but it was not there.

Bones NoFarmNeeded

A rock slide happened in February, covering the fossil and keeping it on the Mountain. A story that is still left untold.

Though I was able to find other bones!

Just Wandering in the Mountains

Almost every day you will find me in the Mountains. Looking for plants, for rocks, even for a cavern to house mounds of gravel. (Yeah I know, not very exciting, but I did see a lot of different Native Plant Species).

 

Why are these adventures fun?

Because each rock held a secret I wanted to answer. Each hill showed me a new species of plants. And each truck ride brought me farther and farther away from civilization into the world that felt back-in-time.

Tent Caterpillar  NoFarmNeeded

There are a wide variety of plants out in the desert. Each one paving its way into the world. The desert is harsh and unforgiving. These plants are all unique and stand out against the tan rock and orange sand.

 

Keying out Species NoFarmNeeded
Keying Out Flower Species

 

The Desert Menu

Each desert plant is like an item on the menu. Very specific and brought out only when it’s perfect. Our first plant is the salad or soup choice. It can be found anywhere in the desert, in crevices, dunes, and on top of hills.

 

Asclepias Species NoFarmNeeded
This is an Astragalus amphioxys. This species covers the Mountains tops in Utah.

 

The server now brings out the main course. A plant that is harder to find, one that is only brought out during the right temperature, right location, and right spot on the ground.

 

Photo Apr 06, 11 53 02 AM
This species belongs to the Asteraceae Family. Can anyone guess what it is?

 

Finally what everyone has been waiting for… the dessert. A treasure in the desert this plant is hard to find. An endangered species many of these specimens only make it to the size of a rock. What is it? This is Sclerocactus glaucus. A protected cacti species since 1979 that produces beautiful vibrant pink flowers.

 

 

For Having the Best of Both Worlds

Archaeologists don’t get to see the expansiveness of land. Paleontologists find themselves digging through mud and rock. I find myself, traversing the earth. Making a path that takes me to plants that have weathered the elements. Proven themselves to be the best of the best.


They’re desert plants. From salad choices to soup, down on through the main course. Each plant is really, just my type of dessert.

For a State Rarely Thought Of

Into a State, I’ve Never Known

When I look at a map of the United States, my eyes instantly go to the Midwest.

Am I favoring them?

Of course. Why?

Clearly, I am from there.

I had never stepped foot into the Rocky Mountains before this internship and have only thought of Utah in passing. I would say in my entire life, the amount of times I’ve  thought of Utah could fit on my entire hand…. With fingers still missing. These “thoughts”  most commonly occurred when I was forced to learn how to spell all the states and their capitals in school.

U-T-A-H, S-A-L-T  L-A-K-E  C-I-T-Y.

Vernal, Utah….

Never, ever, crossed my mind.

I was used to Chicago.

The flat land, the corn fields, the paved roads. I had more stores than I could handle in a walking distance of me and a sky full of stars (or what I thought was full).

And yet, I was going to a small town.

With one main road, the store of choice a Walmart, and an apartment I had only seen in pictures.

To say I was nervous to start at the BLM in Utah would be an understatement. To say I was ready for the adventure, would be right on point.

And so the Adventure Begins

I could go into detail about the excitement of the first day. The adventures of finding a fax machine and the drama of getting a working phone, (I took a cord from an empty cubicle). Heck, I could even tell you that my turkey sandwich had a sense of dream-like quality because it was so delicious after being nervous all morning.

But I won’t. Why? Because my second day was much, much, much more exciting.

I actually went into the Mountains. To work.

Landscape

Into the Rocky Mountains

I traveled, (well, there was four of us but for the sake of keeping it relevant I’m using I), into the Rocky Mountains to look for Sclerocactus wetlandicus. This cactus is considered a sensitive plant species of the Vernal Field Office and is an endangered cacti species.

Cactus NoFarmNeeded

Into the mountains, we went for a 2-hour truck ride to our designated location. Through oil pads, natural gas burns, and muddy roads I started to wonder…. Am I really going to like it?

