Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bucknell University, Class of 2007

Two weekends ago, my younger sister graduated from college. I flew home for the event and it was an amazing weekend. I hadn't thought about it because I was caught up in my own life, but that was her very last weekend at college. We helped her party and helped her move out of her off-campus house, then we all drove home. I didn't expect to feel anything actually, but when they started playing "Pomp and Circumstance," and the graduates came filing by in their robes and hats, I definitely teared up. It wasn't because I was nostalgic for my own college days, I'm happy to be moving on with my life (and to be honest, I just took a year off and went right back, so what's to miss?). I guess it affected me because it represents the end of an era, and the beginning of a new phase in the life of our family. Both my sister and I are college graduates now, and we're starting the rest of our lives. I just felt a mixture of sorrow and excitement, as well as a kind of camaraderie with my sister and parents that I haven't felt before in quite the same way. We're all officially adults now, it feels like we've moved on to a higher plane of understanding with one another (whether or not that's actually true remains to be seen). But I'm so happy I went back and got to experience that feeling of oneness with my family.

Here are some random pictures from the weekend:

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sierra foothills serpentine geology

A few weeks ago (5/12) I went on a final field trip for my CA Floristics class to a serpentine geology site in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. We went at the perfect time because all of the little wildflowers were blooming and carpeting the site.

Serpentine is a type of rock that came from the mantle of the Earth, and it was scraped up onto California from the bottom of the ocean when the continent was still forming. The only other place in the US it exists is on the east coast in PA and a few spots south of there. It's full of heavy metals and the plants that grow on it have to be able to deal with abnormally high amounts of certain elements like magnesium and nickel, and low amounts of essential elements like potassium and phosphorous. Serpentine rocks are always tinged a bit turquoise and have gorgeous stripes of grays and reds in them.

The trees and shrubs that grow on serpentine are always stunted and grow more sparsely than elsewhere.

In some areas, the rocks sticking out made it look a little bit like a moonscape.

The tiny wildflowers in combination with the beautiful rocks made nice little still-lifes:

In other news, I just got back from my last field trip of the quarter, a three day trip to the Sierra Nevadas. Now, only three more weeks until "Schooooooooool's Out. For. Summer!"

Friday, May 25, 2007

Tea and Veggies

Hello again. I've let my life come before my blog lately, and to the few of you who read my blog and are not already in my life, I'm sorry. But here's a picture of fruits and veggies to cheer you up.

This is my latest CSA box: peas (non-edible pods, but I ate most of them anyway), carrots, potatoes, a huge red onion, asparagus, and kale. The strawberries and cherries I bought at the farmer's market and just threw in there because they are gorgeous.

There are a bunch of things that I need to catch you all up on, and I will list them here because by doing so, I will feel obligated to actually write posts about them. In the past two weeks I allowed myself to take a short breather, then I went to my sister's graduation from college in PA and it's been (and will be) crazy from then on. But I would like to tell you about:
  • tea and sushi on a Wednesday afternoon
  • the field trip I took to a site with serpentine geology (beautiful tiny wildflowers everywhere)
  • the Bucknell class of 2007 graduation in Lewisburg, PA
  • my "Big News, part 2:" I finally have a research topic for my master's degree!
  • the field trip I'm leaving for today - the Sierra Nevadas
I'll start this pledge by taking care of the first item on the list right now. Last Wednesday I had tea with a few friends in the middle of the day (talk about luxury). It was Japanese-themed.

We made sushi, cold soba noodles, miso soup, and a few types of tea. It was really cute and incredibly filling. Japanese food is my favorite cuisine, hands down.

Yum. Well, I leave for my last field trip of the quarter today. Pictures and comments to come!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Aaaaah. I've finished the midterm, the quizzes, the grant, and the display. Therefor, this week will be all about relaxing (though of course I have another midterm on Fri). The grant was probably the most stressful part of the whole thing. I've never written one before and I basically had to do the whole literature review and figure out exactly what I was going to do for my entire research project before I could write it, which was the truly time consuming part.

I finally had a chance to catch up on some laundry and dishes, and to eat lunch outside this week. The weather has been beautiful/ghastly. It gets up to 90 in the afternoon, but the mornings are just amazing. I had a little visitor for lunch on Monday; he was very interested in my burrito, and he wasn't shy about it.

I also got to eat dinner with my friend Sarah W last night. She's an amazing cook and she made pizza for us! I helped by eating all of the ingredients from the little bowls before she put them on the pizza. We had tomato sauce, cooked onions, salami, kalamata olives, fresh basil from her garden, artichokes (!), and mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

This weekend I'm flying home to attend my sister's graduation from college. I'm really looking forward to seeing my family and my friend Chip, it's been too long and I think they will help center me after the craziness of the last few weeks. And there will be champagne, what's not to look forward to?

Finally, here's a sneak peek of the next thing that I'm putting on the loom. I won't elaborate, only to say that it's a gift, and it's the most complicated thing I've tried yet. It's about 40 inches wide and involves overdrafting. Oh boy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mother's Day

As a belated mother's day post, check out the video on my friend Michael's blog, Candor and Imagination. It made me cry, I never even thought about how mother's day was created, or why.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society show

Here are the pictures from last weekend's plant show. The plants fit into my car quite snugly, as you can see there were a lot of them. We had two displays right next to one another; an aloe display and an agave display. It was a kind of old world (aloe is from Africa) vs. new world (agave is from the Americas) thing. We already have posters made up for each plant that will become signs around campus, so I mounted them on foam core and propped them up on the tables. I chose approx. 14 plants from each genus and prepped and potted and labeled them all beforehand.

