Sundays with Terry: The Flint Hills

In celebration of Labor Day Terry, Casey and I visited the Flint Hills. Following the “America’s By-Ways” route from Callaway, Ks. to Council Grove, we spent a day surrounded by evidences of a simpler way of life: small towns, coffee shops and two lane highways.

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The grasslands, rolling hills and unassuming waterways are lovely, if not dramatic.

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Abandoned houses seem just a little bit more exotic in the Flint Hills than when we see them in our own community.

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Death comes as surely as anywhere else.

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Savannah Trail

The trails of Helen Putnam Park are among my favorite places to explore. This beautiful space is on the west side of Petaluma, about 15 minutes across town from our house. There are over 200 acres of hills, trees, meadows and trails.

While Mum was visiting last weekend, we took a walk along Panorama Trail, which then meets up with the Savannah Trail. I love these shots. The trees are beautiful, with grass and wildflowers aplenty.

Helen Putnam Regional Park

Helen Putnam Regional Park

Why you should consider building a Living Roof

When visiting the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco last weekend, we learned about something called the “Heat Island Effect.” This refers to the rise in temperature in densely populated areas, typically cities with lots of buildings and little green space. According to the U.S. EPA, the annual mean air temperature in cities with 1+ million people can be anywhere from 1.8-5.4°F warmer than its surroundings. In the sun of summer, roof and pavement surfaces can be 50-90°F hotter than the air temperatures. Imagine how miserable this temperature increase can feel if you are stuck in the middle of a concrete jungle, with no trees or grass to cool you down.

Placard at the California Academy of Sciences rooftop observation deck describing the "Heat Island Effect"

Placard at the California Academy of Sciences rooftop deck describing the “Heat Island Effect”

Some problems associated with the Heat Island Effect:

Increased Energy Consumption — According to a placard atop the living roof at the California Academy of Sciences, one sixth of all electricity used in the U.S. goes to cooling buildings. As rooftop temperatures increase in urban areas, the buildings inside require additional air conditioning to keep the inside temperatures comfortable. ONE SIXTH….that’s a lot of energy!

Impaired Water Quality — Hotter surfaces in the city increased the temperature of stormwater runoff. According to the EPA, tests have shown that pavements reaching 100°F can increase the temperature of 70° rainwater into 95° runoff as it drains into the sewers, raising sewer water temperatures in the process. This then increases the temperatures of streams, rivers, etc. as runoff works its way back into our groundwater supply. As we’ve seen through many studies around global warming, increased water temperature around the globe can lead to sea level rise and a disruption in the aquatic ecosystems around the planet.

I’m sure there are many more problems, but I like focusing on solutions. How about building a Living Roof!

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

At the Academy of Sciences, we visited the Living Roof on top of the building. This roof is covered in grass, plants, rain filtration systems….you name it. According to another placard at the Academy, living roofs absorb most of their rainfall. In fact, the building at the Academy retains 98% of its rainwater, which saves over 13 million liters from flowing into the city’s stormwater/sewer system.  Living roofs also keep buildings cooler, reducing the need for air conditioning, and thus, reducing the release of resulting air pollutants.

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

Living Roof at California Academy of Sciences

I also think the incorporation of rooftop gardens or living roofs can provide a little green paradise in the middle of the big city, all without giving up valuable real estate. It’s basically like taking a backyard garden, and simply building it on the roof! Whether a residential or commercial building, a green space on the roof can provide tenants a little oasis, while reducing the building’s energy consumption and resulting pollution, all at the same time.

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The information in this post was gathered through the following sources: U.S. EPA website, www.epa.gov/hiri, and a visit to the California Academy of Sciences rooftop observation terrace. You can learn more about the Academy’s Living Roof at http://www.calacademy.org/academy/building/the_living_roof/.

The land of egrets and northern shovelers

I went for a walk around the Novato Marsh last week with my good friend David. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and there were birds all around. There were northern shovelers, red tailed hawks in the air, and an egret perched on a slim strip of grass above the water.

With the water reflecting the beautiful clouds above, the northern shoveler swims along with his friends.

With the water reflecting the beautiful clouds above, the northern shoveler navigates his way to his friends.

An egret enjoys a walk in the grass at Novato Marsh.

An egret enjoys a walk in the grass at Novato Marsh.

Flora

One of the beautiful things about California is the many varieties of flora you can find throughout the state. My two favorite areas are the wine country and the coast. Both beautiful. Both peaceful. But while the wine country continues to grow in both agricultural and economic development, the coast remains largely untouched. Thanks to the California Coastal Commission, established in 1972, and the Coastal Act of 1976, the use of land and water in the coastal zone is carefully planned and regulated. As a result, the coast north of San Francisco continues to be undeveloped, and flora continues to flourish.

Flora along California Coast at Bodega Headlands

This is a shot from my mini-hike at Bodega Headlands back in November. Since I am usually focused on pictures of the ocean and of sunset, I thought this would be a nice addition to my photographic repertoire. Given, the ocean is still in the background, but these red finger-like plants were simply too interesting to ignore.

Warthogs and other zoo experiences

Lions and tigers and bears–that is what zoos are all about. Right?  I had not been to Kansas City’s zoo for years But I charmed my great friend, Denise, into a weekend visit.  We never did see any lions, or tigers or bears.  It was hot outside and they were hiding somewhere cool.  This wonderful leopard was alone worth the visit.  Even as it slept in the shade, we knew we wouldn’t want to meet it in the wild.

Today’s zoo is nothing like the zoo of my childhood.  Once packed into a small area within Swope Park, the zoo has grown to provide an environment for animals and visitors that give us at least some sense of how the animals might actually live in the wild–well, absent the whole process of catching and eating other zoo animals!

Some areas of the zoo property appear to the eye to be in the wilderness.  It is easy to forget we are in the middle of a metropolitan area. The challenge is that it can actually be difficult to find, let alone photograph, the zoo’s inhabitants. The sense of isolation is worth it.

Denise and I bought platinum tickets which allowed us to ride the trains, buses, trams and gondolas without standing in additional lines. The rides themselves became part of the fun.

With many animals we expected to see napping in the shade, we transferred our attention to animals and birds that seemed to thrive in the sun. We had a great time watching the warthogs bath in the muddy stream. Seriously, I have rarely seen animals in greater need of a makeover!  But they were wonderful to watch.

While giving the appearance of open country, the zoo’s exhibits are carefully divided in such a way that the animals are safe from each other.  Often multiple animals and birds were in the same areas.  They happily ignore each other.

There were a wonderfully rich variety of colorful birds throughout the exhibit.  Many were best seen from the gondola.

We will return in cooler weather.  Hopefully we will find an entirely different group of interesting zoo inhabitants to photograph.  I am looking forward to it.