Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hog Heaven

During my scavenging trip to the home farm, one of the garden items that I was going to bring back by hook or crook was the large ball pictured at the right.  And now you're wondering, "what the heck is that thing?"  And some of you are wondering, "how do I find one of those for my own garden?"

This, my friends, is a hog oiler.  As you can see in the picture below, it even says it's a hog oiler.  Long ago, when people bought their bacon "on the hoof" rather than in vacuum-packed sanitary packages at the grocery, a local farmer was raising those pigs and most of those local farms had a hog oiler.  You poured oil into the base of the oiler (plain old motor oil as I remember, in those halcyon days when we didn't realize that oil was toxic) and then the pigs rubbed against it to coat their skin with oil.  Evidently pigs liked that.  Oiling the hogs was supposed to keep the lice and other critters down on those free-range hogs, although its efficacy was questionable.  Mostly, we got only oily hogs and oily hog pens from hog oilers.

Our hog oiler was used on our farm until the late 1960's, after which it was retired along with the last pig and set to rust in a barn for 30 years.  It's a very heavy cast iron model, evidently rare today because many of the cast iron ones were gathered up in WWII for scrap metal.  If you want one, I understand they're quite pricey these days.  My father resurrected it for his garden about 10 years ago, painting it black, but after a few years it went back to the barn to partially rust.  When I got it 10 days ago, it merely looked like a neglected black ball.

I'd had my eye on this oiler for ages, sometimes lusting at the thought of putting it into my garden.  I've avoided the glazing/reflecting ball cliche in my garden all these years because I can't stand the things, but this hog oiler is going to grace the center of my daylily bed as soon as I find a large enough pedestal to elevate it a bit.  I've painted the ball silver, as you can see, hoping that it may reflect a little color and light in the Kansas sun, but if I tire of the shininess, I can always spray it back to matte black.  Or let it rust.  Rust would be perfect.  I'd be as happy as a pig in, well, oil, if my hog oiler would rust all at once.   I've got a shiver running right up my spine as I think of a big rusty ball as a centerpiece to my garden.  God knows why, but you feel it too, don't you?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Miracle Reed or Malignant Weed?

From the Weather Channel, of all places, I recently learned that I've been growing the next great energy fad, completely unaware for the past 10 years of the potential gold I could be harvesting from my landscape.  I'm referring, of course, to the recent spate of news reports which herald the enormous biomass production capacity of Arundo donax. Evidently, some biofuel investors in North Carolina have discovered that Arundo can produce up to 20 dry tons of foliage/acre, far ahead of its closest competitor, and they plan to join with Chemtex International to build a production plant for synthetic fuels made from the grass. 

Gardeners who aren't into Latin may not recognize the name Arundo donax, but I assure you that all of you would recognize it by the common name, 'Giant Reed' grass.  I've grown the variegated form of this grass for the past decade as a better-adapted substitute than pampas grass to camouflage our septic tank from view.  In Kansas, it grows approximately 10 feet tall each year with absolutely no care or extra watering, and it maintains a decent appearance until late in the Fall.  My feelings have run both hot and cold for Arundo as long as I've grown it.  I admire the easy-care maintenance of the grass because it requires only cutting it back to the ground each spring; no extra water, no fertilizer, no shaping.  It stands up to the strongest summer storms.  On the other hand, even the variegated form is so uninspiring that I've never taken a picture of it.  Ever.  I can't even show you a picture of it as it appears right now because I've already cut it to the ground for the winter.  It is planted on the far edge of my garden so it doesn't even appear in the background of garden pictures.  The picture above, cropped and blown up, is from a wider view of my back garden and it at least gives you an idea of the clump of Arundo in my garden, separated from the rest of the garden by a good margin.  This far away, you can't even see the variegation, just the tall, maize-like nature of the plant.  Arundo just sits there each summer, a tall blob in my landscape, too stiff in the wind to provide any interest or motion to the garden, uninspiring in flower, and dull brown in winter.  Who would think that it had any real value as a production plant?

The danger to the ecosystem, of course, is that Arundo donax has naturalized in 25 states and it is considered a noxious weed in California and Texas where millions of dollars have been spent trying to control it.  Are you surprised that a plant that grows so large so easily might become a bully to some poor little Monarda? Some experts fear that Giant Reed could become the next kudsu, out-competing native flora in a apocalyptic expansion.  My only contribution to the discussion is that my clump has not yet escaped the confines I've given it in my garden, nor have I seen it crop up in the native pasture.  Seeds are supposed to be sterile, but it can spread from every node of a green plant if it gets broken off.  I suspect the danger for spread would be far greater in areas where grazing animals trample it and help to spread it.

Some of you will want to try Giant Reed in your landscape, and if you do, I've got plenty of starts that are guaranteed to grow, so just come on by.  I can't, however, provide you a decent  picture of the plant until next fall, when I'll try to keep a mental note to specifically photograph the plant.  Until then, take my word for it, it will never be the star of your garden although it may someday fill the gas tank of your car.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Spring at Christmas

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful....Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

Merry Christmas, everyone.  The temperature here in Manhattan Kansas is a balmy 18°F and the wind is blowing at 12 mph straight from the north (and gusting to 21 mph), feeding the rain and snow storms down in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.  We've got a few snow splotches left on the ground from the storm last Thursday, but I could stand a little more if the 35% chance for flurries actually arrives.  Say what you will about the cliche, there's always something special about a White Christmas.

Inside, ProfessorRoush is all warm and toasty from my morning walk and Mrs. ProfessorRoush, her diminutive clone, and the HellDog are all snug in their beds.  I'm fully in Christmas cheer here because, before my walk, I checked on several rose cuttings that I started inside about 10 days ago and low and behold, they are starting to leaf out, all secure in their winter greenhouses in a sunny window.  The picture you see is of 'Charlotte Brownell', secure in her infant crib, one of four roses that I started using the method recommended by Connie of Hartwood Roses in a post on her blog.  I tried it once last summer and it worked great.  It looks like it will be four for four this time, in the middle of winter, spring come early to this barren Kansas prairie.  Follow me, have yourself a merry little Christmas and let your heart be Light.

I chose to propagate both 'Griff's Red' and 'Wild Ginger' because my plants of those varieties aren't very robust, placed with their southern backs against a row of viburnums who are overshadowing and just plain outcompeting them.  I thought I should give them a trial out in the sun, where they can find more water and light to grow.  I also started 'Freckles' again simply because I love her and I'd like to make some gifts of her to the KSU rose garden and among other friends (with a second goal of spreading her around to protect her survival from the coming Japanese Beetle horde).

