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Posts Tagged ‘sheep’

Photo: Sustainergy
Solar arrays can reduce a farm’s carbon footprint while allowing room for crops and livestock. In Japan, Sustainergy has designed “solar farms at large scale so that farmers could obtain additional stable income.” Above, cloud ear mushrooms.

When a company solves two important problems with one project, I probably shouldn’t call it killing two birds with one stone. Send me a better metaphor, please.

Adele Peters writes at Fast Company about the dual benefits of a Japanese project that provides not only solar power but also a cozy place to grow mushrooms.

“Small farms in Japan are struggling to survive. Rural populations are shrinking, and the average farmer is 67 years old. But two new farms will test a different business model to try to reinvigorate the sector: solar panels with mushrooms growing underneath them.

“The farms, at two locations in northeastern Japan, will produce a combined 4,000 kilowatts of solar power that will be sold to a local utility, while the mushroom farms will yield an annual 40 tons of cloud-ear mushrooms, a crop that is typically imported from China.

“ ‘The environment needs to be dark and humid for mushrooms to spawn,’ says Minami Kikuchi, who leads the ‘solar sharing’ project that combines agriculture and solar power at Sustainergy, a renewable energy startup. ‘We simply created the suitable environment for them by making use of vacant space under the solar panels.’ ”

As Kikuchi explained to Fast Company in an email, ” ‘We designed the project of combination with solar farms at large scale so that farmers could obtain additional stable income. Of course, this renewable energy technology is contributing to the sustainable development of Japan too.’

“Today, an estimated 10% of Japanese farmland is not in use, despite the fact that the majority of food is imported. Government tariffs have discouraged companies from converting farmland to solar power generation, but a partial change in regulations in 2013 meant that solar power was more viable – provided that it was constructed in combination with agriculture. …

“Sustainergy believes that similar farms could potentially grow other crops that need little light, such as potatoes. In the U.S., researchers at the University of Massachusetts are exploring the possibility of growing a much wider range of crops; a farm in South Deerfield has spent the last two years growing plants like kale, broccoli, and Swiss chard under rows of nine-foot-high solar panels. …

“Farmers also have another option: Grazing sheep or cattle on grass grown under solar panels. Sheep can take the place of lawnmowers, and as the grass sucks up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the farm can have a negative carbon footprint.”

More at Fast Company, here.

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Photo: Ferg Horn via Associated Press
Two rabbits sat on the back of sheep to avoid rising flood waters on a farm near Dunedin, New Zealand, in July.

As we have all seen recently, a silver lining to hurricane devastation is that people who otherwise would never meet reach out instinctively to help each other in the rising waters.

Here is a story of animals helping other animals, albeit unwittingly. It took place in New Zealand, before either Hurricane Harvey or Irma.

As Nick Perry reported at the Boston Globe, “Three wild rabbits managed to escape rising floodwaters in New Zealand by clambering aboard sheep and surfing to safety on their backs.

“Ferg Horne, 64, says he’s been farming since he left school at age 15 and has never seen anything quite like it.

“He was trudging through pelting rain to rescue a neighbor’s 40 sheep from the floodwaters [at] their South Island farm near Dunedin when he spotted some dark shapes from a distance.

“He was puzzled because he knew his neighbor, who was away in Russia attending a nephew’s wedding, didn’t have any black-faced sheep. As he got closer, he thought it might be debris from the storm, which had drenched the area and forced Horne to evacuate his home.

“Then he saw the bedraggled rabbits hitching a ride — two on one sheep and a third on another sheep.

‘‘ ‘I couldn’t believe it for a start,’ he said.

“Nobody else would believe him either without proof, he thought, so he got out his phone to take a photo, an image he figured his grandchildren would enjoy. In fact, he inadvertently shot a short video. …

“Horne herded the sheep to a patch of dry ground on the farm about 50 meters (164 feet) away. The sheep didn’t like it.

‘‘ ‘As they jumped through the water, the rabbits had a jolly good try at staying on,’’ Horne said.

“He said the rabbits appeared to cling onto the wool with their paws. As they approached the higher ground, the rabbits fell off but managed to climb a hedge to safety.”

More.

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Today I sat on a shady bench next to Fort Point Channel and ate my Vietnamese noodles from the food truck. In front of me, floating on a green platform visited by cormorants, were two sheep — a big one and a small one. As the breeze and the tide nudged the platform, it turned slowly, showing the sculptures with different shadings and from different angles.

Steve Annear at the Boston Globe says, “The installation, called ‘Who Wears Wool,’ was created by artist Hilary Zelson, and pays homage to the Fort Point area’s former wool trade. … Earlier this year, FPAC [Fort Point Arts Community] put out a request for proposals seeking an artist who could weave together a prominent display connecting the neighborhood’s arts community with residents and visitors.  …

“For the project, Zelson said she layered EPS foam — or expanded polystyrene — to create the bodies of the sheep. The layers are held together with a spray adhesive, and the sheep are bolted to the dock with an armature of steel rods. Once built, the sheep were covered in packing peanuts to create the look of wool, before the entire thing was covered with a white acrylic latex coating …

“Zelson started working on the project in August. The first six weeks alone were dedicated to planning, she said.

