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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.” ~ Dr. Hans Selye

....weathered, yet beautiful...Muir Woods, California - Sept. 2011


Yesterday was an awesome day. There was a big test in Botany, which was my focus for the last week. We have been studying cellular respiration, and photosynthesis. They are very similar, with one being basically the reverse of the other. That kind of fooled me into thinking I was going to memorize it without a lot of pain. I was wrong. We’re talking about 100 different steps and half that number in atoms and molecules of this or that chemical, which dance around and punch each other out until they make molecules of yet more this-y and that-y chemicals. There are no generalities either. Every move, every chemical, needs dissecting and remembrance. There was no high school biology for me, so now that I’ve caught up a little, I find myself thoroughly humbled by the elegant and complicated brew that Mother Nature has managed to cook up. She’s a bad-ass and I wish she would have imprinted this knowledge on my gray matter. Indelibly. Well, it’s over for now and I can catch up on other parts of life. Like my new plant!

..Carnivorous Pitcher Plant...Nepenthis x mixta?


Sunday, Tom brought me a Pitcher Plant. A Nepenthes x mixta hybrid, most likely. These are among the easiest to care for in the carnivorous plant world. This is great because my last try at carnivorous plants did not end well. It was years ago, but I kept the book I bought for reference, since I knew I would someday have another one. The book, “The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants” by Peter D’Amato is now on my reading list, especially the chapter pertaining to my species. It gets excellent reviews, and I kept it all these years for a reason.

...a pitcher full of digestive fluid. Bwahahahaha!


Carnivorous plants are nothing less than utterly awe-inspiring. Their response to living for millenia in crappy soil conditions, was to modify their leaves into all sorts of contraptions like pitchers, pipes, and snapping jaws. All of this so they can lure insects, and sometimes small rodents, kill them slowly, then live on the nutrients left by the decaying bodies. Plants don’t sit around and whine about the cards they were dealt or envy and get angry at the carrot living in a garden full of luscious, mineral-rich soil. They just take care of business. I have a serious respect for plants.

...Enter at your own risk. Insects, ye be warned!


“Ah, but we are splendid devils, aren’t we? “Hunters of the Savage Garden,” I said.
The Vampire Lestat
-Anne Rice

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Yesterday was the first day of the new semester. Crashing the Chem152 class proved unsuccessful, so I’m sticking with the Botany class and lab. Next semester I will try to make up a few more credits with extra classes, but for now I can just focus on the subject which most interests me and pour all my scholarly love into the one class. Here’s our new textbook:

"Botany - Plants, People, and the Environment" by Linda Berg

I was also advised to order “Botany for Gardeners” by Brian Capon, which I did and can’t wait to get started on.

The syllabus mentions two field trips; one to Balboa Park and one to Florida Canyon, which is close by. We will be running around identifying plants. I cannot tell you how excited I am about the field trips! This class will build heavily upon the Botany class I took last semester, but with more hard science. We learned how to use microscopes yesterday and I got to look at plant slices on little glass slides. Let me just say that I’m totally in love already. Yay!

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As promised, I took a lot of photos on the tour of the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. Terri and Emily took us there because the special exhibit was out of Amy Stewart’s book “Wicked Plants” which I have read and loved. The old Gothic conservatories and hot-houses are another love, so basically it was an awesome day all around spent with some of my most favorite people in the world ever. Thank you, Terri and Emily 🙂 I was going to find the names of all the plants and label them for you, but that would keep me from posting them sooner. Basically, enjoying the photos this time is better than worrying about the names. There are orchid things and waxy things and steamy things…mostly tropical things and some poisonous things…enjoy.

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All of the books I’ve read lately have been for school. Now that that’s over for the summer, I can read for pleasure again. I started with a Sookie Stackhouse book since the new season begins this weekend. Television has been abysmal without Sookie! As I read, I realized I wasn’t trying to memorize anything or keep track of testable information. It was truly wonderful. Today I worked hard catching up on everything I let get behind last week. Gardening is put off until I catch up everywhere else – this weekend, hopefully. Tonight I’m going to read some more Sookie, just for pleasure. Maybe a long hot bath first. Ahhhh.

"The New Novel" by Winslow Homer - 1877

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It’s a rainy weekend and one thing I love to do in this kind of weather is read. I’ve recently finished two gardening books that were actually good enough for me to recommend to any gardeners out there looking for inspiration:

“Garden Anywhere” by Alys Fowler

This book was discovered in a used book store in San Francisco in January. When we go up there, it seems we always end up book shopping with Terri and Emily…it’s wonderful and I always look forward to it. The pictures appealed to me first. Instead of sterile textbook photos, there is dirt everywhere, mud and worms. Her hair is messy, hands are dirty – she’s a gardener, not some pissy greenhouse snob telling me things have to be sterile and perfect. I like her frugality. She uses all kinds of recycled junk in her garden and includes instructions that are actually useful to me. I found the sections on compost tea, pricking out seedlings, and saving seeds most inspiring. Her writing style is modern and familiar, and she is a trial and error type. Fabulous! This book works as a reference that you can go back to over and over, depending on what you’re doing or what the season is, and the back is filled with modern internet resources. It will go on the shelf next to my lunar gardening guide.

“Gardening at The Dragon’s Gate” by Wendy Johnson

Gardening at the Dragon's Gate by Wendy Johnson


This book was truly a love story. The author is a Zen Buddhist who spent many years and the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in northern California. The book comes from years of journal entries and experience working with the earth. Her meditative style inspired me to slow down and actually LOOK at what was happening in my garden on the small scale as well as large, the way I used to. I notice more; the shapes of leaves, the number of petals on a flower, the color of the light at certain times of day. I sit and look around more, enjoying the fruits of my labor as much as planning the next task. There is plenty of love and ‘poetry’, so you don’t really notice the solid instruction included, but it is there. I have a whole new way of looking at dirt and this book helped me remember why I started gardening in the first place. A great book to read by the fire, or in bed late at night when it’s really quiet.

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