Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Emerald ash borer: Public Enemy No. 1 for Invasive Species Awareness Week

Seems odd to put National Invasive Species Awareness Week smack in the middle of winter—whose idea was that anyway? This year it’s February 22-28. Wouldn’t it be better to move it to summer when more invasive nasties are around? Of course, summer’s a busy time, and maybe all the good time slots were reserved for Hamster Appreciation Week, National Lawn Edging Week and the like.

An ash tree killed by emerald ash borers. Photo: Penn State, Creative Commons, some rights reserved. Inset: Emerald ash borer. Photo: StopTheBeetle, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

An ash tree killed by emerald ash borers. Photo: Penn State, Creative Commons, some rights reserved. Inset: Emerald ash borer. Photo: StopTheBeetle, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

One of the invasive species that deserves our attention is the emerald ash borer (EAB). Having eaten its way through the Great Lakes states and portions of the upper Midwest, the EAB is on a fast track to northern NY State. Since its discovery in 2002, the emerald ash borer has stripped cities and villages of all ash trees. Dorothy wouldn’t recognize one of these “emerald cities.” Treeless neighborhoods in places like Fort Wayne, IN, or Dayton, OH are a far cry from the emerald city of Oz.

The EAB is a very small (3/8” to ½”) bullet-shaped beetle that would be easy to overlook if not for its bright, metallic, emerald-green “paint job” with copper highlights. The beetles themselves do little harm, but their immature stage (larvae) feed on cambium tissue of ash trees, girdling and thus killing them. Aside from the relatively few ash that will be treated with insecticides through the estimated15-year duration of an EAB infestation, NYS will lose its 900 million ash trees.

With EAB closing in from the west, south and north, there’s no way to keep it from reaching northern NY. In fact, given that it’s been found in southern Ontario just across the St. Lawrence River, its arrival will be sooner rather than later. They’re quite capable of flying over the river and into our woods, and you can bet they won’t check in with the Border Patrol.

To prepare for the inevitable appearance of this insect, communities need to find how many ash trees they have in order to calculate and plan for removal costs. An ash tree survey would also identify the ash trees of good health and form to preserve. While a few towns have tree inventories, most don’t, and some of those may welcome volunteer help to survey ash trees.

While many signs of EAB damage manifest during summer, there are a couple of things to look for in winter time. Extensive but shallow woodpecker feeding in late winter, especially on the south and west sides of the trunk, may indicate an EAB infestation. Report all suspected cases of EAB activity to the NYSDEC or your Extension office.

Early planning and community involvement are the keys to weathering the EAB storm with as many surviving ash as possible and without breaking the bank. The first step is to become educated about EAB.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County is offering an Invasive Species First Detector training in Canton February 26 from 12:00-4:30. The training is free and open to the public and will cover emerald ash borer as well as hemlock woolly adelgid and Asian longhorn beetle. To register or get more information call (315) 379-9192 or email ph59@cornell.edu

“The same program will be offered at the Watertown CCE office the following morning, Friday February 27. To register or for more information in  Jefferson County, call (315) 788-8450.”

Paul Hetzler is a horticulture and natural resources educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County

Thinking about the second donut

Photo: Jack Lyons, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: Jack Lyons, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Some mornings the donut fairy comes to the kitchen at NCPR and I arrive to find a festive box in pastel colors so happy they are nearly radioactive. Me, too. Visible through the lid is an array of donuts frosted in colors, some of which–through the miracles of chemistry and marketing–are exact Pantone matches for the ink colors in the packaging. We live in a time of wonders.

But I can’t say that I am down with modern thinking on donut decoration. A bit of a traditionalist, me. When you put a dollop of frosting and a dusting of sprinkles on top of a glazed donut, it begs the question, “Why did you put a cupcake in the deep fryer?” And of course, I am too manly a man to consume a donut with pink frosting. Not while anyone is looking.

And I have traditional tastes in filling—red jelly, Bavarian creme, chocolate creme, lemon creme, apple—all lovely. That gooey white stuff? Plain sugar is supposed to go on the outside.

So I’m somewhat picky in my selection. But once one commits to a donut, eat the whole donut. By the afternoon at NCPR, the box is half-filled with half donuts. Really. If it’s about health and diet, eat a carrot. Or eat a whole donut half as often.

