Sunday, April 22, 2018

Long Lots


Weather: Winds were strong again this past week, though I don’t think they reached the 62 mph registered at the Santa Fé airport on Tuesday. The accumulated affects of age and wind loosened four fence boards that fell to the ground. I noticed two people had complete panels blown down from vertical board fences that had been installed in 8' sections.

The winds created another problem. I had put small plastic protectors around some young roses two years ago to keep the rabbits from eating the new, low growth. Sun aged the plastic, and the wind blew them apart. I spent a few minutes tying them back together with string. The problem with that is string disappears. I’m not sure if its age, the wind, or birds foraging for nesting materials.

While the wind kept me from doing more clean up work, it didn’t stop everyone. On Tuesday, when they were gusting the most, one person was cleaning a ditch and another was riding his lawn mower with a bag attachment.

Surprisingly, I haven’t found Russian thistle carcasses blown into the yard. Perhaps that’s because it was so dry last summer they didn’t developed.

Last rain: 4/8. Week’s low: 29 degrees F. Week’s high: 84 degrees F.

What’s blooming in the area: Apples, fruiting crab apples, sand cherries, weeping cherry, flowering quince, redbud, forsythia, lilac, tulips, grape hyacinth, alfilerillo, vinca, oxalis, tansy mustard, white tufted evening primrose, western stickseed, common and native dandelions, cheat grass

What’s reviving: Russian olive, sandbar willow, hostas, bindweed, snow-in-summer, Mönch asters

Tasks: I finished fixing hoses on Sunday, and on Wednesday my message therapist told me if I was going to do any more of that work, he should see me again in a week rather than wait the usual two to three weeks. He agreed the work used a great many lazy muscles.

I didn’t tell him this is the season when I pick dandelion flowers to keep them from going to seed. They especially like to come up under shrubs. Each picked head requires calf, ham strings, and lower back muscles grown soft from lack of use. The task is made harder because pinching stems is too much for my right thumb, so I’m also teaching my left hand something new.

Animal sightings: Rabbit in the small rose bed, small brown birds, sidewalk ants. No bees; they don’t like the wind.


Weekly update: When my home county in Michigan was opened for settlement in the early 1830s, the first settler "secured a pre-emption of the water-power and adjoining lands." More speculators appeared buying up early claims like his. One located in what would be my hometown where he staked a claim "covering the water power." [1]

No one in 1877 though it strange someone could claim a monopoly on water, but it was unthinkable in Rio Arriba county at the time. Here, land was allocated in strips 420' wide running between highlands and irrigation ditches, so each farmer had access to bottom lands where he could grow chile, beans and corn on the heavier, more fertile soils, upper lands where he could grow fruit trees on the coarser soils, and grazing lands without irrigation. Houses were built between the farm land and the fruit land, and roads were up land on non-productive soil.

The average width was probably less a matter of legal precedent, than the amount of land that could effectively be watered by an irrigation branch. Alvar Carlson said the fields could be any length, depending on topography.

Carlson believed long lots developed from the rigors of farming in an arid environment and that the earlier development of such lots by the French in the 1630s in Quebec was an independent invention.

The early settlers in La Cañada did not have a strong sense of community or common cause, although they did care about some of their kin and their children married neighbors. They probably owed their views of equal access to water to the Moors. However, like the French, they created a settlement where every family had access to water and every type of land needed to grow food.

These long lots survive today everywhere in and around Española where they are bounded by laterals bringing water from the main ditches.


Notes on photographs:
1. Blue Spike grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum), 21 April 2014.

2. Simple irrigation system in Cundiyo valley, 23 March 2012; the Río Frijoles is flowing across the photograph (you can just see some water in the center back) and irrigation channels have been dug to both sides (marked by taller vegetation). The land is used for pasturage.

3. Long lot near La Puebla, 23 March 2012. The Santa Cruz river is at the back, before the Tertiary mound, where the cottonwoods are growing. There is probably a ditch to the right, marked by the red branches of sandbar willow.

