Friday, May 09, 2008

Red Vole Family Planning Active!!

I have questions about natural history, kids:

1. Are spiders clean?
Here's the backstory on that one. Last week I was up late reading when out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of something out rambling around on the carpet. When I moved, it went under the couch. I thought it was a mouse. It was not a mouse. When it rambled out again I saw that it was a bigass honkin funnel spider. (Incidentally, funnel spiders only have two speeds: full stop, and deedledeedledeedledeedledeedledeedle. )
I finished my glass of water and popped the glass over him so he wouldn't run around up on my face in the middle of the night; which if you don't take proper precautions they totally will do. If you see a spider late at night and you don't stick a waterglass over it, three hours later you'll be asleep and they'll be right on your face with a little spider can of spray paint tagging the crap out of you, looking up your nose and yelling stuff and then running to the other nostril to listen to the echo. Spiders will mess with you like that.

The next day I took him outside and let him go where he could funnel away to his little hearts content. Meanwhile I was left with an empty glass in my hand and the question: If I was to fill this glass with water and drink the water, would I come down with some kind of horrible spider-bourne disease?

Well? Spiders strike me as a pretty clean animal; you never see them clustering around dog crap or hauling old burger wrappers around. Then again, they do eat flies, which are filthy, and bees, which have venom. And maybe this venom and stuff seeps into their little spider selves and turns them into little 8 legged bags of pestilence. This was a pretty substantially sized spider too; like I said, I thought it was a mouse at first. I don't know. I got a clean glass out of the cupboard anyway.

2. Platypus...oids. Need the info. Like, what is the collective noun, for starters.
a. Are they nice?
If you ran onto one while you were out popping for bass or whatever, would it attack you? And would you be too busy laughing to defend yourself while they tunneled in through your abdominal wall and started gnawing on your lungs? Because they kind of look like something that might do that. They do.
b. Do they make a noise?
It would tickle my fancy if they quacked. That would be so awesome. But it would also be cool if they barked like a dog, too.
c. Could you have one for a pet?
Because I would own one. Oh hell yeah. I would take it on walks, and I would tote it around in a carrybag when it got tired. It could ramble around my house on its little stubby legs, wagging its flappy tail, barking and quacking. I would make it a nice pond out in the back yard . I would name it 'Howard'.

And yes I know they have a poison spur on their back legs. I don't necessarily see that as a drawback. "Do I think Christ ever walked the Americas? Here, hold Howard while I mull that one over."

3. Wild Hedgehogs.
a. Can you just go outside and pick one up off the ground like a baseball? You see naturalists doing this all the time in television shows.
b. Are they nice?
c. Could you have one for a pet?
d. If you pick up an adult hedgehog, do the spines come out and stick in you like a porcupines?Because that would suck. Bigtime.

Seriously, folks, this stuff bothers me. (I used to worry about ducks' feet getting cold in winter. Oh, the SSA will fill you in AT LENGTH about that one.) I've gone so far as to look all this up on the Innerknot and there is Jack Shit out there. This is the kind of thing that people need to know, though! What if you went out and, like, saw a hedgehog and thought 'Well, I'll just pick him up' and it leaped up and stuck on your face and laid eggs down your esophagus? Or you drank out of a glass that spiders had been yippy-yodelling around in and you croaked off horribly and nobody knew why? And then they drank out of the same glass and WHAMMO the same thing happened? This could be happening every day! Similarly, your platypus might have really bad traits that might make it an unsuitable pet. Maybe it would lift its platyleg on the furniture or play in the toilet or make long distance calls. People need to know.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

8 faks about Nietzsche, one of which is a fake fak.

TIM FOOTMAN hit me for this one.
Go, read, worship. The man is GOOD. He also looks like Buddy Holly in certain lights.

And FOR SHITSAKES PEOPLE TRY AND TAKE YOUR MEDICATION FIRST. Every single time I give out a link for this mans blog all the goddamn crazies come out of the woodwork and go harrass him. The man is a serious writer, ok? If you want to say stupid shit say it here; because chances are if you're too dim to get Footman then you won't get it when I subject you to cruel mockery and sarcasm and I always get a big kick out of that. OK? We straight?

