Sunday, May 21, 2017

Garden Musings In Motion


ProfessorRoush thought he'd attempt a wee little blogging experiment today and, at the same time, try to bring you a small glimpse of the fury of a Flint Hill's storm.  He has long wanted to include movies in the blog and it occurred to me that conversion to animated GIF's might work.  I apologize in advance if the files are a little big for slow Internet connections.

On 5/18/2017, there were severe thunderstorm warnings in the area, and sure enough, in the early evening the sirens started to blast and the Thursday night TV lineups were interrupted for continuous local weather coverage.  A Tornado Warning was posted directly for western Manhattan, and we began watching out the windows.  While taking the photo of the ominous cloud at the left, I suddenly discovered that in one of the recent iPhone upgrades, there was a new photo option for time-lapse video.

Modern technology is absolutely incredible, isn't it?  Who would have thought, 40 years ago at the beginning of the computer age, that a slim device in my pocket would become more versatile than any camera in existence at that time, would replace our entire stacks of records and tapes, would carry all our databases and records, and would manage all our communications in ways that we could never have imagined?  Each of these videos captures between 1 and 2 minutes of actual time, a time span roughly equivalent to my attention span and ability to hold the camera still with only moderate fidgeting.  Make sure you click on the pictures to view them in full size and majesty.

Setting aside my awe and wonder for technology, and moving on to my awe and wonder for Mother Nature, from our high vantage point northwest of Manhattan, we expected at any moment to see a long finger extend from the cloud to touch the earth, but it never materialized and Manhattan, and we, were safe.  When the rain and wind finally hit us, my garden took a little beating, but it too, withstood the test of climate with little damage.    ProfessorRoush was left only with the memories and a newfound magic ability to add to his photographic repertoire.

There's a second part of the experiment of course.  I was going to put the still photo on this entry first, but then thought, "Hey, who not lead off with a video?"  Besides learning if the videos would play in the blog, I also wanted to see what happens to the "preview" image created when some of you link my blog to yours.  Will it show motion as well?

(Postscript addition;  The "preview images" in links in other blogs DO show motion.  Yay!)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Where in the World was ProfessorRoush?

For today's enjoyment, I thought a minor mystery was in order to keep you on your toes.  The rules are simple; use the clues to guess where I was this weekend.

The first clue is this flower, a Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla patens), a member of the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).  One of the earliest native flowers to bloom in its region, the Pasque Flower was blooming profusely in the high mountain region I visited this past weekend.

When I spotted it, I thought it was a crocus, which I knew was not native to the region.  I was not being totally naive in my identification, since this flower was called "wild crocus" by the pioneers in the area.  Another common name for the flower is the Easter Flower, because of its early bloom period.  A little research revealed its true identity and proved that it was right where it was supposed to be, between 8500 and 11000 feet above sea level.  One other thing I learned in the research is that all parts of this delicate little plant is poisonous, full of cardiogenic toxins and oxytoxins.

This clue may not help you much, but the mammalian fauna pictured here was native as well.  This little prairie dog was playing hide and seek with my camera, but it finally surrendered to the photographic necessity of the moment and posed for a still photo.  





Nor is this lichen planting likely an easy giveaway to my vacation location, unless you are able to discern what kind of stone the lichen is growing on.  There are easily 5 or 6 different species of lichen growing in this photograph, from the blue-grey mass to the light yellow and rust spots on the rock.


Within view of the Pasque Flowers and the rock formation with the lichens, there was this homestead, the homestead of the widow Hornbek, built in 1878.  Adaline and her four children homesteaded this cabin and made a thriving ranch out of the area.
Are you getting warm yet?   Marco?  Polo.