That’s what I tell myself I am doing, but I notice that I tell myself that every time a box shows up, rather than half the time–so my math needs a little work. In fact, I am giving serious thought to going for a second donut. That chocolate cruller has a seductive shine. Maybe two donuts one-fourth as often?

The light side of a tight situation

place holder http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Martin

Pat Martin was a carpenter and trade unionist before being elected to the House of Commons in 1997. (2009 photo from Wikipedia, Creative Commons.)

Sometimes politics rivals fiction. At best, this generates news stories that are far more fun than the usual partisan bickering.

Pat Martin is a Member of Parliament who represents Winnipeg Centre for the New Democratic Party. Martin left his seat during a vote on Thursday, which is frowned upon. A question was raised as to the validity of a vote cast that way, which prompted an unusual explanation. (Be sure to watch the MPs beside and behind Martin as he justifies his behavior.)



Was it a case of a pressing wedge issue? Or a quick-witted use of “does anyone really want to go there?” humor to deflate a potential problem? Either way, it worked well enough to save his vote.

CBC collected relevant Tweets, including this quip “…our official opposition. They can’t pick underwear, why should we let them run the country?”

Discussing the incident afterwards, NDP leader Tom Mulcair told CTV’s Don Martin he was laughing so hard he was having trouble breathing.

The best excuses are, at least, plausible. The press wasted little time in fact-checking this one, as can be seen in this from the National Post:

Although Mr. Martin’s tale would appear to be a tongue-in-cheek ruse to fend off a nitpicking inquiry from the government benches, the Ottawa location of the Hudson’s Bay Company is indeed holding a 50% off sale for men’s underwear.

All across Canada, in fact, the department store is hosting a “buy one get one 50% off” sale on various styles of Jockey-brand boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs and even “men’s no fly bikini” briefs.

Depending on store location, the undergarments are generally available in sizes ranging from small to extra large.

A nimble (if cheeky) display of of quick thinking.

Window Ferns and Frost Flowers: The sublime beauty of winter

You have to admit it takes a special kind of person to find the sepia lining in a sunburst. So do you mind if I complain about energy-efficient windows for a minute?

Back in “the day,” homes used to leak much heat through their windows. The thermal resistance, or insulation value, of a material is measured in “R-value” units. An inch of plywood rates an R-value of roughly one, for example, while an inch of foil-faced foam board has an R-value of 7.2.

For homes in northern NY State, the US Department of Energy recommends a minimum R-value of 20 in exterior walls. A single pane of window glass, though, has an R-value of 0.07. You can see why glass can be a serious “energy nosebleed.” Most new construction these days employs double or even triple-pane windows. To make them even more efficient, some high-end window units have inert gas between panes and/or special coatings.

"The Kitchen Window, Barry Lobdell" photograph. Artist: Barry Lobdell. This work is on display as part of the Solo exhibit "Ice Castles and Frozen Windows" at NorthWind Fine Arts Gallery in Saranac Lake, NY. Sample the exhibit

“The Kitchen Window,” photograph. Artist: Barry Lobdell. This work is on display as part of the solo exhibit “Ice Castles and Frozen Windows” at NorthWind Fine Arts Gallery in Saranac Lake, NY. Sample the exhibit

So big deal, houses are warmer now and require less gas and oil to heat. Whoopee. They’re missing out on the magic of window ferns.

If there’s one redeeming feature of single-pane glass (and there may only be one), it’s that on a cold winter morning you wake up to an exquisite, freshly sculpted work of art etched on every window. Water vapor inside the home condenses and freezes onto cold glass in complex fractal patterns resembling ferns, flowers or trees. Ice nucleates onto a window in different ways depending on how smooth the glass is, and even what kind of dirt or dust is on it.

Fractals are naturally occurring, repeated patterns that we see in such things as snowflakes, ocean waves, peacock feathers, lightning bolts and sea shells. People with a lot more math acumen than I have spend decades studying fractals and writing equations to describe them. All I know is that those patterns are breathtaking. But maybe that’s the cold mornings I’m thinking of.

Another “plant” in winter’s garden is the frost flower. You may have seen masses of cottony ice filaments pushed out of a water-soaked log in the woods. My kids used to be fascinated by the frost flowers that sprouted on frigid March mornings from a patch of wet earth behind our house. Technically, frost is from condensed water vapor, so it’s more accurate, if less alliterative, to call these ice flowers.