And 'Charlotte Brownell'?  I chose her simply because she is so beautiful.  My sole plant is a $3.00 bagged rose, grafted to an unknown rootstock and full of mosaic virus, but she still finds the strength to put out blossom after blossom.  Virus or no virus, I'm wanting to see how tough this old girl is on her own feet.  I'm taking a dangerous chance, though.  If those creamy blossoms get any larger, I might faint dead away and Charlotte will be fighting off suitors and in danger of being carried off in the night by gardening thieves.  And then 'David Thompson', 'William Baffin', and 'Cardinal de Richelieu' will want to rescue her and that will might set off a war that could annihilate my garden.  Oh, the chances one takes for love.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hoe Hoe Hoe

ProfessorRoush just returned home with a vast number of new gardening implements and ornaments purloined from the home farm in Indiana, which, as I've noted before, my parents are selling.  Among other items from my father's vast tool collection, I present to you the half-dozen hoes I brought home.  I could use some help identifying some of them, if you know about them.  Maybe my hoe-collecting friend Carol, of May Dreams Garden, can help out.
Pictured from left to right, they are: a common garden hoe, a Razor collinear hoe, a Dutch-type or push hoe, a Ho-Mi (Korean) hoe, an unknown monstrosity, and my grandfather's "tomato-planting hoe". 

I haven't a clue what type of hoe #5 is.  It has no markings to aid identification.  It could be even be something other than a hoe (a gravel-spreading instrument?), and it is fairly heavy, but the curved edge opposite the triangular tines is beveled and quite sharp.  I've spent several hours searching the Internet for it, including pages and pages of garden hoes, but I can't match it.  And please, be careful searching the Internet for "garden hoe".   The term brings back a much broader set of images than you would expect.  You might be surprised by the items and pictures you find, the most benign of which was the Dirty Garden Hoe coffee mug I ran across and the Gale Borger mystery "Death of a Garden Hoe" (about the murder of a prostitute and a missing garden hoe, of course).  Researching various garden hoes, however, is always rewarding.  I had forgotten, for instance, that collinear hoes are "thumbs-up" hoes, to be used in a pull-scrape motion rather than hacking at the ground.

I'm most intrigued to test the Ho-Mi Korean hoe, although I have no idea where my father came by it. The name translates to "little ground spear" in Korean and the tool was first made in Korea during the Bronze Age.  Jeff Taylor recommended it's use in his book, Tools of the Earth.  It is light and seems similar to a Warren hoe, my favorite planting tool, but also seems to combine the best features of a Warren and a Collinear hoe.  I'm already planning to try it out as soon as the ground thaws here. Five thousand years of use is about as time-tested as anyone could want, but I'll put in my two cents as well.

The award for sentimental value, of course, goes to the heirloom tomato-planting hoe.  If you look at the picture of it closely, you'll see a narrowed, darkened area near the midsection, the result of years of hard use and calloused hands.  Modern ergonomic designers could take a lesson from this hoe.  When I grasp the hoe at that spot, it balances perfectly and seems to snuggle into my hand, transmitting in an instant the infinite toil and sweat this hoe has shared with my ancestors.  I'll also use it this Spring, planting my tomatoes with it and carrying on a tradition embedded deep in my genes.

I already had a number of hoes, so this collection adds to my own swan-neck hoe, half-moon hoe, Warren hoe, and Nejiri gama hoe.  The new hoes will take a little work over the next week; they all need sharpening and rust protection, and their handles need a good coat of linseed oil.  My father and I share the gardening gene, but only I hold my maternal grandfather's respect for care of my tools.  At the home farm, I left behind the scuffle hoe (which I used as a young boy and have an intense hatred of) and our venerable two-pronged hoe that my father plans to keep in use at his new home.  And stay tuned for blogs about other items I brought back.  My trip to Indiana was primarily to retrieve a grandfather clock, but I think my garden benefited the most from the trip.  In the meantime, ProfessorRoush wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Garden Hoeing.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

One Last Sunrise, One Last Rose

If the Doomsday Prepper interpretations of the Mayan Long Count Calendar are right, this blog will be the last I post, the last electronic series of 0's and 1's that reach the ether from my winter-dessicated corpus. 

To the multi-dimensional creatures, or clattering insects or slimy green aliens who are reading this, I tried, I really tried, to grow a decent garden here in the mid-Continental region currently known as Kansas.  I primarily grew roses because of my love for them and because roses have a natural affinity for this gardener-grinding area.  If this struggling prairie has returned to its former state as the bottom of an inland sea, or if it is now a part of a towering mountaintop, it could scarcely be harder now to grow a healthy plant than it was in my time, so I wish you the best of luck.  If, on the other hand, the Earth's poles shift just enough so that Kansas is where Texas used to be, and this area is now a more temperate, rain-glutted paradise, then a pox on you and your beautiful Tea and Noisette roses.

Myself, I'm not too concerned about tomorrow's sunrise.  I'm a results-oriented guy and the Mayan's didn't predict their own demise in the middle of a piktun, so I grade their track record as pretty dismal.  Anything short of the Yellowstone Caldera blowing up tomorrow is survivable.  A nice solar storm that puts us back to the Dark Ages would be good for the planet, if perhaps not for mankind.  On a more minor scale, if the magnetic poles reverse, but nothing else happens, then I may live the rest of my life directionally disoriented, but the crops will still grow and at age 53, I'm a simple guy.  Leave me food, fun, and females and I can pretty well muddle through the remainder of my days. 

If I'm wrong, however, and the sun doesn't rise tomorrow for me, or for anyone else, I leave you with this rose, 'Madame Hardy', the greatest creation of Gardening Man, in my humble soon-former opinion.  If 'Madame Hardy' is the sole measure of mankind's existence, then I depart satisfied and reverential before her unmatched beauty. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Garden Book OCD

In hopes that no one will mind, I thought I'd take a minor break from "real" gardening to tell you what my obsessive-compulsive "Mr. Hyde" personality has been doing off and on for a few days.  During a search for iPhone barcode inventory applications, I came across a nifty little app called Home Library, by a programmer named Shahab Farooqui, who appears to be based in Australia. 

Occasionally, during my perusal of second-hand book stores for gardening texts, I have purchased a duplicate of a garden book that I already have, usually a newer or foreign edition of the text I have.  It's more than a little aggravating, because although I remember most of my books, especially the ones that I've read cover to cover, there are those that slip from aging memory or that I can't remember if it looks familiar because I've seen it before in a bookstore or because I've seen it on my own shelf.  I also occasionally wonder how much money I've wasted during my life on books and I'm quite sure that many other gardeners share my guilty feelings in that regard.

