Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Though I am not concerned with having a thousand people read my blog, for some reason this idea really resonated with me. But today, I am going against it. There is a lot of good information about invasive plant species on the web and I am just going to point you to it today. Why reinvent the wheel? Especially as I have three exams to write. The site I am linking to is the Global Invasive Species Database. They have good summary information about each species, including pictures and links to further information.
Today I focus on two plant species that are problems in the grasslands on the western United States.
Chinese Lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) - This plant is particularly bad because it can invade into pristine prairies. It also becomes a problem in rangelands. This plant can form mono-specific stands (i.e. it is the only plant species present), crowding out either native plants, or plants that cattle prefer to eat. As with many invasive species, it was intentionally brought to the US. In this case, as either erosion control (of which it does a good job) or as a forage plant (which it is less good at because through time the branches can become tough and unpalatable). Last I checked, it was still used in the Southeastern US for forage.
Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula) - another species that is a problem on rangelands. This species can be toxic to sheep, cattle, and horses. It is from Europe. It is considered to be one of the worst 100 invasive species.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
And a picture of my kitty. Her name is Lily and she has lived with us for about 7 years now. She is the best cat in the world (though I am biased).
Monday, February 26, 2007
Well, through the encouragement of the wonderful comments on this blog in response to my photos, I have decided to restart this project (Thanks Anne, Pat and Marirob). I really did enjoy having a day-by-day pictorial diary of what was going on in my world. So I am going to post pictures to this blog. Probably once or twice a week, but maybe less frequently. These posts will recap the pictures of the past few days. And, I will miss some days, no big deal. I have lots of photos, and the goals of improving my photography and documenting my world will still be met if I skip a day.
February 16th: It was still snowy then and cold. On this day I challenged myself to take photos of icicles. Though I had forgotten my gloves and ended up with just a few pictures, there are some neat ones. I particularly like how the sun is making the icicles appear to glow.
February 17th: These are the icicles that were built up in the stairwell to our basement. I was attempting to capture the ice melting - specifically the water droplets as the fell. I didn't have much luck. I think the forked icicle is unusual. I don't remember seeing forked icicles before, but then again, I never really looked.
February 18th: This fish-necklace my husband won for me at the KC Ren. Festival a few years ago. I think he had to throw a bean-bag and knock over some cans. He didn't actually knock over the cans, but apparently he came closer that anyone else had that day, and so the girl gave him these very cheap, but pretty and shiny red fish beads. And I love them.
February 19th - A blue jay must of met its demise as there were several feathers scattered about. Because I used the flash, what you can't tell from this picture is that the feather is in about 1/2 puddle of water.
February 20th - Cracks in the parking lot.
February 21st - Speaking of invasive species, a starling.
February 23rd: Walking home on campus, I noticed that someone had placed this star sticker on the place where a branch had been sawed off. A bandaid?
February 24th: Can you guess what this is? After buying the new card reader at my least favorite store (Best Buy), I was waiting in the parking lot for my husband. This is the top of one of those poles that prevents people from parking on the sidewalk in front of the door.
February 25th: I learned how to be a ghost as I was taking photos for one of my husband's projects.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
As humans have increased in mobility, we have carried with us, either intentionally or unintentionally, species from our homes. Some never become "established" as the individuals that are moved to a new place do form viable populations. Others do become established, but remain in small numbers. Then there are those that become invasive. Free from the pests, competitors, and diseases the plague them in their home range, their populations grow unchecked, often to the determent of other species. In agroecosystems (such as farms and pastures), this can mean a reduction in production. In native ecosystems, this can mean a disruption of ecosystem processes and the decline of native species. In fact, invasive species are considered by some (like the Nature Conservancy) to be the number two threat to biodiversity, second only to habitat destruction.
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is a beautiful plant, with its spikes of purple-pink flowers. Here is a link to more pictures from the Nature Conservancy. It is a perennial plant native to Eurasia. It loves moist soils and, in the past, has been valued as a garden plant. In fact, a few years ago, I bought a book entitled "A Dyer's Garden", published in that listed purple loosestrife as a good plant to grow for dye. I couldn't find the book this morning, but I am fairly certain there was not a warning about the invasiveness of this species.
But, in the United States, this beautiful plant is a destroyer of native wetlands. It can grow unchecked, forming solid stands. This not only crowds out the native wetland species, but can completely block water ways. The native wetland species that are lost are often food and habitat for animals.
This scarf requires attention. The pattern has become intuitive, but I wouldn't say it is memorized. I need to check off each row as I work it and yet I still make mistakes. In fact, I haven't picked it up since Tuesday, because I need to pull back a row or two to fix a mistake. But I have been plugging away a bit each day and this
had progressed to this.
A close up view.
Another stalled project, these are from Folk Mittens. Here is the back side
and the palm side.
This project has stalled for three reasons. First, warmer weather. I started these when temperatures were hovering around 1o degrees F. Then we had several days in the upper 50's. Second, my hands are too fat. The mittens are just a bit to narrow to be comfortable. So these will probably end up going in the Dulaan box. Finally, I don't like working stranded knitting on the thumb. The thumbs are supposed to be knit in the same pattern as the palm. Is it too much of a cop-out to knit them in stripes or all gray? I would do the same if I were knitting them for myself.