Calling attention to hoar frost runs the risk of having to suddenly explain oneself. The Old English word for grizzled, hoar, is used to describe the gossamer ice crystals that festoon every subfreezing surface that contacts a humid air mass. During a cold snap, intricate ice feathers grow on branches, twigs and grasses along an unfrozen river or rushing brook, and are the subjects of many pictures.

Some of world-renowned artist Andy Goldsworthy’s sculptures are meant to be ephemeral. Works created from grasses, twigs or ice are left to efface in the elements. This of course happens with natural works of art. As the woodstove heats up, window ferns melt. Frost flowers wilt as the sun comes out.

But even if you took some of the more striking ice-art into a deep freeze, they’d disappear. Ice sublimates; that is, it evaporates directly from a solid to a gas without needing to first become liquid. Frozen laundry dries as ice crystals sublimate. This happens faster in low humidity.

I hope everyone has the chance, at least once, to experience the sublime beauty of window ferns. And after that, the deep appreciation of a warm, energy-efficient home.

Paul Hetzler is a horticulture and natural resources educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County

50 shades of…where do I start?

I went looking for an image to use for this post. Most of them were too upsetting. Here's something harmless. Image: www.thefilmguy.net, Creative Commons

The most harmless image I could come up with for this topic. Image: www.thefilmguy.net, Creative Commons

You’d have to live under a rock to miss the movie release of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Some might rather crawl under a rock than go see it. (The day I wrote this the movie’s IMDB score was a dismal 3.3.) But I digress.

To be fair, I have not read the book, by E. L. James (Erika Mitchell).

I couldn’t. Partially because the subject matter  leaves me baffled: BDSM: Bondage and Discipline, Sadism and Masochism. (People do that? By choice? Why?) But mostly because it’s so badly written.

How would I know? Well, someone I respect said I had no business slagging it without at least giving it a once-over. So, back when the book first came out, I found a weblink that shared chapter one and had a go at that. You can still try that yourself, here. (Don’t say you weren’t warned.)

People, it’s bad. I don’t mean naughty, though I suppose that shows up too, eventually. I mean gag-me-with-a-spoon (ha-ha!)… please! make it stop!…bad writing.

The first chapter was more than enough. NCPR hosts many call-in shows on books. One one, co-host Ellen Rocco said something liberating: there’s just too much to try read in one mortal life. So she refuses to waste time on bad writing anymore. (Amen to that wisdom.)

I will say the franchise is spawning wonderful, satirical send-ups. If you have not done so already, do please swing by “50 Sheds of Grey“. The Tweets only sound dirty, before twisting off into garden shed antics:

Her body tensed and quivered as she felt wave after wave flow through it. I probably should’ve told her about the new electric fence.

Really, it’s almost like shooting fish in a barrel. Only choose your own angle. Here’s a new one with a Canadian slant: “50 Shades of Eh” in which Scott Feschuk delivers forbidden passion served with unspeakable politeness:

My intrepid eyes cast around Christian’s Rec Room of Pain and across his many instruments of torture: the ball gag, the whip, the black gadget that with the press of a single button turns on the cruelest device of all: the television. Sportsnet, TSN . . . Oh Christian, stop teasing and turn it to CBC for the Leafs game! The chronic incompetence . . . the annual ritual of false hope . . . such delicious pain!

Some are saying the movie is better than the book, for whatever that is worth. (There are actually three books in the series. Sigh!)

The whole 50 shades thing seems inescapable right now. It’s gone so far as to show up in a toy from Vermont Teddy Bear, with a mask and handcuffs. The company even bought underwriting on NPR (!) causing some real and feigned outrage. As with this tweet from RussianNavyBlog:

I heard about the 50 Shades of Grey Teddy Bear on NPR. I nearly drove into oncoming traffic in despair for the nation

The Takeway’s John Hockenberry heard from Cindy Gallop, the creator of the website “Make Love Not Porn” and the author of  “Make Love, Not Porn: Technology’s Hardcore Impact on Human Behavior.”

Gallop has read Fifty shades (the book) and seen the movie. Both left her feeling “conflicted”. In Friday’s interview she listed her own hate/love responses.

