Potato Chip Leaves

Out in my vegetable garden, the late-morning sun scalds my neck as I clip off yesterday’s “potato chip leaves” from my butternut squash plants. In my 40 years of raising vegetables, I’ve never had this problem of leaves air-frying on the vine, crisp and brown like potato chips. My husband comes over with his make-shift shade cover, a contraption of 40% shade cloth stretched over a frame of PVC piping, supported by four bamboo poles. We work together to angle the frame so it protects against the blistering sun. We’ll do the same for the next raised bed…and the next.

In recent years, I’ve focused on growing food we can eat during the winter, so this spring, I over-planted butternut squash. Twelve little seedlings emerged. I transplanted three to another bed, leaving nine healthy seedlings to fill the raised bed. They were doing just fine; the 2:00 AM drip watering and layer of mulch kept the ground moist. And then on July 7th we were hit with a mega-heat wave.

110 degrees Fahrenheit!

I took a photo of the outside temperature reading and sent it to our daughters. “Look at this: 105 degrees! No, wait, it’s now 106.” Every half hour I documented the rising temperature until it peaked at 110 degrees. These were Death Valley temperatures – not our mountain homestead’s. I was so absorbed with the thermometer, that I didn’t think about my veggies until my evening stroll out in the garden.

I’m aware that some leaves naturally wilt on hot days – it’s the plant’s natural response to preserving moisture, especially the cucurbit family: squash, cucumbers, melons. They’ll usually perk up again when it cools if the soil is moist.

But this was different. The sun was hot, but even in the shade, the air itself was pizza-oven hot. About half of my butternut squash and cucumber leaves were dried crisp as potato chips. Young tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants were so shocked and set back, that this will probably be the first year I won’t have enough tomatoes to can.

We’re like the proverbial frog who’s merrily swimming in a pot of cold water, hardly noticing the slowly increasing temperature until it’s too late and he’s boiled to death – which is probably how the extreme heat of 2021 snuck up on me.  Climate patterns have shifted slowly over several decades, but now, they’re ramping up. In the late 1970s when we first settled into the western slope of the Northern California Sierra, it was common to get 2-3 feet of snow at a time. Today we’re lucky to get 2-3 inches at a time. Same with rain. Whereas we used to count on rain starting November, now we’re lucky to start getting substantial rainfall in January or February. We worry that our well might run dry.

The end of gardening as I’ve known it and time for a whole new gardening strategy

The extreme heat wave of July 7, 2021 and subsequent hotter-than-usual days will forever change the way I garden. I’m already thinking of new strategies for next year’s vegetable garden and I’m hoping you might have ideas to add to the list.

Please send your suggestions to me at: heartwoodnovel@gmail.com, and I’ll share them in a future blog.

Here’s my start:

  1. Focus on seeds that are drought and heat tolerant. I’ve a feeling we’ll be seeing more of these in the 2022 seed catalogues.
  2. Create moveable shade covers for my raised beds that can also serve as early/late frost protection. You can do a lot with PVC pipes and shade cloth.
  3. Study how indigenous peoples and desert dwellers grow food in hot, arid climates,  such as the “Three Sisters” approach where corn, squash, and climbing beans create a supportive environment for each other.
  4. Focus on plants that grow well in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall when it’s not so hot.
  5. Let the shade of tall or vertical crops shade plants below. I might plant corn as a wall of shade in each bed.
  6. Continue automatic drip watering between 1-4 am, and mulch, mulch, mulch to preserve moisture. Mist plant leaves by hand in the cool of the evening.
  7. Research the “50 Future Foods” project that I wrote about in Heart Wood.

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I’ll end with a new plant in my garden that is growing well in this year’s heat: the North Georgia Candy Roaster Pumpkin. Originally cultivated by the Cherokee peoples in Southeastern part of our country, it’s like a cross between a butternut squash and pumpkin and stores well. I can’t wait to try it this winter!


Purchase Heart Wood at your local bookstore (support independent bookstores!) Print and eBooks at online retailers and HERE on Amazon.

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Contact the author at: heartwoodnovel@gmail.com

Wildfires are our future?