Well, Home Library is quickly solving both those problems for me.  It scans the barcodes on the book, automatically searches the Internet for it, and adds the book to an inventory that includes a picture of the book cover, title, author, description and estimated replacement cost.  In about 2 hours, I've catalogued 5 shelves of gardening books, with 6 or 7 more shelves to go.  Sometimes, it can't find the book by barcode and I have to search the title, but that takes only a little longer and seems to be about 10% of my books, mostly the older ones.  Right now I'm at 187 gardening books and let's just say that before I'm done, the estimated replacement total is likely going to match that of a nice Hybrid car.

Home Library has some great features, such as letting you keep track of loaned books, and allowing a search by author, title, collection, subject or lendee's.  You can rate your books or summarize them.  You can export and share your library online or via email to an Excel compatible database.  If you have some older books, without bar codes, there is a manual entry function that allows you to enter the title and/or author, and the Internet search function will invariably pop up the book..  The app also categorizes far more than books;  it has built in categories for music, movies, games, and "other stuff". 

I thought I should share because others of an inventory control freak nature might want to try out the app.  Please note that I have absolutely no connection to Mr. Farooqui nor financial interest in the Iphone app.  It's just working for me and it's working better than a major competitor, SmartBook, which I also tried.  Yes, inventory of a home library may be a little nutty, but hey, anyone who tries to garden in Kansas has to be a little nutty right from the start. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Zombie Gardening

As near as I can tell, the gardening industry has overlooked a vast area of marketing that has the potential to start a new gardening revolution among young folk and thus to grow a new generation of gardeners in this country.  Following in the footsteps of a current wildly successful television series, The Walking Dead, and alongside the frantic marketing spin offs such as the Airsoft semiautomatic plinker pictured here, ProfessorRoush thinks that some creative gardener needs to spin off some zombie-related gardening programs and paraphernalia to enrich our gardening experiences.  That should be me, so that I could make a zombie-related fortune and hire other people to do my digging, but it could also be you as well.  Just cut me in for some of the profit from the idea, okay? 

If you do a simple Google search on the words "zombie" and "gardening", you get some nice links to a zombiefied garden gnome named "Gnombie" ($224.99), and a resin zombie garden sculpture that resembles a corpse crawling out of the ground from ($69.99).  You also are referred to several links that will enlighten you on kitchen scraps that will regrow in your vegetable garden (celery, avocados and pineapples. among others).  All-in-all, I suppose those are all nice products and suggestions, but they're just scratching the surface of what I'm proposing.

I'm thinking of a line of Zombie Pesticides, with nice green fluorescent labels, that will paralyze Japanese Beetles so they don't squirm when you pick them up and squish them, or a Zombie Insect Spray that will cause your hornworms to blunder blindly about your tomato plants without damaging them.  I'm thinking about a group of specialized gardening implements, for instance a Zombie Repelling Hoe with a spike opposite the hoe blade so that it can be used for defense if you're attacked in the garden by zombies (or by city administrators, often difficult to distinguish from zombies, who demand that you rip up your front vegetable garden).   I envision a Zombie Compost  Fork with an ergonomic handle designed to decrease arm fatigue whether you are tossing compost or zombies.  I myself would surely purchase a Zombie Water Cannon with a sensor primed to shoot when large moving bodies such as zombie deer cross the path (I think this product may already exist, but it is missing the added zombie marketing power).

We need a garden prophet creating videos and pamphlets about plants that will fortify your grounds against zombie invasions (a nice hedge of Rosa eglanteria might suffice), or plants that will recover quickly from trampling damage caused by hordes of aimlessly rambling zombies (they would also be useful for gardens frequented by neighborhood children).  We need a writer proposing designs for garden "rooms" where we could escape and hide from zombies (or nongardening spouses).  We need Scott's to quit poisoning the environment and fund the breeding of a Zombie Grass that would stay neat and green without mowing or watering.

I suppose the latter suggestion is a little too fantastic to hope for, but any or all of the others should take the gardening world by storm and bring a few of the television-addled zombies out there back into the garden.  If some editor out there wants to put together a Zombie Garden Manual, count me in for a chapter on roses.  Is anyone out there interested in a very dark red, extremely thorny rose called 'Zombie Lover?'   Even better, it could be alternately marketed as 'Zombie Knockout'.  That will, based on my previous experience, really draw in the zombie gardening multitudes.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Crape Charisma

'Centennial Spirit'
The increased number of warmer and dryer winters in Kansas, to say nothing of the hellishly hot and arid summers, is forcing a similar slow adaptation of the gardener to the flaming reality of climate change.  From a glass-half-full perspective, it also offers some previously underperforming plants a chance to shine, a brief time of their own in the spotlight.  In my garden, it is the crape myrtles that are beginning to steal the harsh spotlight of late summer.

Fifteen years ago, I tried and lost a few crape myrtles, placed here seemingly north of their native ranges.  They would grow and look nice for a summer, and then even when they survived a winter, they struggled during the subsequent growing season and then expired the next.  Even when I attempted a more hardy variety, like the National Arboretum release 'Tonto', it froze back to the ground each winter and returned in spring as a short bush.  In contrast, over the last five years, every Lagerstroemia I've put into the ground has seemingly flourished, sometimes emerging through the winter whole, sometimes with a little die-back, but always healthy.  The big summer advantage of crape myrtles, as any good sweet-talking southern belle could tell you, is that the dainty flowers don't crinkle in dryness or fade in heat, they just bloom on and on.

'Centennial Spirit'
Lagerstroemia indica ‘Centennial Spirit’, pictured above and left, remains my favorite of the bunch for its shocking red flowers and reddish-orange fall foliage.   In early August, every eye in my garden is drawn to the bright crimson and bodies tend to stray in that direction unbidden by conscious mind but controlled by happy feet.  Take a close look at the picture to the left. This past August, in the worst of the drought, even the daylily at the foot of this bush was having a tough time of it, shedding leaves and conserving its resources, but 'Centennial Spirit' is lush and bountiful, laughing at the worst of the heat.

Lagerstroemia 'Natchez' is a variety that is quickly growing on me.  This perfectly white specimen was planted 2 summers back as a one gallon plant purchased at summer's end for $2.  Despite the poor nutritional start to its young life, it has bounced back, with no winter die-back for two years, and it threatens to overshadow the witch hazel that growing nearby.  The summer centerpiece of this bed of daylilies, it seems to shine like a queen over its subjects, poor peasants at its feet.

