Saturday, June 21, 2008

Flood Stories No. 4: Food-Gardening Consequences

How high do you suppose the water got here?

I know, like Iowa didn't have enough to deal with -- mold, dead animal carcasses, memory loss. But now there's another angle that I bet you haven't considered: can you eat produce from a flooded garden?

Looks like the answer is no:

Gardeners should keep in mind that although pathogens will eventually die out, they can remain present in the soil for several months. If the homeowner knows the area was contaminated with sewage, it is recommended that no produce be used from the garden for at least 90 days.

Remember, as always, fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed prior to consumption.

There's more detail at the original article, but, yeah, basically the answer is no, especially for lettuce and similar plants that can't easily be cleaned (though they do say that you can cut them back and eat the regrowth, if that helps). Hat-tip to Aetiology for the article.

Not a garden, just a shrub. But I'll bet there are gardens around that look like this. We also have a lot of exciting new smells in town, all of which are bad.

But wait! It can be worse than that, because soybean and corn crop losses are going to affect you (at least, those of you who are Americans, and probably some of you who aren't), because the loss of what corn crop there was (it had been a difficult year already) means that food prices are going to be going up, up, up:

When you’ve lost an early crop (like corn) to damage or flood, and it’s too late to replant (as it is now) the same crop, then you plant soybeans. This is just SOP.

The only issue is, this year, there already has been a shortage of seed. Now with corn acres being diverted to soybeans, and existing soybean fields needing replanted, the problem is worse. (from Sadly, No!: you are encouraged - nay, exhorted - to click through to read the whole thing, which makes somewhat more sense than this little excerpt. I didn't feel right about copying the whole post. Don't worry, it's not that long.)

And of course as corn prices go, so go milk prices, and gas prices, and meat prices. I would so not want to own a restaurant right now.

Grow your own food, grow your own food, grow your own food. (Alternate plan for apartment dwellers: take pictures of gardeners in your area in compromising positions, for later blackmail. Alternate alternate plan: Photoshop.)

Random plant event: Aglaonema brevispathum 'Hospitum' blooming

Aglaonema brevispathum is charmingly weird. Imagine you took a regular healthy-looking, foot-and-a-half-tall Aglaonema and, keeping everything else the same, shortened just the stem down to about an inch tall, tilted the stem sideways, and buried it under the soil. That's approximately how A. brevispathum works.

I'd never even heard of them until last December. Always game to try a new Aglaonema, I asked the boss to order a box for us, and she did, and initially I was . . . not blown away. But they've grown on me, to the point where I bought a second one in the Asiatica order a few weeks ago.

All of which is to build up to the revelation, which you know already because you read the title, that we have one blooming at work at the moment:

This is also kind of like a normal Chinese evergreen, but oddly compressed: as best as I can tell, there's no actual space between the spathe and spadix; it's like the spadix has been shrink-wrapped in the spathe. This may not be permanent; the flower is still relatively new. But for now it's kind of strange: ordinarily Aglaonema flowers are more like those of Dieffenbachia (picture here).

The only other plant I can think of with this kind of shrink-wrapping is Alocasia 'Polly,' and I'm not positive that the Alocasia flower I've posted about previously was normal.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pretty picture: Coreopsis 'Jethro Tull'

Can't say I know much about these, or even that I've spent a lot of time with them, but they seem friendly enough. The rolled-up petals are weird.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pretty picture: Beallara Marfitch 'Howard's Dream'

I've posted another Beallara picture before, of Beallara Tahoma Glacier, but this is a better flower, I think. I especially like the orchids that have complicated patterns of spots like this, but even without the spots, this color is pretty cool.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Garden Shed Contest is having a contest for the best garden shed in the UK; one can see the entries here. Sharp-eyed readers will notice an entry from friend of the blog Esther Montgomery in the mix. To vote for a shed, one has to click on the picture and then click a button at the page that comes up. Some are more creative than others: I think it goes without saying that Esther's surely deserves Best Conceptual Shed (though you have to click the picture to see the description, if you want to know why). No wait -- actually I don't think it goes without saying. Apparently.

Anyway, something to look at.