Turbulent clouds from the North Complex Fire cover our Northern California sky – September 8, 2020

The sun hides its fiery crimson ball behind the gray pall overhead and I can hardly make out the ghostly outline of pines beyond my window. Friends report the sky over San Francisco is a dystopic burnt orange. We’ve all been breathing smoky air for days along the entire west coast and as I write, the Air Quality Index in the Sierra is Hazardous at 303.

So much for my original plans for this Blog: Is Elon Musk Musk’s controversial Neurolink the precursor to Heart Wood’s Nib? I’ll come back to that later. Today I want to write about something more pressing: Is there anything we can do to lessen these massive wildfires, or should we and our children’s children expect to live with them from here on out? Here’s what I’ll cover: 1) Wildfires in California’s future – my artistic literary vision and some scientific projections. 2) How the Paris Agreement is designed to help us locally and world-wide (which the president withdrew the US from, but many states are pushing ahead anyway) 3) One tangible way to impact how our legislators vote for the environment.

So here we are. It’s mid-September and I remind myself that wildfire season in California has only just started. As much as I’m grateful we’re not one of the tens of thousands who have lost their homes to this season’s wildfires already, and I’ve sent donations to the Red Cross to help those who have, I’m so aware that we all share in the destruction of our air quality, respiratory, and environmental health.

I “saw” an eerily similar scene years ago when I was writing about the future in Heart Wood and envisioned Amisha moving about in San Francisco in 2075:

The old vase on her dresser was shimmering red the next morning when Amisha raised her head from the pillow. Most days started this way. Though the rising sun was rarely seen, its warmth caused micrometal particles suspended in the air to scintillate in a vague morning glow, casting a sense of dawn across the city.     (Heart Wood, p 14)

“Micrometal particles” suspended in the air? Though I left the details up to the reader’s imagination, it’s not hard to envision a ghastly mix of wildfire smoke and the toxins emitted from a burning civilization, as well as pollutants from industry and indestructible micro-plastics.

By 2075, wildfires have already burned most of the Sierra as Amisha and Charlie head up into the Sierra:

Amisha took another swig, then returned the canister to its hiding place. “What’s up there?” she asked, pointing to the hint of peaks in the distance. “You askin’ ’bout hills? Not much.” “People?” “They’ve come and gone, mostly farther north.” “Oregon?” “Farther. Canada’s still deciding its immigration policy.” “They say fires took out most of the foothills. Anything survive?” “A structure here and there.” “Trees? People?” “Can’t say,” Charlie climbed back into the wagon. “Why are you going up there?” Amisha asked. “Can’t say that either.”  (Heart Wood p 93)

These 2075 scenarios were heavily influenced by the study: California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, 2018 sent to me by Ashley Overhouse, River Policy Manager for SYRCL (South Yuba Citizen’s League: https://yubariver.org/)  The study gives projections for California in 2100 (temperature, water, wildfire, sea level, public health, communities, and governance). Here’s what they say about future wildfires in California (https://climateassessment.ca.gov/)

Projections: Wildfire

From: https://www.energy.ca.gov/sites/default/files/2019-11/Statewide_Reports-SUM-CCCA4-2018-013_Statewide_Summary_Report_ADA.pdf

Impact: Climate change will make forests more susceptible to extreme wildfires. By 2100, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, one study found that the frequency of extreme wildfires burning over approximately 25,000 acres would increase by nearly 50 percent, and that average area burned statewide would increase by 77 percent by the end of the century.

TABLE 9 | CLIMATE IMPACTS IN CALIFORNIA UNDER DIFFERENT EMISSION SCENARIOS

Table 9 presents estimated impacts to California assuming compliance with the Paris goals, as compared to a historic baseline and RCP 8.5 scenario. (RCP 8.5 is a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario that would result in atmospheric CO2 concentrations exceeding 900 parts per million (ppm) by 2100, more than triple the level present in the atmosphere before human emissions began to accumulate).

