Pop! 

In the distance the muted sound of a single gun shot. I crouched low, waiting. 

Pop! 

Pop-pop! 

Pop-pop-pop-pop! 

In the dark corner of the alley way, I could not be sure of the direction of the gun fire. It was obvious the fight was escalating. 

The sound echoed, it was difficult to tell how many gunmen were out there among the deserted buildings. 

popopopopop-popopopopop

The rapid fire of an automatic weapon, followed by silence. One minute, two minutes, still I waited, barely wanting to breathe. 

Nearby, I heard a hushed voice. “Indy? Indy?” A hand reached out and touched my shoulder. “Indy ? Indy? Indy…ff? Jeff? Jeff? are you awake?”

family, natureI woke up…on my back deck…grinned sheepishly at my wife…and admitted I must have fallen asleep. “The Curse of the Black Walnut” was not the latest Indiana Jones adventure and no, I was not Harrison Ford. The pop-pop-popping was not the sound of gun fire. “The Curse of the Black Walnut” was the sound of dozens and dozens of walnuts falling from the trees and covering the ground; covering the ground where we had just spent the last four hours picking up walnuts.

A little over three years ago, we moved into our dream home. A nice home on about four acres, Mud Creek running through the backyard, a small white barn, a meadow, some woods and 28 Black Walnut trees in the back. The first fall we lived in the house, hundreds of walnuts fell to the ground. It was a pain, but honestly we didn’t think much about it. The former homeowner teased us a bit, but we shrugged it off.

The second year, Indiana had suffered a pretty severe drought. There were very few walnuts.

This year? This year was different. The walnuts began falling in mid-August. At first, it was easy to keep up with them. (Especially easy for me since Carmen did most of the “picking”). She would spend an hour or so a couple times a week walking the yard and picking up the nuts. She devised an ingenious method of using the old “pooper scooper” we had saved after our dogs had passed. She was able to pick up the nuts without the backbreaking job of bending over all the time. Even so, it was tough work.

As we got deeper into fall, more and more walnuts began to fall. It was now impossible to pick them all up in a single evening. In fact, it took three or four nights and by the time we got done, more had fallen. By this time, we had ordered another “pooper scooper” so we could both work.

The peak (we hope) was this past Saturday. We both worked for four hours to pick up all the walnuts. The yard was cleared. Carmen went inside and I sat down on the deck to rest and close my eyes a bit. About that time, the wind picked up. Pop. Pop. Pop-pop! Pop-pop-pop!

I can’t tell you how many walnuts we have picked up this season, exactly. What I can tell you is that a “pooper scooper” family, natureholds about 30 walnuts. Dumping those scoops into a wheelbarrow, we count 20 – 30 scoops to a load. I have lost track of the number of wheelbarrow loads I have dumped, but I am guessing it is closing in on a hundred. Do the math, THAT my friends is a LOT of walnuts.

So while the “The Curse of the Black Walnut” may not star Harrison Ford, I have PLENTY of cursing for those damn walnuts!

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

If that were all it were, I would probably be OK with it. However, I do have a problem with it, not with bourbons, shots or beers, mind you, but with trash, pounds and pounds of trash. GarbageHaulSmallA couple of times a week, we have to walk our 800 feet of road frontage and pick up trash. A couple of times a year, our neighbors have to join together to do a much larger clean up. Seriously, in this day and age, littering is still a problem?

The trash we pick up ranges from the Big Gulp Styrofoam cups, McDonald’s sacks, every imaginable brand of soft drink cans, to an unfathomable number of beer cans, beer bottles, vodka bottles, whiskey bottles, etc. etc. etc. For the record, these alcohol bottles are empty and thrown from cars…and we have an open container law? There is even one guy that must have a serious problem because we find an empty pint bottle of Jim Beam every Monday. I even sat behind a red pickup the other day, when the driver opened the window of his cab, stuffed a bag of McDonald’s trash out of it and threw it, not into the bed of his truck, but right on the side of the road. My honk, only drew a one fingered salute. Seriously?