Things to hate: 1) it’s a badly written book (me: Yes! Thank you!) and a not very riveting movie; 2) it’s your standard sexist Cinderella story – of a woman getting rescued by a man and 3) it had all the hallmarks of an abusive relationship.

Things she loves: 1) it de-kinkifies sex, something she thinks our culture badly needs; 2) it could galvanize (as in improve) any number of relationships and marriages and 3) it socializes sex, bringing a too-secretive subject out in the open.

But I must say, the reviews have been fun. As in this, from The Onion.

New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott weighed in on the movie’s debatable merits, including one of many, many reasons 50 Shades is hard to take:

The problem is that as a character, Anastasia makes no sense. Her behavior has no logic, no pattern, no coherent set of causes or boundaries.

Scott noted the audience at his preview burst into laughter at the movie’s end. Why? And why will any one go see it? Here’s Scott’s conclusion:

I’m no expert, but I can venture a guess: for fun. They seem to be the kind of books you can simultaneously have fun with, make fun of, trash and cherish and adapt to the pursuit of your own pleasures. Which brings me back to the laughter at the end of the sneak preview. “Fifty Shades of Grey” might not be a good movie — O.K., it’s a terrible movie — but it might nonetheless be a movie that feels good to see, whether you squirm or giggle or roll your eyes or just sit still and take your punishment.

Myself, I’m happier with 50 Sheds of Grey and stuff of that ilk.

Because lithe bodies are one thing. But I lean toward the opposite end of that spectrum, where nothing says sexy like a normal brain that ripples with brawny wit. (Oh, yeah, baby! Show me your intellect!)

And let’s read more good books, or watch engaging movies, while we are at it.



A Valentine’s prayer

Photo: Claudia Assad, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: Claudia Assad, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

While I have never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day, it’s not because I think it’s a conspiracy of chocolate tycoons, greeting card magnates, South African rose plantationers and rom-com financiers. Instead, I attribute it all to the difficulty men have in saying the “L” word. It’s only natural to see business opportunities in that. Males among social species who are left on their own get a little weird–think hermits, conspiracy theorists, rogue elephants. Not pretty. Anything that reduces their number contributes to the common good.

Since the hunter-gatherer in us is only overlaid by a thin veneer of civilization, you could think of the candy and flowers, the chocolate and shiny offerings as lures. But instead of a feast around the firepit at the end of the trail, there is a relationship.

Relationships I can get behind. It’s just start-up costs I dread. I’ve been pouring resources into the one I have for more than forty years and it’s finally getting in pretty good shape. I could never afford to do young love again.

Leader: Dear Lord, may we never have to start again from scratch with nothing but hormones, loneliness, social panic and beer goggles. . .

People: Lord, hear our prayers.

So good luck to everyone who is out there looking for love today. You keep all the chocolatiers in luxury housing; I’ll keep all of you in prayers.

The Tree of Love: a natural history of chocolate

It’s impossible for a parent to choose a favorite child—or at least that’s what I tell my kids—and it’s almost as difficult for an arborist to pick a single best-liked tree. For different reasons, I have many pet species. One of the, um, apples of my eye is a species I’ve never laid eyes on, but it’s one I’ve appreciated since early childhood.

Cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) with fruit. Photo: Luisovalles, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) with fruit. Photo: Luisovalles, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Native to Central America, the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao to arborists) grows almost exclusively within twenty degrees latitude either side of the equator (in other words, where most of us wish we were about now). The seeds of the cacao tree have been ground and made into a drink known by its Native American (probably Nahuatl) name, chocolate, for as many as 4,000 years.

The cacao is a small tree, about 15-20 feet tall, bearing 6- to 12-inch long seed pods. Packed around the 30-40 cacao beans in each pod is a sweet gooey pulp, which historically was also consumed. After harvest, cacao beans go through a fermentation process and are then dried and milled into powder.

In pre-contact times chocolate was a frothy, bitter drink often mixed with chilies and cornmeal. Mayans and Aztecs drank it mainly for its medicinal properties (more on that later). In the late 1500s, a Spanish Jesuit who had been to Mexico described chocolate as being “Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant taste.” It’s understandable, then, that it was initially slow to take off in Europe.

