December 21st, 2012 - Nothing About The End Of The World

Hey look, it's a blog post. Meh.
So as I'm sitting down at the luncheonette counter of the 'Friendship House Diner' (formerly Wendy's) the other day, one of the waitresses is rolling up silverware (well, not SILVER exactly, not in color or composition; but forks, spoons, and knives anyway) into napkins and chucking them into trays to be brought out to freshly 'cleaned' tables.
She's laughing about something and the other waitress is saying, "Well, I guess I can't move to Tennessee, because I won't be able to use my Tennessee pickup line!"
I had just suffered through about three hours of bad personal interaction with a 'client' and was looking to leave that behind me, so I wanted in on this conversation.
"What's the 'Tennessee pickup line'...?, I ask, "or maybe I don't want to know...," I say.
The napkin waitress says laughingly, but to me as to a confidant, "Oh, she has all these pickup lines. The Tennessee one goes something like, "Hey stranger, are you from Tennessee...?"
I play along and answer, "Why no, why do you ask...?"
"Because you're the only Ten I see in here," she answers back.
"Oh man," I say.
"Yeah," she says. "And then there's the Windex one."
"The Windex one...?"
"Yeah, hey, is that Windex on your pants...?"
(Me looking at my pants, then back at her) "No, why...?"
"Because I can see myself in them."
We laugh.
Then I think of one I heard a long time ago.
"I got a Kentucky one for you, I say."
"Yeah, let's hear it!"
(I'm staring at the grease-stained ceiling trying to get it right) "Okay - what's the best pickup line to impress a girl in a hillbilly bar in Kentucky...?"
"What," she says.
"Nice tooth!" I say.
She laughs.
Napkin waitress goes off to ring someone up at the till, and I spoon through my chili trying to cool it off.
She comes back and starts to roll up more napkins. She says, "Yeah, she's got her own set of lines, not my style at all. Mine are more like the, 'If you were a booger, I'd pick you' sort of thing."
I laugh. "No wonder they have those signs in the bathroom about washing your hands," I say.
She looks at me nonplussed for a second then laughs and rolls up more napkins.

You didn't really think I would start a blog post with a title like that and not talk about the end of the world, did you?
Not that it isn't an important topic, but I'm kind of sick of everyone talking about it, and even more fed up with the commercialization of it. A friend of mine posted a picture from the Renaissance Festival saying, 'If the world doesn't end on 12/21/2012, we'll give away 5 free pairs of tickets to the 2013 Renaissance Festival on Monday! Click and share this post to win!'

I was thinking, 'Well, this is the end of a Renaissance era, and the beginning of a capitalistic one.'
At least they are only after clicks, whereas the news today is full of stories about people going to Mexico to spend their last days, have an excuse to party, hide in a bunker or whatever, and the locals saying, "It's great that they've bought into this myth, this is good for us!"
The whole thing reinforces in me that we as humans can't seem to think outside our world, our little Earth. Our mindset is that because we invented our own religions, philosophies, and cultural traditions, that everyone in the universe must behave like us, because we set the example, it's all we know. It's what 'The World' does.
What is 'The World' anyway...? Some sort of quantified description that we invented for our earth culture. Is it the human race, the earth, the universe...? What ends when the world ends...? If the end of the world happens, is that the end of time, too? Can time have an end, or does what lies before and after it have a definition that can be measured? What do we do when our calendar runs out? Get a new calendar, I guess.

I wonder if an intelligence from another part of the universe were ever to get to Earth, what they would think of our attitude and basing of everything on our transcribed history and traditions, which have become our beliefs. Maybe the 'alien' culture will be the exact same way but have their OWN set of rules and traditions and think they are the only race in the universe. What will they think of the Bible? The Koran? Euthanasia? Social order? It would be an interesting thing to see. Philosophy would be back in style.
There is the phrase, "Think locally, act globally." Maybe it should be more like, "Think globally, act universally."

- T.


April 20th, 2011 - The Star in the Cottonwood Tree

I first learned about the star in the cottonwood tree many years ago from my friend and naturalist teacher, Pat Rummenie.

As we were walking in the forest, she picked a small, dead cottonwood twig up off of the ground and snapped it at it's "knuckle", (the banded joint that is characteristic of cottonwood branches) and said, "If you are lucky, inside you will see the "Star in the Cottonwood."