The view was worth all its’ weight in gold.

Utah Landscape NoFarmNeeded

I honestly couldn’t believe that this internship allowed me to be out in the Rocky’s looking for cacti. Literally, out in the Mountains, and not stuck behind a desk looking at the hills from the window.  

Is it work?

Here’s a rundown version of what we did. We got in arm’s length of each other and walked hundreds of feet in each direction of our parked truck. Throwing down flags and keeping our eyes peeled for this cacti. Was it to be expected that we would find one? Nope. Yet, I couldn’t help to think we would (…. we did not).

Utah NoFarmNeeded

Sure, my time was spent looking at the ground, making sure I didn’t miss this plant. But just the air, the rocks under my feet, and the cloud laden sky made this a wonderful experience. Even when the weather changed in a split second. From cloudy mornings to snowy lunch breaks, then finally landing on the hot blazing sun. I prepared for all.

I saw feral horses. No, (it’s not what you think), these horses are not wild but actually invasive. Left to the environment by their owners, these horses have survived and are now eating and trampling upon very important plant species.

Ferral Horses NoFarmNeeded

I spent my day finally happy to be outdoors. Enjoying a state I had rarely thought about. And wondering, do I get to do this tomorrow?

NoFarmNeeded

To Contain A Garden

Container Gardening

To Contain a Garden

There are beasts in the garden. A vine, a weed, a busy week gone by in a blink of an eye. Gardens are filled with havoc. I am containing them.

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be graced with a huge backyard. My family and I would tear it up every Mother’s Day to be able to grow our own vegetables and beautiful flowers. As I grew older, I learned not everyone has a yard or in fact a bit of land to grow flowers in.

When I started college I became a fanatic of container gardens. The perfect combination of chaos and calm. No plants were ever able to overtake it and weeds were non-existent. Now, as I sit in an apartment I find myself back in the swings of container gardening. I find container gardens to be the best garden. They are the right amount of soil and the perfect plant to brighten anyone’s day!

From the beginner gardener – to the expert green-thumb, everyone should container garden. Why? Because it is easy, fun, and you can put these containers anywhere.

The Perfect Pair….

For my container garden, I paired up with All-America Selections and Crescent Gardens. Both of these organizations bring the finest quality of products.

All-America Selections is a non-for-profit organization that brings you award-winning flowers and vegetables. These plants have been tested nationally across North America and proven locally in your own backyard. By using AAS Winners, you can be assured of superior garden performance. Including beautiful blooms in ornamentals, great taste in edibles, and perfect habit.  

Crescent Gardens designs and creates one-of-a-kind functional decorative products for your home and garden.

What I Used:

Pot: Crescent Garden Black Juno.

Flowers:

Salvia – Summer Jewel Lavender

Osteospermum – Akila Daisy White

Canna – South Pacific Scarlet

Gaura – Sparkle White

Zinnia – Profusion Double Hot Cherry

Zinnia – Profusion Double Deep Salmon

Strawberry – Delizz

garden

Location:

Location, location, location. The main key. You can put container gardens,

  1. Patio
  2. Deck
  3. Dorm Room
  4. Window
  5. Front or back stoop
  6. Driveway
  7. Entryway
  8. Front yard/ back yard
  9. Porch
  10. Window Ledge

Anywhere there is a spot!

Canna NoFarmNeededZinnia NoFarmNeededPollinators NoFarmNeeded

 

 

Main Things to Remember:

  1. Create your Container Garden with a Theme in mind. I wanted to attract pollinators, so my use of bright reds like Cannas allows me to attract bees and bats.
  2. Know the space you’re going to put the container. I’m not only talking about the location but also how much sun will it receive? How often will you need to water? Is it for the indoors or outdoors? This will decide what plants you use.
  3. THE 3 KEYS: Spiller, Thriller, and Height.
    1. Spiller: A plant to hang over your pot
    2. Thriller: A plant that is unique, different petal pattern or color
    3. Height: You need a plant that is tall in the middle with a gradual decrease in height of other flowers.