We live in one of the most picturesque parts of our city. A few minutes east of one the largest shopping malls and one of the busiest intersections in the state, you descend into beautiful wooded valley. Trees overhang the road on both sides, a creek meanders through meadows and yards. It is quiet (except for the speeders who think it is a drag race, but that is ANOTHER post), it feels as if you are out in the country, not a part of a major metropolitan area.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4ozVMxzNAA&w=420&h=315]

There are only a few houses in this area, so most of the cars are “passing through” on their way to one of the most affluent suburbs in the region. When I drive through those areas, I do not see roadside trash scattered on their manicured lawns, it seems as if, they have decided to literally trash our road instead of their own.  Where do they think that trash goes? Who do they think cleans it up? (btw, some ends up in our rivers and streams see my previous post  A Dishwasher, two hot water heaters, and a hide-a-bed )  Do they not care what it looks like to drive by miles of soft drink cups? Seriously?

I fantasize about tracking some of the litterers down and dumping their trash onto their lawn, but that would make me no better then them. I have thought about collecting the trash and building a monument for all to see, but then I would just have to look at it (and people would probably litter more). Seriously?

I really can’t think of a solution for ignorance. I can’t think of a way to make people care.  Until then, we will continue to pick up after them and pray they don’t wrap their car around one of our trees. Seriously!

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Final installment of a series examining the impacts of a “dewatering system” on an eco-system. The series began with “We have met the enemy and he is us” This post introduces the topic of the impacts of a “dewatering system” on the infrastructure of a city. Part II “It’s all related” continues the discussion with the impacts on water and rivers. Part III of the series “What watt?” looks at the direct and indirect energy use resulting from the installation of the system and the resulting CO2 emissions.

PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride seems to be everywhere these days. It’s in everything from electric wires, to toys, to portable electronic devices and of course pipes. The “dewatering system” installed underneath the new 1,000 Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis consists of almost 5,000 feet of PVC pipes. These pipes are used to gather the naturally occurring groundwater and funnel it to the sump basins where it is then pumped into the Indianapolis sewer system.

PVC has been the subject of a lot of attention since its first commercial uses in the 20’s and 30’s. Throughout its lifecycle (manufacturing, use, and disposal), it has been linked to various health issues including cancer, birth defects and reproductive impairment. Many of the environmental and health issues stem from the additives used to soften the normally rigid material.

During the manufacturing process workers exposed to the vinyl chloride face an increased risk of cancer of various types. Since the link between the vinyl chloride and the cancer in workers was discovered in the 1970’s, changes in the manufacturing process have virtually eliminated the exposure to the workers. Virtually eliminated…I don’t know about you, but virtually eliminated does not make ME feel warm and fuzzy, nor does it make me want to go to work in one of those factories. However, the danger does not stop at the factory doors. The EPA found “vinyl chloride emissions from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ethylene dichloride (EDC), and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plants cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness. Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen that causes a rare cancer of the liver.”

Another problem with PVC is its tendency to leach and off-gas its chemicals. Leaching is a process by which the carcinogens and other poisons transfer to other things that come in contact with them. This was discovered to be a significant problem in such things as soft toys that would be chewed on by infants and even in (sorry mom) some adult “toys” as well. This has led to bans on various additives in some products. Studies have shown that chemicals in the PVC can even leach into water as it moves through a pipe. Off-gassing, is the process in which these poisons are released into the air. You know that new car smell? Yep, you guessed it…off-gassing! NOT a good thing. This has led to various manufacturers (Toyota, Nissan, Microsoft and others) to eliminate PVC from their products. It has also led to retailers either reducing the number of PVC products they carry or eliminating them altogether.

Finally, disposal…products made from PVC are very difficult to recycle. Since they are made up of various additives, the process to break down the material into useful components is costly, inefficient and only so successful. Most of the products made with PVC end up in being disposed of by the consumer, either by burning it with their trash, or throwing it away in their trash, where it might go to a municipal incinerator or to a landfill. What is significant about this is the fact that when burned, PVC releases all kinds of toxic chemicals into the air, like hydrogen chloride and dioxins. (Do you know how common landfill fires are?)

If all these things are wrong with PVC, why is it still in use? The answer is simple…it’s CHEAP! Human Health vs. the Dollar…now THAT discussion is a whole other BLOG!