(Found via Bad Astronomy, who has his own ideas about who should win.)

Random plant event: Ficus religiosa seedlings

Of the gazillions of seeds I got from, back in April, very little seems to be working out so far. I got four Echinopsis peruviana seedlings still, which aren't really making any huge strides in any particular directions but which have, at least, grown enough to have their first thorns:

Photo: 30 May 2008

And then I got ten of the Ficus religiosa seeds to sprout, by bringing them to work, this being the biggest one:

Photo: 31 May 2008

Since I don't need ten Ficus religiosa seedlings, I was planning on bringing two home (one good one, and a spare in case something happened to the good one) and then leaving whatever else sprouted to be sold at work, kind of as payment for letting me use the space there.

The sucky part is that that's all there's been from the GASP (Great Annual Seed Project) so far. And I know the seeds, a lot of them, were supposed to be uneven germinators and everything, but I really thought I would have seen more than this by now. I'm not giving up on it, just disappointed. But I'll try to be patient, I guess.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pretty picture: Tropaeolum majus 'Empress of India'

Apparently 'Empress of India' is supposed to be redder than this, and fairly uniformly so. WCW started some from seed early in the spring (so early it might have been winter) and we had a variety of colors come up, only some of which were red, so we didn't exactly get what we were supposed to get. But this is still pretty. We did a bad job of taking care of our nasturtiums (too much water, mostly), so they didn't look that great by the time the customers actually wanted to buy them. We'll call it a learning experience. I do like them, so we'll be trying again for sure.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Site-related: Now what?

The river, it turns out, has crested earlier than anticipated (last week they were saying Wednesday the 18th, at one point; the actual crest was yesterday, the 15th), and although it's going to take forever for the water to go down, it is, nevertheless, going to go down. So that's good, in that the damage won't encompass larger and larger sections of the city. Also our water and power stayed intact throughout, and aside from the lost internet access a few days ago, I've been able to get online throughout. So.

Iowa City still has a curfew in place, of sorts: one is not to be outdoors within 100 yards of the river between 8:30 PM and 6 AM. I'm a little hazy on how big 100 yards is (a football field, I'm aware, but it's not like I have a real firm grasp on the size of a football field: I never played, nor am I a fan: stating the number in terms of city blocks would, you'd think, be a more useful measurement), but it's not likely to matter much anyway, since I don't really need to go out until I return to work tomorrow. (I could, if I wanted, return today, but for various reasons, some better than others, that's not going to happen.)

So we should be returning to our regular programming within a day or two. If I really get my shit together, maybe there will even be a regular-type post today, but let's not count on that.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Flood Stories No. 3: Mass amnesia

Screen capture from the National Weather Service website.
Here comes the rain again
falling on my head like a memory


Yup, those little green splotches are heading to the south and east, in the general direction of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. It doesn't look like they're going to drop a bunch of rain, but they might only be the start: the National Weather Service says,

Today: Showers and thunderstorms likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 83. West wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.

While I'm here, I just want to make a note of something that's been driving me nuts on the local news: more than once, now, I've seen people who had lost homes or significant amounts of personal belongings talking about how sad it was that they couldn't save more, and phrasing this as having "lost [their] memories." This makes me giggle slightly despite myself (I know what they mean, obviously.); it brings to mind an epidemic of soap-opera amnesia. I hate myself for being bothered, and hate myself for finding it funny, but I'm afraid I can't help it.

So as a public service, I offer this clarification:

People. Your memories are the things you remember, in your brain, like the name of your third-grade teacher or the wild party when you were a high school sophomore where people threw a couch onto Jimmy Yoder's Corvette and then later on you made out with that guy from the next town over behind somebody's shrubs, and then when you got home you smelled like beer and your dad grounded you for, like, three whole weeks and you thought you were going to totally die.

Except in really, really special circumstances involving drowning and maybe hypothermia, the flooding is not going to take those away from you. What you mean are keepsakes or scrapbooks or mementos or something. The all-purpose "personal items" also works. Please stop telling me you lost your memories, as it will make me insane. I apologize for being such a pedant about this. I know it's not important. But please, I beg you, get the words right.