Monday, November 29, 2010

Berry-Go-Round #34

Welcome to Berry-Go-Round #34. Here in Northern Utah we’ve just wrapped up an absolutely frigid Thanksgiving weekend. Wind, ice, crusty snow- who’s thinking about plants? Despite the Arctic Blast, the Watcher Family had an enjoyable and adventurous holiday (which I’ll post about later this week) but in truth my main thoughts these last few days were- as they generally are this time of year- oriented around staying warm, eating and drinking. If these same things are on your mind right about now, then this month’s edition has some great posts for you.

Plants You Wear

When the cold sets in, one of the first things I do is scramble around the closet, looking for where I hid all the warm winter clothing. This inevitably leads to the realization that I Have Too Many Damn T-Shirts, cotton1 because I am- as Awesome Wife is quick to point out-unable to throw any T-shirt away, ever.* Given how much cotton there is clogging up my closet, I was a bit chagrinned that I knew so little about where it comes from. Thankfully, JSK over at Anybody Seen My Focus?** has cured my ignorance, with a helpful 2-part series on cotton-harvesting,

*“But if I throw this one away, how will anyone ever know I ran the Boulder Bolder in 1992?...”

**Best Name for a Blog Ever. Seriously, I totally should have come up with that name.

Plants You Eat

Bog Cranberry  (Vaccinium oxycoccos) Thanksgiving is probably the only time I regularly consume cranberries (I don’t know why- they’re so good) and though in my long-ago youth I was carted out to a commercial bog as on a school field trip*, I never knew much about where they really came from in the wild. Matt, way up at Sitka Nature (Alaska) takes us along a cranberry foraging hike in the far North.

*All Boston-area school children are at one point or another taken on a cranberry bog field trip, usually somewhere on or near Cape Cod. I don’t know why this is. It’s not like cranberries are this huge part of Massachusetts history or the pillar of the Bay State economy or anything. And I don’t think any of my elementary school classmates actually grew up to be cranberry farmers. I could be wrong about that last part I guess- haven’t really kept in touch.

We did* turkey and lamb for the big feast this year, but the last few years we’ve been alternating between turkey and prime rib. Yes, Pond improvementI know red meat, tread-on-the-land, yada-yada. But it just tastes so good! Anyway, I was particularly pleased to see this submission on Promoting Wildlife in Your Cattle Pasture by Jake over at Texas Ranch Management. Jake posts about the importance of plant diversity on ranches, their role in fostering wildlife, and the resulting benefits to the rancher who’s in it for the long term. (Jake also utilizes one of my favorite blogging tools- the awesome graphic!) Good stuff.

*“did” in this instance means “went into a restaurant in Moab and ordered it...”


Plants You Drink (hic)

Speaking of good stuff, know what’s good with turkey or prime rib? Wine, that’s what. Darcy over at Of Winds and Water posts about making wine, and doing so from one of my favorite berries- Elderberries*. (I also like this post because she manages to make her mom do all the work, and get a post out of it. Nice, Darcy!)

*I’ve blogged about them here, here and here.

barley1 Not into wine? Maybe beer is more your thing, or something harder, like whiskey. Either way, you need Barley, whose fascinating 8,000 year history of cultivation is touched upon by Phil* over at A Digital Botanic Garden, as he makes his case for growing your own.

*Who is an actual, Real Life Botanist, and not just a seat-of-pants hack on the web who’s into plants…

gapfilling On a more serious note, before leaving the agri-sub-theme, Jeremy over at the Agricultural Diversity Weblog touches on some of the very real and tough challenges in “gap-filling” crop genebanks.

Blooming Things!

