Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I survived finals! I'm so thankful to have a whole month of winter break ahead of me. A small amount of it will be spent in Houston, Texas because my college football team is playing in a bowl game there on the 28th and the band is going too! Then it'll be home or a little more than a week in January and the rest of the time will be spent relaxing in Minnesota.

In honor of the holidays, I did a little research on the lovely poinsettias that grace all the holiday displays every year.

1. Poinsettias are native to Mexico and the ancient Aztecs, who called the plant "Cuetlaxochitl", used their colorful bracts (the red part) to make dyes and the sap was used as a fever medication.

2. Poinsettias were first only known by the Latin name Euphorbia pulcherrima, meaning "very beautiful".

3. The plant got it's current common name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first US ambassador assigned to Mexico by John Quincy Adams. While in Mexico for his work as an ambassador, Poinsett, who was also an avid botanist, collected plants to bring back to his home in South Carolina and is known for officially introducing the poinsettia to the United States. A man named William Prescott, who was given the task of giving Euphorbia pulcherrima a new name had been working on a history of Poinsett and assigned the plant the new name of "Poinsettia".

4. This plant is very popular around Christmas as the flowers are said to represent the star that guided the wise men to the baby Jesus. The color red also symbolizes the blood sacrifice of the crucifixion of Jesus. Today, the flower is known in Mexico and Guatemala as "La Flor de la Nochebuena" (or "The Flower of Christmas Eve").

5. In Spain, poinsettias are used as an Easter flower as opposed to the popular use as a Christmas flower elsewhere.

6. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are only mildly toxic, meaning children and pets would have to eat a lot of poinsettias before dying. A study at Ohio State University shows that you'd have to eat 500-600 leaves before the side effect would be death. That being said, eating them would still cause an upset stomach an vomiting and apparently they don't taste very good anyway, so why you'd want to even try them is beyond me.

(I find this picture hilarious. He's so grumpy!)

7. Poinsettias are mostly grown in California and their sale contributes more than $250 million to the US economy at the retail level.


So now that you all have a few interesting facts to impress your family and friends this season, I'll be signing off for a while to enjoy Christmas with my family here in Minneapolis. My family surprised me by coming down from Michigan a day early and we got to my grandmas to find all the decorations up (as you can see below). So I wish you all a very Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a very festive New Year. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


"Congratulations! You have been admitted to the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) for Spring Semester 2013. Welcome to CFANS!"

Yesterday morning I woke up to this lovely sentence starting the first email in my inbox. I'm officially a Horticulture major! No more, "potential" about any of it. As an added bonus, one of my really good friends got the same email as well. So we're finally, officially in the track to getting our Bachelor of Science in Horticulture.


And with that update, back to finals week studying! Happy Wednesday everyone!

Sunday, December 2, 2012


This will be a rather short post, but just as a heads up, I will be disappearing into the depths of finals week (or should I say finals month!) starting tomorrow so I won't be posting very much.
On a happier note, once school is out for break I'll have a month off to post a good amount. I'm also going to be traveling to Houston, Texas right after Christmas as my band is attending a bowl game that my University's football team is playing in. I'll try to post some pictures of any plant related things I see down there. :)
Until then, I might post once, but I'll be studying as much as possible in the coming weeks.
See you all around the holidays!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Find of the Day

While surfing the internet today I found a really awesome product that ties in with the aquaponics post I put up yesterday. It's quite similar to the large beds of vegetables fed by water from fish tanks, only in miniature (and much more compact and stylish!).
The page is titled "One Pot, Two Lives" (click the title for the link) and is a fish tank and flower pot all in one. The fishy's waste feeds the plant while the plant filters the fish's water. You still have to feed the fish, but there doesn't look to be a whole lot of nasty fish tank cleaning involved.

It also does look like it needs to be plugged in, probably for a bubbler to keep the fish water moving.  Hopefully it would be a simple fix if it broke and wouldn't need to be thrown away if only part of it broke. 

