It's hot. Too hot to blog. When we go up to the cabin and it's cooler, all I want to do is sit outside and enjoy the breeze. There are a lot of things that are swirling around in my mind to talk about, but lifting fingers to keyboard just seems like such an effort.
Today I am finally ready to vent about a few things and also share some pictures from the cooler North where we've been spending our weekends. And I think I'll even throw in some haiku. Talk about a potpourri!
New Jersey swelters
Under a hot, hazy sky
Sweat drips off my brow.
Can't weed the garden
Too hot to plant hydrangeas
All I do is sit.
The dog minds the heat
But still wants to take a walk
She must be crazy.
Up at the cabin
Temperatures are cooler
I live for weekends.
I have to say, in July the temperatures at the cabin, while cooler, were still quite hot, since the major heat wave we had in New Jersey hit the Adirondacks as well. When it was 106 in New Jersey, it was 96 at the cabin. And that is still darned hot. And on top of that, July is the Season of Deer Flies in the Adirondacks. We couldn't walk anywhere without deer flies inundating us and nipping at our heads. Even the dog didn't want to walk in the woods. So we took to driving around in our air conditioned car (since the cabin doesn't have any air conditioning and the fan only runs when the generator is on!) and stopping at Schroon Lake to walk and let Diva swim a bit.
This is what a Deer Fly looks like:
This is a highly magnified picture; they are actually relatively small and like to fly around in a swarm around your head, or on the dog. And they bite. But by August the cooler weather is already coming to the mountains and they dissipate.
The other thing that goes away in August is the algae. Our pond is a primordial soup of fish, turtles, frogs and other wildlife, and it does pretty well all year, unless it gets really hot. Last summer there was no algae in the pond that we could see, as it was a cool and rainy year. This July was another story; the pond turned into a big bowl of what looked like a combination of pea and lentil soup with a whitish sheen on it; black leaves from the bottom of the pond floated to the surface. The pond looked unpleasant and possibly poisonous. We kept away from it.
Lo and behold, when we drove up this weekend it was back to normal, its dark, mysterious clarity restored.
In fact, the August weather at the cabin couldn't be better; comfortable highs during the day and a few nights that are actually autumn-like. We brought our little-used brass fire pit from home up to the cabin and sat out on the deck in the evenings with a roaring fire keeping us warm.
Earlier in the summer I planted some wildflowers around the pond (one of those mixes you can buy in a bag at the hardware store) and some of them apparently sprouted. We also found that we have a few large thistle plants and Goldenrod, which are quite showy in their own way. DH took some pictures:
My mother's cat Zoe loves going up to the cabin. She feels it is all hers (except for the Pesky Dog) and she gets to go for walks. I bought her a cute little purple harness and a fancy gold leash just for her, and she strolls around, chewing delightedly on grass and exploring the landscape. Here is a picture of her surveying her territory:
As for the various things that are irking me in the real world, I could list many, but one of the most annoying things to me right now is the total dysfunction of our country, and the fact that we are going backward instead of forward. Paul Krugman had a pessimistic op ed piece about this the other day. In his column he stated:
"Meanwhile, a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.
And a nation that once prized education — that was among the first to provide basic schooling to all its children — is now cutting back. Teachers are being laid off; programs are being canceled; in Hawaii, the school year itself is being drastically shortened. And all signs point to even more cuts ahead."
Truly our country is going backward. We are no longer the innovators, no longer willing to have the "can do" attitude that got America to the moon before the Soviet Union. We are no longer the country that leads the way in manufacturing, energy, education or anything else for that matter - except greed.
That point was brought home to me again this morning when I read that Portugal is well on its way to replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy sources. And Portugal is not the only country which is making these changes.
"By 2025, the report projected, Ireland, Denmark and Britain will also get 40 percent or more of their electricity from renewable sources; if power from large-scale hydroelectric dams, an older type of renewable energy, is included, countries like Canada and Brazil join the list.
The United States, which last year generated less than 5 percent of its power from newer forms of renewable energy, will lag behind at 16 percent (or just over 20 percent, including hydroelectric power), according to IHS."
Was it easy for Portugal to accomplish what they've done so far? No, it required government involvement in industries, it meant higher electricity costs, and various other sacrifices that apparently the Portuguese - and their government - are willing to make in order to accomplish something they feel is worthwhile and important. Of course, if you read the article, you can just hear the GOP and the Tea Partiers crying "Socialism!" at every turn. Portugal is part of the EU, which has carbon trading, there are government guarantees of stable prices to the energy suppliers, and other policies. However, in the long run, the country expects the transition to pay off. Will their energy costs be cheaper than those of countries that rely on cheap coal for their power? No. But will they be cheaper than what Portugal was paying before, since they did not use coal? Yes.
"In making the shift, Portugal has overcome longstanding concerns about reliability and high cost. The lights go on in Lisbon even when the wind dies down at the vast two-year-old Alto Minho wind farm. The country’s electricity production costs and consumer electricity rates — including the premium prices paid for power from renewable sources — are about average for Europe, but still higher than those in China or the United States, countries that rely on cheap coal.
Portugal says it has kept costs down by focusing heavily on the cheapest forms of renewable energy — wind and hydropower — and ratcheting down the premium prices it pays to lure companies to build new plants.
While the government estimates that the total investment in revamping Portugal’s energy structure will be about 16.3 billion euros, or $22 billion, that cost is borne by the private companies that operate the grid and the renewable plants and is reflected in consumers’ electricity rates. The companies’ payback comes from the 15 years of guaranteed wholesale electricity rates promised by the government. Once the new infrastructure is completed, Mr. Pinho said, the system will cost about 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) a year less to run than it formerly did, primarily by avoiding natural gas imports.
A smaller savings will come from carbon credits Portugal can sell under the European Union’s carbon trading system: countries and industries that produce fewer emissions than allotted can sell permits to those that exceed their limits."
What we must ask ourselves is, how much more are we willing to pay for energy that is made right here in the United States instead of imported from countries that hate us, for energy that is clean, rather than coming from powerplants driven by coal, which spread acid rain across our forests, and the extraction of whose fuel results in pollution and ugly scars on the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia? Do Americans no longer have any ability to sacrifice even a penny to a worthwhile change?
Clean, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar panels and hydro power have their own issues. But one reason the United States has trouble even converting to any of these energy sources is that our power grid is completely outdated, and there seems to be no political will to update it. Even the limited renewable energy sources we have, such as wind turbines, are not being fully utilized since our system has no way to store the energy they produce if it is not being used immediately.
Our country desperately needs a makeover. But the constant drumbeat of the Right against ever raising taxes, even on the very rich, and a lack of political will on the part of the Left, precludes the country from making any of the changes that need to be made. And Americans themselves have forgotten what it means to be willing to pay a little more and get something done.
Don't worry, they will complain about the potholes in the road and the lousy service on the commuter lines, and the poor education in our schools. Americans are great at complaining about lack of services. But they're even better at complaining about taxes. And without taxes, you don't get roads. You don't get infrastructure. You don't get garbage collected. And eventually you live in a third-world country.
And on that cheery note, I will escape back to the August swelter. Try to stay cool and enjoy the summer!