Field of Science


Two filberts

What a terrible crop!  Two filberts!  That's one-fourth of the crop harvested the year before.  American filbert is a much under appreciated and little planted shrub, and this should be corrected.  Two full grown filbert shrubs that top out a 8-10' tall occupy a space along a boundary fence in the space between our garage and a garden shed, a distance of some 15-20'.  They are a nearly trouble free privacy barrier with a handsome habit, and they grow well in the shade.  The pollen catkins are present for next season's early spring flowering.  Most people don't notice the female flowers at all.  All you see are the little red feathery stigmas of 2-4 flowers emerging from the bud scales.  The nuts are smaller than the cultivated filberts, but every bit as tasty. Unfortunately the squirrels like to jump the gun and they get eaten just before actual maturity.  Our harvest consists of the few nuts they miss.  Nonetheless the shrub is very worth planting. 

Grilled winter squash & marinated green beans

The Phactors cooked a large banana squash today.  Three cups of cubes were saved for making some curried squash soup.  Most of the rest was steamed and frozen for making pies and other items.  The remainder (it was big) was cut into 1" by 3" long pieces (unpeeled) and then microwaved for about 6 mins, until just tender.  These pieces were then lightly coated with melted butter, then salted and peppered.  Later these pieces of squash were grilled while a nice piece of marinated salmon was cooking.  A few minutes on a side gave the squash a nice darker orange color with a bit of a carmelized surface.  It dried out the flesh just a little that made it denser, nuttier, and totally delicious.  Lovely.  And a nice complement to the salmon and some marinated green beans that were a bit too big for eating as is.  Here's how.  Steam one pound of green beans until tender.  The marinade is 1 cup of Italian salad dressing, 1/2 cup of dry white wine, 1 TBSP of tarragon vinegar, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp dried basil, 1 TBSP Dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp pepper.  Whisk together and put the hot steamed beans into the marinade, stir gently, and let set for 30-60 mins.  Best overnight, but ready to eat after an hour.  Garnish beans with strips of roasted pimento.  Beans will store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.  Once marinated 4 pounds of beans for a garden party and they disappeared like magic.

The Phytophactor gets interviewed

A very nice lady named Emma Springfield interviewed The Phactor a week or so ago, and that interview now is posted at the Nature Center Magazine, clearly a publication with some discriminating taste or a deperate need to fill space.  TPP was quite candid during this interview so you may find it interesting or a mild diversion.  Actually you may enjoy looking around at this rather attractive online publication. Now, let's see who sends whom the most traffic, eh?   

Favorite war movies

A list of Shawn Ryan's favorite war movies was quite revealing; TPP agreed with him on 7 out of 10, and that's quite surprising.  OK so here's our mutual list: Apocalypse Now (still gives me chills especially everytime a medical helicopter wakes me up at night while flying over our house), Casablanca (on my all time top ten list; ton of color for a B&W, 2nd only to the Third Man), Dr. Zhivago (inspiration for the F1's name), Das Boot (almost too claustrophobic to watch), MASH (brilliant antiwar film), On the Beach (most depressing movie ever), Saving Private Ryan (surprised me how good this film was).  Now here's where we differ.  Fail Safe?  No, no, no, Dr. Strangelove is much, much better.  Inglorious Basterds (just didn't do it for me).  This is perhaps his worst pick, and TPP would argue that The Dirty Dozen is a better representative of the same genera, but even then it's not up to a top ten.  Patton is a real classic in my opinion, a portrait of a warrior.  My tenth pick is actually a problem.  On one hand Mediterraneo is a sentimental favorite, perhaps the gentlest war movie ever made, and sentimental and sad too.  However the nod goes to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly which most people think of as a western, but it's actually an anti-war movie, showing how war can make even greedy, anti-heros look good.  The comments are now open for more nominations. 

Ethical problem?