I grow other crapes of course.  I've previously mentioned dwarf 'Cheery Dazzle' and 'Tonto', and both have their places in my garden,   I even grow an unknown variety or two, like the lavender variety pictured at the left.  This one was a purloined clone of a specimen displaced for road work, and I think it is probably the common variety 'Royalty'.   Its exact identity may never be known, but it is rapidly growing on me, like my other crapes, as the summers become longer and hotter and winter disappears into memory. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Missing Hart

My game camera has recently confirmed a phenomena hitherto known to me only from warnings by traffic authorities.  We've all heard that the rate of car to deer collisions increase during the Fall rutting season on roads and highways.  I've got new evidence that deer to garden visits also increase in November.  In like fashion, plant damage from deer subsequently seems to increase by at least a factor of 10 during the same period.  I am gravely worried about the 'Conrad Ferdinand Meyer' in front of the doe at the left, because she seems to visit it over and over again, night after night.

I had previously captured only three visits of solitary deer to my garden up from April through early November.  In the most recent few weeks, however, it seems that the local large furry rats have been scheduling extra time to pose for portraits.  I've now counted 8 separating visits of deer to my garden over a 20 day period, at least two of them lasting more than an hour.  They come morning and night, most often about an hour before dawn or around three hours after sunset.  And the nibbling little fiends aren't coming alone anymore, they're bringing company.  Or at least they're bringing relatives.  This little mama at the right seems to be dragging her offspring around behind her, taking advantage of a two-for-one special feast in my rose garden.

I've also captured my resident rabbit, a fox, and a coyote on their nightly rounds.  The little rabbit sitting in the middle of this bed had better hope that the thorns of the surrounding bushes provide it some protection, because it is now playing in a dark and dangerous land, away from home long after the carnivores come out to roam in search of just such tender morsels of flesh.  This particular rabbit has been around all year, but I fear that it is unlikely to see Spring unless it modifies its schedule immediately.

The most garden-damaging culprit, however, has so far escaped my game camera, but it has not gone unnoticed.  This weekend, I found damage on the trunks of three widely separated trees in the garden; damage that can only be created by the rubbing of tender velvet antlers on the trees in preparation for combat.    Somewhere in my neighborhood, the father or uncle of the yearling fawn above has rejoined the herd, hoping for a repeat of last Winter's fleeting pleasure.  This little family has been missing its Hart, but I predict a sibling for junior will soon be in the works.  Just what I need, a population explosion among the browsers. 

When they attack my prized Sycamore, I view it as neither cute nor endearing, but as a declaration of war.  Perhaps, in similar fashion to this YouTube video that I have linked for your listening pleasure, I can just move the "deer crossing" signs to a neighbor's yard and the vermin will shift their migratory pattern and leave my garden alone.  Or perhaps not.  My other annual anti-deer measures, including the placement of chicken wire around the tree trunks and the furtive scattering of pungent repellent, are now in effect.  In fact, after realizing that the caller to the radio show in the aforementioned video probably also votes in important national elections, I feel the need to go create more deer repellent right now.  This is your benevolent naturalist, ProfessorRoush, signing off.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Memory Keepers

I don't know where the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" originated, but sometimes even a picture is inadequate to plumb the depths of thought and emotion induced by the simplest of stimuli.  Take, for example, the still life in brown pictured at the right.  An unknowing, unaware observer might recognize the presence of a little loose soil, a number of brown vegetable-origin structures, and the background of brown prairie grass, trimmed short in the late days of Fall.  A very astute observer might recognize the brown tubular structures as roots, and perhaps the most knowledgeable and experienced gardeners, looking closely, might discern some bud eyes peeking from the crowns of those roots.

I can confirm, for the curious, that these are peony roots, ready to be transplanted.   These roots are divisions that I purloined at Thanksgiving from my boyhood home, healthy survivors who were growing in good Indiana soil long before I drew first breath.   There are 5 different peony starts here from a row of peonies that always separated orchard from vegetable garden, large clumps that sagged with each rainfall and became obstacles to be mowed around during the verdant summer and then to be mowed off short at the start of Fall.  You can see, in the closeup at the left, plump buds biding frigid Winter, waiting to clone and grow again in my Kansas garden.

They are, at once, both unique peonies and common peonies, unremarkable to the average gardener, but precious everafter to me.  They are common because I suspect that the varieties are just the same tired pink and white and red peonies that our grandparents grew and that probably sell for $3.95 per 3 clumps now each Spring at Walmart.   Odds are that one is 'Festiva Maxima', and another 'Sarah Bernhardt',  and it is likely that I already grow all or most of these, purchased at local nurseries.  They are exceptional, however, these 5 peonies, because they are now weighted down with childhood memories and ghostly fields stretching as far as a boy could roam.  They bear this heavy load because this year, after 50 years of living in one place, my parents are selling the home farm.  I have only the opportunity to start them here, these keepers of memory, so they can whisper to me of family picnics in the Spring, and sweet corn grown tall in Summer, and of the peaches and apples that fell from the nearby orchard trees, destined only to rot and fertilize these roots.

 In my garden, these will be the heirlooms of my boyhood, these few ancient peonies planted by those who lived before me, to live on long after me.  They will rub shoulders with sedums and columbines from my grandmother and with trees planted by my children.  They will carry for me my memories of another place and another time, simple and carefree, when the world was new and every tree a mountain to be climbed.  I planted them here now, sprinkled them with the remnants of the good soil that nurtured them, and watered them in so they'll grow and outlast me here, transplanted with me to foreign soil.  Memory keepers of a far away place and time.

And you thought it was just a picture of a few brown roots and dirt.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Blushing Hawkeye

I realized, today, that not only have I been busy this week and not posted at all, it has also been a few weeks since I waxed poetic about a rose.  In fact, Spring had better come fast because I may be running out of roses about which to wax.  Not.  Regardless, a quick check of my photo collection served to remind me that I have neglected one of the best of Dr. Griffith Buck's roses; the beautiful and sumptuous 'Hawkeye Belle'.