In the heartwood at the center of the twig, I saw a five-pointed star shape.
There are many Native American legends and fables about the star and what it means.
I learned one from Mary Louise Defender Wilson, who tells about it in a Dakotah legend.
Like all good folk tales, it is embellished and changes as it is related.

It goes something like this...

The Star in the Cottonwood Tree

A long time ago, when everything was still pretty new, up in the sky there were many, many stars. 

Amongst them was a little star that was very interested and curious about everything.

As this little star travelled across the sky, it would stop and examine so many things.

One day, the little star came down by the earth. It travelled all around the earth, looking at all of the animals, all of the birds, all of the plants, and everything that was alive on it.

The little star came near a village. There was a sound coming from the village. This sound was so beautiful, so wonderful, that the little star could not believe it. It had never heard anything so beautiful in all of the heavens and all of the places it had visited around the earth. So the little star stayed close to the village.

As it listened and listened, it could not get enough of listening to the beautiful sound.

Soon the little star heard the other stars calling and realized, "I am a star, and I should be up in the sky with the other stars. Even though sometimes we stars are very far apart, I had better go back up there to be closer to them."

So the little star went back up into the sky to be with the other stars, but it still kept thinking about the beautiful sound it had heard coming from the village. Soon (well, what is soon to a star) it began to get very lonely and very sad.

One night when all the stars were 
close together shining and talking about all the different things stars talk about, the little star asked if it could go back to the village so that it could hear the beautiful sound again. 

The other stars answered politely that no, it was a star, and that it belonged here, up in the sky with all of the other stars.

The little star didn't say anything. It tried to be involved in all the things that stars do, shining in the night sky, travelling here and there, dodging the planets, but the little star felt as though it didn't fit in with the rest of the stars, and it missed the beautiful sound more than ever. It got so lonely, it pleaded with the other stars. "Please may I go back to that village…?

I want to live there and listen to that beautiful sound forever!"

The oldest of the stars said, "I'm sorry little star, but you cannot do that. People live in that village. They have many things to do in order to stay alive; they have to gather their food, they have to build their houses, they have to mend their clothes, they have to teach each other."

The eldest star continued, "If you go back there, shining around as you do, the people will be distracted, wondering why a star has come down shining around their village. They will be disturbed by you and they won't be able to get all of their necessary things done."

So the little star thought and thought.

Finally it said to the other stars, "If I can find a way to be close to that village without them seeing me, can I stay there?"

The other stars chuckled and said, "Yes little star. If you can find a way to be close to that village without disturbing the people and keeping them from their work, you can go live there."

So the little star got an idea. It went down by the village, but not too close. It got close enough to hear the beautiful sound, but not so close that it disturbed the people.

It noticed it was next to a tall, tall tree, a cottonwood tree. The tallest tree in the area.

It thought, "This is perfect! I will stay inside this tree so that I can hear the beautiful sound. But I will not disturb the people." And so it did.

And it listened to its favorite sound, the sound that came from the village.

This was the sound of all the people laughing, and talking, and teaching each other.

The star is still inside the cottonwood tree today, listening and hoping to hear more of those beautiful sounds.


March 25th, 2011 - Winter Green

A few weeks ago I was involved in a whirlwind trip around Wisconsin that had me helping out one of our other state agricultural nursery inspectors. It being March, there wasn't a lot going on in most nurseries, but the places we visited were "all winter" growers, being companies that keep their greenhouses running all winter (not an inexpensive proposition in northern Wisconsin).
These were very interesting places, and it was especially nice to see some very green plants and walk around in a 75 degree greenhouse after snowshoeing the perimeter of an apple orchard a couple days previously.
This place was a HUGE grower of geraniums, and was gearing up for Easter with pots and hanging baskets.
As a matter of fact, their were literally pots and baskets for as far as the eye could see.
It was mind-boggling. They had just built a new greenhouse solely for this plant material, and were busy potting, watering, hanging, and moving things around for the big shipment coming up.
The large green blocks you see on the right side of the above image are all pallets of hundred of pounds of peat.
From this, the nurseries make their own "soiless mix" to put in their pots, using peat as the base material. This is to keep the growing media as sterile and neutral as possible, and have a starting media that is clean, free of contaminants, and that can be specifically tuned to the plants being grown by adding things like Milorganite, permeability agents, fertilizers, growth inhibitors, and all kinds of voodoo to get your plants healthy and perfectly timed to be looking their best when you are admiring those beautiful baskets hanging in your local store.