Photo Jun 22, 8 38 41 AMZinnia Salmon AAS Winner

 

To Tangle With A Beast

A beast is not a beast once it’s contained. Container gardens bring you the least amount of worry in a garden. They can be taken anywhere and if forgotten about for a week, are easily managed in fifteen minutes. Container gardens allow me to grow what I want where-ever and let me dream about what my future garden will look like.

You can’t go wrong with container gardens, make your garden happen no matter what you have. You don’t need a farm or a garden plot to do it! Just one container.  

 

Arborist 101

NoFarmNeeded_Arborist 101

NoFarmNeeded_Arborist 101

 

Learn How to Trim, Prune, and Take Down Your Trees!

Fee-Figh-Foo-Fhum,  here is where it gets fun.

Tree trimming/pruning/removal can actually be a lot of fun when you know how to do it. I for one, enjoy carrying around a sharp knife or pruners and bringing my trees back to health.

MortonAboretum_NoFarmNeeded_Trees

However, one of the main misconceptions I think people develop when they carry around a sharp weapon is that they know how to trim trees and really …. how to cut them down.

You do not. I repeat: YOU DO NOT!

It is exceedingly dangerous to you and your tree if you are your own arborist. But with a bit of knowledge for different trimming techniques, you can keep yourself safe.

This is why I’m taking you back to class, Arborist 101.

YellowBirch_NoFarmNeeded_BarkIdentification

Does this look familiar to anyone out there? If it does, then the name tag on a tree probably takes you back to your plant identification classes. Good.

This class is going to be a lot less painful.

Though…..Why should you trust me?

I have taken multiple Tree Care classes and have been taught by local Arborist how to properly take care of different tree species. (Look I’m above hanging around in a Sycamore)

Facts You Should Know: 

1. NEVER Prune a Tree in the Fall 

The reason I’m posting about proper tree pruning now is because I’m sure with the leaves falling off, you’ll be able to notice stray limbs or branches that need to be removed. However…please do not prune until Winter or the tree has gone dormant.

*Pruning in the Fall allows fungi to spread their spores profusely and seep into the wounds that you create by pruning. It literally infects your tree in multiple points. 

2. Widower’s Limb….. dun, dun, dun

A widower’s limb describes a dead branch hanging in your tree that needs to be removed. It’s named the widower because branches like these can kill you (hence making your spouse a widower)

Birch_In the Fall - NoFarmNeeded

If you see a widower’s limb, call an arborist!

3. New Cut Technique for Cutting Limbs

  1. Notch the side of stem, making the notch so it is facing down
  2. Make a clip at the crotch of the branch (where the branch meets the trunk or where the stem meets the branch)
  3. Then fully cut parallel to the trunk

trees-1

4. Tip for Pruners

Flip your pruners around so the flat side is facing the tree. This way you will produce a cleaner cut with a smaller leftover stub.

pruning-cuts

*Some species, Maple, Walnut, and Birch, produce sap when they are pruned. That is okay, you have not done anything wrong, it’s just their defense mechanism.  

5. When do you need to call an Arborist? 

When you are trying to cut the tree limb, tree branch, or tree (as a whole) without having two feet on the ground. This means when you get on a ladder, climb farther into the tree and stand on a branch, or stand on anything besides the dirt beneath your feet, you need an arborist. 

I’m not joking. Even small limbs can become dangerous if you don’t account for their height in the tree.

Trees are wonderful and can look fantastic with your help.  Just… be more careful.

(What can I say? I love insects and insects love trees!)

Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterflies @NoFarmNeeded

Monarch Butterflies @NoFarmNeeded

We Need the Butterflies

We need monarchs. Period. Drop the mic.

Ok, I guess it’s not that simple to explain. Everyone loves monarchs, I honestly don’t know anyone out there who doesn’t like watching them fly around your garden.

However, Monarchs aren’t just a pretty face. They are vital insects to our ecosystem.

I’m here to tell you why.

Allison_With_Monarch_NoFarmNeeded

Just the other day I was talking to a prairie conservationist in Illinois who had recently gone to the butterfly conference in Springfield. What’s shocking, is that Monarch’s will be put on the endangered species list in the next 6 months if we don’t start preserving their habitat.