Chocolate became wildly popular, though, after brilliant innovations such as adding sugar and omitting chili peppers. Another reason for its meteoric rise in demand is that it seemed to have pleasant effects. One of these was similar to that of tea or coffee. There isn’t much caffeine in chocolate, but it has nearly 400 known constituents, and a number of these compounds are uppers.

Chief among them is theobromine, which has no bromine—go figure. It’s a chemical sibling to caffeine, and its name supposedly derives from the Greek for “food of the gods.” Even if people knew it more closely translates to “stink of the gods,” it’s unlikely it would put a damper on chocolate sales.

These days chocolate is recognized as a potent antioxidant, but throughout the ages it’s had a reputation for being an aphrodisiac. I assume this explains the tradition of giving chocolate to one’s lover on Valentine’s Day. Does chocolate live up to its rumored powers? Another stimulant it contains, phenylethylamine (PEA), may account for its repute.

Closely related to amphetamine, PEA facilitates the release of dopamine, the “feel good” chemical in the brain’s reward center. Turns out that when you fall in love, your brain is practically dripping with dopamine. Furthermore, at least three compounds in chocolate mimic the effects of marijuana. They bind to the same receptors in our brains as THC, the active ingredient in pot, releasing more dopamine and also serotonin, another brain chemical associated with happiness.

Photo: Klaus Hopfner, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Photo: Klaus Hopfner, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Don’t be alarmed at this news; these things are quite minimal compared to what real drugs can do. Consuming chocolate has never impaired my ability to operate heavy machinery (lack of training and experience have, though).

Most people would agree that chocolate is no substitute for love, but these natural chemical effects may be why romance and chocolate are so intertwined. Well, that and marketing, I suppose.

Dogs can’t metabolize theobromine very well, and a modest amount of chocolate, especially dark, can be toxic to them. This is why you shouldn’t get your dog a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day, no matter how much you love them. And assuming it’s spayed or neutered, your pooch won’t benefit from any of chocolate’s other potential effects anyway.

Paul Hetzler is a horticulture and natural resources educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County

Freeze pops: exploding the exploding tree myth

Frost crack on large red maple. Photo: Eli Sagor, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Frost crack on large red maple. Photo: Eli Sagor, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

When temperatures dip well below zero Fahrenheit, especially if they fall precipitously, things pop. Wood siding creaks. Frozen lakes and ponds emit ominous groans, snaps and booms that reverberate through the ice. If soil moisture is high and frost is deep, even the earth can shift in a harmless localized cryoseism, or “frost quake” that produces a nerve-rattling bang.

If you live in a wooded area, you’ve probably heard trees popping and cracking during a deep freeze. It’s an eerie sound on an otherwise still night. Native peoples from northern regions were very familiar with this sound, and some even named a winter month in honor of it. The Lakota call February cannapopa wi, “moon when trees crack from the cold.” The Arapaho consider December the tree-cracking time; for the Abenaki, it’s January.

I once found a reference in a novel to exploding trees. In the book, a lost teen boy survives a northern winter that’s so cold, trees explode into smithereens as if dynamited. I’d lived through winters with minus-40 temperatures but had neither seen nor heard of exploded trees. What did this author know that I didn’t?

After much research, I discovered that fiction is sometimes, well, fictional. As I thought, trees don’t blast themselves to bits. But since that first reference I’ve encountered the exploding-tree myth a number of times. So what does happen when trees go ‘pop’ in the night (or day)?

As we all know, when water freezes, it expands. Some “freeze pops” happen when water that collects between narrow-angle trunk unions freezes.

Luckily, sap is not pure water. It’s endowed with antifreeze in the form of sugars, and to a small extent, dissolved minerals. The more sugar (or any solute) that’s mixed with water, the lower the freezing point becomes. This is due to something known as the “Colligative Property of Solutions,” as you no doubt recall from General Chemistry. (Actually it’s just as well to forget such trivia, which gets in the way of remembering where you put the car keys.)

There comes a point when even sugar-fortified sap will freeze and expand. This can sometimes rupture the bark of a tree, resulting in a visible crack as well as an audible one. In many cases frost cracks close with no long-term ill effects, but sometimes they become perennial. Rarely, a frost crack does send a piece of bark flying. This would tend to happen with a tree like trembling or big-tooth aspen.