Conclusion-

So dear reader, I hope you have stuck with me through this series of articles. I hope they underscore the synergistic nature of our environment and the need to consider ALL impacts when trying to solve an issue. What first looks like the fast, easy, and inexpensive way out may prove to be just the opposite. Finally, I hope they inspire you to get involved in your community by asking why things are done they way they are done and seeking better and better ways to live on this planet without killing it (and ourselves).

 

 

What was true in 1970 when Pogo first uttered his immortal words is truer still today. At the time of this writing, my city, Indianapolis (ok, yes I live in Carmel, but much to the chagrin of many Carmelites, Indianapolis STILL is the major metropolitan city in this area), is in the midst of a 17 year project to mitigate it’s sewer overflow problem. Indy, like several hundred other cities, utilizes a Combined Sewer Overflow system. Basically, what that means is wastewater from homes and businesses (uh, sewage!) and rainwater from streets and parking lots utilize the same pipes to transport the water (and the, uh, sewage) to the treatment plants. Sounds logical, right? You only have to lay one set of pipes, excellent! Except…when it rains. That’s where the overflow part of the Combined Sewer Overflow system comes in. When the amount of “water” to be processed exceeds the capacity of the system, it is allowed to flow freely (“floatables” and all) into local rivers and streams. In Indianapolis, the amount of rain required to cause the overflow is ¼”! One quarter of one inch! In 2008, Indianapolis received a rainfall of over ¼” SIXTY times…about 6 or 7 BILLION gallons of sewage a year! Anyone want to go for a swim? How about a nice drink? Or, fish fillet? Want to be grossed out? Check out WTHR’s Bob Segall’s article at http://www.wthr.com/Global/story.asp?S=9260797.

The good news is we are fixing the problem, to the tune of several BILLION dollars, but we are fixing it. The bad news is…we haven’t really learned anything in a hundred years. A recent article in the Indianapolis Business Journal featured the “dewatering system” of the new 1,000 room Marriott hotel in downtown Indianapolis. This $425 million project is part of our city’s plans for hosting the Super Bowl in 2012. “Dewatering System” sounds so innocuous doesn’t it? Sounds almost like a dehumidifier or something, right? So, what exactly is a “dewatering system”? Many of you have homes with basements; undoubtedly you have a sump pump. These systems are designed to funnel water to the pump where it can be moved away from the foundation of the house. They help to prevent water from leaking through the foundation of the house into your basement. On a much bigger scale, that is the type of system engineered at the Marriot. Still sounds pretty harmless, right?

The system at the Marriot has a series of almost 5,000 feet of PVC pipe, funneling water to sump wells that are four feet wide and nine feet deep. There are four pumps that run every minute of every day pumping 1,200 gallons of water a minute. That’s 1,728,000 gallons a DAY, or 630,720,000 gallons a YEAR! That is enough water to supply 10,000 households for an entire year! And, what are they doing with all that water? According to the senior project manager they are sending it “right to the [White] river”. Hmmm, so they ran a pipe west from those pumps over a ¼ mile UNDER White River State Park to the river, or was it south almost half a mile under Victory Field, or north under the Eiteljorg and the Indiana State Museum. Uh, I don’t think so Tim. If I were a bettin’ man, I’d bet they will pump 630,720,000 gallons of water each year into the Indianapolis Combined Sewer System, where it not only adds to the amount of waste water that has to be handled by the system, it also has to go through the waste water treatment facility and be processed before it goes “right to the river”.

What design issue led to the decision to pump over a ½ a BILLION gallons of water into the Combined Sewer System? The three story BELOW ground parking garage is five feet deeper than the level of the water table on the site….five feet. So, think about this…how many buildings in downtown Indy have three floors of parking, or other space below ground and are pumping just as much, if not more water into the Combined Sewer? Dozens? Hundreds? In some states, it is a criminal offense to capture the rain water that falls on your property, yet we are literally flushing billions of gallons of water each year down the drain…AND we are all paying for it. Not only are we paying for the project to overhaul the sewer system and the capacity to handle water that was not entering the sewers to begin with, but we are paying for the waste water treatment facilities and operations, and we pay for it in the damage all this water has on the river itself. One day, in the not so distant future, we are going to be desperate for water to drink. Think of the cost that will entail!

