Field of Science

Pandemic, indeed

 Covid to the left. covid to the right, covid in front of us, and onward, onward we go, vaxxed and boostered, but still the worry remains.  The F1 has given us a supply of KF94 masks and they have even been certified by South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, no less. The Phactors don't do bars or similar establishments presently, but then suddenly you realize that you have friends that you haven't seen in a year or so, and largely because it seems as though the virus is closing in from all sides.  That the omicron strain is more transmissible and perhaps somewhat less severe makes sense evolutionarily, but you still don't want to catch it.  Why tempt fate?  The ER is all of five minutes' walk away, but ICU beds are full of people who have not acted prudently, so best not to catch covid if that remains possible.  Presently TPP has little sympathy for antivaxxers or the gullible who say no to a functional vaccine, but will readily treat themselves with horse dewormer or some type of bleach/disinfectant, and then wonder why it didn't work. TPP's only comment is "don't look up." 

Holiday cocktail - Cranberry Julip

 Here's a present for all of you.  During the holiday season, it is always good to have the makings for a nice holiday cocktail on hand.  First you make a cranberry flavored syrup.  Cranberries are a constant item; we buy them fresh and freeze them until needed.  And for other items a bag of dried cranberries is always around too.  To make the syrup, put a cup of cranberries in a cup of water, add 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 largish orange peels.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 min.  Use the back of a spoon to crush any berries that remain whole.  Strain the syrup (a large tea strainer worked fine in 2 batches).  Save the "berry jam" and put on a half pear.  Use 1/2 to 1 oz. syrup (adjust to taste) with 2 oz. bourbon in a short silver julip cup filled with crushed ice.  Stir.  Garnish with a half round slice of orange around a cranberry.  This is a very festive looking cocktail, and quite tasty.  It isn't too sweet.  The syrup will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.  Enjoy, and Happy holidays.

Friday fabulous flower - Berry pretty, pretty red

 Lately TPP's relationship with the calendar has been quite tenuous but having determined that today is a Friday means finding something fabulous to blog about.  Today is actually the end of the fall semester at the university, graduation day, and a former master's student is getting his PhD today.  It was not done under the supervision of yours truly, and that's OK mostly because he still considers TPP to be his mentor. And that's how TPP knows it's a Friday.

The leaf color is long gone, but two patches of fruit color persist, and as my readers know fruits are flowers at the stage of seed dispersal and the advertising for seed dispersers is what attracts us.  Seriously this is a native plant that will eventually provide meals for migrating birds.  The fruit display becomes dramatic after the leaves fall.  What surprises many people is that this is a holly, and mostly people think that means an evergreen, but this swamp holly, or possum haw, or winterberry is deciduous.  In fact that is also it's latin name Ilex decidua.  You really should find a place, or like TPP several places, in you landscaping for this plant.  Probably the only draw back is that this holly is also dioecious, so you also have to grow some pollinators that will be bare this time of year and the flowers are quite small and do not produce much of a display.  

Leaving leaves

 Our property is one big garden with lots of big trees, deciduous trees.  They produce lots of leaves.  Getting lawn care people to even stop by and then offer a fair and decent price to clean them up is a challenge just in itself, and it's just too big of a job for a couple of gardeners as old as we.  Now we do string a rope and put a large net over the lily pond because otherwise it would fill up with decaying leaves and turn anaerobic and nucky.  We do manage to pull the net off and dump out the leaves, often wet, and this year it took two dumpings before the leaves were under control.  A low fence acts as a snow fence and piles up the leaves adjcent to the pond where they can be vacuumed up and put in a place where needed.  Mostly we hire guys to blow leaves into a pile and then drag them to a part of the garden where woodland conditions are wanted.  The area is generally home to spring ephemerals, like 7 or 8 species of Trillium about half of which are natives, but unfortunately the recent invasion of jumping worms processes the leave much faster than before rather than build up a humus layer.  You don't think of worms being invasive but this species along with the much better known nightcrawler, are both introduced and move way more organic matter around the soil then the natives.  Too bad there isn't a plant that they just hate so much they stay away.   By spring the thick layer of leaves witll be substantially reduced in thickness, and some native plants will do well as a tesult.  Wild garlic or leek, and seedlings of spice bush are appearing in lots of patches, and for the time being these are being welcomed. This is all still better than burning the leaves (against city ordinances) or bagging them for composing by the city.  This year the leaves stayed green so long into October that we began to wonder it they would provide color at all.  Any more ideas out there for dealing with lots of leaves?