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One Helluva Bad Day

It was a torrid July day in the summer of 1961. On my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, a huge field was covered with 80-pound hay bales that had to be loaded by hand onto trailers and hauled to the barn. 

At five o’clock, Dad opened the bedroom door. “Hay time, boys, git up. Jaybird is waiting outside for y’all.”

By Jimmy Reed - Friday, March 31, 2017 - Full Story

Questions We’re Often Asked: Flowering Indoor Plants

There are hundreds of candidates to provide colourful blooms, some even scented, for house and apartment. Unlike those grown principally for their foliage, most require a little more care to persuade them to flower. But the results and almost guaranteed admiration from visitors is worth it. ‘Bright light’ means several hours direct sun a day, while filtered light means at the back of such exposed room or perhaps near a window in an east or north room. Always use room-temperature water—cold water is almost certain to cause flower and bud drop.

By Wes Porter - Thursday, March 30, 2017 - Full Story

Going to Pot: The Stoned Age

When—not if—Canada’s government legalizes recreational use of marijuana, gardeners will enter a new era.

Decades ago potted plants, usually sold for home d√©cor, became termed ‘pot plants.’ These have also been referred to as ‘houseplants,’ but with the advent of their becoming popular for offices and other commercial spaces, ‘indoor plants’ perhaps fits the bill better.

By Wes Porter - Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - Full Story

True Blue to Dye For

True blue blooms, as gardeners know, are hard to find. No less for our ancestors searching for such a source to dye both textiles and themselves.

A reliable blue was discovered at least 6,000 years ago, in various species of Indigofera, a genus of some 700 species of leguminous annual and perennial herbs, shrubs and small trees native to tropical and warm regions. The major natural dye source has been I. tinctoria, a deciduous subshrub with pink and blue flowers originating in southeast Asia.

By Wes Porter - Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - Full Story

Mycoheterotrophic Plants A.k.a. Fungus Flowers

Walkers in the northern woods can hardly failed to have wondered about them. Pale ghosts in the gloom of the understory, emerging from the leaf litter.

Formerly classed as saprophytes, feeding directly on dead and decaying matter—think famed Triffids of science fiction—they are now known to be botanically even more interesting. And make fanciers of Orchidaceae and Ericaceae take notice.

These non-photosynthesizing plants are not parasitic. They obtain their nutrients by living in a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi, in turn, are associated with vascular plants. There are believed to be at least 400 species of such plants that totally depend on such relationships and another 20,000 species that are partially so.

By Wes Porter - Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - Full Story

The Rock

Following a tour of Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner’s home, I asked students in my creative writing class how the great writer felt about mankind’s capacity for endurance.

A student replied, “He summed it up in one line from his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech: ‘I believe man will not merely endure; he will prevail.’”

By Jimmy Reed - Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - Full Story

Vitamin K2: How It Helps Heart and Bone

Ask people what they know about vitamin C and some will reply it’s good for preventing common colds. Maybe they’d add heart attack, if they’ve read my column. But ask the same question about K2 and most people will give you a blank stare. Now, Dr. Dennis Goodman, cardiologist and Director of Integrative Medicine at New York University, says ignoring vitamin K2 is dangerous.

In 1929 Danish scientist, Dr. Henrik Dam, discovered vitamin K. Since then researchers have discovered two types of K, K1 and K2. Leafy green vegetables are rich in K1. It plays a vital role in blood clotting. But K2 isn’t easy to obtain in the diet, placing many at risk of being deficient of this vitamin.

By Dr. Gifford Jones - Monday, March 20, 2017 - Full Story

The Only Leprechaun Colony West of Ireland

A leprechaun colony, the world’s smallest park and some Hibernian horticulture are intertwined, blending in Portland, Oregon. It all started when Dick Fagan returned from World War II. As a journalist at the daily Oregon Journal, he was sitting at his desk alongside a second-floor window one day in the downtown Jackson Tower at Broadway and Yamhill, Portland. A circular hole in the median below caught his eye. Meant to receive a light standard which had never arrived, it was now overgrown with weeds.