The real reveal may be this photograph.  It depicts a formation known as the Big Stump, one of the main attractions within the National Monument it stands in.  The Big Stump is a petrified redwood, about 10 feet in diameter.  It was buried in a volcanic mud flow in the Eocene area, then preserved and fossilized.  Many other stumps in the area were sold and carted off before the area was designated a National Monument.  If you look closely at the black spots of the top center of the stump, you might discern that those are broken off and embedded saw blades from an attempt to saw up the stump and move it early in the last century.  As an internal scale, you can check out the cropped off arm of a family member at the right of the informational plaque.   All of the petrified stumps in the area are now Federally protected, although after viewing the lichen colonies, I'm not sure that they are protected very well.  Lichen, over centuries is every bit as destructive to stone monuments as are greedy men with metal saws.

That's all I've got for you.  Ready to guess? Yes, for those who concluded that I was in Colorado, and further, that I visited the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, give yourself a pat on the back.  I was visiting family this past weekend and doing touristy things, which, for anyone unfortunate enough to accompany me, always means either a botanical or historical side visit.  The Florissant Fossil Beds is an interesting little spot with lots of geology and paleontology to view and I highly recommend it to those who can stand lots of fairly dry science presentations.  The Park Service does what they can to make the history, both ancient and recent, come alive for visitors, but there is only so much you can do to make an Eocene fossil formation exciting to the average viewer, however fascinating it is to nerds like ProfessorRoush.  Also, if you visit Florissant, be prepared for lots of hiking.  There are 15 miles of foot trails leading from the Visitor Center through the National Monument.

Friday, May 12, 2017

(Fru) Dagmar Hastrup

When a gardener is pressed by misfortune, by weather, illness, or insect, he or she will sometimes stoop to admiration of the unadmirable; to false flattery of the faulty.  Thank heavens, for the salvation of my sanity and reputation, 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' is performing at her nondeplorable best this year in my garden and I can be honest about her virtues.  Perhaps in a normal year, she would be and has been outshined by gaudier specimens, but this year she is the rugose Belle of the Spring Ball.



She's about a three-year old plant in my garden, this simple Danish maid, and just now reaching early adulthood and nearly mature growth.  Standing at approximately 3 feet tall, she's short for a Rugosa, although she already shows a middle-aged spread, wider than her height.  Suzanne Verrier, author of Rosa Rugosa, suggests that she "is usually larger on its own roots than on an understock. "  For me she has been, in the past, a not very ostentatious lass for most of the year, although the exceedingly excited bee in the photo at the upper right might disagree.

'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' was discovered by Knud Julianus Hastrup at the Hastrup nursery in Vanloese near Copenhagen, Denmark in 1914.  Herr Knud is said to have likely named the quiet lass after his wife, Dagmar Henriette Vilhelmine, and according to Marianne Ahrne, writing on helpmefind.com/roses, she has always been known throughout the Scandinavian countries as simply 'Dagmar Hastrup'.   "Fru" is the older Scandinavian equivalent to the English Mrs. or Mistress, an older formal title dropped by the 1960's Swedish population  in a wildly du-reformen fit of familiarity.  In the interest of political correctness, I should probably also bend to the winds of conformity, since Modern Roses 12 also lists her as merely 'Dagmar Hastrup', but as a married gentleman, I'm going to stick here to the formal address out of respect to Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  

A silvery pink, single Hybrid Rugosa, 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' blooms freely and often, forming beautiful scarlet hips each fall as I've previously described.    I haven't yet noticed, but she is also reputed to don attractive foliage in the fall, trading her flawless rugose medium green foliage for new and more warmly-colored attire.  Verrier gave an extremely flattering review of her, stating she "ranks as a classic among the rugosas."

Until this year, however, when she finally reached my waist, I did not know that this single rose packed a huge punch of fragrance, the clov-iest spicy clove fragrance that I've ever experienced.   I suppose that sauce for the bee is also sauce for the gardener.  'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' is completely cane hardy, drought-resistant, and, best of all, disease-free.  If there were a Tinder for roses, everyone would be swiping "up" for 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup', intent, like this bumblebee, on an easy hookup.   Like most Rugosas, I'm sure 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup' would be happy to use her thorns to oblige.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Wear Out, Not Rust Out

Those who don't like books, or those who don't like the act of reading books, may not appreciate my recent post on the reading I've been doing, nor will likely have little interest in this one.  If you find yourself however, preferring printed ink on paper to digital projections of words; if you don't feel empathy with the coldness of an iPad, but are satiated by the softness of a simple page or the weight of a binding; if you feel most joyful in a comfortable room surrounded by shelves and stories; then I know a book you'll love.

