Posts Tagged ‘rain’

Sam Knowlton is an interesting guy who specializes in improvements to coffee growing — improvements that help both farmers and the environment.

According to his SoilSymbiotics website, he “offers a practical, principle based suite of consulting and education services to farmers and growers seeking to increase crop quality, yield and soil health.”

On Twitter, @samdknowlton recently posted a photo of a shady coffee farm with the words, “The typical coffee farm applies about 200 kg/ha of synthetic nitrogen (N) each year, an excessive amount. I worked with this farm to phase out synthetic N and cut a total of 195,000 kgs of annual applications. The trees are healthier, higher yielding, and the coffee tastes better.”

I went to Knowlton’s blog to learn more. In a typically intriguing post, he wrote, “To make it rain, plant more coffee trees.

“Coffee-growing regions are quickly becoming hotter and drier while at the same time losing substantial tree cover. Trees and forests create and maintain their ideal conditions by producing rainfall, and coffee excels as a crop of economic significance that thrives as part of a forest-like system. 

“Coffee farms cover 11 million hectares of ecologically sensitive land worldwide. Many of these farms are the last bastion of standing trees in landscapes that would otherwise be deforested and dehydrated. As part of an integrated agroforestry system, coffee trees are the key to preserving and expanding tree cover and maintaining and repairing regional water cycles.  

“Contrary to commodity crops like corn and soy, which are ecologically unfit for the fields where they’re planted, coffee is the ideal crop for most of the ecosystems where it grows. As an understory species, coffee trees prefer a shade story above them. They grow most vibrantly within a web of companion plants among their drooping branches adorned with waxy emerald leaves and bright red cherries. Coffee trees offer the unique possibility of planting a productive crop in a forest-like system of complimentary trees of multifunctional use like hardwoods, nitrogen fixers, fruits, and nuts. 

“Grown within an integrated agroforestry system, coffee farmers can produce abundant high-quality yields while simultaneously regenerating soil, water cycles, and overall ecosystem function. 

“The problem is most coffee farms are far from this ideal. The few successfully implementing integrated systems are relatively unknown compared to the standard coffee industry narratives dominated by pessimism and non-solutions. …

“In several coffee-growing countries, coffee trees represent a large share of the remaining tree cover. Between 1970 and 1990, approximately 50% of the shade trees associated with coffee farms in Latin America were lost. Globally, coffee farms have lost 20% of their shade trees since the mid-1990s, and countries like Costa Rica and Colombia lost between 50% and 60% of shade tree cover. This is a consequence of intensified production, where coffee trees grow in full sun and bare soil. The loss of shade is accompanied by the increased use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, further disturbing the ecology of these areas.  

“The textbook description of the water cycle presents the ocean as the primary source of condensed atmospheric moisture and ultimately falls as rain. Missing is the role of trees as veritable water fountains, pulling water up from the soil with their extensive root systems and releasing that moisture into the atmosphere through the microscopic pores of their leaves. This arboreal version of sweating is the process known as transpiration. A single tree can transpire hundreds of liters of water per day, and a forest, with its extensive, layered leaf surface area, can transpire an amount of moisture equal to or exceeding that of a large body of water. 

“Another step is required to turn the transpired water into rainfall, and trees are once again the benefactors making it all happen. 

“Trees transpire water into the atmosphere to produce precipitation and ice particles that take shape in the clouds. Not long ago, the prevailing belief was that small mineral particles served as the nuclei to catalyze ice particle formation. However, we now know that microbes, originating from the forests below, catalyze ice particle formation and trigger precipitation at higher temperatures than inert material like minerals. In other words, clouds don’t have to be as cold for ice nucleation, and rainfall can occur in a broader range of conditions.  

“Approximately 40% of precipitation over land originates from the evaporation and transpiration of water from plants. 

Simply put, trees create rainfall. In one of the more impressive feats of low-tech terraforming, Willie Smits reforested a 2,000-hectare area of clearcut Borneo forest using agroforestry and six years later documented a 12% increase in cloud cover with a 25% increase in rainfall

“Forests don’t simply grow in moist areas; they create and maintain the conditions in which they grow by producing rainfall and shortening the length of the dry season.  When trees are removed from the landscape, the rainy season becomes sporadic, and less water is available for evaporation and transpiration, effectively turning off the source of rainfall. 

“A key theme of the theory described above is the forest structure, not just individual trees. The action of trees seeding the rain through transpiration and microbial ice nucleation is the product of a more complex forest structure and greater leaf surface area — not monocrop tree plantations. 

“While coffee has been planted as a monocrop with increasing furor in the past few decades, it is one of the only crops of economic significance that grows as part of a system that mimics the natural forest structure and dynamics of its tropical environs. The benefits of growing coffee in an agroforestry system are vast.”

More at Sam Knowlton’s blog, here. Hat tip: John.

Read Full Post »

30,000 Runners


I confess that the picture above was taken last August when there were no crowds. It was the cherished goal of 30,000 runners today, including Erik.