By Wes Porter - Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - Full Story

What Winning Takes

In reading and writing, I found rhyme and reason, but not in arithmetic.

One afternoon, when Jaybird and I were lounging on his front porch looking across my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, I told him that my teacher’s explanation of percentages went right over my head.

By Jimmy Reed - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - Full Story

SPRING ARRIVES—SORT OF

“Nature-based solutions” might sound like it belongs on the side of a gardener’s van, as an editorial in the esteemed journal Nature observed. Nevertheless, the new buzz phrase reflects gardeners’ growing concern with the environment and climate change in particular. Hence drought and flood-proof plants will become more popular this coming season, tough plants that can stand up to extremes. Look also for more offerings in container plantings as gardens shrink in area while decks and patios increase.

By Wes Porter - Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - Full Story

Gump director makes a romantic WWII spy thriller

Robert Zemeckis has made a lot of interesting and innovative movies during his decades-long career and he has also pushed the state-of-the-moviemaking-art during that time.

I don’t think he’s had a huge hit like he did with Forrest Gump, the Back the Future trilogy or Who Framed Roger Rabbit (among others) in a while, perhaps since Cast Away at the turn of the century, but you can always rely on him to push the cinematic envelope in one way or the other, and his films are always entertaining as well.

He’s also the guy who pushed the 3D IMAX envelope, starting with the exquisite The Polar Express, which means that such famed movie tech visionaries as James Cameron are really standing on his shoulders.

Zemeckis’ Allied, his telling of a couple of World War II spies who fall in love and start a family back in England, sees him recreate the world of the day beautifully via his typical use of digital effects. The film is a bit of a change of pace for him as well: a romantic drama that’s laced with more “F-bombs” than I can remember from any other Zemeckis film I’ve seen.

By Jim Bray - Saturday, March 4, 2017 - Full Story

Three “Hots” And A Cot

When I showed Jaybird the pistol, he gave me a withering stare.

“Where’d you git that gun, boy?” the old black man who was my best friend and mentor asked.

“I borrowed it from Dad. Late in the evening, me and my buddies shoot rats at the garbage dump a few miles from the university.”

By Jimmy Reed - Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - Full Story

Questions We’re Often Asked: Low Care Indoor Plants

Smaller houses, more people renting and an ironic passion for Seventies kitsch has led to a trend for indoor plants, according to The Daily Telegraph from across the pond. Nor is it greatly different this side of the Atlantic other than condo towers sprouting up like mushrooms, much to the discomfort of agrophobics.

But with busy lives, plant care becomes a concern. So, what indoor plants best fill the bill? Those blessed with a sunny situation will welcome John Lewis’s annual shopping report that says cacti will be the trend this year. Curious cats and other pets watch out!

By Wes Porter - Wednesday, March 1, 2017 - Full Story

Mighty Ash Yggdrasill

Norse god Odin formed the earth and its surrounding sea from parts of the evil giant Ymir he had killed. And so, the World Tree, the Mighty Ash Yggdrasill, grew up to hold earth in place. Or so the beliefs of the northern Germanic people held.

Along its branches roamed four stags—Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr, and Dyrathror—constantly feeding on the foliage. The mischievous red squirrel Ratataoskr was to be found running backwards and forwards, delivering insulting messages from the hawk Ve≈ërf√∂lnir perched at the top of Yggdrasill to the evil dragon N√≠≈ëh√∂ggr, ‘Malice Striker,’ down in the three roots that supported the Tree of Life and on which it constantly gnawed.

Also, down there, in a handsome hall, dwelt the Norns, three seers who predicted ørlơg, the destinies, of men. Uror, Veroando and Skuld were also charged with watering the mighty roots of Yggdrasill. Daily they drew water from the well of Urd, the spring of Hvergelmir, and the well Mímisbrunnr to which the roots grew.

For in those for off times, neither ash blight nor emerald ash borer were to be found . . .