'Hawkeye Belle' is a pink blend shrub rose bred by Dr. Buck and introduced in 1975.  It is officially a medium pink, but in fact, I think 'Hawkeye Belle' is the perfect shade of pink; not too brazen, not too blue, and not too white.  This is a pink (RHSCC 159D according to Dr. Buck) that goes with any other rose you want arrange it with and the centers tend to age deeper pink than the outer petals.  Describing 'Hawkeye Bell' as a shrub rose is placing a label on it that is too awkward for the reality.  The flowers are not the haphazard mishmash of Modern Shrub roses, they are more Hybrid Tea in character, albeit a very double Hybrid Tea four-inch diameter bloom with 38-45 petals.  Flowers are moderately fragrant   The bush is also more like a Hybrid Tea in form, standing about 4 foot tall and 3 foot around in my garden at maturity.  Canes are stiff, thick, and healthy, more resistant than many of my roses to the Kansas winds that try to break them off. The foliage is dark green and shiny, moderately resistant to blackspot, and new foliage is tinted red.  I think I noted in an earlier post that about 10% of the foliage succumbs to blackspot during an average summer here.

I always think of 'Hawkeye Belle' as royalty, descended as she is from a seedling of 'Queen Elizabeth' X 'Pizzicato', crossed with pink shrub 'Prairie Princess'.   Since 'Pizzicato' was also a pink shrub, it is no wonder that 'Hawkeye Belle' is the epitome of dainty pink, able to mix with common folk as well as with more refined roses.  This is a rose that I often bring inside, extending her domain from the harsh burning garden to shaded home where she is better appreciated.  She does well outside, though, continuing to bloom through the hottest stretches of summer and braving the best that my now Zone 6A climate can offer.  A commenter on indicated that, unlike most roses bred for the Midwest, 'Hawkeye Belle' is also "exquisite" and disease resistant in California.  Only in the wettest Spring does she acknowledge the weather, balling up a bit when it is wet and chilly.   'Hawkeye Belle' is hardier to colder climates in mine;  she was labeled a Rose of the Month in June 2006 by the Twin Cities Rose Club
For my Kansas garden, 'Hawkeye Belle' has always been a dependable performer.  I have two bushes, one that survived from my first days out of the city and another that I planted later into my more formal rose bed as a cutting from the first.  i hope she does as well in your garden as she has in mine. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pheasant Phatality

I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce everyone to Mrs. ProfessorRoush's fabulous new Christmas decoration.  Hold on, Hold on.   Before faithful readers jump to the conclusion that their benevolent and gentle gardening grump ProfessorRoush has plotted and committed the murder of one of God's most beautiful wild creatures, I plead with you to read on to the end of this blog entry.  I'm innocent, innocent I tell you!

A little less than two years ago I was coming back from some work in Nebraska and driving south of Lincoln, when, about a half mile away, I saw a large bird land right next to the road ahead of me.  My first thought was "Wow, what a large bird!"  As I got closer, I could see that it was a gorgeous male Ringneck Pheasant in full winter glory, standing tall and....well....cocky.  And just as I came abreast of him, and I was completing my second thought of "Lord that's a beautiful pheasant," he flew up straight into the passenger side mirror of my Jeep, shattering the mirror in an obvious suicide-by-Jeep attempt.  As I braked, shifting my gaze from my shattered side mirror to my rearview mirror where the pheasant was now laying motionless in the middle of the road, my third thought was "Okay, buddy, you broke my mirror and now I'm going to have you stuffed."

I regretted this malicious thought almost immediately, of course, feeling guilt over my vehicular birdslaughter as I backed up and examined the beautiful creature.  I didn't feel that leaving it in the road to be further mangled or moving it to the side to decay was going to help my karma at that point, so I brought it back and delivered it to the care of a fabulous local taxidermy shop, Don Rush's "Sportsman's Taxidermy."  A friend recommended Don and told me, "You're going to drop it off, and then you're going to forget you even left it there, and about 18 months later, Don will suddenly call and tell you that it's done."  And that's exactly what happened today, and that is the story of how Mrs. ProfessorRoush has unenthusiastically gained a new household decoration and why I can deliver a plea of "not guilty" to first degree avianicide.  It cost me only $50 to fix the mirror of the Jeep, but it cost me $246 and some change to worship the beauty of bird from this point forward.

Just gaze a moment at the poorly composed picture to the left and wonder at the palette of colors and patterns of this spectacular bird.  Russets and reds, blues and purples and greens and yellows and greys and golds make a mockery of the finest clothing man can produce.  Ringneck Pheasants are the North American name for the Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), but the bird looks anything but common.  They are a well-known game bird here in the Midwest and consequently I was unaware until now that they are not native to North America, but to Georgia (the country in the Caucasus region), a factoid which has helped to ease my conscience regarding my culpability in the death of a native prairie bird.

Pheasants were introduced to North America as game birds in 1881, and have since naturalized all over the Great Plains, even though they continue to also be bred in captivity and released for hunting.  I'm sure they occasionally visit my garden, and for years there was a male who lived near the beginning of the road that passes by my house, where he would strut each Fall morning as I drove to work.  I sure hope his Nebraskan cousin had procreated before meeting his unfortunate end with my Jeep, because those beautiful genes should not be wasted solely as a reluctant mantelpiece.    


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Vistas

Looking through a group of photos that I've saved for the blog today, I found in reflecting on my garden year that I'm most grateful not for the closeups of my prized roses, but for the largest and smallest of those living things that exist in my garden.

Living, as I do, just outside the city limits of a major city in Kansas (if the phrases "major city" and "in Kansas" are not mutually exclusive), I occasionally am quite thankful that my garden, lacking large trees, still has vistas that are separate from the chaotic civilization that surrounds it.  For example, the view (above) from the western side of my garden past the formal rose bed on the left and the viburnum bed on the right, was particularly fetching this past October as the 'Tiger Eyes' Sumac began to add red to it's normal yellow palette, and the remaining fuchsia-pink 'Earth Song' kept merrily blooming on.  In a similar fashion, the overall view from another angle towards that same formal rose bed (below) includes my crude handmade gazebo and my vast southern horizon towards town, the city itself hidden from view except for the roofs of a few houses now visible on the horizon.

I'm thankful as well, for things that the smaller life of my garden teach me, learning industriousness from the examples of bees, and patience from the spiders who lie in wait inside some open blossoms.  Without the killing influence of insecticides in my garden, the faunal world inhabiting every plant expands till sometimes, I don't know if I'm bringing flowers or a menagerie in to Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  Unfortunately, she is not as open to the beauty of both as her gardening husband, and so, for my own safety, I must shake out the buds and wash off the leaves before depositing them in the house, destroying the homes of thousands of creatures to keep the peace in my own.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Buds Unborn

According to the calendar, Winter is still a bit over 4 weeks away, but my garden isn't waiting for the coming Soltice.  Already, flowers are only a memory but for the white plumes of ornamental grasses that still dot my garden beds.  My view fom the windows has returned to endless hills of russet and gold, more red as the rains come, returning to drab khaki under the dry sun.