Students bring the Phactor lots of things; mostly problems.  However every now and again students bring you gifts and many such little items decorate my office.  The latest gift came from a fellow with a distinctly Italian name.  "Since you're from New York, I thought you might like this sausage my Father makes in our basement."  And TPP is presented with a large link of home-made soppressata.  Be still my beating heart.  Soppressata!  Wow!  Central Lincolnland has lots of livestock but very little of it gets made into sausage, which is a great shame.  And after you've been away from an area where large fractions of the population are of Italian and German descent long enough you sort of forget about the diversity of sausage available.  The university has rules about accepting gifts of course, and there was no indication that any sort of Italian quid pro quo was expected, but TPP is thinking that you have to cut some A students a bit of slack, and in the meantime destroy the evidence.  Does this sound right to you?   

Private Life of Plants - Part II?

AoB Blog reports that Richard Attenborough is producing a new program on the "fascinating world of plants" using the latest in high-resolution photography and the like.  No doubt it will be interesting enough, although such programs tend to seek out the dramatic examples and failing to show the fascinating things about the plants right around us.  However TPP is not complaining.  Nature programs routinely ignore plants and their hosts routinely say ignorant things about plants (like Corwin saying something idiotic about bayberry pollen in a commercial).  So click over to AoB Blog and from there you can connect to an infomercial about the program.  They have some pretty pictures. 

Most attractive squash

When you have more than 400 varieties of squash, some are more plain and utilitarian than others, some more attractive than others, in fact some are not just excellent squash, some are quite decorative.  It's hard to pick just one winner as the most attractive squash, but this year TPP nominates a variety that was new to him.  This year's most attractive squash is the Lakota.  Pretty enough to be a gourd, but it's about the size of a basketball.  One of these now sits in the middle of our dinning room table.  You can buy the seeds if you want to grow one from Homestead Seeds.  Sort of reminds me of a planet that should have been featured on Dune.

400 varieties of Squash

According to the experts domesticated squashes including pumpkins all belong to one of four species of Cucurbita.  Domestication involves selection for desirable traits resulting in different varieties from different places, but all the genetic variation on display was inherent in the wild species.  That's what makes the varieties of squashes all the more amazing, and it was truly on display at the Great Pumpkin Patch.  The Great Wall of squash, as long and as tall as the barn that props it up, displays about 200 varieties of squash, less than half the number of varieties grown here. You'll get the idea from this smaller display high lighting an attractive array of squash.  The GPP constructed such a display on the White House lawn a couple of years ago.  The Phactors stocked up on winter squash, and even tried the pumpkin ice cream.  Is it good?  Well, this expert thinks so.  

Outa our gourds

The summer of 2012 was one of the hottest and driest in many decades and many crops, OK, mostly its maize around here, suffered in central Lincolnland.  There are crops that like hot and tolerate dry, so it was not just a good year, but a great year for cucurbits.  So the botanical geek tour foursome are off on a road trip this Saturday to visit the Great Pumpkin Patch to see each and every one of the more than 400 varieties in the 5 Cucurbita species cultivated there (handy check list provided). The purveyor of all these squash and pumpkins also operates Homestead Seeds to keep the rarer varieties alive, and genetically pure!  Maybe you too can grow an heirloom squash.  They also have some awesome pumpkin ice cream.  Yes, this blog title has been used before, but there are only so many squash puns out there.  In this image TPP blesses the great pumpkin. 

This Neighborhood Is Getting Crowded

In 1988 exactly one (1) extrasolar planet was thought to exist, and that was confirmed in 1992.  So that's a total of 10 planets, nine (before Pluto got demoted) orbiting an undistinguished, medium-sized yellow star, which the carbon-based, primate-descended inhabitants of the third planet call Sol, and one planet orbiting another star.  Now there are 837 known extra-solar planets (as of 15 September 2012) in 660 planetary systems.  Based on what is now known, each star in the Milky Way galaxy (by the way, galaxia mean milky), which has a 100 billion stars, give or take, is now estimated to have an average of 1.6 planets, or a galaxy with 160 billion planets.  Something like 2400 possible planets await confirmation (presumably very detailed measurements).  Doc Madhattan posts a nice video of how planets form and most interesting is the significance of the ice line.  So doesn't it seem like the galactic neighborhood is getting a bit crowded?  After all it was just about 500 years ago when we thought Earth was the center of the universe.  20 years ago we knew about one additional planet, and now we probably know about 2400 planets.  The nearest known planet orbiting Epsilon Eridani is only 10.5 light-years away (approx. 63 trillion miles)!  TPP will be closing his window shades at night. 

