August 28, 2004

Wilting when wet

A correspondent writes:

> My plants are a disaster, all the soft-leaved ones :
> I have observed that a
> symptom, at the very least, of their problems is
> that they seem unable to
> absorb their drinking water : their water-reservoirs
> remain Full when they
> should rightly be Empty !! ??
--Big M.


M, I googled "unable to absorb water" and found a possibly helpful page with assorted causes of plant stress, including OVER-WATERING:

"Plants exposed to excess moisture show the same symptoms as plants under drought stress. The primary symptom of excess moisture is wilting or yellowing of lower and inner leaves."

That happened to the geranium pot that I put out on the front step a while ago -- the blossoms gradually died and the leaves began to yellow. I moved it back where the rain water could not reach it, allowing the soil to dry out a little, and now it is covered with buds once more!

The page I found is put out by the University of Maryland

Take a look and see if you find anything matching your plants' situation(s).

August 21, 2004


Yesterday, we had our third day this season in which the temperature rose to 90 degrees F (the others took place before summer officially began). Many days it has been in the low- or mid-80s which is not bad, though it has also been very damp and humid. Sometimes it has been so humid you can't really tell if it's raining. The trees are hanging down and the grass is tall.

Over in Europe, the weather is much worse than here in New England.

Our correspondent from the second-smallest country in the world (the smallest is the Vatican) reports the horrid effect of the weather on this year's plantings.
Plants here, currently, are a Disaster. Not Normal. My belief is that when vegetation goes seriously awry, over a period of time, say, 2 or 3 years, there is something seriously Wrong. I am one of those old-fashioned folk who believes there is a difference between Right & Wrong. As a very simple illustration : there are Wrong Notes & Chords on the Piano. They are simply "Wrong", that's all. It is quite evident. Same goes for the Vegetation. And all the Rest. Here, currently, Wrong Season, we have Great Heat & Hot Winds - Not right for this period of the Year, at all. This is normally the period when the heat slacks off, we have blue & beautiful limpid cool skies. At the moment, it is hotter than it has been all Summer. Plus these strange winds. I was a sailor. I pay attention to this kind of stuff. :-)
-- Big Mike

Climatologists and environmentalists are deeply worried by the effects of global warming. Here's an excerpt of an Aug. 19, 2004 news report on the European environment Agency
COPENHAGEN - Rising sea levels, disappearing glaciers in the Alps and more deadly heatwaves are coming for Europeans because of global warming, Europe's environmental agency has warned.

The European Environment Agency said much more needs to be done - and fast. Climate change "will considerably affect our societies and environments for decades and centuries to come," the agency said in 107-page report released on Wednesday.

It said rising temperatures could eliminate three-quarters of the Alpine glaciers by 2050 and bring repeats of Europe's mammoth floods two years ago and the heatwave that killed thousands and burned up crops last summer. The rise in sea levels along Europe's coasts is likely to accelerate, it added.

... The European Union has been a leader in pushing for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, a United Nations pact drawn up in 1997 to combat climate change by reducing carbon-dioxide emissions worldwide in 2010 to eight percent below 1990 levels.

So far 123 countries, including all 25 European Union members, have ratified the pact, but it isn't in effect because it hasn't reached the required level of nations accounting for 55 percent of the industrialised world's emissions. The United States, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, has refused to ratify, arguing the agreement would hurt its economy, and Russia also hasn't signed.

President Bush seems more short-sighted than any president in recent memory, or really, sociopathic in his flagrant unconcern for anyone but himself and his cronies.

August 20, 2004


  • WINDHAM ARTS CENTER, 866 Main St., Willimantic. Work from the artists and teachers behind UCONN's Community School of the Arts will be on display through Aug. 29. The works include watercolor and oil paintings, prints, photography, textile and ceramics, sculpture and photography. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Call 450-1794 for information.

  • SWIFT WATERS ARTISANS' COOPERATIVE, will be open for sales from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays in August in the Willimantic Victorian Neighborhood Association (WVNA) building on the corner of Main and Walnut Streets. The Cooperative makes available the handcrafted work or numerous talented local artisans, including jewelry, pottery, fabric arts, painting, photography and much more.

Around town

The other day I spent a little time on Main Street with my camera, noticing plantings that have sprung up lately. Outside the police-fire dispatch center is a bed of purple daisy-like echinacea and something else, possibly milkweed. Echinacea outside the police-fire dispatch center Milkweed used to be a common roadside weed that emits a sticky white fluid when a stem is broken.
The flowers, which range from whitish to purpleish, have a surprisingly strong aroma which is generally lost to us in the wide open spaces, but not if you find a milkweed palnt in a smaller, somewhat enclosed space.

The seeds form in large pods and have silky white sails attached that carry them on the wind after the pod bursts. Milkweed is home to the Monarch butterfly.