It's not specific as to if certain kinds of plants are preferred over others. It would certainly be an awesome thing to have in a small apartment like the one I live in. Surfing through the comments, it seems that the only fish that would work in a small environment like this would be a beta fish or a goldfish. No one knew if there was a heater in this product, but both of those fish don't need one because they're okay with colder water temperatures. Of course, most of the debate centered around if it was "cruel" or not to keep a fish in such a small container. But I say that's up to the individual to decide. The concept is, however, a really cool one. It would be neat to see if this could be made into something a bit larger, possibly on the size of a regular fish tank with multiple fish and plants.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lots of Plants, Small Spaces

Today, being the last day of our long Thanksgiving weekend, I decided to spend the day browsing gardening blogs, pinning great garden projects to Pinterest and getting sucked into some great videos about urban farming and hydroponics on Youtube. I found these through one video I saw while browsing the blog The Blogging Nurseryman by Trey Pitsenberger.
I thought I'd share a few.

1. Internet of Food: Ardunio-based, Urban Aquaponics in Oakland
This video was the one I found on Trey Pitsenberger's blog and led me to the others. The concept of aquaponics with a garden fed by water from a fish tank was new to me and the video was really informative. I also loved the technology element, one in which the gardener can interact with their garden through the internet. Figuring this technology out now in order to pass it on to younger gardeners, ones who will be inheriting a world where there's a need for smaller gardening spaces and new ways to grow what we need.


2. Biointensive Mini-Farming: Grow More Food in Less Space
This video was a neat look into how one person can grow all the food (if you're a vegetarian that is) they could need in a small space. One of the most interesting things to me was the grains being raised and how many of them were alternative grains to regular wheat.

3. Urban Forest Erupts in San Fransisco's Edgy Tenderloin
I loved this video. This is about a garden springing up in an alleyway between apartment buildings in the middle of a densely populated area of San Fransisco. The greenery just seemed that much, well, greener surrounded by all that concrete. The local art decorating the buildings and the clay oven they actually cook were really cool touches. My favorite part was the the words "Our Lady of the Alley" painted around the oldest resident's kitchen window that looked out upon a cherry tree they planted just for her.

4. Soil-less Sky Farming: Rooftop Hydroponics on NYC Resteraunt
The last video was about a resteraunt in New York City that grows it's fresh produce on the roof of it's building. Climbing up six stories, you'll find the roof covered in tall, very thick PVC-looking pipes that have notches cut into the sides where the produce grows, fed by water that is mixed with fertilizer and pumped through the top of the pipe to rain down the sides and water the plants. It was another really good look at a method of hydroponics I'd never seen and was interesting to see how much faster the plants grew in this way and how high a yield the restaurant gained from it.

 All of these videos certainly inspired me because at this point I'm starting to look at focusing my major towards things like urban farming and other sustainable methods of growing food in the spaces left to us, ones that just keep getting smaller and smaller. I find it fascinating how resourceful we can be when it comes to feeding ourselves and the new ways we find to go about doing so.
The videos were found on the channel of the co-founder of *faircompanies where all of these videos and a lot more can be found. The channel has a lot of videos on individuals, small companies and businesses who are doing projects in a much more different and sustainable way. I certainly enjoyed the one about the couple who build hobbit holes as playhouses, chicken coops and even tiny cottages. I'd definitely check some more of them out because there will probably be quite a few more of interest to you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

And I'm Back!

Hello all!
I'm sorry for not posting for about 2 months. I can't believe it's been that long. It's felt like only a few weeks!
Like I said in my last post, this semester's been pretty crazy. My classes have been going okay. I'm just barely making it through my algebra course (I'm terrible at math) and struggling to pass my online chemistry course. I'm just hoping it all turns out okay in the end.
As far as updates on the horticulture major, I'm talking to the department adviser tomorrow to get details about switching into the college I need to declare the major and what courses I should take next semester. At this point I'm looking at Intro to Microeconomics, Intro to Soil Science and a basic Biology course. I'd only be taking three courses, plus a campus band and pep band so hopefully I would have time to look for a job/work once I find a job. Because I'm a poor college student and really just need to work. :P

As far as personal updates go, one big reason I didn't post at all last month was because on the 14th I was in a car/pedestrian accident where my boyfriend, his dad and I (and three other people I didn't know) were struck by a drunk driver as they made a left turn (not yielding to the bunch of people crossing the street with the right of way). Everyone that was involved was okay, my boyfriends dad with the worst injuries of a broken leg and slightly fractured shoulder. I had a lot of bruises to my knees because that was where I was struck and some bumps and bruises from being thrown, but an MRI and multiple doctors visits confirm that I don't have anything more serious than some deep bruising in my legs. At this point, I'm almost healed up, but it'll probably be another two weeks before the majority of the bruises are totally gone. We were really lucky though, so I'm super super thankful for that.