End notes:

1. History of Calhoun County, Michigan. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts and Company, 1877. 12.

2. Alvar W. Carlson. "Community Land Grants, Long-Lots, and Irrigation." 23-37 in The Spanish-American Homeland. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Forsythazioc Era


Weather: On Wednesday I noticed one of my neighbors had erected a metal pole and was flying the US and New Mexico flags. On Thursday, the high winds came through, and they seemed to have survived, though they made a racket flapping about.

The winds made it impossible to continue clearing dead stems, because I couldn’t burn the brush before the winds started in late morning. Then, it got too cold to do much else.

Last rain: 4/8. Week’s low: 21 degrees F. Week’s high: 86 degrees F.

What’s blooming in the area: It’s not that nature hates fruit and does everything it can to destroy the flowers every year. It’s more that cold fronts come after its gotten too warm, and the destruction of blossoms that opened in the premature heat is simply collateral damage. Saturday morning’s cold scotched the flowers on my flowering crab apple, sweet cherries, sand cherry, and forsythia.

The following list of plants blooming in the area was done Friday: sweet cherries, sand cherries, purple leaf sand cherries, flowering crab apples, flowering quince, redbud, forsythia, daffodils, tulips, alfilerillo, purple and tansy mustards, western stickseed, common and native dandelions.

What’s reviving: Apples, raspberries, snowball, beauty bush, caryopteris, lilacs, cottonwoods, Siberian pea tree, lilies of the valley, peonies, ladybells, donkey spurge, coral bells, catmints, black eyed Susans, Mexican hats, Silver King artemesia, Shasta daisies, tahoka daisy, leather leaf globe mallows, ring muhly grass

Tasks: The most arduous garden task for me is laying hoses. My upper arms aren’t particularly strong, and just pulling 50' of inert rubber leaves me breathless. Then, trying to get a brittle hose into a plastic garbage bag is even more demanding.

Last summer, after it as apparent the hoses I had installed in the spring were failing, I had to put down new ones. The only time you can easily lay hoses is this time of year, when few things have leafed. To get anything done, I simply threaded them through branches and around plants. Now, I have to go back and fix them.

Sometimes, it’s simple: I just walk on the hose and break off dead stems with my feet. However, in other cases I have to get on my knees and crawl under shrubs, pulling as I go. If they still don’t lay flat, I have to get some bricks to hold them, then later bend down and retrieve the weights with my left hand.

Animal sightings: Quail, gecko, bumble bee, cricket, pill bug, sidewalk ants


Weekly update: In the nineteenth century, before geologists had a firm definition of stratigraphy, they often named a layer for the uncovered bones. This didn’t mean they did something simple like call it the Camel layer. Instead, they found a report of similar paleozoological discoveries, and named the layer for that town. Thus, areas around Española that now are called Pojoque member, Tesuque member, or simply middle Miocene were then identified as Barstovian beds [1] for remains found in Barstow, California. [2]

I use a similar scheme when I group local landscapes into the Rosicrucian, Forsythazoic, and Perovskian eras. The first existed through the early 1950s when people planted fruit trees. [3] The second began in the late 1950s when ranch-style houses began displacing block houses modeled on those built in Los Alamos. That was followed by a barren period, when, if a characteristic shrub was planted, it didn’t survive. Today we’re in the age of Russian Sage. [4]

The interesting thing about the history of the local landscape is that once a flora was established, it was perpetuated by people who bought older homes. If the house had forsythia, they did not plant fruit trees, while those in older houses often added a forsythia. They also did not dig them out. The difference between the landscapes of the two groups was the Forsythazoic owners kept their shrubs pruned, while the Rosicrucians tended to let them take on their natural shape.

The continuity in taste came from two factors. When many people move into an established neighborhood, they wanted to blend in, if for no other reason that they feared they might destroy their property values if they introduced something different. But a larger factor may have been the reason they bought a particular house in the first place. They may already have had associations of plants with the architecture from their childhood.


Notes on photographs:
1. Unpruned Forsythia intermedia Lynwood Gold, 10 April 2018.


