Field of Science


Sir Richard Attenborough is 94 years old and seems as sharp as ever.  He's certainly seen more of this planet than most, and it is clear that he has thought about what he's seen and what has been transpiring during his life more than most too.  His new netflix film, A life on our planet, is excellent, maybe the best film he's ever done. The Phactors recommend that you watch this film with your family, and then consider what this 45th president has done for the environment.  Just a look up the Bear's Ears national monument to see what is left after an axe was taken to the map.  Not sure how much more environment is left to be given away by people like this. The film begins at Chernobyl, which struck TPP as a funny place to start but at the end of the film the Chernobyl location makes sense. 

Friday Fabulous Flower - last

OK lost track of the calendar but there must be a friday somewhere around.  It's also late in October, so except for tree color, and there is lots of it this year, the gardens are just about done for this year.  But not quite.  In the shady edges of our gardens at least one plant is in flower having started blooming just a week or two ago.  The funny thing is that this perennial is one of the first plants to sprout new shoots in the spring, and then it is the last thing to flower, monk's hood, Aconitum. TPP doesn't remember what species our gardens have, maybe A. noveboracense, as several cultivars exist.  This is a very toxic plant, so it gets left alone by the wildlife.  It's also called wolfbane, and several other colorful names that suggest toxicity.  The newest studies place this genus close to lark's spur, Delphinium and Consolida, in the buttercup family.  

Gardening during time of plague - End of the season summation

 Our kitchen garden was a great success this year, although it took some watering to make it happen.  Our successes were tomatoes, Asian eggplant, sweet peppers, zucchini, and basil.  Notice that there is a culinary theme here, and as such we ate well particularly in a Mediterranean sense. It helped to have a new herb and spice store whereby we could get really good harissa.  And even better, most of the garden kept producing until late September and early October.  A late crop of basil allowed for considerable  production of pesto much to Mrs. Phactor's great delight.  A special semi-vacation  new potato and green bean pesto to reprise a Ligurian dish  along with a very nice Tuscan wine. 

There are only two of us, so the zucchini don't have to be awesomely productive to be quite adequate.  The same with tomatoes.  A quart of cherry tomatoes every 3 days is more than enough, but we had some nice little tomato recipes.  The eggplant was nearly our match, and while not large, 6-8 a week is more than enough and fortunately a seared eggplant tinga was originally for zucchini, so it expects you to be nearly over whelmed.  The cucumbers decided to stay male most of the summer and then finally became monoecious in September as sort of a surprise.  Usually cucumber succumbs to a bacterial wilt, but vine survival made for a late crop success, then a friend inundated us with cucumbers and they became a very tasty relish.   

Unfortunately  our Michigan apple source closed because of the family could no longer stay in the business, and we have not yet found a replacement orchard for our supply of Northern Spies. Let us know if you have any orchard suggestions.

The pandemic has not been much of a bother, although we had to cancel travel for two family weddings, and a trip to Scotland.  Mostly we gardened and it not only gave us something to do, but it paid some garden type dividends.  We traded red buckeye seedlings for green dragon seedlings, a good deal we think.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - Still in flower

 TPP went out to a nursery area to collect some seeds, and this rare species, Sanguisorba canadensis, was still in flower. The common name is burnett, but since it only occurs in 3 counties in Lincolnland, it is anything but common.  Although the flowers don't look it, this is a member of the Rose Family.  The display is basically all stamens and as they are rather lax they blow prettily in a breeze.  October 8 is a bit late for flowering but not for this plant.  Seed collected last year germinated well and come next spring we'll have a lot of seedlings to  add to the prairie plot.  

Friday Fabulous Flower - pretty tiny

Today's FFF is perhaps one of the rarest plants in our gardens.  It probably isn't all that uncommon, but it still is rarely seen, and so it seems rare.  The other interesting thing is that this is a total volunteer plant, all on its own, it found its way into our garden and found a fairly protected site under our star Magnolia.  Generally plants don't like growing under this Magnolia because its roots are very shallow and so it can compete strongly for water and nutrients.  But when you are such a small plant it doesn't take much in the way of resources for you to grow.  The whole plant is only about 6-8" tall, and each individual flower is only about 4mm long.  The flowers are spirally arranged on the spike and so the scientific name Spiranthes seems most appropriate.  TPP is no certain but this seems to be S. cernua (nodding ladies' tresses).  This also points out that small inconspicuous plants are often considered rare.  This little orchid is in flower now, in early October, and TPP thinks there are two little seedlings growing nearby.