Needless to say, all that craziness really threw my academics off. So I probably won't be getting the best grades this semester, but hopefully I can pull a pass in everything.
My horticulture class is going pretty well. Memorizing Latin names is certainly a challenge, but I tend to do a lot better than I assume I will, so it's pleasantly surprising to get good grades back. For our last midterm we were required to learn the common and Latin names of 70 deciduous trees... Somehow it managed to be my best test score yet in that class. Our next midterm that's coming up next week is on the conifers and thankfully there's not as many trees to memorize this time. :)
That's about all the updates I have for you guys. I hope you're still reading! I'll leave you with some pictures I've taken during our class walks around campus. :)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sophomore Shenanigans

Hello readers!
Sorry I've been MIA lately. The beginning of my second year of college is proving to be much more busy than I expected it to be. My excursions into horticulture are much different than they were last year, and this, along with my other classes and extra curriculars, have been keeping me on fast forward for the past three weeks. On top of my course work, every Saturday for all three weeks of the semester so far has been a football game which I'm required to rehearse for and play at for marching band. Needless to say, I've had few breaks.
The little break I have now before tomorrow's football game is the little window of time I've found to write.
Like I said before, this semester's horticulture courses are nothing like last semester. Instead of work in the greenhouse, this class is completely plant identification. Our labs consist of excursions outside around campus, learning the Latin and common names of plants. We then have to memorize these names and are quizzed every week. It's pretty tough work, but I've managed to get by pretty well so far. We have midterms next week already, so we'll see how the 20 plant identification goes. Thankfully the class is broken into sections and the final exam isn't cumulative. Instead, it's broken into herbaceous plants and woody plants, with another section that hasn't been quite determined yet for once it's to cold and snowy out for identifying plants outside to be effective.
The one setback to my year so far has been my other requirements to the horticulture major, algebra in particular. I've never been very good at math, so college algebra, a class I'm required to take to enter into the college that offers the horticulture major, has been very difficult for me. Chemistry is going somewhat better, but it's a hard class to keep track of with everything else happening.
With that update, I'll leave you with some pictures of the plants we've been identifying in class.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to School!

After many muscle aches, terrible allergies, and many long, hot days on the game field, I've managed to survive my second pre-season "spat camp" for marching band. Now that I've slept it off, it's time to go back to school. In the morning I'll be back in the greenhouse for my "Woody and Herbaceous Plants" class. I'm actually really excited that it's my first class of the new semester.
On the downside, my books (combined) weigh 8.8lbs and have 2,433 pages. I did, however, start reading the authors notes in "Herbaceous Perennial Plants" by Allan M. Armitage tonight and really loved what he wrote. I'll leave you with a snippet before I turn in for the evening.

"On the Meaning of Gardening"
"When gardeners are asked to describe reasons for gardening, three words emerge time and again: therapeutic, creative and exciting...
Therapeutic, because of the feeling that all is well with the world when our hands are in Mother Earth. Therapeutic because when a seed is sown, a cutting rooted, or seedling planted, we have accomplished something important.
Creative, because artistry is an inescapable part of gardening... Each grouping creates vistas of beauty. We do not require a degree in landscape architecture to create such beauty; all we need is the simple love of gardening.
Exciting is a word seldom attributed to gardening. But is it not exciting to watch a garden change with time? To watch Asarum, wild ginger, bull through the soil in early spring, anticipate the popping of the buds of a balloon flower, and anticipate the magic of the re-emergence of resurrection flower, is truly exciting."

I really loved this. I did skip a few sentences, so I apologize. But I'm writing this post from my iPhone so it's much harder to type than on my computer.
Happy September all!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thus Endeth Summer

Today was my last day at home. Sadly, this also means this was my last day caring for my vegetable garden. I leave it in my parents capable hands, but I'll miss having a garden. I'm back to Minnesota in a little more than 12 hours (about 20 house plants coming with me) so my posts will few as the semester gets going. Marching band keeps me really really busy, but I hope to start posting about the Horticulture class I'm taking, similar to what I did with my Thursday Lab posts last semester.
Of course I have to leave the garden right when things are getting really good. I've picked two big tomatoes and I'm sure more are soon to follow. The beans and cherry tomatoes just keep coming and it even looks like we may have a squash or zucchini later this fall.