Surely in this day of Low Impact Development and Sustainable Design we can come up with better solutions than just dumping the water down the drain. How about a two story parking garage, instead of three, how about building above ground instead of below, how about using that water to flush the 1000 or so toilets in the new hotel and for other non-drinking uses, how about filtering it and using it in the hotel pool? How about building codes that require developers to USE the water on their site rather than just pumping it into the water system?

The impacts of design decisions like this one go far beyond the strain it places on our sewer infrastructure. The great environmentalist John Muir once wrote, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” In my next post, we will examine some of the other impacts of the “dewatering system” on, not only water, but energy, carbon, and human health.

I had never heard of Black Liquor until a colleague told me about it a few weeks ago (though I do confess to drinking several Black Dogs with some locals in a bar in Mumbai India a few years back…but that is another post!). Turns out, Black Liquor is not a drink at all, but is VERY bitter to swallow.

We’ve all heard of the bank bailout, we’ve heard of the auto industry bailouts, who knew we were bailing out the paper mill industry? Who knew they even need bailing out? Who knew we were bailing them out to the tune of $4 billion a year?

In 2005 congress enacted a law as part of a highway bill that would provide a tax credit to companies that would mix alternative fuels with fossil fuels. This tax credit provided a 50 cent per gallon tax credit OR DIRECT PAYMENT. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that this credit would cost the US Taxpayers (me and you) about $61 Million. Now, dear reader, how would YOU interpret the intent of this law? Any sane person would think something that is part of a highway bill would apply to vehicles, right? Any logical person would think the intent of this bill was to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used, right? I think even my dear friend Jay would agree that those are both logical conclusions.

Ok…put that on hold for a minute, while I tell you about Black Liquor. Black Liquor is a byproduct of the paper pulp making process (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_liquor). Since the 1930’s paper mills have been using Black Liquor as a fuel to create energy for their plants. Truly green, before green was cool! Before the recovery boiler was invented in the 30’s this Black Liquor was dumped in to streams and rivers killing off untold numbers of aquatic life. Some mills now achieve over 99% recovery and reuse of this byproduct. In fact US mills produce about 28.5 megawatts of electricity from the burning of this byproduct.

So, all you environmentalists are feeling pretty good about this about now…but as Paul Harvey used to say…in a moment the rest of the story.

Somewhere in 2007, some corporate bean counter had a brilliant idea. “What if we take diesel fuel and MIX it with the Black Liquor? It will still burn in our boilers…AND we will qualify for the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit. WHAT? You are going to take a process that used zero, zip, zilch fossil fuels and introduce the burning of fossil fuels so you can get a tax credit, a refundable tax credit at that (read…a direct payment). An average mill burns about 175 million gallons of black liquor, which equates to about 90 million bucks you and I are giving them! 90 Million bucks to an average mill and the entire program was only supposed to cost 61 million! My guess is that some of the folks that own these paper mills are the some folks complaining about the mounting federal deficit, decry government bailouts and think they pay too much in personal income tax! Hypocritical?

And now? We have Canada ticked off at us! Canada! Mad at us! Their mills don’t get part of this “bail out”! In fact, this practice has lead to layoffs in Canada. (think how outraged WE would be if it were reversed!)

Congress has a lot of issues in front of it when it returns from summer vacation…health care reform, the American Clean Energy and Security Act and countless others. Please express your feelings to your representatives…let them know they need to close this loop hole to stop the bail out of the paper industry!

Did you see the headline? Court OKs dumping gold mine waste in lake – AP, if you missed it, I am not surprised. I didn’t hear a peep about it on TV news nor did I read it in the papers. When I DID find out about I was outraged. “How could they do that?” How could they allow this mining company to dump the waste into a lake when everyone, including the mining company says it will kill every living thing in the lake? Surely, the Justices are not that cold and callous and anti-environment, there HAS to be more to the story than that, doesn’t there?

I searched online for an answer. Let me tell you, I found a lot of outrage, I lot of opinion in the “blog-o-sphere” on both sides but I wanted more answers. So, I did something I have never done before, I downloaded the entire Supreme Court Decision to read it for myself, every word, all 49 pages of it. Now let me be totally transparent with you, I am not a lawyer, but let me summarize.