This is a meme. A meme is actually supposed to be a self-replicating thoughtform. An internet meme is more along the lines of a chain letter or one of those folklore things that get passed around at, the picture of the frog sitting at his desk looking disgusted with the saying "I'm so happy here I could just SHIT" captioning it? Or the one where it's a whole list of ways that the word 'fuck' can be used? Like, for instance, it says 'NAUTICAL USAGE: 'Fuck the Admiral'

Oh ha! Ha ha ha! Fuck the Admiral! Get it? See, because an admiral is nautical...?



1. Nietzsche was a philosopher. Except other philosophers of the time thought he really wasn't much of a philosopher. Or, more like, they thought he was OK at coming up with philosophies, he just didn't express them in the approved philosophical format. My question is: Why should we care?
See, that was a pretty philosophical statement right there. Was it Nietzscheian? The fuck do I know? My knowledge of Nietzche is right on a par with my knowledge of gas phase ion chemistry. Actually no, thats a lie; I picked up a copy of 'Thus Spake Zarathustra' back around 1971...and found myself so laughably out of my depth that I just put that bad boy down and backed away slowly. I mean, at that point I'd just barely made it through Thoreau without putting my head through a plate glass window. You know, like that chick in 'The Stand'?

2. There are no pictures of Nietzche wearing a ladies' dress on the Internet. There are a couple of him wearing a Superman outfit. Now thats just dumb. Geezly Christmas people, 'Ubermensch' doesn't mean 'Superman'. It refers to 'higher' or transcendent' man, or more specifically a higher or more transcendent human nature that mankind should strive for in the absence of a God. Incidentally Hitler can go fuck himself.

3. Nietzsche once asked Richard Wagner to buy two pairs of silk underpants for him. Wagner was that guy who wrote that 'Hi ya tee yah!' Valkyries thing? The Ring of the Niblet Corn? With the Rhinemaidens and the evil dwarf and shit, and you have to take four separate evenings out of your life just to see the whole thing and it's all singing in German? That guy. And if you go by that I guess he does seem like the kind of guy who knew his way around a pair of silk underpants.

4. Nietzsche liked playing the violin and smoking a large, foul pipe, which he frequently loaded from a cache of rough shag stored in the toe of an oriental slipper on the mantlepiece. Many were the evenings when I crouched furtively behind some second rate novel, wincing at the alarming screeches and fantastic glissandoes of -one could scarcely call it 'music' -which issued from the tormented strings of his violin, while clouds of foul smoke blued the atmosphere around his head.

5. Nietzsche might have been gay. Or not. Nobody really knows what he was tapping. It is a mystery, like Area 51. When he finally went round the bend and ended up in an asylum Wagner wrote a letter to his doctor and told him that the reason that Nietzsche was crazy was because he jacked off too much. This does little to clarify the issue of Nietzsche's sexuality although it may point toward a preoccupation with World of Warcraft on the part of Nietzsche, or lingering bad feeling about the whole 'pick me out a nice pair of silk underpants, Rick' thing on the part of Wagner.

6. Nietzsche wrote a lot of books, and he read a lot of books. He liked Machiavelli and Burckhardt, and I like Machiavelli and Burckhardt! That means I'm a lot like Nietzsche, I guess!

7. Nobody really knows how to pronounce 'Nietzsche '. Nobody knew how to pronounce MY maiden name either. See? The parallels are mounting up!

8. Nietzsche comes up a lot on Myspace and Livejournal sites where the person quoting him (typically 'What does not kill me makes me stronger') professes an interest in BDSM. He is also mentioned frequently by atheists and Goth kids in Europe. This guy likes him, for example. Some of his pictures are worth enlarging. I like the one where he's wearing a pair of black socks and not a whole lot of anything else.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

ok fine. this is what i've been doing. the way, Blogger is being a roly-poly poop butt lately, isn't it?
This is what I have been doing since about the 20th of last month!

Here is my shed. See the sophisticated lighting system in the shed. This is what happens to lamps that have been bad.
There are no robots inside the shed.
It is sad.

See the front bed. See the dirt. Wow, dirt! It is soil.
Is that a tricycle in the front bed? Yes! Yes, it is a tricycle! A tricycle fastened to a buried cinderblock with a logging chain!

See the flowers! They are red! They are black! They are Primula 'Velvet Moon'!!!
They are in a cooking pot! That is a very funny place for a flower to be!
The cooking pot came from the dump.
The creepy greasy man who ran the dump traded it for the opportunity to frolic around in the garbage I was hauling.