After the Boston Marathon downpour last year, when Stuga40 was properly dressed and I wasn’t, I ordered a gigantic blue poncho and a pair of baggy rain pants from LL Bean. Today was the first day I wore the outfit. It wasn’t needed: the rain let up for the whole time I was outdoors.

Results from Boston Marathon 2019, reported by Hayden Bird at the Boston Globe:

“Men’s wheelchair: Daniel Romanchuk of the United States wins, becoming the first American man to win the wheelchair division in Boston since 1993. He’s also the youngest winner in that category ever.

“Women’s wheelchair: Switzerland’s Manuela Schär won her second Boston Marathon.

“Women’s race: Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia won in her first attempt in Boston with an unofficial time of 2:23:31.

“Men’s race: Lawrence Cherono of Kenya won the men’s race.”

Erik, a frequent Marathon runner, had the very respectable time of 3 hours, 8 minutes, and 2 seconds.

Here I am honoring Erik’s birthplace with my Swedish regalia, standing in sunshine and expecting rain. My husband took the picture where we usually watch — in Newton, near the Marathon statues.



Read Full Post »


Photo: Fadel Senna /AFP/Getty Images
The Sahara desert is seen creeping up on a palm field. Desertification can be reversed, but it starts with thinking big.

I’m always so impressed with people who think big about big problems. Here is a credible idea for keeping the Sahara desert from taking over more of Africa. Is it possible? Don’t know. But thank goodness for scientists who get fired up when they hear that something’s not possible!

Dan Charles has a report at National Public Radio (NPR) on how we could reverse desertification.

“The Sahara desert is expanding, and has been for at least a century. It’s a phenomenon that seems impossible to stop.

“But it hasn’t stopped at least one group of scientists from dreaming of a way to do it. And their proposed solution, a grand scheme that involves covering vast areas of desert with solar panels and windmills, just got published in the prestigious journal Science.

“Eugenia Kalnay, a prominent atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland, has been thinking about this idea for a decade. …

“Her academic adviser at MIT, Jule Charney, was among the first to describe the vicious cycle that can lead to desertification. With drought, green vegetation disappears, and the light-colored dirt that remains reflects more of the sun. This cools the land surface, which in turn means that there’s less heat driving air upward into higher and cooler levels of the atmosphere – the process that normally produces precipitation. So there’s less rain, killing even more vegetation.

“Kalnay wondered if there might be a way to revive those atmospheric currents. ‘It occurred to me that the same [cycle] would go in the opposite way, so it would increase precipitation, and vegetation, and then more precipitation,’ she says.

“And then she thought of solar panels. They’re dark, so they don’t reflect the sun’s light. Could they heat up the surface and revive those rain-bringing air currents?

“Kalnay convinced one of her post-doc researchers to create a computer simulation of an otherworldly Sahara where 20 percent of the land is covered with solar panels. The computer model also turned the desert into a giant wind farm, covered with turbines. Kalnay thought they might also help boost those beneficial air currents.

“And the simulation turned out just the way she’d hoped. It showed rainfall increasing by enough to bring back vegetation. The model showed the biggest increases in rainfall along the southern edge of the Sahara, the area called the Sahel. …

“The super solar farm she imagines is huge, as big as the entire United States. And it would generate four times as much electricity as the entire planet consumes right now. Kalmay talks of novel high-capacity transmission lines delivering power to Europe and the rest of Africa. …

“She’s used to imagining the workings of the entire planet’s atmosphere. A few billion solar panels and windmills in the desert? No big deal.” More at NPR, here.

If you imagine it, it can happen. “The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” (Some translations say “crocus.” Check out variations on the quotation here. They all amount to the same thing: imagining “the impossible.”)

Read Full Post »

PUBLIC WORKS Musical Adaptation of William Shakespeare's

Conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub 
Music and Lyrics by Shaina Taub
Choreography by Lorin Latarro
Directed by Oskar Eustis and Kwame Kwei-Armah

Featuring Kim Blanck (Femal

Photo: Joan Marcus
From left, Daniel Hall, Lori Brown-Niang, Shaina Taub, and Shuler Hensley in “Twelfth Night” at the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park. Brown-Niang’s peignoir is usually “the first to go” on exceptionally hot nights when the feathers start shedding.

On this second day of fall in Massachusetts, the temperature was only 45 degrees at 6 a.m., when I wrote this. I felt very glad that 2018’s overpowering heat and humidity were past.

I can only imagine what it must have been like for outdoor actors under fierce stage lighting in summer 2018. At American Theatre, there’s a fun article about designing costumes for actors performing in all kinds of weather.