SCENARIO
CLIMATE IMPACT IN CALIFORNIABASELINE: 1976 – 2005RCP 8.5 End of CenturyPARIS AGREEMENT 1.5°CPARIS AGREEMENT 2°C
Annual Average Temperature14°C (57ºF)19°C (66ºF)15.2°C (59ºF)15.6°C (60ºF)
Number of extreme hot days: Sacramento1.614.32.42.9
April 1st Snow Water Equivalent18.8 inches-74 %-22 %-22.8 %
Soil Moisture11.8 inches-10 %-1.3 %-2.5 %
Wildfires: area burned484.5 thousand acres+ 63 %+ 20 %+ 20 %
Sea-Level Rise (2100 relative to 2000: mean values)NA137 cm (54 in)28 cm (11 in)41 cm (16 in)

Considering the Paris Agreement on Climate Change Mitigation, you may remember that in June 2017, President Trump announced his highly controversial plans to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris Agreement. He wanted an agreement on terms that were fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers – in accordance with his America First Policy.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_withdrawal_from_the_Paris_Agreement

No mention of being fair to the health of our environment.

Twenty-four state governors formed the United States Climate Alliance to continue working collectively toward the goals of the Paris Agreement, including California, Oregon, and Washington.

What can one person do? – Start by supporting the League of Conservation Voters and by voting!

I love this group because they work hard to elect politicians “who stand up for a clean, healthy future for America,” and defeating “anti-environment” candidates – at both federal and state levels. The League of Conservation Voters tracks the voting records of members of Congress on environmental issues in its National Environmental Scorecard, and it annually names a “Dirty Dozen,” a list of politicians whom the group aims to defeat because of their voting records on conservation issues, and their political vulnerability. (The group also names a state-level Dirty Dozen.)

Check them out: https://www.ecovote.org/

Like Harmony in Heart Wood’s present time, I have despaired that one person can make much of an impact. Yet collectively we have more power. Vote to elect decision-makers who will work for the earth!  

Heart Wood Interviewed!

A friend stopped me in the fruit isle of the grocery store recently and asked what I’m doing now that my book is published. Hanging out at the river? Reading? Cooking gourmet dinners?

I chuckled and rolled my eyes.

For authors, writing a book is only the tip of the iceberg. The real work comes afterwards with promotion, interviews, public book events (pre-COVID), and for me, expanding my website to share my “behind the scenes” research and inspirations for my novel.

One of my first goals was to have my eco-novel Heart Wood listed on Dragonfly.eco

Dragonfly.eco is a place to find meaningful stories about our natural world and humanity’s connection with it. The site explores the wild, crazy, and breathtaking literary trail of eco-fiction, with a large book database, spotlights, interviews, and more. Our motto is “blowing your mind with wild words and worlds.”


Not only was I recently listed (thank you to all the readers who gave such positive reviews on Amazon/Goodreads), but I was selected for a feature interview with Mary Woodbury, Dragonfly.eco’s founder. Mary asked me some intriguing questions, which you can read here: https://dragonfly.eco/

In addition to my interview as an Indie Author, I found several other features interesting, especially the results of her Survey on the Impacts of Environmental Fiction. Mary Woodbury describes her insightful survey questions:

“I wanted to explore how readers were affected by fiction (including environmental fiction) that they had read. What were their favorite novels of all times, eco-novels, characters? What did they like and dislike in such fiction? In what ways were they inspired by this fiction, and did they move to action–or how else were they socially impacted, either negatively or positively? What genres and subgenres did they enjoy the most? Did they think eco-fiction impacted society, and how? “

You can read the summary of what she found here:  https://dragonfly.eco/impacts-of-environmental-fiction-survey-results/

Now, back to what I am doing now that I’ve finished my book. To be honest, I also spend hours in my veggie garden picking off tomato horn worms (camouflage experts), figuring out what to do with the dozen cucumbers I pick every day (please send recipes!), packing my emergency “Go-Bag” in case we’re evacuated by a wildfire (welcome to California), and best of all, river time with my husband and dog (yes, river is good medicine).

Be well, be safe, and be kind!

You can purchase Heart Wood for yourself or as a gift to others at all brick and mortar bookstores, Independent Book Stores, and online at Amazon.