See the funny plants! They are called 'sedums'. They are a kind of cactus!
They grow in phones and old cooking pots. Really. Robots plant them there.

The dead weeds are on the grass. They are dead. DIE WEEDS DIE. I am laughing.
This area took me 4 hours to weed! This one area! It is a small, small area.
800 million bazillion, two hundred thousand three squillion and seven weeds, and five garden plants were in this area.
I am laughing at the dead weeds! Hahahahahahahahaha!

I am beginning to sound a little hysterical.

See the species tulips! They are red, yellow and black. They are short. They are little. I love them REAL GOOD.
This is the mommy tulip of all the tulips in every garden in the world. Tulipa Speciosa. That is Latin. Latin is a dead language. That means that only zombies speak it.

See the artemesia! It is pretty.
It is also an ingredient in a bad drink that can make you very dizzy. It is DRUGS.
Only bad people take drugs. Drugs are bad. Some drugs come from plants. Thujone is a bad drug. It comes from plants.
This is where I always find Toulouse Lautrec passed out. I call the policeman, and he takes him away. Bad, bad Toulouse Lautrec, the drug taking passer outer man.

What a nice tree! The nice tree is small. The nice tree is healthy!
The nice tree is made of small smelly dog and human birthing waste!
Hippies fear it.

Look, look! See the pots! See the plants! See the pots and plants!
See, Tommy? See, Mary? See the pots and plants? There are many pots and plants!

Look! See? More! More pots and plants! See the many pots and plants?
I told your juvenile shit there were many pots and plants! Don't be calling me a liar, Tommy! You either, Mary!
I made the medium!
I sifted the compost!
I dug the soil!
I weeded the overwintered plants!
I inspected the roots!
I market trimmed!
I moved plants up to the next larger size!
I watered!
I staked!
I rested over!
I set out!
Don't come up in my goddamn face and tell me 'OO, that doesn't look like very many to me', you little shitholes! I know who your real daddy is!

A baby plant starts from a seed. It is called a 'seedling'.
Here are baby squash, beans and peas. The seeds came from vegetables. I saved the seeds over winter and kept them safe. Then I planted them in dirt. They are small!

See the baby seedlings? These are baby tomato plants. Someday they will grow tomato fruits. They are good to eat.
Big, medium and small, red and yellow tomatoes. They all start with a tiny seed.
Seeds that I saved over the winter from other tomato plants that I grew from seeds that I saved over the winter before that. And before that, and before that. And so forth.
It is trippy.

These are seedling sunflower plants. You can see the sunflower seed still stuck to the tiny leaves. These baby leaves are called 'cotyledons'.
I bought these seeds from the store. They are for fancy sunflowers; red, black and striped! Last year I let the poor birds eat all my sunflower seeds because it was cold. I am a big sappy dork like that.

These are weeds. Weeds are bad. Weeds need to die. This is what every single inch of every single one of my beds looked like a couple of weeks back. This is what happens when you get very sick and are not able to take care of your garden. Weeds take over.
This is why I have not been blogging. I have been gardening. I have been killing weeds. DIE WEEDS DIE SCREAMING IN TORMENT UP SATANS BUTTHOLE EVIL SMELLY CRAPPY WEEDS DIE DIE DIE

That is what all these beds looked like. Every single one. In the front yard, and in the back yard too.

See FirstNations backyard? There are raised beds!
They are for growing vegetable plants. They were full of weed plants.

Here are some more raised beds. I have nine. Nine is a lot.
Oh, and once I weeded these, I had to cultivate the soil, too. And repair the boards. And sort through the beds where the strawberries and herbs and the asparagus grow permanently and put compost on them. Compost that I had to screen and haul.
By the way; I planted everything you see in these last two pictures, except for the grass.
Yes, I did.

See the front yard? This is the northeast side of it! I planted everything in this picture that you can see except for the tallest evergreen tree. And the goddamn trees in the background there; geeze.
I weeded it all too.
Yes I did.
I kick ass.

Same here. Only the weeping alder was already there. I still had to weed the bastard though, didn't I? And I'll be trimming it up pretty soon too. But everything else? I planted.
Except for the grass.
Oh, and guess what? I made all those beds. Me. Alone. No help. Eleven years ago I cut the turf and I dug down all the way to the substrate and backfilled with compost and chopped in more compost when I re-filled them and planned the plantings and hauled stone and get the picture?