Entreperneurial botany - moss in a bottle

One of TPP's great failings has been his inability, or reluctance, to use botany to grab a quick buck.  What is it with the crazy idea that something of real value must be proffered?  Is this why a university pays me the not so big bucks for being a world-class expert?  Well, my old friend Dr. Chips sends along an item that truly boggles the mind if it truly opens wallets.  He writes:
If I could save moss in a bottle,
The first thing that I'd like to see,
Is if people who are visiting Seattle would buy
Several tubes that they take home from me!

What about it plant fans?  Would you buy a bottle of moss to take home?  As Dr. Chips, who lives north of Seattle, points out, after he has pressure washed the moss off his roof tile for the umteenth time, he has a small fortune in moss free for the taking, but he wasn't clever enough to put it into used soda bottles (?) and flog them off as souvenirs at $40 a bottle!  Yes, $40 a bottle!  The bourbon TPP only shares with good company doesn't cost $40 a bottle!  Not sure what this says about the value of moss.  Know how much seafood you can buy in Seattle for $40?  Gad.  Thanks to Dr. Chips for bringing this to everyone's attention.  Be sure to pick up a bottle next time you're in Seattle.

Leaf cuttings and art

Searching the intertubes for information and what not can lead to some pretty funny and rather unexpected outcomes, e.g., searching for images of holly.   So this AM the Phactor was looking for some images of how to make leaf cuttings, and look what he finds!   Art!  Look, those darned artistic leaf-cutter ants have been at it again!   

Discovering something I didn't know?

One thing about being an academic, you constantly learn new things.  While scanning through a number of science news web sites during lunch, there was an article on the Discover Magazine web site called 20 things you didn't know about deserts.  Nothing wrong with learning a thing or three or 20 about deserts.  This is something like #3 on the list: "If you get lost in the desert, .... You can suck water from the branches of some palms, such as buri and rattan."  Wow!  What a thing to know. A real survival hint from the we-know-20-things-about-deserts-that-you-don't experts at Discover Magazine.  Well, the Phactor is going to tell you one thing that Discover Magazine doesn't know about deserts: those palms don't grow in deserts; both are native to the wet tropical areas of SE Asia-Australasia!  Duh!  Guys, that's like saying if you get lost in the desert, stop in at the first DQ you come to and get a root beer float.  They're both just about equally possible to do.  Rattan palms are actually climbing palms, lianas of a sort, so they live in forests, not deserts.  Although you can drink water from a section of rattan stem, but you're not going to find one where you need one.  Rattans do not twine; rattans climb by means of grapples, modified inflorescences, long whip-like, wiry, and armed with tough recurved  hooks that make barbed wire look friendly.  In the dim light of a rain forest understory, these long thin rattan grapples wait ready to rip asunder any unwary botanical field worker.  Did TPP mention that he does not think of  rattans fondly?  So most assuredly, rattan palms are not going to be your problem if lost in a desert, however you will probably die of thirst. 

1001 Botanical Gardens you should see before you die

It was a mistake to buy Mrs. Phactor a book titled: "1001 botanical gardens you should see before you die"  because the index makes such a handy check list.  Even with our almost famous botanical geek tours (here, here, and here)(and even one before TPP started the blog), there are still well over 900 gardens to go.  Now TPP has been to quite a few botanical gardens that did not make the 1001 list leaving considerable room to quibble as the list is quite UK biased.  Now here's another list of 13 botanical gardens to see before you die, and TPP has been to 7 of the 13, and you might be surprised which 7, he's done better overseas than domestically.  How did you do?  Even here in the USA this list could be quibbled with quite a bit depending upon your criteria.  What do you think?  Nominate you additions and deletions.  We'll compose our own list.  But it is hard to decide on the best ever category what with there being so many variables. 