In my recent blog post, I was waxing on the pleasures of reading Beverly Nichols and garden reading in general and I had just finished Nichols' Laughter on the Stairs.  His next text, however, Sunlight on the Lawn, grabbed my attention quickly, swept by a strong current of language and thoughts straight over the written waterfalls into a pool of garden philosophy and pleasure.

Nichols has a gardener, "Oldfield," a recurring character from his books, full of hard-won wisdom and observations about life.  One example, expressed in Sunlight on the Lawn, occurs when Nichols finds Oldfield training a rose to a wall, sans gloves, and asks him about it.  Oldfield then "...had turned to me with a kindly smile, and had said: I reckon some of the young 'uns would be wearing gloves for a job like this.  But I don't hold wi' gloves.  What I allus say is, a man don't put on gloves when he makes love to a woman.  No more he should when he tends a rose."

I'm with Oldfield.  ProfessorRoush doesn't tend roses with gloves either.  In fact, I would post a picture of my forearms as they appear currently, freshly flayed from a much-needed weekend of trimming rose canes, but I'm afraid that the photo would finish the faint-hearted among you.  Suffice it to say that tending roses is a little rougher on the skin then most sessions with feminine flesh.

Early on, however, in Sunlight on the Lawn, Nichols relates a conversation with Oldfield that has a much broader application to life than his list of activities better done without gloves. The background is that Oldfield is aging, and despite it, still works long days at strenuous labor.  Beverly tries to get him to cut back but Oldfield won't.  Oldfield expresses it, through Nichols, like this:  "I want to wear out," he said very softly.  "To wear out.  Not to rust out."

"To Wear Out, Not Rust Out."  Of the great bumper-sticker slogans of gardening, that one ranks pretty high on my list.  Or, as Beverly Nichols put it further, "to pass on with one's old spade still bright from use."  My spade, upon my demise, won't be bright from use, but it just might have moist clay still clinging to it, if I'm fortunate.   I'm often questioned, by my wife, by family, by friends, of why I stay so active and have so many hobbies.  Sometimes, at my most tired, I myself wonder why there are entire weeks when I haven't sat down until I collapse into bed at night.  Now, thanks to Nichols and Oldfield, I have a good answer.

"I want to wear out, not rust out."

(Aside:  The hoe in the picture above is my paternal grandfather's tomatoe planting hoe.  I can't fathom the years of use represented in this hoe.   Look at the number of nails at the top, multiple repairs to hold the head on.   The sweat-blackened area, halfway down the staff, is worn smooth and a bit smaller by calloused hands, and the hoe balances perfectly if you hold it there.  A relic of a good life lived hard.)  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Yes, Size Matters...

...for rain gauges, anyway.  I have no experimental data regarding other subjects.

ProfessorRoush has always been a purchaser of those little cheap 1 inch diameter rain gauges, both for price and for their ability to be mounted easily to a post.  I always wanted them cheap because, as often as not, I leave them open-side-up a little too long and lose one to frozen shatterage nearly every year.  For ages, I had one down at the garden and one up by the house, the nearest for convenience on cold rainy spring mornings and the farthest because the rain in Kansas is so spotty that I thought the second often might have differing readings (though it doesn't).

Then, a couple of years ago, I purchased a 2 inch rain gauge that stuck into the ground on a little metal stand (pictured at left) and I immediately noticed that it commonly registered more rain than the smaller gauges, sometimes double the amount of rain.  What the heck, an inch is an inch in regards to rain, right?

Recently, on an experimental whim, I purchased the rain gauge pictured at the right below this paragraph, which is about halfway between the two previous sizes.  And in the recent rains over several days, the tally was; Biggest gauge, 3.4 inches, medium gauge, 2.7 inches, and two small gauges, 2.1 and 2.2 inches respectively.