Since it’s a weak point, a previous frost crack may pop open again in cold spells. Then each spring and summer the tree makes callus (“repair”) tissue in an attempt to cover the injury, resulting in a raised lip along the seam. Such trees have reduced timber value and an increased potential for decay to set in.

There’s nothing one can do for frost-cracked forest trees in terms of prevention or treatment. You can protect young landscape and fruit trees, however, with light-colored trunk wraps, or even a coat of interior-grade white latex paint, on the lower trunks. Wraps should be removed promptly in spring, and cracks or wounds should never be coated.

In truth, trees do explode occasionally—if someone has placed explosives in them. A friend of mine contracted with the US Forest Service in Oregon in the 1980s to make habitat for cavity-nesting birds. To create snags, he climbed live mature spruces and firs, drilled a hole in the trunk halfway up and inserted dynamite, which he detonated from a safe distance. I’m pretty sure he did this work when it was not below zero.

Paul Hetzler is a horticulture and natural resources educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County

Searching vs. discovering

Because my work often calls for me to be a curator of interesting stuff on particular topics, I spend a lot of time with search engines. They are kind of miraculous in a way; I’m often amazed at how easily I can come up with an exact image that I remember seeing ten years ago to illustrate a story, or how quickly I can come up just the right link, or photo, or piece of music or whatever to answer a query by a listener or a reporter.

Before such tools came along, I was also a regular denizen of the library, poking around the card catalog and the reference section, or with my head stuck to the screen of a microfilm reader. There was (and is) a pleasure in seeking out the particular in the amorphous mass of the general, and bringing home the nugget.

Monument of Discoveries, Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Dennis Jarvis, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Monument of Discoveries, Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Dennis Jarvis, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

But there is also a danger in only seeking out the things you want to know, whether you find them or not. How do you know what you want (or really need) to know? This is a path that can lead to learning “more and more about less and less until finally you know everything about nothing”–a definition of an expert that I ran across somewhere. You can no doubt find the original citation via a search engine.

Fortunately my search activities are often derailed by the other things that come to light adjacent to what I might be searching for. While finding the particular has its own pleasure, meandering down byways that lead you farther and farther from your original goal is in many ways the purer pleasure. The ramble is a more civilized activity than the hunt.

For example, while rambling through just one novel, I learned a little about how perfumes are designed, something about the culture of Atlantic fisherman, took a trip into the Canadian arctic, and learned a little about narwhal migration and the science of hypothermia. In another novel, I learned how trick riders are trained to ride standing up in the ring, and about the subculture of carnival sideshows.

I had no idea that I wanted to know any of that, but I have now discovered otherwise.

“Bright Nights” film festival: Feb 6-14

Aska (Ash) dir. Herbert Sveinbjörnsson Iceland, 2013

Aska (Ash) dir. Herbert Sveinbjörnsson
Iceland, 2013

Winter! Except for bad roads, it’s an ideal time to cocoon indoors and catch up on movies. Maybe even movies set in wintery places?

If armchair travel is your thing check out “Bright Nights: The 5th Baltic-Nordic Film Festival

In collaboration with the Embassies of the Baltic and Nordic nations, the Canadian Film Institute presents this annual festival of films from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Iceland, Lithuania, and Norway.

Offerings range from intense inter-personal dramas, to real events, like “Aska (Ash)” a 2013 film from Iceland, showing the festival’s final night, Feb 14th.

On April 14th 2010 the earth opened up for the second time in less than a month at Eyjafjallajökull in Southern Iceland. The volcanic eruption melted the ice cap, flooded the nearby farms, spewed 70 tons of ash into the stratosphere per second and disrupted air traffic throughout Northern Europe. It forced many flight cancellations and stranded thousands of passengers, capturing the world’s attention. When the airlines resumed their normal routes and headlines started to fade, the farmers under the volcano were fighting for their livestock and livelihood, as they still are today. ASH follows three farming families over the course of a year to see the effect of the ash on their lives. It is a startling, visually arresting, utterly engaging portrait of the aftermath of one of the world’s most spectacular, and devastating, volcanic eruptions.

ASH Official teaser trailer from Edisons Lifandi Ljosmyndir on Vimeo.

All the films are being shown at Carleton University’s River Building Theatre in Ottawa, with English sub-titles.