History of botanical education

How do you think botany was taught in the 1800s?  TPP almost said "in the last century", but then realized what that now means, and he's an expert on the last 50 years of that century having lived it.  Marshall Sundberg is one of my best colleagues, and we've collaborated at times on several educational projects.  Now what TPP knows that you don't know is that his wife is a professional historian, and clearly she has rubbed off on him in more ways than just his improved grooming and table manners.  Old botany textbooks provide a lot of information about what and how botany was being taught.  Here's a link to Art Plantae where they have a nice article about his project. 

Cost of chocolate

The time-honored, although not honorable, practice is to get someone hooked on an addictive substance by basically giving it to them free, and then once the addiction hook is set, reel them in and charge them a fortune to maintain their habit or die trying.  In general chocolate doesn't seem to fit this scenario, but like its close cousin caffeine, theobromine is an addictive stimulant.  A local chocolate maker has a semi-sweet dark chocolate containing finely ground coffee beans.  A couple of pieces of this delectable stuff gives you a real buzz, and you wonder if there should be age restrictions for buying it!  At another level, such things as chocolate come from crops in distant places, foreign countries with tropical climates, and chocolate is just taken for granted along with its affordability, so what would you pay to insure that cacao (image - cacao tree with ripe fruit) as a crop is protected and sustainable?  Well, there is a protection strategy and a price tag (visiting this link will be a good time to try out your scratch and sniff monitor).  On a world-wide basis $2 million annually is probably not too much, but you know, a couple of million here, a couple of million there, multiplied by all those other commodities people would still like to have and pretty soon you're talking real money.  Unfortunately the human race has borrowed against the future using natural resources without really paying the price for their conservation, maintenance, and sustainability.  This cost, these costs, are now going to come home to roost over the next few decades.  The free lunch is over, and things like chocolate may become pricier, a luxury.  Pay up, or go cold turkey.  HT to Agricultural Biodiversity. 

Strange thing to do - justify your own replacement

My colleagues, a few of my colleagues at least, have noticed that TPPs retirement from academic servitude in a couple of years will leave a pretty large gap in organismal botany; it'd be gutted actually.  So with positions so hard to come by, replacements so long delayed, justifications must be put into the queue with considerable lead time.  Thus TPP finds himself writing a justification for his own position, and this is proving a very strange thing to do.  A justification needs to be strong, but then it begins to sound like arguing for your own significance, your own importance, your indispensability.  And this list of what you actually do do does begin to look like a considerable undertaking should it be suddenly handed to another person in toto, and someone needs to do it all, although it was indeed acquired gradually, or in fits and starts over the years.  Let's see, this position requires someone with a broad and encyclopedic knowledge of plants.  Check. This person should contribute to the scholarship of the school, perhaps with a distinguished publication record extending over years (37 years and counting).  This person should be an excellent teacher.  Well, duh, and maybe receive both the university's and the botanical society's highest honors and awards for teaching.  Check.  This person should play well with others.  Hmm, well, ...  OK, maybe that one can slide.  This person should be capable of making excellent, award-winning chili, and not some slop with beans and corn, or even worse, macaroni, in it.  Whoa!  Maybe this is starting to sound too much like the current occupant even leaving out the part about being a fashion icon in biology. 

Multilayer interference iridescence or shiny!

Wow!  Those are some shiny fruits!  Quite a few shiny, colorful things actually lack pigments and their apparent color is due to iridescence, the way then bend and reflect light.  Supposedly these fruits (Pollia condenstata) are the shiniest of all such biological materials.  Now of course plants make attractive fruits to lure seed dispersers, in this case most likely birds, and the birds seek such displays to get a nutritive reward and everyone goes away happy.  However these really, really attractive fruits are deceptive providing no reward at all, so any bird that eats these fruits disperses the seeds and considering some effort was involved bascially gets cheated.  This works because such fruits mimic a similar rewarding plant, in this case possibly a species of Psychotria (right) that has bright blue rewarding fruits.  You don't get fruits colored like this in the temperate zone.

