Every Mound of Grass is a Greenhouse

I live in an exotic landscape on a planet whirling through solar space, in which every greenhouse has a heating system pointed straight at the sun, to melt water and get things going.

By the time the spring comes, the spring of the grass will have finished its spring thing. Valley warming comes about when you graze off this grass. From a valley perspective, global warming is the anti-greenhouse effect!

Fall Rain in the Grasslands

So, it rains, right. 35 centimetres of snow have already melted. Now the rain.

Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain.

And the sun.

Melting stuff, even through the clouds of rain.

So, that’s fun.

But what’s it all going to do? Flow away? Not if we can help it! Let me introduce my friends, the beavers of the dry hills, the water keepers!

Look at them hold onto that rain!

They are not going to let it go, not these girls.

No way.

Or at least not yet. This is the grassland equivalent of a storage dam, a big lake in the mountains holding back the rivers so that the soil (and the roots) aren’t oversaturated, and moving the water out to the root tips, where bacteria can use it to dissolve minerals (for the roots) and roots can draw it in. In this case, when the wind comes and that sun will start drying things out again instead of just warming them up, well, down will come the stored rain, bridging the drying effect, and keeping the soil wet until the frost comes. Run off is prevented in this way. Soil health is protected from the air in this way. Isn’t this a beautiful aerial lake?

And my other sisters, the ponderosa pines, are in on it too. Look at them carefully aligning the water beneath their branches. When it falls, it will water the dryest parts of the soil, the ones protected by the needles.

Not only that, but look at this young one drawing the rain in, shedding it off her waxy needles, and then holding it on their rough undersurfaces. Right now, she is breathing through a cooling veil of water. It’s a kind of hibernation.

Not only that, look how needles, splayed horizontally by the weight of water, hold water droplets between them in stronger bonds, by their naturally-occuring capillary tension, making capillaries in the air. That’s a technology that can be adapted to water storage and transport systems. Yet other sisters in the grasslands use the rain to keep their fruit fresh, and keep a nice healthy bacterial environment, so the frosts of January and the sun of February can set those bacteria to work breaking down the acids of these fruits to sugar …

… right when the birds will need it. Until then, beauty keeps humans in thrall.

But who would mind with a grassland team like this?

Big Ears for Big Sagebrush

The Big Sage blossoms with its scrubby flower stalks in the fall. There’s not great colour in them, but they do stick way up high. I’ve wondered about that often, with thoughts like this: “Hey, Big Sage, why oh why oh why?”
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It’s kind of, well, blah. “Maybe it’s a wind thing,” I thought. But, I dunno. Look what happens in February, when the sun comes in through cloud.p1480241

The brown flower stalks catch the evening sun coming into the gullies, while the plants do not. It’s pretty dramatic. Look at the slope above in the image below (to the left) and compare to the hotter slope to the right.p1480238

Is this sticking way up and turning copper in the late winter sun a way of getting the benefit of the hot slope without drying out as it does? Does this strategy bring spring months early to the seeds of the big sage? I dunno, but it does so for me.

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And the ladies, of course. Check out the ears. They are good at getting up above the sage.p1480454

Maybe the flower stalks are big sage ears? What are they listening for? Wind? Birds? The sun? Ah, if we could hear that sound.

Living with Technology

When all the trees are gone, technology can fill the gap.

P1070468Mason Bee Nests in Plastic

Here’s a rainbird sprinkler, named after a robin, with a robin, that loves rain, using it as a perch as the rainbird extends the robin’s range by providing environment for invasive earthworms, which robins have learned to love, in the West Coast rainforest.

P1070457Cheep! Cheep!

Earth hasn’t given up yet.

Sagebrush and Global Cooling

The image below shows a water strider. It uses the intermolecular bonds of water to hold itself up. If you look closely you can see the water bend beneath it, as if these creatures were walking on a film. They are: a film of energy.Meet the dry land water strider: big sagebrush.P2010108 The leaves of this aromatic plant are covered in tiny hairs.P2010101 These hairs trap the water which the leaves breathe out while they’re making sugar by eating photons from the sun.P2010096 They hold it in place by using those hairs in the way the water strider uses its legs. The result is a bond between the hairs of the big sage and the intermolecular bonds of the water.P2010095 This provides a high water atmosphere above the surface of the leaf, so it doesn’t lose water in the heat of the day, by augmenting the surface tension of the water — water’s own energy — to prevent the movement of water molecules across the barrier.P2010093

Just as water striders use the bonds of the water to hold themselves up in the air. This has been a summer of drought and fire. We would have gone a long way towards preventing it if we had adapted this technology and made membranes for our open water five years ago, or even this spring. It has the same effect as shade.

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In an atmosphere in which the loss of water, even from human skin, to the atmosphere creates heat, global cooling can start with the big sage.

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Sometimes walking on water means holding it still.