2. Soaker hose going over branches of a sandcherry that hadn’t yet begun to bloom, 10 April 2018. I also often have to remove the dead leaves to get a hose to lay flat, or to let the water reach the ground.

3. Another sandcherry (Prunus besseyi) in full bloom, 10 April 2018.

End notes:
1. Daniel J. Koning. Preliminary Geologic Map of the Española Quadrangle, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe Counties, New Mexico. Socorro: New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, May 2002. Map and report.

2. Ted Galusha and John C. Blick. "Stratigraphy of the Santa Fe Group, New Mexico." American Museum of Natural History. Bulletin 144:1-128:April 1971.

3. Most fruit trees, including apples, apricots, cherries, and peaches are members of the Rose family, the Rosaceae.

4. The Latin name for Russian sage is Perovskia atriplicifolia.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Pink and White Trees


Weather: We got a little rain in the night. Earlier in the week, I think on Monday, a brief, very strong wind shook the house and completely dispersed my burn pile. Luckily it was primarily dead grass. However, the wind was strong enough to also move the partially burned sticks. Friday, when the weather felt a bit oppressive, I burned the grasses and dead wood that had accumulated since in the evening, instead of waiting for the next morning. Last rain: 4/8. Week’s low: 32 degrees F. Week’s high: 78 degrees F.

What’s blooming in the area: Sweet cherries, sand cherries, peaches, Bradford pear, purple leaf plum, flowering quince, forsythia, daffodils, alfilerillo, purple and tansy mustards, western stickseed, common and native dandelions

What’s reviving: Jackmanii potentilla, spirea, choke cherry, privet, Johnson’s Blue geranium, chamisa, Mönch aster, yellow yarrow, goat’s beard

Tasks: A couple weeks ago I bought some pansies and violas that were grown by a nursery in Alabama. Since then, they’ve been sitting on the back porch hardening off. I’m waiting because I still expect a morning too cold for them to handle. Contradictorily, I’m also waiting for plants to break dormancy in the beds where I’m planting them. It’s both too warm and not warm enough.

In the meantime, the seedlings are going though the usual bedding plant phase of no longer blooming. They’re a bit like drug addicts: they were raised in warm, moist conditions where they were sprayed with nutrients to compensate for the poor diet in their potting soil. On my porch, they’re undergoing detoxification: getting used to normal water and erratic temperature cycles. Some may never bloom again.

Animal sightings: Robin, flock of quail, small brown birds, sidewalk ants, bees heard in afternoons


Weekly update: ’Tis the season of pink and white flowering trees, or more precisely pink flowered trees and white flowered ones. I’ve only seen one at a closed Honstein gas station in Arroyo Seco that looked like it had both kinds of flowers on one plant.

When I first moved here in 1991 it was fairly easy to use color to determine the type of tree blooming in a yard. Apricots appeared before apples. In the past few years with our warm Aprils, the cherries have come between. In addition to the different flowering times, apricots and cherries tended to be much larger trees and only one or two were planted. Apples often appeared in rows.

It was always difficult to decide if the pink trees were peaches or flowering crab apples, but the redbuds were easier to identify by their more columnar shape and deeper colored flowers. I usually decided the species based on what I could tell about the owner: if there were other fruit trees in the yard, I assumed the pink was a peach, but if it was the only tree I assumed a crab.

This schema has become useless since the big box opened north of town, and propagated national taste: it carried more ornamentals than fruit trees. The variety was greater: there were several varieties of flowering crab and flowering cherries as well. Some crabs were white and some cherries were pink. This year, the local hardware has Oklahoma white redbuds as well as the usual purple Texas ones.


The distinction between utilitarian neighbors and decorative ones has been blurred by the introduction of small fruit trees for suburban yards. This year I bought a cherry marketed as ideal for growing in a container. It came in a cardboard sleeve about three inches wide. At least the grower was honest that it had few roots; I’ve bought too many that had recently been moved into gallon or larger containers to make it seem like they were more mature than they were.

Those people who wouldn’t grow an apricot or cherry because of the size, now could plant them. More important, the association of the small fruit trees with trendy decks made them acceptable to people who associated productive trees with their agrarian ancestors. They came with the hint they required little effort, and the fruit was easily available.

