Friday, August 12, 2016

Weekend Walkabout: Munin the Fish Crow and the Bloomin' Babytoes

Babytoes bloomed today, just in time for the weekend. And I finished a difficult painting, a tiny little thing that has been bugging me for months (another in my New Orleans Wall Fragment series), so I put them together for a mini-portrait:
Bloomin' Babytoes with New Orleans Wall Fragment 2, MRobb, 2016
After a whole month of drought, we got a lot of rain (phew, no more evening waterings!), so I thought I'd publish a portrait of Munin, our resident Fish Crow Patriarch and Way Cool Corvid, enjoying the rain on my fence- have I mentioned that Fish Crows are as intelligent as chimps?
Munin in Rain, MRobb, 2016
Here's a more regular portrait of Munin, singing on the balcony while I play my HAPI drum:
Munin at Dawn, MRobb, 2016
And finally, a new soul window, from an indigo center to a bright yellow outer ring. This one will go to the winner of our local poetry contest:
Soul Window, Indigo to Yellow, MRobb, 2016
Have a wonderful weekend and happy gardening!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Think About It Thursday: More Hope for Gaia - Rocks!

Exciting news from the Science Geeks! It's possible to turn CO2 into stone, at least if you are in Iceland. And this technique can work in many places in the world, and it works fast. Take a look:
from the Economist

Inline image 1
A paper just published in Science offers a possible solution (to climate change). By burying CO2 in the right sort of rock, a team of alchemists led by Juerg Matter, a geologist at Southampton University, in Britain, was able to transmute it into stone. Specifically, the researchers turned it into carbonate minerals such as calcite and magnesite. Since these minerals are stable, the carbon they contain should stay locked away indefinitely.
They collected 175 tonnes of it, mixed it with a mildly radioactive tracker chemical, dissolved the
mixture in water and pumped it into a layer of basalt half a kilometre below the surface. They then kept an eye on what was happening via a series of monitoring wells. In the event, it took a bit less than two years for 95% of the injected CO2 to be mineralised.

They followed this success by burying unscrubbed exhaust gas. After a few teething troubles, that worked too. The H2S reacted with iron in the basalt to make pyrites, so if exhaust gas were sequestered routinely, scrubbing might not be needed. This was enough to persuade Reykjavik Energy, the power station’s owners, to run a larger test that is going on at the moment and is burying nearly 10,000 tonnes of CO2 and around 7,300 tonnes of H2S.

from Science (June 2016 issue):

Inject, baby, inject!      H. Jesse Smith  Science  6/10/16
Atmospheric CO2 can be sequestered by injecting it into basaltic rocks, providing a potentially valuable way to undo some of the damage done by fossil fuel burning. Matter et al. injected CO2 into wells in Iceland that pass through basaltic lavas and hyaloclastites at depths between 400 and 800 m. Most of the injected CO2 was mineralized in less than 2 years. Carbonate minerals are stable, so this approach should avoid the risk of carbon leakage.

Most scientists now say that, in addition to steep carbon cuts, we'll have to use some sort of geo-engineering to prevent catastrophic climate change and sea level rise. This is the only type of geo-engineering that sounds possibly safe and effective that I've read about so far. Go, Iceland!!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

August Perfume Post: Gardenias!

I love gardenias. I'm a tropical gal and gardenias come with my territory. But it's really hard to find a good gardenia perfume. There has been, until recently, no way to capture that elusive, transcendent, yet funky smell. I searched for years....
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Then I found it. IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances) hosts a competition each year called the Secret Smelling Event. Their top perfumers are given a few made-in-the-house ingredients from which to create an original perfume. They have a much larger budget than usual and are given total creative control. The results are amazing.
Here are my notes on Dominique Ropion's gorgeous gardenia, published this year on Basenotes:

IFF Secret Smelling, OK, it's here! I love the presentation- the perfumes are housed very securely in a black shiny box, well-made. The lab-style bottles are utilitarian but stylish. The kit comes with paper test strips and a booklet that has descriptions of each perfume, a photo and notes from each perfumer, and a glossary. I had to try Dominique Ropion's new gardenia immediately. 

 Ropion's gardenia features a trademarked "Living" gardenia, Cosmofruit, and LMR's "heart" ylang. I am in love. I have looked for a gardenia perfume that captures the real blossoms for years. Never found it. This is 90% there, and sooooo beautiful! If I sprayed this liberally, I would become a walking gardenia.  It's a soliflore and very natural. Yes, buttery, yes, indoles, yes, green notes. I feel as if I'm in my parents' garden in late spring, tending their gardenias. It's really pretty amazing. Is this a headspace molecule? Indeed it is. "Cosmofruit" is a synthetic aromachemical. There is a little ylang ylang undergirding, but I don't smell anything I'd call "Cosmofruit". Sillage is decent and longevity is very good. I've finally found my gardenia perfume. But will they ever make this commercially?? Angst!