“ ‘Once I was able to get the foam to my studio, I was working seven days a week,’ she said. ‘It was probably a 300-hour project.’ … The project — from the 3D renderings to the welding to the stacking of foam — was documented on Zelson’s Instagram account”

More here.

What I see in my photo are a ewe and a lamb — and cormorants.
100715-sheep-sculpture-ft-pt-channe;l

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In case you missed it, the NY Times had a great story on the discovery of ancient fragments of the Quran (or Koran) in Birmingham, England, of all places, where they had been long overlooked.

Dan Bilefsky writes, “The ancient manuscript, written on sheep or goat skin, sat for nearly a century at a university library, with scholars unaware of its significance.

“That is, until Alba Fedeli, a researcher at the University of Birmingham studying for her doctorate, became captivated by its calligraphy and noticed that two of its pages appeared misbound alongside pages of a similar Quranic manuscript from a later date.

“The scripts did not match. Prodded by her observations, the university sent the pages out for radiocarbon testing.

“[In July], researchers at the University of Birmingham revealed the startling finding that the fragments appeared to be part of what could be the world’s oldest copy of the Quran, and researchers say it may have been transcribed by a contemporary of the Prophet Muhammad.

” ‘We were bowled over, startled indeed,’ said David Thomas, a professor of Christianity and Islam at the University of Birmingham, after he and other researchers learned recently of the manuscript’s provenance.”

The manuscript fragments are estimated to be at least 1,370 years old.

Lots more here.

Video: BBC, by way of Youtube

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There are a few websites that are always reliable for blog topics: Brain Pickings, Studio 360, Only a Game, On the Media, Eco RI News, Arts Journal, and until recently, AndrewSullivan.com (Andrew retired).

Another website I like a lot is the one for the radio show Living on Earth. Here Living on Earth‘s Steve Curwood touches base with writer Mark Seth Lender to learn about lambs that teach themselves to climb  (kind of like the kids in the wild playgrounds we’ve noted).

“Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are born with all the climbing gear they need: feet evolved to grab and hold on near-vertical rock, and an uncanny sense of balance. Writer Mark Seth Lender came across a herd of the sheep near Alberta’s Jasper National Park late last summer and discovered that for the lambs, having the equipment is not enough. They still have to learn how to use it.”

Lender explains, “They are working it out. The lambs, by themselves. Where the mountain tapers smooth and hard off the ridgeline. The rest of the herd, already picking their way among the crags and cracks is heading down. But the lambs upon this unfamiliar terrain, hold back. The ewe by her stance and where she looks has led them here. To the edge. But will not show them how. Down they will learn on their own.

“She stands aside, and waits. …

“They are not full of play. They stand on the high point and look, long, toward the river and the sweet grass far …  far … below. They look. And look: To left to right slowly turning their heads. They plan: each move, each angle polished into an extended curve. A calculus: For every way point, every stopping place, the risk of a dead end. …

“Sometimes the only down is up: they scramble against the vertical, grappling with their cloven feet, the ledge where the gamble led too narrow for a bird. Sometimes, what looks easy is impossible: the gradual slope, which ends in a sheer and impassible cliff. Sometimes the granite cleaved along the head grain is the only path and the only safety a headlong run, the living rock inclined too steep for caution.

“The hooves of rocky mountain bighorn sheep are broad as a puck, gray as the living rock (as if the color gives them grip). They hold, like India rubber pads, where purchase seems untenable, a magician’s trick, inertia where there should be none. Up where the trees are far and few and the dead wood outnumbers the living.” More here.

Photo: Mark Seth Lender
The ewe leads them to the edge, but will not show them how to climb down.

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Two incredibly photogenic states.

We got a special kick out of the sheep and chickens of my husband’s cousin, a dentist. He and his wife really know how to get the most out of the rural life.

waitsfield-vt-Post-office

covered-bridge

vermont-river

nh-sheep

calf-nursing

artisan-and-ornaments

green-mt-coffee-roasters

peace-love-cows

waitsfield-coffee-shop

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Here is an annual spectacle I’d love to see.

“Shepherds led a flock of 2,000 sheep through the streets of Spain’s capital and largest city on Sunday, in defense of ancient grazing, droving and migration rights that have been increasingly threatened by urban sprawl and modern agricultural practices.

“Those urban settings were once open fields and woodlands, crisscrossed by droving routes. Since at least the year 1273, the country’s shepherds have had the legal right to use about 78,000 miles of droving routes around the country to move livestock seasonally between summer pastures in the cool highlands and more protected lowland grazing areas in the winter.

“Every year, a handful of shepherds defend that right in Spain’s capital city.”

I guess it’s use it or lose it. Plus it’s good to make people think about where their food and wool come from, and whether things have changed for the better.

More from the Associated Press.

Photo: Andres Kudacki/Associated Press
Shepherds led a flock of 2,000 sheep through some of Madrid’s most sophisticated settings on Sunday.

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