Even more important, the new varieties were labeled self-fruitful, so one didn’t need to have two, or depend on one’s neighbors to have a complimentary tree. I’m not sure though what they meant by a self-fruitful Bing. The tree I bought was the only one I’ve been able to find in the past few years that would pollinate a Bing.


Notes on photographs:
1. White Bradford pear with pink peach behind it at the left and an unknown neighbor’s white tree at the right, 6 April 2018.

2. Full sized Elberta peach planted in 1997, 6 April 2018.

3. My uphill neighbor planted this patio peach about the time I planted mine. The next neighbor moved it away from the porch to the 5' fence, where it remains fence high. This picture was taken 28 March 2012.

4. The root ball of the Coral Champaign cherry, 29 March 2018. Most of the roots were in an inner sleeve, so the actual roots ball was about 1.5" in diameter.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Hose Quality


Weather: Sun angles continue their vernal progression. Instead of coming into my eyes in the morning, the rays are coming in the back of the house under the 12' porch roof in the afternoon. When they stopped bothering me at my desk, the rochea stopped blooming on the eastern porch, and the moss rose began putting out rose-colored flowers.

It was a cold, dry winter. Apparently, the lack of snow meant whatever moisture fell drained immediately into Santa Cruz lake. As a result, the acequias are opening early this year to relieve the dam. The managers hope the water will last until July, and with some rain, into August. Farmers, of course, are asking their mayordomos if its safe to plant this year. [1]

Last rain: 3/27. Week’s low: 23 degrees F. Week’s high: 74 degrees F.

What’s blooming in the area: Apricots, peaches, pear, Bradford pear, purple leaf plum, forsythia, crane’s bill, dandelion. Male cottonwood dropping seed clusters.

What’s reviving: Flowering crab apple, Siberian elms, cheese at post office, violets, Jupiter’s beard, pink evening primrose, oriental poppy, broom snakeweed, needle grass. Among the roses, Betty Prior, Doctor Huey, Dorothy Perkins, Jeannne Lajoie, and Olympiad have new leaves.

Animal sightings: Sidewalk ants are back. A rabbit has been feeding on native plants; it left droppings on the cement block path I had cleared the day before. Bees appeared with the peach flowers; they weren’t out for the apricots. Saw a gecko scrambling over leaves under the peach yesterday.

I uncovered a worm when I was planting raspberries. I’m not sure if worms are common in grasslands, so I took that as a sign the place I was planting would be nurturing.

Tasks: Nurseries love to ship their plants as early as possible. Last Sunday I had to plant some bare root raspberries. The first problem was the other plants in the area where they were going hadn’t broken ground yet, so I didn’t know where they could go. The second challenge was the area was in the shade, and the soaker hose had ice in its lines, so I couldn’t get water into the ground. I fell back on my usual trick when I need a lot of water in a single place. I ran the rotary sprinkler that has a limited spray area. The ice in the lines apparently caused pressure problems or flow irregularities that then overwhelmed the frost free hydrant. Because of the hydrant problem, I didn’t actually get the raspberries into the ground until Thursday.


Weekly update: Since the election of Ronald Regan as president, the use of inflation as a negative measure of the economy has led manufactures to maintain prices by lowering costs, first by transferring production to third-world countries, and then in reducing quality. Even so, routine garden hoses that used to cost about four dollars are going for eighteen this year.

The first obvious change they made was substituting plastic for metal fittings. The problem wasn’t simply that the plastic would break when I tried to attach it to another hose. The worse problem came when I had attached a plastic end to a metal coupling and later needed to remove it. The two materials expand and contract at different rates, and the plastic would often destroy the metal part. Then, I had to replace not one, but two hoses, or a hose and a valve.


This year I noticed more of the hoses for sale had metal parts, but last year most were plastic. That’s because the manufacturers have found a new way to lower costs. They’ve change the chemistry of the "rubber."

Hoses always kink. It seems to be in their DNA. To get them to work, you have to press your thumb down hard on the edge to force an opening. Well, that became impossible for me last year, and still is.