Where will the sea first enter San Francisco?

This is first in a series: Behind the Scenes of Heart Wood

San Francisco 2075 –

“San Franciscans were surprised by water falling from the sky. Most water crept in at them from the sea.”  (Heart Wood, page 5)

I originally wrote the opening scene for Amisha (year 2075) set amidst the rising sea levels propelled by continued climate change. The sea would first encroach San Francisco along the Pacific Ocean side, I imagined, then move eastward and slowly flood the city from the beach, up the avenues and into Golden Gate Park.

I was wrong. 

According to professional future projections of rising sea levels, salt water is first going to enter San Francisco from the bay side and flood the waterfront piers, Embarcadero, Financial District, and China Basin – areas mainly built on landfill.

I discovered this, thanks to my friend Mark, who sent me websites that project future sea level scenarios – websites used by land use planners as tools to help understand, visualize, and anticipate vulnerabilities to sea level rise and storms.

This San Francisco map is from Our Coast Our Future (OCOF) at 6.1 ft – 20-year flood. Light blue areas are under water.

Try it yourself! Select a map location on these websites and play with various scenarios. California: http://cal-adapt.org/sealevel/ and USA: Sea Level Rise Viewer  https://coast.noaa.gov/slr/

Based on these projections, I moved the rising sea level scenes away from Golden Gate Park near the Pacific Ocean, and in its place, described the park as “a three-mile long tent city that generously houses Oceania’s Pacific Rim immigrants.”  

According to a 2017 report, at least eight low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean have disappeared under rising seas. 

After studying the map projections, I decided the most likely place for Amisha to encounter the encroaching sea was in the San Francisco Bay, across town.  From Heart Wood:

(Earthquake) Rubble that wasn’t hauled into the ever-moving sea walls of the Embarcadero, Mission Bay, and Financial Districts was piled high, casting shadows over surrounding buildings. (Page 39)

Amisha and Orion walked through the old Financial District while waiting for the ferry to take them across the bay to the Martinez dock.

Amisha felt herself losing ground. “How much longer ’til the ferry?” she asked, reflexively waiting for Nib’s reply, but getting nothing.

“Forty minutes, at least.”

“Let’s walk then.” She struggled out of the truck and started down the street toward the old Financial District but didn’t get far. The district, once a vibrant collection of purposeful high-rises, was now a forest of toppled buildings standing like barren tree stumps in a swamp. The street ended abruptly at lapping water. Boats floated in front of each building. When did electric power start failing? If she couldn’t remember on her own, then how was she going to know things now? She reached for Orion’s arm, feeling a queasiness return. She could still stay. He’d cover for her.

“Eight minutes,” Orion said, and guided her back to the truck.

When did the sea invade the ground floors? she wondered, unable to stop thinking about the inevitable. (Page 40)

Are rising sea levels inevitable? With the COVID-19 pandemic and political uncertainties currently sweeping the world, we have so many new, urgent problems, yet in the background, the earth continues to warm; the seas continue to rise.

How does global warming cause sea levels to rise? When I’m faced with a complex situation – more than I can get my head around – I first look for easy-to-understand descriptions and suggestions. Here’s a start:

First, as carbon-dioxide traps more heat on the planet, the oceans get warmer and expand in volume. Second, ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica as well as other glaciers start melting, pouring more water into the oceans. Once these processes get underway, they won’t stop quickly, even if we ceased putting carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere tomorrow. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/11/01/can-we-stop-the-seas-from-rising-yes-but-less-than-you-think/

Is it hopeless? In imaginary conversations with my character, Amisha, year 2075, she asks me if I even tried to do anything, or like Harmony, did I give up assuming it’s too big a problem for one person to make a difference? With a little research, I found a list of “Seven things you can do today to reverse sea level rise.” 

I decided to start with these:

Check the list yourself https://www.thebalance.com/sea-level-rise-and-climate-change-4158037  Maybe there’s some things you can commit to as well.

I invite you to browse my website, www.shirleydickard.com, where I will be gathering information and links to issues covered in Heart Wood.

