Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cardoons: Macho, Tough and Flowery

Our first guest post of the season!
I am immensely grateful to Janet for giving me a great flower to think about in this season of frantic lab report grading and committee convening.  The piece below first appeared in the Denton, Texas newspaper and the photograph on Janet's facebook page.  Remember, you, too, can be a guest star on this blog.
The Best in Show this year for the Denton County Fruit, Flower, Vegetable and Herb Show was the cardoon. I could make up anything at this point and you’d believe me as to what a cardoon is, since not many people are familiar with it. Even after looking at the specimen, the officials weren’t sure if it belonged with vegetables or flowers at the show. The cardoon is kind of an ornamental artichoke, which can be eaten when it is young. Since it is typically cultivated as an ornamental for its thistle-like flower, it was ultimately placed in the flower category in which it won Grand Champion in the youth division (grown by Emma and Lauren Martin).
The cardoon in my backyard has been one of my favorite plants for a few years now. It is a perennial with large, silver foliage that grows most of the winter. It is a bit of a weird and wild plant, maybe even dangerous looking. I enjoy the drama of watching it grow larger all winter while nothing else is making much movement. It begins to spike in height late spring, often, it’s the tallest thing in my yard, just peeking over my six foot fence. And in June, I’m rewarded with flowers that are a gorgeous blue/purple (but very macho and tough!) After the blooms, the plant usually turns brown quickly and gets invaded by all kinds of insects. Chop it back and try not to dwell on it: people still have children and nobody’s a huge fan of changing diapers, right? The cardoon will come back from the roots later in the summer or fall and the performance begins anew.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Red and Yellow Please This Fellow

Yellow Sweet Clover, Kansas, June
I've read more than once about how yellow (particularly when combined with orange or red) is an unsophisticated garden flower choice.  The authors mentioning this go on to write about how much they like to fly in the face of this conventional wisdom and plant yellow flowers because yellow is delightfully, unabashedly cheerful.
Apparently, I'm joining this time-honored tradition of defending my vulgar taste without knowing who has ever criticized it.
I like yellow flowers.
They are delightfully, unabashedly cheerful.
Here are some, none from my garden, for your viewing pleasure.
Which reminds me, I need to quit reading information about floods in Colorado (oddly an instant tear trigger for me) and go outside and pick some sunflowers.
Stay safe.

Evening Primrose, Bryce Canyon, June

Different Species Evening Primrose, Bryce Canyon, June 

Columbine, Devil's Postpile, June

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Floral Guest Stars

It's that point in the year and semester when I am behind on everything.  True, this point lasts for most of the year, but the September point often seems the worst, as if it is somehow unexpected that the I'll need to start grading all of those labs that I assign, or that field work must be completed before the leaves fall off the trees or that physical therapy, "reading logs" and keeping plants alive in 100 degree heat take time.
The frazzle is bad enough that I missed a family member's birthday last week (and you know how much I am into birthdays) and didn't bake a cake even though I saw her two days before her birthday.  Sigh.  We still love you, oh missed-birthday family member!
But, somehow, maintaining some regular (once or twice a week) posting on this blog is important to me.  So, once, again, I am giving you the opportunity to be a guest star on the blog.
This year, being flower year, you can:
1) take a photo of a flower blooming near you and send it to me
2) write a paragraph (or more) about a flower that you like and/or evokes a memory for you
3) review a recipe from a cookbook
4) show me a picture of your flowery things
5) reveiw a book (any book)

Let me know what you come up with.
To kick things off, here is a photo from my mother of her Austrian Copper "Mother's Day Rose" that MB and I bought her for Mother's Day 15 or more years ago.
  It bloomed late this year.  Salvia, probably "May Night" is the purple.  I'm not going to spend any more time trying to turn it on this computer.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Other Other 1%

 I am in the other 1%.  And, likely, so are you.
Alas, income-wise I don't stand out (my less than 50k salary is public record) but as "we are the 99%" took off last fall, I felt compelled to point out just how much I don't fit in, despite being of unextraordinary financial means. Not many other women wear size 11 narrow shoes (nobody at all wears size 10 1/2 narrow shoes, because they just don't make them). Less than 1% of the US population has a research based doctorate. I found statistical data for height of US women, and I am considerably taller than the 95th percentile (although, if my calculations of the standard deviation are correct, I don't quite make the 99th percentile).  I'm pretty sure that being a) annoyed that I can no longer look at a table of percentiles and immediately know the standard deviation b) aware that I once could, and c) willing to look up standard deviations of normal distributions just to write a blog post, makes me part of a small exclusive group.
I had forgotten about this desire to accentuate my statistical abnormalities (not to mention my abnormal fondness for statistics) until I was wanting a way to frame a way to blog post about Aster.  Aster, you see, is not quite normal.  Aster was a teething prodigy, with 16 teeth at 16 months (his father is still trying to do the stats on that, but none of the stated "normal" ranges give any hints about the variance). Unlike his brother, Aster could not walk at 13 months, but at that time started knee walking, which he did until after he was 18 months old (he started walking on his feet three days before his 18 month appointment, which happened when he was 18 months and 2 weeks, for the record).  Aster had red hair in his infancy (like his father and less than 1% of the world's population) and is super-blond now (apparently like his mother when she was 2, along with about 2% of the world's population).  Aster's Mom was bitten by a black widow when he was in utero (happens to 3 women per 400,000 US pregnancies each year, if my assumptions are correct).  And Aster doesn't use his right hand much or pick up his right foot when he walks, leading to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, which happens to 2 in 1000 kids born in the US.
The hard-to-grasp concept about statistics is that the unlikely is not unlikely, if you pool all of the unlikely events.  And factors are not independent.  And people do sort themselves into groups.
Far more than 1% of my friends have doctorates.  The Mister is not the first redhead I've kissed, and I've not kissed 100 people.  I have a dear friend who is blond, has cerebral palsy and has a doctorate.  Yep, she's one in a million, (well, technically 4 in 10 million, based on the above stats) but she exists.
None the less, as I try to sort out what, if anything, this practically means for my jolly, inquisitive, son, I have found in immensely helpful to find CHASA, the Children's Hemiplegia and Stroke Association and their fabulous support network.  One of the CHASA blog posts, coupled with a photo of a beautiful smiley blond, seems like it could have been written by the me of the future, and it is highly recommended reading for, well, for anyone, but particularly for my mothers and anyone wondering what it is I am wondering about these days.
And the picture of my family, it's just thrown in to remind you that none of them is normal, but they are mine, and I love them.