The colors and smells in these places are amazing. The plants and trays just go on and on to the vanishing point.
Every house has it's own style of heating and ventilation, which are critical for keeping the plants within their growing conditions, and helping prevent mold, fungus, and insect growth from taking advantage of the small succulent little plants, much sought after by these organisms. As with other things in nature, the young shoots are the tastiest, and are often the most vulnerable as well.
They are always trying to maximize space in the greenhouse without cheating something out of it's sources of light, water, airflow, and nutrients. And all while trying to make them easy to get to.
These young starts are on large metal tray-tables that slide on rollers to create aisles, then slide back for watering. The roof is also on a computerized system for opening the vents and controlling fresh air, and temperature.
"The Language of Nature is Mathematics" - Galileo Galilei
Luckily most of these plants are annuals, which aren't as large of a concern to us nursery inspectors. Our definition of the plant materials we need to inspect is normally, "Materials that will over-winter outside in the Wisconsin climate," but we do inspect geraniums and most other plants that come in from other countries (even if they were inspected there before shipment) as there have been problems with viruses and insects brought in that didn't show up before the plants began to mature. Everything was super-clean here.
I thought these were going to be "upside down" tomatoes from a distance, but no, more ornamentals. Wow, there is a lot of weight hanging there.
I want that one. No, not that one. THAT one.