Basically, Coeur Alaska, Inc. plans to reopen a gold mine that has been closed for over 80 years. Due to changes in technology (froth-flotation) they can now economically extract the gold that prior has proven to be too cost prohibitive to mine. The problem? The remnant of froth-flotation is a rock and water mixture called “slurry”. The company was faced with the problem of what to do with gallons and gallons of the slurry, produced at a rate of 200,000 gallons A DAY. Anecdotally, this slurry also contains copper, aluminum, lead and, my favorite, mercury. So after contemplating this dilemma, they decided, let’s dump it in Lower Slate Lake. The fish in that lake aren’t special, they are just “common fish”, we know it will kill them. In fact, operations of the mine and the dumping of the slurry will raise the bottom of the lake 50 feet. Folks, the lake is only 51 feet deep! Essentially, they are going to fill it in, divert the streams that feed into it, around it, kill every living thing in the lake, then when they are done, (now this is my favorite part), they are going to dredge it all out, clean up the lake, and restore it to better than before. Really? So this company is going to create a man-made lake that is better than the one nature created in the first place? This I gotta see! I have seen a lot of man-made lakes in my life and they all have one thing in common…they look man-made!

Coeur Alaska (coeur is French for heart, by the way, isn’t THAT ironic?), filed for permission to dump the waste with the EPA, no wait a minute, that’s not right, they filed for permission to do this with the Army Corps of Engineers. What? The Corps of Engineers? Well, the Corps granted the permit and plans proceeded. A collection of environmental groups sued under the Clean Water Act stating that the EPA should issue the permit, not the Corps and that the slurry discharge would violate the Clean Water Act itself. The District Court decided in favor of the mine, so the environmental groups appealed. The Ninth Circuit Court overturned the lower court decision, so the mine appealed. Enter, the Supreme Court.

In a 6-3 decision, the Court found that the Corps did have permission to issue the permit under the Clean Water Act. Section 404 gives the authority to the Corps to issue permits for the discharge of “fill material”. The definition of “fill material” includes slurry. (Can you guess which administration amended the definition of “fill material” to include slurry? Let me give you a hint, they were in office after the Clinton Administration and before the Obama Administration). The Court also found that the performance standard of the Clean Water Act does not apply to “fill material”.

I could go on, but you can read it for yourself if you’d like. I must say though, I agree with the dissenting opinion of Justices Ginsberg, Stevens and Souter, while they agree that a permit for fill material could be issued by the Corps, they contend the discharge is a pollutant and therefore covered by the performance standard and must be authorized by the EPA, stating in part that the Clean Water Act reads “The use of any river, lake, stream or ocean as a waste treatment system is unacceptable.”

Are you still with me on this one? Let’s go back and look at the due diligence done by Coeur and by the Corps. As part of the due diligence they are required to look at alternatives. In this case, according to both killing of a lake is the better alternative, the lesser of two evils, if you will, than the option of piling the 4.5 million tons of slurry up on the land surrounding the mine. The Supreme Court decision even speculates that the resulting pile will be larger than the pentagon and would destroy the wetlands surrounding the mine.

So these are the only two choices? Kill a lake, or destroy a wetlands? Is there nothing else that can be done with the slurry. The mine argues anything else would be too expensive, so if we won’t play be their rules, they aren’t going to re-open their mine, and they’ll just take the 200-300 jobs with them and go home. Well, that’s one way to get what you want in this economy. Threaten either the loss of jobs, or the loss of a promise of jobs that don’t even exist in the first place. If you can create jobs it’s ok to rape the environment? If the new technology is only economically viable if you destroy a lake, then I don’t think the new technology is economically viable, do you?

I don’t know about you, but I am still outraged. Write to Coeur Alaska expressing your outrage, write to the Corp of Engineers with your opinion, write to your Senators and Congressmen asking them to eliminate the ambiguity in the Clean Water Act as pointed out in the Court’s decision.

 
Our Team of Volunteers
Our Team of Volunteers
After a nervous week of playing amateur weatherman and watching the water levels of the river, the River Gods smiled upon us and the clean up of the White River my company, Confluence Dynamics, was sponsoring proceeded as planned. The day dawned with overcast skies, but no rain in sight.

22 volunteers gathered at Potters Bridge Park in Noblesville. After checking in and receiving a commemorative t-shirt, the group gathered for introductions and instructions. Borrowing from the practice used by many golf outings, rather than hole sponsors we signed up 10 canoe sponsors. As the canoe pairings were announced, each team was given a sign with the name of their canoe. The canoes were either named after the sponsoring company or with a name designated by the sponsor. We then piled into the cars of our land crew for the short drive to the Riverwood Canoe Launch north of town.