Pretty much:

Our Love for Monarchs = planting a small garden or few plants + nothing else. 

It’s the nothing else we need to start planting for.

Group of Monarch Butterflies

Why we need them (they’re more than cute) –

Monarchs are great pollinators and (I hate to say it) a vital food source for other animals. They act as an important connector in our ecosystem web.

butterfliesandtheecosystem

They also, provide assistance for genetic variation for different plant species. Since they travel such long distances, Monarchs are able to spread the pollen over a variety of areas.

Monarch_Butterflies_Flight_NoFarmNeeded

For us, Monarch butterflies on the decline indicates that there is something wrong in our shared environment and a warning that we could be affected as well. 

Butterfly NoFarmNeeded

Ways to help – 

Never capture a butterfly. Especially Monarch’s because they are already a dwindling species.

Monarch Butterfly NoFarmNeeded

Eat more organic food, this lowers the use of pesticides which kills butterflies. Make sure you don’t use any pesticide in your own home garden as well.

On_Fm_MW

Start cultivating milkweed, give some to your neighbors, to your schools, anyone who will take it.

Save the Monarch’s eggs and let the caterpillars free when they are big enough to be safe from preying birds.

  • The caterpillars should be put back on an existing milkweed right before the pupa stage (chrysalis). The caterpillar should be about 12-14 days old.

Create monarch waystations. This means planting flowers that are great sources of nectar for them in the Fall. After all, they have quite a long journey back to Mexico.

Annuals
Coneflowers, impatiens, marigolds, phlox, sunflowers, and verbena.

Perennials
Asters, bee balm, butterfly weed, chrysanthemums, daisies, purple coneflower, sedum and yarrow.

Wildflowers
New England aster, bergamots or horsemints, black-eyed Susan, blazing stars, boneset, butterfly flower, coreopsis, ox-eye daisy and purple ageratum

Fruits
Adult monarch butterflies also like to feed on banana, oranges, and watermelon.

Sign petitions/pledges, even donate. Get the word out and help create communities that preserve the Monarch.

Pledge – Save Monarchs   To Report Their Movements   To Donate For Butterfly Gardens

Save Our Monarchs – Free Seeds     To Donate    Join The Native Plant Movement

MonarchButterfly_NoFarmNeeded

So look at them, notice their beauty. But remember, there’s more to them than just their looks, they are a key species for our ecosystem.  Help save them!

For More Information Visit:

One Green Planet

Register your garden for the More Garden Pollinator Challenge

MonarchWatch.org

The Monarch Joint Venture

Farmers Market

If I died and went to heaven, heaven would include this market.

Me_FM_MW

WI Madison’s farmers market, let me tell you  . . .

Wow.

This market is one of the largest in the country, so large that it wraps around their capital building.  I’d say if you were a food lover, locally grown fanatic, or an outdoor walker this spot is for you.

Each stall brought something different to the table. Cucumbers on one, apples on another, even pumpkin flowers scattered about.

SquashB_FM_MW

Put it on the top of your to do list, because you have never seen anything like this.

I’ll give you the run down on some stalls. Each one brought something different, though a lot had vegetables (what else would you expect?),

On_Fm_MW

My favorite were the Leeks in the top left hand corner. Leeks (which are part of the onion family), bring a new flavor to your dish. Not really onion-y per say but defiantly fresh, I cannot wait to make soup with them!

Apples_FM_MW

These apples, I have stashed away in my bag…. Keep them away from the vultures. One of the first apples I have seen this season (Makes me excited for Fall). An apple a day keeps the doctor away and I plan on having these apples with peanut butter .

Finally, the squash. A lot and a lot and a lot of squash.

Squash_FM_MW

I already have a plethora growing at home, however I couldn’t pass up on the octopus ones. Not sure if I should eat them or keep them as decoration.

The Madison Farmers Market is number 1 on my Farmers Market to-do-list . . . Have you gone?