While it’s fun to think about how plants make possible the clothing, food and drink that get us through the winter, what I really miss this time of year is plants blooming. The really wonderful thing about a blog carnival is the chance to see what’s going on far, far away. This month the Phytophactor and Neotropical Savanna deliver.

beanflower The Phytophactor has produced a spectacular series of posts from his ongoing field work in Costa Rica, including not just lovely orchids, but flowers every bit as stunning from everything from the Coffee Family, to… wait for it… the Bean Family!

ntsmysterytree And down in Panama, Mary at A Neotropical Savanna has done one of my favorite kinds of plant posts: that mysterious tree in the back yard that turns out to have a Way Cool story. I won’t give it away, but it’ll change how you think about the Sunflower Family…

Your Opinion?

Tangent: While we’re on the topic of Central America- I welcome your input. I’m planning on attending a Spanish language school early next year in Central America, followed, ideally, by some backcountry hiking, botany and exploration. Right now I’m torn between Panama and Nicaragua. Nicaragua (toward which I’m slightly leaning) seems a bit less spoiled by development and tourism, and also is home to some fabulous volcanoes, cloud forests and lakes. Panama appears to have, if anything, even greater biodiversity, and perhaps beats(?) Nicaragua in terms of lowland tropical forest. Any opinions?

deptfordpink Before leaving wildflowers, a nice post from Keith over at Get Your Botany On about Deptford Pink. Keith’s post includes an actual 3-verse Limerick* about this lovely weed!

*I’m embarrassed to admit that for many years, the only limericks I knew were naughty ones. Even now, when someone points me to a limerick, I get a little nervous. Rest assured, Keith’s limerick is G-rated and delightful!

Plants That Make Us Think

willow1 I have a soft spot for willows; my very first post about a plant ever was about them at the very onset of spring. Now Dave over at Osage & Orange has a wonderful post about willows at end of autumn, that reminds us of something I’ve always loved about plants: sometimes we see a little of ourselves in them.

To conclude this month’s edition, I’ll point you to a wonderful stuffplantsdo3-part series over at my favorite blog, Foothill Fancies. Sally’s posts- Plants Die, Stuff Plants Do, and Do Sleeping Plants Dream?* - rejoice in the wonder, mystery and utter fantabulous-ness of plants, providing food for thoughts, dreams and hopes through the long winter ahead and planting seeds in our souls of the spring to come.

*BTW, I have a “theory” that I dream more, or rather remember more dreams, in winter. I think this is because I wake up, look outside and go back to sleep more often, and the interrupted morning sleep makes me remember more of my dreams. BTW, if you watch TV before bed, be careful what you watch. Two nights ago I learned that my freshman-year college dorm room would’ve have made a lousy anti-zombie safehouse. Dreams are weird.

That wraps it up for Berry-Go-Round #34. Thanks to all of you who submitted posts. Join us again for next month’s edition (#35), to be hosted at An Accidental Botanist. Stay warm, and think green.


Marissa Buschow said...

I haven't been to Central America, but I can say, as someone with an utterly useless Latin American Studies minor, Nicaragua has a really fascinating history. Also, I had a professor who did a bunch of research there and according to him, a huge chunk of Nicaragua is some horrific mosquito-filled wetlands (which I think was supposed to make me not want to go there but... I love wetlands!).

Marissa Buschow said...

P.S. Thanks for ruining my afternoon productivity now that I have hours' worth of blog posts to read!

Mike said...

I've heard terrific things about Nicaragua, but have experienced first hand the phenomenon that is Panama. The biodiversity there is incredible. My focus is obviously avifauna, but my mammal sightings stand out as particularly memorable and fantastic. I'm afraid I can't speak much about what distinguishes the flora there from Nicaragua but can point out the marvels of the Panama Canal!

Good luck making your choice.

The Phytophactor said...

Many thanks for including my rainforest ramblings.

Anonymous said...

I knew this would be good - thanks!

KanyonKris said...

Good post to pull that variety of posts together. Now could you unite North and South Korea?

Love the * notes.

Mary said...

Good reading in and of itself - I liked your organizational focus and energy. I just wish Jake at Texas Ranch Management had a way to leave comments. His was quite a neat post and something near to my heart when I had a small farm in Missouri! Not your doing, but maybe Jake will see this wish here. ;-)