We were met at the launch by Kevin Hardie of the Friends of the White River and Brant Cowser, our canoe outfitter. Each team attached their sponsor’s sign to their ship, grabbed paddles, PFD’s, trash bags and gloves and began the short trek down to the river. After some last minute instructions from Kevin the teams shoved off from the shore and began scouting for trash and debris. Before all of the canoes were launched, our able land crew had collected half a bag of trash from the banks around the put in. The nine canoes launched without incident, unless of course you count the one team that tipped as they were climbing in obviously trying to cool off after carrying the canoe down to the river.

By the time Carmen and launched as the sweep canoe (our job was to hang back and ensure everyone progressed down river) one team had already retrieved a broken chair from the waters. As the canoes made their way downstream, we discovered an assortment of trash and debris including tires, a hose, a trellis, a sleeping bag and mountains of trash. We were unable to retrieve some items such as a hot water heater, a 55 gallon drum, and part of a dock. We noted their location so they can be removed during the fall clean up.

Shortly after launching, I realized I had forgotten to tell the teams where the take out was at the end of our 2 ¼ miles. All I could do at that point was hope they realized that when they got to the covered bridge they should stop! Lesson learned for our NEXT clean up!

After about two hours, the teams began arriving at Potter’s Bridge and the pile of trash began to grow. There had been some confusion over the location of the dumpster and so rather than being located in the parking lot at the top of the bank above the take-out; it was about ½ mile down the road in the south parking lot. Each team hauled their treasures up the hill to the staging area with assistance from the land crew and the other teams. The bank at Potter’s Bridge is fairly steep and some of the finds took a great deal of effort to get them to the top. It’s amazing how heavy a water-logged sleeping bag can be!

By noon, all the teams but one were in and accounted for, the last team was nowhere in sight. After many tense minutes, they finally came into view. Now, if TV theme music could have been heard, the song from Sanford and Sons would have definitely been playing. The team was paddling with all their might, but barely moving forward. Their canoe had the appearance of a garbage scow. Every inch was crammed with trash, a four foot diameter table top was lying across the gunwales between the bow and the stern and more trash was piled on top of it. Behind the canoe were a mini-fridge, a gas tank, and a set of stairs all floating along tied one to the other. It took a half a dozen of us to carry their load up the bank to the staging area; in fact, it took five just to haul the canoe up the path because of the huge piece of water-laden foam rubber in the bottom!

All told, the teams filled ¾ of a 15 yard dumpster with over 1,000 pounds of trash! After a box lunch, the tired volunteers took one last look at the pile of trash and headed for home.

I would like to thank our teams and our sponsors for making A Network of Support for the White River a huge success!

In the ship, The Ebony, sponsored by Mary Ellen & Gene Ton, were their grandsons JT Ton and Brad Ton.

The ship, Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Landscape Architects was ably captained by Rick Brown and Cody Brown.

Elements Engineering’s vessel was guided by George Caraghiaur and Joanne Bule.

Alan Francoeur and Lori Gooding piloted the boat co-sponsored by Medical Records to Go and christened the Zoe by Jane Burch.

crittur.com’s can-do canoe was paddled by Scott Martin and George Seat.

Nancy Cuppy and Drew Cuppy guided the canoe sponsored by Integrated Development Services.

EnthEnergy’s vessel was ably manned by Jamal Handy and Tim Holtz.

The Perfect Life was sponsored by Ron West and was powered by Jack Manard and Karen Schneider.

Carmen and I canoed the Gabby Belle, sponsored by Judy and Dave Hollander.

Our fantastic land crew consisted of Kathleen and Tom Gruhl, Andrea Osman and Angie Worzala.

Last, but not least, I would like to thank Cypress Communications for helping to sponsor this event.

To view more photos of the event click HERE and also HERE.

No, this is not another post about the Lizard King, Jim Morrison, based on the lack of hits THAT post received I don’t think even my mother read it! This is about my favorite new yard tool! I have been searching for years for a way to take care of my yard and not burn gas to do it. Short of ripping out all the turf grass and replacing it with native plants and grasses, which neither my wife nor my HOA will allow, I have been stymied.