Milkweed does not seem as common as it once did, perhaps because in this state, at least, the road crews determinedly mow down all roadside growth, perhaps in the interests of visibility.

A tub of mixed flowers in an alley next to the victorian Home Association building The Windham Garden Club has been sprucing up various sites around town with the addition of attractive window boxes and tubs of flowers. It's a good undertaking, that increases the comfort level downtown. This photo shows a tub of mixed plants tucked in an alley way.

Two more photos

August 17, 2004

Why we should grow vegetables

We must dine and enjoy each mouthful of food, also the sight and aroma of the food. Furthermore, we should take pleasure in the preparation of the food, enjoying the look of crisp firmness in each vegetable we wash, peel and slice or chop. Making a salad of fresh vegetables is an aesthetic pleasure and can even be a spiritual experience if we follow the buddhist way of appreciating each moment of life.

Intentional eating is "feeding yourself", feeding your soul and creating strength. It serves us far better than cramming food in thoughtlessly. A Buddhist writer, Halé Sofia Schatz, says:
While all clichés contain a grain of truth, "you are what you eat" focuses only on the after-effects of food in your body. In working with food and consciousness, I've discovered a subtle nuance to this familiar expression; that is, people eat what they are. If you're stressed out all the time, chances are you're feeding yourself stressed-out, quick-grab foods with little vital nourishment. When we shift our way of thinking from "you are what you eat" to "you eat what you are," we see that the latter involves awareness. It makes us stop and question who we really are. If we believe that we are spiritual beings, then we're more likely to seek out the nourishing foods that feed the shining life force that already exists within us. Use this simple statement as a gentle reminded to feed yourself life-affirming foods, because you are life.
--Halé Sofia Schatz, What Do I Need to Feed Myself: Eating can be a spiritual practice, a way to nourish your body and soul See the rest of the excerpt at Beliefnet

August 10, 2004

Wonders of fertilizer

Earlier this summer, I spent very little time outdoors, because road construction was going on under our noses from the beginning of May through the end of June (maybe more).

So, my "garden" consisted mainly of
  • a few sorry houseplants I took outside for "summer camp,"
  • the hanging basket of petunias referred to in the prior post as avian hospital;
  • a couple of planters filled with pansies that I put out when it was still too cool for much else, and
  • some tubs out back with herbs and flowers planted in them.
The petunias were stunning when I brought them home from the store (gardening? moi?) but gradually got more and more dishevelled, as did a potted geranium I had purchased.

Yesterday, I offered water with commercial plant food in it, and already today the petunia has perked up a little and shot out some new blooms. The pansies are still blooming like mad.

August 08, 2004

Cat vs. Bird

Yesterday, I found our young cat tormenting a bird it had caught (or, more charitably, maybe found). The bird, though terrorized into speechlessness, still lived, and I was able to pick it up during an interlude in which the cat stood back admiring her work. I placed the bird out of harm's way, in a pot of petunias hanging from a metal post in the ground.

I could not immediately identify what sort of bird it was. It was grayish, about the size of a tufted titmouse, and with a bit of crest atop its head. Yet, unlike the titmouse, it had a black mask with a white eyebrow, and light brown streaking on its breast.

Enter the wizard of Bridge Street, Sanderson, who identified it as an immature cedar waxwing, a bird I am unfamiliar with and would not have thought of.

I recently acquired a new field guide, Birds of Connecticut by Stan Tekiela, that shows the cedar waxwing as a distinctly brown bird, while my older Roger Tory Peterson guide shows it as a grayish brown. My bird was more of a gray with brown parts. Funny how different books can be, and thus can lead one astray. Also, the Peterson book shows a mostly white mask with a thin black strip through the eye, while the Tekiela book shows a mostly black mask with a narrow white eyebrow. My bird looked as if it were wearing white-rimmed sunglasses. I wonder if these differences reflect perception, or actual bird-to-bird variations?

Field guides aside, I must report that this tale had a sad ending. Later, I was sitting inside working on the computer when our older gray cat came in with a bird in her mouth. It was the same bird! And it was much the worse for wear, with feathers missing from the top of its head and most of the tail feathers gone.

I gently retreived it from under a chair where the cat left it, and carried it outside, placing it once again amongst the petunias. I could see the telltale yellow patch on the tip of the remaining tailfeathers. The bird's right eye appeared damaged, as it sat on a petunia branch, shaking and shifting its weight uncomfortably, probably in shock. An hour or so later when I checked on it, it had keeled over dead. I felt so helpless and anguished at the death of this bird, it surprised me. Though I wish harm on no living thing, this young waxwing and its early demise touched me deeply.

August 07, 2004

New rivermantic blog

Setting up new Rivermantic blog