These are my version of Nancy Bush's Gentlemen's Plain Winter Sock from Knitting Vintage Socks. They will be for my husband. The first sock is a bit too short, so the toe will need to be re-knit.
I have been knitting up swatches. I don't intend to knit a swatch every day. Rather, they will be knit in response for the desire to start a new project, or if I just need a bit of medatative knitting. I started off by knitting lace patterns from the new Interweave Knits
Swatch One: This is the lace pattern from the Clementine Shawlette on page 82. It is knit in Brown Sheep's Cotton Fleece on size 7 needles. An easy pattern to learn.
Swatch 2: Next up was the lace pattern from the Tea Rose Halter Top (page 80). The top half is knit on a garter stitch background, then I realized the pattern was written for circular knitting, but I was knitting flat. The bottom half of the swatch is how the stitch is supposed to look, and I think it looks much better. This is knit in Classic Elite Miracle (50% alpaca, 50% tencel) on size seven needles.
Swatch Three - Also from the spring issue of Interweave Knits, the stitch is one of the stitches used in the Rib and Lace Tank (p. 52). The yarn and needles are the same as swatch 2.
Swatch Four: Based on the Italian Chain Ribbing in Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns (p. 47). The yarn is Brown Sheep's Nature Spun Sport and was knit on size 3 needles. I am trying to design a pair of socks in this yarn (which is a beautiful golden orange color that did not photograph well). This is a case where I was glad I was knitting a swatch. Several mistakes would have frustrated me if I had been thinking I was starting a pair of socks. But as it was, I kept knitting and learned a lot from this swatch. Such as - while I like this stitch pattern, I don't know about it for these socks. The fabric expands out and is a bit loose (which Barbara did warn me about). Maybe if it were knit on smaller needles. It would also be good for scarves or blankets, as both sides look neat. It's not a reversible pattern, but the back side is also pretty (of course I did not get a picture of it).
Saturday, February 24, 2007
And tonight - it supposed to snow. Gotta love living in the middle of a huge continent.
Also - we got a new card reader for the digital camera. So tomorrow I should finally have an update on current knitting.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Point 1 - Startitis. The overwhelming desire to start new knitting, despite having several projects on the needles. Most knitters experience this at some time. What drives this desire? Boredom? Fickleness? Frustration? A creative outburst? For me, at least, this desire seems to stem from two places. First, the desire to be knitting something new and different: color, or fiber, or stitch pattern. Second, the desire to knit for a short period of time, but my projects are all at places that require more time and attention than I have (usually because I need to fix a mistake). Rarely is it driven from the desire to complete a new object.
Point 2 - The pack rat. For a lot of knitters it is difficult to through away even the smallest bit of yarn, as evidenced by the recent discussion over at Pat's blog (check out the Feb. 19th entry). Those little bits and bobs of yarn left over from other projects seem too precious to throw away. But they do add up, and for me at least, the sit upon my concious, wanting to be turned into something beautiful.
So the question for me has become - is there anyway to alleviate these two syndromes? Can they somehow work together?
Enter The Book of Knitty . I love the idea of a knitted book, one that records not only different stitch patterns, but also the different yarns that I have enjoyed working with. But to knit a whole book seems like to much of an undertaking - to planned.
Enter Nona - Nona has been knitting a swatch a day. Some have been more successful than others (though she does point out that you may learn more from a failed swatch), but I think they are all grand. Swatches are wonderful - they are small experiments in color, in texture, in fiber. They don't have to fit. And if you mess up - it is not much to pull out, if indeed you feel the need to pull it out at all.
Then the convergence - I can quell my startitis by knitting swatches. I can use up bits and bobs of yarn knitting swatches. I can (eventually) create a notebook that records the important information (stitch pattern instructions and yarn used) that includes the swatches. A modern day knitting sampler. I really like this idea.
So I have been knitting swatches in my spare moments the last two evenings. I won't commit to a swatch a day, but whenever I feel the need to start something new - I now have a plan.
(I also have two swatches, but, alas, I have lost the card reader for the digital camera so I won't be able to show pictures until after tomorrow.)
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Last summer as I was walking to school, the atmosphere was turbulent and storms were brewing. Luckily I had my camera and was able to capture this shot. Situations like this are why I try to carry my camera as often as possible.
Enter the Russians
It was not until the 1800's in Russia did breeding create the giant. single-headed varities that are commonly planted today. Why Russia? Why did this North American plant species become fully domesticated in Russia? It all has to do with religion. The Eastern Orthodox church has very strict guidelines about what can be eaten during the Lenten season. Forbidden are most sources of fats and oils. But, because sunflowers were not known to the church when these rules were written - sunflower oil was not forbidden by the church. So, the Russian people breed sunflowers to produce oil.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Wild sunflowers have several inflorescences per plant, while cultivated varieties (at least those used for crops) only have one. The inflorescences and the seeds of cultivated varieties are much larger than those of the wild types.