Now. Are you gonna bitch about how you had to have a bunch of reruns? Are you going to say 'Waa waa waa, if I don't get my full ration of new new new I get all constipated and grouchy and bitch and waa like a big rashy baby'?
Because you can get down on all fours and kiss my flat red ass, Paco.
I am not playing.


So, um yeah. That's what I've been doing for the last coupla few weeks.

Monday, May 05, 2008

A little educational primer on factory plants

Plants that you can buy at most retail outlets these days are grown in factory conditions. This is NOT a bad thing. In most cases it has meant an overall improvement in the quality of the stock, in my opinion. But there is one drawback, and it's inherent in the mechanization process. I'm going to have to explain that to help you understand what the dealio is.

These days, most plants for sale are started in what are called 'plug trays'.
...that thing right there. See?
A plug refers to one tiny, tiny little 'potlet' in a large square tray of the same. One tray might have, say, 50 of these little 'plugs'. This is filled with medium (dirt) and then the seed is planted, by a machine, right in the center of this small cup.

After the seed germinates and the first true leaves appear, the plug tray is loaded into another machine which uncups the new little plant, medium and all, into the center of a somewhat larger sized plug in another tray, fills in with a little more medium....and so on, until optimum sales size is reached.

Now depending on the plant, this 'moving up' process can take place up to three more times until the final 'sale sized' plant is achieved, at which point it goes onto a refrigerated truck and ends up at Lowes. Lots of plants never have a human touch them until the final 'grading', which entails pitching the crappy looking ones. Nobody has actually taken the plant out of the dirt and put it into new dirt; its all been done by machines. Not a bad thing in and of itself at all.

The problem is, there are two different types of plants: ANNUALS, which only live for one year and have a very accelerated growth pattern, and PERENNIALS, which nature has designed to last over a period of years. And in the case of perennials, you have a very, very short window of time during which you can 'move up' the plug into the next larger pot size.

Here's why: A perennial plants' root system grows fast, and it grows big. A perennial plants roots are used for more than temporary anchoring and's meant to carry the plant through lots of changes over the years, supplying food, supporting the plant through potential extremes and storing carbs over the dormant season. It's an entirely different kind of system than the roots on an annual plant.

What happens when the perennial is not moved up quickly enough is a condition I call 'plugbound'.

A 'rootbound' plant is one that has filled its entire pot with roots and 'eaten up' all it's medium. This can happen with any plant, annual or perennial. When it happens, it's not a terribly big deal as long as you catch it soon enough. You can fix it by tearing off the bottom half of the root ball, giving the remainder a shake and sticking it in some new medium.

Plugbound perennials happen when the baby plant spends too long in that first, tiny little container. It makes lots of roots that circle around and around looking for new medium. But because those first roots are permanent structures used for storing carbs, after that plant is moved up into the next larger size of container, the 'knot' that the roots formed when it was in the tiny container will remain that way in that same contracted position, growing bigger and wider, until they actually squeeze the crown to death or split it apart.

I have to say that most growers probably aren't worrying about when specific crops need to be moved ahead; they're just moving them up according to a 'one size fits all' business schedule. And this won't wash. It doesn't matter too much with annuals, like I said...a week here or there is no big deal. NOT SO WITH PERENNIALS.

I've seen this happen time and time again and it pisses me off. I pay 7.00 for a specialty perennial plant, I expect to have it for longer than one goddamn season. 'But, I checked the pot when I planted it, and the roots weren't circled or anything," you say. And yes, the plant you bought was just beginning to fill in its new, larger layer of medium with new growth. Remember, those very first roots right next to the crown are tied in a large, ever-expanding and tightening knot, way in where you don't generally see, right in the center at the place where the stem enters the dirt.
This is what it looks like when you saw apart the root ball of any typical 4-inch potted perennial late in the season. You can actually see the different pot sizes by where the roots all gathered and 'paused' against the wall of the pot. Look carefully next to the stem there. Lots of times the plugbound roots will have balled themselves so tightly around the crown of the plant that they'll actually be heaving above the surface of the medium. If you see this, it ain't good. Don't buy the plant if you don't want to fool with it. Yes, you can fix it, but you risk killing the plant, so don't pay full price for it. Refuse. COMPLAIN.*

Until consumers become more educated and demand that this situation changes, you'll have to check TO MAKE SURE that the perennial you're buying is not going to kill itself a couple of months down the road. Here is how you do that:

Here's a little gaura lindheimerii that I've just taken out of its sales pot. Looks pretty standard from the side; this is what you want to see; lots of medium with roots all the way throughout it.