No ornamental sweet potatoes!

OK, this is seriously annoying.  Every year for years now TPP has liberated some ornamental sweet potatoes from one of many planters on campus to use for a laboratory specimen on starchy staples.  And this year there are none!  Why just a couple of years ago all of the bayberry bushes on campus were victims of new buildings or new landscaping with nary a thought of where my students were going to get bayberries so that they could extract the wax.  TPP has this crazy notion that everything, everything, on campus is here to help me do my job, and wouldn't it be nice if before removing a plant or changing your ideas about ornamentals you checked with someone, the SOMEONE, who uses them?  You see, and this comes as a surprise to most of our administrators, the campus and its lovely landscaping is not just something pretty to fill in the spaces between buildings.  No question this is a valid function, but the campus is my classroom and good manners dictates that you check with the instructor before removing something from my classroom!  Got that?  And while you're at it, keep the squirrels from eating all the native pecans too. 

About okra

Yesterday's trip to our local farmer's market held no real surprises: peppers were rebounding, tomatoes, except maybe cherry tomatoes, were shot, fall crops were coming into season, and people had a lot of okra for sale, and sadly, most of it was not worth buying.  The reason for this is simple; it was all too mature.  There are a number of fruits that we usually eat as vegetables that are only edible when immature.  The mature fruits are inedible.  Okra matures into a hard, dry capsular fruit that splits open along 5 seams to release its seeds.  As long as the young fruits are elongating, they are soft enough to consume, but once they reach their mature length, they become fibrous very quickly, and okra grows rather quickly so you must pick any pods more than an inch long once a week.  This is the zucchini lesson all over again.  Pick them young!  But vendor after vendor had great big old things as if large size were a virtue.  Hmm, no image of okra in the files, especially a mature fruit, but here's a nice image of an okra flower.  The flower is a dead give-away that okra belongs in the mallow/hibiscus family.
The season and okra in combination remind TPP of one more thing: my suggestion that team mascots be plant names.  Let's add to the ranks of forward looking universities and colleges by introducing the Delta State Fighting Okras!  Yea, go Okras!  Fear the Okra!  Got to get one of those t-shirts!  If the pods start to sprout arms, they're too old to eat.

Wicked Plants

A while back TPP wondered about wicked plants only to find out there was a book by Amy Stewart.  In about 30 mins TPP will be at a cocktail party featuring Amy Stewart.  This all sounds like such wicked good fun.  Wicked Plants was not one of those books from which TPP learned very much, but it does tell a lot of nice little stories and would be of great interest to most plant fanciers.  Ms. Stewart is a guest of our horticulture program.  Now if it would only stop raining because its to be a garden party.  However, once even indoors, TPP attended a cocktail party where you did not need to ask for a splash of water in your scotch because it was lightly raining inside the Missouri Botanical Garden's Climatron.  Having just shipped a book ms off to the editors we can only hope to be as popular as Ms. Stewart's, but realistically very few books on botany ever do that well.  So TPP must salute her success.

Internet Minions

How good it is to have minions; people who do your bidding.  So lacking an example of a FFF (actually a couple are around but still in the camera's memory chip), how good it is to have another science blogger (aka Stoat) give us a Friday Fabulous Flower.  However, TPP had to deliver the botanical goods nonetheless.  Still how nice to have a bit of botany here and there in the science blogs.