By Wes Porter - Saturday, February 11, 2017 - Full Story

What? MLB considers starting every extra inning with a runner on second base

I believe it was 23 years ago that I played in a summer softball tournament, and our team’s first game was tied at the end of regulation. Since tournament organizers didn’t want games going on forever, they expedited the likely end of an extra-inning game by having each extra inning start with the bases loaded. Whoever was due up in the lineup would get his regular at-bat, but the three hitters before him would be placed on the bases.The theory was that inning were unlikely to end scoreless when they started like this.

It felt forced, illogical, impure and all that. But what the hell. It was a pickup softball tournament. The baseball record book would not be tarnished by what we did that day. It was not the Major Leagues, where no such apostasy would ever be considered.

By Dan Calabrese - Thursday, February 9, 2017 - Full Story

Angels v. Devils: Revealing Plant Names

Back in the 19th century, an English clergyman wondered whether the number of common names applied to plants in the name of angels exceeded those credited to the devil. His research revealed that the devil, botanically speaking, won out.

Updated delving into the subject confirms the man of the cloth’s investigation—with a few strange twists. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is known to some as Angel Flower. However, it has also been labeled both the Devil’s Nettle and the Devil’s Plaything, perhaps because it naturalizes so easily.

More understandably, Datura also appears in both lists, and several times at that. Valued for their magnificent trumpet-shaped blooms they are also known to be hallucinogenic even causing fatalities. Thus, Datura sanguinea, a fragrant shrub from southeast Brazil may carry name Angel’s Tears but Angel’s Trumpet, D. inoxia, might also be the Devil’s Trumpet. D. stramonium doubles as both the Devil’s Apple and Devil’s Weed

Perhaps we shouldn’t take these juxtapositions too seriously though. As G. K. Chesterton once pointed out, “The reason angels can fly is because they take themselves lightly.”

By Wes Porter - Thursday, February 9, 2017 - Full Story

Those Three Most Beautiful Words

On that unusually warm February evening, a fresh breeze wafted through the window, and no doubt the full moon’s alabaster face gazed down on lovers everywhere. One of my favorite singers, “Babbling” Brook Benton, crooned across the radio waves, and I thought … I’m a romantic!

Why? Women. But since no such creature shares my humble abode, and since the babbler rolled back the years to my youth, I couldn’t resist an overpowering urge to get up and dance. Living alone isn’t fun, but has its advantages. If you want to act a fool, you can, so I waltzed with a broom.

By Jimmy Reed - Thursday, February 9, 2017 - Full Story

Practical Pollinators

According to the Kama Sutra, oriental book of instruction, there are some seventy ways of making love. It has been claimed that only the camel knows the last one, which is why he looks so superior.

Much later, in his celebrated Let’s Make Love in 1928, Cole Porter warbled, “And that’s why birds do it, bees do it. Even educated fleas do it . . .” So when it comes to moving pollen from male stamen to female pistil, the ways could, and indeed do, vary.

Of course, Cole failed to mention among many other animals, bats and gnats, flies and wasps, skinks and geckos, lemurs and honey possums . . .amongst others, although perhaps not fleas. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

By Wes Porter - Tuesday, February 7, 2017 - Full Story

RENEWED INTEREST IN INDOOR PLANTS

Cactophiles rejoice! Predictions are that your prickly passions are due to make a comeback this year. So say Brits, often ahead on such matters. Those eschewing genetic engineering need not be off-put by reports that bibulous botanists have crossed citrus and cactus to get spiked orange juice.

An amazing 52 percent of home owners now use houseplants to counter pollution, say market researchers Mintel. They say the interest in anti-pollution products is influenced by Chinese Feng Shui and the spectre of the Paris Climate Summit while ignoring an equal spectre—a Trumpeting Donald.

Many might be supported in macramé hangers, also making a comeback from the flower child days half a century past. Alas, most of those latter have sadly gone to seed.

By Wes Porter - Saturday, February 4, 2017 - Full Story