Here's the bottom of the root mass. Again, this is looking good so far. The roots head south chasing after the water so the bottom of this pot should be filled with them. Perennials make A LOT of roots, and they make them fast.

The first thing I do is I knock the top layer of potting medium off and get rid of it. You can see here its kind of greenish looking? That's algae, which promotes rot. Also, God only knows what kind of weed seeds have blown onto the top of that medium while it was sitting out on the sales yard or riding around in the back of some scody old refrigerated container. You'll save yourself a lot of headaches if you just shitcan this top layer, believe me. so then...

The next thing I do is fill up a container with water and swish the rootball around in it to wash out the medium, so I can get a look at the root structure. Take hold of the rootball and the plant and hold it the same way you'd hold a baby chicken...kind of make a supportive cage of your fingers but don't squish. Then, abandoning the baby chicken image unless you are very sick indeed, immerse your hand and the rootball into the water and swish it about gently, maintaining your grasp of the whole structure. This isn't a mop. Don't grab it by the stalk and slosh it around. Roots are breakable. Be nice.

And this is what I end up with. You don't need to wash out all the dirt; just enough so that you can see what's going on. And what I see (and what you can't because this is a shitty picture) is that this is a nice little rooted cutting. All the roots come out of a central little knob of crown at the base there and head straight out and down. This is what a well-grown little perennial SHOULD look like.

Now (because I am cheap and picky) I'm going to re-pot it in a larger pot and let it rest for a month. It's pretty early in the season here and if I were to plop this right in the dirt outdoors with its little roots all interfered with it would stand a pretty good chance of dying before it got established in my heavy, cold soil. So...

I put it right into the pot, with it's roots spread out,

...and then I backfill with my medium; 2 parts compost to one part soil from my garden thats been sifted together. I firm the plant down and give it a few taps to settle everything in, but I don't mash it down.

Now I set the newly potted plant into a bowl. I fill the bowl up halfway with water and let capillary action wet the medium from the bottom up overnight, in the shed. This sets the plant in nicely and doesn't pack the medium down the way top watering does. This is how I set in all my perennial transplants and it works really well.

Tomorrow it will go outside to where I hold my potted stock and it will stay there until I'm ready to plant it out.

Now I have between late May up until mid-September to transplant this guy. When I do, I'll transplant in the evening. That gives the plant all night to get used to it's new home and take up some food via it's roots, without the added stress of the light and heat of the day stimulating it to try and do too many things at once. (Thats what causes 'shock' and kills plants.) This really works, and besides, it's so nice to plant in the cool of the evening anyway.

So there you go. If you spend good money on a perennial plant, this is what you should be prepared to do, if you buy from a large retail outlet. Just be advised. Until people begin complaining things arent' going to change. Perennials aren't meant to be disposable. If you pay more, you should get more. Right? Right.
*READ ON! you got your plant home and discovered too late that it's plugbound? do not despair. simply unpot the plant, shake out all the medium you can and carefully try and untangle the roots with your fingers. about half the time this will work, and you can re-pot your plant in a nice big pot with new medium and let it rest.

if this doesnt work because the roots are too tightly knotted or are very brittle, you can do one of two other things before you give up and pitch it out-

1. soak the entire root ball in water overnight. the next day, gently swish the rootball back and forth, supporting it with the 'baby chicken' hold, until the roots untangle. then pot up and hold for a month.

2. try the above, and if the roots still hold the bound form, take a knife and shear off one entire side of the rootball, starting to one side of the crown.

yes, literally cut or saw it right off. then cut off about 1/3 of the top growth and all the flowers or flower buds, and pot up the remains. hold it for a couple of months, or until you see new growth. I know it seems savage, but this works. the cut roots that are still tangled in the remaining half simply decompose into the medium and new storage roots grow out of the cut side of the crown. it's worth giving a try; and you'll feel so heroic when it works!