Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bits and Pieces

Bit number one: My friend Kim participated in a "sheep to shawl" contest at the state fair this weekend. She was part of a team of 5 people who have to spin and weave a sheep fleece into a shawl in 5 hours. Incredible. Check out her pictures here.

Bit number two: You should also add Jaja's blog to your reader because she is constantly putting up THE coolest things. Her last post had my jaw dropped for about 5 minutes.

Bit number three: The photos in this post are part of a series I did at my old house. I took a photo every morning for about 2 months, and I'm surprised at how beautiful they are when I look back at them. I'm posting them to my Flickr account as a set called "Morning Pictures."

These remind me a lot of the type of photo I took in college in my color photography class. Very simple, very domestic, lots of strange angles. They remind me of William Eggleston's Guide, which we "read" and analyzed in that class. Funny, at the time I was completely uninspired by William Eggleston's work. I always wanted to shoot photos more like Joel Meyerowitz. And these seem to be a blend of the two, actually.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

April Showers Bring May Flowers (and more showers)

I've just returned from a marathon 8 days in the field, taking data and collecting samples for my consultancy job. We are studying the pollination biology of 11 rare plants at a wildlife refuge north of Las Vegas, NV.

We got to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and suffered through one day of 105 degree weather, and one day of 45 mph winds. Then, it rained. But oh, was it beautiful. Take a gander:

Here comes the rain, doo do doo doo. The little red flags identify plants in the subpopulation of Grindelia fraxino-pratensis, the Ash Meadows Gum Plant. What a flattering name. We just finished setting it up when these goregeous thunder clouds came in, whew!

Here's a neat little Asclepias species (milkweed). And a little entemological friend. I love my digital zoom.

Below is Mentzelia leucophylla, the Ash Meadows Blazing Star. A charming plant, it only blooms from 4 to 8pm. Not so charming after you have to do 50 hand pollinations on them in the field.

But look at how geometrically and aesthetically pleasing the flower is when it opens. There are only 5 petals, and the rest of the petal-like things in the picture are stamens (male parts), with filaments of varying width.

Another subpopulation, this one is a plant called Nitrophila mohavense. The plants are only about 10 cm tall, and they like to grow in these soggy, salty flats. The flags indicate a plant in our study.

And this was the pleasant surprise of the week. Centaurium namophilum, a tiny little annual plant. We only found one population blooming, but look at those anthers. They spiral! Only a fellow plant nerd can truly share in the joy, but I hope it comes across. This is just incredible. And again, loving the digital zoom.

Enjoy the short week!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The End is the Beginning

My dear Jaja has moved out. She is moving on to a summer of travel before starting med school in the fall. I miss her terribly, but I plan on visiting her in Napa in June and in MO in the fall (probably for rudely long amount of time). But this end is a new beginning, for all of us.

Here we are wishing her good luck with a dusky game of horseshoes and some beer. The three of us rode our bikes 3 miles to this little hole-in-the-wall bar to wish our Sissy goodbye. If only Sammy could have come.

And here's another interesting end/beginning. A large potato plant has sprouted in our compost bin. Not uncommon, but still unexpected for this compost newbie.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oooo, That Dirty Rat!

This is what happens when you're a good person and you ride your bike to school everyday.

A rat makes a nest on the engine of your car during the cold and rainy days of winter, using the insulation from the hood of your car. You discover that the rat has chewed through wires and it will cost you over $500 to fix the wiring. You curse the rat, and hop on your bike.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Magenta and Green

CSA box, May 7. Asparagus, artichokes, dill, spinach and lettuce (not pictured), radishes, and strawberries! The strawberries are already gone.

Again, here's the Flickr page with all the other photos of my CSA box.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Grow Your Own

I'm trying my second round of veggies, this time using home grown fertilizer (worm poop). I'm also going to experiment with a little thing called watering. We'll see how it goes.

I never updated you on the status of the last veggies, simply because they were pathetic and bug-infested. But with these new-fangled changes, things should be looking up.

I got the starts from the professor I used to TA for, who gave me the first round as well. Free plants, woohoo!

I then set about to harvest my worm poop. This is how it goes:

  • Set out a tarp and separate the compost into small piles.
  • Place it in the sun.
  • The worms will wiggle to the bottom of the piles to get away from the sun, and you can scoop the compost off the top, relatively worm-free.
  • Repeat until the piles are too small and filled with worms to do anything more with them.
  • Replace the worms and add more newspaper to fill the bin.

The worm bin, post-harvest.

Here's what I anticipate for spring:

Tomatoes and green onions

Peppers and eggplant

Cilantro and peas (these will actually have to be replaced because they are winter crops). In the back there is more eggplant and basil.

More cilantro and calendula flowers (edible).

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Egg-dying, a bit late

Here's the much-anticipated natural egg dying tutorial I promised. I only got around to dying eggs with two of the natural ingredients, but I do plan on trying others in the future.

Here was the first try:

Carrot tops, onion skins, red cabbage, beets, and instructions from my amazing local food Co-op (which is practically in my back yard, I am so lucky). I followed the directions, but took the eggs out right after they had boiled. The correct time frame is below.

  • #1 - chop all ingredients into 1-inch or smaller pieces, add to pot with enough water to cover eggs, bring to a boil
  • #2 - add 1 T vinegar and raw eggs, boil eggs for ten minutes (or your normal hard-boiled egg timing)
  • #3 - take pots off heat and let the eggs cool in the solution until room temperature or longer (I waited 24 hours)
  • #4 - remove eggs from pots and use left over water to make stock or to dye fabric!
Results of the first try:

top left - carrot tops; bottom left - red cabbage; top center - onion skins; bottom center - beets

And here's the second try!

I only used red cabbage (blue) and carrot tops (olive green) this time, with white eggs. You can see that the chopped veggies leave a really cool pattern on the eggs, and you can use rubber bands to make other patterns on the eggs (this worked really well when I did it the first time around).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

My CSA box goes public

Here's yesterday's CSA box: Asparagus, broccoli, Karinata kale, fava beans, salad mix (not pictured), leeks, Tokyo turnips.

I've also uploaded all of my CSA box photos to Flickr, here they are! Apparently I'm not the only one with this idea. If you search Flickr for "CSA box" you get many many hits, but here are a few of my favorites:

Sahara - All those little tags are so irritating. gah.

MominMadison - See, you can even get CSA boxes in Wisconsin!

Krista76 - I like this "what was in the box and what it became" thing!

Ceciliacotton - This farm is very close to mine!