A few years ago, I noticed hoses kinked as soon as I took off the packaging and unwound them. Thursday, when I needed to run water, no water flowed, even though the hoses had worked on Sunday. When I tried to straighten them, they cracked and started spurting. When I checked records I started keeping last year, I discovered I had purchased those particular hoses last May and June. They were supposedly different brands. 

 
About the time I started having more problems with kinking hoses, I noticed stores were marketing ones that wouldn’t kink for a higher price. When I looked closely, these weren’t like the previous ones. They were heavier, which made them much harder for me to use. The weight came out of the inner diameter, so they let less water through.

Like so many other things, they had replaced a usable object with one that was clumsier and called it an improvement.


Notes on photographs:
1. Purple leaf plum from a distance, 31 March 2018.

2. Area where I’ve been clearing dead alfalfa stems and removing invaders like the snakeweed on the right. The block path is covered with alfalfa seeds, and dirt deposited by the wind. 30 March 2018.

3. A Y valve that was destroyed by a plastic fitting. There should be outside threads on both ends, but the one was removed and the ball valve it enclosed fell into obscurity.

4. Hose that had multiple kinks on Thursday.

5. Close up of one of the kinks. The break in the skin doesn’t cause the leak; the break has to be in the protected interior black hose. In this case, the kink would not straighten to let water through.

End notes:

1. Amanda Martinez. "Acequia Water Released Early." Rio Grande Sun 61:1,3:29 March 2018. Another reservoir problem is silt continues to accumulate in the bottom and decreases its capacity.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Water Flow


Weather: Last Sunday we had another cold front pass through on its way to the plains, and left a little incidental snow. It was rather like being a plant on the Oregon trail where wagon trains continually passed through, but with no interest in staying. They left their dead and discarded objects, much like these fronts casually leave us some moisture. Last snow: 3/18. Week’s low: 14 degrees. Week’s high: 77.

What’s blooming in the area: Apricots, crane’s bill

What’s reviving: Globe and weeping willows, daffodils, garlic, garlic chives, hollyhocks, sidalcea, pink and yellow evening primroses, coral beardstongues, chrysanthemums, dandelions, June grass

Tansy mustard is invading along the fence with a neighbor who mows his yard periodically, but almost always after his weeds have gone to seed.

Tasks: I continued to hack away at the alfalfa under the crab apples. One thing that always surprises me is that the tools I actually use are not the ones recommended. So far, the small floral rake has been the most useful at breaking off dead stems and grasses. I guess it functions like the hoes local men use to weed, only with the rigid teeth it picks up broken stems and debris so I don’t have to bend down as often. I only use the loppers to cut what the rake can’t handle.

Animal sightings: The ground squirrel broke off the bottom of a fence board to give itself safer access to my yard. The neighbor’s dogs had started using it’s earlier route under the fence until I dropped a large Russian thistle on the other side. Those carcasses may actually be good for something.


Weekly update: Last year, when I couldn’t use my thumb, I spent my garden money upgrading my watering system. The ground squirrel had destroyed many of my hoses by biting into them to get a drink. It never returned to the same hose, but broke open a new one every time.

In February 2017 I had to replace my well pump and in April the outside hydrant. I had never been happy with the well. From the first day, I had no water pressure. The only sprinkler I could run was the simplest one with a rotating disc, and, if I was lucky, it’s circle of water was five feet across. More often, I could only get a three foot circle. Soaker hoses would irrigate no more than two inches on a side.

Every time I asked people why I got non answers. I was assured the well was fine and producing the correct water pressure. Last February I learned the pump I had was the right size, but was low quality. The driller probably used it either to keep his bid low enough to be accepted or to increase his profit. The man replacing the pump gave me the same brand and size, but the top of the line. The difference in price was less than all the replacement cost of all the trees that died from lack of water.

The intake on the original pump probably got clogged as soon as it was used. Last February, the man also set the pressures on the storage tank. I’m not sure if that had been done before.