Cat Factoid in Doubt

Mrs. Phactor related this cat factoid to me last night: 73% of cat owners let their cat sleep on their bed.  This is simply not true, not factually accurate.  First, even assuming that their data is correct, the statement is simple wrong.  Stated correctly this factoid should read: 73% of cats decide to sleep on their owners' beds.  What makes people think it was their decision?  Duh!  Second, our data, albeit a smaller sample size, suggests at least 84% of cats want to sleep on your bed, but rarely two at one time.  In all cases the younger of the pair prevails in occupying the bed space even when there is room for two with considerable spatial separation.  Exceptions are usually siblings.  Our number 2 cat having been dispossessed of bed space keeps a careful watch on the guest bed, and should you visit be assured that you too can have a cat sleep with you.  It's a service the cats provide.  You're welcome, and if you do not own a cat and don't actually like cats that much, it virtually assures attentive service.  During our waking hours though, the not-the-bed cat has become the adoring lap cat.  Third, almost all cat owners know that when you are not around, all cats sleep on the bed, all, especially it you are one of the 27% of cat-owning fools who think you can keep them off the bed.  They'll also sleep on the dining room table, on the kitchen chairs, in the laundry basket, on top of book shelves, on the living room furniture, on the dog, in you closet, in the clothes dryer, and indeed, anywhere they can access.  We have considered a cat cam, but why confirm what you already know especially if it's going to bother you?  About 24% of our cats haven't actually slept on the bed, but rather they slept on you while you were in bed.  One hefty lunk used to drape himself across my ankles using them rather like a chaise lounge and leaving TPP lame until the circulation was restored in the morning.  One used to wrap around Mrs. Phactors head and purr, and another use to snuggly occupy the curvature made by the backside of her legs.  This was a big cat so guess who would get pushed out of bed?  Oh, and he snored, or breathed heavily at any rate, and she loved him dearly.  And how is all this behavior explained?  The basic cat philosophy is simple to understand: all this is mine.  

Water, water everywhere?

We, i.e., most residents of N. America & Europe, tend to take water for granted and use it with abandon.  It’s only when on occasion we have too little water that we briefly take it seriously.  Indeed, if you do not understand this, TPP would be happy to demonstrate by letting you pay his water bill for the past two months (yikes!); can’t retire yet.  So this graphic may help (although it's sort of ironically funny where the water bubble is located!) where all the water has been gathered into one drop.  It doesn't seem right does it?  Earth is considered a “water planet” (Ever see the remarkably silly movie Ice Pirates?  Some pretty famous actors would like to forget this one.) what with 2/3s of its surface covered by oceans.  And then there’s the polar ice caps, although Arctic ice melting this summer set a new record.  It really, really seems like a lot, so it's hard to think of water as a very limited, and widely squandered resourse, especially when seeing a real tropical downpour or the tailend of Issac.   So want to see how much water there is?  The total amount?  Well, there it is, that little blue marble is the total amount of water that the Earth has, the difference between Earth and Mars, between being a planet luxuriant with life and being desolate and (nearly?) lifeless.  Remember too that most of this water is not usable for human needs because of its salt content.  Fortunately the water cycle continues to distill ocean water and dump fresh water upon the land,  where we wantonly waste it with hardly ever a thought about sustainability.  Most people have trouble understanding the fact that one of the world’s most limited resources is water.  And if you are farming or your city relies on an aquafer, it's even worse; mostly it's not a matter of if, but simply when it will be pumped dry.  When are people going to wake up and pay attention? 

Cocktail Quiz

Now after just offering my primary safe drinking tip yesterday, it only seems symmetrical to see if TPP, Mrs. Phactor, and friends, who will remain unnamed to protect their reputations, violated the rule.  After dining in the remarkably grotty, but original, Arthur Bryant's, a KC BBQ legend, we decided something a bit more upscale, something a bit more elegant, something in a very different neighborhood, was needed, and thus our 4-some left this BBQ icon (almost said mecca, but with all that pork, that just doesn't quite seem right) far behind to enjoy the semi-pleasant weather with an after dinner drink on a delightful patio populated by much younger, and much less sophisticated, drinkers.  So here's your cocktail quiz challenge.  What are the four cocktails?  And for a bonus point, which one belongs to TPP?  Hint: one person may have violated the funny name rule, but perhaps it was just a bit of whimsy inspired by a drink story generated by a recent visit to a less sophisticated city.  It's always good to have a bartender who knows that when you ask for a "wet bar towel" that it's really just a wet bar towel you want, not an unusual cocktail ("Take a wet bar towel; wring the liquid into a low ball glass, add ice, ...") .  As always, employees of this blog, as well as relatives are not eligible to win.   