The agaves:

The aloes:

The show was pretty small, but the plants were really stunning. Here's the main room:

I was the youngest person there by no less than 30 years, probably more than 50 years in some cases. Everyone oohed and aaahed over my plants and joked about stealing them when I wasn't looking. I really developed a respect for the plants too, especially the agaves which left scratches and pin pricks all over my hands and arms.

It was a non-juried show, but there was a voting system for favorite plant, and I got three votes for my display! There was also a huge plant sale, and I bought a night blooming cereus cultivar with a bright red flower called 'Spring on Mars.' I mean, with a name like that, how could I not buy it?

Friday, May 11, 2007

The inner coast ranges

Last weekend I went on a one day field trip to see vegetation types of the inner coast ranges. We went to a riparian site, an oak woodland, and a chaparral site.

As usual, we trespassed onto the oak woodland site, this time bringing a handy dandy ladder to climb over the barbed wire instead of climbing through it like last time. The site was gorgeous and the day was really beautiful and mild in the morning.

Below is a picture of where we ate lunch! Beautiful.

Our last stop was the chaparral and is was truly hot and sticky by then. We had to do transects, which is basically a method of sampling the vegetation at a site where you take a measuring tape and you record exactly what species cross the tape at each point over a certain distance. You think of the tape as a two dimensional plane, and anything that crosses that plane needs to be recorded. As you can imagine from the picture below, it was a feat. Once you're off the path, you are basically bushwhacking and crawling under things in order to go in a straight line. It was not what I wanted to be doing at 4 pm on a Sat. in 85 degrees.

We saw some pretty wildflowers though.

Here is the pinecone of a Coulter pine. They call it the "widow maker" because you wouldn't want to be standing underneath it when it fell off the tree.

I have another field trip tomorrow, this one to the Folsom/Auburn area where things are said to be blooming right now. I will also try to get some pictures up from the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society show last weekend.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Ted and Tarquin

This is my last Ted the Titan post, I promise. He finally bloomed on Monday night, and Ernesto and Tim were there almost the whole night, monitoring him and taking temperature readings. The spadix of the flower (the big phallic-looking thing in the middle) got up to 100 degrees F in places during the height of the blooming. Here are some final pictures of the inside of the flower. Check out the deep burgundy, nice.

They cut a small hole in the side of the flower so we could see the tiny little flowers at the base. They are also going to harvest some of the pollen and share it will other conservatories across the country that have titan arums. The flowers on the bottom are female, and they become receptive first, which is the reason for the intense stink (attracting flies that have pollen on them from visits to other arums). The ones on top are male and they will release their pollen after the female flowers are no longer receptive, in order to avoid self pollinating.

In other news, my 12 year old cat, Tarquin, finally passed away last night. She had diabetes and kidney problems, so it was her time. Here are a few pictures of her in her better years.

Isn't she beautiful?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


I fixed the Mendocino - Days 2 and 3 post, so now the pictures are up.

Also, Ted the Titan is currently in full bloom. Check out the webcam, it's pretty amazing.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Ted the Titan

There is a big event going on at the Conservatory right now. The Amorphophallus titanum (no, I didn't make that up) is blooming! The titan arum, or "corpse flower" is a tropical monocot that blooms very infrequently, and can get up to 10 feet tall! The conservatory has a few titan arums, and Ted is about to bloom any day now (the last one to bloom was Tabitha, and Timmy and Tammy are dormant right now). Ted the Titan is about 5 feet tall and when it opens it will smell like rotting meat, which is its adaptation to attract flies and beetles to pollinate it. There is a streaming webcam with sound that is a real hoot to watch. Tim, the director, and Ernesto, the curator of the Conservatory are there all the time, just waiting for Ted to bloom and talking to everyone who comes to see it. So it's really fun to watch the webcam because you can actually learn a lot about the plant.

Friday, May 4, 2007


I didn't realize that some of my previous posts are lacking pictures. I'm going to upload the pictures again, so check back to see them sometime this weekend. I've already fixed the Stebbins Cold Canyon and Mather Field posts, so if you missed them make sure to go back to see the pretty pictures!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Veggies (and some complaining, sorry)

Things are getting quite busy over here. I have a midterm, two reflection papers, a grant proposal, two quizzes, and another field trip all coming up in the next week and a half. In addition, Mother's Day is coming quick and my big project is definitely not going to be ready by then (it's okay, Mom already knows she's getting her gift a few weeks late). On top of all that, I volunteered to create an educational display for the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society show this weekend. Luckily, I was able to use posters from an ongoing project at the Conservatory on campus, and my only job is to gather the plants from the Conservatory, clean them up, label them, arrange them, take them to the show on Friday, set them up, and return to take them home again on Sunday. Whew! Like I have time to do that, but I'm doing it anyway. Pictures to come, of course.

Here is the last CSA box I got. There was supposed to be one today as well, but due to a communication error it wasn't picked up. Oh well, another two weeks without fresh veggies, and $15 down the drain, no biggie.

I put almost all of this into a huge soup. The purple kale bled all of its color into the soup, so the broth is all purple, which I like. I ate the artichoke the first night, of course. Who can let artichokes just sit in their fridge? Not me, that's for sure.

For my next field trip I will be going to several places in the inner coast ranges this Saturday with my CA Plant Communities class. We will see riparian forest, foothill woodland, and chaparral. I know it's only Wed/Thurs, but have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Payne Ranch - Part 2, The Rocks

All I can say for this post is that the turquoise coloring on the rocks is due to the serpentine geology of the area (all the heavy metals). The other colors are because of lichen, and the stripes are due to other minerals in the rock. That's all the info I have, now sit back and enjoy the pictures.