Once I had the possibility of improved water pressure, and I knew as soon as I turned on the hot water, [1] I wanted to solve the flow problem. A year or so before I had replaced a destroyed 15' hose that came directly off the hydrant with another and the water distribution had fallen by more than half. Even though both hoses claimed to be 5/7" in diameter, one was obviously larger than the other.

I vaguely knew there was a difference between outer diameter (OD) and inner diameter (ID), but hadn’t thought much about it. Last spring I started looking at the size of openings in hoses. Often the constriction was the hole in the washer, but some hoses I saw in stores also had metal rings where the fitting attached to the hose.


I had laid soaker hoses out and, because of the poor water pressure, often had several hoses in parallel. They were attached to on-off Y valves that I could open and close. The Y valves were listed as 5/8" diameter, but when I looked inside I discovered pieces that shrank the opening. The actual ball valve hole was only 1/4" across. It didn’t matter if my hoses were 5/8". All that was going to get though was 1/4" of water.


Since they were all that was available locally, and then only early in the season, I went to Amazon and found one manufacturer who claimed to deliver "35% more flow than standard valves." The valves had larger openings, and, to accommodate the balls, were also simply larger.


When I first had laid out the hoses, I had put shutoff valves at every location, so I if there was a problem I didn’t have to turn off the hydrant. Last summer, I replaced every intermediate Y connection with a simple valve that didn’t narrow the flow of water.

Of course, as I remembered last Sunday when I tested the hoses before I burned the week’s accumulation of dead wood, it meant I had no way to stop water where the ground squirrel got in last winter, except at the hydrant. But, if we didn’t forget the summer’s problems during winter, we’d never carry on the next summer because, of course, the problems always return.


Notes on photographs:
1. Hoses, 6 May 2013. You can see the tansy is only coming up next to the hose or the retaining wall at the top where runoff collects. Later in the season, these plants cover the spaces between themselves, but the areas where there are no plants will only support less thirsty grasses.

2. Hose destroyed this past winter by the ground squirrel. It usually leaves the inch wide hole.

3. Hose with a constricting band between the faucet connector and the hose connector.

4. Commonly available 5/8" 2-way Y on-off valve with 1/4" ball opening.

5. Two Y valves; the one on the left is like the one shown in #4.

6. Another hose destroyed this past winter by the ground squirrel. This one has several smaller holes.

End notes:
1. The hot water got hotter. That didn’t make any sense, but a woman in a local plumber supply shop said the increased pressure of the incoming water kicked up the accumulated debris at the bottom of the water heater. That activity then allowed the hot water to get into the house pipes faster, and so didn’t cool as much.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lava Stone Walls



Weather: It’s the time of year when there’s maybe an hour between the time when it gets warm enough to work outside and the winds start. Sunday and Thursday they were the harbingers of storm fronts that came through so low, the moisture in the winds fell on the ground. On Sunday it never quite rained, but water was in the air for hours. On Thursday, we got enough to call it a shower, but it only lasted two minutes. Last rain: 3/15.

What’s blooming in the area: Cranesbill in my drive. Apricots on Friday; they must be the dumbest trees that grow here; they get one warm day, and think it’s spring; instead they’re the first crop failure.

What’s reviving: Alfalfa under dead stems, Apache plume, purple asters, bouncing Bess, smooth brome grass, golden spur columbine, daylilies, Dutch iris, Queen Anne’s lace, tulips at both ends of the garage that get more sun, white yarrow; color is returning to Vinca leaves.

Tasks: I need to clean areas that were ignored for a year or more. I started near the crab apples where I planted alfalfa, thinking I would cut it with a weed eater. That never happened. So now, I’ve been out with loppers cutting last year’s dead stems, and a small floral rake breaking off the older stems and grasses under them. It worked fine on Thursday morning, but then we had just enough moisture to dampen the stems. On Friday, they were much harder to cut.

Animal sightings: Something heavy, probably the ground squirrel, stepped on all the thick plastic posts holding up a grapevine and bent some to the ground. It simply removed others.

Weekly update: I saw the most extraordinary thing last week when I was looking at a Ugandan video on YouTube. In the background was the stone wall shown in the above screen print that could have been built in Española.