The red pepper just after being picked. It turned out to be surprisingly sweet so we added it to a tasty black bean dip my mom made. 

One of the tomatoes a few days before we picked it.

I had a really great time spending this past Saturday morning at our town's Farmer's Market. There's so much fresh produce and local businesses selling breads and pastries, it was making my mouth water.

Wild Upper Michigan blueberries and blackberries.

Heirloom tomatoes.

The market.


Lots and lots of produce.

Michigan apples.

I'm posting late because I've been packing all day and now I need to get some sleep. Starting the 24th until the 2nd of September, I'll be marching and rehearsing with the band from 9am to 10pm and after that school is starting! Summer has flown by but I'm so happy I got to come home and garden for my vacation. Hopefully this semester will be an even bigger step toward that Horticulture major. Math, Chemistry, and another Horticulture course might be a bit challenging, but if I can survive that, I'll have some much needed per-requisites out of the way. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Benefits of a Summer Downpour

Last night brought us one of the first thunderstorms of the month. It rained for at least four hours, if not more, and I woke up to find my vegetable garden practically exploding with overnight changes. Things had started to ripen and beans had popped out of nowhere.

 The most startling evidence of this was one of my pepper plants that went from the first picture (take three days ago) to the second picture, taken this afternoon. The rain really got it to start ripening quickly. 

These peppers still have a bit to go...

And speaking of peppers, the grocery store peppers are still doing really well. They certainly get more sun than my poor veggie garden that has to endure a bunch of trees blocking some of it's much needed sun.

They seem to like it in front of the house. 

I also had my first small harvest of tomatoes. None of the big ones are ripe yet, but I'm starting to see them change color a bit. They're still mostly green though.

Cherry tomatoes. :)

The big tomatoes are still pretty green. Hopefully they'll ripen soon!

The beans burst out after the rain as well. A few days ago, all I saw were flowers, but now I have tons of young beans.

Looks like we're going to have lots of beans!

Sadly, I only have 16 more days left at home. Which means if things don't get ripe before then, I'll just have to trust my family to take care of the plants. I will have more horticulture posts though, as I'll be taking a course on Woody and Herbaceous plants. :) 

So I leave you with two flower shots of the week. The flower garden is still offering up new plants as the summer goes one. Enjoy!



Monday, August 6, 2012

The Estivant Pines

Every summer for the past nine years, my family goes camping in the gorgeous north woods of Copper Harbor, MI. This year, my dad took me three miles up a winding dirt road, logging roads forking off in various directions, to the Estivant Pines Nature Preserve.

This preserve holds the some of the very last old growth white pines in Michigan and is one of the last virgin stands of trees in the Midwest. Some of these trees are around 600 years old!


If you can see it, this tree started growing around 1500 and was cut down in 1970.

Walking into the preserve was like stepping back in time. It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that the whole Upper Peninsula of Michigan was once like this, never been logged and pristine. The hike became more surreal as we came up on the first remnant of an old tree. This tree seemed to have died naturally and was now standing, hollow and weather worn, in the middle of the path. 

My silly lab Molly sitting by the dead tree.

You can look up all the way through the tree to the sky above.

Farther into the woods, we came upon the giant trees. The map we'd gotten from the campground guide named this part as "Cathedral Grove" and it was aptly named because they towered over us. It was impossible to walk and crane your neck up to look at them so we did a lot of starting and stopping, my dad holding onto his hat to keep it from falling off as we looked up.

I couldn't help but hug one of them. It also served the purpose of showing how MASSIVE these trees are!

We went on the second trail and found more of the giant pines but a bit rockier path and had to maneuver up and down some of the hills. The paths are all pretty well worn, but it is rather hill-y in parts. The dog, of course, had an excellent time and ran around smelling everything.


It was crazy to see trees this big. And, of course, my inner plant nerd and nature lover was geeking out over the history of these gorgeous pines. This forest is also considered a boreal forest and isn't quite as lush as some of the forests to the south. The soil is thin and sits right on top of bedrock, so there's less nutrients here than elsewhere. 
It was a pretty eye-opening hike. And if you're thinking about a vacation for next summer and you love the outdoors, I'd definitely check out Copper Harbor, Michigan. (Or any part of Upper Michigan for that matter!)

If you want to learn more about the pines, here's a link for the page on the Keweenaw Traveler website.