PURCHASE HEART WOOD at your local independent bookstores or online at Amazon

Open House at shirleydickard.com

You’re invited to an Open House at the newly remodeled website dedicated to my eco-novel: Heart Wood – Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future.

Years ago, when Heart Wood was in its infancy, I created my first website and blog. Having since outgrown the space, I’ve been working with a web designer to give it an updated look with new rooms and décor. Please stroll around and take a look!

There is one last room I want to remodel and I’m hoping readers can help me. If you click on the “Research” tab, you’ll see tabs for Past, Present, and Future. These are where I’m gathering Present data and evidence of mankind’s cumulative impact on the Future, as well as my family’s historical documents from the Past.

If you’ve read Heart Wood, you may share my concern for what we’re doing to our air, water, food, and earth, and the impact on our health and longevity – especially of our children. You can contribute by sending articles and links that I can post. Discussions welcome!

Thank you to Sky (who actually spent her first years in the mythical “Luna Valley”) for this first article: Why the World is Becoming Allergic to Food  https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-the-world-is-becoming-more-allergic-to-food?utm_source=pocket-newtab.  Cue the rise of Pharm.food!

For history buffs, especially my family, I will post all the documentation I gathered about my great-grandparents, Emily and Charles Hoppin of Yolo, California – the inspiration for the characters of Eliza and Silas in Heart Wood. In my research, I found previously unknown speeches, writings, and interviews with Emily Hoppin. She was a woman before her time and now, 100 years later, her voice can be heard! I invite anyone with information about Charles and Emily Hoppin to add to this documentation on my website.

Please sign the guest book by leaving a comment. If you see any corners that need attention, let me know. I’m learning how websites nowadays must work across all types of screens: computers, tablets, and mobile devices – rather like a three-dimensional tic-tac-toe board! My appreciation to Katie (who also grew up in the “Luna Valley”) and her design team at Urban Sherpa Marketing: www.urbansherpa.marketing 

Heart Wood has Arrived!

Now that social isolation has become the norm, how about curling up with a good book? The coronavirus will continue to alter our lives in unimaginable ways, but at least we can still enjoy reading! 

Heart Wood will transport you into the lives of three women of the past, present, and future as they cope with their changing worlds. No viruses, I promise! The most common reaction I do get to Heart Wood is “this gives me goose bumps!”

You can order Heart Wood on Amazon Here

The ebook version will be available online soon and Heart Wood will eventually be available in local independent bookstores. Be sure and ask for it and support your local indie bookstores!

“To my own surprise, I don’t expect new authors to be so sly or quick in engaging, holding, and enlightening their readers. Whenever I pick Heart Wood up, I always regret having to put it down. Shirley DicKard is extremely good.”
             – Gary Snyder, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet, essayist, environmental activist 

SYNOPSIS

Heart Wood – Four Women, for the Earth, for the Future

Deep in the heart of a small oak writing desk is a legacy that mysteriously connects three family women across centuries and generations in their fight for the future.

     Shima’a, an ancient woman with disturbing visions of the Earth’s demise, sends a message of warning, and a seed of hope, forward in time within the heart of an acorn to three family women:

     Eliza: Post Gold Rush in the Sacramento Valley, late 19th century.

     Harmony: Back-to-the-land homestead in the Sierra Nevada, late 20th century.

     Amisha: Dystopic San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada, late 21st century.    

Writing on the heartwood of the old desk, each woman is influenced by the ancient message as she views mankind’s escalating destruction of the natural world through the eyes of her time. The women learn to listen to the silence, hold the earth in their hands, gather the women, then do what must be done.

Heart Wood is a compelling family saga set in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada. Its characters shift from one generation to the next, as do the struggles they face in saving their homestead from the ravages of climate change, fire, and human greed. But it’s mankind that poses the most dire challenges to the land and to those who seek life upon it. Heart Wood speaks of the collective power of feminine energy to protect the Earth. If you feel you’re not doing enough or that it’s already too late to make a difference, Heart Wood may change your mind. An eco-speculative-historical-magical-feminist novel.