Some years ago I started taking pictures of area walls and fences that were built by local farmers and craftsmen. [1] I saw more here than in Santa Fé or Albuquerque where walls were stuccoed over.

One defining characteristic was the exaggeration of the mortar. It was stained red or dark gray and often extended beyond the stones. This was an aesthetic difference that distinguished these walls from ones in other parts of this country or Europe where the tendency was to use as little mortar as possible.


 
Not everyone here who had a stone wall had one with decorative mortar work. I assumed that meant there were certain masons who had the skill to do such work, and they probably had come here from someplace like Zacatecas. However, I never found pictures of Mexican walls like ours. I suspected that lack of evidence simply meant people didn’t post pictures of their walls on the internet.

There would have been nothing unusual about African slaves being the source for such stonework. They certainly existed in México.

However, Uganda was on the east side of Africa, and most of the Spanish slaves came from Angola and southern Zaïre on the west side. Certainly, some from the central lakes district were taken in raids and moved west, but one wouldn’t think there were enough to be responsible for the local stonework.

The video probably was shot in the Ugandan capital city of Kampala or in Masaka. Both were in the ancestral lands of the Baganda on the western side of Lake Victoria. The area wasn’t much influenced by Europeans until the last half of the nineteenth century, and then the United Kingdom declared sovereignly in 1894. The wall may have been built for an Englishman.

One is left with one of those puzzles one finds more in human than in plant history: the independent development of an idea in two places at two different times.



Notes on photographs:
1. Screen print from "Kumbaya - Jose Mc Ft Juicy Landy." Uploaded to YouTube by tamjoe7 on 18 July 2013. A PVibe Production directed by ORIS.

2. Local wall, 28 February 2016.

3. Local wall, 17 January 2012.

End notes:

1. For more on local walls see index entries on Landscaping Walls.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Southern Hemisphere Plants



Weather: As I mentioned last week, it has been an abnormally cold winter. This week was no exception. It was 9 degrees on my front porch on Wednesday morning. Last night’s 70% forecast of snow materialized as only high, drying winds.

What also was unusual was that I never felt cold. Now that the morning low is around 20, the typical low for our winters, I’m often cold in the house. Apparently, the furnace comes on more often when it’s very cold, so the air in the rooms stays warm. When it comes on a little less often, the heat has time to rise and the cold air rises from the floor.

What’s blooming in the area: Cranesbill at post office.

What’s reviving: Leaves on the cliff roses and fern bushes.

Weekly update: Most of the plants on my indoor porch are from southern Africa. The one that’s from somewhere else, the moss rose, is native to Argentina and nearby Uruguay and Brazil.

This was not a conscious choice of my part. They are simply the ones that survived the drought and temperature extremes of the east facing room.

What the plants have in common is they’re from the Southern Hemisphere where our winter is their summer. Seasons are managed by the sun, which is high in summer and low in winter. Generally, plants bloom in the environment’s summer and go dormant in winter. Exotic imports don’t have some vestigial preference for their ancestral home. They adapt and bloom when conditions are right. If they don’t, plant breeders abandon them for more pliable species.

They should bloom in our summer. The fact the ones on my porch bloom in our winter made little sense until I looked up. Or rather, I didn’t look up because the sun was coming into my eyes over the roof of my neighbor’s roof. That happens every winter. Last fall, it started bothering me on October 4.

The porch doesn’t get sun from above but through the windows, and the windows get more light when the sun is low to the horizon.

The plants currently blooming are zonal geraniums, an ivy-leaf geranium, and aptenia. The ones not blooming are the snake plant, which bloomed last winter, and the moss rose, which has gotten luxuriantly green instead.

The rochea never bloomed until I moved it this summer from the side of the porch, to the front where it got more sun. It put out new growth, then in October, soon after the sun was in my eyes, thrust up a bud stem. It’s still in flower, though the tiny white flowers can’t be seen from a distance.



Notes on photographs:
1. Rochea (Rochea coccinea), 10 March 2018.

2. Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora), 10 March 2018.