The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Birds and Squirrels Love Cracked Corn - Hydroscopic Water





I bought cracked corn at the hardware store, a better buy than a bag of field corn ears. All the birds and the squirrels love cracked corn. I saw cardinals and blue jays on the ground for corn, so I decided to get that instead of sunflower seeds.

This time I added food to the wheelbarrow, as well as the filing cabinet folly and the ground near the trees.

The energy of the sun and the wealth of the soil
are given back to God's creatures in the yard.
I am not up with the birds. I am up before the birds. They seem to take their time to warm up and get breakfast. We had a light frost, and that may affect their need to eat. Why not stay warm in bed until the sun is really up?

I was grading essays before this. At 8:30 AM I am posting and drinking fresh coffee. I open the window to hear the birds burbling as they enjoy their food. The starlings are hanging from the suet and eating most of the day. Nothing lasts so long as suet in a mesh bag.

I looked out to see a chickadee grab a sunflower seed from the bird feeder. Doves and the squirrel are eating the cracked corn. The cold weather includes groups of male cardinals eating together. Later they will woo a mate and pair off for nests and territories. Then the male cardinals will get very jealous of the males they see in reflections here and there.

Blue jays eat from bird feeders on a pole, but they are happy to eat corn from the ground, too.

Later Today - Extending the Soaker Aqueduct
All my soaker hoses on the dead tree were damaged on the end, so I bought an extension for the aqueduct on the fence.

I will run the next 50 feet of soaker hose on the ground, to water the sunflower seeds I just planted and the Butterfly Bushes waiting to break dormancy. Watering settles the soil around newly planted seed and increases the rate of decomposition for the mulch.

I have never found dry mulch on top of the soil. It must be the way mulch captures and holds the moisture bound up in the soil. Each soil particle has a film of hydroscopic water around it. Only baking the soil will make the water go away. That adds up to a lot of water, and a good reason the soil creatures can thrive in an ocean of "dry" ingredients like sand and clay. The soil particles are not dry at all but coated to provide channels for transportation and food. Bacteria and slugs travel on slime, so that water matters especially to them. Humus, soil creatures, and earthworm casts also contribute to soil moisture.

Over 60,000 kinds of protozoa are known and, contrary to any residual youthful hope you may have that they only live in pond water, a majority of them live in the soil; however, all do require moisture to lead an active life . 

Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff;  (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 1123-1125). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

Protozoa need moisture to live, travel, and reproduce, and hydroscopic water— that thin film of water left on the surfaces of soil particles and aggregates— provides it, under normal soil conditions. If things dry up, however, most protozoa stop feeding and dividing and go dormant, encasing themselves in a cyst.


Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 1169-1171). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

As I mentioned before, a few days of sun and wind dried out a row of newspapers and sent them flying around the yard. We used wood mulch to pin them down again, since the backyard leaves abandoned their post and frolicked in the wind. Where the leaves are wet and packed, a bit slimy, they weigh down newspapers and promote soil creature population growth.

Newspapers are thin sponges that hold and give up moisture easily; the newspapers breathe and do not promote bad decay in the soil. That is why plastic "weed barriers" are terrible and never work well. Weeds pop through them and get tangled up in the mess.

Hydroscopic water is a thinner film of water, only a few molecules thick, which, like capillary water, is attached to extremely small soil particles by virtue of electrical properties . This film is so thin that the bonds between water molecules and soil particles are concentrated and extremely hard to break. 

Roots cannot absorb it, therefore, but this film of water is critical to the ability of many microbes to live and travel. Even when conditions are dry, the soil particulate surface holds some hydroscopic water; it is impossible to remove it from soil without applying lots of heat and actually boiling it off. Just about half the pore spaces in good soil are filled with water. The other half are filled with air. 

Water movement pushes stale air out and sucks in air from the surface, so adding water means an exchange of air occurs, which is important . If a healthy soil food web is in place, the metabolic activity of soil organisms uses the oxygen and creates carbon dioxide.

Lewis, Wayne;  Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 374-381). Timber Press. Kindle Edition. 

Therefore, if God had not designed soil to hold this film of water--or water to cling to soil particles-- most of the life in soil would suffer and die back, with plants suffering with them. Water obeys the conditions placed upon it at Creation, and those rules provide for the entire population of life, from the smallest microbes to man, the epitome of everything on earth.