Years ago I tried using one of those throwback mowers. You know the kind, the reel mowers, the kind used before gas powered engines. That experiment did not work. Just ask my son, JT, who was just old enough to help dear old dad with the yard work. Our yard was too big, had too many bumps, twigs, rocks and other things that would get stuck in the blades as they spun bringing the mower, and the mow”er” to an abrupt stop. So we gave up on that idea, donated the reel mower to Goodwill and went back to the old Briggs and Stratton. But…my quest continued.

Fast forward about a decade and half. My wife and I were touring the Smart Home at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (Read More) when we reached the garage, there it was, in the corner, next to the hydrogen powered car, The Neuton, a battery powered lawn mower (Read More). I swear there was a bright light from the heavens and a celestial chorus. (Ok, maybe it was just the solar powered lights in the garage and the radio, but hey, it’s my story). I knew right then and there, I had to have one.

Since it was autumn and it didn’t make much sense to take advantage of the six month money back guarantee when there wasn’t anything move, I anxiously awaited spring. In March, I placed my order. I was concerned about the size of my yard, so I ordered the larger of the two models and an extra battery, and of course I had to have the accessory pack which includes a weed trimmer/edger that attaches to the mower itself…how cool is THAT? Now before you shake your head at my wanton consumerism let me assure you, my current mower was over 10 years old, need significant repairs, AND I ordered one of the used, refurbished models.

I was like a kid at Christmas when it arrived, tore open the box and assembled it right there in the family room. It was a thing of beauty. I don’t know what was used and refurbished about it, it looked brand new!

A few days later it finally stopped raining and I gave it a whirl. It does a tremendous job on the yard. We have about 7,000 square feet of yard and it breezed right through it. I was glad I had ordered the extra battery for trimming, but to mow the yard itself I can do it with one charge. The trimmer attachment does take a little getting used to, but once I got the hang of maneuvering the mower with the trimmer attached it did a great job as well.

One of the amazing things about this mower is how quiet it is. As I am pushing it, I can actually hear the blade cutting through the grass. When my neighbor is mowing at the same time, I can hear the roar of his engine above the sound of the Neuton. I have even startled my wife as she works in the yard because she can’t hear me coming.

As for my old mower, after one time of using the Neuton, I donated the old mower. It’s now almost the end of May, two months into the mowing season here in Indiana, and I have yet to use any gas to mow or trim my yard. The batteries charge in about 24 hours and use just pennies of electricity. If you are looking for a way to reduce your carbon foot print or to stop fooling around with gas cans, I highly recommend the Neuton Mower. They even throw in a stylish ball cap with the lizard logo on it, so now Jim Morrison is not the only Lizard King!

No, this is not another post about the Lizard King, Jim Morrison, based on the lack of hits THAT post received I don’t think even my mother read it! This is about my favorite new yard tool! I have been searching for years for a way to take care of my yard and not burn gas to do it. Short of ripping out all the turf grass and replacing it with native plants and grasses, which neither my wife nor my HOA will allow, I have been stymied.

Years ago I tried using one of those throwback mowers. You know the kind, the reel mowers, the kind used before gas powered engines. That experiment did not work. Just ask my son, JT, who was just old enough to help dear old dad with the yard work. Our yard was too big, had too many bumps, twigs, rocks and other things that would get stuck in the blades as they spun bringing the mower, and the mow”er” to an abrupt stop. So we gave up on that idea, donated the reel mower to Goodwill and went back to the old Briggs and Stratton. But…my quest continued.

Fast forward about a decade and half. My wife and I were touring the Smart Home at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (Read More) when we reached the garage, there it was, in the corner, next to the hydrogen powered car, The Neuton, a battery powered lawn mower (Read More). I swear there was a bright light from the heavens and a celestial chorus. (Ok, maybe it was just the solar powered lights in the garage and the radio, but hey, it’s my story). I knew right then and there, I had to have one.