On a gardener's note- it's been a month of drought, so I don't have much to report from my outdoor gardens- I am watering like crazy and the plants, lizards, and butterflies are clinging to life. We have a tropical blob moving in, so things may improve soon. Our river has fish again, Gaia has been kind. My indoor plants are doing well--here is some foliage from one of my mini African Violets. Lovely and pink! Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Think About It Thursday: Synthetic Gardens Could Salvage Climate

This article from Climate Central really had me thinking:

Now I'm all for more and more real gardens and real forests, and those will surely help the climate as well. I'm all for green roofs, the kind that are used in Scandinavia, and hydroponic farms built on top of skyscrapers in NYC. The farms provide organic produce for city dwellers, and give a lot of oxygen where it's needed.

And of course, Tillie curtains in China and Tillie High Rises in homes (like mine) make my day! They filter indoor air and give a lot of oxygen, and my brain can surely use more oxygen.

But I'm good with synthetic gardens and forests in addition to the real ones. Especially if this technology works and we can pull C02 out of the air and convert it to fuel. Now if only we could do the same with the methane in the Arctic!

What I want to know is, what would a synthetic tree or garden look like?? What do you think?

Watercolor by MRobb
"Fireflowers" by MRobb

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

More Soul Windows

Here are a few more:
Soul Window: Blue Crystal, MRobb, 2016
Soul Window: Forest, MRobb, 2016
Soul Window: BlueGreen, MRobb, 2016
And some that aren't based on tiles, but gardens!
Soul Garden, MRobb, 2016

These last two are tiny, just a few cm square:
TinyArt, Gardeners' Hands, MRobb, 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Paint a Window: Soul Windows

I haven't done a painting post for nearly a year, I think. If I weren't too lazy to look this up in my blog archive, I would know for sure, but my sandy memory tells me it's been about a year.

My new series has been going on for several months, and I call them Soul Windows. I suppose they could just as easily be called Soul Tiles, since they are based on tiles, but never mind that. They are designed to be portable and used for meditation. Here are a few:
Soul Window Purple, MRobb, 2016
Soul Window Yellow and Blue, MRobb, 2016
Soul Window Magenta, MRobb, 2016
Sometimes, I don't go with tiles, but with flowers or feathers:
Pink Feather, MRobb, 2016
They are painted on wood, Aquabord or Gessobord (though any gesso'd Masonite would work well) with layers of crackle paste, various glitters and pigments, watercolors, and acrylic interference paints. Pouring medium is used at the end to give a smooth, shiny, "surfboard finish". I learned this surfboard finish from the amazing acrylic artist Nancy Reyner (do give her a Google).

The tiles are usually studded with tiny Swarovski crystals or bits of gemstone. The end result is glowing color and toughness so they can be lugged around in...luggage. I've always liked portable shrines that are used in many religions, so I may try enclosing these in wooden boxes than can be opened and shut. Maybe I'll use old cigar boxes. Right now they are housed in silk bags. We'll see where it all goes!

Have a creative weekend!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Plants Share Their Food!

We've learned how plants can compete for sunshine and water and space. We know they can communicate with each other through the soil and the air. But now we've learned that plants, particularly trees, can also share their food! (Big thanks to Alert Gardener Jim for this news flash.)

Tropical Garden, MRobb
 "Competition between individual plants for resources is well known, but sharing of resources may also occur. Klein et al. observed tree-to-tree carbon shuttling between roots of tall trees in a mixed temperate forest in Switzerland (see the Perspective by van der Heijden). By applying stable carbon isotope labeling to individual tree canopies, they show that up to 40% of the carbon in the fine roots of one individual may be derived from photosynthetic products of a neighbor. Carbon transfer of this kind, mediated by plant-associated fungi, or mycorrhizae, in the soil, has been reported on a smaller scale in seedlings, but not before in trees. "
       Science, this issue p. 342; see also p. 290

Alpine Stream, MRobb

 Many gardeners, particularly gardeners of rare plants, have noted that the plants do better in groups, and outdoors in open soil if conditions allow. We know some of those reasons. What I call the Fungi-Net, which is basically a communications system built with soil fungi, allows plants to share data. Also the Formi-Net, which allows plants to communicate via their ant symbionts, helps some plants like Tillies to reach out to their world. Now we've found that the Fungi-Net does much more than facilitate communication- it allows plants to share their resources.
Railroad Vine, MRobb
Ethically speaking, should we be growing our plants in groups, and ensuring fungi are growing well in their soil? What do you all think, gardeners? Any ethicist botanists wish to comment?

Lithops, MRobb