It passed beyond, my garden, literally in the flower of youth, full of buds and promise, not at all ready for the end of days.  An early, very hard freeze in October caught all these beautiful buds of 'Belinda's Dream' still loafing, lulled by the lingering heat from summer's warm soils.  The night before the freeze, there was the promise of fushia buds clothed in green, the main masses yet to explode. One or two perfect young flowers greeted the last warm night, precocious to the last.  A few days after the cold blew in, all was dropping and brown, changing color and form before my eyes, a green Eden reduced to sticks and crinkly underclothes; an exposed Eve, embarrassed and uncovered.

My garden rests now, slumbering deep in soil, trunk, and branch, waiting for the return of spring and the stirring of sap.  I hope, for my sake and my garden's future, that the Mayans were wrong with their Long Count and that this particular 2012 Winter Soltice is not the apocalyptic b'ak'tun that modern doomsayers proclaim.  The yellow 'Topaz Jewel' at the right, whose delicate yellow ornaments died unborn, deserves to reincarnate again in the coming Spring, a vain attempt to reproduce the beauty of the last.  These beloved roses, it seems to this old gardener, reflect the women of his life, aging with each Winter, but reborn every Spring with vigor and blush and promise.  Beautiful flowers for the gardener to caress and smell and touch and adore, ever young at their heart.   

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Dirty Life

As Fall slips away in concert with my garden duties, I'm desperately trying to tackle a mountain of winter reading material before it engulfs the house and overflows into the forsythia bed.  Alongside my gardening activity, I collect and occasionally read gardening-related material, to the point where my valet is stacked with no less than ten books-in-waiting.

I've tried several off and on, and I continually keep picking up  Brenner and Scanniello's A Rose By Any Name and knocking off a few pages, but my main theme this season seems to be "back-to-the-farm" literature.  I keep picking up and putting down Margaret Roach's And I Shall Have Some Peace There, but I'm having trouble identifying with Margaret's "successful-woman-middle-aged-angst" crisis.  No surprise there, since a puttering older male is probably not her target audience.

I recently finished, however, and enjoyed immensely The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball.  Subtitled "a memoir of farming, food, and love," it chronicles her move from NYC to northern New York with her soon-to-be-husband, an arduous back-to-the-basics to establish a community farm in the North Country.  The book is not so much about the love, since she notes that on most nights they managed only exhaustion and worry, but it's a lot about the farming and food and the localism movement trumpeted these days by the ecological aristocracy. All in all, The Dirty Life is an easy and likable read.  Kimball, by the way, is no shrinking hippified housewife, as the jacket blurb notes that she has a degree from Harvard, and the last I knew, Harvard was not known for its agricultural program.

For me, Kimball's tales of farming with draft horses, primitive balers, maple syrup production, unrepentant swine, nervous chickens, and endless daily work prompted fond recall of times I spent in Amish country.  Thirty years ago, I spent two months on externship as a 4th year veterinary student at a large dairy practice in Wakarusa, Indiana.  Wakarusa, with a population of 1758 in the 2010 census, was even smaller in 1982, a place back then whose local Pizza Hut, the only "eat-out" restaurant for 15 miles, became a hot spot every Friday night for young Mennonite boys and bonneted teenage girls.  Wakarusa was in Elkhart County, one of two northern Indiana counties where the population was predominantly Amish and Mennonite and the veterinary practice I worked in served the small family farms and dairies of the area.  For two months, I lived on and off of those farms, in Amish barns and fields, knee deep at times in dairy muck and at other times holding for dear life to the lead ropes of Draft horses whose backs were taller than my heads.  Two months among good people who lived plainly, by the strength of their arms and the sweat of their brows.  A part of me still longs to be there.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Comte de Chambord

How the heck have I missed making 'Comte de Chambord' a focus of discussion in this blog???   Somewhere, somehow, I've overlooked one of the most dependable roses of my back landscaping border, a pleasure to have and to hold and to smell.  She is one of my favorite roses, prominently displayed out in front of my Kon Tiki statue since 2003, alongside her garden-mate, 'La Reine', whose violet tones she reflects in her blush pink petals as an expression of love.  

'Comte de Chambord' is a pink-blend Portland rose, one of the few of this class that I've been able to find and grow.  She was bred by Robert and Moreau in or around 1858,  a cross of 'Baronne Prevost' and 'Portland Rose'.   'Comte de Chambord' has relatively small blooms in my garden, about 3-4 inches in diameter. but they are very full of petals (50+ petals), and of fragrance, with a sweet, strong aroma.   She's at her most beautiful in Spring and Fall in cooler weather, when the color is medium pink with a trace of blue, but in the midst of Summer she pales to almost white and she wrinkles terribly with the sun.   In fact, I've questioned that I have the right rose for the name because of the small size of the blooms and the paleness in my garden compared to some descriptions of the rose, but I received my specimen from a trustworthy mail-order source.  Once in a while, she'll even show her Damask background and have a bit of a green pip visible at her center.  Sources on the Internet list her as tall, like my specimen, but Peter Beals, in Classic Roses, has her as only 3' X 2' and also lists her introduction later, in 1863.

'Comte de Chambord' is a real garden shrub, with a vase-like shape staying at about 4-5 feet tall in my garden.  I trim about 6 inches off her top every Spring, but that's about all the care she requires; no spraying or fussing with this rose. She is cane-cold hardy in my garden, never exhibiting any winter dieback.  I see about five or six bloom cycles before Winter shuts her off every year.  All in all, a trouble-free and gorgeous rose.

'Comte de Chambord' is the mother of 'Gertrude Jekyll', the first of the English roses, but none other than Paul Barden says he prefers the mother to the offspring, and I agree.  'Comte de Chambord' is a fine rose for the garden, and I recommend adding her to yours as one of the best ambassadors of the Portland class.   And by the way, I'm amiss in calling 'Comte' a she.  No less tha Jeri Jennings noted in a Gardenweb post that 'Le Comte' would be a gentleman, while a female would be 'Le Comtesse'.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Color Among the Viburnums

Viburnum juddii
When a cold, blasting wind took the leaves off of most of the trees in my garden, my autumn color melted from the sky to the ground, leaving mere remnants of color dotted around my landscape.  Fortunately, I have a number of viburnums in my garden beds, each of which now had to carry more than its burden of beauty to make up for brown grasses and leafless deciduous shrubs.

