The Backyard Science group regularly features the Daily Bucket. Any natural subject, from lichen to spiders to turtles (especially turtles)  is appropriate for a Bucket or a comment for a Bucket.  Is it freezing yet?  New birds at the feeder?  Are the ladybugs coming indoors? We look forward to your comments about your own natural area, whether it's your backyard, or a favored spot.  Include, as close as you are comfortable, the general site of your location.
All year long, I've tended my burgeoning compost pile. I walled it in with lumps of pickerel roots so I could stack it high.  I piled a cubic yard of vegetable gardens wastes on it in September, and scraped up extra dirt from every corner of my yard to add to the heap.  The top six inches are squirming with huge earthworms.  But below the tangled orange roots, I'll explain why the compost pile has betrayed me.

When I dug deeper into the pile, hoping to extract a wheelbarrel load of nutrient-rich soils, instead my shovel stopped. Tiny red roots, the thickness of string, had massed into tight forms and taken over the entire bottom foot of my precious compost.  

I think the culprit are the slender red cedars, sold as arborvitae (Thuja Occidentalis) that were planted along the property line.   The ornamental arborvitae are not true cedars, yet they do feature cedar-like, reddish bark, cones, and flattish foliage.

I don't understand how this dense root system penetrated into an elevated compost pile, that rests on a wood board and a thick plastic sheet.  The roots must have traveled overland, and through a fence, because they could not have come up from underneath through the board and plastic.  As far as I'm concerned, the compost pile wantonly invited this root invasion, while my back was turned.

Now the bottom foot of my heap is an firm root mass.  I can hack off softball-sized hunks of a root/soil mix with a pickax, but I hesitate to utilize those lumps in a garden bed.  I'm blaming the arborvitae, because they are red and nearby, and these tiny roots are red too.

One benefit is that the encounter with the arborvitae has spurred me to explore the nearby tree types. There's some big trees in my 60-year-old suburban neighborhood.  One adjacent squirrel playground is a massive Red Cedar, and I think a fugitive 6-foot-thick Sequoia Redwood is across the street. I'll never know enough to deserve to polish ForesterBob's privet ax, but I'd at least like to figure out all of their species. Pictures will follow.

Now I await your report on regional conditions.

"Green Diary Rescue" is Back!

After a hiatus of over 1 1/2 years, Meteor Blades (bless his heart) has revived his excellent series.  As MB explained, this weekly diary is a "round-up with excerpts and links... of the hard work so many Kossacks put into bringing matters of environmental concern to the community... I'll be starting out with some commentary of my own on an issue related to the environment, a word I take in its broadest meaning."

"Green Diary Rescue" will be posted every Saturday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page.  Be sure to recommend and comment in the diary.

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