Since it was autumn and it didn’t make much sense to take advantage of the six month money back guarantee when there wasn’t anything move, I anxiously awaited spring. In March, I placed my order. I was concerned about the size of my yard, so I ordered the larger of the two models and an extra battery, and of course I had to have the accessory pack which includes a weed trimmer/edger that attaches to the mower itself…how cool is THAT? Now before you shake your head at my wanton consumerism let me assure you, my current mower was over 10 years old, need significant repairs, AND I ordered one of the used, refurbished models.

I was like a kid at Christmas when it arrived, tore open the box and assembled it right there in the family room. It was a thing of beauty. I don’t know what was used and refurbished about it, it looked brand new!

A few days later it finally stopped raining and I gave it a whirl. It does a tremendous job on the yard. We have about 7,000 square feet of yard and it breezed right through it. I was glad I had ordered the extra battery for trimming, but to mow the yard itself I can do it with one charge. The trimmer attachment does take a little getting used to, but once I got the hang of maneuvering the mower with the trimmer attached it did a great job as well.

One of the amazing things about this mower is how quiet it is. As I am pushing it, I can actually hear the blade cutting through the grass. When my neighbor is mowing at the same time, I can hear the roar of his engine above the sound of the Neuton. I have even startled my wife as she works in the yard because she can’t hear me coming.

As for my old mower, after one time of using the Neuton, I donated the old mower. It’s now almost the end of May, two months into the mowing season here in Indiana, and I have yet to use any gas to mow or trim my yard. The batteries charge in about 24 hours and use just pennies of electricity. If you are looking for a way to reduce your carbon foot print or to stop fooling around with gas cans, I highly recommend the Neuton Mower. They even throw in a stylish ball cap with the lizard logo on it, so now Jim Morrison is not the only Lizard King!

I have a confession to make. I have an annoying habit. Ok, right now, I can hear my wife saying “AN annoying habit? As in singular? One?” So, yes, I may have more than one, but for this post let’s just focus on the one. I have a tendency to listen to the same CD or CD’s over, and over, and over again.

I can remember as a kid, I owned one 45 RPM (ok kids, look it up 45 RPM, it will be listed right under LP). I listened to “I’m not Your Steppin’ Stone” by the Monkees over and over and over and over again…and over. One afternoon, my older brother was driven NUTS by the “I, yi,yi,yim not yer steppin’ stone” that he appeared at the top of the stairs and literally bombarded me with dozens of 45 ‘s from his own collection, in essence giving them to me so I would play something else. I don’t remember how long that lasted, I am sure not long.

Today I still listen to basically the same music I did growing up (except for a brief foray into No Doubt – thanks Tami!). The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Led Zepplin, Rod Stewart, John Mellencamp, Muddy Waters to name a few. What I like to do is to load my car CD changer up with six CD’s from the same band and listen to them for months. Over, and Over and Over again.

In February, my wife gave me the boxed set from The Doors. Six CD’s in fact, the perfect number for my car. So, yes from February until now I have been listening to Jim Morrison and The Doors. What I realize is that for most people, they either love them or hate them. They say there is a fine line between genius and insanity. Morrison walked that line. If you ever want to stare into the face of insanity read the book “Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive”, it’s a chilling biography of James Morrison. If you ever want to see genius read his books of poetry. Yes, poetry. He wrote some amazing stuff and published a couple of collections of them.

However, I digress. So for three months I’ve been listening to these CD’s of songs that I have been listening to for 30 years, I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to “When the Music’s Over” from the Strange Days LP (again, kids, look it up), hundreds probably. This week, while driving back from Chicago, I finally heard it though (Ok JT, Brad, what is the line from White Men Can’t Jump? The one about listening to Jimi but not hearing Jimi?), Jim Morrison was an environmentalist! Yes in 1967 he was lamenting about the damage done to our planet…and warning of the end.

“We’re gettin’ tired of hangin’ around
Waitin’ around, with our heads to the ground
I hear a very gentle sound
 
Very near, yet very far
Very soft, yeah, very clear
Come today, come today
 
What have they done to the Earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down
 
I hear a very gentle sound
With your ear down to the ground
We want the world and we want it…
Now
Now?
NOW!”
 

The words jumped out of the speakers at me. I listened to them (you guessed it) over, and over, and over again. I think the words are even more sobering today than in 1967, we are only now waking up to the facts of global climate change, the devastation to the earth, our fair sister. Listen to the earth. HEAR the earth!

Thanks Jim, RIP!