What I neglected to previously consider was that rain never falls straight down in Kansas.  It commonly sweeps in at a 30º angle to the ground.  Sometimes, it seems to be completely horizontal and never actually reaches the ground, or thereabouts.  I'm pretty certain that if my face didn't sometimes intercept the path of rain, those individual droplets might make it as far as Missouri before they fell.  So a simple explanation might be that some of the rain is hitting the side of the gauge instead of dropping into it.

Of course, any decent mathematician would have calculated in seconds that the area of a 1 inch circle is πr², or 0.785 square inches.  Held at a 30º angle to oncoming rain (and estimating by eyeball), the apparent opening of the now ellipse is 1 inch X 0.6875 inches.  The formula for the area of an ellipse is πab, or π(semi-major radius)(semi-minor radius).  In this case, that is π(0.5)(0.3438) = 0.54 square inches.  The same amount of rain just doesn't have the same target area, so the gauge doesn't fill as much.  Voila!

Of course, the real "angular diameter" of the gauge to rain that falls at near subtornadic velocity has a more exact formula  (δ=2 arctan(d/2D)), but then you get into arctans and deltas and other things that I don't want to spend time relearning. I'm still confident enough to put the validity of my crude explanation and estimates of rain depth up against the likely validity of a specific 20-year future climate change prediction by any scientist, "settled science" or not.  Bigger IS simply better, regarding rain gauges, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Rainy Day Reading

Since the weather has chosen to turn cold and miserably wet the past few days (and off and on for the past month), ProfessorRoush has been catching up on his garden reading.  To be truthful, I'm aching to drown myself in a good story, so I'm also watching less television in favor of losing myself in the thoughts of others.   To ensure my enjoyment, I turned back to some garden classics and purchased two of Beverly Nichols wonderful books.

If you have overlooked Beverly Nichols, I'd encourage you to seek out any of his garden-centered books you can find.  Nichols was an English bachelor gentleman from another age, cultured and clever, and his writing is incredibly fluid and floral.   I  read several of his books some years ago from the local library, but I just finished Laughter on the Stairs, and am half through Sunlight on the Lawn, the 2nd and 3rd of the "Merry Hall" series.  

 Laughter on the Stairs is focused on the Merry Hall Estate and the semi-fictional characters of Mr. Nichols' dry wit, but gardening is sprinkled throughout, especially in the last pair of chapters titled The Flower Show; Acts One and Two.  Reading Nichols, I find myself slowing down from my normal speed-reading pace, and savoring his sentences.  For example, the following passage from Laughter on the Stairs:

"I heard a timid voice asking if I would like a glass of elderberry wine.  Yes, I said, I should like it very much.  Which was quite untrue, for though elderberry wine is a most melodious title, though it has a music which would have delighted Keats, it is, in practice, like extremely disgusting invalid port.  However, I drank it with a will, on this occasion, out of a thin and elegant sherry glass, in tribute to a brave little lady who had nobody to care for her."

Another of my readings was encouraged by the recent release of Potted and Pruned, by garden blogger Carol J. Michel, author of the blog May Dreams Gardens and a Hoosier, as I once was.  Carol was kind enough to offer autographed copies on personal contact, and this book therefore fills two spots in my library, both garden-related and autographed.   Books like Carol's, and my own, are probably inevitable extensions of our garden blogs.

 Potted and Pruned is a collection of 36 garden essays, each a gem with something to offer everyone.  My personal favorites were Chapter 4 All Gardeners Are Delusional, Chapter 21 GADS (Garden Attention Distraction Syndrome), and Chapter 29 Time in a Garden.  And for those who care about classification, after reading Chapter 24, Buying Shrubs, I found that I would classify as a Gardener, a category which combines the worst characteristics of Experimenters, Grabbers, Rescuers and Researchers.  Read Potted and Pruned and you'll find out what else Carol thinks about the motivations of plant purchasers.         

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