Viburnums, some of them anyway, are two- and sometimes three-season plants for my garden, providing some nice bloom and fragrance for the Spring garden, and then either some leaf color or colorful fruits in the Fall.  When I speak of color, of course, I'm not speaking of the forthright crimson of an 'Olympiad' rose, the blazing orange of an October pumpkin, or even the bright red of a burning bush, but more the muted purple of a  Viburnum juddii like the one at the upper right, or even the brighter red of the 'Roseum' Viburnum opulus at the left. 

Viburnum burkwoodii

My favorite of the "colorful" viburnums, at least in this unusually dry year, is the Viburnum burkwoodii that occupies a center spot in my border.  This guy is turning red leaf by leaf, and right now looks like a winter holly with the spotted red against the dark green background.

A similar mottled pattern, with more yellow tones, is exhibited by Viburnum fragrans "Mohawk", seen at left.  This viburnum is more of a "Joseph's Coat" plant, with a rainbow of greens, oranges, yellows, and reds (and browns) found on the same bush.  Not as pretty to me as the V. burkwoodii, but the Spring fragrance in 'Mohawk' makes up for what it may lack in the Fall. 


The ugly sisters of the group are a few "Fall-challenged" viburnums, such as the 'Synnestvedt' Viburnum dentatum at the right.  'Synnestvedt' is trying to turn yellow, but doing a poor job of it, losing leaves as fast as they turn.  I also have eight or ten other viburnum cultivars and species, but many have already dropped their leaves and are ready to face the winter naked and spindly.  If we turn out to have a bad winter, these, of course, will be the brainiacs of the bunch, placing their faith in hardened buds that will swell with the coming of Spring.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

No Change in 2017!

Every year, at the beginning of November, I envy all of my garden plants, but never has my envy of their chlorophyllic leaves been greener than it is this year.  However rough their Spring began with a lion's roar of departing winter or the lamb's bleat of April; however tough their Summer swelter and that ever unexpected cruel first frost, my plants have not had to sit through months of electioneering drivel and sky-high promises.  They've not had to hope for change, nor do they find themselves with their backs against a fiscal cliff.   Yes, some plants, somewhere, have withstood a late season hurricane or a summer's drought, but they're all better off than their gardeners are here in early November.  For our plants rest in blissful slumber on and after that first weekend of November, oblivious to man's futile desire to rearrange the cosmos for commercial gain. 

I speak, of course, of the dreaded seasonal time change, that heartless manipulation of our biological clocks by totalitarian government fiat. It struck me this morning, waking to my regular internal clock but at a time far too early to begin the day, that my plants are the lucky ones.  They don't listen to a distant master and open their blooms while the world waits in darkness.  They don't mind that their evenings have been cut short so that they drive to work in daylight.  The green life goes on, oblivious to all but the regular rhythms of the sun, as certain as the ground beneath their roots.

Every year I joust at the windmills of Daylight Savings and its reversal.  But this year I'm no longer complacent in my temporal misery.   I begin my campaign for the Presidency today, with a single slogan, "No Change in 2017!"  ProfessorRoush's 2016 campaign will not dillydally with foreign affairs, nor with monetary policy.  I'll not speak of building walls to keep out foreign plants, nor of surplus harvest distributions.  I'm an old man, wise enough to know better than to trifle with the goals and aspirations of determined female gardeners.  But I WILL stand steadfast against the continual upheaval of our daily routine and ask only for the votes of the millions who are rising at their regular schedule and finding the stores and businesses still closed, their televisions still offering  infomercials.  If the Green Party or the Libertarians are smart, they steal this issue from me and make it their own.  I predict a landslide victory.

It's for the children, you know.  It's for my plant children, who I can no longer tend in the evenings because the sun falls before I leave work.  It's for the human children walking to school, who are at risk now four times a year as I drive down a long hill into the blinding morning sun first in late September, and then again in November after the time change, reversing the dangerous pattern again in Spring.  And it's for my children, my blessed half-clones, who deserve at least to have their sleep patterns undisturbed while they pay off the bills my generation has generated.  No Change in 2017!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Do My Hips Look Big?

'High Voltage' rose hips
ProfessorRoush believes himself the successful survivor of a long-term marriage, if only because the bruises and welts from Mrs. ProfessorRoush's rolling pin have been infrequent enough that I haven't sustained memory loss or cognitive dysfunction from repeated concussions thereof.  At least I don't think that my increased frequency of rummaging around in the mental attic recently has anything to do with such spousal corrections.  I'm confused, however, and not sure.  Regardless, one of the reasons I view myself as a successful husband is that I learned early on in our blissful honeymoon days to feign deafness when asked to answer that most treacherous question of all married wives, "Does this (...outfit, pantsuit, belt, chair, blouse, sofa cover, etc) make my hips look big?"

'Morden Centennial' rose hips
But now, I ask you, do my hips look big this year?  One of the side benefits to being a lazy rosarian is that I can use the excuse that I'm allowing the roses to develop hips instead of running around in a frenzy deadheading any bloom that is more than a day old.  It's all for the benefit of the avian wildlife.  What, you didn't know that birds will eat rose hips?  Well, maybe it's advantageous to keep the roses from stressing themselves over summer trying to bloom too heavily.  It develops stronger canes, you know?  Oh, you've never heard that either?  Okay, then will you accept that the red rose hips make nice winter ornaments in your garden?

Because they do, you know, make nice natural ornaments in the few days in Manhattan Kansas when the snow falls.  Most of them do, anyway.  It never seems to work out exactly like I wanted it to.  Some roses that I didn't expect to develop hips are reluctant to rebloom and are covered with hips (like 'High Voltage' that I wrote about recently).  Others are widely touted to have large, tomato-red hips.  The Hybrid Rugosa 'Purple Pavement' is such a rose, but this summer, the large red hips swelled, showed promise, and then shriveled.  First, they turned into reddish-orange prunes like the picture at the right, and then they just turned brown and ugly like the picture below.  Who really wants to show off a bunch of prun-ey shriveled old hips unless they have no choice?

I don't imagine these dried hips of 'Purple Pavement' would make very good eating, either.  I'm aware that rose hips are rich in Vitamin C and were harvested in Britain in WWII to make rose hip syrup as a vitamin supplement for children.  Rose hips are also promoted for herbal teas, sauces, soups, jams, and tarts.  These days, health experts far and wide are proclaiming the anti-cancer and cardiovascular benefits of the anthocyanins and other phytochemicals contained in rose hips.  I ask you, looking at the picture at the left, would you expect any medicinal benefits other than as a purgative?   They have even been used to control pain from osteoarthritis in a 2007 Danish study.  Maybe so, but I ain't eating them. 