Tomorrow: the story of sunflower cultivation.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
Regardless, today I decided to take pictures again. So I walked to school today, despite the cold.
I took pictures of icicles.
I forgot the card reader so I can't post the pictures
In the meantime, here are some of my favorite pictures that I took last year. Ahh for warmer times when things were growing.
Chicken at the County Fair
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Parenchyma - the basic storage cells of plants. When you eat an apple or a potato, you are eating parenchyma.
Collenchyma - these cells are a bit tougher than parenchyma cells, and as such they are used for support of stems. When you eat celery, the strings are collenchyma cells
Sclerenchyma - the cells are even more rigid. They include fibers (i.e. flax which is used to spin linen are schlerenchyma fibers) and sclerids (the grittiness of pears is due to sclerids).
Then there are the two vascular tissues, which plants use to move substances around.
Water moves through the xylem and sugars move through the phloem.
And to continue in the plant theme - here is the red bud from last week. I can't tell for sure, but the buds look a little bit bigger than the last time. I need to get a solid colored background and use it consistently when taking these pictures.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Picture - solid milk chocolate (same for this one)
Sunday, February 11, 2007
"If you go to the Mountains of the Moon, turn to page 79"
"If you travel to the headwaters of the Zaire River, turn to page 80"*
* from The Lost Jewels of Nabooti by R. A. Montgomery
If you make the right choices in the book you find the lost jewels, or escape the aliens, or save the world. But if you make the wrong choices: your could become a specimen in an intergalactic zoo, or die from an exploding mechanical dog, or you find the jewels, but discover they have been ground into powder.
And of course, I always ended up "cheating", finding the ending that I wanted and working backwards.
Anyway - often when I am surfing through blog land, I imagine that I am in a choose your own adventure. I start off at a familiar place and choose different links, just to see where I would go. The best part, there are no bad endings. Occasionally there are dead ends, but I have never been blow up or trapped in the bottom of a dark pit with no food or water.
Here are the results of a short adventure through blogland. This time I started at
bacteriophages (as a fellow biology geek, I love this idea), and her reflections on Anna Nicole-Smith. An eclectic post. From there I went to
Crocheted Coral Reef (this was a side trip, but I could not pass it up). After returning from the coral reef, I went to
kung-fu fighting knitter. She talks about her recent trip to Stone Mountain and her training for an upcoming fight. From there I went to
Madrona Fiber Arts Festival. One highlight is the start of a gorgeous mitered-square afghan, knit in tidbits of sock yarn.
So that ends my five-step choose your own knitting blog adventure. And I did not get blown up. Where will you go today?
Saturday, February 10, 2007
This is the story of Coraline: a girl, an explorer, and a bit bored being banished indoors due to rain. She discovers a door to nowhere in her flat, which is part of an old house that has been divided into several flats. There is nothing but a brick wall behind the door. But one day, she finds that behind the door is a world that mirrors her own - with another mother and father who wish her to leave her own world and live with them. But of course, things are not what they seem and the evil other mother wishes to trap Coraline with her forever. Coraline must save herself, her true parents, and other lost children through her courage and wits.
A wonderful story: creepy, mysterious, and with a good ending. The other mother, the villain in the story is wonderfully written - self-centered, creepy, and remaining wrapped in mystery even at the end of the book. Coraline is a terrific heroine and a good female character. She is brave and self-reliant, but still seems like a real girl. And there is no boy or man that rescues her, which I liked a lot.
The recording of the story was wonderful. It was read by Neil Gaiman. Now, I usually do not like books read by the authors. Often, at least in my experience, they do not have voices I like to listen to or their reading is flat. Neil Gaiman, however, was an excellent narrator. His voice is amazing and his pacing and characterizations were perfect. There was also music used in the recording. This is something else I typically dislike in audiobooks. In my past experience the music is often played over the reading of the book. And the music often does not "go" with the words or it makes me feel manipulated, like, this is an important and poignant part of the book, so let's play music to highlight this. I don't need that from a book. But the music in this book was played only at the beginning and ending of each disk and it did not play over the reading. And, the music was a perfect fit for the book.
If you like children's fiction and spooky stories or you are looking for a good female character, I highly recommend this book.
Friday, February 9, 2007
My favorite band, James, is getting back together (they are tied as my favorite with the Talking Heads). They are touring (a small tour in the UK that is already sold out) and there is new recording going on. Oh - I am so happy. I hope the new album comes out soon!
Anyway - this week has been busy. I am teaching two classes this semester - one with 1000 students. We had an exam in both classes this week. I find I am more nervous about giving an exam than I ever was taking an exam - what if the questions are too hard, too easy? Does it adequately reflect the material covered in class? Is it fair? And I put way more time into writing and grading exams that I usually did studying for them.
So, the blog has been a bit silent. And I am getting a backlog of things to talk about: books I want to mention, pictures of chocolates from friends, and I have not forgotten about the plants.
Have a great Weekend.