A Plea to End Daylight Savings Time

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Peterborough Cathedral sundial. Image: Wikimedia.

Can we please stop this changing the clocks business? I swear I’d support a Kim Kardashian presidential bid if she’d make ending daylight savings time a campaign platform.

Anyone who keeps chickens knows that this time change nonsense has nothing to do with farming. The hens look to the sun as their cue to start their working day. The same goes for the cats who are, as I write this, staging a loud protest in the kitchen to let us know that breakfast is an hour late.

It’s bad enough that our clocks are an abstraction of solar time. Why do we need to add another layer of abstraction by changing our clocks rather than adjusting our lives to the passage of the seasons? This is the time equivalent of taking honest labor, abstracting it into money and then turning that into a collateralized debt obligation. As the layers of abstraction accrue, we lose touch with the rhythms of the rising and setting sun. We lose sleep. We piss off the chickens and cats.

Get working on that campaign, Kim.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Rat Poisons

rat-poison-wildlife-los-angelesI want to share this important message from our National Park Service: please don’t use rat poisons. The NPS has documented numerous predators deaths recently, in our area, including several young mountain lions and foxes all killed by eating rats who had consumed anticoagulant rat poisons.

I’m preaching to the converted here, since I doubt that many readers of this blog use rat poison, but I’m hoping some of you will share this post with your friends and relatives. The NPS has a short info page on how to control rats without using anticoagulant rat poisons.

Beekeeping Legal in Los Angeles!

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Thanks to the hard work of the folks at Honey Love, beekeeping in Los Angeles is now legal after a unanimous vote by the LA City Council. It was the culmination of four years of Honey Love’s lobbying efforts. The city planning department also did a great job of coming up with a common-sense revision to the city code. The new regulations legalize beekeeping in residential zones while requiring beekeepers to keep the bees six feet from the property line and have a water source.

There were more than a few obstacles to legalizing beekeeping in Los Angeles. Special thanks must go to Chelsea and Rob of Honey Love who diplomatically balanced beekeepers with different management styles as well as dealing with skeptical neighborhood councils and politicians.

While I was unable to go to the meeting yesterday, I did get to experience what it’s like to go in front of a hostile audience when I appeared before the Pacific Palisades Neighborhood Council to defend the code revision. It’s the first time in my life I’ve been protested. I had to face a row of high school students holding up blown up photos of people covered in bees (which were actually stunt people doing the swarmed by bees trick). I had a few flashbacks to my less than stellar year on the Culver City Junior High Debate Team and left the meeting depressed that a generation of children were being taught by their elders to be afraid of nature.

Despite these struggles, yesterday’s legalization is a positive sign that many people want to reconnect with the natural world. Everything is connected: heightened awareness of the plight of bees goes hand in hand with issues such as the overuse of pesticides and where our food comes from. It’s a great week for the City of Los Angeles.

A happy tangle

finches and sunflowers

One of my favorite sights this summer has been the view out our front window. There, quick winged little goldfinches come and go all day long. The bird feeder they are visiting is festooned all around with little bobbing sunflowers. Sometimes I mistake a finch for a flower, and think a flower has sprung into flight.

The sunflower is an tenacious volunteer. When I noticed it sprouting in the deep shade of our pomegranate tree, I didn’t think it had much hope for survival–and yet I’ve learned to respect the choices of volunteer plants, as Fukuoko-san advised.

Sure enough, the sunflower knew what it was doing. It concentrated all its resources into an epic twelve foot growth spurt, straight up, like a bamboo stalk. Only once it crested the top of the pomegranate and found the sun did it begin to spread its arms, and I swear that when it did, I could hear a sigh of relief.

Now this monster sunflower is sprawling all over the pomegranate, using it and the bird feeder pole for support. There are hundreds of little yellow flowers on it,  from the highest reaches to to the deepest shade on the ground.

The heads are going to seed, and so have become a food source for the birds, who I often see bobbing on them, nibbling as they wait their turn for the feeder. Squirrels nosh on them too. And the bright yellow flowers look great against our ripe, ruby red pomegranates, which, when they split open, are also a food source for the birds.

It’s hard to describe, and pretty much impossible to photograph, this cheery, eye-popping chaos, but we enjoy it, and the cats are entranced.

While I’ve sometimes wondered if it is right to keep a feeder in our yard, I feel good about it as of now, because we are providing other sources of forage as well. We let our plants go to seed. We don’t spray, so there are plenty¬† of bugs to eat. (Why so many spiders this year???) My thoughts are always turning toward planting strategies which provide year round food sources for our flying friends.

If you do keep a feeder, remember to clean it at least once a month. There are some bad bird diseases going around. Scrub it with soap and water and–according to birdish authorities like the Audubon Society–soak it afterward in a 10% bleach solution. I don’t do bleach, so I spray mine down with rubbing alcohol, which I keep in a spray bottle to sterilize my pruning shears. It’s just handy. If I didn’t have that, I’d use vinegar.

Clean out your birdbaths, too. You don’t have to bleach them, but change the water regularly and don’t let them get all gunky. And if you keep hummingbird feeders, you probably know those need to be cleaned out with hot water every few days, so mold doesn’t form in the sugar.

bird feeder cleaning