Safe drinking rules

TPP has provided some rules for drinking safety before, and woe be to those who violate them.  First and foremost, don't drink anything with a funny name or funny color.  Clearly here is a case where breaking that rule had tragic consequences.  Any local hooch that includes a plant hallucinogen (and they are toxic) that is laced with DEET cannot be good for you.  Yes, you read that correctly: DEET!  Sounds pretty repellant, but in this instance the combination was apparently deadly.  Enjoy the beach, people, but stick with bottles of Singha beer.

Some people study the most interesting things

They got data, but no mechanism to explain why the shape of the glass affects the speed at which people drink beer, but it does!  They think it's perceptional where you think more is left than really is and this is open to experimental testing by constructing beer glasses that create different perceptions of when the glass is half empty or half full.  Oh, did they control for optimists and pessimists?  Hope they kept the beer variety being comsumed constant because as all of us know, different beers are served in different glasses in different parts of the world.  And further TPP wants to see their research budget.  Item 1: buy a round for the house; Item 2: buy a round for the house;  etc.  HT to PLOS Blog.

Good year for haploid males

Enough about the weather, but since it is late summer, we must post on a topic TPP has visited before. This will be no surprise for people who suffer from hayfever, but this has been a very good year for haploid males, not all haploid males, but certainly those being dispersed by common species of Ambrosia (ragweed).  The giant ragweed around here, and in one location it borders a jogging/walking/bicycling trail so thickly it's a wonder anyone can survive this pollen gauntlet, has done very well in spite of the drought.  So for all you hayfever sufferers, it's looking like a bad season as the ragweed begins to flower and disperse it's tiny wind-dispersed males (pollen).  Of course, many people here abouts blame goldenrods for their hayfever because they flower at about the same time as ragweed and having colorful flowers, they are noticed.  However, colorful displays means they are attracting insects to disperse their pollen, and it isn't blowing around on the wind to be inhaled.  The only thing that still puzzles TPP, and the answer has eluded me for years, is why were ragweeds named after ambrosia, something delightful to taste and smell, unless this was Linnaeus' idea of a joke. 

Issac waters our gardens

The remanents of hurricane Issac dumped rain on north central Lincolnland on Friday night and Saturday morning.  According to our trusty rain gauge Issac left us 4.3" of rain super filling our lily pond and actually requiring the excess to be dumped.  For the first time in more than 3 months, our plants look well watered, but the drought may have claimed another victim, a bush cherry (Prunus tomentosa).  Newly planted grass grew like crazy demonstrating our terrific timing for planting.  The rain seems to have made some late summer crops a possibility: pepper & eggplant are recovering, bush beans looking good, maybe some lettuce, maybe some bokchoi.  One bed of lettuce appears to have become slug fodder.  No complaints about the rain over the long weekend.  More on the KC weekend later.

KC's Fine Dining

KC, and TPP isn't sure which one, but there are two, is pretty much all there is between Chi-town and Denver, so it should come as no surprise that it has an ample supply of fine dining establishments.  And yes, the one we ate in last night was quite good, quite fun.  But as you know, unless they cross TPP's palm, no endorsements are made.  The key to eating well is to always keep your eyes open to spot potential places for the next meal.  What do you think of this one?  Looks like the perfect place for breakfast to us.  Anyone out there ever eat here?  Bisquit and gravy?  Certainly looks the part.

Driving through Issac

To meet old friends in KC this weekend, our trip took us across northern Missouri on Friday PM, and that meant we had to drive through the remanents of Issac.  It rained, and rained hard.  However the radar suggests that north central Lincolnland got inches of rain overnight and this morning.  Not that the rain wasn't needed, but this was a lot of rain, in a short period of time, and of course, the lily pond was already full.  This AM in KC Issac was still hanging around, but now in the late afternoon, it appears that this end of Issac has just about had it.  Now we hope the remanents of Issac haven't destroyed the remanents of our gardens.