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optometrist orange orange teeth oranges orchestra orchid oredock organism organized originally oriole ornamentals orphaned osprey ouija board over-exposed over-sensitized overflow pond overhaul overly-smiling overzealous owl pellet owlish owlish hike pagans painstakingly painted painted lady paintings palaver palmate shrub panacake tree pandemonium panic Kris Kristofferson panorama papaburger paper towel snow paper-mache parade paradise paradox parallelogram parasitic wasps parfait park map parkbench parlour games particle partridge pasque-flowers passenger passengers passing pastel pat roberson pathways patron saint patterns peace peace bridge peaceful pearly-cat peck peephole lens pencil pendulous peppers percent perch perennial perennials personal personal quest perspective pervasive petal peterson petri petroleum phenological pheromone philaenus philosophic phoebe photo hike photographic photographing photohike photon photos photosynthesize phwap phwapped picasso pick up your poop piddle pig's ear pigment pike pillsbury dough boy pilothouse pine pink-eye pinking-shears pinochle pinstripes piphilology pirate hat pistal pizza placeholder plant plantennae plants play-dough plucky plum plumage pocket poetry pog dark point-blank polecat police police chase political pundit polka poll polo shirt polygon pondering poo pool poopsack poor landing pop popiel popsicle posing positive possible post number 333 powerlines powershot pre-dawn purrer predator predicting prequel presidential presidents pretend pretties pretty priceless pride princess depot procedure procedures procreativity professional profusely program progression projectile-vomit prominent pronounce proper english prospect park prospectors pruned psychological pucker pulitzer pulk pulverized pumpkin pumpkins pun puppet pure purple finch purple sand purportedly pussy willow pyramids quandaries quandry questioning questioningly questions quizzically raccoons radar radicans rambunctious random goofy art album cover madness make yours rapidly ratos ravaging rawhide. line-shading re-synced real real-time realist realization realize rear curtain sync received recognize recognized recorded recreational red ants red shades red-bellied woodpecker red-tailed boa red-tailel boa red-winged black bird reebok reed canary grass reed-canary regional registers regurgitate rehabbing relative relativity reliever religious religiously reminds renovation rental cars replacement replica replicator repose reptile research suggests reservoir resist respiratory resplendent response rested results retracting retreat reverb reverse check-mark rhoda riffle rime ring-ding ring-necked duck ripple river tracks robin robin's nest rochester rock-skipping rocks rocky balboa roof rake rooftop room rosary rose rose gardens rosebud rosebush rostrum rot round ruby rueful rufus runaway mine-car sacrifice sacrificed safe sagging saggy saint matthews PO box saint paul saint timothy salad salts salutation salvia sandstone sanitarium sarcasm sargasso saturated saturation say scampering scary scat scavanger scene schlurrp scientology scooter scooters scorpion scouring scratching screen scribbling scrubbing sculpturatus searches seasonal seattle secret seed seedless seep seismograph self-blooming self-guided semi-shell semiautonomous senate seat election senses working overtime separate sepia september serotonin serpent service setbacks seth brundlefly sewer sewers of venice sex shadings shadow shadows sham shampoo shape-shifted sharp-tailed grouse shaved sherbet sherburne NWA shifting shiny shiny metal boxes shipwrecked shockingly shoot shoplifter shore lunch shoreline short-nosed short-shrifted shortcut should shrimp shunyata shutter-priority shysters siddhartha side-oats grama siesta sign sign of spring silhouette similarities simpsons simultaneously singletrack singularity sixties sixty-year-old skate kid sketchy skier sklurched skooter libby skull skunk cabbage sky skylight skyline slate sled tracks slime mold slipped sloppy snowSt. Paul sloths slushy small small mammals smartwools smear smoggy smoldering furnace smug snackarito snail shells snake snake bones snake doctor snake eggs snakebite snakes meeting snarf sneer sniffing sniffs snow globe snow-snakes snowball snowboard snowfence snowmachine snowmen snowmobile snowperson snowshoeing snowstorm snurfling soapbox softshell softshelled sol solar-collectors solemnity somewhere son this will all be yours sonora soothing soul paint southern bog lemmings spa spacesuit sparrow spawning specialized spectabilis spectacular speechless speed dial spending spherical spiderdog spiders spike-buck spinning spirograph spittlebug splashdown spokesperson spongeblob spotlight spray paint spring robin spring-break springtime sprinkler sprouts spumarius spyhole squawking squiggles squirrel hollow tree january 1 squirted squish squishing st. anthony falls stabbed stag beetle stairs stalwart standoff star wars stare stargate starlight starry night stars starter stasis state health department stately static station wagon stay up late stealthy steam steaming steelie steelyard blues stem cells stench sticker sticks sticky stinky stir-crazy stoic stomach disorder stormwater stovepipe hat straight straightforward straightjacket strap on streak stretch strike zone striking stroller struts stuffed stump stunning stupid car commericials stupidity styrofoam suburbs sucked blood sucks suffering sulpha-bath sun sun is actually closer to the Earth in winter sundown suntan super ego superbundle superchilled supernatural superstitious surprisingly surreal surreality surreptitious surrounding survive swallow swallows swallowtail swamp sparrow swaying swelled swelling swirly hari pattern switchover symphony of finches synchronicity taboo tackle tacky tailspin tallgrass talons tanglewood tank tankful tannic acid task taxes teenburger teeth tele telekinetic telephone telephone booths telephotoed temperature tenacious tending teresa terrarium tetrameter thanks the bends the cone the diamonds the world is flat things things. stuff think third-largest thistle thistledown thorns thought thousand three-headed throw thunderstorm thwap tibet ticka tiger lily tighrope tiki god tilt tim boyle time-lapse time-sensitive titanium to a tee toadstool-like together tongue tongues tootsie-roll tornado tortilla-warmers toys tracking traffic trails transcribe translated transpiration travelling treatment tree blossoms tree buds tree-hugger trenchcoat tricycle trillium trinity tripod tripods trochaic trolls trustworthy turkey vulture turnip twins two-headed unchanged unconsciousness understanding understood underware underwater underwear undulates undulations ungated unidentified uninitiated university unknown unnerving unusual upstaged major upstream urine usted usually uvularia vacaction vacation vain value-added vampire vandalism vaporized variabilis variegation vaso-constriction vegetable venomous verdant vermillion vertical panorama vibrating vibrations vice-president video vikings violet virtually visa vista visual-input visualizing vitamins vocal show volunteer vortex vote wait for answer walk-about walt whitman wandering wannamingo warbler warm washburn washington watermelon waters wave wax beans weaponry wear a clown suit to work Friday web web-presence weebles weepers weeping weepy weight weird weird bird story welcome wells fargo wet rock what the? whatever happens whatsoever whisker white egret white robin whole foods whup azz why do birds sing wicked wide-angle sunset widget widow-maker wild wild plum wilderness willow switches willows wind-chill window designer windowshades windshield glacier windshields wine-tasting wingman wingspan winter winter carnival winter sunset wiper wits wizard's beard wolfsbane wondering wonders wood duck family wood ducks wood tick woodchuck woodchuck climbing trees wooden mallet woody snack workbench working wormholes worms would wrangling wrap-arounds wreath xmas xtc ya-yas yard yeah yelled yellow yellow spider yellow-rumped yoga zero zhaagawaamikong zillion zipped zoo zoological