For now, I'm quite happy to leave my rose hips for the birds or to let them drop to the ground and occasionally grow more little roses.  As long as I don't have to deadhead the bushes.  And maybe it is my aberrant "Y" chromosome, but I don't care if you think my hips are big.  I think they're beautiful.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Golden Fantasie

'Golden Fantasie'
On this chilly pre-Winter Saturday, as the nighttime temperatures drop into the 20's and the high today, a football Saturday in Manhattan, Kansas, is predicted for only 48°F, here I am, still blogging about Summer's roses.  Never fear, for those of you who frequent this website to get an occasional taste of the roses, I've stacked up a few pictures to keep us all going through winter.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to a "surprise" rose;  one that you don't often hear or read about, but one that could be a great one for your garden.  I picked it up almost 10 years ago for $5 during an end-of-the-season sale at a Manhattan store that no longer exists.  It was a potted rose, but I'd never heard of it at the time.  After growing it for a decade, I'm now unable to understand why we don't see and hear about it all the time.

'Golden Fantasie' in September, 2012
The rose is 'Golden Fantasie', a light, bright yellow, Hybrid Tea, introduced by Roy L. Byrum in 1971.  The registered name is 'HILgofan', but you might also find it under 'Joan Brickhill'.   'Golden Fantasie' has a medium to large double bloom, with about 20 petals, and an excellent high-centered bloom form.  She has bloomed in 4-5 flushes for me each season, and the moderately fragrant blooms are held on a broad round bush about 3 feet tall and wide, with absolutely great dark green, leathery leaves.  New growth is red fading to green, and it is moderately resistant to blackspot in this climate: not completely resistant, but better than most other yellow Hybrid Teas. The recent picture of the full bush at the left shows a bit of "bare-leg syndrome" from late summer blackspot, but for a Hybrid Tea that was not sprayed at all this summer, it did just fine.  'Golden Fantasie' is completely cane- hardy in my former Zone 5B climate (now 6A).  She is an offspring of 'Dr. A. J. Verhage' (a deep yellow Hybrid Tea)  and  'Anniversary', a now-extinct yellow florist's Hybrid Tea bred by Byrum in 1959.

Roy Byrum, as a rose breeder, is as unknown to me as his roses were, and it is difficult to track down any information on this Richmond, Indiana native who shares my Hoosier background.  Byrum hybridized roses from the 1930's through the 1970's, and although there are 52 other roses listed under his name at, I'd never heard of any of them.  Several seem to have been introduced through the Joseph H. Hill nursery of Richmond Indiana, and 'Golden Fantasie' is the only one of these listed with a modern registration name.   Byrum is listed in an 2011 article titled "Did Plant Patents Create the American Rose?" and you can find him as the holder of any number of plant patents.  He was issued plant patent #154 in 1935, and obtained others running clear through 1976, often in association with the Joseph Hill company, which was a huge source of cut roses in the middle of the 20th Century. 

I'll keep searching for more information about Roy Byrum, but if you run across 'Golden Fantasie', at any price and in any condition, I'd advise you to grab it up and plant it in your garden.  You'll never be sorry.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Blowing Wind

West of Salina, Kansas
Every time I make a little trek west on I-70 from Manhattan to Denver, I become more and more impressed by the rapid expansion of efforts to harvest wind energy, and simultaneously more and more amazed that anyone or any organization could be opposed to them.  There are two stretches of wind farms on the route, one west of Salina Kansas stretching 20 miles long and another near Burlington Colorado.  Along a highway of inner America where the landscape is charitably described as stark, where the population is scant, and where the per-acre profit for dry-land farm income and ranching is minimal, I can't imagine a better place to build an industry based on the value of what is above the land, rather than what is beneath it.

ProfessorRoush is part of a generation who were told as children that by now, in the second decade of the 21st century, the world would be completely out of oil.  I admit that I feel it is a testimony to science and human ingenuity that there are now believed to be more oil reserves (and ways to get at them) than were ever dreamed of in the 1970's.  On my most recent trip to Colorado, a radio program celebrated that the United States is again the world's largest producer of oil this year, surpassing even Saudia Arabia.  I'm surely not alone, however, when I say that record oil production is not a positive event for the Earth in the long term.  I say leave it all in the ground. 

Oil is nice. Natural gas and coal are nice. They're known, dependable entities, somewhat like the skanky relatives we'd like to pretend not to know.  But they're not renewable.  Whether it is this decade or this century, they will run out. Even a global warming skeptic, like myself, can admit that we'd be better off if we didn't use fossil fuels in any form.  And the answer is right in front of us, clean, free for the taking and equally profitable right now. Wind. Wind blowing across land whose best use as a Buffalo Commons was once proposed by some meddling Easterners. Wind driven by the energy of the sun across the vast grass prairies, almost free for the taking. I complain about the difficulties of gardening against the wind in Kansas constantly, but I applaud any effort to use that wind for the better. 

The future, stretching into the distance.....

I'm astonished, sometimes, at the opposition to wind energy, but then, I also recognize that "all politics are local", and that most of the groups in opposition just don't want the turbine towers in their back yards.    Heck, I'll take them in mine.   Riley County has several "experimental" turbines of varying heights that are already visible from our home. I think they're haunting and beautiful, clean and statuesque.  Concerns about effects of wind turbines on wildlife and people have either been proven unfounded or have been minimized by design changes.  Wind farms are a source of local jobs and an extra income source for ranchers who can still farm and graze cattle beneath them.   On a per-kilowatt basis, taking into account initial capital costs, maintenance, fuel, and operation, and excluding tax incentives, wind energy is already cheaper than "clean" coal, nuclear, and solar technologies (according to the US Department of Energy), equal to conventional coal and geothermal sources, and only slightly more expensive than hydroelectric power.  Other sources list it as being among the cheapest of all sources of electricity generation.  And it will only get cheaper as the technology develops, and better as we learn to store the generated energy for use when the wind doesn't blow. Take that, oil wells.

I'll fully admit that my aesthetic tastes are often questioned, but I think these clean, white towers are the picturesque equal of the Parthenon or the Taj Mahal.  And they're the best outcome that modern technology can give to the 7th Generation and to the Earth.  I dare you to convince me otherwise.


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