Billy McEntee wrote, “Across the country, as actors and audiences endure rain, heat, and bugs to present and partake of free professional performances of the Bard’s classics, one group of designers has a special challenge: costume designers. …

“ ‘Designing for outdoor environments is challenging yet fascinating,’ said Ying-Jung Chen, the costume designer for Independent Shakespeare Company’s ‘Titus Andronicus’ in Los Angeles. … ‘I’ve learned a lot through each outdoor experience about fabric technology and construction techniques.’ …

“It’s the dry heat that can prove most threatening. Evenings in the summer can stay above 80 degrees in Southern California; couple that with acrobatic performances, bushy wigs, and blaring stage lights, and actors are sure to sweat through even the thinnest of fabrics. …

“But heat invites more than just exhaustion and sweat; it’s also a magnet for bugs, something that Chen had to account for when creating stage blood for her costumes.

” ‘Blood is integral to Titus,’ Chen says. ‘My recipe was successful in past indoor productions. With a corn syrup base, it’s easy to wash out, edible, and realistic. But when doing outdoor performances, the sugar-based corn syrup attracts bugs. Fortunately, the theatre company has years of outdoor performance experience and provided a great recipe that’s washable, edible, and doesn’t allure insects.’ …

“Rain is no stranger to American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisc., though the threat of precipitation doesn’t change the creative process. As costume designer Robert Morgan succinctly puts it: ‘Design first, problem-solve later.’ He’s the costume designer for APT’s ‘As You Like It’ (running through Oct. 7). …

“ ‘Shoes are covered with non-slip dance rubber,’ he says. ‘But evening dew can make our outdoor stage slippery, so at APT we add sand to paint’ to give the stage’s surface extra traction.

“As in L.A., Morgan must also consider sweltering temperatures. This includes having freezer packs on hand for actors to wear beneath their costumes and crafting a ‘heat plan.’ which is ‘meant to accommodate the actors’ well-being on exceptionally hot, muggy nights and matinees under an unforgiving midsummer sun,’ Morgan said. …

“Oppressive heat and humidity are staples of New York summers as well. After a successful first run in 2016, Andrea Hood returned to design costumes for the Public Theater’s current Shakespeare in the Park production, ‘Twelfth Night,’ a Public Works musical adaptation with songs by Shaina Taub. …

“Hood plans not only the intricacies of [the] fabrics but also how costume pieces may adjust with unexpected precipitation. ‘Fuchsia feathers often come loose on [the character] Maria’s peignoir in “Twelfth Night,” ‘ she notes. ‘It isn’t the most practical costume for an outdoor space, so if it’s raining she would likely skip that change altogether. It’s the one piece that would probably not go onstage in the rain.’

“But a light drizzle doesn’t always signal a costume adjustment, or even a cancelled performance. In fact, its effect—combined with stellar acting, of course—can be as spellbinding as any theatrical flourish, more dazzling than any stage magic.

“ ‘Last year it was pouring for the first night of tech for “As You Like It,” ‘ Hood recalled. ‘The actors didn’t get into costume at all.’ Instead they wore street clothes, covered with plastic ponchos. ‘It was wonderful,’ she enthuses. ‘By midnight there were only five actors left running a number over and over again, still managing to smile. I loved being in the audience watching them—the rain didn’t even matter.’ ”

More at American Theatre, here.

Read Full Post »

Hours in an icy rain madly cheering family and strangers along with four grandchildren under the age of five. Erik made his best time, coming in under three hours. John looked on the web and found that Erik’s sister was the fourth woman from Denmark to cross the finish line yesterday, and Erik’s cousin was the fourth woman from Sweden. Erik’s mother waved a makeshift Swedish flag, which bled onto everything in the rain but elicited delight from unknown Swedes who also were running in the Boston Marathon.

Mile 19 in Newton was our meeting place, next to the hot-dog vendor. Suzanne got stuck on the wrong side, but the police knew this would happen and had little cards already printed out to tell people how to drive to the other side. She got there in time.

The day was a grand accomplishment for all concerned, not excluding four cold, soggy, cheering children.


Read Full Post »

Heavy rain Friday night stunned our dogwood. I include before and after, plus a gaggle of other photos from my springtime meanderings.

The elephant mural is at the entrance to Boston’s Chinatown. The fancy light fixture is outside Trade restaurant. The fence with crocheted wheels is at the Davis Square subway stop. The fountain is next to a rose garden honoring the mother of President Kennedy, Rose. The urban birdhouse is in the Greenway. The herring gull is at Boston Harbor. The Canada Geese are too prolific. The Mudworks sign is in Fort Point. And the flowers are at Verrill Farm.













Read Full Post »

Looking at streams swollen by yesterday’s rain, I began thinking about Scuffy the Tugboat.

“The water moved in a hurry, as all things move in a hurry when it is Spring. Scuffy was in a hurry, too. ‘Come back little tugboat, come back,’ cried the little boy.”


A farmers market in Providence was undaunted by the rain. The farmer at the farmstand here joked that the puddle was just a matter of hydroponic gardening. In other photos, I show peonies and a sign buffeted by the storm — and a rabbit too busy foraging to worry about cameras.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: